Archive for August, 2007

In Which We Are Very Pleased

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

When we came home from the State Fair on Sunday, we brought home some new little pets:

Julie saw these little guys in the butterfly house and wanted to bring them home. Actually, in the interest of full disclosure, I wanted them at least as much as she did. When we bought the little cage, there were two caterpillars in it. Then, yesterday morning, one of the caterpillars had attached itself to the side and over the course of the morning formed itself a pretty green chrysalis. The other caterpillar has been busy on and off since we got it eating up the milkweed leaves. The leaves are starting to dry, so today we were able to hear it making little crunching noises. Sort of like potato chips, only much smaller. We are very pleased, and I think we have already almost gotten our $6.50 worth of value from the little plastic cage – especially if you include the anticipation for what happens next.

This morning we spent some time with our friends J* and W*. Here the girls are playing piano with W*, who was singing the ABC song as he tunelessly pounded on the keys. It was adorable.

I’m really liking this new technique of holding the camera away from myself and taking a picture pointed back over their heads.

Oh, and when we came home the caterpillar was still eating, and our hidden friend had done a little decorating on its green pod…

There is now a gold metallic-looking ring around the chrysallis. I have no idea what’s up with that, but it is SO COOL! And we are very pleased.

Finally, the item which pleases us most this evening – an FO of the brightest variety.

Sophie was very pleased in her own little way, and seemed to enjoy modeling her new pants, turning around and raising her arms like a little toddler super-model.

The pants fit just as I hoped they would, with plenty of room in the back for her cloth diapers (she’s wearing a paper one in this photo since she was getting ready for bed, and I got tired of getting up at 3 a.m. to change wet cloth ones.) There are about four inches of extra length in the legs, and that was intentional as I’m hoping she’ll wear these for the next eight or so months.

They look great rolled up to her ankles, and there is enough looseness in the width that she shouldn’t have any trouble fitting them even if she fills out a bit in that direction – she’s on the thinnish side at the moment.

They even seemed comfortable enough as she crawled into the bathroom to say hello to Julie, who was “indisposed.”

A blocking shot:

The picot edge at the cuff:

The smooth edge at the waist band, and the seamless casing for the elastic, with which we are indeed quite pleased.

In Which We are NOT Very Pleased

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

The knitterly community has a habit of bragging on how wonderful, how generous and kind we all, as a group, tend to be. I would like to believe that this is generally true, and I do think that for the most part our craft does tend to attract a nicer sort of people than the overall population in most cases.

All populations have their stinkers, though, and their politics and their snits. There is a fine right case of poor behavior and misguided self-righteousness going on in the Twin Cities at the moment, and I for one am not at all pleased with the situation.

For years, the State Fair has been a bit of a problem for many knitters. I have sat through several September Guild meetings during which knitter after disgruntled knitter gets up and reads the judge’s comments on their entries, sneering and laughing at what the judges had to say, dismissing the constructive criticism with an “I know better than the judges” attitude. There is an ongoing joke about how many comments the judges make about the buttons on a garment, and even though the judges have been careful not to make these comments for the last several years, many of the guild members just can’t let it go. (Not all, mind you, but enough to make it quite noticeable to anyone present.)

For example, I sat there in one meeting and listened to a woman complain that her socks had not won a ribbon, with the judge citing a too-tight cast-on at the top of the cuff. The woman proudly proclaimed “I made that cast-on tight on purpose so the sock would stay up.” I cringed and slid down in my seat with embarrassment for her, seeing as I know from experience (and I’ve only been knitting for about seven years now, less at that time) that socks stay up when they fit properly and have enough crisply-knit ribbing at the top. A loose cast-on (or bind-off in the case of toe-ups) is necessary so that the thing will fit easily over your heel and to prevent an angry red line and cut off circulation at your calves.

It seems to me that most of this childish sneering is related to saving face, or preservation of pride. People have a hard time taking criticism, especially when they are proud of something they worked so hard to create. They want to be recognized for their hard work, and the State Fair is one of the few places we knitters to go to get real validation. So when they don’t get it, they turn to sour grapes. Scapegoating.

Well, that little issue is ongoing, and I will probably go to the September meeting (assuming family business allows) and I will probably see much of the same behavior. The State Fair judges tend to have fairly thick skin – they have to – and their positions are, as far as I can tell, relatively secure. Not to mention that the average person complaining about the judges has no idea who the judges are. Nothing new there really.

The new issue is a step worse, and I am much more bothered by the way things seem to be headed. There have been some rumblings – in internet forums and in coffee shops, probably in yarn stores and elsewhere – about certain knitters who’ve won “too many ribbons.” People are complaining that certain knitters enter too many things, that maybe they should give some of the other knitters a chance to win. They are finding “reasons” why specific knitters shouldn’t be allowed to compete any more – claiming that they are “professionals” and therefore ineligible according to the rules.

Okay, since she’s gone public about this on her blog, and has talked about it more eloquently, with much more calm and logic than I ever could in her position, I’m going to point you to Susan Rainey’s blog. Susan got an anonymous letter in the mail the other day. An anonymous letter trying to bully her out of entering the Fair any more. Please go read Susan’s post about it and see for yourself how all this has made her feel.

But also see how this has made me feel. I heard about this business first in an online forum, and then in a coffee shop here in town. Some people are campaigning for a crack-down on keeping “professional” knitters out of the Fair. They seem to think that anyone who has taught a class, or who has written a pattern for sale, should be disqualified from entering. Someone even implied that dyeing yarn for sale would qualify a person as a professional, and therefore maybe I – me – Shelly Kang – should stop entering my things in the Fair.

When I heard that – and it was from someone whom I highly respect – my heart just sank like a brick. I have won my share of ribbons, blue and various other colors, in the maybe four or five years I’ve entered things. I love entering things in the Fair. I love seeing them on display in the glass cases, I love standing there listening as people walk by and admire my work, unaware that the creator is standing right next to them. I’ll admit it, I love telling my friends and family that I won first place for that little sweater or the hat I designed. I love looking forward to the first day of the Fair, and going in the morning to get some mini-doughnuts and slowly walk through to see if my items have a pinned-on splash of color. As Susan said, it is like Christmas morning, only better.

I have been looking forward to entering that damned mitered-square blankie in the Fair pretty much since I started it, dreaming about seeing it on display as I sit and knit away for an evening.
And now, now because some people are jealous, or feel bad that their work has not measured up to the work of knitters like Susan and her ilk – knitters who spend years perfecting subtle techniques like the perfect stretchy cast-on or setting in a zipper just so – because those knitters want to, in my opinion, dumb down the competition to their level – my chance to ever enter in the Fair again may be in question.

Because, damn it, I’ve probably earned about the same amount of knitting cash as Susan during this past year, and maybe will earn a tiny bit more with the yarn business. Yes, I bring in a little bit of cash between my patterns for sale in the shops, my teaching, and now the yarn. But when I fill out my Schedule C on the tax forms, I’m barely breaking even after the business-related deductions like yarn (yes, we have to buy the yarn to make our samples most of the time) and needles, and paper and ink for the printer, and various equipment like ballwinders and niddy-noddies. Never mind things like the hot water and the gas for the stove when I’m dyeing yarn. If I were to add up all the tiny little costs, it would put me well into the red, and we wouldn’t want to trigger a tax audit.

But because people are looking for a reason to make their chances at a ribbon a little easier, because apparently they don’t understand the idea of improving their skills and taking the time to pay attention to detail, Susan and I and many other fine knitters in the state are worrying about this issue tonight. We’re just trying to have our version of fun and at the same time advance the craft.

I, for one, will be incredibly sad if the angry masses convince the Fair superintendents to “do something” about this “issue.” I don’t want to be left out of the fun, but more importantly, I don’t want to walk through the Creative Activities building and see blue ribbons on knitting that hasn’t been blocked properly, or on intarsia and Fair Isle garments that pucker, or even, god forbid, on a sweater that is otherwise perfect but has horrendously clashing buttons. I don’t want to stand in front of the cases and listen to people point and laugh, wondering who would bother knitting when all they can produce is wonky-looking sweaters and things nobody would want to wear.

Now let’s all go give Susan a group hug – she must be having a hard week, when she should be truly enjoying her hard-earned success.

Next up, as post In Which We ARE Very Pleased…

State Fair!

Monday, August 27th, 2007

We went to the State Fair today, and I have the pictures to prove it. But first, let me show you the naughty naughty kitty who very much enjoys laying on freshly dyed yarn whenever he gets the chance. I try to keep the cats off the yarn, but they will sneak in there and snuggle occasionally. That’s Harry, by the way.

So we went to the Fair. I spent about five minutes looking at the knitting in the Creative Activities building, before the family got restless. Which means that I am definitely going back by myself some night this week. Probably Wednesday, although Thursday and Friday are options. Any volunteers to either ride with or meet me at the Fair, oogle the things in the Creative Activities Building, and eat ourselves silly?

But back to today. We loved the butterfly house last year, and we loved it again this year.

We stopped for lunch, and ate more crap than I want to think about, but it’s always fun to share, so I’m going to tell you all that we ate. Roasted ears of corn for me and the girls; a giant pile of fresh-cut french fries; fried green tomatoes; a corn dog for me (and it was a giant corn dog because I sent Joe off for it, and that is what he brought back); lemonade; and a hamburger for Joe. Whew!

Oh, and Joe ran into our good friends J, M and H with husband/father O. They were eating lunch on the same grassy median as us just a block away. It really is the Great Minnesota Get-Together.

After that, it was time for the carousel. Julie loves the carousel. Joe loves making funny faces for the camera.

This is what Sophie looked like while she watched Joe and Julie on their first ride. The plan was to let them go once first, then we would all go together for a second ride.

Sophie was….

really excited. Thrilled. to be on the carousel.

That moment? The one where I watched my little baby looking at the bright lights and the horses and the mirrors and the canopy? The one when the horses started moving as the music played? That was one of the happiest moments of my life. I started to choke up with happiness witnessing the joy and wonder on her face. It was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing.

And then, moments later, she conked out.

So we took Julie to get her face painted.

And we let her ride the water bumper cars.

And then we watched the parade before we headed home. We’ll have to try harder to see more of the animals next year.

FO – Pomatomus Socks!

Friday, August 24th, 2007

Yesterday I finally finished this pair of socks – socks that I started back in March. I worked up the first one as a sample for the class I taught earlier in the summer, and once the class was over, the pressure was off to finish the socks and that last few inches just didn’t happen. What finally motivated me to get these off the needles is a little embarrassing…I wanted to enter them in Ravelry, but I didn’t want to own up to another unfinished object. I’m not saying there aren’t a whole lot more UFOs in my stash, and maybe some of them will end up on my projects list in Ravelry before they’re finished, but for now I at least get to add one more completed item.

The pictures, unfortunately, suck because it’s been raining outside.

But I really love these socks. The Koigu is so soft and springy, the stitch pattern so beautiful. For once, I resisted the handpaint yarns and stuck with the solid color that I know works best with lace.

The other thing I wanted to share last night was the results from the class I just finished teaching at the store. My students rocked! I love it when I get a good group, and these ladies were a ton of fun. On top of that, they all did really well, and this is the set of hats they came up with.

I’m pretty sure they enjoyed the cookies, too.

Anyway, it’s been too long since we had a video, so I’m sharing two new ones with you tonight. Julie was having fun in the back yard the other day.

Remember these bouncy balls from when we were kids? I loved the bouncing balls, and I love watching Julie bouncing around.

One thing I didn’t have when I was a kid, and unless you’re from Europe, you probably didn’t either is a running bike. They’re great for helping little kids learn to ride because they work on their balance first before adding in the complication of pedals. When Julie got it for her birthday last year, she begged Joe to “Buy the pedals for it, Daddy!” Now, she’s pretty much mastered it, and I think next spring she’ll be ready for a bike with pedals. Julie on her running bike:

Someone was a wee bit excited…

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

When we came home from shopping for her ballet clothes and I told her that yes, she could put on the froufy pink tutu we bought for her. She saw it almost immediately when we entered the store, and while it’s not really appropriate attire for her class, she really, really wanted it, and I figured it would be good for at-home play.

Readers who have been around a while may remember the purple tutu dress she wore pretty much all day every day last winter. It finally bit the dust this spring after a few too many potty accidents in it. And she had pretty much worn the thing out – I had resewn various parts of it several times. Joe’s mom had bought it for her, and she grilled me about it the last time she was over here babysitting the kids. I explained truthfully, but between the language barrier and lack of trust, I’m still not sure whether she understands and/or believes me. She’s planning on getting Julie some kind of replacement for her birthday in a few weeks, but I sort of figure the more of these play clothes the better for sharing with friends and sisters.

I need to dig out the other play clothes that I put away months ago when we were struggling with getting Julie to pick up after herself. We still struggle with that, but it’s time for some of those things to come back out into the rotation.

But back to ballet. I went ahead and signed Julie up for those lessons, and I think I am almost excited (and nervous) about them as she is. Yes, I will be living vicariously through my four-year-old to some extent, but only as long as she enjoys it. I paid for the whole year of lessons up front, including the shoes, costume and recital fees – all adding up to just over $650. I was careful to check about refunds in case it doesn’t work out, and at least if Julie doesn’t like it, we can have credit for future classes (like maybe for Sophie to try). Between that check, and the additional chunk I put down this morning for leotard, tights, practice skirt, cute little dance bag and for course the tutu, I think that’s more than a generous birthday present, even if it is a little early. Yipes! They weren’t kidding when they said kids are expensive.

Also, we signed Sophie up for ECFE classes, which is another, if smaller, chunk of change. But we did those classes with Julie from even earlier on, and they were great. Sophie needs a little more socialization with people her own age, and it’s good to have an outlet for meeting other moms and getting advice. I may even look into a music class for Sophie if I can find one on another morning while Julie is in school. Sophie loves to dance. I have a video I took last week that I keep meaning to put up on You-Tube…

Whew! I just had to share all that. I have another post in my head waiting to get typed out as well. I meant to put it up last night, but didn’t have time after my knitting class and some other household business that had to be taken care of. It involves a finished object, and it’s probably not the finished object you would be expecting if you’re keeping score at home.

Yarn Update!

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007

Yes, the long awaited yarn update is coming your way. But first, let’s look at some cute kid pics. We went to a birthday party on Sunday night. Sophie wore a handknit hand-me-down. I love this little sweater.

Trying to line up a pack of kids for a group photo is like herding cats.

I have been working a lot on getting my giant pile of yarn colored up. Tonight I was dyeing yarn on one side of the kitchen…

And baking cookies on the other side of the kitchen.

This is why I choose to use food coloring instead of commercial dyes.

Before I really started doing this, I would read about people “reskeining” their yarn after dyeing it. Why? I wondered. So then I tried it. Before on top, after on bottom. It looks so much neater, and the colors all blend together and look happy.

And here is one of pretty much each colorway I’ve dyed so far this batch. Most of them have a lot more where that came from – or at least a few more. Colors are not entirely accurate here.

There is also that little pile of mostly-solid colors, which are also intended to be sold, but that story is for another night. I’ll leave you with one more tidbit. The plan is to put all this yarn up on etsy some time in mid-September. I want to get through the start of the school year and Julie’s birthday, plus give myself a little more time to dye up more yarn before I deal with the shipping portion of the business.

Oh, The Humanity!

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007

Oh, the horrors of the mall play area on a rainy morning…One can
hardly spot their own children amonst the ravening masses…but it's
relatively easy to spot the mostly-empty baby food container some
conscientious parent left ON THE FLOOR!

Tonight, circumstances willing, a yarn update.

Saturday Night in the ‘hood

Sunday, August 19th, 2007

I know I’m constantly bragging about my awesome neighbors, but here we go again. The other day we were chatting around the back yards, and somehow the idea of a barbecue came up. I think we were talking about homebrews and bloody marys and that led into getting together for a meal.

The plan was for Megan’s backyard if it was sunny, Laura’s house if it was rainy. It’s rainy.

Gene across the street one way makes a killer bloody mary. There he is assembling them for the grownups. They are so smooth and so tasty, they slide down dangerously fast.

The kids tore into the den and “discovered” all the toys. Here’s Joe admiring Radley’s collection of Ugly Dolls.

Our hostess, Laura, looking super-cute with her signature piggy tails and her yummay drink.

Here’s the scene as we pass the food. I brought hamburgers, sweet potato fries, sauteed onions, and Joe’s homebrew beers. Davin and Laura had the buns, the lettuce, other fixin’s, and most importantly the place. Megan brought amazing ratatoullie (or however you spell that awesome grilled-vegetable-medley dish). She also brought some really good wasabi mayonnaise and this amazing chocolate cake.

Sophie and Radley had a little fight over who got to stick their hand in the hole in the high char tray. It was funny and cute.

They have a fun staircase with steps on either side of the house going up to the landing. So tempting for the 1-2 set.

The meal was so good. The company was so good. The bloody mary was so good I had a second one. And then we had dessert. The cake was from Schwan’s, very decadent. I had to share mine with Sophie, and couldn’t shovel it into her little mouth fast enough for her taste.

And when it was time to go home, we just walked across the street. Thanks, neighbors!

Blankie Friday, and It’s About Time.

Saturday, August 18th, 2007

I know, I’ve been remiss on the blankie Fridays. It’s because not a whole lot has been going on in Blankie-land. There may be a new square or two since the last update, but I’ve been busy catching up on the other projects that I ignored for so long while I was doing the crazy-major-blankie push. Once I realized that Blankie wasn’t going to make it to the State Fair this year, I gave myself permission to take a little break. I’m getting right back to it here soon – I do want to get it finished just so that it can be done and over with.

That said, there is some fresh blankie-related news. I got an e-mail while I was on vacation from a knitting magazine in Australia. They want to include my blankie in an article about using up scrap yarn to be published in October. Yay!

Also, I’ll be teaching a class on the blankie – or really, mitered square projects – you could just make a scarf, or you could turn the idea into a sweater – at the Yarnery starting in November. That sample I’ve been working up is a little teeny koigu blankie. It’s not done yet, but it will be soon.

In other news, Season Two of Weeds so far is hilarious. If you haven’t Netflixed this series yet, I recommend it.

Also, I spent a couple of hours tonight dyeing up some more yarn. It’s still cooling off in the steamer. Photos tomorrow, maybe. I am planning to sell this stuff eventually, and there will be an announcement here before I put it up so that people can have a fair chance at buying some.

Today was a much better day. Thanks for all your kind thoughts today, they helped.

Bad Attitude

Friday, August 17th, 2007

I had a really shitty day today. Not going to talk about it, just putting it out there. So anyway, you’re getting a bad attitude post today. Hopefully you won’t notice too much.

I’m sitting here watching season two of Weeds on DVD, so I may be a bit distracted. I’m just sayin’.

So, anyway, I’m getting ready to sign Julie up for dance lessons for the fall. I need to get right on that. She’s just a wee bit obsessed with ballet and dancing, so it’s not optional. She needs lessons. I’m thinking about this place since it’s right around the corner from where we live. Any thoughts?

As bad as today was, Tuesday was not so bad really. We went to the park with our friends. Julie ran around collecting leaves.

There was lots of swinging. Lots and Lots of swinging. The older girls demanded many “underdogs” and we un-vented something called an “over-dog”.

Yesterday wasn’t so bad either, really. This was the look on Sophie’s face when I told her Big Bird had to stay at home as we were headed out the door to wherever it was we went yesterday. I can’t remember where that was at the moment. My brain is too fried.

One good thing happened today. I dyed some yarn. It is part of a semi-secret little plan that I have, one that will become more clear as the plan develops.

Now I am going to go play on Ravelry for a bit, then continue working on that sample for the store while I try to readjust my attitude. See you tomorrow with Blankie Friday.