Friday, July 18, 2008

Stupid Things I Miss, Part 1

There are certain things that were just better at my old house.

I love my new house. I love my neighborhood, and my view of Mount Diablo. I love that Accountant Boy isn't in constant danger of bumping into walls as he walks around. Our old house had four bedrooms and two bathrooms, each with a doorway, tightly compressed into 1200 square feet. Every time he turned a corner, he ran into a different corner. So it's nice to have a house that's more his scale. I didn't mind the smaller house, but I'm a foot shorter than he is. I could live in a hobbit cottage and be happy.

The new house is bigger, it's more modern, it has central heat and air, and it's welcoming and attractive. Yes, I'm glad we moved.

Still, some things were just better at the old house. When I used the hair dryer, the lights in the bathroom didn't dim. When I walked past the windows, I didn't feel the burning rays of the sun on my skin through the glass. The kitchen, well, that goes without saying. But you know what I really miss? The photo lighting.

I haven't found a good spot yet for photography, maybe because the windows don't have UV filtering glass, or maybe because the house faces west, so we don't get filtered midday sun. The beige carpet is a bland backdrop, and the lighting on the purple couches is either too bright or too dark, with no area in between. Also, the counters in the old house made a perfect backdrop. They were the color of warm sand, a color that complemented everything I put on them, and they were honed so they didn't produce a glare. The white tile in the new kitchen makes everything I place on it look sickly and grey.

I know it's stupid to miss my old house because of the lack of adequate knitwear-friendly photographic lighting. I know I could take my works-in-progress over there and photograph them, and we probably should go over there more than we do anyway, because if we did, we would have seen that I'd screwed up the timer on the irrigation system, and then lawn would still be alive, and Daisy and I wouldn't be having this regret-filled conversation about our mutual misunderstanding. ("I told you it looked bad!" "I thought you were talking about the patches where the puppy pees." "I was!" "But the whole lawn's dead!" "She pees in more than one place..." "How much do you think she pees?! She's not an elephant, for God's sake. It's the whole lawn!" "I TOLD you it looked bad...") We all thought we were giving the clearest answers, and none of us realized that we weren't asking the right questions, and we all feel really bad about it, and it's nothing that a generous amount of overseeding won't fix, and Ron the Gardener is disgusted with the lot of us. Long story short, we all killed the lawn, but never mind that now. We've gone off point. The point is, if I miss the beautiful lighting in my former front room, I should haul my ass and my knitting over there instead of complaining about it.

But what's this? Have I maybe stumbled onto something here? These shots look pretty good to me. I like the hue, I like the light levels. All I have to do is schedule my photo shoots for 8:17 a.m. and make sure whatever I'm shooting will fit on the bright orange top of my tiny bistro table. That pretty much limits me to two skeins of yarn, books, and maybe one crochet hook.

So here it is. A sample of the yarn that's going to make Violette le Duc and the book containing the pattern, set against the lovely orange backdrop of the cheapest round tablecloth I could find and Bed Bath and Beyond.

"Suzanne, did you just buy more yarn, right after saying you were done for the year?"

Yes. Don't judge. I'm having a bit of a time lately. And it was my birthday. Look! Over there! A puppy!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


In case you missed it, Team Pibble!

And now, on with the program.

"Suzanne? I can't log in and none of my data is showing up."

"How do you know none of your data is displaying on your report if you can't log in to see it? By the way, what do you mean when you say that you can't log in? There's no password for that system. It's your network password. Are you saying you can't log in to your computer at all?"

"I guess so."

"But you just sent me an e-mail."


They're a nice bunch of people, the reporting team. They're intelligent and witty and efficient, and they're happy that someone's paying attention to them. We're all learning how to talk to each other, finding our common language, learning each other's terms for things.

Most importantly, I like them. It's the only reason I haven't kneecapped any of them in the elevator.

It's kind of like this top. It was a pain in the ass to get going, but I really like it now that it's finished.

The Pattern
Berroco 'Caroline', available for free on their website. I made the 35" size, which gives me about 2" of negative ease unstretched.

The Yarn
Six balls of Berroco Zen Colors, Shade 8141 'Mt. Fuji'. It's from last summer's bargain bin dive at Fashion Knit. I like how it knit up, sort of a Renoir palette. The color repeats are so short that there's almost no pooling.

The Needles
Addi Natura 24" and Addi Turbo 16", both size 8. I needed both, because I didn't want to have to put any of the stitches on waste yarn. It's been a trying summer of ribbon knitting, and I didn't want to make it worse.

The Time
I started it last summer, got eight inches into it, abandoned it for ten months, then picked it back up and finished it in two weeks. Like most projects, it would have gone faster if I'd had more time to work on it. I'm going to stop saying that, because it should go without saying. The elapsed time, therefore, is ten months. If, however, you're wondering if you should knit it and you're scared by the length of time it looks like it took, call it three weeks of evening and weekend knitting. I knit the first version of it a couple of years ago in about that amount of time.

And look! I said I was going to finish before the end of the summer. I said it way back when I started, and I followed through. Yay! Please note that I did not specify the year.

The Modifications
I knit it in the round because I didn't like how the ribbing seams came out on my first one. After the mess that was the Tartelette tank, I'm glad I did it that way. This yarn wasn't too bad to seam, but it did grab in a couple of places at the shoulders. I'm glad I didn't have to do those side seams.

Fearing that I'd run out of ribbon, and being somewhat petite in stature anyway, I made it about an inch shorter than the pattern called for.

It's supposed to have a cowl collar, but I didn't have enough yarn. That's the breaks when you're bargain bin diving. There were only six balls, so that's what I had to work with. I used every yard of all six of them, and managed to make a little rolled collar.

The self-finishing edges at the arms looked a little skimpy and showed a little too much skin, so I went back around them with a line of single crochet.

The cable lengths aren't too consistent, because I didn't keep a row counter handy, and I'm not so good at figuring it out by looking. This was more of a problem when knitting in the round, because there's no "this is the right side and it looks like the right amount of rows, give or take one, so this must be where I cross" reference. Some of the twists are at eight rows, some at eleven rows, some at nine rows, and so on. I decided that it added visual interest and kept plowing forward. When I got to the top part and started knitting back and forth, I managed to make them even.

The variegated yarn doesn't do much to make the cables stand out, but I knew that'd happen. It's a textural element, not so much a visible one. Other than the color, I stuck with the pattern as much as possible. It was a good mental break from my recent no-pattern projects.

I wore this top all day yesterday. It's comfortable and cool, and it relaxed down to the length I wanted, which was quite nice of it. Comfortable as it is, I don't think I'd use Zen for another project unless it's all stockinette. It's just too hard to read the stitches with the twisting ribbon and the changing colors.

Overall, I...hold on. I have to take this call.

"Suzanne! I can't get into Cognos!"

"According to the screenshot you sent, you were trying to log into Outlook, not Cognos."

"Oh. Yeah, that's why I couldn't send an e-mail to the help desk."

"Well, somehow you sent me an e-mail with the screenshot, so I guess you're O.K. now."

"Yeah. Thanks for fixing it. Great job!"

And then I gave up and went to lunch.

The end.

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Momentary Lapse of Reason

Mmmm...birthday yarn...

This is Colinette Cadenza in 'Raphael'. Isn't it lovely? I think it's going to be a small-gauge Anthropologie Inspired Capelet, because look how pretty.

I know this runs counter to my "knit only from the beautiful, bountiful stash" mission, but sometimes one can't help but slip up just a little. I'm having a tumultuous emotional week.

I've taken on this new, stressful project at work, which depending on the gossip I listen to on any given day, may or not be a complete waste of time because we might be out of business before I can get it off the ground. I nod along and keep working, because what's the point in giving up and reading magazines all day when I can at least try to improve myself? And what if the company pulls it out and keeps going? I want to be a part of that. I try not to listen to the gossip, but it's getting to the point where not listening to it means that I talk to absolutely nobody for the entire workday. Sometimes it gets to me, and this week was one of those times.

And then, I'm shuffling around the homestead and I notice that Winston's crunching on something. Further investigation reveals that he's got a copy of Sting's 'The Soul Cages' in his mouth, and while I'm kneeling to scoop the shards of plastic from under his tongue, I notice that he's gnawed on the wooden bistro chairs. I know he's bored, and I know that'd improve if we'd work him really hard when we got home, but not when it's 110 degrees and smoggy outside, as it was most of this week. As much as I love him, days like that make me realize how acutely I still miss my sweet Lucy.

And something is eating the leaves off of my bean plants. I suspect trolls.

As do I, the Woman. I've told the blunderbuss to station himself by the back door every evening and stare for hours out into the darkness while the three of us watch television. Is it not working? - Buddy the Cat

I do sit there and stare outside, and I don't even turn my head when you guys call my name, because I'm keeping watch for the trolls that live under the deck, not because I'm ignoring you. So why does Buddy still hit me in the face? - Winston the Dog

Yes, well, maybe it's not trolls. Maybe it's SLUGS! Hahahaha! You see what I did there? Slug? Double entendre? My humor is lost on all of you. - BtC

Aaaanyway, my job's going shit, my dog's either chewing the furniture or obsessively and unsuccessfully guarding the patio plants, and it's hotter than the devil's sack outside. So, on my birthday, I left my possibly-doomed job a few minutes early and headed to Fashion Knit.

And there was this yarn, four skeins of the six that looked roughly the same. It made me happy to look at it. I took the four skeins to the knitting table with me and let them sit there while I worked on my Berroco top. I kept looking over at them, willing them to seem less appealing to me. If anything, they became more beautiful every time I looked up from my work.

"It's your birthday," said the woman sitting next to me. "You deserve it!"

I don't usually fall for that kind of influence, but then I thought, "Yeah, you know what? I do deserve it. Thirty-seven was a crappy year for ol' SuzannaBanana, and maybe I'm supposed to buy this yarn and make something good out of it as a reward for getting through it. Maybe, implausibly, it'll even turn things around. Also, I'll get air miles if I buy it using my Southwest card..." Decision made.

And you know what? Maybe it is already turning things around. Sure, my job's still more than likely doomed, and something's still eating my bean plants, and the air's so bad that we can't see Mount Diablo from our kitchen window. No, my dog still doesn't seem to know his own name. But when I got home and strolled over to show my neighbor my birthday yarn, she said, "Happy Birthday! Let me guess...thirty...two?" So I got that going for me. Which is nice.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Team Pibble


It's me, Winston J. Schmidt. Hey, know what'd be fun? If you went to this link and checked it out.

Team Pibble!

Elizabeth and Monica are running a triathlon! They're doing all kinds of fun stuff like swimming and running, and I don't know about biking because I don't have a bike, but it sounds like fun, too. They're raising money to help dogs like me who are in a shelter. The dogs get new beds and really cool toys so that when people come to see them, they look happy and eager. Not like me the last day I was there.

Elizabeth used to take me out of the kennel and teach me stuff and play tug with me, and that was always the best part of my day, so I really, really like her a lot. So, you should go look at their website and check it out. It's not as much fun as playing ball, but it's at least twice as much fun as having Buddy slap you in the face.

Unless you're Buddy. - Buddy the Cat

Anyway, thanks for looking.


Winston J. 'Bug' Schmidt

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


Monday, July 07, 2008


Remember this thing? I'm finishing it by Wednesday, my birthday. I'm finishing it, and then I'm not knitting anything with ribbon for the rest of the summer. I'm already a few rows into the back above the spit for the arms, so I think it's possible.

"Purpley!" said Daisy. "Hey, did you ever finish that grey top?"

"What grey top?"

"The one with the ribbon yarn."

"Yeah. I wore it last week. You saw it."

"No, not the one with the big stripes. The GREY one."

"We mustn't speak of it, lest we permanently damage our friendship. Change the subject. Change the subject now."

"Look! Over there! It's my puppy!"

"Good show, Daisy. No anger can stand when faced with the cuteness of the puppy."

"The Woman!"

"Except for Buddy's anger, of course."

"Of course."

"Stop bringing these beasts into our home, the Woman!"

"She's not going to live here, Buddy. She's just visiting."

"Oh, well then. The rationalizing makes it acceptable, does it? What if we say that I'm not going to permanently disfigure her, that I'm just going to lightly maul her. Does that make everyone happy?"

"Daisy, you might want to grab your puppy."

It'll only be a couple of weeks until she's too big for him to fight, but that doesn't mean he won't try. That's my Buddy. Territorial, pugnacious, and no ability to assess risk.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

With Both Feet

"I'n fly...I'ma pilot..." - Russell T. Case, Independence Day

My love for this movie knows few bounds. I've seen it probably fifty time since I last wrote about it, because all of the movie channels are rotating through it right now. Yes, I know it's not a good movie, and that the characters are all horrible stereotypes, and that, as Daisy points out every time she sees me watching it, the female characters all end up dying or being weak and subservient to the men. I mean, c'mon. The president's wife shows some backbone and stays in L.A., and gets rewarded by being knocked out of the sky and buried under rubble, and then she's rescued by the stripper with a heart of gold, who gets to live and marry the man of her dreams as long as she puts on a dress to cover her shameful feminine wares. Then Connie spends almost the entire movie following around the menfolk with the lovingly obedient look of a champion Irish setter.

Then, there's the crime against language committed every time the president has something poignant to say. Poor Pullman. "Today, we celebrate our INDEPENDENCE DAY!" It would have been so easy to rewrite that so that it'd make sense. "Today, we celebrate our freedom. Today is our Independence Day!" Would that have been so hard? That speech has more clunks in it than my old Pontiac J2000.

So, no, I have no illusions about it. I love it anyway.

I especially love Randy Quaid's character, Russell Case. He's a messy drunk, inattentive on his job, and widely regarded as a wacko due to his rantings on alien abduction. There's a longer version of the movie that shows up on the Fox Movie Channel. His character gets fleshed out a little, you learn more about why he's fallen apart and why the older boy hates him, and why the younger boy looks so sweaty and sickly, but seeing it is totally unnecessary. In fact, it actually makes the movie worse, throwing off the pacing and adding fifteen minutes of clumsy dialog. No, all you need to know about Russell is that he bumbles around a lot, but when the chips are down, he jumps in with both feet and gets the job done.

You know what I like about that? It's what I do, too.

Here at the ol' workplace, things are a bit chaotic. Mortgage company, credit crisis, uncertain future and all that. Not everyone is childless and married to the securely employed and highly compensated Accountant Boy. Not everyone can risk staying on to see the ship right itself. Last week, another of my team members jumped to safety.

Sitting in my manager's office, half in the bag on cough medicine and Sudafed, I asked what we were going to do about filling her spot.

"You wanna do it?" he asked.

"Yeah, what the hell. I'll take it. I like doing new...stuff," I said. ("I'n fly...I'ma pilot...")

Now, several days later and exactly twenty-four hours since the announcement went out, I'm fielding calls from users about a system in which I have no experience. Zero. Zip. None. The only guy who can help me, departed co-worker's husband as it turns out, is working from home today, so I keep sending him frantic e-mails with questions, and he sends back single-line replies like "Look at the video I sent you." Only there's no e-mail with a video file attached. I'm lost.

Further complicating matters, I've also volunteered to be on a committee geared toward improving our diminishing employee base's morale. Turns out that the committee wanted me because they felt like they needed someone technical. Oh, dear. Apparently, they think I know something about network security, firewalls, and e-mail servers. I'm a database programmer. I don't know nothin' 'bout no networks. I don't have the heart to tell them, so I'm taking on the role anyway, dragging network and server guys into my cube every time I hear them coming down the corridor.

I might not know what I'm doing, but I'm going to get the job done, by God. When I jump into the shit, I do it with both feet.

What does that have to do with this finished project? Not a damn thing.



Not a pattern so much as an experiment in sculpture. The neat thing about crochet is that you can see what it's going to do in three dimensions as you're working on it. I figured I should be able to look at this after every row and see if it was still on the right track, molding it as I went along. I based the shape and the length loosely on a fitted woven shirt I have from Banana Republic. I picked triple-crochet because I liked how it looked with my yarn.


Six balls of Trendsetter Dolcino in various colors, two skeins of Tartelette left over from the doomed fisherman's rib tank. The Dolcino was a dream to crochet, so elastic and soft. The Tartelette, well, let's say it was easier to crochet than to knit and leave it at that. Both were from the stash.

I used hook-and-eye coat fasteners. They're covered in black cloth, which seemed to be a good match for the project, and they're huge, which seemed to be a good match for the size and bulk of my stitches.


Boye aluminum crochet hooks. I cast on with the K-hook, used the H-hook for most of the body, and dropped down to the G-hook when working with the Tartelette, which worked up to a different gauge than the Dolcino.


Three weeks, although it would have been much, much less if I hadn't had a nasty cold for half of it. It went really quickly.

Modifications/Design Thoughts

I chained roughly enough loops to go around my hips at a certain point, then started moving up. After a few inches, I decreased twelve stitches in from each front and from each edge of the back, creating darts. After a couple of rows of triple-crochet, I increased a couple of times along the same dart line. When I tried it on right before separating for the armholes, I saw that the bust was huge. Took out three rows of TC, redid them without the increases. It was that simple. No frogging, no tinking, no wondering if I'd done it right the second time. I just redid the rows and wrapped it around myself again.

Like the big Limari sweater, I was working under a yardage restraint. I only had six balls of the Dulcino, and I didn't realize that the black clashed with the Tartelette until well up into the bodice shaping. It became a challenge to figure out how to use the grey and the scraps of the other colors to separate the two, and not run out of any of them.

That's really what took the longest, all of that second guessing and redoing. If this had been a pattern and I hadn't had to worry about the colors of the yarns, it would have taken maybe three nights.


It was fun. I like the little top that came out of it. Of all of the ribbon yarns I've misguidedly tried to use, Dolcino is far and away the best to work with. I'll use it again, once I get back to a point where I can buy yarn.

Why aren't there any really good pictures of it, and why have I purposely cut my head out of all of them? We've spent the last week under a blanket of smoke. The lighting's all weird as a result. Buddy the Cat is pissed, because his warm, sunny spot on the chaise is neither warm nor sunny. Also, my hair looked horrible.

Here's the picture from above, without any color correction.