Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Kalajoki Socks

I have knit Andrew several hats and scarves.  He is terribly well accessorized with knitwear in the winter.  I have not made him a sweater because he doesn't particularly like sweaters.  I have not knit him socks because he's shown no interest in them.

That's always been fine with me.  I know lots of people who want handknit socks, so it's not like I'm unable to knit them because Andrew doesn't want them.

Or, I should say, Andrew didn't want them.

Recently he's bought a few pair of socks that are thick and warm instead of plain cotton ones.  One evening he tells me that he thinks he would like a pair of knit socks.

I don't have to tell you I had him on Ravelry surfing patterns faster than you can say, "men's unisex sock top down fingering weight."

He found a few he liked, and out of those I chose the Kalajoki socks.  Visually interesting, but not feminine.  The pattern is mirrored, so each sock will be a little different to knit.  The pattern is made by purl stitches, so there are no holes to detract from the sock's warmth.  Perfect.

Andrew found yarn he liked (Socks that Rock lightweight in The Skein with No Name colorway, which isn't available for sale yet because it's part of the 2010 sock club), and I cast on.

The first sock went like lightning, even with forcing Andrew to try it on in various stages (and usually with needles intact) and making up the decreases on the leg as I went.  The first sock on his foot, Andrew deemed it a success.  I smugly cast on for the second sock.

We all know this story isn't going to have a happy ending, right?  Everybody prepared?

I've knit the entire leg and the heel flap before I think to compare the first sock to the second sock.*

Huh.  The second sock is significantly longer than the first.  Turns out, I knit through the end of the chart instead of stopping at row 23 as I did on the first sock.  To make matters worse, I had a row counter from the first sock that still clearly displayed 23.  I knit past the row anyway.


I knit the heel flap again and the neverending gusset and soldier down the foot until I'm ready to start the toe.  Suddenly, I realize that these socks should have mirrored patterns on them.  The wavy line is on the right side of the top of the right foot and should be at the left side of the top of the left foot.

Clearly, that was not the case.  I had been knitting so blissfully that I didn't bother to read the pattern, which very clearly said how to arrange the stitches at the heel flap to get the pattern in the correct spot.**

I ripped the entire foot, the gussett, the heel, and that &*$)% heel flap.

After a tense moment with the sock and the ballwinder, I was back at it, knitting the heel flap for the third time.

After knitting for a bit and not trusting myself to see the obvious, I stop and say to Andrew, "Okay, left wavy on the left side.  Right wavy on the right side.  This is correct, right?"  Andrew looks at the socks and says, "Doesn't the picture show the pattern going all the way to the end of the toe?"

I said, --well, what I said isn't important.  Never mind.  Let's just say that the pattern does not indicate that the pattern continues onto the toe.  I'm confident of this.  I am also confident that 688 other people have knit this sock and posted on Ravelry, and they all seemed to intuitively know that the pattern continues onto the toe.***

Over the next few days, I plan on finishing the second sock and redoing the toe on the first.

I've always thought the Sweater Curse**** was a ridiculous superstition that only served to highlight the already-existing flaws in a relationship, but these socks...  There seems to be something malevolent about knitting for your favorite person.  It's a mystery to me, but one for which I have newfound respect.

*Yes, I know.  Rookie mistake.

**I agree.  It seems strange that I would think that doing the same thing twice would somehow magically produce different results.  Still, I did.

***Okay, maybe it's not intuition.  Maybe it's looking at the picture on the pattern.  No matter.

****Some knitters/crocheters say that the gift of a handmade sweater will inevitably doom a relationship.  You'll be left regretting the hours and money you spent on said labor of love.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Baking

Our office closed at noon.  It was unexpected but very, very much appreciated.

Before we left, Emily brought me some of the delicious things she's been baking.... including peppermint bark.

Before I knew what I was doing, I had a recipe.  On the way home, the car drove me to the grocery.

By 4:00, I had sweet potatoes in the fridge to be baked tomorrow, a cheeseball and a peppermint pie chilling, a coffeecake baked, and a container full of peppermint bark.

It wasn't my fault.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 20, 2010

(Nearly) Instant Gratification

With the completion of the mittens for my mother-in-law, my Christmas knitting is finished.  To celebrate, I'm knitting for myself.

I knit a coffee cup sleeve to use at work.  I sometimes drink cocoa here, and the paper cups they have for hot drinks are so thin that I have to use two to keep from burning my fingers.

Now I don't!  This was knit from scrap yarn I had leftover from another project.  It was ridiculously fast to knit, and I think I'll use it a lot.

It even makes diet cocoa look cozy.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Importance of Blocking

I have a delightful mother-in-law.  She loves snow, snowpeople, Christmas, and winter merriment in general.  Since she is lovely and also birthed the most wonderful human I know, I made her fancypants mittens for Christmas.

Before admiring, let's take a moment to note how important blocking is.*

Here is a picture of the mittens straight off the needles.

You'll note that they look kind of wadded up.  That's because they had spent their entire existence up to this point either wadded up in my knitting bag or wadded up in my hands. 

I soaked them for awhile in cold water and Soak to give the wool time to relax.  Then I used my extremely expensive mitten blockers* to stretch them to the shape I wanted.

After they dried, they looked like this:

and the backs looked like this:

I love them and am really pleased with the way they turned out.  Here's hoping my mother-in-law loves them as well.

*If you don't know what I'm talking about, click here.

**Also known as "bits of an amazon box cut up and wrapped with plastic grocery bags."

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Very Tiny Bit of the Bug

If you were around last year, you may remember that I had a bit of a falling down with regard to knitted Christmas ornaments.  This year I decided to make only one ornament, which would be given to my in-laws.  Last Christmas, they gave me a kit with yarn and patterns for ornaments, so they deserved to get the first ornament I made from that kit.

It's so adorable that they only reason I've been able to abstain from knitting more is that I'm currently obsessed by these.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

And Then I Remembered...

It's cold and snowy here.

Nobody should be shocked by that.  It's December in the Midwest.

However, there was a news crew on my street this morning broadcasting live about (gasp!) THE WEATHER BEING COLD!!  A tiny blond woman wearing a lot of makeup, a snowsuit, and a stocking cap was flitting around our street chatting about the weather.

I was just trying to walk the dog.

She accosted me with her microphone, brightly saying, "Here comes a woman all bundled up.  You're on Fox Live!  Is it true that the only reason you're out in this weather is because your dog needs go to out?"

Are you kidding me?

"True.  We're going to keep walking now."

"Ha ha!  She's like, 'I'm not going to stop and talk to you.  It's too cold!'"


No, tiny woman, I am not going to stand and talk to you because:

a)  Of course it's cold.  Nobody watching the news needs to hear you dithering on about it.  We know.  We live here.

b) I just rolled out of bed, threw on layers, and am walking the dog.  I do not have the energy to chat with you about the obvious.

c) I have no desire to appear on television.

d)  Even if I did, which I don't, I wouldn't choose to do it directly after rolling off my air mattress.*

e)  My dog has to go to the bathroom.

I thought about being really irritated by this encounter, but then I remembered,

Nobody I love watches Fox News anyway.

*Yeah, that's another story.  We have an old school waterbed.  It sprung a leak on Sunday.  We've ordered a new mattress and are now sleeping on an air mattress on the floor.  It's doing wonders for my temperment.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What I See

I started wrapping presents tonight, and it made me think about the fact that we give lots of Christmas ornaments as gifts. 

This is a new tree we bought from Ikea on a whim.  I have fallen madly, passionately in love with it.  The slightest touch will make the tree wobble and ornaments slide off their precarious perches and crash into one another.  Naturally, we put it outside the cat door because we're smart like that.

Despite its dubious location, it's a great illustration of why we seem to give ornaments that are only used for a few weeks a year.  When I look at this

I see New Orleans. 

When I look at this

 I see Guatemala.

And when I look at this

I see something I made myself when I was hanging out with friends, and I think about all those people who have similar ornaments they made that same night.

Happy decorating to everyone celebrating Christmas in this way! 
I hope everyone celebrating Hanukkah had a great final night.
Whatever you choose to do to celebrate light in the midst of darkness, I hope it's meaningful and gives you joy like this metal, tree-shaped coil gives me.

Happy December, everyone.

Monday, December 6, 2010

I May Not Know Much About Horticulture...

...but when playing Jeopardy tonight at our last Master Gardening class, my team won through a combination of horticultural knowledge (my partner) and an odd fascination with our teacher's ties (me).

Our teacher wore a different tie each class, and he always indicated how the tie tied* into the topic for the evening.  Apparently, I retained that important information and knew three of the five ties pictured for our Jeopardy answers.  I think I also knew a question about evergreens and maybe one about pruning, but it was mostly his ties.

The only reasons why I agreed to play on one of the three Jeopardy teams was that a) team 3 needed one more person and no one was stepping up, and b) I had my eye on one of the prizes.

I am now the proud owner of a Master Gardener bag AND a badge with my name and "Master Gardener Intern" on it.  I have fifty volunteer hours to do within the next year before I get my certification.

For now, I'm going to try to get those knitting projects done before Christmas!

*Sorry about the pun.  How about "related"?