Friday, March 31, 2006

Part 3--A Brotherhood of Venerable Trees

What's really impossible to impart, either through words or photographs, is just how amazingly green the temperate rain forest is. March is actually the perfect time for a visitor from, say, Boston, to go to the Pacific Northwest, since everything is so brown and dreary back home that the intensity of the green seems almost shocking by contrast. As we hiked through the woods, where every surface was already covered by moss, even in early spring, I couldn't help but notice all the deciduous trees and shrubs whose branches had not yet leafed out. It was impossible for me to imagine the place getting any greener, but I guess as spring moves on, it does. Amazing.

On Monday, we did one more hike to a giant tree as well as the second leg of the interpretive nature trail (where we finally learned the names of the plants we had seen along so many of the trails). We also saw a pair of bald eagles soaring over Lake Quinault before we headed back in the car to drive down the Washington coast to Oregon.

We drove pretty much straight through, with a very nice stop at Cape Disappointment, which, despite its name, offers lovely vistas of the Pacific Ocean and the mouth of the Columbia River, apparently one of the most dangerous sections of coastline in the entire country. We also drove across this bridge between the two states--it's 4.1 miles long! We arrived in Portland in early evening and spent the evening with John and Stephanie and their son Grant. Stephanie's a very talented weaver and knitter, and she was able to give me an insiders' opinion on the area yarn shops I was hoping to visit.

Next time--yarn shopping in Portland!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Part 2--Sox in the Wild!

The downside of hiking three miles to see a beautiful coastal sunset, of course, is that you also have to hike three miles back. In the dark. Fortunately, there was still some reflected sunlight lighting our path, and the trail itself was fairly well maintained. All in all, though, it made for a late night, since we still had a long drive to get back to our hotel. By now, we were more or less adapted to Pacific time, fortunately, but we still fell asleep as soon as we returned, and woke up in the morning to this:

This was the view from our room at the lovely Lake Quinault Resort, not to be confused with the more well-known Lake Quinault Lodge on the other side of the lake. The resort is small and quiet, with gorgeous landscaping, its own beach (with nightly bonfires!), and a lovely deck and patio. The deck is even covered in a way that lets through the light, but not the rain. Turns out that wasn't even an issue, though--we didn't see rain at all in Olympic, even though we were staying right in the middle of a rainforest at the tail end of the rainy season!

It must rain sometimes, though, since man, those trees sure get their liquid refreshment. The Lake Quinault area (at the south end of the park) is home to several so-called Champion Trees, the biggest of their particular species. One, the world's largest Western Red Cedar, was located right across from our hotel. We also saw North America's largest Douglas Fir, lots and lots of huge cedars and hemlocks, and the world's largest Sitka Spruce. It's almost 59 feet in circumference and 191 feet tall. I had the sock with me, so I decided to take a few shots in front of the tree to show the scale.

And here's a closeup. See that heel flap in progress? I like to think that the sock enjoyed its foray into nature.

We spent more than four hours hiking that morning, followed by inhaling cheeseburgers and curly fries at the snack bar and power napping in the afternoon before enjoying a lovely dinner and the sunset over the lake at the aptly-named Salmon House. Guess what we ate?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

A Sock follows the Trail of Lewis & Clark, part 1

So we flew into the SEATAC airport very late on Friday, March 17. We headed straight to an airport hotel and slept until about 9 AM, which was amazing considering the time change and all. After a lovely breakfast, we walked to the rental car place (relishing the weather, which was a good 15 degrees warmer than Boston) to pick up the Chevy Cobalt that would be ours for the week.

Our first destination was Olympic National Park on Washington's Olympic Peninsula. It's actually quite a trek to get over there, since it involved taking a ferry across Puget Sound or driving south around it. We chose the driving option, stopping as we went to see some sights. We checked into our hotel by mid-afternoon (more on that later) and then drove up the coast to Cape Alava, the westernmost point in the continental U.S. Needless to say, since I didn't drive at all during our road-tripping, I had plenty of time to chill out, listen to my iPod, and knit my Sockapaloooza sock . . . more on that tomorrow.

We timed our arrival so that after the 3-mile trek to the coastline, we'd be there in time to watch the sunset. The hiking (at least on the way there) was pretty easy, and we walked through gorgeous forests that looked almost magical as the lowering sun peeked through the canopy, making everything this lush dark green color. And, at the beach, we were rewarded with this:

More tomorrow.

Monday, March 27, 2006


I am back from my vacation, but it'll take me a day or two to update with photos, etc., since we're now in frantic post-vacation work catchup mode . . .

Friday, March 17, 2006

Yarn or Underwear (and other Packing Dilemmas)

When it comes to travel, knitting is both a blessing and a curse. It's great to have something to do during long plane flights (or long layovers), road trips, and train rides.

However, as I realized last night while packing for my trip to Seattle and Portland, knitting seriously complicates packing. Not only do I need to make sure I have enough yarn, the right needles, patterns, etc., I also need to plan ahead to find the best yarn stores in whatever locale I'm visiting. Then, of course, I need to allow enough room in my suitcase for the inevitable yarn purchases at said shops. The result? I think I now spend twice as much time packing (or planning to pack) as I did PK (pre-knitting). What's a girl to do?

That being said, I'm excited that now that I've gotten into this whole sock knitting thing, I finally understand how great they are for traveling. I suspect that my Sockapaloooza socks will keep me busy for the whole trip, but even with all that knitting, they won't take up more room in my suitcase than any other pair of socks. Yay! Of course, I have to bring along another project (or two) *just* in case I finish . . . But I think I did manage to get in all the essentials (underwear, pajamas, raincoat) plus my emergency stash of yarn.

I decided at the last minute to pack my laptop for the trip, so I may post updates if I get a good Internet connection on my travels.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Return to Odessa

There hasn't been much knitting (or blogging, obviously) going on around here lately. We headed to Pennsylvania last weekend, and this week, my sister and her boyfriend are in Boston. He grew up in Arlington, Mass., so they're having a good time visiting all his old stomping grounds. Since it's gotten cold and windy here again (after some freakish mid-March thunderstorms on Monday night), this gift for my sister still might come in handy:

That's right, another Odessa. As promised, it's in black, con beads, which didn't really add too much to the total knitting time. I started it on the way down to Pennsylvania, and finished it the night we got back. Not bad for three days!

I was able to knit it to 7" (instead of the pattern's 5.5") before starting the decreases, and I still had about 9 inches of yarn to spare at the end (nothing like cutting it close). The beads and the longer length make it a pretty glam looking hat. I think I must have been more consistent with my ssks, this time, too, because the spiral is much more effective this time--the black yarn might be more forgiving, too.

Either way, I hope my sister likes it--and since she's soon returning to Minnesota, where they just got 5+ inches of snow, she'll certainly get some more days to wear it before spring is here to stay!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Beauty of Not Sleeping

Every once in a while I have a few nights where I don't sleep well. The downside, of course, is that I'm groggy in the morning. The upside? Sometimes my mind works better at 2 a.m., apparently. On Sunday night, the answer to Will Shortz's Sunday puzzle came to me unbidden (anyone else figure it out?).

And on Saturday night, after suffering through 2+ years of struggling with double-pointed needles, I finally understood the concept! It took a whole lot of willpower to keep from leaping out of bed and starting work on my sock immediately, but I managed to wait until Sunday morning. Of course, most of the credit for this breakthrough should be given to Charlene Schurch's Sensational Knitted Socks, which has one of the most clear and comprehensive introductions to sock knitting I've seen--there's good reason why so many of us in the current Sockapaloooza beginner's group are using this book, I think!

Hence this somewhat bizarre still life:

The book is the one mentioned above. I plan to use the Baby Cable Rib pattern for my Sockapaloooza socks.

The little green sock is the "class sock" that Schurch walks you through. It's knit in worsted weight yarn and can be done fabulously quickly, meaning that you get a fast, straightforward project that teaches you the basics of sock construction before you launch into a full-scale sock project. And mine does fit a real (3-year-old) human's foot--he just wouldn't stand still long enough for me to take a picture!

The lovely pink yarn is the start of my Sockapaloooza sock! I hope my pal will like the colors--it's the "Love" colorway from Dani's gorgeous line of Sunshine Yarns. I originally intended to start the sock on my trip to the Pacific Northwest in a couple of weeks, but I didn't want to run the risk of having my mental dpn block revisit my brain, so I cast on right away.

Monday, March 06, 2006

And Next?

OK, now that the Olympics are over, it's time to play that fun game:

Where the hell was I?

I seem to remember that I was working on the Ribby Cardi (ah, yes, I'm stuck in the limbo of the sleeves, somewhere between the increases and decreases, trying to determine if I have enough yarn). If I can actually motivate myself to do, oh, fifteen more inches of mindless ribbing, I could actually finish this soon. I also got some great advice from the Knitsmiths yesterday about where to find a long-sleeve T to wear under this thing, since all the usual retail suspects have switched their inventory to nothing but tank tops and bathing suits--I'm on a quest!

I vaguely remember that I had started a shawl as a gift (oh--there it is--looking very sad and pathetic on a stitch holder, stranded somewhere in the middle of the second (or third? or fourth?) pattern repeat. Curses! Perhaps I should learn my lesson about keeping better notes about where I am, especially when I put things down for weeks at a time. This is (or was) my project to work on while listening to my favorite knitting podcast Cast-On. It might be time to listen to this week's episode and take another look at the shawl before it's irrecoverable!

And then there's Sockapaloooza--I do have an update there, but I'll post about that tomorrow.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Ta da!

Since I'm eager to have this project behind me and move on to post-Olympic knitting . . . here's a photo. I'm begging you, please look at the sweater and not at my hair (and yes, I am as tired as I look--it was a long 16 days).

Pattern: Natasha Cabled & Ribbed Pullover, Adrienne Vittadini Fall 2003 pattern booklet

Yarn: Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk, color 25007

Started: 2/10/2006

Finished: 2/26/2006

Note that although the DB yarn had the same gauge and yardage as the AV Natasha yarn the pattern called for, I had to order 4(!) additional balls to finish the project. Oh, the size pictured is the small (40") size. I also sewed up the neck slit about 2 inches so that the sweater didn't need to carry a PG-13 rating (see where the top of the cables end? That's where the slit is supposed to go to . . . you get the picture).

I enjoyed the project, and it was certainly a thorough introduction to cabling. The pattern design is elegant and the pattern itself is clearly written--I will definitely be trying some of the other designs from the pattern booklet!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Head Above Water

OK, believe it or not, I have finished my Knitting Olympics project! I've been in a knitting (and blogging) stupor the past several days, and I'm only emerging now . . . I should have pictures of the project tomorrow.

In the meantime, I've been doing a lot of thinking and reflecting about this whole Olympics endeavor . . .

1. OK, I admit it, this was a good exercise for me. I tend to be a fickle knitter, shifting to a different project whenever I get frustrated or bored with my current project. Giving one project such single-minded devotion for more than 2 weeks was hard, but definitely worth it. That's not to say that I'm now going to become a knitting serial monogamist--I kind of like having several projects on the go, even if it means I don't finish projects as quickly as I finished this one.

2. Feeling pressured to complete this project was NOT a good exercise for me. As anyone who knows me knows well, I am extremely competitive, and even if this Olympics is not about "competing" with my fellow knitters, it was hard not to compare my own progress to others' and get stressed and frustrated as a result. Frankly, there were many points during this project (such as the 3rd time I restarted the sleeve cabling) when I just stopped enjoying knitting. I never want knitting to be stressful or unpleasant, and there were certainly moments of both here. It also brought out so many aspects of myself that I don't like: my stubbornness, my low frustration threshhold, my tendency to take out said frustrations on everyone around me . . . you get the picture. Let's just say that I'm not the only one around here who's happy that the project is over!

3. If I were to do this again (Beijing in 2008?) I think I would avoid any project with as much patterning as this one. No Fair Isle, no cables, no lace--just lots and lots of stockinette stitch. This project was complex enough (at least for me) that I was not able to knit anywhere at any time, because I really needed adequate light, time, and concentration to work on this sweater--and even then, I made mistakes.

All that being said, I am inordinately proud of what we all accomplished during the Olympics. I've so enjoyed seeing everyone else's projects, their challenges and roadblocks and achievements. When I felt like hurling my cable needle across the room, what kept me going was the knowledge that 4000 other knitters were out there, around the world, facing the same challenges I was. Thank you.