Monday, June 30, 2008

Nineteenth Century Technology

I don't usually spend that much time weighing my yarn (the constant weighing of remaining yarn while I knit the purple shawl was an aberration, I swear!), but the second I left my digital scale at home to visit my parents, I needed it constantly.

Over one 24-hour period, I needed to divide not 1, not 2, but 4 skeins of yarn into equal halves! (One skein for socks, and the rest for the wraps for Afghans for Afghans that my mom and I are making.)

Fortunately, the 19th century was able to help me out:

And I mean the 19th century literally:

That last line says the scale was patented in 1886! (Also, how many Beckers were involved in this business anyway? There's the current Becker, Christian, but also the original Becker in Becker & Sons, at least 2 sons, and at least 2 brothers in Becker Bros. So 6? Or maybe some of the sons were also the brothers?).


Kevin got a quite unexpected phone call on Friday...

Look what the police found:

Poor Vespy--missing mirrors, stolen battery (Kevin and the man at the impound lot tried to jumpstart it, then Kevin managed to kickstart it), mangled and partly missing ignition, scratched paint, and somehow the handlebars and front wheel have gotten slightly misaligned--when the handlebars are straight, the front wheel is slightly angled (presumably the thief broke it when s/he unlocked the front wheel without the key). Oddly, it's only been driven another 150-200 miles since it was stolen.

We're hoping it can spend the next couple of weeks (while we're traveling) at the repair shop, and then we're going to have to rent a garage, I guess--unfortunately, if it's more than a block or two away, I don't think we'll ever ride Vespy, so our options are rather limited). The police and the impound lot guys suggested that we get a large chain and big lock... but we had that, and it didn't do any good!

Kevin's race on Sunday (organized by the same people as the previous swim) went much better--although it didn't start out promisingly, as we had quite a time finding the registration. The course was much simpler--they jumped off a water taxi, then swam around Governor's Island till they got to the right pier, so you just had to keep the island on the same side of you at all times--and the tides cooperated.

I helped out with bag check again--and nearly strangled another of the bag check volunteers, who insisted that we put all 100-150 bags in exact numerical order (each bag had a numbered tag), rather than just grouping them by number range (which worked just fine last time). So we did, but he still couldn't find a single bag when the swimmers came back--he just stood around bleating "124? 124?" till someone else found it. It felt a bit like he thought he was in charge of managing the rest of us.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Must. Take. Pictures.

Last Saturday, Kevin and I survived our longest and hilliest tandem ride to date--56 miles on the Lake Placid Ironman course (it's a 2-loop course in the real race, so we just biked it once). We'd thought about trying to do the whole thing, and about 40 miles in that seemed totally possible, but the end of the loop is terrible. You start in Lake Placid (which is almost the highest point on the course) then zip down to the lowest point, cruise along happily for a while, then have to climb back up to the start again. Which drains your will to live. We aren't really training to ride this far, or on such hilly hills (the longest race Kevin is signed up for this year is a half IM), and after getting back up to LP, we decided we'd had enough.

Wanna see how hilly it was? This site lets you display the elevation changes of the North American triathlons. Click on USA for Lake Placid (but remember that we only did the first 56 miles)--and compare it to Florida, the one Kevin did in November!

On Sunday, Kevin and the others swam a (slightly long) version of half of the swim course, and ran a (slightly longer) version of half of the run course. I swam laps next to a dock during the swimming portion, and helped out with water and snacks during the run.

Then we went on to my parents' Ithaca--I stayed there till yesterday, while Kevin went on to Niagara Falls to see his parents. (Moppet stayed in Ithaca with me.)

Naturally, there was lots of knitting, but very little picture-taking. I finished the Lenore socks from earlier (pair #4), and started 2 other pairs. Monkey Socks (pair #5)for Sunflowerfairy, using yarn she gave me (we're trading knitting, since she hates socks but really wants some Monkeys, and I am knitting hardly anything but socks), as well as a basic stockinette pair (#6) for myself, using scraps, plus some Jitterbug I bought on Tuesday... because of course using up a scraps requires the purchase of new yarn!

I'm trying to knit the second pair 2-at-a-time, and I must say I'm not a fan, so far. It's working fine (I was especially proud of myself for casting on both pairs, then knitting 2-at-a-time starting from the very first row), but it feels like the socks aren't getting longer (each sock grows half as fast, since my knitting time is divided between them). Plus, maneuvering the needles into position seems to take forever each time I finish a section. I don't usually have any trouble finishing the second of a pair, so there's no particular benefit to me of knitting them both at once. I'm thinking about switching back to regular, 1-at-a-time magic loop, although on the other hand I want to give this technique a fair shot, so maybe I'll wait a little longer.

And I've made great progress on the afghans for Afghans wrap--I've used up the main yarn (deep turquoise from Peru), and the first accent yarn (Miss Priss), and have just started the second (Cascade 220--newly purchased for the occasion when it was still too short after accent #1). The colors are gorgeous, and I think it'll be warm and appropriately covering but still drape-y.

Wouldn't it be great to see what all of this knitting looks like?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

About that Race...

Kevin wanted to do more open-water swimming this year, so he signed up for 2 races organized by the Manhattan Island Foundation. The frist was this past weekend, and it was meant to be a 1 mile, point-to-point swim in the Hudson, from Riverside Park to Fort Washington Park.

Last week, we got emails that the course had been changed (I signed up to volunteer at the race, so I got one too) to a loop starting and ending at Fort Washington Park, which was supposed to simplify the start. Fine. We showed up at the park at the appointed time (after some initial wandering around by car and then on foot, because even though the start was at 165th St, the directions sent you to 181st St--we went to 165th, parked, couldn't find any kind of bridge across the highway and subway lines to the park, got back in the car, drove in random circles, finally found 181st st, parked, crossed over to the park, trekked down to 165th St... and immediately saw the other end of the pedestrian bridge we'd been looking for originally!) and got checked in.

A few minutes before the scheduled start, they went over the new course again. I didn't actually hear the directions (I was collecting bags at the gear check), but apparently it was completely unclear. The director explained the course, people asked questions, and the answers seemed to suggest a different course than all previous explanations--and only some of the swimmers could even hear him. Because the course wasn't marked with buoys, boats had been sent out to mark the course (and fish out anyone who'd had enough)--but mid-way through giving the directions, the director told all the boats to change positions. After a while, the director stopped trying to explain and just started the race!

Usually, mass swim starts look a lot like mass running starts--a blob people suddenly lurches forward and starts to spread out, with everyone moving forward at their own speed. As the race goes on, the faster people (who may have started at the front anyway) get further ahead of the slower people (who may have started at the back), so the spread between first and last gets bigger--but everyone is moving forward.

Not so much on Sunday. Originally, the whole course was supposed to be with the tide, but the course change meant that the swimmers had to fight the tide for the first half, then go with the tide on the way back. Supposedly, the start was timed so the tide wouldn't be very strong, but the timing was wrong, or the course was wrong, or the tide was unusually strong. Whatever the reason, the tide was much more powerful than anyone expected.

So instead of everyone moving in the same direction and spreading out slowly, based on their own speed, the swimmers kind of whooshed apart, almost as soon as they started swimming. The weaker swimmers were swept backwards (north) from the starting point--some nearly reaching the GW bridge--before they were picked up by the boats and brought back to shore. Rumor had it that they didn't realize where they'd gone, and through they'd been moving in the right direction.

Kevin and most of the other swimmers made some forward progress (towards the south), but not necessarily on the expected course. Kevin tried to follow the directions he'd understood, but the swimmers had gotten so spread out that the boats weren't in the right places (and of course some of them had left the planned course entirely, to pick up the swimmers who'd been swept backwards). And since different people had understood different directions, they kept crashing into each other sideways, since they were moving on perpendicular paths.

After a while, officials on the boats told everyone to turn around, and back they went to the start (another whoosh moment, since now they were all swimming with the water). Back on land, it turned out that no one had actually swum the full distance (although many people had been swimming long enough that they should have!). Those who'd gone the furthest in the right direction had only made it halfway to the turn around before the boats sent them back--and most people had no idea where they'd gone, or how far they'd swum! (Although on the bright side, everyone made it back to shore!)

The last straw came on Monday, when Kevin looked at his race shirt and realized it wasn't even from the right swim!

We're trying again on June 29, when Kevin is supposed to swim around Governor's Island. The good news is that as long as he keeps the island on the same side at all times (and ignores any last-minute course changes), navigating shouldn't be a problem!

Monday, June 16, 2008

More Socks

I have a feeling this is going to get a little boring for everyone, but look! I made some socks!

These are the pair from last time--I think the pattern is called garter stitch rib, but I'm not certain. In any case, it alternates 1 row knit plain, and 1 row of P1, K2 (although you could use any rib pattern). I tend to use garter stitch ribs rather than regular ribs because I'm not crazy about how my regular ribs looks in many (most?) yarns--the tension is wacky. So rather than trying to fix it, I do this instead (and it has the added benefit of being slightly faster, since some rows are just knit).

And then I made these from the scraps, using this pattern. (That's a link right to the pdf--they're the Leftover Baby Socks in Ravelry.)

I made both of them in about 24 hours, and wow, did that feel like cheating (even though the 52PP rules say baby socks count), so I may not do it that often. But I wanted to get ahead this week because I'm trying to knit a rectangular stole for afghans for Afghans, and it needs to be done in July... obviously, this will take more than a week, since it needs to be at least 20" x 66". Sadly, it's not that exciting to look at either--they don't want too much open work and asked that it be warn, so I'm using a pattern that's just knit and purl, and it looks like a blue rectangle.

What's funny is that even 3 pairs in, I already felt funny not having a pair of socks in progress, so although my plan was to work mostly on the stole during the "extra" time (till the end of this week, when I'll have dropped back to 1 pair/week pace... can you tell I bike and run?), I cast on for another pair anyway.

Lenore, from last year's Socks that Rock Club (STR is a theme, apparently, although this will be the end of it, as this is the last skein). Sorry for the more-abysmal-than-usual picture--I used my phone.

To distract from the sock focus, maybe I'll tell the story of Kevin's race (in which many people swim in the Hudson without actually going anywhere) next time?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Look! Socks!

So, here are most of the pictures I've been promising...

Pair 1: toe up, short row heel, size 1 needles, Anne yarn.

It occurred to me as I was finishing these that maybe bamboo needles with a mohair blend wasn't the best idea ever--no wonder they seemed to go really slowly (for non-knitters, bamboo and mohair are both sticky, so it's harder to slide your stitches along the needle). Or, slowly compared to how fast I wanted them to go--I started them on June 1 and finished on June 8, so really, it wasn't slow at all.

My knitting time during the week has been dramatically increased by the warm weather--I can knit and walk without risk of frostbite at last! Heat exhaustion may be a concern, however.

(Speaking of knitting and doing something else, while Kevin and I tandemed on Saturday, I discovered that I can balance with no hands--so I could theoretically knit while biking. Kind of seems like a bad idea, but maybe I could do it just for a second while someone films it? Just to show that it's possible?)

Half of pair 2: toe up, short row heel, size 2 needles, Socks that Rock medium-weight yarn.

It's amazing how much faster these are going--I've finished this one and knit a couple of inches of the second since yesterday, without much knitting time (I blame working out for taking up too much time!).

Which is good news because of the whole pair-a-week thing, and because I got new yarn in the mail:

The color's not quite right because I took the picture inside, but those are Schaefer's new subtly solid botanicals. The green one is Sedum in Laurel, the red one is... something... in Laurel is for me, and the Heather and Anne are for new designs--not exactly sure what, but deciding will be fun!

Monday, June 9, 2008


Hey! I finished the first pair of socks! I'm not behind yet! Technically, I finished on Sunday (rather than Saturday, the last day of week 1), but that was because I didn't want to bind off on Saturday night--I wanted to read and knit and not have to pay attention, so I started pair #2. (I usually bind of my toe-up socks with this tubular bind off, so there's sewing and remembering and it's not conducive to reading.)

Oh dear... I just reread the instructions and I see I don't actually do that--and now I remember that I read those directions but didn't print them, then tried to follow them a while later without a computer. Oops. The end result is the same, but maybe the "real" way is easier, huh? I should try it!

Anyway, pair #2 is in Socks that Rock mediumweight, so I'm zipping along--they're toe up, and I'm already done with the foot, heel, and half of the cuff. AND I managed to palm the remains of the green yarn from pair #1 (my beloved Anne, from Schaefer) off on someone at knitting yesterday, so I could stop agonizing about trying to use up the rest of it now vs. moving onto a different yarn and coming back to the rest of the skein later (an exciting decision I told poor Kevin about on our bike ride on Saturday--we were on the tandem so he couldn't get away!)

No pictures of course, because I forgot entirely. Which is too bad, because in addition to the completed socks I should have taken pictures of the skirt I finally made Sunday morning (finally because I bought the fabric a couple of months ago, because I love the other skirt I made from the same pattern, and because I wore it yesterday and am wearing it now, suggesting that I really, really, really needed a black linen skirt!). And the sweater I wore yesterday--a halter I designed for New Ideas for Today's Knitting. And the new sock, of course!

(Speaking of New Ideas, if you read the customer review, my halter is the Empress Halter, one of two things the reviewer doesn't hate. Hurray for me!)

Must take pictures!

Thursday, June 5, 2008


I'm working on the second of the green socks, but it's at the same point as the first one was on Monday, so there's not much to see.

Instead, I have a useful piece of advice. If you are ever employed as a meter-checker-and-ticker-giver, do not listen to funny songs/podcasts on your ipod while you work. If you do, try to avoid laughing audibly while you write tickets--it might give the wrong impression. (Or an accurate impression, but one which the city might rather avoid.)

Fortunately, my car was not involved.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

More Green Socks

But less exciting...

Since my last 2 pairs (the green pair from yesterday, and the un-blogged July Mystery Socks) have been somewhat complicated, and I've had to take good notes in order to write up the patterns, these are pretty boring: toe-up stockinette stitch with a short row heel. If I'm feeling adventurous when I get to the cuffs, I may do a picot hem.

On the other hand, these will count towards the 52 Pair Plunge II (it started on Sunday), so it may be a good thing that they're straight forward--I'll have plenty of time for more exciting in the remaining 51 pairs. Or, in a more likely scenario, the remaining 25-31 pairs, since a pair every 2 weeks or week and a half seems more doable, doesn't it? Especially since I'm planning to knit other things too.

And speaking of other things, the feeling that I'm "supposed" to be knitting socks definitely makes everything else seem more interesting! I was expecting that, but it's kind of a bad sign that I already feel that way on day 3, isn't it?

Monday, June 2, 2008

16 Shazam Socks

Finally, finally, finally, I remembered both camera and socks when both photographer and attractive scenery were available!

And here they are:

These spring-y, lacy socks are knit from the toe up, with a reverse flap heel and a picot hem at the cuff. The lace pattern is number 16 from Knitting Lace: A Workshop with Patterns and Projects, by Susanna E. Lewis, and the heel technique is adapted from New Pathways for Socks Knitters, by Cat Bordhi.

Difficulty: Intermediate

Size: To fit an average woman’s foot

Finished Measurements:
Circumference: 7.5 inches (unstretched)
Length: adjustable

About 400 yards fine fingering weight yarn. Sample knit from less than 1 skein Brooklyn Handspun Signature Yarn (100% superwash wool; 480 yds/4 oz. skein)

Set of US size 1/2.25 mm double pointed needles
Darning needle
Stitch markers

Gauge: 36 sts/52 rows: 4 inches in stockinette stitch

Price: $4.00 for a color pdf.