Ba-baaai, summer! Bwah!

Published on Tuesday September 27th, 2011

Time to say goodbye, Ada style, with a vigorous kiss blown at the end, to the briefest summer in my memory. All night, dozing lightly with one ear cocked upstairs for baby sounds — the only way I seem to know how to sleep anymore — I heard rain on the pavement. This morning I put on a wool sweater (Pas de Valse), a wool hat (“Mama HA’!” exclaims my small one, reaching to pull it off my head and flop it over her face for peekaboo), and wool socks. (Darned if those aren’t still the best-looking socks in the drawer, despite having been knit in 2005. My admiration for Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock grows annually.) Ada is in her reversible brioche cardigan (blue side out today) and her new boots. The boot leather squeaks and she steps tentatively in them, unaccustomed to the stiff soles.

We replenished the bird feeders this morning and discovered a mouse had moved into the seed bin on the back porch. I spotted the evidence right away, but didn’t expect to see Mouse herself peeping up at me from a hole in the bag, all sleek fur, bright eyes, and quivery whiskers. Ada, having been recently enchanted by a pet rat at the tea shop, thought we should pick her up and get to know her properly, but we didn’t. I am tenderhearted about mice, although I sincerely hope this one’s family isn’t expecting to move in with us for the winter. (The cat should be an effective deterrent. For all his faults, he’s a competent hunter and also pulls his weight when it comes to chores like dispatching house centipedes with alarming legs. (Don’t google them. If you don’t know what they look like from personal experience, thank the appropriate deity and go on your blissfully ignorant way.) And while the dog is useless against the creepy crawlies, she’d be thrilled to go all buddy-cop with Mingus on a mouse if he wouldn’t end her for cramping his style. So I’m not too worried about a rodent invasion.) But I’ll be devising a way to lock down the bin lid more securely. In the mean time, the finches seem untroubled to have shared some of their sunflower seeds. I’ve never seen a handful of birds tuck in with more vigor. They must realize summer is fading, too.

While the featheries are plumping up for winter, I’m feeling ready to turn my attention back to the thickest and warmest projects in my knitting basket. If you’re a knitter, there’s an excellent chance you already know what this is…

MiteredCross (1 of 1)

… but don’t tell, okay? Here be secret knitting. And speaking of miters, I’ve nearly finished my Mitered Cardigan: a seam to graft, buttons to attach, ends to weave, and then I cross my fingers and block this sweater like the dickens and, if all else fails, maybe take up running in case there’s a spare inch or so that could come off my middle.

And more socks

Published on Thursday September 15th, 2011

We’re having the first little rain shower of the season, the setting sun gilding the mizzle and a delicate breeze ruffling the skirts of our big sweet gums. Dressing in haste this morning to get Ada to nursery school, I put on wool socks for the first time; they weren’t necessary, but they were at hand and didn’t seem like a terrible idea. Autumn isn’t here, but it’s imaginable. So here’s a teaser glimpse of a new design I’m hoping to finish up soon:

SilverApples (1 of 1)

Apparently I really am a tease, because the only detail in focus in this picture of my test sock is one I’ve subsequently decided to alter. I am fond of that little row of flowerets, but they’re too prim and static for the rest of the design. I’ll use them again on a plainer sock where they can hold the spotlight. There’s more work to be done on the cuff as well, so I’ll be casting on a mate that won’t quite match. I love both these yarns (although neither will feature in the real sample because this much contrast is difficult to photograph) — the moonlight neutral is Socks that Rock in an old colorway… Mica, I think? Remember when all the colors had rock names? And the espresso brown is Hazel Knits Artisan Sock in Chocolatier. Yum.

I tend to dash off on a whim when I’m designing and expect everything to fall together. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. This sock has been a doesn’t — apart from the change I’m making to the toe, I’ve tried several different cables and two other cuffs and I’m still fine tuning. But the original vision is still leading me on and I have the sense it’s worth pursuing. So watch for more this fall and kick me if it’s not forthcoming!


Published on Sunday September 4th, 2011

I’ve finally taken some photos of the knitting that’s occupied my post-baby-bedtime evenings this summer. So I’ll trot them out one by one. And summer — at least by the calendar — is on the wane, so let’s just go ahead and eat dessert first:

StrickenSmitten (1 of 2)

(Yes, those are September raspberries. Have you ever seen the like?)

You wouldn’t have been able to let this skein languish in your stash, would you? It’s Stricken Smitten’s Smitten BFL Nylon Twist. It struck and smote me, as advertised, at Sock Summit. This base has actually got more nylon (20%) than I think it needs — 10% would have been more than sufficient for a longwool like BFL, in my opinion — and it’s got a rather squeaky hand as a result, but ooooooooooh, that cherry tart red! And that tight twist. This is a bombshell sock yarn just quivering for a chance to strut its stuff. And nothing shows off a yarn like this one better than twisted stitches, Bavarian style. So I cut it out of the herd for a riff on a Cookie A. pattern I’ve been planning. The jumping-off point is Kristi, from her Sock Innovation — I was immediately drawn to the slaloming double and single ribs, but I knew I’d never finish the socks if I attempted the jack-in-the-pulpit motif the ribs frame. That Cookie A. is a genius, but I’m pretty sure she doesn’t stay up all night with sticky overheated babies and then try to knit from complicated charts for a round here and a round there. So I thought I’d keep those swooshy ribs but fill in with regular twisted rib so I’d be able to read my work more easily.

StrickenSmitten (2 of 2)

We’ll see what happens, but I have high hopes thus far. I actually did feel I needed a small, single-skein project on the needles because it’s really been too hot to swelter under a wool cardigan. Our late summer is just hitting its stride and treating us to a week of temperatures in the 90s (that’s the 30s in the Celsius world, right, Meg?), so we’re spending all the time we can in the wading pool, swinging on the front porch, and gobbling “hazboo” and “buhboo” (those are raspberries and blueberries to you and me) while the gobbling’s still good. I have a feeling it’ll be some weeks before I’m ready to contemplate putting a woolen sock on my foot, but it doesn’t hurt to think ahead, right?

The Squint Eye triumphs again

Published on Thursday April 15th, 2010

I’ve lost my heart to a new sock pattern and a new sock yarn. I ran across christhalinette’s take on Beate Zäch’s charming Bluemchen pattern on Ravelry and thought, “How whimsical!” Then I looked more closely. How exactly were those flowers constructed? Wait, are those decreases between the petals? Am I seeing little gussets in unusual places?


Sure enough, the pattern begins with a little stranded hexagon… and then another coupled to it, and then some funny little earflap pieces… and pretty soon you have something that really does look like part of a sock foot. A sock foot with genius reinforcement in just the places a sock foot needs it. There is a lot more sewing involved than in a regular sock, but I found it so engaging to watch a sock form emerging that I hardly noticed the extra labor.

As you can see, I totally copied the color scheme from that first pair I fell for. I already knew I wanted to buy something with long color changes for the flowers; I went hunting in my stash for a solid, pale base yarn and came up with a nice gray ball of Satakieli the color of gull wings. I took it with me to the shop and began to fret when I couldn’t find just what I’d imagined — a floral colorway that wouldn’t look too juvenile or too Vegas. Finally I settled on a ball of Noro in the lyrically named S185 C colorway. I’d had my eye on this one as my favorite of their offerings anyway, and I figured the remnants could go toward the ducky vertical-striped garter baby sweaters in my queue. It looked okay with the gray Satakieli, but it didn’t really sing. So just for kicks I tried one of my favorite yarn-browsing techniques: the Squint Eye. I held up the Noro at arm’s length, squinted one eye at it like a nearsighted pirate ogling a buxom barmaid, and slowly passed it in front of the wall of sock yarn to see if anything hanging there would give it that razzle dazzle that happens when two colors were meant to be together. (I imagine the performance of the Squint Eye looks mighty peculiar except to veteran yarn-buyers. Go on, I’ll bet you use it too.)

And there it was. The magic glow. And it was coming from something that looked suspiciously like plain, unbleached wool.

I quickly restored my face to its normal configuration so I could investigate. The magic was coming from the section of the wall housing the offerings from A Verb for Keeping Warm. No surprise there — Kristine Vejar is a visionary. I love her India-inflected color sense, and also her commitment to natural dyes and to farmers and mills in the U.S. and Canada. But what was this peculiar magic skein of Creating that didn’t look like it had been dyed at all? The color was called “citron.” I carried it over to the window to see it in what was left of the natural light. It still just looked like cream, but the Noro was crazy about it, practically slavering around its skirts. So I shrugged and had them put it on the swift for me.

The next morning I kept giving that unassuming ball little sideways glances as I cast on and began my first hexagon. Wait, was that a blush of pink grapefruit I spied? A hint of lemongrass? It was! This yarn may not perform to strangers the way its AVFKW brethren do, but Kristine really is a genius. It’s as if she stirred a single one of these into that pot of fresh cream:


(Just the tulip. Not the invasive wild geranium I need to rip out of every corner in the garden… again.) And not that you can really see it when I take photographs at 6pm after work. You’ll have to take my word for it until I can get proper pictures in proper daylight.


The first sock is finished, and so is the first hexagon of the second sock. Can I somehow have both socks blocked by Monday? My birthday girl may have to open a gift containing just one sock, with the second to follow later in the week. Gifting one dry sock would be better than two damp ones, right? Wet socks, even handknit ones with really pretty flowers, don’t exactly say I love you and I’m going to miss you so much when you move to Maine.