Friday, October 28, 2005

HP Happiness

Here's a finished pair of Socktoberfest socks. Partisan creature that I am, they're Gryffindor team socks. Sorry about the strange pix – the sun has been playing hide-and-seek today.

Gryffindor team socks

One leg reads "Go Gryffindor Go" and the other reads "Lions for the Cup" (slogans from PoA). Click on the images for a larger view.

Go Gryffindor Go   Lions for the Cup

Six Sox Knit-alongers will recognize the inspiration was Adrienne's excellent variation on the Go Team Go!! pattern by Soxie. They're child-sized, measuring 7.5 inches (19 cm) from toe to heel. The yarns are washable oddments from stash: some acrylic, some wool, some sock yarn of forgotten content, probably wool and nylon.

I enjoyed making them so much that I'd like to spread the HP happiness and give them away to a lucky person. Just leave a comment by midnight November 8 (Election Day roundabout Exit 151) telling me why you want them. I'll pick the recipient on November 9 and will send the socks via U.S. mail (sorry, I don't have Owl Post). There should be ample time for the socks to arrive before the GoF movie launch.

So, take your Felix Felicitas, concentrate on your goal, and put your name in the goblet leave a comment.

[Added 10/09/05: The giveaway is now closed. Thanks to all who entered!]

Monday, October 24, 2005

Sabbatical Send-off

Sherry is going on sabbatical, so everyone gave her socks as a surprise send-off prezzie.

Not to be out of step (har) I made Sherry small sabbatical Socktoberfest socks. They're a longitudinal pair, siblings rather than identical or fraternal twins, and a reminder that her sabbatical spans from turning leaves to flying snow. They're small for ease in packing. Those are holiday M&Ms for scale. VK has an article on nano-knitting, truly amazing work. These are more like ordinary garden variety mini-knitting.

Sherry's small sabbatical Socktoberfest socks

Sherry keeps saying she's going to dye her hair pink. Halloween – or sabbatical – would be a good time to do so. Failing that, there's always the expedient of a Hallowig. It's worked in October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month pink, of course.

Sherry's Hallowig

Megan Reardon's Hallowig pattern is a fun, fast knit. It's also an excellent way to practice three sock techniques – 1s2c knitting, right-slanted decreases, and left-slanted decreases – plus sl st edging and three-needle bind off. I consider it an honorary Socktoberfest sock. (See yet more Hallowigs from last year's KAL.)

As for the sabbatical grrl, well, she shrieked. I think that means she liked her prezzies.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Manhattan Fall Weekend

Every once and again I have a Manhattan weekend that reminds me that I heart NY. For some odd reason, this past one seemed to turn around Nabisco.

Some (non-knitting) friends visiting from out of town wanted to see Chelsea Market, a new shopping concourse housed in the old Nabisco factory Amy's Bread jack-o-lanternon Ninth Avenue (between 15th & 16th Streets) in the Chelsea section of Manhattan. DH and I had never been, so we tagged along. The signs of the season were everywhere, including at Amy's Bread.

On the outside, the old Nabisco factory building is a solid brick construction, occupying a full city block. It has an expanse of loading docks and its own High Line connection. In the day it must have been incredible, truly the National Biscuit Company.

Inside, Chelsea Market has been done up in Goth industrial chic, with slabs of stone and exposed brick and pipes and black paint everywhere. The main vendors are purveyors of trendy produce and prepared food, and flowers. Several have glassed in work areas, so one can watch the chefs at work. But I found the place a bit depressing, perhaps because of the low ceilings and low lighting. I hope the claustrophobic design is energy-efficient at least.

However that may be, the indoor gloaming did set off a large display of the most amazing carved pumpkins, including this scarey fellow and an advertisement. Sorry about the blurry photo – it's a long exposure!

Photo of George Bush pumpkinhead scarecrow   Chelsea Market pumpkin

Calling someone a "pumpkinhead" is a term of abuse in some languages.

The market has a "waterfall," water from a private artesian spring falling from a pipe Chelsea Market 'waterfall'into an old well. The concept struck me as a bit precious, but the old brick work inside the well is very nice and the sight and sound of gushing water is undeniably appealing, especially in such a gloomy place.

Overall, I much prefer the outdoor Greenmarkets, particularly the one at Union Square. There's more vendors and they offer the very freshest and choicest flowers and produce around. That's in spite of the perils of inclement weather and seasonal variation in supply. On the other hand, the Greenmarkets lack those artful carved pumpkins – I'm glad we got to see them.

Earlier in the weekend, I went to the Handknit Holidays trunk show at Purl. Cover of Handknit HolidaysIt was very low-key. I had plenty of time to examine the samples thoroughly, which is always a treat. Then again, Purl is always a treat, even on those days when the store feels a bit like the subway at rush hour!

While I did buy the book, some designs had me stiffling giggles for their sheer weirdness. My favorites in the mirth-producing category include knitted Christmas tree ball ornaments (?), i-cord garland (?), and a knitted St. Lucia crown (?!?). I'm very partial to Lussekatter [or St. Lucia buns], but this is really too, too much. It's a wonderful, wacky world.

Fortunately, there also are many winning designs. I immediately cast on for Iris Schreier's Snowy Triangle Scarf using Stacy Charles Ritratto. I'm having so much fun working the clever triangle shaping that it's already too long to photograph flat!

Snowy Triangle Scarf in progress

Ritratto is an all-out pretty yarn, with gorgeous color variation, sheen, glitter, and a bit of bloom – the photo hardly does it justice. The metallic thread gives the knit fabric extra body, for an especially airy look and feel. Unlike many glittery mohair yarns, it's very forgiving, an easy knit.

To round out that day, I stopped at Chocolate Haven, Jacques Torres' factory and store in SoHo. Now there's a factory with a nice high ceiling! It was too warm for a restorative cuppa hot chocolate (reputedly the best in NYC), but I did stock up on boxed chocolates for my visitors, who seemed to like them somewhat.

Unbeknowst to me, they were under strict orders not to return from NYC without an adequate supply of Mallomars and were having numerous adventures trying to procure sufficient quantities of the same. For those who don't know them, Mallomars are a fabled Nabisco cookie produced and distributed only when the weather is cool (they go away to the Catskills during the summer, it says so on the box). They're a favorite of New Yorkers and apparently in demand elsewhere. We eventually found 10 boxes some after leaving Chelsea Market.

But, alas, according to the Wikipedia, Mallomars possess a fragile perfection irreparably harmed by the rigors of air travel! They can be fully enjoyed only near the source. Ah well, just one more reason to heart NY.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Yarn Science: Winding Balls

It's a week before Halloween and I'm conducting mad scientist experiments! DH got me a Royal New Wool Winder as either a late birthday present or an early Christmas present. Needless to add, I promptly assembled the gadget and put it to work. In the name of Yarn Science, of course.

Here's an informal comparison of some center-pull balls wound by hand versus center-pull balls wound by gadget. Sorry about the dim photo, it's cloudy today roundabout Exit 151.

Photo of hand versus gadget winding

Left to right, they are Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock, Green Mountain Spinnery Mountain Mohair, Noro Iro, Cherry Tree Hill Baby Loop Mohair, and some leftover Cherry Tree Hill Supersock. All were full hanks wound off a swift, except for the Supersock, which was wound by gadget from the remnants of a hand-wound ball.

The hand-wound balls are all a bit sloppy, but very soft and compressible; they seem light for their size and the yarn is almost as relaxed as it is in hank form. Variegated yarn looks pretty much the same as it did in the hank. The balls do not roll; they stack reasonably well.

The gadget-wound balls are neat, compact, and dense. When first off the winder, the yarn seems under considerable tension; after 12 hours, it relaxes a little. Variegated yarn looks less the way it did in the hank and a bit closer to the knit fabric. The flat cakes stack perfectly.

It's said mohair, boucle, chenille, and most novelty yarns can't be wound by gadget. The Baby Loop, a mohair boucle, wound up nicely. It remains to be seen if it will feed nicely. DH thinks this experiment was most unwise, muttering something about self-felting. The gadget does create a fair amount of lint (not towels-in-the-dryer quantities, more like well-groomed-shorthair-pet-on-contrasting-sofa amounts), which indicates friction, but I'm hoping the ban applies to machine knitting, but not to handknitting.

In my opinion, the great advantage of gadget winding over hand winding is blazing speed; however, I consider the extra tension in the yarn a significant drawback. I wonder if there's any way to reduce it. Erica mentions pulling yarn off the swift before winding or winding 2-3 times... perhaps winding without a swift might work, at least for a handknitter. Hm. There would seem to be room for additional hypothesis formation and testing.

While I ponder that, here's an amazing motorized ball winder made from Lego parts. The parts are hard to find and cost four to five times more than a regular ball winder – the sheer genius leaves me agog.

Moving from the mysteries of yarn science to plain old mystery, my first Socktoberfest project is finished. It's a surprise to be revealed next week.

First Socktoberfest project

Shh! More pix to come soon!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Belated Sockapal-2-za Reveal

Belated greetings, Beate! Finally it can be told that I am your Sockapal-2-za pal. A full month later than planned, your socks have hopped in the mail and are on their way to you in Germany. I hope you like them – wear them in good health.

Here they are:

Photo of Sockapal-2-za socks

For those who don't follow Beate's blog, some months ago she hosted a Paulina knit-along. Her socks (cabled ribby socks with eyelets) are a riff on that pattern (cabled ribby top with eyelets). Here's a closer look at the fronts

Photo of Sockapal-2-za socks front

and backs of the socks (click on photos for a larger view).

Photo of Sockapal-2-za socks back

The traveling rib and eyelets wrap all the way around the leg from front to back.

The socks are worked in Cherry Tree Hill Supersock, the colorway is Green Mountain Madness. The name of the colorway is a reference to the home of Cherry Tree Hill, the lovely Green Mountains of Vermont. The yarn has more blue than green, plus sections of charcoal gray, to suggest mountains shimmering through deep shadow and a dawn fog.

Sunrise in Vermont can be a magical sight. This time of year I've seen heavy frost form overnight on a lawn bordered by evergreen trees. When the sun rises, casting long pointed shadows of the trees across the grass, the frost disappears from the sunlit areas first, leaving glistening silhouettes of the trees on the grass before evaporating completely. The phenomenon is very brief – the silhouettes appear before your eyes, then are gone. Ah.

[Awakens from reverie, returns to socks] Beate prefers identical twins to fraternal twins, so I did the best I could with variegated yarn. Except the cables are mirror image twins rather than exactly identical, a nicety for knowledgeable handknitters. The socks were worked toe up from a figure 8 cast on. Some prefer toe up socks as an escape from grafting, but there's no escape with these socks. To keep a nice elastic edge at the cuff (essential with all the ribs), I used the invisible cast off, which is grafting on one needle!

The ribs should ensure a comfortable fit, rather like an athletic sock. However, the socks' appearance suffers a bit because of them – they do pull in considerably when empty. Even the heels are ribbed, which makes them quite pointy when not occupied.

The socks had many adventures this summer and occasioned many comments from passersby. These are just the ones that made it into the blog:

September 29   Sock goes hiking in Acadia National Park
September 23Sock on display at Saks Fifth Avenue in Short Hills
August 30Sock is a pointy heel bluestocking, too
August 7Sock rides in The Princeton Event
August 5Sock suffers needless jitters about The Princeton Event
July 14First progress photos
July 6Sock goes to the Macy's 4th of July fireworks display
June 26Yarn selection

This is a longish post, but I can't sign off without lavishing praise on the tireless, true blue Sockapal-2-za host Alison. Not only were the match ups rapid and any glitches addressed with lightning speed, but her faithful weekly posts made it possible for everyone to follow the progress of the most dazzling socks. Then came the time of happy anticipation and wonder and the big payoff, beautiful socks made just for me (!). Alison is simply the knitting hostess with the mostest, the queen of the five dpns (or two circs or magic loop, take your choice), and I bow low to her!!!

Monday, October 17, 2005

High Water

Roundabout Exit 151, after a summer's worth of rain all in one week, it's finally stopped raining! There's blue sky and sunshine!!

DH and I went to have a look at a small dam a few miles north of us. Usually, there's a quiet trickle out of one of the sluiceways. Today, from some distance away, we could hear a great roar and see spray rising high into the air. We were surprised to see water rushing over the top of the dam.

Photo of water over the dam

There had been some attempt to make the dam higher using wooden floodgates. Ordinarily, the rocks below the temporary floodgates can be reached without wading. They're usually a nice place for a picnic.

Photo of temporary floodgates

Downstream from the dam, the normally placid river was a torrent well above its banks. Judging from the debris, the water level had already fallen more than 4 feet (1.2 m), but it's still very high. That's a small tree in the middle of the river.

Photo downstream of the dam

Fortunately, this dam is strong and holding well, but even so there's been serious flooding further downstream. I don't think I'll say "over the top" quite so casually anymore.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Aquaria, the Water Carrier

Roundabout Exit 151, it's still raining!

When it rains in this quantity, duration, and intensity, alas, the basement floods and, lo, I become Aquaria, the Water Carrier. I estimate I have carried 30 40 50 70 gallons (113.5 151 189 264 liters) of H2O out of the basement. That's approximately 240 320 400 560 pounds (109 145 181.6 254 kg or 17 22 28 39.5 stone). So far.

Aquaria needs a break. I took an online quiz:

What type of sock are you?

Knee length sock
You quite like socks, but you're not overly-obsessed
with them. You would have been a pair of
knee-length socks in any colour, and probably
stripey or something to make you that little bit
more interesting.
What type of sock are you? brought to you by Quizilla

And I joined Socktoberfest, Lolly's clever knit-along. If it ever stops raining for a goodish interval, I'll post some pix.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

RAOK Discovery

Roundabout Exit 151, the weather has been reminiscent of these immortal lines:

          The sun did not shine.
          It was too wet to play.
          So we sat in the house
          All that cold, cold, wet day.

When I came home this evening, what should be waiting on the doorstep but – no, not the Cat in the Hat – an RAOK from Bethanie of the overflowing creativity and generosity!

RAOK from Bethanie!

Inside the box: two skeins of black Elann Peruvian Collection Highland Wool, three pretty pencils, Au Lait Bath Soak ("with soothing milk protein"), a nifty zip container just the right size for a take-along project (not pictured, because it caused too much camera flare), and a sweet card with a picture of a barefoot sock knitter, looking very pensive. Hm, she looks a bit like she's eyeing my wool.

I've never used Highland Wool, but it reminds me of the (sadly) discontinued Mission Falls 1824 Wool. This is a great discovery – I have a stack of old Mission Falls patterns! [Happy dance ensues.]

Thank you, Bethanie, you really made my day!!!

Thursday, October 6, 2005

Codename: You Could Even Say It Glows

I just saw an ad on TV for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. Roundabout Exit 151 the leaves are still green, yet here is incontrovertible proof that it's the time of year for super-secret projects!

First on the needles is Codename: You Could Even Say It Glows. This mission project, if successful, will be accomplished by Halloween. Spurred on by the incontrovertible proof, I hastily cast on and worked about four inches.

The essence of a super-secret project is super-secrecy; the essense of blogging is telling the world. To compensate for the lack of a work in progress photo, here's yet another surprise from my yard (I call it mine, but there's all manner of wonders going on, quite unbeknownst to me). There's a small strawberry patch that's blooming and bearing (in October?) in a quiet corner. I didn't plant it. It wasn't there in July.

Photo of volunteer strawberry

The plants are charmingly gracile, but they must be tough – they're taking over from some English ivy. They bear flowers and fruit below their foliage, like Fragaria virginiana, except I've never seen Fragaria spp. with yellow flowers. The fruits are the size of pencil erasers, smaller than a Fraise Tagada, and intensely red. I have yet to see a green one, but the ripe ones wink pertly from under their leafy covers when one walks by. That's what I noticed.

Something else I just noticed: there's another SP6 question.

30. What are your foot measurements, and what kind of socks do you like?
Using Priscilla Gibson-Roberts' excellent system: circumference 8 in (20.3 cm), length 9.25 in (23.5 cm). I like thin, stretchy socks. Also Christmas stockings full of Christmas oranges.

Hm... does subliminal advertising really work? What do you think?

Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Scarf Has Arrived

My Scarf Exchange scarf arrived today! It's a clever combination of pale green MC knit together with a ladder yarn with rungs the colors of irridescent peacock feathers. I love the sassy flash amid the coolness.

My Scarf Exchange scarf  :)

My new scarf is soft and drapey and not too warm – perfect for in-between weather. The pattern is a pleasingly random stockinette and reverse stockinette stripe, so it's reversible. It's an excellent length – just right to wear coiled round the neck or doubled.

Also in the package was a tube of Healing Garden Relax Therapy All Day Moisture Body Lotion, in lavender. Hm, someone's been paying attention. I love lavender. [Pause to smooth some on.] Happiness!

Thank you, Scarf Pal! I think I know who you are (in which case our disparate likes and dislikes help balance the cosmos) but I'll wait for you to reveal yourself.

[Added 10/06/05: My Scarf Pal has revealed herself: Jena, the Yarn Harpy, who is enjoying an enviable lucky streak.]

CROP Walk 2005

Here's a shameless plug: sponsor me for the CROP Walk!

CROP Walk is an annual charity walk to raise money for long-term domestic disaster recovery and overseas development and refugee assistance programs sponsored by Church World Service. Among the beneficiaries are 12 food pantries and feeding programs in Essex County, New Jersey including the only kosher food pantry in the county, the Salvation Army, and the Red Cross. Learn more CROP Walk FAQs here.

As a special thank you gift to my sponsors, every $10 donation to CWS gets an entry in a drawing for a feather and fan lace scarf. Give $10, get one chance; give $20, get two chances, and so on.

Here's the scarf in progress, worked in Cherry Tree Hill Baby Loop Mohair "Spring Frost." Some call the pattern Misty Garden. Ordinarily, mohair gives me itchy fidgets, but Baby Loop is as soft and light as soap bubbles.

Misty Garden scarf begins

CROP Walk is October 16. Donations made through that date will qualify for the drawing. I'll use a random number generator to select the scarf winner and will announce the result here October 17.

"We walk because they walk!"

Monday, October 3, 2005

Scarf Exchange Reveal

Greetings Fiona! Did you guess that I am your Scarf Exchange pal? Your Stripes and Bobbles scarf is on its way to you – enjoy it in good health!

Here's a photo of the finished scarf.

Photo of finished Stripes and Bobbles scarf

I'm still catching up on the blog backlog. When last seen (both here and on the Scarf Style blog, the scarf was bobbleless, a truly deplorable state for a Stripes and Bobbles scarf. Many thanks to those who offered bobble suggestions. After much hemming and hawing and not a few experiments, I decided on four colors: fuchsia, yellow, brown, and green. Here's another look at the Noro Kureyon stripes with the bobble yarn, DMC Tapestry Wool.

Photo of Stripes with Bobbles yarn

Amanda Blair Brown's design (in Scarf Style) is brilliant – the long, narrow stripes held together only by bobbles form a surprisingly stable and comfortable fabric. While it is possible to twist or tangle the scarf, one really needs to be trying. Most tangles drop out with a shake or two. The scarf coils around the neck and the loose ends swing in the most beguiling way.

Stripes and Bobbles is perfect for showing off the beauty of the long color runs in Noro Kureyon. The stripes remind me of a bundle of colorful Japanese ribbons, a traditional good luck symbol. Fiona asked for a thinner rather than a wider scarf, so this one has three stripes rather than the five called for in the pattern.

I like Stripes and Bobbles so much it's a good thing I blogged that this one is a gift I think I'll have to make one for myself. As an additional modification, I think I'll make the bobbles MUCH bigger or maybe use pom-pons instead of bobbles.

Many thanks to the adventurous Celia and the patient Cynthia for organizing this excellent scarf exchange. I've enjoyed reading everyone's blogs, getting to know everyone, and watching everyone scarfing* along. For me, that's the best part of the exchange.

Now comes the last bit of fun – I'm looking forward to a nice surprise from the mail carrier any day now and to finding out who my secret scarf pal may be.

*In regional American English, "scarfing" sometimes means "eating large amounts of food rapidly." Er, I don't enjoy watching that! and that's not what's meant here.