Inside Out or Outside In?

Skeins, balls and cakes of yarn that pull from the center are all the rage with some of the people in my knitting group — but not me.  The way yarn is commonly sold is in pull skeins (which are tools of the Devil, by the way).  People who have never dealt with one before tend to pick the end that’s easy to find — the one on the outside, which is OK for a novice knitter, or people who have one of those fancy yarn spikes that is on a turntable. Pull skeins are actually designed to pull from the center, which you quickly figure out once you are able to knit fast enough to be frustrated with how cumbersome it is to have to stop and unroll more yarn (because if you give the yarn a hard yank, you have to chase the skein when it jumps off onto the floor).  However, once you figure that out, you then learn that (a) the inside end is tricky to find and (b) when enough yarn has been pulled out of the skein, the thin outer shell that’s left has a frustrating tendency to implode into yarn barf*.

One of the ladies in my knitting group is a big proponent of hand-winding yarn into a center-pull ball, but that has the same inherent problem as the pull skein.  Once you’ve pulled enough out of the center of the ball, again, the outer shell tends to implode into yarn barf.  Now, the voice of experience is telling you that if a yarn barf event occurs while you’ve got a knitting project attached to the other end of the ball or pull skein, some serious religion losing will happen.  When you’re in the middle of a knitting project, you do not want to have to stop everything and tediously untangle a big pile of yarn barf.

Nope.  First thing I do on a knitting project is roll the yarn from the pull skein into a ball that starts at the center and winds outward.  You’d think figuring out how to do this would be pretty intuitive.  Apparently not.  I’ve taught more than one novice knitter how to roll yarn into a ball.  Of course, the obvious problem with a ball of yarn is that it rolls.  That’s why I put the ball of yarn in a bowl when I’m knitting.  Once you do that, the ball unrolls smoothly from the outside-in.  Any yarn barf that was going to happen, happened when you were rolling it into a ball in the first place, and it’s already been dealt with.

For a yarn bowl, I recommend something large enough for the ball of yarn you’re using, something with a little weight to it like glass or ceramic or pottery so you won’t pull the bowl over if you give the yarn a little tug as you’re working.  One of the yarn bowls I use I got at a thrift store for 50 cents (at right).  It’s that indestructible restaurant china from the 1950’s and 1960s.  It’s cereal bowl size, and heavy for its size and I carry it in my knitting bag.

The one you see most in my pictures (left) is one of a pair of bowls I got at Pier 1 because I really like the imprinted design on the outside lip of the bowl.  It’s heavy glazed pottery.  My big ball bowl (below) is a salad serving bowl I got off, again because it’s ceramic and fairly heavy, and I like the impressed design. (It was also on sale!).

[Topic change without segue warning]

I was making a sandwich the other day, and found myself mentally comparing my technique to the parental unit‘s — When she makes one, you get a smear of mayo on the center of one side, and either mayo or mustard smeared on the other, one slice of lunch meat, maybe a slice of tomato, the bottom half of a lettuce leaf on a couple of slices of the local “Wonder Bread” equivalent  — that awful “white bread” that becomes library paste after two chews.  When I make one, I “book” the bread — you take two side-by-side slices out of the loaf and lay them open like the covers of a book.  Whatever is going to be spread on the bread will completely cover that surface.  (Yes, I spike in several places on the OCD spectrum.  Why do you ask? ) If the lunch meat is chicken, ham** or turkey, then it’s mayo spread on both sides.  If beef, then it’ll be horseradish sauce on the beef side of the bread and mayo on the other.  There won’t be any lettuce (I don’t buy lettuce.  I’m not that into salads.) and probably no tomato unless I’m on a cherry tomato kick.   There will be cheese on the sandwich; Muenster or Havarti if it’s chicken or turkey, sharp cheddar if it’s beef or ham.   The lunch meat will be that thinly sliced “deli” stuff, and there will be three slices of it.  The bread will be something with a little more substance to it and a lot more nutritional value — whole grain/multigrain, or ciabatta, or right now there’s this rosemary and olive oil “baked-in-store” bread I’ve been getting that is so yummy.  It makes a killer sandwich with chicken, Havarti cheese, and tomatoes. (I did break down and get a couple of Roma tomatoes when I got another loaf of it the other day because sandwiches. . .)  Of course, since I slice tomatoes a little thicker than most people (“the knife***” is a paring knife with a serrated blade that has needed to be sharpened for years . . .), I always serve any sandwich that has tomatoes in with a folded-paper-towel “diaper” on it.   Nuts.  Now I’m hungry.

Ran across this surreally magical video the other day.

Wouldn’t that make a weird accident report?  “I was T-boned by a hot air balloon that ran a stop sign . . . ”


*Yarn Barf -- just what the term implies -- a big tangled mess of yarn.

**ham -- has, alas, been removed from the menu -- I've been put on a low-salt diet. Bummer. 

***"the knife" A paring knife I've had for over 20 years, with a serrated blade.  I use it constantly because it's the only "sharp" knife I have (besides this honking great machete of a bread knife which is probably illegal in any other state except Texas, Arizona, Colorado, Montana and Wyoming). It lives in the silverware cup of the dish drying rack because after each use, the blade is hand washed clean with a squirt of dish soap and put there, because I use it all the time.

Bright the Hawk’s Flight on the Empty Sky

One of our brightest stars winked out last Monday.  Ms. LeGuin gave the above speech in 2014.  It was true then, it is even more true now.  She writes like she speaks, pithily and to the point, choosing her words wisely, and making every one count.

The made-up books she wrote were powerful and True.  (All the best made-up books are True.  That is what makes them the best.)  If you read her books and think about what she wrote and why she wrote it and how it relates to the human condition,  — and if you will let her — she will crowbar open the windows of your mind, throw ope the shutters, and let in the fresh air and sunlight.

From all I read and hear from those who knew her, Ursula LeGuin was a light-bringer, an illuminator.  It is a trait well worth emulating.  No matter whatever else you might be or do, also be a light-bringer. Bring light to all those whose lives you touch; share your light, pass it along, let others light their candle from yours and shine forth, adding their own light to the world.

When one candle gutters and goes out, it behooves us other candles to burn that much brighter and to share our light with still others, so that the light is not diminished, but increased.

Ursula K. Le Guin, 1929-2018

Only in silence the word,
Only in dark the light,
Only in dying life:
Bright the hawk’s flight on the empty sky.

– The Creation of Ea

Crimmers Eve

My friend LB made a bunch of knitted snowmen, and she gave me this one when I went to see her Thursday.  She used yarn that has a thread of iridescence in it that gives it just the perfect little sparkle like snow (like the iridescent glitter I used on my snowflakes) — which doesn’t photograph at all well . . . .

The little snowman got me to thinking again about how a simple object of little intrinsic worth becomes an object of great value because of its history and how one came to acquire it.  Its worth lies in its ability to evoke memories, of the time, the place and the giver.  .  .  .  It becomes a “souvenir” in the literal sense of the word, which is French for “remember.”

Sans segue,  I remembered I had this little bamboo silverware tray  (it’s too narrow for the silverware drawer in this house), and I had a brainwave — I put it on the little table I have by my computer to organize my knitting needles.  It works a treat.  I had a hard time getting to my double pointed needles before, but not now.  They all go in that front bit quite nicely, as does my needle gauge.  Win.

Here I make all these hats for other people, but I hadn’t made any for myself.  Last year, I had made a ribbed cowl to fit up around my neck, which I fold in half and which fits like a turtle neck sweater without the sweater.   I used it when I had to go out Friday, and it is tall enough that it will cover my mouth and ears no problem.  I made it so long because you can also unfold it and bring one end of it up over your head.  It fits my needs very well.  I thought a toboggan to go with it out of the same Caron Simply Soft yarn would be just the thing, so on this chilly (41 F/ 5C) Crimmers Eve, I’m making one.

Late in my salad days (1986), when I first started doing medical transcription, we worked at the hospital in a little room off the medical records department.  The lady I worked for, and who taught me transcription, used to get tickled at me for refering to “Christmas” as “Crimmers.”  I was more draw-y and cartoon-y then than I am now, and I drew her this little thing below one Crimmers.  (I didn’t know until about 20 years later that she had not only kept it all these years, but had had it very nicely framed.)  The sentiment still holds up well, I think, even now in these dark days. . .

Read Any Good Tee-Shirts Lately?*

“Those who wonder if the glass is half empty or half full miss the point.  The glass is refillable.”

“Brace yourself.  The full moon is coming.”

“English is weird,
but it can be understood through tough, thorough thought, though.”

“Bookmarks are for quitters.”

“The most dangerous animal in the world is a silent, smiling woman.”

“My two favorite teams are Chicago, and anyone who beats Baltimore.”

“People think I’m crazy for talking to animals.  Should I ignore their questions?”

“BOY, n. 1. noise with dirt on it.”

“I thought growing old would take longer. ”

“You matter.
Unless you multiply yourself by the speed of light . . . then you energy.”
(If this isn’t a Neil deGrasse Tyson quote, it ought to be.)

“Most computer problems are caused by a faulty connection between the chair and the keyboard.”

“Meddle not in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and good with ketchup. ”

“Never trust an atom.  They make up everything.”

“iTired.  There’s a nap for that.”

“‘Earth’ without Art is just ‘Eh.'”

“The only thing we have to fear is Fear itself . . . and spiders.”


*As gleaned from an unsolicited Signals catalog.

Adventures in Dentistry and a Short Trip to Atlantis

“The land that lies between ‘Factual’ and ‘True’ is the undiscovered country wherein tales are found. One of the most delightful discoveries one can make in this uncharted land is that a story does not have to be factual to be true.” thus sayeth WOL.

I need a sign that says, “Let Sleeping Dust Lie.”

OK.  So off to this morning’s adventure in dentistry wherein I had to get up at ridiculous o’clock because I had forgotten to get any Ensure or acetaminophen 500 mg tablets, because instead of grocery shopping Sunday morning as I had planned, instead, I drove my mom to the ER because she got waylaid by the norovirus du jour currently making the rounds, had had most of the usual symptoms for four days (mercifully no vomiting), and she and I were both concerned that she was getting dehydrated.  Four Cotton-Picking Hours Later we had a brief glimpse of a doctor who told us these “stomach bugs” are usually self limiting, that for electrolyte replacement, she should have been drinking Pedialyte instead of Gatorade (which is loaded with sugar and only aggravates the diarrhea — which I could have told her without making her wait for four hours).  Totally derailed both our plans for Sunday.  I ended up not going shopping until Monday morning and had to wade through large crowds (including screaming preschool age children) to do so.

Anyway, I had to stop off at Walmart to get Ensure and acetaminophen on my way to my 9 o’clock dentist appointment, and then on my way home had to stop off at Walgreen’s to get $23 worth of antibiotics.

As I mentioned in other posts, after I got that lower molar ‘extracted’, the hole it left was bone grafted.  The graft “took,” and this morning I had the post for the tooth implant put in, which required that the gum be incised so that he could get to the bone, and then stitched back up afterward.  I’m supposed to baby the area and watch what I eat.  Naturally, since I can’t have them, I’m craving these really crunchy crackers I like.  This time, unlike when he “extracted” the tooth (read: drill out the root canal part of the tooth to get it out), his nitrous oxide dohickey was working, so I wandered off to the ozone listening to Kevin Kendle’s “Journey to Atlantis” and didn’t much mind that he was drilling a peg into my jawbone.

Of course, immediately I got home, I popped an antibiotic capsule and two 500 mg acetaminophen, and knocked back an Ensure high protein formula, and did what anybody would do — I took a nap.  The key to pain control is to take pain meds before you need them, so by the time the numbing wore off I had enough acetaminophen on board that when I laid me down to nap, I was comfortable enough to sleep for four hours.

In the meantime, the knitting fairie struck and I had two little outfits to give to the dentist’ s receptionist, who is due in November.  There were a couple of minor blips in that process, however;  one was that I had to rewrite the hat pattern to be knitted in the round.

There are some people who hate knitting on double pointed needles so much that they will knit a hat flat and then sew it up.  And then there are people like me who are unfazed by double pointed needles, but hate to sew knitting.

It seems that there is this whole school of thought that approaches knitting from a sewing standpoint.  In sewing you cut out pieces of cloth and then sew them together to make a garment, so they write knitting patterns like sewing patterns.  You knit the garment in pieces and then sew the pieces together.  No, thank you. I would much rather work out a way to knit the garment as a single seamless piece.

The other blip was that I made a boo-boo in the little pink sweater and didn’t catch it until I was about three inches beyond it.  For about 20 stitches on this one row, I purled where I should have knitted.  Even though this little sweater was knitted flat, I was using double pointed circular needles.  That made it easier to fix.

Allow me to digress into technicalities.  Some people would have ripped the whole thing out back to the mistake and reknitted everything, which would have entailed a lot of time, work, pejoratives and scatological language.  I just ripped out the bit that needed fixing and reknitted just those stitches.

Let me show you what I mean.  Recently I made a booboo in a hat I was working on, and k1, p1, when i should have p1, k1.  it was only 8 stitches, but I had knitted about 4 inches beyond the mistake before I caught it.  Rather than rip out all that work,

I just ripped out those stitches that I messed up — ALL the way back to the mistake. You can see how far I would have had to rip out, if I had ripped the whole thing back to where I flubbed up.  Instead, this way, I just had to reknit 8 stitches for four inches rather than 90 stitches for four inches.

I got out my trusty straight double pointed needles in the same size as the 16-inch circular double pointed needles I was using to knit the hat.  (I have a set of double pointed needles in each size that I have 16-inch circular needles, for doing the decrease to close up the top of the hat.)

I picked up the stitches on a double pointed needle.  Ripping out just those stitches leaves a “ladder” of threads, one thread per row.  I then use a second double pointed needle to  knit each “ladder rung” of thread across the 8 stitches I need to fix, being careful to take the rungs in order working my way back up, rung by rung.

Because the needles have a point at each end, when I got to the end of one row, I just went back to the right end of the needle and started on the next row. And with a little bit of patience and attention, there’s the goof all fixed!  This is one of my Toboggans with the internal ribbing on the hem.  The white bit at the bottom is the cotton yarn I used for the provisional cast on.  This whole little episode speaks to something I do not always do, which is stop frequently and check over the work to catch any errors before I get too far past them. If I hadn’t caught that error before I’d turned the hem, I would have had to rip out clear past the hem, and it would truly have been a big, loud PITA.

In other knitting news, I finished the twisted cable hat. I like the way it turned out.  I need to post it and the rewritten baby hat pattern on my knitting blog.  But not today.  I think I hear some chicken noodle soup calling my name. . . and I need to take my antibiotic dose and a couple of acetaminophen with something in my tum.