Saturday, November 28, 2009

Bloggin' 'bout Clogs

I finished Jeff's clogs today. That's six days from start to finish. How I did this is kind of beyond me, but I think it had a lot to do with the long holiday weekend and getting to knit while chatting with visiting relatives. In between all the eating, of course.

Man, did we eat. At my sister's house -- at Jeff's sister's house -- at our house. Delicious, delicious food from our pasts -- and new things, too. My sister hosted 15 people Thanksgiving Day at her house. My brother-in-law brined and roasted an awesome bird, and we had all the things that make Thanksgiving tasty, including my mom's recipe for dressing -- made with cornbread, of course.

This weekend involved several family birthdays, too. Jeff and I made a Black Velvet Cake for Jeff's mother, using a recipe from Paula Deen -- so you know there was a wee bit of butter in it. It's life-changing, if I say so myself, and by that I mean one bite will instantly make you diabetic.

But the best part was enjoying the rare opportunity to get together with my family. I couldn't ask for a better brother, sister, or in-laws. And getting together with them and my nieces and nephews is a rare and wonderful treat. Jeff and I are pretty lucky in that respect, and we have a lot to be thankful for.

Getting back to the clogs, I finished knitting them last night and took them to The Knitting Nest to take advantage of their top-loading washer. Felting went smoothly, for the most part. Toward the end, I noticed that the seam long the bottom of one of the soles had come open. I pulled the clog out of the wash and grabbed some dark yarn to whip it closed again, which worked fairly well. I stuff the clogs with plastic bags while I knitted and socialized, and when I brought them home, they seemed to fit. Even through I knit these following the men's narrow foot instructions, they're still a little wide. But they look great and once they're dry, they should keep Jeff's feet toasty warm.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


I'm making much faster progress on this pair of felted clogs than I did on the previous pair I made. I remember thinking while making the previous pair that the instructions were awfully hard to follow, but I'm not having any difficulties this time. It's one of those patterns in which, rather than instructing the knitter to "knit to the marker..." or something like that, the exact numbers of stitches for each size are dictate, line by line. I suppose this is the most efficient way to write this pattern out and make it understandable, but it still bugs me a bit. But not as much as last time.

Here is the obligatory foot-in-the-prefelted-clog shot that seem to always accompany the making of these clogs, modeled by Jeff. I think he's going to like them, and they're going to be ready way before his birthday next month.

I only started these on Sunday, and, as of this sunshiny Thanksgiving morning, I have all but the second sole on the second clog to finish -- and then it's into the wash. Last night I completed 75% of the second clog, while watching a little TV and chatting with the in-laws, while my memories of my first go-round with this pattern involved lots of quiet alone time with the pattern and several moments of intense frustration.

Hope everyone is enjoying their Thanksgiving Day and can find plenty to be thankful for. In a few moments, we'll be heading over to my sister's house for a huge meal with her family, some of her in-laws, my in-laws, and my brother's family. I can't wait for some delicious food and some serious niece/nephew time.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Good to the Last Drop

Do you remember the old coffee commercial in which the insecure housewife, noticing how her husband enthuses over a friend's delicious coffee, muses to herself, "Funny, he never asks for a second cup at home..."? My problem wasn't the second, it was the first. And because this is a knitting blog, I'm talking about socks, not cups of coffee. But you probably figured that out already.

I started these socks back in April, but set them aside as other projects filled my brain and hands. I uncovered them while digging through my knitting basket, horrified that I'd neglected them so long. The yarn was hand dyed by my good friend Steph (see her Spinning Colors logo in the sidebar) in a colorway called Morning Roast. I love all of these rich brown, tan and copper colors all swirling around each other. Oddly calming for something named after a substance known for it's jitter-inducing qualities.

The pattern is a simple 4x2 rib, starting with 72 stitches cast on, knitted from the top down. The heel is a basic slipped stitch heel with a 3-stitch garter border to make picking up the gusset stitches easy. I knitted one on DPNs and the other using magic loop, but I don't feel much difference between the two. I'm not sure why that happened, but it's probably because I was using my size 0 circular for something else (another pair of socks) when I started these. It all began so long ago.

Thanks, Steph, for the great yarn with the great dye-job. You have a such a great eye for color! I'll definitely be getting some more.

Next up, I've just got started on another pair of felted clogs, a long-promised pair for Jeff for which I've had the yarn for well over a year. And a sweater is in the planning stages for Jeff, too, inspired by Caro's recently completed E-Z seamless hybrid sweater - Raveler's can see it here. Yarn has been ordered, colors have been discussed.

And now, it's coffee break time!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Take Your Socks to Lunch

Since I can't ever seem to get good photos of my knitting this time of year, I wore the Cordovan Socks that I finished last night to work today. And despite the disruption to my usual morning routine (see previous post), I remembered to bring my camera to take a few shots while I ate my lunch.

I don't always manage to, but I think that this time I really nailed finding a yarn to compliment a pattern. I love how the little passed-over stitches look like little leather laces.

I started this pair of socks while attending the Sock Summit this summer. Janelle and I were riding the train to the convention center, and she was doing the most interesting stitch pattern (Charade) with a beautiful green yarn. I really liked the pattern -- it was easy -- and I realized it would look much better that whatever I was then attempting. Somewhere along the way I screwed up and had to rip back many inches of work. I remember doing this during the Elizabeth Zimmerman 99th birthday celebration. I'm sure she would have understood. I'm not sure why these languished for so long. I usually like to get socks done quickly. But no matter -- they turned out fine.

I used a Charlene Schurch book for the dimensions of the heel, but other than that, I just did a toe-up (magic cast on) sock with the gusset running parallel rather than perpendicular to the bottom of my foot. I ended with 1x1 ribbing and used these instructions for a stretchy Kitchener bind-off. It's a lot of Kitchenering, but it makes a smoother edge then Ms. Zimmerman's sewn bindoff, and it's really quite stretchy.

And you gotta love that Malabrigo sock yarn.

Commuting Sentences

Today, I commuted by bike. So much for sitting still. And so much for knitting, too -- be warned, there won't be any discussed in this lengthy post.

Last night I got all my work clothes packed into a backpack and made my lunch for today. This morning, I got up at 6:00am (15 minutes earlier than usual), showered, shaved, dressed in a t-shirt and shorts, made and ate some oatmeal with a banana in it while reading the paper (gosh, the American-Statesman sucks these days) and headed out the door at 7:00am.

Commuting by bike is a bit of a shock. First of all, it was chilly. And since the first part of the ride is downhill, it was really chilly. I wasn't 20 feet out of my driveway when I saw an armadillo cross the street into a neighbor's yard. It's also generally quiet, despite some traffic noises.

Things went really smoothly. The first part of the trip is in a bike lane through my neighborhood, and then on to the Town Lake Hike & Bike Trail. Then, after crossing Lady Bird Lake and negotiating the corkscrew ramp (picture to follow), comes a nice stretch on part of the Lance Armstrong Bikeway, pictured above.

Unfortunately, the way I needed to go was under construction. But not really. It seems that it's just as easy to do potentially dangerous things on a bike as it is to do them in a car -- I rode around the barrier just to see what was up, and realized all I really needed to do was negotiate these stairs. I wheeled the bike up the side of the stairs, crossed Shoal Creek by a really old train trestle, and then wormed my way around another barrier to get to 3rd and Nueces.

Then, a quick jog over to 4th street where I made my way through downtown. Traffic was light to non-existent. I was almost to the Interstate when I remembered that today was a holiday. There is a nice section of the bikeway that's been created by the new light rail station downtown, but after it ended, I continued, going in what turned out to be the wrong way on a one way street -- and riding down the light rail track, to boot. I'm going to have to reconsider that part of the commute.

Once I rode under the Interstate, it was like being in a small town. East 4th and 5th street meander along the tracks for the new light rail system past old gas stations, art supply stores, and many, many coffee shops. I was at work in 40 minutes -- only about 10 minutes longer than my usual commute on a trafficky day. I was a little sweaty, but after half an hour of catching up on the overnight email, I was changed and ready to face the day.

I found out that the fancy-schmancy (but quite rusty) bike racks they have at work don't quite fit my bike. It's a weird combination of the bike's size and the tire and pedal positions. I could never get it just right. But I got it secure, which is what counts. I went outside at 10am, just to make sure it was okay. At that point it had two neighbors, both of which seemed better suited to this particular type of bike rack. I'm going to have to think through this part a bit more, too.

The ride home was fairly uneventful. It was warmer, so I was more comfortable. I stopped on my way back along E. 4th to take a picture of part of a mural that covers a block-long building. I'm not sure what it is, but the art is, well, interesting. I saw that it stretched around the corner as I rode past -- yet more things to check out in the future. It was through this stretch that I saw a lot of other bike commuters, all pedaling along at our leisurely paces.

One of the fun parts of the trip is the corkscrew ramp at the end of the James D. Pfluger Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge. Believe it or not, it's sloped just enough that it's almost as fun to ride up as it is to coast down. You kind of have to change your focus a lot, or you could get dizzy. At some point, this pedestrian bridge is planned to be extended to a new development at the site of the power plant in the first picture in this post, but until then it's round and round...

The last part of the commute back is the steepest. The lowest point of the commute, at the level of Lady Bird Lake (around 419 ft. above sea level), and the highest point of my commute, my house (around 560 ft. above sea level) are only about 1.5 miles apart, so there's a bit of climbing to do. 150 ft. isn't that much, but a lot of it takes place in short, steep ascents. It was kind of embarrassing being passed in the bike lane climbing one hill by another bicyclist going much faster and pedaling in a much higher gear. But I've got time to build up some of that strength.

So that was my commute. I don't know that I will do this every day, but weather and meetings permitting, why not?

Sunday, November 08, 2009

At Whit's End

I've finished the Whitfield Jacket. You may be surprised to learn, however, that even after yesterday's disaster, I still had a few tricks up my sleeve. Or actually, in my pockets.

Or, more accurately, on the side of my pockets. Last night I got all the buttons sewed on and the plan for this dreary drizzly day was to knit up both the pockets and attach them. (The pattern also calls for two flapped upper pockets, but I decided I didn't want them). Knitting up the pockets didn't take long, but then it came to joining them to the sweater. I got totally engrossed in an Independent Lens documentary that I'd DVR-ed on my PBS station, and, and as I watched and sewed, somehow managed to sew on both of the pockets to work with left hands. That's right -- they both opened on the same side. The picture above shows this creative bit of garment construction.

The pockets are mostly for hand-warming, I think. The openings are on the outside. The fix I decided upon consisted of finding the sewing thread on the seam of the mistakenly closed off side, snipping it (I know, right?), and then unraveling it back to the corners, weaving in those ends, and finally closing up the right side. You can imagine my tension in wondering if I was going to snip the right thread. This time, it worked.

This picture shows things a little better, and up close. It was so dim out today that I couldn't get a shot that didn't require a flash without really jacking up the ISO level -- hence the graininess. Overall, I'm pleased. It's quite warm -- too warm for November in central Texas -- but I have high hopes. I think the buttons were definitely the right choice. I'm still very happy with the stitch pattern and the yarn -- although I kind of wish now that I'd gone with a yarn that was a bit more variegated. Although this yarn claims to be heathered, its about the least heathery heathered yarn I've ever worked with.

I really like the set-in sleeves. I keep telling myself not to knit drop-sleeve patterns anymore. But then I'll see some stitch or color pattern that appeals and off I go into the land of baggy armpits. I need to look at this one and how wonderfully it fits though the arms and shoulders the next time I'm tempted.

I'm so glad this is done! I'd really hit a point of inertia a few weeks ago and I'm glad I took the time this weekend to complete it. This leaves me only with some socks still on the needles, along with that piano bench cushion cover that I can't ever seem to get back to. Time to get on Ravelry and start trolling for ideas...

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Splice Splice Baby

You would NOT believe what I did this evening. There are a multitude of sins one can commit as a knitter -- inadvertently dropping stitches, not getting all of your yarn for a project from the same dye lot, not checking (and re-checking) gauge, etc. But tonight, I committed the gravest sin of all. I cut my knitting.

I was sewing on a button, using some plies of the yarn I made the sweater with, and after creating the shank behind the button and drawing the yarn through to the back for a final knot, I got a snag. No problem, I thought -- I'll just snip it off. Did I cut the yarn at the front of the button to ensure that I was cutting the right strand? No. I decided to cut through what I assumed was part of the button strand at the back. But I didn't cut the button yarn. I cut the sweater itself. Geez.

I didn't panic, though. I went to my Knit Fix book and looked for a solution. Apparently the author never considered that anyone would be as boneheaded as I, and there was no help. So I took a few deep breaths and told myself not to panic. After looking and thinking for a while, I realized that I could just slowly back the cut pieces out of their stitches as I followed them through with a new strand of yarn until I had long enough loose ends to weave in at the back. I think this is darning, basically. It seems to have worked.

The problem was in the long knit column that you can see running vertically just to the left of center in the photo. The one stitch near the center that has the wonky tension -- that's the spot. But that's where the button goes, so it won't show. And I'm pretty sure with all the woven in parts behind it, that it will remain stable. I need to believe this, so don't tell me otherwise.

So it's back to the button sewing -- hopefully with a bit more patience and surely with more experience. After that, I'll have left to do is the pockets.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009


I got a shiny new bicycle for my birthday today.

It's the fourth generation of a tradition started by the avocado green banana-seater I learned to ride on, the Sears Free Spirit 10-speed I got when I was 10, and a hybrid bike I had (and crashed) back in the early 1990s.

I ordered my new bike online, quickly realized upon delivery Friday that this contraption's assembly was beyond me, and hustled it down to the Bicycle Sport Shop to have them work their magic. I picked it up this evening.

This machine has some cool features: A chain guard to keep pants from ripping to shreds, fenders, a rack on the back, and a little dynamo that lights up both front and back lights. It also has a "comfort" seat. To paraphrase Freddie Mercury: fat-bottomed boys will be riding today, so look out...

I live quite close to an extensive network of hike and bike trails here in Austin, and I've been thinking that it's a shame I don't take advantage of it. Not sure where this thing will take me, but I've been toying with the idea of commuting to work by bike every once in a while. It should only take about 20 more minutes each way -- still less time than it takes to ride the bus between home and work, but way more exercise.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Samantha Shipped

Not exactly. But almost.

Yesterday afternoon, as planned, I sewed on the buttons that I'd purchased earlier in the day. It went fine. Then, in the evening, I thought I'd run it through the washer just to make sure that the buttons didn't fall off and all the seams didn't undo themselves, which I was quite certain would happen. These disasters, miraculously, did not occur, so I think all system are go. I was also pleased to see that it did not shrink. I laid it out on the blocking board to let it dry overnight.

Today, Jeff and I went shopping and bought a gift box, some tissue paper, some gift wrap and a shipping box to make sure this was all done up right. All that's left to do is talk to my aunt to find out here to send this little outfit for her first great-granddaughter, and then run by the post office to send it on its way.

I'm very pleased with how this turned out and I can highly recommend this pattern. I'm pleased with how it turned out in cotton, but I'm going to try superwash wool the next time. It really doesn't take that long to knit up and the instructions are very clear. You do have to pay attention in a few places, but that's what makes this interesting. If there's a little girl that you need to make something for you, you really ought to consider this.

I can't wait to see some pictures of how it looks on my little first cousin, twice removed! When I get some, I'll be sure to share.