Moma said there’d be days like these

Um… I’m having a gender identity issue. I took a Quizilla this afternoon while browsing the Blogosphere, and it appears that I’m a Knitting Goddess. I’m flattered, but a little bruised, too. Are there no Knitting Gods? I don’t have to be THE Knitting God, but… I could be the Knitting Ganesh! I like him. And I’ve already got the belly. Oo-oo! And with four arms, I could knit the HELL out of some stuff.

You appear to be a Knitting Goddess. You are constantly giving and are unconcerned with reward, you simply want others to love knitting as much as you do. If someone wants to knit miles of novelty yarns, you are there for them. If someone wants to learn short row shaping, you can help. There are no taboos in knitting, only opportunities to grow. Everyone should have friend like you around if they want to learn to knit, and there’s a good chance that your passion has rubbed off on a few others. http://marniemaclean.com
Take this quiz!

What do you say, Marnie? 😉

Regarding Yesterday’s Post

Thanks to everyone who responded to the zipper post yesterday. I really didn’t realize until yesterday what a hangup I had on that issue, and I was completely blind to even noticing that the issue existed. It was one of those "doesn’t everybody feel this way?" things. Thanks to everyone for the confidence-building comments and obviously pretty straightforward solutions. And thank you very much to Janeen for helping me see that there was, in fact, an issue. I can’t wait to actually get to try out some of these new-found skills!

Hmm… goodness. What ELSE do we not realize about our self-imposed limitations?

Lions and Tigers and Zippers… oh, my!

In part, because I almost exclusively handle Rob‘s finishing on projects intended for shop models, and in part, because I am a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to finishing, I have become known in the community of knitters that surrounds ThreadBear as a finishing expert. The truth is that I do handle a lot of finishing, and since I’ve long-since taken over the task of leading ThreadBear’s Knit ER sessions that are offered every Wednesday night, I see more and more of it on a weekly basis.

I bring it up to make the following point: there was a time in the not-so-distant past that I had to learn Kitchener stitch and was delighted with myself the first time I did it and made it look good. I remember that. This isn’t some vague memory from my distant past; it was just a few years ago when I was getting back into knitting as an adult. I’ve learned a lot in the last several years, and certainly, since opening a retail yarn shop, I’ve learned much more than I ever thought I’d be able to. I used to think that Fair Isle was magic. I thought that only the most perfectly skilled knitter would ever be able to make Intarsia look like nice, flat fabric. And I thought that nice, even seams were something that was accomplished only by commercial garment construction methods. I’ve since learned that seams in handmade knitted garments are typically much different from what now seem to me slapped together commercial knits.

For some time, though, I’ve recommended that people who want to put a zipper into a knitted piece take the zipper and the otherwise finished and blocked garment to a trusted and proven tailor to get zippers installed professionally. Now, I’m starting to wonder. A friend and I were talking today about "The Book", and she asked me if I’d planned on including a simple, zipper-front cardigan. Well, of course, not. I want things that people can do themselves… but wait. My mother made our clothing when I was a kid, and she put zippers into garments all the time. She is a genius and all, but… well, I used to not know how to do a Kitchener stitch. Fair Isle used to look like magic. Hmm…

So here’s my most current quest: how to effectively install a zipper into a knitted garment. I know the information is out there. I know I can do it. And I suspect it’s no more magic than is Fair Isle. It’s a basic set of steps that, when done correctly, generally yields an attractive result.

I’m not afraid of steeking. I’m not afraid of Kitchener, Fair Isle, Intarsia, or the Far Right. Well, I’m a little afraid of the Far Right, but I’m getting better about that. And soon, I’ll conquer zippers.

Any suggestions on where to start looking?

Defining My Goal

Realistically, I suppose it’s unfair to call a writing day and a day off running errands and pouring over next season’s stock a respite, but I’m used to having to be much more… on. The opportunity to roam around in my own head has been quite a treat. It’s a bit dusty in there, but I’ve been pulling sheets off furniture and basically doing all of the things that very stupid people do at the beginnings of horror movies set in very old houses. Should that concern me?

Most of Monday was prep work. I went through all of my old notes and looked at the design ideas for the book. I reviewed yarn selections, did a little swatching, considered model garment colors (and knitters), and wrote an introduction that will likely be changed a thousand times if it survives at all. More than anything, though, I considered what it is that I’m trying to accomplish. I want to offer something I haven’t seen much of in a while: a big book chucked full of garment patterns that a reasonably large cross-section of men would really want to wear. Don’t get me wrong. There have been some great books out for men in the last few years. Drew and Annie’s Men Who Knit & The Dogs Who Love Them is excellent. For the most part, though, my shelves are overflowing with books of women’s patterns, children’s patterns, sock patterns, lace patterns, throw patterns, pet patterns, and occasionally even patterns for garments for your inanimate objects. No offense to iPod, but I’d like as good a selection for myself.

So here’s what I’m demanding of myself: no less than twenty-five garment patterns for men (not unisex garments that can be worn by courageous men who are deeply secure in their sexual identity, but handsome garments designed for men), a range of styles from very traditional to ultramodern, a range of difficulty levels from easy-as-pie to genuinely challenging, and a handful of real, thoughtful accessories that men can actually get some use out of… socks, hats, scarves… maybe mittens or gloves. Is there anything I’m missing? Probably. Are there segments of the population I’m overlooking? Of course.

Here’s the thing, though. Good ol’ Harry from Operations has gotten the short end of the stick pretty universally on clothing. He gets slacks, a long-sleeve button-down shirt, and a tie. Occasionally, he’ll wear a jacket. In cooler weather he can accessorize with a scarf. In short, he’s locked in, and a lot of what’s out there is designed for twenty-somethings and gym bunnies. No, I’m not just writing the Lane Bryant book for men. No, I’m not just after the Elmer Fudd market. I just want good, attractive designs that a large number of men can wear without belonging to their own knit clique that is going to oo-and-ah over a project just because it’s finished and it fits. Yes, I do intend to have wide selections of sizes, and you better believe that I’m planning on putting a pattern for boot socks in there for the guy who simply refuses to wear anything else that’s hand knit. That said, I don’t believe that it’s unreasonable to expect designers to put out patterns for men that Harry can wear to work, to the game, to his brother Bob’s campsite, or to the bar come Friday night without being looked at sideways.

And for the record, I’d like to state very clearly that I am an openly gay man who operates a yarn shop. I’m not trying to deceive anyone—not even myself—into the idea that I’m anything but. I’m not trying to de-gay anything. I truly am proud of who I am and how I’ve dealt with my own personal challenges.

Personally, though, I find masculinity attractive, and I doubt that I’m alone in that. Do I want to be stylish? Sure, I do. But that doesn’t necessitate that I abdicate testosterone. Sex sells, does it not? And in my oh-so-less-than-humble opinion, men are hot.

Come Monday

It’ll be all right. Hell, it might even be downright wonderful.

I’ve been toying around with ideas for a book since… well, honestly since Big Girl Knits came out last spring. Our friend (and Jillian’s and Amy’s), Shannon Okey, was in the store for the book release party and mentioned that I should write a book of men’s patterns. I wrote it off at the time, but a few days later, I had a moment of free time and started rolling some ideas around in my head. Within twenty-four hours, Shannon and I had exchanged a barrage of e-mails, and the ball was ready to roll. Then, reality struck.

In case you’ve not noticed, I have this little thing called ThreadBear that takes up a moment or two of my time. I did spend several weeks pouring over sketches and swatches, but for the most part, that dried up as autumn business started picking up. Don’t quote me, but I think that for us, that was in June. My dearly departed Granny would warn me that I shouldn’t look a gift-horse in the mouth, and I’d have to agree. I truly am grateful that our business has done well as so many others have seen numbers drop. That said, I’ve also not had a ton of time on my hands to work on the book.

DC Comics' Mr. MxyzptlkThen, enter Rob. Now, it’s no great secret that we don’t often see eye-to-eye. He’s a textbook Scorpio, and as the name of this blog attests, I truly am a screaming Aries. Polite and long-view focused astrologers will tell you that this is a volatile combination, full of dynamicism and creative energy. Less visionary ones will simply quickly and quietly pack up their charts and move to the nearest exit. It’s not that we aren’t a good match, we’re just… different. And not just opposite. Opposite would suggest that we’re working within the same paradigm. Uh, no. We’re on different planes of existence. Occasionally, when he asks me a question, I expect to see Mr. Mxyzptlk pop into the corner of the room and smile mischievously.

Having said that, our skewed perspectives give us a unique opportunity to brainstorm with a partner and colleague who—by definition—is going to see the issue with a starkly different set of parameters. And we do occasionally find ways of simply delighting each other that defy definition. The most recent way is this: he came to me yesterday to suggest that I start taking Mondays to work on the book. Not my one day off a week. That would be Tuesday. And this isn’t a day off. It’s a day for me to dedicate entirely to swatching, calculations, writing, knitting, ripping, knitting again… It’s a full-fledged design and writing day!

There are moments when I absolutely want to give this man a trophy. Who comes up with ideas like this? Ninety percent—maybe more—of the people with whom we interact on a daily basis are going to ask me what monumental bargain I’ve struck to afford this boon. The simple truth is that I don’t have any idea. I suppose I just have a wonderful partner. As I’ve said, we rarely see things eye-to-eye, and he’ll likely disagree with even this assessment. But when push comes to shove, that’s the truth of it.

Happy Valentine’s Day to me. 😉

Rockin’ the Socks

I shied away from socks when I first started knitting. It wasn’t that I thought they were difficult, but I’d had a couple of shop owners ask me point blank if, since I was a man, I just knit socks. It kind of put me off socks, honestly. I somehow assumed that if I was knitting socks that people would assume that socks were all that I could knit.

I have no need to be an apologist for men or sock knitters, but um… men knit, and socks aren’t just anything. They’re actually pretty detailed projects that anyone who knits socks recognizes as a fairly involved knitting project. That said, they’re really not hard to make, and they’re a little like chips. “Just one” is something of a joke. I posted recently that I had six ongoing sock projects in my knitting bag presently. It wasn’t an exaggeration. Actually, I missed one.

Sock 1:

Toe up socks in Schaefer Anne using a short row toe and heel.

Sock 2:

Toe up socks in Schaefer Lola with Jo Sharp Classic DK Wool toes, heels, and cuff knit using a reverse toe chimney and afterthought heel.

Sock 3:

Yeah, this one doesn’t quite count, I suppose, but it’s Rob’s version of the socks I’m knitting for myself in Sock 2. Obviously, this one hasn’t made it onto the needles yet.

Sock 4:

This is second of my original Dog’s Breakfast socks. It’s mate is already being worn with random other completed socks. This one’s about to be ripped, though. I’m a bit snug on tension, and I’ve now worked out how to get the striping to go all the way to the toe. Oh, and it’s a random variegated and two jacquard striped 50g balls out of stash. I think they’re all old Regia colorways, but I sincerely can’t remember. Of course, the bands are long gone.

Sock 5:

Koigu version of the same sock. This is the one on which I worked out how to get the striping to go all the way to the toe. It is a bit thin for me, so it’s getting ripped, too, to be reknit in my size.

Sock 6:

Yet another Dog’s Breakfast Sock. This one is a strand of Schaefer Anne (handpaint), one strand of Ornaghi Filati Luna Park (self-striping), and one strand of Sandnesgarn Lanett (solid).

Sock 7:

Argyles of my own design in four shades of Louet Gems Sport.

That seems like enough, no? No. There is also Sock 8: the mate to an Interlacements Toasty Toes sock that I’m already wearing… frequently with mate to Sock 4. I’d like to get to work on Sock 9, too, but that’s the mate to another Koigu sock for which the yarn hasn’t been unpacked since we moved from Columbus, Indiana to Lansing over two-and-a-half years ago. Oddly enough, Rob and I are talking about doing some work on the house to actually start settling in, so that might turn up sooner than I’d have originally expected. And Sock 10? Well, that’s undecided as yet, but I’m really looking forward to seeing the new Twisted yarns that Meg’s currently dyeing for us.

Does this constitute a psychosis?

Movable Type Issue 1

I’ve searched through the manuals and online "knowledge base" to come up with absolutely bupkis. I am, therefore, opening my arms to the universe to let the answer come to me. Very zen, no?

Here’s the issue: when you go to my archives, the links that bring you back to the main page take you to the actual folder address of the files on the primary www.threadbearfiberarts.com domain instead of the crowingram.threadbearfiberarts.com subdomain. I’ve adjusted the root listings on the SETTINGS page in the CONFIGURE section. How can I make <$MTBlogURL$> translate to my subdomain address?

Please, don’t be shy. I’ll take any and all suggestions.

G’night.

Ripping Van Winkle

I’m always happy when I have the opportunity to browse through Blogland. I forget what a great boon this community has been to me, and it’s jarring when I “come home” and realize that all of the nieces and nephews are all a little older, the tree in the back yard is just a little bigger, and the lines are slowly starting to deepen on the cousins’ faces… the ones who are younger than me. *shudder*

I know that Blogland has grown. I hear about it on the news and in papers, it’s evident when political pundits worry that their candidate has some detractor in Yazoo City, Mississippi that’s creating a fuss on the national level, and it becomes very clear when I update my own rather puny blog. But the reality of it hadn’t hit me until this morning when I started updating my ring status and browsing through who all (yes, that’s a Southernism) of my dear bloggin’ buddies are still out there. The rings are huge… almost to the point of irrelevance. I could spend all day every day reading all of the wonderful, interesting posts and never get through them all, and I’m only reading knit-content blogs. And there’s no way that I can actually make my way around an entire ring—any of them.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s wonderful to know that so many people are connecting. When Rob and I started ThreadBear, one of the primary issues that we wanted to address was the idea of building a knitting community online. Now, who’s feeling irrelevant? I’d say the job is fait accompli. The vastness of the online knitting community is simply staggering, and I’m so glad to still be here… to still be a part of it.

I’ve had my head down and have been plugging through for so long that I honestly didn’t see what was growing up around us. ThreadBear has been a great success, but it has been so at the expense of almost all of both Rob’s and my time for the last several years. He’s made a point of staying constantly in touch with what is going on online; I’ve let him call my attention to the things that he thought required my attention. But it’s definitely not the same as being here. I feel like Rip Van Winkle rubbing my eyes and scratching my suddenly-too-long beard.

And the people! I can only begin to touch on how wonderful everything I’m seeing is, but I do want to make two quick comments. I’m so incredibly happy that some of our old friends are still around. I stopped by Purls before Swine earlier this morning and was, as always, struck by Marcia’s ability to pull life’s essence into a daily commentary that can make you howl with laughter or bawl from the gut. Good deal, sister. Keep truckin’. And I’ve been delighted to find some folks that I really hadn’t paid much attention to before. Crazy Aunt Purl‘s author got me dead to rights a few days ago (Feb. 3) with her cathartic post on weight loss, shame, self-image, and grace in the face of unintentional cruelty that we, as a culture, seem to heap on the backs of our friends, loved ones, and even occasional associates who have gone to the staggering effort of reshaping their lives and bodies to become healthier. Frankly, I’m fat as… well, I’m really freakin’ fat, and I am constantly looking at other people’s bodies to encourage them on their journeys toward better health, but I also know exactly where Laurie is coming from. Color me chastised.

I suppose the point of this is simply that I’m, as ever, glad to be among this energetic, creative, and spectacularly talented group of people. And I’ve never been so excited about making the time to be a part of it.

Life without Blogger

If you’re waiting for the forthcoming diatribe, it isn’t. There’s no big issue. There’s a small one, I suppose, but that’s just that I’ve not been able to get the RSS feed to work on either Rob’s or my site except through Bloglines, and I’ve had friends telling me to move to Movable Type since before we left Indiana. I’m game… despite the fact that this is the second writing of this blog post since the first one was eaten by the Moveable Type posting interface. This one’s being written in a text editor; Rob would be so proud. So no, there’s no real drama. I’m fine, Rob’s fine, the dogs are fine, ThreadBear’s fine, and as far as I know everyone at Blogger is fine. Alice just doesn’t live there anymore.

Life is definitely taking some interesting changes, though. I realized recently that in the monstrous yet portable knitting basket that serves as one of my two purses (the other is for books and electronics) I currently have six sock projects on the needles. Where’s Susan Powter? I’ve also committed to designing twenty-five—and hopefully knitting several—garments for a book for which I will also need to come up with a little expositive content. And then there’s ThreadBear. Show of hands. How many people out there work six days a week every week, work a minimum of eleven hours five of those days, and have not as yet worked your way to the top of the nearest clock tower with a semi-automatic high-powered firearm and engaged in a little creative Darwinism?

Don’t get me wrong. I love my job. Seriously, I really love my job. I can honestly say that I have seldom garnered the level of satisfaction and sense of true accomplishment that I have at ThreadBear. That said, I’d genuinely love to pull a little Vulcan Mind Meld on the next person who has the unmitigated lack of foresight to suggest that they’d love to open a yarn shop so that they could sit and knit all day. The drool running down their chin alone would be worth the memory of the image of Kim Catrall with a black bob. Sabot, she said. Sister, don’t I know.

Realistically, though, I have been making some fairly sharp alterations in my lifecourse. Rob and I are getting along famously, I spent much of one recent day off in the masturbatory fantasy of would-be anal-retentives everywhere—the Franklin Covey Store—finally getting my 2007 planner updated, and oh, joy of geeky joy, I’m the proud owner of a new HP Pavilion laptop complete with Windows Vista; and in five whole days, I’ve yet to see a blue screen of death. (And if you think I didn’t just knock wood, you’ve lost your frickin’ mind.)

So things are well. Expect the new template to be up within the next few days. I’m not rushing it. I’ll have a link to the archives up soon, too.

For the time being, just send me good vibes. I’ll be doing the same for all of you.

Much love,
Matt.

Gotta Love Wool Weather

If you’re a yarn shop owner and you’re complaining about the cold, bite your tongue. Folks keep coming into the shop asking my transplanted Southern ASCII if I’m surviving the cold. Uh… yeah! I sell wool. My business is booming!

As a matter of fact, as I was setting up Movable Type this morning at 3:00am, I pulled a screenshot of my desktop.

-7F°

Yes, there is a minus sign in front of that 7. Yes, it really is minus 7 in Lansing. And we’re not nearly as cold as folks on the other side of the lake… or Lakes. And just a few weeks ago we were having record highs for January. Congratulations to everyone who’s managed not to catch a cold. To everyone else, bless you.

Knitting Survey

I got a very interesting e-mail from one of my staff earlier today. Check it out:

I got this off the ‘spindlers list’, thought you might be interested.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Posted by: "Kathie [hidden]" [hidden]@[hidden]
Thu Feb 1, 2007 11:05 am (PST)

My niece, herself a knitter, is doing her thesis on knitters & knitting and has set up an on-line survey to collect the information to put her paper together. If you’re a knitter, would you mind taking a couple of minutes to go over and fill it out? It doesn’t take long. Here’s the link:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s.asp?u=772833217495

I and my niece thank you!

Kathie

More local news soon!
Matt.