Still Life, With Cats

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Knitting

For the comfort and convenience

A couple years ago we got a cat tree for the kitten room, which is perfect for all but the very small ones – lots of levels to make things easy to scale, several different cubbies for the shy ones to lurk, and the best part of all, a hammock. All the kittens love the hammock.

Alas, the original hammock could not stand up to a constant onslaught of extremely energetic kittens, so eventually it ripped badly enough I could no longer repair it. I decided instead of trying to come up with a fabric replacement, I’d knit one.

My first prototype wasn’t great – I ended up making it took large – but it worked just fine until a recent batch of fosters managed to tear actual holes in it. So this weekend I knit up Prototype #2.

It looks a bit like an extremely round hot water bottle cover, but here’s what it looks like once it’s been installed.

And here is an action shot (starring current foster kitten Pop).

If anyone is faced with a similar issue, I wrote up my notes on what I did here – this is primarily so I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel next time this has to be replaced (since history clearly tells me there will be a next time).

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.



Tracking

A while back, we decided that, being nerds and all, that we would get ourselves a wireless bathroom scale – the sort which syncs itself to our Fitbit accounts, and lets us track things online. Each of us set up our profile, so that when we step onto the scale, it knows who we are, and then stores that weight into the appropriate account. However, if someone it doesn’t recognize steps onto the scale, then it records the weight under the name ‘Guest’.

The other day, I was going through the list of weights to make sure it had assigned everything appropriately (sometimes it doesn’t) and I noticed a series of Guest weigh-ins. What was odd about these, however, is that they were all pretty consistently for someone about 11 and a half pounds.

So…in other words, apparently at least one of the cats has been hanging out on the scale, and it’s been dutifully capturing the weight each time. Based on who insists on being in the bathroom with us any time one of us is using the facilities, I’m going to guess it’s one of the grey boys (Sherman and Rupert both weigh roughly the same).

* * * * *

In other news, hey, look, I made another pair of socks. The pattern is Lorentz, which I picked firstly because of the interesting texture pattern, and secondly because it’s yet another version of a toe-up sock that, unlike the others I’ve tried, actually seems to account for the fact that one’s foot tends to widen around the ankle, and one’s sock should reflect that.

Despite my best efforts I couldn’t get a picture that shows the texture clearly, so click the pattern link above to see what they really look like.

(Oh, and by the way, I can now share two more pairs of socks I’ve made – as test knits – since the patterns have been released. Both of these were done in November of last year.

Transversal socks – I really like the texture patterning on these.

Swirl Sampler Socks – these incorporate lace and texture, and are mirror images of each other.



A brief tutorial

How to photograph a finished knitted item, without cats:

  1. Lay out your knitted item on a flat surface, preferably with a solid color sheet of cloth or paper underneath.
  2. Stand on stool, or chair, so as to be able to best photograph the item from above.
  3. Take the picture.

How to photograph a finished knitted item, with cats:

  1. Lay out the background sheet, carefully smoothing out the surface so as to minimize any wrinkles or lumps.
  2. Remove the cat who has come out of nowhere to tunnel underneath the sheet.
  3. Re-smooth the sheet with one hand, while flinging a toy with the other so as to distract the cat.
  4. Lay out your knitted item, smoothing it out carefully.
  5. Remove the cat who has flopped on top of the knitted item because if it’s there, it *must* be a thing for cats.
  6. Re-smooth the knitted item.
  7. Climb up on top of a stool or chair to take the picture.
  8. Climb back down to rescue the item from cat who reached up with one paw and stealthily snagged a corner of the knitted item, which is now rapidly disappearing underneath the table.
  9. Try to distract cats with toys, empty boxes, packing paper.
  10. Repeat steps 1 through 9 several times more.
  11. Give up and take a picture that includes the cats and call it artsy.
  12. Eventually manage to snap hasty shot of item once cats get bored and wander off to wreak havoc somewhere else. 

 



Catching up

So…I realized I never finished posting about Tour de Sock and my ‘Summer of Socks’ plan, primarily because things got busy (as they usually do) and I was knitting things that can’t actually be talked about (the only downside to test knitting). But then I remembered it’d be December soon and I would definitely need things to post about so…hooray for filler!

The fifth pattern for Tour de Sock had beads. I was not looking forward to this, as knitting with beads is super annoying and fiddly and the potential for certain cats (cough cough Rupert) to come along and tip over the container of beads, thus spilling them all over the floor, is always high. But I dutifully picked some yarn and went to the bead store that is located in convenient walking distance from my office, and got ready to play.

And then the pattern dropped. First of all, it has beads that go down far enough that if one is wearing shoes, they will rub. How is this even remotely a good idea? Beads under the toe of a shoe are going to rub, and cause your socks to develop holes! Secondly, the pattern charts were all in eye-bleeding colors, using non-standard stitch notation that made it both a) super annoying to have to print (hint to pattern designers – not everyone has access to a color printer), and b) even *when* printed (either in color or in black and white), the colors were sometimes so dark that it was almost impossible to see the stitch notation in the first place.

No surprise, I suppose, that there was a huge outburst of ‘are you *kidding* me?’ from a large majority of the other Tour de Sock participants – to the point where the organizer finally posted a ‘you don’t have to do the bottom half of the beads’ note, plus the next sock pattern was apparently then hastily modified to include no color at all on the charts (despite it being a colorwork pattern, where using color actually makes sense….but more on that later because I have to have *something* to write about for tomorrow!).

After all of that, of course, since I am a super fast knitter, I ended up doing all the damn beads anyway – primarily because by the time I *saw* the ‘you don’t have to do the bottom half of the beads’ comment, it was too late – I’d already done them on the first sock, and I wasn’t about to have non-matching socks so I grit my teeth and did them for the second one as well.

Here they are. If it weren’t for the beads, I would really love these socks, because I do love me some cables, and this pattern is *all* about the cables.

View of the back.

The designer has a plethora of other patterns available, so apparently there are enough people out there who don’t mind reading from eye-bleeding color charts and using beads on their socks to make it worth her while, but I suspect that if I ever do another of her patterns, I’ll take the time to re-chart them first. And (short of another Tour de Sock pattern in the future), I can’t see myself ever voluntarily adding beads to a sock again, because seriously, no. Just…no.

Happy Holidailies.



Prototyping

I suppose I could have just pulled out one of the self-patterning yarns in my stash and done a stockinette sock, or else dragged out one of the other sock works-in-progress, but instead, flush on the heels of zipping through Mosaic Marbles, I decided I wanted to do a little more colorwork. Also I decided I’d be nice and make a pair for Richard, since the last one didn’t turn out so well.

So over the weekend (when I wasn’t processing a gazillion tomatoes into sauce, because it’s that time of year here in the Central Valley) I started and ripped out the first of a pair of socks, too many times to count. And then eventually I gave up because the yarn I was using was on the thin side and even 80 stitches around was too small and it looked like in order for them to fit, I might even have to go up to 100 stitches. I’m sorry, but life is too short to be knitting socks with that many stitches on the needles, so instead of turning the yarn into socks for Richard I decided that they were destined to be something else, and I cast on for these. The more I knit them the more I loved them and wanted to just keep on knitting them, and before I knew it, they were done.

I have loved this motif since I stumbled across it, many years ago, probably in a stitch pattern book somewhere. I like how it looks if you do it just in one color with knits and purls, but I love it the most when there are two colors in the mix, and suddenly there is this 3-D effect. It’s stranded, which is the perfect way to use thin yarn without ending up with a sock that’s much too thick to be practical (I do live in California, after all, where one doesn’t actually really need warm socks most of the year, unless one happens to work in an office where they routinely set the AC to ‘arctic’). I just did my usual ribbed cuff and heel flap and single-stitch stripes on the bottom of the foot, and I decreased the toe while still keeping the pattern going until almost the very end. I am quite pleased with the result.

However, I don’t think this is the end of it. As much as I like *these* socks, they’re missing something. I feel like there needs to be a better way to have the pattern flow organically, from cuff to heel to toe, without those solid blocks of color. So I’ll definitely be doing more work with this motif in the future.

Summer of Socks Count: 9



Straight

The fourth pattern for Tour de Sock was released Monday night. We all knew it would take 2 colors, so there was wild speculation as to what sort of pattern it might be. I was holding out for stripes, stranded, or mosaic – basically anything but brioche because that’s one thing I’ve yet to tackle and I didn’t really want to deal with it during a speed competition. Thankfully, the pattern – Mosaic Marbles – was just mosaic knitting. I’ve done mosaic socks before – I was the test knitter for these socks and I loved the pattern so much that as soon as I’d shipped the sample pair back to Knitpicks, I immediately cast on for my own. So I was actually pretty excited to see pattern #4.

I surreptitiously downloaded the pattern to my phone and then emailed it to Richard while sitting in a meeting, and asked him to print it, figuring that’d give me a head start when I got home later (I’d already wound the yarn). Hah. Turns out the printer was out of black ink, and by the time we figured that out, every place that might sell printer ink was closed. No problem for the evening – I just camped out in my chair in front of the computer and followed along from there – but I was leaving the next morning for a two-day work trip and I really didn’t want to have to deal with reading charts from my phone.

Thankfully Amazon Prime Now managed to get ink to us Tuesday morning. Also thankfully I realized the charts were pretty easy to memorize so I didn’t have to refer much to the print-out anyway.

But on to the knitting. Since Tuesday was only a site visit – which requires tromping around but no sitting in meetings – I got up extra early and plowed through half a sock before we left. The trip down was about four hours straight of driving. I wasn’t the one driving, and half the drive was through twisty, windy roads and up and down hills, but half was pretty straight. So I decided to give knitting in the car a try. I wasn’t honestly sure how it would work out – I am prone to getting queasy when not the one driving, especially on hilly and twisty roads. But on the way down, I managed to finish up the first sock just shortly before the roads started to get a bit bumpy and windy.

I cast on the second sock Tuesday evening once back at the hotel and managed to get in a couple pattern repeats before I was just too tired to keep my eyes open anymore. I turned the heel on the way down to the meeting Wednesday morning, and on the way home, the instant we made it out of the hills and I felt like my stomach could handle it, I dove back into knitting. By the time I got home last night all I had left was the toe. I scurried in the door, dumped my stuff, waved to Richard and the cats, and then sat down and hastily finished it off.

Yarns are Knitpicks Stroll in Dove Heather and Pansy, because I know someone will ask (I adore how the tone-on-tone purple works in this!).

I’m quite pleased with these, and with my placement – 62. Managed to get them done in just a bit over 48 hours, even with working two full days *and* a very long work road trip, all because it turns out I *can* knit (under certain specific circumstances) in the car.

Summer of Socks count: 8



One time shot

Pattern 3 of Tour de Sock is Indecisions, because the designer included a number of places where you could make a choice as you knit along. Either a ribbed cuff, or a folded picot cuff. Either a fancy heel or a slightly less fancy eye-of-partridge heel. Either continue the lace and cable motif down the top of the food, or just switch to a corresponding rib.

Of course, this being a competition, we had restrictions on what we could do (no nice simple top-of-foot ribbing for us, in other words). There was a specific cast-on we were required to use if we wanted to do the ribbed cuff. I tried watching the linked YouTube video, but I quickly gave up on that – I had no desire to sit through a lengthy blather about how much the person in the video loves this cast on, blah blah blah, and I don’t mind a picot cuff all *that* much (plus there were bonus points available for the picot cuff). So I gave up on the new cast on, did the picots, and then just kept on going, including the fancy heel because, hey, more points, and why not.

The pattern was released early afternoon on Friday. I ended up finishing the first sock in roughly 8 hours, and as far as I could tell from the chat and help threads, I was definitely at the head of the pack. I did cast on for the second and thought briefly about trying to stay up and finish it, but previous experience has taught me that knitting while one is in danger of actually dozing off while doing stitches only ends in copious amounts of swearing and unknitting later on when one is more awake.

Thanks to insomnia, however, I ended up just waking up a couple hours later and getting back into it…which means I managed to finish this pair of socks in less than 24 hours. Yay. I blearily took pictures, tried to massage the cramps out of my hands (because ow), and sent off the info. Later on, it was confirmed – I came in 9th. I am quite pleased with those results. It’s higher than I ever expected to finish for any of the patterns, considering there’s a couple teams in Finland who have all been routinely finishing theirs in shorter periods of time.

Will I be trying to do any of the remaining Tour de Sock patterns this quickly? Ha, I don’t think so. My hands aren’t happy with me, and I suspect I won’t be quite so ‘lucky’ as to have so much free time around when the patterns are released. Good enough that I did it once. That’s more than enough.

Summer of Socks count: 6



Should have done these during Shark Week

So….Tour de Sock.

The first pattern was released July 15th and is Fins. It’s got a lace motif, is knit toe up, and has an interesting method of dealing with the heel – you actually close off the foot completely (but for a bit of waste yarn that gets pulled out later to allow for a leg opening). The leg ends with a garter stitch ‘fin’ bind off.

I got a late start on these because I was still finishing up a test knit, and so lost most of the prime weekend knitting time. But I did get them done well before the deadline (we’ve got 9 days for each pattern) and I ended up as the 230th person to finish. Considering there’s over a 1000 people registered this year, I’m pleased with that (and I’m not even remotely attempting to win this challenge).

I am….ambivalent about this pattern. It was easy enough to knit, once I figured out what was going on with the leg opening (a *lot* of other people were asking exactly the same question I was, so at least it wasn’t me, it was the wording in the pattern), but I really do *not* like the fins at the top. Part of the challenge is that you have to follow the pattern as written, though, so I grimly knit the fins, but did not cut the yarn at the end . Once Tour de Sock is over for the year, I’ll rip out the fins and replace them with ribbing. This plan was the general consensus for most of the rest of my team too – none of us were fans of the points.

The other issue I have with this pattern is that it basically makes use of the afterthought heel (even though it’s not technically done after the rest of the sock is complete, it’s still the same principle) – you can tell this because of how there’s that line of decreases on the side of the heel, that looks just like how decreases are done on sock toes. It’s a nice idea in theory, except for the fact that the ankle is actually the thickest part of the foot, and the (admittedly few) patterns I’ve tried with afterthought heels don’t ever seem to take that into account, and so they always end up feeling a little tight around the top of the ankle. In the case of this particular pattern, the fact that the motif was lace helped save it, since that gives the sock a bit more stretch, to accommodate the ankle, but it still just fits a little…well…weird.

Anyway. Despite all this I decided I ought to at least give the whole concept one more go. I recently did the Coast Starlight train trip with my sisters (for our 14th annual Sisters Only weekend) and brought along some yarn to make socks for Richard. The first pair was a plain set following my usual formula (Sock pair #1 of my Summer of Socks), but since I wasn’t really feeling the desire to do another pair in the same vanilla pattern, I decided to give the whole afterthought heel/leg idea another try on a pair of socks for Richard.

I finished that pair last night. I did try to add some extra stitches around the leg to account for the tightness issue. But…verdict – no. Just…no. They didn’t work over Richard’s ankles either. Clearly neither of us has feet that were meant for this method of turning the heel.

Perhaps if I really liked the look and feel of the heel I might be inspired to give it yet another try, with yet more adjustments. But since I already wasn’t a fan, it’s no big loss. There’s plenty of other heel concepts out there, besides my old standby, the slipped stitch heel flap, so unless any of the upcoming Tour de Sock patterns require it, I think I’ll just happily sub out a different type of heel if I run into this one again, and call it done.

Summer of Socks Count: 3



Kicking things off

A month or two ago a knitting friend sent an email, wondering if a couple of us wanted to sign up for Tour de Sock. I checked it out – six waves, knitting socks, potentially challenging patterns – and said sure, let’s do this. So we signed up and cobbled together enough to make a team, and waited eagerly for the first pattern to be released.

I’m two patterns down now, and have already made a couple other pairs on the side, so I’ve decided that during this challenge, I’m going to try to do as many socks as I can (not just the required six), and turn this into a Summer of Socks. The others don’t count to the race; this is primarily to try to clear out some of the sock yarn stash (which is a good thing since I might possibly have succumbed to the siren song of a really great sale recently and have a bunch more lovely sock yarn winging its way to me even as I type this, so it’d be nice if there was room for it). I’m counting any pair of socks *completed* as part of this personal challenge since, despite my years-ago vow to only ever have one pair of socks on the needles at the time (edited to allow for one pair per needle size, since I use a different size for socks for Richard), I’ve got a couple pairs of socks on holders, stuffed into project bags and waiting to be done.

So here’s the first pair to share, which isn’t actually one of the Tour de Sock patterns at all. This is my basic sock formula, made with Knitpicks Felici in Time Traveler. Since we’re both Whovians, and Richard’s favorite doctor is Tom Baker, I knew as soon as I saw this yarn that I had to get it for him. Took me a couple years, but eventually I got around to it. I started these in the airport on the way up to Seattle and finished them two days later, on the train. I can get *so* much knitting done when I’m traveling!

Summer of Socks Count: 1



There is no yarn in space

I did make a snowflake yesterday, except after I got home, I sort of fell into the knitting of miles of stockinette on teeny tiny needles until I was starting to fall asleep, and I forgot to update. Oops.

snowflake25

Look, more clusters! A friend pointed out that clusters are the nupps of crochet, except that clusters are a LOT more fun and require far less swearing than nupps do. Which doesn’t mean anything to anyone, I realize, who isn’t a knitter, so just smile and nod, and let’s move on to today’s snowflake, shall we?

snowflake26

This one was kind of fun to knit, plus it has the added bonus of sort of looking a bit like a spider web, if spider webs came with poky bits around the edges.

*****

I do not recall which book by Mary Roach I read first, but I loved it so much I immediately checked out every single thing I could find by her from the library and devoured them all as soon as they came in. So when recently I discovered that there was not one, but *two* of her books I hadn’t yet read, I immediately scurried to the library website, and put in the request.

I just finished Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Live in the Void, which is all about the science behind sending humans into space; not the building of rockets and such, but dealing with the human part of the equation – how do astronauts eat? How do they drink? How do they poop? It is, by the way, worth reading the book for just the chapter on pooping in space alone. She does her research, and presents it in her dry humor, and really makes the case for why sending humans into space (especially when considering longer voyages, like sending humans to Mars) is so very, very complicated.

I’m working my way through Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal right now, reading a chapter here and there when I get the time to take an actual break for lunch at work, and am enjoying it greatly. Only a writer of her caliber can make entire chapters on things like spit and feces so delightful. Seriously, if you haven’t read any of her books, you really need to remedy that immediately.

Making a snowflake a day for Thingadailies.




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