Friday, November 30, 2007

Promise Kept

I've had an longstanding promise to take my father for a drive to our favorite place, The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. More specifically, there is a small isolated community at the very edge of the park called Cades Cove that is our most favorite place to visit. There is a narrow, winding one-way road that makes an 11 mile loop around the cove, passing the restored cabins and churches and other places that were the home of a thriving mountain community in the late 1800's. Each time we visit we stop at one or two of our favorite "points of interest" to see what has evolved.

The first photograph was taken from the front yard of the Missionary Baptist Church. I was smitten by the brilliance of color and light in the distant fields and the contrasting dimness in the shadow of the trees surrounding the church. I usually stop at the Methodist Church as it's my favorite, but lately I've been intrigued by the architecture of the Missionary Baptist Church, with it's protruding chancel (is that what it's called???) at the front of the church where the pulpit is located. It's really a very fancy detail for the period and setting and none of the other churches in the cove have this feature. The old wood of the interior walls and pews make for amazing acoustics. Daddy and I can't help but break into an old gospel hymn like Amazing Grace when we visit.

Our next stop was at Abrams Creek. With the severe drought we've suffered this year the water levels in the Smokies are lower than I can recall ever witnessing before in my life. Just after the Loop Road crosses Abrams Creek there's a short road to a parking area at the head of a group of hiking trails. As we pulled off the main road, daddy noticed these unusual plants than were in an area that is traditionally moist and a bit like a bog. I have no idea what these are, but they had a large seed pod that is shaped like a bird's body and is about 4-6" long. When the pod splits you see at the 1st inner layer of tiny, flat brown seeds. Attached to each seed and comprising the innermost layer is a silky, feathery fiber that is ~2-3" long. It was shimmering in the sun and had the fluffy nature similar to a dandelion seed, only much stronger. The fluff just glistened in the sun and truly looked like silk. I was completely fascinated and took a number of photos to help me identify the plant. Very cool!

We proceeded on to the parking area and stopped to take a little stroll along the creek. Once again I was stunned by how low the water level was, and how different the creek looked there by the bridge that crosses it. You could see through the clear steely blue/teal water to the creek bottom. A natural dam had been created by a fallen tree. Subsequent limbs and branches flowing downstream got caught in the fallen tree creating a bit of a pond upstream, and a mill-race-like waterfall for the water that moved overt he top of the mass of sticks and leaves. The sounds and the colors were rather eerie and I thought of the Mystic Waters Shawl KAL I'm participating in. I was looking at real mystic waters! Double cool!

By the time we got to the backside of the Loop road it was getting later in the afternoon and the white-tailed deer were starting to come down from their daytime hideaways in the mountains to the green fields in the Cove for their evening meal. November is rutting season and by this point the dominant bucks have stated their claims over the does and are stalking them until the perfect day when its time to mate. They only get 24 hours once a year. This 3-point buck was standing in the middle of a large field, apparently alone. But on closer inspection there was a single doe sitting in a brushy are on the edge of the field. Clearly Big Daddy Buck was waiting and watching over his girl. Not just yet big fella! As we drove on around the bend there was a field full of does, maybe 8 or 10. We decided they were all a part of that bucks harem. Let's face it, the deer have it very good in Cades Cove.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Quarantine Over

It was a nasty little virus. Sneaky in it's approach, insidious at best, but boy oh boy did it knock me out of commission! Almost 2 weeks it's been since the initial migraine and sinus congestion. I think I can safely say it's over now as I ended the day with yet another migraine. The miserable things, they get you coming and going.

So I slept a lot, contemplated knitting projects a lot, and got a fair amount of knitting done. The downside--it had to be relatively uncomplicated knitting most of the time because my head simply wasn't up to knitting complex shawls. Uncomplicated means socks. I love my Monkey Socks. I love the pattern enough that I might just knit it a second time, with a few changes of course. Some of the folks over on Ravelry have knit the lace motif without the purl stitch sections on the 1st few rows. They chose to knit those little wedges instead, making it much easier to execute without detracting from the esthetic appeal of the lace.

Right now I'm working on the "Socks for Veronik" pattern from the latest IK Holiday Knits magazine. I'm calling them my Smooshy Socks since I'm using the Dream in Color Smooshy sock yarn I bought at the Yarn Patch. This is truly luscious sock yarn---so soft and squishy, lots of loft. In fact, it's a bit deceptive becasue the yarn looks much fatter in the skein than it becomes once knitted up. It's that smooshy factor I guess. Whatever, the yarn is delicious and the subtlety of the variegated dyeing adds richness to the look of the sock without competing against the lace. I wonder if I can convince Sandy or Jinka to carry this yarn?

I may not be able to buy DEC Smooshy here in town, but I did score a skein of orange and white sock yarn the Sandy at The Yarn Haven had custom-dyed by J Knits. Called Go UT! this is the Superwash Me sock yarn that I've alos heard very good things about. I picked up my skein this afternoon when I stopped by to drop off the Havenly Scarf pattern. At $24.99, it is a bit on the pricey side, but it was a custom order and the skein is huge! Mine weighted 125g which is practically enough to do a pair of short-cuff socks and a pair of footies. I will definitely be casting on this yarn for my next pair of socks. The question is, what pattern should I use? There are oodles of great sock patterns out there plus the socks that are merely ideas in my head--it's no wonder I have trouble making decisions about what to knit next :-)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

What do you do?

What do you do when you're sick with a respiratory virus and feel basically awful? Well, I've been watching Tennessee athletics, knitting socks, and surfing Ravelry. Oh, and sleeping...lots of sleeping. Phil's guys pulled out the miracle game on Saturday against in-state rival Vanderbilt. Tonight it was Bruce's boys bouncing the B-ball against Middle TN State in a blow-out. JaJuan Smith had a stellar game and Ramar Smith hit his free throws, something he couldn't manage to conquer on Friday night. The football team heads to Lexington for a tough game against Kentucky on Saturday while the B-ball team heads to NJ for a tournament and their first real test of the season. I'm optimistic that both teams can come out victorious---something that hasn't happened at TN for a very long time.

I took my completed Monkey socks out into the yard for some artsy pictures among the fall leaves. Yes, this year the fall colors peaked here after the 10th of November--it wasn't cold enough before then. It's been a strange year weather-wise. I planed to post some of those pictures but Blogger is also "under the weather" apparently, as I get nothing but error codes and apologies out of Blogger. I did post one more picture on Flickr, but I've maxed my Flickr account uploading pictures for Ravelry so I can't add a bunch of pix any more without deleting something else or sending them moola (which I don't have at present). The 'net does have its limits.

With the Monkey socks done, it was time to choose another sock yarn from the stash and cast-on. I've been poring over patterns for weeks, so that choice was the hardest. The pattern choice also dictated which yarn to grab. I've been dying to cast-on the Smooshy yarn I bought at the Yarn Patch last month and the latest Mona Schmidt sock pattern in Interweave Knits Holiday 2007 seemed like the patch match. The pattern is called Socks for Veronik, apparently because Mona originally designed adn knit a pair for fellow designer Veronik Avery. I'm calling them my Smooshy socks after the yarn, which is smooshy soft and very nice to knit with.

My only complaint about the yarn thus far is the 2 terrible splices I've encountered--and I'm only 13g into a 113g skein! They are unsightly and I had to do a little trimming on one, but I suppose it could be worse---it could have been knots instead. But the semi-solid aquatic blues colorway (Blue Lagoon) is simply wonderful. The subtle color variation adds life to the sock without obscuring the lacework. The lace is a variation on a horseshoe lace, incorporating a p3tog instead of a knitted central double decrease. The p3tog is much easier and faster to knit and I love how it looks. I took a few risks with my needle selection in an attempt to vary the size of the cuff to fit my curvy calves. Mona intended the leg portion to be 7" above the heel flap, something that wouldn't fit me without modifications. So I cast-on and started with 3.25mm dpns, gradually tapering down to 2.25mm for the heel and foot. I knit 8 or the 10 suggested repeats of the lace pattern and guess what??? It fits!!!! I'm thrilled to be able to knit a sock that will add a little more coverage and warmth for the winter. I'm almost done with the gusset decrease, so I should have the 1st sock done in a couple of days. Cool, very cool!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Way Too Close!

It's another Saturday afternoon in Knoxville Tennessee, home of the University of Tennessee Volunteers. Saturdays in November mean football around here--serious football against long-term rivals. Today was no exception as the Vanderbilt Commodores traveling east from Nashville for the big game. As a Vandy alum I can attest to the fact that playing Tennessee is *THE* game of the year. The football game they want to win above all others. Tennessee is not as serious about Vanderbilt, saving such emotions for teams like Florida, or the Head Ball Coach Steve Spurrier (currently at South Carolina). Citing the last 3 years as evidence, the Vols need to be much more concerned about playing Vanderbilt, cuz' their football team is no longer the cupcake it once was.

I was concerned by half-time when our offense was faltering badly in the 2nd quarter and Vandy was ahead 17-9 at the half. A good start in the 3rd quarter had Vandy up 24-9 and left Vol fans worrying where the offense had disappeared to. Then it happened. Just as I was considering turning the game off and taking a nap (I've got a little virus and am feeling a bit under the weather) the infraction occurred. TN had the kicking team out on 4th down to punt the ball when a VU player ran into the kicker. One roughing the kicker penalty later, TN had moved up 15 yds. and had a fresh set of downs to try again to move the ball downfield and score. The tide turned and the offense began to click. They scored 16 points in the 4th quarter and the Vol defense played fiercely to stop teh 'Dores from scoring again. The Vols win in a miracle comeback!

Intense ball games are great for making progress on knitting projects. Instead of fidgeting I knit faster. The result today was another pair of finished socks--the Monkey Socks designed by Cookie and published in Knitty. I remember seeing the pattern when it was published about a year ago, but it wasn't until I saw how many people on Ravelry were actively knitting Monkey socks that I really thought twice about this pattern. Now that I've knit my pair, I totally get why as this is an awesome pattern! Lots of texture, very attractive, yet not at all hard to execute. The lace pattern was easy to remember and the knitting went quickly--even without a close fottball game to spur things on :-)

I'll post more pictures once I get some taken. For now, I'm trying to decide which socks to knit next. I'm leaning towards the new Mona Schmidt pattern in Interweave Knits latest Holiday special issue--"Socks for Veronik". I think they'll be a good match for the skein of Dream in Color Smooshy that I bought a few weeks back. Smooshy is a very appropriate label for this yarn which is why I'm anxious to have socks knit from it. yum...smooshy socks :-)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Cross another one off the list

Yup, you can cross another WIP off the the list and move the Little River Socks (Panda Cotton-Fall Herbs) to the FO list. I only have one pair of UFO socks left to finish (Christmas Daddy, I promise they'll be done by Christmas this year). I took some pics but they're still in the camera so you'll just have to wait for that "footsie" pose. NBD, really, I promise as this pair was the ones where the yarn clashed with the lace patterning. But they're still comfy and the right colors for immediate wear, and that's what counts right now.

Having completed 2 pairs of socks this week, I can now cast-on some new socks from all this amazing yarn I've stashed over the course of the summer. The first pair up was also dictated by my need for socks to go with brown pants and shoes, so I cast-on a pair of Cookie's Monkey Socks published in Knitty last winter. I'm using the new Araucania yarn that Sandy gifted me and I have to say, the yarn and pattern are a perfect match. That sounds so simple and obvious, but with all the handpainted, space-dyed, and/or otherwise interesting, non-solid-colored sock yarns out there, making a perfect match has become anything but simple. One only has to surf the web a little to see countless pairs of hand-knit socks, including the ones I just finished, where the match-up, er, well... just didn't match.

So I cast on and knit the ribbing and a couple of pattern repeats on Thursday night. This morning I tinked back about 3 rows to fix mistakes (what, me count????) before forging on and I'm into the gusset decreases. That's what I call a pretty fast knit! I love the lace pattern, both how it looks and how easy it is to both knit and remember. However, the cuff has more dimpled textured than the Geosphere at EPCOT, which means these socks will require proper wet-blocking. Note to self-find tutorial for how to make own sock blockers from children's wire clothes hangers (I hope I bookMarked that link way back when).

As if casting on one pair of socks wasn't enough, no, I cast-on another pair last night. This time I grabbed the ultramarine Panda Cotton and tried out a Mystery Sock pattern Mona Schmidt (of Embossed Leaves Sock fame) is doing on her blog this month. the pattern has some interesting design elements, like casting on 80 sts and knitting the ribbing on size 0 needles, then decreasing to 60 sts and going up to sz 2 ndls for the lace cuff. The pattern is interesting and I'm learning new tricks, but this yarn has a ply of shiny bamboo twisted around a core of wool so it splits and snags easily--not good for fiddly lace on tiny needles. I've put this sock in time-out for the moment while I think about it, but I suspect I'll frog this one and go for a different yarn choice.

Friday was a time-out from knitting day as I went to my favorite fine craft show of the year--the Foothills Craft Guild Fine Crafts Marketplace. I've gone almost every year since I've been back home and I've gotten to where I know quite a few folks now. I was there for 3.5 hrs and it wasn't nearly long enough top see everything. Reg, teh great gal that she is, allowed me to reneg on my promise to do a yarn shop hop with her this weekend, so I was able to afford to buy a few treasures to bring home. I skipped the blown glass ornament (Mark Sanders) that I've been collecting and opted for some exquisite lampworked beads that are covered in tiny flowers. Stunning! They had my name written all over them. I also bought another shawl pin from a silversmith out of Crossville. I love the one I bought from her last year and I wanted another one to diversify my collection. For the other purchases I was helping Santa, so mum's the word :-) Once again, I'll try to get some pics up in the next day or so.

Saturday was for recovery---I was *so* exhausted after being on my feet all the time at the Craft Show. so what did I do??? Watch football, of course! It wasn't hard to be glued to the TV seeings as my beloved TN Vols were playing their best so far this season and they whooped up on Arkansas and their Heisman hopeful Darrin McFadden. The defense was so good I was speechless. Where were they the last 2 months???? We've got 2 tough games (Vandy, Kentucky)to finish out the season and earn a trip to the SEC championship, but we can do it. Amazing. Truly amazing. (The Diet Coke, remote control, recliner, and knitting are all ready and waiting :-) Go Vols!!!

Monday, November 05, 2007


My wonderful mail lady just came and brought me not one, but 2 packages from Richard at ColourMart. Goodies!!! And not just goodies, but goodies on an achy breaky bad body day that had me feeling rather grumpy. I was expecting one package from Richard, but 2 was a pleasant surprise. This man is *so* generous! I ordered a cone of red cashmere laceweight hoping it was a deep ruby red, with blue undertones and not orange ones. i don't look so good in the orangey stuff. I put a note with my payment indicating my color desire, hoping I had make a good choice as my monitor is old and not color reliable at times. Richard wrote me back to tell me the color I had chosen was probably not what I was hoping for, but he had just come across some Loro Piana cones that he thought would be more to my taste. Sweet man, he sent me a cone of each yarn. Sure enough, the first cone was a bit too "brick" colored, but the 2nd cone was perfect! I am casting on for a new shawl tonight!

The cashmere wasn't the only "just because I like you and you're a good customer" complimentary skein I received this week. Nope. Sweet Sandy at the Yarn Haven gifted me with a skein of Araucania sock yarn I was admiring last Thursday. It was her way of saying thanks for the lace scarf I designed and knit for the shop. I was so thrilled with how the Havenly Scarf turned out that I had to take it to her even before I had finished writing the pattern. All the ladies at the FNKC had nice things to say about it and I think I motivated at least one to venture into lace knitting :-)

I got a bit artistic with the photo shoot for the Havenly Scarf, but the fall colors in the trees and the summer colors lingering in the garden was just too much to pass up. I'm *so* pleased with how the scarf turned out. The yarns were so bright and cheerful! The Madil Kid Seta provided wonderful softness with just the right amount of FF (Fluff Factor) and the Cascade Copa added sheen and rich body--just the right amount of heft--to the airy ZigZag patterning. I'm feeling the "designers itch" again and my sketch book shows it. I've got a shawl and a sock pattern in the works, plus a sock pattern that just needs to be typed up. Designers get their inspiration in all kinds of places. You won't believe where the inspiration for my shawl came from. Even I can't believe it! You'll have to wait awhile for the results though, as they won't be ready until after the 1st of the year at the earliest. this much I can tell you, the main pattern did not come from any stitch dictionary (evil grin :-)))

Lisa brought homemade drop spindles to FNKC and many of us got our 1st lesson in spindle spinning. I did just fine with the yarn "practice" but I had a harder time with the fleece. I think my issue is with getting a proper draft as I couldn't seem to get the fibers to separate and thin out enough to spin a nice fine yarn. The fact that I'm not used to "fat" yarn complicated matters too. But Lisa sent me home with extra roving, both wool and silk, and the spindle so I can fiddle around with it on my own. Cool!

As if all that isn't enough to smile about, I finished (finally!) a pair of socks that has been in my UFO basket for, well, I don't even know how long. Yes, the Morning Glory Ribbed Cuff Socks, so named for the Knit Picks yarn I used, are finito and ready to warm my tootsies on cold winter nights. Double Cool!

I'm knitting furiously on the Fall Herbs socks too. I turned the heel and finished the gusset on the 2nd sock last night so I'm getting close. I'm highly motivated to finish these because 1)they are the perfect color to be wearing now, and 2)I need the needles to knit the next pair of socks I'm eyeing. At what are they, you ask? Well, the hottest pattern OTN right now according to Ravelry. Cookie's Monkey Socks. I think the Monkey Socks will work well with the Araucania yarn to make a great pair of socks that will be the perfect go between my new brown twills and my favorite brown clogs. Triple cool!

I have more things up my sleeve, but they will have to wait for another post :-) I just wanted you to have a reason to come back....Bwha ha ha ha!