Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween From Louisiana ....

Where, fourteen months after Hurricane Katrina, even the Jack-O-Lanterns still have a blue tarp roof, and their contents are heaped out front at the curb ....

And where Mambocat has finished her Socktoberfest socks in Noro Kureyon.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming ....


Labels: , ,

Sunday, October 29, 2006

This Has Nothing Whatsoever
To Do With Knitting

This is what happens when you are working on character notes for a short story, and you leave the room to answer a phone, and you forget that a cat is in the room with the computer.

If you enlarge the photo by clicking on the lower right hand corner, and look at the top half of the screen (I inserted some white space to set it off from the rest of the text) you will see an unedited version of what happens when said cat decides to stroll upon the keyboard and make editorial comments on your work.

Apparently, said feline believes my work sucks eggs -- and rotten ones at that -- as you can see from the prominent "EEEEEEWWWWW" repeated several times. He even made certain to capitalize so I did not miss his point.

It's bad enough when people do this to me. In fact, I wish people were honest enough to get right to the point and say, "EEEEWWWW" instead of carrying on about literary devices. Just out with it, already -- "EEEEEEEEWWWWWWW."

But when a cat reads my work and is emphatic about saying "EEEEEEWWWW" over and over -- well, that just bites.

The nerve to leave such a comment, especially after leaving all those nose-smears all over the screen. This, after I provide Science Diet, and canned treats, and toys, and soft knitty things to sleep upon.

Do you think he is upset because there isn't a cat in the story?

Okay, okay, I'll put a cat in the story. A stray cat will appear, and be saved by our protagonist, who is a very nice and resourceful lady.

Just stay off the keyboard.


Saturday, October 28, 2006

Raising the Dead for Halloween

Imagine Mambocat wearing a long black robe, lighting dozens of candles, burning incense, and waving her hands around in the air ...

"Ominay yah-yah ... ignay knitabius ... oom-lah, voodoo, acrylicus .... wooly bully, wooly bully .... beneath the light of the moon, O Ancient Sweater, I command you to appear!"

What with it being Halloween and all, I decided to regale you with a Very Old Object that has been raised from the dead.

During the course of the repair work on Mom's house in New Orleans, what to my wondering eyes should appear from the depths of a closet but the very first sweater I ever knitted for her, way back a life and a half ago.

This is a sweater I knitted in Red Heart yarn from Woolworth's when I was about fifteen ... when the Really Big Things in my life were Elton John, Led Zeppelin, bicycling all over New Orleans, knitting maniacally and finally figuring out that boys were good for something besides bombarding with water balloons from way up in a treehouse.

I probably got the pattern from one of Mom's McCall's or Good Housekeeping magazines. I was very proud of this sweater at the time because (1.) it was my very first cabled sweater -- the only other cabled thing I had ever knitted was a small couch-pillow cover in a beguiling shade of 1970s Refrigerator Orange; (2.) I had to make fitting adjustments because Mom is well-endowed (3.) it actually fit her.

Mom has worn it as a house sweater for all these years, and finally asked me if I could fix the snags.

Looking at it 31 years later -- (yikes!) -- I find myself scrutinizing everything I did not know then, amazed that I somehow produced a sweater that fit, and also amazed that Mom wore it around the house and for dog-walking and to the grocery. It is a 1970s bathrobe-type wrap sweater with a shawl collar. At one point it had a knitted belt. The belt is long gone (no doubt a dog had something to do with this), but Mom still wears it around the house and garden.

You know somebody loves you when they will wear such a thing, and, like any good Southern Mom, she had the graciousness to wear it for things like walking the dogs and going to the grocery, so I could see her wearing it frequently, and therefore felt good about having made it. This is a talent so subtle in an excellent Mom that you also don't realize until many, many years later that you never actually saw her wear it to work, or church, or a PTA meeting, or anyplace where she had to look her very best, but she nonetheless wore it often enough, in appropriate circumstances, to let you know it was (and still is) appreciated.

Looking at it now, wow ... Way too loose gauge. I had absolutely no idea how to join the raglan sleeves to the body without gaping and unintentional (though consistent) holes which appear to be yarnovers but are not. Not so bad on the picking up of stitches for the front bands and neck, but sloppy decreases, and sloppy execution of the shawl collar, and yucky joining if you turn it inside out and look at the seams. No concept of reversing the direction of the cables on either side of the center to achieve symmetry, or to make them work with the decreases. Cables are crossed way too far apart -- I seem to remember thinking that all those cable-crossings would be a real pain in the arse and I could get away with fewer cable crossings by spacing them a little further apart. Horrid joining in of new yarns. Badly hidden ends. Bleah!

But it's nonetheless a good trip down memory lane, and after all, was only 15. Therefore, it amuses me enough to share it here now, and I am so very touched that Mom wants it "fixed" even though of course she has a number of other garments, well-executed, which I have knitted for her since then. She says it has sentimental value. And besides, it's good for watering the plants, puttering around the house and rounding up her two cats.

What amazes me the most is the old Red Heart yarn from Woolworth's. This sweater has walked a lot of dogs and taken out a lot of garbage and planted a lot of rosebushes, so it's been washed about 83 gazillion times, and no doubt accidentally bleached a couple of times. But, aside from a few snags caused by bushes or puppy teeth, it has held up like ...well, like Red Heart.

Red Heart is like Michael Myers or Jason Voorhies. You just can't kill it. Amazing stuff. I mean, aside from all the inexperienced construction and stuff, it still looks ... well ... not too shabby.

Happy Halloween.


P.S. -- Jigsaw was disappointed that nobody entered the costume contest, but I told her this year was just a test balloon. A little catnip and tuna helped her get over it. We'll try again next year, won't we, folks?

Don't y'all let Jigsaw down next year, you hear?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

One Thing. Two Things.
Three Things. Blue Things.

Things Which Are Not Blocked:

I have issues with this. Serious issues, I am afraid. Perhaps I have a subconscious need to display my flaws and solicit criticism, but I simply cannot stop myself from photographing and posting pictures of yet-to-be-blocked objects.

Or maybe it's just unbridled enthusiasm -- look! It's done!

Don't worry. Blocking and a re-shoot will occur in time, but because I may have other things coming off the needles soon, I need to display my rumply Finished Objects quickly, for your viewing pleasure, before other things are photographed.

Below is a blue DK-weight cotton vest for Mom.

The lace hem stitch pattern is borrowed from a Knitty tank top pattern, but I wanted a "vestier" look so Mom can wear it over a blouse, for a little extra coverage in cool weather. I worked out my own sizing, shaping, neckline, slip-stitch vertical motif, and armscyes. I added I-cord borders for the neckline and armscyes. Once blocked, they make a firm and appealing edge in lieu of ribbing, which almost always looks sloppy in cotton yarn.

The yarn is vintage Unger Plantation Cotton, and is the last of my stash in that particular shade of faded-denim blue, which reproduced quite accurately on our camera.

Once this is washed up and is blocked, the drape will be fantastic and the neckline and hemline will smooth out. Trust me, it will. I know this yarn.

Next in line for the blocking pins and wires is the alpaca scarf for Barbara, my Mom's friend (and mine) who especially deserves a nice holiday gift this year. The yarn is Classic Elite "Inca Alpaca" in a shade of blue not captured quite as accurately by our camera as the blue in the cotton vest. The alpaca is the exact color of a Siamese cat's eyes.

Actually, this is only half of the scarf. The other half, silly rabbit, is on the other side of the door.

I sure wish I had a mannequin or something for photos like this.

Or a crash-test-dummy.

Gotta get a model. Maybe I'll check E-bay.

The scarf design is my own, a basketweave lace pattern, really simple and mostly reversible. The stockinette basketweave pattern reverses, and the wrong side of the lace panels look like garter lace, so it passes the galloping horse test for reversibility. However, because alpaca is heavier than wool and it will want to s-t-r-e-t-c-h under the influence of gravity, I plan to block it more firmly in the width dimension than in length.

I used ribbing for the bottoms instead of fringe. It suits Barbara better, I think. And she has blue eyes.

Also, in an unblocked state, I present our youngest cat, Blue.

Blue is not a Russian Blue. He is a Stray Blue.

But blue nonetheless. He is the exact color of a chinchilla and his coat is divinely soft.

He will remain unblocked.

He doesn't like getting wet, anyway.

But isn't he just the mellowest creature? Sleepytime eye-boogers and all?


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Meet The Ambassador of Obscurity.

As I enter the den, with Green Gansey Sleeve Number Two in hand, my husband glances away from the television and inquires, "Do you know what a kraken is?"

I assume the Spock-like expression I am known for, while the little librarian runs around inside my head. Hmmmm...I should know this...it sounds like a medieval creature...dragons, four legs and two wings...wyverns, two legs and two wings....not Midgard, that's a serpent...kraken, kraken...four wings, and no legs maybe...?

I finally admit that it sounds familiar but I can't say for sure.

Dave announces that the television has just informed him that a kraken is a type of multi-limbed, mythological sea creature.

I nod. "I was thinking in the general neighborhood of mythical creatures, but I wasn't sure."

Dave looks stunned. "I am amazed that you didn't know that," he says flatly. "You are the Ambassador of Obscurity."

"The Ambassador of Obscurity?" I echo, amused.

"Uh-huh...you know things like how to spin yarn and what kind of sheep has how many microscopic crinkles in a piece of its wool ... and what kind of seashells make purple dye ... and why flamingos are pink ... and how to make haggas ... and stuff like that."

I mull this over for a minute. Then I laugh. "Thanks," I say. "I like that title. In fact, I like it a lot."

Naturally, I start thinking of things like diplomatic immunity.

If I wrote to the White House (using fancy vellum paper with a kraken in the crest, of course), and proclaimed that I was the Ambassdor of Obscurity, would the President give me a salary and an office of my own? Does he know that Obscurity isn't a real country? Could I declare our house and yard to be the Land of Obscurity? Do you get your own Lear jet with an Ambassadorship? What about a yarn allowance? Could I tear up speeding tickets? Would I get to meet Larry King? Do I get a pool boy (and a pool, for that matter)? Could I go to New Zealand, and steal one of those million-dollar fleeces, and laugh maniacally in the face of justice?

I don't know...maybe an Ambassadorship would go to my head. I would make my secretary hold all my calls so I could sit in my office and knit all day on Tuesdays. I would send my earnest, over-achieving young pages out to buy me more yarn and diet root beer, and to make people neuter their dogs. I would make Members of Congress attend twelve-hour meetings with excruciatingly detailed Powerpoint presentations (including the micron counts of various fleeces) explaining why we should provide free sheep to people in Mongolia so they can get their economy rolling, and why we should give free spinning wheels to women in Africa so they can earn money to build schools and clinics in their villages. I would spay all the alley cats in Washington and set up a huge feeder for them outside my office window. I would drink expensive cabernet and go slinking around Washington after dark, letting the air out of tires belonging to Senators I don't like. I would knit a giant Noro Kureyon scarf, in colorway number 88, for Abe Lincoln's statue (he must get cold sitting on that big marble chair). I would...


Oh... krakens. Dave is telling me more about them, and I learn that legend says that, while mainly ocean-going beasts, they also are rumoured to exist in Canada's huge lakes and waterways, and that science says that they are one of the mythological monsters who might actually be based on sightings of a real animal -- giant squid -- in the days when a giant squid was, indeed, a whole lot longer than, say, the Santa Maria. I consider the evidence and decide that krakens probably had something to do with the fate of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

The librarian in my head is typing all this frantically for future reference.

Then another, far more urgent, question pops into my head...

What kind of hat does the Ambassador of Obscurity wear?

This is critical information.

I really do require a hat for this Ambassadorship.

I must take this seriously. People keep telling me that I should try out for Jeopardy or at least go to New York for the weekend and hail taxis until I get the Cash Cab, but with my kind of luck I could stand on the curb 24 hours a day with my hand in the air, for seventeen weeks in a row, in the rain, and not have that kind of luck.

I do have old college friends who were so traumatized by their experiences twenty-five years ago that they refuse to play Trivial Pursuit with me to this day.

But back to hats.

What sort of hat does an Ambassor of Obscurity Wear?

Indeed, what would the whole dress uniform look like? It would, of course, have to be something requiring exhaustive attention to construction, fiber choice and historical detail. Each component of the garment would require an obtuse legend about its source. Absolutely no epaulets or sunglasses, though. I would prefer an entire Ambassador of Obscurity wardrobe, of course, both for state dinners and art openings in the DC area. Something involving tunics, leggings, cloaks (all knitted, of course) and great, tall boots. And a sword. Gotta have a sword.

Mambocat needs time to contemplate this hat design.

In the meantime, she will answer another searing question from Xeres from Australia:

Dear Mambocat:

I guess my original question was relating more to your phenomenal sounding output than to the vagaries of the weather. You are ALWAYS knitting. Enquiring minds wonder how many sweaters you have yourself….and when you’ve filled your wardrobe and that of your hubby’s. who else are the lucky recipients? Do you give them away?
Just How Many Sweaters Does Mambocat Knit In A Year?

How much knitting do you do? How many sweaters do you have?

--Xeres from Oz

Dear Xeres:

Mambocat is, indeed, always knitting. Mambocat never leaves the house without a knitting project, in case she gets stuck waiting in a line somewhere for more than forty-seven seconds. Mambocat also keeps a project in her car and at her workplace at all times for any available break which can be applied to the time-honored craft of knitting. There is also the omnipresent sock-in-progress residing in Mambocat's purse. In short, I knit the way other people smoke.

The majority of Mambocat's knitting moves on to other folks. Mambocat actually keeps relatively little of her knitting to herself, although much of her output remains in relatively close contact, and visits frequently, through friends and family members. Mambocat actually cranks out a wide variety of garments besides sweaters. Although cabling is one of Mambocat's very favorite knitting things, she also does a fair bit of lace and colorwork. Mambocat's hubby prefers vests, but is delighted with pullover sweaters as well. Mambocat's Mom is a big fan of vests and accessory shawls.

Mambocat would actually have to count her sweaters, but she does possess a winter wardrobe which is disproportionately large when compared to her summer wardrobe. Leading psychologists believe that this is an alarming symptom of Weather Denial Syndrome, considering the climate Mambocat actually lives in. The most commonly recommended treatment for this disorder is relocation of the patient either to Bangor, Maine ... Seattle, Washington ... or Jasper, Alberta. At the moment, relocation is not a reasonable option for Mambocat, so she considers the fact that her sweater wardrobe will be well-preserved as a retirement trousseau ... at least by the time she actually retires and gets to relocate someplace where summer is virtually nonexistent.

There is another interesting theory in the world of psychology that Weather Denial Synrome, with its accompanying symptoms of compulsive knitting no matter what sort of climate the patient lives in, may have its roots in the fear of "nuclear winter" implanted in our subconscious during the Cold War. To this day, American Baby Boomers, who spent a great deal of time involved in "duck and cover" exercises as school children, really do feel quite anxious whenever the possibility of nuclear war is mentioned. As we all know, we no longer fit under a fallout-resistant school desk, and, therefore, will not survive in the event of nuclear war unless we have a large stash of thick woolen sweaters somewhere handy at all times.

So I really should give this my most serious thought.

Back to knitting: major items on the needles right now: a ruby red Einstein for my Mom for the Red Sweater Knit- A-Long, a green gansey for me and a sweater in La Lana's Forever random for a treat for my husband. It willl be a yoked sweater of the EZ Percentage System Disciplline, with a fleur-de-lis motif around the yoke. I'll work that motif out when I get there. Right now the yarn is so yummy and delightfully fragrant with lanolin ... it's like snugggling up with tiny baby lambs.

Due to a recoverning knee injury, too much work and general fatigue, I have been remiss on posting. The deadline for the Halloween costume contest is near. Go back to the archives to find the rules for Mambocat's Costume Challenge -- there are only a few days left!

--Mambocat, Ambassador of Obscurity

Monday, October 16, 2006

Special Announcment From The Knitting Asylum:

The Knitting Asylum is proud to announce that, beginning this fall, we will be offering Special Remedial Classes for men who do not knit. Just a few selections from our curriculum include:

Color Theory 2051: Beyond Brown and Blue -- Describing Objects Using Standard Color Nomenclature. In this controversial and provocative class, Dr. Mambocat will use actual garments and other common household objects to expand student awareness and practice correct identification of colors in various everyday situations in order to facilitate better communication between the student and the person who knits for him. Class meets from 7:00pm till 9:00pm Tuesdays and Thursdays during the fall semester. Students must come to the first class prepared with a color wheel, a sketchpad, and a box of 64 Crayola Crayons. All 64 colors must be memorized and correctly identified in order to recieve a certificate of completion. Final exam will be given at Home Depot, where students will have two hours to collect paint chips matching all 64 colors. Tuition: $75 plus materials

Fluid Dynamics 3024: Fundamental Differences Between Fibers, and Engineering Theories on How They Should Be Washed. Pictures and explanatory graphics, along with Powerpoint presentations, will guide the student through the complex engineering principles of separating garments by fiber type and color, selection of washing cycles and water temperatures on the washing machine, and group discussion of "How Full Is Too Full?" This class is a lab. Class meets Mondays and Thursdays from 6:30pm till 8:30pm at the Soap Suds Laundromat, directly across the street from Charley's Sports Bar. Tuition: $25 in quarters. Students must report for each class with a minimum of one load of soiled laundry and their own soap. Prerequisite: Color Theory 2051

Returning students please note that this class replaces, "Refrigerator Versus Regenerator: Understanding Why the Refrigerator Makes Containers Cold But Does Not Refill Them."

Sociology 1201: Soliciting the Manufacture of Hand-Knit Garments. This class covers the complex and subtle social dynamics which are helpful to the shivering man who wishes to procure warm, knitted garments from handknitters, particularly if the handknitter is a Significant Other. Critical behaviors to be addressed will include lifting the toilet seat, doing laundry without being asked, bringing home flowers, doing the dishes, performing footrubs, not wearing good clothes to paint the bathroom or work on the car, remembering birthdays, buying chocolate, and sharing the TV remote. Role-playing, group support sessions and a telephone-buddy system will be set up by your instructor to keep egos intact. Tuition: $75 Fluid Dynamics 3024 is a prerequisite; Color Theory 2051 is not a prerequisite but is helpful.

Please remember that class space is limited -- sign up early to assure your place!

--Dr. Mambocat


Monday, October 09, 2006


"Yah, yah, yah, yah!!! Drinken unt stricken unt beer ..."

Uh ... something like that, yah? Tessie is wondering, in her own groggy, nap-disturbed way, why her cozy bed has been invaded by yet another pair of Noro Kureyon Socks In Progress.

"It's so your Mum can take a silly blog photo, my dearest old girl. Now just lay there and look cute. Tuna is forthcoming. Thank you. What a fantastic model you are."

I've been seeing some talk about Socktoberfest again on the knitting blogs when I read them over my morning coffee, so I thought I'd throw in my own two copper coins on the subject.

Socktoberfest comes around every fall, just like Octoberfest.

Octoberfest is all about beer and beer-related activities, and, even though we drink beer all year long, Octoberfest seems to be the time when people get the most excited about it, whether they possess German DNA or not, mainly because it's getting past the time of year when hot weather alone validates copious beer consumption. So the Germans invented Octoberfest, and now everybody has a darn good excuse to drink more beer, even when it's not seven hundred and eighty-three degrees outside.

I suppose that knitting socks is kind of similar, in that we knit socks all year long, but wearing them in October with sandals (like the Germans do) while drinking beer (like everybody does) .... well, hey .... I'll buy any excuse to combine drinking beer and wearing handknit socks, except make my beer a Guinness, please.

To make up for my cultural stubbornness, please pass the bratwurst and some sauerkraut. Thank you.

Lolly at Lollyknitting Around has some interview questions for those who want to participate in Socktoberfest. So here ya go, Lolly ...

When did you start making socks? Did you teach yourself or were you taught by a friend or a relative? Or in a class?

It's hard to say with certainty when I started making sock-like objects. When I was small, my grandmother taught me to make a little slipper-thing that was like knitted origami.

You made a ribbed rectangle, then you did K2tog all across one end, and then drew it all together. You left a long tail, which you mattress-stitched halfway up the top front of the slipper to make a foot opening, then you folded the other end in half, vertically, and stitched it together to make the heel. If you wanted a little cuff, you picked up stitches around the edge of the foot opening with DPNs, and went up as high as you wanted. The result looked like an elf bootie. If you wanted a girly look, you picked up a crocheted edge around the foot opening, and it looked like a ballet slipper. I also learned how to use DPNs at that point in time.

When I was about eleven or twelve, one of my Mom's friends, who was a nurse, taught me how to make a double-knitted ribbed tube sock in worsted yarn on two straight needles -- it was like a magic trick.
I loved them.

Sometime shortly before Granny died I learned how to make a proper heel-flap as well.

I made a lot of thick slipper socks with turned heels -- knitted slippers were my "signature gift" in junior high and high school. I just guessed at sizes. When I was fifteen -- after Granny died -- I found "Knitting Without Tears" at the library and wrote to Elizabeth Zimmermann asking for help with writing my own instructions to make socks in better proportioned sizes to better fit people besides myself. I was stunned when she wrote back, and of course I still have the letter. At some point in there, when I was about sixteen, I finally made myself a pair of "real" socks from proper sock-weight superwash fingering wool from the dime store.

What would you have done differently?

I would have paid more attention to symmetrical decreases sooner, and I would have listened to Granny sooner about using fingering weight yarn for socks.

When I was a kid I made lots of worsted weight hats and slipper-socks and scarves and mittens because they were Not a Big Deal Like A Sweater. I really had difficulty wrapping my brain around the importance of left-leaning and right-leaning decreases, and then I would be disappointed because my slipper-socks looked funny around the ankles. I did not have any sense of symmetry at all, although Granny taught me the basic techniques and the shaping.

Of course, I thought the point was just to decrease equally on each side of the ankle, and I thought that Granny was just being persnickety about matching the decreases, the way she was persnickety about sitting up straight, acting respectful, and not dog-earing books (of course. it turned out that she was right about all those things too).

So if I could go back in time, I would have paid attention to the importance of symmetrical decreases sooner. I didn't catch on to why SSKs and K2togs are placed the way they are until I made a striped raglan sweater when I was about fourteen -- then I finally had that moment under the Bodhi tree, when I had to rip back half a sweater -- of course the whole tree and not just a leaf had to fall on me -- and, at last, saw why it was worth the trouble to put SSKs and K2togs in the correct places, and do them consistently on socks as well.

If I was more patient, I would have listened to Granny and would have made socks in the limited number of fingering-weight colors available at Woolworth's, but I was impatient and wanted thick socks in bright colors, right now.
If I could go back in time, I would not have made my first properly constructed heel-flap socks from worsted acrylic. They stood up by themselves and were too hot and thick to wear inside of shoes, except for boots or sneakers on really cold days. They ended up being slippers, but that was okay. I made lots and lots and lots of these for gifts, mostly out of rainbow-colored Red Heart "Mexicali" yarn, and other 1970's ombre yarns in shades of tan, avocado and orange, which enchanted me for a long, long time.

Please don't scorn me. The '70s were not my fault.

I also confess to making a considerable number of these ghastly socks in red, white and blue Red Heart yarn for birthday and Christmas gifts throughout 1976. Bicentennial hats and scarves, too. I still feel the need to apologize for that, and I remain grateful to any friends or relatives who actually were kind enough to wear them, even if only when they were alone inside their own homes with the doors locked and the curtains drawn. That is true love. Funny, I can still remember the nice lady at Woolworth's -- Miss Leah -- who used to help me out when I was splurging my allowance on this stuff. She had a blue smock with her name on it.

By the time I got to college I had discovered knitting and weaving supply shops, with decent superwash wool, and began making socks in the cool superwash fingering-weight tweed and ragg yarns I found there. But I was almost thirty before I found actual yarn made expressly for socks, with "sock yarn" right there on the label. What can I say? I was slow on the draw.

What yarns have you particularly enjoyed?

Koigu has been my favorite sock yarn for total footoid yummy comfort, but not for durability. I have to run a second strand of wooly nylon to reinforce the heel and toe, even though I knit socks densely. Opal is my all-time standby sock favorite, and I have made lots of colorful sandal socks and boot socks from Noro Kureyon. In fact, such a pair, very simple, will be my Socktoberfest socks, because I happened to cast on for them while waiting for the eye doctor on October 2nd. See photo above.
I am completely and helplessly addicted to this stuff. Kureyon is like a Lava Lamp for otherwise drug-free adults to trip on the colors:

"Wow, like what color comes out of the ball next? Green, man. Far out...."

I also discovered a skein of Socks That Rock yarn at Stitches in February of this year, and it is divine, too, but I can't yet report on its durability.

Do you like to crochet socks? Or knit on DPNs or two circulars?

I have crocheted exactly one pair of adult socks just for the hell of it, in plain single crochet with short cuffs, just so I could say I did, and just in case Lily Chin ever asks. They are not stretchy enough for adult socks, but they make nice enough house slippers and are thick enough to be durable for that purpose. I think crocheted socks are good choices for babies and toddlers because they can double as slippers or booties. But generally I don't think crochet is the best way to make socks. I have nothing against crochet, in fact I enjoy it, especially filet crochet and South American techniques. I just don't like it for socks.

I have tried all the new sock-needle techniques at least once or twice -- two circulars, one long circular, etc. -- just to learn something new, but I learned to knit socks on DPNs, and I own enough DPNs to wage war against a small medieval kingdom if I used them in crossbows, so DPNs are what I still prefer to use, and I am as adamant about that as I am about not using a bread machine. If I'm gonna make bread, I'm gonna knead it, dammit. You hear? That's half the fun. I don't like instant coffee, either.

It's nifty to learn a new technique, but I just don't like the two-circs thing for socks. The dangling ends make me nervous, and they attract far too many feline volunteer sock-knitting assistants. I do, however, employ the two-circs method when making a plus-size sweater in the round, or when making a center-out afghan, or a circular shawl with eleventy gabillion stitches. The two-circs method is sheer magic for managing large numbers of stitches that would otherwise be crowded on one long needle.

I have never had a problem with "ladders," which seems to be why most people like the two-circs method for socks. This is not due to any special technique that I can discern, except that I usually knit socks rightside out (so the yarn travels a shorter distance across the inside of the "hinge" between needles) ... and, for the sake of durability, I usually knit socks at a gauge approaching the specific gravity of fruitcake.

However, I do confess to liking super-short 11" circs sometimes, for Fair Isle or other stranded colorwork, just because it keeps all those loose color ends from geting tangled in the other six DPN points I am not using at any given moment. I have supershort circs in sizes zero through seven. They are also good for sleeve cuffs and baby things and preemie hats. For Fair Isle socks I knit wrongside out, so the carried yarn travels incrementally further around the sock, and thus does not bunch up and give the effect of smocked socks once they are turned rightside out.

Which heel do you prefer -- flap or shortrows?

Like the line from the old Apple Computer Flying Toasters screensaver song, "Flap, Flap, Flap! Now help is on the way..." I just love turning heels. This is certifiably goofy, I know, but I love it. I have made some afterthought heels, and a few pair with shortrow heels. It is fun, and I do like the bull's-eye effect it gives with self striping yarn so I do short-row-heels occasionally, but I really want a hand knit sock to look handcrafted, and to me, the short-row heel looks too much like a commercial heel. So I prefer flaps.

I have also unvented a refootable sock -- "The Ultimate Refootable Sock" -- which is published in XRX's "Socks, Socks, Socks." It has a flap heel, too.

How many pairs have you made?

I honestly have no earthly idea. Lots and lots and lots and lots. Way lots. I'm forty-five, and I learned to knit before Woodstock, and if you count all the slipper-like objects I made when I was a kid, and the goofy sock-things I made in high school and college, and the fact that I always have a pair of socks in progress with me wherever I go -- I mean always, the way Sigourney Weaver always has a hungry alien monster with her -- maybe, squillions?
Does my calculator go that high?

What Lolly seems to have failed to ask (or else I failed to cut and paste it) is:

Why do you knit socks?

Socks are small, portable and can be worn in any season. You can make tall ones, short ones, thin ones, thick ones, colorful ones, plain ones, wool ones or cotton ones. If you live in a mild climate you get a lot more sock-wearing days than you get Lopi-sweater wearing days. They make great gifts. Everybody needs socks (except maybe Gail). They don't take up much room, so you can always have one going along in your pocket or purse. They are also good for showing the dentist how long you have been waiting -- hold up your sock and declare, "I have been waiting for a whole cuff!"

Lolly, you would not believe (or maybe you would) how many people stop me in public to inform me that ready-made socks can be purchased at Wal-Mart and even at the drugstore. I was suspicious, but I checked out their claims, and imagine my astonishment when I discovered this was true. I have tried these ready made footcoverings, but few have made me happy, so I think I will stick to making my own.

Imagine that, though -- socks in stores. Next thing you know, somebody will figure out how to put the outhouse inside, so I don't have to get rained on when I gotta go.


Friday, October 06, 2006

New Yarn From The UPS Man, and A Knitting Miracle From Maui.

Mambocat had a lousy afternoon involving a contractor who found himself in jail for a bench warrant, and let's just say that at one point during this otherwise fine October day, Mambocat found Linda Blair's "Satan" voice coming out of her mouth, directed at the abovementioned contractor.

So when Mambocat got home, she got a cup of coffee and went out on the porch to stew for awhile and watch the sun go down when ... lo and behold, the delightful UPS man appears with a bag of yarn from the Discontinued Yarns Sale. Not that Mambocat wasn't expecting the yarn -- she had, after all, ordered it -- but the timing of its arrival was perfect and, on a bad day, yarn just makes you feel ... better.

I have heard male friends wonder out loud why so many women harbor a little bitty secret crush on the UPS driver who delivers at their home or office. It's really quite simple, guys -- here's a cheerful, energetic, efficient, polite and often nice-looking dude, who shows up on time and brings you stuff you want. Next question?

Here is Guinness inspecting my purchases. Guinness is the Vice-President of Inventory here at the Asylum. His job is to inspect all incoming fiber-related purchases. He approves of what the UPS man brought, although he is partially obscuring a ball of tweedy Sockotta yarn.

Mambocat needs to play with her yarn and chill down so she can write a long, coherent post over the weekend. Meantime, don't forget the Halloween Costume Challenge -- click over on the Previous Posts for the rules. Over the weekend I hope post photos of the (hopefully) enticing prizes.

So Mambocat will take advantage of Auntie Lisa Louie's kind offer of a guest blog today. Lisa had sent me this true story awhile back in case I was having a bad hair day, blog-wise, and needed a lovely substitute blog post from Maui, Hawaii.

Today, I do, and to thank her for sharing this lovely story from her knitting life in Maui, here is a photo of the New Orleans Surf Shop on Magazine Street near my Mom's home -- I love their sign; note how the waves and surfboard combine to make a clever fleur-de-lis:

Thanks, Auntie Lisa!

Lisa's post is called --

The Knitting Miracle

A minor miracle, involving knitting, occurred recently. While I find knitting in itself something of a miracle, and I may be biased in my observation, in this case I think it truly qualifies. For the record, I am not the only adult to concur on this matter. What’s the miracle? The miracle is that knitting got a group of junior high age students to actually pay attention, focus and admit to the world that grownups might not be totally, terminally, hopelessly uncool and may not be completely worthless as a life form and have a function besides giving them orders and providing food and shelter.

How did the miracle happen, you ask? Well, I work for a non-profit learning center and part of my job involves students. Another certified adult and I took a group of 4 students to Oahu to a reception and a meeting. This involved both a plane ride and an overnight stay in a hotel. Great trip, very important and productive, but um, challenging. We had to corral 4 junior high age students, which is an, um, interesting age group to work with. The kids we took were part of a class that has been known to be um, high maintenance. Very high maintenance. The kind of kids that eat substitute teachers for lunch and spit them out. I was one of the subs for a class with them earlier. Let’s just say the experience was ugly.

The group of kids who went on the trip was actually very well behaved, just very busy, not exceptionally attentive to adults, and very playful. It was like trying to herd cats. They have their own agenda and are easily distracted. Wrestling, pushing, shoving and rowdiness will also be involved when they are in a group.

So off we went on our big trip. The first glimpse of this miracle occurred when I was working on what evolved into being a scarf/belt that is knit in the shape of fish.

First kid: “What are you doing?”
Me: “I’m knitting.”
First kid: “What is it going to be?”
Me: “A scarf.”
First kid:” It looks like fish. What is it?”Me: “You’re right, it’s fish. Good observation.”
First kid: “Hey! She’s knitting FISH! Look at it!”
Second kid” Yeah, it’s fish! That’s cool.”

Later we were all sitting in a meeting talking and I was still working on the fish scarf. Me, being me, knitting away on the scarf, listening to the conversation, answering questions, obviously involved in what is going on around me, and not looking at my knitting. The kids were watching me not watching my knitting and were blown away that I could actively participate in the conversation, knit, and not watch my knitting. When the meeting was over the miracle happened.

First kid: “So, how can you do that (knit) and not look?”
Me: “Practice. It’s just one of those things you do after a while.”
First kid:” And you can just go do that without looking?”
Me: “Yup.”
Second Kid: ”So could you like, maybe, make something like the top you’ve got on?”
Me: “I did make the top I’ve got on. Designed it too.”
At this point, both kids’ eyes almost literally popped out of their head, looking like characters in a cartoon. They were stunned.

First kid:” Hey! She MADE her top! Can you believe it? She actually MADE the whole thing! You gotta come see this!”

They were interested. Impressed even. Paying attention to a certified grown up. Respectful. No eye rolling. No pushing. No giggling. No poking each other. Just interested, and for once the certified grown up was actually doing something that just might be worthy of their time and attention. Even better, a certified grown up was doing something cool in the eyes of a gaggle of junior high age students.

Don’t tell me it wasn’t a miracle.

--Lisa Louie

Inmates in the Asylum since July 27, 2006: