Summer of Socks, vol. 3 – Barbecue Casual & Pool Socks, the exciting finale

Hooray!

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If you’ve made it all the way here, you’ve done an amazing feat! You’ve read through an unprecedented three-day-long streak of blog posts all about…socks.

Woo!

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In our first installment, we saw socks for my mom and dad. In the second, for my brother and sister-in-law. Now? Well, no Christmas would be complete without a secret surprise gift for my boyfriend, Dan, plus an extra pair of socks for myself (because I couldn’t let everyone have warm feet without me).

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The truth is, this whole project started with this little skein of yarn. This beautiful yarn cake is Satchel from Mrs. Crosby Loves to Play (the most hilariously weirdly named yarn company ever, which also happens to make some truly stunning stuff, please do check them out), in the colorway Rueppell’s Griffon. Dan and I noticed it when we were browsing in McNeedles, a not-so-local LYS that we enjoy, and the staff there told me that the colorway was meant to be a dupe for the Lorna’s Laces colorway named “Zombie BBQ.”

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We were delighted. If you thought that they had to say anything else to get me to buy that skein of sock yarn, you would be mistaken. However, I knew that if I bought it in front of Dan, he would put it together rather quickly that a secret pair of socks was in his future, so I instead headed out to Lacombe, a 40-ish minute drive from here, by myself while he was working in order to buy it later and hid it away, biding my time for the perfect secret sock moment.

That moment came this summer, when Dan went out of town for a few days for his sister’s wedding, and I was already deep into the Summer of Socks. He was only gone for a few days, which meant that I had to knit and block the pair in that short amount of time. At this point, I had already knit 4 pairs of socks in quick succession, so my fingers were up to the task.

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But what pattern would do this glorious yarn justice? Business Casual by Tanis Lavallee was an utter joy to knit. I had no problem flying through it, even though it involved cabling and a bit of fussiness, due to the fact that it is so incredibly well-written and clear. Other sock pattern writers should take notes, because it’s that good.

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Also, those tiny delicate lattice cable crosses kill me. They just look so good.

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That’s it really. I tried to find a more clever way to say it, but that’s all. They just look so good. Especially how they peel off from the ribbing on the cuff.

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I just really like looking at them, guys.

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I wasn’t the only one.

Both socks were knitted up quickly, and I had such a good time with them that I was kind of sad that they were over so fast. However, there was a strict deadline here, so blocking commenced and the socks stayed hidden away and secret for 4 more months while I waited for Christmas.

With the combination of yarn and pattern coming together so perfectly here, I knew that there was only thing that I could call them: Barbecue Casual. When I presented them to Dan, wrapped up inside a very silly elephant mug (he’s a fan of elephants and silly mugs, so double-bonus), he was so happy.  It’s going to be so hard to not steal them.

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For my socks, I used another treasure that I had squirreled away from McNeedles for a while. This is Lorna’s Laces Solemate, which is a very cool blend of superwash merino, nylon, and Outlast, a proprietary blend of microfiber that helps keep your socks from making your feet get too hot. It’s pretty interesting stuff that results in a sort of silky-soft, light sock that stays nice and warm without horrible sweaty toes.

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I got it in the colorway Bayou McNeedles, the special colorway created especially for and only available at McNeedles. It looks like really cheerful school colors to me, or a painting of a calm pool of water with plants and greenery around it. Hence the name, Pool Socks. I know, it’s not super great, but I can’t be expected to be clever all the time.

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Again, I went with the Good, Plain Sock recipe featured in Knitting Rules! by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, the Yarn Harlot. I just wanted some simple and plain anklets to show off those colors, and I knew that there was high potential for flashing in a space-dyed yarn like this, which could ruin any all over stitch patterns.

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Normally, I am not a fan of flashing, but that big blue zag across the whole thing really did it for me this time. If it’s in the right colors and the right place, flashing can be quite an interesting thing.

And there we have it, the exciting conclusion to….the Suuuuuuummmmmmmer of Sooooooooocks. In reality, it just looked like me knitting something small while listening to my Advanced Assessment class online lectures or watching Midsomer Murders on Netflix…so just like I normally look, with perhaps a bit more urgency. I just hope that everyone enjoys their new socks.

And I hope that all of you have warm feet throughout the winter and into the new year. If not, just let me know. I’ll make you some socks.

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Summer of Socks, vol. 2 – Denim Ribs & Embossed Leaves

Yes, ladies and gents, it’s time for another installment of…bum bum buuuuuummmm…

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The Summer of Socks! While we’re in winter! Hooray!

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Just as a recap, as I explained in the last post, I spent the summer knitting socks for my family, and I packaged them up with hot cocoa mix and personalized marshmallows into super cute mugs for them to enjoy on Christmas Eve.

And speaking of super cute mugs, just look at those little kitties. Those things are just so freaking adorable. I couldn’t resist getting them for my brother and sister-in-law, as they are also cat people.

Here we have the next two pairs of socks in the line-up. Denim Ribs

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…and Embossed Leaves.

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Oooooh. Aaaaah.

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My brother Jarrod tends to spend his life in jeans and t-shirts, and when I saw the colorway called the Pearl in Knit Picks Hawthorne, I knew it was something that he would like. I’m not sure where the name “the Pearl” comes from, since all I can think of when I hear that is the incredibly depressing novella by John Steinbeck. Looking at this colorway, with its varying shades of denim-y navy blues and pops of cream and gray, I get the impression of a well-loved, well-worn pair of jeans. Not to mention the synchronicity in the fact that it looks like the denim cousin to the Mt. Tabor colorway, previously featured on my dad’s socks.

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I didn’t want to do anything too fiddly here, due to the fact that the high contrast between the colors would probably obscure any stitchwork. Instead, I wanted something where those long stretches of cream and gray would pop out and spiral around and look awesome, just like they looked in the skein.

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I went with an old stand-by, dependable pattern, the Good, Plain Sock recipe featured in Knitting Rules! by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, the Yarn Harlot. She is knitting royalty, and if you don’t have a copy of this book, you are seriously missing out. In it, she gives “recipes,” not complete patterns, of socks, hats, scarves, and shawls, and gives you all the tricks and tips you need to write your own patterns for yourself. Plus, she’s funny and snarky in all the right ways. I adore her.

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I have made so many socks with this pattern, and it always comes out great. This one in particular has a 3×3 ribbing throughout the cuff, sort of similar to my Plain Vanilla Taiyo socks. They also have simple slipped-stitch heels and capped toes, just the basic background structure to make the yarn really stand out.

I played a serious game of yarn chicken with these, due to the fact that my brother wears between a size 10-10.5 men’s shoe, and I had only about a foot left of yarn when I was done. Good thing to know that Hawthorne, with its 357 yds., had plenty enough for some giant socks.

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Here we have some of the prettiest yarn I have ever seen. Seriously, look at all of these colors! It’s Knit Picks Hawthorne (again!) in the colorway Alameda, and man, it was so much fun to knit up. I lived for hitting all of the little bright blue spots. (Do other knitters do that? Pick a favorite part of the colorway and get really excited to knit those particular stitches when you see them coming up? Just me? Okay.)

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These beauties were made for my sister-in-law, Kim, who enjoys feminine details, especially if they’re purple, so I figured something lacy and flowery and leafy would be perfect. The pattern here is Embossed Leaves by Mona Schmidt, again from the book Favorite Socks: 25 Timeless Designs from Interweave.

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I’m been wanting to knit this pattern up for a good, long time, mostly because of the ingenious little details that take into account how the leaf pattern interacts with the structure of the sock. There is a stockinette stitch smooth heel with purled “gutters” on the sides that extend from the purled areas between the motifs on the cuff. That sentence seems like nonsense, but trust me, it’s something to be excited about.

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The star toes incorporate purls into the decrease, making it look like the leaves all swirl together at the bottom. And those perfect little spirals at the end of the toes! Mona, you’re a genius.

That’s it for this installment. Stay tuned for the next…and final episode of….the Summer of Sooooooooooooocks (oooooocks oooooocks oooocks ooocks).

Summer of Socks, vol. 1 – Retro Rib & Osean

The wait is over!

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I know that you were all on pins and needles, just frantically wondering what all of my super-secret sock hinting was about. You barely got any sleep, with all of that uncertainty. Your work suffered. Your personal life suffered. It really took a toll that neither of us anticipated. And for that, I am truly sorry.

Oh wait, I forgot! There’s like, maybe 2 people who read this. What a relief. I’m glad to know that thousands of lives have not been ruined over some Christmas socks.

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That’s right! Christmas socks! I spent my summer, in-between working night shift and studying during the day, knitting socks for each member of my family, each one personalized to their likes and dislikes and relative foot sizes, as one would hope. They were then packaged up with hot cocoa and monogram marshmallows into a new mug, all perfect for enjoying on chilly winter nights.

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And dang if they didn’t come out cute.

First up, the socks that I made for my parents, Retro Rib and Osean.  (Those are the sock pattern names, not my parents’ names, just for clarity.)

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My dad is a hard person to knit for. He often loudly declares not having a need for any things at all, at any time at all. He pretends that he thinks that people waste time on hobbies, but secretly loves receiving anything handmade. He’ll insult your present by saying he has no need for it, but then tell you exactly how he’ll use it in the same sentence.

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It’s a bit of a complicated relationship.

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He’s a fan of green things, especially when they’re vaguely camo- or military-esque, so I figured that the Mt. Tabor colorway of Knit Picks Hawthorne would be perfect.

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It’s a lovely tonal mix of greens and grays that has a sort of nice silvery-sheen to it. It’s rustic and homey without being drab.

I chose the pattern Retro Rib by Evelyn A. Clark out of the book Favorite Socks: 25 Timeless Designs from Interweave, which is a wonderful book for anyone who’s an avid sock knitter. It’s got all kinds of gorgeous patterns with a range of complexity levels, plus lots of size options for most of the socks, which is great when your brother and father have really big feet.

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I did make one important pattern modification here, which I think really ties the sock together. The original pattern calls for a regular slip-stitch heel, where every other stitch is slipped on the RS rows, to make a visually-interesting and sturdy fabric on that part of the sock. It’s fairly standard and makes sense usually, but it made absolutely no sense to me here, considering that the sock has a mistake rib pattern that prominently features long columns of twisted stitches.

Instead, I only slipped the stitches that lined up with these columns, continuing that pattern (except for the purling) all the way down to the bottom. I feel like it makes for a much more elegant solution than just slapping any old heel on there. I also remember (keep in mind I made these months ago) that the directions for starting the heel flap didn’t really make the flap centered in a way that made sense to me, so just make sure that you’re keeping a eye out for that, if you’d like to knit a pair yourself. There are errata listed on Interweave’s website, so there might be a fix there already. Do yourself a favor and check, instead of just flying off half-cocked, like I always seem to do.

Anywho, my dad did just as expected when he received these. He said, “What made you think to make these? For me? What am I going to do with these?” and “Oh, these are just too big!” and “Okay, well they fit but they’re not going to fit under my shoes,” and “I guess I can wear these when it’s cold,” and “Oh look, they fit with my slippers! These will be great when it’s chilly outside.” And in a matter of hours, they were suddenly an acceptable gift.

Mission accomplished.

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Making things for my mother is not nearly so much of a challenge. She loves receiving gifts, especially handmade ones, and she’s a very good gift-giver herself. I have knit more things for her than anyone else in my family, except for Dan. She knows how to receive a gift with grace and delight and takes pleasure in taking care of and displaying these objects as they are intended. She also knows that knitted items are meant to be worn, not just looked at, and she uses them faithfully. It’s real cute.

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When I visited my best friend and his wife in San Rafael, CA, this summer, we stopped by a small yarn store/custom fabric dying shop called Dharma Trading Company that appears to have a lively and thriving online business of which I was unaware. I asked the person working there if they had anything local, because I enjoy buying hand-dyed local yarns when I’m travelling, and she showed me Invictus Yarns, an Etsy seller from Sacramento who does absolutely beautiful work. This particular skein is Beyond, which is a really soft and wonderful merino, nylon, and cashmere blend, in the colorway Tranquility. What better way to pamper the feet of someone who really deserves it than with cashmere?

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My mother and I share a love of the color blue and a preference for anklets, so when I saw Osean by Trudy Hertaas while searching on Ravelry, I knew it would be perfect.

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It has a wide lace panel in the center that mimics ocean waves, flanked by rope cables on either side. It was just enough fanciness to show off the blues and greens of the yarn without getting too crazy.

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The whole thing came together so nicely, it was like the yarn and pattern were made for each other. After she opened her gift, she put them on right away and wore them for the whole rest of the night. I hope that she wears them so much that she wears a hole through all that cashmere and I’m forced to make her another pair. That would be great.

Stay tuned for two more installments of…bum bum bum…the Summer of Socks! In the middle of winter. It made more sense a few months ago, I promise.

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.

The Summer So Far? Ice Cream and Muffins!

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Hello there. It’s been a while. I’m afraid that I have been reveling a tiny bit too much in the fact that my semester ended and doing some things that I don’t get a lot of chances to do. Like what, you ask?

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Sitting near lakes during lovely sunsets.

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Having lunch dates with my love. (At Dat Dog, of course. Overloaded hot dogs and Barq’s in the bottle should be the opener for every summer vacation.)

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Knitting a little squirrel for Eddie Izzard. Like you do. (Pattern is the hilariously titled Knit One Squirrel Two, by Rabbit Hole Knits, a lovely little bit of knitting that turns out some very strangely shaped little items. Don’t those tiny squirrel leg/haunches look like drumsticks? And the squirrel body? I can’t even get into that.)

We’re going to see Mr. Izzard in Austin at the end of June as a special birthday treat from my brother and his fiancee. I’m still wondering exactly how I am going to manage to give him a squirrel as I do not have any idea as to whether he is into the whole autograph-and-shaking-hands-with-fans situation after his shows. Anyone have any ideas short of me going on Twitter and telling him that I really want him to have this tiny squirrel, no strings attached? I’m pretty sure that I will be sent to awkward-Twitter-stalker jail for that one.

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Eating frozen yogurt out of cups that depict some sort of crazy dystopian mountains-vomiting-rainbows insanity.

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Listening to the charming words of Mr. Kai Ryssdal, (in person!) everybody’s favorite sassy business radio host.

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Reading Infinite Jest and giggling when I see references to children’s pictures books and M*A*S*H throughout, although I don’t think David Foster Wallace much cared for the antics of Hawkeye and Trapper John (I almost wrote B.J., but I’m pretty sure he was only into the early seasons).

Playing this game with Trip almost every single morning. He crouches in the corner now and waits for me to wake up so that I can get that sunbeam-iPhone-reflection going for him.

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Watching awesome bands and eating crawfish with wonderful friends. (And the Ghostwood even has a new 7″ out called Empty Cosmic Gloom that you should purchase so that you can get your fix of New Orleans pop punk goodness.)

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Causing my right thumb to go numb by X-Acto-ing tiny stencils of popular movie symbology so that I could tattoo them on small children. I do weird things for work sometimes.

Speaking of…

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Dressing up as Ramona Flowers from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World for our Summer Reading Kickoff party at work, where we all dressed as our favorite characters from novels (graphic novels included) that were later turned into films. Dan is responsible for the amazing goggles and war-hammer, and yes, you should be jealous of that fact. This was the first time where I ever got so into a costume that I would consider this ‘cosplaying,’ and it’s weird to think that my first time cosplaying happened on the clock at Barnes & Noble. I had some fairly extreme wig + goggles + tights + combat boots anxiety, but had an awesome time nonetheless. Especially after the event was over and I spent 3 hours at the information desk helping people, being the only person inexplicably in a costume in the entire store. I’m sure I confused some people. Except the people in the graphic novels aisle. I’m pretty sure that I delighted them.

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Making Jeni’s Roasted Strawberry & Buttermilk Ice Cream, from her amazing first book, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home.

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I didn’t get to eat much of it, as it was contributed to a work potluck in the break room, but it was some delicious stuff.

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It was a reason to actually go out and buy buttermilk, something that I do not normally do, even if a recipe tells me to.

Now I am in the situation where I have an awful lot of buttermilk that is going to go bad soon if I don’t use it up (How can you tell if buttermilk has turned, by the way? This is an important question.), so some baking just had to be done. Loaves of banana bread were mixed up and baked, but I still had more left over, so I turned to another old favorite.

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Pinch My Salt‘s delicious Whole Wheat Orange Spice Muffins were a great way to get up early this morning to use up that buttermilk, plus make my whole house smell like oranges, which is always a plus.

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Just one swipe on that grater, and it’s all over for me. I love oranges. I need a more emphatic word than love, but my hands still smell like oranges, and I’m too distracted and enchanted too care.

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Just lovely.

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The oranges are zested and juiced, and then combined with whole wheat flour, flaxseed meal, and some wonderful warm spices.

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I always like this moment right before I whisk together my dry ingredients, when you can see all the different colors and textures. It’s like sand art, in the best sense of the word.

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The wet ingredients are not nearly so attractive unmixed. Or mixed, frankly.

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But chunks of walnut make an appearance as well. I like to keep the chunks fairly large just to make these muffins as rustic and homey as possible.

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I’m going to pretend that that’s also the reason why I don’t smooth out the tops of my muffins, but laziness is probably also a factor in that.

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But look at that gorgeous cracked top! It’s so worth it. The tops of these muffins are sweet and have just the right amount of crunch. The bottoms are moist and orangey and buttery and full of whole wheatiness.

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You can even pretend that they’re still healthy when you dump a bunch of butter on them and enjoy them with some tea on a Friday morning. I have made these muffins countless times, but this is probably the first time with actual honest-to-goodness buttermilk, not fakey whole milk and vinegar kitchen hacks.

There’s only one problem. Even with all of this hearty buttermilk-based baking, I still somehow have buttermilk in my refrigerator. Apparently in Louisiana people must be drinking this stuff, because I can’t think of any reason why I had to buy a whole liter of this stuff. What on Earth am I going to do?

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Oh dear. Summer has only just begun. Someone ask me to make them an ice cream cake, quick.

Snowflakes in July

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School starts up again soon, and I have a mixture of feelings about it. This summer has been a much-needed relief from the ridiculousness of my school plus work schedule, and I have been enjoying it immensely. However, near the end of any extended free time, we all feel that same nagging feeling that maybe you should be doing something. Something more than eating crackers and watching marathons of Criminal Minds.

I have been celebrating the end of my awesome summertime monotony by dutifully making delicious oatmeal creations every morning.

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I have been writing thank you notes and catch-up notes to fantastically patient pen pals. (Cassie, it’s in the mail!)

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I have been waiting to see the first blossoms bloom on the baby magnolia tree we planted earlier this winter.

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And I have been making super awesome Christmas stockings.

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As previously stated, one of my coworkers requested some Christmas stockings so that she and her husband could celebrate their first Christmas with their new baby girl in style.

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I may have gotten a little too excited about having something to do, and therefore made this a huge embroidery project to satisfy the weird urge in me to make simple things more difficult.  Graph paper and radially symmetrical doodling was in order.

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These stockings are a heavily modified version of the worsted weight basic Christmas stocking from Interweave Press‘s Christmas Stockings.

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You can tell it’s modified from all the giant post-its.

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Sarah, my lovely coworker, requested something simple with their names at the top and a single snowflake on the front of each stocking. Because this was not going to be a fair-isle affair due to the pattern not going all the way around the stocking, it was a good time to polish up my duplicate stitching skills.

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I mean, look at that stuff! I am so pleased with myself. And isn’t that what blogging is all about?

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Now, I can’t keep tooting my own horn and say that I was planning the whole thing from the very beginning, but I really like how the dad’s stocking’s snowflake is a little heavier and more solid, the mom’s snowflake is more delicate and airy, and the new daughter’s snowflake is somewhere in-between.

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See? I’m not just imagining that, right?

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These parcels of early holiday joy are all packed up and ready to meet their new owners soon. And now before school starts in 2 1/2 weeks, I need to make a knitted carrot with a smiley face. Because, why not?

We All Scream for Making Ice Cream. At least, I think that’s how it goes.

For my birthday this year, I treated myself to a bit of an indulgent book purchase.

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Not that the book itself is indulgent, but the amazing things inside of it are. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams are true to their name, absolutely splendid. It took me a few weeks to even be able to decide on which one to start with on my ice-cream-making adventure. We all know that I’ve had some success with my ice cream maker so far this summer. However, that was with coconut milk and minimal cooking effort. I figured I was ready for the big guns. For boiling milk and cream and the slightest hint of danger.

I mean, that milk could curdle, you guys! It’s downright nerve-wracking.

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Hard decisions got made, and Lemon Cream Ice Cream it was. It’s definitely not hard to get me on board with lemons, especially if zesting and juicing is involved.

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Zest! Hooray!

Now, proper ice cream making, especially with Jeni’s fantastically detailed method, requires all kinds of planning. Something for which I am not usually known. However, I was up for the challenge here. Lots of pre-planning went down in this kitchen.

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And bowls. Lots of bowls. That’s the key to everything here. You need bowls for each separate step and ingredient, and you need to be able to coordinate your bowls with the temperature changes required. And you need a Ziploc bag.

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Plus, you need to fold over the edges of your bag so you can pour in your ice cream base. I never remember to do this. I am so proud of myself.

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Then whole milk, cream, and sugar got boiled together with lemon zest goodness.

Then there were various mixing steps (obviously not pictured) that required quickness and even more boiling and whisking. This new professional-ice-cream-making Jinger knew better than to try to take pictures and mess it all up. Or maybe I just forgot. Either way.

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I even poured my base into that bag without spilling. Amazing.

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Then things got spun up. Again, with the nerve-wracking. There’s always the possibility that bad things will happen, and then that there will suddenly be no ice cream. That would be incredibly sad after all this work. And all this mess that had already been made.

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That’s another thing. You will make a mess. Unless you are better at things than me.

All that work and pre-planning and mess-making paid off, though, because this beautiful stuff came out of the ice cream maker.

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Hooray!

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Smoothing out that tangy lemony goodness with your trusty spatula makes you feel pretty dang awesome.

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I even remembered the parchment paper step in order to keep our new baby ice cream from freezer burn.

Now. Four hours of freezing means mess-cleaning time.

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But it’s all totally okay when you get rewarded for your efforts with this.

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Tangy, creamy, lemon amazingness. Jeni is doing something right. This ice cream tastes like pool parties and angel food birthday cake. Picnics and lemonade. Late night strolls and fireworks.

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With a smidge of self-satisfaction.

Hooray for ice cream makers and summertime! The only issue here is that I may make this stuff a lot faster than we can eat it. Maybe that’s not really a problem.