Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Two Toe Tuesday: Too Darn Hot

July 27, 2009

I have a confession, one that will probably neither shock nor surprise you. It's simply this--I usually write my "Two Toe Tuesday" entries on Monday night. Sometimes even earlier! There--I've come clean, and I have no regrets. Monday is very convenient for me, but "Two Toe Monday" just doesn't have the same ring at all.

I'm telling you this because it explains why I'm settling for pretty crappy photos of the Strawberry Van Dyke socks that I finished tonight (Monday). I had only the ribbing to knit, in sport weight yarn, but it took four hours to get through because it is so freaking hot in this house. 11pm, and the thermostat reads 88 degrees. Usually, if I'm close to finishing a sock in the evening, I will knit as fast as possible in hopes of getting some daylight for the photos. Tonight? Knit half a row. Get up for water. Knit a few more stitches. Spray some cold water on the ungrateful dachshunds. Knit a row. Get up to let the sweat pools evaporate. Etc. Same thing with the blog post--I can barely sit in front of the computer, and am having trouble concentrating.

Anyway, back to the photos. It nearly killed me to put on wool socks, so even though the photos aren't great, I am still going to use them. Above are three versions of the same photo, it's really hard to capture the intense redness of these socks (though maybe easier if I'd wait for daylight). The photo on the left is as-shot--no correction. The middle is the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button in Picasa, followed by changing to black and white. The right photo is the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button. I think that somewhere between the right and left would be perfect (both colorwise and sharpness), but I'm much too hot to tinker. The pattern is most visible on the black & white photo, but what I find most interesting is that these socks are medium value--I would have guessed dark.

It's not supposed to cool off until next weekend, which is not nearly soon enough. No air conditioning to sleep in, and a hot dachshund glued to my side? I have a feeling it's going to be a very cranky week, saved only by hiding in my cubicle during the daytime hours.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

I Saw The Rain-Dirty Valley, You Saw Brigadoon

Enumclaw Highland Games

Went to the Highland Games in Enumclaw today. As you can see above, it was a lot of fun. I can't imagine what it was like tossing a caber, dancing, or piping in the heat. Just walking around all afternoon has me wiped out this evening, and I was certainly not wrapped in wool or wearing knee-high kilt hose! There was a ton of stuff to do and see (and eat and drink). There were some pretty off-beat and extremely unauthentic get-ups, but I guess I felt the same way about a number of outfits at the Berkeley Wilco show. As a very wise bluesman once said, after an audience member jumped up on stage to properly introduce the band (using blues nicknames that were made up on the spot), "Everybody wants to be in show business".

It's too hot to keep sewing tonight, and my buttonhole problem is not yet resolved. The machine is working fine for regular stitching, so I don't think that it's broken (fingers crossed--I really like the Bernina I have, and I will need to save up for awhile when it's time to replace it). It's also too hot to knit, or to sit around the house, or to move, or to do much of anything at all. I think that take-out dinner is in order, so that I can drive around in air-conditioning for awhile. I can already feel the cool!

I Saw The Rain-Dirty Valley, You Saw Brigadoon: The Waterboys, "Whole of the Moon"

Saturday, July 25, 2009

I'm Buddy Rich When I Fly Off The Handle


I was hoping to finish up these bags today, they just need buttonholes. Three buttonholes each, ten bags, shouldn't take more than an hour or so, right? Wrong. The test buttonhole looked great, but the first buttonhole on an actual bag stalled halfway through. The machine kept sewing, but the fabric stopped feeding through, resulting in a huge tangle. The problem is still not fixed, even though I've tried the following remedies with not a single successful test buttonhole:
  • Cleaning & oiling the machine
  • Changing the top thread (I'm using buttonhole thread on the top, and regular thread on the bottom, but having both threads the same doesn't make a difference)
  • Fresh needle (heavyweight, since I'm sewing denim)
  • Changing the bobbin
  • Rethreading the bobbin for more bottom tension (recommended in the manual)
  • Changing the pressure on the presser foot
  • Using the manual buttonhole program instead of the automatic program

Needless to say, I've wasted hours, and I'm running out of ideas--or at least I'm running out of ideas that won't cost $50+ (like replacing the bobbin holder) or that will take longer than I have before Sock Summit (like taking it in for service). At this point, I've got my fingers crossed that it's related to it being 85+ degrees in the sewing room, and that when it cools down it will work.

Any suggestions? Before I move from anger to panic?

I'm Buddy Rich When I Fly Off The Handle: Beastie Boys, "Sabotage"

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Two Toe Tuesday: Frieda's Watching Out For These Two


Was it only six or so weeks ago that I couldn't bring myself to work on any socks? In May and June, I worked on blanket squares, and triangle shawls, a scarf, and even finished a really old baby sweater, but barely any socks. Evidently, those days are over--I've pretty much only worked on socks for the last month, except for the 4th of July dishcloth. I'm even close to finishing another pair--I'm just about ready to to start the gussets on the second Strawberry Van Dyke (on the right). As mentioned previously, this pattern is from Wendy Johnson's new sock book. The instructions are really good, and I like the fit, but it's a little bit boring, lace-wise. The color is so bright, though, that it doesn't really need a lot of other stuff going on. I can't say enough good things about this Yarntini sport weight yarn--it's squooshy, it's vibrant, and it knits up wicked fast (as they say in Boston).

I'm also pretty close to finishing the first Sock Summit logo sock (on the left). The Sock Summit sock colors are growing on me more now that I'm in the real colorwork section, but I still sort of wish I'd gone with a more solid black and a solid (or even slightly more solid) contrasting color. In Boston, I picked up some gorgeous Shelridge Farm yarn that would be perfect--and by "picked up", I mean that E____ ordered it for me when she ordered the yarn she needs for her Sock Summit class, and it arrived while I was there. A solid black, and a limey green--maybe for another pair?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Won't You Let Me Walk You Home From School

July 19, 2009-1

Ah, the double-edged sword of knitting conferences. On the one hand, it's a lot of fun, and there is a lot to learn. On the other hand, there's the homework. I was able to pick up an extra class and a couple of one-hour-wonders in the Sock Summit lottery, so my class lineup is now complete and there isn't a lot of opportunity to procrastinate. Here's what I'm in:
  • Thursday: EZ Moccasin Socks (homework above, left)
  • Friday: Respectfully Ignoring the rules (homework involves thinking rather than knitting--not really started)
  • Saturday: Sock Design (homework above, right)
  • Sunday: Turkish Stitches (homework is minimal) and The Perfect Rib (no homework)
The EZ Moccasin Socks class homework is finished, it was super fast to knit because I'm using Cascade 220 superwash. Let's hear it for the speed of worsted! I might try to knit the other cuff so that I'm ready to knit the bottoms of both socks. I have been known to lose momentum on class projects once class is over (though not always), so having both of the socks ready to go could help motivate me to finish them. Are you wondering about the purple item behind the sock? It's my new yarn bowl! I love it--my friend L____'s mother is a ceramics artist (potter? stoneware lady? ceramicist?) and made a few of these using L_____'s specifications. It easily holds the ball of Cascade 220, and has fully contained the yarn tangle that I had to pull out to find the end of the yarn. And it looks a lot classier than the miscellaneous fabric and ziploc bags I'm always hauling around. I was surprised by how much I loved the purple / black among the choices she brought to knit-night, purple's not usually one of my favorites.

Anyway, back to homework. The Sock Design class homework. I could swatch for it indefinitely, and this is really just a start. I'm swatching a pattern from a Japanese stitch dictionary (photocopy in the corner), and there are several others from the same book that I'd like to try out. I may also use something from the Bavarian Twisted Stitch books that a friend in Germany gave to me last year. In both cases, I'm not 100% sure that I'm reading the foreign language charts the right way, but I'm sure I'll come up with something! I'm really into twisted rib, as you can see, so I expect I'll incorporate that somehow.

I don't really mind the homework at all, because it should help me get more out of the classes (and believe me, I didn't always feel that way during business school). I've been in knitting classes before where it would have been better to have homework in advance in order to get to the "good stuff", rather than spending a ton of time winding yarn into balls or knitting set-up ribbing. In most of those cases, the teacher had specific, special yarn requirements so there wasn't an opportunity to, say, cast on and K (or rib) 15 rows beforehand, or even to swatch for gauge. The classes that I'm taking at Sock Summit are more technique oriented, which is why it's good that we're preparing ahead of time for specific techniques. I just hope that by the time E___ and I head to PDX, I've done my homework correctly, and enough of it.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Knitting Math For Fun And Education

500 Days of Summer = About 35 Rows of Sockinette Sock (beginning of movie marked with white marker):


That's a lot more than I expected to get through--I rarely go to the movies, and I don't normally have a project on hand that I can knit for a long time in the dark. I liked the movie a lot, but where is there really a karaoke bar that features "Here Comes Your Man"? And if so, do they also have "Wave of Mutilation" and "La La Love You"? Doolittle is such a great album, I had to listen to it on the way home.

This is a pair of plain socks I started so that I could take them to Boston, and then forgot to pack them. The other items I forgot to take were books (one of which I ordered specifically for the trip) and lip balm. Not as bad as forgetting a hairbrush, but I still missed all of these things. Anyway, the socks are Socks That Rock lightweight in the "Sockgate" colorway, and the pattern is the Slip Stitch Heel sock (Rav Link) from Wendy Johnson's new book. I'm sort of thinking about using one of her other heels, so as not to interrupt the striping so much, but I may knit this heel and see how it looks before changing. Or maybe I can dig out some complimentary solid-ish yarn for contrasting heel--I'm sure I've got something that would work!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

For L_______, if You're Reading This


For Liberty: Not that I think you're worried, but I wanted to give you some proof that I'm making good progress on the bags for your booth at Sock Summit. The production line is moving, with pockets applied to 10 bags this morning and a ton of handles cut. Next step--turn these suckas into bags! And I believe that I'm about to rope in another worker or two.

I really want to make more raspberry lime jam this weekend, but since it's so hot I'm going to hold off until tomorrow morning--jam hands and production line sewing do not mix!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Two Toe Tuesday: My Cabana Boy


Summer socks are heating up! I was right that these socks didn't need much more before they were done--I opted not to take them with me to Boston because there was just a toe to knit (and graft). I was worried that I'd finish the sock and then lose it, or leave it at E____'s--those are totally plausible things to be worried about!

These are the Cabana Boy socks, knit from Yarntini semi-solid sport yarn in the Cabana Boy colorway. The pattern resembles Cotty (Rav Link), except that I knit the first three or four inches incorrectly (one pattern row, one knit row instead of one pattern row, THREE knit rows) and decided to just go with it. The are really vibrantly colored, and squishy, and they were pretty quick to knit because the cuff is not super long. They took about a month to finish, which is pretty good considering that I didn't work on them exclusively (and not at all over the last week-ish). Overall, I like them--the picot edge is cute, and since they are pretty short there isn't a lot of danger that the socks will get all slouchy. They should look cute with clogs, too!

Monday, July 13, 2009

It's Always So Much More Work to Come Home

July 11, 2009 - Lowell, MA

I know that it's probably because I kept waking hours that not at all correspond to Pacific time, but I'm much more wiped out after flying back to Seattle this morning than I was flying to Boston on the redeye.

The Wilco show was great, although it was cut short by TORRENTIAL RAIN. The concert was at a minor league ballpark, so the sound was not as good as it was at the Greek Theater in Berkeley, but I enjoyed the crowd much more. For some reason, I find Boston hipsters tolerable and entertaining, where the Berkeley hipsters rubbed me the wrong way--probably because at one time I was a Bostonian in my 20s, so I know more or less what to expect with them. The set list was similar to Berkeley, and the energy was really good, and it was really great to go to a show with seven people--more people to hold our space, scout out the ballpark, carry the blankets, and (of course) pick up beer! Conor Oberst (in the top left photo) opened the show, and I was disappointed. I have (and like) one of his Bright Eyes albums, so maybe my expectations were too high. Based on what Wikipedia says (and it makes sense, and is a totally valid artistic choice), he's more interested in immediacy than heavily polished songcraft--some of the songs felt overly ernest to me, and could have benefitted from some heavy editing. I mean, I know I'm no longer in the indie-rock target demographic, but it was hilarious to see frat guys singing along as if their souls had been saved by a song about ten women. Maybe without that visual, it wouldn't have seemed so ridiculous? I'm sure that I felt the same way at that age about bands I've forgotten now. Anyway, that set could have been shorter, given that the last 30-45 minutes of Wilco's set was rained out.

Here's a little video clip, where you can see the rain. I'm serious when I said it was pouring--you can see the rain in the lights around the 8 sec mark!!!

In concert knitting news, I worked a couple of inches of the gussets on the Strawberry Van Dykes at the show, and finished the first sock on the plane ride home. The socks aren't as tall as I'd have liked, but I was worried about running out of yarn partway through a repeat. The pattern is a little boring, but it was really easy to knit on the road (when I paid attention, that is), and with a red that bright the pattern is secondary in any case. Toe #2 is on the needles now!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Quick Update From Somerville


Still on vacation . . . sock still on track . . . having dinner & drinks & cake shortly with some good friends . . . Wilco tomorrow . . . no complaints!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Everybody Loves the Red-Eye

I'm in Boston, but it feels like I just barely made it. I nearly missed my flight last night because I thought that the departure was 20 minutes later than it was, and I underestimated the size of the late night security line. Fortunately, I just made it (and the gate agents were really nice about it, which made me feel a little less like an idiot). I hate being late for things, and I normally arrive really early if there's any doubt about the timing, and this was a good reminder of why that's still a good policy for me--I'd much rather be a little bored at the gate than running through an airport, stressed out.

Anyway, I'm relaxing comfortably in Somerville now, and look what was waiting for me when I arrived:


Gorgeous socks! That I didn't have to knit myself! E____ knit them for my birthday (this is the first time I've been back here since then), and they came in very handy during my traditional post-redeye nap. The pattern is from Nancy Bush's Knitting Vintage Socks, and the yarn is some that she bought when we went to Portland awhile back. They fit really well, and the yarn is beautiful!!!! I love them, with the simple rib and the star toe!!!!!

Speaking of socks, I had a dilemma when packing for this trip. The foot of the second Cabana Boy sock is almost done, but I didn't want to end up finishing the toe and grafting it on the plane, and then only have the other two projects I brought (both of which require a lot of attention) to fall back on. So in my quest to avoid one toe, I started another one:


Whew, that's bright! It's the second installment of the yarntini semi-solid club, Strawberry Fields. It's sport weight, and I'm knitting the Van Dyke pattern (Rav Link) by Wendy Johnson. The brightness of the yarn came in really handy on the plane--I wanted to start the toe & work on it a bit, but my row-mates were trying to sleep so I didn't want to put on the overhead light. I was able to work this using the light that was coming from the row behind & in front. I'm a little concerned that my gauge is too tight, but since the pattern is given in multiple sizes I may just go up a size and see how that goes--my efforts to buy alternate needles earlier today were wholly thwarted. The first store I went to had no Addis below a size 10-ish, and the second store is closed for vacation, and a third store that I called is not open on Thursday. The other stores involve more driving than I want to do this afternoon--I'm on vacation, I want to just read and knit!

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Hey, Baby, It's the Fourth of July (yesterday)

July 04, 2009

So maybe the fireworks setting on my camera isn't quite as awesome as I had hoped? Or maybe I need to be right under the fireworks for it to work really well? I can always try again next year!

Even though it's been really hot here, I've had a really productive couple of days (in purely non-work arenas):

July 05, 2009

I finished the Red, White, and Blue Linoleum Dishcloth (except for weaving in the ends) yesterday evening, after a brief stall when I tried to work on it without referring to the pattern. If I can get the first 5 or 6 stitches right on a row I'm in good shape, but I really need to check those stitches against the pattern. I'm planning to knit more of these, so I should probably just chart it out--a visual reminder would be a very good thing! In cooking news, I've cooked up two batches of jam, one batch of balsamic peach quick pickles, and some almond fruit bars using the jam (not pictured - eaten). Here's a quick rundown of sources / mods for those items:

Strawberry Balsamic Jam: Really delicious, the balsamic vinegar changes the flavor a little but the jam doesn't taste vinegar-y at all. I made a batch a couple of weekends ago, and the "leftover" jam that wouldn't fill a jar was so tasty that it's already gone. Local strawberries are also almost gone for the year (there are a number of farms in our area), so I am very tempted to run out and get more so that I can make another kind of strawberry jam as well. I modified the recipe by adding 1/2 a packet of pectin to ensure that it would gel.

Raspberry Lime Jam: This jam turned out very tart, so much so that I was tempted to add more sugar at the very end of the cooking. However, after tasting it on toast and in the almond fruit bars, I'm very happy with the tartness. Instead of using lemon juice and orange zest, I used fresh squeezed lime juice and lime zest, and I used a little more lime juice than was called for (because I had already squeezed it). This could help explain the tartness. It's kind of a pain to strain out half of the seeds, but it's nice not to have so many seeds in the finished jam.

Balsamic Peach quick pickles: Peaches on sale! I'm pretty sure they aren't local, but I wanted to try out this recipe from Quick Pickles (which seems to be going out of print). The ingredients are simple: peaches, balsamic vinegar, sweet vermouth, pineapple juice. The flavor hasn't fully developed yet, but I think that they will be great on ice cream, or warmed up and served with grilled pork. Yum . . . grilled pork!

Almond Fruit Bars: I used the raspberry lime jam to fill these bars, and they turned out really, really well. They were also simple to make--no exotic ingredients, just things from the pantry. I doubled the recipe and used a pan that was a little less than double the 8 x 8 recommended size, so they may be a little thicker than recommended but no issues.

I'm off to Boston for a quick vacation (more like a long weekend than a vacation), so today needs to be more about WORK productivity than kitchen productivity. But I'm really tempted to go and pick up more berries, before they are gone!!

Hey, Baby, It's the Fourth of July: X, Fourth of July.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Two Toe . . . Uh, What Day is This?


I can't believe it's July already, and that it's already the second to last workday of this week. I'm also having trouble believing that I picked up and stored together no fewer than six pair of unfinished socks in my quest to neaten up my knitting for my brother & nephew's visit this weekend *. Nor can I believe that upon turning the heel of this Orion Sock while drinking (only one) beer at the Wilco show, this baby fits like a glove. Maybe I should stop being incredulous, and just roll with it?
* note that two pair have been on hold because I misplaced the patterns, which I also found while I was cleaning up, so there is some hope that I'll continue with those pairs soon.