November 2005

…and because I didn’t want to go back to working so soon after getting home, I present to you a quizzy thing (in the extended entry).


I’ve read a lot of posts this week about Thanksgiving, both of the “why I don’t like the holidays” variety and the “hurrah, holidays!” type. I’ve always liked Thanksgiving, but there’s a good bit of that that’s liking going to New York. Up through high school, we’d always spend the whole week (my parents still do, actually), and it was a chance to go to museums and the Strand and see my mom’s side of the family. Over the last few years, though, my attitude toward family Thanksgiving has changed a bit. I live close enough that I get to New York a lot more often, plus I can’t take the week off the way I used to. The one year I stayed at Oberlin for Thanksgiving was a lot of fun, and it was really relaxing to not have to travel.

All things considered, though, my Thanksgiving was quite nice. I got to spend Wednesday evening with friends, which made me much happier to head up to New York on Thursday. It might’ve been nicer if I’d gotten more than four hours of sleep (why is it that I keep going to New York while extremely sleep-deprived?), but I had a nice nap on the train.

I was then drafted into helping chop vegetables and such for what wound up being the smallest Thanksgiving dinner I can remember: just me, my parents, my grandmother, and Carrol, as Andrea and Victor (and their one-year-old) got stuck in traffic in Maryland. Dinner turned out quite well, with the turkey cooked perfectly, good stuffing, perfect roasted roots (carrots, purple potatoes, sweet potatoes, a parsnip, and a portobello mushroom for good measure), tatsoi sauteed with garlic, and the traditional Junior’s cheesecake for dessert. (I ignore the candied yams (ick!) and broccoli cooked dead for my grandmother.) And Carrol liked the felted bowl.

The other exciting thing about the train ride was this:

Dscn3775jaywalker cuff the first

I started my pair of Jaywalkers. I’ve decided to swap yarns for the heels and toes, now that I’m a few rows into the patterning and I haven’t switched yet.

Just to check, though–it’s normal for wooden size 1 dpns to warp a bit, right? And, you know, before they’ve been used for more than the cuff of one sock? That is, should I be worried that mine all look at least a smidgen wavy? They’re lovely to knit with, though. (Also, I asked my dad to see if he could identify the wood, and he thought it might be teak.)

Back to the theme of Thanksgiving, though. I’ve been thinking that, on top of all of the basic health and family and friends things, I’m thankful for the very reason I’ve been too busy to enjoy Thanksgiving as thoroughly as I have in the past. I’m glad to be in grad school, doing work I love, and to be alive in a time and place when I can do so. And now I’m going to do some more work.

I finally finished knitting the second wildfoote sock a few days ago. I have yet to weave in the ends, and I still need to reinforce the figure-8 toe on the second one, but I wore them on Wednesday anyway. I was just going to wear them to take some pictures in the sun, but then I couldn’t get myself to change to normal socks.


Mel inspecting the socks and looking for ends to play with

toe closeup

Mel inspecting my new Lantern Moons; socks and leftover yarn

The wooden needles that Mel is so curious about are my birthday present from Anju. Thanks again, Anju! Now I have to come up with something I can knit on 4.5 mm straight needles…

There was rather a lot of yarn left over. I got a sock and a half out of the first skein, so I suppose there’s about a sock’s worth left. I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to do with it, as I don’t need a third sock, but we’ll see.

Quick specs:
Brown Sheep Wildfoote in Ragtime
3.25 mm inox circulars
toe-up socks with figure-8 toes and short-row heels
slightly variegated ribbing pattern switching to k2p2 rib for cuff
standard k2tog/p2tog bindoff

For my next toe-up socks, I intend to find a stretchier bindoff method. I’ve used the sewn cast-off, and it works nicely, but I’d really prefer something that wouldn’t require extra tools, in case I’m somewhere without my darning needles.

For now, though, I’m knitting top-down Jaywalkers. (On the sock front, that is. I’m doing lots of other things more intently, most particularly lots of work.)


A year or two ago, I was talking with a friend of mine who grew up in Philadelphia. I don’t recall how the conversation turned to tree identification, but it did, and she said she couldn’t really recognize trees (by species). I offered two examples, mulberry and sycamore, and she gave me a really odd look. I picked them because they’re distinctive trees that are pretty common in Philly. I had no idea that there’d actually been one of each in the yard of the house where she spent most of her childhood…

This morning, as I walked to work, I was waylaid by a sweetgum tree and the best possible weather for photography.



I finished the wildfoote socks last night and wore them today. (Hurrah!) Pictures when I come back from New York–I want to be on a trolley in seven hours, and I have yet to pack.

I’ve been unusually busy lately (that is, even busier than usual), what with the major work deadline I have a week from Wednesday. (For example, I’m in lab right now. I can usually manage to be home by ten, but not tonight.) So, since my computer will be living in lab for the next couple of days and I really don’t like uploading pictures here, it’ll be progress-picture light for a while.

Of course, there’s another reason for the dearth of progress pictures. The large amount of work kind of cuts into the fiber time. I did do some spinning over the weekend, though, to decompress, and there’s now a bit more alien yarn than the last time it was pictured here. There’s also more alpaca-silk, but that’s not even close to filling the spindle. And when it does, it’s going to take hours upon hours to ply, as it’s coming out somewhere between cobweb and light fingering. And there’s been progress on my gift for my secret pal, but I wouldn’t post a real picture of that, anyway. (But I can happily announce that it’s nearly halfway done.)

I’ve also joined the Jaywalker Knitalong. I’m nearly done with the second wildfoote sock (hurrah!), and I’m going to let myself start Jaywalker right after that. Now, I just need to decide on yarn… A question for you: I have four skeins of Koigu, two of which match and two of which just coordinate with each other. I was planning to use the matching ones for Jody‘s Natalya gauntlets. Would it be too terribly ridiculous to knit a pair of socks with two colors of koigu? Maybe swap tops of cuffs and toes? Or top ribbing, heelflaps, and toes?

As regards the world outside of lab and fiber: It’s cool and rainy here, and I have to say that I really like this weather. I’m quite fond of the crisp, sunny fall days, but I also enjoy rain when it’s not a summer drenchpour or absolutely freezing or just warm enough that I’ll sweat enough to make a raincoat pointless. I left lab to have dinner, and I had a very nice walk back, in the rain, with no official rain protection.

I’m instituting a Thursday Morning Picture, to be Not Knitting. Today’s is a sweetgum tree–they have the best fall foliage of trees in West Philly.


I’ve been doing more spinning than anything else other than work lately. Mostly it’s been more alien yarn, but I pulled out my Rhinebeck alpaca-silk while some alien yarn was setting.

about 39 yards

I had a hard time adjusting from the nice, crimpy wool I’ve been spinning to this alpaca-silk. It’s weird, the way it was simultaneously sticky and slippery… I did okay once I gave in and spun really finely. Except I still had a few silk bumps. I think all of that “fiber prep is the most important part” stuff that all the spinning experts say is particularly important for this fiber.

I have since switched back to the alien yarn and my attempt to spin heavier yarn. It’s working, in that I’ve got mostly-sport-weight singles, but I’ve had to relax my standards for evenness. I have been amazed to realize how much the tightness of my fingers sliding up the spinning bit affects the loft.

I also have a spinning question for all of you experts (including maybe physicists, since I didn’t get along well with mechanics). I’ve been looking into acquiring a wheel, and people say that higher ratios are good for finer yarn because fine yarns need more twist. I will agree that my new somewhat-thicker yarn does seem to be less twisty, but it also uses spindle momentum faster. Is that just because there’s more fiber to be twisted, so it slows the spindle faster? Or basically that a twirl of the spindle is enough to spin x amount of fiber, and I can either have a longer stretch of fine wool or a short stretch of thicker wool?

On a non-fibery note, here’s the view from next to my house last Sunday, just past noon.


There are definite up sides to living across the street from a park.

Before I start on the felted bowl, I want to correct an omission from this week’s posts. I realized that, although I said “ooh, presents!” and “aren’t they great?”, I never actually thanked my secret pals for their gifts. So: Thanks, secret pals! You helped make my week.

I should begin the saga with a description of my mental image of the finished product. I was thinking of a pot that my aunt threw and gave my parents, sort of like this oil lamp except taller and squarer and with a larger opening (and no oil or wick-holder). So I knit a square, picked up stitches around the outside, increased to make it wider, stopped increasing for straight sides, and then decreased a little bit before adding the blue trim. When I cast off, I had this:


I was a bit worried, but I figured the shaping could show up more after felting, so I forged on ahead. (The fact that I knew I had enough extra yarn to reknit it helped with that decision.) After a run through the washing machine, I had this:

note: the pennies and T tokens in this saga are aids to my camera’s autofocus, and they also serve as scale “bars”

I’m not sure it’s really flat, more “puckered”, but it’s definitely not bowl-shaped. The next step: pulling out the scissors.



I cut bits out of the corners and seamed the sides back together with more of the blue. If it’s going to be thicker or wonky, using the body color might look more like a bug than a feature.

I’ve included this photo because it’s on the same table as the next two

I was happier with the cut and sewn bowl than the puckered hot pad version, but I was sufficiently unconvinced that I brought it to Anj‘s Fiber Thursday for consultations. It got a positive response, so I wove in the ends of the seaming yarn and brought it home to felt some more, since it remained floppier than I wanted. It went through the washer again this morning, and came out like this:



It’s still a bit wonky looking, whether from slightly uneven felting or from the unevenness of the way I decreased when I was adding the trim, but I think that’s just what a felted bowl is going to look like. At least, that’s what a Naomi-made felted bowl is going to look like. I save my remaining shreds of perfectionism for other things, like science. I’m happy with it as it stands, even though it’s still really not what I’d had in mind.

Materials and tools:
Knitpicks Wool of the Andes in Chocolate, a little more than one skein
Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride Bulky in Blue Flannel, some leftovers of Anj’s
8mm bamboo circular needle, 20 or 24″
[scissors and darning needle; washing machine]

Start date: very late September
Completion date: November 12

And I’m staying up a little longer so I can drink enough water to counterbalance the rum in my cider earlier this evening.

I have knitting progress, but I don’t think I’m awake enough to do justice to the stories. So, instead, here’s a (film) picture from July:


Well, the saga of the felted bowl continues, so sharing it will have to wait. Instead, I have pictures of the package that arrived today. (I think my coworkers are starting to wonder at the number of packages I’ve gotten lately.)

The packaging was quite nice, but I didn’t want to further perplex my labmates by taking pictures while I unwrapped it… Ordinarily, I’d wait until I got home to open a box, but I was too curious to see what was in it.



Personalized stitch markers from Zephyr Style, from my (current) Secret Pal. Aren’t they great?

I like presents… Who doesn’t?

It’s been a good week for presents, what with my birthday and all. On Saturday, I got a mix cd from Jill and a copy of Beautiful Knitting Patterns from Rosemary.

Then, today, I got not one but two packages on my desk. The first was a final package from my Secret Pal 4, who had to move from Germany back to the US right at the end of the official exchange and thus was a bit delayed. (Hey, it’s certainly a better reason than my having just sent out a birthday present for someone whose birthday was in August.)

Sp4finalpink yarn, sparkly yarn, yummy candle…

By the way, Kelly, you are in no way the worst secret pal ever. My first secret pal sent one package and then totally disappeared. (That, incidentally, prompted this wonderful takeover on the part of several of my friends, who wished to remain anonymous.)

And then I left my desk for a while, and found a package from my current secret pal when I returned.

Sp6_2green yarn (!) and a retracting tape measure and citrusy skin care

Can someone explain the difference between a facial scrub and a facial cleanser? They both smell good, but I’m not sure how I’m supposed to use one versus the other.

For tomorrow: the saga of the felted bowl.

I did spend a few hours inside in the dark on this lovely afternoon, so I could watch Curse of the Were-Rabbit, but I spent enough time outside to see this:

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