Saturday, January 24, 2004

The Michigan primary is looming and we here at Knitnthink have not yet made our decision. While all of the Democratic hopefuls are vastly superior to the current incumbent, some may be stronger candidates than others. Now I respect my almost-neighbor Michael Moore's argument in favor of General Clark , especially his assertion that the election will be decided by a handful of voters in a handful of states. It's not that the rest of our votes don't count -- it's that a huge majority of voters are not up for grabs. Take me, for example: I would write in my dog's name before I would vote for Bush. About 40 percent of the voters will go with whatever Democrat heads the ticket and about 40 percent will back Bush, no matter what. Each party claims another 5 percent or so likely voters. That leaves roughly 10 percent or less that are truly ambivalent. You might know one of them. If so, consider what makes them undecided. Think about it, real hard. That 10 percent, especially in states that are evenly balanced between parties, will decide the election.

Who can best appeal to these undecided voters? I don't have the answer to that, but I'm getting a hunch lately that it could be John Edwards. The more I see of the guy the more I think: "He's just darn likeable." I think likeability is an important criteria to that 10 percent who are less concerned with policy distinctions than the rest of us. We'll see what the situation is by Feb. 7, when Michigan has its primary, but I'll be watching Sen. Edwards closely until then.

Now on to knitting. I've been very busy this week and I've finished "Midnight Sun" save for a little stitching and darning in ends. I'll try to get a photo up in a day or two. I've also restarted the mosaic ripple afghan, which is my first crochet project in about 20 years. It looks nothing like the afghans my grandmas used to make! The yarn is just gorgeous; I purchased it last spring at Tierra Wools in Los Ojos, New Mexico. I'm also still working on the Lavold pullover. I'm on a long stretch of stockinette stitch, so it is now my designated carry-along project.

And the yarn arrived for Donegal. I've wound most of it, but not swatched yet. I've also collected yarn for a Peruvian sweater/skirt/hat set in an OOP book, Sue Bradley's "Around the World in 80 Sweaters," Mendocino from Alice Starmore's "Pacific Coast Highway," and a cute little kitty-cat fairisle for my daughter from "Norsk Strikkedesign". Oh, plus the Rebozo shawl from Cheryl Oberle's "Folk Shawls." I've also been spinning and finally started washing the beautiful Romney fleece I bought at the Michigan Fiber Festival this summer.

Needless to say, I have enough yarn in my house or in transit to my house or waiting for me to spin it that I could knit for 5 years without making another yarn purchase. Yet tomorrow is the annual sale at my usual yarn shop so guess where I'll be when the doors open?

Which brings me to Lara's question -- what are the best knitting shops in Traverse City? Well, Lara, it really depends on what kind of knitting you like to do. All of them are worthy of your attention. Let's run down the list, shall we?

Lost Art is on Front Street in the downtown business district and its proprietor, Gerhild Uld, is a no-nonsense woman of German birth who has many years of knitting experience and superior knowledge. Gerhild machine-stitched a seam and cut the armholes of my first Dale sweater. She is skilled in most forms of fiber work. She sells Rowan, Cascade, Baabajoe's, Mountain Colors, Reynolds, Adrienne Vittadini and many other popular yarns. Probably due to the shop's prestige location in the touristy strip of downtown, Lost Art has acquired many new customers in recent years who enjoy the trendy, instant-gratification forms of knitting. You will see evidence of this by the fuzzy scarves on display in the store window. That is the yarn shop of the aforementioned sale tomorrow.

Yarn Quest is in a strip shopping center on Garfield Avenue. It also has Rowan yarns, as well as Brown Sheep, Dale (not a huge selection), Philosopher's Wool and many other high-quality yarns. I purchased a Poetry in Stitches kit there recently. It's also the only T.C. shop to stock Brittany needles and has the best selection of buttons. I don't go there as often because it's a longer walk.

While we were away for our year in Colorado, a new yarn shop opened just a block and a half from my house!! It is Baa Baa Black Sheep on 8th Street. I've found this most convenient, far too convenient. The owner stocks Bartlett and Debbie Bliss yarns, as well as the new Elsebeth Lavold silky wool, and others. She also sells some spinning supplies.

Farther afield is Inish Knits in Cedar. As I rarely drive anywhere, I've only been in this shop one time, but I'm thinking another field trip may be in order once the snow melts. Peggy, the owners, stocks Jamieson shetland yarn (very little 2-ply, however) and even has a stash of Starmore campion (sshhhhh....) She also has Jo Sharp yarns and is a Schact spinning wheel dealer. It is a lovely shop with old hardwood floors and a sleeping cat. You could stay for hours.

Also, there's a yarn shop in Glen Arbor or Glen Haven, but I've not been in it as I never get to that area without the hubby and kids in tow.

And, sadly, I could probably operate a yarn shop out of my house, but I remain convinced I will eventually knit it all!!!!!

Friday, January 16, 2004

If it weren't for knitting, I'm sure I'd go insane! Last night as I was sitting through yet another interminable meeting, happily knitting away on the easy part of the Lavold sweater, I wondered how all the other attendees could tolerate it when all they could do was just sit there.

But the major contribution knitting makes to my sanity is in getting through the winter. It is cold here in northern Michigan and, usually, completely cloudy. Today is an exception -- the sun is at least shining, even though the temp is still in single digits Fahrenheit. Brrrr. So I just hunker down with my knitting and try to feel grateful that I live in a place that enables me to make good use of the warmest woolies.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Today's sermon is about walking. For those who want to skip ahead, there is a photo of a pair of gorgeous Turkish socks below. But bear with me -- you might find this interesting.

There was a Washington Post story making the rounds on a couple of my e-mail lists this week about the near-impossibility of simply walking to a destination in the suburbs. No news there, at least not for me. But it did get me to thinking about the subject again. I'm fortunate to live in a town and a neighborhood in which walking is not only possible, but usually very pleasant. My neighborhood is 100 years old, complete with sidewalks and just a few blocks from the walkable downtown business district. There are 3 quality yarn shops within walking distance of my house, including one a mere block and a half away (way too convenient!!). Yet with all of this accessibility, I'm stunned at how few of my neighbors ever actually walk. I have seen some even drive to my house to pick up their kids.

Of course, walking in the U.S. is something that primarily takes place on treadmills and hiking trails. Bill Bryson has a very amusing essay on this in his book, "I'm a Stranger Here Myself," in which he shares the cultural shock of returning to his native U.S. after 20 years in England. For those who don't already, Bryson is now moving his family back to England.
Another excellent read on walking is Rebecca Solnit's book Wanderlust: A History of Walking.

My family owns a car now, and we do use it occasionally, but mostly we walk. We chose our house because of its location -- the vast majority of our regular needs can be met within a mile of the house. We have two groceries -- a mainstream and a natural foods co-op -- within a mile, also my hubby's office and the kids' school. I walk my children to and from school every day, regardless of the weather. Today was heavy snow and most of the other usual walkers received rides from parents, which puzzles me because I would much rather walk in it than drive in it. I will be pulling the sled to the feed store soon to get dog food. On the way back, I can stop by one of those yarn shops and get a skein for mittens -- my son complained that his hands are cold in his thermo gloves, so I told him I would knit him a pair of mittens tonight. I recently knit some for myself in GGH Aspen, a chunky merino-acrylic blend, and wow are they warm.

Back to walking. Why is using one's feet and legs as transportation considered such an exotic activity in the U.S.? I can certainly understand why people who live in scary asphalt covered suburbs wouldn't want to walk anywhere, but why is it unpopular even in a great walking town like mine? I know people are in a hurry, but some of their choices don't make any sense. One neighbor (who has since moved) used to drive two blocks to the health club to work out! She would also run 5 miles a day, but walking a few blocks downtown was never even considered because she was too busy (I don't think it takes much longer, maybe 5 minutes, to walk there). Another neighbor told me she felt like she had to drive 3 blocks to work because she needed her car at lunchtime to run errands. I try not to be judgemental about things, but I don't really find much merit in their reasoning.

There are so many good reasons to walk. In addition to the obvious benefits -- personal, financial and planetary health -- there is opportunity for family, spiritual and community growth. My best conversations with my children come during walks, I think because we don't have the usual distractions of home and they have no choice but to talk to me. When you're alone, walking is a great form of meditation. And it's a great way to meet your neighbors, who, while not walking, might be out working in their yards and open to impromptu conversation.

Now, the promised sock photo. Disclaimer: I didn't knit these, although I wish I had and, as an owner of Anna Zilboorg's "Fancy Feet" and a healthy yarn stash, I ought to be plotting out a pair right now. These were knit by an anonymous Turkish woman and purchased by my brother-in-law for roughly $10. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

It's January and everyone seems to be on a diet. I hope those contemplating the Atkins diet or any that relies on meat will read this first. It's a very blunt essay by one of my favorite writers, Michael Pollan, on the sorry state of industrial meat. Actually, I don't bring this up to blast meat-eating or low-carb diets -- in fact, I'm trying to restrict my carbs, too, along the recommendations in The Schwarzbein Principle. And, after many years as a vegetarian, I'm eating small quantities of meat and fish again. My rule in eating meat is that it must be organic unless I purchase it directly from the farmer. I have a good local source, a young farming couple that raises drug-free livestock on pasture. Yes, it's more expensive than the meat at the supermarket, but isn't the health of my family and the planet worth it? I think so. Also, the extra cost forces me to keep meat from becoming a significant portion of my diet. In my grandparents' day, meat was a luxury consumed in small quantities. The industrial factory farming method has made it so cheap that now it's an everyday food item even for the poorest in the U.S. (I know this because I volunteer at a local soup kitchen and it's always on the menu there). I think that's too much meat-eating, and definitely too much consumption of toxins and drugs for those eating industrial meat.

Now, on to knitting. I have pictures! I'm close to finishing the body of "Midnight Sun," front:

and back:

Also, I'm working on pullover from Elsebeth Lavold's Viking Knits. It's in Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece, here:

And, finally, the fish bag. I haven't quite finished the embroidery, and I forgot to sew on the fins before I felted it, but my daughter likes it anyway. Here it is:

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

We're back from our holiday trip to North Carolina. Later, I will post a photo of the Turkish socks my brother-in-law brought back for me from Turkey. They are awesome!

In other knitting news, I had a little impulse buy at the LYS yesterday, purchasing a yarn pack for the vine motif cardigan from "Poetry in Stitches." It was just calling my name from the top of the shelf. I don't know when I'm going to start it. I cast on for a sweater from "Viking Knits" last night, and I still haven't collected yarn for the Donegal knit-along.