Friday, December 28, 2007

Knitters in the news!

In the New York Times' article on new words coined in 2007, we have this:

"kinnear v.
To take a candid photograph surreptitiously, especially by holding the camera low and out of the line of sight. Coined in August by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee of the Yarn Harlot blog when she attempted to take a photograph during an encounter with the actor Greg Kinnear at an airport."

You can read the whole article here. It's pretty funny if you're any kind of word geek at all.

Knitters. We don't just make sweaters and hats - we make up whole new words!
Snowing here today - I need to get going on my stalled sweater again; it's cold in Chicago.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Merry merry

Or, to Pittsburgh and Back Again....
It was a good Christmas, despite Santa passing out germs to good little girls and boys this year. The Fool's mom had a sore throat which got so bad we couldn't make it to Christmas Eve services, which I know disappointed her because she loves the carols. The Fool's brother got the same cold for Christmas. The Fool came down with something mysterious - gastrointestinal issues and a fever and chills - and spent the night before Christmas alternately clinging to me on the sofabed for warmth or taking off all his clothes. He is still not fully recovered, poor guy, but is not taking his clothes off every 15 minutes either, so that's an improvement.
We spent a lot of time visiting with the Fool's grandmother, who is 84 and who used to knit and crochet like a madwoman back in the day. She has several afghans and many, many pairs of Mrs. Cashdollar's Housebooties to her credit, as well as a lot of other knitted goodies.
The Fool and I spent a day in the kitchen, making his mom a big pot of beef stew, which we froze in individual servings for her, and then crabcakes and vegetables and garlic toast for dinner. All this activity in the kitchen (and the accompanying dish washing) taxed the sink a bit, so we got to engage in some holiday plumbing. We were both trying to be very nonchalant, like we unclogged sinks every evening, but inside, all I could think was, "What the hell are we going to do if we have to find a plumber on Christmas Eve?"
Also, when I'm under a lot of stress, I tend to giggle inappropriately, so there we were, each with a plunger in hand, plunging away at the double sinks, trying not to splash water on the curtains, per Mama Fool's request, me snorting like a loon. We finally broke the clog, but our celebration was muted by having to bleach the sinks (Mama Fool did not like us using germy toilet plungers in the kitchen sinks. Then we had to listen to her falsely accuse us of flushing all manner of strange items down the drain. Well. People think what they will, I suppose.)
We also got to see the Fool's dad and my half-brother and his wife -- all lovely visits and very enjoyable. Probably because we didn't have to show off our mad plumbing skillz for them and could just sit around and talk and eat cookies.
The Fool's mom liked her lace scarf, which I'm glad of. I hope she wears it and doesn't just put it away in a drawer.
Here's some photos of the finished product. I was going to take pictures of it while I was blocking it, but I blocked it on a blue bath towel.
It took one skein and a bit of Sea Silk, colorway Marine. I knit on a #6 Addi lace needle (love that needle) and it's a pattern from Victorian Lace Today, "Scarf with edging 21 and insertion 25 from 'The Knitted Lace Pattern Book, Thompson Bros., Kilmarnock, Scotland, 1850.'"
I cast it on while sitting on the beach in Cape Breton and cast it off sitting on my couch.
The end of the scarf with the edging. I wish I'd blocked the middle out a bit harder.

Closeup of the border.

Closeup of the middle portion.

Token cat photo to prove this is still a knitting blog. Angus has a bad habit (no, really? Just the one?) of hopping on peoples' laps when they sit down to dinner so he can get a look at what they're eating and decide whether he wants to ask for a bite. Just as an experiment, I offered him a strand of whole wheat fettuccine. It turns out that although fettuccine is not made of meat, his preferred treat, he'll eat it anyway.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The lace, she is blocking

And I am moving on to the next item on the list, wrapping presents.


.. by the Ghost of Christmas Presents and the Fool, who just called from Knitche.
After consulting with the woman behind the counter and studying the various skeins of yarn, he called to report that the two of them have found a good match for my unfinished project.
Then we had this conversation.
FOOL: Wow. Did you know Noro is selling sock yarn now?
ME: I'd heard that.
FOOL: It's very pretty. The colors are great.
ME: Huh.
FOOL: It's a little scratchy, 70 percent wool, it says.
ME: OK, husband-of-a-knitter-in-a-yarn-store-before-Christmas, I have to go now.

Merry Aaargh!

I'm running out of yarn on the Sea Silk scarf 28 rows before the end. I knit like a madwoman last night and nearly finished the whole border (with only four or five instances where I had to tink and most of those because I forgot a yarn over which is pretty easy to fix) and now I'm running out of yarn. There is no way I can finish this with the yarn left.

Plan A: Send The Fool, who is working at home today, to Knitche, the only yarn store that I know of that carries Sea Silk in the area, and hope the Ghost of Christmas Present, or whatever spirit watches over fool knitters who wait until the last minute, has seen fit to stuff a skein of this color in the bin.)
Advantages: Done before Christmas.
Disadvantages: None, except that the knitting time to finish this is taking away from knitting time on other projects, not to mention present wrapping, packing and cookie baking.

2. Rip back the entire border I have knitted plus a couple repeats of the pattern, reknit the Entire Dang Thing.
Advantages: Will have a nice birthday present done by February, will devote knitting time tonight to Other Things to see if I can get one single project done by the time it needs getting done.
Disadvantages: Will be knitting this farkin' scarf until February.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Review of Sock Wars II

Well, I've been meaning to post for awhile. A long while, in fact. A lot of you may have been wondering why I haven't gotten off of my arse to post. I have been meaning to write about our various adventures several times, but Meg keeps beating me to it (though she may dispute this).

So now that Sock Wars is officially over, I have decided that it is time to review the game. First, I have to say I was as surprised as anyone to see that the game was written up in the Wall Street Journal this week. I was even more surprised to find out that the sock that I knit for my victim was described in the lead of the story!

I think the concept of the game is really fun. I certainly had a lot of fun rushing to finish two pairs of socks before I was taken out. The "scar pattern" that we all had to knit was pleasantly fun and suited to all levels of sock knitters. I have to admit, though, that I'm not used to knitting at such a large gauge (6 st/in). The socks absolutely flew.

My biggest hangup with the game, though, was the slowness of the postal service in comparison to my knit time. I had churned out my first pair of socks in about 3 days, yet it took me almost two weeks to receive the second pair of socks for my next victim. I finished those off in 48 hours, then waited for another two weeks for a pair that eventually just got routed around me, as by that time, I received my socks from my assassin. This aspect of the game ended up being a lot of "hurry up and wait" that I get too much of elsewhere in my life (such as in airports). Also, so much of the game was luck of the draw. There were people who knitted 9 pairs of socks, and they got killed not long after me. As a result, I could have been the game's slowest knitter yet lasted a very long time, or been almost the fastest knitter and been knocked out in the first round. At the end of the game, there were a dozen or so people remaining, but for some reason they couldn't finish the socks for each other. So to finish the game, the first person to send a postcard to the initiator would win. In my opinion, this was awfully anti-climactic.

Also, the pattern itself was very poorly written. Clearly it hadn't been test knitted, because there were several sets of errata. When we tried to ask questions to the mailing list about them, the person who wrote the pattern replied rather snarkily that the pattern wasn't hard and implied that somehow any errata were "all part of the game." I'm sorry, but I think that's a bit unreasonable.

So all in all, it was a good idea, but I think there were some things that were lacking logistically. The game could be improved by taking pictures of the finished socks and e-mailing the picture to the victim as part of the assassination. Also, taking time to test knit the pattern could have saved a lot of frustration from several participants. Will I do it again next year? I'm not sure.

So, without any further ado, I present to you the orange and black socks mentioned in the WSJ:

Here was pair #2:

Spoot decided she wanted to be mailed with the socks, so that she could get away from Angus. We told her that wasn't an option.

Friday, December 14, 2007

A public service announcement

A bad time to read a book on meditation and mindfulness is when one has food poisoning. Because it's really depressing to read about how important it is to exist fully in the present moment when the present moment is filled with intestinal distress.
There may be more to this book than that, but I'm only about 20 pages in, and I'm giving up for now. I can't take it anymore.
Instead, I think I will weave in sock ends.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Two Sock Otters!

Oh, it's been a good week in otter news. First off, biologists think there are otters living in the Chicago River, which is great. Now, when the Fool drops balls of sock yarn in the river, he can see if an otter will bring it back to him.
We also got back from San Francisco, where we rented a car with our friend Erin and drove to Monterey to see the otters at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Let me tell you, those beasties do not sit still very much, so all the pictures I have are of furry blurs whizzing past the window.
This is the best one. Isn't she lovely?

I also learned about some other strange creatures, including the sheep crab.

(I realize now that the second picture looks a lot like someone threw a set of bagpipes in a fish tank, but really, it's a sheep crab. Can't you see the wool?)
We were really in San Francisco for a wedding. Here's the happy couple outdoors in December.

And here's the Fool walking to the Ferry Terminal Market building with me so we can get coffee before catching a bus to the wedding site.

After the wedding, we stuck around town for a couple days to do some sightseeing. We visited Imagiknit, ate dim sum in Chinatown, went to a session at the Plow and Stars (the Fool fiddled; I knit) walked around the neighborhoods a lot, climbed Telegraph Hill, saw the wild parrots who live there, had dinner with a high school friend of the Fool's that he hadn't seen in 13 years, and met a Ravelry friend, CraftyAbby, who had written a couple weeks ago to say that she liked the blog and if we were ever in San Francisco, to look her up.
I wrote her back and said, as luck would have it, we were going to be in San Francisco the very next weekend. We agreed to rendezvous at ArtFibers, where the Fool sat in a corner messing with some stainless steel yarn of theirs and muttering, and I bought a little ball of aran-weight silk and wool that I'm going to make a nice little hat for myself out of.

Anyway, we took the bus across town to Japantown, where Abby was looking for an excuse to try a Chinese restaurant with hand-pulled noodles. The noodles were pretty good. The garlic eggplant was much better, and the Dungeness crab with garlic and peppers and salt was even better. But not as fun as the conversation.

Angus spent a couple hours this morning pestering me when I didn't get up with the sun, poking me with his nose. When the alarm finally went off and I ended up hitting snooze a couple times, I rolled over to find the little stinker curled up in a purring, sleeping ball, worn out from all his tromping around on the bed.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The next Riverdance born in my bedroom

The Fool calls, we chat.

ME: How do the cats like having you around all day?
FOOL: They’re sleepy.
ME: Really?
FOOL: Yeah, I was humming a weird tune and started stepdancing in the bedroom and Mab and Angus…
ME: Wait, you were stepdancing for the cats? Why were you….
FOOL: Kinda. Anyway, Mab and Angus just stared at me and then put their heads down and went back to sleep.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Elliott the drag queen, er, dragon

First bit of Christmas knitting to hit the blog this year. It's Elliott the Dragon from the Interweave Knits holiday knitting issue.

I liked knitting him, and I used nothing but stash yarn ... but the mouth. Hmm. I opted not to put in the tongues of flames, so instead of knitting two semicircles, I knitted one circular shape and stitched it into place.
I don't know if it's my modification that caused this, but Elliott has some mighty big and pouty red lips. It may also be the shape of my hand that makes his face a little unusual.
Here he is eating Angus' nose.

We're off to San Francisco for a long weekend tomorrow. Got lots on the agenda, including a trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium to visit some sea otters, a wedding, some yarn crawling and a visit with a new Ravelry friend.

I promise loads of otter pictures. It will be the Two Sock Otters or something like that.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

I had no idea that cow was named Harmilda

... and other things I've learned from the crowd in the comments.
Here's some answers to the questions posed.

1. Kathy in KS asked if there is a recording of the Cosmic Otters out there. This is us playing last spring at the Kalamazoo, Michigan dance with Becky Hill calling. (She's, like, a famous contra dance caller who we were sorta nervous playing for. It didn't help that the Fool and I are incapable of getting to Kalamazoo on time and always end up screaming down this little country road to the grange hall, slamming the car into park and leaping out with our instruments to race onto stage.)
The tunes, by the way, are The CĂșil Aodh (trad. Irish) and a little something the Fool wrote called "Baby in a Wheelbarrow."

2. Laurie asks, why is the dance weekend called Breaking Up Thanksgiving.
The name is a takeoff on "Breaking Up Christmas," which is an old-time tune, and also a Southern tradition of house parties and dances in the two weeks following Christmas.
The Chicago weekend grew out of a house party way back in the '70s and still has jamming and dancing featuring pickup bands and volunteer callers, so it's in the spirit of Breaking Up Christmas, just a few weeks early.

3. Laurie also asks, when did we eat the cookies?
Well, Laurie, contra dancing is hard work. Dance weekends have, as a standard feature, a snack table to go with the big coolers of water and sometimes lemonade or hot drinks.
There's usually cut up fruit and vegetables, salty crunchy things (popcorn, pretzels, chips and salsa, nuts), and sweets, homemade and store bought.
So we handed the four batches of cookies (chocolate mint chip, chewy ginger, cranberry bars and cranberry-white chocolate-oatmeal) off to the snack table organizer and they got eaten throughout the weekend.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Breaking Up Thanksgiving

After the turkey and potatoes and cranberries on Thursday, the Fool and I go home and bake like mad things and on Friday, pack up a bunch of homemade cookies, pile into the car with sleeping bags, fiddle, guitar and dance shoes (and this year, two guys named Ed, a cello, an extra fiddle and a mandolin) and head north to Wisconsin for Breaking Up Thanksgiving with all our friends.
It's the Chicago community's contra dance weekend and every year, it more or less goes like this: Dance, get no sleep, play tunes, dance, play tunes, drink whiskey, get no sleep, eat a bagel, stop for coffee, go home.
This was the first time our grad student friend Ed came to Breaking Up Thanksgiving. We bought him to Pittsburgh a couple weekends back, and he said he had no idea traveling with us meant he "got mocked on the Internet." So to protect his identity, I'm going to give him a pseudonym. I shall call him Sam.
The second Ed was in case the first one wore out. Also, he needed a ride.
Here's the view from the stage Saturday night. The Fool and I play some Cosmic Otters sets, but we like to put together other bands for these weekends, which are all pickup bands and volunteer callers.
If we play more old-time tunes, we're the Cosmic Possums (as possums are more old-timey than otters.) So at Breaking Up Thanksgiving, we're usually the Cosmic Possums.

We played with Walter, a great banjo and fiddle player, who retuned his banjo in the middle of a set, changing keys and immediately raising the bar for clawhammer players everywhere.
And Sam and the Fool engaged in some exceedingly sweet twin fiddling, so beautiful. Here they are being serious musicians, checking their tuning or learning a tune at the last minute or changing their minds about what we all agreed we should play earlier.
We had a lot of conversations that went like this:
FOOL: OK, let's play "Harness the Marmot" in D, followed by, oh, wait, what's this tune? (fiddles a bit.)
SAM: Oh, oh, that's "My Auld Wooden Leg," you know, Michael Coleman recorded that in 1925.
FOOL: Yeah, right, that's it!
ME: What key is it in?
FOOL: Uh, G.
ME: Great. D and G. Got it.
SAM: Of course, "My Auld Wooden Leg" sounds a lot like "Paddy in the Bathtub," which is also a great tune.
ME: What key is that in?
SAM: E minor.
ME: OK. D and E minor.
FOOL: Wait, no, that's not "Paddy in the Bathtub;" you're playing "The Smelly Sea Captain," that tune in D minor.
ME: D and D minor? I don't think I like that....
SAM: No, no, G and D minor. We're not doing "Harness the Marmot" anymore.
ME: Oh, for the love of God....

Here Sam is mugging for the camera.

And on the way back, after failing to stop in front of the giant frog with doors for a picture, I pulled over for this group shot with Adina, Sam and the Fool. Someone honked as they posed.

And now we have broken up Thanksgiving, and we are heading for Christmas and I have a scarf to knit.

From today's paper

The obituary for Mary Walker Phillips. It's very interesting; I'll have to go read more about her later.
In the Chicago Tribune.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Look! Yarn!

I normally avoid day-after-Thanksgiving shopping like the plague.
It's crowded, it's loud, the deals usually aren't deals on anything I need or want, if they're deals at all ... the lists go on.
So when Lorna in Tuesday night knitting group mentioned that Peggy's, a yarn shop in Plainfield, a good 25 minutes from my house, was having a Friday sale, I was inclined to dismiss it. Forty percent off everything in the store from 7 to 9 a.m.
It will be crowded, the roads will be filled with lunatics racing to WalMart, it is early, I have yarn.
I thought for a bit, on Wednesday and Thursday and realized, I have two Viking hats to knit for two young Vikings and no brown yarn left.
I have a baby sweater for a coworker that needs knitting by March and if I'm buying yarn for that, I may as well buy it at 40 percent off.
So I set forth with two objectives. A skein of brown Viking hat yarn in Cascade 220 or similar, and yarn for a baby sweater. Both at 40 percent off.
Lorna was in the back room when I got there, as were some of the other women I knit with, and we all encouraged each other to buy yarn.

To disastrous, 40 percent off ends.
See that purple stuff? It's Rowan felted tweed. More to the point, it's enough Rowan felted tweed for a sweater ... and no real pattern in mind. I do not buy yarn like that.
Also, some sock yarn. (The Fool should maybe avert his eyes now if he doesn't want to ruin Christmas.)

So that does it. I'm done buying yarn for the rest of the year.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Ahhhh, Thanksgiving

The Fool and I are heading to a northerly suburb to have dinner with an old friend of mine from grad school, her family and other various folks.
Janice and I have a history of notable Thanksgivings together. There was the year we brined a turkey in the trunk of her Maxima because the refrigerator was too small to hold my giant canning kettle.
There was the year we cooked the turkey and then, during the 30 minute resting period, drove it even further north to eat at another friend's house.
And then, there are the ritual tussles over the menu. Neither one of us turns down an interesting food when confronted with it (except for thousand-year eggs; sorry, Janice, you got me twice on those, I'm done.)
But Thanksgiving seems to bring out the mad scientist in Janice and the Betty Crocker in me. She wants to rub the turkey with garlic and cook it on the grill; I want it brined and in an oven. She wants to make unusual side dishes. I want the old standards. She declares that sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes on the same table are vegetable redundancy and I fall over myself explaining that sweet potatoes function nutritionally as orange vegetables and are therefore no more redundant to mashed potatoes than carrots. (That was this year's debate.)
She proposes, I counterpropose.
I volunteer to make rolls. She says yes, but only if they're "interesting" ones. So I've made three kinds - sweet potato cloverleaf, Parker House and pumpkin pumpernickel (which would be a lot more interesting to me if they'd freakin' rise a little faster.)
We're taking a beef tenderloin with garlic and herbs to roast as the second meat entree, and the Fool is making a lovely green salad with a fancy dressing and toasted pumpkin seeds and pears on top.
The cats are sleeping right now, and are no doubt thankful for soft furniture and a warm house and people who pet them a lot, and we are just glad to be here in all respects.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
(pictures and Actual Knitting Content to come later.)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Crisis averted

The Fool went out shopping yesterday and returned with some liquid laundry soap and washed a test load of socks - so far, they are not encrusted with crud. Hooray! It's just as well, because it's gray and drizzly today. In other words, perfect wool sock weather.
We also did some preliminary research into getting a water softener. We're a little concerned because we're on well and septic, and water softeners are not supposed to be the best thing in the world for a septic field. We do know of a company in the area, the one that installed a well pump thinger for us, that rents softener units, so we might just rent one for a few months, see if it solves our problems, and then make a final decision.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Gaaa! Laundry crisis chez Sock Knitters!

A select number of our handknit socks are festooned with crud! Like, dusty crud embedded in the knitting that puffs out in little clouds when you pull the sock over your heel. One sock was so becrudded this morning that it was a different color from its mate.

Now, we have hard water and we machine wash the socks and then air-dry them.

In the summer, when we dried them on a clothesline, we had no dusty crud.
We tried drying them on a rack in the basement, and got dusty crud, so we surmised the dusty crud was in the basement air somehow (scary, but not impossible).
So we tried drying them on the rack upstairs, and still, dusty crud. But only on some, which is leading me to think our washer is somehow faulty.

Ask The Blog, the Fool said.
I'm asking - this is a bad, bad turn of events. Winter is coming and we need warm feet.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Consolation Thanksgiving

.. is past. It's what J. and I do because we don't go to Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving. We discovered the Pittsburgh contra dance community's big dance weekend is in early November, so we go to that and visit his family during the day.
It's a good system. His mom and grandmother get to see us in November (which is important to them), we help them take his grandma's porch furniture and stuff in for the winter, and he and I get to go dancing three days in a row and go to a party Saturday night.
Then we get to stay in Chicago for Thanksgiving and go to Breaking Up Thanksgiving, our community's dance weekend.
So we get two dance weekends rather than none, his family gets a visit, and everyone is happy.
This year, we took Ed with us. He's a grad student from England who plays the fiddle and dances. He is also an excellent traveling companion - packs light, is omnivorous and entertaining in the car and has a very good selection of music on mp3 and CD.
We had a great time playing tunes with some of the folks from Hotpoint String Band on Saturday as well as some of the Pittsburgh musicians, stayed up too late, got home to Chicago too late ... completely worth it. Between that and Breaking Up Thanksgiving, I think I'll make it through the holidays now.

Ed met three of four dancing sisters, all in their early 20s, and seemed somewhat poleaxed by the experience.
"I asked the oldest one what she did when she wasn't dancing, and she said 'crime,' which I thought was wonderful," he told us. "And then I realized she said 'farming.' "
We meant to leave at 3 p.m. on Sunday, before the dance ended, and the Fool and I made the mistake of reminding Ed of this when one of the girls was just about to ask him to dance.
"You can't go!" she said. "You have to stay and dance with me." And she and her sister made big round moony eyes at him, like puppies with ponytails, and he looked at us helplessly and so we all danced a square together and left much later than we meant to.

This was my favorite conversation of the weekend:
ED: (In wonderment) They came out so well - I wonder why their mother didn't make more?
ME: Did you know four children means 3 years of pregnancy?
ED: Yes, but how much of that was the waddling part? That's supposed to be the worst bit.

(Zombie marching band with squash, Arthur, Ill.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

This would definitely liven up a wake

From the Forgotten English page-a-day calendar (a fine present for verbivores on your holiday list - don't say this blog is not useful once in a while.)

"Tup-running: A rural sport practised at wakes and fairs in Derbyshire. A ram, whose tail is well soaped and greased, is turned out to the multitude; anyone that can take him by the tail and hold him fast is to have him for his own." - Francis Grose's 'A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue,' 1796.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Thanks, Angus

Last night, after I got home from knit group, as a reward for a trying day, I decided to cast on for Lucy Neatby's Sea Lettuce scarf. I dug into the depths of the sock yarn basket and pulled out a skein of Cherry Tree Hill in nice blues and greens, and I unwrapped the skein and put it on the swift and started to wind it, and oh big hairy hell, it turned out to be one of those skeins.
The ones that the Devil makes.
I had to wind it by hand off the swift, and then it made a mess of a ball, and then while I was winding the ball again, Angus leapt on it and grabbed it and raced down the hall with it while the Fool laughed helplessly and pointed, so I had to chase him* and get it back and he bit me and I got the end tangled and was so disgusted by that point I cut off and threw out about six feet of yarn, and then I had to wind it again .... and then she wanted a crochet cast on!
So I had to go look that up.
But I finally got the thing going, with the nice little picot edging, and, yeah.
Except I've decided it really needs a bead on each picot (another "things I swore not to knit" goes down the tubes....first lace, now beads), so I snuck out before lunch and went to JoAnns and got beads and this very tiny crochet hook to add beads to my remaining picots, because I don't want to frog it and thread a bunch of beads.
Now it's a very fun knit, and it's hard to not want to put beads on everything.
But still, it felt like a lot of work for something that was supposed to be fun and easy.

*Angus, not the Fool, as much as the Fool might like to think he could bite me when I try to take yarn away from him.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

And you will know us by the trail of crumbs

Happy Halloween, everyone!
The Fool and I celebrated by leaving a trail of disaster behind us in a Corner Bakery this morning. They had trays of samples set out, with plastic tongs to serve. I tried to pick up a cube of coffeecake, but didn't feel like the tongs were closing adequately, so I kept squeezing harder and harder ... until, with a loud snap, they broke.
Luckily, no one noticed.
Then the Fool saw the samples.
"Here," he said, offering me one with the tongs. But I didn't get my hand out fast enough, and he was enthusiastic, so what he actually did was throw the sample up into the air toward me. It fell on the floor.
I took the Lord's name in vain.
"You were supposed to catch that," he said.
"You're not supposed to throw cake," I said.
Then we bumbled our way to the table, where we made a mess of packaging our food in to-go containers, as we didn't have enough time to eat, and I finally just had my oatmeal here at work, and as I was washing off my spoon in the sink, I realized ... it's not my spoon.
I stole it from the Corner Bakery.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

That Poor Woman!

On the Metra train this morning, I spied a woman who was clearly trying to knit something in-the-round (probably a sock) using 4 DPNs. The needles were bobbly because it was early in the project, and this seemed to be causing her a lot of discomfort. Worse yet, she had a huge mess of tangled yarn coming out of the ball, and this didn't seem to be helping.

I wanted to say something reassuring to her, but shouting, "I feel your pain. Have you tried using 2 circs?" across the car probably would have been construed as odd, to say the least.

While the Fool codes...

... I knit.
I have a cold. It's probably no big deal as colds go; I'm sure there are worse colds out there, but as far as I am concerned, no human being has ever suffered more than I.
I made the mistake of taking Benadryl to relieve a runny nose this morning and ended up so stoned at work I walked into someone's desk.
"So?" the Fool said, "I do that when I don't take cold medicine."
Anyway, on Sunday, when this cold was at its apex, I sat on the couch, felt sorry for myself a lot, blew my nose, and knit the Fool a chullo that I promised him a while back. It occurred to me that it was getting cold and he would need a hat for his hikes. It's a good hat, but because of the curly hair, it tends to sit on top of his head funny. I think maybe the optimal hat would be a rasta hat with earflaps. I should look into that next.
It's a stashbusting hat - used up some Cascade that was kicking around, so that's a good thing. I was going to use some of his handspun for the Fair Isle parts, but I was afraid the gauge would be wonky and I was sick, so I didn't think I was up to anything really challenging.
Here it is:

Happy Halloween Eve!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Giant Sucking Sound in direction of

Yes, I've been sucked in to the Ravelry cult. They're letting me out briefly to work on the blog.

Between starting the KnitML and Crafty Walkers groups, I've been working quite a bit on KnitML itself. The engine is very close to being done. I'm just doing some really pesky things right now. Trying to tell a computer, for instance, how to rearrange stitches on a needle after you've declared the start of a new round in the middle of an existing round is a bit of a challenge. Sound like a corner case? Trying knitting a sock sometime without rearranging stitches on the needles.

Through KnitML I've met Guido (pronounced GEE-doh, so no, he's not my new KnitML thug). He runs a blog out of Boston called It's A Purl, Man. I've listened to some segments of a few of his shows, and it's quite entertaining. I'm also a bit fascinated by the fact we share the same birthday (and birthyear). How many people do you know who were born on the exact same day as you?

I have had a few moments to do a bit of knitting. I received my second pair of Sock Wars socks in the mail last week, finished them in a day (once I dorked around for two days looking for my needle), and sent them to their intended victim. More waiting patiently for the mail to come. I'm still alive for some reason, and there are only about 35 of us warriors left.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


Three men in a tub in Arthur, Ill. Do I have hundreds of squash photos? Yes.

Today, we've been enjoying a beautiful fall day, probably one of the last ones.
I have a great cold, the kind that makes me wake up in the middle of the night coughing, wondering if I have undiagnosed tuberculosis that snuck up on me when I wasn't paying attention ... that kind of thing.
We ran a couple errands this afternoon, and then I had plans to go help the Fool with some yardwork. Instead, I decided to take a nap and he mowed the lawn.
Enough boring domesticity - where's the yarn?

Spoot graciously sits still while we drape the Fool's second pair of Sock Wars socks over her for a more interesting photo and show that Angus isn't the only cat around here who gets any press anymore.

The mother-in-law's Sea Silk scarf, behaving nicely again.

The Sea Silk scarf tries to drape itself over pretty foliage for a seasonal picture.

Some raging cosmos that seeded themselves from a bunch of orange ones we planted this spring. It's supposed to freeze tonight, so this may be the last of the flowers.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Way better than lining a birdcage

Check out this use for the daily fishwrap. I could carpet the city with what's in the recycling bins on the loading dock ....

Thursday, October 25, 2007


I just got my invite! My username is, strangely enough, fiddlinfool. Make sure you join the KnitML group, too!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Back on track

I sat down with the MILs Sea Silk scarf, and as Kathy in KS reminded me in the comments a couple weeks back, I am the boss of my yarn, so I made it work.
Hah. Go me.
Am fierce, and am one pattern repeat down and am not making any more mistakes.
The Fool glared at me until I ran a lifeline, too, so I'm posting this picture of him exulting in front of a giant pile of hardshell gourds.

"All your gourds are belong to me!"

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Knitters everywhere!

I was hanging out at the library tonight, waiting for the Fool to finish with his interior decorating class so I could pick him up, and tinking lace, the sea silk scarf, finally out of the time-out corner.
As I was picking away at it, I noticed a woman looking at me, and guiltily, I thought she had heard me swearing under my breath (it's a very quiet library.)
Instead, she came over and asked, "Is that from 'Arctic Lace'?"
So we talked about the pattern (Is from 'Victorian Lace Today,') and we talked about the Sea Silk and where you can find it locally. She saw some in Boston, and didn't buy it because it smelled too seaweedy, like inside-an-Asian-grocery-store seaweedy. I don't necessarily consider that a drawback; I love the smell of the ocean, but I did tell her the scent goes away after a bit.
Then she asked the in-crowd question these days - "Are you on Ravelry?"
"Yes," I said. And then, feeling like a 14-year-old, "I'm megd; come find me and we can friend each other."

(For Maura in DC, who said that even though this is technically a knitting blog, it needs more squash photos.)


The Gnomes Did It

I swear it must have been gnomes. I'm betting they snuck into the house last night and rearranged all of the items we needed to find this morning, because both Meg and I struck out. It took me forever to find my pants, belt and coat, and Meg couldn't find her keys or any matching work clothes.

I also could not find my knitting notions bag. This is particularly unfortunate given that I am keeping my weapon for Sock Wars in there, and that my target's socks arrived in the mail last night.

Yeah. The day can really only get better from here.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Rhinebeck envy

"Oh, it's fine we're not going to Rhinebeck this year. We can plant bulbs."
"It will save money, and we're going to be traveling a lot in November."
"We have plenty of wool to spin and yarn to knit; we don't need more."
"It probably wouldn't be as much fun as last year."


To drown our sorrows, we decided to go to Arthur, Ill. Home of the Great Pumpkin Patch, which was written up in Martha Stewart Living two or three years ago. They have the Great Wall of Squash. They have the League of Cucurbit Nations. There is a corn maze. You can get pumpkin ice cream. Plus, our friend Michelle and her new son Jayden (who we have never met) and her husband live down that way, so we visited them too.
First, we put on new wool socks. ("Hedgerow" pattern - Knitpicks I dyed with logwood purple. Pattern: eeeh. Not so fun to knit, but I did like how it turned out.)

The Fool: Some kind of yarn, Online, maybe, or Instep, or Austermann, or something he can't remember. The pattern? He doesn't remember that either, maybe out of one of the Charlene Schurch books. If you really like them and want to make your own pair? Too bad. You're on your own.)

The Fool found a big squash he liked in the section of the farm set aside for squashes to buy and eat. They had bins and bins of them, labeled by type and price, as well as cooking suggestions. He liked this one because it was big and lumpy.

Wall O' Squash.

There is a great deal of debate among Biblical scholars on this point, but some accounts describe a second voyage Noah made, after he figured out squash were a lot easier to manage than all those damn animals screeching and pooping and messing up his ark.

Finally, check out this Bearded Buff Laced Polish hen! (thanks Minitron!)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

In which Angus meets a contractor

We had a guy over tonight to talk to us about the garage roof, which is in need of repair. So while he went on (and on) about cedar shakes and how they're cut from trees, and how they're installed properly, with what kind of nail, and what kind of underlay and, and, and ....
Angus, possibly fed up with this guy sitting at his dining table, talking to his people, grabbed his foot and started chewing on his ankle.
"Hey!" the roofing contractor said, "What are you doing there, little guy?"
Luckily, he has cats of his own, so he understood, as much as anyone understands Angus.
I turned a short row heel tonight, and, eeh. I may rip it out. The cuff of the sock is largely stockinette, and it seems baggy at the ankle, so I wonder if a heel flap would have been a better decision; if that would have pulled in the ankle a bit.
I'm going to sleep on that, unless anyone has a thought on the matter.

KnitML Mentioned in Latest Cast On Podcast

Apparently I'm the last one to know, but I was looking at my website statistics and noticed more than a handful of referring links coming from Brenda Dayne's Cast On website. So it turns out that KnitML received a mention in Episode 57: I Speak Jive. Brenda is really happy to hear that the project is moving along and wants me to keep her posted.

In other news, I ran into a fellow knitter at a coffee shop today. I generally find it awkward to start conversations with people I don't know, but she looked friendly, and being that I didn't have my knitting with me at the time, I had the perfect opening line. It wouldn't be interpreted as a pickup line and at the same time immediately exposed my inner knitting geek. I recognized her knitting needles as KnitPicks circulars (with the magenta cable), so I approached her and said, "Excuse me, but are those KnitPicks needles?"

It turns out that she is Ms. Prolix and knows Meg from volunteering at the Old Town School. Uncannily enough, she also knows a good contra dance friend of ours now living in California. She has a Ravelry account, too, but I'm not sure what the etiquette is about publicly posting that information. I imagine that if she wants the general world to know, she will have posted her handle somewhere in her blog.

Cool Chicago fiber thing

Here's a link to a story on a giant crocheted coral reef. With pictures!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Sock Wars

The Fool embarked on Sock Wars on Friday when he got an e-mail with the pattern, yarn weight and needles. And his victim's name.

Angus helped him print out the pattern.

Because it's October, he decided to make scary Halloween socks. Here, he's casting on.

We went to hear a friend of mine tell ghost stories, and beforehand, we had dinner. The Fool knit.

He finished them today and mailed them off.
We'll see what happens next.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Where I cannot knit lace

1. In poor lighting.
2. On a beach, although I got over that.
3. In the car. Even if I'm not driving.
4. At Peggy Kinnane's Irish pub during a session.
5. At Tuesday-night knitting group (sorry, ladies, too much talking)
6. At home, in silence, on the couch, under a lamp.


I've been working on my MIL's Christmas present, a lace scarf in Sea Silk. The pattern is not hard. It's from Victorian Lace Knitting, and it's even got the nice purl row on the back side to give me a break.
But, I swear, I've knit the same row something like eight or nine times. I made a mistake, so I tinked back. Then I made another mistake and tinked back some more because I realized I didn't go far enough back. Then I dropped a stitch but didn't notice because it was right on the edge and then I couldn't get anything to work right because I had 57 - not 58 - stitches in the row.
(It took me a couple times back and forth, knit a row, tink a row, knit a row, tink a row, to figure that out, because I wasn't quite smart enough to realize that if I counted the stitches on the needle first thing, I would have figured out what the problem was.)
So I tinked back all the way to the row with the dropped stitch and picked it up. Then I knit three rows. Then I tinked them back because I'd made another mistake.
Then last night, I sat down on the couch with no disturbances, checked my stitch count, checked it against the row I was about to knit ... and knit. Six rows.
I looked at it in satisfaction before I went to bed, convinced I'd finally overcome inertia on this project, but no.
I still made a mistake. And I still have to tink it back. And I cannot for the life of me figure out why I keep breaking down here. Unless the knitting is trying to tell me that it does not want to be a scarf; it wants to be a placemat.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

What Would You Do in this Situation?

I need an opinion here. What do you do if you have a marker sitting between two stitches you need to knit together?

For illustration purposes, let's say I have 10 stitches on my needle and I have placed a marker between stitches 5 and 6 (making 5 stitches on either side of the marker). The row to be knitted looks like this:

Row 1: K4, k2tog, k4

What would you do?
  1. Slip stitch 5 to the right needle, remove the marker, slip the stitch back to the left needle, then knit two together.
  2. Do #1, then place marker on the right needle.
  3. Do #1, then slip the stitch just worked back onto the left needle, place marker, slip.
  4. You can't k2tog while there's a marker between the stitches! There is a problem with the pattern.

Monday, October 08, 2007

An Untimely Demise

I'm knitting a pair of monstersocken for a friend in St. Louis. This is a German tradition which involves knitting a pair of socks from many little balls of leftover sock yarn. It's a great way to use up sock yarn, and it produces a fun result. Little did I know that it could also be perilous.

As some of you already know, I knit and walk. It's really not as hard as it sounds, as both activities only require about half of my attention. I most often do this for 50 minutes a day walking from the train station to the office. Usually it's a rather unremarkable experience, but occasionally something interesting happens.

So I was knitting and walking this morning, working on the monstersocken. The current ball of yarn I was using I kept in my front pocket. Now normally when I need to feed more yarn into my project, I just pull. Sometimes you just have to give it a good tug to get your yarn out.

Well, since this is a monstersocken ball, it's quite petite. My "good tug" sent the ball flying out of my pocket and onto the sidewalk. This would have been fine, except for the fact that I didn't notice this until I got about 30 feet down the sidewalk. And not just any sidewalk. It was a sidewalk over the Chicago River.

I scrambled back, hoping that the worst case scenario hadn't happened. I was wrong.

I found the ball, dangling off of the bridge, slowly unwinding its way down to the river. Had I remembered that my phone has a camera, I would have taken a picture. It was really quite spectacular. I suppose I could have pulled like crazy to try and recover the length of the ball before it hit the river, but it seemed like a losing battle. I cut the yarn and continued on my way.

I realized later that the Chicago River eventually flows into the Mississippi River, which runs right by St. Louis, where the recipient of these socks lives. So Martha, if you see a tiny ball of yarn floating down the Mississippi in maybe a day or two, can you grab it for me? Thanks.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Not knitting - felt turkey hats

This is the evening's project. Why am I making turkey hats?
Because we're making a short movie of a square dance to promote our community's dance weekend, Breaking Up Thanksgiving, and of course ... we need eight turkey hats.
This is a prototype and the pictures are mostly for the benefit of Lynn, who also sort of volunteered to make hats.
I think I won't use black thread next time. It was what was in the machine, but I think I might try threading it with clear nylon. Or pick a neutral like gray or beige. When I go to the store next, I'll see about googly eyes, too. I don't have good buttons.

Hat deployed on head:

Detail of elastic - that's about a 2.5 inch piece of 3/4-inch elastic.

Hat flat.

Jelly as herald of doom

Here's a dirty little secret Chez Two Sock Knitters.
The Fool can't deal with the mail. He mops floors, he kills bugs, he fishes gross wet food from the sink trap, he cleans litterboxes without a single nose-wrinkle ... but the one household task he really, really cannot handle is this: package an item and take it to the post office to mail.
When we first got married, I learned that he signed up for automatic bill payment because he could not manage to buy stamps in a timely fashion.
It's OK, though, because I like that kind of thing. I like picking out pretty postage stamps (I'll wait in line so I don't have to get the boring ones from the vending machine.) I like parceling stuff up and writing neat address labels. Now that I knit, I really don't even mind waiting in line for 10 minutes.
I thought we'd reached a breakthrough when the U.S. Postal Service introduced automatic package mailing kiosks in their lobbies. The Fool and I are big fans of those, and I thought maybe we'd cured his mail issues.
Then he announced a blog contest. For jelly. Which had to be mailed. I parceled up the jelly for family and shipped that off, and decided that he should be responsible for the blog contest jelly. I bought boxes and placed them on the dining table with newspaper and bubble wrap.
And I waited.
I mentioned it a couple times.
And a couple times more.
I felt like I was about to nag. And I don't like to nag people. I started thinking of extravagant things I could promise if he would only. Package. The. Damn. Jelly.
But last night, he did it! He parceled it all up.
And I forgot to take them with me this morning to mail.
I digress. Last night, while he was bustling around with packing tape and permanent markers, I mentioned that a key part of the Sock Wars contest is mailing your completed socks to your target.
He paused.
"Oh," he said. "I'm so gonna lose."

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


You know how when you have some unusual items to take to work with you, it's hard to remember the normal stuff?
Unusual things I remembered to put in my work bag today: Official Paperwork I need to mail, womanly supplies in case of emergency, notes from an interview I did last night and want to work on, materials for art class tonight.

Normal stuff I forgot: My PDA. My knitting. Anything at all interesting to read.

Sigh. So now, faced with an expanse of time between 5 p.m., when work ends, and 7 p.m., when art class starts, I don't know what to do. Usually, I grab a quick dinner and then get something nice to drink at a Starbucks or similar and enjoy an hour of knitting. I thought about driving home to get my knitting, but I'd be tempted to stay there and skip art class, and it would take long enough that I wouldn't really have any time to knit anyway.
Maybe I'll just work late instead.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Endpaper Mitts, sort of

I started knitting Eunny Jang's Endpaper Mitts as the pattern was written, using a variegated yarn for the background. As you can see from the first pattern repeat, that looks confusing.

So I added a couple more dots to her pattern and filled it in a little more and came up with the second repeat to see what it would look like.

Then, tonight, I drank a beer and reversed the colors. I didn't finish the repeat, because on the other side of this mitt is the kind of two-color knitting you might expect from someone who had just finished drinking a beer.

I'm leaning toward the final iteration, where the diagonal lines are the variegated yarn, which I bought because I like the colors a lot and which I think I'd like to see more of than the dark green yarn.

Tomorrow, I think I'll frog back to the beginning of the cuff.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Our Anniversary

We celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary with a mini yarn crawl followed by dinner in Printers Row.

We started in the South Loop at Knitwerks.

Recently written up in the Chicago Tribune, Proprietor Cherrl Harmon clearly has a passion for yarn. She has impeccable taste and it shows in her selection of yarn, colors and patterns. Meg bought some yarn for fingerless mittens.

Then we headed over to Loopy Yarns to pet the sock yarn. I found one of particular interest to pet.

I decided to take it home with me, actually. I love the tag. "Who says socks have to match?" Damn straight!

We then walked over to dinner at the Custom House and had a delicious, protein-filled meal. We ate a little too much food and stumbled back to our car.

Here our the balls of yarn pondering their upcoming transformation into mittens and socks. They have a nice view of the side yard, actually.

They were impressed with how quiet it is out here. And how bright the full moon gets out here. It actually woke me up the other night as it shone through the skylight.

Oh, right. I finished a pair of socks for me.

I can't find the other one. I'm sure it will turn up.