Upstream finished!

Hey, look! I finished something this month!

It was looking like I wasn't making much knitting progress this month, but then I finally cast these off over the weekend. This is the second pair of socks I've made from that new Cat Bordhi book, New Pathways for Sock Knitters Book One. I'm trying to get used to her techniques for doing measurements and heels, and also ingraining Judy's Magic Cast On for toe up socks in my muscle memory. So far, I still have to consult the directions when doing the cast on, but I think I'm getting better at it.

The rest of the techniques are getting easier to figure out with each new pattern I try. I must say that these socks fit me extremely well. Is possible to say that a sock "fits like a glove?" Well, these do.

I used Austermann Step yarn and I do feel the aloe in them when I slip them on my feet. I've had this yarn marinating in the sock yarn bin for a while, and it finally called to me. I'd certainly use it again, although it would be nice if it was available in a solid.

I've started my third pattern from this book: I'm now working on the Riverbed socks for Mark in a very masculine shade of green Regia Stretch. Mark's feet are larger than mine, so it will take longer to finish these. But, I do have some travel coming up for work…socks are always awesome for travel knitting.

I'm also still working on the Neckdown Wrap Cardigan. If I hadn't had to rip back major portions of it TWICE now, then I would be nearly finished. But, I do want a sweater that fits well, so it's worth the effort I guess. *sigh*

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Actual knitting content!

Hold on, here's some actual knitting content!!!!

I've been pretty occupied with other things lately (work, chickens, taking care of myself) and not writing much about my knitting. But, I have an actual finished object to show here, folks.


Ta da! Spiral Coriolis socks from the new Cat Bordhi book.

I finished them last weekend, but am just now getting around to putting this on my blog. I've added it to Ravelry already, natch.

I used Koigu KPPPM in color P400 for these socks. I'd picked up this yarn in New York during the Yarn Harlot weekend Jamie and I spent there, but I can't say exactly which store it was at. The first sock was started on August 26, 2007 and completed one week later on September 2. (I got lots of knitting time in on the Labor Day weekend holiday!) The second sock was completed September 15, 2007.

I found the new "sockitecture" techniques in Cat's book refreshing and engaging, but it was sort of a pain to have to lug the entire book along with me all the time. The patterns reference different sections of the book, which makes it difficult to make a photocopy to carry. So, I had to flip from page to page as I completed each section of my sock (see page XXX for the heel options; see page XX for the toe options; etc.)

I did learn a lot from these socks, though. I learned a very effective way to make short row wraps disappear, for example. And I was very impressed that Cat has you measure that diagonal area of your foot between the heel edge and top of foot (what is that called??). I've had problems with socks fitting me (especially short row heeled socks) because that extra wide area wasn't taken into consideration.

I loved the Koigu yarn. Not just the dying, but the feel of it. There were a few places where the skein had obviously been joined (in fact, one of those areas is visible on the cuff) and so the yarn was a bit felted there, but I could forgive them considering all the other wonderful properties of this yarn. I'd love to knit a sweater in it, but that would be quite pricey.

While Koigu seems an affordable luxury for socks, I did use up all but the smallest amount (I mean maybe a foot of yarn left over!) of it on this pair of socks. So, if you're making socks for feet larger than my 8 1/2 US foot, definitely get another skein!

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Getting active

I really should try to blog every couple days at least, since so much has been happening in a week!

First to wrap up some loose ends: did I get everything on my list done? No. But enough was done that I felt a good sense of accomplishment and success. That was the most important thing. Work has been so demanding on me lately — taking up so much energy and time, while not providing that all important sense of accomplishment — that I really needed to feel like I was making progress somewhere. I guess this is also an important lesson for me, too. I can’t rely only on work to fulfill me. It’s much better to look for personal fulfillment in my personal life. Makes sense!

So, my little bit of spring cleaning/chore tackling has helped clear up some mental clutter, too, I guess. Some of my list didn’t get done because once I reached this critical point, I sidetracked a bit. These were good sidetracks, though.

The first one involved a new skill: crochet.

Crochted market bag
Have I gone over to the dark side? No, but I really did enjoy how fast this worked up. I started it on Sunday of Memorial Day weekend and finished it up on Monday night. I have to admit that once I started it, though, I just didn’t want to stop. It was great to work on a project that could be finished so quickly.

Yes, I still worked on my other knitting projects. I did not finish my sweater, but I got most of the finishing done. I only have one sleeve left to set in. But, I’m not happy with how it is fitting, so I’ve set it aside for now. I’ll get back to it later. I will. Really.

The first Tofutsies sock is done, and although I seemed to have mental challenges getting the toe started on sock #2 (six attempts to do a short row garter stitch toe? what was wrong with me!?), I’m now working on the foot which makes perfect commuter knitting. Although my commuting time may not be so conducive to knitting these next few months. More on this in a bit…

Let’s get back to the market bag. I made this bag because I wanted something to bring with me to the farmer’s markets to carry my purchases. I’d heard that the crocheted string bags are much more durable than the knitted ones, so I thought I’d give crochet a try.

I’m so glad the farmer’s markets are back! I really miss getting fresh, local, flavorable produce. This past week, I’ve been to two farmer’s markets already. At the Thursday Loop market in Daley Plaza I added asparagus, strawberries, onions, baby turnips, and radishes to my new market bag. Yesterday at the Evanston farmer’s market, I picked up more asparagus, watercress, kale, Chinese broccoli (I love this stuff!!!), eggs, rhubarb, and more strawberries.

Yesterday afternoon was spent processing the “harvest.” I blanched and froze a couple pounds of asparagus, and froze about 2 quarts of strawberries. I still have just over one quart of fresh strawberries sitting on the counter, waiting for…something. I also cut up the rhubarb and made some strawberry-rhubarb crisp in custard cups. Baking them in the cups was a way to practice portion control, although I ended up eating two portions last night. Yum!!

I was in Evanston to visit the chiropractor for my usual 6 week check up, but I also had an appointment with a Chinese medicine and acupuncturist. I’ve decided I need to try something new to deal with the chronic health issues I’ve had in the past few months. The fatigue, mood swings, and weight gain must stop. It’s hard to be productive when you just feel like sleeping all the time, or crying, or wanting to rip someone’s face off. Traditional medicine isn’t helping me at all. My blood work was “normal,” but my gut tells me that I’m going through a major metabolic and hormone shift that that is resulting in misery for me.

So, yesterday I had a consult and an acupuncture session. The acupuncture was very cool. As he put the pins in the place, it felt like little circuits were being switched on in my body and currents were being connected. It was a very satisfying experience. I relaxed, yet felt energized, too. I also have some herbs to take twice a day. I go back in about 10 days for session #2.

The second sidetrack involved my bike. I took it into the bike shop had a rear rack installed, and purchased a trunk bag to mount on the rack. I’ve decided to use my bike more for running errands and for commuting to work. Last week I biked between Stitch n’ Bitch and home (about 7 miles each way), and Friday I biked between work and home (9 miles each way). Commuting to work on my bike takes me about an hour. It takes me about 40 minutes to get to work on the train, but biking is a great way to get some regular exercise into my day. I’ve decided to bike at least once a week, and will try to do it two days a week if the weather cooperates.

Unfortunately, biking and knitting don’t mix so this will cut into my knitting time. Ah, well, life is full of compromises, right?


That’s been my theme song for the past couple weeks: just takin’ care of business. This is typically the busiest time of year for me and “my people” — gardeners, that is. Spring is a time of high activity, although it hasn’t been that high for me this year. And that’s kind of driving me bonkers.

Typically, I’d be preparing the soil for my annual veggie beds this year. But, I still don’t have any annual veggie beds yet. So, I just have a bit of light weeding to do here and there.

No garden sales to attend this year, since I don’t need any new plants.

No place to spread out the compost, so my annual compost bin shuffling is postponed.

Pretty much the only thing to do is lay down soaker hoses in the newly configured front yard. I’m just not used to such a light spring gardening list.

There are still plenty of garden delights, though. It’s May and so many things are blooming right now. First and foremost: Lilac.

Lilac in bloomI have one of those old-fashioned, heavily perfumed lilacs. (It also gets powdery mildew at the end of every season, too, but there are always trade-offs.) The other day my next door neighbor and I stood chatting over the fence near the lilac, pausing every once in a while to inhale deeply and say “Ahhhhh…wonderful!”

Another fragrant spring lovely: Lily of the Valley.

Lily of the Valley in bloom These are short plants, though, so it’s hard to really get a noseful unless you hunker down next to them.

There are many other ornamentals in my garden that are in bloom this time of year. I’m just savoring them all.

As far as knitting goes, the only new thing on my needles are another pair of socks for my commuting/travel knitting. They are pretty basic, toe-up socks that incorporate one new thing learned while working on the first Rockin’ Sock Club socks. I’ve worked on toe-up sock construction before, and thought that I really didn’t like short row toes. After working on the Inside-Out socks, though, I’ve since learned that it’s stockinette short row toes I don’t like. No matter how I pick up the wraps, they always seem to leave a little hole. But when done in garter stitch, the short row toe looks just fine to me.

So these socks are constructed with a short-row garter stitch toe, but _not_ a short-row heel. I tried the short-row garter stitch heel on them, but ended up ripping it out. It just didn’t feel like it fit right to me: too much stress and pulling along the top of my foot. I really need the extra room of a gusset, so I reworked the heel with a gusset and heel flap. Now it fits much better.

Patterning is a the garter rib from Charlene Schurch’s Sensational Knitted Socks. (I love that book, and am looking forward to getting the second one!) I’m using the Tofutsies yarn from Southwest Trading Company and am really liking the fabric. It feels very soft and drapy on the needles and on my foot. I guess drape isn’t something that’s usually considering a desirable property for sock fabric, but I can’t explain it any better than that.

I’ve certainly been tempted to start new projects, but I’m being really disciplined about finishing up what I’ve already started. So, I’m still working on the Lift and Separate wrap sweater. I’m stuck on the sleeves now. *yawn* Not very interesting, except that I’m looking forward to finishing a new, long-sleeved sweater in time for air-conditioning season. BRRRRR! Tomorrow I’m hauling in the giant, mohair pie wedge shawl for sure.

Springtime in Chicago

I don’t think there is a finer place to be in the world than sitting on my back porch on a sunny, pleasantly warm spring day. I’m not the only one with this opinion, either. My mother-in-law stopped by yesterday morning for a visit. We sat on the porch sipping tea, nibbling on fresh fruit, and just enjoying the experience. About every 20 minutes she would comment how she needed to get moving along, but that she was having trouble moving off our porch on such a lovely day.

Here’s a photo of my completed Inside-Out Socks taken on the porch this weekend.

STR Inside-Out SocksWe had the most fabulous weather this weekend and I took full advantage of it. There was actually little gardening for me to do beyond some minor weeding and pruning the roses. I’ll be executing Phase 2 of the landscaping plan this spring (hopefully within the next 2 weeks) so I will not be planting my annual veggies for some time. They’ll be going in an entirely new location, which means no soil prep right now, either.

This is the year I make a major change in my gardening. I hope. For the past 3 years, I’ve been using a small area in the yard directly behind the house for annual veggies. Now that I *seem* to have the side yard bindweed issues in hand (I won’t even pretend that they are solved, just “in hand”), I can move on with my master plan to devote that yard to edible gardening. I will get another load of mulch put down first, then have raised beds constructed on top of it all and filled with fresh soil. This way, I will not be disturbing the soil underneath all the weed liner and mulch that likely has bindweed seeds in it.

There’s lots of space in that side yard and lots of sun. I’m hoping to have permanent beds for asparagus and blueberries built, and to add a total of 5 more beds for annual veggie rotations. For this spring, if I get just 2 annual beds built I’m sure that will be enough.

I’m glad that there wasn’t a lot of yard work to do because I have been incredibly tired this weekend, too. I’m guessing and hoping that it is just allergies. Otherwise, I am clueless as to why I am getting stupidly tired (e.g. tired to the point of not being able to talk coherently) so easily every day. I crashed on Saturday at about 5:00 and napped until 7:30. On Sunday, I made it to 4:30 before laying down for 90 minutes. I’m seeing my doctor tomorrow for my annual check up, and this is one of my discussion points with her.

As for the short Sedona, Arizona vacation, it was…well…OK. We ran into some problems managing our time last Sunday. We were effectively kidnapped by Mark’s half-brother for a good chunk of the day and didn’t make it up to Sedona until early in the evening.

About this kidnapping comment: that’s what it felt like. When you tell someone — more than once — that you’ll be visiting for brunch, does that mean you’re spending the whole day with them? I don’t think so. Mark’s half-brother did. He asked us to park our rental car so he could take us for “a little tour”– what we thought meant a tour of his gated community — then zipped us away for a tour of Surprise, AZ’s strip malls and housing developments for retirees and non-retirees. Mark seemed paralyzed at speaking up, so after 90 minutes of “This is the Walgreen’s where we get our prescriptions, and that’s where they’re building an Appleby’s” it was up to me to set him straight. I explained that as much as we’d like to spend the day with him, we had thought that we were just meeting for brunch and had reservations in Sedona. We still didn’t escape until 3 PM and the traffic on I-17 delayed us further.

All I can say about these gated communities in the Phoenix area is this, “not for me!!!!” I guess this is typical for new communities: to be insulated by gates, golf courses, and strip malls from anything going on in the world. Every house looks nearly the same and every strip mall has the same chains of stores. It would drive me insane. If this is the typical experience of Americans these days, then I can see why we’ve become so ignorant of what’s going on globally.

I guess I should consider myself lucky, too, that Chicago retains some character from bygone days. We can visit a local restaurant that is not like any other restaurant. We can visit local shops that are not like any other shop. And so on. Individuality, what a concept!

So, we only had one day in Sedona. That one day was one of unseasonable weather: cold and wet. Not just rain wet, but icy rain wet. And when we went out for a hike, we got caught in it. By the time we walked back to our B&B (about 2 miles) we were soaked and freezing. That was the end of our hikining in Sedona.

I got several photos during that time, though.

Stormy weather in red rock country This is typical of the views. Red rocks, green trees, and stormy sky. There are more photos here on my Flickr account.

The next day was sunny and fairly warm, but we had to head out of town right after breakfast so we could make our return flight home. To sum it all up: Phoenix was blech and Sedona was pretty, but not fabulous. It still doesn’t beat northern New Mexico as the place that stirs my soul the most.

Just call me Bashful

Yesterday was filled with more knitterly goodness in my hometown of Chicago. Amy Singer was in town at Loopy Yarns, signing copies of her new book No Sheep for You, showing off the designs, and chatting with all the folks in the shop. If by any chance Amy runs across this entry and sees the photo I’m posting here, please accept my apologies Amy! I was so tickled by the whole experience last night that I turned all bashful and snapped only this one photo at the event. Amy R. Singer See, it was a cold day yesterday so I got to dress up in hand knits and I decided to wear my Mermaid since I adore it so much. When I got to the shop, as I stripped off my parka one of the ladies said to me “I know you! I mean, I recognize you from your blog. I love the Mermaid!” (or something along those lines) and I sort of imploded with excitement. On the outside, I took it pretty well, on the inside I was like “OMG, OMG, OMG!! Someone I don’t personally know read my blog! How cool!”

I got lots of ego stroking about the Mermaid during the event. People kept asking me about it and admiring it. I may as well have just kept repeating “Aw, shucks” over and over again. All that attention plus the fact that Amy Singer was so approachable and seemed to really enjoy talking with me made for a little personal melt down. I’m just not used to such attention and have no idea how to handle it except through deflection. So, deflect I did. When Amy asked if I had a blog I mumbled yes, but that it was just a silly little thing. She shared that she had started out with just a little online journal and was now doing what she loves as her career.

For the next hour or so I strolled around Loopy, fondling yarns, talking with friends and new acquaintenances, and every once in a while I’d stroll back to where Amy was sitting to exchange a few words. Before our little group left to grab a bite to eat, I went back to say goodbye but Amy was in the midst of conversation. So, we just struck off and made our way to the restaurant.

Those ladies at Loopy really know how to throw a party! This is the first time I’ve been down there for one of their events. For whatever reason I’m usually busy when they have a trunk show or something, so I’ve missed their hospitality. They had wine, soda, selzer water, and lots of yummy snacks. They also had a special of 20% off all non-wool yarns.

Of course I didn’t leave empty handed. Besides the signed book I picked up a skein of Art Yarns Regal Silk. There’s a sweet hat pattern in the No Sheep for You book that uses this silk in a lace pattern with Rowan Calmer providing an inner liner. I have a couple balls of Rowan Calmer in my oddball stash, and now I know what to do with at least one!

In general, my knitting has been so-so. I’ve been trying to finish the Rockin’ Sock Club socks, but keep running into problems. I’ve ripped back the cuff of sock #1 three times already. Attempt #1 resulted in some misplaced cables. I was ready to live with that, but when I tried the sock on for a final fitting before casting off, it wouldn’t fit over my heel. I thought it _may_ be because of the misplaced cables, so I ripped back to the first cable round and restarted. Attempt #2 had perfectly placed cables, but it still would not fit over my heel, so I ripped back again, this time to the second set of cables. At this point, I switched from the 2.5 mm needles I was using for the cuff to 3.0 mm needles. This seems to the do the trick, but it’s taken me about 2 weeks worth of commuter knitting (including 2 flights: prime knitting time!) to get to this point.

The Lift and Seperate wrap sweater (from the Big Girl Knits book) that I started the week before I left for NYC is still sitting on the needles and being neglected. I really want to plunge back into it, but this messing around with my socks has taken precedence. I like to have a sock on the needles to carry around and work on during the inevitable pauses in life (riding on public transit, waiting in airports, visiting relatives, etc.); I also like to be at the point where I can just work away and not have to do a lot of fiddling like short rowing the toes or heels. So I have to do those things at home during my evening knitting time.

Hey, it’s spring! The weather may be a bit goofy, but it is still spring. That means there will start to be more gardening stuff added to my posts. Despite our recent cold snap (it snowed yesterday! Eeeekk!), everything is budding and getting ready to leaf out. I really like these transitional seasons. I spent most of the day last Saturday cutting down the ornamental grasses and cleaning up the beds. Now we’re ready to really pop!

Secret blogging

Shhh…I’m actually on a conference call right now for work. It doesn’t require 100% of my brain, so I’m slipping in a little blogging while others are talking. (Yes, it is currently after 8 PM local time; I have one of THOSE sorts of jobs that can conveniently be done remotely: anytime, anywhere. Note the emphasis on conveniently…sitting at home on a Thursday night working when I could be out drinking wine with friends is not ideal to me.)

Not only am I sort of underwhelmed here (no criticism, but I’ve been through this agenda many times before), but I wanted to blog about my latest finished object: more socks!

Neatby inspired socks I knitted these from some Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock acquired during the special tour for the Windy City Knitting Guild. The yarn was labeled “Millends” and I didn’t recognize the color from the usual LL lineup, so I don’t think it is widely available. It may just be one of a kind. *smirk*

Aaaannnyyyway…the socks were knit top down using the general “recipe” and garter rib pattern from Charlene Schurch’s Sensational Knitted Socks book. I started these after I took the sock knitting seminar from Lucy Neatby (also through the Windy City Knitting Guild), so I incorporated some of the techniques I learned: the garter stitch heel and the garter stitch toe. I figured with a garter rib pattern in the “body” of the sock, the garter stitch heel and toe would fit in nicely.

According to Lucy, the garter stitch in the heel and toe are more durable. The heel is knit from the other end of the yarn ball, so it is possible to replace the heel later if there is a lot of wear, too. While I haven’t noticed a lot of wear and tear on the heels of my handknit socks, I have noticed it on my store-bought ones. So, we’ll see how this heel wears compared to the typical slip stitch and stockinette heels I’ve worked before.

Here I attempted to upload a link to a photo on my Flickr account showing more detail on the sock, but unfortunately Blogger is sucking ass tonight and not allowing me to publish the photo. (If you offend easily, pardon my language…I’m angry and have been watching a lot of South Park and listening to a lot of Dawn and Drew podcasts. Why? Because I like them! Yes, I am a potty-mouthed smartass at heart.)

One final note about these socks…I began sock #2 on the second segment of my return flight from Hyderabad, India (the Frankfurt to Chicago flight, to be exact) and completed it through the heel turning. I guess I’m impressed with how much knitting I can do when I have 8 hours of uninterrupted knitting time.

I’m going to start a pair of Widdershins socks next. I’m really intrigued by incorporating a heel flap in a toe-up sock. I just have to master the cast on technique first.

If it seems like I (and others) are knitting a lot of socks lately, that’s probably because they are such a fabulous summer project. Not only are they highly portable (making them my favorite commuting project), but working on socks doesn’t involve having heaps of knitted fabric resting in your lap. Even if that fabric is cotton or linen, it can get pretty annoying when the humidity and thermometer are soaring.

But you already knew that, didn’t you?

I bet you didn’t know that I harvested my first homegrown tomatoes yesterday, did you? I don’t eat them (they smell evil to me), but Mark said the one he ate was delicious. I would attempt to photograph one of the beautiful tomatoes and post the photo here for you to admire, but see my previous nasty comment about Blogger and photos.

OKC and OGC*

Originally uploaded by Linda N..

I’ve been traveling and working a lot, but I have also been knitting. Really. Above are the socks I was writing about a couple months ago: my first toe-up socks made with Knit Picks Dancing yarn. As you can see, they turned out well, despite all the frogging. I actually finished these in June, but didn’t get around to photographing them for a while.

By Thursday of this past week, both the weather and my body were in sync for once and I was finally able to do some gardening. (With my jet-lag and the EXTREME heat and humidity we’ve been having, getting anything done in the yard has been a challenge.) I didn’t pause to take photos, but believe me the raspberry patch was a jungle.

Raspberries really aren’t that complicated to grow and they require little attention from the gardener. I have black, red, and yellow raspberries. There is some variation in caring for them, but the general guidelines are the same.

If you want to get all technical, the terms to remember when it comes to raspberries are primocanes and floricanes. Primocanes are the new canes that emerge within a growing season; floricanes are last year’s canes. Black raspberries bear fruit only on the floricanes; red and yellow raspberries bear fruit on the primocanes, but will also fruit on the floricanes if you prune them in season 1, and let them stand over the winter.

Got it? Here’s how it works in reality.

The black raspberries only bear once a year, in the early summer. After the harvest, the canes that fruited get cut to the ground. Shortly after that, it’s time to prune the primocanes that emerged this year. They need to be lopped off so they’re about 3 feet tall. If they’re not pruned down, they snake all over the place and will root themselves if they can. (The black rapsberries also have thorny canes, so it’s highly unpleasant to walk into one of those long, snaky canes if they haven’t been pruned.) Plus, this pruning also makes the plant put out horizontal branches, which are the ones that bear the most fruit. So, by lopping them off, the gardener is forcing the plant to produce many fruiting branches. Although the “official” guidlines don’t mention this, I usually end up doing a pruning of these horizontal branches in the spring, too. By then the horizontal canes have become really long and need a bit of controlling.

The yellow and the red raspberries send up new canes in the spring/summer that bear fruit in the late summer. After they bear, I prune off the top of the cane where they’ve fruited, and leave these canes to overwinter. In the early summer, those canes bear fruit again, and then I prune these floricanes to the ground. In the meantime, a bunch of new primocanes have sprung up and by this time of year are already flowering and setting fruit. So, I get two batches of fruit from them: one in the early summer and one in the late summer.

I was WAY behind in pruning out the canes that had fruited earlier this summer, so it was a crazy mess of new and old canes in the ‘ol raspberry patch. This was bad not just ’cause it’s poor gardening practice, but also because the compost bins are across the path from the raspberry patch and we had to sort of wiggle our way into this jungle to dump our compost.

Thursday night was pretty productive for me at home. After getting all sweaty and sticky from tackling the raspberries, I cooled down by bathing the dogs outside with the hose. I thought the cool water was refreshing, but I guess they didn’t.

Yesterday it was cool enough outside to finish up more overdue gardening chores. I weeded the veggie patch, picked beans, and dug up the garlic. Nobody had picked anything in the garden for nearly 2 weeks, so most of the beans were added to the compost bin. (My neighbor was going to tend the garden for me while I was gone, but she ended up being really ill and unable to do so; Mark just wasn’t sure what to do.) I’m disappointed in this year’s garlic harvest, too. The bulbs are all pretty small. Actually, I had dug a few up before I left, but thought that if I left them in the ground a bit longer perhaps the bulbs would get bigger. No chance. Instead, the plants withered even more and the garlic was starting to sort of rot in the ground. Yuck!

Today I’m just going to kick back and enjoy my home, I think. It’s good to be back.

* For those who may not know, OKC = obligatory knitting content; OGC = obligatory gardening content.