Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Liver of Ibbi-Sin

Extispicy is the study of animal entrails to divine the future. In ancient Mesopotamia, the liver was the most important organ - so important that there are clay models of livers made as teaching tools for would-be augurs, a sort of "here's what the liver looked like, and here's what happened" manual. One of the livers reads "this is the liver of Ibbi-Sin, who died from the bite of a shoe."

One cannot help but wonder what the "bite of a shoe" may have been. Did a scorpion get Ibbi-Sin? Was he, perhaps, a diabetic, killed by an infected blister? In a way, I'm glad I don't know - of all the accidents I've had, I've never been bitten by a shoe.

But perhaps I should have been consulting the livers, because I cut my thumb on a cabbage. That's right, a cabbage. A decorative cabbage, to be specific, and the cut is one of those unpleasant ones that slips under the fingernail and hurts like crazy.

So far the bite of the cabbage has not been terribly dangerous for me, but it proved fatal to my Sock Madness ambitions. I've been knocked out in Round Three, with just a sock and a half finished when my division filled. Knitting hasn't been very much fun lately, and neither has any other sort of handiwork, which is a problem as I try to complete a project for the Hogwarts swap.

That, combined with my ocelot accident, and a bad cold that won't go away, has made this a somewhat distressing week. Yes, the spots really were the result of knocking a can of spray paint into the track of the garage door. The bad part is that when you tilt a can of spray paint on its side and break off the nozzle, it's not a nicely mixed paint that sprays out uncontrollably. Instead, you get only the colorant, which has acted rather more like a dye than a paint. I'm very, very, glad that there are still weeks to go before the wedding. And I wonder if there's any divinatory practice to warn of cabbages and spray paint.

Wedding planning created the week's bright spot - on Saturday, my mother, my friend Karen, and I traveled down to Cincinnati for a bridal shower, hosted by Aaron's family. So now I have all sorts of kitchen goodies that I can't wait to use, and a collection of family recipes that I'm going to put to good use right away. I also have my bouquet for the rehearsal, beautifully assembled by Aaron's sister, Megan. She's a complete expert at this wedding thing, and is going to have so many people owing her major wedding favors when her time comes.

It's hard to believe there are just over two months to go. I'd better get some wedding knitting done!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Round Three

The Sock Madness pattern for Round Three was released yesterday, and so far it's coming along nicely.

This round's pattern is Talia's Wings, a delightful combination of knits, purls, and small cables that produce a pattern that's been dubbed the "heart pattern" by many of the Sock Madness participants. This is the sort of pattern I really like - something that involves doing something stitch-wise, as opposed to just following a blocky chart of knits and purls. The sample was knit in pink, and since I had this pink sock yarn from Debbie's Fiberalong destashing, I couldn't resist using it.

So far, the progress is good. I'd like to do 1/2 a sock a day - that should let me finish in the top 12.

I spent the weekend knitting on other projects, keeping the momentum going. Plus, I need to finish lots of things so I can start new projects, just in case I make it to some of the higher rounds of Sock Madness.

Here's my progress on the cardigan. Nearly three balls are in the back, which doesn't make things look too promising for the front. The one person on Ravelry who had a ball in "For Sale or Trade" has replied that she can't find it, so there's no luck in that direction. I stopped in at Ewe Knits in Normal just to see if they had any yarn that closely resembled this, and the woman there recommended that I call Knit Picks to see if they have a stash. So that's probably my next call, once I've finished the Sock Madness round.

I've made good progress on the Spring Forward socks, too. On Saturday, we drove up to Rock Island for a concert by Jason Isbell and Justin Townes Earle, so I got to knit for the whole trip there and during some of the concert. It was a fun show - I'd definitely go see either one of these guys again, especially Earle, especially if they were closer to home. Next time around, maybe I'll even get them to hold the sock for a picture.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The $3.50 Sweater - Maybe

Now that the second Sock Madness socks are finished, I thought I'd start to work on something I've been eager to cast on:

This is the beginning of a "Hey, Teach!" sweater. I'm trying to plan ahead for wedding-related activities, when I might be expected to dress nicely. So delicate, feminine, and warm seems like a great combination.

And if all goes well, this sweater will be a great bargain. The yarn - Knit Picks Wool of the Andes in Violet - was a gift from Debbie, who was destashing at New Year's. I picked up the buttons at the Fiber Event - $0.50 each in a bargain bin. (We will overlook the fact that I am certain that I bought identical buttons two years ago, but can't find them.) So if all goes well, I'll have a nice sweater for a total outlay of $3.50 - that's hard to beat!

And so far, it's going well. I cast on Saturday night, and I've already finished most of the back. It's true that I've been knitting when I should be doing other things, but progress is so seductive. Now I know why people like worsted weight yarn for sweaters - it's great to see the inches just fly off my needles!

BUT, there may be a problem. For some reason, I thought I had seven balls of this yarn, which would give me enough. Halfway through the back I started the yarn roundup, and it looks like I only have six. Oops. This is two balls' worth, so I'm not optimistic that I'll get the whole sweater out of six balls.

The color, of course, has been discontinued. So for right now, I'm knitting and hoping. Hoping that I was right about having 7 balls, and the missing one will turn up without too much canine damage. Hoping that I'll find someone on Ravelry willing to part with a ball or two. Hoping that, somehow, I'll be able to finish this sweater. I certainly don't want to think of frogging now!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A Sad Sock Story with a Happy Ending

I've been knitting where I can all week, hoping to make it past Round Two of Sock Madness. I didn't make as much progress as I would have liked to, because other responsibilities ate up knitting time.

This worried me, because I really hoped to make it to Round 3 this year. I had some bad luck last year, but hoped everything would go smoothly this time around. My first day's progress was, I thought, pretty impressive. It didn't go as well after that, but I had plans to go to The Fiber Event on Friday - three hours in the car with a fellow knitter, who understands the need to knit while riding.

So I continued to make progress - about 45 minutes into the trip, we stopped for gas. By delightful coincidence, that was when I finished my first ball of black yarn. I reached into the bag, pulled out the next one, and tried very hard to not cuss.

It was the wrong black yarn. I'm making these socks from Baby Ull, and I'd packed a ball of Falk. I had another sock with me to work on, so the car ride wasn't completely unproductive, but I worried. I reassured myself by thinking I'd pick up a ball of Baby Ull at the Fiber Fair, and work on the socks on the way home.

But there was no Baby Ull at the Fiber Fair. There were lots of lovely fibery things, and I bought quite a few of them, but none of what I needed. Still, I reassured myself, I could always pick it up the next day at my LYS.

Saturday morning was cool and sunny. Aaron was in town for an SCA event. We planned our day, planned it around my yarn-shopping trip. I settled the dogs in, headed out to the event, and stopped at River Knits on the way.

And found no black Baby Ull.

I love Baby Ull because it's a nice soft baby yarn in grown-up colors, but the baby colors appear to be much more popular. I looked and looked, (in full 14th-century get-up, save for the Visa card), hoping to find something suitable.

Finally I settled on a Mission Hills DK. It's not quite the same weight, but the color and the feel are good.

On the way out of the store I got cornered by people Promoting A Cause. Talking to them cost me valuable knitting time.

But rather than talk about the hours of frantic knitting time, I'll skip to the happy ending. I made it. Finished the socks, and posted them to Sock Madness, with 5 places remaining after me.

Meet Tokena - made from Baby Ull and other stuff. I had to rip back and alter the toe to make it fit better, but now they're all finished. Much as I love these socks, I hope I won't have a good day for wearing them anytime soon - they're toasty warm, and I'm ready for spring.

And I'm ready for Round Three! I wonder how long we have to wait?

Monday, April 06, 2009

I want to do laundry!

Is this not the coolest thing ever? It's a drying rack/clothes hanger from Ikea.

My swap-friend Darlene knows just what to do with such a thing. I'd be very sorry that I already washed socks today, but the nearest Ikea is three hours away, so I couldn't get there before they close.

Who knew laundry could be so cool?

Sunday, April 05, 2009

I May Be Crazy

This is a day's worth of knitting for Sock Madness.

You'll notice that the socks don't match. That's where the crazy part comes in.

I woke up yesterday morning, checked my e-mail, and went padding around the house taking balls of yarn to the kitchen scale to determine if I had enough of what I wanted to use. This is not my normal morning routine, which usually involves activities like walking dogs and eating breakfast, but everything's different on a Sock Madness day.

After choosing yarn, having breakfast, and feeding/walking dogs (who will only put up with being ignored for so long), I sat down to knit. By lunchtime, I'd come up with this.

The problem was that I wasn't really happy with this. I'd stepped down from Size 1.5 to Size 0 needles without swatching, just assuming that a 72-stitch sock would be insanely big - instead I was getting a kind of snug sock. And while the two colors of Louet Gems were the two I had that looked best together, they really didn't offer sufficient contrast to show off the pattern. I'd been consulting Ravelry on my breaks, looking at the nice socks people were turning out, and noticed that the designer was making hers in Baby Ull.

That's when I remembered the Yarn Suitcase. There was a time, not so long ago, when I kept my yarn in an old suitcase. That was also a time when almost all of my sock yarn was either Dale Falk or Baby Ull. Some things have changed, but I still have the yarn suitcase, and a good supply of Baby Ull.

So I switched. Frogged a whole morning's work, and got to here by midafternoon. Posted on Ravelry to announce what I'd done, and found out I wasn't the only one. I really don't think I'm going to win Sock Madness, so the reward will be getting a whole bunch of new pairs of socks. And now I'm getting socks I like - socks I really like. The pattern is based on Maori baskets, and I think the highly contrasting colors do a much better job of showing it off. So the Gems skeins are resting - and so am I. I was sore when I woke up this morning, and will probably be sore again tonight. But by tonight, I should be halfway through a new pair of socks - no pain, no gain!

Friday, April 03, 2009

Baking with Julia

I'm backing off on the knitting a little today, since tomorrow is Round 2 of Sock Madness, and I know I'll be knitting like crazy!

So instead, I've been baking. These are Galettes au Chevre, from Julia Child's Mastering The Art of French Cooking, Volume I. Julia's recipe is actually for Galettes au Camembert, but she says you can use any cheese you like, and I had Chevre in the refrigerator. Our "Unraveled Readers" book club read My Life in France this month, so I thought I should do some baking for the meeting. Kerry brought a cake from one of her favorite Julia Child recipes, so we had a pretty tasty get-together.

My Life in France proved to be a very interesting, but somewhat sad book. It was actually completed after Julia died, so it's like getting to know someone when it's already too late. But it was fascinating to see all that went into putting together French Cooking - I'm not going to go into details here, because I'm running around recommending My Life in France to everyone I know, and I don't want to spoil anything. My chief criticism is that I don't think Julia gave sufficient appreciation to German food, but perhaps that was a function of historical context more than anything else.

Our edition of French Cooking is pretty old, which makes it a bit more difficult to use than a typical cookbook. She never meant the book to be easy - it's for a dedicated amateur who's willing to put in some work - but requires attention in ways I didn't expect. For example, the ingredients and equipment are all together in a "What You Need" list, so you'll find "Butter, flour, wax paper, cheese," and so on. She'll also give a base recipe, and then go on to say "and you can change this, and make this instead" - in some ways it resembles the cookbooks of 400 years ago as much as it does those of 40 years later. But my Galettes are downright tasty, and are definitely going into my list of Standard Party Fare (or maybe even post-party fare, since they'll be great for using up leftover cheese).

Even with all this baking, there's always knitting. I'm trying to get things off the needles in anticipation of more Sock Madness, so last night I finished this Unoriginal Hat. It's made from Nele, a bulky yarn Aaron picked up in Oldenburg for fifty cents a ball, so this hat sets us back less than one Euro.

Following the Harlot's pattern, this knitted up just a bit small for me. But I had it earmarked for charity from the beginning, and so it's going to head off to the Mattaponi Indian Tribe of Virginia, as part of the latest Knitters for Obama service project. This has been a fun one - after knitting for preemies, homeless veterans, and cancer patients, we decided to let one of the group's more active members pick the post-inauguration project. She was already doing a lot for the Mattaponi on her own, and so now she's getting a lot of help. I really hope the service knitting projects continue - so far, the momentum has been great.

But that's enough knitting for tonight. It's early to bed, so I'm ready for Sock Madness tomorrow!