February 2006 Archives

Socks and Cookies

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When your husband gets you a spinning wheel for your birthday and even lets you get it a few weeks early because you just can't wait to get your hands on it, it seems only reasonable to try to make sure that he gets a new pair of socks by the time your birthday actually does roll around. Especially if those socks have been on the needles since January 1 of last year! Over the weekend, I had a very single minded devotion to accomplishing this goal. In fact, I couldn't even get myself to spin all that much, because every time I sat down to do it, I remembered those socks and how much I wanted them to be done. And then, once I got past a certain point, the thrill of socky victory well before my brithday spurred me on.

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Trekking XXL 90 Socks Warming Man Feet

John, who looks like he is about to plie, and who jokingly apologizes for not shaving his legs before our photoshoot came home this evening not only to a finished pair of socks, but also a fresh batch of peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies. (Did you know they made peanut butter and chocolate chips? I didn't until today. They're fab and they went over very well with my cookie monster). Not sure what inspired me to make the cookies, but right after I had sewn in the last end, I just had this incredible urge to bake. It doesn't happen that often so I try not to squelch the cookie muse when she tries to inspire. Both the socks and the cookies got a warm reception.

Sock statistics:

Yarn: Trekking XXL in Colorway 90
Needles: Size 0 Bamboo Double Points (!)
Pattern: Lucy Neatby's Crenellated Toe Up Socks (without the crenellation).

I don't know what possesses me to take on man-sized socks (76 stitches around) on size 0 needles, yet, inevitably I almost always do. Although it almost always takes me forever to make a pair of socks for John, when I look at the socks I have made for him in the past and look at how well they are holding up even under almost constant winter wear, I'm reminded of why it is worth it.

I didn't make too many diversions from the basic pattern (except removing the picot edged top, which would not have been perceived as manly) and John commented while we were doing the heel fitting that this was probably the best fitting sock I had made him. Unfortunately, it's also becoming a pattern I really don't enjoy using very much because I just can't get into toe-up socks and because, Lucy Neatby's assurances to the contrary, her method for putting in the afterthought heel does not lead to gap-less heel gussets. This is the second pair of socks I've made this way, and no matter what I've tried, including picking up extra stitches in the gap I end up with a little gap that I have to sew closed at the end. I have to say, that I also prefer doing Dawn Brocco's star (i.e. 6 pointed decrease) afterthought heel much better as well. I think it creates a better heel shape (if you want to see how it looks, you can click here) and you don't have any pesky grafting to do after you're done (I don't mind grafting, I just find it a little fiddly to do for the heel of a sock, especially when the heel shaping is not particularly heel shaped).

So far, this is just about the only heel in the Cool Socks Warm Feet book that I've tried that I've decided I don't like. But the pattern overall, can make a cute sock. It's hard to expect one book to cover every possible heel option available, and, clearly, it's trivial to choose a different method to complete an afterthought heel.

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One Complete Sock Basking in Natural Light

I realized that I have never taken a natural light picture of this yarn, and that it really does deserve one. I think this is an absolutely gorgeous colorway and one that works out particularly well for the manly types. If your manly type doesn't insist on solid colored socks and you're tired of knitting in grey, black and navy blue, this is definitely a nice sock yarn to add to your collection.

This was my first time knitting with Trekking XXL. Overall, it wasn't a bad experience, but I did find the yarn to be a bit on the splitty side, and this occasionaly made for some frustration, especially when I was trying to do decreases. But it's not so bad that you can't do most of your knitting by feel. And since it's the multi-plys that are used to create the variagation in color, it's an easy thing to forgive.

As an aside, I just washed my Socks that Rock socks for the first time and was completely blown away by how soft they were when they came out of the dryer! I thought they were soft before, but it increased by an order of magnitude after the washing/drying process. They did loosen up a good deal, too, but I didn't lose any stitch definition and the yarn didn't fuzz or get that halo-ed quality to it either. So washing this yarn just makes a great yarn get even better!

Sock Challenge

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Before I went to the ER over the holidays I put on a pair of my handknit socks. It was actually the pair that I made out of the Opal Rodeo that I had received from Emma as part of one of our yarn trades. It wasn't really one of those moments when I should have been concerned about what socks I was wearing, but still, something compelled me to fish them out of my suitcase and put them on. Clearly, they were just socks, and they couldn't fix the problem I was experiencing, but they made me feel a little bit better. Even with a whole lot of other unfamiliar things around me I still had something of my own with me. And my feet stayed warm. Which was a good thing given that it was December and hospitals aren't overheated places.

Surprisingly, the socks also got noticed by one of the doctors who did help make my condition better. She stopped and asked me about them, loved the bright colors. Thought it was wonderful that I had made them. And then, to make sure that they didn't get messed up while she did her job, she helped me get them off and put them in a safe place (she gave me a pair of warm, but not as attractive, hospital socks). I would have liked to keep them on, but by that time, they had served their most important purpose -- they had helped to create a bond between me and the doctor who was helping me. So not only had they kept me warm, but the had helped me become more comfortable in an equally important way as well.

I was in the ER for quite some time that night... from about 8 at night until about 4 in the morning. And my family, (John, my parents and my brother and his wife) was there the whole time as well. When you have that much time in the hostpital and you're not sedated and not in extreme discomfort, you have a lot of time to think about things. You can focus on the event at hand, or you can try to divert yourself onto things that make you happier. Fortunately for me, my brain decided to focus on socks. More specifically, how my socks had made my medical adventure a little bit better and how wouldn't people in need of medical assistance be much happier if they all had a pair of handknit socks to keep them company.

Now, I know myself well enough to know that I cannot knit enough socks to make everyone with a medical emergency feel better. But it did seem reasonable that I could make socks for everyone who had come with me to try to help me feel better during my medical emergency. I don't wish a trip to the ER on anyone in my family, but should they have to go, I'd like them to know that someone loved them enough to knit them a pair of socks (if you haven't read the short essay on knitting socks in the Yarn Harlot: the Secret Life of a Knitter, then you most certainly should, it really gets at the heart of what making socks for people really means). Maybe they'll even remember to put the socks on, and their socks will help them through the experience just like mine did.

Up until this point, I've mostly stayed on the sidelines through all the sock-a-longs that have been booming through the knitting internet. But I am going to start my own personal little sock knitting challenge. You can feel free to participate, or not, as you wish. This year, I am going to knit a pair of socks for everyone in my immediate family: John, my mom, my dad, my brother, my sister-in-law and my aunt. Six pairs of new socks are going to enter the world and do their best to fulfill the most important thing a handknit sock can possibly do: make someone feel warm and happy and loved.

But it wouldn't be a challenge if there weren't a few rules, would it? So here are the rules that I've decided that it's reasonable to live with.

1) I have to finish all 6 pairs between January 1, 2006 and December 31, 2006
2) I am not allowed to start any new socks for myself until the family socks are complete. However, I am allowed to finish any unfinished pairs that are in my current project list (this would be the Mermaid Socks and the Broadripple socks).
3) John's recently finished Trekking socks count as his pair, but I can start another pair for him any time I feel like it. Because if one pair of socks is good, then two more more pairs of socks must be just that much better. And he's definitely family.
4) I am allowed to buy more sock yarn for family member socks, but I have to knit with it, I can't just keep stashing it...unless I plan to make more socks for that family member.
5) MS&W is an exception to the buying more sock yarn rule.

Should you wish to participate in my challenge, you don't have to abide by all of my rules. These are rules that I'm setting up to help me meet my goals. Your goals may be different, thus you may need different rules or none at all.

Now that I've finished John's socks, the next pair in my family sock challenge is going to be for my wonderful sister-in-law, Libby (who, if you saw her, you might think was my actual sister). She's going off to LA in April (and will be there until June) to do some pretty intense teacher training so that she can become a certified Bikram Yoga instructor. I want to put together a "good luck package" for her that includes the socks.

Because she's in Houston and will be doing her training in LA (i.e. warm places) I've picked up some Blue Moon Fiber Arts "Sock Candy" yarn in the Cherries Jubilee colorway. This yarn is 96% cotton, 4% elite and has some reasonable stretch to it -- it reminds me a little bit of a sock weight Calmer -- I'm hoping that the sock will thus be warm weather compatible and will keep it's shape. While I'm waiting for my bro to come up with her shoe size, I'm looking around to try to find a good pattern. I know, in my knitting heart, that I really should rib these socks all the way down, but I also know that I really hate ribbing socks, and that too much ribbing could stall this project before it gets off the ground. Depending on her shoe size, I'm actually considering taking on another pair of Jaywalkers. As I think the colors would be lovely, and those Jaywalkers seem to resist slouchy-ness.

In order to help me keep track of what's done, I'm adding a new "Family Sock Challenge" to my side bar so that my results will be visible. If you decide you want to play along, let me know. If enough folks do, I'll set up a little something to help keep track of whose participating.

It's been a long, long time since I talked about working on a sweater. Kind of sad, actually, because I my favorite projects really are sweater projects. I love to wear my sweaters. And my house is pretty cold most of the time. So sweaters are a good thing. But to knit a sweater, I need to feel inspired. Either by a yarn in my stash that I just love and want to do something with, and thus I try my hand at doing some of my own design. Or by a design that I think would really work well in my wardrobe. And for a while, nothing really grabbed me at all.

Enter the Winter 2005 Interweave Kints and Kate Gilbert's Pearl Buck Swing Jacket (you have to scroll about midway down to see this project). I fell in love with this project the moment I saw it. It's so very much the kind of sweater that I love to knit and wear: there's some detail, but it's not too busy. There's some intresting things to knit, but it's not going to require my complete concentration to knit. And it's got an interesting shape and construction that I haven't tried before. And it's knit from DK weight yarn, which, in my opinion, is just about the perfect weight yarn. You still get a warm and wonderful fabric, but you don't end up looking like you gained 15 pounds when you put on the sweater.

I didn't get it started right away, in large part because I thought I was going to need to order the Jaeger Matchmaker DK for the project. But I didn't really want to add more yarn to the stash. Unfortunately, the stash doesn't contain any DK weight yarn...oh, wait, maybe it does. Yesterday I realized that I had some Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool in the stash that I had picked up when Threadbear was closing it out and put it on discount. I'd been planning on making something from one of her books, but, since this yarn is not discontinued, and sheep and silk worms are clearly not going extinct, and I had sufficient yarn in the stash to create the sweater I am currently interested in, and it's in the right gauge range, I decided to swatch.

And this sweater is just the perfect sweater for those of you who hate to swatch. The back of the sweater has a yoke. And that yoke is really about the perfect piece to knit for gauge. Easy to complete in an evening of knitting, wide enough and lon enough so that you can definitely get a good stitch and row count. And there's nothing like completing a piece of a sweater to give a girl the satisfaction of feeling like she's accomplished something.

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A Finished Sweater Yoke

Even if it isn't much to look at.

While this yarn knits up almost perfectly from a gauge perspective, it has a very different quality from the all-merino and very springy Matchmaker. The Silky Wool is going to have a lot more drape. It's also going to give me a lighter sweater. I'm hoping that the lighter weight quality will give it a little more wearability -- i.e. it will do spring and fall well and still be a nice extra layer in winter as well. That's what I love about silk -- it's a light weight fiber but it has fabulous insulating properties.

The color of this yarn is somewhat camera-defiant. It's a very deep, sophisticated purple with some red undertones. I love the heathery effect it creates when knitted up. So much so that I had to put a close up picture here to share.

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Silky Wool Texture in Simple Stockinette

In reality, the color is somewhere between the two pictures. This yarn also has fairly nice stitch definitition. I'm hoping the somewhat reflective quality of the heathery bits will help make the details on the sweater pop out.

I've decided to be completely unconventional and to knit a sleeve next. Perhaps by getting at least one out of the way now, the second one won't seem like such an imposition.

To anyone who is going to knit my little sock challenge along with me, I'll be creating a little section in my side bar with your names. Whenever I post about my socks, feel free to update me on yours. I'll try to keep track of your progress a bit, too. I'm looking forward to having a little company in my quest to cover friendly feet in handknit socks!

An Old Wheel Gets a New Twist

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My parents came to visit this weekend to help me celebrate my birthday. I asked my dad to bring his toolkit with him so that he could help get Mom's Ashford Traditional (circa 1982) back into better shape. Initially the idea was to remove the hooks that had broken off in the wood, put some new wood plugs in the holes and then replace all the hooks with nice new hooks, making this wheel nicer to work with and giving it something of a new lease on life.

But then I introduced Dad to my Lendrum, and dad was as taken with that pinch clamp that slides up and down one of the arms of the flyer as I was. It didn't take him long to decide that he liked that clamp better than the hooks. So not only did the flyer on the Ashford get some spiffy new wood plugs, it also got some more significant alterations that allowed it to use that pinch clamp to feed the yarn onto the bobbin.

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An Ashford Traditional Gets A Canadian Accent

Of course, the process of improving and modifying the flyer led to a lot of discussion about spinning wheels and spinning wheel mechanics. It was a good discussion because the process of explaining what I knew helped me to think about what wheels do, and it led to Dad discovering some things about the Ashford that I hadn't figured out yet (like how to properly use the higher spinning ratio). From the scientist/engineer perspective, a spinning wheel is a lovely machine. It's simple enough so that you can understand all it's parts but still complex enough that you can be excited about understanding more about why something was designed the way it was. Even better, they offer much tinkering potential for a guy with some wood working skills and a few good tools.

I thought I was going to be teaching my mother to use the wheel this trip (we did get a drop spindling lesson in and she took too it like a natural), but as it turned out, someone else got a lesson in the magic of twist.

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Dad at the Wheel

Doesn't he look like a pro? Dad figured out the basics pretty quickly and now it's just a matter of getting in some practice. He's already ordered his own pound of Blue Faced Leicester from Copper Moose so that he and my mother can play with the wheel (and I sent him home with a little extra BFL that he can work with in the meantime). It looks like I'll definitely have my wheel in the trunk next time we head off to Ann Arbor! How cool is that? Hopefully I'll be able to spin with both of my crafty parents someday!

I've been searching the web, but I haven't found many good sites that have a really good discussion of how to spin on a wheel. I did find this intro to spinning and twist from Interweave and this site which has some nice short videos of drafting techniques. But it seems like most of the "learn to spin" references on the web are for the drop spindle (which Dad didn't find very appealing). Any other good suggestions for web-based learning to spin on a spinning wheel references?

Birthday Presents

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Slowly but surely my parents are working their way through all the people in the greater Ann Arbor area who own are in someway connected to fiber producing animals. It's actually one of the wonderfully nice things about the Ann Arbor area -- it doesn't take too long to get to a place where you could have a sheep or an alpaca or two. And, unlike most of Illinois, you can have your little fiber farm surrounded by trees and beautiful rolling hills. In fact, my parents actually have enough room for a sheep tor two. I keep telling them that babydoll sheep are not much bigger than a dog, and besides, wouldn't Ufer, the sweetest Rottweiler in the world, like a small herd of sheep to watch over? But so far, they, probably wisely, have avoided the adoption of any livestock.

But to get back to the point, my parents investigation of fiber farms in Ann Arbor resulted in a very nice birthday present. Unfortunately, I do not remember the name of the farm they got the fiber from, but I believe that they told me that the woman who has the farm is involved in a lot of animal rescue, so many of the animals I have fiber from have come from less fortunate circumstances to a place where they are much more appreciated.

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Sheep and Llamas Abound!

What's in this nifty collection of natural colored fibers? The three bags on the furthest left come from llama. A chocolate brown, a charcoal-y grey brown and a natural white with a streak of charcoal grey. In the center (starting from the top) the pale yellow tan is a blend of camel and merino, the black is Corriedale (supposedly a natural color...can any one tell me if Corriedale sheep come in black?) and the little natural colored bag is Rambouillet and llama. On the far left, the brown gold ball is labelled as "sheep" -- it's pretty coarse, but the colors in it sure are nice. Then, below that, is a ball of natural colored Corriedale -- from two sheep named Emily and Jessy. Finally, the big bale of roving there was also labelled "sheep" and "for dyeing". Should be a lot of fun to play with and spin, as it's really not so bad to touch, even if I don't know what kind of sheep it comes from. (The last thing in the picture is one of my cats, even though he is very soft, it is unlikely he will ever be spun).

After an initial touch test, the thing I am interested in playing with first is the Corriedale. I guess my fingers can tell when they've encountered a merino-related sheep. The Corriedale also has this kind of springy Targhee-like quality that I think will be interesting to spin. And 4 ounces of it should be enough to make something of reasonable size after it's spun up. All the rest of the fibers and blends I'm roughly equally curious about. The llama is softer than you might expect it to be, and the colors are beautiful. Camel and merino and Rambouillet and llama are strange enough blends to make me want to see what they do. As to the fiber to be dyed, the real question will be... before or after spinning? And there's more than sufficient fiber to do a lot of experimenting with both color and spinning technique.

I have no idea what their ultimate project destination will be. However, it appears between this, and my own purchases, I have a lot of small samples of different types of fiber. And I'm getting this idea in my head that it would be kind of neat to have a blanket made of swatches from these intriguing oddments. Maybe I'll have to have my own little treasure hunt at MS&W to acquire fiber samples from as many interesting sheep as possible.

Another Reason to Stay Up Late

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It's probably not completely kosher, but I decided that I needed to buy myself a birthday present this year. Even though I picked out the wheel, I like to think of it as John's present to me this year. Interestingly, then, I am the only one who did not get me a fiber related present. Instead, I opted for something both physical and technological in nature.

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Dance Dance Revolution Mat

Perhaps you've seen those dancing games in the video arcades? Well, this large, padded multi-colored tic-tac-toe board works with our Xbox so that I can play Dance Dance Revolution in the privacy of my own home. Which is a good thing. I am not the most co-ordinated creature to walk the planet and watching me play this game could be disconcerting to anyone who has good balance and rhythm.

Believe it or not, I bought it as an exercise tool. I've been trying to find something that I could do at home (Chicago not being very hospitible to outdoor activities during the winter) that would make me want to exercise. I read about how they were actually installing these in schools to help kids exercise and it was working to keep the kids exercising longer. I have about the same attention span as most teenagers, so I figured if it worked for them, maybe it would work for me. Hey, the game even has an exercise setting and keeps track of the calories you burn. And, last night, I started playing at 11:30 PM and completely lost track of time until about 1:30 in morning! Clearly even the attention span challenged can be engaged by this game.

Once I get a little better, y'all are invited over for a little Dance Dance Revolution party. Anyone who can dance and knit on a sock wins an extra prize!

And because the Beeze snuck into the picture yesterday, and I want to be an equal opportunity cat owner, I thought I would provide a picture of Syndey and Mercutio doing what they do best.

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Mercutio and Sydney Take a Cat Nap

Something that I should be doing right about now, myself!

Dragon Designs

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It's funny how the things that I don't think will get much of a response get a great response. Clearly, there are a lot of DDR fans out there! My blond kitties appreciate all the positive attention, too. These guys, as you might expect, are litter mates. They are almost inseparable and whenever it's cold, you'll see them curled up together. So the Siamese twin reference in the comments is not too far off for these guys.

I'm swinging out of a spinning phase into a bit of a knitting and design phase as I start my next family sock challenge pair of socks. Like I mentioned a while ago, my next pair of socks are for my sister-in-law. Can I just say that I couldn't have picked better for my little bro if I had picked her myself? Libby is awesome. In addition to embarking on Bikram yoga teacher training, she's also working on a PhD in history. In an alternate universe I like to think that I got a PhD in history, too.

I spent a lot of time thinking about these socks. I wanted them to be something special and something that was uniquely about Libby. I appreciated the suggestions I got to make her some yoga socks. But Bikram yoga is a special kind of yoga that is done at temperatures over 100 degrees Farenheit -- it definitely gets pretty sweaty. I figure socks in this environment wouldn't work out very well due to heat, sweat and the fact that she probably wouldn't get the traction she'd need to do some of the poses. So these socks are meant really just to let her know that even though she's far away from home (the training is in LA and my brother is in Houston) that her family is thinking about her and wishing her well. Libby loves dragons. She has the most fabulous dragon tattoo on her back. Dragons, as I think of them, are symbols of strength and beauty and intelligence and ferocity. All qualities that I respect and would wish for Libby as she takes on a big challenge. So instead of looking for an existing sock pattern, I decided to bond with Barbara Walker's 2nd Treasury of Knitting Patterns to see what I could find (actually, I looked through all of them, but, as luck always seems to have it, it was the second volume that was the big winner for me).

Amazingly enough, she has a pattern called "Dragon Skin". Clearly, this was a sign. Unfortunately it's a pattern with a 26 stitch repeat. And a little swatching with the Blue Moon Sock Candy made it clear that I needed about 64 stitches in a round in this pattern to get the 8" circumference that I needed. So I did a little bit of chart modification to come up with a version that had a 32 stitch repeat.

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Dragon Scale Sock Top in Sock Candy, Cherries Jubilee

The Sock Candy, being mostly cotton, does not squish like wool does. I am actually knitting these socks on US size 2 needles in order to get a fabric that doesn't feel like a board. I find myself very pleased with both the texture (i.e. you can see the dragon scales forming) and the way that the color and the texture work together reasonably well. It might not look like it, but this stitch pattern is also pretty easy to memorize. And I am having a good time with feeling like I am designing something on my own again. Instead of the usual Dutch heel, I am going to try to do a short row heel. I think that will work better with dragon scales and create the smoother look I envision in my head. I also want to do a star toe, instead of my standard toe. Once again, I think that that will give the sock a more polished look when combined with this texturing.

Once I decided on the dragon theme, I have to admit that I did feel a little bit bad about going with red sock yarn. Any of y'all who have played D&D know that red dragons are of the chaotic evil variety. Think of Smaug in the The Hobbitand you have a good idea of what red dragons are all about. And I don't remember any pink, mauve or purple dragons in the D&D monster manual (clearly this was a male-dominated gaming experience). Fortunately, this yarn isn't solid red, and, since I'm the DM for this particular adventure, I've decided that variagated red dragons can have a spectrum of alignments. In this case, I think this dragon will be chaotic good, which I think fits both with my sister and the way I like to think of dragons.

Pieces of Pearl

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The Pearl Buck Swing Jacket, combined with the Lavold Silky Wool, is turning out to be a pleasant garment to knit. So far, I'm finding Kate Gilbert's instructions easy to work through and I'm also happy with the balance of interesting details with simple knitting. Call me unsophisticated, but I have a fondness for stockinette stitch. And the sweaters in my closet that I like best seem to be the ones with a few simple details that are set off by relatively uncomplicated stockinette. My gut feeling right now is that this sweater will also be one that gets a lot of wear once it's finished.

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A Yoke and a Sleeve

Funny. it's been so long since I really worked on a sweater that I liked that I had almost forgotten how much I really do like to work on sweaters. I know there's been a lot of socks and scarves on my needles lately, but this sweater is giving me a not-so-subtle reminder that I can't live on knitting diet of socks and scarves alone. But selectivity isn't a bad thing, either. I have quite a few sweaters that don't get much wear because I made a poor selection with regards to color or shape. I like to think that this new found selectivity is a measure of my maturation as a knitter. It's becoming a lot more about quality than quantity, both in terms of the garments I knit and the contents of my stash.

I took great satisfaction today in pinning these pieces down to my board. Such nice shaping in these two little pieces, the yoke and one of the sleeves. These sleeves are "bracelet length" and so aren't nearly so bad to knit as I find most to be. I had only a brief evening excursion to Sleeve Island before heading back to the Left Front Mainland.

If anyone else is interested in knitting this cardigan, Jeanne of "A Bluestocking Knits" is hosting a knit-a-long for the project. Things don't officially kick off until the beginning of March, so you've got plenty of time to compete in the Knitting Olympics and still take on this project if you want to knit-a-long. Me, I'm sitting this Olympics out, but I did find one Olympic group that was appropriate to my Olympic ambition level this year. I think there's always room for one more if you want to join "Team Homer".

The Memory of Dragons

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Once upon a time, on a planet not so different from ours, Dragons walked the earth. The Dragons, being long lived and intelligent, watched the other creatures that shared the land with them. They reveled in rainbows and the natural magick in the world, hoarded the occasional treasure, took flight on sun rays and moon beams when the time was right. Mostly, they stayed out of sight, content to be observers and not the observed. Occasionaly, other creatures would catch glimpses of them, through trees in the forest, through the mist over a lake, or amongst snow flurries in the mountains. Only rarely would a Dragon be seen in its entirety. But since magick flowed through all the creatures of this world, all knew of the existence of dragons. And in times of trouble, a champion would often be sent to seek them out and to call upon their wisdom. A wise and virtuous champion would be able to find them, even though they were hidden. And the Dragons would share their advice and insight.

As time passed, however, the creatures that the Dragons shared the land with began to move away from the ways of magick. Many of them talked of the "technology" that could help them with their work and their troubles in the world. Fewer and fewer would seek out the Dragons for their advice. Fewer and fewer believed that Dragons and other magickal creatures even existed. Most of those that did, saw them as a dangerous threat, to be hunted and exterminated. The Dragons, wise beings that they were, realized that the Age of Magick was coming to an end, and with it, the Age of Dragons as well. For them, it was time to take flight and move on to another place that could value them for what they were rather than seeing them as something to be feared.

And so a call went out to all the remaining Dragons in the land. They would meet in the last place where magick still held sway and they would call upon these magicks to transport them to a place where they could spread their wings in peace.

As it happened, not so far from this place lived the Knitter. The Knitter, who knew that two sticks and some string could be used to create a garment, still believed in the special magick of the creative event. Understood and reveled in the intangible but very real energy that was present in every item made with her hands. She strived to create balance between technology and this special magick, knowing that both were important in the world.

One day, the appointed day for departure for the Dragons who had gathered, the Knitter happened upon the place. Some would later say that she was a wise and virtuous champion for magick drawn to the site, others would say that it was a lucky hunt for a missing knitting needle that took her to that place. Regardless, She was struck by the majesty of what she saw as the Dragons began to take wing, but saddend greatly as she realized that they were leaving forever. Unafraid, she called to a ruby-red Dragon who had yet to launch into the journey.

"Dragon, it is sad that the majesty of your kind will no longer be known by this world. Please, give me something that those of us who still believe in magick might remember you by."

The Dragon paused and sighed. "If you truly believed in magick, you would not need me to give you something as a memory, you would be able to create it yourself."

The Knitter stared up at the Dragon, and as she did so, she began to notice the beautiful pattern formed by the Dragon's scales. She reached out and touched the leg of the dragon, so that her fingers would understand the texture. "Dragon, you are right, to remember your magick, I will create a memory of your kind, I will knit the texture of your scales into a garment."

The Dragon looked pleased. And the Knitter continued: "But I have not brought my tools with me and I can not be sure I will render the pattern without a guide. Will you remain until I have been able to create a memory of Dragons?"

The Dragon thought for a bit, looking pensive as the Dragon folk all took wing. "I will give you one day, Knitter. You must return tomorrow at this time. It is all the time I can spare for you to work your magick."

The Knitter raced back to her home, the memory of Dragon scales in the front of her mind. She sat down with her needles and knit frantically, creating the only kind of garment that she knew she could complete in a day. Just before the Dragon's deadline, she completed her task. She ran back to the ruby-red Dragon and presented her work:

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What the Knitter Showed the Dragon

And the Dragon looked pleased. "You have knit well, " said the Dragon, "and I can feel the magic in what you have knit. And because you have made the attempt, and done so well, I will add a little of my own magick." And with that statement, the Dragon exhaled a breath of cool magick fire across the sock and over the Knitter. "Now, whenever you you knit my scales into a garment, you will knit an extra magick into it. The wearer of the garment will gain confidence and wisdom and strength -- the true spirit of Dragon kind -- magnified by the true magick of caring that can only come from a handmade garment. And the knitter will never suffer from Second Sock Syndrome. Share this pattern with others such as you who remember the old magick. Thus will Dragons be remembered in this place."

And with those words, the Dragon launched into the air after the rest of the Dragonkind, leaving the Knitter holding her single sock, and a mission to share the memory of Dragons. After watching the Dragon disappear into the sky, she went home and immediately cast on for the second sock.

Clearly, since that time, there have been many knitters creating the memory of Dragons. You can find some of their efforts in these links:

Marnie McLean's Wyvern Socks

Annemarie Pearson's Dragon Scale Gauntlets

Jennifer Sander's Dragon Scale Hat

P.S to those admiring my blocking board: it's called a Space Board and I think it can be ordered from both Knit Picks and Patternworks. And it is a most wonderful and magickal thing!

Dragon Details

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I'm touched that so many of you enjoyed my short departure into creative writing. Sunday morning something grabbed a hold of me and I needed to do more than just show a picture of a completed sock. I think it was all the comments on my previous post about dragons and all the different ways dragons have been described and used in both human mythology and fantasy fiction. I'm enjoying my journey with these socks so much, I guess I just needed to create some of my own dragon mythology.

Unfortunately, that small picture doesn't show off a lot of the details in these socks. So I thought I would wrap up the "first completed sock" post with some detail images of the sock design. Y'all know how much I love using the macro mode on my camera!

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The Back of the Sock

I'm pleased with the back of the sock. Instead of opting for a plain heel, I extended the central scale pattern down by another half interval to complete the scale. I think that little detail makes the sock a nice option for sandal wearing, and shouldn't put too much extra bulk at the heel or cause problems in a shoe.

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Short Row Heel

This is probably my first truly successful stockinette short row heel ever. Priscilla Gibson Roberts definitely knows her stuff when it comes to short row heels. If you haven't looked through a copy of her book, Simple Socks: Plain and Fancy, I'd highly recommend it. It's a great companion to Lucy Neatby's Cool Socks, Warm Feet. I love love love the way this heel fits into the sock. Don't get me wrong, I loves me a nice Dutch heel, but for these socks, the short row heel is what is meant to be, and it's almost impossible to carry the motif down the heel without making a short row heel.

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Detail of the Dragon Toe from the Side

The toe came out even better from the side than I could have predicted. Cool thing about it? I was basically just winging it and taking advantage of the decreases that were already built into the pattern.

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Dragon Toe from the Top

I'm pretty pleased with the way this looks from the top down, as well. I thought about trying to curve those center decrease lines in towards the toe point, but didn't because I thought it would make the side scales look really odd. You can't see it, but this was also one of my nicer grafting efforts as well.

Of course, I did try the sock on, and I'm also pretty happy with the fit. It's just a little tight for me (but still comfortable) so I don't think it will be too loose for my sister-in-law (I just know her shoe size because my brother wanted to me to keep it as a surprise for her).

I've gotten the second sock started, and I've completed two intervals -- I'm going more slowly with the second sock because the cotton is taking a little bit of a toll on my hands. I'm using the second sock to go back over my notes to see if I can put together a decent pattern.

There definitely will be a pattern. I don't know yet whether I will give it away or sell it. That will probably depend on whether I do additional sizes. Just to accomodate a wide variety of foot lengths, I need to come up with an additional toe design (otherwise, it's going to be hard to get the length of the sock right for people without size 8 feet). I'd also really like to scale the design up for someone of manly proportions. That will mean working out everything with a different gauge, a different pattern interval and making sure I have good things for the heels and toes. Doing that and getting all instructions into usable form takes a lot of work.

Once I get toward the end of the project, I'll definitely post the scale pattern itself -- I was just riffing off of Barbara Walker and the Knitter did promise the Dragon that she would share that scale pattern with the rest of the world.

Happy Valentine's Day!

What this Girl Likes

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It was a very good day here in Chi-town for this knitting biologist. How can it not be when it starts with this:

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Roses from my Sweetie

Isn't he the sweetest? My desk definitely smells pleasantly of roses right now. Call me a traditionalist, but I do love roses, the deep red ones, in particular.

Then, as if winter was falling in love with the idea of spring, we had 60 degree weather and sunshine here in Chicago today. That's almost unheard of in February. It made for a perfect early afternoon trip downtown to pick up a few little goodies for John (a bright red cyclamen for his desk and some yummy chocolates from Ethel M) before meeting him for lunch. John works in the Prudential building just across the street from Millenium Park, so for lunch, we strolled over to the Park Grill. Apologies to Claudia for not taking a picure of the lovely chocolate dessert we had. I must have been too busy watching the skaters on the outdoor ice rink outside the restaurant.

After I got back home, I made a short trip to the post office. Gale, a very kind reader who was de-stashing from her knitting book library when I mentioned my interest in Teddy Bears, sent me Debbie Bliss' Teddy Bears and Toy Knits books as well as Alice Starmore's Fisherman's Knits. There are such wonderful things in the Debbie Bliss books. I just love the knitted garments that go along with some of the bears and other animals.

After knitting the next pattern repeat on the Dragon sock (bringing me up to three repeats on the second sock), and inspired by the Teddy Bear book, I also did a little spinning. Not worth a picture (it's the white wool/silk I got from my parents for Christmas) but it was a nice way to relax and enjoy the evening before getting ready to go to Scylla, a Bucktown restaurant both John and I very much enjoy. I was hoping to have pictures, but the light levels were just too low for the camera on my Moto RAZR phone to do the food justice -- it was all good, especially the crab and basil "cheese cake" which featured a layer of lump crab combined with marscapone cheese and seasoned with lemon and basil. Dessert was excellent as well. It was a frozen chocolate mousse with frozen strawberries and champagne gel paired with a flourless chocolate cake, chocolate glaze and brandied cherries. Yum! And it went very well with the rose champagne we were having.

After 9 years of Valentine's Days, John still manages to surprise me with his thoughtfulness -- he really has to think ahead to do the sweet things he does.. Sometimes I think that there is one thing that guys just don't understand about women and Valentine's day. It's really not about how much money you spend, it's about how much thought you put into making it a special day. Of course, it's hard not to like being showered with gifts, but the in my book the greatest gift of all is knowing that someone took the time to do something special because they wanted to make you happy. You just can't knit enough socks for a guy who puts his heart into making you happy.

Mail Call

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Yesterday did not turn out to be a day that involved much knitting. It did turn out to be a day that involved a bit of computer babysitting and some excellent Belgian ale. So excellent that it required another attempt with the phone camera, even though people do tend to look at you funny when you are taking pictures of beer.

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Belgian Kwak

But now that I have set the dangerous precedent of phone food photography, you can bet that there will likely be more. Because really, I have to say, I enjoy eating out in Chicago almost more than I like pursuing the fiber arts. Chicago is a most excellent food town.

But, as I mentioned, there was not much knitting to show for the day. Oh, I did try to knit after that nice Belgian beer, but it resulted in dropped stitches and ripping back a Dragon sock and playing with size 0000 needles to get everything back in order. Clearly, I was not meant to make any knitting progress yesterday. Sometimes a girl has to listen when the powers that be are telling her to abandon certain activities.

I've gotten a few neat things in the mail lately, though, and this seems a good time to share them.

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Debbie Bliss' "the club" Membership Project

I am probably the last person to go out and join Debbie Bliss' club , I resisted last year, but when I discovered the free knitting kit involved her Casmerino Astrakan, I decided that this was a good time to subscribe. I've seen a few folks blogging about it, and it just seemed like really nifty stuff. This kit is the perfect entry into playing with a new yarn, I think -- how can I go wrong with two skeins of yarn. And I know it's enough yarn for at least one project. This yarn is not entirely my color (being a bit of a yellowy green) but I might be willing to ignore that fact to make the scarf. The Astrakan is very soft and has a really lovely texture in the skein. Not sure when I will actually knit it -- probably when I'm travelling and need a small project -- but I'm sure I'll enjoy it when the time comes

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AquaMelon Vesper Sock Yarn

I consider myself just a little bit lucky to have happened upon the Knitterly Things Etsy Shop just in time to be able to pick up a skein of Julia's lovely hand-dyed self-striping sock yarn. I first learned about it when Monica over at passionknit blogged about her new sock yarn obsession (be sure to go to the bottom of the post and click on the links to see some lovely socks made in this yarn). Since I, too, feel sated with my level of Socks that Rock (and I feel safe in the knowledge that if I really need any, it's not too hard for me to get out to Marengo to get some), it seemed like a good time to join Monica in her Vesper obsession. Now that I have the yarn in my hot little hands, I am not disappointed. The colors are lovely you can click here for a closeup (even if my camera wants to oversaturate the reds) and are such a flashback to my preppy '80's high school years, how could I resist?

LIke I've said so many times before, a girl can never have too much sock yarn.

I have to admit that I don't get to read as many blogs as I would like to. But in the past weeks or so, I've noticed here and there people talking about the etiquette of posting pictures of gifts received, goodies from trades or yarns and tools purchased for one's self. It seems that some folks think "flashing your stash" is a breach of good behavior and/or a sign of uninspired blogging. Others feel left out when reading the blogs of people who receive gifts from friends or other bloggers. I try to stay off my soap box most of the time, but this is one case that touched a nerve and where I would like to share my thoughts (in other words, this post is going to get really long, so you may want to stop now, should this subject not interest you).

First off, let me just say that yes, you're seeing pictures of yarn today because I do lack a bit of inspiration, and I certainly lack any exciting knitting or spinning to show. I won't dispute that. It happens some times. As much as I would love to be able to show off the creative works of my hands everyday, it doesn't always work out. So then I try to look around my life and my fiber pursuits and see if there is something else interesting to talk about. A new yarn, a new tool, a book perhaps. I absolutely love finding out about new things -- if others didn't do a little "showing off" then I might never find out about some things that are really useful or lovely. I'm all about using Google to find things that interest me, but there's nothing quite like finding out about something new and then getting some helpful opinions about both the product and the vendor. And I like to think that periodically, when I'm showing off something new to my little treasure trove of fibery goodies, I might provide some useful information to someone else. Generally, I tend to only post about the things I like (life is too short to spend too much time focusing on the negative), but I will try to be balanced in what I say.

I look at gifts and trades in more or less the same way, but with an added twist. As with things that I might buy for myself, I like to share if I think there is something interesting about what I received. But I also like to post about them for other reasons. First off, gratitude. No matter how many times I trade with people, no matter how many times I receive a thoughtful gift, I am always really touched that someone took the time to do something nice for me. And I almost always want to try to share that feeling. I've never found a group of people as thoughtful as fiber folks when it comes to this kind of thing. Secondly, I like to let whomever I got the trade or gift from that their gift arrived. I know I could just send email, but I like the blog medium. I like making that journal entry and taking the pictures and sharing a public thank-you -- it might soudn strange, but that part is a lot of fun for me, and makes the items received doubly enjoyable.

But, that said, it's still easy for me to see how this sort of thing might make others feel left out. Growing up, I almost always felt like I was the unpopular kid that no one wanted to do anything with. It took me a long time to realize that if you want to be part of a group, you've got to put yourself out there a little bit, too. And believe me, I know (man, do I know), that can be really hard. But in the knit blog world, I think there's definitely plenty of ways to get involved and there are so many remarkable and friendly people to meet. Like someone's work or want to encourage someone? Leave 'em a comment on their blog. I've had some great email dialogs and friendships develop this way. Fall in love with a yarn that's hard to get where you are? Perhaps you could ask the blogger that posted about it if they would be willing to try a little trade -- but try not to feel hurt if its not the right thing for that person at the time. Got stash of your own that you think would be happier somewhere else? Offer to trade with others. Maybe you're stash poor but time rich? Host a knit along or share a knitting design or start a knitting group in your local area. Be genuine, be willing to exert some effort, and you'll be surprised what develops over time. After almost 4 years of blogging, I know I still am!

Pearl Details

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It ight seem like all dragons all the time around here lately, but I have been working steadily on the Peark Buck Swing Jacket when my hands get too tired for cotton yarn. For anyone keeping score, I've now finished the yoke, one sleeve and the left front. There will be another picture of these pieces tacked to my board soon enough, but for now, I want to show off the edge detail from the front left piece, since I don't think that Interweave did a good job of revealing this clever detail.

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Left Front Edge Detail from Pearl Buck Swing Jacket

I love how this detail is relatively simple but does something very interesting. The half diamond shapes against the edge with the stockinette on one side and the ridged stitching on the other reminds me of waves against a shoreline. Probably not the designer's intention, but that's what I see.

I'm now warming myself on the beach of Sleeve Island trying to get the second sleeve finished before I go back to the right front. It seems so strange for me to leave the back, the main event, for last. But it will also be nice to get the big piece finished and have nothing but the seaming left to do.

And the Dragon socks do progress -- I've passed the heel on the second sock. And I'm looking forward to thinking about how to size this pattern up and down for different kinds of feet!

Handmade Gift

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On Saturday, Julie and I got together to do a little shopping, a little spinning, a little eating and a lot of talking. But the highlight for me was receiving a special gift from Julie for my birthday.

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A Pin Cushion with Personality

As I had been pinning down my pieces of the Pearl Buck jacket, I had been thinking how much easier it would be if I had a big pin cushion and the pin heads were sticking straight up instead of being in the bowl container I keep them in. I often get poked reaching into that bowl or get a pin in the opposite orientation that I need it in. My problems are now solved by Julie's fabulous pin cushion, which is of impressive size -- probably 3 inches tall and at least 4 inches in diameter, there's room for a small army of pins. She's weighted the bottom so it won't roll over and it's stuffed with some leftover roving from a trip to the Fold. Of course, my favorite part is the hand-embroidered initial on the top of the cushion done in a Celtic font. And how could you not like the knitting themed button pins that she found to put on as an accent? It makes me happy just to have it on my desk!

The other highlight of the afternoon was digging into some wonderful washed fleece that Liz sent along for us to fondle and spin with. We started working with just a little bit of the CVM and our improvised "carders" (dog slickers) and got enough so that Julie could spin a little bit of it on her drop spindle. This stuff was so awesome! Not only was it soft and a treat to handle, but when spun, it had this incredible elasticity. And the color was an incredible semi-sweet chocolate brown. Really beautiful stuff. My next mission is to look and see if I can find a small fiber preparer that can take this lovely stuff and turn it into roving. One thing Julie and I discovered while working with it is that our carding skills aren't really up to the challenge at this point. So I'm going to see if I can find someone who can give us a little help getting us a long our way. If anyone has any suggestions for companies that will process small amounts of fiber and do a good job, I'd love to hear about it!

And to anyone interested, I have posted a short review of the Yarn Harlot's most recent book over on Two Friends Collect Books. I've been a little lax in my posting over there but I hope to get going again with my reviews -- which will also include some non-knitting books.

So Much Knitting, So Little to Show

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I really should be posting finished pictures of my first pair of Dragon Scale socks, but I still need to get a "model" shot in daylight. This would have happened over the weekend, if I hadn't gotten caught up in the next phase of the Dragon Scale sock experience -- Dragon Scale socks for those with somewhat larger feet, i.e. the husband.

I decided that I would use the skein of Beryl Socks that Rock (a semi-solid green color that was husband selected) and a US size 1.5 needle since I thought that the US size 1 needle that I used on my pair of STR socks resulted in a fabric that was just a little bit too dense for a pattern that involves a lot of decreasing and increasing. Of course, I went into my enormous needle stash only to discover that I have just 4 size 1.5 needles. Sigh. Looks like one of my helpful cat fiends must have decided that it was an excellent toy. (I have several sets of DP needles like this...somewhere in the house, my cat is starting his own knitting needle stash)

Sunday I managed to track down a set of US 1.5/2.5 mm needles (this took a while as this doesn't seem to be a very popular size). I modified the stitch pattern to be a 20 stitch repeat and I cast on. Within the first 4 rows I dropped a stitch and had no idea where since the pattern was barely set and the yarn is a dark color and the stitches are tiny. I ripped and cast on again. This time, I got through two full pattern intervals (you have to do several before you get a real sense of what gauge will be on this pattern) and thought it seemed a little big -- as it turned out, it was 9" in diameter, which is about 1/4" more diameter than the widest part of my husband's dainty feet. I had him try it on just to confirm my fears, even though I know that there is no worse truth than math done correctly. Sigh again. 8.9 stitches/inch just wasn't going to cut it.

So, this evening, I ripped everything out again and cast on onto a pair of US 1.0/2.25 mm needles (at the same time as I bought the 1.5s, I also found a set of Inox 1s and thought it would be interesting to try them out since they have nice sharp points and a smooth surface). After 1 pattern interval it looks like I am now getting about 9.4 stitches/inch and that the socks are going to be about 8.5" around. Not quite as snug as I think would be best, but there's no way I am going to do these socks on size 0 needles. Just no way. That said, this fabric is no where near as dense and thick as the fabric I got under the same circumstances using the Tiger Eye STR. This suggests to me that perhaps the folks at Blue Moon have changed their stock sock yarn -- when I look at them next to each other, the old STR is definitely thicker. Which is not really a big deal, and not really surprising given that my first STR was purchased about 2 years ago at an Illinois fiber festival. I just offer it up as an interesting observation for anyone who might also have some of the older yarn.

So, in spite of all the sock knitting effort (and it really is because the manly Dragon Scale sock repeats the pattern interval 4 times while the more femininely sized sock repeats the interval only twice) I have no photos to share. This is because A) one 8 row pattern interval looks like nothing interesting and B) the yarn is dark green and I'm going to have to be outdoors in order to get any kind of stitch definition to be visible. At least I am on the right track, for now. And I'm pretty sure with this re-worked version of the original Dragon Scale pattern I can create a sock pattern that works for feet of more than one size without sacrificing too many of the details that I like about the first design. And even if I don't have any pictures today, I still have a little design victory that will begin to unfold as the week goes on.

Spinning Corriedale

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2 ounces of Natural Corriedale Single

I decided to take a short break from dragon scales (read, "I'm probably going to rip out what I have again so I can put in a cuff that doesn't roll, but I need to get some distance from the project before I can get motivated to start again") and work on a small spinning project. Included in my birthday gift from my parents was 4 ounces of undyed Corriedale. I realize now, looking back through my archives, that I have spun Corriedale before -- some cochineal dyed Corriedale that I bought at MS&W and was amongst the first things that I spun on a drop spindle. I loved the colors, but I have to admit that I didn't really love spinning this fiber -- especially not after I started to work with the cormo and silk blend.

So when I started spinning this undyed Corriedale, I just didn't remember that I had ever spun Corriedale at all and I didn't really have any preconceived notions about whether I was going to like it or not. Turns out, I like it a lot. It's definitely got a little bit rougher feel than the merino/cormo blends than I've been spinning, but it has this very nice elasticity to it that I didn't find with the dyed Corriedale and haven't found in the BFL or in the cormo/merino blends. And the single I've spun has a nice springy elasticity to it -- not quite as much as Julie and I saw with the CVM, but enough to make the resulting single interesting. I'm looking forward to spinning up the second 2 ounces so that I can see how it works up when plied and I can start working on squares for my "blanket of many sheep breeds".

I find the difference between the dyed and undyed Corriedale to be very striking. Do the chemicals used in the process of dyeing with the natural cochineal dyes have a negative effect on the wool? Or is there just a lot of variation from sheep to sheep? One thing I've learned from this experience as well as with the CVM experience over the weekend is that it's best not to judge a particular sheep breed based on a dyed fiber. Which makes me even more excited about wandering around MS&W looking for fiber from all kinds of sheep!

P.S. To anyone out there who has a little bit of positive energy to send to a very sick fur person, it would be much appreciated. One of our blond boys, Sydney, is a pretty sick guy. We're hoping that his second trip to the vet tomorrow will bring better news than the one we went to over the weekend....

What I Wasn't Going to Write About

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I was planning on writing about my progress on the Pearl Buck Swing Jacket or on my Dragon Scale socks. But as Isat down at the computer, I realized that I wasn't really feeling like talking about sweaters or socks or spinning or anything else fibery. What I've been thinking about all day is a cat with a serious problem and what we're going to do to deal about it.

I'd like to say thank you in the warmest possible way to everyone who left good wishes for Sydney. He can't really appreciate them, but I do. It is the nicest feeling there is to have a troubling situation and to have people that I have only talked to through email or met through their blog journaling taking the time to leave me a comment. Whenever I get down about unpleasant people, I try to think about the great vibes that I get from people who read my blog and it reminds me that there are going to be some people that suck, but there are many more good people out there.

The rest of this post is not going to be very happy, and will include no knitting. So you might want to click away now if either of these things seems offputting.

Unfortunately, all the good wishes in the world are not going to do much for Sydney. On Saturday morning we noticed he was weak, and not using his litter box when he had to urinate. So John found a vet that was open on Saturday afternoon (more of a challenge than you'd think!). The vet didn't have a very positive outlook on Syd's likely prognosis, but he drew some blood and did a blood work up. We got the results yesterday and the not very positive outlook became a pretty much negative outlook. And like most pet owners, we didn't really want to believe that things could be so bad for our cat. He's only 11 years old and his littermate is completely healthy.

So we had the results faxed to our "regular" vet and set up an appointment for all three cats this morning (we figured if we were going to take one in, we'd take them all, especially since the first vet had raised the specter of FIP). We enjoyed talking to the second vet better, but the prognosis was pretty much the same. Syd's kidney's are failing. In fact, his creatine levels are so high, he probably has lost more than 75% of his kidney function. Not only that, but his phosphorus levels are high (not good for the blood and also a bad prognosis indicator) and he's pretty anemic. Which means that his kidneys also aren't making the erythropoeitin (if you've heard of the drug "epogen" it's the same thing) that they need to to stimulate his bone marrow to make more red blood cells. Another very bad sign Especially when coupled with the fact that he is eating and drinking very little and spends most of his day curled up in a basket in the hallway just shutting out the world.

The options for treatment are limited. We could have left him with the vet to keep him on IV fluids for a couple of days to see if things got better. But that would mean that he would be all alone. When he came home, it would also mean that we would have to do daily sub-cutaneous fluid administration. To deal with the phosphorus, we would have to add a phosphorus binder to his food. And if his red blood cell count didn't go up, then we would also have the option of getting him treated with epogen. All this, and it's still likely that the time he would have left would be measured in weeks. And Syd has never been very good about treatments of any kind, unless he's sick. So giving him IV fluids everyday would probably be miserable for him and for John and I. If he was feeling good, we'd practically have to sit on him everyday for the rest of his life to do it. If he was feeling bad, then we'd just be prolonging his life in pretty miserable state.

The reality is, there are no good options. We can go through a lot of costly and low quality of life treatments to sustain his life for maybe a couple more weeks to months. Or we can let him fade until he simply isn't eating anything anymore and then take him in to be euthanized. Or we can do some portion of the possible treatments. There's no right answer and there's no clear path.

He's clearly not acting like himself, our other two cats almost act like he is not here anymore. This is particularly disturbing when you know that he and Mercutio are usually almost inseparable. But now Mercutio has abandoned him. It feels so tragic and sad. John and I both believe that you extend life when you know that there can be a good quality to that life. But how to judge what that is? I being a breathing lump in a basket represent good life quality if he is not in pain? It's certainly not good for his human companions.

In the end, we opted to have the vet give him some sub-cu fluids (the first vet did this on Saturday as well) so that we could see if that would help him perk up. He was remarkably active and aware while we were at the vet and we weren't really ready to make any more dramatic decisions. I guess neither of us wanted him to be in a small cage in an animal hospital for two days, sick and in unfamiliar surroundings. I think that means that John and I have come to terms with the fact that no amount of wishful thinking will make this small furry person better. But we still haven't really come to terms with the ultimate decision to be made. How much is too much? How much is not enough? When should a good life end with a good death?

Perhaps I will spin for a while and meditate a bit.

More Pieces of Pearl

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Thank you so much to everyone who left us a comment yesterday. I say "us" because yesterday John took time out to read my post and the comments. "Wow, " he told me, "the people commenting on your blog are really nice." I couldn't agree more. Y'all are awesome and you made us feel a lot better today -- even if I did get tears in my eyes reading most of the comments as they showed up in my mailbox. I really appreciated hearing about all of your stories and shared feelings about this kind of experience. I think my favorite blog posts are the ones where I touch on something that really cuts across many lines and gets people to share their own experiences. Thank you again and thank you thank you thank you.

As it turns out, today was a much better day for Sydney. He was a lot more active and actually ate some real food. He did some very normal Sydney sort of things and even jumped up on the counter (where he is not supposed to be) which he hadn't done since the weekend. So for the time being, we think that most of our cat is still with us. Only time will tell if this is just a temporary reprieve or a suggestion that he might have a little longer than we think. John has been looking for some low potassium, low protein food for Sydney and we are still trying to decide about the sub-cutaneous fluids.

It was a pretty good day for the humans, too. I had a good day at work and ended it with a trip to Frontera Grill for my favorite margarita, the best ceviche in Chicago and some extraordinary guacamole. We topped it off with a couple of mojitos (mojitos done Frontera style with tequila instead of rum) and some wonderful chocolate-Kahlua poundcake with a mocha cheesecake ice cream, blood oranges and a bit of a chocolate sauce. There should have been pictures, but I was too busy stuffing my face full of goodies to remember my camera.

And a bit of knitting can be reported on, too. On the first official knit-a-long day for the Pearl Buck Swing Jacket, I can report that I have made some more progress: no more Sleeve Island for me!

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Pearl Now Has 2 Sleeves

I thought about casting on for the back, but went for the right front piece instead so that I can block all of the small peices together (I've pinned them down but still haven't given them a good soaking yet). So far, this is a pleasant, easy cruising project, and I still haven't discovered any errors in the size I'm making. I'm so looking forward to having a new sweater in my collection as spring weather draws closer.

Sock Challenge

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I've been meaning to do this for a while, and with the Olympics having drawn to a close, it seems like a good time to talk about the challenge I (and some other knitting friends) are taking on this year: to knit socks for our families.

If you look on my side bar (you may have to scroll down a bit, depending on the size and resolution of your monitor) you'll see the list of people I plan to knit socks for, the group of people who are knitting along with me, and a total tally of family feet that will have new socks at their disposal. Currently, the group of us are up to 6 pairs of socks. Not bad for a challenge that's only been going on for a couple of weeks. Here's the group of folks that I'm keeping the tally for:

Friends Taking the Challenge with Me
Annie
Socks for son Luke finished!

Heatherly

Janna

Lora
Opal Dreamcatcher Socks for Mom finished!
Jaywalkers for Sister started.

Maggie

Michelle H-K

Michelle K
Blue Socks for Oldest Daughter Finished!

Tish
3rd daughter finished!

Traci

There's always room for more if anyone else is interested in joining us. There aren't really too many rules for this on. My goal is to knit a pair of socks for all my immediate family members this year. I've finished a pair for John and a pair for my sister-in-law, Libby and I've just cast on a pair for my dad and another pair for John (he's going to be the recipient of the large-sized Dragon Socks). And if I missed an announcement from anyone in my list, please let me know. The past couple of weeks I've had a pretty full inbox and I could have missed something by accident. Also, if you're on my list and you have a website, but you don't see a link here, let me know. I'll be happy to add it.

I thought I'd close today's post with a picture that makes me smile and feel a bit sad at the same time:

20060226_JohnAndSyd.jpg
A Man and His Buddy

If the cat can't come to the kitty treats, the kitty treats come to the cat.

Here There Be Dragons

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Very cool to get a few more people knitting along with me in my sock challenge. I'll be adding everyone to the sidebar soon. If you take a picture of your sock and it's somewhere on the internet that I can link, let me know and I'll make sure that pictures are a available too!

On the subject of socks, I thought I'd finally post the pictures of the finished Blue Moon Sock Candy (in Cherries Jubilee) Dragon Scale Socks. I finished these a week ago Sunday, but it seems like they've been done for aeons.

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Top and Side of Resting Dragon Socks

Just for the record, these socks were done on US size 2 needles and I cast on 64 stitches as a start point, They are about 7.5" around at the top and are a little wider in the foot because I didn't decrease when I switched to doing the bottom part in stockinette after the heel. I had a reasonable amount of yarn yet (I probably could have done another pattern interval on the leg or foot of the sock without too much concern about not finishing.

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Dragon Socks in Action

These socks are actually tighter on me than they look in the picture (pardon both the disturbingly white skin and the fleece pant bottom that snuck into the picture) but they are certainly not cutting off my circulation, either. I think this particular sock would do pretty well on anyone from a size 7 to an 8 and would be fine on smaller and larger feet as long as the diameter of the widest part of the ball of the foot didn't get too much past 8".

The scale patterns are much more prominent in person than in pictures and the cotton blend yarn made for very nice stitch definition. The pooling doesn't bother me all that much, and I think the sock would look equally good in a solid colorway (which is what my next go at this pattern will be in). The tops of the sock do roll just an itsy bitsy bit (as you can see in the picture where I am wearing them) but I definitely like them without a true cuff. In this case, the yarn is definitely stiff enough to keep the sock in place, especially if it's not too loose on the wearer. (My final patterns will have cuffed and uncuffed versions).

I like the Sock Candy a lot more than I though I would, too. It's a nice thick cotton blend with enough stretch to make it relatively comfortable to knit with and it's perfect for this design because the texture really pops. When I was last at the Fold, Toni had a great yellow/lime/pale aqua colorway in stock that I might have to try for myself someday when I need a pair of summer socks. Yellow seems to be one of the few general sock colors that I don't have that much of in my sock drawer.

And for those of you interested in a bigger size, I've figured out what I need to do and have a start on the first sock of the pair. It's definitely going to take more time than this pair since I ended up down on US size 1 needles and I've got 4 pattern repeats instead of 2 to make it through on each round. I like it very much better after ripping the third time and starting again with a garter stitch cuff. With the STR Light (thank you to everyone who pointed out that there were three different sock weights now -- I'll definitely be looking for the other two weights for the husband, as he likes different weights for different times of the year) that I have, the wool doesn't create enough structure to keep the tops of the curves from drooping over. And, since this pair is for John, I thought the garter stitch top would give them a bit more masculine touch -- kind of like chainmail edging on a gauntlet.

There will be pictures as soon as I've made enough progress to get a good picture of how the scales look. One of the most fun things for me about creating something on my own is that I want to keep on knitting just to see how it will turn out! It's definitely kind of wild to see my doodlings become reality!

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