Friday, August 31, 2007

Casting on ... falling short

My grand plans to have a giant orgy of casting on fell flat. See, I joined a new gym and last night, I decided a good way to work off the stresses and angst of the week would be to go to a step aerobics class, which I like.
I don't know what Reebok and the general step aerobics community have been up to since I last took one of these several years ago, but I think they've made it harder. The steps seem to be higher off the ground, the music seems a little faster, and the actual routines are much more complicated and need three or four feet to execute properly.
So when I finally settled down with yarn and needles to cast on a baby hat, I discovered the secondhand yarn was mysteriously worn in spots and wasn't that great anyway, and what I really wanted was the ball of red cotton, but it was all the way upstairs and I was all the way downstairs, and I wasn't going to run up *more steps* to get the yarn and then return to the couch via those same steps ... not so much.
(But I have a ball of Austermann Step in my work bag and two circs and 'Favorite Socks,' and I think I'll make the ones on p. 93 for the Fool, maybe start them today at lunch.)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

It's been a long week

... for many reasons .... and therefore, I plan to reward myself by casting on every single thing I feel like casting on this weekend. Even if it means my works-in-progress pile grows exponentially - I don't care.

Friday, August 24, 2007

We Be Jamming

Friday night was Grape Night at the house. After a long week of work, we came home and cut grapes off the arbors in the backyard. Our intent is to eventually make grape jelly, and tonight was the first step.

Doing my best to dodge the floodwater mosquitoes, we picked around 10 pounds of grapes, leaving a few of the greener ones for the woodchuck. (We haven't been able to figure out if he is dexterous enough to eat grapes off the vine or not.)

After washing and stemming, it was time to mash. We transferred all 10 pounds to a giant plastic bucket and tried to take a potato masher to them.

Too slow. So Meg thought she'd stomp around in them instead.

I thought this was a great idea, so I gave it a try while Meg rested.

We then realized that we could alternate stomping and each fit a foot in the bucket.

They say the hands are one of the best tools in the kitchen. I have to say that the feet are a close second.

So all of this stomping around worked great, until Meg realized that the plastic bag around her foot broke. We weren't too worried, as we were just going to boil the mash when we were done. That and any foot dirt would get strained out. Then my bag broke as well.

After a thorough foot cleansing, we boiled the mash.

It looks incredibly vile, but I can tell you that it smelled delicious.

It was at this point that we rigged up our own version of a jelly bag by bungeeing muslin around the bucket and pouring the mixture through. I read about the muslin technique online, and Meg thought up the bungee idea. We make a good team.

On Sunday, we successfully preserved with no casualties1.

Yes, that's 24 jars of jelly. It's really good jelly, too. Not as sweet as Smuckers, yet grapier. I think it's lighter in color because either we picked the grapes a bit on the underripe side, or because we added the white concords.

We have mostly determined their recipients, but there are a couple to spare. If you think you need a jar of homemade grape jelly, leave us a convincing argument in the comments -- best one wins. Maybe we'll let Angus pick. Maybe we'll send Angus to the runner-up.

1The last time we tried this, I dropped and shattered an entire jar of would-be blueberry jam on the floor... and all over Meg's backpack.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Whoo! The excitement of married life!

Some evening chez Socknitters. The Fool concocted a paste out of vinegar and baking soda (Isn't that a volcano in a bowl, honey? Maybe you should mix that up over the sink) and used it to try to get the unsightly greenish/ brownish stain off the toilet bowl, as we have very hard water. I got to hold the arm to the float up so the toilet wouldn't refill when he flushed it.
Then he found a scary fungus thing growing in the corner and bravely dispatched it.
And then he replaced the broken toilet seat, which had a crack in it that would pinch people when they sat down.
Then we watched Alton Brown on TV and I knitted a very ordinary, very brainless sock, because I have a sore throat and my brain is tired.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Wildlife... around the house

Lena, thinking about eating some crabapples off a tree in the front yard. Her companion, Leonard, is not pictured.

This is Gerry, our little groundhog fink, eating a pear off our tree in the backyard. The picture was taken through the window screen, hence the foggy resolution. Sort of makes him seem more menacing, doesn't it?

Meg and Janice in a wild afghan (er, poncho) doing something goofy.

Not actually in my yard, this is the great Warthog Fountain of Dallas! (I don't know if they actually call it that. Or if there are more than one. I just thought it was random and funky.)

Wildlife... out East

We did a quick contra tour over my birthday weekend in Pittsburgh and Cleveland.

Pittsburgh wildlife...

Cleveland wildlife!

Gaye, our wild caller!

The Fool in the wild.

Meg being her wild self, imitating the Yarn Harlot's sock.

We also stayed with some friends who have some wildlife as pets.

Dodger, a 3-month old kitten, being extremely wild!

Twist, a formerly very small kitten, now a much bigger (and perhaps less wild) male cat.

Wildlife... around Cape Breton

A moose!

Even the whales know how to play a strathspey up here.

A viking.

A left-handed fiddler.

A lobster!

A sheep, re-enacting life in Lousibourg in 1744.

Re-enacting chickens, too.

An absolutely gargantuan fiddle.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

"Don't worry about the Stormtroopers, they're everywhere."

Or, When Nerds Collide

This year, Stitches Midwest shared convention center space with Wizard World, a comic book and science fiction convention. I'll confess, I share a certain number of limited interests in common with the Wizard World visitors, but mostly, I got my amusement out of watching the interaction between the two groups of people. Here are some of the main differences.

Here's how it broke down:
People wearing shawls: Stitches
People wearing capes: Wizard World

People carrying knitting needles: Stitches
People carrying staffs: Wizard World

People carrying bags of yarn: Stitches
People carrying bags of comic books: Wizard World.

When The Fool and I were leaving, he said to me, "So what's up with all these people in costume? Is it just a thing, or is there a contest or what?" I was explaining how it was just the thing to do at one of these conventions, when passing us, a girl in a black T-shirts emblazoned with comic book characters said clearly, "So wait, these people pay to get into the hall and then they just sit there and knit?"

Fly your freak flag proudly, is what I say.

So the Fool and Thorny and her friend Renee and I all flew our freak flags high. We bought yarn. Thorny's stash is across the top of the photo, ours is to the left of Angus and Renee's is to the right of Angus. She has the most self-control. Except for Angus, who can't stand the idea of anything happening in the house without his supervision.

After a toddler-free dinner of sushi and a cake I'd made for Thorny's birthday, which was last week, we all sat in my living room and cast on. Renee worked on a bamboo yarn headscarf, Thorny started making socks and I worked on some odds and ends.
This is the only picture I took of the yarn orgy, because how amazing is that? That's Thorny finding the middle of a center-pull ball of yarn without eviscerating it.

The Fool began knitting the Friday Harbor socks from Knitting On The Road. He was surprisingly thwarted in his efforts to find Jamieson's yarn at SMW, and will have to special-order it to get his sweater back on track. Thorny and I were also unsuccessful in finding a Dale of Norway baby knits book we wanted to get our hands on. We figured with that much knitting stuff in one place, we'd have no trouble, but apparently fiddly Fair Isle and complicated baby sweaters are not the thing.

Sockapalooza arrives!
Lookit my cool sock pal socks! Kristy from Utah sent these to me and I love them. They look so good blocked out like this, and the colors are great, and I have to learn how to make picot edges like that and ... there was more! There's an assortment of nifty cards that she also makes, which, naturally, I did not photograph, but believe me, they're nifty.

Feline Object.
I finished a cat bed and felted it. It's supposed to have one moebius twist in the rim. But I adapted the pattern a little bit, and now it's got a big twist in it, which came out pretty well with the two colors going on.
The bed is a combination of Brown Sheep, Lopi and doubled worsted weight wool, including a bit of Cascade 220 and Blackwater Abbey. Stashbuster.
Dubious hit among the furry.

(An amusing note. I got Angus to sit in the bed by putting the bed on the floor and saying to him, "Angus, stay out of there. I mean it. Don't hop in that cat bed. Well, now that you're there, get out now. Don't sit down. Angus, don't lie down, or curl up like that. OK. Look away from the camera." Contrary beast.)


A closeup of the part where my pattern deviated from Cat Bordhi's.

Saturday, August 04, 2007


A few months ago, I cast on for a cat bed, following Cat Bordhi's directions in "A Second Treasury of Magical Knitting." You knit one of her moebius strip borders, and then cast off, using a knitted-on i-cord bindoff (which does take some of the shine off the magic, because you have to do this over a couple hundred stitches, but ... it's still an interesting thing to knit.) So I did that, and then I took the loop of black knitting and tossed it into a basket.

I found it last night, and fished out the right needle and her book, and set out to finish this cat bed. Since I'd knit the border, I got some secondhand bulky Lopi in a nice natural color and as it was practically free, it was the right price for cat knitting.

While the Fool snoozed in the armchair, I did this:
"Pick up and knit 200 stitches directly beneath I-cord edge ... bring the two needle tips together to join and knit in the round, without any twist on the needle."

I knit four rows, knit my increase row and went to bed.

This morning, the Fool picked it up to look at it.
"Hmm," he said. "You twisted your join."

I did? I had. We frogged the project back to the picked up stitches, put them back on the circular needle and started to examine my knitting.

Somehow, I'd managed to not only put one twist in my moebius strip, but two. I studied Cat Bordhi's directions again.

"It is rare to have more than one crossing, but you must always check to be sure," she wrote, while discussing how to cast on to knit a moebius strip. "I learned the hard way."

And so did I. I was at a critical knitting juncture. Should I:
a) Rip the entire project out, cast on properly and create a moebius strip (with 200 stitches to knit into an I-cord bindoff) to make this project as depicted in her book?
b) Pick up around the edge of a wonky moebius strip, twist my join (the only thing possible) and ... um ... make something up.

I read further and noticed that it says on the back of her book, in a little biography, "(Cat) likes nothing better than to have a knitting experiment go awry because it means very interesting, possibly never-before-seen things are soon to be revealed."

Excellent! "B" it is!

I think what I'll do is knit four wonky rows, cast off, and then think of a way to pick up and knit something that looks like a proper cat bed bottom on this thing I've made. It's all felted anyway, and the worst that will happen is it will look somewhat more organic and sculptural than maybe Cat Bordhi intended.

Besides, it's not like I'm knitting for very harsh critics. As long as I make a big fuss when the cats mess with this felted cat bed and chase them off, I can pretty much guarantee we won't be able to pry them out of it with a stick.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

it's good to have standards

The Fool and I have a little after-work routine.
When his bus drops him off up the hill, he calls me, and I walk up to meet him. Our street, as it's unincorporated, hasn't got sidewalks for a large part of it, so you have to walk on the side of the road.
As we were walking home, a jerk in an SUV, who didn't edge over to give us any room to walk, honked rudely.
The Fool, right hand outstretched in an impolite gesture, rather uncharacteristically shouted, "F**k you!"
"What did that guy do?" I asked, stunned.
"He didn't pull over and he was really rude about it," the Fool said. "At least I didn't give him the full-on gesture. I only held up my index finger."
"Well, that seems cruder, somehow. Just shouting isn't so bad."