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.

Thankful for Pie – Mostly Wordless 2012 Edition

The simple things this year are what I’m thankful for. The little breaks from stress and school and other ridiculous things. The things that keep us sane (and keep us from freaking out about that dangling preposition up there the first sentence).

Simplicity.

So here we have, presented in no particular order, and without additional commentary, the good stuff.

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2012-05-10 026 2012-04-07 059

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Happy Thanksgiving.

Floral Lace Anklets? Done!

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Why, hello there!

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That’s some nice lacy texture you’ve got going on there.

What’s your name?

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Floral Lace Anklets? Nice to meet you! Those toes sure look cozy.

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And those heels seem like they’d fit just right. Seems like you’d be great for romping out in the backyard.

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Except you are wool, and you are not meant to live with me forever (even though I’d like you to), so I will just pose delicately instead.

I know that my mom will love these, if I can bear to part with them. They went super fast, as lace seems to do for me for some reason. The Heritage is lovely stuff, and I can’t believe I waited this long to use it. This marks three projects that I’ve done so far from Lace Style, (Here’s my Lily of the Valley Shawl and Retro Redux Shrug), and there’s still eleventy-billion more that I’d like to try. Katharine Hepburn Cardigan, anyone? Gorgeous stuff. Maybe one day.

Just Peachy

So we all know there’s no way I finished those socks for my Mom by Sunday, but I did manage to accomplish something for Mother’s Day, and it was unintentionally pink! Double bonus!

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Peaches were tossed with sugar and cinnamon and cornstarch, as per Mistress Betty‘s instruction. (Can I seriously start calling her that now? It sounds so much more sordid, especially when it involves peaches and sugar.)

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Peaches were heated up until they formed a beautiful, accidentally pink, peachy syrup (because this is what happens when you refuse to peel the skins off of those peaches), and then poured carefully into a baking dish.

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“Carefully” more like it, because this was a result of pouring boiling hot peaches in a large pot with only one hand while holding the camera in the other hand. My camera has both a timer and a tripod attachment. I do not know why I physically cannot take advantage of these facts, but it never occurs to me. For some reason, I’d much rather risk crazy sugar burns. Which is incredibly stupid.

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Biscuit dough got dolloped (Dollopped? No.) on top, and the whole thing went into the oven, making my whole kitchen smell like summery, peachy goodness.

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Then some more knitting happened, so that my mom would be able to at least try on one sock to make sure that they met her seal of approval. She seemed super excited, so good news there. Now I just need to finish the other sock! (Mom’s Floral Lace Anklets on Ravelry, for all my knitters out there!)

I’m glad that she’s so appreciative of receiving handknit projects, especially socks, because finding those people who will actually wear and love the things you make in the way that you want them to love them is extremely rare. She deserves a new pair of handknit socks every single day, but my hands just can’t move that fast. This is the first thing that she’s ever really requested from me, and what I really wish is that you could knit true thankfulness and love into socks. Maybe you can. Maybe that’s what handknit socks are. Love and hugs, but for your feet.

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Back to the cobbler! Check that action out.

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Great heaps of this simple pink peachy cobbler were enjoyed by all. Here it is all gussied up, albeit on my messy kitchen counter, with sweetened whipped cream. Vanilla ice cream would also be insanely good.

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Hope that everyone to whom it applies had a super fun and happy Mother’s Day! Socks and peach cobbler for everyone!

Restless Energy

What happens when you have a whole day off and your significant other is out of town for a day? If you are at all like me, your thoughts do not run to the salacious side like you may think.

You suddenly just realize that you are an extraordinarily boring person who has a hard time getting up and doing things that need to get done without someone helping you to come up with the ideas. You realize that you talk to the cat an awful lot. You realize that you haven’t baked in an indecently long time, and a plan starts to come together.

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You’re only home alone for an hour and a half before you’ve already cleaned out the refrigerator (I like to imagine that Tracy from shutterbean was standing over me, nodding approvingly) and cleaned the coffee maker. You clean the bathrooms. And vacuum the living room. And start some awesome socks for your Mom for Mother’s Day.

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Sometimes I feel like I should abandon my long-practiced process of hand-winding my yarn and cave in and buy a winder. But then, I get started winding a ball of yarn for a new project, and that all melts away.

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No pictures of the project quite yet, but this is the beginnings of the Floral Lace Anklets from Lace Style, a truly lovely book for anyone who enjoys knitting lace for their mom. And it just so happens, I am one of those people!

These are going along swimmingly so far, and although there is no way they’re getting done for Sunday, they are getting here as fast as they can. (Just to be clear, their lateness is nowhere close to my fault. When I asked my mom last weekend what she wanted when she said that she wasn’t too into flowers this year, socks are what she came up with. Not much time to get something worthy of my Mom’s wonderfulness done, but I’m up to the challenge.)

Then, you decide to tackle the problem that’s been nagging you for a little while, in that there has been very little coming out of your oven lately.

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That sounds kind of dirty out of context.

Can I also say that I’ll never tire of the uniformity that my cookie scoop provides? Never.

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Oatmeal and Chocolate Chip cookies, courtesy of Betty Crocker and a little substituting.

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Simple and perfect and delicious.

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And irresistible, even to tiny cats.

As if this wasn’t enough for one day, suddenly some friends call you up who happen to love Oatmeal and Chocolate Chip cookies, and then you don’t have to worry as much about how to fill what was most likely going to be the long, lonely, restless afternoon and night.

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The evening fills itself with good, cheap wine at a classy locale…

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And ridiculously indulgent hot dogs. (Dat Dog, by the by, which definitely needs much more of my attention this summer.)

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If only I could have gotten a picture with of myself while shoving a hot dog in my face, but once you try to pick that sucker up, there is no turning back.

I ordered the Guiness Dog with the Chef’s Choice toppings, which involves letting other people pick what goes on your hot dog. A risky choice, and I certainly ended up with an lot of things that I would have never considered putting on a hot dog, but somehow it all worked together.

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This helped, too.  Along with a ton of napkins.

Finish up the evening with some great conversation, and then head home for some more knitting and tea and movies to put yourself to sleep, knowing that tomorrow night, you won’t still be all alone.

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Thank god.

365 Project – Week 9

After a whole week of photos not containing food (I don’t think sake really counts), here comes a whole bunch to ruin all that progress. Only homemade food, though. I think that counts for something. Right?

Probably not.

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Blocking wires make life easier. There’s not much else to say.

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A slightly out-of-focus rose bud, the very first one from the rose bush/tree-thing that Dan got me for Valentine’s Day. Right now, it takes up a place of honor on the edge of our vegetable garden, waiting for spring to properly take hold.

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I finally got off of my butt in the morning and made myself a protein-packed breakfast, worthy of admiration from many a food-blogger (particularly you, mixxedtape, your breakfasts make me rather jealous every morning). Quinoa, tomatoes, and onions, with a poached egg and wheat wrap…kind of an off-the-top of my head huevos rancheros (something I really miss about Colorado is not being able to order this in almost any restaurant…).

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Baby blanket! Finished up my special project for the upcoming special baby! More coming later, after all gifts have been sent, so as to ruin any surprises. For those of you who hate to wait for surprises (and any expectant parents should definitely NOT click any further), check out the Ravelry page.

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Made pizza with my love. You can see the pretty clear delineation of cheese vs. no-cheese here, one of the many weirdnesses I’ve learned to live with and love about my Daniel.

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My mom bonding with Bowie. He loves when she comes around and always comes out of whatever hiding place he’s in to come and find her when she’s around.

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I fancied myself a genius today when I came up with a better system for letting my freshly-cleaned records dry than perching them up on the corners of books like I’ve been doing. I cut up some toilet paper rolls and used them as spacers, letting me stack up a whole bunch to dry in a much smaller space. I can’t believe I’ve been working on this for this many months and it took me this long to figure out a better way. Geez.

Onto the rest of the day…more record cleaning, more watching Misfits on Hulu, going to work at some point, and trying to convince myself that I shouldn’t make these amazing-looking homemade Oreos. Not just yet. I suspect I might lose that battle eventually.

Schmawl Complete! Now where will I ever wear it?

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Hot damn.

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Lace in the sunlight just kills me.

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Presenting the finished Swallowtail Schmawl! An exercise in determination…and loveliness.

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Look at all those nupps!  Have I gone back on my previous position on nupps and declared myself a nupp-believer?

Nope! But I have to admit that they do look quite elegant in execution.

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I broke out my new blocking wires and blocking mats from KnitPicks for the occasion (courtesy of a Christmas gift certificate from my brother!), and I have never had a better time pinning something out. Meaning mostly that I’ve never spent less time pinning something out and having it stretch out perfectly. Which equals better. Of course.

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Now somebody invite me to a wedding or an Easter brunch or something so I can take this thing out on the town!  Possibly with a coordinating hat.  Get to it!

365 Project – Week 6

Documenting the tiny things in your life that make you happy can get a bit tedious. And also make you realize just how much food makes you happy. Because you take an awful lot of pictures of food that you then ate. As in, a lot more than other things. And then that makes you get a little bit worried about yourself.

This week features three pictures of food, and then one picture of food that is not yet food but will be food after it grows for a little while. There may be a problem here.

Onward.

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I have a guilty pleasure confession to make. I really love watching makeup tutorials on YouTube, even though I myself do not actually wear makeup. Except maybe for some Dr. Pepper Lip Smacker on occasion. Lauren Luke is totally my favorite. She’s adorable.

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Tamales are not photogenic, but they are freaking delicious. Part of my family’s old Super Bowl party tradition involves a mass assembly line situation to make these delicious Manuel’s-esque tamales. We brought it back this year for the first time in a really long time, and they came out great!

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Swallowtail Schmawl is totally shaping up. Onto the border charts! And, yes, I’m making it through those nupps without wanting to murder someone. Hopefully.

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Radish sprout!

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Homemade banana bread plus a cup of coffee. A lovely night at home.

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A visit to Sucré for some pistachio gelato, super dark hot chocolate, and fancy chocolates that will take some willpower to make last the weekend.

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Dan’s first Mardi Gras parade ever! Saw Excaliber and caught a ridiculous amount of plastic things that now need places in our house. I can’t wait to get some more and then wonder why I need to keep it all and where it’s going to go. It was rainy and freezing cold, and we ended the night by watching a cop stop the parade by interrogating some float riders. There was a lot of yelling and pointing and more yelling, and we decided to head out before seeing that very last float roll angrily down the street.

I Hate Nupps

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There are those among you who may not know what nupps are. Dictionary.com doesn’t know either. Nupps are little bundles of stitches that are often found in Estonian or lace knitting that create texture and dimensionality.

They also make me extremely angry.

Popcorn stitches, bobbles, nupps…all of these things create great amounts of unnecessary rage inside of me. I am not a fan of such texture in most knitted garments. Anyone wearing a sweater with bobbles on it earns my repulsion and disrespect pretty much instantly, especially if you made it yourself.

I know that my perspective on this is not a popular one. It’s not really like most people love nupps or bobbles or anything. I just think they don’t care enough to hate them with my vitriol. However, certain projects come along where the texture is understated and classy, and I have to swallow my distrust and derision and just knit those goddamn nupps.

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Stupid-beautiful-lovely-and-otherwise-thoroughly-enjoyable Swallowtail Schmawl, I’m talking to you.

See all of those black dots? Those are the nupps. See the black boxes around them? That means that they repeat. Often.

See the little 5 with the carat over it? This is where I frequently lose my mind.

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Purling five stitches together. Even when you’ve finally got your stupid needle in there properly, the panic doesn’t end.

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Because then you’ve got to somehow slide that needle out with the yarn wrap firmly in place without ruining everything and yanking out any other perfectly innocent bystander stitches. It’s not until you’re somewhere around here…

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…that you remember the hard part is over and that you successfully executed the maneuver. (I totally just had to check that to make sure I spelled it properly. I love you, Google.)

But the relief is short-lived, because you then remember that you only have about 10 stitches to go before you have to do it again. And even when you finish that one, there’s still about eleventy-billion more of these freaking things in the border of this goddamn so-pretty-and-so-soft-that-I-promise-I-will-try-to-stop-freaking-out shawl.

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A singular nupp, looking so innocent. Boo. I’d be slightly angrier still if they weren’t lining up and looking so nice as the rows progressed.

And I know I’ll probably get people telling me to lighten up, not just on my tension on those loops to make the purling easier, but also on the poor, defenseless nupp that makes Estonian lace so unusual and coveted. I could perform this task hundreds of thousands of times and still feel as though it is mocking me with its little neat and tidy cluster, constantly reminding me that I might one day change my tone and create a bobbled sweater for my cat or something.

Nope. Never going to happen. Not as long as I can’t get through a row without a mistake or a moment where I forget I’m supposed to be breathing, too. I just have to keep telling myself that I like knitting. I really do. I swear.

Stupid nupps.

Swallowtail Schmawl

Now that I got my fingers warmed up on a little bit of garter stitch baby blanket action, I was ready to tackle my first new project of the year.

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While working on this in the break room at work, a co-worker asked me, “What are you working on?”

“Oh, a small shawl-type thing…” (I trail off, digging for the picture and mumbling something about kerchief-shaped scarves.)

“So…a schmawl?”

“Exactly.”

So, here’s what has now been lovingly dubbed my Swallowtail Schmawl. As linked before, the pattern is the gorgeous Swallowtail Shawl by Evelyn Clark and featured in Interweave Knits. Normally, it’s made in a light, floaty alpaca, but I decided that the soft, silky, slightly crunchy and heavier Sunsilk Lace had a drape and a heft that would make this project something slightly less frilly and feminine and more luxurious and indulgent.

That was a very long sentence with a lot of and‘s in it.

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I’m nearly to the end of the second chart, and even though I’m running out of stitch markers, I’m still enjoying myself immensely.

Now I just need to pace myself. At the rate I’m going, I’ll tear through this way too fast and be forced to buy new yarn instead of working my way through my stash as originally planned for this year. I’ll just try to take deep breaths.