Wednesday Miscellany--Spring look book

I was going to foam at the mouth some more about soap, about how the latest batch seems to be developing DOS, which in online soap-speak means, “dreaded orange spots.” DOS is certainly not a fatal condition (lye chunks in soap, that’s fatal), but it does marr the esthetics. This is what I get for getting all fancy with honey additives and a big lye discount.

Sooo, let’s start amassing a knits look book for spring. Please send along any sweet numbers you’ve seen. And I’ll provide a start. Here’s a promenade of commercial sweaters recently spied:

1. Persian Rug Halter from Peruvian Connection. Of course, I would like Polish grandma draped in a rug from Wal-Mart, but she looks cute.

Persian Rug Halter

2. Eileen Fisher silk-cashmere cardigan from Garnet Hill. Love it!


3. Red Stamp Slingbacks from Anthropologie. OK, these have nothing to do with sweaters, but we have to wear something on our feet. But can someone explain why they cost $268?


4. Rivamonti Wool-cotton cardigan. From Saks. So classic. But the buttons on the trousers are too matchy-matchy.


Crafter gone wild: The soap edition

I haven’t made soap in years. Too much knitting, blogging, working and a bit of burnout—I did some craft shows when the economy tanked—retired my stick blender.

This winter, though, a bout of unremittant, body-wide itching forced me back into the basement to review my supplies. All my luxury oils—rancid. Olive oil—out. But my hard-come-by palm and coconut oils, sealed tight as drums and smelling just fine. A trip to Costco for a gallon of not-so-virgin olive oil and I was back in business.

Let’s make soap, shall we? (You can find Kathy Miller’s instructions for cold process soapmaking, here.)

1. This is lye, aka sodium hydroxide. This is bad, caustic stuff, but you don’t get soap without it. This is why the poor kitten spent part of the afternoon in the bathroom time out.


2. This is water mixed with lye. When water and lye are combined the mixture gets really hot and really volatile. This is the second batch of water and lye I made after the first batch of water, honey and lye exploded. This is why you mix the water and lye outside.


3. This is coconut oil. It’s solid at room temperature. Coconut oil imparts a nice, bubbly lather.


4. This is olive oil, coconut oil and palm oil combined. Cellulite never looked so good.


5. Add lye and a stick blender and, voila, raw soap.


6. Keep blending, you don’t want nasty fat chunks in your soap. This is when you add your essential oils. This is a batch of lavender/honey soap. After my little mishap, I zoomed through a couple off soapmaking references only to learn that this is the proper time to add honey.


7. Pour into lined molds and cover with blankets for 24 hours. Soap is very shy when it’s young, so you need to keep it under wraps. It also continues saponifying and it likes to be warm when it’s doing this.


8. The true joy of soapmaking. Cleaning up.


9. But wait, there’s more. This afternoon I’ll uncover the soap and let it harden for several days. Then I’ll remove it from the molds, slice it like tea cakes and set it out to cure for three weeks. No instant gratification here.


Mad at McCain

He lost me with the hug.

Though I haven’t been much of a switch-hitter, I look at the other team. There might come a day when the Dems nominate a candidate so corrupt and unskilled as to prompt a protest vote. So I look.

John McCain has long interested me. He’s a true American hero who knows viscerally what it means to send troops into harm’s way. (Though I marvel at his unwavering support of this war.) I followed his 2000 campaign with interest and was appalled by the reprehensible tactics deployed by Bush’s apparatchiks against his camp. As the campaign wore on, it became clear that McCain was too hawkish, too gun friendly, too pro-life to win my vote. But I admired him nonetheless.

Until he hugged that son of a bitch.

To treat a president with distant civility is one thing. To physically embrace and campaign for a man whose minions impugned your family? Smells like the gray-water of ambition.

Had he chosen an executive position—governor of Arizona?—instead of the internecine environment of Congress, perhaps we would have seen more of the unvarnished McCain, the man who’s willing to anger the far right and left with the raw courage of his convictions. Instead, McCain’s become an awkward insider, a complex, confused prevaricator willing to sell big chunks of his soul for a shot at America’s highest office.

Curious. There’s part of me that still believes he’s better than all of this.

For a much better take on his candidacy, read Todd S. Purdum’s piece on McCain in Vanity Fair.

For McCain on McCain.

Back to the future

A while back (OK, like a year ago), I started Cheryl Oberle’s Little Edo jacket. In the ensuing months, I’ve knit many things, complained vigorously on these pages, grown older, visited foreign lands and even written about Oberle, but have made very little progress on this lovely garment. The other day, I returned to it, trepidatious because it is LACE, albeit easy LACE, but was able to sink right in. Just like a great novel. And the yarn, Oberle’s own hand-dyed “Reflections,” a 50–50 merino-mohair, like stitching with sapphires.



Itty bitty teeny weeny Edo

Wednesday Miscellany: Valentine history

The other day, Mitch and I were trying to explain why Valentine’s Day is not a Jewish holiday. We knew it had something to do with a saint. I thought there was a massacre, though that came later.

Turns out, the Catholic church recognizes three or so Saint Valentines. One such Valentine, a priest, defied an anti-marriage law imposed by the Roman emperor Claudius II, and married lovers anyway. He was executed. Another was killed for helping Christians escape from Roman prisons. One Valentine allegedly fell in love with his jailor’s daughter, and before his death, wrote her a letter, signing it, “from your Valentine.”

The February 14 part came in when the Church decided to coop the Roman Lupercalia Festival, a baudy and raucous rite of spring, and something Church fathers no doubt wanted supressed. Some think the modern Valentine thing took hold during the era of chivalry and courtly love, finally reaching popular expression in 17th-century England.

But the whole thing started with blood and death. Like a lot of holidays.

Perhaps the moral of this story is: Spread love, not mayhem.

So, kiss your pookey.

Some accounts to read:

History Channel

How Stuff Works


Christianity Today

Just another maudlin Monday

I had a couple of free hours yesterday and decided to finish an essay I started months ago. Remarkably, it has nothing to do with knitting, and therein may lie the problem, since all I can think about are sweaters, this being a current obsession:


From the Rowan Classic Coast Collection

But I was in the mood to write, or at least thought I was, though revisiting the essay distressed me somewhat. I noodled with the diction, unsure I was striking the right tone. I revised clunky phrases; an English teacher I had long ago noted awkward sentences by writing “awk” beside them in red. There was a lot of “awk.” Ultimately, I had to admit that I didn’t know where I was going. Really, dear, what is your point?

So I lay down. Please tell me you do this: Shut your eyes so as to conjure different brain waves or at the very least, catch a few Zs? It works. And in this case, along with stealing a nice nappy, I realized where the piece needed to go. Problem is, my “point” just ain’t that deep.

Kinda put the whole day into a tailspin.

Squalid little turdballs of yarn

Margene was disparaging her handspun on Friday, so, in an effort to make her feel more accomplished, I thought I’d display an egregious effort at rolling some llama. So sad. That beautiful batting deserves better.


Sable-colored llama from the Rocky Mountain LLama Fiber Pool

Destructive force in the house

Antone  + Audreymitts =


I’ll be performing surgery tomorrow. On the mitt.


Wednesday Miscellany--My Desk

The December issue of Vanity Fair magazine featured a beautiful photo of Oprah’s desk. Fresh flowers, a Mont Blanc pen and a precious porcelain tea cup share space with Barack Obama’s new book, architectural renderings of the girls’ school she’s building and the other charming bibelots associated with what it means to be Oprah. I thought it might be fun to share our non-art directed desks. I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours…!

My desk

To see the text and full image, expand by clicking.

My desk


Guilty pleasure time

Let’s forget all this green stuff for a minute and talk about something fun. Lucky Magazine. I love it. Love, love, love it. Why? Because it’s easier to digest than cream of wheat. And it fulfills its promise as pure, unadulterated shopping voyeurism. It is the bible of girl consumer culture in all its superficial glory. It is so not green.

But I saw this really cool sweater.


Charlotte Ronson Wrap Cardigan

I’ll be recyling the magazine in the morning.