Friday, July 30, 2010

Diary of a knitter on vacation...

Greetings, and Dear Cynthia,

We spent the past week in DC (Door County) on Wisconsin's peninsula...which is north and east of the city of Green Bay on this map:
Sunday, July 25, 12:00pm: Decide to start a new shawl as a "vacation project" and see how far I can get on it during the relaxing week away from home; envision that it will *almost be completed* by the time I return home on Friday.

12:30pm: Begin knitting Ene's Scarf, because I've always wanted to knit a triangular shawl which begins at the outside edges (longest rows) and works its way toward the middle (shortest rows), and this will be perfect vacation knitting.
2:30pm, during stop in Ripon WI: Decide that we will get our Christmas card photo at some point during this vacation. Manage to take "self portrait" on park swing (I hold camera at arms length "backwards" and the four of us huddle together to try to all fit into the picture) which appears to have all four of us captured in it and might be cute for our Christmas cards. Upon closer examination, realize that ten year old was sticking his tongue out in the photo. Consider that the week is just beginning, and there will be many other photo opportunities.

6:00pm, still en route to DC: Start to question whether or not the lace on my Ene's Scarf is "popping" the way it should; realize that I did not bring any needles which are larger diameter to fix the problem and so continue knitting with the existing needles hoping that the holes will "pop" more after I've knit a few more rows.
Realize this is a futile proposition and set Ene's Scarf aside to re-start after I get home in a week. Fortunately I brought along enough sock yarn to keep me going...

Monday, July 26, 4:30am: Awaken via my kids, who decided that I would enjoy driving to the other side of the peninsula to watch the sun rise over Lake Michigan on this day, my birthday. Get up and quickly dress without showering; realize that I will have bad hair all day as a result of no morning grooming, and determine that Christmas card photo-op probably will not occur today. Enjoy the sunrise with my family -- really lovely.
Receive scarf from ten year old which he knit using a loom and which is my birthday present -- also really lovely:
6:30am: Since we're already up anyway, drive to Peninsula State Park and bike 9.6 miles. Note that I am the only one in our party of four having a crate on my bike rack, so my *bike* is very popular when it is snack time, or when a map is required, or when clothing is doffed and cannot be carried by youngster while riding on his bike:
9:00am: Enjoy watching my two boys skip stones into the Green Bay of Lake Michigan. Wonder how a ten year old can skip a stone six or seven times and a 46 year old can only manage to throw it into the water so that it disappears on the first "plop."
Spend the afternoon swimming in a pool, and then playing at the beach. Have a nice dinner at Shipwrecked - a brewery/restaurant a few blocks from where we are staying. Best birthday ever!

Tuesday, July 27: Get up and run four miles, because that is what my new 10K training program says I must do on Tuesdays. Take shower, blow dry hair. Don baseball cap and spend the morning at a farm. Spend afternoon on another beach; hike and get caught in the rain. No Christmas card photo-ops today because hair is a mess. Plan to make s'mores and have "family movie night" in hotel room in the evening. Start setting out s'mores ingredients and wonder what can be used for marshmallow skewers. Note that weather is again beginning to look ominous. Place marshmallows on forks and roast over electric stove:
Wednesday, July 28: Get up and run three miles. Shower, and realize that styling my hair in the morning is no match for my bike helmet, baseball cap, and wind, so decide to stop blow-drying hair. Throw head-band on wet hair and apply sunscreen for another day of biking at a "wilderness" state park. Get attacked by mosquitoes; make futile attempt to deter them by spraying on two layers of bug repellant. Thoroughly enjoy early evening showing of "Life on the Mississippi" (with live music) at American Folklore Theater in the woods.

Thursday, July 29: Get up and run four miles. Figure out that there is no shampoo in the middle of taking a shower, so use bar soap to clean hair instead. Reflect that it doesn't really matter, anyway, because hair is low on priority scale when playing in nature. Return to Peninsula State Park and hike trail having rating of "difficult"; be amazed that I was able to contain my fear of heights, and be equally amazed that my kids having legs much shorter than mine were able to navigate the rocky cliff-side paths carefully and safely:
8:00pm: Attend amazing Big Band program at Birch Creek Music Performance Center featuring music instructors from all over the country playing awesome big band tunes together -- So awesome, and great fun!

Friday, July 30: Drive home from Door County, knitting most of the way. Analyze knitting progress for the week and figure out that I managed to knit roughly half of one sock in the past five days. I know -- WOW...
Feel fortunate for having had a nice vacation with lots of fun diversions which aren't so accessible at home. Unpack, get laundry started, and get ready to relax with one of my souvenirs -- A Cherry Wheat Ale from Shipwrecked. They put cherries in everything in Door County...
I hope everybody had a great week!

Warm regards,
Laura (YarnThrower)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

"Winner" Sock Pattern

Greetings, and Dear Cynthia,

After years of knitting socks using various techniques / patterns / types of needles, I think I've finally assembled a combination of elements into a basic pattern that I will refer to as my "Winner." These techniques are probably familiar to most sock knitters who are experienced knitting socks from the toe up; I am just publishing this combination of techniques in this post so that I can refer to it in the future (row counts, number of stitches to cast on to fit my foot, etc), and in case it might be helpful to any of you. This is rough, and does not include every single detail, but hopefully you get the idea of my standard cobbled together sock pattern from it. Please feel free to e-mail me if you have questions regarding any additional details.
These socks are knit using the "magic loop" technique. Note that I actually prefer using double pointed needles (dpn's) to knit socks, though practically speaking, socks are the easiest thing for me to "take-along" to my kids' activities and warrant preventive strategies such as using one really long circular needle instead of five tiny little pointy sticks... (We're *all* familiar with bleachers at a baseball diamond, right? -- No good can come from dropping a dpn while sitting in the bleachers!)
Using a size one 47" circular needle, begin with a Turkish cast-on as given in this excellent tutorial - cast on 36 stitches (there will be 18 stitches on each needle). (Note that the tutorial shows one bamboo needle and one metal needle; for these socks, just hold both ends of the long circular needle together as the yarn is wrapped around the needles to cast on the stitches...)
Row 1: Knit one round.
Row 2: *K1, M1B (by performing M1 by picking up stitch from back to front), knit to one stitch before end of first needle, M1F (by performing M1 by picking up stitch by inserting needle from front to back), K1*; repeat once.
Repeat Rows 1 and 2 until there are 72 stitches total (36 stitches on each needle).

Foot section pattern: Knit 36 stitches (all of the stitches on the first needle); on second needle K3, P2, *K2 P2* seven times, K3. This completes one round.

Repeat "Foot section pattern" until 75 rounds have been completed, or until foot of sock is desired length minus 2.25 inches.

Work short row heel using yarn-over method, as given in Interweave Knits Summer 2007 magazine. If you don't have access to this magazine, there are some online tutorials which don't spell things out quite as nicely, but which utilize the YO technique for doing short rows and may suffice. I like this tutorial in particular, though there are several out there (search on "yarn over short row heel"). Work the first half of the heel (increasing section) until there are 14 unpaired stitches on the middle of the needle. If everything has worked out properly, there will be 14 unpaired stitches after working a right side row; after working this row, do *not* turn work. Begin working second half of heel (decreasing section) as given in directions for YO short row technique...

After the heel is worked, return to working "Foot section pattern" for 14 rows. On next row, switch to standard 2x2 ribbing for the rest of the sock. Work 75 rows total of 2x2 ribbing, or until desired length has been achieved. Bind off using Russian Bind-off.

Make second sock to match.

Warm regards,
Laura (YarnThrower)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Doorbells and exhaust fans...

Greetings, and Dear Cynthia,

When I was walking down the street one day with my kids, they picked up the irony of this car being parked next to the sign and they thought I should take a photo of it, so I did the best I could with my cell phone:
(Sign says "NO PARKING ANY TIME." Hopefully this bodes well for them when they start parking their own cars (starting in six years). Thankfully it's not *my* car...because I totally didn't catch this... (Perhaps riding my bike or the bus to school for the past two years has ruined my ability to read/comprehend signs regarding parking...)

So, our doorbell was ringing only sometimes when the button was pushed. This would have been great if it *didn't work* when the person ringing the bell was a politician with viewpoints in opposition to mine, and if it *did* work when it was the Publishers Clearinghouse coming to tell me that I was the big winner. However, one of our babysitters ended up standing outside for five minutes one day before we figured out she was even there, so time to get the problem taken care of. Here is the old doorbell:
It is laying on the kitchen floor. Note that the brown cover typically fell to the floor every time one of my kids got mad and slammed the bathroom door upstairs.

Here is the new doorbell, installed in the same place as the old one, by a nice electrician. Notice how it is smaller, and there is a bolt sticking out from the wall an inch above it (remains of the mounting hardware from the old doorbell). Not too bad, though someday I'll remove the bolt, patch the hole, and re-paint...but not today:
I *do* appreciate that it does not have the fake chimes on it.

In other riveting news, the master bathroom fan had a serious bearing problem, and here is the new fan installed by the same electrician:
It works really well, much better than the old one, and I only notice that it is a different size and shape than the old one when I look up....(which, oddly, happens more than you might think...) Not too big of a deal. Again, some day I'll re-paint...

Not as exciting as knitting...
...but that's what's going on at our house :-)

I did start a new knitting project today, but I am so mad at it right now and still have a few missed yarn-overs to fix.... but in the next day or two I might be able to bring myself to take a photo of it and share it with you. Until then, I hope that you have a great week!

Warm regards,
Laura (YarnThrower)

Friday, July 23, 2010

All the news that isn't...

Greetings, and Dear Cynthia,

First, this is what it looks like when a person has just finished the last of her grad school classroom work and goes to the Union Terrace next to Lake Mendota for a few beers IN THE MIDDLE OF THE AFTERNOON:
(My kids were with their grandma, at Grandparents University, so it was a rare occasion for me to actually go drinking with my classmates.) The gal next to me in the photo is the only other mom in my class, and I think she is the second oldest, maybe four years younger than I am?) I don't actually style my hair to look like that; there was a little bit of wind that day. I might have had a slight sunburn accident after losing track of time. I blame the Leinie's Honey Weiss. I'm going to really miss my classmates... Clinicals start on August 2nd.

So, I'm in need of a new goal and decided to begin training for a 5 mile race (Al's Run 8K) which I'll run with my siblings in October. I currently regularly run 3 miles several times a week, but I've been wanting to step up the intensity, so I'm going to be starting a new training regimen next Monday. Okay, so on to knitting content...

Here is the current status of the Hanami Stole:You might notice that it looks very much like the previous photo I posted of it, except for it is now without the errant part and slightly longer:
I had to tink back 12 rows and then re-knit. It turns out that I had skipped two rows the first time around, so I'm keeping better track of things this time... I think I have to work this pattern repeat six or seven times, and then things get more interesting... Slow going, because this is my project for home, and I haven't had a lot of time to just sit around knitting at home...

Also, remember the ugly sock? ...which I ripped out? (I know - you thought it was gone for good! Sorry...)
I'm using the same yarn and just a plain 2x2 ribbing pattern this time, and I think it looks so much better. I don't know why -- same colors -- but for some reason it is much easier for me to look at:
Here is the current status of the "pair," and I'm going to post my basic sock pattern soon, just so that I can remember what it is, and in case anybody else is interested in it.
I've tried a lot of various methods for making a basic sock, and have finally cobbled together a combination of techniques which have become my own "best practice" for making a standard, good fitting sock for myself. I really like the 2x2 ribbing, because it is snug without being too tight, and I think it just looks nice, though it is a little tedious...but for something I continue to cart around to various kids' activities, it is perfect.

Speaking of kids' activities, for baseball, a parent is required to work in the concession stand during one game... I'm telling you, when it rains on a day you are signed up to volunteer, it is like winning the lottery. I had worked only half hour (normally would be 2.5 hours) when the skies opened up and the rain came pouring down. Volunteer time *done*.

Volunteer time is also required for the swim team. I signed up to work in the "Clerk of Course" area. The idea of the thing is that the Clerk of Course lines up the kids and then delivers them to their proper position just prior to the start of each event. Picture an 8x8 matrix of chairs, and then picture trying to get 64 eight year olds to each sit in his/her own specific chair as he/she is awaiting his/her turn to approach the starting blocks of the pool...and picture me trying to remain calm and nice about the whole thing for 4.5 hours on a very hot Saturday morning. One father started raising his voice at me when I wasn't exactly understanding what he was trying to tell me, so I kindly looked him in the eye and just said in a pathetic way, "You know, this is a really hard job for me," and that was enough to bring him back to civility, though he probably thinks I'm mentally impaired (which I haven't ruled out myself...) I actually enjoyed the work, though, because it's constant and the time goes fast, and I'm a stickler for details, so getting kids into their proper chairs is a skill I didn't really know I had, but I'd do it again...but not until next season :-)

Well, I suppose I'd better get started on making supper. One of my classmates is coming over for dinner. More soon! I went yarn shopping last week, just sayin'...

Warm regards,
Laura (YarnThrower)