OK, so I tried to invent my own method of knitting an argyle pattern in the round. And it turned out about as I expected – a disaster! So I unravelled and took a fifteenth look at the instructions in the pattern I’m following. I think I got it. At least beyond that step. Now I’m facing the next problem, and it’s going almost as well as the last one was at first (which is to say… badly).

It was a gorgeous day today. When I got home from church I went for a walk in the woods behind my house, camera in hand. I took several shots. There is still nothing in bloom here, but there is plenty of life. The evergreen herbs are greening up first, I guess they had a head start. Those would include these:

Trailing Arbutus and Partridge Berry

Trailing Arbutus (Epigaea repens) and Partridge Berry (Mitchella repens)

The Partridge Berry is the one with… the red berry? Yes. These berries are pretty cool because they each have two eyes (leading some people to call them snake eyes). Each eye comes from its own flower, and the flowers appear in pairs, joined at the base. They fuse into a berry later leaving these eyes.

The repens part of the binomial names (in both these plants) is Latin for “sudden, unexpected, fresh, recent.” I have no idea which sense of the word they meant here, but repens shows up as a species name in several genera. They were under the snow all winter, so “sudden” and “recent” are out. I was expecting to see them, so “unexpected” is out. I guess that leaves “fresh?”

I also saw some other plants that I was most definitely not expecting. I don’t know if they are evergreens or not, but there are sure green now. The first was this one:

Threeleaf Goldthread (Coptis groenlandica)

Threeleaf Goldthread (Coptis groenlandica)

I don’t think it’s an evergreen, so maybe it just sprouted from beneath the snow. Anyhow, I was not expecting it. The other one was this:
Pyrola (Pyrola spp.)

Pyrola (Pyrola spp.)

Though I’m confident that this does indeed belong to the genus Pyrola I haven’t been able to decide which species within that genus it is. This one will raise up a stem and then have several flowers on it later this year, and they will all be at a height that would have been exceedingly difficult to photograph except that I now have those extension rods for my tripod. This plant grows in the dark woods and makes white flowers, and that combination requires long exposure times. Long exposure times require a tripod. I was not happy with the pictures I got of these flowers last year, so you can bet I’ll make another attempt again this year with my new equipment.

Tonight I knit a test swatch so I could see how many stitches per inch I would be knitting with my new needles and yarn.

Testing the knit gauge

Testing the knit gauge

At first I was just using all black yarn, but I found it was almost impossible to count stitches since it all ran together. After half an inch or so I started alternating between tan and black. As you can see, it’s a lot easier to see the stitches up there at the top. This came out to 6 stitches per inch (horizontal), and 10 rows per inch (vertical).

With these numbers in hand, I went ahead an plugged them into a form I found in an online pattern. They also wanted some measurements from my feet, so I made those and plugged them in as well. Now I need to wind some yarn onto my new bobbins and get started.

Today I went to a yarn store in downtown Concord. I told the lady there that I wanted to knit a pair of argyle socks. She fixed me up.

I ended up buying a package of bobbins, two sets of #4 circular needles, and three skeins of yarn. It came to $38.00. Ouch!

These are going to be the most expensive socks ever, and that doesn’t even include the labor. I think I’ll value my time at about a billion bucks an hour just to make sure these are the most expensive socks ever. And since I will be the proud owner of these socks, that will make me one of the richest men in the world. Bill Gates will slip down yet another notch.

Tomorrow I have the pulpit at church. I’m going to talk about the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. John is hands down my favorite of the gospels, and this chapter is one of the reasons for that. I also like chapters 2 and 3, and his account of the resurrection is the most meaningful to me. Powerful stuff!

I’ve spent most of the evening reading everything I have on this story. Hopefully, someone will benefit from my study as I already have.

I dunno how long I’ve been doing this, but every time I think of the phrase “pair of socks” it makes me think of “Frere Jacques”. And then it becomes “Pair-a-sacques” in my head. Luckily, I don’t think the phrase “pair of socks” every time I put a pair on, or I would be insane by now. Or maybe that explains a lot, who knows.

Anyhow, I’m thinking “pair-a-sacques” tonight, because I have finally finished knitting my first pair. Here they are.

Pair of newly knitted socks

Penny is not impressed.

Man… these things are warm.

Oh – and this was my second post tonight. I don’t usually post twice in a day, but I also don’t usually finish knitting a pair-a-sacques.

I finished the heel and gussets (i.e., ankles) of my second sock tonight. Now it’s just a matter of straight knitting until I get to the toe. I have found myself pegging the geek meter as I knit. I guess it’s mandatory for an engineer. For example, when I was knitting the above-the-ankle part, I was doing some ribbing. Knit two, purl two. So the pattern repeats every four stitches. So I counted them. Starting from zero. In hexadecimal.

Hexadecimal (or hex for short) uses the number 16 as its base instead of 10 (with which most people are comfortable). It’s used in computing because a hex digit translates directly into four binary digits (aka bits). Decimal doesn’t do that. Anyhow, I’ve been using hex for so long that I know the binary representation of each digit pretty much automatically. It is deeply engrained. So all I have to do to know if I need to knit or purl is consider bit 1. If it’s zero, I knit. If it’s one, I purl. But that only works if I start from zero, which is why count from zero.

In other news, I found some strange tracks on our property yesterday. I suspect they may have been made by a mink. They were about the right size and they have five toes. I took several pictures, but the light was quickly failing. I didn’t try to make a cast, because it’s hard to cast tracks in snow (plaster melts them), and I wasn’t sure I had any joint compound. Oh well. Here’s a shot:

Mink tracks?

Mink tracks?

If anyone has an opinion on whether these are mink or not, I’d like to hear it.

I finished my first sock last night. I knitted it without any errors (that I know of), but I have decided I don’t really like the pattern. It’s kinda hard to tell that until you’ve knitted one though. I guess. So now I’m doomed to knit another sock just like it, or have a half pair of socks. I went ahead and started the second sock tonight. Maybe the pattern will grow on me after I wear them a bit.

Today at lunch, Jonathan and I went to the Tea Garden, a Chinese restaurant. We stopped at the bank on the way so I could make a deposit. I thought the food was pretty good, and Jonathan said he enjoyed it as well. Plus it wasn’t any more than a deli, except that I gave nearly a 30% tip (on $3.00 on an $11 check). Still a $3.00 tip seemed pretty lean.

We walked back to the office the back way along the railroad tracks. That’s the path I usually tread when I take a lunchtime walk in the summer looking for blooms to log. There were no blooms today.

After I finished the sock last night, I went down to the basement and sawed up some PVC. Then I assembled it into a puppet theater. I think it’s going to work out pretty OK. I had the idea later today that the back drop could be made from a thin white sheet (or white linen of some sort), and then we could project scenery onto it from behind. How cool would that be? Answer: All the way cool.

But of course there’s no time for that for this production. I still need to cut up and stitch the canvas covering together for it. And maybe paint it, but I think that will have to wait too. Plus with the sewing machine out of commission, I’m going to have to wait on doing any stitching anyhow.

I also need to wedge a little time in this week or next to paint my Pinewood Derby car. I guess I should go out and buy some paint.

I made tunics for the two puppets I posted about yesterday. I still need to make accoutrements for six more, and I also need to build a puppet theater. And get some gloves for the other two soon-to-be puppets I have here at the house.

I also knitted a bit more on my sock. It’s getting close to the toe now, and maybe I’ll get to that later tonight. Other than that… I got nuthin’.

Maybe I chose a bench plane for my Pinewood Derby car because I heard planes are faster than cars?

Pinewood Derby car in the rough

Pinewood Derby car in the rough

Ha ha.

Nothing much to report today. I did work on my car a little when I got home. I should have gone down to the basement and cleaned up around the furnace though, because I invited our fuel oil supplier to come over and do the annual maintenance. In my case it’s more like the biannual maintenance.

I worked a bit on knitting my sock too. It’s about six inches long now. Two more inches and then I can work on the heel.

Yesterday during the Pinewood clinic I was also handing out fruit orders as people came to collect them. A young man dropped by to pick up his mother’s order and he told me she had ordered a case of oranges. Before I hand any of the fruit out, I slap some mailing labels on them (that Va prints up for me) telling me who it belongs to, if they still owe money, and how many boxes are in their order. I couldn’t find his mom’s order among any of the orange cases. So I assumed that maybe I had overlooked it and had accidentally sold it to someone else thinking it was an extra. No worries though, I have extras to cover my stupidity. I gave him one of the spares and sent him on his way. A few minutes later, I found his mom’s box – it was tangelos, not oranges.

I called her house when I got home, but she was already in bed. I left a message for her to call me, and she did call me around 3:30 this afternoon. I made arrangements to deliver her tangelos. And then I delivered her tangelos. Luckily she lives pretty close to my office (about a ten minutes drive) so I didn’t hafta go very far out of my way to take care of the situation. I retrieved the navels and gave her her tangelos. Then I came home.

That’s all the excitement I have to report from here today.

We had a bit of snow today, but I don’t think it’s supposed to amount to much. We’re supposed to get some wind tonight though, with 40 MPH gusts. Maybe NH needs that so we can reclaim the wind speed record. In 1934, the Mount Washington Observatory recorded a gust of 231 MPH. That record was just “officially” certified as smashed this week. The officials have verified that some data recorded by an oil company in Australia caught a three-second gust that was 253 MPH. Ouch! It took 14 years for them to figure that out though.

I guess it’s bad when you have to brag that your state has the worst weather in the world, but there are plenty of people here bemoaning the loss of the record. Oh well.

Jonathan’s class was cancelled today. His teacher had a back ache and almost didn’t come in on Tuesday. I had dropped him off on my way to the office, and he came right back. Va came to Concord a little before noon, and we took her car to have the oil changed. We ate at Pizza Hut while Jiffy Lube took care of that. Jonathan rode home with her afterwards.

When I got home I worked on my knitting a little more. I have resolved the problem I was having with ribbing, and I have also mastered the use of two circular needles. It’s not that bad once you get them untangled. My first sock is now about an inch and a half long. Six and a half more to go, and then I can begin knitting the heel. Or something. Then I get to do another one.

Today while I was at work I got a call from Va. She was at AC Moore, a craft store. I had mentioned that I needed to buy some circular needles so I could knit some socks or maybe a sock hat, and she remembered that. She wanted to know what size I wanted. “Six,” I told her, “and I need two pairs.” So she bought me two number six circular knitting needles.

For those of you who do not know, and I would have numbered myself among you one month ago, a circular knitting needle is a needle with two points with a flexible center between those two points. They are used for knitting “in the round”, meaning, that’s how tubes are knitted. Seamless tubes can be used for making sweaters, socks, mittens, etc.

When we were at Leadership Training last weekend, Melissa showed me how to use two pairs of circular needles to knit things that are too small to fit on the loop of one pair. I thought it was pretty cool, but I had a hard time grokking it. So tonight I figured I’d give it a shot. But I made the mistake of attempting two new things at the same time. The first is using a pair of circular needles (or even one for that matter). The second is that I tried to knit a ribbed pattern. It did not go well. At all. I think both aspects are giving me fits.

When I “join the circle”, I tighten the yarn up as much as I can, nearly to the point of connecting the yarn up to a come-along and cinching it up. But once I have knitted a couple of stitches beyond the join, I look back and see an inch or more of loose yarn between the two. Methinks it is probably drawing the extra yarn from the far side of the join. It would take upwards of two tons of force to draw it from the near side.

The other problem is that I’m just making a mess when I try to rib. I’m not sure whether I’m supposed to pull the working yarn to the front or to the back, and if it moves from front to back (or back to front), if it goes over the top of the needles or underneath. So I end up with a mess on my hands.

So I back off and got the straight needles out. I decided I would try knitting some ribs in the flat to eliminate that complication. It was still a mess. Clearly, I am going to require some hands-on instruction here.

When you’ve got it down, knitting is a great task for thinking about other stuff. But tonight all I could think about was that I was clearly doing it wrong. But as long as I keep at it, it will eventually become the mindless task I want it to be.