October 2005 Archives

The Last Pictures

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The Man Sock Says Good-Bye

We've got about 4 hours left on the island. This morning, I got in a little bit of knitting before we left the gorgeous Bali Bungalow in upcountry Maui (Makaweo). There will be more pictures of this when I get back to Chicago. The sock decided that it wanted to soak in the fresh upcountry air on it's own.

Aloha, folks. You should all come here someday. Your socks will enjoy the island, too!

Looking for Christine Cohagan

Christine --

I've you read here could you please leave me a comment or send me an email? I received notification from PayPal for your pattern order, but the email address that was sent by PayPal refuses to take the messages I send you. I would really like to make sure you get your pattern!

Theresa

Hale-sockala

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I've been waiting to use that terrible pun my entire vacation. In fact, I finished my Opal Rodeo socks just in time to go up to the top of Haleakala (where it gets quite chilly, since it is over 10,000 ft elevation) and then left them in our bungalow. How sad. At least I brought the pair I was working on for John, so I had something to knit on on our way down the mou ntain (it was dark and there wasn't much to see). It was going to be my only shot of actual knitted garment in the wilds of Maui, complete with bad pun. Instead, you get the bad pun and the table on my back porch. And a picture or two of Haleakala later in the week.

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Hale-sockalas

They did get worn before the shoot (on the airplane ride home... now that I make my own socks, I can't get on an airplane without wearing a pair of nice wool socks... airplanes are always so chilly) but they're not too much the worse for wear. They are based on the Timberline Toes socks from Lucy Neatby's Cool Socks Warm Feet (you should feel sorry for this poor book -- I've taken it with me everywhere and have not been gentle with it -- that just tells you how wonderful a sock knitting reference it is). They have a tubular cast-on top and garter stitch short-row heels. The toes are just in garter stitch. They are identical twins except for the heels, which are different because I just started from the opposite end of the ball from the main yarn and didn't want to waste any yarn -- the pattern repeat is pretty long in these socks and I wanted to make sure that the main body of the socks matched. So fraternal heels it was.

So I did better on this trip than I thought I would. On pair of socks finished and the first of a second pair almost finished. I did just a little bit of knitting on my handspun scarf, and none on the other lace scarf... just too much brain activity required for lace knitting. And Maui is one of those places where you don't want to miss the scenery while you're knitting on something complicated.

This sock did make me realize one thing. I love trying new things with socks, but I also don't have the patience for sock knitting that I can't do from memory. I have a feeling it's going to be back to my old standard twisted German cast-on, dutch or afterthought heel and regular stockinette toe from here on out...

Only On Maui

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Wednesday is "date night" for John and I. Basically, the first night we met was a Wednesday, and for the first month or so, almost every Wednesday night we saw each other. Wednesday just sort of became the night we were doing something that just involved the two of us. No friends, no family, no work, just the two of us and a nice dinner or a movie or some other activity that we both enjoy. It usually means that I really only have something to blog about if I had something done in advance that needed to be caught up on. Or if I've found something that I think will be generally amusing, even if it has nothing to do with knitting. Tonight, after a lovely dinner at Mirai on Division (our favorite Japanese restaurant) I got a few rows of knitting on John's sock, but decided you might be more amused by something we saw on our last day on Maui.

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Maui Mercedes

This just made me laugh out loud when I saw it. The Mercedes (an older one to be sure) was parked in front of us at Ho'okipa Beach, a world-renowned place for windsurfing (and it is a gorgeous beach in more ways than one -- its a great place to go to watch windsurfers... these guys have awesome abs and shoulders, girlfriends, and make for very nice watching as they set up or take down their equipment on the beach, they're also pretty cool to watch out on the waves). When I lived in the Chicago suburbs and just about every minivan in existance had one of these "My kid is an honor student at..." stickers.

Only on Maui.... and maybe So Cal.... you've got to have your priorities straight!

Spinning Lessons

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There are a few things that make Chicago better than Maui. One of them is that we are not too far away from a wonderful resource for spinners: Toni Neil's The Fold in Marengo. I first encountered The Fold when I went to the Stephenson County fiber festival with Bonne Marie a long time ago. At the time, I had no real interest in spinning, but Toni carries plenty of wonderful yarn and accessories for the intrepid knitter willing to venture west and north of Chicago. In particular, she stocks Blue Moon products, which I think are some of the lovliest hand dyed colorways out there.

But I digress.

On Saturday, Julie and I packed our wheels in the back of my car and headed up to Marengo to take a spinning lesson from Toni. Just like the last time we were there, we had a wonderful time. Toni is a great person and she makes you feel warm and welcome in her shop. She's always happy to stop and explain something about a particular fiber, and she's more than willing to let you have a little bit of fiber to try out one of the beautiful spindles she stocks. It's pretty easy to get yourself in trouble there.

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Goodies from the Fold: (from left to right) Blue Moon Merino/Tencel roving in "Azurite", Blue Moon Alpaca/Blue Face Leicester roving in "Olive Garden", "Sunset" spindle (composed of box elder and walnut) by Steven Kundert, some miscellaneous spinning supplies and the new Knitscape magazine

There was a little bit more, but since it's going off to someone else's home, I'll refrain from posting about it so that it can stay a secret.

That Kundert spindle is not only beautiful, it spins well, too. I wanted another light weight spindle in my collection and this one weighs in at just an ounce, which was exactly what I wanted. Apparently the red coloration in the box elder whorl is due to a bacterial infection in the wood. Paired with the black walnut, it's nothing short of stunning. The shaft is also walnut and the whole spindle feels lovely to the touch. If it wasn't for the real reason we went out to the Fold, I'd already be spinning on it.

Enter Priscilla*.

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Beautiful Box Elder Whorl

You may remember a previous entry in which I introduced Priscilla. She's a wheel with some happy good karma, but even though she's somewhere between 25 and 30 years old she's never (to my knowledge) spun actual yarn before. She had no drive band or appropriate fittings for the Scotch tensioning. She was missing a few of the hooks on her flier, and the ones she did have were a little rusty. She squeaked when the wheel turned and she was missing the connection between the treadle and the piece that pushes the wheel. All and all, she was a wheel who needed a little bit of help getting to her maiden voyage. I was actually a little worried that she might have some unsolvable problems. But it took less than 15 minutes for Toni to explain the basics of wheel mechanics and needs and to get her back up and running.

Missing drive band? No problem when you've got a stock of house hold twine.

Missing treadle connection? No problem when that little leather piece was sent ahead of time for me to install.

Squeaky wheel? Nothing a little oil can't fix.

Broken hook and missing spring for the tensioning? More twine and a spare spring and some plastic line to the rescue.

Missing Flier Hooks? Eh? You can spin with out them, the bobbin just won't be as pretty.

The result? Voila Priscilla!

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Priscilla the Ashford Traditional Gets a New Lease on Life

You might notice that there looks like there is a little bit of something white on Priscilla's bobbin. That would be a little bit of Blue Faced Leicester single (before we got started, Toni asked us what we were comfortable spinning, and then grabbed an ounce or two of BFL top for each of us -- not a bad way to start) that I actually spun. Can you believe it? I expected that this would be a while in coming, but the wheel and I got along pretty wheel for our first time out.

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My First Wheel Spun Yarn

I give Toni a lot of credit for making it happen. She's a very calm relaxed teacher and she creates a wonderful learning environment. No question is dumb and you never feel like you're going to be scolded for "doing it wrong". Her motto all afternoon "if you get yarn, you must be doing it right". While she helped Julie out with some of the basics of her Ashford Joy, I just spent time treadling and getting comfortable with the pace my wheel likes to run at. I must be meant to start out on a single treadle wheel, because I had a lot easier time of treadling than I did when I tried out Julie's Joy. After I treadled for a while, I attached some top and just started to spin. It took me a little while to get the rhythm down between my hands and my foot, but suddenly I was making yarn.

Even I could hardly believe it. It took me a couple of weeks to get to the point where I could make my drop spindle really go. But here I was half an hour after getting set up making something that looked a hundred times better than my first spindle efforts or even my second, third, fourth or fifth spindle efforts did. That was about the coolest thing ever.

So now I'm all set to get some serious spinning under way. I'm going to practice a bit with some of the fiber I have laying around before I start on any of the special stuff I've acquired. And next time I go out to the Fold, you can bet there will be much testing of wheel's that have an itch to travel.


*Apologies to my mom, the wheel's real owner, for giving her a name without consultation. But hey, wheel restoration has it's priviledges. And I think a happy wheel needs a name.

Finished Ruffled Scarf

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Lest I create the impression that I have completely given up knitting and gone over to the spinning time, it seemed like the right time to finish up the almost ubitquitous ruffled scarf from Scarf Style that I have had sitting 3/4 finished since it got warm here in Chicago. Must have been the change in weather, but now I am all about making sure that I have some new neckwarmers to run around the city in.

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Ruffled Scarf

This scarf was knit in Lorna's Laces Lion and Lamb in Pewter, which I selected for the metallic shimmer and extra warmth provided by the silk. I used two skeins and got a scarf with a pretty reasonable length for a person of my height (5' 6"). I didn't do anything to deviate from the original pattern (except for the yarn substitution). Overall I liked the pattern, but it got pretty boring for me after a while. It was hard to turn it into TV knitting because I used the "knitting backward" technique in order to avoid having to turn it back and forth constantly for all the short rows.

Ah, the first true scarf of fall. Sweater season can't be far off now!

Melody's Beginnings

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In what is certainly a remarkable turn of events, I am launching straight into my second knitting post in a row. Since I (finally) finished my fusili pasta-like scarf, I figured I could cast on another scarfy project. So what did I do? I dug out the largest skein of laceweight yarn from last spring's Maryland Sheep and Wool and got started.

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256 Cast On Stitches and a Very Larg Ball of Laceweight Yarn

For some reason, I like to hand wind Morehouse Merino yarns into balls instead of creating a center pull ball with my swift and ball winder. Not sure why I like to do this. Certainly not time efficiency, since it took me over an hour to wind that ball from the quad-skein while watching TV on Friday night. John was impressed by the finished product... my, that's a might nice round ball you have there....

The ball is the prelude to a simple pattern called "Melody's Shawl" which is basically a tube knit in the round and then judiciously cut open to create the edges and the fringe. If you'd like to see another one of these shawls, you can take a look at the one Alison just finished. It can work as a scarf or a shawl. When I first saw it at MS&W it was the drape combined with the simplicity combined with the versitility that got my attention.

I figure it's going to be good TV knitting since I'm pretty good at knitting in circles, even in the dark. I'm just not good at creating them. Shortly after I took that picture and knit about 10 rows around, I discovered that I had twisted it somewhere and created a mobeus strip. Now, it occurs to me that that is unlikely to be fatal with this pattern, but since I found another error in it as well (amazing that I could make 2 mistakes knitting in the round on size 10 needles!) I ripped it all out and cast it on again, this time making sure that I didn't twist anything that wasn't supposed to be twisted. In the end, I think the shawl was protesting being on my Denise needles. Apparenly Morehouse Merino is a little too overly fond of bonding with the cable of the Denise needles making it a not so fun experience to knit it on them, especially not for as much yarn as is in that ball.

This is probably the last you'll see of Melody for a while. I don't imagine she's going to grow quickly (some of it depends on how much TV I expose myself to this fall). But my target is to have a Thanksgiving rollout, especially if we end up in Houston visiting my brother.

added later: you can find the pattern and yarn online here at the Morehouse website, if you want one of your own, or just want to see a better view of the garment.

New Features

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For a long time I've wanted to have a section of my blog/website in which I shared information about the books I have in my collection. If there's anything that is true about me, it's that I love to buy books. Any time it's time to learn something new, the first thing I do is go and see if there is a book I can add to my collection. This means that I've amassed a pretty large collection of knitting books and other fiber arts related books over the last several years.

This morning, while I was going through my list of "in progress" projects that I would like to have to wear this fall, I decided that Liberty needed to be my next thing to complete. I chose Liberty for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that I am concerned about having enough of one of the colors and if I need to get another ball of Mist, I want a halfway-decent chance of still being able to find the dyelot somewhere on the planet. So in order to get the right front cast on and on its way, I had to remember how to do a tubular cast on. And the first book I reached for was Nancie Wiseman's "The Knitter's Book of Finishing Techiques".

As I was paging through the book, I realized that I had used this book enough to give it a good evaluation. Relative to it's size, it's not a cheap book, but I find myself coming back it over and over because her explanations and illustrations are excellent. And that got me thinking about getting a little bit more serious about sharing my opinions on books. In many cases, it takes a long time of living with a book, especially a technique or pattern book, before it's really possible to talk about what makes it good or not so good. I've been blogging and knitting and buying books for quite some time now, and I've definitely got both a good library to talk about and a growing collection of books that I've had time to live with and really understand whether or not they are treasures, trash or fall somewhere in between. I hope that my growing expertise in knitting will be able to give me a good perspective from which to judge new and old entries into the field and that my writing skills are sufficient to provide anyone who reads my reviews with a good overview of the book in question.

So today is the day that the book reviews start. You can find them over at The Keyboard Biologist Collects Books. I've also added a link to the page to my side bar for easy access. I don't anticipate that I will have a regular schedule for updating this blog, nor will it be totally restricted to kntting books. Not surprisingly, given the subject of this post, my very first entry is Nancie Wiseman's book. I invite you to read, leave comments and add anything that you think would help me or someone else understand what the book I've reviewed is all about. My goal is to help others get a good picture of what's between the covers of my selections.

Unusual Postures

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I must admit. Today I am engaging in a bit of blatant theft. I have nothing to show for my day (not entirely true, there is a little bit of the right front of Liberty that didn't exist before) so I am resorting to a cat picture. The person I am stealing this idea from usually selects cute or devious cat photos. I am just opting for strange.

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Strange Sleeping Postures

After a long hard day of fiber terrorism, Syd has decided that it is time for nap. Not sure how he gets his leg contorted around that way, but somehow he does. I'm constantly amazed by the strange positions my cats can end up sleeping in.

To all of you heading for Rhinebeck this weekend, I'm completely jealous, but wish you all a good time. Take lots of pictures so those of us who don't get to go this year can enjoy the sheepies by proxy!

Favorite Machines

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In spite of being a geek gadget girl, I have to admit that my favorite machine in the whole wide world is decidedly low tech. It has no flashing lights, does not play MP3s, does not require a graphical user interface to interact with. It has no buttons, it isn't networked, and only two levers. It lives in a room that anyone who knows me well, also knows I don't frequent very often. If I had to guess, I'd say that it's at least 25 years old and its totally irreplaceable to me.

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Kitchen Aid Mixer, Birthdate: circa 1980

My husband and father like to joke that the only things with a motor that you can give a woman on a major occasion are a car or a Kitchen Aid stand mixer. And it really is true. I am totally not a creature of the kitchen, but when I am in a store with kitchen appliances, I just have to check them out. They have a special aura about them that I can't resist. But I have never purchased one on my own. When I didn't have one, I just couldn't justify it, given my limited interest in cooking and baking. It's a little elitist, but I believe that the good tools should really go to the people who can appreciate them, people who love what they can do with them.

Mine actually came to live with me through a very happy circumstance: my dad bought my mother a new Kitchen Aid stand mixer. One with more features and a nicer bowl. And that left mom with one mixer too many and not enough space to store both of them. The old one still ran fine and it came with all the wonderful memories of baking with my mother while I was growing up. Years of making sugar cookie dough for Christmas, cupcakes for birthdays at school, fresh bread, fresh whipped cream fo strawberry shortcake. And not a few batches of chocolate chip cookies. This, my friends, is a mixer with good vibes. It probably should have gone to my brother (who is actually an awesome cook), but I called it first. And I'm the oldest. And I snuck it out to my car almost before mom had finished unwrapping her new machine. You gotta be fast in my family.

She's not pretty, but she's wonderful. And she's solid like a rock, even after how many years. You want to see the proof?

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The Mixer Takes on Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

This mixer can take on a double bach of chocolate chip cookie dough without blinking an eye. It sneers in the face of the addition of walnuts and a few extra chips. I don't actually like to do much in the kitchen, but I do like to make cookies. And if this mixer has anything, it has definite good cookie making karma.

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The Results of a Mixer's Love

And it helped me make some pretty awesome cookies tonight.

Every now and again, I do feel a little guilty about having this mixer. Not for denying my brother the real cook the chance to have this machine (you don't need to feel sorry for him, he got my mothers fabulous old Le Cruset pots when she upgraded), but because my mother's new machine didn't turn out to be made of the same great stuff as this one is. Apparently the newer ones have a lot more plastic parts. She'd only had it for a year or so when one of them broke while she was asking the mixer to work hard. It just seemed so wrong for that to happen.

But, hey, I called no give backs...

For anyone worried, my wonderful father got that part replaced quickly. And my mom gets visitation rights. But it does make you realize that they don't build things like they used to...

Organizational Apparatus

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When it comes to inexpensive but functional furniture and organizational goodies with a little flair, a girl has to love Ikea.

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Magazines Get a New Home with a Hugging Heart

The past couple of months I've been feeling like I have books stuffed in every nook and cranny I can find. I figured it was high time that all the books and magazines related to the fiber arts actually went into the fiber room -- it fits with my desire to have order in my written universe. When I was 10, I compulsively ordered the books in my book case by author: last name, first name, title When I got a new book, I would take great pleasure in finding exactly the right spot and then moving other books up and down to fit it in my book case. When I got into music, my compulsion extended to my CD collection. I've gotten to be something of a slacker, since I tend to order my books by size and topic now rather than author name (I guess this is what comes of bookshelves with irregular heights).

This weekend, we finally made the arduous trek out to Shaumburg to search Ikea for the perfect book cases to help me achieve my goal. These two are from the "Effektiv" collection with a birch finish (the tall one is from the Billy collection and it's been living with me for some time now). Of course, I couldn't pass by the lovely pink magazine boxes and storage containers (they have yet to be assembled, but they will be used to hold my rapidly expanding collection of double pointed needles, circular needles, spindles and other odds and ends that usually end up scattered around my room). And how could I resist the hugging hands heart? Ikea was donating the entire purchase price to charities helping out after Hurricane Katrina. Every fiber room needs a little hug -- just as much as it needs a little organization to be a happy place to work in. I'm hoping my spinning wheel will find a home in here, too, but that depends on how comfortable it is to spin when sitting on that futon couch.

The book cases come just in the nick of time to help me celebrate another very cool thing. My partner in crime and fibery adventure, Julie, is going to share my book blog with me. It's getting a name change to mark the occasion: Two Friend Collect Books. Between the two of us, we have quite a collection of knitting and other crafting books -- and we don't always have the same opinions, so hopefully we can provide anyone who drops by with a well-rounded perspective on what's in our libraries. We're also hoping to branch beyond crafting books -- Julie is one of my favorite sources for good fiction recommendations. If you want to know when we've updated the book blog, just click on over there and hit the bloglines link and you'll be all set up!

Increasing the Flock

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I might not have been at Rhinebeck, but a very kind and enabling friend helped me increase my "flock" of spindles. Julie bought a Golding ring spindle at MS&W, and has said nothing but wonderful things about hers. Even though I am beginning to bond with my wheel, I still get a lot of pleasure out of working with my drop spindles. I like the rhythm of spinning on a drop spindle and they are just a tad more portable than most wheels. For me, there's also something special about having a beautiful took in my hands.

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Golding 2-3/4" Butterfly Ring Spindle Getting a Little Help from a Friend

A little gift sheep from Julie is helping out with the display of my new toy. The butterfly in this spindle is handcarved out of cherry and the shaft is walnut. The whorl is 2-3/4" and the whole spindle weighs about 1.3 oz -- which is a wonderful weight range for me because I like to spin fairly fine singles.. According to Carolyn, who volunteered to bring it back to Chicago, and handed it off to me today, it got some test spinning by both Claudia and Leigh -- which I am certain will give it some happy spinning vibes to start out with.

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Smitten by A Butterfly

I'm quite taken by this little butterfly. Simple and lovely but not completely perfect -- exactly what a handcarved item should be. The cherry and walnut and brass complement each other well. It's the sort of thing that I keep picking up to touch and inspect. A clear sign that I need to get some wool on this thing and see how this baby spins for myself.

Today is a two-fer in my blog world. I've also updated the book blog with a review of Lucy Neatby's "Cool Socks, Warm Feet, if you're interested in my thoughts about that book

Hmmm... now what?

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A Wonderful Teal Blob of Wool, Alpaca and Silk

This wonderful fibery blob is one of my favorite purchases from MS&W -- half a pound of wonderfully hand-dyed fiber from Spinner's Hill. It was love at first touch when I encountered this bag of fluff. In fact, I felt almost drawn to it. It's as if I cound divine the silk content blended with my favorite color.

While it would be possible to work with this on a spindle, methinks it would take quite some time. Now that I have a wheel at my disposal, it seemed like a good time to pull it out and think about what I want it to become. And I realized something that I hadn't thought about before. What do I need to do with this to get it into manageable pieces for spinning? Do I just rip pieces off and start into it? Should I card it or comb it? Is there some magic that needs to be worked with this proto-yarn to prepare it for spinning? I just don't know. Up to this point, I've only spun from the fairly highly prepared stuff.

Anyone out there care to point me in the right direction? I'm sure that if I keep reading Alden Amos, I will get to the answer, but it's a long book, and I'm still working through the section on how humidity affects fiber...

Socks that Begin to Rock

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I seem to have developed a mild case of startitis in the past week. Maybe it's just the cool weather in Chicago and watching the leaves fall from the trees and knowing that the real chill will be coming soon. I just can't help myself. I had to start another pair of socks for my winder wardrobe. Do you remember this yarn
? I've been petting it on a regular basis since I got it well over a year ago. I finally got tired of petting and decided that it was time to skein it up and move those socks from yarn stash to my sock drawer.

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Blue Moon Fiber Arts "Socks that Rock" in Tiger Eye

This picture marks the sum total of my sock-ly accomplishments yesterday. I'm knitting these socks on size 1 needles, and I'm getting 8 stitches/inch in the stockinette portion of the sock. This yarn is a nice, thick, soft merino yarn, so I chose to go down one needle size from where I might have been tempted to start to help maximize durability, even though it means that the overall fabric is a little denser. For this sock, I'm going back to my old sock knitting ways -- 64 stitches cast on using the Twisted German Cast On, followed by 2 inches of K2P2 ribbing and then 6" of leg, a Dutch heel, and straight ol' stockinette down to the toe. Since the pattern the yarn makes is so lovely, I don't think it requires any special knitting to dress it up.

And just a little pointer for those of you who haven't experimented with the Twisted German Cast On -- my recommendation is that you do the first round of stitches after the cast-on in all knit stitches. The "twisted" part refers to the fact that the stitches end up twisted on the needle after you cast them on. It's a real pain to deal with purl stitches on that first row, and you can't tell the difference anyway, so you can save yourself a little pain and suffering just by knitting that first row all the way around.

Happy fall socks to everyone!

P.S link to Twisted German Cast On is fixed now.

Sunday Afternoon Amusement

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From a quiz link forwarded to my by my husband... I don't normally post these things, but John doesn't normally send them to me either, so how could I say no?

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

He laughed and nodded when he heard my result, Capt. James T. Kirk (the link provides a description of the character type) -- so it must be fitting. He took the quiz and apparently he is Yoda. Which from my perspective, tends to fit my incredible computer guru and guy who thinks carefully about all things.

You can take the quiz yourself by clicking the link directly under the picture.

Beginning Needle Tatting

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Along time ago (last year) on a trip to a far away place (near my folks' house in Ann Arbor) I was wandering through a crafty little store in search of doll making materials for my mother. Honest. She was looking to find some new patterns for Christmas and I was just along for the ride -- and hoping that I might inspire her to want to make one of her wonderful dolls for me. Of course, the problem with stores that fabric doll makers like is that they more or less contain a little bit of everything -- nice fabrics, bits of lace, interesting thread, beads, the occasional skein of yarn -- in addition to doll patterns and other doll supplies. In other words, taking someone with even vaguely crafty genes into one of these places is a bit like taking a heroin addict to an opium den. It might not be the drug of choice, but it's close enough to get you into trouble.

Of course, I didn't leave the store empty handed. One of the women in the store was working on a tatting project. I thought it was awfully lovely, and it occured to me that anything that could be applied to tiny cotton and silk threads, might also be applied to something of somewhat larger diameter -- i.e. yarn. So while mom was busing perusing the doll patterns for ideas, I talked to the woman with the tatting project and ended up with two balls of DMC thread (from the sale bin -- at least I was a little bit good) and an introductory book on needle tatting, that just happened to come complete with tatting needle. I was all set to sit down and figure out what lace making was all about -- or at least begin to understand the basic principles.

Alas, we got home that night and there were just too many family things to do and be entertained by, so the needle and the book and the thread never came out of the bag. They stayed there until I got back to Chicago. At which point I took them into my fiber room, looked at them a little bit, and then had my attention diverted to some other knitting-related project. The book got put on the shelf and the thread got stored in a box. And I basically just forgot about the whole thing.

So, when I started cleaning and organizing my fiber room again, coming across the book and needle and thread was a little like finding a $20 bill in a winter coat pocket -- a nice little windfall that I decided I wouldn't forget about again. Over the weekend I actually sat myself down and started going through the book. As it turns out, the basics of needle tatting are quite simple. There's really only one stitch (which I think is of the hitch knot variety) and it's pretty easy to master, especially if you're already a continental style knitter, since most of the thread motion is done with the left hand.

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Needle Tatting Experiments:
Bottom Left: Two simple rings with picots done with Ring and Thread Method
Top: Ring and Thread Method used to create the foundation for a bookmark
Bottom Right: Two simple rings with a chain, done with Ring and Chain Method

There are basically two different ways to do needle tatting -- one involves working with defined lengths of thread and adding more lengths as needed while the other involves working directly from the ball of thread. The former is a bit easier to deal with initially and that's where the book starts you off (and that's why the bigger piece in the photo above is worked in that method), the latter takes a bit more paying attention to make sure that you don't get things tangled and that you learn to tell what the right and wrong side of the lace is. I never really knew that lace had a right and a wrong side before.

Ring and thred method leaves those single threads to connect rings (if you so desire) while ring and chain method creates lace chains between ring units. It seems like you can create more elaborate lace medallions with the ring and chain method, and that may be my next project if I can find some thread that is a little grippier to itself. The stuff I bought from the sale bin is a bit slippery and probably not the best stuff for a beginner.

This turned out to be easier and a lot more fun than I thought it would be, and it's got me thinking about how it could be used to edge knitwear. If you're interested, I'd highly recommend the book I started with. The instructions are simple and clear, with good pictures to illustrate the instructions, and there are a few little projects in the book that you can cut your teeth on. It's neat to see a bunch of loops and little hitches turn into something elegant (I won't call my first attempts all that elegant, but I think with a little practice I'll be able to get my picot loops more even and have a much nicer finished product.

What is the Sound of One Sock Rocking?

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This has got to be a personal best for me. I started this sock last Thursday morning and I had all but the toe grafting finished Sunday night.

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This is the Sound of One Sock Rocking

I guess I must like this sock yarn (Blue Moon Socks that Rock in Tiger's Eye), because I clearly didn't put this sock down very often over the weekend. I started with the Twisted German Cast On*, knit in 2 inches of K2P2 ribbing and then knit 5-3/4" straight stockinette before turning the heel. I used Lucy Neatby's dutch heel (from her Simply Splended pattern in Cool Socks, Warm Feet), which is a nice variation on the heel because the slipped stitches are on the inside, leaving a stockinette look heel. It's also a bit longer heel than I ususally do, but the outcome was still good. I knit 7" or so of instep before the toe decreases. Here I reverted back to my usual toe. And I still had a little bit of yarn left over.

I was going to cast on the second one tonight, and then realized I have a few other things that need to take precedence right now. Once those are done, I'll be right back to this. Can you believe that my husband actually told me that he might wear this sock... that he could see how it could go with a nice orange shirt? Clearly my plot to convert him to the brighter colored sock side is working.


* A couple of people pointed out that if my stitch mounts on this cast on turned out twisted, I am probably doing something not quite right. This could very well be true, but, you know, it works for me and gives me a result I'm happy with. I appreciate the heads' up, but I probably won't change my ways... I'd have to re-wire some basic finger motions and that's never something I do well. But for anyone else trying it, you probably should ignore my advice, other than to realize that it is a great cast on for socks!

Sock Startitis

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Regia Mini Ringel Sock

I guess socks are like potato chips -- you can't eat/knit just one. At least for me these days. I seem to have a lot of lovely fall colored sock yarn and a somewhat chilly house. When combined with my personal difficulties with working two of exactly the same socks in a row, this means another pair of socks is going to come into the world. Even on US
1's, these are going to go fast. Almost 3 inches of sock top and I only spent a few hours on it this evening.

The colors make me think of fall leaves and mulled wine. Pumpkinsand the rich colors of Christmas ornaments. Bright but comforting and happy.

The Greatest Time Sink in the Known Universe

Can't blog now... just picked up my pre-order copy of Civilization IV...

... abandon knitting, all ye who enter here!

... abandon knitting, all ye who enter here!

Common Experiences

It's always fun for me to post about something not related to knitting -- inevitably I discover that some of my not-so-crafty hobbies are equally well enjoyed by others. The Civillization games look to be no exception. What is it about them that makes you glue your eyes to your monitor and your hands to the keyboard whispering "just one more turn" to the person trying to convince you that it is time to go to bed?

Clearly Firaxis has something figured out.

I actually only played one game today. Believe it or not, I spent most of the day actually reading the manual while working on my new sock project. I'm not sure if this will surprise anyone, but I am one of those people who loves to pour through game manuals. To me, reading the manual somehow heightens the anticipation of playing the game, helps me "get into character" so to speak. For a game like Civ, there's something magical about digging through all the information and trying to figure out what basic strategies are going to interest me.

I was hoping to take a picture to provide some proof that I actually did work on that sock, but the last of my camera batteries just gave out and I don't have another set charged. So you'll just have to trust me -- 7 inches of stripey sock top as I go into the weekend.

And my first impressions of Civ IV? Well, my first foray was just on the extremely wimpy level so that I could see how the game play mechanics have changed. From a "just one more turn" perspecitve, the additiction factor is clearly still there. It runs mostly okay on my machine (a Gateway M505 with an ATI Radeon 95-something). Graphics are fine but periodically it just crashes to desktop -- not often or predictably, but there's some little buggy critter in there somewhere, which is not so surprising for a brand new game as complicated as this one. Music is wonderful, and the 3D-perspective adds a new dimension to the game (no pun intended). It's going to take me a while to get the hang of dealing with the new religious element of the game, and I love what they've done with diplomacy -- much better than it used to be in Civ III.

Heh. And now I need to squeeze in a few more turns before I got to bed...

Another Weekend, Another Sock

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The First Mini-Ringel Sock Emerges

There you go -- the best proof that I had made good headway on this sock before the weekend started is that it was complete by 8 PM on Sunday night! Not only that, but in an attempt to stay focused, I even got the second of the pair cast on. Civ IV got a reasonable portion of my time this weekend (would have gotten more, but I'm experiencing a bit of bugginess and now figure I may have to wait until the first patch to play all the way through a game without crashing -- nonetheless, what I can play is quite good!), but the sock got a fair amount of attention, too. It even went with us on Saturday night to check out an awesome rib place -- Fat Willy's. It's no problem to wait an hour for a table when you've got a sock to work on -- and it provided a little amusement for the friendly waitstaff and other waiting patrons. Did the food turn out to be worth the wait? Most definitely.

When I first introduced this sock, AmyP asked what the color number information for this was. The sock yarn I am using is Regia Mini Ringel Color, Color # 5217 -- also known as "rio". If you want to take a look at the whole collection of Mini Ringels, you can click here. (That said, I've never ordered from the site, they just had nice pictures -- I'm not trying to endorse this online shop for your purchases -- if you've ordered from them successfully, let me know. I'm easily lured in by the phrase "free shipping").

Happy Hallowe'en Y'all!

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