Archive for October, 2021

Well, trying to catch up at any rate. There’s a bit of feeling that the faster I go, the behinder I get. I made that observation to someone years ago, and he wisely responded, “Then slow down.”

Day 8, Doppelganger, was indeed the next color block in the socks, but they still weren’t long enough, so I used Day 9, Piskies, to add one more block. Then I finished with a cuff made from the remaining Circe yarn. Nothing fancy, so it was a bit boring toward the end. I spent most of Saturday viewing (it sounds weird to say attending for a Zoom event) something called the Stylemaker Summit — which really deserves its own post — so I was able to get a good chunk of knitting done. They are off the needles, but they need finishing … as does the first pair. That project has been bumped to tomorrow’s list. We’ll see how that goes.

Day 8 – Doppelganger

Day 9 – Piskies

Fortunately I didn’t need another day’s worth of yarn because Day 10 moved solidly away from purple and brown into yellow and green with Golden Apples.

I did go ahead and introduce outside yarn for the next project. The toes are knit with Golden Apples, and then I introduced some delicious yarn from The Knitting Goddess. It is a sumptuous blend of Bluefaced Leicester, Wensleydale, alpaca, and nylon. All of the natural fibers are grown in the UK, and the fiber is processed and spun there as well. The pattern is Plowlines from Bare Naked Wools. Here’s a messy in progress picture on a messy desk:

I modified the pattern so that I could knit it toe up rather than top down. All I had to do was reverse the order of the stitches which create those little arrow shapes. So far it is going well. It is an actual pattern beyond knitting every stitch, so it requires more focus, but I am finding it meditative and soothing.

Day 11 brings another vibrant color – Will o’ the Wisp. So pretty. Not sure how well it will play with Golden Apples, but I am going to try it out and see what happens.

Mixed into the last couple of days was some reading. I was recently in a bookstore, and the title I was looking for was near Alexander McCall Smith’s books. I had tried reading the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency years ago, and it just didn’t take, but it turns out that he has written a whole slew of other books with titles like My Italian Bulldozer and Portuguese Irregular Verbs. My little local library had quite a few, so I checked out a pile. They have been sitting, waiting patiently to be read, and I finally decided I had better get on with it. My Italian Bulldozer is the sort of book to read on a cold, dreary, February day. Travel to Tuscany with Paul Stuart as he recovers from a wounded heart and finishes his latest book on food and wine. There are adventures and mishaps along the way — none too severe or without resolution — and lots of local color and characters, a few serious moments, and enough humor to make me laugh out loud. It’s a light read without being vapid — a lovely respite from … whatever is causing your grief or stress at the moment. I look forward to reading the sequel: The Second Worst Restaurant in France.

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This whole trying to create and stick to some sort of routine or structure thing is a challenge to be sure. I have managed to stick to the “go for a walk first thing in the morning” plan every morning since I started. Some days are more difficult than others, and one day I was up before the sun and almost got distracted into other things at the beginning of the day. The key continues to be to not think about it too much. Just pull on some clothes and walk out the door.

While I haven’t done a lot of actual writing\novel preparation for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) next month, I am keeping up with the daily prompts for October over on Instagram with the hashtag #InstaWrimo. There is going to be writing in November. Somehow I am going to make it happen this year.

Yesterday I made the choice toward more knitting and less writing. By the time I got to a stopping point on the current Socktober socks, I only had time to either write this post or start the sweaters I want to make in October. I went with the less screen time option and started the sweaters. They don’t look like much yet, but they are started.

Returning to Socktober, Day 6 was the first really solid color of the bunch. Cereberus is a matte charcoal gray, almost black which made my fingers look as if I have been playing with charcoal. The picture implies hints of blue in there as well. It might be the color, and it might be my photography.

I proceeded with my plan to knit the heel, but once I was finished, I decided that I was cutting it closer than I would like to continue past the heel and stripe into the next color. Plus, with a truly solid color, the sock looked a little dull.

I pulled out the heel, knit the other sock to the same point, and waited to see what Day 7 would bring. Day 7 brought the delightfully purple Circe.

Purple and black are always a good combination, so the socks now have purple heels, which allowed for five more rows in Cerberus after the heel and before the next stripes.

The next decision was whether to stripe into the purple and finish it off or wait and see what possibilities Day 8 might offer. Since a significant percentage of the Circe color had been used for the heels, the color block would be a little more than half the size of the previous two blocks. If I finished the sock with the purple, then it would have worked because the block leading to and including the cuff would more or less match the toe, but I want these socks to be longer than the first pair, so I am going to use Day 8 for the next color block and finish with purple cuffs.

I am going to make Friday’s challenge to actually finish the current pair of socks, including weaving in ends and washing, and do the same for the first pair. That means starting new socks on Saturday. I think that the next pair needs a stitch pattern — possibly the ribbing that I forgot to do on this pair or maybe striped, broken seed stitch, alternating colors on each row. Hmmmm ….

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Today’s color is the exquisite Da Duku. As soon as I pulled it out, I couldn’t wait to start knitting with it.

In fact, I got so excited that I forgot that this pair of socks was going to be a 3×1 ribbing pattern and just started knitting away. I was able to work two single round stripes of yesterday’s color, and then I just knit and knit until I ran out of yarn. I will take out two rounds so that I can repeat the striping sequence I used after the toe. That way I won’t have to guess how much yarn I need for the stripes, although I have been guessing pretty well so far about how many rows I can knit with each day’s mini skein.

The pictures don’t really do the color justice. Overall it looks like a lovely, deep, piney green which tends a bit toward teal in it’s lighter shades. Even the lighter gray bits show hints of green. Those little pin stripes above the toe make me happy, too.

Tomorrow’s skein should get me through the heel, hopefully with enough to stripe into the next color. If I use two more skeins after the heel, I should have a nice, mid-calf length sock.

Since today’s knitting didn’t involve paying attention to rows for stripes, starting a toe, or turning a heel, I was able to multi-task to some degree. I am not a big believer in multi-tasking because you can only truly focus on one thing at a time, but if I knitting every stitch until I run out of yarn, I don’t have to look at my hands the whole time, so I can read a bit. It has to be on a screen, however, so that the text is standing upright on it’s own. (I have yet to find a holder which positions a paper book in such a way that I can read while I knit, so usually I alternate between the two.) I stick with articles and book excerpts because I don’t do well reading whole books on a screen.

After watching a video which referenced T.E. Lawrence, I wondered if his letters had been published, and I found myself reading a excerpt from Lawrence of Arabia’s Secret Dispatches During the Arab Revolt 1915-1919. The contents were authored by Lawrence, but Fabrizio Bagatti collected, verified, and organized them for the book. Reading the introduction reminded me how poorly educated I am on the subject of world history.

I have been looking for well-researched, readable history books lately, preferably social history in the context of politics (or political history in the context of society, technology, and economics) so that I am not just reading about men and their wars. I want to learn about the whole picture and not just about the main players and to learn more about those main players. Two books about Queen Victoria are on their way to me courtesy of the fine folks at Discover Books. I discovered (ha!) them through either amazon or abebooks, I think. Whenever I see a third-party seller on a bigger site, I try to purchase directly from the seller’s website. At first I thought it was a single location, but it is a rather large network, although still independent as far as I can tell. (I feel like my favorite companies — audible, woot, Book Depository in the UK — keep getting absorbed into RAMJAC, er, amazon. I remember when amazon was the upstart. Sigh.)

At any rate, I have made several purchases and been nothing but pleased. I would say that their grading is on the conservative side. Several books listed as “good” have turned out the be like new. They do have a lot of former library books, but all have been at least in good condition, if not very good. Prices are generally between three and five dollars. They always seem to have a promotion for 15% off if you buy three or more used books (they have new books, too, often discounted significantly), and the free shipping threshold is $9. The packaging isn’t fancy, and it will take more than a day or two to receive the books, but they do provide tracking numbers.

Based on the graphics at the bottom of the page, they do more to promote reading than sell books.

Why do I mention them? Well, for one, it’s a great deal. For another, buying used books falls into the reduce and reuse categories, which is related to the next point. I have read articles and received newsletters from several independent booksellers urging me to shop early because not only do supply chains continue to be tangled and broken but the increase in online shopping has increased the demand for cardboard and reduced the supply of the wood pulp used to make books.

That’s right. The pandemic is hitting bookshelves. Publication dates are being pushed back, and the new books which are being released will be in shorter supply. Now that’s what I call a crisis!! ***

What is more serious than me not being able to get my hands on every book I might want to read as soon as I find out about it is that the pandemic has been rough on independent bookstores, which were facing plenty of challenges prior to 2020. Again, in the hierarchy of necessities, books rank below food, water, shelter, heat, electricity, and so forth, but booksellers and writers need to pay for those things, too, so support your local (or even not so local) bookstores. There are so many great ones out there, and they work hard to share information, build community, and provide entertainment. Links to my favorite independent booksellers are here.

Today I went to the Toadstool Bookshop to search for the T.E. Lawrence book, and before I could even run the search, I found out that Kate DiCamillo has a new book out called The Beatryce Prophecy. I might have squeaked with joy. They didn’t have the book I came for, but I think it might only be available from UK sellers, so I wasn’t overly concerned. Besides, Beatryce sounds like more fun.

So many books, so little time, right? I really need to read more, so now that my knitting assignment for the day is complete, that may be my plan for the rest of the evening … now that I have spent more time nattering about books than originally planned. Good night.

*** Please take that last sentence lightly. Very lightly.

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Today’s color, Cupid, is a slightly darker version of yesterday’s color.

There are stripes after the heel, but they aren’t really visible, although they do show up a bit better in the picture. They still need to have the ends woven in and be washed, but they are off the needles, which always feels like a victory.

As I type after the fact, I could have waited for tomorrow’s color, and if it had higher contrast I could have treated Empusa and Cupid as the same color and continued the stripes that way. I suppose that I still could. If that seems like the right choice tomorrow, I can always pull out today’s work, but since I cast off one pair of socks and knit the toes for the next pair, it seems unlikely.

My sweater swatch is dry, and I think I have my sizes selected. For gauge purposes, I should probably go up a needle size for one of the sweaters, but I like the fabric produced by the needle I used for the swatch, so I will stick with it and measure frequently. I also discovered that one sweater has a body length of 19 inches. I usually stop in the range of 16 inches. Three inches of fabric definitely decreases the amount of yarn I need, so I am feeling more confident about my odds of winning at yarn chicken.

I am hoping that the weather improves tomorrow so that I can get some better pictures in natural light, but I think there is at least one more gray, rainy day in the forecast.

At least it is good knitting weather.

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By the time I had finished the knitting for Soctober, Day 3, it was really too dark to take pictures. Who ordered full dark by 6:30 p.m.? I know, I know. It’s only going to get worse, especially after the clock change in November.

The irony, however, is that it is even more gray and rainy today than yesterday, so photography conditions aren’t much improved. Working with what I’ve got, I present progress from yesterday.

Day 3’s color is Empusa. I had to go look up who she is in mythology, and I invite you to do the same if you don’t know who she is. (I should have mentioned at the beginning that the theme of this “advent” box is Greek mythology, but the color names may have already tipped you off.)

I continued the striping sequence and decided to go ahead and use Empusa for the heel rather than waiting for today’s color (which I think is a good plan because, spoiler alert, there isn’t much contrast between the colors for day three and day four). On the second sock I ran out of Medusa one round short of finishing a stripe, but I found a reasonable supplement in my stash — so reasonable, in fact, that you can’t even see the difference.

Two socks, almost alike

There is enough Empusa left for one more stripe after I introduce the color for day four, so today’s decision will be whether to finish this pair as ankle socks or wait and see what day five brings. At the moment I am leaning toward ankle socks. (I know. There’s that suspense again.)

As of the end of day three

Meanwhile, in sweater news, I do have a yarn option which might work for ghosts, but I have this marvelous orange yarn I really want to use, and it is more suited to leaves than ghosts. The leaf option also gives me the opportunity to use some yarn which was purchases for a different project which is never going to happen. I knit a swatch which looks promising. I like the fabric, and I think that the gauge will be close enough. Yardage might be a bit of an issue. Based on the pattern’s numbers, I don’t have enough. Based on my personal sweater knitting experience, I should have enough. I may have to get creative with color usage, but I accept the yarn chicken challenge.

Oh, and I might actually tackle two sweaters. The second one is Witchling from Dragon Hoad Designs (the dyer of the “advent” sets also designs patterns which I love). It’s another yarn chicken challenge based on the numbers on the pattern, but (a) I think I see a part of the pattern which I would make shorter than called for and (b) I found a supplemental skein. Patterns are just guidelines, right? Right.

I’ll be back later to report on Socktober, Day 4.

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Two days in a row! I am not sure if that is a victory, exactly, but it feels like a good start.

Today’s color, Medusa, is similar to yesterday’s … almost too similar. I am knitting 3-row stripes of each color, and at some points it is a little difficult to tell. Shadow stripes work for me, so I am going with it.

Look at me all fancy with the collage.

I knit until I ran out of the Hades color from yesterday, and I was able to complete the fifth stripe with enough yarn to easily weave in the tail but not so much that I feel like I am wasting it — an easy yet satisfying yarn chicken victory.

I may try for a picture with better light tomorrow.

Adding tomorrow’s color will get me to the heel, at which point I will have to decide whether to knit the heel with the third color or wait for color four. The suspense is almost unbearable, right?

The dyer at Dragon Hoard Yarn Company is by far the most enthusiastic fan of Halloween I have ever seen, encountered, or met. She is hard core. The house is festooned with decorations inside and out. It takes several days to get everything done. If you want to check it out, in this video she says that the process is a quarter to a third done. Decoration shots start at the 2-minute mark.

She’s so creative. I follow everything she does. Well, what I can see on her web site and Instagram. I suspect more happens on Facebook, but I do not Facebook. Her yarn colors are complex, and her patterns are fun to make. Okay, enough fangirling. The point is that as a result of following her work, my Halloween exposure is several orders of magnitude higher than usual, and I started thinking Halloween sweater thoughts.

Now, I already had this crazy notion of including sweater knitting in my list of October goals and tasks, but it really should either be finishing a sweater already in progress or knitting a sweater for someone else. The problem with the someone else sweater is that I am having a hard time finding a pattern I like which matches the gauge of the yarn I am going to use, so it has thus far been a frustrating rather than an enjoyable experience. Knitting should not be stressful, especially when knitting for someone else. You want those stitches filled with love rather than aggravation.

What I really don’t want to have happen is that it gets late in October before I actually make a decision and take action. As of this writing, I have not made a final decision, but I came across these adorable ghosts, and they pretty much said, “Knit me!”

Fall Favorites by BadWolfGirlStudios

(Unfortunately, you have to click the link. I can’t enable the link preview without breaking something else. There must be a way.)

The pattern is actually a collection. In addition to the ghosts, there are cats and pumpkins and leaves. They all look like fun. I will see what I can come up with for yarn and find the time to do a gauge swatch and go from there!

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This post really should come after a post about how I had the discipline to knit an entire sweater in eight days mostly because I stopped dithering about whether to start and when to start and which pattern to make and just sat down and knit the thing. Between that accomplishment and going for a walk first thing in the morning every morning for the past 19 days in a row, I am feeling downright disciplined. On the other hand, I was thinking that this post would be done sometime this afternoon, and it is almost 6:30 p.m., but I am not going to dwell on that fact. The point is that I haven’t called it a day yet because I can meet this goal, too, and add a few more. Bring on the plans!!

Right. So. Socktober. I mentioned my Socktober plan in a previous post, and today I got started.

A box of 31 individually bagged mini skeins of yarn and a shiny new set of needles.

If you aren’t a knitter, or even not a sock knitter, you might wonder what sort of craziness is afoot. (Ha!) Lots of knitters in the northern hemisphere get very excited about the transition from summer to autumn. The temperatures drop, the sun sets earlier, and the trees start shedding their leaves. You call it autumn. We call it knitting season — time to get out those hand knit sweaters and hats and gloves and mittens and … SOCKS.

Sock knitters can be something of a special breed. They are passionate about needle choices and knitting styles and yarn weight and fiber content and the best way to knit heels, toes, and gussets. Ankle socks or knee highs? Striping, cabled, lace, fair isle? Toe-up or top down? Magic loop, small circulars, or DPNs? And so on. Myself, I am a toe-up, magic loop, one at a time, Fish Lips Kiss Heel sock knitter, and if I am using sock\fingering weight yarn, I use two strands together to make thicker yarn.

I opened the silver satin bag labeled October 1 and extracted a small skein of yarn in a color named Hades. Given that the color integrates black with shades of turquoise and gray, I suspect that the inspiration is the depiction of the god Hades (entertainingly voiced by James Woods) in the animated Disney movie Hercules. Whatever the case, it’s a good start to the adventure.

I didn’t get quite as much practice and prep work done as I had hoped, so I am improvising as I go. The yarn in the box adds up to a bit more than six full skeins of yarn, which means at least six pairs of socks and quite possibly seven or eight. There is no need to make each pair the same way, although if I find a groove I like, I might stick with it.

Some aspects will be the same. They will all be worked upward from the toe. I will start with 16 stitches and increase to 48. I love the moment when the toe starts to take shape. It makes me happy every time.

Beginning of the first toe (photobombed by the cable of the knitting needle)

From there I can stripe or color block. I might get crazy with some color work or slipped stitches, but I doubt it. There will likely be stitch patterns at some point. The beauty of having 48 stitches is that 48 is divisible by so many numbers that lots of patterns will work.

This first pair will be simple, starting out with the toe worked in the first color. Tomorrow I will add the second color and work, probably, three-row stripes of each. When the first color runs out, I will add the third color, and so on. There is the question of the heel. The type of heel I use really needs to be worked in the same yarn. Is that the fourth color, which could then be used as the cuff, too, or the toes on the next sock? I’m taking a “choose your own adventure” approach and will decide when I get there (and depending on how many stripes I get out of the first color.

In the meantime, I have two sock toes.

Tune in tomorrow …

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