Thursday, June 26, 2008

Roadtrip Part I: Taos

Mountain Man and I are on the road again, driving across this country to spend the summer back east. Our first day took us to Taos, New Mexico, with its rugged plains and snowy mountain peaks. After the blistering heat of Phoenix and an 11 hour day on the road, it was bliss to find ourselves in this high country, with air perfumed with sagebrush and rained-soaked soil.

While in Taos, I finished the first and perhaps only item of the trip: a pair of socks in Fleece Artist Sea Wool, colorway 'Nova Scotia.' Here they are in the bright sunlight the next morning (and if you peer carefully, you'll see Isis wandering in the background).

These socks may be what finally turn me into a sock knitter. The yarn, which is a blend of wool and seaweed-derived lyocell, was marvelous to knit with. It's soft but durable, gorgeously painted, and pleasantly thick for a sock yarn.

I made the pattern up as a I went along, using the magic loop method on a 2.5 mm (I think) circular needle . I started with a figure-8 cast on at the toe, increased to fit the width of the foot, and then added a subtle slip stitch pattern (I slipped every 5th stitch every other row). I did a short-row heel on slightly more than half the stitches. And then I just kept knitting until it was my desired length. It was simple and meditative, and the fit is divine.

The other major excitement of Taos is that the friends we were staying with were friends with an alpaca farmer. We had a great visit to the farm, Phi Beta Paca, which could not have had a more beautiful location.

In addition to the alpacas, they raised angora goats and one lumbering Dorsett sheep. It made for a wonderful, spirited menagerie.

I love Taos, and I hope to be back before long. Any Phoenix knitters up for a road trip to the Taos Wool Festival this October?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Vinnlands!! (and flood irrigation trivia)

Yay, yay, they're finally finished! The process seemed to go on forever: I dyed the yarn in early December, picked out the pattern and knit the feet when my sister visited for Christmas, measured and turned the heels when I visited her in March, and finally finished them now in June. But it was so worth it to have such a FABULOUS pair of socks for my sister.

Here are the details....
Pattern: Vinnland Socks
Yarn: Henry's Attic Treadsoft, which I dyed a semi-solid red with kool-aid (color is much deeper and richer in real life, but I desaturated these photos a little so that you could see the stitch pattern better -- red is very hard to photograph!)
Needles: size 1 circular using the magic loop method
Modifications: Instead of a short-row toe, I used a figure-8 cast on (tutorial here). I think I added a few stitches for width. I did the short-row heel using a no-wrap method (tutorial here). And I used plain ribbing on the back of the leg.

I love the central vine motif and will undoubtedly use it on socks again in the future, although I think next time I'll find a slightly thicker yarn and go up to 1.5 needles. I'm really not so refined that I need to knit on size 1s.

Now, you may notice something strange in the pictures above. I'm standing on a picnic table, but that's not the strange bit (it gets the best light). What may strike you as unusual is that our yard is flooded to several inches. You see, our little 1940s ranch house was built in a grapefruit orchard, and our neighborhood still retains the flood irrigation rights. Eighteen times a year, we open up the pipes at the front of the yard, and we get water flooding out for an hour and a half. Here's a full shot of what the backyard looks like during a flood irrigation:

We do feel guilty about this water use. But doing a deep watering every few weeks is more efficient than a sprinkled watering every few days. And we've tried to make productive use of it by planting lots of fruit trees around our yard: valencia and blood oranges, meyer lemon, tangerine, apples, apricots, fuyu persimmon, and black mission fig in addition to the mature grapefruit and pecan trees. Anyways, this was a curious thing to encounter when I moved to the southwest, and I hope you enjoy getting a glimpse of it!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Colinette in Connecticut

I spent a delightful week in Connecticut, visiting my parents and dearest old friends. One of those friends had a birthday. And I knit a fantastical collar for her ....

(I swear, she must have been laughing at a great joke I told, not the collar)

It's a little strange, but I love it! What a big, bold piece to wear over a dark jacket in the depths of winter. Much more modern than a scarf, and a good windblocker to boot. There are lots of ways to wear it, with different effects.

Rachel was a great sport, gamely putting up with this extensive modeling session. The fact that we were visiting a Connecticut vineyard, and had just finished our lovely wine tasting, may have assisted in this matter. I think I timed it well.

Oh! And I suppose I should share the details ...
Yarn: Colinette Shimmer 5 in 'Fire,' every last inch of 2 skeins
Needles: 10.5 bamboo straights
Pattern: improvised!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Red Socks & Red Rocks

Mountain Man and I went rock climbing in Sedona last weekend, and I toted along the Vinnland Socks. I fully expected to have them finished by the end of the weekend, but the intensity of the climbing and the sun left me too exhausted (and stiff-fingered) to knit. So, all I've got is 1.75 socks to show you.

They're shown off in front of Queen Victoria Spire, which is the spindly, 220-ft formation in the right background. It looks small compared to the socks, I know. But it was a spectacular climb, and more than a little scary with the whipping wind, the crumbly sandstone, and the vertigo-inducing looks down.

We got to the top just before sunset and got a breathtaking view of Sedona. In the rosy light of sunset, the red rocks looked almost - almost! - as red as these Vinnlands.