Wednesday, October 31, 2007

City of Contrasts

Reviewing my photos, I realize that almost all of them were taken in the French Quarter, and almost all of them with eye to the asthetic. That is, they are not photo journalism. In part this is because the French Quarter is so genuinely, thoroughly picturesque that even I could take pictures I like. And partly because it's still easier for me to take pictures of things that stand still (my out of the tour bus pictures were awful). And partly because I was shy of trying to take pictures of people, especially people who were just doing their jobs, or just trying to get by.

So some of the people you don't see are extremely elegantly dressed, and some are punk kids panhandling with their dogs at their feet. There are people who look like us, tourists from the Midwest. And uniformed service people from the hotels and restaurants on their way to work, or just out on the sidewalk for a smoke. A bride going from the cathedral door to the stretch limo on her way to a wedding reception that probably cost half as much as our house. Street musicians, college kids, local residents going about their business, Hispanic construction workers. Frat boys, old hippies, Asian vendors in the French Market. All crossing paths, weaving in and out among each other.

Walk one block from raucous, vulgar Bourbon Street and you are on elegant Royal. Walk a few more blocks to Rampart and you are on the edge of Treme, a dicier neighborhood altogether.

I love the way so much life is open to the street and takes place on the street; and at the same time the private homes, whose shuttered fronts abut directly on the sidewalk, have secluded courtyards that can sometimes be glimpsed down alleyways, and are sometimes only hinted at by the tops of trees rising above walls. Openness and mystery both.

The French Quarter is a long way towards being "back" (though one resident we spoke to said it will never be back, never. The mix has changed and economics and politics have tilted the playing table irrevocably). But however things are going in the Quarter, the rest of the city is not back yet. It has a long way to go. We talked to folks whose families have still not returned: because the rents have gone so high, because the house is not completely rehabbed yet, because there have ongoing health care needs and the medical infrastructure has almost completely disappeared. We saw FEMA trailers still in use, including one at a Fire Station. The greens at the City Park golf courses still look like the rough. The Garden District is as elegant as ever, but the streetcar line repairs haven't reached that far yet. And what the people we talked to (ordinary working people) wanted to tell us was "Don't forget us. We are still struggling."

This is a grotto at the National Shrine of St. Jude on Rampart Street. Jude is the patron saint of desperate cases and lost causes. I'm hoping he comes through for New Orleans.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

back well fed and happy

We had a really great trip. Took more pictures than I realized, but these are just some initial random shots, til I get an organized report together.

The Hotel Olivier in the French Quarter is funky shabby genteel. But with a balcony like this, what's not to love?

Molly Bee's asked about flying with knitting needles. We flew on American, and I carried my sock on bamboo double points in my purse and worked on in in flight. No questions or issues raised at any point.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Odds and Loose Ends

At 6:30 tomorrow, we will be hopping on the plane for NOLA. This time, I won't forget my camera. I just have to remember to get it out and take pictures. Now I need to figure out what to bring for airplane knitting. I'm not a good flyer and it helps to keep my hands busy.

As I thought, it is highly likely that my Ravelry invite will arrive while we're gone, I'm down to 700 and something today.

The holiday season catalogs are starting to overflow the mailbox again. I've been meaning to sign up with this site. When we get back.

Jane Austen fans might find this fun (at any rate I managed to spend at least and hour perusing Regency recipes and fashion tips). It's the online magazine of the Jane Austen Center in Bath. Mr S signed me up for their email newsletter when he visited last summer.

Have a good weekend all.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Art, Fiber Activism

An announcement about this project by the International Fiber Collaborative showed up in one of the Yahoo Groups I belong to. Conceptually, I'm not sure if the projected installation in and of itself communicates "concern about...extreme dependency on oil for energy", but I do think it would be awfully interesting to see it when it's done.

My first thought in regard to participating was "There's no way I have time to knit a 3' x 3' panel for this." But now I'm sort of wondering if I could do something with old "first try" swatches and UFOs taking up space around here. That half finished eyelash scarf? The sock cuff started in a yarn I decided I hated? Can we think collage here? Hmmm.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

3494 people are ahead of you in line.

Getting closer to the Ravelry gate. Looks like sometime next week. It may just happen while I'm out of town.

Next Friday, Mr. S and I will leave the house before the crack of dawn and fly to New Orleans for a long weekend. We will meet a couple of dear friends from California; eat Beignets, gumbo mufallettas, and anything etouffee; drink Cafe au Lait and possibly other substances; and listen to as much music as possible. It could be interesting (in any number of senses) being in the French Quarter just a few days before Halloween. It all sounds sort of jet-setty, flying out for the weekend. Believe me, this is not our normal mode. But a number of different circumstances fell into place, so off we go.

Between now and then, I'll be up in Madison for a day on a "photo shoot". Elizabeth, (who's as good a photographer as she is a knitter, and that's saying something) has very generously offered to help me get better pictures for some of my patterns. We have something afoot...

And of course I have my regular library work schedule.

Soooo, I may not be posting a lot over the next week and a half, but I'll try to sneak in a quicky or two.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Pretty, Pretty - lots of LYS support yesterday

I ordered some Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock from at As always, it arrived faster than I could have thought possible, and the colors really are gorgeous. (When I order from Angelika I figure I am supporting a LYS, because she has a brick & mortar location, too. It just happens to be a few thousand miles away.)

I haven't worked with this yarn before, and I'm looking forward to it.

I picked up the mail on my way out of town. I was due for dinner with my Mom and a group of her old nursing school classmates. But on the way up to Madison I stopped off at The Sow's Ear in Verona. Wow! I hadn't been in since they opened up the back area, and what a difference. It looks like a hugely expanded selection of yarns, including an impressive "wall o' sock yarn" and more Brown Sheep, and some very tempting Fleece Artist stuff, and some sections I didn't have time to examine so closely...

I had gone in to buy only one ball of Dale Falk for swatching purposes (thanks for the recommendation, Laura!). I walked out with that, and a hank of Cascade Bulky Alpaca, just because it is the softest, yummiest stuff and I love it to death. But where I really fell off the wagon was a hank of Claudia handpaint lace weight silk, color: "Last Night's Wine".

I do not need more lace weight. I haven't touched the Gypsy Girl shawl in months, and I really truly wasn't going to buy more lace weight until I finished it. This was not in my budget. There is no excuse. But it is so beautiful. Nice subtle color variation, lovely sheen, and silk drapes to wonderfully......

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Major email trouble

I am currently unable to get into my regular email account. If anyone has tried to email me since this morning, I'm not ignoring you, I just can't get at it.

For now you could reach me at baxterknits (at) yahoo (dot) com

Sometimes you have to kiss a lot of frogs, or frog a lot of swatches

I love swatching stitch combinations, except when I hate it.

I love and live by stitch dictionaries, and I have no problem with just taking a nice stitch pattern and plunking it onto a basic sweater/scarf/ whatever. Even that is more work than the uninitiated might imagine, what with calculating repeats and considering edgings and evaluating suitability to the characteristics of the intended yarn. And then considerations of who the pattern is for: the beginning knitter, the adventurous intermediate, the traditionalist, the fashionista? (Well, OK, I don't aim much for the fashionista, not being one myself.)

But what really gets my juices flowing is playing around with stitch patterns and tweaking them and combining them to see if I can come up with a combination that I haven't run across before. It may be a question of how do I transition smoothly from a lace section to stockinette. Or it might be a "what if" as in "what would happen if I stacked this repeat on the diagonal?".

It's all great fun, except when the vision I have in my head simply won't translate into yarn. Sometime the pattern just doesn't "pop." Sometimes the combinations don't behave the way I expected. And then it's simply as frustrating as (there goes my G rating) hell.

This last week was spent in a good deal of the latter, but it wasn't without it's rewards (especially after I had the sense to walk away from one idea and follow up on another.) I've finally come up with a combination I like, and an idea of how I want to incorporate it into a finished object.

doesn't include the frogged/flung away attempts

Which leads to a question. I now have an acrylic swatch that I rather like and intend to refine and work up in nicer yarn. I'm looking for something suitable for a child's garment with good stitch definition. So what is your favorite smooth, sport weight, machine washable wool?

Speak up now......

Saturday, October 13, 2007

My Friday at School

I was wrong, the phone actually has way more than forty buttons.

Fortunately, there are only three incoming lines. All the rest of those buttons are for transferring calls to different internal locations (the building holds both the Junior and Senior HS).

But to take it from the top. I woke up two hours earlier than usual to get to school by 7:00. School is only two blocks away (I just usually sleep until 7:00). As usual, I arrived 15 minutes early, but the building was open, and that gave me a chance to get my bearings. Carol, the regular secretary is very organized, thank goodness, and had left things well prepared.

The first hour was spent taking calls from parents letting the school know that their children would be late/absent/leaving at some point for some reason. All those went on a handwritten list. After eight the teachers e-mailed their attendance and lunch counts. Then I called the teachers who had forgotten to e-mail the info. Then everything got transferred to a spread sheet that went to the principal later in the morning for follow up. (A call to the parents of the girl who reported herself sick - not very convincingly, calls to the parents of students we hadn't heard from at all.) At the same time, there were a couple of students who came in for their meds, which had to be dispensed and recorded, students who were dropping off lunch money or looking for late passes or planned absence forms, incoming calls for teachers/staff/students that needed to be handled, typing and distributing the morning announcements. It wasn't insane, just busy.

One mother called to say her son would be late. I asked when he would be in and she said she didn't know, he was out following a deer. This is not as odd as it might have once sounded to me. The boy had been bow hunting the afternoon before and hit a buck, but didn't drop it. Tried trailing it until dark, with no luck. Responsible hunters will not just walk away leaving a wounded animal unaccounted for, so the boy had some justification. Whether or not the state accepts this as an excused absence for funding purposes, I don't know.

All day, there were students signing in and out for various reasons. After about ten I could start following up on things that had come up earlier: lining up a potential substitute for an aide who was in the hospital, probably wouldn't come in Monday, but hadn't directly contacted the school to say so; tracking down a letter jacket salesman to cancel an order that a parent had last minute second thoughts about; giving the school address to an insurance adjuster who was coming to look at a teacher's car; looking up a student schedule for a mother who wanted to surprise her son by coming to lunch for his birthday. (I messed that up, and the poor women showed up 20 minutes early- but at least better early than late).

Activity slowed down considerably in the afternoon. I think Carol uses this time for typing and other jobs, but she didn't leave me any of those tasks. Probably just as well. There was a fire drill. Then about a hour later there was a lock down drill. The principal let me know in advance that these were coming, and what to do.

At the end of the day, another flurry of activity: students dropping off forms, me paging students who hadn't picked up bus passes. Then getting notes for Carol together, gathering up anything with personal information from the desk and locking it away, shutting down the computer and out the door by about 3:40.

All in all it wasn't too bad. I don't think I dropped any calls, and only mis-transferred one. I think all the students were accounted for. There were, thank goodness, no real emergencies. Everyone on the staff was very patient with me (knowing they only had to put up with me for one day....)

But hey, if you have kids in school, give a shout out to the school secretary. When she's a good one, and most are, she's the real nerve center of daily operations.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Guess it wasn't just my knickers that got twisted

by the article I referenced in my last post. Yeah, it's the lazy stereotyping (as magnusmog put it) that really bugged me, the too facile either-or setup.

So I say, ovenburners and non-ovenburners unite in knitterly sister(and brother)hood. If you're a good cook, I love you to death and please invite me for dinner. If you aren't a domestic goddess (or god), have me over for an instant cup of Joe. (I've never been able to do wine and knit, or I'd suggest a bottle of Two Buck Chuck). If you spin, all the better, I'll bring some of the dustbunnies along, already carded.

I don't want to drive my nice pointy sticks through any one's heart, just nail the spurious dichotomies.

Today was my big day as substitute school secretary, and I'll write all about it tomorrow, promise. Right now I'm a very sleepy camper. (I am Woman, hear me snore).

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Grump for the day

I'm not sure what the ultimate point of this article at the Huffington Post is exactly. But it made me want to say "Big deal lady. I lit on oven on fire once, too, and I knit." It's as if she's first establishing her modern woman cred by reciting how un-domestic she is and then concluding "but it's kind of cute how the young kids are taking up these grandma things again." Didn't make me feel any more well disposed to see her treat knitting, crochet and macrame as if they were pretty much interchangeable. The are all fine. They are just not the same.

So here's the scoop: I lit that oven on fire (and I'll match my dust bunnies against anyone's). I read the HuffPost and Wonkette. I've had a "real job" or two. I have an advanced degree. And I knit quite nicely, thank you. Don't fence me in.

Rosie sez: "And check out my handknit socks."

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Well Look at What I Found

Way down at the bottom of the back of the stash. It's a ball of speckled Opal sock yarn I bought at least eight years ago.

I think I was saving it for good. "Saving it for good" is a principal I absorbed from the air around me when I was growing up. Especially good quality items were saved for special occasions so they didn't wear out too fast: the nice china used only on holidays, the dress coat for Sundays (purchased with room to grow into). There is actually an admirable anti-consumerism element here, the opposite of "buy the latest number-use it up-throw it out." But I've found that, at least in the case of yarn, it can lead to a certain element of hoarding....

So I'm using this nice yarn to make a pair of socks that I may or may not "save for good". Nah, I'm going to wear them.

You can see the toe. It's a round toe. Some people like these because they don't involve any grafting. Me, I don't mind grafting at all, but on this particular pair I wanted a smoother look than I get from my usual wedge toe with it's lines of decreases marching up both sides. The pattern on the leg is fairly subtle and I thought this was a nicer option. Not that anyone is likely to notice when the sock is worn. The leg will be covered by my jeans; and any time I am outside the house, the toe will be covered by my shoes. But to me, a sock is a little object (as in d'art) and sometimes I like to pay attention to the niceties.

What is the subtle leg pattern? I'll put that picture up when both socks are done.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Kid Socks 32

Hmmm, sort of sounds like the name of a band, or rapper of a particularly yarnly sort. But nope, it's just the socks for Afghanistan finished, washed and drying. They ended up with a foot 8 inches long. According to the handy "Sock It To Me" comparison card, this puts them right between a size 1 and 2 shoe. I have no idea what age this corresponds to (and of course age and shoe size don't correspond exactly anyway). But they do look as though they will fit someone in the 7 - 14 range specified. I've put up my more detailed directions here.

edited to add: These are just basic little tip down socks. Anyone experienced won't need the pattern, but because they are small they might make a good first sock project.

Over at CatbookMom'sYarns, I picked up the link to this little evaluator thing. Looks like the kids can read Baxterknits unsupervised.


Still Minnesota nice, I guess.

Friday, October 05, 2007

temping at the High School

Out of the blue, the secretary at the high school called me and asked me if I would be interested in subbing one day next week, not for a teacher, for her. Somewhat to my own surprise, I said "yes." So this morning I went in for about an hour and a half of observation. I'll go in Wednesday for some "hands on", and then Friday I'll be on my own with the phone-with-forty-buttons, and the PA system, and the lunch lists and attendance lists and daily announcement list and the dispensing of meds (!), and the keeping track of what meetings are happening where, and the little radio for getting in touch with maintenance... Could be interesting. Hope the school district survives.

(Actually, there is also a District secretary just down the hall, so I won't really be completely sink or swim on my own. But the thought of that phone system has me envisioning situations out of I Love Lucy. )

I don't know how much Carol, the regular secretary, makes; but I can vouch that she earns every penny, and does it with a smile and grace.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

afghans for Afghans SIP

"Sock in Progress", that is.

The stripes kind of jazz it up, plus they make counting rows so much easier, so it's worth the slight extra fiddling.

I realized that the Magic 28 socks would be too small, so this is my Magic 32 version. Same recipe, just substitute 32, 16 and 8 for 28, 14 and 7 wherever those numbers appear. To start the heel turn: sl1, k10, etc. (instead of sl1, k9...). It will take 2 extra rows to finish the turn. Pick up 8 or 9 along the sides of the heel (instead of 7 or 8), decrease back to total of 32 (instead of 28). Clear as mud?

These look likely to fit someone on the lower end of the 7 - 14 year old range. If time permits, when I finish these I just may try a Magic 36.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Little Socks for Afghanistan, Anyone?

I just received an urgent appeal from afghans for Afghans. The are falling short of their goal of 80 cartons of wool items for children ages 7 - 14, and the October 12 deadline is approaching fast. They have a lot of hats (though they wouldn't turn those down). They particularly requested mittens and socks, would love vests/sweaters, too. All the details are at their website.

I've had the Magic 28 Sock (courtesy of Now Norma Knits) on my to do list for awhile. I'm going to cast on now.