Friday, July 31, 2009

Trip to France Day 2: Paris-Rouen-Chartres

Arc de TriompheWe didn’t wake up until 9 am, which threw our whole schedule off as we were supposed to be on the road by 9:30 or 10.

As there was nothing to be done, we went down to breakfast. At that point Hubby realized we’d made a massive tactical error the night before. He had booked us a “greedy stay” package which included breakfast AND dinner. But we totally forgot as we’d booked it back in March.

He asked the desk clerk about getting a refund for the dinner, but the clerk on duty wasn’t the decision maker. He said we could use it in the future, so we had him reserve us a table with one of the partner restaurants for Saturday when we’d be back in town before our flight home.

Really, considering I went into a total collapse during dinner on Sunday, it was probably just as well.

Then Hubby went to get the rental car and the first disaster of the day struck.
First, it took him forever to find the Avis location in the Place de Madeline. He said he wandered all around before finally noticing a telephone booth looking structure with a sign on it, which turned out to be an elevator to the underground office.

Then they didn’t have the GPS unit we had requested when we reserved the car. The reservation was flagged with a “request”, but it didn’t specifically say a GPS, so there weren’t any units available. Then the guy was like, “Oh, we’ll wash the car for you first.” So it ended up taking Hubby like half an hour or more to get the car. They did, however, give Hubby a slightly larger car, but we’re not sure if the price was the same or more than our reservation.

In the mean time, I was at the hotel gazing out the window at the lovely scenery. Finally, around 11 am, I decided I’d given him enough time and dragged our two suitcases, my backpack, and his laptop bag downstairs to check out.

That’s when the second disaster struck.
The credit card was rejected. I was very surprised, as I had called them two weeks ago when Hubby first left and told them about our trip.

So I gave him the back up credit card, that I had also called, and it was also declined.

He tried both cards twice with the same result both time. In desperation, I gave him the debit card, which worked. It was very stressful and embarrassing.

Hubby came tumbling in, declaring he was double parked, and we flew out to the car and loaded up. The stress levels stayed high as Hubby navigated through the crazy drivers. They do drive like maniacs, and the signage is very poor compared to what we are accustomed to, and the traffic lights are short things on the side of the road (not hanging overhead) making them hard to see. It didn’t help that we were both wound up. In the end, it was around noon when we finally got going.

On a positive note, we drove right by the Arc de Triomphe.

Fortunately, traffic thinned out pretty quickly once we got outside the city.

The Best Laid Plans
The plan was to swing through Rouen and see the cathedral Monet painted repeatedly, then go to Normandy to see the beaches where the troops landed during World War II, then head down to Chartres for our second hotel.

Can I just say France is as bad as New Jersey when it comes to both traffic circles and tollbooths? Good grief, I think we single handedly revived the French economy with the amount we shelled out in tolls for the week. I sure wish someone had been there to warn us. We probably would have rethought our itinerary if we had known.

I am here to tell you: The tolls on French highways are, literally, highway robbery!

I think we passed through at least three peage barriers on the way to Rouen. They ranged from at least 2 to 5 Euros each (I don’t remember and have blocked it out because it is so traumatic).

Since we didn’t realize what we’d gotten ourselves into, we paid the first few with cash, so we don’t have receipts (later on we started paying with the credit card). Oh, here’s a receipt from Paris to Montesson Nord for 5.60 Euro (about US$7.98. Actually, I think the exchange rate is better today than is was during our trip. figures.).

So right away we were saying, “OMG, we’re going to go broke paying these tolls.”

Hit the Highway
And, it seems to me, France is either toll roads or little local roads.

By contrast, in The States you can either take an interstate (like I-95), which will possible be a toll road. Or you can take a state route (like the Merritt Parkway), which will be free, but still fast.

In France our choices were the “A” highways, which were all pay; the “N” roads, which were secondary roads that went through populated areas and had lights, like Boston Post Road in CT, Route 206 in NJ, or El Camino Real in CA; or the “D” roads, which were little, rural, local roads. Although you could still zoom along those D roads at a pretty good clip in some areas.

Scenery-wise, the A and D roads were best. And they all actually moved fairly well where traffic was concerned (aside from a few memorable exceptions).

We stopped for lunch at one of the highway rest areas. Hubby got a ham and cheese sandwich and I chose a tomato and mozzarella one, which turned out to be a Panini, so they grilled the hell out of it. We also bought a Michelin map so we would have some idea of where we were going. French maps are about as good as French road signs. Which is to say, not what I’m accustomed to and a bit lacking in the detail I needed.

When we got to Rouen we could see the cathedral, but couldn’t find parking. Cathedral in Rouen We circled a few times, and then finally took a spot half on the sidewalk that someone else vacated. It was probably illegal, but we were back to being wired up and felt rebellious.

Hubby really wanted a picture of the actual cathedral as he’d seen the series of paintings when he was at the Louvre. His plan is to show his students images of the paintings, then his picture of the actual place. It was pretty impressive. We looked at two of the facades, but couldn’t go inside.

Pit Stop
And let me pause again to say that I didn’t encounter any gross restrooms when I was in France. Sure, the toilets looked different from ours, but the actual restrooms were no less clean than the average public restroom you would encounter in America. I also didn’t encounter any pay toilets (which made me happy, considering the contribution I was making to the local economy through my use of toll roads).

Schedule Change
Once we got back on the road, it didn’t take us long to realize that Normandy wasn’t going to happen. It was just still too far ahead and then too far from our hotel. It was very sad, as Hubby had been looking forward to seeing Normandy—being a history teacher an all. But we just didn’t get out of Paris in time to make it happen.

So we turned south and went straight to Chartres. Still, we didn’t tumble in until 7 pm or so. Luckily, it was staying light until around 10 pm and the French don’t eat dinner until 8 or 9, so we could still see where we were going and didn’t miss dinner.

When we got to the village, we swung through town and visited their cathedral. It was very nice, with lovely stained glass windows.

Then we got trapped in the parking garage. Yeah, finally, a parking garage. We couldn't figure out where to put the ticket so we could pay. Luckily, at first, there was no one behind us. I jumped out of the car to get a better look at the machine, which let me see a door into a room with vending machine things inside. When I went it they looked like payment machines, as I'd seen similar set up occasionally here in The States.

By now someone had driven up behind us. Ooops. So I went over and asked if they spoke English. The guy had a little English, so I asked, "How do we get out?" And he confirmed my suspicions that I had to take our parking ticket inside, pay, and get a new ticket. Of course, it worked like a charm and we drove off waving and calling "Merci! Merci!" out the window.

Maybe it's just as well we didn't find any other parking garages.

That's My Castle!
Chateau d'EsclimonteThis night, Monday, we stayed at the Chateau d’Esclimont. It was originally built as a lords castle in1543. Renovations were done in 1865, with some decorations that say “C’est mon plaiser” which translates to “It is my pleasure.” It was a functioning estate until 1968, and was sold and turned into a hotel in 1981.

It was beautiful! There was a moat (with koi fish and a bridge), turrets, high ceilings, rich decorations, and bathrobes for use during our stay. Turns out we had a suite, so we had a bedroom with views of the secondary buildings, a wee sitting/TV room in one of the turrets, and a lovely marble bathroom with a tub big enough for both of us. Um, hypothetically, of course. My only complaint was the bed was hard as a board. Hubby said that seemed the norm in France.

There were even dark Belgian chocolates on the pillows that had a picture of the chateau on them!

We ran around the room a bit, then changed into nice clothes for dinner at 9 pm. (See what I mean about eating late?)

Clothing Fit
Oh, and let me veer off and say I didn’t notice that the French dressed so much better than us. Maybe we were just in touristy areas, but I didn’t feel like a slouch at all. Sure the women in Paris had scarves on, but I didn’t notice anymore after we got outside the city.

Dinner Time!
My Chateau dessertOk, back to our fabulous anniversary dinner. In the whole dining room there were two other couples and a group of four. They all finished long before we did. Our meal took about two and a half hours. I kid you not.

We started with kir royal (champagne with raspberry) for an aperitif. They also randomly brought little appetizers—a small toast with a slice of lox and cream, a ham and cheese petite fore, and a stuffed cherry tomato.

For my starter I had asparagus soup. It had a dollop of cream in it and four spears wrapped in a strong cheese on the side. Hubby had a rabbit thing that was in a little round tower—it had shredded meat at the bottom, a layer of spices, and goat cheese at the top.

(In France the appetizers are called entrees, because they are your entrance to the meal. The main course is called a plat. But dessert is still dessert!)

When we finished those, the waiters randomly brought us little shot glasses filled with radish mousse. It was yellow, light as a cloud, and very yummy.

For my main course I had lamb with polenta and figs on the side. Hubby had ordered the beef (which was filet mignon) but they brought him the veal sweetbread instead.

The presentation was great. Our main courses had the classic metal covers. Two waiters brought them out, placed them in front of us, then nodded at each other and lifted the dishes simultaneously.

And we said, “Um, that doesn’t look like beef.” And they said, “It’s the veal.” And Hubby said, “I ordered the beef.” And we could sense their panic. So they went out in the hall (our table was right next to the door) and we hear a bit of a commotion, then our main waiter came back and said “5 minutes on the beef, sir.”

In the mean time, I was chowing down on my delicious lamb, because why let it get cold? Hubby’s steak came and was very yummy as well. Of course, Hubby had also ordered a wonderful bottle of red wine.

For dessert I had “Les Bocaux d’Autrefois” which was translated on the menu as “The Jars.” It was three little mason jars slightly larger than a big shot glass. One was vanilla crème brulee, one was a plum pudding with whipped cream, and the third was strawberry salad with mint. After the waiter put the plate down I heard a crackling sound. I realized it was the strawberry salad. So I ate a spoonful and it exploded in my mouth like Pop Rocks! I was cracking up. Of course Hubby had to try some too. We were giggling our heads off, so it’s good we were alone.
Hubby's Chateau dessert
Hubby ordered Le Chocolate Crème Brulee au Poivre. He had a chocolate crème brulee with a piece of gold leaf on top (!), a chocolate club sandwich, which was slices of sponge cake with mousse, and a scoop of chocolate ice cream. There was also a little plate of three random little pastries. And a bowl of creme angles. And can I say, the world needs more creme angles?

Anyone who knows me, especially anyone who has ever gone to a restaurant with me, knows I’m a pretty small eater. In fact, Hubby says he can tell when I really like a dish because I’ll eat all of it.

Well, I really like this dinner because I absolutely gorged myself. Really, I felt like a little snake. I was sure I wouldn’t have to eat for three days after that meal. And yet it was so good, I just couldn’t stop myself. Hubby felt the same way. It was like that gross scene from Monty Python’s Meaning of Life, only we didn’t actually explode.

We were pretty happy all we had to do was stumble upstairs to go to bed.

But The Day Doesn't End There
I think I had regular tea with dinner because I couldn’t fall asleep to save my life. So I snuck into the sitting room, closed the door, and watched BBC Worldnews while I knit. (We watched a lot of CNN International and BBC Worldnews on the trip because they were the only English language channels.)

I finally fell asleep around 2 am.

Then the fire alarm went off at 4:30 am.

I called the front desk. She said, “Yes, I’m not sure what is happening.” So I asked if we should evacuate. She said, “Yes, I would prefer it.” In the mean time, Hubby was stumbling around getting dressed. He peeked out in the hallway and said there were no other people in the hall. By the time I had managed to get dressed the lady came up, heading straight for Hubby, and said it was a false alarm. The whole thing kind of reminded us of The Shining. I mean, it was a big place, and we were the only ones on the floor?!

It was a little hard to fall back asleep.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Trip to France Day 1: To Paris

Hotel Brighton view Before I plunge into telling you all about our driving tour of France, I’d like to point out that neither of us are overseas novices.

I spent my junior year of college in England and did a pretty good job traveling around the British Isles. During that time I was able to do a weekend in Paris.

Hubby spent a month in Japan on a Japan Fulbright Memorial Scholarship, a month in Poland finishing his second MA, and a week in Paris on a professional development program the week before I arrived.

Also, a driving trip is not unusual for us. For our honeymoon we took two and a half weeks to drive from San Francisco, Calif., up to Astoria, Ore., and back to San Fran through Lake Tahoe. Then, while we were living in New Hampshire, we took a week to drive through Maine from Portland up to Moosehead Lake.

So we’ve been around.

Off I Go
Ok, I had an 11:30 pm Air France flight out of JFK on Saturday, July 18, direct to Charles De Gaulle landing at noon Sunday, July 19.

The flight was fine. I managed to sleep a bit. We had beef burgundy with mashed potatoes for dinner, and bread and yogurt for breakfast.

Hubby was waiting for me beyond security after I came stumbling out with my luggage and we took the train into Paris proper. We were pleased we were able to hook up so easily, despite not having cell phones. Hubby saw many aggressive beggars during his week, and he met an experienced traveler who was pick-pocketed on the train to the airport, so he was insistent on coming to meet me. He was worried because I’m a small, young looking woman and the bad people might target me. I was talking all big about how I’d been to Paris before, but really it was nice to see him that much sooner. And, when we get down to it, I’m really a country mouse (or at least a suburban one) and prefer an escort anyway. Shoot, I try not to go into NYC alone, why should I act differently in a foreign country where I don't speak the language?

The first night we were in the Hotel Brighton. The room was a little stark, decoration wise, but nice. The bathroom had a nice deep soaking tub. Actually, most of the tubs in France were nice and big. Really, the room was all about the view. Our room looked out over the Tuileries Garden. We could see the Louvre on the left, the Eiffel Tower on the right, and the Arc de Triomphe in the distance. And there were carnival rides set up right inside the Tuileries gates. It was all very exciting.

We spent some time relaxing in the room. Then we hit the town. We wandered through the Garden and Hubby explained the historical significance of the palace, garden, and area.

Then we walked down to the Place de Concorde where the Egyptian Obelisk is. Hubby said it is the plaza where the guillotine was during the Terror. He said originally the area wasn’t marked, but when they received the Obelisk the plaza was the best place to put it. Sadly, there was construction going on around the Obelisk, so we couldn’t walk right up to it. But Hubby managed to take a pretty good picture.

We walked across the Alexander III Bridge and waved to the people on the tour boats. There were boats docked on the side of the river that looked for all the world like houseboats. I do wonder what they were all about, but I’m not sure how to find out.

Then we went to Les Invalides, which used to be a military hospital and is connected to the chapel where Napoleon’s sarcophagus is. Hubby had gone there with his program, but he was having trouble with the camera the first few days and didn’t get any pictures inside. It was quite an impressive site. This huge, shiny, red box in a two story deep marble well. You could see it from above and also go downstairs to see it from the side. There were a number of other Crucifix in Les Invaldismemorials as well.

And there was an impressive crucifix on the ground floor. We were entranced by the sunlight shining on it lighting up all the gold leaf and black marble. We thought it was the setting sun, and then I realized the windows were yellow. Still, Hubby said it didn’t look like that when he was there before.

We continued on to the Eiffel Tower. On the walk up to the Tower a couple from Virginia asked us to take their picture. We had them return the favor.

We didn’t go up. The lines were long, the pricing for the elevators is steep, and doing the steps was impractical. I said I did the steps back in college and it almost killed me, so I wasn’t interested in doing them again. Oh, and a stiff wind had kicked up, adding to the generally foreboding weather.

Hubby contented himself with a few pictures from the ground. And we bought a tower keychain from one of the hustlers wandering around. It was hard to shake him off after we bought it.

By then it was staring to get late and we were ready for dinner. We headed back the way we came and went into a random café we had seen that had an interesting menu.

I’ll Never Eat Quiche Again
Hubby ordered onion soup for his starter (we had an amusing discussion about how it was just “onion soup” and not “French onion soup,” but maybe we are easily amused). He ordered a “filet” for his main course. There was quite a discussion with the waiter about what cut of meat it was and whether or not it was filet mignon (it wasn’t). The waiter also said the French don’t do gradations of “medium” like we do. That is, there is no medium-rare, medium, medium-well. It’s all either medium or well done. Hubby thought he had managed to order it medium-rare, but it came out pretty much on the well-done side.

I ordered a rabbit terrine for my starter. I admit I had no idea what a terrine was. For no reason at all, I assumed it would involve puff pastry and a brown sauce. It did not. It was slices of a loaf that reminded me of head-cheese, without the gelatin. It was rounds of rabbit, with a spicy filling, all wrapped in a slice of bacon. Frankly, it scared me. At the same moment, my jetlag suddenly kicked in, and all I wanted to do was go back to the room.

For my entrée I had gone with Quiche Lorraine as it sounded light and approachable. After picking at my rabbit, I was able to manage a nibble of the quiche before I gave up. Poor Hubby had to wolf down his steak and fries in order to get me out of there. (For the record, he did not realize it came with fries and didn't order fries on purpose. But they were tasty and crispy.) Then we threw the poor waiter for a loop by asking if there was any way we could take my slice of quiche to go.

Apparently the French, and most of Europe for that matter, don’t do doggy bags. He was like, “Whaaa?” But came through admirably by wrapping it in tin foil for me.

After sprawling across the bed for a little while, I decided I should force myself to eat something. OMG, it was the best quiche ever. While the quiche I’ve had in the past had a texture like a soufflé or puffy omelet, this one was more like custard. It was so rich, creamy, and flavorful—I wolfed most of it down.

By then it was after 10 pm. Hubby said I should try to stay up as late as I could to reset myself and help battle jetlag. But I couldn’t take it any more and passed out.

The room had air conditioning, but we couldn’t figure out how to turn it on. Hubby had the window open to cool the room off. He said it was amazing that I was able to sleep through the racket with people screaming on the rides, motorcycles and cars zooming by, and the random police siren. He said I was dead to the world. That is, until he got online to watch the highlights from the Yankees game, then I started squirming.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Rant: The Economy and Society's Misplaced Priorities

I should warn you, I'm very cranky today.

This is the first payday since my company announced pay cuts last month. And all I can say is ouch. Although I'm grateful to still have a job, even at a reduced rate, because the alternative is no fun at all.

Of course, they tell us they did this to keep the company afloat and save our jobs until the economy turns around. Since I work for a small, privately held business I choose to believe them, since there aren't shareholders to keep happy. I'm also trying to believe they really will resort our salaries once things do turn around. (Have you ever noticed how pay cuts happen in one big blow, but the money is restored in little increments?)

Here's hoping the economy really does turn around before they have to cut us again.

But none of that matters, because I see in the paper that the rat bastards at Goldman Sachs have turned a profit and are preparing to pay bonuses—any one of which will probably be more than I can hope to earn in a lifetime.

This being the same company that was on its deathbed a few short months ago.

And they've made this stunning turn around despite the fact that they don't seem to produce anything of tangible value to society.

Think about it.

They aren't curing cancer, educating children, or producing food products or yarn.


Yes, I'm serious. Yarn is important to society because it keeps the knitters and crocheters calm. If you don't think that is vital to the smooth functioning of civilization, then you obviously still don't realize how many of us there are.

You wanna see a revolution of the people? Then make yarn illegal. Chaos will ensue. It would be worse than prohibition.

But I digress.

So, I figure I must have my priorities messed up, because I apparently don't value the proper things. I mean, really, Goldman Sachs and their ilk must be doing something powerful important for the continuing survival of the species that they make so much money doing it.

They must be fending off alien invaders, or accepting misery in the place of others, or sacrificing themselves for a good harvest—and it's just so mind-blowingly incomprehensible that they can't tell us what is really happening because we wouldn't understand. So they talk all this mumbo-jumbo about trading stocks.

Either that or I'm in the wrong damn business.

Anyway, the point is, don't expect to see any new yarn purchases around here any time soon. All we can do is sit tight, hug the puppies, and hope gas prices go down and not up.

Of course, my bad mood might also be because Samson woke me up at 2 am so I didn't get a good night's sleep.

Monday, July 13, 2009

More Cotton Rib Sock

Opal cotton sock leg The Opal Cotton Rib Sock is moving along. (color #2091 in case you were wondering.)

Really unique and descriptive name I've given this pair, isn't it?

Since the pattern for the last pair of Cotton Rib Socks that I was intending to follow is basically nonexistent, I decided to go with a Cuban Heel on this pair.

Mix things up a bit from the garter edge heel stitch flap I've been obsessed with lately.

There was a brief moment when I thought I couldn't do it. I prefer to have a purl stitch on either side of the heel increases. I think they set the heel off nicely and made it stand out.

Well, when I found the center stitches of the back of the sock, they were a pair of purls. Remember, you start the heel by increasing before and after the center two stitches.

I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to adjust the ribbing so it would stay correct but also allow me to have purls where I wanted them.

Then I realized, silly girl, that I can shift the "center" of the sock in either direction two stitches so it would fall out the way I wanted. I mean, really, come on, just because the start of the round was in the same place for the last 60 rows doesn't mean it has to remain there.

After all, until I start the heel shaping, it's just a uniform tube of knitting!

So that's what I did.

Now every needle starts and ends with a single knit stitch, as opposed to starting with k2 and ending P2 as I usually do, so I have to be vaguely alert.

At this point the heel is turned and I'm ready to start the foot. I've decided to go with a Princess Sole again. I just think it's nicer for the cotton yarn, which doesn't have quite the squish factor wool does.

Sock Abuse
The Guy in the Art Department informed me his cats love his new socks. And one has gone so far as to steal a sock and carry it around like a prize.

After I recovered from my swoon, I informed him that if he can't be a responsible sock owner I would have to take them back.

He assured me the socks are unharmed and the humans are alert to the situation and ready to respond. These are the same cats that dropped their Cascade 220 Catnip Mice in their water and food bowls, so there is cause for concern.

The assaults apparently started as soon as the socks entered the house.

He wore the socks Friday and the cats went rooting through the laundry basket to get them.

Then the socks were washed and laying out to dry and one cat made the effort of climbing onto furniture it never climbs on to get the socks.

One would think that washing removed any scent of Samson and Baru, so it must be the sheepy goodness the cats are after.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Finished Object Picture: TTS

TTS done As promised, here is a finished object picture of the Talking to Socks The Guy in the Art Department took.

He denies any involvement in trying to manipulate the image to get the color more true (he has a reputation to uphold, after all). Even for him, they photographed bluer than they are.

But you can kind of see the slight difference in color, from the magic of hand dyed yarn. I'll be damned if I'm going to cut two skeins together to level out the color variations for a pair of socks.

You can see this picture again, as well as an in-use shot, over on the Purple Shirt of the Week blog, which tends to feature things other than shirts. But who's counting?

In Progress
The Opal Cotton Rib Socks are progressing. No pictures.

Turns out the notes I took for the other cotton rib socks totally suck wind and will be of little to no use in making these socks. Fortunately the others are still sort of fresh in my mind, so I should be ok. It's not like they are complicated.

It occurred to me I have a stealth WIP I forgot about, I should work on it tonight.

Have a lovely weekend!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

From This...

lana grossa cotton funto this.--->Lana grossa reclaimed

Oh! My socks have de-evolved. hehehe.

These are, or were, socks I made out of Lana Grossa Cotton Fun sock yarn.

I bought it at the one Stitches East show I went to, the last time it was in Atlantic City, with my mom and Aunt K.

I think I've mentioned in passing that I've had it in for these socks for quite a while now. (Traveling Ann, destroyer of knitwear!)

I don't know what went wrong with them. Well, actually, yes I do—I made them a smidge to big and then then stretched.

I guess I made them too early in my sock knitting career, before I had established how I like my socks to fit, and that I prefer one inch of negative ease.

As far as I can tell, since I don't seem to have written anything down, these are 56 sts. And it looks like I got 7 sts to the inch. So I made them the size of my foot, that is without any negative ease at all.

Then, being almost half cotton, they stretched out and didn't really spring back. (Hey, Ravelry says this yarn is discontinued!)

I can handle it on the leg, but the bagginess on the foot was annoying me. To the point where I wasn't wearing them. So I thought, might as well frog them and start over, since they are wasted/ignored as is.

Rip, Yank, Tug
I pulled them apart yesterday, while I was reviewing my interview notes at work preparing to write an article.

It was a little hard to open the toe up, but then I had smooth sailing until the heel. There seemed to be some minor felting on the heel, or at least fuzz build up, that required so yanking to get through. The structural integrity of the yarn seems fine.

At that point I just rolled them into balls. When I got home, I wrapped them around the box from the perfume sampler I got for my birthday, tied them with kite string, then dunked them in the bathroom sink.

Of course, you have to tie it so it doesn't get tangled up when you are dunking it. After rolling them in a towel and stomping on them a bit, I hung them up to dry. All of this abuse should get most of the kinks out so the yarn is easier to re-knit.

They seemed well on their way to being dry when I checked them this morning.

Why Reinvent the Sock?
I think I'll follow the same pattern/stitch count I did for the Cotton Rib Socks out of Sockina Cotton I just finished at the beginning of June.

This is the same pattern I'm using for the socks out of Opal Cotton yarn I cast on last night. This yarn is softer than I was expecting. I have some Opal Wool socks that make me itch.

The Opal Cotton is also an interesting contrast to the Sockina Cotton. Where that yarn was cotton/acrylic/nylon, which gave it a slick, almost plastic or metallic feeling, the Opal Cotton is cotton/acrylic/wool, which gives it a softer, more natural hand. Which isn't to say the Sockina is unpleasant, it's just different.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Done: Talking to Socks

I finished the Talking to Socks.

No finished project photo though. I know, scandalous, right? My excuse is I finished them at like 11 pm last night and then went to bed.

Well, I went and checked my social networking sites and got busted playing on Ravelry at around 11:30 pm and Hubby was like "I thought you went to bed? I don't want to hear any whining in the morning."

And he didn't hear any whining because he was still asleep.

But the point is, it was dark, and late and then I forgot this morning. A picture will be forthcoming after The Guy in the Art Department gets around to it.

They were knit for my size 11 friend to thank him for his help with my pattern layouts.

I used Alchemy Juniper yarn in the Dream colorway, which is a vivid purple. The yarn is very soft and lovely.

US size 1 needles. I got 8 stitches to the inch.

Did them toe up to use as much yarn as possible. The plan worked, they are a good size/length and I only had around 6 grams left over (two little balls). So my Polka Dot socks, when they get made, will get to have purple spots, too!

I gave them to him this morning and they were received with much rejoicing and enthusiasm. I understand a few people made special visits to the art department to check them out. Not bad.

Oh, and Samson and Baru's contributions to the effort were noted. Their golden fur adds a nice glint.

So I have been without an active project for over 12 hours now. Good thing I was asleep for most of them. I think I'm starting to get lightheaded and my ability to focus is starting to suffer. I must concentrate on my hibernating projects, maybe that will get me through these withdrawal symptoms.

Next up, probably another pair of ribbed cotton socks. Or should I use my birthday yarn? I don't want to be working on anything too complicated during our trip later this month.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

These Are Going To Be So Cool: Polka Dot Socks

Back when I learned to knit, in the isolation of New Hampshire, I relied on the internet and library books to advance my skills beyond the basic knit and purl my mother-in-law had taught me.

Of course the library books were from the, uh, 1970s or something. Fortunately, the basic techniques haven't changed, although the patterns might be less than desirable.

I kept returning to one series of books from either Vogue or Better Homes and Gardens, I can't remember. It was one of those happy-housewife handcraft type set of encyclopedia style books that covered sewing, knitting, and a third craft I can't remember.

Each slim volume was divided in thirds, with one section for each craft. As you progressed through the series you learned various techniques that built on the previous volume, thus advancing your skills.

Of course, I jumped around.

One book had a section on knitting socks, which I kept checking out because I wanted to learn to knit socks as soon as I learned to knit.

One pattern was for a pair of polka dot socks. I believe they might have even been disco socks(!) with the spots being made from metallic thread. snicker.

I rejected them at the time because they were knit flat, and I wanted to learn to knit socks in the round. Also, I didn't know a thing about intarsia.

However, they were fascinating enough that I mentally filed the idea until I was ready.

Well, now that my knitting skills, intarsia knowledge, and sock yarn scrap stash are up to the challenge, I figured it was time to put them on the radar.

So I spent time over the weekend making a chart.

Jawool scraps I'm planning to use the leftover Jawool from my Tiptoe Socks.

I was envisioning a red cuff with white body and multi-colored dots.

However, in a rare moment of forethought, I decided to weigh all the skeins before I started hacking them to bits.

You guessed it, the white is the lightest of the lot. This makes sense considering the Tiptoe Socks have white heels and toes as well as white striped. It was the hardest hit of all the colors.

My choices now are to:
  1. buy a new, random skein of white yarn. This is impractical and defeats the purpose of making these socks to use my stash.
  2. Use a different color for the base. Green and blue are the top candidates here. I'm tending toward the green as I was planning to make some dots from the scraps from Hubby's socks, and they all have a lot of blue in them.
So that's where the Polka Dot socks stand. Of course I can't start them until I finish the Talking To Socks. The second sock is on round 57 of a 75 round leg, then 15 rows of ribbing.

Monday, July 6, 2009

These Are Going To Be So Cool: Tartan Argyles

baby ull for tartan socks I spent some time over the long weekend making charts.

I made a chart for my Tartan Argyle socks and I made a chart for some Polka Dot socks and I made a chart of the colors and amounts of yarn needed for the Landscape socks.

Despite all this charting, I made good progress on the Talking to Socks. I finished the first one, using a sewn bind off. And worked the second one through the heel turn and into the leg.

Aye, Lassie
You might remember, after the success of making the Pirate Arrrgyles, I was filled with a desire to make socks based on my (married) clan tartan.

My original plan was to do yellow socks with black diamonds and red diagonals. But after I finished the Pirate Arrrgyles and had an idea of how much yarn would be used, I decided to do red and black diamonds as I wasn't sure if I would have enough yellow, or something.

In a moment of panic last week I bought another skein of yellow, just to be safe.

Lesson Learned
The Pirate Arrrygles were based on a 56 stitch sock and the fit is good, but I don't like the way the stitches spread open. And I'm also displeased that the diagonals don't cross on the same rows were the diamonds come together. Of course, the last chart I made for them was my third attempt and I just wanted to start knitting already. I was determined not to make the same mistakes with the Tartan Argyles.

Chart This
To that end, the Tartan Argyles are based on 60 st. I arrived at that number in an arbitrary fashion. It was easy to divide up into even diamonds and for the heel flap. But I think the fit should still be ok.

I started out by finding the center of the sock, coloring those two squares on the first row black, and building the diamond from there.

In looking at other patterns and sites, I saw the widest point of the diamonds are usually half the number of the total stitches for the sock. So the center diamonds (the black and red ones down the front of the foot) start with two sts and are 30 sts across at their widest point, but the yellow ones are only 28 sts. Since the black & red ones are two rows deep at 30 sts they come together in a four stitch square and there isn't room for the yellow.

As I was charting, I realized the diamonds have to be as tall as there are wide, so they are 30 rows as well.

After I colored all the diamonds in, I found the center of the diamonds, colored the four stitches were the diagonals cross, and colored in the diagonals out from there. They all cross very nicely were and when they should. As it turned out, the diagonals both touch with two stitches on the first row.

(Actually, if I remember correctly, I colored in the first black diamond, but it wasn't 30 rows tall. Then I jumped straight to the diagonal, quickly realized it wouldn't cross correctly, and that is was helped me realize my diamonds weren't tall enough. They didn't have a good center.)

Because I can't do things the easy way, my diagonals are two colors—red on the black diamonds and black on the red diamonds.

As I said, these are going to be so cool. I want to drop everything and start them, but the time isn't right at the moment.

I hope all this information helps if you landed here because you were searching for how to make an argyle chart. I know when I did my Pirate Arrrgyles I was very frustrated because I saw people's charts, but not really directions on how to make my own. The charts I was finding weren't at the gauge or stitch count I needed for my little feet, so I had to wing it, and was too impatient to figure this stuff out the first time.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Speaking of Pointy

TTS 2 foot You thought the other toe was pointy?

Well, I don't know what happened to this one, but it seems pointer to me.

I swear I worked it the same, increasing every other row, but it doesn't look the same.

Although, when I was working the other toe, I did think I fell off somehow, but then it worked out even in the end, so I didn't try to find the error. Maybe I imagined it.

As you can see, I'm in the midst of working the short row heel. Told you this one would fly along. A three-day weekend helped as well.

In case you're wondering, when I'm working short rows, I like to put a stitch marker after each wrapped stitch to keep track of where I am. That way I don't have to struggle to identify them visually. I can just count markers.

Of course, this makes things a bit funky when I working back out. I remove the marker for the stitch I work, but keep it in place for the next stitch in line with second wrap. Hey, it works for me.

Ok, I think that's enough of a knitting break for now, back to it. I don't like to let short rows sit for too long, as there is still the potential for loosing my place.

Hope you've had a lovely long weekend—if you're in the States.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Fit Accomplished

Still no pictures.

A girl can only do so much.

I'm a row away from starting the ribbing on the first Talking to Socks, so I've been making progress behind your back. ha!

Anyway. The Guy in the Art Department is back in the office today after some excessive business travel. As soon as I spotted him wandering the cubes I transferred the sock off the needles and onto scrap yarn. Then I cornered him and made him try it on.

He says the fit is fine. He did not seem the least bit concerned about the shape/pointiness of the toe. ;-)

He thought the sock was lovely and soft too. Then The Woman in the Art Department had to come over and check it out, "Can I touch it?" hehehe, non-knitters are so cute. She was amazed it wasn't itchy at all.

Now I've pulled out the lifeline I had at the heel in case the foot was the wrong length and I can knit with confidence.

This also means the second sock should fly along as I've got all the target numbers established and won't be dithering over the size/length at all.

I said I should have it done before I leave for my trip to France, which is toward the end of the month. That should be plenty of time for one little ol' sock.