Monday, July 21, 2014

Second Rest Day

Today is a rest day in Carcassonne for the Tour de France and so too for the Tour de Fleece, a chance to catch up. Or perhaps an excuse to play – what else? – Carcassonne. Someday I'd love to see the historic Cité, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


My TdF is coming along nicely. Half the ecru BFL braid is spun, plied, and ready to finish...

ecru BFL, 242 yds (221 m)

... and a skein of Gale's Art Polwarth that was spun and plied last spring but somehow never finished is finished. I'm very pleased with my MDS&W '13 fairing. That's only half the braid – I really should spin up the rest. Maybe after TdF.

Sweetness and Light Polwarth, 183 yds (167 m)

There's FO socks to show off, too. Coming soon!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Sesqui- Socks and Centennials

This summer is turning out to be almost as harried as last summer... almost. There's a bit more space and grace to take the time to take note of time, and milestones, and that's something. So let me note that one-and-a-half months of summer have gone by. Gentle readers with a flair for Latin will know the root sesqui- means one-and-a-half – a concept so useful, it has a name. Appropriately, I have one-and-a-half socks to show off: the Bricks and Tiles socks I started last spring for Sock Madness 7 but never completed. The red yarn marks the pattern's very interesting variation on an afterthought heel.

Bricks and Tiles sesquisocks

One milestone of note is we're currently in the midst of the sesquicentennial of the American Civil War (1861-65). There have been and will continue to be many observances, particularly around various battles and civil rights advances. Earlier I was too preoccupied, but more recently I've been keeping DH company on visits to some of the numerous national parks that preserve old battlefields large and small.

Fort Stevens signLast weekend we went on a walking tour featuring the smallest national park I've ever visited, Fort Stevens, part of the Civil War defenses of Washington, DC and the namesake for the Battle of Fort Stevens, July 11-12, 1864, which President Lincoln observed. The smallest national cemetery I've ever seen, Battleground National Cemetery, was also part of the tour. Park Ranger Mike gave an excellent, informative talk and encouraged questions. Thank you, Ranger Mike!

It's astonishing to think of Washington as a heavily fortified city, completely ringed by forts and artillery batteries built largely by escaped slaves (.pdf map). Until the abolition of slavery in 1865, enslaved African Americans were considered property in much of the U.S., including the District of Columbia, and runaways were considered contraband. The contraband camps that formed around the forts during their construction and that persisted after became some of the first black neighborhoods of the city. This heritage is historically significant yet severely under-documented. To remedy that, the National Parks Service is seeking African Americans with ties to these neighborhoods to record their stories. Not to mention it would be nice to see more diversity in Ranger Mike's audience.

Ranger Mike

History tells us it was hot and humid 150 years ago, and so it was when we took the walking tour. I was very grateful I was wearing light clothing and sunscreen (but I forgot my hat), carrying little, and had access to shade and chilled water provided by the NPS and was not wearing a wool uniform and carrying a 60-pound (27 kg) military pack and a 10-pound (4.5 kg) musket, with orders to charge the abatis surrounding the fort. History further tells us that when some Confederate soldiers looted the Silver Spring mansion of Montgomery Blair (a member of President Lincoln's cabinet and one of the lawyers who unsuccessfully represented Dred Scott), they so enjoyed the barrels of fine whisky they discovered in the basement that the next morning they were unable to make an early start. Had they done so, this is part of what they would have seen: tall earthworks crowned by battlements and 30-pound Parrott cannons commanding the high ground, with neighboring forts providing interlocking fields of fire. Imagining it all gave me a little shiver.

Fort Stevens earthworks

The anniversary events drew modest crowds of tourists and re-enactors, including some Confederate re-enactors who became upset the Parks Service wouldn't let them in the park with their historic battle flags, which are banned because of their equally historic use by hate groups. The would-be Rebels sorta complied – they stood on the public sidewalk with flags half-furled and yelled rude things at passersby. I declined to take their pictures.

Brightwood walking tour

DH was surprised and very pleased by the outing. He's visited a fair number of old battlefields, some famous, some obscure, some hard to find. Even though less than half of the little fort is standing, DH pronounced the remnants among the best-preserved Civil War era earthen battlements he's ever seen. The location, inside the District, is easily reached. There is free street parking, but no amenities at the site; however, the park is in the urban residential neighborhood of Brightwood, which has all the conveniences. The ground is uneven and sloping, sensible shoes are helpful. There are no barriers to wheelchairs, but no improvements for them either. Those who miss a guided tour can easily follow the well-marked signs for a self-guided tour. I'd say for those with the time and inclination, it's worth a visit, but for those making the whirlwind tour of major monuments and museums in Washington, it's easily skipped.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Rotational Activity

Happy Fourth of July to USAans everywhere! Alas, along the U.S. Eastern seaboard first-of-the-season Cat 2 Hurricane Arthur is upsetting holiday weekend plans. Ah well, at least the storm track map is red, white, and blue.

Hurricane Arthur storm track

Image credit: National Hurricane Center.

Rant: I'm keeping a weather eye out, although I've been in more of a spin over the Supreme Court's "limited ruling" regarding access to contraception in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby on Monday and subsequent orders expanding on the ruling on Tuesday and Thursday. There's so much to dislike – the idea that corporations have civil rights, the admission the ruling is novel and without precedent, the disingenuous claim it's limited, that bosses get to control how employees use their compensation, the junk science, the inconsistent theology, the piercing of the corporate veil, the callous let them eat cake attitude. Gah. Some would boycott the companies that have filed suit – Hobby Lobby and Eden Foods among them. That's well and good, but the take-away for me is elections matter. End of rant.

I was looking forward to a more pleasant form of spinning, a weekend bike ride or three as my Kickstarter reward, a Po Campo Bike Share Bag, arrived. I'm very pleased with its thoughtful design, particularly its zip top and pockets and bungee cords. The bag arrived flat, but for the photo I stuffed it with fiber, of course...

Po Campo Bike Share Bag

... including the fiber I plan to spin for the Tour de Fleece, which starts tomorrow. The fiber is Gale's Art undyed ecru BFL, the spindle is my trusty 29 g birdseye maple Bosworth.

TdF fiber and spindle

This year I signed onto Team Madness Forever 2014, which seems a good fit. I'm aiming to spin yarn suitable for twined knitting, or Tvåändsstickning, which is traditionally 2-ply, spun S and plied Z from Swedish landrace sheep. I can manage the spinning technique, but the closest thing to Swedish landrace fiber that I could obtain is Finn, which I sampled and didn't entirely like, so BFL will have to do.

Tvaandsstickning sample

I think it does pretty well. I'm ready for le Grand Depart.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

That's Two

Now I'm catching up. Earlier this month I finally finished a Sock of Shame, Sockdolager by Adrienne Fong, the qualifying pattern for last year's Sock Madness 7. Needless to add, last year's Sock Madness didn't go very well for me – I didn't even qualify for patterns.

Sockdolager socks, modeled

Sockdolager as written has a new-to-me Fleegle heel. While I enjoyed learning a new heel, it's not a good fit for my Frankenfeet – it might be good for someone with a narrow heel and wide ankle. So I knit the second sock with the usual eye of partridge heel flap and French heel and am much happier with the fit. In the photo below, the Fleegle heel is on the left, the French heel is on the right.

Fleegle versus flap heel

As mentioned previously, the yarn is vintage club yarn that looked pretty, almost dainty, in the skein. It's a little surprising how dynamic the knit fabric is. I expected the welted chevron pattern would add discipline to the skinny stripes; instead it seems to have unleashed them!

Finished Sockdolager socks

Overall, I'm pleased with these socks and also pleased to have finished them. This is a year of tying up loose ends for me, and it feels good.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Chicago Weekend

Earlier in the month I finished a Sock of Shame, but rather than take advantage of the long holiday weekend to do some catch up blogging, instead DH and I scampered off to Chicago via the Lake Shore Limited. It meant a lot of knitting time, especially when the engine broke down moments after departing NY Penn Station. Delays have an unfortunate way of becoming cumulative; our train ended up arriving five hours late. Objectively, it was no worse than a comparable airport delay, but I've noticed somehow on a train the entitled folk bitch more. All I have to say is I'm glad I had my knitting. Outbound it looked like this.

Camino de Santiago WIP, going

In Chicago we made our usual edible pilgrimage, searching out delicacies like Chicago-style deep dish pizza and Chicago hotdogs. In the old Swedish neighborhood, Andersonville, we were surprised to see the landmark water tower sitting in the parking lot of the Swedish American Museum, a casualty of the hard winter. (There are fundraising efforts to get it repaired and back on the roof.)

Swedish American Museum water tower

On the spur of the moment I decided to Bike the Drive with a nephew. Once a year mighty Lake Shore Drive is closed to cars and open to bicycles for its entire length, from Bryn Mawr to the Museum of Science & Industry – the opportunity seemed too good to miss. Neither of us had bikes, so we rented the Chicago version of bike share bikes, or Divvy bikes. Chicago bike share started last year and has been quite successful, yet it seemed strangely new to many participants. Everywhere we went I heard other riders exclaim, "Ooh! Divvies!" A couple of people asked if they were hard to ride. Uh, no. (Why would rental bikes be hard to ride?) It was fun.

Bike the Drive 2014

Indeed, I was so encouraged by the experience that I participated in my first Kickstarter project, a Po Campo bike bag designed for the open-sided baskets on bike share bikes. I can see making many more trips on bike share bikes in the future. As of this writing there are bike share programs in Austin, Boston, Boulder, Charlotte, Chattanooga, Chicago, Columbus, Denver, Des Moines, Fort Worth, Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Madison, Minneapolis, Nashville, NYC, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San Francisco, and Washington, DC in the U.S. and also in London, Melbourne, Montreal, Ottawa, Santiago, and Toronto. Biking is a great way to see a city.

Buckingham Fountain

All too soon it was time to return. DH and I boarded the train and I knit some more. I've really enjoyed knitting these modified Camino de Santiago socks by Nicki Miller. I almost finished the singleton, except for grafting the toe as I didn't bring a tapestry needle.

Camino de Santiago WIP, returning

And wonder of wonders, this time the Lake Shore Limited arrived on time. It was a sweet end to a sweet weekend.