Complement Anklets – stripes and extra strapazierfähig

I am supposed to be either studying EKG’s in order to quickly identify various types of dysrrhythmias or writing a paper about the safety and transportation concerns in a local neighborhood.

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Instead, I am writing about socks.

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This should come as a shock to no one. Given the chance between taking pictures of and writing about handknit socks or doing pretty much anything else (unless it is take pictures of and write about homemade ice cream), I will choose the socks every time.

To hell with appropriate time management skills. It’s almost the end of summer! (Although you’d never know it from the 90-degree weather today here in New Orleans.) People on the Internet need to know about handknit socks so that they can get ready for fall and the all-important task of parading about the house in their awesome socks, so I am here for them. They might need some super sassy socks to hurry and put on after they do their ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in their bare feet, like I stupidly did. I am here for them, too. Anyone with cold feet, really.

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These were stitched up with Lana Grossa’s Meilenweit Fantasy, a yarn that, according to the label, is both “waschmaschinenfest” and “extra strapazierfähig.”

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Great.

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I think these heels and toes are where that extra strapazierfähig is really going to come in handy. (And yes, I know what it means. Do you?)

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This yarn has been in my stash for such a long time that I’m not even sure what prompted me to buy it. I am not the biggest yarn of the checkerboard stripes in a lot of self-striping yarns, but something about these alternating bands of green, blue, and orange really caught my attention.

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Hence the name: Complement Anklets. Get it? Because blue and orange are complementary colors? And because you’ll get lots of compliments when you’re wearing them?

*Cue rimshot, and following crickets*

Anyone else find punny homonym jokes as funny as I do? No? Okay, moving on. Here’s a picture of some fuzzy cat feet along with mine.

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Bowie really wanted in on the modeling. He’s a natural.

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I used the Yarn Harlot‘s Good, Plain Sock Recipe from Knitting Rules. Again. It is seriously the only plain sock pattern you’ll ever need ever again for your whole life.

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Good, plain sock patterns don’t fight with the stripes. They make the stripes front-and-center. They make everyone realize just how important stripes are to you, as a person. They fit just perfect, every single time, and after you make them enough, you don’t even look down at the pattern anymore. You just know what you need to do next and do it, and if knitting socks completely on the fly doesn’t make you feel like a proper knitting badass, nothing else will.

Cold.

Dan and I made an ALS Ice Bucket Challenge video. Click right here if you want to hear my high-pitched voice and see Dan torture me by pouring that water way too slowly. You know you do.

And go donate to alsa.org to help fund ALS research. It’s totally worth it.

Triple Helix – a super mathy hat

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People ask me to knit things for them relatively often, and I usually politely decline by explaining how busy I am. School starts up again tomorrow. (My final year of nursing school! I am so excited that this experience is drawing to a close that I am very nearly almost smiling as I type this. It’s a real moment.) Once school starts, all I tend to do is study, work, sleep, and complain about studying, working, and sleeping. It doesn’t leave much room for recreational activities, hence the overload on knitting projects and ice-cream-based dessert blogging this summer.

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However, there was a particular project that I knew that I had to finish before the summer was over. My friend and co-worker Spencer had asked me to make him a hat sometime last winter, and after a great deal of pretending like I didn’t want to do it, I got started with gusto.

Spencer is a math person. He makes jokes about the Monty Hall problem and never stops to see if you understand, just assumes that you will, because otherwise why would he be talking to you? That kind of person needs a mathy hat.

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(He’s also a photography person, coincidentally, and the exceptionally lovely first, third, and fifth pictures in this post are all his. Beautiful stuff.)

How do you make a mathy hat, you ask? You take a deep breath and fall down into the rabbit hole of helical knitting. You remember that you saw that the amazing Grumperina knitted some helical striped socks a few years ago, and you dig through your stash to find something that works.

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I decided to go all out with the helical goodness here. Three rows of ribbing, three colors of continuously spiraling helical striping, six-part decreasing in order to create diminishing hexagons in the spiral as it works its way up? This thing is practically an episode of Schoolhouse Rock. Three is a magic number, indeed.

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Want the pattern? Keep reading below, or go ahead and click on this handy link for an easy-to-read printable PDF.

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Triple Helix
a super mathy hat

This original hat was made to fit heads up to 24″, and changes in size can be made easily by decreasing/increasing the number of stitches cast on in multiples of six.

Yarn:
Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride Worsted (85% wool, 15% mohair blend, 190 yds. per skein), 1 skein each of M-75 Blue Heirloom (Color A), M-03 Grey Heather (Color B), and M-06 Deep Charcoal (Color C)
(Really, any good quality worsted-weight wool or wool blend will do.)

Supplies:
US size 8 (5.0mm) 16-inch circular needle
US size 8 double-pointed needles
stitch markers (in at least 3 different colors or styles)
tapestry or yarn needle
scissors

Gauge:
5 sts per inch on US 8 (5.0 mm) needles

Pattern:
CO 108 sts with Color A on circular needle. Join into round, being careful not to twist.

Knit in 1×1 ribbing (k1, p1) for 2 rounds.

Using stitch markers, divide stitches evenly into 3 sets of 36 sts. I found it helpful to use stitch markers that were all the same color here, in order to differentiate from the marker you’re using to mark the beginning of the round and the stitch markers that will be used later to indicate the decrease sections. Using 3 distinct colors or styles will help to prevent a lot of confusion down the line.

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For the setup round, knit the first 36 sts with Color A. When you reach the first stitch marker, drop Color A, join Color B and knit with it until the next marker. At this marker, drop Color B, join Color C and knit until you finish the round.

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For the next round, continue knitting with Color C until you reach the first stitch marker. Then, drop Color C, pick up Color A (where it was conveniently left for you), and begin knitting to the next marker. Resist the temptation to twist the colors at the marker or to pull aggressively at that first stitch. Just drop the color you’re working with, pick up the one waiting for you, give it a tiny tug to even out the tension, and get going. You’ll continue to do this same maneuver over and over again, spiraling the colors upward in rounds until the piece measures 6″ in length (or whatever your preference might be). Keep in mind that the last color for each round always ends up being the first color that you use for the next round, so there’s no color-switching as you go past the beginning of the round.

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Decrease section:
Now, divide your sts further so that you have 6 sets of 18 sts each. It’s easiest to do this by just dividing each section in half with a different color of stitch marker, especially if you use locking stitch markers so that nothing has to come off the needles.

Decrease round: *ssk, k to 2 sts before next marker, k2tog, slip marker* until end of round, while continuing to switch colors at the appropriate stitch markers. (12 sts decreased, 96 sts remain.)

Plain round: k all sts, continuing to switch colors at the appropriate stitch markers.

Repeat these two rows 7 more times, until 12 sts remain, switching the double-pointed needles when appropriate. Use the gaps between the needles to stand in place of your color-switching stitch markers.

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Final decrease round: *ssk, k2tog* until end of round, while continuing to switch colors at the appropriate stitch markers. (6 sts decreased, 6 sts remain.)

Break all yarns, leaving long enough tails to weave in for Colors B and C, and a longer tail for Color A. Tuck the strands for Colors B and C into the hole at the top of the hat so that they are on the inside. Thread Color A onto a yarn needle and pull the yarn through the remaining 6 sts on the needles, pull snugly, and secure to the inside of the hat.

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Weave in all ends, and then spend a few minutes staring lovingly at that awesome spiral. Finish the hat by thoroughly washing and wet-blocking it, which will ensure that the tiny ribbed section stays flat and that the color-switching areas settle down. When the actual knitting is taking place, these areas might feel stiffer or tighter than the surrounding fabric, but a good blocking makes it all even out nicely.

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Now, go pretend that August is a reasonable time to wear a wool-and-mohair blend knit hat and go show it off. Not everyone might know right away that it’s a hat that displays your spectacular math love, but the right people will.

Score One for the Pie People – Freestylin’ with Jeni’s Raspberry Blueberry Oven-Baked Empanadas

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Dan and I got into a small debate last weekend with some friends as to whether cake is better than pie. Dan and I fall firmly down on the “pie” side, which might be one of the defining reasons for our eight years together. I’m sure other factors play a part, but they surely can’t be as important as pie.

Cupcakes, with their beneficial frosting-to-cake ratio were mentioned during this debate, and I countered this argument with the existence of hand pies. Or empanadas. Or turnovers. Or whatever you want to call these wonderful little single-serving treats that give you an amazing crust-to-filling ratio that blows a cupcake away.

People who grew up in New Orleans (like me) also grew up on Hubig’s Pies, these amazing deep fried sugar bombs that always made an appearance at every family function in my childhood. (I have an aunt who used to work in their corporate office, and it was always her potluck contribution to bring an entire case of assorted flavors.) Unfortunately, Hubig’s suffered a devastating fire in 2012, and the factory has yet to be restored. That leaves those of us firmly entrenched on the “pie” side without some of our favorite things.

How do we fix this problem? We make our own.

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We get out our new ice cream cookbook, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream Desserts, turn to the page with the recipe for Sweet Empanadas, and get to mixing up some dough.

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Jeni’s has been encouraging people to take the recipes in the cookbooks and run with them, putting their own spin on things or creating new flavors, something they’ve dubbed Freestylin’. #freestylin if we want to be super-cool.

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When I was asking Dan about what flavor of hand pie he’d like, he specified raspberry. I was in more of a blueberry mood. What to do, especially since we’re in freestylin’ mode? Mix them together.

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Raspberries and blueberries cooked down into a delicious syrup makes the most beautiful deep magenta that I’ve ever been able to produce in my kitchen.

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I cut my circles out of my dough, using a Hard Rock Cafe cocktail glass that I have never used once for alcohol, mostly because of its cartoonish shape.

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And because I didn’t have any troubles with the dough, I was bound to run into problems sooner or later. The recipe recommends 2-2 1/2 tablespoons of filling per pie, but I could barely fit in one without having problems sealing the dough.

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See those ones in the back spilling their purple guts already? I think that I might need to invest in an empanada press. Then, the oozing might not have been so…oozy.

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Because we were freestylin’ (and slightly because I am still moderately terrified of boiling oil), I decided to bake the pies instead of frying them. Everything got brushed with eggwash and sprinkled with some extra sugar. Then, they went into a preheated 375 degree oven for about 35 minutes, switching places and turning halfway through.

Even though oozing did occur, however, the pies stayed fairly plump and didn’t lose the majority of their fruity filling, so things worked out in the end.

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Especially when we scooped some vanilla bean ice cream (tragically not handmade) on top, as per Jeni’s suggestion.

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Look at that melty, fruity goodness. Yum.

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The pies have only been in existence for two days, and they are already more than halfway gone. I should have doubled things up, clearly. Or maybe we just need Hubig’s back ASAP. Either way would be a win for us “pie” people.

A Study in Subtlety – Stone Molly

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About a month ago, I saw a beautiful skein of Malabrigo Rios sitting in a basket in a yarn shop in New Orleans. (The Quarter Stitch in the French Quarter. And yes, before you ask, of course you should go. It is small and colorful and packed with amazing things and friendly, helpful people.)

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It was relatively unassuming. Just pale and brownish, a bit of a pastel rainbow going on. The color name listed is Piedras, spanish for “stones.” It reminds me of smooth river stones or collections of seashells. Items that seem drab and brown from far away but reveal rainbows of color on closer inspection.

Dan was skeptical, but I saw that it was going to knit up into something special. Something that would show off that hand-dyed splendor for which Malabrigo is known and coveted. However, it’s also some pricey stuff, so only one skein went home with me.

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While it was sitting on the swift, being wound, I noticed those beautiful rainbows even more.

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I mean, look at that! It’s not screaming out to be noticed, but it’s so pretty that I can’t even stand it. What do you do with only one skein of a yarn like that?

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If you guessed make a fabulous slouchy hat with lots o’ texture, you are right! Meet Stone Molly.

The pattern is Molly from the very talented Erin Ruth at knit me a song. I can’t pretend that the name didn’t draw me in, as this particular combination of colors plus pattern name makes me think of Molly Hooper from Sherlock. (Let’s all pretend that my post title didn’t give that away.) It doesn’t appear as though her blog is still up and running, which is a shame, because this hat is an engineering marvel.

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First off, you are working in two different stitch patterns that have two completely different row counts. The mistake ribbing (or waffle stitch, if you want to make yourself hungry while talking about your knitting) has a 3-row repeat. The cable has an 8-row repeat. Completely non-divisible and yet totally balanced. Genius.

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Secondly, the decreases in this hat are deliberately placed in order to interrupt the stitch patterns as little as possible. They only take place on knit rows so that the purl stitches in the ribbing track all the way up the crown. There are no attention-grabbing spirals or squares, just fields of purls and cable that inexplicably get smaller and dwindle towards the top. It would have never even occurred to me to do such things.

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Thirdly (and in my opinion, bestly), the cable pattern does not just unceremoniously cut off once the decreasing begins, which is something that happens often in lesser hat patterns. This cable subtly tapers down until it melts into the background, and when the hat is on, the effect is of a wide cable that evenly decreases all the way up to the top of the head. And also, just one cable element to be worn rakishly off to the side? Yes, please!

In order to make this hat with only one skein of Malabrigo Rios (which clocks in at a generous 210 yds., normally fantastic for a hat, but maybe not for one with so much texture and slouch), some modifications did have to be made, but I was sure to incorporate these as seamlessly as possible into the original pattern. I fought the good fight in trying to make the whole thing with just one skein, but I ran out of yarn with only 5 decrease rounds to go, and all that beauty was certainly not going to be sullied with the clumsy addition of another yarn for the top. I did some math, ripped things back out to the appropriate point, and soldiered on.

Now, in order to knit this as I did, you have to go and download the original pattern because it is so much genius, and you definitely want to support those designers that make these beautiful, elegant things, yes? Then take a look at my changes as follows:

The original pattern states, “Repeat Rnds (1-3) 18 times more.” Instead, I only did 15 repeats of the entire sequence, ending up with Row 2 instead of Row 3 of the cable pattern. This way, the ribbing section remains intact and only the cable crosses need to be moved around within the crown decrease section. I know this doesn’t make much sense without the pattern in front of you, but that’s why you went and downloaded it, right? Right.

Now for those decreases. Only some of the rows deviate, and this is only to offset the cable crosses so that they remain the correct proportions for the cable to decrease seamlessly into the crown. Here are the way that those rows should now read:

Row 5: P1, k12, p1, knit to end
Row 6: P1, C6F, C6B, p1, knit to end
Row 11: P1, k8, p1, knit to end
Row 12: P1, C4F, C4B, p1, knit to end
Row 15: P1, k8, p1, k2, (k2tog, k3) to last 4 sts, k2tog, k2
Row 16: P1, C4F, C4B, (p1, k1) to end
Row 19: P1, k4, (p1, k1) to end

And that’s it.

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The combination of all that texture and the subtle rainbow striping of the yarn results in a hat that looks like a rich coppery brown from afar, but reveals hidden rainbows of color close-up. Not to toot my own horn too much (but really, what else is blogging but that?) I feel like this was the perfect marriage of yarn and pattern, and I can’t wait for the fall so that I can wear it everywhere.

Kai-Mei (or…Dark Purple Socks Are Impossible to Photograph)

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I have had a skein of Mountain Colors Bearfoot in Mountain Twilight sitting around in my stash for at least 6 years now.

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It is, quite possibly, the most beautiful sock yarn in the entire world, and I was hoarding it for years simply because there were no patterns that justified its use. It’s a superwash wool, mohair, and nylon blend that you would swear had silk in it due to how soft and slippery and smooth it is. The color is the absolute darkest blues and purples imaginable, with little bits of magenta and gold streaks. You can understand why I wanted to wait. Instead, I would just occasionally take it out of its drawer and pat it admiringly, and then put it away with a bit of a sigh.

Recently, I attempted to make Cookie A.‘s Kai-Mei socks with Noro Taiyo, and the result was…a mess. The yarn was simply not right in any way, shape, or form for the delicate goings-on of Kai-Mei.

Mountain Colors, though? Perfection.

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Kai-Mei is a joy to knit, especially if you are a big sock-knitting nerd, like me. It has a wonderful little lace flower-heart-type motif that is not only asymmetrically placed, but also runs across the top of the sock diagonally due to a lovely bit of increasing and decreasing engineering ingenuity.

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I know that it doesn’t sound like much in words, but a whole bunch of knitters just thought that sounded totally awesome.

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This type of gusset decreasing results in a relatively normal-looking ribbed sock on one side…

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…and totally bad-ass diagonal lace on the other.

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Here’s Cookie A., stating it much more succinctly and poetically:

Shifting the gusset decreases to one side of the lace panel causes it to angle across the top of the foot, demonstrating that the path taken need not be traditional.

How do you not immediately mark that with a post-it with an exclamation mark on it and pledge your most precious skein of sock yarn to it? You are just compelled.

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This pattern is not without its tricky bits, though. Firstly, there is a whole lot of 3×3 ribbing that you have to get yourself through before you get to the exciting part.

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The heels are fairly standard as well, and you are so excited to do this diagonal lace thing that you just fly through it.

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And while you are knitting that awesome diagonal lace, you run up against a configuration like this. You have one needle with the standard amount of stitches, one with only a few that are consistently dwindling away, and one with a whole boatload that are getting difficult to navigate. If you’re doing the right sock, add in a stitch marker there, just to make things more interesting. It becomes like a weird little balancing act, trying to knit all of the stitches properly and follow the pattern while also avoiding dropping all of the stitches accidentally off of the tiny needle (which may have happened once when I decided to slide my stitches to the end of the needle with a little too much gusto) and piercing yourself in the hand with all of that extra needle that is sticking out at all sorts of odd angles. It’s very porcupine-y.

Why not just rearrange stitches, you ask? Well, the spaces between your needles are acting as your stitch markers, letting you know when you transition between thematic elements, so unless you want to add in several more stitch markers (you don’t), you suck it up and carry on to your triumphant end.

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One of the more entertaining parts of this process was blocking the socks once they were finished. As already established, this yarn is super dark. So dark that it looks like a different color in every single picture, I know. (The most accurate ones are probably the first one up top, and the one of the skein by itself. Everything else is a mishmash of electric blue and magenta.) It takes a lot of dye to make sock yarn that saturated.

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Meaning that my sink, which is already kind of a strange shade of pink, was looking pretty festive after the socks came out. Funnily enough, even though they left behind hot pink water, there was not a single mark on the towel that they were left on to dry. Must have some kind of magic, those Mountain Colors people.

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These socks, after their brief photoshoot and moment in the spotlight, are being sent along to a lady who really loves her purple, and I do not think she will be disappointed.

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I feel similarly after knitting these socks as I do after every knitting project that I would call “challenging” or one that introduces me to a new technique or construction method. I get so excited to knit them that I fly through them and sacrifice important things like vacuuming my house regularly in order to complete them. And then after that…I’m a little sad. I wish that I had gone a little bit slower and let them last a little longer, much like when reading the last chapter of a great book, you simultaneously need to know what happens next, but also are painfully aware that the end is coming.

Maybe that just means that I need to knit another pair.

Boring Can Be Beautiful – Plain Vanilla Taiyo Socks

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When Dan and I visited his family in New Hampshire around Christmastime, we made it a point to visit a wonderful little yarn shop in Littleton called the Yarn Garden where I picked up a skein of Noro Taiyo, not really having any other specific plans except “special socks just for meeeeee,” which is usually the plan every time I touch sock yarn of any kind.

For those of you that do not know the way of Noro yarns, you need to get yourself to an LYS (Local Yarn Shop, for the unfortunate non-knitters. We have a lot of acronyms in the knitter world.) and investigate this wonderful stuff. Noro is a Japanese yarn company, known for wildly inventive and unpredictable colorways, a thick-and-thin-slightly-splitty-and-charmingly-containing-vegetable-matter type of spinning style, unique fiber combinations, and a slightly elevated price tag. Things made with Noro yarns are often the most beautiful handknit objects in the world, and the projects that showcase the various ways that different knitters choose to highlight Noro’s beautiful color changes tend to become personal points of pride.

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Case in point, my Noro Kureyon scarf, hat, and gloves set, affectionately referred to as Phase Shift. I made these six years ago, and they are still my favorite things to wear in wintertime. Putting on your Noro hat and scarf is like sending out a beacon to other knitters because you can be sure that they will recognize Noro’s stripey glory and give you, at the very least, a knowing nod of approval. It’s like that way that people who own Jeeps always honk and wave at each other. Except sometimes we tend to stick a hand out and and grab each other’s handknit scarves and hats and sweaters and flip them inside-out. That’s when you really know you’ve found a kindred knitting spirit.

Back to these socks.

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I hemmed and hawed about what to do with this investment of a yarn for a long while, pouring over my sock books (yes, you have to have more than one), trying to think of what to do that would do justice to this crazy colorway.

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I mean, look at that turquoise! Out of nowhere. So bright against the grayed out teals and blues and buttercream.

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Stitch patterns were considered, swatches were made…even half of a sock in a beautiful Cookie A. pattern was knitted, but things were just not working out. The thick-and-thin nature of the yarn did not play well with fancy stitches, and the abrupt color changes obscured any type of vertical elements. So what to do?

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It became evident fairly quickly that plain and simple would be better, and I pulled out my dog-eared copy of Knitting Rules! by the Yarn Harlot herself, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. Her pattern for A Good, Plain Sock is definitely something that every knitter out there needs to have in their arsenal. I’ve used it many, many times before (my Southwest Anklets and Stripey Anklets, just for reference), and what’s fantastic about the pattern, or recipe, which she calls it, is that it can be custom-tailored to a person’s foot or to an unusual yarn with relative ease.

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As a person with short, wide feet and very high arches, I really appreciate this style of pattern-writing. Once you’ve gotten your numbers down for your particular weirdly-shaped foot, custom making socks that fit perfectly is a simple affair.

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It turns that that super simple and boring 2×2 ribbing and plain stockinette is the best thing to show off all of the weird beauty of this yarn.

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The weird slubs and bits of cotton and silk, the sudden shifts of thick and thin, the random stripe sizes and color changes…the boring suddenly becomes beautiful. And, I’m happy to report, that even though this yarn is only 17% wool, it splices like a champ, which is a must when you’re dealing with self-striping yarns.

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The cats got themselves involved with the photoshoot, as well. It probably didn’t help that Dan was cutting the grass and making all sorts of sounds outside that needed to be investigated.

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And then Trip needed to see if he could walk on top of the mirror, just for fun.

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This cat is a menace. He won’t stop until he makes it to the top of the ceiling fan. And then the roof.

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After the frustration of the pattern deliberations and the mis-start, I am so happy that these came out so lovely. I even have quite a bit of yarn left over, and I’m debating what to do with the leftovers. Perhaps some sort of cowl-type thing? Or something paired with a solid to emphasize all that striping even more?

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I’m afraid that if I go on Ravelry to further investigate what people have done with their Noro sock yarn leftovers, I might walk away from the Internet with several more skeins of it on the way to my house. It’s probably best to wait and enjoy these beauties by themselves for the time being.

Frozen Yogurt for Breakfast

My birthday was about two weeks ago, and I wanted to be sure that I had something interesting and delicious to eat for breakfast on that special day.

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What? You don’t eat ice cream for breakfast? You should really sort out your priorities.

While I agree that it’s probably not the best practice for everyday life, birthdays are special days where general eating rules should be able to go out the window. Plus, it’s frozen yogurt, so let’s just pretend that makes it more acceptable.

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I had never made frozen yogurt before, but I knew that Jeni would be able to guide me through it with flying colors. Plus, I knew that I was going to have to draw on a reserve of patience that I normally do not have when it comes to frozen treats. Making frozen yogurt with a fruit sauce takes 2 solid afternoons worth of work, and you need to be fairly precise about what you’re doing.

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At first, I was considering just going with the plain lemon frozen yogurt, but when I saw this suggestion, I knew that blueberries had to become involved. Both recipes are from the first book: Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home, and I have a feeling that I will not feel truly complete until I have made at least one batch of everything in it. Then, I’ll move on to the second book. Let’s hope there’s not a third because I might never find true ice-cream-related emotional fulfillment. (Just kidding. I would buy it immediately, if only for the opportunity to leaf through the pages and sigh wistfully.)

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The first step in making frozen yogurt? Draining yogurt. The first time I ever heard of this concept was in a post years ago from everybody likes sandwiches about this amazing-sounding orange yogurt. I have always kept this concept in the back of my mind, but never got the opportunity to practice it until this day. I have a feeling that my local grocery store employees would have looked at me funny if I asked them where they kept their cheesecloth (It is still a major moment of confusion for them when I pull out my own shopping bags. One step at a time.), so I decided to go with the coffee filter option, which seemed to work beautifully.

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That yogurt needs to drain for several hours, so overnight was the best option. Next? The blueberry sauce. I figured that making it during the day before was a good idea, although I wasn’t anticipating the delicious smell and the way that the idea of fresh blueberry sauce sitting in the refrigerator would taunt me the rest of the day.

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Blueberries and sugar get tossed together and heated up over the stove until the whole house smells like you’re baking blueberry muffins.

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Blueberry sauce might be the prettiest purple of all the purples.

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The draining yogurt and cooling blueberry sauce sit in the refrigerator for a day, waiting for their ultimate destiny.

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The next day, lemons take over your whole kitchen. You zest them into big long strips.

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You juice them up.

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You make lemon syrup.

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And then you boil up that zest with your milk and cream and sugar and all of the other white things in your kitchen.

Speaking of white things…

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How did that yogurt do? How much liquid can really be in there anyway?

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I think I actually gasped. This moment was on a par with the time that I finally got to squeeze out shredded zucchini. So much unexpected greenish liquid. It was weird. But again, so worth it. Getting rid of that extra stuff helps to make the frozen yogurt base incredibly silky and smooth, with as little incidence of ice crystals as possible.

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Check out my mise en place. I’m getting so much better at this.

After things are boiled up, the various whiskings begin.

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You whisk in cornstarch slurry. You whisk in cream cheese.

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You whisk in that lovely thick yogurt.

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You whisk in your homemade lemon syrup.

Your arm gets tired.

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You let things chill out. (You do some dishes now, because to wait until you’re finished has previously proven to be a bad idea.)

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You strain out those pesky lemon zests.

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You get this amazing silky concoction, that, if I were I lesser woman, I would have eaten straight from the bowl with a spoon like lemon curd without a care in the world. However, one of the few things that I am willing to sacrifice for is the prospect of having ice cream, so I kept that impulse in check.

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You spin it up, and then do some more dishes. It’s a good idea to make ice cream so that you have an excuse to do some dishes, really. Let’s keep telling ourselves that.

Then, the assembly begins. I think that I’ll just let this go by like a stop-motion movie. You guys know what’s up.

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Such pretty stuff, with all those alternating layers of the lightest yellow and deep purple.

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Seal it up, and let it go. That’s right. More waiting. At least four hours, or if you’re like me, until your birthday.

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And then again, if you’re like me, deny yourself the pleasure of digging right in on your birthday morning so that you can take pictures first because you are absolutely ridiculous.

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But this beauty needed to be documented. The lemon frozen yogurt is super smooth, tart, and bright, much lighter than its traditional lemon ice cream counterpart. The blueberry swirl is sweet and fresh, with the tiniest bit of iciness and chewiness from those whole berries. The whole things just screams summer. And when your birthday is on the first day of summer, could there be anything better?

Now get inside from that crazy heat and stand over a hot stove and make yourself some frozen yogurt. It’s totally worth it. And your dirty dishes will thank you for it.

Squirrel Updates? Well…

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First things first. A boy, and a girl, and a squirrel went on a road trip from New Orleans to Austin.

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The squirrel, we’ll affectionately call him Jeff (because that is his name), was a little confused.

He didn’t know that he was being transported over to his new future owner, the amazingly funny Mr. Eddie Izzard.

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“Who’s this guy?”…he seemed to say. He was about to find out.

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My brother and his fiancée gave us a wonderful experience to celebrate my birthday this year: tickets to see Eddie Izzard’s new show, Force Majeure. Jeff was packed up into a lavender tote bag and carted off to the show, where he got a fantastic seat.

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The squirrel’s perspective might leave a little too much to the imagination. Here:

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Just imagine a fabulous man in a fancy suit, complete with top hat and umbrella standing right in front of that and being incredibly funny. That’s what it was like. (We are good little rule-abiding audience members, and we didn’t do any illegal picture-taking or recording during the show, so this is as good as it gets.) Make sure you add in the fact that I was smiling so hard that my face hurt. And clapping. And giggling like a lunatic. And really appreciating how many times the name Jeff got dropped.

Now, we need to back up just a little bit. Upon arriving at the venue, I made sure to find a responsible- and kind-looking usher-type security person so that I could ask them the best way to make sure that Jeff the Squirrel got to Eddie Izzard. All of the ladies I spoke to were extremely kind as I got sent higher and higher up the ladder of responsibility. My final conversation took place with a lovely woman who told us that he would be conducting a Q&A session in the lobby about 15 minutes after the show, and that she figured that the best time to see if I could get it to him would be then. We thanked her profusely and then walked into the theatre to enjoy the show.

And enjoy it we did. The man does not disappoint. He even threw out a bunch of callbacks to older bits, particularly lots of references to the Death Star Canteen (click it up for Lego interpretation hilarity), much to my happiness. He is, quite possibly, the only man in the world who can make a whole theatre full of people laugh while talking about human sacrifice. And for that, I adore him.

After the show ended, the audience began to travel to the lobby and condensed around the stairs, much to my chagrin because I am a very short person. Everyone was extremely eager to get photos and videos of the Q&A session, probably because documentation was not allowed during the actual show.

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I was a little bit closer than this (Dan stayed off to the side in order to avoid the crush), but when you are not much taller than five feet, it’s very hard to make yourself noticed, even if you have a squirrel.

I had done my best on the days preceding the show to alert Mr. Izzard to the fact that I would be bringing him a handmade gift to the Austin show, but I didn’t receive any response, not really to my surprise.

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I am aware that most famous people with social media, especially extremely busy touring comedians who are also training for a marathon and preparing for a political career (Seriously. He is amazing.) probably do not do much of this for themselves. Either that, or they might not think that I am all that amusing, but I’d rather not think about that too much. All the same, I was hoping that he got the message and that it might have been slightly memorable enough to get through.

Unfortunately, it did not. I attempted to hold up Jeff in his lavender tote bag at every opportunity for question-asking, but was not really noticed, as far as I could tell. After the session was over, he was out of there fairly quickly, and I found my way over to the same super nice security-lady that I had spoken to before. However, this time, she handed Jeff the Squirrel off to a rather unsmiling man with an official-looking security headset. Even though he assured me that he would definitely pass him along, I got the feeling that there was yet another man in Austin who was not terribly amused by me or my handknit-animal shenanigans.

So Jeff went off into the ether, and I, ridiculously, had not enclosed any information with him as to my name or the name of my blog.

I know. I am terrible at self-promotion, apparently. I did send out another message into the Internet and directly to Eddie Izzard about Jeff’s fate, but I have not yet received any sort of response.

Cue the sad trombone.

That’s not to say that the whole trip ended up on such a blah note. Dan and I had a really great time, mostly stuffing all of Austin’s various food offerings into our faces, if my iPhone photos are any indication.

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Mexican food.

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Italian food. (I am such a sucker for anything with a completely obvious label, especially if it’s edible.)

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Argentinian food.

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Ice cream food. (I just typed ‘ice cream good’ on accident. This is the truth. Amy’s double chocolate chip with Reese’s peanut butter cups. I didn’t want to leave this place.)

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And some of the most delicious sushi ever set in front of me.

Plus, I made rice pudding for my brother and his fiancée…

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And assisted in harvesting some okra, which are now sitting in my fridge, waiting for me to pickle them. I am so excited.

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Can we talk for a second about how beautiful okra flowers are? I had no idea. I want to fill my whole backyard with this stuff.

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I also received another amazing present, my very first manicure and deluxe pedicure experience, from my brother’s fiancée. I had only ever gotten a manicure once before, during my freshman year in college, and the lady doing it pretty much spent the entire time yelling at me about the state of my cuticles, so we’re just going to say that it doesn’t count. I had such a wonderful time being pampered, because it is certainly not something that I would ever have thought to do for myself. Anyone else in the healthcare field knows how much nursing can tear up your hands, and I felt (and still do even later!) super special and suddenly very ladylike. I took the opportunity to show it off and admire the teal against my newest pair of socks (details to come later).

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So? The final verdict? I can only hope that Jeff made it to his final destination safe and sound with Eddie Izzard. If not, I hope he ended up with someone who thought he was cute and will take care of him and that he didn’t get thrown in the trash. I’m going to try my best to not let the uncertainty get to me, because it was such a lovely trip and a wonderful present to receive.

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I will definitely not let any of this experience change my mind about knitting tiny animals for people who mean a great deal to me, especially if they are famous people. I am aware that it is a strange thing to do, but I feel that there are way weirder things to be known for on the Internet. I can only hope that they get to their owners eventually.

Maybe next time.

Mr. Izzard, I Made You a Squirrel (or…Jeff the Squirrel)

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I love Eddie Izzard. I’m not sure when I saw or heard him perform for the first time, but it was love at first sight/listen. He is the funniest man alive. Everytime I hear someone say that they did something absolutely insane (or when I catch people sleeping in the big squishy chairs at the bookstore), I hear his “like you do” in my head in that wonderful lilt. I also hear his voice whenever I say the word “jam.” I offer “cake or death” at every opportunity. I like my coffee covered in beeeeees. I have declared that the mouse is under the table, the cat is on the chair, and the monkey is on the branch.

Those who aren’t in the know don’t realize that this stuff is hilarious. Story of my life.

Dan gets it, though. He even got me a birthday cake covered in beeeeees.

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See?

My brother also knows about my deep-seated love, and he surprised us with tickets to go and see him in Austin this weekend as my birthday present this year. I may have danced a little when he told me. More than a little. I then concocted a plan that seems extremely similar to a plan that I had last year around the same time: I would knit Eddie Izzard a squirrel and present it to him in some way at his show, just for him to have for no reason. Like you do.

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This little guy is named Jeff (obviously) after Jeff, the god of biscuits, Jeff Vader, Jeff Jeffty Jeff, and all of the other strange Jeffs that find their way into Mr. Izzard’s wonderful stories. (Oh my god, I just saw that they sell an “I’m Jeff Vader” t-shirt on his website. Waaaaaant.)

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He has been interrupted during his frantic acorn eating with distressing thoughts as to whether or not he left the gas on.

Fabulous.

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Twins, yes?

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The pattern for Jeff the Squirrel came from the adorably titled Knit One Squirrel Two by Rabbit Hole Knits, purveyor of all sorts of knitted cuteness. His acorn came from the Spiffy Little Acorn pattern by Revati Poole, also so tiny and adorable. (Ravelry links all, by the by.)

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I think that knitting and sewing on those teeny tiny little ears was my absolute favorite part.

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Making his slightly worried facial expression runs a close, close second.

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And that huge fluffy tail was a great deal of fun as well, even with the ridiculous amount of tiny knots and unwinding of yarn strands involved. The tutorial for this is located here. I had some trouble finding it at first on the main site, so I figured that anyone else who wanted to join in the fun shouldn’t have to waste time searching for it, too. All you need for it is a pipe cleaner and a good movie to watch while you make knots.

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Whenever I see this picture, all I can hear is, “That squirrel is looking at me,” in my best Brian Fellows voice.

This little guy was just a joy to work on, and I was more than a little sad to finish him up. However, I know that he’ll bring joy (or at the very least, delighted confusion) to an all-around fantastic person, which more than makes up for it.

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The only trouble is…how do you manage to give a squirrel to Eddie Izzard? With my David-Sedaris-owl-giving, there was a book signing involved, which made the whole hand-off of the adorable knitted item a lot easier. This is a whole different type of event, a stand-up show in a big theatre…I have no idea how to present him with his squirrel. Ideas have been tossed around like waiting out at the backstage door after the show, speaking to security guards and having them pass it along, passing it hand-over-hand (crowdsurfing the squirrel!) until it reaches the stage…All equally weird and seemingly likely to fail. I’m thinking that I might just send him a tweet linking to this post? I have no idea. I would like to just come off with as little of a hint of stalkerishness as possible.

All I want is for an awesome person to have a handmade gift. And how could you say no to this face?

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You’re right. You can’t.