Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Sock Trouble

Has anyone noticed that it's been a long time since I've posted pictures of finished socks? There's a reason for that. I've had nothing but bad luck when in the sock department lately - really, it's been bad luck with knitting in general.

Let's make a list:
  1. I ran out of yarn before I could finish all the dishcloths I wanted to make for the Yarn Harlot.
  2. I lost the Hat Attack contest.
  3. I got knocked out of Sock Madness in Round Two
And now I present 4, 5, and 6:

I thought a lot about how much and what knitting should go to Indianapolis with me to see the Yarn Harlot. Finally I settled on two projects; the Year of the Rat socks and a Preemie cap. That seemed like a nice balance - something for me and something for others, and a whole bunch of stuff to talk about.

Once I got there, I decided I really wanted to be able to show The Harlot a finished preemie cap. So I worked on it first - and finished it while we were sitting around waiting for the talk to start.

Good news, right? Everything went according to plan. I had a finished hat, and could take my special socks out to see Stephanie.

So I knitted on the socks for the rest of the time waiting. That meant I was starting on the short-row heel right about the time Stephanie showed up, but that still worked out ok. And it meant I started the intarsia just as it was time to line up for autographs, but even that didn't seem to be a big problem. It's only two colors, after all - and I was able to prop my pattern up on a bookshelf as the line wound along. Everything was going beautifully.

Right up until we got to the head of the line, and I stopped to admire the sock's nifty little placket while awaiting our turn. That's when I realized that nothing was going smoothly at all, because I'd been knitting only 3/4 of the way around, so I didn't have a nifty little placket; I had a giant un-knit gap.

That picture of me from yesterday, giving the checkered dishcloth to Stephanie? That's also a picture of me just after I realized that I was about to be ripping out an inch of finicky work, work that I'd completed at the book signing, no less. My companions suggested I ask The Harlot to do my frogging for me, but I don't like to swear a lot the first time I talk to a new person. Besides, I needed pictures.

This is not the only sock trouble I've had lately. Take a look at this, the sock that knocked me out of Sock Madness. Notice there are only four needles here, and I'm mid-round.

I lost the fifth needle, probably while trying to take a somewhat naughty picture of the sock on a grassy mall on campus. I sat down before class to knit, realized I was short a needle, and chewed on my fingers until the break, so I could go out and look for it. I found the place where I'd been by finding the scraps of burst colored condoms (There was a display. The picture seemed like a good idea at the time.), but no knitting needle. No bamboo size 0 knitting needle turned up in the middle of the grass - imagine that.

And there's more. This is the traveling sock I started last May, made with my hand-dyed yarn. Pretty, isn't it? Lovely colors, and a nice, soft, yarn. You'd think, that for a sock so lovely, a mate would fly along, and soon I'd have a beautiful pair, ready to wear before it gets too warm.

You'd also think that, having knit the first sock, I could remember what I did to knit the second. But I can't. Every time I try to start, everything goes smoothly until I get to a pattern round, and then wind up with extra stitches.

Here's what I think the pattern is:

Co 56 stitches
K 1 row
Pattern row: M1, k1, m1, k1, m1, p2tog (3 times), repeat around.
K 2 more rows, and begin again.

To my mind, this should give me 7 repeats of the pattern around the sock. I'm increasing the same number of stitches as I'm decreasing, right? But somehow I keep winding up with extra stitches, and I don't know what's happening. It's not even the same number of extra stitches - it changes depending on whether I start the pattern at the p2tog part of the m1 k1 part. This does not make sense - and remember, I live with a professional mathematician. He can't make sense of it, either.

I can't go back and check, because I pretty much made this one up, heavily modifying another stitch pattern. Since the main thing I changed is the number of stitches in the repeat, and it's the count of stitches that's off, I'm in a lot of trouble. This was supposed to be the sock that got to visit the Barack Obama meeting in Lafayette, but instead it was the sock that got started and ripped out 3 or 4 times over the course of the meeting. Poor sock.

On a brighter note, we have new backyard company. This cardinal has been hanging out around the suet feeder for the past few days - he seems to think he's a hummingbird.

I felt really sorry for him at first, but it turns out he is able to grab some seeds in his brief burst of hovering, then he settles down to scatter them around a bit and enjoy them. Thanks to Aaron's recent gardening efforts, he even has a pretty place to sit and dine.

I wonder if sitting in a garden will help me knit socks again? Hovering might be easier.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

We saw the Harlot!

Going to see the Yarn Harlot is a big undertaking, but well worth it when she's making her very first appearance in your state.

The first big decision - which knitting to take? (The "do we go?" decision was kind of a no-brainer. I'm really glad it's finals week and I didn't have to actually skip class to see the Harlot.) I've been having some bad knitting luck, but eventually settled on my Year of the Rat Socks, and a preemie cap for Obama. This may or may not have been a good idea.

We got there about 3:45, and were in the first batch of knitters to arrive. That still meant that the first seats available were about halfway back (in the batch that was set up at the time), but we discovered a nifty little sub-section on the side and got right up front.

I used some of the pre-talk time to give my sock a chance to check out the crowd. Why should Stephanie's sock have all the fun?

Somebody had thoughtfully decorated the children's section of Barnes & Noble for the occasion.

I wonder what the children thought of that.

Right on time, she showed up and gave a great talk - all about knitters and non-knitters, and non-knitters' erroneous perceptions of knitters, and Why Knitting is Good, and a whole bunch of other fun stuff. Plus she retold the story of winding up in a hotel hallway in her underwear, which is pretty darned funny when it's about someone else, and even better when the someone else is telling it, effectively giving permission to laugh at with her.

They never quite managed to put up enough chairs, but otherwise Barnes & Noble had a pretty efficient operation. I'd guess that we waited in line for 30-45 minutes, but since I had my knitting with me it wasn't a bad wait.

Two very thoughtful booksellers were waiting to take pictures, so I handed over my camera, and then handed over my checkered-flag dishcloth to Stephanie. (Yes, there's only one dishcloth, not the 7 I had planned. As it turns out, one should never say, "I'm not going to buy extra yarn, because I know I can get this stuff anyplace so I'll just run out and buy it if I need to.") I hope someone has a chance to explain to her why the checkered flag represents Indiana - she looked like she's been living on coffee and vitamin C tablets, and so we didn't get into a long conversation about the serious coolness of auto racing. (Anyone going to see her in Philadelphia? Bring that poor woman some Airborne tablets! And beer.) But she liked the dishcloth, we talked about the Knitters for Barack Obama, and she signed my book.

All in all, a trip well worth making. Now I'll look forward to her next appearance - and hope I can look slightly less manic in the pictures.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

As a Doornail

See where feeling good about a knitting contest gets you?

The U.S. and Canadian postal services worked together to be much more efficient than they have in the past, and now I'm dead. I really should have sent my hat via Express Mail.

Naturally, the dogs had to interfere with our photography efforts. The hat has already been thoroughly licked - although I prefer to believe that, in this picture, Max is at my side out of concern, rather than because of any plan to eat me or my hat.

So kimothyjones is the Hat Attack winner - but I have a new purple hat!

At least I'm dead in a very nice way.

My "Hat of Damocles" comes from Rhiannonchan, who doesn't have a blog. It's made from Patons Classic Merino - a yarn I've just come to love over the course of this Hat Attack project - and Noro Kureyon, which I've often admired but never used. And it's a lovely springtime hat, although I hope that spring is far too well-entrenched for me to need it before next spring.

Perhaps the best part is knowing that I'll never have to knit one of these hats again. I think I might miss them.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Fuzzy Green Leftovers

I may actually survive this Hat Attack thing. The WIP I was expecting has been deemed lost in the mail, so I got permission to cast on for yet another hat - Death Hat Six, just in case anyone's lost count.

Sooner or later my killing spree has to end, and I hope it's with this - Fuzzy Green Leftovers. Everyone knows that leftovers are dangerous when they look like this, right?

This hat is made with the leftover yarn from my five other Death Hats. I can safely call this the last hat, because there's only one person alive besides my victim.

Me. Wow.

After the disappointment of Sock Madness, it's kind of thrilling to think that I could win something - it's thrilling just to have made it this far.

I'm so excited that I put a pompom on the last hat! How's that for wild and crazy? It's fuzzier that way, too. I hope my victim likes fuzzy.

So now it's a battle of the Post Offices. I've been targeted by a weapon from Canada, so it may take its time getting here. I hope it takes a few more days. I resisted the temptation to send this hat via Express Mail - that seemed kind of unsporting, and expensive. But it's out of my hands, now. I'll just have to figure out what I want to knit while I wait.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Now that my latest victim is safely dead, I can turn my knitting attention back to a longer-term project.

I may have mentioned once or twice that the Yarn Harlot is coming to town soon, and so I want to have something ready for her.

Here it is - or at least a significant part of it. Knitting checkers like this is far more challenging than I expected. It's basically entrelac, but not diagonal - I knit a square, start another, join the end of each row to the previous square, then pick up stitches for another square, and do a lot more picking up and joining. The hard part was figuring out what would go in which direction - every time I thought I'd worked it all out, I'd realize that I was overlooking something. Fortunately, it finally made sense once I started knitting, more or less.

I knew it would be kind of fiddly, but what I didn't know is that I'd have to purl every other set of squares, in order to avoid unsightly lines in the color changes.

So that means there's a right side and a wrong side. Which totally defeats the purpose of using garter stitch - or at least one of the purposes. The texture will still come in handy.

Aaron thinks it's odd that I'm going to more trouble to knit for a stranger than I do for friends. But I doubt most of my friends - even my dear friends - would have much appreciation for fiddly knitted squares. Now I just have to do a bunch more of them before the 29th!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

I'm not dead yet

Somehow, I manage to keep getting by without getting killed in Hat Attack.

A squishy package arrived in my mailbox the other day, but it wasn't aimed at me.

Nope, it was another work in progress - this one aimed at Jecca42 of Ravelry.

At first I was excited. If I'm going to have to keep knitting, it might be fun to win something for it - and this puts me just one hat away from tying for the "Most Hats Knit" title, I think.

Then I found out the downside - Jecca42 is an intern for the Obama campaign! Boy, I hate to kill her.

I did it anyway. But I included an Obama button in the package.

Binary Cable Hat #5, also in Patons Classic Merino. This is a pretty cool yarn. If I ever wanted to knit another hat, I might turn to it.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Laura's GeekFest

Wow, what a day.

It's pretty much included every non-knitting-thing I like to be geeky about, except for a subway ride and a space launch. We've had some weird weather (or at least something weird that the weather people got to report on), some Obama activity, and more race stuff!

My day started much earlier than I would've liked, thanks to the dogs, and the first thing I read when I got up was a "did anyone else feel the earthquake?!?" e-mail. Waking up at 8:30 had pushed out of my mind the memory of waking up at 5:30 to a weird noise, worrying about wind, feeling some shaking, and thinking "oh, well, if it's anything, it's probably just an earthquake," and going back to sleep.

"Just an earthquake" is not really a common phrase in Indiana - the last one hit when I was in high school. But we had a small one this morning, and another one just before lunch. Since the reporting seemed to fall to the TV weather guys (I guess because they could use the same maps), I'm going to file this one under the category of "interesting weather."

In spite of the earthquakes, I went out to vote. It was really a thrill to be able to select the buttons (I almost wrote "pull the levers" - I miss the old voting machines) for two candidates I like, and even one I've met - Barack Obama and Nels Ackerson. The early voting takes a way some of the solemnity of the occasion - no visiting your traditional precinct, no seeing your neighbors - but it sure is convenient. 450 people voted yesterday, and they just kept showing up as I waited in line today.

I was glad I went into campus, too, because there was more fun stuff on the mall - leading up to this weekend's Grand Prix. I've never been to the actual race, but they keep adding activities to try to distract students from the traditional alcohol-fueled celebrations, so that means there was more cool racing stuff today. The Indy 500 Fan Tour was on campus, and they were very generous about giving me extra souvenir goodies so my father and sister won't have to fight over them.

The highlight of the truck is a racing simulator, which I didn't wait for, but there was also a nice little exhibit inside. They had this neat display of the track's surface - from the bricks to the most recent round of paving.

And they had a fake strip of bricks running through the exhibit, so the sock took a moment to check it out. I'll have to try to make it out to the track so the sock can see the real thing.

We also checked out the go-carts that will be racing tomorrow. It looks like a lot of fun - I'd be slightly tempted to think about going to the race itself, but tomorrow is Nordic Knitting and it's probably going to rain. The sock is rooting for the Society of Women Engineers cart, since they were in the process of painting it blue when I took this picture.

Tonight I went out to a meeting of Township Team Captains for the Obama campaign, which I seem to have volunteered to be. I'm supposed to organize my neighbors to get out and vote, which means I'll have to get out and find some neighbors. But since Tom, who runs the local field office, showed a pretty good sense of humor about holding the sock (note the nice, large crowd for the meeting!), I can think positive about making phone calls and knocking on doors. The hard part will be recruiting other volunteers - I'm not sure I have five friends I can recruit!

So now the sock is home happy, and just about ready for its heel. I love that Tippecanoe County gives out these cute little "I Voted" stickers - I'll have to find some place to display it more permanently.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


So today's a big day in the Indiana for Obama department. Early voting opens today, so we're trying to get students to get out and vote. The plan was to have everyone assemble and walk over to the on-campus early voting location together, so as to generate some attention.

But there were distractions. Rather big ones. It's really hard to think about anything else when there are race cars on campus - even the sock thinks so. (It's the Year of the Rat sock. Perhaps a future post will explain what's happened to all of my other current socks-in-progress.) I guess that's the downside to having campaign workers from all over the rest of the country - it's probably hard for outsiders to understand that people from Indiana should not be expected to focus on anything else once the race cars come out. I once attended a graveside service at a cemetery near the Speedway while tire testing was going on. You can guess what the main topic of conversation was. It was good for the cemetery - quite a few people expressed an interest in buying plots.

This, for the record, is Bill Vukovich II's car from 1973. (Or at least it's painted to resemble his car - I was trying to spend my time talking to people about voting, not about race cars.) I wasn't old enough to remember it, but I assume I was there to see him qualify. This is definitely my mental image of what a race car is supposed to look like - although it's cool to see the newer ones, too.

Eventually we lined up and walked, although somewhat short of the 200 people we were hoping to get. By delightful coincidence, the local paper's reporter was at the polling place doing a story on early voting, and I was interviewed. Unlike the TV station, the newspaper respects me for my mind.

I'm not the only one who's having trouble with distractions. Aaron's trying to make a tunic.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Next time I'm wearing the WonderBra

I've learned a lot in the course of my very minor involvement with the Obama campaign - some of which is likely to be useful for years to come.

I've learned the difference between a caucus and a primary, and what a caucus looks like.

I've learned how to ask people to contribute to a project, and how to encourage them to do boring stuff. I've learned that if you ask for what you want, you have a good chance of getting it.

I've learned how to organize people, and how important the details are when organizing events. I've learned that keeping things upbeat can go a long way towards keeping people happy in difficult circumstances. And, to a very small extent, I've been able to peek behind the curtain and see just how much work goes on to produce the magic that is a political campaign.

But today I learned an unexpected lesson - Wear The Good Bra.

Several of our local Democrats endorsed Barack Obama today. There was a small press conference, and I showed up to be part of a crowd of cheering students. And I was the only one wearing a "Students for Barack Obama" t-shirt.

The problem was that it was a regular t-shirt, not one of those lovely women's cut ones that actually flatters a female body. The other problem was that I really wasn't expecting my hooters to feature so prominently on the local news. But there they were, in all their glory, in a nice long shot that read "udents f rack Obam".

I wish I'd been wearing some cool knitwear, or that my sock-in-progress had been featured on TV. But I really wish I'd been wearing a WonderBra.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Guess Who's Coming to Lafayette?

This time I get to volunteer for a Barack Obama town meeting!

Now I'm just trying to decide which socks should go check the whole thing out. I wonder if they'll have a chance for a picture.....

Monday, April 07, 2008

Down and Out

Some things I have learned recently:
  1. No matter how nice a pattern is, knitting it 4 times in a row starts to get old.
  2. Never, ever, google your medical symptoms.
  3. I'm not as fast a knitter as I thought I was.
I've been sick lately. Sometimes that's a good thing, because you can just cocoon at home and knit, but have a good excuse to not do anything else. This was not one of those times.

The reason that this is really bad news is that the pattern for Round II of Sock Madness came out last Monday, when I was just getting over the "lay on the couch and whimper" stage of being sick. It also came out right before "hand midterms back to the students" day, so since I spent grading time whimpering I had to spend knitting time grading. I don't know what my excuses are for the other days of the week, but by the time Saturday morning rolled around, there were only 3 spaces left in my division and I was just on my second heel.

Being knocked out in Round II is especially embarrassing because so many people dropped out that Round I wasn't even competitive. So it's as if I lost in the very first round - I couldn't even knit faster than 15 other people.

On the upside, I've hated every single stitch of this pattern as I worked on the sock. It's a perfectly inoffensive pattern, isn't it? You can't quite see clearly, but the knits and purls make a tumbling-blocks pattern like the one from my Red Scarf, and the short-row heel and huge pain in the butt garter stitch soles make the entire sock reversible. I used the yarn I dyed at last year's Fiber Event - I'd like to say I'd found the perfect pattern for it, but really it was the only yarn fine enough to make 72-stitch socks that would come close to fitting me. Pretty yarn, and a nifty (if large) pattern should add up to a perfectly joyous sock knitting experience, but somehow the stress of following a chart and working in a hurry (probably combined with that whole sick thing) made it Not Fun At All. So now that I'm no longer in the running, I can enjoy the knitting again. Is that weird, or what?

Lesson #1 comes from this, my fourth Death Hat. Of the four hats I've finished, only one had any work completed before it got to me - at least with this one I got a ball of yarn (Paton's Classic Merino, which I could learn to love pretty quickly). It's clear that some people just aren't as into competitive knitting as I am - although I suppose it's entirely possible that I take it a bit too seriously.

I think this will be my last Death Hat, as I'm told a weapon is on its way to me. It's something of a relief, really.

With all the speed knitting out of the way, I'll be able to turn attention to my too-neglected Kauni Cardigan. I've made a little progress here and there, so I'm just a few rows away from the armholes. I'm starting to get eager enough to see this finished that I'm getting over my fear of steeking. Surely spring will be here soon, so I won't need a sweater for a very long time, so there's no pressure to finish this, right. I wonder if I could have it done before the Yarn Harlot comes to town?