Monday, August 28, 2006

Pickin' Up Stitches, Wonderin' Why It Don't Add Up Right, dum de dee...

The last days of August and all the signs of autumn are here. Patrick, our neighbouring organic farmer (and believe me I thank our good luck every day of the year that he is so minded and doesn't spray his fields constantly with heaven-knows-what in the way of toxic substances) started cutting his cornfield last night, chuntering slowly all around the perimeter first, then gradually into the centre. Now just the bright golden straw is left lying to dry before being baled to provide winter cosiness for his stock.

The birds have finally decided that the rowan berries are ripe enough and are descending in flocks. When I go out with the dogs in the early morning, they fly off frantically, dropping scraps of bright red berry as they make their escape. This morning we watched two blackbirds picking and popping like kids with peanuts; then they scrambled in terror as a mistle thrush bombed low across the garden to take over.

And yesterday was Ballingeary Show (no, no relation to Bantry) which is always on the last Sunday in August. It's a very small local show, but endearing in its homely atmosphere. The craft entries were sparse, and displayed so half-heartedly at least twenty feet away behind a barrier that they couldn't even be photographed for you (yes, I commented, to many officials, again and again. Next year may well be different. On the other hand, it may not. If I heard 'Well that's the way we've always done it' once, I heard it a dozen times.). However, the baking section was as hotly contested as ever.

Just thought I'd give your diets something to think about.

I also met the most charming Irish-speaking dog at the show.

His name, unfortunately, is Poxy. His owner explained that she'd rescued him as a stray on Tenerife and had paid over €600 to get him back safely to West Cork. Apparently the locals on Tenerife used to refer to him as 'that poxy stray', hence the name. Me, I might have gone for something more mellifluous. However, since Ballingeary is a Gaeltacht (an area where the residents still speak Irish as their first language), the first thing Poxy had to do was learn the vernacular. And he has done pretty well, responding instantly to 'Suig sios' (sit down) as well as 'Ar mhaith leath beagainin ciste?' (would you perhaps like a small piece of cake?).

I've been working pretty hard on the Interlacement socks which are headed for Bantry Show next weekend. Getting to the heel flap, I tried to find straight needles in the same gauge as the tiny rosewood dpns but discovered that, surprise surprise, an old UK 12 (don't ask, OK?) is not quite the same. Nor is a size 13. I know this because most of one heel flap had been worked on the needles I thought would do (they looked identical, for heaven's sake, and almost fitted the same holes on my Susan Bates) before a long hard look at the resultant (admittedly very nice and smooth) stocking stitch forced an admittance that it was not the same tension. Eventually found a fine circular that was doing something else at the time but was persuaded (fairly forcibly, I admit) to drop that and come right over to help in the present crisis. Nothing for it. Frog, swear, pick up. Miss one that had sneaked off to have a word with its friends several rows back. Go hunt for fine crochet hook. Pick up truant stitch. Start the heel flap again. Repeat some (but thankfully not all) of the above with second sock.

Here they are with the heel flaps done, and shown with the purl side outwards just to give you a thrill.

Turning the heel was actually quite fun once you see the commonsense and reasoning behind it. The confidence engendered by this, however, was soon dissipated when I started picking up along the heel flap and getting back into the round. The number of stitches required to be picked up was far less than I would have thought and resulted in a rather gathered effect. Still, I followed the pattern assiduously, reasoning that the designer probably KNEW WHAT SHE WAS DOING and had a GRAND PLAN in mind.

Then discovered that the number of stitches I had ended up with was far greater than that indicated in the pattern. Went back over the instructions. Checked my knitting minutely. Did some maths. Yep, I was right. There was no way I could have followed those instructions and come up with the laughably small number of stitches they said I should have. In fact if I'd followed eye and instinct I'd have had even more (along that heel flap).

What do you do in cases like this? (Unfortunately the most popular one, featuring a trashcan, a gallon of paraffin and a box of matches, isn't an option right now as I have already completed the entry form for the show.) Having checked another half dozen times, gone over my abstruse mathematical calculations, and held up the sock at all angles, I decided to go ahead and hope for the best. There is provision for some reduction in stitches as the foot proceeds downward towards the toe, so I'll use that little window of opportunity to get back on the correct count.

Unless of course the designer (or indeed the printer, why blame it on the designer? And come to that, why do I presuppose it was a female? Just like a male to gloss loftily over the minor details, reasoning that they didn't really matter all that much) got it wrong, and I SHOULD have the larger number of stitches. Advice please, and quickly too. What number of stitches do you normally end up with when you get past the heel and start down the foot? Same as before the heel? Less? More? Let's hear from the experts (and cut out the snarfling laughter, right?)

An update on Muffy and her shrubbery-guarding. This morning I was working on some deadline copy (it's always on deadline, can't work any other way) when I glanced out and saw Muffy in the middle of the lawn apparently wrestling with a black shape almost as big as herself. You don't stop to think at times like this - I was downstairs and out the front door before I even registered what I was doing.

It was a very large rabbit. A very large dead rabbit. A very large dead rabbit that had popped its clogs, handed in its notice, retired from public life, some considerable time ago. You don't want to know the details but if I briefly allude to many many smaller creatures which had in the interim taken up occupancy within said rabbit... yes, I thought you wouldn't want to know. And my killer Pekingese was standing triumphantly over this prize, making little darts at it and beaming all over her face. All by herself this small dog (who a year ago was so weak she couldn't get out of bed) had dragged this precious loot through the brambles and tangled branches of the shrubbery, down a slope and out across the lawn to where she had deposited it to await congratulation and proper accolade.


Of course DH (who didn't hear about it until it was all over) said I should have gone calmly back to the house, found a camera, and photographed the hideous object from all angles (omitting none of the wriggling tiny residents). What I actually did was grab a garden spade, hoist the horrible shape on to it, and rush down to the boundary fence where there is a drop to an impenetrable thicket some six feet below.

Ever since, Muffy has been prowling around the lawn looking furious. 'How could it have escaped?', she is muttering to herself. 'I'd beaten it into submission, I'd told it not to dare move. Where's it got to now?'

I'm sorry to disappoint you on the gory shot, but here's a (fairly) peaceful one of the said disgruntled Muffy in the spot where she was discovered in flagrante rabbito this morning.

(I have to admit that I can't help a sneaking feeling of pride, though. You know, she's such a little dog really, and there still isn't much padding on those fragile bones. It must have taken quite a bit of effort and doggy planning to work out a route through the tangle of the shrubbery and out into the light of day, not to mention serious puffing effort. I might give her a little medal after all. It's a bit like that fairy tale 'Seven At A Blow', isn't it? The tailor who swiped several flies and then made himself a belt with that statement on, whereupon everyone worshipped him as a hero. Yeah, good on you, Muffy. I know what you were saying as you reached the designated show-off spot at last. 'That'll show 'em!')


poipill said...

thanks for the compliment on the seasilk shawl! I'm really sad that I'm no longer working on it. The butterfly net did too good of a job making it appear larger than it actually is. Lucky you has two balls though, can't wait to see what you get out of it!

Anonymous said...

Oh Lord I've just had lunch ! Good job you spared us of the photo! I have been half bonkers trying to read a letter Charles 1st wrote then I see the Irish and as romantic as it looks know I wouldn't have a chance of pronouncing it. I am glad to hear there are parts that were not robbed of the language .I have a fancy for the free Japanese lessons at the local Japanese sponsored college.
I didn't knit much today as I was reading so long .Jeff came to the rescue helping this dunder-head to enlarge the print .I adore Poxy and admire his owners ense of irony in keeping his name . Sorry about the socks.

Charity said...

Sorry about the socks, although I love the idea of knitting both at the same time. I'll have to look into that :0)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the photos, lovely, and I might add, the omission of photos.
Sorry about your socks. Pesky little socks.
So, are we talking about the same shrubbery that was so intriguing Muffy last week?
The home baked goodies, honestly, that may come under cruel and nasty for showing them, I myself had to act quickly, catching the drool.
Angie, I took 3 semesters of Japanese about 15 years ago, it is a very interesting language and you also need to be a bit of an artist to 'write' it.

Peg-woolinmysoup said...

Jo - congrats to Muffy! She is like our Tibbie - never gives up no matter what!
I did hear from the gal about the free sweater pattern - still not sure about her instructions, but at least she wrote back and I wrote back again, so we shall see. I guess FREE does not always mean a good thing! As they say, "There is no free lunch!"Like you, I figured and figured and even had DH figuring and he is not a knitter, just an enabler! Thank heaven!!
Oh yes, I got an invite to the 'dye house' at Fleece Artist. I had sent the article on the untangling of Sea Silk and the link to poipill's beautiful Swallowtail Shawl in Sea Silk. Is this buttering up or what? Well it worked, and I have the phone number and you can be sure I will go armed with my oohs and aahs!!

Anonymous said...

When you pick up for the heel of your socks it will be the stitches you were knitting for the heel flap AND approx 1 stitch for every row of the heel flap ON both sides of the flap. Your gusset is the decrease down to your original starting stitches and provides the ease over the largest part of your foot. On a pattern starting with 72 stitches, your heel flap is worked on 36 sts. Your pickup would be 14, 16 or 18 stitches depending on how long your heel flap is (5, 5.5 or 6 cm depending on size of sock you are making). You would end up with 48, 52 or 56 stitches that you would decrease down to the beginning 36 sts.
Hope this info helps.
Certainly hope you win a prize for these socks!

Anonymous said...

When I pick up the stitches for the heel flap, I don't pay any attention to how many I am "supposed" to pick up. I let as many as would like to hop on the needle do so. Plus I always pick up two at the gap between the flap and instep stitches, on each side, to insure that I won't have that annoying little hole that can sometimes develop at the intersection. On the first round, I close the two stitches across each gap with a k2tog on both sides. Then I start the gusset decreases on the next round (k2tog and ssk). If I have far more picked up stitches than the designer specified (which is usually the case) I do two or three decrease rounds then a plain round, or sometimes no plain rounds at all, until I get back to the number specified for the foot. I've found being exact in the decreasing is not necessary as long as the length of the gusset line is about the same. (I work socks on 5 dpns, one at a time; working two socks at the same time will likely avoid this concern.)

What are those delicious looking deserts?


southern gal said...

Love your blog! cant remember how i found it - but its in my FAVS list now.

my dream is to live in the country and so i vicariously read your blog.

i moved from a big city to a smallish village but still not the country - i guess i am working my way down.

anyway, thanks for not sharing the rabbit my imagination is vivid enough!

will go and check out your yarns!

Anonymous said...

We used to have a large (okay, huge, dumb dog named Walter. Once he brought home the neighbor's fresh trophy deer that had been hung in a tree "curing", and another time he brought home a taxidermied beaver attached to a log. Count yourself lucky it was only a rabbit, no matter how grisley.

rho said...

Somehow I think we are saying the same things to our socks despite the miles -- I picked up the stitches and have fussed with the &*^*&*&ing things till I decided that they needed to rest a bit again -- now they are in my new bag and I am hoping that the luxury and treat of being the first knitting in the bag makes them behave for me.

On the rabbit--are you sure you got it far enough away -- remember how hard Muffy worked to get it to show you and how long she persevered... you may end up with rabbit parts if she can get to it.

should I try my socks again tonight.......??

Anonymous said...

Was going to give you sock advice, but see Flemisa and Sharon covered it pretty well. The normal heel flap is about square, as many rows long as it is stitches wide. I have "long" heels, so always add rows...more stitches to pick up. I just continue decreasing on the heel flap until I am back to the original number of stitches on the heel, or sometimes even less to have a tighter foot. In addition to that heel, I have a very high arch, so have to leave room there to get the sock on. Works just dandy and looks perfectly "normal".

Too bad Poxy has already been adopted. I would fly right over and get the little guy. I LIKE his name. And dear, brave little Muffy. Do you think it is the very expired rabbit that she has been guarding all this time? You must be very proud of her. Do you know what caused her problems last year?

Peg, as for free patterns, one of my knitting buddies says "Usually, you get what you paid for". Green with envy about your trip to the FA dyerooms. Want a full and detailed report.

Anonymous said...

I, too, always end up with way more stitches after picking up than the instructions specify, and I just work the gusset decreases as usual until I get back to the number that there were before the picking up. In other words, if I started with 70 stitches, I keep working gusset decreases until I once again have a total of 60 stitches. I work my socks on 4 dpns, so after the decreases I'll have twice as many stitches on the instep, and half that number on each of needles holding the sides and bottom of the foot. A gusset that is a few rows longer than specified in the pattern has never caused a problem for me. Good luck!

Fiberjoy said...

Keep the gusset making simple Jo! Math? Why use math, it only frazzles the brain.

After turning the heel, pick up all the stitches down one side, grab another needle and knit across the top of the sock (Most refer to it as the instep though that makes no sense to me since I consider the instep of a foot to be where the arch is.)

With your fourth needle pickup stitches along the remaining side until you're back to the first needle. (I knit sock on three needles with a working fourth but I shouldn't think it would matter how many a person used!) There you are, back into knitting in endless circles. Yes, you'll have plenty of extra stitches - I've not bothered with the count - which are needed for the extra shape over the ankle and down the foot. I k2t on each side right before & after going across the top on alternating rows.

When it looks as though the amount of stitches on the needles are what you started with, then count. LOL. (Whoa, I didn't mean to go on so long!)

Do you speak Gaelic? What a treasure that there are still some places where that is still the mother tongue.

I'm glad you posted the picture of the bird with the rowan berry, instead of maggotty rabbit!

You know, that bird picture belongs in a book!

Anonymous said...

Jo, Here you go for handmade needle making:

Have fun!!!

Anonymous said...

Looks like others have got you covered on the sock question. Which is good since I'm still fairly new at it.

All Hail Muffy the Conquerer! I can picture it exactly. Fortunately my dog isn't prone to lugging dead things into the yard. My cat, on the other hand...

gwtreece said...

So I reading about Muffy and I now have to wipe the computer screen dry from the tea that I spit all over it. WTG, Muffy, get the bunny!

Peg-woolinmysoup said...

Hi Jo, I am not packed, but the guest room bed is starting to collect things for the trip. I found out from security at my airport that I CAN take my knitting! Saints be praised!
About the socks, which I forgot yesterday, I like socks on 2.25 mm or 2.5 mm needles with 64 stitches, but the foot is about 60 stitches. This works for me, as I have a narrow foot! Like others, I pick up as many stitches as I see fit - try to keep it the same on both sides of the flap and the same for both socks, but if someone is that close to my heels, they better have nice things on their mind - not how many stitches were in the gusset. I also pick up two stitches where I have started the gusset and then k2tog to avoid that wee hole!!

Dez Crawford said...

You should entirely drop everything else you are doing (exceptyour knitting, of course) and take up a career as a full-time dog photogrpaher. Either you are especially good at this, or you are surrounded by inordinately adorable canines.

I simply cannot bring the laptop to Mom's house and show her the Irish dog. She will get on the first plane (and she is afraid of flying) and go right over and steal it.

Your lens isn't bad with the birds, either.

Glad that my Great-Granny's old tongue is surviving ... somewhere!