Friday, July 30, 2010

An Important Public Service Announcement

I’d like to direct this post to any single straight male non-knitter readers. Unfortunately, I don’t think I have any such readers. And so, I’ll ask my regular readers to please forward this on to anyone who fits that description. It is important. Don’t worry, I’ll wait to continue until you’ve done so.

Ok – there. That should be enough time.

Now gentlemen – I have a very serious message for you. You must learn to knit.

I know. This comes as a shock to many of you. For many of you have been conditioned to believe that doing anything remotely artistic or craft-related will somehow shrink your testes. I assure you, there is no scientific basis for this myth.

But more importantly, I’m here to tell you an important secret. And it is a secret – so I’d appreciate it if anyone who is not a single straight male non-knitter would look away. The secret is this:

Many women think male knitters are sexy.

That bears repeating, so I’ll repeat it: Many women think male knitters are sexy. Not every woman feels this way, of course. But many do. And consider for a brief moment the consequences of this important fact. Because many women lust after male knitters, and there aren’t many straight male knitters. . . a single straight male knitter could find himself in the enviable position of having to select from a bevy of beautiful admirers.

I know this. First, because I am adorable. Also, because yesterday I received one of the greatest emails ever written.

I won’t reprint the email in its entirety – it is far too personal. But suffice it to say that I received this message from a young woman in Southern California. For purposes of this posting, I’ll refer to her as “Sophia”. She wrote to offer up that she was single, enjoyed spinning fleece into yarn, and was looking for a straight male knitter who might enjoy her . . . talents.

Sophia discreetly asked whether I might be single, and suggested that she would not be adverse to a relationship with a gentleman friend in Washington state.

Yes. That’s right. Sophia suggested that the two of us consider entering into a romantic relationship based, in part, on our mutual love of yarn.

And there’s more. Sophia included a picture of herself in her email. Two photos in fact. Plus a photo of her lovely handspun yarn.

After a brief email exchange (during which – it should be noted – I honored fully and at the first opportunity the terms of my marriage contract and informed Sophia of my pre-existing and well-established pair-bonding with Mrs. TSMK), Sophia gave her blessing that I might describe her “proposal” in this journal. In fact, Sophia gave permission for me to use her photos as well.

A true gentleman would never be so bold as to take advantage of a lady’s position. And so I will not here post her photo. But allow me to describe her.

Sophia is slender – with tousled strawberry blond locks neatly framing her face and delicate cheekbones and jaw. Having a distinct pout to her lips and a fine Grecian nose, she resembles slightly some of the more exuberant representations of Aphrodite - although I assure you Sophia was (alas) fully clothed in her photo.

There is an innocence in her face, which is counterbalanced slightly in the photo by a partially exposed tattoo above her breast. Gentlemen, I submit to you that this woman is stunning.

But back to the original thread – she sent me her proposal without ever having seen or met me. All she knew of me was that I knit. And, in fact, I doubt very much that she read the blog – as she didn’t know I was married – and so she likely didn’t have a feel for my particular sense of humor or ahem eccentricities.

This, gentlemen, was lust based solely on fiber.  Lest you think I exaggerate, let me give you one additional fact.  Sophia said I was "delectable".

Just so there is no mistake - allow me to present the definition of the word:

Delectable:
- adjective - 1.  delightful; highly pleasing; enjoyable
                   2.  delicious

- noun -       3.  an especially appealing or appetizing food or dish.

Gentlemen, this goddess described me using a word typically only reserved for fine cuisine.  It doesn't get any better than that.

And so, I suggest to you that like the ability to cook risotto, play passably well at least one musical instrument (not including your armpit), change the oil in your car and explain with some measure of confidence the basic principles of geometry – knitting is a skill that every man must have.

And with that, gentlemen, I leave you to go about your business.  Thank you for listening, and adhering, to this important public service announcement.

~TSMK

Oh – and another thing. If anyone wants an introduction to an attractive single woman in Southern California – let me know. I’ll be happy to facilitate an exchange of email information.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

TSMKBO-YAG - Upping the Ante

After much thought (and one suggestion) I've decided to up the ante slightly.  So, in addition to the Cascade 220 - the selected participant will also receive two of my own attempts at handspun.


The cream skein is laceweight - about 165 yards.  The brown skein is worsted - about 75 yards.  Both are rustic.  But both were hand picked, washed, carded and spun by me. 

~TSMK

The Importance of Ritual

Today marks the one-year anniversary of this blog. It has been a lot of fun, and more than a fair amount of work. I’m averaging slightly less than one post per week. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but it takes a decent amount of time for me to center myself, make contact with the all-knowing echidna who sits at the center of the universe, channel his energy and then put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard, as the case may be). Plus, all that time takes away from my available knitting time, so the more I write the less I might seem to have to write about. Quite the paradox – Zeno would be proud.

As I am a creature of habit, I would like to find a way to incorporate my blogospheric efforts into my daily routine. To develop a ritual of putting finger to keyboard at the same time every day. This approach serves me well in many other aspects of my life. I know, for example, that every morning when I brush my teeth I will place my left hand on the edge of the sink, lean on that arm, and stare at my face in the mirror during the process. By engaging in this ritual every morning, I inure myself to the potential shock that might result if I failed to stare at myself for simply a few days, and returned to the looking glass to see the steady effects of the aging process.

Ritual is good. It is healthy. And it helps us cope. Just ask a few of my retirement-age colleagues who still come to the office every day. If they failed to come to the office they might die – or at least suffer the pangs of catastrophic constipation.

I am a fan of ritual. So much so in fact that I make a practice of incorporating ritual into my life wherever possible. And I hope to share the benefits of ritual with others. So, for example, I underwent the arduous challenge of Internet-based ordination so that I might be qualified to officiate at weddings and other similarly ritual-laden ceremonies. But despite the book that came with my excellently laminated card proclaiming me The Right Reverend TSMK, my ordination did not provide me with any insight into how I might incorporate ritual into my blogging.

No, this effort (and its recently launched companion blog: http://bytesofgrass.blogspot.com/) are apparently unaided by ritual. The echidna will not be constrained.

And so, without ritual, I must fall back on what I find motivates me most about this blog: the readers. And as I am not hindered by scruples, I am prepared to offer continued incentive toward readership. Yes. That’s right. I’m giving something else away.  I’m hereby announcing the start of the TSMK BLOG ONE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY GIVEAWAY (the “TSMKBO-YAG”).

But this something is not a finished object (but stay tuned for an FO giveaway in the next month or so). And it is not without price. Here’s the deal. I’ve decided to give away something from my stash. Several somethings, in fact. I’m giving away four skeins of my favorite workaday yarn – Cascade 220. But there’s a catch. I’d like to receive something in return. Specifically, I’m hoping we can reach a deal on an FO. I supply the yarn and the recipient uses some of it (absolutely no more than two skeins – preferably one skein) to make me something. It can be something for my office. Something for me to wear. Something that will spur me to continue to blog about the absurdity of being a straight, knitting, skateboarding, banjo playing, lawyer father of three.

Deal?

If you’re interested, shoot me an email at tsmkblog@yahoo.com, and let me know what you would propose to make and what color Cascade 220 you would prefer to use (I have it in many, many shades). I will keep this offer open until at least August 15 – subject to extension or early close in my sole discretion.

~TSMK

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Five Dollar Box of Guilt

This past weekend, several of our neighbors had a garage sale. It was one of those multi-family, take over the cul-de-sac kind of events – complete with a lemonade stand. Our own children chose a bake sale, and cleverly convinced Mrs. TSMK to purchase their raw materials and make their inventory. This is a fantastic business model, as it effectively reduces their cost of goods sold to $0.

I did not participate in the garage sale, although I did chaperone the bake sale for a period of time. I brought out a camping chair, and sat behind the young entrepreneurs offering reminders of how to make change. And picking wool. A lot of wool in fact. I’m about one bag through my original three bags full, and am starting to get the hang of it. Of course, I’ve since become some sort of a magnet for free fleece, so I have a long way to go before I’ll catch up with my inventory.

Like many (I hope), I occasionally find myself overwhelmed with the things I want to do, the things I need to do and the things I feel like I should do. Turning the fleece into usable yarn falls somewhere within intersection of things I want to do and things I feel like I should do. It isn’t exactly a need, but there is nevertheless a psychic cost to allowing the fleece to sit unattended. It is, in essence, a large, somewhat scratch and sheep-smelling albatross around my neck. And so, it feels good to be making headway on the fleece. More on that in posts ahead.

Anyway, I bring up the garage sale because while sitting there, minding my own business, picking my wool and fielding the occasional question from curious onlookers, one of my neighbors (“Fred”) approached me with a box. A reasonably large box, it was stuffed to the brim with yarn. Some of the yarn was crocheted into the start of something. Some of the yarn was still in skeins.

Fred offered up the box, complete with all contents, for $5. After a raised an eyebrow, he started to explain. When he and his wife (“Wilma”) were dating, she had begun to make him a blanket. As they dated, she worked on it from time to time. But ultimately, when they married, Wilma lost interest. Laughing, he suggested that perhaps she’d figured she didn’t need to finish the blanket because she’d already achieved her objective in making it – convincing him to stick around.

But Fred and Wilma had married about ten years ago. And ever since then, Wilma had been moving the box around from house to house, closet to closet, and feeling vaguely guilty about not finishing the project that whole time. Now, finally, it was time to let go of the project.

I bought the box, of course.  At 197 yards per skein, thirteen skeins in the box and a total purchase price of $5, this works out to roughly 5 yards per cent.  I'm too cheap to pass up that good of a deal.  But after buying it, I started thinking about the story told me, and of Wilma's decision to let go of the project.  This is a huge deal.

I know because I recently released an albatross of my own. She was a 1976 Alfa Romeo Spider that I’d had since college. Her name was Cecilia. Mrs. TSMK and I drove her all over the place for years, even left our wedding reception in her. She was fun, and fickle, and perhaps the most absurdly impractical car you could own. Back home in Florida, she made some sense. Here in the Pacific Northwest, however, she leaked like a sieve any time it rained (which is of course about 270 days a year). And she didn’t like to start. And she didn’t have a back seat.

I loved her. And I carried her with me from Florida to Washington, D.C., and then to our current home. Over the better part of two decades I held on to that gorgeous piece of steadily rusting sexiness.

But when she ran she didn’t run well. And often she didn’t run at all. So just a few weeks ago I said goodbye to Cecilia and sold her to a fellow from Portland who has the time and energy and disposable cash to make her lovely again. I miss her tremendously. But if I’m honest I also feel an immense sense of relief. I’ve removed one item from my list of things that I feel like I should do – restoring Cecilia. There are plenty of items remaining in that list, but again – it feels good to make headway.

~TSMK

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Field Trip

Some time ago, I posted about a trip I made to a well-known LYS, only to be frustrated by an environment that I’ll charitably refer to as less-than welcoming. Plus, they didn’t have what I was looking for. That’s a bit of a double-whammy.

In response to that earlier post, I received a number of comments. One of those comments came from someone affiliated with another LYS, suggesting that I give their shop a try and even offering that they “specialize in not being snobby.”
And so I did.

Yesterday, we had the whole family up and out of the house early as we needed to run some errands on the Seattle side of the water. After an initially delicious but later somewhat sedating breakfast at a local institution, we made our way to a number of local retail haunts. For the oldest guy, we made a stop at the Lego store. For the middle guy – a place where a child can make his own stuffed animal and then plead with his parents for miscellaneous swag to go with the toy. Honestly, did we need to make a Darth Vader costume that will fit a teddy bear?

For Mrs. TSMK a local apparel retailer to exchange an item or two. For me – after a quick trip to my favorite snowboard/skateboard shop – we headed down to Kent.

More specifically, we headed down to Renaissance Yarns. I hadn’t been there before, and managed to get turned around while driving through Kent. But ultimately we found the spot. Tucked conveniently around the corner from an ice cream shop in an open-air mall.

I knew at once I would like the store, for they had hand-knitted and hand-crocheted lingerie hanging in the window. Clearly, this was my kind of place.

We were greeted immediately by a very cheerful clerk. As is typical, she initially approached Mrs. TSMK and asked her if she needed help. I know this is a bit sexist, but kind of like this common mistake as it typically gives me a chance to elude the clerk and begin examining the shelves. I seized upon that opportunity in this case, and immediately went about exploring the shop.


It is a small shop, but very well lit.  Like my LYS, it is exceptionally clean and is very well organized. Much of the inventory I recognized: good workmanlike stuff like Cascade 220, various kinds of Rowan tweed and similar yarns. But there were a few things I hadn’t seen before. My favorite of those was Zauberball sock yarn. I had read of this product on Ravelry, but hadn’t had a chance to see it up close. On inspection – I liked it very much. It comes in a bunch of vibrant colors and is a nice 75/25 blend of wool and polyamide. It feels very soft. I don’t really need any more sock yarn. In fact, I don’t really need any more yarn of any type as I’m spinning more and more (another 200 yards or so of lace weight last night). But I couldn’t resist and ended up buying two Zauberball err. . . balls. 


 
















Who knows, maybe one will turn into a Christmas present.

In the back of the store came the biggest and coolest surprise. They have a whole wall filled with interesting roving for spinning, along with a number of other spinning accoutrements. I see this as seriously cool – and took the opportunity to point out a nice double-treadle wheel to Mrs. TSMK as a possible Christmas present idea. She didn’t look too excited about the possibility, but didn’t become actively sick at the notion either. So maybe there’s hope.

And so, all in all, I’d have to say that I enjoyed my trip to Renaissance Yarns quite a bit. The shop was welcoming and carried good product – all at reasonable price points. The clerk was very friendly, and didn’t seem particularly shocked that I was the knitter in the family. I can’t say for sure when I’ll be back, as I’m rarely in Kent. But if I find myself in the neighborhood with some time to kill – I can absolutely see me making my way back to the shop.  Especially if they have a pattern for those very hot pink boy shorts that were displayed in the window.  I'm pretty sure Mrs. TSMK needs a pair of those.

~TSMK

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Day at the Zoo

Some time back, I made a baby blanket for a colleague, to celebrate the fact that she was about to become a grandmother. It turned out fairly well, and she appreciated the gift.



My colleague serves on the Board of Directors of our local zoo, and after seeing the blanket she asked if I would consider making something to donate to their annual charity gala and auction. Of course I said yes, and set about trying to decide what to make.

Ultimately, I opted to make the India Stole – a pattern by Sylvie Beez. It is a relatively straightforward lace stole. Really the only tricky part is that it is knit from the center out. You use a provisional cast on, and knit outward. When you finish one side, you go back and pick up those provisional stitches and knit outward in the opposite direction.

Oh. And it is beaded. Not a few beads, mind you, but several hundred tiny, tiny beads of purplish-black.

I chose to do it in black Jaggerspun Zephyr, which is a 50/50 blend of superfine merino wool and tussah silk. It has a nice sheen to it, and is easy to work. The whole project was done on what are still my favorite needles, Addi Turbo Lace circulars. And the beads were threaded on, one at a time, with a crochet hook of microscopic proportions.


I finished the project in late June, blocked it, and brought it into the office. While here, we set about searching for an appropriate model for a few photos. Of course, we wanted to find someone wearing a bright enough color to show off the lacework. Ultimately, I couldn’t opt for just one model and ended up with three. And so, three beautiful friends: BL, NC and HO each took turns wrapping themselves in my work for the photos. It was a bit like a dream I remember having when I was about 15, except there was knitting involved and the three ladies in question were fully clothed.


Photos taken, I handed the stole off to my colleague.

The auction was last Friday. The stole was displayed as part of the silent auction – with a short write-up about it having been donated by a local oddball and blogger named The Straight Male Knitter. I’m pleased to report that the stole did well. It received only a single bid – but that bid was at the guaranteed purchase price amount – and so it cut off any additional bidding. That tickles me – the first person to bid decided she wanted to ensure purchase and not leave anything to chance.

The zoo got the cash for the stole and the stole got a new home. And, as luck would have it, the stole was actually purchased by the wife of a friend and former colleague.  Pretty cool.  Hopefully they'll let me do something similar again next year.
~TSMK

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Gauntlet

WARNING - ABSOLUTELY NO KNITTING CONTENT

So as described in my last post, I've been doing a bit of skateboarding lately.  In that vein, I've been thinking quite a bit about skateboarding, and had recently come to realize that I'd like to learn a trick or two.  Nothing too fancy, just something to play with.  Kind of like my juggling.  I don't need to be able to keep five balls in the air - I'm comfortable with an ability to keep three up there.

Last night, Mrs. TSMK agreed to watch with me a few Internet videos of tricks I might want to learn.  After less than five minutes of viewing she turned to face me - and these are the words she spoke:

"I've never seen you do anything that agile in your life."

Wow. 

So now the gauntlet has officially been thrown.  I will learn to perform the shovit.  I will learn to perform the G-turn.  I will even learn to perform them in sequence.  And yes, I will fall down.  But I will get back up, take several ibuprofen and continue on learning.  Oh yes.  I will.

~TSMK

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

On the Nature of Aging

This morning, I awoke to find that my ankle was sore. Not too uncomfortable, just a bit of a twinge. And, like many things, this caused me to begin thinking. Oh, I try to avoid it whenever possible – but more often than not I will end up thinking anyway – if only to think about how I shouldn’t be thinking quite so much.

This morning, my thoughts centered around aging. Not in a bad way, necessarily, but in that kind of inexorable march kind of way. Time is something you simply can’t stop, and no matter how many times you watch Through the Wormhole: with Morgan Freeman, you’re always going to end up in the same place.  The best you can hope for is to simply slow down your perception of time. Like by moving to Hell, drifting into a coma or perhaps wandering across the event horizon of a black hole.
But back to my ankle. It was sore because I’ve been trying to disprove an adage. Something about geriatric canines and novel tomfoolery. You see, around four years ago, I received an extraordinary birthday present: my first skateboard. Actually, it wasn’t just any skateboard. It was a super-mega-cool tricked out Arbor Pin longboard. It has a Koa veneer deck, ABEC 3 bearings, crazy grippy wheels and is 46” long. It is, in essence, the skateboard equivalent of Christina Hendricks. Beautiful, with curves in all the right places, and yet inexplicably enjoyable to be around (or so it seems – I’ve never actually had the opportunity to meet Ms. Hendricks).
I didn’t really ride Ms. Hendricks much after receiving her. She was fun, but I didn’t have much in the way of company when I rode her. And if I’m going to fall off something, I like knowing that there’s someone around to run for help. So she sat in the corner.


And then something remarkable happened. My oldest son grew. And grew. And grew some more. In fact, he’s still growing. And while this was happening, my middle guy grew as well. And now I have two sons who think that skateboarding is cool and they want to do it with me. And one who doesn’t quite yet know what to think of a skateboard, but who seems to enjoy the ride.

video
So now I’m back to learning to ride Ms. Hendricks. And it is making my ankle hurt. So you see an old dog can learn a new trick – it just might require ibuprofen.

The skateboarding isn’t the only new trick in my repertoire, however. I’m pleased to say that I’ve been spinning, and it is getting easier. I finished my first spool of hand-sheared, hand-washed, hand-carded, hand-spun woolen yarn last week. It is usable, but there is clearly room for improvement. I finished the second spool last night, and will set the twist tonight. It is more even than the first spool – so hopefully I’m getting better. Now if I could just find a way to do a G-turn on Ms. Hendricks. . .


~TSMK