October 10, 2007

Indecision and the hole I fell down in!

I know that should read "and the hole in which I fell down", but who wants to read all that. So, pbtthhhh to that and let's move on.

A little planning goes a long way. And it can be thrown out the proverbial window in a moment's notice.

There is controversy, confusion, and upheaval for me around Socktoberfest and what socks I should knit. How will this end?

My first thought when I heard about Socktoberfest (again) was my rightly renamed Yarn Botanika Indian Corn. The color makes me happy and is perfect for this season. However…

When I swatched, the smallness (skinniness? thinness?) of this yarn became apparent. I tried three different needles from 2.5 to 2.25, and although the 2.25 mm gave a much better fabric, this yarn could happily be knit on 0's.

I say "could" because I don't think that I'm gonna knit those socks right now. The colors are still great, but I don't think my wrist will thank me for such a small needle/fine gauge. Then a bell went off in my head – these colors are familiar.

A quick raid of my MSWF stash (which still hasn't been introduced to the regular stash) found me holding a pair of intertwined skeins of The Flock Bransonas sock yarn. This is some über soft alpaca sock yarn.

Again, I though this is it. I even had a photo shoot with the skeins. But having two skeins means either doing striping (w/ contrast heels & toes) or colorwork (i.e., fair isle). This scares me a bit.

While looking through some colorwork sock patterns, I realized that I had better start with something a little less.. intense/tiny for my first fair isle try. So I searched my resources, which includes asking my knitgrrls for suggestions.

The grrls came through like champs and suggested the We Call Them Pirates hat from Hello Yarn. I had bought some yarns a while ago to make up a few of these hats. So I grabbed a skein of navy and cream and gave it a whirl. (I'm not very far into it at all and loving it!)

That was the hole.

So about those Socktoberest socks… the other day while chatting with another of my knitgrrls, she mentioned the brilliant idea of knitting the remaining sock from last year's Socktoberfest and single sock swap! Brilliant!

Posted by Nanc at 11:03 AM | Comments (6)

October 05, 2007


Before we get all immersed in Socktoberfest, let me clear the air a bit with some finished socks. Yes, that's right. F.O.s!

The real FO sock story is my Mom's First Socks. (Previously discussed here and here.) Without bragging or being too boastful, these socks really turned out wonderful. The pattern, Child's First Socks, from Knitting Vintage Socks by Nancy Bush is wonderfully written. The repeats are easy to memorize (heck, after not working on them for months I could pick them up and know where I was and what came next – amazing).

I did veer away from the pattern a bit, as I'm want to do. I knit the leg portion the size I liked, not the number of pattern repeats listed, and I used the slip stitch heel flap that I know and love. Really, aside from the shell pattern, I followed my own sock-knitting heart.

The yarn was also fabulous: Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in Denim. I did have some issues with the color/dye lots matching. Let's just say that I now have two skeins of this yarn in different Denim colors, one that is halfway to being a sock! (I realized the color issue just before the heel flap.)

I was in a bit of need when I started the socks and didn't have the correct size circular needle (2.25 mm, at least 32"). So I bought one on a whim in a brand that I hadn’t used before (Inox). I can't say that I recommend them, at least not for sock knitting.

The join (where the needle connects to the cord) is not smooth. In fact, there's a bend (like an elbow), and the yarn didn't like going over this bit. Every stitch for every row would catch on this… every time. Lot's a lot to put up with.

The end product? Totally worth it. I hope my mother feels the same way when I gift her with these. Am I worried that she'll sneak a peak and ruin the surprise? Naw, my family rarely visits this side of the internets. Besides, I already told her that I was making socks for her and Da. (Don't even ask; not even started!)

My other sock FO? Well… [shuffles feet] It's not a complete FO, but half. Meaning I finished one sock of the pair on my Oh, Canada! socks.

This is Regia Canadian Color in #4727 – Vancouver (hence the name), which is a great, stripy sock yarn in cool pool colors. (I've never been to Vancouver, so I can't tell you how well it relates.) I'm following Nancy Bush again with her Madder Ribbed socks (in Knitting Vintage Socks). And yes, I have a ton of mods.

The second of these socks is temporarily on hold due to the onset of Socktoberfest. Of which, I've swatched, and now I have concerns about that yarn. But I'll save that story for another day!

Posted by Nanc at 03:03 PM | Comments (5)

The Gargoyle demanded it

Spurred on by Socktoberfest and encouraged by my gargoyle buddy, I was compelled today to wear handknit socks.

Never mind that it is supposed to be 91° today. (Did I mention that fall is only an idea, a state of mind, in TX?)

I'm wearing my Mega Boots socks and lovin' it! (Thank goodness for office A/C.)

Posted by Nanc at 12:37 PM | Comments (1)

October 04, 2007

Talk nerdy to me*

Some of you might have guessed that Matt is a bit of a geek. (Just a hint of geekry, really.) But he is also a sweet guy. Combine these two features and what do you get?

Simple documentation with graphics on how to turn on our hot tub. If that doesn’t say love, I don’t know what does. (No, seriously. What?)

Last week, I left work early because of back pain. I do not know what I did or how I did it, but my back hurt any time I sat, stood, laid down, walked or even thought about these options. (I believe it was a pinched nerve, but whatever – it’s getting better.)

So my sweetie pie (that would be Matt) emailed me some quick, easy-to-understand instructions for operating the hot tub. With illustrations of the pool’s working parts from memory! Wow! (We’ve lived here nearly a year now and I still don’t understand all those pool bits and pieces. That’s his territory. Just make it pretty and refreshing, and I’m there!)

To cap it all, he’s been turning on the hot tub for me almost every night since. Gosh, he’s swell!

* I love this phrase since I first saw it on a t-shirt. Now it's everywhere!

Posted by Nanc at 02:39 PM | Comments (5)

October 03, 2007

Goodbye Summer, Hallo’ Socktober!

In Texas, we don’t really say goodbye to the heat of summer so much as the idea of pool parties, water restrictions, and constantly staying in the air-conditioned indoors. The concept of fall in all its leaf-raking, crisp-morning notions wakes us up out of our hammock-napping haze and gets us to enjoy the slight change of weather. (Shorter sunlight hours = lesser heat-of-the-day moments.)

The onset of fall also nudges my inner knitter out of it’s a-row-here-a-row-there stupor and gets my wool-juices flowing. (That is not what I meant!)

The knit-blogging world is already abuzz about Socktoberfest and I’m coming along for the ride! Oh, sure. I still have all those WIPs and SIPs to work on, but the excitement is in the new project; the of-the-moment sock special for the occasion.

And how could I knit anything other than this lovely, autumnal skein of fingering weight yarn? This is Yarn Botanika Superwash Merino in a color they dubbed Marigolds, but I’m renaming Indian Corn. (Isn’t it just delicious?!)

I’m undecided on which pattern I should use: a lacy leaf patter or a clever slip-stitch pattern? Something popular and "hot" now, like Monkeys, or a simple sock to show whatever those colors want to do? I welcome all of your suggestions.

What I do know is that both me and that lil’ guy in the photos are sure glad that it is Socktober! Bwah-Ha-Ha-Ha

Posted by Nanc at 10:19 AM | Comments (4)

October 01, 2007

Have you played Atari today?

I have.

Atari is 30 years old this month. To celebrate, I just finished adding a cartridge slot to an Atari Flashback 2, which is a small game console with 40 built-in games. Now I can play the built-in games or play some of my old Atari cartridges. Anybody up for a quick game of E.T?*

Click the "read more" link for more general geekery on this topic.

Is geekery even a word?

The Flashback 2 is a product that caters to folks like me, who remember the Atari as a cornerstone toy of childhood. (Yep, I said it. It’s right up there with Star Wars figures.) Designed to look like a kid brother to the 2600, the Flashback 2 (or the FB2) even sports fake wood grain detailing, and comes with two authentic joysticks.

Flashback 2: Designed for fun

The superior retro design isn’t just skin deep. The FB2 works with your existing joystick and paddle controllers, if you can find them in the attic. Inside, a single chip replicates an Atari 2600. When I am playing games, I am running the same exact code that I played 30 years ago. There is no emulation at all.

After voiding the warranty and opening the case, there is an extra treat. Printed on the back of the board are brief instructions for connecting a cartridge slot to the system. You can sometimes find cool stuff on circuit boards. I also learned that the FB2’s project name is “Michele.”

Adding the cartridge slot really increases the shelf life of the FB2. Instead of getting bored with the built-in games, I can play my favorites too. For the record, some of the cartridges that I’ve kept for years include: Midnight Magic, Pole Position, Empire Strikes Back, Pitfall, and oh yes, E.T.*

Hack job

Other folks have done a fine job of describing how to do this. Instead of boring you with every detail, I present some general thoughts.

Overall the modifications went smoothly, and took me about a day. But I really took my time with it. I picked up the cartridge slot online, and I was able to pick up everything else on a trip to my friendly neighborhood Radio Shack.

Using the handy reference printed on the circuit board, I soldered 24 wires between the marked pads on the board and the cartridge slot. To make the wires easy to keep track of, I used a spare IDE ribbon cable.

In addition to putting in the slot, I also added a switch to select between the built-in games or the cartridge. I also removed the attached 6 foot RCA cable, and replaced it with a couple of RCA jacks on the back.

If you’re going to try this, know that will you have to solder very tiny things with great precision. Make sure that you have a small tip for your soldering iron. Be patient, and tin everything.

After Dremeling some holes in the case for the new parts, I was ready to play.

*Footnote: The Atari E.T. Game

I mentioned E.T in the introduction. If you aren’t familiar with the life and death of this unassuming little video game, read on.

The E.T. video game for the Atari 2600 is considered by many to be the worst video game. Ever. The millions of dollars paid in licensing fees and the lack of sales of this game were key contributing factors to Atari’s downfall.

The game was bad for a number of reasons; primarily it just isn’t any fun to play. The game was rushed through development in order to capitalize on the success of the movie and the tie-in marketing maelstrom.

The graphics are underwhelming, even for an Atari game. The gameplay is so unintuitive that you really have to read the manual, a rarity for the time. In the early 1980’s, most games could be completely described in one sentence or less. Asteroids – Avoid the rocks and shoot them. Pole Position – Drive the car fast. E.T. – Collect colored squares (Reese’s Pieces) and blobs (phone parts). You may fall in holes, but it's okay because you can make your neck tall and float out. Avoid pretty much all people. There’s more that you need to know to play about zones and warping, but it really doesn’t make much sense. Besides, there’s more to this story.

So Atari had a whole bunch of E.T. cartridges that it couldn’t get rid of. Between the unsold stock, and the games returned by an angry and vaguely confused public, Atari was sitting on millions of those cartridges.

At this point in the narrative, I like to imagine that Atari consulted with a mafia hit man named Vito. Vito was able to get things done. Or perhaps the suits at Atari were petulant bastards with revenge in their hearts. Of the two, I like Vito better.

Anyhow, Atari loaded all those games onto 14 semis and drove them from a warehouse in El Paso across state lines to desolate Alamogordo, New Mexico. What happens in Alamogordo stays there, if you get my drift.

The prodigal game was dispatched with, execution style. First, the cartridges were crushed. But that wasn’t enough for the worst game ever. The mangled remains were then dropped into a large grave. Finally, the games were encased in cement and the hole was filled in. Yes, Atari hated this game so much that they killed it three times to make sure that it was really dead.

Posted by Matty at 06:27 PM | Comments (2)