Thursday, February 28, 2013

About "Free-Sole Socks"

It's not very often that I experience "love at first sight" when it comes to knitting patterns. Sure, I see a lot of patterns that I like enough to add to my Ravelry queue, and I've been known to buy a book of patterns now and then. I've also run across a lot of patterns that should cease to exist immediately. (Possible future topic?)

But in this case, I'm talking about LOVE. Shortness of breath, flushed cheeks, special tingling sensations and a spastic rush to find my debit card.

These are the socks that did it to me. Hook, line and sinker...

Up until this point I was a tutorial DVD virgin. I had never taken the plunge--mainly because I'm a figure-it-out-on-my-own-even-if-it-kills-me kind of person. But one look at these socks and I knew that I had to make the video and bonus sock pattern mine. I was really only after the pattern, but I had to buy the stinkin' video in order to get it.

For a couple extra bucks I was able to purchase the HD version of the tutorial. What the heck? I have an HD television, might as well go big. I downloaded the video to a flash drive, made myself a comfortable spot on the sofa (ie, moved the dog) and hit PLAY. After a lengthy advertisement about other videos available for purchase, Anna Zilboorg appeared on the screen and started talking to ME about the socks. The HD upgrade was so worth it. I felt like she was in the room with me (almost).

After explaining the basic construction of the socks she brought out needles and yarn and started to demonstrate how to knit the sock. PAUSE! Wait a minute! I can knit along with this video? Like in a real class? But with no one else to interrupt? And I can rewind if I don't get it? How freakin' cool is this?? I got two balls of Plymouth Galway and my size 7 DPNs, which took no time at all because I had just sorted all of my needles, and went back to the sofa....and moved the dog.

PLAY. Anna cast on 5 stitches, I cast on 5 stitches. Anna picked up stitches, I picked up stitches. Anna knit her purls backwards (or left handed) so I tried purling backwards because Anna told me I could do it. I paused the video and tried again. Guess what? She was right. I did it! By the end of the evening, I had successfully knit a tiny sock. I am so proud of this little guy.

I wouldn't suggest this video to the new/beginning knitter, but if you have knit a sock and are comfortable with picking up stitches and basic increasing/decreasing, then go for it! This is just what I needed to jump start my knitting mojo. (I've been in a bit of a funk and needed a challenge.) When I saw this pattern, I felt my creativity go into over drive. I know the socks will take some time because this is "thinking" knitting. I'll keep you posted as I go. It just so happens that I have cranberry and khaki colored sock yarn in my stash. I swatched and the gauge is perfect!

Anna did a wonderful job teaching this technique, and I hope to take a class from her in person. The producers at Interweave did a great job with the camera work and overall quality of the production. I have since purchased another download, Spin Art, by Jacey Boggs. I've only watched a few minutes of that video, but from the little I've seen, Jacey is absolutely terrific! Needless to say, I've changed my tune from figure-it-out-on-my-own-even-if-it-kills-me to buy-the-tutorial-and-spend-less-time-swearing a blue streak figuring-it-out-and-more-time-knitting (or spinning or weaving or doing anything other than housework)!

Friday, February 22, 2013

About an ugly scarf

This is a story about a hideous scarf. Several years ago I acquired some Koigu wool yarn in three color ways--lavender, variegated, and shocking neon pink. Because of the shocking neon pink, the package of yarn languished in my stash. I didn't know what to do with it, but I hung on to it because it was Koigu...and so many people rave about Koigu.

This might be offensive to some, but I'm just not a Koigu fan. I don't have an explanation. It could be the hard twist. Most of the Koigu colors are beautiful, if not a bit riotous, but I can't get past the hard twist and the cost...and there are just too many choices.

In this case, the choice had been made for me. Purple, variegated, shocking neon pink. I didn't want to knit with the yarn because I was worried that my optic nerves would be permanently damaged by looking at shocking neon pink for hours on end. You know how when you look at one color for a long period of time and then look up how you see everything in the opposite color for a while? I couldn't imagine everything being green. Forever. I know if I knit with that yarn my red receptors would get totally used up. Green would be my life from that point forward. Not that I don't like green.....

I decided to weave with it and make a sort of plaid pattern. I warped my rigid heddle loom with mostly lavender and variegated, but I used the pink for about 8 warp threads. (Apologies for any incorrect terminology.) I used a 7.5 reed with the intention of keeping the warp and weft balanced. What a bitch. Koigu is slippery. I had to be very careful as to not beat the weft too much, but beat it enough to make a nice straight line. My selvages were for crap and it just wasn't turning out well. But I wove on.

When I took it off the loom I hated it. I hated the colors. I hated the selvages. I hated how it felt. I hated the stiffness. So I soaked it in cold water and hung it on shower curtain to dry. I checked on it about an hour later and hated it even more. I ironed it. Gak. Still bad. I washed it in hot water with a bit of Dawn. That's when the red dye started to run. I beat the crap out of it as I washed it in hot water. I plunged it into cold water. More hot water. Still bad. If anything, it was worse, but I was not about to give up.

I filled a big stock pot with water, got the water boiling and tossed in the scarf. Heck, I had nothing to lose. I was either going to end up with a scarf that I hated or a very thick book mark. I watched it boil and got a little too much satisfaction out of it. After about 10 minutes I dumped the water and scarf into the sink (the water was very red with dye that hadn't been properly rinsed by the dyers at Koigu) and then I ran ice cold water over it until the water ran clear. I beat it up some more and then hung it over the shower curtain to dry. Then I watched the final episode of season three of Downton Abbey. (That's another blog post...but I'm waiting for Liana and Calvin to watch season three so I don't spoil it for them.)

I got up Monday morning, went to start the shower, and WHAT THE HELL?? The scarf was gorgeous! It was soft. It was squishy. It was drapey. The colors weren't hideous. The salvages were still not perfect but totally acceptable. I lightly steamed out some of the wrinkles from the hissy fit I had thrown upon it the night before and wore it to work.

I'm going to try to recreate the scarf this weekend so I can take before and after photographs. I was too busy being pissed to document properly.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Baseball Diaries 2/21/13

During Zack's younger years, I kept a journal of things he said. It's fun to thumb through the pages and relive those moments. I always thought I'd remember each and every cute and profound thing he said, but these days I can barely remember where I put my car keys (and sometimes it takes a couple weeks for me to find them.) I probably should have kept this journal going but I let it lapse. (Seriously, middle school is best forgotten.) I'm going to start up again because I don't want these memories to get lost along with my car keys...or reading glasses...or my black glove.

This is Zack's freshman year at Belmont University. He is a preferred walk-on on the baseball team, which basically means he was recruited with no scholarship but could earn a scholarship in the future. Last fall, Zack talked to the coach about red-shirting this season (at Belmont, this is a player or medical decision that is made with the coach's guidance.) However, due to a few injuries, Zack may not red-shirt and is traveling with the team to away games. Red-shirted players typically don't travel. So, there's a chance he could see some field time this season.

Today, the Belmont Bruins are traveling to Athens, Georgia, for three games against the Georgia Bulldogs. This is Zack's first trip with the team and my first time staying home. (What an odd feeling!) I took him out to dinner last night because even though he's only 5 miles away from home, I haven't have any face time with him in about 5 weeks. Let it be known that face time doesn't come cheap.
  • 3 new polo shirts at Steinmart - $61
  • Package of under shirts and 4 boxes of gummies at Target - $17
  • Steak dinner at Dalts' (after the buy one get one free coupon) - $36
  • 1 box of Girl Scout cookies (thin mints, of course) - $3.50
  • Cash - $20
  • Hugging your kid the night before he heads out on his first trip with the ball team - Priceless!
It will probably take me another 5 weeks to recover financially.

As he was scarfing down his steak he had some stories to tell. Belmont's field is also home to Hume-Fogg's baseball team (Zack's alma mater.) He ran into one of the Hume-Fogg player's dad and greeting him with, "Hi, Mr. Harris!". Zack has known Tandy Harris since he was about 9 years old. Tandy replied, "It's Tandy, call me Tandy." Zack thought that was pretty cool...another step on his journey to adulthood.

I'll be adding things periodically as the season progresses. If you care for a bit of history, I posted his high school baseball information on "Zack Lannan Baseball" and there are several videos on YouTube.

It's Bruin time!

Thursday, February 14, 2013


I can't pass up a wool sweater at a thrift store. It's just another weird quirk of mine. What better use for an unloved and discarded sweater than to love it and use it again?

I made heart bombs.

Super easy. Shrink several wool sweaters, cut out hearts, string them together, and bomb your friends with them. These were a hit at the office today.

Happy Valentine's Day! 
p.s. if you look really closely to the right of the bottom heart, there's photo of my son (from 4 years ago) on my wall...right below my "Life is Good" mug.  

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

About a package in the mail

Not much scares me, but this did. A box from Hunter's Reserve. They sell exotic meat, and I'm not an exotic meat kind of girl.

When I took the package out of the mailbox I saw it was really from my sister, that's when I got nervous. The fact that the box was hermetically sealed with nearly a roll of packing tape was alarming in itself. Was something in the package that was capable of escaping? I gently shook the box and only got a light shuffling sound in response. No clunking, rattling or grunting. Get the scissors!

It's important to point out that it's not my birthday, nor is it even close to my birthday. We don't  exchange gifts for Groundhog's Day, President's Day, Fat Tuesday or Valentine's Day. Why would my sister be sending me a box? She knew this would mess with me. 

It's too heavy for yarn (I can accurately weigh 100 grams just by touch), and the shuffling sound didn't sound quite right.

A wad of newspapers and a note....

Eek!! Two hand-turned wine bottle stoppers made by my brother-in-law, Scott! 
Spotted tamarind on the left and cocobola on the right. It's hard to see in the photo, but the cocobola stopper has these cool little decorative lines around the top and base. He used the scoring wires we gave him for Christmas to make the designs.
But I have a question. How do these work with boxed wine?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

About a sock

Q: What did Chris say when she saw this hole in her sock?

A: Darn it!

In all honesty, that's the PG version of what I really said, but my original expletive doesn't work with this clever sock-repairing pun.

It was Thanksgiving 2012 and I was spending the holiday with my family at a delightful cabin on the Cumberland River. My feet were cold. I put on my favorite hand knit wool socks and my mom pointed out the "nice hole" in the heel. What? Nice what?

My vision blurred. The world started to tilt. Bile rose in my throat. I wanted to vomit.

I commenced with grieving.

1. Anger - @#$(*&!
I am pissed! I paid good money for that sock yarn. I'm calling the mill to complain about the quality of their overpriced yarn. I spent hours knitting (and reknitting) those socks. Do you know what a pain in the ass that pattern was? The heel was a particular bitch because there was a typo in the pattern. I swear, I'm never using that yarn brand again, and so help me if I EVER find another typo in a pattern ever again I'm going to come un-freakin'-glued. The rage...oh the rage.

2. Guilt
What have I done? The luxurious softness of that yarn should have clued me in to using reinforcing yarn in the heels and toes. Why? Why didn't I listen to that voice in my head? Did I not treat these socks with the utmost care? Maybe I washed them too often, or maybe not enough. It was probably because of that one time I accidentally put them in the dryer. How could I have been so careless? If I weighed 50 pounds less, there wouldn't have been as much pressure on the bottom of my feet and the abrasion wouldn't have been so damaging. I must go on a diet. Chocolate will help.  

3. Denial
No. No. NO! This makes no sense. I can't cope because my feet are cold. How can this even be happening? My hand knits DO NOT wear out. I'm going to let this sucker languish in the bottom of my project bag where I can't see it. Out of sight out of mind, I say. Besides, I have no idea where I've put the yarn that was leftover from when I knit these socks. I refuse to deal with this.

4. Bargaining
If I start another project and knit it really well, will I wake up from this hellish dream? If I organize all my knitting needles and start organizing my stash (but not finish organizing my stash) will the hole be smaller or even gone the next time I look at the sock? Could it have been (queue the Temptations) just my imagination running away with me?

5. Depression
What's the freakin' point? Why even go on?

6. Acceptance and hope
"Steve Austin, astronaut. A man barely alive."....
"Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to make the world's first bionic man. Steve Austin will be that man. Better than he was before. Better...stronger...faster."

I can fix this.


Rather than using a weaving technique, I opted for resurfacing the heel with duplicate stitch. It worked well, and I can't feel anything different on my heel.

7. Extreme self-satisfaction
Better...stronger...but not really much faster.

At first, the off kilter stripe bothered me. It went against every fiber of my perfectionist personality. Then the recovering perfectionist in me made a good point--it's on the bottom of my foot, is my shoe going to file a complaint with the knitting police? I'm good with it. I reinforced the other sock too. It was much easier since I didn't have to work with a hole, just an "almost hole".

Knitters in grief will often report more or different stages. Just remember your grief is as unique as your hand knits, and there is always hope!