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November 28, 2006

A soft answer turneth away idiots
Posted by Teresa at 01:05 PM * 170 comments

If you aren’t into knitting (or possibly photography), you probably haven’t read Franklin Habit’s weblog Panopticon. I suspect it’s entertaining for non-knitters too, but of course I can’t tell.

Something I missed when it happened there last spring was a brief kerfluffle over the virtual medal Franklin designed for participants in the Knitting Olympics.* Late though I am, it’s still a joy to see the adroitness with which he reacted to a couple of provoking e-mails.

Here’s his first round of responses. Here’s his second round, wherein he explained his earlier remarks to a third correspondent whose letter I would have found almost as provoking as the first two. (Note to self in re moderation techniques: must brush up on the art of the soft answer that turneth away wrath. Who knew it could be so effective?)

I put another prime specimen of Franklin Habit’s aplomb into the Particles queue today; but if you’re reading this after it’s scrolled off the bottom of the list, you can also find it here.

Comments on A soft answer turneth away idiots:
#1 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 02:02 PM:

Oh, man, that Particle is hilarious! Makes me want to take up knitting all the more (something I've been considering for years).

#2 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 03:04 PM:

I'm similarly fond of Jim Henley's ("Supplanter") response to some loon shouting at him in the discussion threads for his recent review of an RPG over on

#3 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 03:15 PM:

Sort of on topic, having been at a con last weekend and at a hands-on demonstration of drop-spindle spinning. It looks like fun, and the friendly supplier is more or less in the neighborhood. (Also signed up to presupport Montreal.)

#4 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 03:31 PM:

Something's gone wrong: the link to the medal gives a "403" error.

#5 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 03:32 PM:

I adore Franklin. I gave my mother one of his "Marge began to wonder..." tote bags last year. She just about fell over laughing (especially since we now have one of those strange mother-daughter dynamics, where she used to be the more experienced knitter and now I am, so she calls me with questions).

He is a true gentleman in personal correspondence as well. I e-mailed him with questions prior to recording my first Cast-On essay, and he went over and above the call of duty, not only in answering my questions, but also in providing other bits of podcast-essay wisdom he had gleaned in the course of recording his essays.

#6 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 03:42 PM:

Oh dear Lord. [insane giggling] Put a beverage alert on that last link, woman!

One of my favourite Usenet groups deals with trolls by posting recipes. I think we may have to expand to household hints and etiquette advice, it's even funnier.

#7 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 04:13 PM:

PJ Evans @3

Drop spindle spinning is fun - I've been doing it on and off for about six months. I can't speak to yarn spinning, because I do lace weight stuff, but it's a soothing and pleasant thing to do with the hands.

I do a lot of silk spinning, but my evil, evil friend in Canada just sent me some flax and instructions...

#8 ::: steve ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 04:30 PM:

Thanks for introducing me to Franklin! I got a wonderful lesson in civility that I hope will inform my own online interactions.

I generally start my own writing at the raving lunatic stage. As I write I progress through simmering rage. When I feel anger softening to disappointment or mild bitterness, I draw the piece to a conclusion. By the time my sense of equanimity returns I'm out planting bulbs, pulling up weeds, or fertilizing something. Humor only occurs when I am at least ten minutes drive from my keyboard. I guess I need to get out more.

#9 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 04:32 PM:

By the way, how come airport security lets people come thru with their knitting implements? Those things are long and sharp.

#10 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 04:41 PM:

I suspect it’s entertaining for non-knitters too, but of course I can’t tell.



Person who did not actually have that much time at lunch today to read back entries and who also does not have the time to take up knitting or resume cross-stitching, darn it

#11 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 05:01 PM:

Kate @ 10
I do it on the train, commuting. It's time otherwise not used productively, for any particular value of productive that most of us use. (Not counting trying to not strangle the idiot a couple of seats away who believes he's a genius and wants the rest of us to know it. Which is a different story entirely.)

#12 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 05:12 PM:

Oo, a new knitting blog to follow! And by someone who can write really snappy prose, which is always a plus. (I read knitting blogs for the wry observations about the challengings of holding two strands of yarn together when doing an afghan, not for pictures of the afghans in question.)

Now, if I could just find an equally good crochet blog. One of these days, crochet needs to get the "trendy" boost that knitting did. Granted, this is likely to happen around the same time that owners of precious little yarn shops stop sneering at anyone who dares mention crochet in their presence, so I'm not holding my breath.

#13 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 05:19 PM:

Not only does Teresa knit and write snappy prose, Fade, but she also spins quite a yarn.

(C'mon, people, someone had to say it so I sacrificed myself.)

#14 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 05:40 PM:

Serge, some knitting implements are long and sharp, some are short and dull, some could (with some effort) be used as a garrote.

When people who look at the size 1 US needles I use to knit socks on airplanes and comment on their "sharpness," (they're not particularly sharp, just narrow overall) I pull out my mechanical pencil (much, much sharper).

#15 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 05:51 PM:

I know, Jill, airport rules are stupid. Anything can be used as a weapon, even my glasses's frame. Hoepfully the people in 'charge' won't think of that possibility. I must say though that waiting to board the plane, I increasingly became filled with trepidation knowing that I'd be on the same flight as a knitting granny, and even more so when I realized that she had chosen a seat close to the pilot's cabin.

#16 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 06:00 PM:

How does someone named "Serge" have the courage to start making textile puns?

Avram, thanks for the pointer. That was a great reply.

Needles on airplanes: Even before 9/11, I lost a set of fine-gauge DPNs to airport security, along with the glove I was working on them. Damnably, it was the second glove of a set. In the years since 9/11, I haven't wanted to risk any knitting materials in my carry-on baggage. I can just imagine having some idiot demand that I remove the circular needle from an in-progress lace shawl -- or, worse, confiscate the shawl along with the needles.

Fade, if crochet ever becomes fashionable, I am there. In the meantime, most published crochet patterns are bad enough to make a dog laugh.

Bruce, I'm guessing he didn't want me linking directly to the image of the medal. I've removed the link from my post, and instead put in a footnote that tells you to scroll down from the "kerfluffle" link.

#17 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 06:03 PM:

How does someone named "Serge" have the courage to start making textile puns?


#18 ::: mote ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 06:56 PM:

Franklin is brilliant!

Have you listened to the audio essays he contributes to Brenda Dayne's podcast?

#19 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 06:59 PM:

I once went through a security line with my husband (building, not airport). They required him to check all three pocket knives he was carrying - none with a blade over 1.5 inches - and waved me, with my 10 inch steel knitting needles right on throught.

Insufficient imagination, if you ask me.

#20 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 07:14 PM:

P J @ 11: If I currently had a train commute, I would use the time to make a dent in my to-be-read bookcase [*]. (I know I can read on trains, I used to do it.)

[*] Yes, bookcase.

Now, I have a car commute, and I listen to audiobooks.

Oh well.

#21 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 07:21 PM:

Not to worry, Kate; I have multiple TBR bookcases. A short one in the bedroom, a whole 5 foot shelf, and almost 10 feet spread across the top shelf of four other bookcases. Not to mention the coffee table, whose surface I haven't seen for at least a year.

#22 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 07:34 PM:

I do love a man who appreciates yarn.

Also, I have some terrific crochet patterns.

Just saying.

#23 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 07:36 PM:

Insufficient imagination, if you ask me.

Probably just as well, Margaret.

#24 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 08:09 PM:

Teresa, I'm not sure whether to thank you, or swear under my breath. Franklin used to be on my Bloglines list, and somehow he disappeared. Now he's back where he belongs, but where will I find the time to read another blog?

Re #16: Most crocheted garment patterns look like something the cat brought in from thr barn, but there are some very nice lace patterns out there. You might pick up Crocheted Lace by Pauline Turner. It's also far easiwer to crochet a kippah than to knit one, but that's a somewhat specialized project. That said, I still prefer knitting, but maybe once I'm a better crocheter, I'll like it more.

Serge @ 9: I think you'd need significant force to hurt anyone with a knitting needle - the plastic ones would bend before they broke skin, and the aluminum would crumple. I suppose if you were very determined, you could do some damage with wood or bamboo, but it would require that your intended victim hold very, very still. In any case, no knitter worth his or her salt would try to hurt someone with a needle; you'd be far too likely to drop stitches or tangle your yarn.

Abi @ 7: If you feel like dropping me an email (there's a link on my blog, which I think you can get to by clicking my name above, yes? I'm trying to be less promiscuous with the addy, although I think the damage has already been done), I'd love to pick your brain about spinning silk. It seems so slippery, I haven't gotten up the courage to try.

#25 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 08:14 PM:

no knitter worth his or her salt would try to hurt someone with a needle; you'd be far too likely to drop stitches or tangle your yarn.

Of course, Sarah, you assume that the knitter really is a devout knotter and not a faux knitter.

#26 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 08:32 PM:

Most crocheted garment patterns look like something the cat brought in from thr barn

Oh, now.

I realize most of the pattern books out there are appalling, but there's also this kinda stuff

#27 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 09:14 PM:

Serge @25:
I find it difficult to believe that anyone could not be entranced by making things out of yarn and sticks, but I suppose I have to grant the possibility. I'm going to continue to be happy tht I can bring my knitting with me, though.

Julia @26:
Woo! Knit-Crochet smackdown! :)

You make a fair point - some of those are pretty cute. If I change my most to many, will that do? You can chalk it up to me being bitter that I haven't taken to crochet as easily as I did to knitting, if it helps.

#28 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 11:11 PM:

Okay, those don't entirely suck, except for the corset belt and the pistachio hat.

#29 ::: Cassie ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 11:16 PM:

I like crocheting better than knitting, though it uses more yarn and isn't usually as bendy. It goes faster and makes sense-- make a loop, pull a loop through, repeat until you have a scarf. Unfortunately, yarn is expensive and I want to use good stuff for anything larger than a scarf, and I don't do well with patterns anyway. Gauge? What gauge?

#30 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 11:21 PM:

Oh, not at all - I agree that most of the crochet patterns I run across are dreadful.

All the same, freehanding is much easier if it's only going to cost you the work of a day or two to tear out your mistakes.

#31 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 11:32 PM:

#25 ::: Serge wrote:
Of course, Sarah, you assume that the knitter really is a devout knotter and not a faux knitter.

Where does that leave those of us that devotedly knot up their knitting?

#32 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 11:34 PM:

At least one Australian airport was confiscating knitting needles after September 11, although the airline was also providing handy zip-up carrier bags for the items suddenly declared hold baggage, at least on the small planes used for domestic "bus" services. One of my parents' friends got caught by the ban, and arrived with her knitting stuffed into the carrier bag, crumpled but intact.

#33 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 11:34 PM:

Xeger, I don't know about you, but when I knot my knitting I get crotchety.

#34 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 11:36 PM:

I gave up on crochet patterns not long after I learned to crochet, around the time I made the best crochet teddy bear I could find a free pattern for, and came out with a teddy bear that appeared to have been run over by a truck. (Seriously, what kind of teddy bear pattern wants me to make a disc instead of a sphere for head and body both? Even with plenty of stuffing, the poor creature looked to have been stomped on repeatedly.)

What I make instead are mobius scarves--both very simple and fancier-looking than such simplicity deserves--for friends who want them, hats as needed (with and without kitty ears), and mushrooms. Lots and lots of mushrooms. When I'm stressed, or trying to write a particularly annoying bit of scene, I find nothing can soothe quite like grabbing a skein of cheap yarn and a crochet hook, then crochting about in entertaining little variations of the round until I have something that looks like a small legless bear, or a mushroom, or possibly a bacterium.

Now, knitting, I have great respect for knitting. It makes good scarves. But I can't just pick up yarn and knitting needles with no particular aim in mind and then come up with something cute and squishy the way I can with crochet.

#35 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 11:37 PM:

Makes good scarves? I meant socks. Scarves are easy to do in crochet or knit, but I'm not going to try crocheting socks any time soon.

#36 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 11:51 PM:

True. Knitting is a train that runs on tracks. Crocheting is an ultralight one-person helicopter that can scoot off in any direction on a whim.

#37 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 11:58 PM:


Okay, those don't entirely suck, except for the corset belt and the pistachio hat.

I humbly suggest that the Allspice Hat looks as if at any moment Rex Harrison is going to grab it, bend the brim up a bit, and launch into "Why Can't A Woman Be Like A Man." This Doesn't Help.

#39 ::: Cassie ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 12:19 AM:

I impressed my mother last Christmas by crocheting a series of matching hat and scarf sets with no pattern but what I thought would look right. They're all big chenilley yarn, so it's not like anyone can see the stitches anyway, and in various stripes and hat-shapes. I never figured out how to make a hat starting from the middle, but if it doesn't have to be perfect, you can make just about anything.

Mom did thread crocheting, all angels and snowflakes, for years. I'm thinking of taking it up, but fine thread? Not happy on my hands.

#40 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 05:10 AM:

Kate Nepveu (#20) and joann (#21):
Thank you both. I feel ever so much (well, OK, slightly) better about my bookcase of books-to-be-read.

The first step is admitting you have a problem, right?

Now, about those two or three shelves of books-I've-started-but-haven't-yet-finished, um...

Nancy C (#30): the crocheted Jack Sparrow would almost work as a kind of voodoo doll of the character -- the fact that it looks kind of freakish working in its favor.

#41 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 05:46 AM:

Where does that leave those of us that devotedly knot up their knitting?

What, xeger? Oh, I see. I had originally written 'knotter' instead of 'knitter'. Curses! Typoed again.

#42 ::: Eve ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 07:23 AM:

Teresa: when most non-knitters think of knitting needles, they think of long straight needles with a knob on one end, and do not recognise DPNs unless they're actually embedded in a piece of knitting. Therefore, if you ran a lifeline through all the live stitches on a sock/mitten/glove and took the needles out, you could probably get through security just fine and pick up the stitches again on the plane. Never tried it myself though - here in Europe, the signs in the airports are very clear about NO KNITTING NEEDLES so I prefer to play it safe and read.

And yes, most crochet patterns out there are pig-ugly. The main problem as I see it is that a lot of crochet patterns are aimed at people who like the look of knitwear but can't get the hang of knitting, because most people tend to find crochet easier. But crochet isn't all that good for aping knitwear, it just doesn't produce a particularly nice solid fabric, because it was never intended to. It was invented as a quicker (thus cheaper) method of lacemaking (google Clones lace) and crochet lace is still made commercially in Koniakow, Poland. I crocheted myself a lace wedding shawl, and I do think crochet lace is lovely (it's different to knit lace, not better or worse) but solid crochet fabrics tend to be stiffer, heavier and gappier than their knit counterparts.

I think this Lily Chin dress is a rather nifty application of crochet lace:

#43 ::: amysue ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 08:11 AM:

I love Franklin and yesterday's blog entry was a hoot! I never saw the punchline coming!

#9-This past summer when leaving Vancouver to return to Boston (I had no problems when I traveled west) the guy not only scrutinized my insulin (yes the bottles were open and not sealed-I actually use them several times a day) but he held my size 0, bamboo (brittany) double pointeds (sock in progress) and was clearly considering confiscating them. This amused me because he didn't even blink an eye at the 100 or so syringes I had. My sock was spared, but I was puzzled.

#24 Spinning silk: I recently commissioned a small lightweight (and very delightful) drop spindle from an Etsy crafter and also some silk roving and have been having a ball. I spin best on a wheel but a spindle can go places my wheel can not (like try taking a wheel to your next infusion or something like that) and I get a certain peace when spindling. In any event, what surprised me is not the slipperyness of silk, but it's stickiness. It wants to stick to everyhting rather like a spiders web. It's still fun to play with and makes a very strong and fine single.

#44 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 08:34 AM:

Sticky silk, yes indeedy. One trick I used back in the days when I could shop for stuff was running my fingers over material that aped silk, to feel for the characteristic 'catch'.
Latterly, some of the artificial fibres were developing a similar handfeel. Whether this was a deliberate imitation, or a byproduct of other developments in fibre technology, is outside my ken.

#45 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 09:39 AM:

Well, if we're going to discuss silk spinning here (and I can't really think why not) - I still find silk has a distinctive hand, despite any artificial imitators. Pretty much all artificial fibres have a perceptible greasiness that silk simply does not, and that overwhelmes the "catch".

I don't tend to find silk slippery either. I've spun three types of silk - mawata (which comes in "caps" or "squares", some type of dyed rovings, and tussah. (All from my local supplier.) Those are in ascending order of pleasantness.

Mawata has long, long fibres, very fine, that are almost impossible to keep from bunching as you draft. It makes a bobbly thread, which isn't really what I want. (It also catches on the very fingerprint ridges of my skin.)

The rovings are have shorter and stickier fibres. I don't know how much the texture is due to dyeing - I've dyed some tussah and felt it become a little different. They tangle easier, but improve with a brief carding before spinning.

The easiest for me to spin is tussah. The stuff I have is very smooth and golden in colour, longer fibred than the rovings (but shorter than the mawata). It drafts very easily, and seems happy to go into qute fine thread.

I started spinning with home-made spindles, cobbled together from a chopstick, a tiny cup hook, a strip of leather (to wrap round the chopstick) and two small software CDs. It came in at about 25 grams. I've since re-engineered it with a lightweight wooden coaster that I centre-drilled. I've also bought and been sent a few spindles, some lace weight, some heavier, and I have to say that the difference in whorl shape (more weight on the rim, less in the centre) has a big effect on how long the spindle keeps going.

I tend to overspin a bit, I suspect, but I don't have a lot of feedback on my spinning because my only spinning friend is in Canada (I'm in Scotland). I spin singles, then ply, then set the twist in plain water and hang it, weighted, to dry overnight.

The product is what I want, pretty much - a fine fibre in strong colours, which I use for headbanding books that I want to have a slightly handmade look. I have - thus far - avoided begging my grandmother's small loom off of my mother and starting weaving.

Sarah, if you have any questions, I'm abi at the domain name in my link. But if you ask them here, you may get more expert answers than I can provide - I've only been spinning for a few months, and I blame the people here for getting me started.

Teresa, I apologise if the thread has spun a bit out of control. It kept growing as I drafted it and adding new twists. If it is a problem, just say, and Sarah can reply by email.

#46 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 09:42 AM:

Teresa, I apologise if the thread has spun a bit out of control.

Why didn't I think of that pun?

#47 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 09:44 AM:

That whole paragraph is made up of puns, Serge.

#48 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 10:00 AM:

I bow down before a true Mistress of the Homespun, abi.

#49 ::: Eve ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 10:48 AM:

Top paragraph, that one.

Incidentally, if anyone is inspired to take up knitting but can't get the hang of it, there are great videos at

#50 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 11:01 AM:

#24: Sarah, insufficient imagination -- you don't try to poke the knitting needle -through- the skin, you go for the ready-made openings in the victim's head...

This can be done with a rattail comb, can't see why the more rigid knitting needles wouldn't work just as well.

#51 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 11:10 AM:

...insufficient imagination -- you don't try to poke the knitting needle -through- the skin, you go for the ready-made openings in the victim's head...

I seem to recall a murder mystery (an Amelia Peabody, maybe?) in which the victim was killed by having his spine severed with a knitting needle, or perhaps the killer jammed it in his ear.

#52 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 11:12 AM:

Mind you, Lori, airport security seems to assume that terrorists will use variations of the original trick. The only reason that box cutters worked on 9/11 is that nobody onboard a plane expected that high-jackers would use it to slam it into a big building. That's the assumption we now follow. Nobody will be sitting quietly if someone takes over a plane next time.

#53 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 11:14 AM:

Yeah, an aluminum needle (or one of the old steel ones) would be very, um, effective that way. They're certainly rigid enough in that direction.

#54 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 11:21 AM:

Crochet is not unfashionable; the trouble is finding the right designers to buy patterns from. Far too many pattern makers don't bother to shape their garments that corset belt on the Interweave Crochet site wouldn't suck if it fit - and if the designer had picked belt or waist cincher and not both. Also, for some ungodly reason many people are still are stuck firmly in 1970's fug mode.

I'd say Josi Hannon Madera's are very fashionable. The spiderweb skirt in and of itself is made of awesome. And yarn.

I personally love crochet because it's much easier to make silly animal hats with it than with knitting. Crocheting also doesn't make my shoulders cramp up like knitting does.

#55 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 11:21 AM:

Carrie, #51: Yes, but does spinal fluid wash out? I'm not risking my alpaca laceweight if it doesn't.

#56 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 11:22 AM:

I travel about 50-75 thousand air miles a year for work. I knit through most of those miles.

The tedium relieving qualities of the knitting have been significantly lessened by the interminable discussions I have with other knitters before the trip and with other passengers while on the plane--all of which conversations begin thusly:

"They let you bring those needles on? I thought you couldn't do that. I have a friend/aunt/sister/cousin/brother...."

I would insert the obligatory "knitting an afghan" joke here, but you've all heard it.

#57 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 11:26 AM:

#48, 49:

I meant it seriously, though. I'm the sort of person to pu-Sherlock on going off-topic. (That's a Holmes pun)

#58 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 11:29 AM:


#59 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 11:32 AM:

Serge, I've no doubt that terrorists (stupid ones) might try variations of the same trick.

That said, I'm also quite sure their fellow passengers would attempt to subdue them, and if the terrorists get really unlucky, they could be facing someone who knows how to kill with their bare hands.

As for those who didn't consider the possibility of passenger jets being used as weapons -- "Debt of Honor" was published several years before 9/11. Clancy postulated that the pilot was deranged by grief...

But I'd been wondering about that tactic ever since the flight simulator programs became available for home computers and play systems. The hardest parts of any flight are take-off and landing. It isn't that difficult to learn to keep the craft straight and level, and a lot of the big jets can be made to turn simply by entering a new heading.

And if you've got the money to get training on the real thing, plus time in a simulator, it gets that much easier. What I don't understand is why someone wasn't paying attention to who was taking that sort of training.

#60 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 11:37 AM:

#52 Serge -

airport security seems to assume that terrorists will use variations of the original trick.

That, combined with the lack of critical thinking on the traveling public's part, seems to be the problem overall (speaking of failure of imagination).

I travel a lot for my job, and have witnessed all manner of behavior towards my knitting. Most recently, I was talking with a flight attendant whom I had met several times on previous trips (she mans the shuttle that does the DC-NY-Boston triangle). She was a lapsed knitter who got re-excited about knitting when she saw my work several months ago, and we periodically catch up when we're on the same flight. After she moved off after an obviously friendly, chatty conversation (where my flight attendant friend had pulled her colleague in to admire my latest project), the woman across the aisle from me scolded, "I can't BELIEVE they let you take those on an airplane." It was quite the contrast.

#61 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 11:38 AM:

Lori... Thanks for the Clancy reference. I figured someone would have come up with the idea in a work of fiction. But few of us sitting in a plane on 9/11 would have assumed that fiction was about to become reality. Maybe it's because we remember all the take-me-to-Cuba jokes.

As for someone not paying attention... Someone was. The higher-ups weren't listening.

#62 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 12:05 PM:

Lori Coulson @59: As for those who didn't consider the possibility of passenger jets being used as weapons -- "Debt of Honor" was published several years before 9/11. Clancy postulated that the pilot was deranged by grief...

It was also the climax of the Stephen King / Richard Bachman novel The Running Man, written in 1982. I'm fairly certain the movie ended the same way.

The first Steven King I recall reading was a four novel collection of his Richard Bachman stories. I was struck that every story concluded with the protagonist going insane, committing suicide, or both.

#63 ::: steve ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 12:47 PM:

I hope I can be forgiven for briefly referring back to Franklin, knitting & a number of other textile makers above.

I keep encountering knitters online who have bright, clear, witty voices, ones that are at the same time kind and sensitive, just and sensible. Has anyone else noticed this? Is there some connection? Franklin and Echidne of the Snakes are two examples, and several people who comment here are also.

It leads me to wonder: Is there a special place where witty knitters congregate on the Web? If not, should there be a special place one might go to encounter them: Knit Wits,* perhaps? That might also be a good place to go to enjoy a good yarn.

*, sadly, is registered to TuCows, client transfer prohibited.

#64 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 12:57 PM:

There isn't even a need to invoke fiction to show the silliness of "nobody could have predicted this sort of attack".

Admittedly not a passenger jet, but someone who'd been paying attention to aviation security in 1994 might remember the name Auburn Calloway.

He attempted to hijack a FedEx DC-10 and crash it into FedEx headquarters. Hmm. Hijacking a widebody jet after takeoff, killing or disabling the pilots, then crashing it into a building...nah, no parallels at all to anything that happened later.

Then there were the Algerian hijackers of AF8969, also in 1994, who apparently planned to crash that plane into the Eiffel Tower.

#65 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 01:00 PM:

Christopher... So, I guess this should have been expected. My point remains that it eventually did succeed and plane passengers will assume the worst if some terrorist tries it again. Maybe on a plane with Steven Seagall and Jean-Claude van Damme.

#66 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 02:00 PM:

#64 -- Christopher, there is an earlier example, although I must emphasize that it -was- an accident.

Shortly after WWII a military plane (B-25, I think?) got lost in fog over New York City and crashed into the 79th floor of Empire State Building. There is a spectacular shot of the hole left by the impact. IIRC, the photographer had a friend hang on to his legs while he leaned out of a window a few floors above the crash site.

#67 ::: Pat Kight ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 04:24 PM:

Knitting needles were among the items banned from US flights after 9/11 - but only briefly. These days the TSA rules recommend (but don't outright prohibit) eschewing metal needles in favor of wood or plastic.

I've always imagined the change came after hundreds of federal functionaries got calls from their furious mothers and grandmothers: "Now, just one second there, Junior - what the HELL do you mean I can't take my knitting on the plane?"

#68 ::: Pat Kight ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 04:25 PM:

Make that " ... don't outright require." Bleah.

#69 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 04:45 PM:

In a previous life I used to travel a lot for my job. One year I was away 270 days. I cross-stitched a picture for my forlorn office with a plane and the words "Away Sweet Away". While I sometimes took knitting, I usually took crocheting on the plane because it took less elbow room. I was also at this point a competitive Irish dancer (rather rare for an adult in those days.) I crocheted umpty-squat elaborate collars for Irish step-dancing costumes, which I sold for $20 a pop. Sadly, crocheted collars are not much used for Irish dance costumes (or much of anything else) these days. In Irish dance circles they prefer to tart up the little girls to look like Las Vegas showgirls. This is apparently in compliance with the rules ("Authentic Gaelic dress is desired.") as I haven't heard of an adjudicator disqualifying a competitor for overly tacky costume.

#70 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 05:03 PM:

Tracie #69: I haven't heard of an adjudicator disqualifying a competitor for overly tacky costume.

Ack. After viewing those pictures, my mental image of Irish dance is forever shattered. don't even match themselves. It's not that they're particularly inappropriate costumes for children, in the sense that they're not overly revealing or erotic or anything, but -- the colors, the eye-bleeding colors....and the patterns.....

#71 ::: Eve ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 05:54 PM:

And the wigs. Oh my godfathers, the wigs.

Hold on, they are wigs, aren't they? Please someone tell me they're wigs...

#72 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 07:47 PM:

Oh, yes, they are wigs. When I competed in the 80s, wigs and makeup were prohibited on children in competitions, on the grounds that wigs and makeup were adult accouterments and thus inappropiate for children. A girl who wanted all those curls walked around in curlers until just before her competition, or she convinced her mother to let her get a perm. These days it doesn't appear that there are any restrictions on wigs, and makeup is only prohibited on 12-and-under in the three lowest categories, so presumably a 9 year old who has advanced beyond the beginning level can do a Jon-Benet imitation. (Scoll down to the little slan in the purple dress.)

And available now, for your holiday giftgiving, Irish Dance Barbie!

#73 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 09:26 PM:

I'm not sure if it is universal, but around here dancers wear their dance-school colors until they win something, at which point the child gets to send off to Ireland for a costume of their choosing. They want to stand out. They have no sense of proportion. Their mothers let them. Their mothers probably encourage them.

A couple of years ago, the big local Irish festival was on a very hot weekend, and the girls were dying in those wigs.

I've seen similar colors on Peruvian dancers, but I get the impression that their Peruvian ancestors would have killed for colors like that (their original palette is as bold as natural dyestuffs would allow).

#74 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 10:56 PM:

How do you know their Irish ancestors wouldn't have killed for that palette? For that matter, I've always thought that if you took a bunch of 18th C. Irish traditional musicians and gave them electric instruments and amps, within a month or two they'd be sounding just like the Pogues.

#75 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 11:03 PM:

(Continuing the Irish Dance derailment)


My cousin's wife is tediously Celtic- she was a bagpipe player until she damaged her front teeth and had to give it up, and went to the Eulian pipes after that. Their daughter danced competitively, both Irish and Scottish style, but her costumes were... quiet. And her hair curled naturally. That was in the late nineties- have things gone all Vegasish in the past ten years or did my cousin's wife just find a fundamentalist dance school?

(Note: nothing against Celts in general, as it would be inappropriate for someone who's mostly Welsh, Boheimian, Scot, and Irish, with a little Bretagne thrown in for good luck).

#76 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 11:14 PM:

Teresa: I was just about to mention the Book of Kells. And I think you're right about the music, too.

Don't get me started on the Irish dance world. I quit partly because of my asthma, but also because I couldn't make the teacher understand that I was doing it for love, not medals. But I learned enough that when I saw "la gigue," I caught on instantly.

And because I know somebody's going to ask: la gigue is what Francophones call the Maritime version of Irish dancing, aka what Natalie MacMaster does. I have a theory about it which I'll spare you.

#77 ::: Ledasmom ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 11:26 PM:

#51: There's a hat-pin killing in one of the Amelia Peabodys, and death by knitting needle in one of Patricia Moyes' mysteries - the murder weapon is identified by the detective's wife, who notices that the knitting woman only has three double-pointed needles. The fourth one, a sharpened steel needle, ends up at the bottom of the ocean.

#78 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 11:35 PM:

TexAnne, I'm sorry you don't live here. My partner teaches adult Irish dance classes (Ceilidah dancing, not step dancing), and has great success even with people who have some handicaps.

They do not do competitive dancing within the troup, though they do performances at our Renaissance Festival, St. Patrick's Day, the Highland Games, etc. There are a couple of dancers that have gone on to study other styles (the most noted is Scottish competitive dancing) and done well.

There is also one young man that wasn't physically graced well but learned to dance well enough, who went to a job in the UK (or maybe Ireland). He showed up at a pub where there was social dancing, joined in, then got asked "how the heck do you know how to dance so well you're an American?" And he told them he'd learnt it at his lessons with Clanna Eirenne, in Kansas City.

So my partner thinks she and her dance group partner do well enough. Things like that make them proud. And she could probably teach you to do a fair amount of different dances.
They pretty much don't do competitive dancing because there isn't much call for it for adults, at least here in KC.

And it's mostly considered "O'Robics" for the people who take it (it's an offering of our Communiversity, which is an informal class set-up with UMKC). So it's exercise, friendly, non-competitive companionship and good instruction in steps and sets. We always consider new beginner classes good if they manage to NOT involve "Irish slam dancing" (where people lose track of where they are in a set like a reel or someting and just farking bang together....)

#79 ::: Eve ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 05:01 AM:

#77: In Europe, double-pointed needles come in sets of five. The perfect crime...

#80 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 08:13 AM:


My god. It's the only instance I can think of where the Barbie outfit is subtler and more understated than the original!

#81 ::: Natalie ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 08:38 AM:

There's death by knitting needle in one of Robertson Davies books--I think The Rebel Angels (I know it's either the first or third Cornish Trilogy book). Into the brain through the nose.

As for spinning silk, in the latest (Winter 2006) issue of Spin Off, there's an article with very nice pictures about how to spin silk hankies/mawatas.

#82 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 10:26 AM:

The latest New York Times Style section has a slide show of absurdly expensive presents (I won't bother to provide a link here) which make me think we'd all be better off creating our own artsy-craftsy stuff. Some people here might be interested in the candlesticks with knitted covers, though they didn't do much for me.

#83 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 11:16 AM:

The Irish dance derailment continues:

When I lived in California I knew adult ceili dance team with one deaf member. His partner squeezed his hand to give him the beat and he'd meticulously count out the dance in his head. He was very precice.

While there are more competition opportunities for adults now, and more child dancers continue to dance and compete beyond their teens, I was at 32 usually competing in 16 and over (*way* over), and at the regional level 19 and over. I have a box full of medals to prove that age and cunning will often defeat youth and skill, and age, cunning and skill will do it almost every time. Having had traditional martial arts training helped, too.

I took up Irish dancing to better inform my musical performance, and it was quite a trial finding a teacher who would take an adult beginner, as teachers were (and are) so oriented to competition that they forget this is supposed to be *dance*, not children's sport. I was of similar age as many of the mothers, who [nominal knitting content] would site in the next room drinking tea and knitting. My teacher finally convinced me to compete, and when I got my first medals I was as pleased as any 10 year old. Being used to child dancers, she was a bit appalled when I repaired to the bar to celebrate, but she got over it.

#84 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 11:52 AM:


Having lost one of five needles from my nice new set of double-pointeds after doing exactly one sock toe, I'd imagine having three needles left couldn't go to prove much more than that the knitter was good at misplacing those suckers. I'm still living in faint hope that I'll find the fifth needle again before I get to my second toe, and won't have to knit it in four double-pointeds-and-one-circular-of-the-same-size.

(On reflection, I will grant that it's probably harder to misplace them if you're doing the whole sock or what not in double-pointeds, rather than swapping back and forth from circulars.)

#85 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 12:26 PM:

Fade: if you put all the instep stitches on one needle, you can get by with 4. I don't like it, but it's possible.

#86 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 12:59 PM:

Fade, I always figured that DPN sets with 5 needles came with one extra solely so that it could be lost with equanimity.

#87 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 01:12 PM:

Fade, you should be able to get by with 4 DPs. That's what we did before DPs were commonly sold in sets of 5. You could even do it with 3, but you *really* wouldn't like it.

#88 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 01:28 PM:

You could even do it with two, if you were willing to do double knitting and play around with stitch mounts for the heel and gusset.

#89 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 01:42 PM:

Can I get a one, ladies and gentlemen? Do I hear any knitter willing to knit that sock on ONE NEEDLE?!!!

#90 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 01:56 PM:

Sarah: Yes.

#91 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 02:04 PM:

TexAnne: Pfui. Anyone can do that. I meant "one DPN."

#92 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 02:07 PM:

One needle? Yes! Though it's really not knitting, it's just sometimes called a type of knitting.
Naalbinding (spelling varies), which is a needleweaving technique known for centuries all over the world. I've made a couple of pairs of socks like this, except that they're striped.

I suppose that given sufficient provocation I could take a single needle and use it like a crochet hook, but then it would be crocheting, wouldn't it?

#93 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 02:23 PM:

Sarah, I'll try, if you'll supply the crochet or nalbinding pattern.

#94 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 05:11 PM:

I've been thinking of trying the magic loop method for socks; does anyone have an opinion one way or the other? Just last night I lost one of my brand new size 3 DPNs - somewhere in the bed, no less. At least the sock was nearly finished, and I knit them on 3+1 anyway.

For anyone who has spun silk, would you compare the stickiness to Merino, which I would call slippery, but still with some of the grippy properties of wool? That, I think I could handle with minimal swearing.

#95 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 05:28 PM:

But...but...trying to do it with four would ruin all the math!

(I suck rocks at following a pattern, but once sock-knitting was explained to me as a simple set of math functions, it all became much easier. Trying to juggle a "divide evenly by four and decrease each of the four sets by two stitches, followed by straight knitting, until down to 8 stitches total" while having those four sets divided across three needles would probably make my head explode.)

#96 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 05:32 PM:

once sock-knitting was explained to me as a simple set of math functions, it all became much easier

Sounds like something Charlie Eppes would say on numb3rs...

#97 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 05:41 PM:


All I have ever spun is merino and silk, so my spinning instincts are not finely developed.

The closest comparable silk to merino was my rovings. I found them about the same level of stickiness (with, of course, completely different hands). They were certainly about the same difficulty to spin to an absolute beginner.

The tussah was much slicker, but I actually found that easier to draft than a stickier fibre.

In the end, you're just going to have to try it. Have you got a good source for rovings nearby? If not, do you want me to send you some, just to get a feel for it? Since I'm thread spinning, and since I use less than a meter to headband a single book, I can certainly spare a few grams here and there...

Email me at abi at my domain name if you'd like some and I'll pop it in the post over the next week or two. It'll get caught in the Christmas flurry, no doubt, but then you'll have something to do when the presents are unwrapped.

#98 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 05:57 PM:

Or, in other words,

Although I mainly spin in roving silk
(And rove it did, the time the spindle dropped!)
I tried merino and its wooly ilk
A little bit, before my wool phase stopped.
I found them much the same, at least in stick
(Each fibre has its own distinctive hand.)
The reasons I chose silk when I could pick
Were not from ease of use, you understand.
But words cannot convey the turn of thread
Nor writing substitute for spinning wood.
You'll have to try, not reading what I've said
But learning for yourself what feels good.
So if you haven't got the silk to try
Then email me. I'll send it by and by.

#99 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 06:49 PM:

abi, wow!

#100 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 07:50 PM:

Abi: Beautiful!

I'll undertake to knit the sock on one needle if I'm allowed to use the kind that has a hook at the end. It's not crocheting if you pull loop through loop, one after another, throughout the entire row, and only close off loops by decreasing or casting-off, not in the course of making a normal stitch.

Silk is sticky. Sometimes I untangle skeins for Kate Salter, in much the same spirit that I'd work a crossword puzzle. The worst one I ever had to set in order was a super-lightweight matte silk ribbon. The manufacturer had, for no sane reason, decided to distribute it in skeins rather than winding it onto cardboard cores. The least breath of wind would lift the loops of the skein into the air, rustling and shaking together -- and just that little bit of contact and agitation was enough to make the ribbons snag together, putting the whole thing in a tangle.

The previous owner had cut it at one spot, in a forlorn attempt to untangle it, so I wound it up into two firm balls, carefully turning the ribbon so it would lie flat without creasing. And when I was done, I fastened each ball with multiple crosshatched rubber bands. Someday those rubber bands will be taken off. When they are, whoever does it will watch as yard after yard of silk ribbon spontaneously reels off the ball to puddle on the floor.

#101 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 08:04 PM:

And then there's the trick of knitting two socks at the same time with one nested inside the other, as elucidated by Beverly Royce in Notes on Double Knitting; she noted that the general concept was described by Tolstoy in War and Peace.

(Though I was actually slightly cross when I finally got Royce's book; after a vague description ten years earlier of how to knit open tubes on single-pointed needles, it turned out I'd independently worked out most of her methodology and had already used a variant of her double-sock technique to knit a Klein-bottle hat. However, since I still haven't tried to muddle through heel-shaping, socks in general remain a mystery to me.)

#102 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 08:15 PM:

Fade @ #95: Trying to juggle a "divide evenly by four and decrease each of the four sets by two stitches, followed by straight knitting, until down to 8 stitches total" while having those four sets divided across three needles would probably make my head explode.

The trick is that you don't divide evenly across three needles what you would have divided across four. Instead, you put onto one needle what would have been on two, then mark the middle so you know where to do the double decrease.

#103 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 10:20 PM:

#101: ah yes, "the purely knitterly jollifications like knitting two socks simultaneously, one inside the other, on a single set of needles, so that when you’re done you pull them apart and there’s your pair. (Why do it that way? Because it’s cool.)"

Those words there caused me to take up knitting.

#102: And now I'm paying it forward by saying that there's an even easier way to think of it: the needle holding twice as many stitches is the instep needle. Ta-da! One needle holds two pattern repeats; the other two are the ones that will eventually hold the gussets (one per needle). You just need to watch out for the loose stitches formed at the corners, but judicious tugging fixes that.

#104 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 10:26 PM:

Oh, and a cautionary remark: silk laceweight does NOT do well in centerpull balls. I lost a significant amount of a purely gorgeous hand-dyed to my ignorance of this fact. And believe me, I tried everything before taking the scissors to it.

#105 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 10:37 PM:

Knitty has an article on knitting two socks at the same time on dpns.

Double knitting is a technique I really want to try.

#106 ::: Ledasmom ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 12:08 AM:

#94: Magic loop is quite nice, but you must have the extra-smooth needles (Addi Turbo or similar) or it will be a bit of a pain. It's great when travelling, as the stitches are more likely to stay on the needles when stuffed in a bag than with dpns. I don't use it as much as I might because I like the feel of wood/bamboo needles.
I am currently fond of the mitered heel, a type of hourglass heel (like on commercial socks) that's very easy to knit, but I use a gusset heel or Dutch heel for kid's socks as it's easier to guess at a fit. Whereas socks for one's own feet may be tried on whenever necessary to check fit, socks for small children require hunting down the child and stuffing its, usually ticklish, foot into the sock-in-progress. It's quite easy to break wooden needles this way.
Those small-gauge circular needles also come in handy if you're trying a heel shaping and you're not sure it will come out right. On the last row before shaping, slip the circular through the stitches to be used for the heel and leave it there. If you muck up the heel you have only to unravel back to the circular. It's an easy reusable lifeline.

#107 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 01:16 AM:

I recently discovered the Amelia Peabody books; I'm going to have to re-read them to find the murder-by-knitting-needle.

I can't believe that series began in 1975 and I never found it or heard of it until six weeks ago. At that, it was only because I was staring at the "P" section of the adult fiction shelves at the local library, having finished all the Terry Pratchett books available.

#108 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 01:20 AM:

It also occurs to me that Emma Lathen wrote several John Putnam Thatcher mysteries which appear to have knitting as a theme, including "By Hook or by Crook" and "A Stitch in Time."

#109 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 01:25 AM:

#102: That makes far, far too much sense. I really should have thought of that. It would work better if I were using longer needles, as my little bamboo needles have quite enough to do with what I put on them already, but I may well give that a try if I haven't found needle #5 by the time I get there. Or if, heaven forbid, I manage to lose another needle from that set.

I stare a little blankly at some of the sock-knitting being discussed in this thread. I've done exactly one and an eighth socks so far, and that using a very simple spiral toe and a sort of heel I can't name but which the person who taught me says is considered cheating because it's so easy. Perhaps once I have a few pairs under my belt (boots?) I can try tackling things which require an instep needle or what not.

(Now I need to go google up what a gusset is.)

#110 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 01:26 AM:

In one of the "Rabbi" mysteries, I can't remember which one, the murder weapon was a knitting needle. (The murderer pushed it through a hole in the wall and toppled a heavy weight onto the victim's head.)

I have no qualms about spoiling this because 1) it was probably published thirty plus years ago and 2) it was too poorly written for anyone here to willingly sit through it.

#111 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 04:08 AM:

I'm about 95% sure that was Tuesday the Rabbi Saw Red. And yes, I thought of that one too. It's been a long time since I read any of the Rabbi books, but based on what I remember I have to quarrel with your last sentence...I was quite fond of them. (I also read Conversations with Rabbi Small, though, and kept wanting to hit "F".)

#112 ::: Ledasmom ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 06:25 AM:

"Conversations With Rabbi Small" is an exasperating book in spots (it reminded me oddly of C.S. Lewis' apologetics). I liked most of the "Rabbi" books, but I read most of them when I was considerably younger.
For a gusset heel, one works back and forth on one's heel stitches (usually half the total stitches) until one has knit a little thingamaboo the same length as one's heel; one then shortrows to create a cupped shape that wraps around the heel, and picks up stitches on both sides of the now oddly-shaped piece and then knits around on all of it, decreasing the excess stitches in the picked-up areas (the gussets - when the sock is finished, they have a triangular shape with one point at the top of the heel, one point at the bottom and the third somewhere down the sock where the last extra stitches are decreased out).
Heels are quite simple if you slavishly follow the instructions the first time. All heels are good. Though different heels are good for different feet, the main point of knowing a lot of them is so you can sit back when you've knit the leg of your sock, wonder loudly and publicly what heel to use and then whip a heel out from memory, thereby either irritating or impressing everyone who's doing a novelty scarf or felted bag. It's sorta like doing stranded knitting in public with four colors (and if anyone has the real answer to the circular jog, tell me now).
Incidentally, if you want to do stranded knitting in the round, as with a sock, you can do it with just one color at a time; take one yarn, knit the stitches that are supposed to be that color and slip the others, then take the other, knit the stitches in that color and slip the ones you already knit. Same result, but easier for the uncoordinated among us. You can do the same thing for flat knitting if you're using circulars for it.

#113 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 08:25 AM:

Ledasmom: Is that the method from [celestial choirs] Principles of Knitting [/celestial choirs]? I tried it and my tension was hideous. What did I miss?

#114 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 08:38 AM:

Ledasmom, I'm highly entertained by your thinking about the utility of multiple heels.

Julie L, if you want a very simple, easy to follow sock pattern, heel all written out, I'd be happy to send it. You can mail me at iambic_trampATyahooDOTcom.

TexAnne--Nothing laceweight does very well in center pull balls. Which reminds me that I need to save the cone I'm currently knitting from....

#115 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 09:11 AM:

For anyone reviewing knitting geekery, here's a currently working link for the Fibonacci Bunnies knitting pattern.

#116 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 09:54 AM:

Mez, why are the bunnies Fibonacci?

#117 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 10:11 AM:

In knitting geekery elsewhere, today's Beaver & Steve includes knitting humor!

#118 ::: Cassie ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 10:11 AM:

Clearly, it is time to hit a yarn store. Probably Hobby Lobby, and probably for the kind of yarn Real Knitters And Crocheters scoff at, but all this talk of needles makes me want to do *something*. Even if I can't make socks with a crochet hook.
If I walk out of there with a book on how to teach yourself to knit, someone whap me over the head with a skein of garish Fun Fur until I stop.

#119 ::: Ledasmom ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 10:25 AM:

#113: You have to be careful, much as you would be with a straight slipstitch pattern, to keep the yarn tension behind the slipped stitches even and not too tight. I prefer the method because, in an unbalanced pattern where there's significantly more of one color than the other, I have terrible trouble maintaining even tension with both when carrying either in both hands or in just one.
#114: I did make a shawl from a laceweight loop mohair that was wound in a center-pull ball, with no trouble. Lovely stuff, loop mohair.

#120 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 10:54 AM:

Sarah--I've used laceweight in both alpaca and mohair from center-pull balls and never had a problem. Hence my surprise. I'm not sure what to do with the Crack--er, KidSilk Night I just bought. (Besides having its babies, I mean.) I'll probably use whichever end I can find.

#121 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 11:11 AM:

TexAnne--My problem with laceweight in center-pull balls, now that I think of it, only results when I wind the balls myself, not when they're wound by the yarn producer. I bet the crack silk will be just fine. I still think that laceweight on cones is optimal, though.

All hail Zephyr!!

#122 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 11:16 AM:

if anyone has the real answer to the circular jog, tell me now

The only acceptable answer I've ever found is "put it at the side", followed closely by "do a pattern panel at the jog that doesn't show it, such as vertical stripes".

Fortunately, my current project does both.

#123 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 11:27 AM:

#121: So, tell me more about Zephyr. I keep looking at it in catalogues, but man is it spendy.

#124 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 11:44 AM:

TexAnne--It's spendy, but the mileage is incredible. I split a one pound cone with a friend, made this, and still have enough left over for at least a small shawl or a few scarves. I've worked with three different colors (hence three different skeins) never had a knot or a poorly plied spot. It's got incredible sheen from the silk and a lovely halo from the wool. The colors are really saturated. It's the kind of stuff that, knit into a shawl, everyone wants to touch.

Halcyon sells mini-cones of it, 600 yds for $12.95. (I feel like I should add, "Take this. It'll make you feel good." or "The first one's for free"...)

#125 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 11:49 AM:

#124: ::swoon::

And I just bought that chart, too. And I haven't told my family what I want for Christmas yet.

::plots and schemes::

#126 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 12:18 PM:

Sarah S. that shawl is incomprehensibly gorgeous. I am once again saddened that, over a long life spent trying to learn to knit at the feet of experts, I have only gotten really good at casting on and then tying my fingers, needles, and wool into fuzzy knots.

I'm really, really good at untangling skeins and winding nice balls, though.

#127 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 12:18 PM:

if anyone has the real answer to the circular jog, tell me now

IIRC, Meg Swansen says that the how-compulsive-do-you-want-to-be answer is to break the yarn at the end of every row and begin the next row anew; that way you're not knitting a spiral, you're knitting a series of rings.

Of course, you'll have umpteen million yarn ends to darn in when you're done... *shudder*

#128 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 12:37 PM:

JESR, Sarah and others,

Talk to me about unwinding skeins and making nice balls. Teach me how to make a good center-pull ball out of my silk thread. I've been trying various options myself, but the voice of experience would be welcome.

And Sarah, the offer of rovings to try out is genuine, even though it's made in verse.

#129 ::: Ledasmom ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 12:43 PM:

#124: That shawl is gorgeous. I acquired two mini-cones of Zephyr with the Pacific Northwest shawl pattern and decided I wasn't quite up to that shawl yet, so I used part (a teeny part) of one cone as a carry-along with black alpaca in a pair of knee socks. My feet will never be cold again.
Currently using up many many skein remnants of self-striping and otherwise multicolor yarns; at some point it will just be a matter of knitting one after another and making a pair of crazy-lady socks.

#130 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 01:12 PM:

abi, the grandmother who taught me to wind balls had a winder tube with a slot to hold the end of the wool; I've only ever woven stocking weight merino balls on that tool, and it takes a double herringbone pattern (crossed twice on each revolution, and you can't see what I'm doing with my hands, can you?). That tool came from Prague with my great-grandparents, her inlaws, and she could no more knit than I can. It was her husband who knit socks and stockings for their twelve kids.

#131 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 01:12 PM:

Of course, you'll have umpteen million yarn ends to darn in when you're done... *shudder*

Nah, just weave them in as you go.

#132 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 01:13 PM:

...knit a Klein-bottle hat

Wow. When I was in high school (back when the rocks were still cooling), I knitted several Klein bottle "covers". I guess a Klein bottle hat must be like them only bigger.

My friend Anne has had some success with knitting two socks at once, not one inside the other, but side by side. She likes the fact that you'll never have "single sock syndrome" this way. At least you won't have a single complete sock.

#133 ::: Vardibidian ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 02:06 PM:

Moderately off-topic: My daughter is five-and-a-half and has expressed interest in learning to knit. She's not terribly co-ordinated (runs in the family), but she is able to finger-knit braids with reasonable tension control. My question is whether I should just stall for another year or two (which I can do, easily, as it's just one of many things she would like to learn to do), or if five-and-a-half is a reasonable time for a child to learn to knit. If it's reasonable to start, I'll also need book recommendations, since she likes written instructions. When my mother taught me, it was by watching and showing, so I don't have an old favorite knitting for kids book.


#134 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 02:12 PM:

abi--how-to wind

I do it more or less like that. Now that I have a swift, I drape the skein on the swift and wind off of it. Before I had the swift, I draped the skein over my knees and wound off them. But, as I said, I've had bad luck making this type of ball with laceweight--it seems to lead to a lot of snarls in the early phases.

#135 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 02:16 PM:

#133-- Waldorf schools start teaching knitting at about age 4, I believe. I don't have book recommendations, unfortunately, but I'd highly recommend finding one that teaches her to knit the way you do--whether that's continental, English, or combined. That way you can help her with any tricky bits without her saying "but the book says to do it *this* way!!"

#136 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 03:18 PM:


I can't quite picture the tool, but I can picture the gesture. Does that make me strange?


Thanks for the link. I'll check it out.

What I've been using is an embroidery floss holder (20 for a pound or so) that is spaced to hold commercial embroidery thread. It's like two Y shapes tail to tail, with a slotted tab at one side to tuck the end in. It seems to work, but it's inelegant.

#138 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 04:11 PM:

#137: No you don't. (And if you do, you can give some to me. Avarice, thy name is Knitter.)

#139 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 04:12 PM:

TNH @137

Yes, but surely I have enough yarn as it is.

Are you really allowed to say that? Won't the knitters, wearing high hats shaped like thread cones, drum you out of the regiment? I can hear them now, their chunky needles thudding in slow and menacing unison against the drumheads.

Recant, I tell you, recant! There is still time (just under three hours, to be precise.)

#140 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 04:14 PM:

Vardibidian, I learned to crochet when I was four. I didn't do it well, but it pleased me no end, and I learned it like a native language.

Sarah (124), TexAnne (125): First, that shawl is gorgeous. Second, did you know that there's a vendor on eBay who sells Zephyr for about $35 per slightly-more-than-one-pound cone? That's over five thousand yards, and right now she has it in eight different colors. The "buy it now" and "starting bid" amounts are nearly the same.

Just thought I'd mention it.

#141 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 04:16 PM:

Abi, I recant on the grounds that while those colors are awfully pretty, they're not right for me.

Probably work on someone else, though.

#142 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 04:17 PM:

I whoop in delight at the thought of a Peacock shawl in cinnabar yarn. I shall call her Phoenix!

#143 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 04:20 PM:

#140 Ohmy. "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us...."

And thank you, everybody. I love that shawl. I knit it while enormously pregnant, to distract myself from being so very enormously pregnant.

#144 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 04:35 PM:

Sarah, my partner knits, and I'm wondering where I could obtain the pattern for that shawl?

#145 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 04:40 PM:

Lori--I should be really clear: The design's not mine, just the execution. The design's by the insanely talented folks over at Fiddlesticks. I wish I were that good! It's a fun project to knit, and the instructions are good, clear ones.

You can get the pattern here.

#146 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 05:14 PM:

Thank you...maybe I'll surprise my partner with it...

#147 ::: Naomi Parkhurst ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 07:08 PM:

Hey V, I learned to knit little garter stitch squares for a doll blanket when I was five. Not sure about book recommendations, but I'll get back to you after I visit the library tomorrow and look through my own collection.

#148 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 09:11 PM:

Strange as it may sound, Knitting for Dummies is actually a useful book. It's certainly the first one I've met that explains long-tail cast-on in a way I can understand. The patterns aren't totally hopeless for beginners, either.

#149 ::: Ledasmom ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 09:20 PM:

It's a very good thing for the book to explain casting-on clearly, unless you want much of your time to be spent casting on for the kid.
Kids Knitting is not a bad book, though I don't think it explains more than one style of knitting. It has very nice simple beginner's patterns, including spiral-rib socks, a backpack and a basic sweater.

#151 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 05:00 PM:

I very much like, "Knitting in Plain English." Very conversational, with descriptions of a multitude of ways to knit.

#152 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 05:39 PM:

Ledasmom @ 149:

There are all kinds (well, several) of easy cast-on methods - I usually use knitting-on, the one that gives the nice cable-looking edge - it's just that *that* one wasn't coming across in any of the other (very good) books that I have.
Having mostly taught myself to knit, I appreciate well-written instructions. (I also like Knitting Without Tears, and you might want to look at Mason Dixon Knitting, which is a lot of fun to read.)

#153 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 03:07 AM:

I crochet. I can only make granny squares, but so far I've made four blankets, and it's a nice relaxing hobby when I'm sitting in front of the television (to the point where my crochet stuff now lives next to my TV watching seat). Unfortunately, I don't watch that much TV these days, so the pace of my crocheting has dropped right down.

I give you my pattern for a rug/blanket/afghan:

1) Decide what colour(s) you want the rug to be.
2) Buy wool/acrylic/whatever in the appropriate colours.
3) Decide if you want a particular scheme of coloured squares, or whether you're going for random.
4) Start making up the squares. I do squares of six rounds (3 treble per block, 1ch between blocks, 2ch at the corners), and toss them all into one big bag until I'm ready to start linking them together.
5) When you have enough squares, start linking them together into strips. As a hint: 12 squares linked together is large enough to cover a queen size bed; 10 will give you enough for a double bed, and a single bed can handle about seven or eight. I've found most standard 50g balls of wool will give three squares, with a bit left over. To link - double crochet into each stitch along the edge.
6) When you have enough strips, link them together. Most beds aren't square, so my usual run is to take the number of squares in each strip, and add two to get the number of strips required. So a queen bed is 12 x 14; a double is 10 x 12, and a single is 7 x 12 (to get the length).
7) Decide whether you're going to use up all your fiddly bits of yarn in the border (my favourite trick) or whether you want a uniform colour. Do the border in either double or treble crochet - 2 - 3 rounds will be enough, and maybe another round of fancy scalloping on the outer edge if you fancy.
8) Tidy up the ends. This is tedious, boring, and dull, and I usually start doing this at about the point where I'm joining the strips together. The best method I've found is to use a smaller crochet hook (about 2 - 3 sizes smaller) and tuck ends under things.
9) Enjoy the rug. It'll be warm, as well as lightweight for the amount of warmth it provides. I wouldn't use it as the primary blanket on a bed, but I chuck mine on top of the doona (duvet/eiderdown equivalent) in the middle of winter. I also use them to keep my feet warm when I'm working on the computer in winter, or when I'm watching television.

[Small note: my usual trick is that I just buy whatever looks nice whenever I'm buying wool, and then combine similar colours/textures to create the rug. Currently I have two on the hop - one is in blues and greens and similar cool shades, in 8 ply wools. The other is nicknamed "Nightmare on Sesame Street" - it's all those fancy "muppet pelt" yarns. I use a 4mm (size 8) crochet hook for the main squares and joining, and a 3mm one for tidying the edges. Strips are chosen from pre-made squares, by the rather interesting method of shoving my hand into a bag with my eyes closed, and taking the order chosen at random.]

#154 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 04:40 PM:

In yarn geekery news, the Sysadmin for a store called "The Yarn Lady" got an honorable mention in the 2006 Sysadmin of the Year contest.

I think I'm going to make "Learn to knit" a New Year's Resolution.

#155 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 07:24 PM:

Skwid, if you lived anywhere near me, I'd volunteer to teach you. But you don't. :(

(I followed the link at your name.)

#156 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 07:37 PM:

Granny squares drive me nuts. All that joining!

#157 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 08:49 PM:

Skwid: Go check out The Woolie Ewe in Plano. That's where I kidnapped Teresa to during ConDFW. She seemed to like it okay...

#158 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 09:20 PM:

Re #155 "Skwid, if you lived anywhere near me, I'd volunteer to teach you. But you don't. :("

Nancy, dear, shouldn't you ask if Skwid is right or left handed first, so we know if you are volunteering your talents or mine?

#159 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 09:56 PM:

Ursula, darling, I forgot my other half posted here too!

#160 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 10:50 PM:

The Woolie Ewe was fun. Long on pricey goodies, but a very pleasant store. I got some yummy rainbow-shaded rayon to run in with mohair.

I have to tell you my favorite yarn-shop story. This was back when very few men did needlework of any kind. I was in my favorite yarn store on the Upper West Side, when in walked a large guy in a black leather jacket, with his fists stuffed down in the pockets. He looked nervous.

I was nervous too. What could he conceivably be doing? I eyed possible exits. Then he pulled a ball of yarn and an awful-looking piece of knitting out of his pocket, sheepishly held it out to one of the elderly ladies who ran the store, and said "I'm here for my lesson."

The shop owner looked over the piece of knitting, tsk'd at its condition, and took the man off to a side table for his lesson.

He looked so distressed over whatever it was he was doing wrong. It was amazing how fast he went from "potentially threatening" to "really cute" when he hauled that knitting out of his pocket.

#161 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2006, 12:30 AM:

TNH @ 160: It was amazing how fast he went from "potentially threatening" to "really cute" when he hauled that knitting out of his pocket.

Hmmmm. Maybe I should take up knitting.

#162 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2006, 12:38 AM:

I hear it's a serious chick magnet.

#163 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2006, 05:30 AM:

Maybe I should take up knitting.

#164 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2006, 08:44 AM:

The bonus of being a male knitter is that, if you have a problem, you can ask pretty much any woman to help and she'll be delighted to.

The problem with being a male knitter is stupid yarn-store owners who call the cops on you because you had the temerity to be male in their store and not obviously attached to a woman. No kidding, I've read a first-hand account of precisely that.

#165 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2006, 08:48 AM:

Guys, Teresa's right. Of course, it wouldn't work on me--I don't want to have to share my stash with my SO.

#166 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2006, 08:56 AM:

And you probably aren't the only one who feels that way, TexAnne. In that case, I might as well stick with my current approach to becoming a chick magnet although I'm still nowhere near acquiring those Hugh Jackman shoulders.

#167 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2006, 11:55 AM:

Re #165 - But you'd also have access to your SO's stash. Twice the stash resources!

#168 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2006, 12:26 PM:

Or you do what me and my SO do; I have my stash, and he has his. Borrowing/taking is done with permission.

It helps he likes acrylic to crochet, and I like wool to knit. And I keep my stash in my own room.

(For those of you who didn't get the exchange at 158-9, Ursula and I are friends in the same city, she's left handed, I'm right handed, and we believe we can teach anyone to knit or crochet.)

#169 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 11:30 AM:

Thanks for the pointer, Tex-Anne! I may just have to do that. I could certainly use some additional chick magnetism...

And for the record, I'm right handed.

#170 ::: Vardibidian ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 12:38 PM:

I'm not sure I want my daughter to be a chick magnet. I may have to rethink the whole thing. Thanks for the recommendations, all. I'll look into the books, and see about maybe starting in this winter sometime.

Oh, and Ledasmom (#149), my mother cast on for me for years before I could do a reasonable job myself. I must remember to thank her the next time we chat.


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