Rhymes With Fuchsia

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Farewell, April

It's been an unusually clement New England April: blue skies, mild temperatures, little rain — in fact not enough rain, which just goes to show you we New Englanders are hard to please. I took advantage of today's glorious weather to get some yellow and orange pictures in under the wire. What would spring in New England be without forsythia

and dandelions

and cats?

I've been meaning to introduce you to Ed. He came to us 19 years ago, a tiny, scrawny kitten with fleas, ear mites and ringworm. Grant's first reaction was "you're not keeping it!" I said no, just until we could find him a good home. That was before we discovered the various parasites and learned that the standard treatment for ringworm involves daily bathing. Once you've bathed a cat every day for a month, that cat has wormed (so to speak) its way into your life and is destined to remain there.

Ed has become quite frail in the last year or so. It's nice to see him enjoying the spring.

It was also perfect laundry weather today. I hung out three loads, including the Sockapaloooza socks with all their ends woven in. I can't tell you how exciting it is to be actually finished on time. They took me a little over three weeks, which shatters into microscopic bits all my previous speed records on similar patterns. Like its predecessors, the pattern is my own; this time I was actually smart enough to write everything down (what a concept!) as I worked the first sock, so that 1) the second one matches (another innovation!) as exactly as humanly possible 2) my sock pal permitting, I can share the pattern with all my avid readers.

I downloaded the official Sockapaloooza wrapper and worked on twiddling the color balance to get it more in tune with the socks. They will be wrapped and stamped and winging their way to my sock pal on Tuesday, along with a couple of little surprises.

Meanwhile, I've started swatching for a pair of socks for Miss B in the same cotton yarn. I do like the stretchy cotton, and it's finally cotton-sock weather. Welcome, May!

Friday, April 28, 2006

Little Blue Lies

The socks are done! Well, except for some end-weaving. I'm very happy with them, and I think my sock pal will be too.

The time has come to admit, though, that I haven't been entirely honest with you. Fearing that my sock pal might be reading my blog, I didn't want her to guess too soon that the socks were indeed destined for her, and I also wanted to give her a little surprise. To this end I have told:

  • one lie about my sock pal

  • one lie, more of an omission really, about the socks

  • one shameless, barefaced, in-your face lie, also about the socks
To make amends, I will award some very excellent sock yarn to the first person who correctly identifies all of the lies in a comment on this post. I will keep the contest open until I mail the socks next Tuesday.

If no one guesses correctly, I'll take the closest guess, as determined by our panel of judges (that would be me). In the event of multiple correct guesses, the local Random Number Generator, aka Miss B, will determine the winner. You are eligible to play if you have not seen one or both socks live and in person, face to foot, finished or in progress.

Good luck, everyone!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Survival Skills

After spending nearly all of vacation week socializing wildly, Miss B celebrated her 10th birthday on Saturday with due ceremony, if having four 10-year-old girls sleep over can be considered in any sense ceremonious. Each time I pointed the camera at them Miss B admonished me sternly, "Don't you dare post that on your blog!" So while the event has been preserved for posterity, I can't show you any of it. Survival Skill 1: hiding the evidence.

Since one of the guests doesn't like chocolate, I made what the cookbook described as "golden cake layers," which came out pretty well, on the whole. I decided to try a buttercream frosting, despite lacking both a food processor and a mixer paddle attachment. All we have is an old mixer (a wedding gift: have I mentioned that Grant and I have been married since the Taft administration? OK, maybe it just seems like that long, but trust me, it's been quite a while) with the standard beater thingies. I decided they would be fine. Perhaps my brain had been addled by an entire week of juggling work, school vacation, and stopgap sitters.

Exhibit A: a spottily frosted cake, looking like something the cat dragged in. Fluffy and creamy this frosting was not. Luckily I had bought more than enough heavy cream, which I proceeded to use with great abandon. Survival Skill 2: camouflage, in process here...

...and here we have the finished product. Whipped cream and berries, can't beat 'em. The cake as a whole was not up to my usual standard, I fear, but no one complained. Maybe next year Miss B will want a store-bought sugar-encrusted gaudily decorated insulin-shock-inducing cake like a normal kid, but I'm not betting on it.

Except for some minor dominance games (you think dominance games are a guy thing? ha! you have never seen more than one preadolescent girl at a time), the party went quite well. The girls stayed up until nearly 2, outlasting me by a considerable margin. Survival Skill 3: hibernation.

They were all gone, except for Miss B of course, by 11 yesterday morning, so Miss B had just about a whole day to recover and prepare for school reentry this morning.

Meanwhile, back at the socks...

Closing in on the home stretch. Wahoo! And did I mention that vacation week is over?

Saturday, April 22, 2006


I haven't been sleeping well lately, I'm not exactly sure why. Grant stayed up very late last night, it must have been after three, and when he came to bed he woke me. I lay awake wondering about small stuff, like Miss B's birthday party today (will the cake come out right?) and having misplaced my pattern notebook (I found it). Since stewing over such trifles seemed small-minded, I moved on to bigger things, like global warming and world hunger. For some reason this did not cheer me up, so I finally gave up any pretense of sleeping, turned on the light, and began to knit.

When my mind is going 100 miles a minute, I knit pretty fast, even with feline assistance. I calmed down after a few minutes, but still couldn't sleep, and I noticed the sky starting to lighten, so I got up, fed the cats, and took this picture.

About 15 minutes later I took this one.

If I'm going to be awake, I might as well enjoy it. I'm going to knit some more now. And then bake a cake. And then knit some more.

Oh, and sock pal? If you don't like the socks please feel free to send them back.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Stranger Anxiety

I've turned the heel on the first sock. I'll spare you the picture: it looks like a heel. It took me only two tries. I frogged the first attempt and tinked 8 rows of the foot because it was too long the first time. If anyone can tell me an easy way of tinking a cable pattern in stretchy yarn, I'd be pleased to hear of it.

Although it looks at least as presentable so far as any other sock I've ever knit, and despite the reassurances of Ann, Margene and Anne — thanks! — all of a sudden I find that, like Cara, I'm a bundle of nerves about this whole thing. I mean, I don't know my sock pal, except from her blog. I can't sneak up on her and measure her foot while she's asleep, or go shopping with her and hold up socks to get her reaction. (This is not a bad thing, since I would probably be about as subtle as a train wreck.) I know her favorite colors and her general preferences, but still I wonder: will she like the socks? Really, really like them? Or will she think they're too plain, or too fancy, or too tall, or too short, or too hard, or too soft? Does she have a pathological aversion (I'm clearly pathological, why shouldn't she be?) to short-row toes and heels? Or solid colors? And that's not even getting into fit issues. Yes, of course I have her measurements, but I will not be denied my moment of neurosis.

So, as I pick up my needles and prepare to work my way up the leg, let me say: don't shoot me, sock pal. I'm doing the best I can.

Friday, April 07, 2006

With A Little Help From My Friends

On Wednesday nights I am normally confined to quarters, being Parent In Charge during choral rehearsal. This week, however, having missed all other possible knitting gatherings, I hired a sitter and headed out to the Java Room. It was great — I saw the lovely Jena and Liz, and met the lovely Nicole, Lynne and Joanne. I also lost a couple of names during all of this, so I apologize to the unmentioned.



I was working on a swatch for the Sockapaloooza socks in Essential 4 Ply, causing Joanne to wonder if I might be truly nuts (why, yes, thank you for noticing), knitting cables on itty-bitty needles just for a swatch. Well, it was the only way to find out if it was really as scratchy as all that. Answer: only Eucalan will tell, but it will have to wait, because during my sock dithering I got out my green Esprit socks, which remain the only pair I've yet made for myself, and put them on. That settled the deal right there: I'd forgotten how stretchy, comfy, and cottony cozy the yarn is. I quickly charted a pattern and started knitting, and soon had enough to show you.

Some people are only too happy to be of assistance.

Let's try that again:

I really like this pattern (even though I don't seem to be able to photograph it too well — you may or may not be able to see the baby rope and keyhole cables): it's simple and quick, and yet interesting enough to keep me awake. And I think my sock pal will really like the colors.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Sock Dreams

Many thanks for all the suggestions, good wishes and kind words about Callie. We have no idea what set her to climbing in the first place, but she was up there for at least three full days, during which I got nothing done and at one point forgot I had a cake in the oven (not for long, fortunately). Until the moment she hit the ground I would have said I was coping reasonably well; once it was over I could admit that I had been quite demented with worry. Stupid cat.

Now that I'm what passes with me for functional again, I've been washing more of the free fleece, and I've also carded and spun a little of the previous batch. I'll have full details of that when the process is complete (yes, I photographed raw fleece: can you say "blogomania"?). I also finished the Dulaan hat and started another one. I'll continue the charity knitting for the rest of Lent, but I am also feeling the first stirrings of deadline panic thinking about Sockapaloooza.

My sock pal likes blues and greens; I like purples and reds. From left to right we have:

  • Bearfoot, colorway Mountain Twilight
  • Elann Essential 4 Ply
  • Elann Esprit
  • Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock, colorway Purple Club
The Bearfoot is the obvious choice, but, um... (lowers head and twiddles thumbs) I'm not sure I can bring myself to part with it. Ruth found the Essential 4 Ply was, in her word, plasticky — but maybe with some Eucalan? I'll have to knit a swatch. The Esprit is very nice stuff (it's Cotton Fixation's identical twin, except in price), and I've worked quite a bit with it. I've never worked with the Lorna's before, but I've fondled other people's, and I do love the colors.

One consideration is that I like to control my color changes and to do heels in a contrasting color, which would incline me toward one of the Elann yarns. I have lots of colors of both of these. OTOH the Bearfoot and the Lorna's are so beautiful that I may be rationalizing here.

What do y'all think?

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Terra Firma

She's down. Thank heaven. I was a nervous wreck.

four on the floor
catching up on the grooming
So glad to be home!

When I got up this morning she had moved back to her original tree via a dead branch that formed a bridge 30 feet up. From there she eventually moved to a pine tree and then to a smaller oak tree, getting a little lower all the time. Finally she walked down a sloping branch, slipped off the end and hung by her front feet momentarily, and slithered through my hands and onto the ground. Nothing like doing things the easy way.

Stupid cat.