It is the month of March and not only hares are affected with lunacy at this time of year. Sock Madness 2 has just kicked off, and that meant knitters all over the globe gathering their yarns, greasing their needles and getting everything ready.
Preparations chez Celtic Memory included a last-minute dash to the finishing line on the Austermann Step socks. Couldn't start Sock Madness 2 with an unfinished pair on the needles - that would have been inviting bad luck - so completed they had to be. Which they were. Kind of late on Wednesday, in advance of the first SM pattern coming out on Thursday. Always was one for the dangerously addictive thrumming of the deadline.
These are very very comfortable indeed. I feel a pleasant glow at the knowledge of having several more balls of this feelgood yarn tucked away in the stash, in different colourways. This pattern was from More Sensational Socks and is, I think, known as Faggot & Cable. A 12-row repeat and not that difficult, but you do have to drop everything else and play fiddly games on the 12th row as minuscule stitches hop around and change places. A fine crochet hook came into play fairly often, to hunt down escapees and haul them firmly back to the needle.
Once they were out of the way, the other preparations had to be made. Yarn of course - each possible choice had to be wound into two balls of equal weight, so as to work two socks at the same time (no, not on the same needle, tried it but found it a bit too fiddly - one on each circular is the favoured method here). We had been given the advance hint to find a 'scary' colourway, so I chose Lisa Souza's Emerald City and her Elektra, as being reasonably ghoul-like. Final decision to wait on sight of the pattern.
Next: location. The sunny sitting room upstairs, with the trusty knitting chair. Carpets vacuumed so that no distracting sights of pawprints or stray leaves or half-eaten bones would take the mind from the pattern. Feng Shui, if you like. Small occasional table placed in best position, with Ott-lite at correct angle for maximum illumination after dark without dazzling.
Equipment: Basket of other contending yarns for future rounds on the floor, for inspiration. Wooden trug filled with essential items, placed on little side table, ready to hand. Want a close up of that?
You can see several sets of circulars there (can't be too careful), plus stitch markers, measuring tape, scissors, safety pins, two sizes of crochet hook, two kinds of cookies, and the two yarns which made it to the final cut. Oh yes, and the Baileys, up there in the top right-hand corner. When you don't know how late into the night you'll be working, you need some reassurance to hand. OK, bring it on, I'm ready.
Anyone who's been involved in Sock Madness knows what an eerie feeling it is around pattern release time. Hundreds of knitters in every corner of the globe from Kenya to Bangalore, Washington to Wallasey, crouched over computers, finger on the mouse, constantly checking, refreshing, checking again, sending supportive messages to each other via Ravelry or Flickr, checking again...
'Still nothing. Think I'll go make a coffee.'
'Better not. It might just drop in while you're away.'
'How much longer do you think it will be?'
'Hard to say. They said between 12 and 5 EST - so that could be another five hours.'
'Wonder if I've chosen the right yarn. Maybe I'll go take another look.'
'Can anyone remind me of the best way to do a Japanese short row heel?'
'It's here, it's here, it's HERE!'
And then dead silence. Total silence. The Internet must have wondered what had happened. Energy supplies were able, at last, to recharge. Power soared. Other users got a look in. All the Sock Madness participants were off the starting blocks and running.
Our first pattern was the delightfully-named Zombie Sock, designed by Sheryl Ball. The horror factor came from the pattern feature which dictated that every six rows you deliberately dropped stitches and watched them unravel. This is quite an unsettling experience. After all, we usually spend our time avoiding that very error, and here we were doing it to order. But it made for a very attractive pattern. Decided on the Emerald City colourway, the better to show off that clever stitchery.
Time zones being what they are, it was about 5.15 in the evening when the pattern hit the computer in West Cork, and there was really only time to work the ribbing on both socks before fatigue compelled retirement for the night. Up bright and early on Friday to start the patterning, and by the end of the day (well, there were sanity breaks for coffee and even a quick trip to the shops, Celtic Memory is genuinely incapable of concentrating on anything for longer than an hour at a time), they were ready to start the heel. Working an eye-of-partridge-heel at that time of night, however, even with the comforting assistance of Baileys, would have been asking for trouble. Wait till morning.
Leapt out of bed on Saturday absolutely determined to get this particular job out of the way so that some of the weekend (St. Patrick's Day on Monday, you realise!) could be salvaged for other things. No breaks allowed this time. Work straight through without flagging. One heel turned. Those endless gusset decreases finished at LAST. The sinking feeling as the second sock is picked up, to repeat the exercise. That one down to the foot too.
By this time, shooting pains were making themselves felt on the working arm, and the fingers were starting to get clumsy. Longing thoughts of hot coffees, peaceful walks, even raising the eyes to see what the weather was doing (that's not very difficult here in West Cork, either it's raining or it's about to rain) were firmly pushed aside. Enough pattern repeats for the foot? Try it on. We-e-e-lll...
Come on, come on, you know perfectly well that is NOT long enough. Work another half repeat. Oh please no. YES!! And twice!
Now only the toe shaping to do. Have you ever noticed what an inordinately long time something as small and insignificant as the toe actually takes to work? Ages.
Done, done, done! Where's the tapestry needle? (Empty entire basket on the floor. Find needle. Make three attempts to thread it, each one failing miserably due to shaking fingers. Eventually succeed.)
Graft two toes in record time. Fasten off neatly and lose yarn end inside. Wait - original cast on end needs to be darned in too. Will these never be done? (Imagines everyone else in the division already finished and laughing up their sleeves.)
Where's the camera. Where's the sunlight (ha ha, big joke in West Cork!) Well the light, then! How on earth can I get my feet there, while holding the camera here?. Hold breath. Click. Once again for luck. Click.
To the computer. Upload pictures. D-n, d-n, triple d-n. Blurred. Shaky. Foggy. N. B. G. Back to camera. Try again. Hold your d-n breath!
Still shaky, but it'll have to do. Upload to Flickr, post to Sock Madness group, take HTML ref, prepare email to organisers including link to picture plus personal details. Put 'Finished' in subject line. With emphasis!
(Funny thing: was sitting by the computer, slowly winding down, and wondering if I should send a second message for safety, when an email from the organisers popped into the box. 'Yes Jo, we have received it - relax!' How did they know? Do I usually behave like this?)
Now that really wasn't a very creative picture of those nice socks, so when DH had a free moment this morning I asked him to take another one, more appropriate for the blog.
I have called these the Underwater Zombies because the lovely Lisa Souza colourway makes me think of tropical waters and the bright tiny fish that swim there. Maybe there are jolly little water-zombies swimming round there too. Why not?
Today was a rest day. Sophy Wackles and I went down to the woods by Torc Waterfall for a gentle stroll among the thick mosses and ancient trees.
After that, we drove over the hills by Moll's Gap. It's still very wintry up here, with not much sign of the green coming through yet, but the clouds parted sufficiently at the summit to let us see the Gap of Dunloe looking fairly dramatic.
Then down the twisting road towards Kenmare. Everything still looking very wintry here too, the browns and fawns of last year's gorse and bracken giving no hint that in a week or two the whole place will have blossomed into bright green.
Decided to take a different route home, so turned off the Loo Valley at the Roughty Bridge, on a very narrow track which twisted over the hills, close to the highest pub in Ireland (yes, I'll go there soon and bring you a full report)
and then down steeply into the Muskerry Gaeltacht (one of the places where Irish is still spoken as a first language), before joining the main road again at Ballyvourney and heading home. Thoroughly refreshed now, and ready for Round Two of Sock Madness. Meanwhile, better use the intervening time to finish off those other languishing projects - the Sasha Kagan crop cardigan, the Kureyon cabled jacket, the Dogi vest... oh yes, what did happen to that Dogi vest?
Tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day. The small market town of Macroom, close to my home, actually has a live webcam in operation from about 3 - 3.30 pm Irish time tomorrow (very go-ahead the Macrompians), so if you want to see the parade there, log in to http://www.macroom.ie/. Almost as good as being in the town yourself. But wherever you are drowning the shamrock, have a drink for me! Slainte!