Friday, October 26, 2007

Holey socks!

It took me from mid-July till the end of August to knit the Irish Forest socks. And it is now less than 2 months, and they already have a hole in the bottom! I wore them to work today under my tennis shoes, and when I took them off, I found a hole about half the size of a dime on the ball of one foot. This seems completely unacceptable to me, and rather discouraging. I will try to mend it, but I don't want to spend 6 weeks knitting socks that last only 8 weeks!! I used fearless fiber wool, and it felt kind of weak to me, but I expected it to last a year, at least. I am using the same wool to knit Sam's Christmas gift, but if they don't hold up any better than that, why bother? I used size 3 needles, which is not the tightest gauge, but it is also not exactly loose either. I can't knit socks on size 0 or 1--it will take me forever! Sigh.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Dog has been claimed

On Tuesday, we finally got a call from animal control that the owner of the dog had been located. Turns out he lived just a block away, and our Dog Found signs were just doors away from his house. He claimed that he looked all over, and visited several animal shelters looking for the dog, but somehow never saw signs on the telephone pole on the corner. Also, he has only owned the dog since September and she's run away 3 times already by jumping the fence. Funny she didn't jump our fence and run back home. But in any case, we gave her back.

One of the strangest things is that I had been thinking of names for her, and the name Heidi occurred to me. (Since Heidi is my favorite book of all time!) When he called, we asked her name, and it was Heidi. I swear, the dog was sending me the name by ESP!

Anyhow, we both agree that having a dog is a mixed blessing. She was very sweet and fun to have around, but also a big responsibility and a lot of work. So since she has an owner, we are satisfied that she went home.

On the knitting front, I am making garter stitch mittens now for my Dad, using a pattern called Lillemor's Mittens from "Knit Mittens!". Garter stitch using worsted weight wool on size 5 needles is tedious and kind of stressful on the hands. But I press on. I'm about halfway done with the first one. But I don't think I will use this pattern again. I think in-the-round stockinette is easier. The angle at which you enter the "purl" stitch every time is quite sharp and not as easy as entering a knit stitch to knit.

I spoke with Mom and Dad yesterday to assure them that the Southern California fires don't threaten us at all, and they told me it was 80 degrees in Maine yesterday. Will there even be a cold winter this year? Climate change is awfully visible these days. Nevertheless, I think mittens will still be needed!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Dog

On Friday afternoon, I am driving home from grocery shopping, and in the little cul- de-sac next to mine, I notice an obviously lost dog, running aimlessly. I make eye contact and sympathetic noises through the closed window of the car, and I notice in the side mirror that the dog is chasing my car. I come around the corner and pull up in front of my house, and the dog catches up. I open the door to get the groceries out, and the dog jumps into my car and begins lapping my face! I don't know this dog from a hole in the wall, but she pushes past me and as I open the door to tell Sam that she followed me home, she gets in the house ahead of me and introduces herself!

We check for tags, and she has a tag that says she has a chip embedded, so we call that number, but they tell us that, unfortunately, the owner has not registered their name or phone number. She is also wearing a Torrrance dog tag, so she's local. The chip people give me another number to call, LA County something or other. We call there, and a recorded message tells us they're only open Monday through Thursday, and gives us another number to call, which is busy all evening.

So. We seem to have a dog, at least for the weekend. We give her water, and a hotdog, and she finally calms down and makes herself at home. After dinner, I buy 2 cans of dog food. She is a good size, a little smaller than a German Shepherd, maybe about the size of a Border collie, white with black spots, short hair, with a curled up tail and pointed ears. And she's very intelligent and well-trained. I tell her to sit, and she sits. Hmmm, give me your paw? Yup. The other paw? Yup, that too. When we eat, we tell her to sit, and she averts her eyes and minds her manners.

Saturday morning I put Found Dog signs up all around the neighborhood and look for lost dog signs, but no call.

Sam likes her a lot. She's very mellow and quiet. The only time she has barked is when a van came at 2 am to pick up the neighbor for dialysis. Perfect watchdog behavior.

Probably on Monday, we will call the county and they'll have the number of whoever had the chip embedded, and we'll give her back. But it's been really nice experiencing a dog. So far, we're just calling her "pup," but if she stays much longer, she's going to get a name. And if we don't find the people, we will keep her. The only bad thing would be if we kept her for a month or two and then her owner turned up.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Mittens and Scarf

I was on a finishing kick the other day, so I finished the Pine Tree Scarf off. It looks really pretty, and I'm sure Mommy will like it. And then I decided to finish up the first of a pair of mittens intended for my Dad. But I've been making this pattern up as I go, and it turned out all wompy. I started out by trying to make it extra large, so I knit a lot of cuff and hand before putting in the thumb opening. Then I picked up stitches for the thumb, but there seemed to be too many (like 22!) so the thumb was turning out too wide. So I decreased in the middle of the thumb, which left it looking like a rocket with several stages. Then I added Fair Isle across the finger section, which turns out to be a funny looking place for a little design. And finally, when I ended it off, it was too soon, given the dimensions of the other parts of the mitten. So the thumb is too close to the top.

So now I have a couple of choices. I could undo the finishing, undo the thumb, and add more length and try to decrease the thumb in a more rational manner.

Or I could start all over, knit another mitten using an actual pattern, and then knit a third mitten, unraveling this one for extra yarn if needed.

Or I could press on and make one which matches the wompy one.

I'm thinking maybe I'll use the actual pattern for the garter stitch mittens and just make a pair like that. Should be fast and do-able, and it should produce a pair of mittens that actually look like normal mittens.

In my angst over the wompy mitten, I decided to try something simple instead. (Sock is on pause at the moment. I needed Sam's foot to measure before I do the same stupid thing to it. He's home now, but it will have to wait a bit yet.)

So anyhow, Nancy and Tesesa both made good looking fingerless mitts by making a simple rectangle of 2 x 2 rib and then seaming it up, leaving a hole for the thumb. So I decided to make a pair of those for Karen for Christmas. The nice thing is that in worsted weight and size 8 needles, they go so fast. Even for me. I'm using the second skein of the Ocean Blues that I used for Kristen's mittens last year. I'll call these Maine Morning Mitts. And I'll finish them this weekend and then get back to mittens for Daddy, followed by the never-ending socks for Sam.

Also, I've decided on what I want for Christmas: a simple-to-use digital camera! And then I will illustrate my blog, like every other blogger on the planet! And I'll have pics for my Ravelry page! I'll ask Kristen to pick out a suitable camera for me. And I'll use the laptop to easily upload the pics. Then the world can see the wompy mittens.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Traveling Tales

Ok, I'm not exactly a frequent flyer, and I travel for business about once a year, if that. But this year I had to fulfill an obligation to go up north twice in one month. So I got to see what the life of the frequent business traveler is like.

It's really boring. And you have no way of knowing how long any trip is actually going to take. And even knitting is not enough to make it pleasant.

I flew from LAX to SFO to a little place called Chico on Thursday afternoon. Smooth as silk. Enough time to hang out in LAX for a while and knit, then an hour flight over interesting landscape, avec knitting, and then a little while to scope out the food choices in San Francisco (Impressive. Dim sum at the airport? A soup bar? Who knew?)

And then I arrived at the Post-office-sized airport in Chico and got right into a Holiday Inn shuttle and whisked to my hotel room.

I ended up eating dinner a little later than normal (8-ish) and I over-ate some yummy shrimp fettuccine with pancetta (and 3 slices of warm bread with lots of butter) and then found that a heavy meal right before bed is not such a good idea. I watched The Office for the first time on tv and laughed, and fell asleep (I made sure I had some Ambien in my little case, and then left it home, but luckily I didn't need it) despite a rumbly tumbly.

Friday, I got a ride to Butte College and did the Basic Skills presentation, and then got a ride back to the airport. I knew I would be early, since the only flight out was at 6:10 and the conference ended at 3, so I was anticipating about a 3 hour wait. But when I arrived, the passengers from the 2 pm flight were still waiting, and I was told that my flight would go at 8:30 rather than 6. Ho boy, 5 1/2 hours in an airport so small that all they have in the way of food is a candy machine!

I decided to check out the rather remote neighborhood, and discovered a ratty little roadhouse about 10 minutes away, and got a bottle of water, mainly to get dollar bills in case I needed candy. I talked to Kristen for an hour as I roamed around, and I talked to Sam for a while as well. And then I waited. And knit. And waited. And knit. And walked back to the ratty roadhouse and got a (delicious!) hamburger for supper. I admired the sunset, and then waited some more, and finally I was just too tired to knit another stitch.

After a seemingly endless wait, we flew to San Francisco, arriving in perfect time for the 10:15 flight out, only to be told that that flight was going to be delayed until 11:30 pm. By this time, I was barely in my body. So I waited again, finally arriving in LA at 1:30 am (I don't even remember all the details, but apparently we left at more like 12:30.) And then I step outside to find that it's raining rather steadily (for the first time in 6 months) and I wait for the shuttle to take me back to my car, which is parked in a very close, very convenient parking lot.

Except that the shuttle doesn't come. After seeing every other parking shuttle cruise by 2 or 3 times, I call the Park N Fly lot, and they say, ok, we'll send the shuttle over. I wait some more. Everyone else is gone. Another group of passengers arrive, they all get picked up, and I hear another guy calling and asking, Do you even have any shuttles running? I ask him where he's parked, and no surprise, it's Park N Fly. It was 2 o'clock by the time I finally got back to my car. The nice lady driving the shuttle informed us that 2 drivers didn't show up tonight because it was raining and they don't like to drive in the rain. And then I had to drive home on the 405. In the rain. I don't like to drive in the rain either, especially when I'm so tired I'm having out of body experiences. I drove slowly, since there wasn't a lot of traffic at that ungodly hour. The road looked totally unfamiliar in all that dark and rain. But thankfully, I finally made it home by 2:30 am. Gee, only 11 1/2 hours after the conference ended!

I did not feel bad about my 50 mph speed when I heard this morning that a bunch of big rigs had a huge pileup on another road and turned a tunnel into an inferno that may have caused structural damage to I-5, the main road between southern and northern California. I might have looked like a granny, but I got home safely!

This morning I woke up at 6 am, same as always, and decided just to lay in bed and drink coffee and enjoy being supine. I went to Borders and perused the Kaffe Fassett book and knit a bit on the Pine Tree Scarf. My eyes are really burned out from sock knitting at the moment. The Pine Tree Scarf remains at the exact same length and with the exact same half-a-ball of yarn left, no matter what I do. It refuses to be finished. I really should finish that and the mittens before I press on with the sock, since they have to be mailed to Maine for Christmas, while the sock just has to go under the tree. Christmas seemed a long ways off, but it's rapidly approaching. September to December is gift-knitting season! The reward at the end is that I get to start on my Minimalist Cardigan. And I get to have nice gifts to give! :-)

Sunday, October 7, 2007

In which I discover the downside of wool

I like wool. I love its warmth and its bounciness. I love the way it takes color. I love to knit with it. But this week I discovered a drawback to wool--when it is warm and/or damp, it smells bad. I made two items of wool in which this is a rather serious drawback. The first is the below-mentioned hotpad. Hotpads sit on dining tables and absorb heat and moisture from pots. When the odor of wet sheep mingles with the odor of warm stew, it is not appetizing.

And then I made a warming pad filled with flax seeds and dry rice out of a recycled felted sweater. The flax seed in cotton has a rather distinctive odor which is not entirely unpleasant. But mix that with the odor of heated wool and yuck. So now I know why they don't make these warming things of wool or felt.

Luckily both of these little projects were more in the way of experiments than serious amounts of work and commitment.

The Smoky Mountain socks continue apace. I have turned the heel and decreases the gusset and am now at work on the foot section, which I will be at work on for quite some time, it appears. I have to keep quite a tight tension on the yarn in order to maintain 8 stitches per inch, and I just knit slowly at this gauge. So I'm still on the first sock, which means that I'm only about 1/4 the way through a pair of socks. However, they are turning out quite lovely, and I slipped it on Sam's foot this morning without telling him that it was a sock for him (he is very incurious), and the leg fits great. So onward. I will be traveling on Thursday and Friday this week, which seems to lend itself to some serious amounts of knitting. Perhaps I can finish up the foot by next Sunday.