Friday, July 29, 2005

Rx For Summertime Blues -- New Baton Rouge LYS

"Sometimes I wonder what I'm a-gonna do, but there ain't no cure for the summertime blues..."
--The Who

Knitter's Magazine 's online forum, KnitU, lately has been overflowing with posts from knitters who have hit a summertime knitting slump. For folks without air conditioning, no matter where you live, it's too hot even to touch yarn this summer. If you live in a climate where air-conditioning is not optional, it may be cool enough indoors to handle yarn and knit, but the very idea of summer mugginess is so depressing as to be utterly un-inspiring, even if you have a yarn stash the size of a national park.

For the really hard cases, those of us who actually get summertime seasonal affective disorder because we rarely venture outside, whose air conditioners are set to "liquid nitrogen," and whose houses stay dark due to the drapes being tightly drawn because it's too hot to even look outside, the summertime blues hit hard.

Here's what I like to do to rally up some knitting enthusiasm during the hottest weeks of summer:

--download screen savers with snow scenes from Alaska, Colorado, the Andes, Tibet, and Antarctic research stations...

--re-organize yarn stash, with the pleasant side benefit of discovering forgotten cat toys, books, chairs, and major appliances...

--go though archtitecture, nature and art books for inspiration ... look at tile and mosaic patterns, and...

--go hang out at the nearest yarn store.

"Knits by Nana" opened in Baton Rouge in the spring of 2005 and is already off to a successful start with a selection of beautiful yarns, regular classes, books, needles, notions and gifts.

Overall atmosphere: The owner and staff definitely took their Southern Hospitality lessons -- they are all warm, personable and welcoming the moment you walk in the store, located in a renovated two-bedroom cottage with with beautiful wood floors and cream-colored walls. The first thing you see when you walk in the vestibule is a display of easy-to-knit, sampler scarves and shawls in luxury yarns. The store is light, airy, well-organized and su
per clean. Display of goods is accomplished in a charming, home-like array of baskets, bookcases, china cabinets, and armoires which have been modified for retail display.

Sit-down space for classes and Stitch-n-Bitch is available in three of the store's four merchandise rooms. Location is excellent, in the central city, and easy to find, just off Government Street, one of the main thoroughfares in Baton Rouge, so this shop will be a breeze for out-of-towners to find from the Interstate.

Yarn: lots and lots of eyelash, ribbon, frizzy and ladder yarn. Cascade, Berocco, Lang Sock Yarn, Trendsetter yarns, and many others, which I will update later with a more detailed list.

Books: they are starting off with a well-chosen, if not exhaustive, selection of books, both contemporary and classic. I am told the book selection will grow.

Needle selection: lots of circs, bamboos and Addi Turbos, also Lantern Moon needles and Denise interchangeable sets.

Responsiveness to customers: Owner has been very responsive to customer input and suggestions regarding the selection of yarn and other products and she just got back from the International Needleworks Market in Colombus, Ohio. New yarns coming soon: Fiesta, Kollage, Blue Herring, Tahki Charles, Brown Sheep, and Opal, among others. "Nana's" soon will be adding leather yarn bags, poncho kits, shawl kits and other goodies.

Things to crow about: this is eyelash and ribbon yarn heaven. Lots of fancy fluff. Also delicious baby mohairs and other luxury fibers. Lots of finished scarves, shawls, bags, throws, socks and other items to truly inspire the knitter, instead of mere little 4" X 4" swatches. Good choice of self-patterning sock yarns, thanks to Sockmaster Joan's input. Nice bags and "gifty things," too. Genuinely helpful and friendly staff, light and airy store, pleasant atmosphere and decor. Monthly Stitch and Bitch on Thursday night from 6-9pm -- exactly which Thursday is announced month-by-month, as far as I understand.

Disappointments: No Noro, no Koigu, no Inca Alpaca -- this makes Mambocat pout, but mind that those are just my own favorite yarns. Limited space for chairs and tables, but the cozy and welcoming feeling of the store makes up for that. Not much modestly priced yarn, but they do have Lang sock yarn, and Brown Sheep is soon coming to help fill the price gap. Hours are great for those with free time on weekdays, but are a little inconvenient for those who work 8-5.

Navigation note: Shop sign is kinda small, so slow down when you turn onto Capital Heights, lest you drive past it.

LYS Dossier:

Knits By Nana
5055 Capital Heights, Suite A
Baton Rouge, LA 70806 USA


Hours: Mon.-Fri 10:00am till 4:00pm
Saturday 10:00am-2:00pm

Owner: Missy McCoy Waguespack

Regular Free Classes:

--Merrelyn teaches beginner knitters every Wednesday from 1:00 till 3:00

--Joan Richardson teaches sock knitting every Thursday from 10:00am till noon.

Summer Classes: Little Black Bag, Vertical Scarf, Belt Blast, Kids'Fun, Childrens' Scarf, Knitting in the Round. Most classes have no fee but supplies must be purchased from the shop, $20 for kids' classes with materials supplied as a kit.

Website: Knits by Nana does not yet have a website , but they are working on it. In the meantime, contact them at their email address below and they will let you know when the website is up.


Hardcopy newsletter: Quarterly update, send your snail-mail address to their email above.

Special Features: Want to have a yarn party? Knits by Nana offers their back classroom for customers to celebrate a special event, like a learn-to-knit birthday party for kids or a private knit-together for grownups. Phone the store for more information or to schedule an event.

Crochet instructors are available for those who are interested.

Want to teach a class? It can be arranged through the owner. They seem to be branching away from their initial focus on Newbie Knitters and may soon welcome instructors in advanced techniques.

Overall Rating: four socks out of a possible five.

Magpie Rating (for glitzy things): five socks

Mrs. Weasley Rating (for modestly priced good wool): two socks

After so many years without a yarn shop in the Baton Rouge area (Mambocat remembers when there were four), "Knits by Nana" is a welcome addition to the community, and allows some folks to make new and creative excuses to buy more yarn ... "I would have spent more than that just on the gas to get to an LYS in New Orleans, so I am actually saving the environment and reducing the need to fight wars over oil by purchasing expensive yarn locally..."

Get on over to Nana's and have a look. Spend some money, too.


Saturday, July 23, 2005

Knit One, Patella Two

It has been a long time since I had two good-looking young men eyeing my legs so intently.

Obviously, if your legs looked as good as this, the same two young men (or very similar ones, depending on where you live) would be looking at your legs, too. And calling their friends over to have a gander as well.

Apparently, I am a Loose Woman.

Or at least my kneecaps are loose. This is my right kneecap, and, apparently, I have inflicted some damage upon the suspension system. The sock helps it feel better. The big navy-blue ugly thing strangles my knee and is supposed to make it better at some point in the future.

I really wish I could say that I was wrassling a 15-foot alligator, or wrangling cattle, or at very least capturing a snarling junkyard dog, when I tore my tendon. It would be nice to have an adventurous work-related story to accompany this.
But I shall not tell a lie.

Somehow, I managed to inflict a relatively minor tendon tear upon myself while I was ... uh ... ahem ... getting up off the floor of my office, where I was sorting out some old adoption files because there was no room on top of my desk.

But wait ... they were highly venomous and dangerous files, okay? Yes, that's it. Venomous Australian files that even Steve Erwin is afraid to touch. Rare ... endangered ... deadly Australian venomous files.

There. Now I feel better.

Back to the young men who were admiring my legs. Apparently, attractive young men in the medical profession these days use smooth pick-up lines like this when they find a woman with loose patellas:

"Relax your leg a bit, and I'm going to manipulate your patella just a little. Let me know if it hurts..."

(wiggle wiggle ouch ouch)

"Hm. Wow. It's going all over the place. Excuse me..."

(sticking head of of exam room door)

"Hey, Jim, come have a look at these patellas!"

At this point I am feeling just a little uneasy, as I had not planned on a menage a trois. I had not even planned on a menage a un. Besides, I am wearing my plain blue Hanes Her Way underwear.

"Whoa! We don't see patellas like that too often!"

And, before I knew it, I found myself set up with a large number of physical therapy dates with these two young men, who are either S&M fetishists or who were trained by the Spanish Inquisition. I can tell you that by the time they were through with our first date, I was ready to confess to witchcraft, or at least to worshipping the Knitting Goddess and the Yarn Fairy.

On the bright side, they did admire my variegated socks (see foot in above picture), and I was able to knit a bit on my current green sock (below) on the ten-minute breaks between torture sessions:

This is a cotton-wool sock in a forest-green ragg yarn from Socka which has been marinating in my stash for ages. Don't get too excited. It is just a plain ribbed crew sock, but it is good company and it follows me around agreeably wherever I go and waits politely when I have to put it away for awhile.

Ever notice that "sock" rhymes with "Doc?" I have a strong association with socks and doctors. Maybe it's just because I always happen to have a sock-in-progress in my bag, but chances are, if I am waiting for a medical appointment or sitting at a hospital bedside, I have a sock going. My elderly Dad's cardiologist has to be reminded that you can knit things other than socks, and that sock-making is not my actual career. Once, when he was delayed by an emergency surgery, he apologized for being late (he is a very poliite doctor), and asked me how long we'd been waiting. I held up the sock I was working on that day and said, "Oh, about half a cuff."

I truly do not understand people who fail to bring a sock, or at very least a book or magazine of their own, along to doctor's appointments. They know they are going to have to wait, and wait some more, but most people sit there either staring into space or flipping through old copies of magazines like "Forbes" and "Golf Illustrated," which just serve as annoying reminders that the doctor makes a helluva lot more money than you do.

And I completely fail to comprehend the occasional person in the waiting room who stares at my knitting for several minutes and then proclaims, "I wish I had the time to do stuff like that."

To which I always say, "Well, you do. You're sitting here, aren't you?"

So it was a pleasure today to see a woman in the waiting room with an Amish knitting loom fully deployed across her lap, cranking away at a full-sized striped afghan and doing quite a nice job of it.

I pulled out my sock and said, "That's a beautiful afghan ... been waiting long?"

She held up the loom and spread her thumb and index finger against the fabic.

"Oh, about an inch and a half," she said.


Friday, July 22, 2005

London Calling...

The phone call goes like this:

one ringy-dingy....two-ringy dingy...three ringy-dingy...

"Hello, America? We Brits are much too polite to ask this ourselves, so we found this weird woman in Louisiana who will inquire on our behalf.

Ahem... so... we were wondering ...

Where is the moral support from our American friends? You do remember, on 9/11, that we played the American National Anthem at the Changing of the Guard? And gave our tangible support in other ways as well? Granted, our loss of life and landmarks was not nearly as vast as that awful day in your country, but could we please see just a bit more support and moral outrage from you Yanks? Thank you ever so much. It appears that we have another terrorist mess to clean up today, so we really must be going now."

-- England

God save the Queen, and all of our British friends.


Thursday, July 21, 2005

"Beam me up, God."

-- Mr. Scotty

He lived long, he prospered, and now he is off to the final frontier.

I am too sad to knit today.

Instead, I place my Star Trek pin upon a favorite shawl, in honor of James Doohan.

James Doohan died yesterday at the age of 85. Is there anyone alive who didn't love Mr. Scotty? Mr. Scotty embodied every human being's fantasy of having someone to magically sweep them up and out of life's unpleasantries. The very idea of a Mr. Scotty is comforting -- a warm, fatherly figure who comes to the rescue just when things seem to be at their absolute worst.

We can all learn a lot from Mr. Scotty:

Charm, warmth and a good sense of humor go a long way in this world, and any other.

Perserverance, loyalty and reliability are valuable character traits, especially in times of crisis.

And when the going gets tough, the tough unfailingly "give 'er all she's got" even when doom seems imminent and all hope seems to be lost.

James Doohan, it's time to boldly go where you have never gone before.

Rest in peace.


Friday, July 15, 2005

I bet you think this is a birthday present:

But it's not a birthday present.

Reason number one: I am Capricorn, and this is July, so it can't be a birthday present -- at least not for me.

Reason number two: it is one of my Mom's Christmas presents in its pre-knitted state.

The reason it looks like a birthday present: it is a package of yarn purchased at the Quarter Stitch in New Orleans. This is how they gift-wrap a regular purchase, on any ordinary day, so you actually do feel like it's your birthday when you leave the store. Considering that a visit to the Quarter Stitch means a considerable splurge, this excess of packaging seems justified. A splurge, yes, but it is for Mom, so nobody can argue with that. Besides, they have a cool shop dog.

This is what was inside of the bag:

Eight skeins of Inca Alpaca yarn in the prettiest shade of mauve I have ever laid eyes on, and mind you, I am a completely anti-pink person ... outright allergic to pink, even ... a person who cannot even take pink antibiotics without projectile vomiting ... I don't even like strawberry ice cream ... a person who rarely ventures near anything in the Pink Family (except for Pink Floyd and pink flamingos) unless I am knitting for someone else. Not only do I dislike pink on general principles, but if I wear pink myself, I tend to look rather jaundiced. Having said that, you can rest assured that, if I look at yarn in any shade of pink and say,

"My, that's lovely..."

then it is a noteworthy color indeed.

My mother, on the other hand, looks smashing in any conceivable shade of pink ... baby pink, hot pink, magenta, mauve, Chanel pink, Pepto-Bismol pink, bubble-gum pink, carnation pink, poodle pink, flamingo pink, Elvis'-momma's-Cadillac-pink ... you name it ... soooo ...

By Christmas, this clutch of lovely yarn ... lovely even though it is sort of pink ... will have morphed into a lace-and-cable vest.

Mom is also getting an easy-care hot-cocoa colored cabled sweater in Lion Brand Kool Wool. That one is already in progress.

And, speaking of hot cocoa, and therefore chocolate ... I have just been informed that the remake of "Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" sports a considerable number of handknit objects both in wardrobe and in set dressing. I'm feeling a little woozy .... uh ... I need to sit down. I have crappy knees anyway. I don't think they can hold me up long enough to contemplate Johnny Depp, chocolate and knitting all in the same movie.


Saturday, July 09, 2005

Hunkering Down

The summer of 2005 finds us Southerners getting an early start on hurricane season, and my most sincere compassion lies with the people directly affected by Hurricane Dennis, both in America and in Cuba. It's only July, but we're already on our fourth named storm and it's a major hurricane. Enough, already.

For those of you west of Galveston and/or above the Mason-Dixon Line (the official boundaries of Mother Nature's Bowling Alley), you need to understand that any time a named storm enters the Gulf of Mexico, it's like having a rattlesnake running loose in your living room. It is almost impossible to think about anything else.

The appearance of the first major storm also reminds every Southerner to review their Hunkering Down skills.

Here we see all 22 pounds of Bella the Sumo Cat, Hunkering Down
on the Big Shawl For Me. Prior to being rearranged by Bella, the
shawl was deployed tip-to-tip along the full span of the six-foot-wide
bookcase. Notice the candles in the background in case
the power goes out.

During hurricane season, Southerners regularly engage in any one of three popular activities:

1. Evacuation: for those unfortunate enough to be in the direct path of a hurricane ranking Category 3 or higher, this means cramming flashlights, prescriptions, radios, blankets, rainwear, pets, pet food, road maps, family photos, bank account and insurance information, toilet paper, and a week's worth of clothes, diapers, food water, soda and chips into the family vehicles and sitting in gridlocked traffic on the Interstate for 19 hours at a stretch in hopes of finding a hotel, a cousin, or an old college roommate somewhere east of Denver so you have a place to stay while your house is washed into the Gulf of Mexico.

2. Hunkering Down: for those of us anywhere within three states of the expected landfall site, this means stocking your house with all of the abovementioned items, filling your gas tanks, and stripping the grocery store shelves of bleach, duct tape, batteries, candles, beer, chips, propane and clean-up supplies. You also are required to fill the garage with patio furniture, bicycles, garbage cans, barbeque grills, potted ficus trees, trampolines, Volkswagens, Mini-Coopers, and anything else that could become airborne.

3. Advanced Hunkering Down: an activity designed for :

a: complete fools with beachfront property in the path of a real hurricane -- a Category 3, 4 or 5 storm -- who somehow believe that they can ward off the Wind Demon simply by staying home and "riding it out." These people invariably are either heavily-armed native Southerners with two first names who have stopped taking their medications, or badly misguided people from Wisconsin who are spending their very first summer in a beachfront retirement condo.

b: Native Southerners in the direct strike path of a baby hurricane -- a Category 1 or 2 storm -- in which case a voting majority of the household will argue most convincingly that it is far, far better to stay home and be terrified, than to crawl along the Interstate looking for a hotel, a cousin, or an old college roommate. If you decide to engage in Advanced Hunkering Down, in addition to the normal Hunkering Down activities, you also have to nail plywood over your windows, put your furniture up on cinderblocks, kiss your boat goodbye, and sandbag your house. You will also need an up-to-date will locked in a safe deposit box in Montana, funeral insurance, and a generous supply of Scotch and Valium.

If you live anywhere inland, as my husband and I do, most of hurricane season involves normal Hunkering Down.

Inlanders, while Hunkering Down, can expect to be invaded by Evacuating relatives from Florida, Houston or New Orleans. Once you have come home from the grocery and secured everything that might take wing, you can settle down into the major activities of Hunkering Down, namely, parking yourself in front of the Weather Channel, eating microwave popcorn... and knitting.

Knitting is an exceedingly good Hunkering Down activity. You can knit while you watch the soggy weather reporters on the beach at Pensacola leaning into the wind and screaming into the microphone so you can see with your own two eyes that there really is an honest-to-God hurricane out there, and not just an enormous red blob on your TV weather map.

You can knit while you anxiously await the next update on the storm's precise position and wind speed. Non-Southerners cannot begin to comprehend how critical it is to know the exact hourly coordinates of a hurricane. Yes, we know, we can't do anything about it. We are as helpless as a blade of grass in the path of John Deere. Nonetheless, hourly hurricane positioning is an obsessive-compulsive Southern thing. We just need to know, so we can decide whether to Evacuate, buy more beer, or proceed to Advanced Hunkering Down.

You can knit while you engage in highly animated debates about whether this hurricane will be as bad as Hurricane Camille, which was the Mother of All Hurricanes. If you are not old enough to remember Camille, consider yourself lucky, and just try to imagine Hurricane Andrew -- squared.

If you also can't recall Hurricane Andrew, just nod when us older folks get worried, and hope you never, ever see a Category 5 storm, okay?

You can even knit if the power goes out while Hunkering Down, which is an outstanding but sneaky opportunity to teach someone else to knit after you pry the useless TV clicker out of their hands.

Hunkering Down is also the best time to pull out a UFO and get down to it, already. Maybe it's the sense of impending doom, but I always end up working on UFOs during hurricane season. Something in my subconscious, perhaps, whispering into my ear: if this storm klls me, the ghost of that forgotten sweater will follow me into the next life unless I finish it before the storm hits.

So in between hurricane updates I've pulled out my two oldest UFOs -- a suit in perle cotton which I started several years ago and only seem to work on during hurricane season, and the Other Sock of a pair of black-and-gold wool knee socks which are of about the same vintage.
Here they are:

This is not a vest. This is the torso portion of a Chanel-type suit jacket adapted from a 1960's Pat Trexler pattern. It is done in a vintage, crepe-like perle cotton in a medium shade of cream. Here it lies, grumpy and embarrassed because I have rudely awakened it from hibernation and photographed it all rumpled and tousled, right out of bed. The whole thing is done entirely in heel stitch on #3 needles, so it has a wonderful drape, but it's as heavy as a diving belt and thus I lose interest in it once we are out of immediate danger of being in the direct path of any given hurricane, at which point I put down the suit jacket and pick up the Other Sock while I watch to see what's happening to the folks down in Florida.

The Other Sock, and its mate, are being inspected by Tessie. Tessie, at 18, is a retired Fiber Content Analyst, who is especially fond of the soft merino wool that these socks are made of. She is also very particular about finishing techniques, and is examining the toe of the Finished Sock to assure that the Kitchener Stitch join is secure and even.

I feel confident that the Other Sock of this wooly pair will be finished this hurricane season and ready for use this winter.

For those of you who remain convinced that Southerners don't need wool, consider this: while our winters are not long and severe, they are rainy, sleety and chilly. And, in addition to keeping you warm even when wet, wool has another virtue which makes it highly valuable in the South.

It floats.


Friday, July 08, 2005

"This is the End...beautiful friend, the End..."

"Humidty. The humidity. It's impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what humidity means..."

--from the recently discovered first draft of Colonel Kurtz's speech in Apocalypse Now

No, that's not Cambodia. That's our yard. Honest. It's just that I woke up this morning and could have sworn that I was on the set for Apocalypse Now, without benefit of the presence of Martin Sheen.

That is a split-leaf philodendron the size of a Volkswagen bus you are looking at.

I am showing this to my readers so you will know how utterly dedicated I am to providing you with a photograph of a knitted object being blocked in the sunlight. I know, there is no knitted object in this picture You have to wait. This is a movie set, remember?

So dedicated am I, in fact, that, on the Fourth of July holiday weekend in Louisiana, I actually went on a mission outside the protection of the life-support system (known as a "house" to people in other places).

And now, like Willard en route to do a Cuisinart number on Colonel Kurtz, let us clamp a machete between our teeth and venture into this heart of backyard darkness, this 90-percent-humid and mosquito-filled jungle, risking heatstroke, poison ivy, flying roaches, fire ants, fleas, poison oak, wasps and West Nile virus.

Remember to hum, "The End" to yourself as you do this. You can't sing, because you have a machete in your mouth. You have to hum. Venturing deeper into the jungle now, we shall find a patch of bamboo I call the "Lizard Lounge." I like lIzards. I like them a lot. They are cute, alert little critters and they eat bugs.

And if we hack through the jungle and venture deeply into the center of the bamboo, wielding our machetes gently to avoid harming the abovementioned lizards (remember to hum), we shall find this:

This is the Big Lace Shawl for Me, made from hand-dyed, handspun wool that was a very generous gift from a very special friend. Generous indeed when you consider that there is about a quarter of a mile of yarn in this thing.

You are looking at my favorite blocking method. The shawl is deployed on a web of fishing line and stretched out between two trees (outside the frame of the photo).

And here is a close-up of the stitchwork:

I'm very pleased at the way the shawl came out -- bouncy drape and good color distribution. It was also very nice to have only a few small color pools in this vast amount of handpainted fabric, color pools which scattered themselves so randomly throughout the shawl as to look like an integral part of the design. I am very happy about that. It is light, airy and warm.

Not that I need warm now, but I will in the fall. This was a delightful, one-of-a-kind, handspun yarn, so if I work this up into a pattern for sale, I will suggest Koigu as a substitute.

Lisa Louie from Hawaii will recognize this as the shawl which was only the size of a bandanna when she passed through town this spring. Big hugs to Lisa for calling to be worried about us, as Hurricane Dennis takes aim down here in Mother Nature's Bowling Alley. And speaking of bowling, Lisa and I were able to meet because she and her husband Paul flew all the way to Baton Rouge to participate in the mother of all bowling tournaments, with over 13,000 bowlers participating, and his team came out 56th in the tourney, an incredibly high rank, the bowling equivalent of getting a perfect score on your SAT. You go, Paul!

When the shawl is finished being blocked I will take a more attractive photograph of it, but my question for now is: I have enough yarn left over for fringe. So ...

To fringe, or not to fringe? Looking at it blocked, it will already be huge, a fingertip-to-fingertip shawl on a long-armed person such as myself, and it will already hang down to thigh level at the back point.

Suggestions? Add fringe, or make a matching beret?


Inmates in the Asylum since July 27, 2006: