Tuesday, August 29, 2006

San Francisco and Monet

We drove to San Francisco today (about 70 miles from home) to see the Monet in Normandy exhibit at The Legion of Honor (links in yesterday's post). Home in the Central Valley was, of course, sunny, as we get no rain from mid-May to late October at the earliest. But over the Coastal Mountains and heading into the city over the Golden Gate Bridge, skies were overcast and the fog hadn't lifted.



That was a nice change. Don't get me wrong, I like sunny weather. But day after day of dry, blazing sun makes this native Midwesterner appreciate some fog and clouds.

The exhibit at the Legion of Honor was spectacular. Monet lived as a child in Normandy, and Giverney, his adult country home with extensive gardens, is also in Normandy. The exhibit started with early Impressionist paintings of the landscapes Monet did while visiting various towns, mostly during the summer (late 1860s). Many of these are just branching into Impressionism and maintain a great deal of realism. Some of the early paintings foreshadowed his later works by using more abstraction and capturing reflections in water. It was clear how Monet always worked to develop his talent and skill. He was absent from Normandy for the 1870s, and returned there after the death of his beloved first wife, Camille, in 1879. The early 1880s paintings in the exhibit not only show a large jump in Monet's artistic vision from the 1860s, but also seem to show how his paintings of thrashing ocean waves and sea storms helped him work through the loss of his wife. The final room of the exhibit showed several paintings from the gardens at Giverney, including several of waterlilies or wisteria. They were simply sublime.

Afterward, we did not linger in the city, but went back across the Golden Gate Bridge to San Anselmo to have a late lunch at Insalatas. Even though it was only 1:30 in the afternoon, I had a Passion Drop cocktail (orange vodka, peach infusion, lime and a little vanilla bean). It was sweet but tasty, and I wasn't driving. When we arrived home, I found this in the mail:

What pretty colors! My order from TheKnitter.com. I haven't been able to find Trekking XXL in LYSs, so I was glad to find it online. Shipment was very prompt and FREE!! A pity I can't take a few weeks of vacation and just knit. Ah, well, the anticipation will have to suffice.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Manly, yes! But I like it, too!

I realize that by using an old Irish Spring soap slogan for today's title I am dating myself, but it fits the sweater I've started. Ann Budd designed her Cambridge Jacket (IK, Spring 2006) with men in mind, but I think it will do just fine for me.

I had purchased this Berroco Ultra Alpaca (50% alpaca/50% wool, color 6246) for a different sweater (a free pattern that came with the yarn) and then when I read the pattern, I changed my mind (needing two 29-inch circular needles in use simultaneously--yikes!). The jacket in the IK was knit on Cascade 220, and Ultra Alpaca is described as worsted weight, so I thought I would give it a go. My gauge was totally different, so I am making it two sizes smaller than I would have chosen, which makes me nervous. But I did the math several times, and as a scientist, I do math a lot, so I told myself to buck up and believe the math. So far, the size looks right.

I am not overly thrilled with the yarn, however. It is very soft and the color is quite rich (greener in real life), but twice in the first skein I have run into 1-2 feet stretches of yarn that is significantly thicker. It looks like there is a "fuzzy" on the strand, but it can't be plucked off, and it goes on (as a thickness not a fuzzy)for the 1-2 feet. This does not make me happy. I'll keep everyone posted if I find more incidences of this, and I'll try to photograph it. Ultra Alpaca is a new yarn this year.

On the sock front, a Regia Cotton Tip&Top Color sock is done and the second sock is under way. Here is the one sock:

I bought the yarn at Jen by the Fjord in Canmore, Alberta, Canada, when M and I were in the area for a scientific meeting (naturally I googled to find yarn stores in the area). The owner was such a nice and helpful lady, and she had a lot of sock yarn. I like the colors of the stripes--perfect with brown clogs and jeans. I even grafted the toe to remind myself how I hate grafting and love round toes. This was my best graft job to date (no unsightly loops that I can't loosen or tighten that I then pull to the inside), but it was no picnic.

Tomorrow M and I are taking a vacation day and heading west to San Francisco to see the Monet in Normandy exhibit at the Legion of Honor. I love Monet's paintings and will let you know about the exhibit.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Beginning In Media Res

I'll begin this blog in the middle of things because that is where I am. Any scintillating background I can fill in as explanations demand. Suffice it to say that I have always been fascinated by knitting, and now I knit whenever I can (M, my husband, likes to hum the Neil Young song I've Seen the Needle, the Damage Done as he walks by me as I knit). Last winter I learned how to knit socks. At first the engineering of the knitted sock caught my attention, but after I got a few pairs knit, I realized that hand knitted socks were superbly comfortable. Just about the time it got hot here in the Central Valley of California, I vowed to knit enough pairs of socks so that I wouldn't have to wear store bought nylon socks ever again. My feet looked forward in anticipation. Summer 2006 would be renamed the Summer of the Socks. Knitting started out well.

Fleece Artist Midnight socks.JPG

These are garter rib socks from Sensational Knitted Socks in Fleece Artist Merino colorway Midnight. The colorway acutally looks different now since Fleece Artist has changed spinners. It's now darker and not so blue, but still gorgeous. My toes, which can be quite picky, really like the feel of Fleece Artist Merino.

sockotta stipe sock.JPG

My mother-in-law gave me this self-striping Sockotta cotton/wool/nylon blend yarn as a Christmas gift. I knit them up to prove that sock yarn is an excellent gift, and I love the colors and the cotton/wool feel of the yarn. I mostly made up the pattern, but the ribbing and toe are from Vintage Socks by Nancy Bush. Both socks are done even though you can see only one here.

After this, well, the temperatures shot up over 100 for several days in a row, and I couldn't think (at least that is my excuse). So, I made a sock with a mock cable on smaller needles than I usually use for that particular brand of yarn, and I didn't increase the number of stitches. I have a very narrow long sock which does not deserve to have a photo of it take up space in my Flickr account. The least said the better.

But now things are again moving along swimmingly, as I put my yarn, needles and hands under the expert directions of Nancy Bush and her Rib and Cable Sock from IK (Fall 2005).


The yarn is Cherry Tree Hill supersock potluck in Brights. The yarn is actually a little warmer in color than the photo shows, what looks purple is really a dark maroon, but I like it. The sock has a star toe of three points and a Welsh heel, which I try to show here:


I like the Welsh heel, this is the second pair of socks I've done using it. The decreases on the bottom are comfortable and are meant to add longevity to the heel. You may be able to see the small YOs along the top side of the heel in the picture. It's fun for me to mix up my heels and toes among the different pairs of socks I knit. I have yet to try a toe up sock. I just viewed the lovely toe-up sock knit by Cara, a champion cuff-down sock knitter, and she is not convinced by the wonders of toe-up socks, so I think I shall bide my time for awhile. Oh, and by the way, I do not intend to wear my Brights socks with the blue/turquoise/fuschia skirt you can see in the picture.

I have other projects in the works and even more planned, 2 sweaters, some lace (deep, deep breath!), and of course, more socks,but darling M says it's time for Sunday afternoon cocktails, so those will have to wait until another day.