Sunday, May 31, 2009

"Say, Uncle...."

Before I get to the main point of this post, I just had to share this picture I took with my phone Saturday morning. My knitting group got together as we often do of a Saturday morn, and we took the occasion to celebrate a couple of recent birthdays amongst us. The lovely tableful of haute cuisine before me just begged to be photographed. I think I was the only person who partook of all the delicacies. Definitely not the sort of thing one should do every day...

Last night, Jeff and I had my sister's children at the house for a sleepover. We had a blast. We went out for burgers, played Sorry!, watched a DVD, laughed, and stayed up way past all of our bedtimes. But, the most fun I had was teaching my niece and nephew how to knit!

For some reason, when I asked them if they wanted me to show them how, they said yes. I guess I finally wore them down.

And they took to it rather well, if I say so myself. I tried for a minimalist approach. I cast on for them and did the first row, showed them how, and then let them do their own thing, stepping in from time to time when questions were asked. True to their personalities, Christopher became very focused and concentrated on nothing else while Kathleen put hers down after a few minutes, but came back to it later. I was impressed with her stick-to-it-ness. He, being a leftie, gravitated to continental knitting, while Kathleen preferred to throw.

It was interesting seeing them make the same mistakes I made when I started knitting at the grand old age of 39. Holding the needles proved a challenge, like they did with me, and, much like their uncle, they ended up with several extra stitches at the end of a few rows. But what great jobs they did! When I got up this morning, they were both knitting. (I think I'm getting choked up...)

They wanted to take their knitting home when their mom came to pick them up this morning, but she reminded them that there would be no one there to help them if they got seriously messed up. So they decided to leave their projects here for the next time they come over. Now I need to come up with lesson two...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Austin Harlotry

I heard Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, the famous knitter and knitting writer also known as The Yarn Harlot, speak at Book People in Austin this evening. She was genius, of course. Despite getting over a cold, a cross-country flight and the trauma of getting Sock Summit 2009 registration up and running. I wouldn't have been able to do it.

The event began at 7:00. I got there at 6:30, and it was already standing room only. They had also already sold out of her newest book, so I bought a copy of Knitting Rules! for her to sign. I ran into and stood by several knitting friends, including Abbe, Stephanie, Julia, Amanda, Christina and Stacey. I stood behind some bookshelves that I could kind of lean on while still having a good vantage point. I don't think Book People realized how many people were going to be there...

She was funny, of course. I can't remember everything she discussed, but it ranged from dumb things non-knitters say in the presence of knitters, to how knitting changes your brain (for the better, I should note), to how knitters are so hard to pin down demographically. I'm kind of glad she didn't read directly from her book. Not that I wouldn't have wanted to hear from her book, it's just that, well, I can read myself, you know? I appreciate authors who appreciate that.

She did disclose something interesting about the Sock Summit 2009 registration earlier this week in response to a question from the audience. The Sock Summit had a mailing list of 12,000 people, and typically, 10% of those on a mailing list will actually register and/or attend a meeting like this. Stephanie and Amy told the IT guys they needed a server that would handle 100% -- and just to be safe, 200% of that number. The IT guys thought they were nuts, but assured the organizers that they server could handle 24,000 registrants at once. At 10:00am Tuesday, 35,000 people hit the server. That's close to 300% of the people on their mailing list. How could anyone have prepared for that?

She was very gracious when I got to talk to her. I told her to hang in there and that I was very excited about the Summit. Stephie took a great picture of the two of us holding each other's socks, and she said she'd see me in Portland. She was really very nice. I'm glad I got to meet her.

The sock she's holding is a project I started this morning so I'd have something to take a picture of and possibly work on during her talk -- although that didn't really happen. The yarn is a beautiful Malabrigo sock yarn in the colorway Cote d'Azur, and the pattern I'm using is a five-stitch sock pattern in sailor's rib from Charlene Schurch's More Sensational Knitted Socks. More about that later...

Postscript: Be sure to check out Stephi's photos of the event over at Flickr. Way better than mine!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Big Sock Candy Mountain

I'm headed to the history-making Sock Summit 2009 in Portland this coming August. It wasn't easy, but I'm in.

Registration was slated to begin at 12:00pm central time. On the dot, I tried to register. And tried. And tried. I got a call from Janelle in Pennsylvania, my sock knitting companion for this event. We were having the same issues. Seems their registration servers were getting slammed. Finally, I got a page with the registration button on it at 12:31. The things is, according to the registration rules, once you start, you've got 15 minutes to get registered and paid, otherwise you're dropped from the classes you signed up for. Way tougher than at the college where I work! I finished with 1:24 to spare.

And what's more, I got all my top choices! Here's my class schedule:

There are other events that I'll be attending as well, including an opening reception, a sock hop, and a panel of luminaries that will include Cat Bordhi, Nancy Bush, Lucy Neatby, Meg Swansen, Barbara Walker and more! Plus a whole exhibit hall filled with socky goodness.

Can't wait!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Big Bend

We're back safe and sound. I'm sure you've all been waiting for this with bated breath -- a picture of the vicious beast that we encountered on the Boot Canyon Trail in Big Bend National Park.

Here's how it happened. We were about 4.5 miles into what turned out to be a 13.5 mile hike through the high Chisos Mountains. A hiker headed in the opposite direction on the Boot Canyon Trail said there was a bear up ahead. So we carefully kept our eyes open, expecting to see a bear off on a hillside somewhere. We passed another gentleman who had been camping in the area -- he was looking for the bear, too, having been alerted by the other guy. We just kept walking along, having just passed an old corral, when...

ROAR! It was about 15 feet up a tree right next to the trail, and it wasn't interested in letting anyone walk nearby. We watched for a few minutes (the two of us, the camper, and the first guy, who ran back at the sound), and heard it making some strange guttural sounds and every once in a while chomping its teeth. We were very nervous about cubs being nearby, but we couldn't see any. This was definitely a full-grown bear. I couldn't get a good picture so I went back to the corral and down a little hill to see if I could get a better view -- the picture above was the best I could get. One more load roar, this one complete with projectile bear saliva, convinced me that our hiking plans had changed. So we had to make a bit of a detour. Luckily, it only involved a short backtrack, but it did ultimately add a mile and a half to our day's walk.

Later, we ran into a hiker near the South Rim that we had passed on the trail before the bear encounter. He ran into the same bear, but sat down a ways off and waited it out. Eventually, it climbed down and ambled off. Hearing this, we figured we could hike back along that trail, and before we knew it, we were under the very tree where it had been earlier. No sign of the bear anywhere, except this.

The rest of the trip was much less eventful, but no less interesting. A selection of pictures from the trip can be found here -- or in a slideshow format. We got to see large parts of the park that we didn't visit last time we were there. And it was a perfect time to go -- right at the end of their busy season. It was getting hot along the river, but still quite pleasantly cool in the mountains. And we went on several hikes and side trips where we didn't see a single soul.

If you like visiting national parks, definitely give this one a try. It's unique. We won't wait so long before we go back again.

Oh, and because this is a knitting blog, I must report that I did some knitting.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Vest Out West

Finally figured out a wireless connection in the park. Today, we walked 13.5 miles and several thousand feet in elevation. But the most exciting thing that happened today? Getting surprised by a very snarly black bear on the trail! We're both intact although still a little shaken...

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Traveling Stitch

Not much to report this week. Steady progress continues on the Herz & Baum vest. I've made a few mistakes, but I caught them early and was able to fix them quickly with my cool green combination crochet hook / cable needle that I got at The Knitting Nest. Quite the lifesaver! It's in that cool anodized aluminum that I always associate with knitting needles and a set of tumblers that my grandma used to have. They looked kind of like these.

Went to knitting this morning. There were only four of us, but we had a grand time. While we were there, it started just dumping rain. Man, did we need it. And now I don't have to mow the lawn today. Woo-hoo!

As you can see, the vest continues. I'm keeping up with my spreadsheet, which hasn't been as difficult as I'd first imagined. I would never have been able to keep track of my progress and where I'm supposed to go next without it.

Monday, Jeff and I head west for a brief vacation in the lovely Chisos Mountains of Big Bend National Park. I first visited here 19 years ago (!) and haven't been there in well over 10 years. It's a long day's drive, but worth it. Big Bend is one of those national parks that doesn't get loved to death like Yosemite or Yellowstone. It's not on the way to any place that a lot of people want to visit -- you've got to want to go there. I'm going to take the vest and try to make some major progress on it. I should have plenty of time and few distractions. I'll try to post some pictures from the road, but this area of the country has sparse to non-existent cell coverage. Just lots of silence -- nice, no?

After a long semester, I'm really looking forward to this.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Time Whiner Cable

I love knitting cables. Especially cables involving only two stitches -- so easy to do without a separate cable needles. I love seeing the little lines twist and weave themselves over and under their neighbors into beautiful patterns. It's quite magical.

But it takes freakin' forever. The circumference of this sweater is 304 stitches, which is quite a few, but I don't think it's the number of stitches slowing me down, it's the unevenness of complexity amongst the cable charts and the fact that they will never line up(see previous post). No single round on this entire sweater (besides the waist, neck and arm bands) is identical. I haven't even finished one repeat of the largest chart yet.

One row might have only a few cables in each chart with many purls and ktbls, making the round fly by in only 15 minutes. The next round might take an hour as I try to read the charts, twisting stitches constantly, and getting distracted by podcasts/music/TV. I'm not complaining. Okay, I am complaining -- but I complain because I love. This is turning out quite nicely so far. I would estimate that I'm about 1/4 of the way to where the neck steek begins. Then things should really get interesting!

It's getting large enough that it's making me sweat while I knit it. Our heat index is in the upper 90s, today, and I have to take breaks every once in a while even though the AC is blasting. I should still be working on this when Jeff and I head out to Big Bend National Park for several days of hiking and general end-of-the-semester decompression -- oh, and knitting. I just checked their forecast, and it looks like the high Wednesday (about a week before we'll get there), the high is predicted to be 108. Woo-hoo!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

To Infinity and Beyond

Okay, I'm exaggerating -- but only a little. Let me explain...

To the right, you see the beginning of the Herz & Baum Vest. The pattern was originally printed in Knitters magazine in the winter of 1993, and reprinted in the book Guy Knits released last year. No one in Ravelry has tackled this (or at least no one has fessed up to it), and I can only find one archived mention of someone's stab at it back in 1998. A saner knitter would have taken note of the lack of traffic.

Don't get me wrong. The pattern is quite striking. I even began to see the little hearts and trees that are the pattern's namesakes while poring over the charts this afternoon. But as I looked at the charts, I started getting nervous when I realized that the patterns never seemed to line up and end on a common row. I went to a little calculator on the internet to try and figure out the least common multiple of 4 (chart A), 8 (chart D), 18 (chart C) and 26 (chart E). Do you know what that is?

Nine hundred and thirty-six. This vest is only about 150 rows long, if that. I'd have to knit this for the Jolly Green Giant for all these charts to realign at a common starting point! This is going to be a row-counting exercise like no other. So, I need to figure out a way to follow my progress..

This is what I came up with. I used Excel to make a chart that groups all the ranges of rows for each chart pattern surrounded by bold borders. So now, in theory, I can start at the bottom, and each time I've finished a row, I can cross it off the list. As I work my way up, I should be able to tell at any given time which row I'm on. That's what I'm hoping, anyway. As you can see, I've completed the first 4 rows. Woo-hoo! Of course, row 5 is where things start getting interesting...

And just to keep things even more interesting, I'm knitting this on the recommended needles without doing a gauge swatch. The gauge is figured "over Chart Patterns." It doesn't say which one. But this pattern has cabling on every single row, unlike some patterns where you have a row where you coast. I didn't want to try to knit a swatch flat and have to figure out how to translate the cables, and I didn't want to do the thing where you drag the yarn across the back of a flat swatch -- I just didn't think it would be that accurate. So the only think I could think to do was get started.

Which I have done. I got some laughs at my knitting group yesterday while my fellow knitters watched me cast 304 stitches of worsted yarn onto a 24" size 3 circular needles (yes, the pattern calls for this), but I managed. Now that I'm past the ribbing I'm on the larger needles and things fit a bit better. I'm going to knit the first 26 rounds (end of Chart E for those of you who have been paying attention so far), slip it on a cable and pray real hard that it fits around my tummy.

I hope I don't sound too cynical about this pattern. It's really quite beautiful and I love the yarn. I'm just trying to relax myself by making light of what promises to be a very challenging project.