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.