Wednesday, November 14, 2007

What's the Fuss over Plum-a-Granate?

Let me just start by saying that, if you're not a fan of obsessive behaviour, save yourself the trouble of reading this blog post.

I like Snapple. More to the point, I like a Snapple flavor called Plum-a-Granate. Not only does it have a purple label, it is freaking delicious.

Snapple is distributed by Dr. Pepper/Seven-Up. It is owned by the Schweppes/Cadbury. There is a Schweppes warehouse in Lake Forest, Illinois that currently contains over 700 cases of the stuff. And yet, this thirsty knitter cannot get any, unless I buy the variety pack, in which case I have to drink 10 bottles I don't like as well to get to the 2 bottles I crave.

You may wonder, how does she know so much about Snapple and distributors and warehouses? Research!

I will only touch on the sordid details, but let's just say that finding Plum-a-Granate Snapple is hard work. I've made no less than 25 phone calls, and visited 13 or 14 stores that the 1-800-SNAPPLE Customer Service line assured me carried that flavor. 1-800-SNAPPLE is one of the most worthless Customer Service number I've ever called. Not only do they lie about where to find their products, they will absolutely NOT transfer you to anybody with more knowledge. Plus, they treat you as if you're a lunatic for caring what flavor you're drinking. I'm not basing this opinion on one call; I've called 7 times.

Darling Heather from the Sow's Ear found it for me online at Dr. Soda, however, the shipping on one case was $43.00, so that didn't seem like a great solution. Snapple is heavy.

Finally, my new BFF Carl Miller, of Miller & Sons Grocery in Verona, Wisconsin (just across the street from the Sow's Ear), heard my pathetic plea and decided he would help. Here is a man who knows customer service. The Seven-Up salesman told him "no". So he went to the Madison distributor who told him "no". Up, and up, and up he went until he reached somebody at the Schweppes/Cadbury corporation with some empathy and who agreed the whole thing was ridiculous. Here's this poor knitter begging them to take her money!

They shipped 3 cases to Dubuque Iowa (because the Wisconsin distributor couldn't be bothered). From there they has been passed from pillar to post, winding their way towards Verona. Carl called me this morning to tell me he had 3 cases in his office. I almost wept.

If you know a knitter who works for Snapple, please send them a link to this post. OK, now that obsession is cured, what next?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Please Help with Decision!

I should get my Ravelry invite in the next 3 days, and I need to pick a user name. Pansy was already taken, that would have been my first choice. So, please take my silly poll and help me decide!

I can't seem to get the colors to behave properly, but if you highlight the box on the right with your cursor, you can see what the scores are so far! Thanks for helping me out, if only all decisions in life were this trivial!

Monday, October 15, 2007

The New Fall Season

I think I need to admit that my knitting is tied into what's on TV! Not until the new fall season started a few weeks ago, did I seriously take up my knitting after several months of barely knitting at all. I did, however, have other distractions on my mind....

On top of the usual chaos of summer, Randy and I were convinced to take charge of his 5 year-old cousin for a few months. Being totally unprepared for parenthood, we embraced the project with abandon! However, now that the little tyke has been returned to his rightful home, we find ourselves deliciously free and relaxed. Three months has never been so exhausting for me, and I've learned a great deal about myself - not all of it good. I won't go into boring details here, but I can summarize by admitting that I now have undying admiration for people with small children who manage to juggle all that parenthood entails.

Now, back to my knitting!

The Sow's Ear in Verona is my local shop and where I teach a few days a week. Darling Heather, one of the managers, challenged me to finish a sweater by the evening of their 7th Anniversary Party. She offered a free pound of Blackbeard's Blend coffee to me if I could finish Sally Melville's Topher's Pullover. I had about 9 days to do it, and still needed one sleeve, and just a few ends woven in. Here it is:

Believe me, I've never worked harder for a pound of coffee in my life! I have yet to count the squares (wait, I just did, there are about 602)... that's over 1200 ends to weave in.

The funny thing is, I loved knitting this so much I'm ready to start another! The intarsia and weaving in ends didn't dissuade me! Here's a picture of the pile of wool from weaving in ends, including a chunk that I removed from the too-long sleeves:

Again with the Weekend Retreats!

In mid-September, Meg Swansen and Schoolhouse Press held another mini-workshop weekend retreat. We hosted 20 knitters from 9 states and one Canadian province. We had the best time, just knitting and visiting and eating. We started these workshops to try to reduce the number of Waiting Listers for Meg's Knitting Camp, but registration is open to anybody who wants to come. It is a completely different experience than Knitting Camp, because the group is so small. It's a more intimate gathering, which allows Meg & me to get to know the participants better. We are hosting 2 groups in May of 2008, and I look forward to these retreats as if they were a reward for some meritorious conduct.

Schoolhouse Press is already taking signups for the Spring Retreat Weekends.

Even though I was one of the first "knitting information purveyors" (being moderator of The Knitlist for over 4 years)... I am late to get in to Ravelry. As of today, there are sill over 2,000 people in front of me, but they seem to be inviting almost 600 per day, so I may only have another few days to wait. Just because I can be a patient person doesn't mean I want to be a patient person.

P.S. I dedicate this post to my dear friend Nancy, who pushed me to start talking again... thanks Nanc!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Whithering on the Vine

I swear, I think about my blog every day. Life, however, has not been providing me with ample time for reflection and photography, so of all my favorite passtimes, this is the one that sunk too far down on the list. I promise to do better from now on!

My vegetable garden has overtaken the prairie, except a great many of the prairie grasses have declared war and are moving back in. I've suffered both car and computer failures in the last 2 weeks too. Whine, wimper, sniffle!

Janine (Feral Knitter) is designing a Celtic Knot Cardigan, and I trust her implicitly, so I'm following in her wake. She is just sure she'll never need to pass the pattern along, knowing that I am loathe to knit sleeves. (For clarification, I have nothing against sleeves, I just LOVE knitting bodies!) I have outfoxed the Feral One, and have my sleeves complete! Jamieson & Smith FC56 on size 4 needles. I will be casting on the body next time I sit down to knit, which may well be in a week. I'm preparing for 4 sessions of Meg Swansen's Knitting Camp, and now have less than a week before I leave.

I am a list maker, and my list is extremely detailed. Having arrived at camp several years ago without any shirts, and once without pajamas, I've learned that I can't take anything for granted. I can no longer assume that I won't forget the basics, because my brain has chosen to let me rely on more pedestrian methods, so I refer to my lists endlessly. I use a database on my Palm Treo 700P (my external brain). I can sort the list alphabetically, or by room. Once an item receives its check mark, it magically disappears from the list until next time I need it. As the list gets shorter and shorter, I know I'm getting closer to leaving home.

The tricky thing is, never check the box until the item is actually packed. You can't say "I'll check off toothbrush, because I'm going into the bathroom to get it right now". No, no, no! On the way to the bathroom, I'll notice that the floor needs sweeping or mopping, then that the toilet needs a scrub. Soon I'll be happily dusting the ceiling for cob webs, and the next day I'll wonder why I have not toothbrush at camp with me! Lest you think I'm a compulsive cleaner, I will clarify. I only clean under duress, which means when company is immenent, or when I'm leaving town (because I like to come home to a clean house). Otherwise, I can walk past heaps and piles fo cat/dog fur, dirty dishes, and stacks of mail for weeks!

More to come - - Amy

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Sir Edward Saves the Day

Safe to say that life has interfered with my knitting! My garden (aka vegetable farm) now has a fence and has been thoroughly weeded and my house has undergone spring cleaning and clutter removal. Some items to go on eBay, some items to St. Vinnie's, and some to the dump! Whew, I love it when the decks are clear!

Always wanting a lovely photo to open a blog entry, here is one I took with my trusty Treo walking from Meg Swansen's Schoolhouse to her Warehouse a few weeks ago. Wisconsin in springtime is a wonder, isn't it? What a commute Meg has (although she cuts through the trees).

My Adult Surprise Jacket is coming along nicely, but with modifications along the way. I slipped it off the needles the other day to see what it would look like, and I was relatively pleased. Here's the picture (notice I didn't bother getting off the couch to take it!).

I decided, however, that the maroonish strip was too close to the front edge, and that the neck was a little deep. (Let me explain. The neck is too deep because I'm going to put in a small saddle shoulder. This is because I tried to out-smart EZ and make the sleeves narrower, and they are too narrow! Moral: Never try to out-smart EZ!). So, I ripped back to the part where I put the neck stitches on hold (on the garish teal yarn) and put fewer on hold. Then I decided to make it a V-neck instead, and started decreasing on the neck edge to create the V, and I kept increasing the miters past the maroonish stripe to get 8 ridges of solid blue before putting the front stitches on hold. Now, if you've never knitted an ASJ, this will all seem like Old Frontier Gibberish, but trust me, it will make sense to somebody!

I'm now satisfied that I'm on the right track, but wait! I was certain I had enough wool to finish! Now it seems I won't. I'm using Jaeger Matchmaker Merino Aran that I purchased in England or Wales in 2000. Believe it or not, the color is Mariner (blue). I had copious quantities! However, Garter Stitch being what it is (a little hoggish in the wool requirements) and my body being what it is (a little long and wide for quick-and-easy knitting), I seem to be running short. I still have 2 fat balls of wool, but have not finished the body, and then need to lengthen the sleeves.

So, I start searching the internets (sic) and find that the Aran weight of that yarn was discontinued in 2003! There are several batches for sale on eBay of different colors, so I could mix in some Navy and make it look intentional, but what fun would that be? So I searched "completed listings" on eBay and found that 2 skeins of the exact dye lot had been sold 3 weeks ago! I wrote to the seller, asking if they had any more (they did not) and to the buyer asking if I could please purchase it from them or exchange it with another yarn. I didn't get an answer in the first 48 hours (although I checked every 15 minutes), so I thought all was lost.

Then, I got an email from the buyer! He's a wonderful British knitter named Edward who understood my plight and will send the yarn right off if I pay for postage. He only asked that I send him some merino sometime in the future! Of course, I'm sending it immediately with my profuse thanks. Don't you love a story with a happy ending?

Back to the garden/farm/yard... I was ready to mow this morning, but Parsnip was using the mower. Guess I'll have to knit instead!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

A Long Day's Journey into Garter Stitch

The more I knit Garter Stitch (which is really often), the more I like it. I like to think that Elizabeth Zimmermann is nodding knowingly as she sees me, and hundreds of like-minded knitters, realize the immense beauty and satisfaction of just knitting, row after row.

I know many knitters who credit EZ as the inspiration for becoming "thinking knitters" and learning to look at their knitting instead of looking at directions. I'm not one of those! I found Meg Swansen before I'd ever even read one of EZ's books, so I guess I'm part of the next generation of thinkers. I was taking a Community Ed knitting class in Rochester, MN from Ann Swanson and Katie Nagorney (Two Old Bags, which seems a silly name because they are two, but will never seem old, and nobody who met them would ever refer to them as "bags"). Anyway, they were a great teaching team, but apparently, I asked a great many (perhaps too many?) technical questions, and they said "you really need to go to Meg Swansen's Knitting Camp" - foisting me off on an unsuspecting Meg. Obedient student that I am, I applied that summer and went. I've been going ever since, but because I get to be there for 4 sessions every summer, I'm on my 55th camp now (just a guess).

One of the suggested pre-reqs to attending camp was to have "read and digested" at least one of EZ's books. I guess I'm not that obedient, because I didn't do the homework! Once I got to camp and fell in love with Meg, I decided to read one quickly (didn't want her to be disappointed in me), but who can stop at one? Within a week of coming home from camp, I'd read the 4 that were in print. It took me a few years to ball up the courage to try to get to know Meg, because I was so in awe of her, but I did, and the rest is history. I dare her to try and have a camp without me now!

Back to Garter Stitch - here's the line-up:

1. Baby Surprise Jacket - certainly not my first, but I teach it as a class pretty often, and always want to have one on the needles. In my most recent class, one of my lovely students has a suspicious bump on her front-side, and I liked her quite a lot. So, I'm going to finish up this BS and give it to Rachel, assuming the bump will someday need clothing!

I'm using Classic Elite Waterlily in Lake with stripes of Lily Pad. This yarn is delicious to knit with and to look at. I used some left-over yarn for the Provisional Cast-On just to show my students that the cast-on edge does not remain in a straight line for very long.

2. Adult Surprise Jacket - This is the most fun I've had on my couch in quite some time. It's just sitting there like a lump, waiting for me to knit, and knit, and knit. No thinking required (as long as you remember to do your 2 double-decreases on each front-side row). Well, now I'm to the double-increase part, but "remembering" is not so taxing as "thinking". Of course, the end result is that I'll get done too quickly. Such is life!

For this, I'm using Jaeger Matchmaker Merino Aran from my stash! What a virtuous knitter I am. I bought the yarn in England probably 6 or 7 years ago, and I bought lots. It's just as spongy and wonderful as the Waterlily, which is why I decided to sneak some in. The stripes are Lake, Leaf, and Azalea. I was going to add some Goldfish for zing, but didn't get back to the yarn shop to pick it up before time to knit the 4th stripe, so ... no fishes for me!

Again, I used the Provisional Cast-On, this time in relatively garish teal. It makes me want to knit faster to get that edge off the sweater! Any inspiration in a storm, I say.

3. Pi Are Square Shawl - Kathy D from our retreat a few weeks ago was starting one, just as Amy A gave me a skein of Malibrigo Laceweight in Violetas. A sign from above that I was supposed to cast on immeditaely. It would be tacky to say "oh, that's beautiful, thank you!" and not cast right on! That's my excuse, and I'm sticking with it!

First things first, I had to call The Sow's Ear (one of my local shops) and tell them to send 1 more skein of Malibrigo home with Randy, who was going to pick up coffee beans that day. When Randy got there, he and Liz decided that 1 more skein wouldn't be enough so he bought 3. What a well-trained man (and a well-trained Yarn Shop Employee)! So, I have something like 1800 yards of this super-fine yummy stuff, it's going to be one hell of a shawl!

Now that the post is written, I need to (clean off the dining room table and) photograph the projects! Knit on.

P.S. Randy loves that I have a blog... the dining room table gets uncluttered almost weekly because of this!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Enthusiastic or Chaotic?

As I think about what next to post on my blog, I am torn with a decision. Do I pretend that I haven't been knitting to avoid potential criticism, or profess to being fickle and chaotic? Self-confessor that I am, the answer is clear!

I have not been knitting on the Russian Prime. I have not been knitting on the Saddle-Shoulder Aran. I have, however:

  • swatched for an Adult Surprise Jacket (a knitalong) from EZ's The Opinionated Knitter,

  • swatched for a Celtic Cardigan, using Elizabeth's Percentage System (EPS) to follow Janine (Feral Knitter), because I have ultimate faith in her color/pattern choices.

  • begun a Pi Are Square shawl from EZ's Knitting Around,

  • received 3 huge skeins of Kauni Wool (photo at right) from Germany and been carrying them around like preemie babies! These are for Ruth's Kauni Cardigan, following advice from Melinda (Purlwise).

  • knitted a small Faroese-Style Shawl from a new pattern by Meg Swansen (not yet available, lucky me!)
I have a great many excuses for why I start new projects when I have so many on the needles already: 1) I love the process of knitting. 2) I want to have lots of just-started projects ready for Meg Swansen's Knitting Camp, where I spend the entire month of July as Meg's assistant. 3) I teach lots of classes, and always need some knitting with cables, Fair Isle, lace, and garter stitch for those examples.

The truth of the matter is, I have a common affliction known as "Failure to Finish". I have been accused by friends and critics alike as "not liking to finish". Untrue! I can kitchener, sew in sleeves, cut steeks, I-cord bind-off, and weave in ends with the best of them! The trouble is, to get to that point, you must first complete the knitting, which I seem to rarely do! I am very envious of those knitters with piles of finished garments to show off! I just don't think I'll ever be one of them.

Once I have done my swatching (such as it is), wound the wool, calculated all the measurements and knitted 6 inches of the body, I am ready to move on! I was a weaver in my misspent youth, and enjoyed warping more than weaving! I'm an ideas person, I suppose. Once I see the project start coming to life, I'm on to the next idea, and completing the previous seems irrelevant. There, having confessed, I feel ready to talk about more interesting things!

Knitting Weekend
I had promised to write more about my experiences at the Knitting Weekend with Meg Swansen a couple of weeks ago. As you can see, I was only going to be gone for 3 days, so I "traveled light". I do think the grocery bags add a je ne sais quois.

The weekend already seems a long way off, but I have been thinking about the women I met quite a bit since returning home. We had different backgrounds, skill levels, ages, and shapes. We had a judge, a yarn shop owner, an IRS agent, and an entrepreneur (OK, now I have to spell-check). The 3 days went by so quickly, I can't remember eating or sleeping, only the lively discussions, the heaps of knitting, and the beautiful faces of my new friends. I realize that I sound sappy, but it was a pretty sublime experience. I need to spend more time with knitters.

Meg is considering offering more of these smaller workshops in the future because this one was so successful. We created this weekend to accommodate people who were on the waiting list from last year's First Timers camp. As a trial run, it was wildly successful.

Oh, and I got to meet Ada Lai, proud new owner of KnitWare knitting software. I've started playing with this (and there's a free trial download) and it is a very extensive program. It has some logic built in that I feel is lacking in other programs in that price range.

Life in the Bunker

We live in a partial-berm house (fondly referred to as "the bunker"). I took some pictures just 2 weeks ago and they are so brown and grey. Everything now is green and budding, and I'm glad to see this picture to remind myself that Spring comes in faithfully every year.