Friday, December 31, 2010


Today's soundtrack:
Whatever is playing in the internet cafe at the moment.

What follows is a smattering of interesting facts, never before revealed, about life in Madrid.

- Papa Noel lives in the Madrid Metro.
In Linea 5, if I'm not mistaken. There was an adorable little 3 year old, mouth gapping open, at the sight of a 60 year old man, white beard and hair. "Papá, es Papá Noel," he whispered to his dad. I suppose the old man was used to it, because as the kid and his dad got up to leave, the old man gave the kid a wee card with a calender on it.

- The 10 metre sprint.
And speaking of the metro, there are intricacies to how one is supposed to behave when riding the train. For example, you should not sway in large circles, haphazardly, crashing into the backs and sides of everyone around you. I'm looking at you, annoying drunken man from Linea 1 last night. As a rule, everyone is grumpy on the metro. There is no smiling. Not even drunk, swaying guy was smiling. There is, however, an exception. If you are coming down the last flight of stairs, and you start to hear that familiar hum of the train coming into the station, followed by a herd of passangers moving towards the escalator, and you start to run in the usually vain hope that you'll make it to the doors before the beep, and by some miracle, you make it onto the train, then - and only then - are you allowed to smile broadly to all around. NB: If the train is full, smiling even under these conditions means that no one will give up their seat for you, because by running, you've only made the train more crowded. You jerk.

- December 23rd is National Health Awareness Day.
There is a lottery here called El Gordo. The prizes are usually pretty big and numerous, and Spaniards spend a few hours on the morning of the 23rd watching the parade of orphans/schoolchildren singing out the lucky numbers. By around 10:30am, El Gordo (the big prize) has been given out, and thus begins National Health Awareness Day. Every conversation you will overhear for the rest of the day will read as follows: "No, no, I didn't win a thing. But you know, the most important thing is that I have my health".

- How to survive your wife's diet.
As witnessed this morning, an older man came out of the butcher shop, carefully opened the bag of finely-sliced serrano ham, shoved as many pieces into his mouth as he could fit, then he closed the bag and walked home. How else can one survive the post-Christmas diet?

Happy New Year. ¡Feliz Año Nuevo!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

is that snow?

Today's soundtrack:
"Underwhelmed" by Sloan

In honour of the upcoming holidays, a Christmas Stocking pattern:

Inspired by striped pattern of jennieowen’s “George and Celia’s Stockings,” (Ravelry Link) I created this modest-sized stocking. Knit in the round with worsted weight yarn, this stocking can be easily completed within 2 days. Furthermore, as this pattern does not require complete skeins of Cascade 220, this stocking makes an excellent stashbuster.

The stripes allow for a degree of customization. Stick with the traditional holiday colours, or pick your own favourite colours, your favourite Doctor’s scarf, or your favourite team’s colours (which, when paired with a green or red CC1, will look surprisingly festive).

This pattern assumes familiarity with using DPNs, sock construction, and knitting terminology, and is suitable for an advanced beginner.

Yarn: Cascade 220 or another worsted weight yarn
CC1: cuff, heel, and toe, approx. 60-90 yards.
CC2: name background, approx. 30-50 yards.
MC1: main body stripes, approx 110-130 yards.
MC2: main body stripes, approx 110-130 yards.
Needle: US 7 / 4.5mm
Gauge: 10 sts / 14 rows = 2”/5cm in st st worked in the round.
Measurements: 16”/41cm leg (inc. heel), 9 ¼”/23.5cm foot (inc. heel).
K = knit P = purl
PU = pick up and knit Sl 1 pwise = slip 1 st purlwise
st(s) = stitch(es) MC1 = main colour 1
MC2 = main colour 2 CC1 = contrast colour 1
CC2 = contrast colour 2 p2tog = purl 2 sts together
k2tog = knit 2 sts together ssk = slip, slip, knit
st st = stockinette stitch rep = repeat

Note: In order to reduce the number of ends to weave in, catch the non-working MC yarn behind the working MC every few rows. Also, if you’re not using intarsia or fairisle to insert names into the white space (CC2) between the cuff and the beginning of the striped pattern names can be embroidered, duplicate-stitched, etc, later on. Or, you can also leave it blank.

CO 56 sts in CC1. Work 6 rnds in 2x2 ribbing. Switch to CC2, k all for 14 rnds. *Switch to MC1, k 7 rnds. Switch to MC2, k 7 rnds. Rep from * 3 more times. For a long stocking, rep more than 3 times.

Switch to CC1, cut both MC1 and MC2. Work heel and heel turn in CC1 as follows: k14, turn, sl 1, p27.
Row 1: sl 1 pwise, k to end.
Row 2: sl 1 pwise, p to end.
Rep these 2 rows until 28 rows have been worked, ending with a WS row.

Turn heel:
Row 1: k16, ssk, k1, turn.
Row 2: sl 1, p5, p2tog, p1, turn.
Row 3: sl 1, k to 1 st before gap, ssk, k1, turn.
Row 4: sl 1, p to 1 st before gap, p2tog, p1, turn.
Rep rows 3 and 4 until all sts have been worked. 16 sts remain. Cut CC1.

With MC1, k across all heel sts, PU 15 sts, k across held sts, PU 15 sts, k across first 8 sts of heel.  Needles #1 and #4 will have 23 sts each, and needles #2 and #3 will have 14 sts each.  Keeping stripe pattern as established on leg, work gusset as follows:
Rnd 1: On needle 1, k to last 3 sts, k2tog, k1; k across all instep sts on needles 2 and 3; on needle 4, k1, ssk, k to end.
Rnd 2: K all.
Rep these 2 rounds until 14 sts remain on each needle 1 and 4.

Work in stripe pattern until 2nd MC2 stripe is completed. You will have a total of 4 stripes since the heel. For a longer foot, simply repeat the stripe pattern.

Switch to CC1, cut MC1 and MC2.
Rnd 1: Needle 1, k to last 3 sts, k2tog, k1; on needle 2, k1, ssk, k to end; on needle 3, k to last 3 sts, k2tog, k1; needle 4, k1, ssk, k to end.
Rnd 2: K all.
Rep 2 rnds until only 28 sts remain (7 on each needle). Rep rnd 1 until only 8 sts remain (2 on each needle). Graft remaining stitches. Weave in ends and tighten up possible holes at the gusset.

Using one strand from each colour, make a twisted cord and attach to the heelside of the cuff.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

yarn therapy

Today's soundtrack:
"Drifter's Raus" by Joel Plaskett
"Rollin', Rollin', Rollin'" by Joel Plaskett
"Mourning Air" by Portishead

There are very few people in the world that can truly comprehend the seemingly endless slog of writing a dissertation. Now, any dissertation is difficult, but an English dissertation is a whole new level of insanity. There's no experiments or case studies. Just the books, pamphlets, and texts, and the narrative you construct to link them all together. It's not something that can be finished in a month or two. It is, at the very least, a year-long process. So every morning I make a pot of coffee, nestle myself in front of my computer and amongst my books, and do my damnedest to eek out another page or two of text. Somedays are wonderful. Somedays I not only get a fair bit of reading done, but also manage to effortlessly write five or more pages. Other days, however, are less fun.

This would be one of those days.

Now, don't get me wrong. The whole Ph.D process, while clearly designed for those with - at the very least - a penchant for masochism, has been really quite lovely. After all, I get paid to read, think, and write. And honestly, how hard could that really be?

Answer: Really freaking hard.

So on such days I reach for my knitting needles. Thankfully, with the deluge of babies in the past year, I've no shortage of wee ones to knit for. On the needles right now is Baby Chalice Blanket (Rav Link) in Lorna's Laces Shepherd Worsted "Midway".

The blanket is for the soon-to-be wee one of two of Miguel's friends back in Spain. And let's face it, when I hear that another baby is on the way, I can't stop myself from making blanket after hat after cardigan after socks... It's seems I'm of the firm belief that every baby that I come into contact with should be swimming in hand knits. And you'd think that by now I'd have a nice little stash of baby clothes for my inevitable kids. Not so much. Everything I've made baby-wise has been snatched up by parents who have made real use of my hand knits. A cable cardigan I made for Miguel's Dutch friends' baby boy finally had to be put away when it was completely outgrown (but not worn out, as to be ready for the next wee one). The first version of the Baby Chalice Blanket is being used to help cart my nephew all over Madrid.

And really, nothing could make me happier. Well, maybe another page or two on the dissertation...