Monday, January 28, 2008

5 down, 4 to go

Toes, that is.

My first silk toe sock is finished!

Ever seen a toe sock in progress before? I feel compelled to share, since the whole process isn't as scary as it sounds. All of the tricky bits come at the end, and they go pretty quickly - I did all the toes of one of my previous pair of toe socks on a single flight home - it helped that there were two good movies on that flight.

I learned everything I know about toe socks from The Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook. Their directions are for a 60-stitch sock, which is what I have here, but the process could be easily adapted to other sizes.

So here I am, ready to start the toes. It's a perfectly normal sock up to this point. I've stopped knitting a little earlier - just at the bottom of my little toe - than I would if I were doing normal socks. This is the sock for my left foot. It matters with toe socks - for everyone, unless someone's feet are really funky.

The little toe goes first. I've knitted the last few stitches on the top and bottom needle of the left side, and I'm casting on a few extra stitches to go between my 5th and 4th toes. The book says it's just like making gloves for your feet. I've never made gloves, but if they're as straightforward as toe socks, I should start.

It's a one-toe-at-a-time process. So I'm knitting my way up the little toe. Once it's just about long enough, I'll decrease by k2tog all around, and then draw the last stitches together.

With Little Piggie Who Cried Wee-Wee-Wee done, it's time for Little Piggie with No Roast Beef. First, I knit around all the needles again, picking up stitches where I cast on the extras before, until the sock reaches the point that toes 4 and 3 split.

Then I turn my attention to the stitches that are now on the far left, cast on a few where I need to, and knit until the next toe is long enough. And I keep going, through Had Roast Beef and Stayed Home.

The big toe is easiest. Since the Little Piggie who Went to Market is last, there's no need to cast on any more stitches. I hate the way the backward-loop cast on turns out, so this makes the big toe my favorite.

The big toe gets a couple rounds of decreases for better shape, and then it's done! After that it's just a matter of weaving in a whole bunch of ends. This is why I love self-patterning yarn for toe socks. I've already cast on the second sock, so it will be my mindless, carry-around knitting for a couple weeks, until it's time for the second set of toes.

I also have to share that Max is in a very bad mood today.

Not "bad mood" in a grumpy sense - in a mood to be bad. The only reason he was able to get this pillow is that I took it off my chair to make room for him to sit in my lap. Was he scheming, or had he just seen his opportunities and took 'em?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Full Bloom

When I woke up this morning, the smell of hyacinth hit me as soon as I walked into the living room. Yesterday, I'd notice a whiff of fragrance if I leaned over the table, but today the aroma pervades much of the apartment. I have a plant that's very nearly in full bloom.

And it was there by the time I got home from work. Trader Joe's always has a tempting collection of flowers available, and I'm really glad I gave in this time. Did you notice that having the hyacinth even inspired me to clean off the dining table? That, alone, is worth $2.49.

There's even more excitement this evening. A nearly-finished toe sock, for one thing. And that I nearly finished the toe sock while watching Barack Obama give his victory speech in South Carolina! Tomorrow I'll finish the toes on my socks - if the excitement has worn off enough that I can sit and knit.


Friday, January 25, 2008

Hyacinth Cam

If, of thy mortal goods, thou art bereft
And from thy slender store two loaves alone to thee are left
Sell one, and from the dole
Buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.

-Muslih-uddin Sadi

At Trader Joe's, hyacinths are cheaper than bread. So last weekend I bought this one, on a whim.

I wish I'd taken its picture when I bought it - just a little stump surrounded by a few leaves. It's been getting taller every day, and yesterday it started to look blue.

This morning it looked even bluer, and by afternoon it looked like this. As I write this, tonight, almost all of the blossoms have started to pop open. I'm looking forward to seeing what it looks like tomorrow!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

In Oslo

In Oslo, the sun will rise at 8:50 tomorrow morning, and set at 4:06 in the afternoon. That's less than eight hours of daylight, for those who don't want to do the math.

Only people who are used to such long, dark, cold, dull nights could stand to knit such long socks.

This is the cuff for my Traditional Norwegian Socks for this month's Sock Club. Just the cuff. And it's over four inches long. Just the cuff.

Did I mention that it's a sport-weight yarn (Dale Falk) on Size 1 needles? It takes a very long time to knit four inches of 76-stitch rounds on size one needles. Traditional Norwegians must have had really good indoor lighting, or else they only knit in the middle of summer.

I have barely started this sock and I'm already bored out of my mind. I'm about to get to the interesting part - the patterned band - and then the whole rest of the sock is boring. But not boring enough - you still have to follow a chart to decrease the leg appropriately.

And the cold part? In Oslo, they're expecting a high of 39 tomorrow. We're looking forward to 13 here. So maybe long socks make a certain amount of sense. I can't believe I'm looking to friggin' Scandinavia to dream of better weather. But our socks are more fun.

When River Knits started Sock Club, I promised myself that I would knit every sock, in order to force myself to try new things and avoid falling into a knitting rut. And I've nearly made good on that - I haven't finished the cotton socks from Sensational Knitted Socks, and I didn't start a pair of Cookie A. socks specifically for Sock Club (I was already working on Monkey and Pomatomus), but I've made one of everything else - even the beaded socks and the Dreaded Nancy Bush pattern. It's going to be harder to do that this year, but I'm determined to stick with it. Let stoles and shawls be the things I give up and rip out - socks are always useful!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Cobblers of the Sea

We're Vikings, the Cobblers of the Sea
We're Vikings, shoe-making happily
Let there be no ambiguity
The Cobblers of the Sea!*

I'm afraid I don't have any socks to show off today.

But I made this. It's a shoe.

A real shoe, which I can really wear, and I really made it myself (with a lot of help from Egil the Shoe-making Viking). I went to a party and I learned how to make shoes - how cool is that?

Egil and his buddies are members of Vikings North America, a re-enactment group that's significantly more historically specific and accurate than the SCA. They do a lot of educational/interpretive programs, and we're hoping to get more involved with them.

Egil's wife, Iona, is the one who taught me to do the naalbound socks (which are still in progress - but now I have great incentive to finish!)

This is the inside of the shoe. You can see the stitches that sew the sole to the upper. That's kind of the funky part - you put the shoe together sewing through the top and side of the sole, and then turn the whole thing inside out. "Sewing," in this case, means shoving a needle through an already-pierced hole using a scrap of leather with a thimble, then tugging the needle through the hole with a pair of pliers and a lot of swear words. Just in case there's any confusion there.

And here's the sole of the shoe. That extra strip of leather all around the sole helps protect the upper from wear - although it makes the sewing part a lot more challenging.

The shoe design is based on this one, from Jorvik.

Want to see some really cool Viking stuff? There's a group that's building a functional Viking farmstead out in Missouri.

And this is the second shoe. Basically, you sew the upper to the sole, then sew across the top of your foot and cut away anything that doesn't look like part of the shoe. A few slits for ties around the top, and I'm done. I hope Second Shoe Syndrome isn't a danger.

In keeping with the Viking theme, I'm about to start a new pair of socks for Sock Club - the "Traditional Norwegian Socks" from the Dale of Norway "Sock Class" leaflet. According to the leaflet, I really will need all of this yarn. I want leftovers, or these had better be some toasty warm socks.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

More Christmas Goodies

Karen came over last night with Christmas goodies - treats and new toys for the dogs.

For the DOGS, dammit!

The stuffed sheep is so wildly popular that both dogs would try to carry it around at the same time. (As long as I didn't have the camera out.) But the ball is a pretty good toy, too.

Yep, for the dogs.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

On the Twenty-Fourth Day of Christmas...

I finished my Christmas socks.

They're a little bit late, but they're done - a heavily-modified variant of the Shimmer Socks from MagKnits, made from Crystal Palace Panda Wool.

This is a beautiful yarn, but it's more than a little tricky to work with. It's frail and prone to splitting, but it's delightfully soft and has a lovely shimmer. This colorway was rather more enchanting in the ball than it is in the sock, so I think I'm still looking for the perfect Panda Wool pattern - and the perfect Christmas Sock.

The finished socks had their first picture taken with Purdue Pete, in a campus cafeteria. The cafe is a project for hospitality management students, and this semester, it's my office. I've been knitting during my officially scheduled office hours, and today Alsatia joined me, so we're very near to forming a daytime knitting circle. It turns out there's a group of about 15 knitters from the Consumer & Family Sciences department who get together regularly, so I'll have to keep an eye out for them.

Now I'm on to finishing other projects - starting with my new toe socks. And I've picked up a replacement needle for Oscar's last chew toy, so I can resume work on my Kauni Cardigan. The next challenge will be trying to avoid starting too many projects - I just bought the Fiber Fish pattern, so now I'm searching for the perfect fish-colored yarn. Anyone know what color wool fish are supposed to be?


Monday, January 14, 2008

Shamelessly Stolen

I've stolen this idea for a post from Amanda, but she stole it from someone else, so it's probably ok. Besides, I haven't made any real knitting progress - it took me three days to turn the heel on my Christmas sock - so I'm sort of fishing for material here.

On My Bedside Table:
Real Simple: Travel
Eat, Pray, Love

Next Up from Netflix:
No Netflix. But maybe I'll try to watch "Ratatouille"

Latest Interests:
Hoping to make more beads
Household organizing and getting rid of stuff
Figuring out this Etsy thing (see above)

On My Mind:
The Jewish Studies job search
Aaron's job search
Finding a class schedule I like
Super Tuesday

American popular culture
To eat vegetables
More German, maybe

More pouches from Omiyage
Christmas Socks
Kauni Cardigan
A "Jews in Indiana" lecture
Plan B for Super Bowl Sunday

Looking Forward To:
The Gladsheim party - I'll finally meet some of the Viking re-enactors I've been e-mailing
My Sockday!

Chef Boyardee Pizza, which I only make when Aaron's out of town
Chocolate Chip cookies, leftover from preparing travel provisions

Amused By:
The VeryBadDogs

Monday, January 07, 2008

Secret Pals

This is a long-overdue report on our River Knits Secret Pal Reveal Party, but since I haven't made any significant sock progress I need something to cover.

So back in December, we hosted the party to end our fall Secret Pal exchange. For Aaron, this meant lots of cleaning and cooking so his apartment could be taken over by a bunch of women he doesn't know. For me, it meant getting cool stuff. And he'll be out of town for the Super Bowl, so I won't even be making up for it later.

Lots of cleaning. It's really the major benefit to entertaining - that it forces us to actually put stuff away. Since I hadn't really done this since moving, the incentive was a good thing. And I was surprised by how much there was to do - did anyone know that lampshades have to be dusted and de-furred? Can you see the line between the fur and no-fur sections? And remember, Aaron's not even getting any yarn out of this.

So once all the cleaning and cooking (roast beef, potato soup, and rum cake - guess what I made?) was done, everyone had a good time. Even the dogs were reasonably well behaved after an initial burst of energetic greeting - I don't think anyone had food or yarn stolen. There were lots of neat gifts, including some cool handmade things - but I'll let the recipients post about them.

And with all secrets revealed, I learned that my Secret Pal, the creative creator of the "Very Bad Dog Proof Sock Jar," was the fabulous Heather. She organized and was my giftee in the first River Knits Secret Pal exchange - I think the ante has gone up a bit since then, since I wound up with this lovely book. Not only is it a stitch dictionary, which I don't have and need, it's even focused on the textured patterns I like best. That may not stop me from collecting the rest of the set, but this is definitely the best start.
Thanks, Heather! I hope everyone had fun with Secret Pals, and that we'll all be able to play again next year.


Sunday, January 06, 2008


With Christmas over, it's time to take down all the decorations. For once, I've done that reasonably close to Twelfth Night - everything's packed up, and ready to be tucked away for next year. (I would have done this yesterday, but I was busy...and I wasn't at home last night, so that doesn't count as Twelfth Night.) I've even finished most of the leftovers, so that's a good ending to Christmas.

Well, almost everything is finished. The Christmas socks aren't quite done yet. I knitted as fast as I could, but they're just now ready for the heel. So it looks like I'll be extending the Christmas season to Candlemas, and I'm sure I'll have these socks finished by then - all ready for next year. Or else maybe they'll be Candlemas socks, since I'm surely hoping for a cold day then.

I did the largest chunk of this knitting over the weekend, because Sheryl invited the whole Sockday Club to join her for a slumber party to celebrate her 55th birthday. Knitting and drinking may not be the traditional 12th Night celebration, but it's a good one. I don't have many pictures to show, for the sake of all participants, but here are a couple:

Sheryl said she didn't want gifts, but that didn't rule out party favors. So a quick trip to Kipp Brothers yielded these, in honor of her non-knitting work. Besides, they're just cool - and the monster eyeballs glow in the dark! I know these aren't especially knitting related, but I just love my picture of a cookie tin full of eyeballs.

And this is knitting related, but just doesn't look it. I'm not going to write its name here, because I don't want to come up on those kinds of searches. Just imagine this tube filled with "cherry-flavored orange wine" that's been gelled and fortified, and packaged in a box labeled "Takes Two To Do!" Imagine something that tastes like jello made from cherry Ny-Quil. Imagine these doled out to a group of happy knitters, most of whom had the foresight to bring a very simple knitting project along. And understand why you don't get pictures.

Now imagine this same tube carefully rinsed out, and full of double-pointed needles. Much better, isn't it?

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Leisure Socks

Classes start on Monday, and I had to return to work today, so yesterday Aaron & I took the dogs and the Christmas sock back down to Indianapolis for a last hurrah before Christmas break ends. While the dogs enjoyed some quality time helping Grandma with the Christmas leftovers, we visited the art museum's "Roman Art from the Louvre" exhibit. Alas, photography of borrowed collections is prohibited, so I didn't get to sneak the socks next to the statues for any "what they really wore under those sandals" pictures.

Afterwards we headed downtown to Agio for dinner, and to enjoy the loungeriffic music of the Leisure Kings. Sean Baker (the one holding the sock) is a friend from high school, so he didn't flinch when I asked him to pose with a sock. Sean always wanted to grow up to be Henry Mancini. He danced the Charleston at prom. He loves smoking jackets. The sock isn't really that weird, by comparison.

Oddly, Sean is the straight man for this group, so to speak. He plays keyboards while Michael Wiltrout (the one with the yarn) sings more-or-less contemporary songs, arranged in lounge fashion. We were treated to swanky renditions of "Mr. Roboto, " "It Ain't Easy Bein' a Pimp," and a special performance of "These Boots are Made for Walkin'," by a 70-year-old lounge singer who was delightfully dressed in white leather and spiky-heeled boots. (Samples are available on their website, should it be impossible to imagine this.) If I had to pick a highlight, it would be that Michael played the Theremin....I've thought before that it would be really cool to learn to play the Theremin, and I've never seen one played before. (I've read that one must have an excellent sense of pitch to play the Theremin, so it's probably not in the cards for me. Besides, the dogs would howl along when I practiced.)

I probably should focus more on the music than on a minor instrument - but hey, it's a Theremin. (Did I mention that Lenin played the Theremin? Or that Theremin himself was an espionage expert? There's a fabulous book available for further reading.) Let me just say that I've gained a new appreciation for the lyrics of several popular songs, even if I'm not cool enough to know what's popular. Perhaps I'll look for some go-go boots for the next visit. Or some lounge attire to match the Christmas socks.

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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Old Socks, New Socks

What's the best way to celebrate the New Year? With socks, of course!

My Christmas socks accompanied me to a New Year's Eve party, and while I wasn't knitting exactly at midnight (you can't knit and hold champagne), I came pretty close. (Yes, that's an otter in a Santa hat next to the TV. The hostess has something of an obsession.) In spite of the scary weather, we said a festive (and fibery) goodbye to 2007.

The Christmas Socks are progressing nicely, and may even be done by 12th Night. I finished the first one while in Georgetown, and did a little work on the second on the trip home. I might have had more progress to show, but I spent yesterday at River Knits helping Elizabeth the Enabler do inventory. Sure, it was a fun day, and sure, she promised pizza and yarn credit. But we all know her real purpose was to lure us in to touch all the yarn. I think my wish list may have grown a bit. Anyone know what Alpaca Silk is good for?

Today it was time to ring in the new, also with fiber. I was up in time for the Rose Parade (something I never managed when I was younger - I guess I must have partied more seriously back then), so that allowed a nice block of knitting time. I believe the sock is enjoying the performance by the University of Illinois marching band here. I'm sad that the Fighting Illini didn't walk away victorious, but it's not as if the Big Ten can ever expect a fair fight in a Rose Bowl.

The first socks (the first-started socks, anyway) of 2008 will be a new set of toe socks, made from the Regia Silk yarn Aaron brought back from Germany.
These self-patterning yarns are always a fun surprise; this one has a lot less black and white than I expected. They'll be on hold while I finish the Christmas socks, but I should have them done before Aaron returns from his next trip - I cast on the last pair while I was going out to visit last October, and finished the first sock a week later, on the flight home. I just love the idea of having silk toe socks!

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