Friday, April 24, 2009

Reading Michael Pollan is bad for you. Or good.

I'll be the first to admit that the happy-happy love chibi tone of the whole online knitting world sort of gets to me after awhile. As people who know me in real life will tell you, I'm a bit cantankerous, and I like my spirited rants. Don't take this to indicate that I'm actually unhappy or even particularly grumpy- I just enjoy a good grouse. And goddammit, this is my blog, so I'll grouse all I want.

And today, we are grousing about vegetarianism. I will tie it back into yarn at the end to make you happy.

But first, here's a sock:

Abstract Fibers sock yarn, Sweet Pea. Knit a bit loose, really, but I like them. They feel nice and textury.

Now that I have placated you with sock, we will continue.

First of all let me say that if you simply don't want to eat meat, that's totally fine. I'm not going to argue with preference. If you're creeped out by the idea of dead animal going in your mouth, regardless of how in concordance with natural order such a phenomenon is, then don't do it. I don't eat duck because I think they're too darn cute. I refuse to try lamb or veal because they're babies. I don't eat seafood 'cause it's icky (yes, I've tried it, many incarnations of it. It's icky.) But let's talk about some of the reasons people go veg:

1. I don't want to hurt/kill animals. Well, that's super. Noble, for sure. Unfortunately the majority of grain/fruit/veggie farming, especially on an industrial scale, destroys habitats, chops up little creatures in farming equipment, and poisons any animals who dare come near it. So you're still killing animals, and in fact it's entirely possible that more creatures died to make your Boca burger than would've if you'd had a real burger. And we're not even necessarily talking about the bugs who are killed on purpose - birds can eat those bugs and get poisoned, pesticide run-off is a HUGE problem (remember those fragile eagle shells?), small animals can eat pesticide-covered grain and produce. If you buy organic you're given a pass on most-to-all of the pesticide-related issues, but you're still destroying more habitat and potentially chopping up more field mice than your carnivorous friends. If we really wanted to get the most food with the least habitat destruction, we'd rely on pasture-fed meat animals, who will pretty much run around happily co-existing with our rodent, bunny, and bird friends. If you're going to insist on being a vegetarian for this reason, it is your responsibility to source all of your food very, VERY carefully. That means no prepackaged "big organic" veggie pizzas, no Rice Krispes, none of that nonsense. You'll be dealing exclusively with small local farmers who use humane methods of pest control, or growing your own food. Which is totally great if you can manage it, but most people can't, and if you can't, you might as well have a nice grassfed steak.

2. It's healthier. Hahahahahaha. Depends a whole hell of a lot on what you're eating, friend. A lean cut of responsibly raised meat is probably quite a bit better for you than some overprocessed pretend-meat bullshit.

3. If we stopped eating cattle, we'd have enough corn to feed everyone and nobody would go hungry. Sorry, Jessie, who I doubt reads this, but still. First of all, we already have plenty of corn. Rather than give it away or do anything useful with it, we find ways to pack it into processed foods, sweeteners, soft drinks, gas, even yarn... anything we can possibly think of, including all those nice novelty vegetarian/vegan products. (This is rapidly making us all fat, but that's a rant for another day.) Secondly, the cows don't want our stupid corn anyway. It makes them sick, it makes them yield unhealthier meat, and the facilities that they're forcefed all this corn muck in are pretty much horrible. What needs to happen is a rise in demand for grassfed animals (which happens when you EAT grassfed meat, not when you stop eating meat altogether), which will force at least some of the cornfields to stop making so much crappy corn and maybe grow some real food. Or, hey, maybe we'll get nice and start feeding other countries. But the reason we're not doing it now has very little to do with a shortage of food.

4.You are against animal "slavery". First of all, you're an asshole, and I just thought you should know that. Second of all, please familiarize yourself with the ways of evolution. We did not "enslave" domesticated animals- we co-evolved. As a species, any given animal wants to be safe and healthy long enough to reproduce and continue the species. We provide that protection. They no longer have to do anything but eat and copulate and lounge around in the sunshine. And yes, at some point, we eat them- but we afford them a faster, more humane death than natural predators would, that much is for sure (Have you SEEN what wolves do to a sheep?) We tend not to start eating their internal organs while they're still alive. Really, they got a pretty good deal. A nice give and take. Hell, sometimes they totally got the better deal- my dog is asleep on the couch right now. He gets fed three times a day, and sometimes he gets treats and yogurt (and if he's sick, boiled chicken and rice) and he doesn't do squat to help around the house. He just steps on your lap and smells bad and gets hair on things. He's never had to hunt for his food, because his ancestors realized that, hey, if they hung around humans and were nice and affectionate, the humans would feed them. Sweet deal! Dogs are doing pretty damn well compared to their wild ancestors, and even though we eat them eventually, it's pretty safe to say the same of cows. Hell, I don't even know what a wild chicken looks like- guess they didn't make it.

If I'm missing a reason, let me know (besides religious reasons- those aren't based in logic so I can't really logic my way out of them. Carry on as your god prescribes.)

And now to the issue of vegan knitters:

I'll give you silk. The silk moths are killed. Even for Tussah. If this bothers you, don't use silk.

However, this whole "omg wool is bad" bullshit is kinda silly.

Let's look at the alternatives to animal fibers:

Cotton: Big pesticides, big problems. (Look into organic cottons if you're going to use the stuff.)

Rayon/Bamboo/Corn/Soy Silk/anything that did not start off a fiber-like substance: SERIOUS chemical processing is required to make these things turn into yarn. Nasty, nasty chemicals.

Acrylic: it's made from oil transported by vehicles run by oil and processed by machines that are on some level probably run by oil. They also pretty much never biodegrade, and WILL MELT ONTO BABIES, who last I checked, were also animals undeserving of your cruelty.

Linen and hemp: Actually, these might be fine, I don't know much about their growing practices. I could imagine similar issues to cotton.

Do you know what hurts animals? Pollution. Pesticides. Chemical runoff. Smog. Pretty much anything that hurts the environment, really.

Do you know what doesn't hurt animals? Haircuts. Slight indignity, maybe, but they'll get over it. And yes, maybe once in a while a sloppy shearer will nick an animal. But that's rare, and still better than being poisoned to death by your drinking water.

And yes, mulesing hurts. But flystrike hurts worse. (Google it. Google image it.) And they're breeding out the need for mulesing as fast as they can.

If you're concerned about the whole animal slavery aspect, allow me to remind you that you're a douche, and go read the paragraph above. Sheep have a pretty sweet deal. Nature is less kind to sheep than we are, and there would be a lot fewer of them if we hadn't formed this little bond. They're classic prey animals, and a hell of a lot fewer would make it to reproduction if they didn't have us and our dogs (ironic descendants of their predators) protecting them. From a species perspective, this is a smart move. Hell, even from an individual perspective: live longer, die gentler. (With the possible exception of lamb, which I've already mentioned I'm not crazy about. Those are perfectly good wool animals you're wasting.)

All that said, I've heard nasty things about the superwash process, but I'm not sure I care enough to handwash my socks. I also don't hope to imply that I live by any of these guidelines, but then, I also don't present myself as a morally superior being because of what I do and do not eat/knit with (I am very comfortable with the food chain.) But if you're going to go veg, do it right. A vegan knitting with acrylic and eating super processed corn "food" because it's somehow better for the animal kingdom is just an idiot.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Friday, April 17, 2009

C'mon. Guys. Seriously.

Don't shit yourselves. Sock yarn is stash.

I mean, it's taking up space/eating up your budget/making you happy, isn't it?

It's stash.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I declare the new name in knitting bags to be...

Mario Batali!

That's right, this guy:

He thinks he's making a line of insulated lunch boxes for adults. But he's not. He's making knitting bags.

(this is the one I bought)

The features, as I see them:

- 2 smaller back pockets and one large front pocket

- another little pocket inside

- no velcro, zippers, or other yarn-destroying nonsense. Closes with a drawstring and magnets.

- insulation, in addition to keeping your yarn cold if necessary, makes the bag practically stand up on it's own (it's got a nice, boxy shape) and thereby won't crush the goods. It also keeps your needles from stabbing through the fabric, and keeps moisture and yuckiness from getting in. Plus the inside is shiny and silver!

- they vary a bit in size. Mine is big enough to hold a sock project plus all of the other crap I insist on taking everywhere (glasses case, wallet, phone, three chapsticks and four pens, a pile of receipts, a clif bar, a huge bottle of water...). Take my stuff out and you could probably cram a sweater in there. Not an XXL bulky weight sweater, but a little one.

- this is perhaps most important: they are largely NOT ugly, some of them have a shoulder strap, and they do not cost $70-$200 (they're about $20-$40). Very few specifically designated knitting bags live up to these guidelines, in my mind.

- They come in a lot of styles, in case you're not into the stripey messenger bag look. Check out the men's section for some nice understated stuff (though I don't understand why men need a differently shaped messenger bag in the summer.)

- some of the money goes to some food charity. I didn't really read about it because I was going to buy the thing anyway, but food charities are good.

- it looks like the Mario Batali label will be easy to rip off when I get around to it.

Also, those of you on Ravelry-
check out my new yarnie page!
I'm official! Hooray!

Monday, April 13, 2009

New Yarns!!

Putting up new yarns in the shop as we speak.

Some highlights (ok, a picture of all of them because I'm excited):

Jazz Hands (Why yes, I do name them the first thing that pops into my head, why do you ask?)


Gnomey (a personal favorite... almost a disaster but I dragged it back from the brink.)

Good ole Electric Tide again.

Blue Raspberry Mishap


Aurora. I think I dyed this yarn about 5 times, and I'm psyched that I finally got it to come out attractively (by my standards...everyone else said it was fine. Pft.)

Berry Party (bulky cashmere? Yes please!)

I've been calling these two "the brothers"... they were in the same dyepot but came out rather differently. I'll probably use these myself as a sample, since they need to be striped to make a uniform piece of knitting. They certainly are photogenic, though.

Eeeep! Yarn, guys!!!!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

And, lo, behold!

It is sock yarn! Dyed by me very own hands, it is. With big-girl dyes, no more of that food color wussy stuff.

It came out very, very bright. I guess I'm used to over-dyeing recycled yarns, not starting with bright white bases, but I've been collecting a few different ones to sample for the day when I have wholesale capabilities and $500 to sink into orders. This one is Treadsoft.

So bright, in fact, that it seems to make my camera a little queasy, and the colors/focus keeps coming out wonky. But it's pretty!

Reskeined for your enjoyment.

I learned several important things while dyeing this yarn.

1. Crock pots can NOT go on the stove. You think I would've looked this up ahead of time.

2. Mrs Meyer's Clean Day, while I really don't like the smell, is pretty good for getting blue dye off of countertops, cabinetry, etc.

3. Respirators are necessary. I had dust masks for mixing, but I tend to be a little sensitive to chemicals and the vinegar/dye steam was making me a little dizzy, so I got a real, hardcore "toxic dust" respirator. This thing blocks asbestos and hantavirus, and makes me feel like a storm trooper. Hell yes.

I tried it out today (which means more pictures once that stuff dries) and you can't smell a thing. It's excellent.

You may be saying, "But Alex, why weren't you working on editing your methods section for your thesis today?" to which I reply "You shut the hell up, that's why."

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Brief PSA

Guys, I don't like to get preachy and all, but this needs to be said.



DO NOT PUT "KNITFITTI" AROUND LIVING THINGS, including but not limited to trees! (People are ok. And some dogs.)

If you absolutely MUST do this sort of thing as an "art project" of some sort, take it down after a day or two.

Disclaimer: I don't know anything about this particular project, I just swiped it off google image to illustrate what I meant by tree-cozying. For all I know, this one was taken down in a responsible amount of time.

If the cozy is tight, it can stunt the tree's growth and cause limbs to fall off. Moisture can build up behind the cozy and cause the bark to rot (and a number of other fun, nasty things to happen, like fungal infections.) Insects can take up residence underneath them and eat the tree to death. Trees have DIED from being "lovingly cozied". Acrylic is especially guilty, since it will practically never rot off, or breathe, for that matter. Don't do it.

Plus, there are a million and ten ugly things you could cozy- poles, railings, door handles, statues (ok, not ALL statues are ugly, but they could use scarves, don't you think?) You don't need to take on something already attractive. Leave the damn trees alone.


Saturday, April 4, 2009

Photo time!!

We got sun today! SUN!!

Oh, you'll see, after I block it.

Dino scarf!

(Handmaiden's Casbah in Bronze)

These are my scraps. They are out, arranged in colorwheel order, for a reason.

A bit late for "Flash your Stash", and this is only my scrap stash, but hey. It looks a bit ridiculous but keep in mind that they're all pretty small balls, and I've been saving them carefully for a long time now. Ahem.

I wish I had pictures from the Japanese Gardens, which I finally made it to today (the weather was so nice! Travis had time off! Oh geez!) but we didn't decide to go until we'd left the house, so I only had my iphone. Maybe if those end up being really good once I upload them...but I'm not counting on it. I assure you, they were lovely.

Friday, April 3, 2009

I told you I was going to make a sweater

"Owls", a free pattern found here: Clicky
More details on Ravelry here... I'm too beat to write much here. The gist: It's not quite perfect but I'm pretty darn happy with it. And undecided about eyes.

Also, there's some sort of cave man trying to devour my dog.

Edit: Haha, Knit/Purl has this sweater in it's newsletter as a thing to make for "$125 or less", using the yarn the pattern actually calls for. Mine cost half that, and I probably have about half the yarn I bought left (I used parts of both skeins so it's hard to tell), which means those two skeins of BMFA LSS would've probably made a larger size with relative ease. Plus I like this yarn waaay better.

So Blue Moon for the win, guys.

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