Sunday, March 29, 2009

Musings from Carol Anderson

Well, the blog hasn't moved yet. I had some problems uploading the new Knitting Purls to its blog, so I decided to wait to move Knit-a-while until those are worked out.

I have a book review for you. Musings, Memories, Matrimony and More…, by Carol A. Anderson. Carpenter, Iowa: Cottage Creations, 2008.

Most knitters know the name Carol Anderson or Cottage Creations. After all, the Wonderful Wallaby has been a popular pattern; approximately 66,000 copies of the pattern booklet have been printed! So, it’s easy to understand why so many people anxiously waited for Anderson’s autobiography.
Musings, Memories, Matrimony and More … is more than an autobiography about Carol Anderson the knitter, the designer, the business owner. In fact, those facets of her life comprise a small portion of the book. This book is about Anderson’s life. As she stated in an interview published in the September 2008 issue of Knitting Purls, her family and community involvement are the top priorities in her life. This is evident in the stories she chose to share with readers.
The story Anderson tells in Musings, Memories, Matrimony and More … is not unlike those that many women of her generation experienced: how she met and married her husband, the sometimes-difficult task of setting up a home, starting a family, and having a love-hate relationship with kitchen appliances. Though the stories may be familiar, Anderson tells them in a way that makes them interesting, that makes you want to move on to find out what she’s going to write about in the next chapter.
Throughout the book, it is obvious how much the author’s family means to her. Anderson writes lovingly of her family members. The chapter about her brother Arthur, who had Down syndrome, is especially moving. Unlike what one finds in some autobiographies, one never gets the idea that Anderson has idealized her family members or others in her life. These people are very real. Readers will be able to identify people in their own lives who share characteristics with those in Anderson’s family.
There are technical issues with the book. There are spelling and grammatical errors, as well as stylistic ones (titles should be italicized in print, not underscored). In the table of contents, chapters are numbered but not in the text. Some “problems” with the book are more technical, running into design and publishing issues. Text runs wide across the page and deeper into the gutter than one finds in most books. That could be problematic if someone has a dexterity issue. It invites the reader to open the book wider, which could break the binding. There’s no ISBN, which means the book’s availability will be limited, and there’s no copyright notice—which does not mean it’s not protected by copyright.
Should those things keep people from reading the book? Of course not. Like Cottage Creations’ patterns, Musings, Memories, Matrimony and More … has that homemade, friendly look, and that is part of what has made the company—and Carol Anderson—popular for so long. She’s like an old, trusted friend, and her readers love her for that. And, they’ll love the book.
The book can be ordered from Cottage Creations, At the Farm of Deer Creek, Carpenter, IA 50426. It is also carried by some LYS, including some online.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Just a Quick Heads' Up

I have fallen in love with my self-hosted WordPress. Admittedly, it's taken a while, and I still don't have it even a quarter figured out. But, what I have managed to figure out makes it seem only logical to move Knit-a-While to that platform as well.

So, some time in the next few weeks, I'll do that. I'll let everyone know so those of you who subscribe will be able to switch over.

I have been working with small needles for so long that my hands really hurt. Well, hours on the computer didn't help either. So, yesterday I decided to give myself a break and start a project on larger needles. I grabbed the ones handy, which were a size 10.5. Sadly, they didn't seem to help. In fact, I think by the time I stopped yesterday, my hands hurt even worse. Bummer.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

On Herman and Toilet Paper

This is Shubacoons Herman McMunster, one of my Maine Coons. He's a handsome boy and weighs about 23 pounds, and it's muscle. Everyone loves him--well, except for those who are somewhat intimidated by his size. And, by the way, most of those are men. He's regal.

Well, those at the vet's office like him, but if I'm there. When I have had to leave him, Herman has bitten the vet at least 3 times and destroyed multiple pairs of Kevlar and leather gloves. If I'm there, he's fine. They've often remarked how they've not seen a cat who behaves so differently when his mommy is or is not there.

He's a big, ole mama's boy. One might even call him a wimp, but then I'd have to hurt you. You might ask why he's lying in the hood of a litterbox. I'm glad you asked. Hermie is claustrophobic. He will not use a covered litterbox. And believe me, there's more than enough room in the one we have for the boy.

Hermie is also afraid of the moon. Well, at least the full moon. We were sitting on the bed one night, and when he saw the full moon, he got all agitated and hid his face in my armpit.

And Herman is a licker, not a scratcher or biter. But, he only likes the taste of my right hand/arm. Go figure.

Yes, he may be odd, but he's my oddity, and I love him.

Toilet Paper: There's Got to be a Better Way
I went to the market the other day. On my list, as is frequently the case, was toilet paper. I hate buying toilet paper, but I can't adopt the left hand and a bowl of water method of potty hygiene. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with it, just as long as there are alternatives, I'll pass.

I want to know when my market decided everyone had to buy the package of double-sized rolls. No one asked me. Oh, I can buy the smaller size, but only in single rolls. Not everyone's TP spindles comfortably hold the double-sized rolls. And besides, perhaps someone can't afford a package of double-sized rolls during a trip to the market. Oh yes, tell me that in the long run, you save money with the larger rolls. That's not helpful if you have $3 in your pocket and the package of double-sized rolls is $4. Sure, you can buy the single roll, but it's almost $2. Sometimes I think the toilet paper people are in cahoots with the tampon and pantyliner folk. We are, in some ways, a captive audience. There has to be a better way.

Monday, March 16, 2009

My How I've Grown

I spent over an hour yesterday looking for a pattern, and no, I didn't find it. Recent pattern discoveries that have been purchased and printed are fairly well organized. Well, at least they're in notebooks, with a special one dedicated to socks. Older patterns, well, they're not nearly so organized. They're in a notebook, but loosely and in no apparent order--not even to me. Then there are the patterns that have not even made it into a notebook. They're stuffed into a manila folder until I can arrange them in a notebook. I've been planning to do that for quite some time now, but I just haven't gotten there yet.

While scrounging through my patterns, I was somewhat amazed at the number of patterns I have for 2-needle socks and mittens. (To be honest, I think some are repeats, understandable due to the lack of organization.) They hearken back to my days of craving to knit such items but my tediously unsuccessful attempts at using DPNs. In looking through those patterns, I seem to recall actually making very few of them. Oh, but I certainly do remember the ones I did. Mittens and socks alike, they would be fine--until I seamed them. Ugh. Puke. Now, a perfectly good knitted item looked amateurish; cripes, it looked awful, so awful, I seldom wore any of these in public (or private, for that matter). And when it came to the socks, well, can we say "uncomfortable"? No matter where I put the seam, it irritated some part of my lower extremities.

I commend the designers who tried to help those of us who are DPN "slow," but I wanted to knit items I could be proud of, that I could show off, that I could actually wear. "Why don't you just improve your seaming skills?" you might be asking. Yes, that would work, and it's something I'm still working on since not every pattern in the world is seamless. But, even if I did so, the number of 2-needle patterns for mittens, socks, and even hats is limited.

For me, the answer came via Magic Loop and 2 circs. Now, I can knit the items I want and not have to worry about a bleeding seam. I have a binder chockablock with sock patterns, and not one of them is for 2 needles. I'm free!

Still, the walk down the pattern memory lane was good for me. I've been somewhat frustrated with a recent knitting project. Many times I found myself whining that I'd never learn. This Sunday afternoon walk through 2-needle sock and mitten patterns has proved that I can learn something new. It just takes time.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

In Whose Opinion? Part II

I just watched Knitting Daily on my local PBS station. I'm not a big fan of the show, but where else can you find a TV show about knitting at 7:00 on Saturday morning? I can overlook a lot to get my knitting fix.

But, I can't overlook everything.

Today's theme was asymmetry, which was interesting. Or rather, it could have been. They showed most of the examples lying on a table. This made it very difficult to see what they meant. But then, I've often complained about how things are presented on that show.

But I digress.

Today's Q&A was about choosing sweater patterns that are flattering to one's particular body type. Now, this is something I'm interested in, and I know many other knitters, crocheters, sewers who are concerned about this as well. So, my complaint is not about discussing the topic on the show. It's language. When discussing what is more flattering on a woman with a larger bust, the hostess said, "Women with too big a bust," or words to that effect. "Too big a bust" is an accurate quote. The model, whose bust was bigger than the previous model's, would not be considered by many to have a big bust, let alone one that is "too big." And anyway, who's to say what is "too big"? "Too big" implies that something needs to be done about it. Was the hostess implying that the model needed breast reduction surgery?

When she wasn't making such blatantly stupid comments, the hostess resorted to using the work "should." I really wish I had counted how many times she said that someone with a particular figure feature "should" do this or "should" do that. For example, if you have large hips, you "should" wear dark colors on the bottom. Those of us with that characteristic has been told that for years. And, there is truth that some may find a dark bottom to be flattering. But, no one has the right to say that I "should" wear a dark color at the bottom. Give me the facts, but don't tell me I should--except that I should wear clothes that make me feel comfortable and make me feel good.

Large people, don't be afraid of color. Wear what makes you feel good physically and mentally. After all, a large person in black looks still looks like a large person, but one who is trying to look smaller. If this works for you, fine. But don't do it because someone else says you should.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Something to Learn

Yesterday, I went to the monthly meeting of my local knitting guild. The education part of the meeting was knitting 2 socks on 2 circs. I already know how to do that, but the meetings are fun anyway.

One of the reasons I like going is because I always feel so young. I am, by far, one of the youngest people there. It's the exact opposite at other knitting groups I attend from time to time. I have a good time at those get-togethers, too, but I really can't relate to many of the women's tales of their children's escapades. At the knitting guild meetings, it's all about the knitting. I feel as though I'm among my "kind."

As usual, I took a trusty sock to work on. Before the meeting, one of the women expressed interest in what I was doing. So, I gave her an impromptu Magic Loop lesson. Most of the knitters in my groups kind of look down on Magic Loop; they are more tolerant of the 2 circs method. Go figure.

The group I was in for the lesson was taught by a woman who, I must admit, intimidates me. She's a Master Knitter, has taught many techniques for a long time, and she's kind of scary. It just so happens that I sat next to her during the lesson. And boy did I learn a lesson--and not just about 2 circs. She admitted she didn't care for Magic Loop (I think she just needed a longer cable), but we were both in strong agreement that people should use whatever method they're comfortable with--they should just do it. We began talking about Aran knitting (my next goal), and she showed me how to do a provisional cast-on. When another knitter came over to check out my sock, which I was, of course, knitting from the toe up, the Master Knitter heard me say I generally use the Turkish cast-on. She told me that she had a student who wanted to learn that, but she didn't know how to cast-on that way. I gave her some pointers and an Internet source. We talked about spinning and lamented on how hard it is to make money in fiber.

When I left the meeting--much later than I had intended--I realized I had learned a lot, but about things more important than knitting 2 socks on 2 circs.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Giving Knitting Fiction Another Chance

As someone who has worked in the publishing field for more than two decades, I must make what might be an astonishing admission: I don't read for fun very often. And when I do, it's usually nonfiction, historical books.

Until lately. Until I bought my Kindle. I'm reading for fun again, and I've expanded my reading selection to include fiction. It seemed logical to go in search of novels that included knitting. There seemed to be plenty, including books by Debbie Macomber, Kate Jacobs, and Maggie Sefton. Many of my knitting buds swore by those others. Sadly, I found most knitting fiction disappointing.

Perhaps it's because I don't read romances (except for the occasional Southern chick-lit offering). Most of the knitting fiction I read seemed to concentrate on romance and subjects that would make a good (or not) chick flick, and I don't mean that in a pejorative way. Light reading is wonderful, and these books fulfilled that type of reading.

The only author whose works I consistently enjoyed was Maggie Sefton. Yes, there was an element of romance, but there was also more: mystery. OK, I generally had the who did what to whom figured out very early in the story, but I'm good that way. Still, there was enough of a storyline that kept me hooked until the book's end. And more important--to a publisher and bookseller--made me check to see when her next book was coming out.

Of course, Maggie's books also reminded me of one of my all-time favorite television shows: Murder She Wrote. I often wondered why Jessica Fletcher wasn't a suspect more often. After all, murders seemed to follow her around. And Cabot Cove, Maine? That little town must have had a murder rate, percentage wise at least, that rivaled the most crime-ridden cities in the world. Still, I loved that show.

So what does that have to do with the Maggie Sefton series? Well, it seems as though the murder rate has soared since Kelly Flynn moved to town. Still, she's managed to escape being considered a suspect, for the most part.

Last night I finished Barbara Bretton's Casting Spells. It was an OK read, but I can't say that I give it rave reviews. Personally, I found it derivative. In short, the action takes place in a small town that was built to model Salem, Massachusetts. It's a place where vampires, shapeshifters, and other such souls can live and not be harassed by humans. The main character is half human and half not. That premise has a lot of possibilities. But, as I said, I found myself thinking about other books and films that did things better. For example, portions of the book reminded me of Practical Magic and even Bewitched. And, since this style seemed so different from her other books (at least from my research; this is the first of her books that I've read), I couldn't help but wonder if she had written it as a way to jump on the bandwagon of other stories about creatures such as vampires.

Despite my lingering doubts, it was an entertaining, mindless read. And sometimes, that's what you need. Personally, I feel there are much better ones out there, but this book isn't awful. And if you're a Barbara Bretton fan, I suspect you'll like it, though it is different from her other work.

As one might expect, the ending left open the probability of a sequel. Will I read it? Probably. But not unless it's available on Kindle. I wouldn't pay $20+ to do so.

Monday, March 02, 2009

When I Rule the World . . .

the first thing I'm going to do (well, one of the first anyway) is to standardize colors. I love color. Though my wardrobe is rather color limited, my socks stand out. One of the reasons I wanted to learn to knit socks was so I could you the colorful sock yarn that is available.

But, as much as I love color, that's how frustrating it can be. Case in point. I'm designing a very special sock. I need to use teal, so I went to the LYS to buy yarn. The teal is nice, but as I looked at it once I got home, I wasn't sure it was what I really wanted. So, off to the Internet I go, stopping at Knit Picks. I was using Palette for a sock in progress, so I looked there. One of the offerings was called Teal. How appropriate. It looked a bit greeny, but then I know that colors can be off on computer monitors. Heaven knows I've ordered tons of yarn from them, and not once was I disappointed.

Until now.

When I opened the box, there it was: forest green Palette. No, wait. The label says it's teal. Well, it's not like any teal I have ever seen. I'm back where I started--no teal. Someone suggested a Knit Picks yarn that is more teal (though it's not called teal), but I'm hesitant to order. I may end up dyeing my own. Worse things have happened.

That brings me back to my first edict as Ruler of the World. Each color would have a basic formula. For example, green would contain a specified amount of blue and a specified amount of yellow. Anything combination that deviated from that could not be called "green." If Knitting Purls came up with the color, it could be called Knitting Purls Green, but it could not be called just green. That way, there would be no question what you would get when you ordered something in a specific color. Of course one must allow for the differences in color depending on the surface to which it is applied, but we would live with that. I just want teal to be teal.

Who would make up the specific recipes for the colors? Frankly, I don't care. Pantone seems a logical choice, but then, I don't care. I just want what I want. And remember, it's all about me.