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Friday, April 26, 2013


The second sock went extremely fast. Partly because knitting was all I wanted to do. Partly because I was locked into the TV set for the last two weeks because of the Boston Bombings. I lived in Boston. I remember Patriots Day, and I lived in Watertown for 3 of the years I lived in the Boston area. All too close to home. So I wanted my hands busy, and knitting worked.

 So, what have I learned from all of this?

I've learned that even if I take two photos on the same day in the same room, the light won't be the same in those two photos, and for this yarn, that mattered.

The rug my feet are on is a medium blue. The socks aren't actually the same color as either of the photos, but they are closer to the big one, which I took on the white blanket on my bed, than they are in the photo where I'm wearing the socks.

I've learned that there are times when gauge has to be EXACT. Socks are one of those times. I learned about negative ease. Now that I'm actually wearing the socks, I'm aware that I might have liked even more negative ease, but that might be a personal preference.

I've learned that even sock yarn socks, done on double zero needles, at 8 stitches an inch, are rather heavy compared to what I normally wear. I am very unlikely to try to put these feet, in these socks into a shoe. But they might be very comfortable to wear around the house.

I also learned that by today's standards I'm an Intermediate knitter. Possibly on the edge of Adventurous Intermediate, but not any further than that. And when I'm buying books or looking for classes in knitting I'd better make sure I've filled in all the gaps in my knowledge before I get started. And I just might need to pay attention to the new bits I am learning.

Will I make more socks? I don't think so. Several reasons. My daughter said it well. She said, "They're just socks!" I put in a lot of effort on a pair of socks, and if that was all I'd gotten from it, it would not be enough. It was worth the effort because I got quite a bit out of it in addition to the physical socks.

And, one of the reasons for making something is that you love the result. I'm not at all sure I love the result. I have sensitive feet, and I'm not sure I love the feel of these particular socks on my feet.

I am doing the basic filling in the blanks of my knowledge on the lace making project, which will be where I take knitting next. I learned enough with the socks to be a lot more careful with the books I've been buying, for one thing. There is also a Craftsy class that was more advanced than I was ready for, but I think in this case, it will be where I go after I've taken a few more steps, so it is OK.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

This, That and Books

I still have not gone back to quilting. The quilt on the machine which needs its binding has not been bound. That is going to be strange because on Monday the local contractor will show up and one of his minor jobs is to put up two curtain rods, and one of them is for that quilt. It won't be the only quilt that ever goes up there. I am putting up display places because I intend to change out the quilts that are up. I needed places to put the quilts because I knew that one of the reasons I wasn't quilting was that I could not figure out what I was going to do with them if I made them.

I have been knitting however. One of the things I learned from the whole sock project was what I did not know. I needed to go back, all the way to being a beginner so I could fill in the holes in my knowledge and make a sock that would actually fit. I had to get quite stern about gauge. Close enough was not good enough. I had to learn new cast on methods. It turned out making a toe or turning the heel wasn't that hard. I've conquered two kinds of toes and two kinds of heels in the process. It was other things. Details like negative ease that were part of my problem.

It took two Craftsy classes. I didn't finish either of them because they were both way beyond my knitting level. One additional online class that was excellent, but which didn't quite work for me for a bunch of reasons. And three books. There is nothing wrong with any of these teachers or authors. But the last book really was a book that a beginner could use and that an intermediate knitter could continue to use. That book is SOCKS FROM THE TOE UP by Wendy D. Johnson. And what she had, in addition to explaining negative ease very well, and how to pick a sock size very well, was THREE plain vanilla socks. Two kinds of toes (I learned one of hers) and three kinds of heels (again I learned one of them). Once you get past the beginning section there are wonderful socks with patterns and lace. And who knows. I might try one or two of them. But one thing I've figured out. Most of the people who's blogs I read love interesting yarn, and if you have interesting yarn, you probably aren't going to do an interesting pattern in it.

Plain vanilla is a good thing.

I've just reviewed the book at Amazon.

The next knitting project is to relearn how to knit lace. I've done some easy patterns, but most of the things I've seen online or in books are way to hard for me to do right now. I've decided to be a bit more careful about how I go about doing this. I've found some YouTube tutorials and I've watched some of them. And I bought a book called CHARTS MADE SIMPLE by JC Briar. It is about reading lace and other knitting charts. Once again it is ORGANIZED. It isn't that I didn't know the easier things in the book, because I did know them. What makes it worth reading, and reading it slowly and carefully, are the little things that are buried inside all the stuff I already know. So I'm going slow so I see those other things. And I've already learned quite a bit and I'm only on page 35.

I've also ordered the lace book by Wendy D. Johnson, and a second book that just might be more like the charts book than the Johnson book. More about technique than about actual projects. In fact the projects did not get a great review at Amazon when I ordered the book this morning. It is THE VERY EASY GUIDE TO LACE KNITTING by Lynne Watterson. She is promising "step by step" "easy to follow projects and patterns". Here is hoping she is right.

Take care all.

Socks - Almost a Pair

I turned the heel on the second sock last night.

 I almost can't believe how fast this sock has gone considering how long the first one took me. But I kept second guessing the first sock. I must have tried it on every day I worked on it, and there were times I stopped knitting until I could try it on.

I've got physical limitations. There are only so many places where I can try on a sock, AND take its picture. And there were times when it was time to try it on again, and it was night and there wasn't any good place to take a picture where the colors would be anywhere near close to the yarn itself. So that meant that I waited until morning for the photo, and waited until the following evening to start knitting again.

I started the second sock with the second ball of yarn. I probably did not need to do that because the yardage probably was enough for two socks. The second ball started in a different place on the stripping than the first ball did, so the two socks will be very fashionable. They will not match.

The left over yarn will become some kind of scarf, I think. There should be enough for a small project.

Someone asked what the yarn is. It is Opal Bicoroz. Not sure about that final letter. The yarn label is in German. It has something in it that is probably polyester or nylon and it is a sock yarn. The recommended gauge is 30 stitches to the standard 10 centimeters. So that is 7-1/2 stitches to an inch. I did manage to get the 8 stitches using a double zero needle.

So I am on the final portion of the race. Next stop is to finish the leg, bind off and run in the ends on both socks and actually try on the pair and see how I like wearing hand made socks.

The next knitting project is to learn lace knitting. I've done some of it in the past. All very simple patterns. But just as with the socks I realize that there are problems with being totally self taught. There are holes in my knowledge.

Take care all.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Few Thoughts About Watertown, Massachusetts

I lived in Watertown, Massachusetts  for 3 years in the late 1960s. I found my old street on Google, although I didn't manage to locate the two family house we lived in. Watertown has a population of about 30 thousand people. It probably was about that size when I lived there because I doubt if there has been any new building in that area in the last 40 or 50 years. It is still an area of mostly one and two family houses, mostly built before World War I. The house I lived in was different because it was a newer house fitted into the block because our neighbors had sold off the second lot that the owner's father had bought when he built the house in 1910. That house had always been set on one of the lots so the second could be sold off when the time came.

It was then mostly a lower middle class neighborhood. I bet it still is. So the response of the people who lived there when everything was over wasn't a huge surprise to me. The people I knew when I lived there, most of whom had lived on the block for 40 or 50 years or more, would have come out onto the street to applaud the police cars as they left the area too.

I spent a lot of time watching TV the last couple of days and I figured a few things out that weren't all that apparent. It was the Watertown police, without Federal, State or Big City backup, who stopped the car with the two suspects. They were the ones who had the gunfight with the 200 rounds, and the home made bombs and grenades thrown at them. It was also the Watertown police, again without backup, who got the first cordon set up around the second suspect and held in place until the special Federal teams arrived to deal with the extremely difficult situation they were in. They were the ones who got the local families out of the houses during the period where it looked like nothing much was happening.

You had to read between the lines to figure all of this out. There are some people who objected to the death of the first suspect, but in addition to gunshots and bombs, he was run over by the car driven by his brother. At this point I'd wonder exactly what killed him. He died in the hospital, and not on the street, so they got him to a hospital. There were only 6 policemen in that original group. This was after the MIT policeman, who had been alone, had been killed.

The truly amazing thing about all of this is something a hospital administrator said on day 2 or day 3. He said, "Everyone is still alive!" They didn't loose anyone who made it to one of the hospitals alive. All three of the original deaths involved people who died in the triage tent, or before they made it to the tent.

Take care all

Two Socks

I've finished the first sock. It fits. I've started the toe of the second sock.

I've learned a lot making socks, most of them disasters, none of them finished, over the last few months. For one thing, I learned that there was no use knitting a sock unless I could get 8 stitches to an inch. That required a tiny needle because like most people who knit Continental style, I knit a lot looser than people who knit English style. I normally need to go down 2 or 3 needle sizes to get gauge, and finding a double zero, 40 inch long needle, even mail order wasn't exactly easy. I bought a triple zero needle at the same time. It was even harder to find.

I've knit in the round before. 30-40 years ago I made mittens. But I've never knit a sock before. Turning the heels, using more than one method wasn't a problem. I always used double pointed needles for small projects. I've also used circular needles for large flat projects. Magic loop was a totally new thing. But because I've got large feet, I kept loosing stitches on the double pointed needles. I needed to master magic loop to actually be successful making a sock.

Doing toe up socks meant I needed to learn at least one new cast on method. I ended up doing a figure eight cast on for these. That provides a seamless toe. Quite comfortable to wear. I decided to try short rows for the first time with these as well. Lots of new stuff.

The second sock is going quite quickly. And it will be fashionably not matching the first one. I gather the not matching is an in thing. 

Take care all.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

It's a Sock!

No question. It isn't just a tube of knitting. It is a sock.

I took this picture this morning. It is quite a bit longer in the leg area tonight.

I did a short row heel. These are the first short rows I've ever done. There is a small hole on each side of the sock which I gather is pretty typical of short row heels. It all went pretty well. It took about an hour to do the heel from start to finish yesterday afternoon.

This is what it looked like just before I started the heel. The second picture is what it looked like after I knit two rounds.

Not too bad.

It has been an interesting journey making this sock. I'll make the second one so I can find out if I like wearing hand knit socks. But I don't know if I will ever make another pair. I have yarn for 3 more pairs. Sock yarn is such interesting stuff these days. I totally understand why people get addicted to buying sock yarn. It has been a lot of fun seeing the yarn self stripe. I wondered if it would look weird in the heel area, but it actually looks pretty good.

I learned a lot. Lots of firsts. I learned Magic Loop. I learned a new cast on -- Figure 8. I did my first short rows. I figured out a way to actually get a really difficult gauge. I learned about negative ease and when you might want such a thing.

But whether or not this becomes something I do again will depend on whether or not I like wearing hand knit socks. And I won't know that until I've got a pair of socks to wear.

I have been knitting, obviously. But I have not been quilting. The Class Project quilt has been sitting on the sewing machine waiting for its binding. I've got all of the prep work done and just need to sit at the machine. But I have not been energetic enough to do that. The papers should be taken out of the hexagrams as well. I need to cut the fabric for that project, but again, I need a bit more recovery time for that. I'll get there.

Take care all.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

What is Normal Life?

I'm beginning to get back to normal. I haven't blogged in over a week, and this morning I felt a big desire to do that. And I even have a reason to blog.

It is time to turn the heel! This time I've got a sock that fits. Gauge is close enough. The size I chose to make was the right size for both my feet and the gauge. I've got magic loop for one sock down pat.

I'm making a classic 64 stitch sock in sock yarn on double zero needles. I chose toe up this time so I could keep trying the sock on as I knit it. Knitting hasn't gone fast, but quilting has totally stopped because I have not been feeling particularly strong the last month and a half. But the next time I pick up the needles, I'll be starting a short row heel.

I chose a figure 8 cast on and a short row heel in a plain vanilla sock. It took 3 books and 2 online classes to get to this point. I ordered the wrong classes but I did learn something from all of them. The first book was also a mistake, but that one wasn't my fault. One of the reasons to go to a local yarn shop is that you get help in choosing materials and books. And they did not head me in the right direction.

The second book was my fault. I probably could have made a sock using that book, but I realized that what I wanted to do was make a plain vanilla sock. No fancy stitches. Just plain knitting to allow the yarn to look as nice as it can. But also so I would know that it wasn't the fancy patterns that were causing the problems if I had problems. I picked the third book out from Amazon based on the description that there were three patterns for plain vanilla socks in the book. Three toes. Three heels. All interchangeable. And, in fact, I am making the toe from one of the patterns and the heel from other of the others. There are fancy socks in the book too, but right now, that isn't what I wanted.

The book that worked for me is SOCKS FROM THE TOE UP,  by Wendy D. Johnson. It is the perfect book for a beginning sock knitter. She even explains how to choose a sock size in a way that worked for me. At least one of my failed attempts involved making a sock that was way too big because I've never made anything with negative ease before.

What is very strange about this whole process is that I always thought I was an expert knitter and I realize now that the bar for expert has moved and it didn't take me with it. I'm totally self taught. I've been knitting wearable garments for 61 years. I've done two color knitting for almost that long. I've made cables and Aran sweaters. I've followed charts and directions from a lot of places. But back in my day no one was knitting socks and there was very little lace knitting going on. My next major knitting project will involve actually making a lace shawl. I'm doing a lot of thinking about how to go about doing that. I've knit lace, but only the very easy patterns I now recognize. And the whole process of learning how to knit socks has opened my eyes to a whole new world of knitting.

Take care all.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Macungie Spring

Spring is finally coming to East Central Pennsylvania. Macungie is a little area just south of Allentown, PA. And we have had a very long winter. A very, very long winter.

But this morning the daffodils in front of my house began to bloom. The daffodils in front of several other houses did as well. The willow trees are turning that funny yellow green they turn just before the leaves come out. The trees with the red buds are all blooming (and giving me a bad allergy attack, but that is a different post). There are tiny little leaf buds on the lilacs in front of the computer room window.

Spring! Finally.

Two weeks ago it snowed. Tomorrow it will be in the middle 70s here and in the 80s in Philadelphia.

Doing a Little Knitting

I haven't had the energy to do much in the way of crafting for the last few weeks, but one thing I have managed to do is a little knitting.

It has grown. I think it is actually going to fit this time around. I'm knitting on double zero needles, which are very small using magic loop. I hated magic loop with two socks, but it is fine with just one. last time I measured the sock was 5 1/4 inches long from the toe.

I need to knit until it is 8 inches long and then I can choose a heel. This has been a long journey. It took 3 books and two online classes to get me here. Part of that is just that I wanted to knit a plain vanilla sock. Until I got to the 3rd book, none of the books had a plain vanilla sock. The second online class was plain vanilla, but I'd gone for cuff down socks and it turned out there was a very good reason to try them toe up. You can try on a toe up sock done on a circular needle. It is a lot harder to try on a cuff down sock done on double pointed needles.

Another problem has been gauge. Even double zero needles aren't quite giving me gauge. The only reason it will work out is that I went down 1 1/2 inches on the measurement instead of only 1 inch.

Take care all

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Feeling a bit better

It is Sunday night, just before I will be going to bed, and I actually have the energy to do something. So here I am blogging.

The cold is basically gone. The asthma is getting better, but it isn't gone yet. The knee has gotten all swollen again, so I've got walking issues again, but I've been icing the knee today, and even that is a bit better.

I've been looking through old copies of THE ARTFUL BLOGGER while I've been using the nebulizer. I have to have something to read while that is going on or I would got nuts with boredom. Beautiful photographs from the blogs they are highlighting. One of these days I need to go to one of the actual blogs and see if they are as amazing as the magazine article would lead you to think. But the magazine probably doesn't look anything like the blogs. Articles and blogs are two different things.

But still, the articles have inspired me to come here and just chat for a few minutes before I go to bed.

Good night all. Sweet dreams.

Friday, April 5, 2013

I am Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired

No, I haven't stopped blogging. I've just been sick. It started more than a month ago with a fever and some kind of viral infection. They didn't know what kind. They just knew it wasn't a urinary infection because they had checked for that because of my age. Some of the time with older adults that kind of infection can present with no symptoms except for a fever.

A week later I was feeling somewhat better, just weak, and not quite steady on my feet, so I pulled the cane away from the side of the bed where it lives and started using that. The feeling sick and the weakness lasted at least 3 weeks. Another week and I saw the doctor for a regular visit bringing the cane with me. I was feeling almost human except that every time I tried to sit in the car, sitting down hurt. I figured a way around that. I sat and pivoted into the car instead of putting a leg in and sitting down like a normal person. But it did allow me to move around some. Just not very much.

Needing a cane just tired me out. I'd barely manage food shopping using a scooter in the store. Bringing the bags in and putting things away took all the energy I had. I needed to rest in between bouts of activity until all the fresh and frozen stuff was in the refrigerator and freezer. Pantry items could wait for a long rest.

And then, last Saturday afternoon, I began to feel just a bit under the weather. Allergies? A cold? I did go to Church for Easter Sunday and out to dinner, and that was it. I got home Sunday around 3 and I haven't been out of the house except to put out the trash and get the mail since then. And I haven't gotten the mail for several days at this point.

Early Thursday morning, around 2 am, I almost dialed 911. Either I was having a bad asthma attack or I had a secondary infection. I recognized that the first thing they would ask me was if I was "using my machine?" I had gotten the nebulizer after one of those attacks when that was the first thing they had asked. So I got up, pulled the nebulizer out of its bag in the closet, and used it. I was actually able to go back to bed and even get some sleep that night.

I'm careful with the nebulizer. Every year I check to make sure the medication that belongs to it is not out of date. I actually have two boxes right now because during a general updating of annual prescriptions they gave me a new box of Albuterol. It wasn't expensive so I took it. I'm using the older box that is OK until late this summer first.

Anyway, today is the second day of nebulizer treatments and I slept almost normally last night. What I have is almost certainly a cold. No fever at this point. Just a runny nose and the cough. And the asthma is improving. The cough is better as well.  But I have been very TIRED all morning. And I still feel lousy.