Saturday, December 14, 2013


My brother is embarking on a box-building project. That’s about as far as the specs go, but he is soliciting ideas and materials. I posted some of my fiber-ish thoughts over on Pinterest.

No, I am not including a tissue box cover. You can’t make me.

ETA I have not done extensive testing, but Pinterest doesn't seem to work for doodly on Firefox.  IE 11 is fine, though.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Keeping Our Skies Safe From Jam - At Only a Very Minor Risk of Botulism

My checked bag was inspected by the TSA yesterday and I was deeply impressed by their vigilance. They risked life and limb to tear off the produce bag impeding a clear visualization of every single one of 16 small jars of home-canned jam, to make sure they weren’t… [NOTE TO SELF: what? [NOTE TO NOTE-TO-SELF: sorry, haven’t the faintest idea]].

Combining efficiency with thoroughness, they scorned to undo those fiddly twist-ties and simply ripped each bag open. They then liberated the jars that were nestling indecorously in my underpants and gave everyone a stern talking-to about the TSA’s position on unseemly behavior in luggage. (Thank goodness I’d packed the leopard skin bikinis in my carry-on luggage.)  Of course, nothing was actually taken. Every single bag and twist-tie was put back into the suitcase. Even the underwear was released on its own recognizance.

Clearly, the TSA knows best. So what if they removed all the cushioning from the jars, and the bags that would have helped to contain any leaks, and entirely re-arranged the suitcase so as to allow freedom of jostling? They knew I was just an over-concerned packer, and that nothing would come to harm. Nor did they waste the taxpayers’ hard-earned money by stretch-wrapping the jars securely in their boxes, or any such effete nonsense. And, you know, they were right. Nothing did break. (However, I hope some alert entrepreneur will seize the market opportunity and start selling TSA insurance. After this experience, and the agency’s thoroughness with Matt’s art, we would line up to be the first customers.)

The only problem is (and I do hate to complain (not wanting to end up a Bad Person list)) but I can’t be sure they didn’t open any of the jars, because the airplane journey would have resealed any jars that had been opened. But I suppose I behaved so badly, by transmitting dangerous jam through our nation’s fair skies that, really, I deserve it if my family gets botulism for Christmas.

In any case, they probably didn’t let the sniffer-dogs-in-training lick the jars as a reward for their good work. Probably.

I can also be grateful that 9 Chickweed Lane’s Creepy National Furtiveness Agency is just the bugbear of a disturbed and unpatriotic mind. So I don’t have to worry that the NFA has bugged my bikini bottoms. Oh. Wait a minute. Erm. They’ve just heard every word I’ve typed, haven’t they? Well, if this blog goes quiet for a bit, don’t worry. They’ve only called me in to assist with their investigations…

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Crazy Like a Fox

We interrupt the Adventures of Esmerelda  for a brief word from our sponsors.

Welcome blog tourists!  I am proud to introduce to you, Fennec (Ravelry link), from the Global Warming section of the nearly-here super-cool book, Doomsday Knits, curated by Alex Tinsley.  The book will be out in digital form next month, with print to follow later, and it’s available NOW for pre-order. [Word to the wise – since you plan to use the book both before and after the apocalypse, you should probably spring for a hard copy.  You know, to avoid the deadly office supply store skirmishes being fought over the dwindling supplies of toner.]

Without further ado, meet Fennec.

Ahem, let’s try again.  Drumroll please...

Oh come on!

There we go.  Whew!

My first thought on seeing the severely under-dressed ladies on Alex’s Global Warming mood board was, "Oh, those poor girls -- they're going to get burned to a crisp and go sand-blind to boot."  Fennec is my attempt to give the post-apocalyptic woman clothing more appropriate to the environment without obscuring her fundamental scantily-cladness. 

I chose Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool because it’s one of my favorite yarns, comes in a good range of colors, and has exactly the right mix of crunch and drape.

One of the things I love about having other people publish my patterns is letting them do the photography.  Here’s why:

Me, trying to strike heroic desert-y poses, against a cold lake wind in January (observe the clenched hands and red fingers)

The professional (photography by the very talented Vivian Aubrey, who reportedly accomplished the entire shoot with a baby strapped to her back)

Naming the thing was more of a challenge than usual.  I proposed it as a Post-Apocalyptic Shrug.  The working title was Cropped Burnoose, which continues to amuse me, but wasn’t quite the thing for publication.  Alex and I researched winds, animals, deserts and I don’t know what all (more on my Pinterest board), but nothing clicked until I told Alex that what I really wanted was a charismatic desert mammal that sleeps with its tail wrapped around its nose (having previously considered and rejected jerboas).  To which Alex replied, what about a fennec?

And that was, irresistibly, that.

When I talk to Matt about the people of my day, it seems unfair to expect him to remember them just by name, so I add little appellations.  Alex Tinsley thus became Apocalyptic Alex.  Apocalyptic Alex has been fantastic to work with.  Her moodboards were a blast, and her Kickstarter promo video absolutely endearing. And now she’s organized her herd of designer cats into a month-long blog tour!  Apocalyptic Alex is pretty fitting – this is a woman you’d want to have your back if the apocalypse does hit.

I’m so looking forward to the rest of the tour, and the book itself.  Even though I’ve seen all the patterns, it’s still a thrill to see each one in public for the first time.

Next up on the blog tour, visit Theatre of Yarns on November 7 for a front seat audience with Ringmaster (which is definitely next in Esmerelda’s queue, and which I am being very noble and loyal not to blab about right now).  Hint - it's one of the pictures on the Cooperative Press order page.

You can find the tour schedule for the rest of November (and for any earlier stops you may have missed) on Dull-Roar, Alex’s web site.

Click on each picture for its accompanying blog post.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.  Say tuned for tomorrow’s thrilling episode, in which Esmerelda Teacup braves the apocalypse and observes that she does not want a pickle.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Adventures of Esmerelda - Part 3

If you missed the first installments of the Adventures of Esmerelda, you can catch up at:
Chapter 1 - Bibliort
Chapter 2 - Ranganathan's Mitts

Chapter 3 – Ex Libris
Being the continuing adventures of Esmerelda Teacup, ace librarian.

Books, cataloging, proper – effects on domestic amity of * Entente * Words * A thorough-going success * Don't it always seem to go

Esmerelda's beloved's preferred method of “shelving” is to place the book of the moment atop the nearest stack of books.  This sort of historical and eidetic cataloging is simply the easiest way for B to find things.  And while Esme has to admit there is a certain charm to a world in which Jane Austen, Herodotus and Billy Collins curl up cozily together, she at least wants them to do so without hurting each other. 

Esme and B are very fond of each other, so, after intense and prolonged negotiations, they arrive at a compromise whereby B creates stacks no more than five books high, does not place them on any upholstered surface, and arranges the books in each stack roughly zigguratically. 

Nonetheless, after a couple of unfortunate Incidents (one of which led to Words), Esme has concluded that B cannot be entirely relied upon not to unwittingly bury her e-reader in one of the ziggurats.  Esme grimly reminds herself that she is very fond of B, and that she values homemade cranberry muffins.  Finally, she asks the time-honored question, WWEZD? and arrives at this solution.

Esme is pleased with her creation (she has an acknowledged weakness for duplicate stitch and I-cord) and, so far, B has managed to avoid stacking anything on the bright red upholstered surface, thus preserving domestic amity.  Esme is also glad to have a new bauble for the upcoming ALA convention.  Her Hypatia sweater and Bunny Watson vest are all very well for Rhinebeck, but a conclave of librarians demands something more novel. 

Ex Libris neatly rounds out her latest, and not nearly as overdue as her pettish publishers seem to think, knitting book manuscript.  After putting the finishing touches on the monogram charts, Esme hits the irrevocable Send (accompanied by the usual faintly horrified shiver as her brainchild sails off to seek its fortune), and promptly plunges into the dreaded pit of post-authorial ennui.  Books, cooking, even knitting, have all lost their charm.  And while other activities might retain some of their usual luster, B is out of town, and not expected back for a week. . .

But the luxury of boredom is doomed to be fleeting.  Unbeknownst to Esmerelda, while she was deep in the throes of editing there has come an apocalypse.  The world outside her door is falling into dark chaos, lit only by the tiny wavering flames held high by valiant librarians ministering to their flocks.

Will Esme be in time to rescue B?  Will there be a dirigible?  Stay tuned for the next thrilling episode of the Adventures of Esmerelda.

Order your copy of Stitching in the Stacks today!  

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Adventures of Esmerelda - Part 2

If you missed the first installment of the Adventures of Esmerelda, you can find it on yesterday's post.

Chapter 2 - Ranganathan’s Mitts
Being the continuing adventures of Esmerelda Teacup, ace librarian.

The vicissitudes of contemporary librarianship * The letters of the law * A welcome gift * Dark clouds gather

Esmerelda's beloved is a bibliophile who listens to the reports of Esme’s day with patience and sympathy, even when she waxes somewhat...well, assuredly not strident but, shall we say, vigorous, about the insanity of ordering 173 copies of the latest Daphne Farquitt or Lavinia Fitch, the abysmal quality of modern bookbinding, or the extortionate policies of medical journals.  However, since the recent unrest over the weaponized koalas, B does all that can be done to steer toward safer topics when conversation veers toward the “upcycling” of old books.  (Now, Esmerelda is a fair-minded woman, so before tilting against the practice of butchering  things of words to make things of kitsch, she tried a thought experiment:  Would it be acceptable to make a tchotchke out of a fake book?  Well, perhaps.  But once you have made a fake book, is it not, ipso facto, a real book?  Attempting to follow that strand snarled her thoughts so badly that she had to have a nice quiet sitdown with a glass of wine and her current knitting project – a Gotham City Twinset - before regaining her usual savoir-faire.  She concluded this was a situation where one must allow ideology to be a sufficient guide.)

There is little her beloved  can do about these problems.  But when the winter rains set in and Esme returns home day after day with hands chill and stiff from working in her poorly heated office, B lights on a way to help (that is, in addition to the generous and, um, altruistic offers to massage her hands).  Drawing inspiration from a cross-stitch sampler of Ranganathan’s Five Laws of Library Science (rather a large sampler) that hangs with pride of place in the dining room, B secretly charts and knits and rips and knits and charts, and finally presents these mitts to Esme, who is as demonstratively delighted as her beloved could have hoped.  Whether she is typing or shelving books, Esme’s hands now stay comfortably warm, though she always graciously accepts B’s offers to warm them further.

However, trouble looms on the horizon.  Esme’s beloved is not exactly careless with books, but his laissez faire attitude toward their organization and storage ruffles Esme’s hair painfully in the wrong direction.  

Will domestic harmony survive the brewing storm?  Can theoretical and corporeal cataloging coexist in peace?  Tune in to our next episode for the answers to these and other burning questions.

Order your copy of Stitching in the Stacks today!  

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Adventures of Esmerelda

As promised, we bring you the first of several installments illuminating the backstory of Stitching in The Stacks. Read on for the thrilling adventures of Esmerelda Teacup, librarian, knitter, sensualist, inventor . . .

Chapter 1 – Bibliort 

Portrait of a reader * Brief disorientation * On the proper care of books * On the proper care of patrons * A clear warning

Picture our heroine, Esmerelda Teacup, ensconced in her favorite leather chair in the library at home. She reads in a pool of warm lamplight, bare feet tucked up, in a peignoir slit well up the leg (believing that one must always be ready for immediate action, Esme places a high value on garments that do not restrict freedom of movement), and revealing a glimpse of lacy garter.

Esmerelda’s beloved enters the room. Deep in her book, Esme does not notice B’s arrival until caressed by the familiar scents of bergamot and fresh scones.  The slight quiver in the air warns her of the Xorgian hypno-ray.  She dives to the floor, narrowly avoiding incineration as a pair of armored Xoons bursts through the door, firing wildly with white hot blast weapons.  She removes her garter as she rolls, using it first to garrote the nearest Xoon and then to mark her place in her book, freeing both hands for combat . . . Emerging, she smiles warmly, if somewhat hazily, at the tea tray and at B. Unhurriedly, she tucks her glasses into their Stereotypical case and stretches her legs, wiggling her toes experimentally, pleased at how nicely this displays thigh and garter. She holds her place with one hand and eases the garter off with the other. Carefully, she stretches the Bibelot around the book, slipping the thin ribbon between the pages to mark her place, and leaving the lacy nonsense displayed fetchingly against the red morocco cover.

As a librarian, Esme has seen many things used as bookmarks, which she has variously recycled, removed gingerly with tweezers and, in one embarrassing incident, dropped with a shriek (she maintains it was a shriek of indignation, and it is probably best to let the matter rest there). She has heard the legend of the piece of bacon found in a returned book, but is too disturbed by the waste of both book and bacon to credit it. Once, she found a particularly steamy love note, apparently written by a patron of her acquaintance (although not addressed in quite the expected direction). In a gesture both generous and cautionary, she tucked the note into a book being held for the woman.  Esme has not seen her since, and suspects she now frequents a different branch.

Esme is rather proud of her many Bibelots, quick to knit from nearly depleted skeins and easily kept close at hand in case of need. She pats this one fondly, looking at her beribboned book this way and that with the air of a pleased magpie, until folded arms and a tapping foot suggest it is high time she joined her beloved on the sofa to engage in the afternoon’s domestic rituals.

What fiendish new bibliort will Esme uncover next? Tune in to our next episode for the answers to this and other important questions.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Doomvember is Upon Us

Happy Halloween!  (Check out the sister blog for menu ideas.)

And happy Doomvember!
Because the apocalypse makes us all a little giddy.

The pre-launch festivities for Doomsday Knits start today over at Dull Roar.  My stop on the tour will be November 6 -- don't miss Fennec's emergence from its den.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Duplicate Stitch Alphabet

Librarians, knitters and allies, rejoice - Stitching in the Stacks has been published digitally (with print imminent), and it is gorgeous.  Buy it!  More later on the book and my 3(!) patterns in it (plus the back cover picture!).

For now, I wanted to point out a link to my full set of free upper- and lower-case monogram alphabets for the Ex Libris e-reader cover (right side-bar - under Free Knitting Pattern Downloads).

It's been a while, but I know I tested most, if not every letter.  Do let me know if you run across errors, or things that just look wonky once knitted up.  It's so easy to make something beautiful on a square chart that turns goofy when you do it in the Vs of duplicate stitch.  Enjoy!

My patterns:
Ranganathan's Mitts (fingerless mitts)
Ex Libris (e-reader cozy)
Bibliort (bookmark slash garter)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Fresh Designs Mitten and Gloves

Sure, I'm biased because my pattern is in it,

but this is a great book.

Buy from Cooperative Press

Buy from Ravelry

My ten-fold rationale:

1. It's small - just ten designs. This is important in a house like mine where knitting bookshelf space is at a premium. I could probably start grabbing corners of other bookshelves, but the yarn raths are outgrabe-ing enough as it is without the knitting books going all mimsy.  If you are truly desolate of space, or a child of the digital age, you can get the book as a download, for a little less money.  But I think it's worth buying the print version, which also includes the download.

2. Small also means less expensive. Since one rarely makes more than a couple of designs from a book anyway, a small book with a high make:not-make ratio is an excellent value.

3. Out of ten designs, four are full-fingered gloves (Bangles pictured below). This is a crazy-high ratio. The ubiquity of patterns for fingerless gloves has always puzzled me. Surely, it's easier for the uncertain glove knitter to figure out how to omit the fingers than to figure out how to add them when they're not in the pattern?

4. Sex sells. For example, what could be more homely than fliptop mittens? Not if you make them in flaming orange and promise to take them off.

5. Did I mention, sex sells? I wantwantwantwantwant to make the Bella gloves.

But since I'm neither a society matron nor a stripper, I'm not sure when I'd ever get to wear them.  Matt would be upset if I became a society matron, so I remain baffled.  I've never had the least interest in Polyvore before now, but if someone could style these gloves for me, I would be most grateful.

6. The Kelly gloves are gorgeously understated. The meticulous shaping (possibly even more meticulous than mine, and that’s saying something) is a big part of their success.

7. The book has a nice range of techniques and skill levels, leaning toward the experienced side. Not one of the patterns would be boring to make, although some of the colorwork mittens might make me cross-eyed. 

The black and white mittens are double-knit and the other two pairs are stranded.

8. Okay, I think we’re far enough down the list that I can gloat about my pattern.  I designed what I wanted to wear, which is generally how I do my best work.  The Empyrean gloves have lots of zazz, with beads, twisted stitches and picots.  Some of the zazz is functional, too, like using the ribbed diamond pattern as part of the hand/gusset shaping .

Even the beads are useful for distinguishing the right and left gloves.  One of my fit fetishes is to set the thumb just a scosh toward the palm, so the gloves are handed.

Super secret designer note: I imagined these as driving gloves with the beads on the back of the hands, but I sure wouldn’t want to argue with the model!

9. The book is finally here!

Buy from Cooperative Press

Buy from Ravelry

10. So Fresh Designs Kids is that much closer. Given the styling of the first six books, I remain avidly curious to see what the Kids pictures will be like.  In the meantime, there have been enough family babies that I’ve been my own test knitter more than once on the baby booties I designed for the book, so the instructions are pretty thoroughly vetted.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Just-Right Microwave Porridge for the Up-To-Date Bear

This Matt-derived oatmeal is warming, filling, a delicious fruit delivery system, an excellent source of fiber (without being at all obnoxious about it), and quick and easy enough to make every day. Okay, it may seem like a bit of fuss the first few times you make it, but it's easy to get into a rhythm if you make it every day, and you can have breakfast on the table within 15 minutes.

The recipe makes 2 full breakfasts for adults to whom breakfast is important. It can stretch to 3-4 if some of the persons are smaller or less peckish, or as part of a larger meal. 

Print-Friendly Version (PDF)

Mix dry ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl:
  • 1/3 cup thick-cut rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup oat bran
  • 1/2 cup nonfat dry milk (amount may vary by brand - use the equivalent of 1 1/2 cup fresh milk)
  • dash salt
  • 1 heaping Tbs almond meal (pecan and hazelnut meal are also good, but you will need to use more in order to taste them much)
Add water and stir thoroughly to combine:
  • 1 cup water
Gently stir in:
  • 6-7 oz small chunks of fresh or frozen fruit, such as plum, apple, kiwi, or blackberry (we haven't tried it, but I expect mango would be excellent); or a smaller weight of dried fruit
  • pears, blueberries or other delicate fruits are also tasty options, but should be added later as directed
Add one or more secret warming ingredients:
  • 2 tsp - 2 Tbs booze, such as rum, brandy, vermouth, or a liqueur flavored with almond, hazelnut, pecan, coffee, orange, or apple
  • 1/2 tsp plum brandy--we use moonshine tuica from Romania (you really do NOT need more than 1/2 tsp) and it makes plums taste at least twice as plummy
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla (especially good with pear) 
  • some citrus juice and zest 
  • a little candied ginger, diced tiny
  1. Microwave, uncovered, at 50% power (or 60% for frozen fruit) for 5 minutes (your microwave may vary--ours is 1100W).
  2. Stir, breaking up any clumps of porridge.
  3. Add pears or blueberries, if using.
  4. Microwave at same power for another 2 minutes.
  5. Let rest in microwave for 4 minutes.
Stir in:
  • another 1/3 cup thick-cut rolled oats
  • 1 Tbs flax seed meal
  • 1/3-2/3 cup hot tap water, until desired consistency is reached
Serve immediately in warmed bowls, garnishing with brown sugar, cinnamon sugar, toasted nuts, or freshly ground nutmeg, as desired.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

A Little Machine Learning is a Dangerous Thing

On a recent business trip to San Francisco, I was fortunate to have an afternoon off on a beautiful day that just happened to be the day the San Francisco Exploratorium re-opened in their new digs on Pier 15.  I am aggrieved with the world for not having told me about the Exploratorium before, and grateful to the Evil Mad Scientists for hipping me to it now.  I could happily spend an entire vacation there, except that I'd have to take a day off every couple of days for a nice lie-down, or I'd be a sensorily overloaded hyperstimulated basket case train wreck.

On my inaugural visit, I had this conversation with Daisy the computer (click the image for a larger view).  She is learning to think by written conversation with visitors.  Visitors are given the nom de keyboard of Victor -- no idea why.

I let Daisy have the last word. It was a wee bit ironic to be arguing with a computer just after emerging from a beautiful and heartbreaking exhibit entitled "The Changing Face of What Is Normal: Mental Health."