Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Well That Went Well - Not

Yesterday I signed off saying that I needed to do a mountain of dishes. That ended up being a whole lot more difficult than it should have been. Before I started them, I went downstairs with a load of recycling and pop cans etc. and heard a funny noise. Dum-de-dum-dum. No, not dire music. It was water spewing all over the basement floor and the dribbling sound of it flowing down the drain in the corner. Yikes! I tried to turn off the water to the hot water tank but it sprayed all over me and wouldn’t go off. So then I tried to turn off the water main to the house. It was so tight I couldn’t budge it and there was no tool that I could find that would work. Not even the biggest wrench. What to do? Call T-Man on his cell phone for “HELP!” He came in 17 minutes, new record time. Of course he just touched the tap and it turned off. It did take him 2 hands to turn off the main though. Sigh. I’m such a wimp.

T then managed to fix the broken tap (washer blown, replaced with packing) but water was still leaking out on the floor so we figured our 8-year-old hot water tank was a goner. Still had 10 years to go on the warrantee so we were able to get a small rebate on a new one. It was a lot of work to clean up the water but it didn’t actually ruin anything. That drain in the floor is very useful. And now my floor is clean! Plus I did the dishes yesterday before draining the old tank. It was replaced today and we’re back in business – $850 poorer. I’m still hoping to dry out the basement throw rugs before the expected rain tomorrow. I may have to bring them inside later today to finish the job.

Trivia: We’ve been in this house long enough now (nearly 31 years) to have replaced the hot water tank 4 times! Don’t make ’em to last, do they?

Now for some book reviews. It’s been awhile and I’ve meant to tell you about some of the new books that are trying to elbow their way onto my crowded bookshelves. The subject today is “socks”. I thought I already talked about some of these, but since I can’t find the post we’ll carry on. Compare and contrast.

First up:  face-off! Cookie A’s Sock Innovation VS Wendy D. Johnson’s Socks from the Toe Up. Both of these designers make socks with a similar look using knit/purl patterns, lace and cables and solid or semi-solid yarns. The difference is that Cookie works top down and Wendy works toe up. They both make lovely functional socks, using a tight gauge and mostly my favourite flap and gusset (or in Wendy’s case gusset and flap) heel. I’m not a fan of toe-up socks but regardless I’ve successfully knit two of Wendy’s patterns top down, changing to my own methods as necessary. Turned out just fine! There’s also a lot of information on sock designing construction, re-sizing, etc. in both of these and it doesn’t overlap much. Both books have a lot to recommend them particularly for those sock knitters past their first few pairs and wanting more challenges but nothing too innovative. Save dear Cat Bordhi for later.

If you like your yarns more colourful and your socks more challenging, try Carol J. Sulcoski’s Knitting Socks with Handpainted Yarn. This book isn’t the work of just one designer so you get a lot of different styles and construction methods. Some of them might not be for the real beginner sock knitter and there are no basic how-to-knit-socks chapters. Lots of interesting socks though and an in-depth discussion of ways to get the most out of handpainted yarns, whether bright or muted.

Another book with a number of different types of socks by various designers is Linda Kopp’s The Joy of Sox. Everything from heavy leg warmers to lacy knee socks and utilizing colour-stranding to delicate fishnet and beads, there is sure to be something in this book to get your fingers itching to knit. The first part of the book has some beginner information and there are tidbits and amusing asides (such as “18% of sock knitters admit to looking at online socks more than three times a day.”) plus a story from Crazy Aunt Purl about her “First Time”. Cute! And keeps you reading. The best part of this book is the hard cover over internal spiral binding that opens flat and stays that way so you don’t lose your page.

One last book is Dorothy T. Ratigan’s Knitting the Perfect Pair. Subtitled “Secrets to Great Socks”, I was a little disappointed with this book. There are a number of intriguing socks in here including tabi (separate big toe), thrummed house socks and ones with an interesting braided edging but most of the “secrets” are kind of lame: ribbing under a fold-over cuff, an afterthought heel, avoiding the jog in stripes. Yawn. The patterns feature only one size circumference with any adjustments you can make to the lengths noted. My biggest debate with many of the socks in this book is with the gauge. Some I would consider much too loosely knit to make long-wearing socks. Regular sock/fingering weight yarn knit at 28 sts = 4” is much looser than my usual 36-38 sts = 4”. And how does she get 38 sts = 4” using relatively large 3.25 mm needles on the cover socks? I can get that only with 2 mm needles. The pattern states that gauge is over st st, not in pattern too. Yeah, I know. Use whatever size needles gets the proper gauge for you! However I think some trial and error and adjusting would be necessary for the best results. At least that’s my opinion. Dorothy is an older and very experienced knitter but it seems that her patterns aren’t quite what modern sock knitters are used to. Not so much the style but the instructions perhaps? Something feels not quite right anyway. I’m open to other points of view if you’ve got one.

All of these books have been published this year attesting to the continuing popularity of sock knitting. So many socks; so little knitting time.

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