Saturday, August 30, 2008

Avril Acquisitions

We have finally returned from our Asian excursion, although Roy and I (plus 400 other passengers and crew) haven't quite gotten over our ride home. Harry, bored to tears with the movie offerings and tired of juggling sushi appetizers, somehow squished himself under the cockpit door. Who knew that a wide-bodied jet could execute an Immelman, a barrel roll, and a high yo-yo, all within the space of a minute?

The pilot apologized for the momentary "turbulence," while Harry sauntered back into the cabin with a self-satisfied smirk. I am certain that the other passengers had no idea why a flight attendant spent the remainder of the flight running up and down the aisle with a rolled-up Wall Street Journal.

Several people were anxious to see what I acquired in Japan, so I carefully took photos of the items purchased at Avril. During the past year, I've been buying most of my yarn undyed, so I am afraid the following photos are a bit bland.

This yarn is a new offering from Avril, and so should appear at Habu soon. It's a cabled 30% silk, 70% wool worsted weight. I have no idea what I will do with it, but it was irresistibly soft and squooshy.

This lovely 9/1 laceweight is also 30% silk, 70% wool. Nice for a heavy-ish shawl.

I purchased 6000 yards of this luscious stuff--60% wool, 20% cashmere, 20% silk. It's a 52/2 weight and just begs to become a complex Shetland. Perhaps I will finally knit the Unst shawl with it.

Several readers wrote and asked me where to buy the Hamanaka Parfait with which I knit the Hyrna shawl. Alas, it is not sold outside of Japan, however, Avril carries the undyed equivalent: 60% mohair, 40% silk. It's well worth seeking out and dying yourself, as it is much softer and silkier than Kidsilk Haze and clones thereof.

And as long as I am boring you to tears with white lace yarn, here's a mystery skein of soft Chinese wool obtained via trade with Natural State Knitter. The skein is enormous, but I won't know how huge until it's weighed and measured. The label is colorful, but gives me no clue about meterage or weight.

I wasn't wowed with this year's Japanese knitting books, which seemed to feature simple, bulky knits and really weird crocheted thingies. The Fall, 2008 Keito Dama, however, contained several lovely patterns, so I scooped it up.

Alas, there is no pattern for this sweet bear, but it may inspire some of you to create your own variation.

Although the knitting books were bland, I did find several exciting off-knitting-topic books that will feature in another blog post. Stay tuned!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

How To Wash A Tiger

Last week, Lacefreak Jane gave us an informative tutorial on washing Cormo fleece. This week, I follow her laundering lead by providing directions for washing tigers.

But before we get to this event, I shall recap our stay in Bangkok, because many of you wanted to know how I was faring. The short story is that I am doing fine, thanks to a battery of highly skilled medical professionals.

I pass quickly over the first week here, as I spent it in a (very nice) hospital room equipped with a brigade of nurses, minibar, plasma TV, and pull-out bed for Roy, all for the munificent cost of about $175 a day. The most exciting event of the week was the discovery that, when drugged into a pethidine stupor, I spoke perfectly fluent, idiomatic Japanese for about fifteen minutes. I have no recollection of doing this, but the doctors pulled Roy into the operating room to see if he could figure out what I was saying.

Unfortunately, Roy’s Japanese consists mostly of essential phrases such as “Please give me a beer,” so he wasn’t much help in that quarter. I suspect that I was probably saying something like “I am not a pincushion and if you do anything else to me with sharp objects, my friend Harry The Giant Spider will get truly annoyed and you will all be really sorry.”

I was finally sprung from hospital, whereupon we returned to the hotel and signed up for a tour of The Tiger Monastery—an amazing sanctuary for Really Big Striped Felines. The usual tour consists of a walk around the compound, followed by a distant viewing of tigers frolicking in a pool of water. However, somehow we were selected for an unusual hands-on tiger experience. The two of us must have looked so shell-shocked from the hospital stay that the tour guides figured the concept of tiger-washing would probably not faze us in the least.

The monastery is located in the north of Thailand—several hours by car. When we arrived, we had to sign a fair number of disclaimers, one of which was a release in case we were eaten during the tour. We were then led to a temple area where we suddenly found three-week old baby tigers in our laps. I am sorry, but there are simply no words to describe this experience. Instead, you will have to use your imagination from the pictures below.

After 45 incredible minutes tiger-cub handling, we were led over to a group of three-month old tigers, and we proceeded to walk our very own feline down to the swimming hole. Tigers of that age consist of 150 pounds of solid muscle. We started off on an equal footing...

...but in a few seconds, the tiger was actually walking me.

Between the two of us, though, we managed quite well.

When the group released the tigers into the water, the handlers instructed the ten of us to stand in a line on the shore. They then explained that should the tigers try to break through the line, we were to stand tall and steady as a tree, grab the tiger by the head and shoulders, and turn it around. This obscure factoid may come in handy for some of you one day.

The tigers certainly enjoyed their little dip.

Weirdly, the handlers all carried poles sporting Stop signs (in English). Who knew that tigers could read English?

At one point, a couple of the cats decided to charge the line. I did an Oscar-winning sapling imitation while Roy whipped the tiger around and pushed him back into the water. Roy still has both hands and I didn’t have a coronary.

The tigers walked us back to their enclosure, and at that point, we were given a lecture on How To Wash A Tiger.

Listen up, folks, because you never know when you might need this bit of information. Beginning at the tail, you hose down the animal with one hand while brushing dirt off the fur with the other hand. Clearly, it’s easier to wash Cormo fleece, mainly because it lacks teeth and claws. Also, it is difficult to spin tiger fur, especially if it’s still attached to the animal.

Here's a close-up of the tail-washing process.

Then proceed up the body and finish with a through face-washing.

We repeated the walking/swim experience with year-old tigers, which are rather larger than the three-month-old cats and have Really Big Teeth.

I indulged in a bit of meaningless conversation with our companion—you know—Nice Kitty! Great Teeth! Humans Taste Terrible!

And finally, we got to play with the cubs for a little while longer.

The experience was surreal and indescribable.

On the way back to Bangkok, we asked the driver to stop for lunch somewhere. As we sat there eating river prawns, we suddenly realized where we were. Folks of a certain age may recognize this tragic place. The photo below cannot convey the encompassing agony that surrounds this broken pile of wood.

We visited the tiny, poignant museum and read the terrible history of the River Kwai Bridge. Readers who want to learn the true story, which has little to do with the famous movie, can visit this web site.

Tomorrow we are off to Japan for a week to visit friends, have completely different Hello Kitty encounters, and do a little yarn crawling. This is supposed to be a knitting blog, after all!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Homeland Security Declares Condition Pink!

Traveling can be excessively tedious, but I certainly livened up the security line at Hartsfield Airport on our way to Bangkok.

The TSA agent was examining my knitting--half of a size 12 toe-up sock foot.

"What's this?" he asked.
"A willie warmer." I replied.

The agent dropped the item and then, with a mixture of awe, respect, and envy, handed Roy his tray of personal items while I stuffed the sock back into its little bag.

Harry spent 20 minutes removing gold and silver studs from his chelicerae* before the TSA would let him through the spider scanner. He has entirely too many piercings, in my opinion.

* Chelicerae are a pair of appendages that the spider uses to seize and kill its prey. The chelicerae are above the mouth opening and just below the spider's eyes. Each chelicera ends in a hard, hollow, pointed claw, and these claws are the spider's fangs.

Monday, August 4, 2008

And Yet Another Short Pause

We are off tomorrow for Bangkok, where the doctors are able to fix body parts in ways that American doctors cannot, thanks to your friends at the FDA.

For those who are about to panic in my behalf, don't. The entire treatment plan was approved by our doctors here; the surgeons' credentials are impeccable, and I can eat my fill of Thai food until I explode (not a bad way to go, really.)

I am bringing yarn and needles for two simple shawls (Bee Fields and Garden Party), which I may or may not feel like working on. Just having the supplies in my luggage, though, gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling. Now that I think of it, though, perhaps warm and fuzzy are two adjectives to avoid in steamy Bangkok.

After 12 days in Thailand (sorely lacking in yarn shops), we will spend some time in Japan, where yarn shops abound. Our trip will include a few hours at Avril (Habu's Mother Ship), as well as Okadaya, which has the largest selection of craft books I have ever seen.

If I see anything interesting, silly, or educational, you can be sure that I will post it here.

Harry is ecstatic, of course, as he can visit his 14,324 siblings and try out the new Japanese craze: Fizzy Eel Drink. I will probably share neither experience with him, but he will at least be out of my hair for a few days. The TSA listened to a bit of his singing and immediately banned his karaoke machine from the airplane. Finally, a sensible decision from Homeland Security!