Sunday, March 16, 2008

Socks Have Taken Over Again

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 Almost as good as being in the town yourself. But wherever you are drowning the shamrock, have a drink for me! Slainte!


Charity said...

Oh, my goodness, Jo, your sock story had my heart racing! You need to slow down a bit, too much excitement isn't good for me! :0) Glad you got them done, though!

Sally said...

Oh, Jo, your story sounds so familiar...I'm taking a short break from knitting on #2 sock...only about 1 1/2 more repeats till I get to the heel flap. Your story makes me feel better to know that a 'veteran' of Sock Madness feels the same as I. Lovely, lovely socks, Miss Jo. And quite aptly named...I see spritely zombies under undulating waves!

Ruth said...

And Slainte to you too! I'm slowly racing away on my zombies. They remind me more of little ripplets in the water.

It was really eerie how all the buzz stopped once the pattern came out.

Lovely socks, both pairs!

Anonymous said...

Your descriptions are so engaging -- must be the twice-kissing of that Blarney Stone, indeed!

So, you liked the Austermann Step yarn?

Sophie Wackles looks such the lovely lady there 'midst the green!

Congratulations on a quick finish to Round 1! Sounds like finish-itis is threatening to kick in, though. Remember not to wear yourself out on *too* many WIP's! [grin!]

Wool Enough said...

I love the pattern you used with the Austermann Step yarn. Your picture sent me diving for my MoreSKS book. "Faggot and Cable Stripe" -- yep, found it. Looks quite fun. I hope mine turn out as well as yours did.

Unknown said...

One of the reasons I love reading your blog is that you can take me there with your words - and the photos help so much. Today is one of the days you outdid yourself.
And Slainte to you and yours as well.

LaurieM said...

Oh, I really like those. They're not scary looking at all.

But still, I'm very glad that I didn't sign up for sock madness. I've enough madness all on my own!

cindyl said...

Next year I want to do Sock Madness. I'm not sure I totally understand it, other than it's finish a pair of socks as quickly as you can, then report in and wait for the next pattern? Is the goal to finish a certain hundred socks by hundred knitters, in record time, or is there really a goal? It's all very mysterious to me.

Cindy/Snid said...

Lovely post Jo. Your socks are marvelous and such a good idea to take a nice stroll through the countryside after "The Madness"!
We will try to watch the parade later- this is the first time in many, many years that St. Paddy's day is not being spent driving and dancing everywhere! Feels very strange...might have to try to pick up some Guinness somewhere. Sláinte is táinte!

Heather said...

beautiful! lovely socks-both of them!

Angeluna said...

Thank the Lord you survived Round 1 without giving yourself (and me) a heart attack. Your Zombies look great and those Austermann Step socks are right up my alley.

Particularly loved seeing little Miss Wackles in the big forest, checking to make sure her Mommy was following. Somehow, when I run my little errands, the surrounding scenery doesn't hold a candle to yours.

Must check in the the Macroom website for St. Paddy's. Do you know where another rousing St. Paddy's parade is held? New Orleans of all places, where they surely do know how to hold a parade. We would barely survive Mardi Gras when the Irish would come parading down Magazine Street throwing cabbages, yes, that's right, cabbages. We always witnessed it from a friend's balcony, with a pot of corned beef bubbling just waiting for us to catch the cabbage to toss in with it. As a pretty young thing wearing a tight green shirt and shouting lustily "Throw me some cabbage, Mister", I once had so many heaved up at the same time that I couldn't catch more than the first two. Another went through the glass window behind me while a fourth actually broke my nose. I do remember racing in with my catch to complete the main dish with blood running all down the front of me. Well, maybe that doesn't sound like such fun, but I can assure you the Irish spirit is alive and kicking in the Crescent City, green beer and all.

Tina said...

You are so lucky to live in that breathtaking landscape! One day I’ll visit that region, that is sure!
Love your socks! Both pairs. That was quite fast. I don’t seem to finish anything at these times…

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the tip to Macroom! So far I've seen a Breton band go by (pan-Celtic solidarity?) and a Scottish-looking pipe band which hailed from Montana, my parents' home state (unless the announcer was referring to a following group). Also-- several alpacas on a trailer, representing someone's "alpaca stud". Does this mean you can get home-grown alpaca fiber in Cork? Do let us know.
Happy St.Patrick's day!

Holly said...

You make me feel guilty!

I just grabbed a ball of yarn that looked ok, rewound it to center pull - found some appropriate DvDs and tried not to worry about being at work all day Friday (while some people were knitting) and started the second sock after the first was completed, photo'ing, resizing the photo and uploading when I was done.

Taking such a lovely break on Sunday would have been nice and I love the pix. Have to put Ireland on my visit list later in the year.

Dez Crawford said...

Happy St. Patrick's Day! I had a busy day and signed in too late for a view of Macroom.

Your sock story is as riveting as any Stephen King tale. And the resulting socks are simply gorgeous.

Sigh. Thanks, once again, for your virtual tour of the countryisde, which is beautiful even though brown from winter.

While I was varnishing shelves in the living room I was watching Ghsot Hunters and for St. Patrick's Day they showed their investigations at Leap Castle and the Lisheen ruins, so of course I thought of you. And they caught several interestingthings on tape at Lisheen.

I have such a long list of must-sees when I finally get over there....!

I hope to get in on Sock Madness next year. I was too busy this year and it sneaked up on me.

Jocerane said...

Wow! You were really on the starting blocks! I love the result : The stitch and the color are great! I - shame on me! - never made a pair of socks! BUT I bought some Regia yarn, and I'm gonna give a try.......

TeresaB said...

Jo, I love your color-way for the Zombie Socks! I think Underwater Zombies everywhere are proud to be associated with such lovely socks.

(I've been lurking on your blog for awhile now and was excited when I saw you were part of SM2 as well. Love your pictures of Ireland. Someday I'll get to visit there...someday...)

Ronni said...

Your scenery is definitely better than mine. But I think I shall have to start taking walks to recover, both after finishing socks in Sock Madness and after finishing reading about your adventures with each round of Sock Madness. My heart was pounding almost as much from reading about your socks as it did while knitting mine.

I love the pattern you picked for the Austermann Step socks. I have a skein I've been puzzling over a pattern for. I must add that one to the "to consider" list.

Anonymous said...

Fun post - I felt breathless by the end (of your socks)! :D Lovely shots from your walk...*Please* - may we see the same shots once it's all bright green?! It'll have to do until I can visit for myself!

pacalaga said...

I LOVE that Carole and Hillary sent that email back. You're getting yourself a reputation, m'dear!

Anonymous said...

Yours turned out lovely! I did green, too. :-)

hakucho said...

I LOVE your Faggot & Cable socks :)
Beautiful yarn and color!!

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