The Comfort Of Merino: A Brief Tolkien Thursday

tolkien There’s something immensely comforting about merino

 

Especially when you have twisted your ankle.

 I think, only knitters (and readers) can find something good in a twisted ankle. Time for reading epics. Time for knitting that second sock. I’ve been perusing a stack of old Knitters and some Interweave Knits magazines that I’ve picked up, and had some good giggles over them. I’ll be sharing some of that this Friday and possibly Monday.

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April 30, 2008. Tags: . Knittin' Porn, Tolkien Thursdays, works-in-progress. 4 comments.

Exciting News For Lumpy Sweater Readers!

  I’ve always wondered what I had to offer.

 I’m no designer. Not yet anyway-and with my current skills, you’re not going to be seeing me on the front of Interweave Knits anytime soon.

 I’m not an expert knitter, either, as the title of this blog testifies. I am currently knitting a rather lumpy sweater. It’s not horrible, but it’s no Alice Starmore creation with my own special tweaks or anything.

 In fact, it almost seems to me that I have very little to give the knitting community. Not in the typical sense, anyway. So, I blog, I knit, and that’s that.

 However, I think that the knitting community has proved me wrong. After I posted a rather off-hand, humorous blog post last Wednesday, The Sacraments Of Knitting: A Simple Tract, something…well, something special happened.

 Comments started to flow. Rabbi David Kominsky left a comment, and a link to his own humorous post about religion and knitting. Reverend Deb said that her new knitting group was making daily knitting converts—something any pastor of any religion might envy!

 Then Dava nearly gave me a heart attack (when I saw my hit rate!) when she linked to me on Ravelry, adding a kind comment about my post. People added their own insight and comments there, and then CarmaFrancie chimed in to say,

  •  “Honestly, you should get this to a graphic designer and have it made up into a microbook. Would you mind if I did, given the proper credit to you and your blog?”

 Mind? Mind! I sent her a message right away, and after some back and forth, I’ve got some exciting news.

 “Knitting: A Simple Tract For The Curious”  will be available as a free PDF download from The Lumpy Sweater! It will be my first free download ever!

 The format will be simple, and the content will be aimed at non-knitters, those who haven’t yet converted to the art and craft of knitting. Gentle humor may be included. It will be revised and expanded from the original.

 As soon as I am finished writing up and revising the material, Carma and I will smooth out any wrinkles, and I hope to have it available (barring any mishaps or life events) by the end of May.

  Because of the very organic way that this tract has come about, I welcome suggestions for the tract, comments and more from anyone and everyone. You can leave a comment here or email me at genuine_lye AT yahoo DOT com.

 I look forward to hearing from you!

 

April 29, 2008. Tags: , . The Lumpy Sweater News. 11 comments.

Weird People Radar: I Can Haz It?

 I always, always get the weird people. Always.

 Once, it was the scrawny and scruffy old man who insisted on telling me about

  • His giant collection of trains
  • His rare old records
  • His girlfriend whom he divorced to get together with—he seemed intent on emphasizing that she was 20 years older than him, and they had True Love.
  • Other stuff I have blocked from my memory

 Oh, and did I mention that he had spent the night sleeping under a tarp—I mean, laying on the sidewalk, with a tarp over his head—while waiting in line to go to this booksale?

 The point is that if I hadn’t allowed the conversation to start, I wouldn’t have had to stand there for half an hour, stupidly nodding and ‘hmming’ with great interest. The weird people always zero in on the clueless like me. The other incident was a young man in a Barnes and Noble bookstore.

 Picture me: I am peacefully perusing a stack of knitting books. I am very obviously reading. A nervous looking young man, probably in his twenties, drops himself into the fat leather chair next to mine.

 He’s not reading.

 He’s nervously twining his hands together, and sighing, and leaning back in his chair. Somewhere, a warning in my head sounded, but I didn’t want to surrender my chair just to avoid him. Bad idea. In the course of the next 15 minutes, I am told

  • He lost his job that day. Oh, wait, I think he quit his job that day. Can’t remember
  • He wants to travel somewhere
  • The meaning of the astrological signs, and also inquiring as to what MY sign is, and whether or not I buy into non-scientific bull crap believe in them. He kindly explained what my signs meant even though to be entirely accurate, he needed to know more about my house or something. I think I’m Ravenclaw—or is that something else?

 Finally, mercifully, it was time to go anyway, so I had a good excuse to slip away, smiling weakly in his direction.

 But here’s the real kicker of a story. Imagine me in the library, finding a spot to park my laptop, and do some surfing. Then, imagine that there’s an older lady sitting at one of the tables, busily knitting what looks like a baby sweater. Hurrah, I think, what a find!

 Not really. My first warning came when she immeaditely told me that

  • She had a sweater in the car, for sale. For sale, she repeated, for just $15 dollars! A handknit sweater!

 For the next 10 minutes, I was held captive as she repeatedly emphasised how this person who originally commisioned the sweater backed out of it. I connected to the ‘net, and checked my email, and she continued to talk, oblivious to my “BE QUIET AND LEAVE ME ALONE” vibes that I was desperately trying to emit.

 All the while, she knit on the blue thing. She stopped only to retrieve the wondrous $15 sweater from her car. I felt trapped. I had $42 in my bag, and I think she was attempting to levitate the cash from my pocket, through guilt or pressure or what I have no idea.

 Now imagine that I’m sitting in that library.

 Right now.

 Desperately trying to avoid catching her eye once more.

Just $15!

I think that I need to invest in a weird people radar instead.

April 28, 2008. Tags: , . Snark Editorial. 10 comments.

Knitting And Crochet Books On The Cheap

 I bought most of this books for $2-3 bucks, and the most I paid was $25 for the hat book. I was truly amazed at the great books that I found at some used book sales.

Poems of Color: Knitting In The Bohus Tradition. My eyes nearly fell out of my head when I spied this. Amazing deal on this expensive and sought after book. Just $2!

Fine and Fancifal Hats To Knit.  Paid $25 for this, since the people running the sale obviously recognized its worth. I love the humorous patterns, but this is mostly for me to swap or sell for yarn money. I need to support my habit.

 I love Rae Compton’s amazing historical books, just dense with information. Paid about $2 for this OOP treasure.

Everyday Crochet for $2. I need to work on my skills. There are some really cute patterns here.

A Treasury Of Crochet Patterns. It looks like the crochet equal of Barbara Walker’s knitting stitch treasuries. A obscure and little known resource. I wonder why.

Rowan: The Cork Collection. $1. There are some beautiful classic designs in this book. I was pleasantly surprised.

I’ve finally gotten my paws onto a copy of Knitting Without Tears for about $2.25.

Socks Soar On Two Circular Needles. I need to edumucate myself with this book. $2

Barbara Walker’s Learn To Knit Afghan book. It’s pretty much comprised of stitch patterns fitted into squares. Definitely a boon for a Walker fanatic.

I am thrilled beyond belief with this haul. Not pictured here are 2 issues of Interweave Knits (older issues, yum!) and 8 issues of Knitters, all just $1.

April 27, 2008. Knittin' Porn. 10 comments.

New Yarn Line In Town: The Fluffy Enchanted Magical Unicorns of Organic Green Peace Tolerance And Yarn Named After Movie Characters So Even If The Yarn Is Butt-Ugly You Have To Buy It Because Who Can Resist A Yarn Called Captain Jack Sparrow?

Hmm, I think I may have covered most of my blog post in that title.

That’s your Snark Editorial for the weekend, peeps. Have fun (but not too much fun) without me! I’ll be back on Monday, and there’s some exciting stuff that will be going on this next week.

April 25, 2008. Tags: . Snark Editorial. 1 comment.

Hitting Bumps On My Tolkien Quest

oldguy

 Lack of sock pictures courtesy of a pressed schedule and my lack of double A batteries. Sorry!

I have to admit, my quest to read through the Tolkien Trilogy is hitting some bumps. Like most of my projects, it begins with enthusiasm, life and zest-and also like most of my projects, it tends to get bogged down with other things.

 I am a chronic starter. Like many people with my personality, I get excited by ideas and information, by color and possibilities. Follow-through is *not* my strong point. Even in crafts I’ve had this problem. I started a teddy bear embroidery bib kit from Walmart for my first nephew.

 After the helpful little Xs got washed out, I kind of lost enthusiam for the project, even though I enjoyed making the dozens of colored stitches, and watching the face of the teddy slowly emerge.

 So, in early summer last year, when I decided to become a knitter-a real knitter, although my own ideas of what this mean were somewhat vague at that point- I firmly resolved that I would finish my projects.

 I haven’t had such bad luck. 3 completed pairs of socks, 1 hat, 1 handwarmer set, a gigantic striped garter stitch scarf, and a few dishcloths. I also have a sweater to finish, a single fingerless glove and two lonely, unmatched socks.

 I suppose that it was-is-important to me to have this success, this clearly material proof that I could finish something. That I…flighty me…could actually make something of myself. Pathological sounding, isn’t it? That same drive fueled my feverish typing–and for one week handwriting- a novel during NaNoWriMo, despite the fact that I was sick for the last two weeks of it.

 I finished the novel. And I have finished my first Tolkien House Sock.

 But I need to move on, away from Tom Bombadil and the Barrow Downs. And I’m stalled.

 Sometimes, being me is a complicated thing.

April 24, 2008. Tags: , . Tolkien Thursdays. 9 comments.

The Sacraments Of Knitting: A Simple Tract

 Knitting is a religion—no joke. Like all religions, there are the spin-offs and cults.  We talk about the outside world not understanding the tempting call of yarn. We scoff at their ignorant assumptions, and laugh when an innocent passerby refers to ‘crochet’ project.

 However, there’s never been a tract for this religion. You can print this out and give it to your friends and your neighbors. You can put on your tie and go door to door to spread the gospel of knitting. Whatever you do with it, I’d love to know how it goes; I want to rack up convert points.

Knitting: A Simple Tract For The Curious

“Why Should I Knit?”

 There are various reasons to knit, but the best reason to knit is because you will enjoy it. Sure, you’ll have some difficulties, but knitting is one of the simplest religions out there. You don’t have to buy a loom, assemble thousands of quilt squares or surrender your soul to the  scrapbooking gods. All you have to do this make some loops with some sticks, and you’re instantly part of a growing community of other knitters.

“Isn’t Knitting For Grannies?”

 Of course knitting is for grannies-and it’s for grandfathers and teenagers and children and middle-aged women named Tina. Not only are there hundreds of teen knitters out there, even men are picking up the sticks at a remarkable pace. Knitting isn’t a weird reclusive cult based in a Texas compound, it’s a weird cult that is rapidly overtaking the entire world!

“Do I Have To Follow Certain Rules?”

 I’m going to be honest here. Yes, there are some rules to becoming a proper convert to knitting. People may say that it’s great to knit with chopsticks and twine but they’re secretly laughing at you. Get some proper knitting needles, preferably anything but metal (it’s too heavy and slippery for most beginners) and acrylic. Acrylic is cheap, and it’s a common bonding moment for knitters to remember their conversion experience with Red Heart or Caron Simply Soft.

“Are There Knitting Gods?”

 A hotly disputed topic among believers, many would answer in the affirmative. How else would you repeatedly lose that 5th double-pointed needle, or make the exact same mistake 14 times in a row? Others scoff at this childish belief and point out that if you weren’t trying to watch television, drink vodka and knit at the same time, you wouldn’t have so many problems. Either way, it’s tempting to believe in a knitting devil when your pet repeatedly attacks the best (and most expensive) yarn in your stash.

 “Is There Some Kind of Knitting Bible or Book?”

 There is no official Bible—a collection of sacred writings—but the most popular books hallowed by the community include any of Elizabeth Zimmermann’s writings (paticularly Knitting Without Tears) any of the Yarn Harlot’s books, and among the natural knitting crowd, The Sweater Workshop by Jaqueline Fee.

 “Are There Religious Leaders In Knitting?”

 Certainly, like most religions, there are people that hold a certain status within the community. The aforementioned Elizabeth Zimmermann (sadly deceased, may her soul rest in Peacefleece) the Yarn Harlot, Casey and Jess of Ravelry, Clara Parkes of KR, and that nice lady who dyes the Wollmeise yarn.

 Other community leaders include yarn shop owners, prominen designers and independent yarn dyers. Speaking of religious leaders, that brings me to my next topic.

 “Knitting Evangelists: Who Are They?”

 A knitting evangelist probably gave you this tract! Knitting evangelists are people who are so enthusiastic about their chosen religion that they want to spread the Good News everywhere. They will post amazingly helpful tutorials on their blogs on how to knit or even just how to execute a paticular technique.

 One evangelist actually sent me a free package of sock yarn because I mentioned that I didn’t have much to knit with! The added plus is that they almost never show up on your doorstep at 7 on Saturday morning, and even if you never join, they might present you with knitted gifts in hopes of persuading you to do so.

 “This Knitting Thing Sounds Like A Cult!”

 Well, if you count a loving, close-knit community who will initiate you into the wonderful world of Stash, WIPs, and FOs as a cult, then yes, we are a cult. The only reason that we make it so hard to leave this religion is because we really believe that knitting will not only improve your life, but it will make you a better person.

 “I’ve Already Tried Knitting And It Didn’t Work Out.”

 Obviously, you’ve had some traumatic experiences, but you’ve obviously never been a True Knitter if you’ve given it up. Or, maybe you’re an Apostate Knitter who has a few projects stuffed into the back of the closet. I’m here to say that we love you, we want you back, and we will do everything to help you overcome your fears. A little cashmere could go a long way in your reconversion.

 “OK, I’m Convinced, What Do I Do?”

 Put your hand over your heart (doesn’t matter which) and simply say, “I dedicate myself to the craft of knitting, and I promise to persevere even in the face of mocking unbelievers” and you are a full-fledged member.

 What, you say, I don’t even know how to knit to be a believer? Naw. Too much like a cult.

April 22, 2008. Tags: , . Snark Editorial. 20 comments.

It May Be Lumpy

Yup, definitely lumpy.

But I think it’s starting to look like a sweater.

Thanks to everyone who commented on my latest post. It was a difficult post to write, and I’m glad that it could touch some other people.

April 21, 2008. Tags: , , . Knittin' Porn, Tuesday Project Updates, works-in-progress. 5 comments.

Friday Night Knitting Club: Best Friends Forever

 I shouldn’t be so annoyed by a book, I thought moodily, flipping through the pages of The Friday Night Knitting Club. The April sun brought people out in sun dresses and droves today, and the second sleeve of my sweater was coming great. I wanted to read this book, what with all the hoopla about Julia Roberts playing her in the upcoming film about it.

 Georgia annoyed me the most, I realized; she’s glad enough to get the help of wealthier friends, but she disdains anyone who doesn’t fit into her little circle. Darwin, for instance, the vocal and annoying graduate student—apparently, Georgia finds it convenient enough to extend grace and kindness only to those with a bank account larger than her own. Or, only to people who grovel at her feet. “Omg, Georgia, you’re sooooo amazing!”

 Her relationship with Cathy annoyed me. It’s like, “Wah, I’m a struggling single mom with a biracial daughter, look at my evil rich friend who betrayed me!’ It was obvious to me that Cathy was trying to make up for what happened. For her betrayal. She didn’t mean it.

 I couldn’t figure out why it bothered me so much until I remembered one word—a name.

 Elizabeth.

 I tried to think of a pseudonym to replace Elizabeth, but I could think of no other name that wraps itself around her personality so well. Perhaps it’s because we met when we were both 9-10. Perhaps it’s because…well, we were Best, Best Friends.

  We attended the same church, and her quiet, slightly sardonic air both impressed and attracted me. One corner of her mouth twisted into a slight, mocking look that made her seem much older than she was. I’m not sure what she saw in me. Maybe our mutual obsession with horses. Maybe the fact that neither of us fit into the well-dressed clique that looked down on girls who tore their dresses—or who didn’t have the kind of money that they did.

 For any close friendship, sleepovers are a must, and I stuffed my backpack with clothes to take to her house. I didn’t care about the fact that her brothers and sisters came to church barefoot, dirty and with filthy tangled hair. Elizabeth was my friend, and I accepted her perpetually pregnant and ineffectual mother who inevitably handed off the latest baby for her to hold. As with everything, Elizabeth took this in her stride, and I did, too.

 Even when I went to their house, it didn’t really hit me. The general squalor. The little children’s bed stale with urine, dirty clothes everywhere, literal dirt—not clutter, but dirt—filling the house. No air conditioning. Flies. Many, many cats, and always kittens, usually tiny, skinny things that died because of their inbred genes. And Elizabeth, with her odd eyes; her pale blue eyes with the dark outer ring and her reddish-brown braid down her back—among it all, best friends forever.

 And this made me happy.

 We rode a bucking horse together and didn’t fall off. We chased a stubborn cow, and she impressed me with her fearless attitudes towards threatening chickens guarding their nests. At night, we shared the same bed giggling over shared secrets and speculations about crushes. Always, we swore that we would never, ever ever tell anyone what we said. 

 But then one day, I did tell.

 It was a hot, hot summer day. We were 13 and 14, I think. Before, the squalor didn’t bother me so much. I felt good that I was friends with her, because I knew that a lot of people looked down on her family. Suddenly and perhaps because of my new-found maturity, it hit me. The sheer dirt that coated the children. The glass and nails littering the lawn. I remembered another summer visit, filled with the stench of a rotting dog that her parents didn’t bother to bury.

 Maybe the heat got to everyone, but over lunchtime, Elizabeth’s mother roused herself enough to scold her. I think it was about…dishes. A sinkful of unwashed dishes. I shifted uncomfortably as she reprimanded her, Elizabeth making sulky replies. Then an upraised hand, and her mother slapped her on the face.

I burned with shame-for Elizabeth, for myself, for the utter callousness of a mother that would slap her daughter in front of a guest.

 That day, Elizabeth did something that only the very closest, the very best friends of all would do. She pulled a shoebox from the top of her closet, and found her diary. And she opened the dollar-store lock, and she let me read it.

 I flipped through the pages and read many typical entries. And I read entries that shocked my very innocent soul. She swore! She said damn. She said…she said that she hated her mother. The scrawled letters distorted with the emotion of the writer, they expressed what you never saw on her cool, collected exterior. Even now, Elizabeth simply sat and watched me, her expression unchanging, the same smile on her lips, as if she wasn’t baring her soul to her younger friend.

 And when I was done, I promised that I would never tell.

 In the still of night, at home, I became overwhelmed with the emotion. The dirt, the pain, the stolid mask that covered Elizabeth’s face when her mother slapped her. I started to cry. And I broke my promise. My best friend promise. My deep-down loyal promise—the fierce and giggly and yet utterly sincere loyalty that girls share. I talked to my older sister. I sobbed, not just for Elizabeth, but because I was betraying my friend. I took her trust and slapped her across the face with it. I sobbed, because it felt like I was excising a precious part of my soul and stomping on it with my foot.

 The adults showed sympathy. They knew the apathy of her parents. They had tried to help. But, inevitably, nothing really happened. It didn’t help when Elizabeth’s father heaped blame on me—not directly, I wasn’t there—by saying that since I promised not to tell, then I shouldn’t have. He cared less about his daughter’s pain then he did about condemning me. I said that I knew what I did was right. Somewhere in my head, I knew that I did right. But deep inside, I nodded to what he said.

 When we ran into eachother again, I waited in utter terror. Waited for a dramatic denouncement, like the movies. In one sense, I wanted her to reject me. Spurn me, tell me what a rotton person I was. It was silly of me; drama was never her style.

She said hi. I said hi. We went our ways. The same smile, the same cool expression graced her face. Inwardly, I cowered. I couldn’t surmont my own ‘betrayal’, and I did something very cowardly. I just…let it slide. We didn’t have sleepovers. We didn’t talk much. But she didn’t hate. Never did. We still go to the same church, and I see her sometimes. Logically, I know that I did right, and it doesn’t upset me so much.

 But sometimes, I still wonder what she’s writing in her diary.

 

 

April 20, 2008. Uncategorized. 14 comments.

Subscribe To My Blog Through Email!

 I’ve just added the option to subscribe to my blog updates through email—it’s in the upper right hand corner.

 It takes just 3 very easy steps.

 1. Enter your email address

 2. Type the verification code that it will ask you for (to prevent spam bots!)

 3. Verify your subscription—you’ll receive an email and confirm that you want to subscribe!

 So every time I blog, you’ll receive the update directly in your email. It’s fast, it’s convenient, and very simple. I update The Lumpy Sweater Monday through Friday (with some occasional weekend announcements, like this one!) and if you want to keep up with my knitting craziness and fun, this is a great way to do it. Also, I will love you if you do, because your comments and feedback make it worthwhile to blog even when I’m feeling down or tired.

 

April 19, 2008. The Lumpy Sweater News. Leave a comment.

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