Sunday, January 29, 2012

Knitting needles = delicious, apparently

You might want to sit down, because I'm about to blow your mind: dogs often like to chew on sticks. Second revelation: knitting needles are kinda like sticks. Especially the bamboo variety.


For reals, this is not even close to the first time this has happened. And I always just replace them. I've considered buying dpns in bulk. My favorite needle material is bamboo, but I've slowly been phasing out my bamboo circulars and substituting metal. Addi Turbos are OK, I guess. But this time, I really didn't feel like making a special trip to the local yarn shop just so I could continue my project (which ironically was a dog sweater). 

So I chopped off the maimed region with a small handsaw.  

Now to sharpen. I often fantasize about having a garage stocked with all the tools a person could need, but since we live in a condo it remains a dream.  I'm not equipped with a full selection of metal files of various cuts (YET), so I used the one that comes on nail clippers.  Classy. Slowly but surely, it got the job done.

He ended up quite a bit smaller than his brother, though.

But it's not all about the length, it's how you use what you've got that counts, right?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Powder 8 Socks

From re-designs to ripping apart to lost socks, these have been a long time coming. I finally posted the Powder 8 Socks pattern to Ravelry.

The spiel:

Whether you’re braving the winter weather or curled up with a warm drink après ski, the Powder 8 socks are the perfect knit to keep your feet nice and warm. Inspired by the tracks that two skiers make when their lines cross in pristine powder, the cables travel down the Balbriggan style heel and across the ‘slopes’ to your toes.

Our furry friends give us a lot (including some of our yarn!) and sometimes we need to give back – all proceeds from this pattern will be donated to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (

If you're interested, you can buy now or check out the pattern on Ravelry.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


A few days ago, the copilot and I brunched at Madison Sourdough, a bakery down the block from our apartment. It's a great place to people watch (who am I kidding--our entire neighborhood is a great place for people watching. It's primarily populated by crusty old hippies and young hipsters). Driven by hunger, my copilot had dragged me out of bed and allowed me to don sweatpants and a hoodie in public without comment.

As I started coming out of my morning stupor, I checked out what other people were wearing. Compared to my outfit, everyone was looking pretty stylish, but one woman in particular caught my eye. She was wearing a ribbed shirt with a fur collar, cinching the waist was a woven leather belt, and the lower half was a knee-length pleated skirt, tights, leg-warmers and hiking boots. And she was absolutely rocking it. I gaped at her as she navigated the tables, turned to the copilot and said, "She looks so cool.  I could never wear that." He rolled his eyes, because this isn't an uncommon sentiment from me. There are certain styles that I love on anyone else but me--you know what I mean? This is a roundabout way of saying that I think slouchy hats, which are very in right now, are too cool for this gal. In general? So cute! But on me? Stupid.

After my trip out to Washington to interview, I thought it fitting to use the last skein of yarn I'd purchased from the now defunct Knitty Gritty yarn shop in Richland.  I love Ravelry: I told it I had some yarn, and some US 7 needles, and that I wanted to make a hat, and it presented me with various options. Some I had to reject outright, because I literally only had a set of US 7 circs with me (spent last week in Minneapolis) and many patterns called for a smaller sized needle for the brim. I noticed a theme in what Rav had provided me...slouch, slouch, slouch all around.  Who am I to argue when the universe demands I be fashion forward?

I picked It All Comes Together, based on the fact that it met all my criteria and it was free. I figured the lace pattern might get lost in the variegated yarn (it did), but that was fine. The pattern was acceptable, but not particularly well edited--if you look at the various project photos, you'll notice that about half of them have twice the length of ribbing that mine does due to some serious ambiguity in the directions.

No way is a plate fitting in there.

The finishing directions called for wet blocking by putting a plate with a diameter of 10.75" in the top part of the hat to stretch it out. That's the size of a regular dinner plate, I know because I measured. "Pssh. I don't think so," I said.

Yeah, I totally got a plate in there. It wasn't even hard.

New Fiesta-ware marketing campaign?

Turns out, I'm kind of rocking this slouchy hat. I know, it surprised me too.

The awkward self-portrait.

But the past couple of days, upon wearing it for a longer period of time I've been having an issue. Despite being ribbed, the brim isn't particularly clingy, and it slowly creeps down my forehead.

I really, really don't want to unravel the whole thing, or even go the centi-sock route and try to unravel it from the bottom up. What can I do? Throw it in the washer? Or, Jebus help me, the dryer?? Is there anyway to shrink-inate part of a knitted item, but not the rest? Felting? I've only felted with unprocessed wool before, and that makes a pret-ty firm fabric. I don't want to lose the softness of my precious yarn. Should I just live with it and not risk it?? WHY IS LIFE A CONSTANT STRUGGLE????

Excuse me, I need to go take my medication.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


We've been training our shepherd-husky mix Sammy to pull us on cross-country skis for a few months (sans snow), and we finally got the chance to try out the real thing this weekend after Madison finally got some of the fluffy stuff.  Check out some pictures and video on my copilot's blog here!

Friday, January 13, 2012

A tiny bit of Xmas knitting after all

I know I said that I wasn't doing any knitting for Christmas gifts, but I may have done just a little. I don't really even think it counts because the recipient is completely unaware of Christmas, the concept of holidays in general, and possibly has no perception of the passage of time.

I'd been promising to knit my parents' dog a sweater for over a year. I'd looked at some patterns at one point and even done some preliminary measurements...and never really got much further than that. But as the weather turned cold, the dogs at the Dane County Humane Society where I volunteer provided some inspiration:

What are we stopping for, silly human? Let's go!

Toasty warm.

Let me show you my good side.
I really liked the design of these jackets. They don't have to go over the head or be pulled over the front legs, which some of the shelter dogs would have no patience for. Two easy velcro flaps: one over the chest, one wrapped around the belly. I mimicked the design shape, and added some patches and a border for color.

My original idea was to just use velcro like the coats for the flaps, but I had concerns about the wool getting stuck in the hooks and eventually interfering with function. I had this 'great' idea that I would use magnets for the clasps. Quick, easy, and nothing to snag on.

Stupid magnets.

Unfotunately, the magnets I bought were a)relatively expensive and b)almost impossible to sew on (thank you Joann Fabrics). So for now, it attaches with some safety pins and a vague promise that I'd figure something out later.

But in my humble opinion, it looks adorable.

I know right? AWWWW. And the fit is great!

Question for those of you that are both knitters and dog lovers: is this a pattern that you would be theoretically interested in? Do you think it would be worthwhile for me to write it up in different sizes?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Adventures in ski touring: part II

Sunday was a new start for ski touring at Snoqualmie Pass. We tried to get an early start.

The parking lot wasn't too crowded...strangely there were a handful of emergency vehicles there too.  A fellow looky-loo claimed they'd found a body, but we checked the newspapers the next day and I think he was pulling our leg(s).

There was snow! Immediately! Already a head-start from yesterday.

Murray came with.

Nom nom Clif Bar.

We took a break and had lunch on Snow Lake. Is that a penguin back there?

Snow angel on Snow Lake--we were just excited to play in the snow since we haven't gotten any of that stuff in WI.

Sometimes I still got a little frustrated. We're not very good at route finding yet. At times, hiking was a constant stream of obscenities that ranged from internal monologue to inaudible muttering to completely discernible (but nonsensical) phrases.

Grumpy Gus after some tough skinning.

It was a good "learning experience", shall we say...and I suppose we got a couple of good turns in.

Skiing down the Dome.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Adventures in ski touring: part I

You know how sometimes an event or milestone seems so far off you kind of subconsciously assume that it's never going to happen? That's how I have felt about graduating from UW with my PhD. I haven't taken classes for about three years now, so I settled into the mindset that my research is my (extremely poorly paid) job, and that getting a 'real' job was something that I'd worry about much later.

Turns out I'm going to graduate this May (insert-your-deity willing). If you follow my exploits at all, you know that I do an inordinate amount of traveling for my research: Tennesee, California, Maryland, Washington. This was a mixed blessing in that it has taken longer than I would have liked to finish my degree, but afforded opportunities to meet and network with many different people at different places of potential future employment.

First on the list was the lab in eastern Washington state. Well, I take that back--I always thought my best prospects would be the lab in eastern Tennessee, but a serendipitous job posting in WA (basically my thesis in job format) changed the game. This had the unplanned side-benefit of making the relatively remote Tri-Cities area look like prime real estate to the copilot in comparison to the dirrrty south. I went out for an interview last week, and the copilot joined me for the weekend. He did a project in Seattle for a couple of years, but this was his first trip to the eastern region. Just to provide some perspective, imagine your stereotype of Washington state--lush green trees, mountains, the overcast weather at a constant drizzle--now imagine the complete opposite. That's eastern Wash, arid and sunny, rolling hills, ideal for growing grapes. Hooray for Wine Country!

Another enticement for the copilot (and me, I suppose): drive as little as 80 miles, and you're in snow capped, ski-able mountains. We decided to go backcountry skiing, meaning find our own route and climb up the slopes instead of using lifts at a resort, near Alpental in Snoqualmie Pass. For Saturday, the copilot and I chose an alternate route from the one we had discussed earlier in the week based on the avalanche danger conditions. On the map, it looked like a short hike up to the treeline, then more hiking (with the skis on, called 'skinning') up to the summit, Granite Mountain.

We met a friend who lives in Seattle in the parking area at the foot of the mountain. Optimism was high.

Gearing up with our buddy in the parking lot

With no snow visible, we strapped our skis to our packs and hiked.

This doesn't look like enough snow to ski on...

Fording one of several streams

And hiked, and hiked, and hiked.

The false dawn.

Hey, some snow! We must be getting close...about an hour later, more hiking, and closer examination of the map indicated we were about halfway to the start of the real snow line. Carrying skis and walking in ski boots is worse than listening to Rick Santorum talk about his version of 'family values'. It was too late in the day to start another route, and by the time we got back to the car we gave up and bought a couple of lift tickets at Alptenal.

When the copilot and I got married a couple of years ago, we honeymooned in New Zealand during what was their winter. One of our many adventures was a trip to the one of the club ski fields called Craigieburn. The concept of the club fields is a good one: cheap operating costs and little overhead make for affordable skiing in a small area--but in reality it ended up being a miserable time. The unplowed one-lane gravel road turned into a sheet of ice near the top and we almost slid off into a ravine (they don't believe in guard rails in NZ), the snow was shit, and the lift was difficult to operate. Long story short, my day ended after the 40th or so unsuccessful attempt to ride the upper lift with me laying in the snow and quietly sobbing.

Post-Craigieburn, circa 2009

After that, the word 'Craigieburn' became synonymous with 'fiasco'. Granite Mountain = the next Craigieburn?

Post-Granite Mountain, circa 2012-hey, same jacket!

We managed to get some good turns in after all:

Alpental 'side-country' saves the day

Over some apres-ski drinks, our Seattle friend happened to mention that the nearby town of North Bend was home to the real-life site of the 'Double R Diner' used in the filming of the show Twin Peaks. Netflix had really been pushing Twin Peaks on me (we predict five stars for AC!), so I gave in and watched the whole series about six months ago (20 years after everyone else I was asking with anticipation, "Who killed Laura Palmer?") and became an instant fangirl. I may have clapped my hands in glee and made a little high pitched noise. The copilot took the hint and drove the 15 miles to North Bend.

ZOMG best day ever!!!

I tried reeeeally hard not to make a total ass out of myself despite the almost irresistible urge to immediately order some cherry pie and a damn fine cup of coffee. I played it cool. If you're ever in North Bend, I'd recommend Twede's Cafe (its actual name) not just for the novelty, but for an excellent selection of burgers and homemade fries.

We also planned on ski touring the next day...

Thursday, January 5, 2012

How I still don't have those stupid socks finished

Seriously, you guys. Still not done with these fracking man-socks. Well, technically I finished them, in the sense that they have all the components neccessary to constitute a sock: heel, gusset, toe, etc.  However, when the copilot tried them on together for the first time he astutely observed that they were not the same size.  So I drop kicked them into the revision pile and flipped them off, as one does.

This left me in a little bit of a conundrum on a recent trip to visit some friends in Berkeley + a work trip to WA.  If I wasn't going to revise the freak man-socks, I was going to need some yarn on-the-go. Fortunately, my friend had passed by a local yarn shop a time or two and took me for a shopping trip. 

I snapped a picture, since the name was so weird I figured I'd never remember it.
  I wanted to address a problem. I'm not much of a runner, but I do enjoy jogging in my Vibram Five Fingers shoes (referred to exclusively as 'feetie shoes' in my household).  In case you hadn't noticed, it's been getting a little nippy outside, and one cannot wear socks with feetie shoes--resulting in an exposed gap of flesh between shoes and running tights that is vulnerable to the elements. 

Article Pract had a cool deal of "Employee Picks" that were discounted 20%, and I picked out some Berroco Ultra Alpaca (with a name like ULTRA how could you go wrong? And the color was Berry Pie Mix). So while I was in Washington, I made myself some....wait for it....

They're back in style, I swear.  And they're totally functional. 

And toasty warm!

The question is: can I wear them in public (in non-running situations?)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Breaking out of Winter Purgatory

Happy Holidays, Seasons Greetings, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah (boy is that hard to spell), Happy Kwanza, Merry Fesitivus, and Happy New Year. Phew, glad we've gotten that out of the way.

Seasonal affective disorder, the big D, the black dog (ya'll know I love dogs, but this one I could do without). Whatever you want to call it, depression always comes to visit during the darkest days of the year.

Wah waaaaaah.  Yeah, this was me the last month and a half.

Seriously, dark at 4:30 PM??? Wisconsin is bullshit. I bought a headlamp just to go to the dog park (as well as a can of mace, as my mother is convinced that I'll be mugged). I had to hook Sammy up with a rear bicycle light on his collar just so he wouldn't get lost.

As most of us do around the holidays, I've been all over the place. A trip to Washington state for work (that was the last time I posted), off to Illinois for Thanksgiving, then to Indiana for Christmas. It was almost as if since I couldn't get away from my real life, I withdrew from my online persona. But I've had a few signs that I need to get back to it.

My sister-in-law got me a gift certificate to Stitch Diva Studios, inspired by blog posts (genius!). I had relatives I was unaware that they even read my blog saying "Are you aware that you haven't written since Nov. 15? What's up with that?" I even had a bloggy friend inquire to see if I was dead in a ditch (I'm not and it was very sweet of you to email, Heidi!). So I've hit the reset button on my reader feed and am ready to catch up with my fellow knitters. Here are some dog pictures to entertain you in the meantime:

'His' recliner
Stuck after an attempt to get the last bits of cereal from the bottom.
Testing the ice at Devil's Lake
In his uncle Rocky's bed (a Yorkshire-Shih Tzu mix)

(I posted this from my phone, so I'm curious to see how well it worked...)