Sunday, July 29, 2007

Back Home Again

We arrived home yesterday after a glorious vacation in Rockport, MA. I had a great visit with Liz and then my extended family, finished a project, went whale watching, and read HP7 once, twice, and then certain chapters over and over and over again ... I have lots to blog about, but first things first ... vacation yarn buying ...

I had determined that I would not visit yarn stores on this trip. Liz had already gifted me with the wonderful Schaeffer Anne and I didn't want to test my family's fiber tolerance after they cheerfully accompanied me to MDSW. I'm also trying to keep a handle on the stash. I was fairly certain that I could avoid any fiber stores. (Stop laughing now. I mean it.) There happens to be however, a curious phenomenon that occurs when a yarn-loving knitter enters a fiber-friendly city. It is magnetic. Yarn stores just materialize in the path of the yarn lover and the force of the subsequent pull puts gravity to shame.

It happened to me while Letterboxing with the BackBou's wonderful cousin and her family in Portland, ME ...

After finding the Casco Bay letterbox, this yarn store just jumped in front of the path ...

Seaport Yarn! Well, I had to go in ... I ended up with 4 skeins of Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock (two Fresh Stripe and two Jungle Stripe).

I have never knit with this yarn (can you believe it?) and I can't wait!! While in the yarn store, I saw two extremely nice knitters who were executing a very successful yarn crawl -- they offered again and again to show me where the other great yarn stores were on there map, but after seeing the warning looks from the BackBou, I declined. However, it seemed quite clear that Portland is a fiber-friendly city.

As if that weren't enough, Portland has a Flatbread Company Restaurant! Lorna's and Flatbread? We were in heaven!

Socks and Rocks

I have returned from Maine only to be buried in a week's worth of scummy laundry and an empty larder. I'll return to posting later this week, but in the meantime, my sister, the World's Most Deserving Recipient of Handknits, has prepared the post below. An occasional guest-poster on XRK, she is once again providing the Muggle's Voice, extoling the handknit socks in action.

And don't miss her last statement -- she finally is ready to join the cult learn to knit!

As many of you know, I'm in a master's program for Environmental Studies at UPenn. Part of this fabulous program is a class called Rocky Mountain Geology and Ecology, which could also be entitled: Oh My God, What Am I Doing With This Desk Job. Basically, I went out gallivanting in the Rocky Mountains in Montana and Wyoming, and have had in my company two pair of Big Sis's socks along for the ride.

Pair #1 you know well: Trekking Blah. Which brings me to the first order of business: A confession. Yes, XRK readers, I have gone on record as a No-Socks-With-Sandals kind of gal, but alas, here is my (not really) shame laid bare:

I found a darn good reason: a cold, 8000-foot Rocky Mountain summer evening, with a cold delicious beer, after a long, hot hike. Guilty as charged, and not feeling bad about it at all.

But the real point here is to wax poetic about my new Tofutsies. So beautiful are they. You know this from our pre-trip shoot in Avalon, NJ, earlier this summer. They are incredibly silky, the colors pool delightfully, and they fit like a dream. Sis made them a wee bit longer in comparison to TB, and the heels hit me just right this time.

The first field test of the Tofutsies came on July 4th. My classmates and I struck out to the Glacier Lake trailhead off Route 212 in Montana to climb a mere two miles... and just shy of 1500 vertical feet. It's a gorgeous, eye-poppingly beautiful, lung-burning, exhilirating hike which I highly recommended if you're out that way.

For any pair of socks, this is a serious test. What did I find? I didn't even notice them. Hence, perfection. They didn't rub funny or bunch or get soggy or any such terrible thing.

And they made a fine picture at the top of the world, or so it seemed to be:

For the remaining ten odd days in the wild, I put both Tofutsies and Trekking Blah through the worst possible washing and drying regimen imaginable. I washed them repeatedly in a sink at my mountain camp, with water from Howell Gulch creek and a bar 'o soap. They dried on a wooden railing in the dry alpine air, with rocks as clothespins.

I wore them repeatedly, day in, day out, for two hard weeks of trekking along the Montana/Wyoming border. I caught grasshoppers with my bare hands for hours. I saw bison, wolves and grizzlies in Yellowstone. I climbed ridges and valleys and benches and ditches and glacial moraines and creeks. I took them on and off for dips in swimming holes of freezing water and boiling springs. I pranced amongst alpine wildflowers. I drank at the Grizzly Bar in Roscoe, Montana. I bet on racing pigs in Bear Creek. I saw men chase wild horses at the rodeo, ride bucking broncos bareback as storms charged across the plains 50 miles away in plain view. I answered a cowbell for dinner.

And dear readers, these socks, both pairs, for all these activities - they totally, totally rock.

Not one pull, none too much in the pilling department, no residual smell, no weird blisters, nothing. Nothing but good that is. I have relegated the commercial socks of this world to the dustbin of history and say to you now: Never hike in anything except perfectly fashioned handmades. By Liz, preferably of course.

Now if only she would make me two dozen odd pair more...

Or, if only I could knit. Hey Sis, how's about a sock lesson?!?

Cheers XRK friends - til next we adventure again!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Vacation Knitting

The family and I are headed to Maine on Friday, and we are in the throes of vacation planning and packing. First, on the enthusiastic recommendation of my sister who called me from the top of a mountain in Montana to tell me how much she loved them, I furiously knit myself a pair of TOFUtsies socks to wear while hiking.

They are a bit too small; the heel flap is too shallow, but they will do. After spending a year perfecting my toe-ups, I'm working on my cuff-down technique, and I still need some more practice. TOFUtsies is a very thin yarn, so next time I'll stick with a US1/2.25 mm needle and cast on more stitches and make my heel flap longer. I do love the silky feel of these socks, so you can expect to see more simple TOFUtsies from me.

Once I had the appropriate footwear packed, my attention turned to what knitting to pack. We'll be staying in a pond-side cabin in the Maine woods, with several days spent in the surrounding Acadia/Schoodic regions. I'll have a plane ride, some good long car rides, and hopefully, some time knitting pond-side as well.

I always travel with socks, and of course, I had to bring my summer crush, Nancy Bush, with me. Predictably, I'll be knitting the New England Socks from Knitting on the Road, corny as it may be. The dilemma was what yarn to choose. A lacy pattern calls for a solid or mostly-solid, so here were the candidates:

Lobster red Spirit Trail :: Leafy green Gems Opal :: Watery blue Koigu

You'll have to see the winner when I return, but it shouldn't be too hard to figure out which one I chose.

Much of this trip will be spent in the car, meandering up Route 1, going back and forth between the cabin and Acadia. I cannot admire the scenery while hunched over a lace chart, so I will need a simple knit as well. Tomato is coming along, now being knit on smaller needles.

I am a chronic overpacker, but as the chief packer for the entire family, I am trying to break myself of this habit. I think stopping at two knitting projects seems like a good place to start. Surely a pair of socks and an entire sweater should keep my needles occupied for a week?

See you when I get back!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Navel Gazing

Ann and her family passed through Philadelphia for a quick overnight visit on their way North, and it was so fantastic. Yarn was exchanged, socks were knitted, Greek food was eaten, the kids played like old friends, and we made plans for a family weekend in the fall.

Ann gave Liz Fleece Artist Sea Wool
Liz gave Ann Schaefer Anne

Have you seen the newest Yarnival? I haven't had a chance to click through all of this month's features, but a certain Dear John letter to a sock pattern is featured this month.

In other news, despite having a a very refined taste in literature, our pal Bridget likes to slum it by reading our blog and likes it so much that she's nominated us for a Rockin' Girl Blogger Award. Shucks, Bridget, thanks! Carol introduced us to Bridget at MDSW and were instantly friends. Bridget has great literary content on her blog, with lots of reviews and recommendations, so if you like to read, check her out.

I suppose I get to name some other Rockin' Girls, so here goes:

Specs, since we have a mutual deep love of David Bowie.

Rachel, because maybe it will give her motivation to blog a bit more. She's been super-busy at work, and though I wish her lots of career success, I am endlessly entertained by her blog and wish she could post a bit more. And really, anyone who goes swimming in her wedding dress totally rocks in my book.

StuntMother and Eyeknit at Two Sharp Sticks deserve more readers. Eyeknit's analysis of her FOs in unparalleled, and her attention to detail rivals Grumperina's. That's saying a lot. StuntMother knits a staggering variety of things, from the most diaphanous lace to a sturdy woolen sweater, and she is an amazing writer, which she showcases at her other blog. StuntMother recently moved with her family to the country, and so I have an added empathy for them, as they too are now knitting friends separated by geography and united by blogging. They are also my friends in real life, and are amazingly accomplished women in their own rights.

Jody, because she is one of the smartest knitters I know, and is great company as well. But you all knew that already.

And finally, Sally at the Frog and the Daisy, a pal from the Montco Sit and Knit. Mostly a crocheter, she is also a natural knitter and serious yarnaholic. She also was one of my very first friends when I moved up here, and remains one of my best.

Up next, vacation knitting dilemmas.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Happy Happy Joy Joy

Instead of blogging (or knitting much at all) this week, I:

went blonde spontaneously

found my perfect pair of jeans for 40% off

ate fresh raspberries from my backyard

took the kids to the pool every day

I also frogged another sweater-in-progress (Tomato was too big), and knit one sock. Blogging is likely to be sporadic over the next couple of weeks around here (for all of us). Mo is on a bit of hiatus since returning to work this Spring, and Ann and I will be in vacation mode over the next few weeks. But we'll post occasionally and try to check in with your blogs too.

I hope you all are enjoying your summer as much as we are!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Widdershins on the Rebound

My Darling Widdershins,

You knew that you would not be alone for long. I know that you must have been devastated when Liz kicked you to the curb, but I saw my opportunity. I had been eyeing you from afar for months now waiting for my chance to try my needles on your clever pattern.

I know I was a clumsy knitter for our first time together. I was trying to rework the pattern for my 4-year-old and I had to keep re-knitting to get the fit just right. But you made it all so easy and natural.

My only regret is that I was so casual about our project – small stash-busting socks. I know you thought I was just using you in order to finish up oddments, and, truth be told, I was. By the end, I was so completely smitten with your heel flap that I wanted the project to last longer – much, much longer.

I am yours Widdershins.*

With Big Knit Love,

*On an as needed basis of course: I do reserve the right to keep seeing Nancy Bush. She is a jealous mistress and I must not stray for long …

Pattern: Widdershins by Brooke Chenoweth Creel
Yarns: Cherry Tree Hill Supersock Solids, Burgundy (toe); Wildfoote Vinca Minor (cuff); Claudia’s Handpainted Purple Earth (main color)
Needles: US1s dpn
Notes: I made these to fit a child’s size 10 and just adjusted things as I went. It was marvelous!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Fiberlicious Cotton

The Cropped Cardigan project has been scrapped. It wasn't the yarn's fault; I just couldn't modify the design to my satisfaction. It is hard to pull off a reaaaaalllllly deep neckline like that when you have curves, and every time I tried it on, I didn't like how I looked. I tried to raise the neckline twice, and gave up on a third attempt when I realized that I would have to frog the entire thing to raise it further. I haven't actually frogged it entirely; I figure I have a giant gauge swatch to study, measure, wash, and observe. Perhaps the Sylvan Spirit will be some kind of sweater-y thing (remember my yardage issues?) or maybe something else.

But I am not chastened in my attempts to actually make myself a sweater. My next try?

Tomato, in chocolate brown King Tut Cotton, with no fair-isle stripe across the chest or anywhere else for that matter. Knitting Daily reinforced my interest in a pattern that I had previously noticed at MDSW and during a perusal of No Sheep For You. My love of raglans knitted from the top down is well-documented, and despite my failure with the cardigan this week, I am quite excited for this top!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


I love Nancy Bush. These socks were such a joy to knit and like Liz, I'm having a fling with Nancy.

Pattern: Conwys from Knitting on the Road by Nancy Bush
Yarn: Cherry Tree Hill Supersock Solids, Burgundy
Needles: US 1s dpn
Notes: No modifications. I loved knitting with this yarn and will knit with it again. I was surprised by the color which I found tended toward a deep rose rather than what I typically think of as burgundy. It is really lovely.

Lace Report
I haven't been completing my required 2 pattern repeats of the Diamond Border Scarf. I'm going to be picking it up much more this week. Although I did buy a pattern for the XRK Yarn-Along Yarn -- Sylvan Spirit. Many thanks to Melanie at The Yarn Lounge for help in picking it out! I thought it appropriate to knit the Leaf Lace Shawl with this yarn due to the name and the color. I won't start for a few more weeks since I want to be really making headway on the Diamond Border Scarf before I start another lace project.

Stash Report
I was in Charlottesville a week and a half ago and picked up these goodies at The Needle Lady.

Koigu and Jitterbug

Yummy. I see more socks and a chevie for me!

Garden Report
Here's how the garden looked at the close of June. Since I snapped this, the black-eyed Susans and purple coneflower have burst into bloom as well as my favorite oriental lilies. Things are so lush and full -- my time is spent mostly in watering, weeding, and deadheading ... oh and knitting on the patio!