WIP WEDNESDAY: I will call them…Cumbersocks

A while back, Gentleman Caller surprised me with two skeins of Purple Shirt sock yarn from Pandia’s Jewels to celebrate being permanently placed at my former job.  (Really, getting those two skeins of yarn was the only good part of said job, BUT I DIGRESS.)  It’s been hanging out in my stash, waiting for the right project.  Since we had the mother of all winters here in Boston, I decided to knit myself some socks…and only got around to knitting up the Sherlock yarn once the weather got nicer.  Whoops.



My initial plan was to make the Mirror socks by Josiah Bain.  As you can tell, the yarn was a little too busy for that pattern, and even with the aid of a row counter I lost track of where I was in the pattern.  I went on Ravelry and looked for a free pattern for a pair of toe-up socks in a similar gauge.  One of the first hits was “I Shall Name Them George”, and after skimming the pattern decided to just dive in.


The smocked pattern and short-row heel are pretty similar to my previous pair of socks, but since these pull in a little more I’ve had to knit them extra long and try them on as I go.  I cast on last Wednesday and FINALLY got the right length last night.  The heel is almost entirely turned, and I should be able to start the cuff on the train ride home tonight.  After working this section, I’m almost excited to cast on for the next sock, since I know how long it should be and where to start turning for the heel.  (Possibly while listening to Molly Lambert’s guest appearances on the “Yo, Is This Racist” podcast, which I learned about as I left for work this morning, thanks guys for letting me know this now.)



TUESDAY TUNES: Game Theory & Throwing Muses (though not together)

“curious what people shitting on sonic youth listen to as a proper alternative” — flufluflu, 2012

Glad you asked.

About a year before Daydream Nation dropped, Sonic Youth’s labelmates Game Theory released Lolita Nation on Enigma Records.  To many, the album was the band’s defining moment; to me, it’s the best double album with the word “nation” in the title that Enigma released (and I’ll stand on Thurston Moore’s coffee table in my high-button boots and say so).  Where SY’s raison-d’etre was dissonance, Game Theory mastermind Scott Miller reveled in perfect pop melodies, ringing chords, and literate lyrics…but he also had a knack for subverting the pop form with out-of-left-field arrangements, spots of harmonic dissonance, and seemingly non sequitur samples.  The way beauty and melody coexisted in Miller’s songs with intentionally ugly sounds and musical tension showed me that you can use avant-garde techniques alongside traditional structures, and that both can be valid in the same song.  Though Miller died in 2013, Omnivore Records is remastering and reissuing the long-out-of-print Game Theory albums for a new generation to discover.  If you love Big Star, Ted Leo, Aimee Mann, and the New Pornographers, or you like your pop music with a side of weirdness, you owe it to yourself to check out these reissues.  Those wanting a taste of Lolita Nation without dropping a few hundred dollars can check out the video above.

While Throwing Muses don’t have a formal connection to SY, their music also came to me at a time when I should have been delving into the NYC hipsters.  While they also traded in a form of dissonance, the dense arrangements and rhythmic anchor made them sound less messy (and the airy guitar lines read less as harsh and more as pretty to my young ears).  Kristin Hersh’s fractured narratives about outcasts and marginal characters, rife with surreal imagery, fully clicked for me when I heard Rykodisc’s reissue of the first Throwing Muses album, known stateside as “the green album”.  While “Fish” and “Counting Backwards” were radio hits in the pre-Nirvana ’90s, I’ve chosen one of their more notorious songs…a heartbreaking narrative about a shooting at a McDonalds in the mid-80s.  I love the way Kristin’s voice works against the bass groove at the beginning of the song, giving it a lyrical and musical tension.  The Muses released some great records over the years, but for my money the first album is a perfect, perfect record.


I’m calling this a cheat because I actually finished the socks in question on my way into work today.


These are Sarah Wilson‘s Honeycomb Socks, a free pattern I got from Ravelry.  I love Sarah’s retro details and body-con silhouette, but until I saw this pattern I never thought to make a pair of socks.  Clearly I was missing out.  The pattern was relatively easy (more on that in a minute) and has a great texture but also allows the yarn to shine.


This is kind of embarrassing to admit, but sometimes when I’m knitting seed stitch (which this pattern resembles), I lose my place and knit two stitches in a row, rendering my work into single rib.  I made a mistake in a few rows of slipping two stitches in a row, but those were so tiny that I couldn’t pick it up on my camera.

And now, a few words about the yarn.  I knit this from Wandering Wool, a DC-area hand-dyed company whose yarn I bought at Loop DC when I went to our nation’s capitol in January.  The colorway was called Strawberries and Cream, but seeing all that crimson and white in skein form made my brain go in a different direction.

By the way, I'm writing this on my lunch break from work.  You'll just have to use your imagination.

By the way, I’m writing this on my lunch break from work. You’ll just have to use your imagination.

I kept thinking of these as the yarn dyed from blood and BRAAAAAAAINS, knit with spare bones, to celebrate the end of the zombie apocalypse.

Next on the needles: Mirror by Josiah Bain, who will be pleased to learn that I’m knitting this from yarn inspired by Sherlock’s purple shirt.

TUESDAY TUNES: “Tunic” and “Kool Thing”, Sonic Youth

Like pretty much every other white girl of a certain age, I braved the sleet and snow last Tuesday to get a copy of Girl in a Band, the incisive and heartbreaking memoir by Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth renown.  I gobbled it down in less than 24 hours, and my opinion of it was consistent with others’: her vitriol towards Courtney Love and Lana Del Rey, while understandable, was a bit much, but reading about her artistic process, her attempts at balancing work and life, and negotiating her artistic integrity kept me reading to the last pages.  Though one might read her insights on her marriage and feminine identity in music as hashtag-mainstream feminist, she spoke only for herself, and the way she wrote about being a “strong woman” in music and the intersection of art and craft kept me company.  After I finished the book, I felt inspired and invigorated.

My love of the book came as a surprise, since I was never a huge fan of Sonic Youth.  My need for beauty and melody and redemption clashed with their loud guitar sounds and apocalyptic lyrics, and I found their name-dropping, trend-hopping antics showy and irritating.  When I was growing up, I was drawn to surrealism and avant-garde techniques, but Sonic Youth’s omnipresence made me think that theirs was the only way to be an underground artist.  Reading Girl in a Band inspired me to reappraise their music, and I’ve been listening to Goo while I’m at work.  (Turbulent music can come in handy in a loud office.)


The Carpenters were pretty far out of vogue when I first heard Sonic Youth, and their adulation of a corny, square pop duo inspired much eye-rolling in me.  At the time I was unaware of Karen’s fight with bulimia or her painful family life (or her drumming!). I’d assumed SY had adopted the Carpenters in an ironic stance that was all too trendy in their early 90s heyday.  In the years since I’ve learned more about Karen’s sad background and come to respect her place in the firmament.  The open letter Kim wrote to Karen broke my heart with its empathy and gave me some context for “Tunic”. The song sounds so melancholy and eerie, and the handmade, public access kids’ pageant aesthetic of the video just hits my sweet spot.


So listening to “Kool Thing” while reading through a work assignment on intersectionality was poignant and galvanizing.  This was the first song I ever heard by SY…I was twelve or thirteen and I HATED it.  Hated the loud guitars and the singsongy vocals and (what I then regarded as) the shallow lyrics.  I like how she and Chuck D are standing next to one another, frustrated with “white corporate America”.  They’ve got a point there.

I can’t say I’ll ever be a fan of SY.  I think Game Theory’s work does a more interesting job of bringing unusual techniques to pure pop, and Throwing Muses did a lot more with dissonance and surprise.  But listening to their albums at this remove helps me appreciate how important they were, and I’m glad I got to that point.