What she said.

Your heart might grow too. I’m off to go install a plug in for charity.

Dyeing day has come and gone, and the fact that I am sitting here typing means the extra ‘e’ in the main verb is a key part of the excitement.

This…

became this….

which looks like this now:

These walnuts…

became this natural dye…

and, with nothing but walnuty goodness and boiling water, brought these into the knitting world:

The company, both human…

and furry…

was (and still is) extremely pleasant as well as eminently talented.

The only thing that went wrong? Mmmmmm. Pepto-Bismol. I will have to rectify this. It was supposed to be an icy pink, but even limiting the dye called for in a “pale” color to less than 1/8 of a teaspoon, coupled with a mere 5 minutes in tepid water, turned off-white wool/silk into, well, a color that is very nearly unwearable unless you’re 3 and wearing a tiara and a tutu. While I won’t have the cherry-blossom pink yarn I wanted for a modified cardigan version of the Hanami Stole, I have learned a lesson about icy just-barely-not-white-anymore colors that I will not soon forget, and I likewise had a weekend I won’t soon forget.

The weather was perfect; the company was fantastic; the slowly darkening walnuts smelled of cookies, leaving trails of steam wherever the dye pot went. There were picturesque falling leaves cascading in waves of yellow and orange around our heads (along with slightly harder walnuts falling from trees overhead), and dappled sunlight wafting in rays across the newly dyed yarny goodness as it dried outdoors in the warm afternoon air. In such surroundings, the Pepto-Bismol yarn–and the walnuts falling perilously, percussively, and concussively, close to the deck–were absolute necessities. I’m convinced that it’s these tiny little imperfections which elevate a day from simply great to unsurpassingly, beautifully, uncompromisingly real, and real is oh-so-much better than perfect….

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….

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.