Congrats to Kenya A. from Utah, who is a beginning knitter looking to challenge herself with a state-of-the-art project.

It was, not unsurprisingly, a difficult task to pick the winner. All of the comments had me either laughing, “aw”ing or just plain in awe of people’s plans for the bag, but Kenya’s stuck out. This bag has a pioneer spirit, and so does Kenya, who’s willing to try out a complex project even though she’s new to the whole knitting thing.

Kenya says:

I’m thinking I would like to do something out of the ordinary in cuteness with the kit. Like maybe make the LEDs into lightning bugs. I am really, really excited to work with this kit.

Good luck!

Right, so all of my writing mojo has been going here instead of, well, here. However, the last week has brought a few fun knitting-related things, two of them in print as of now.

First, an icy, snowy, wintery-blue sock designed for Three Irish Girls with snowflakes arching up and around the ankle. The Spiraling Snow Socks were really quite challenging. I wanted a spiral that swooped gracefully around the ankle bone, but I didn’t want to sacrifice a longer cuff either, and this design accomplished both. Let me also briefly mention how much I covet an entire sweater’s worth of the Kell’s Sport, which is oh-so-squishy and lovely. (Though this would, of course, require me to knit an entire sweater in sport weight, and, well….)

Second, a sweater that uses two totally different yarns to create texture, designed for Yahaira Ferreira’s Pure Knits book. It’s been almost 2 years since I designed this, and it was really satisfying to see the final product surrounded by so many beautiful patterns bound together into a single theme. I will be knitting the men’s herringbone hat-and-scarf set in this book in the next 3.5 seconds, and it will be mine, all mine!

Next up? More academic writing, and some secret knitting that makes me want to stalk the product pages at Amazon until the link is live and I can finally post.

I guess it’s been one of those weeks. You know, a week where everyone seems to have exactly the same week?

Blogless Norma and I have been splitting the sleep allotment of a single person–and apparently, the same kind of obsessive behavior when it comes to combining coding and academic research–but that doesn’t really photograph well.

What does tend to photograph well is a confluence of knitting. Chemgrrl has been working on a scrum-diddly-umscious pair of orange Sock-Hop knee socks for a few weeks, perhaps as long as I’ve been working on a much more boring pair of navy knee socks knit of Karabella Margrite (or something like it in sport weight, can’t remember, details TBA). She’s just been more diligent about documenting her work.

No longer. No longer will these socks be hidden in the shadows of my procrastination, subject to the injustices of my slackerdom.

Knee Socks

But where’s the other sock?

The only thing I’m worried about is whether or not I have enough yarn to make it just one more inch in pattern before I start ribbing, which should allow the socks to cover my ridiculously large lower-leg area.

Like chemgrrl, I had to do some in-pattern increases to get the poor socks to fit. Unlike her, I’ll probably release a pattern at some point.

Knee Sock Calf Increases

Look at how planned that looks…. Not at all as though I winged it. Wung it?

And, like chemgrrl, I hope someday to name these after someone in my knitting group, because it’s The Best Knitting Group Ever ™.

In high school, my physics teacher called it thermoGoddammits, not thermodynamics. And for good reason, because any isolated system will tend to become more disorderly over time, even with intervention. And if constant vigilance doesn’t have an effect, well, then that seems to me like a perfectly good reason to swear.

Swearing also takes work. Effort. Involvement. And I have enough work-effort-involvement elsewhere in life right now, what with conferences, teaching, writing, researching and begging for cash to fund the aforementioned conferences, teaching, writing and researching. It takes lots of work–and swearing–to keep the isolated system I like to call “My Life” from spiraling completely into chaos, so I thought I’d try something different.

I thought perhaps if I let entropy do its work on one part of the isolated system, as embodied by my current pair of WIP socks, I might be able to keep the rest of the system under control.

Randomly Ribbed Sock Toes

Random! Disordered! Unplanned cables! Whee!

This has turned out to be harder than I expected. Either I’m not random enough, or it really does take planned effort to make something look effortless. I’m not sure how to interpret this turn of events. If it takes effort to make something *look* as though it’s descending into an unplanned spiral of madly placed cables, does that mean I can just leave well enough alone in the rest of the “My Life” system and things will fall neatly and nicely into place?

If so, the stupid second law of thermoGoddammits has it all wrong.

It finally happened. My horrible sister and I were nice to each other for a week, and the day she was scheduled to leave, Indiana got 13 inches of snow.

Which gave me just enough time to publish a new pattern perfect for this kind of weather: a quick-knit super-bulky hat and scarf pattern that will be done before the next snowstorm hits….

The Mistaken Identity Hat & Scarf was finished a few weeks ago, but I didn’t have it test-knit or verified until just a few days ago. But it’s done now, and just in time! Yay!

cover
Look, I’m serious for once!

The pattern in full is available for purchase at Ravelry, here:

The world is, indeed, topsy turvy. Kinda like this baby set.

Topsy Turvy is comprised of a top-down hat and toe-up baby booties with a forked heel. Babies have pronounced heels and fat feet, so making baby socks that fit can be difficult. The forked heel helps out by creating a longer, wider heel that will stay on.

main-image

A common cast-on technique for toe-up socks also doubles as a cast-on technique for the top-down hat. This adaptation takes the pain out of small-circumference circular cast-ons and might just win you over for your next shawl, too.

Basic 2×2 ribbing is flexible enough for new parents to get squirmy babies into both the socks and the hat.

$5.95

There are good reasons for everything. This week, the lesson is in why I have a knitting machine.

Two ordinary skeins of sock yarn turned into art. Or at least potential art.

Chemgrrl is throwing a Fall To Dye For dyeing party for my fantastic knitting group (Blogless Norma and Huan-Hua are sadly not attending due to previously arranged absences). Thankfully, it’s not a dying party, or I’d be bringing a coffin instead of pre-knit stockinette swatches designed to become beautifully hand-dyed socks.

This will be my first real foray into hand-dyed yarn in a serious kind of way. I’ve done some experimentation with Kool-Aid and even less with acid dyes (just one skein of self-striping yarn for a work project), and I’m really looking forward to seeing natural dyes like indigo and walnut in action. Still more exciting is the chance to try some patterning on these KnitPicks-inspired sock blanks made out of ShibuiKnits’ 100% superwash merino Sock. I’m not a big fan of anything with nylon, so while the KnitPicks Sock Blanks concept makes the geek in me squeal, the fiber content doesn’t so much appeal to the yarn snob in me.

Here’s hoping the resultant hand-dyed yarn will be fodder for another design that uses the spiffy new forked heel I designed over the summer. At the very least, I will learn more about the worm content of walnuts, though perhaps I might come to regret such an education….

We now interrupt your regularly scheduled blog for a short message from one of our sponsors.

Now available at Ravelry!

This brand-new heel turn technique, the “forked heel,” will win over die-hard devotees of short-row and heel-flap techniques alike, thanks to the extra heel room and more anatomically correct shape.

To compliment the devilishly clever forked-heel technique, saucy forked-tongue flames lick up the sides of the instep and the cuff, warming you up in spirit even as the days cool down.

The pattern is available for sale for $5.95 through Ravelry.

The toes of a forked sockWhy is it that we only emphasize the very end of something? As evidenced by the photo at right, it’s really the process that’s the fun part. Look, socks!!!!! Of my very own cables-and-lace design!

Stuck landings in gymnastics are just about as important as stuck landings in real life. It’s usually what you do during the bulk of the routine/class/business meeting/knitting project/friendship/day that really counts, not how quickly you walked out the door when the day finally ended. In real life, we comport ourselves as though every moment counts, and gymnasts do the same thing, because tiny steps on the landing only add up to ten percent of the overall deductions in an average gymnastics routine.

We talked about extension and amplitude yesterday. Today, it’s form and execution. Elfi Schlegel compliments gymnasts who have great form and execution all the time–Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson, along with the Chinese team, got most of those compliments today–but she doesn’t really explain what “great form” really means and how gymnasts “execute” moves well.

There are only a few body shapes the human body can make under duress: straight/slightly arched, bent at the hips, and bent at the hips and knees. Gymnastics “form” is just a measurement of what shape the gymnast made compared to the shape specified by the code of points for a particular skill; good or bad execution expresses the degree to which they deviated from that body shape.

Straight-body moves like handstands require the legs, arms and hips to be lined up and stretched into a near-straight line, with the insides of the ankles touching (rather than crossed). Bent-hipped body positions can be done with the legs/ankles together (piked) or the legs separated (split or straddled), but the knees cannot be bent and the hip-bend must be at least 90 degrees; if your bent-hip position is a split position, that means at least a 180-degree split. Tucked positions require at least a 90-degree bend in both the hip joint and the knee joint, and the ankles again should be together but not crossed.

Deviate from the specified form for a skill and execution deductions kick in. Each 10 or 15 degrees of deviation in an execution deduction–the difference depends on which apparatus–has a set deduction. There’s one deduction for missing 10 degrees in your 180-degree split and another for missing 20 degrees in your 180 degree split; deductions for each 10-degree bend at the hips in a layout position; even deductions for not having your hips bent enough in a pike. If your arms were bent in a handstand on bars, there’s a deduction for that, and it too is specified to the very degree. Flexed feet, crossed feet, head position, and too much arch in a straight-body position are also incorporated into execution deductions.

It takes time to train your eyes to see all of the different angles of deduction, time to see all of the body parts at the same time, but it doesn’t take much to appreciate it when you see a skill done right. At least not when you understand how amplitude, extension, form and execution all come together.

It’s always nice to see a stuck landing, but it’s the confluence of great execution, high amplitude and precise extension–and not the endings–that make a routine world-class. It’s not the end of the day that makes a job worthwhile, or a goodbye that cements a friendship.

It’s the middle part, and as any gymnast will tell you, the landing of one routine just means it’s time to prep for the next apparatus, the next routine This week, Huan-Hua (on the left, with Katie) moved on to the next routine, and even if endings don’t count for everything, they should still be celebrated with a good application of beer.