Fireplace socks

I’ve been spoiled by a couple days of unseasonably warm weather. An unexpected heat wave brought the temperatures up into the mid 60s on Friday, tricking my senses into thinking that Spring is coming. Alas, I should have known that walking outside without a coat was to be short-lived. Old Man Winter has teased me all season long, bringing ridiculous amounts of snow and ice; why should he quit mid-February?

Two days of delightful warmth is deceiving. While we were able to open up a couple windows to air out the house, which had become almost unbearably stuffy, the sudden return to the reality of winter was a shock to the system. 40 degrees feels much colder than it did a month ago, and now I find myself huddled on the couch in my warmest sweater under the thickest blanket I could find. Thank goodness for Fireplace Socks.

Just before Thanksgiving, the furnace at Casa de Insomniac decided that we weren’t worth its efforts and stopped working. Air came out of the vents, but it was as cool as the impending winter. It took almost a month to get the blasted thing fixed; the first guy who came to look at it had no clue what he was doing, said he would order a part, and then we never heard from him again. Fortunately, Hubby’s cousin’s boyfriend is an HVAC specialist. He offered to check out the furnace, and within ten minutes we had heat again. Huzzah!

We were lucky: although it was cold, the season hadn’t truly kicked in yet, so we were fairly comfortable using blankets, cats and space heaters to keep ourselves warm. Space heaters and the fireplace, which does an amazing job heating the living room. Whilst huddling for warmth in front of the flames, I took the opportunity between knitting Christmas presents for my family to whip up a pair of socks for myself. I call them Fireplace Socks, since I knit them by the fireplace, our only source of heat. Get it?

I’d had a couple skeins of Lion Brand Homespun lying in my stash for a few years, and with the funky texture, I never quite knew what to do with it. A simple sock pattern, like the basic chunky sock by Patons, turned out to be perfect for this yarn. I figured that since the main purpose of these socks would be to keep my tootsies warm in my chilly house, it wouldn’t really matter if they turned out badly. Happily for my poor frozen toes, I needn’t have worried.

The yarn itself was a little difficult to knit with at times. Lion Brand calls it a “uniquely textured” yarn; I call it annoying. There is one thin strand of black running through a slowly varying lighter colored, thicker yarn, which curls and backs up on itself. The best way I can describe it is to knitting with cobwebs: it’s not a smooth, silky yarn like I’m used to using, and so the needles would get caught up in it, making it difficult to differentiate the individual stitches.

The good news is that these babies knit up super quickly. Although I didn’t finish the pair for almost two weeks, the actual knitting time was closer to two days per sock. (I took a break in between to start on my brother’s present.) And the finished product, despite the temperamental nature of the yarn, is incredibly soft. They turned out a little big for my feet, but since I’m just using them as lounge socks, that doesn’t really matter. And the color is gorgeous: deep aquamarine melting into taupe, rose and cream, creating subtle unmatched stripes.

Perhaps if I wear them with abandon, Old Man Winter might decide to spite me again and send the temperatures soaring again. We can only hope.

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Kaiso

Hi, my name is Megan, and I’m addicted to knitting socks.

Once I completed my first sock (a simple, solitary little thing fit for a Cabbage Patch doll, but complete with a solid gusset and properly turned heel), I was hooked.  Sock knitting fever has gripped me with a fervor I could not have anticipated in my wildest dreams.  I seek out sock yarn, own every size of small double-pointed needles, and can’t pull myself away from the abundance of pattern books in Barnes and Noble.  I think I have a problem.

I completed my first actual complete pair of socks sometime in the beginning of February, after about two months of concentrated knitting that wasn’t nearly as tedious as I expected.

The pattern for these socks comes from a fabulous book that appealed to me on so many levels – Knitted Socks East and West: 30 Designs Inspired by Japanese Stitch Patterns, by Judy Sumner. How do I love this book?  Let me count the ways:

  • The title grabbed me.  I love all things Japanese, and the combination of Japanese patterns with something I knew how to make was impossible to pass up.
  • The photos within are gorgeous!  Light and clean, they would appeal to knitters and non-knitters alike.
  • The patterns are elegantly simple, different and intricate without complication.
  • The patterns use more than just knits and purls, incorporating stitches such as cables, the wrap, the twist/slip stitch, the three-stitch lift, and the pkok.  For someone like me, who was getting bored with knits and purls, but not ready to take on multi-colored or larger projects, these new stitches offered a welcome challenge.
  • That said, while the patterns require a little more brain power to work than just mindlessly knitting in the round, they are short patterns with plenty of repetition, so they are easy to memorize.
  • Most importantly of all, the directions are incredibly clear.  Had I never attempted a sock before, I probably could have used this book to get me started.  The illustrations are simple, and nothing about even the most intricate of patterns is confusing.

I feel that Ms. Sumner does a much better job summing up the design of this sock, Kaiso, than I ever could, so I will use her words to describe the sock:

The lace design and fluid bands of this lace pattern look to me as if they could be moving under water, like seaweed.  The Japanese word for seaweed is kaiso, and varieties of it have been used for centuries in Japanese cooking.

This sock design is a very simple one, using only knits, purls, yarnovers, and decreases to create a lace pattern that is reminiscent of the feather and fan design familiar to many Western knitters.  Here, it has been simplified and modified with garter bands that add a rhythmic feel as they flow up and down.

The most difficult thing for me when knitting socks is getting over the adrenaline of finishing the toe and completing the first in the pair and moving on to the second.  Just when you think you’re finished, the realization that you’re only halfway done sets in, and honestly, it gets kind of depressing.  It’s the same feeling I get when I shave my legs.  If the end result wasn’t something I could actually wear and show off, I probably wouldn’t be as excited about it.  With the success of this sock, I think I may have to work my way through each and every pattern in this book.  Perhaps I’ll make it a goal to knit them all by the end of next summer, a la Julie and Julia.  I could actually do it, if I really try.  Here’s to following through.

Stop motion experiments

One of my favorite shows when I was a child was Gumby Adventures, the 1980s revival of the original The Gumby Show from the late 1950s.  I’ll save my lament of today’s kids for not having the foggiest idea who Gumby is for another time.  What I will talk about is the totally tubular claymation that made the show what it is.

I won’t lie: I was honestly scared of the blockheads. They seemed so real!  But that is part of what made this show so neat.  What fascinated me was that the animation was not just drawings on a page, but animated clay.  To me this seemed to make Gumby and Pokey come alive more than ink and paper would have.

Let’s fast-forward to this past year, when a new song from a new artist emerged.  The music video for Oren Lavie’s Her Morning Elegance was shot entirely in stop motion and took the internet by storm.

Personally, I think the video is tremendously clever.  It must have taken forever to shoot.

My first real education in stop motion came shortly after my exposure to Gumby, on an episode of Muppet Babies, when Nanny gave the kids an old video camera.  Before recreating an abridged version of Star Wars, Skeeter showed the others how to animate clay by making a sculpture, pushing a button on the camera, moving the sculpture a tiny bit, pushing the button again, and so on.

This weekend I decided to try a little stop motion of my own, just to see if I could actually make the theory work.  My first experiment, subtitled Sock Porn, was shot with my regular, everyday point-and-shoot Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS.  There were 118 photos total, it took about a half hour to shoot and was edited together in iMovie HD.

In general, I’m pleased with the end result, especially since I had never done this before.  There are a couple obvious errors, like my leg showing up in the last few frames, but that’s the sort of thing from which we learn.  The most blatant issue, though, was the fact that the camera, despite being set up on a tripod, would move ever so slightly whenever I pushed the shutter button.  The result is a shaky, nausea-inducing film that I am thankful lasts only 22 seconds.

My second experiment was a return to my Gumby roots: I used clay.  I also changed the camera. Because I don’t have a remote control on my PowerShot, I had to find a camera that wouldn’t move when the photo was taken.  That’s where my laptop came in.  Using the built-in camera atop the monitor of my laptop, I shot all the photos for this experiment using Photo Booth.

I want to make it very clear that I am not an artist.  My days of playing with Play-Doh are long gone, so I am sorely out of practice.  But the goal of this experiment was not to create a masterpiece worthy of the Louvre.  I’d say this experiment turned out quite well, indeed.  The neutral tone of the clay showed up (all I had lying around), the camera was steady, and I even like the grainy quality of Photo Booth’s photos.

I’m totally into this stop motion filming.  Eventually, I’d like to get a camera that works well in the capacity for which I would like to use it.  Meanwhile, I think I’ll stop by the store and pick up some Play-Doh this afternoon and practice for next time.

Purse innards

purse

Each and every day, whenever I leave the house, I throw a very large purse over my shoulder.  I kid you not: this sucker is big, and can hold a lot of stuff.

I like carrying a large purse because it means I don’t have to make a choice about things to take with me.  I often take things with me just on the off chance I might need them, even though the reality is that I probably never will.  But at least I know I will be prepared, should the moment arrive.

A large purse is also ideal for sneaking snacks and drinks into a movie theater.

The only problem with such a large purse is that it is literally a giant sack. There are no little compartments inside, so everything just falls to the bottom.  If ever I need something in particular, I usually shove my hand in and fish around, trying to locate the object by feel.  It’s not the most efficient system in the world, but it’s my system, and it works for me.

Today I decided to clean out my purse, as my latest blind search revealed several gum and cough drop wrappers, a handful of tissues (some used, some not), and a slightly leaky bottle of water.  While it doesn’t bother me to find that my purse is also moonlighting as a personal trash can, it was a bit unnerving to unexpectedly encounter the slightly moist remnants of the plague I carried about a month ago.

My method of purse cleaning is simple: dump it out onto the bed, quickly sort through the mess, then return almost everything to its original place.  After my latest cleaning frenzy, I thought I’d share the innards of my purse:

purse innards

(Click to embiggen.)

  1. Sunglasses, because my vampiric tendencies don’t let me see well in daylight without them.
  2. An inhaler, because nature and I don’t always get along.
  3. An umbrella, because it always seems to rain when I leave it at home.
  4. A pen, because I always seem to need one.
  5. My cell phone, which I have had since 2003 and deserves a post of its own.
  6. A pencil, because sometimes I can’t find my pen.
  7. Advil, because I get headaches at the most inopportune moments.
  8. Hair clips, because my bangs desperately need a trim.
  9. My wallet, which usually holds very little cash and several expired gift cards.
  10. Loose change that always seems to escape from the zip pocket on the back of my wallet.
  11. Maybelline lip gloss, for that extra bit of smoochability.
  12. Burt’s Bees Beeswax Lip Balm, because the lip gloss doesn’t moisturize.
  13. Skincando Combat-Ready Lip Balm, because sometimes I can’t find my Burt’s Bees.
  14. An envelope with a partial grocery list scribbled on the back from last week.
  15. A tiny hairbrush, to keep my locks silky smooth and tangle-free throughout the day.
  16. My digital camera case (sans camera, because it was taking the photo above).
  17. Tampax, because I’m a girl in her prime childbearing years.
  18. Halls Defense Vitamin C drops, because they taste much better than mentho-lyptus.
  19. Extra socks, because you just never know.
  20. Curel Targeted Therapy fast absorbing hand and cuticle cream, to keep my skin baby soft.

I feel like Ally Sheedy’s Allison in The Breakfast Club.

This is why I don’t like little purses: I could never fit all my necessities in a dainty little handbag.  Am I nuts for toting this all around with me on a daily basis?

So, let’s hear it, girls: what’s in your purse?  Boys, what do you consider essential to take with you when you leave the house?

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