Sunday, November 30, 2008

Christmas Socks

I like knitting. I like holidays.

Christmas is one of my favorite holidays. And socks are my favorite thing to knit.

It would seem that these two things should go together well. But for me, for some reason, they don't.

Since I started knitting socks, I thought it would be fun to have a pair of Christmas Socks. Something festive, something Christmas-colored, something that would keep me warm and cheerful. I have a Christmas Hat that I really like, so I've wanted to have Christmas Socks that would be equally fun.

Once, long ago, I thought I'd buy some Socks that Rock yarn, and use it for a Christmas project. But I discovered I didn't like the way the colors striped, so I talked myself out of what probably would have been a very expensive yarn-buying spree.

Then, two years ago in Oldenburg, I found some yarn I'd wanted for a long time. I'd been eying a single skein of this Regia Silk in River Knits, but the second ball that I'd need for a pair of socks never came in. So when I spied it through a shop window, I dragged Aaron into the yarn store I'd thought we could safely bypass, carried on a conversation in which I understood only two words - "seide" and "gut" - and came triumphantly home with my new yarn to discover that Elizabeth had restocked. But that didn't matter - I had my silk, and thought it would be a lovely yarn for wintertime party socks.

And it is, to some extent. The silk makes a nice, soft, yarn, and I adore the silver-and-gold colors. I used the "Feather and Fan" pattern from Socks Socks Socks, and thought it worked wonderfully with this yarn. But they weren't quite the perfect Christmas socks. They just aren't Christmasy enough, and aren't warm enough to wear for tromping through the snow.

Last year I asked for Christmas recommendations, and Elizabeth suggested this yarn, which had fortuitously just arrived at River Knits. It's Panda Wool, in a mostly red-and-green "Nightshade" colorway. After some false starts, I finished these Christmas socks - just a little bit late for Christmas.

But they're still not the perfect Christmas Socks. The colorway looked a lot more Christmasy in the ball than it did in the finished sock. Worse, the fiber content of the yarn means that it's not very warm - it gets cold and soggy with the least amount of slush. So they're not great winter socks for someone who lives in Birkenstocks.

This year, I'm trying again. Thanks to Michelle, I have some fun new yarn that should be just perfect for Christmas. Thanks to Ravelry, I found a great pattern - the retro-looking Mystery Socks from Through the Loops. And thanks to Aaron, I was able to knit my way through yesterday's drive home, so I've already finished the cuff of the sock I cast on Thanksgiving Day. Will this be the year of the Perfect Christmas Socks? We'll all know in 25 days!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Circle of Lights

Yesterday provided that perfect confluence of events - we were in Indianapolis the day after Thanksgiving, and it was a reasonably nice day - that allowed Aaron and me to head downtown for the city's traditional Christmas kick-off; the lighting of the "tree" at Monument Circle.

We made our way to the Downtown area about an hour before the actual lighting, and had to park a mile away, leaving us glad for the nice day. The walk proved to be much more pleasant than the evening's entertainment - a handful of goofy redneck soul performers and some singing children - and we got to gawk at the huge line of people trying to get into the Starbucks on the Circle, when there was another one just a block away.

They put the lights up a few weeks ago, and many of the surrounding buildings were already decorated. But that's not what drew us to stand outside on a cold November evening.

This was.

It's goofy, but it's fun. Santa, a dramatic countdown, and the "ooh-ah" moment when the "World's Largest Christmas Tree" lights up.

And knitting, of course. I'm still working on my Moebius scarf.

The scarf didn't get to come along for the final stop in our Christmas tourism. The City-County building obligingly left its observatory open until 10:00 so that visitors could enjoy the Christmas lights, which was lovely. What wasn't so lovely is that some genius decided they need to screen, all the time, for "dangerous items" - which include many of the things a reasonable person might reasonably carry in her/his pockets or purse. Including knitting. And they don't offer any sort of checking service - "take it back to your car" was their only suggestion. (Remember that whole "parked a mile away" thing? Now add a few blocks.) The first day of the Winter Holiday Season is not a good time to get grouchy about idiots in government, but that's something I'll resolve to do with the new year.

So there's no knitting to be seen in this otherwise lovely view of the city - but perhaps the lights can stand on their own. The observatory also has a fun exhibit of souvenirs presented to the city, so we took that in along with the view, and generally had a good time. Now I'm just waiting for it to sink in that Christmas is less than a month away, and I have knitting to do!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Shrinking the List

We've been driving around the state for Thanksgiving - but the nice thing is that Aaron's done a lot of the driving, so I can knit!

So we've visited relatives and enjoyed a bunch of food (including wild turkey!), and I finished two knitting projects.

The first was more of an embroidery - and - felting project. I've had the knitting finished for my second Dumpling Bag for several weeks, but I've been slow on the embroidery, and wanted to felt this one in a machine. So after we got home from Thanksgiving dinner, I finished up the embroidery and tossed it in.

And here's the result. (The dog toy was the handiest thing for scale. Grandma provides a lot of dog toys.) Much as I hate felting by hand, I think it may be worth doing. I just don't like the shape of this bag as much as I did the previous one. I've mixed two yarns - Lion Wool and Cascade 220 - here, and I think that may be part of the problem. I'll see if it grows on me, or if I need to sit down with a tub of hot water and give up my fingerprints again.

The VeryLongSock was my on-the-road project. On Monday, it will be on its way to a new home. It's a cute bookmark, and I think some careful blocking will make it even cuter.

So that's two things to strike off my Ravelry list. I'd feel smug, but I started a new set of Christmas Socks yesterday, so the list isn't shrinking very fast.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

When things work out

Take a look at this:

These are the leftovers from my Noro Kureyon hat. Almost exactly one ball of Kureyon - how perfect is that? Now, I can buy a ball of Kureyon anytime I'm entranced by the pretty colors, and I'll know what to do with it.

Just in time for Thanksgiving, I have my Wavy Gravy. Not the guy, or the ice cream, but a really nifty hat. A hat which covers my ears, which is important. If I hadn't just packed a giant bag of Thanksgiving knitting, I'd run to the yarn store in a heartbeat so I could get yarn for another hat.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Yarn to be Thankful For

I've had all sorts of yarn goodness coming my way lately.

First there was this.

We did a "Wizard Cracker" exchange as part of the Hogwarts Sock Kit Swap, and these were the goodies in my cracker.

Traditional crackers include a hat, and the person who put my cracker together managed to do that- in a slightly unfinished way. What fun!

And so I've already started knitting. It's the Noro Kureyon One-Ball Wavy Gravy Hat - which will, supposedly, use just one ball of this lovely yarn. It's knitting up pretty quickly, so I could see getting addicted to this pattern if it works.

Then I bought some yarn for myself. My friend Michelle gave me a River Knits gift certificate as a post-election surprise, so I had fun using that. (Yarn AND a new President! Isn't that just great?)

This is Jojoland's Kaleidoscope yarn, in a nice Christmasy colorway. I've been on a quest for the Perfect Christmas Socks for the past few years, so this will be my next try. I'm really glad Michelle inspired me to buy the yarn, because when I want to enter it on Ravelry, I saw it had been discontinued.

Then yesterday, the newest collection to my yarn collection arrived - my Hogwarts package. All these goodies are from loomatic, known as Amethyst Aurag in the swaps.

All the details are over at my character blog, so you can head over there if you're interested. Let's just say that the dogs and I are all pretty happy with this swap!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Reversing Versatility

I've been working on a depressing paper. A very depressing paper. So to help move things along, I promised myself that I could start knitting "Versatility" when I got through the first outline/draft. So I packed up the Cadena yarn and brought it to Bloomington for the weekend, so I could reclaim the dogs and get started knitting.

There's a lot of quiet time during football season, so I made good progress. Until I got to my second pattern repeat, and found the mistake. Can you see that a row of bobbles is missing?

The pattern has been fixed on Knitty, but I was working from an older printout. I'm not sure I like knitting bobbles, so I wasn't inclined to notice their absence very quickly. I wound up ripping back four rows, which isn't fun to do with lace - even lace on such a grand scale.

But now I'm back on track, and it's coming along nicely. The Knitters for Obama got me hooked on "Countdown," so I got through the frogging and 17 rows of re-knitting thanks to Keith Olbermann and the local news. I find I watch a lot more TV when I have knitting I really want to do.

I'm worried, though, that I won't have enough yarn. I've already used one skein, and I've only completed one of the eight repeats of the main pattern. I'm even thinking about making the thing longer, so it will fit better in the cardigan formation - but I'll make that decision once I've figured out how much more yarn I'll need. This is bad, because I know I'll want to buy at least two more sweaters' worth of yarn when I go to Knitpicks, and I really don't need to do that.

Maybe I'll get another sweater out of hibernation, so it can give me guilt-inducing looks if I think about ordering more yarn.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Back to Knitting

I think the post-election high is wearing off. I went from "yay, we elected a President!" to "yikes, I have to write a really depressing paper!" to "oops, I haven't cleaned house in two weeks." So that helps me come down to earth and focus, a bit. Plus, I just had my stitches out, so there goes my excuse for not washing dishes.

Surgery on my middle finger made housekeeping and typing more difficult, but didn't really get in the way of the knitting. I've started a new project - the Dobby-Style Sockmark in Gryffindor colors. It's a little something for the HSKS6 swap, but I won't worry about sharing it because there will be plenty of other loot in the package!

This is NOT, by the way, an easy pattern! There aren't any instructions for the heel, and since you're doing one heel toe-up and the other cuff-down, it helps to have a selection of heels handy. I think the toe-up heel from the Roman Rib Socks looks best, but I had no luck getting it to work on the smaller sock - I don't remember where I was working on this, but I was somewhat distracted. So I went with an afterthought heel, but I'm not very pleased with the way it looks. She recommends a short-row heel, but I hate short-row heels. So I don't know what I'll do if I try this pattern again.

I'm also gearing up to start a new project for me - "Versatility," from the current Knitty. I placed my first-ever Knitpicks order, getting some goodies for me and some to share. I didn't want to use the Lamb's Pride yarn from the pattern, because I'm not fond of the mohair. So I hope the Cadena is a suitable substitute. I'd also planned to do this in blue, but made a last-minute switch to the gray. I think it will be more versatile and more useful - we'll see what happens. I hope to have this finished in time for a planned January trip or two.

I know what I'll be knitting on those trips already. This fun little kit - the Bellini Lace Shawl from Morehouse yarns - showed up in my mailbox just before the election. It was a surprise thank-you from Fran, known as Mustknit on Ravelry - I'd sent her some Obama buttons and some Hillary-themed yarn. (She's a big Hillary supporter, but came over to help the Obama campaign as soon as the nomination was certain. So when I saw Black Bunny's "Sisterhood" yarn, I knew she had to have some!) I hope to be casting on this shawl around the Inauguration - something to keep me warm, and remind me of how much fun it was to meet people over the campaign.

By the way, if you're on Ravelry, check out Mustknit's "Lady Liberty" sweaters. Prepare to be amazed.

This weekend is another trip to Bloomington, to reclaim the dogs. I won't have to make do with puppycam anymore. And now that I have all 10 fingers working again, I'll need another excuse for not getting things done around the house.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Best Political Race EVER

I'm sure that soon this blog will turn more to knitting and less to politics, but not before I share this picture of what has to be the best match-up ever, from Colorado's State Senate:

Read all about it at Serious Eats.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Something remarkable happened yesterday.

I finished a new pair of socks.

I got a sunburn, in November.

I started a project that isn't socks.

And we elected a new President.

The socks are my new "Hope" socks, the "Aquaphobia" pattern made from Black Bunny Fibers' "Audacity" yarn. I started these socks the night before the primary, and mostly finished them last night.

I was hoping that they'd be lucky socks, but it hasn't gone very well for the candidates who held the socks-in-progress. Nels Ackerson lost his race, and John Polles won't know the outcome of his until all the provisional ballots are counted - right now his challenger is 21 votes up. But they're lovely socks, and they'll keep me warm. I just won't ask anyone to hold them again.

I got a sunburn because I spent the day outside, campaigning for Nels. It's been amazingly beautiful over the past week - 70s every day, and nights staying in the 50s. So it was a good day to be outside.

And a long day. Mine started at 4:30, with hitting the snooze button a lot. By 5:45 I was at the polling place in Battle Ground, handing out Nels leaflets. When I arrived the line was nearly a block long, and it stayed busy until 7:30 or so. Some trouble with the poll workers there made it difficult to hand out leaflets, so I moved to another location, and spent the rest of the day there, in the company of various members of the Truitt family. Randy Truitt is John Polles's challenger for the District 26 seat, but they were all very pleasant people, so what could have been an awkward day turned out to be a lot of fun. Since I didn't have any Polles literature to hand out, I'd talk to voters about Ackerson, and the Truitts would give their spiel, and everything went smoothly. We even managed to find a good spot to sit and talk to people - figuring that anyone who complained would have to complain about both of us, and people weren't likely to do that.

Some people snarled at both of us, though. That was odd. Most of the voters we approached were pleasant - some said they'd vote, some were politely non-committal, and some said "no thanks." But the snarlers surprised me. I would think they'd be straight-ticket voters, so why would they snarl at both of us? There wasn't even a third-party candidate in either race. Maybe the "no liquor sales on Election Day" law hits some people harder than others.

Voter turnout was steady, but slow - so I managed to get some work done on my new Moebius scarf, "Flowing." I took this picture at 5:00, because I knew it would be too dark by 6:00 - but by the time the polls closed I'd finished the first five rounds. I'm planning to wear this on Inauguration Day.
A quick trip home, and it was off to the local Democrats' party at The Muse, an event facility right across the street from the Courthouse (and next to Republican Headquarters!) It was a lovely party - lots of good food from local restaurants, and lots of good company. I kept knitting, watched TV, and enjoyed the crowd - there were volunteers from all over the country who'd come in to help the Obama campaign. In the past, we've been lucky to get a single candidate visit for an election - but not this year! I talked to an older black woman from Georgia, who just couldn't believe that "so many caucasians" were supporting Obama - "and the smart ones, too!" All I could do was smile.

And smile more. It was about 11:00 when the news came in. The local candidates gave their (mostly concession, I fear) speeches, and then one of the Students for Obama got up to say some nice words about how nice everyone was, and how things were looking good - "thanks to your work, Barack Obama could be the next President" - when he was interrupted by shouts of "he IS!!!!" from the people who were watching their laptops instead of the local TV station. We got CNN on in time to see the news - "Barack Obama Elected President." We saw John McCain's concession speech, and I wept for that great and good man who had given so much and then gone so wrong, hoping that in a few days we'll get back the old John McCain we loved in 2004.

We spilled into the street - many of the students headed out to smoke cigars, and I headed further out as I learned that I seem to be violently allergic to cigar smoke. People cheered. People cried. People made phone calls to share with friends, even if it was impossible to hear a thing. People cheered some more.

And then it was back inside.

For this. Barack Obama, newly elected as the 44th President of the United States. I kept knitting - finishing five more rounds, so that when I wear this scarf I'll remember that I did the four center stripes on Election Day, 2008. The day we changed history. The day things finally started to look better. The day I, for the first time ever, voted for the winner.

Wow. Yes, we did.

Monday, November 03, 2008

One Day More...

Aaron is dog-sitting, so I have the freedom to Get Things Done. For the next two days, "Things" is election work.

I spent most of the day getting ready for tomorrow.

I've arranged to spend the day at the polls for Nels Ackerson, hoping we'll send him to Congress! I'll be at one of the Voting Centers, encouraging them to vote for Nels. If I can get in a good word for Barack Obama and John Polles, I'll do that too.

I'm trying to finish my socks, so I'll have them for tomorrow.

And I've picked out my Election Day project. Cat Bordhi made a lovely post to Knitters for Barack Obama, suggesting a Moebius scarf as election-day knitting. The Moebius, she points out, looks like it has two sides - but they flow into each other to make a single scarf. We hope that Barack Obama, as President, will bring the left and right together into a single, strong, America. She's even created a nice tutorial video, so you can learn how to do the Moebius cast-on without buying one of her books.

My Moebius is going to be made from some of the handspun I received in the HSKS5 swap. It's wheel-spun of Spunky Eclectic "Perfect Storm" roving, made by Morgana Black. I said I was going to save it for something special, and this should work well. It's a good choice, I think - the yarn has bits of black and white, and an overall blue look. I've cast on 270 stitches, for the 270 electoral votes I hope we'll see Obama get tomorrow. So I'm all ready to go work!

Just a bit of play before work - Nels Ackerson had a party tonight at the Knickerbocker Saloon, Indiana's oldest bar. All the local Democratic candidates were there, and a whole bunch of people. I saw John Polles again, and he thanked me for my piece about Molly Ivins. And Nels and his wife, Sharon, held the new sock. He was there when I started knitting it - I hope I'll be wearing it to his celebration tomorrow night!

One day more. Just in case you haven't seen this video from an improv comedy group, I'll share it here.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

I miss Molly.

I miss Molly Ivins.

It's been a very, very long process leading up to the November 4 election. And Molly Ivins would've made it easier for all of us. For those unlucky souls who never knew - or knew of - Molly, you need to know this: she was a writer, she was a Texan, and she was really damn funny. Molly died in January 2007 of breast cancer. It's hard to believe she's been gone for nearly two years - that she missed the whole thing. It would have meant so much to the child of the pre-Civil Rights era to see Barack Obama announce his candidacy, to the tall Texas feminist to see Hillary Clinton's campaign, to the woman who loved men who love whiskey and women to write about John McCain.

Molly Ivins was one of the funniest writers I've ever read. And she made small talk easier for me - any time I met a Texan, I only had to say "I read Molly Ivins" to start a conversation. About half of them said, "oh, yes, isn't she wonderful?" The other half would say, "I don't agree with a word she says, but isn't she wonderful?" And that was the beauty of her work - that even though she had a strong political slant, she wrote in a way that you wanted to hear what she had to say, regardless of your opinion. So she encouraged her readers to think, and reflect on their own positions.

Molly helped us understand why oil billionaires couldn't get poverty. She showed the lovable sides of Charlie Wilson and Ross Perot. She once wrote a touching eulogy which included a story about Sears catalog pages in the outhouse.

But mostly, Molly wrote about local politics. And that's why I'm writing to you. Here's what she had to say about the Texas Legislature:

It's all very well to dismiss the dismal sight of our Legislature in action by saying, "I'm just not interested in politics," but the qualifications of the people who prescribe your eyeglasses, how deep you will be buried, what books your kids read in school, whether your beautician knows how to give a perm, the size of the cells in Stripe City, and a thousand and one other matters that touch your lives daily are decided by the dweebs, dorks, geeks, crooks, and bozos we've put into public office.

That's where we come in - choosing the bozos - or better still, choosing some that aren't.

I've just made a small donation to John Polles, who I hope will soon be my State Representative. And I'd like to suggest you do something similar, in your community. Get involved with your local races. Give to a candidate you like - any contribution will be helpful at this point. Stop by the appropriate party's office and pick up a button or a yard sign. Volunteer to campaign for a candidate - there's still time to convince voters in the local races.

And when you do it, mention Molly's name. Do it for her. Do it to honor her memory. There's no reason for her to miss this election just because she's dead.

And do it for yourself. Because when a bunch of politicians are making decisions that affect you every day, you want one of them to be someone you've picked.

Please share this with your friends - if they don't know Molly Ivins' work, they'll want to. And they need to know who's cutting their hair, too.