March 28th, 2005

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Well, that was amusing.

The phone rang, so I muted the volume on my computer and answered it.

"Hello, is Jacob Haller there?"


"Hello, Jacob. I work for [some company]. Have you heard of us?"


"Oh, well, we specialize in getting websites to the top of search engine results. I've just been doing some research on your industry. Can I ask you some questions about your web site?"

"Wait -- what industry do you think I'm in?"

At this point there was a short, uncomfortable pause. Then he said, "Well, let me just look at your web page for a second."

I then heard him mumbling phrases from my mother's web page. After a little while, he hazarded, "It looks like you're in real estate?"

"Nope," I said.

"Oh, well, ..." he said, and went back to reading my mother's web page to himself.

After thirty seconds more of this I said, "Well, thanks for your time," and hung up.
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Doctor Who socks instructions

I have heard from plorkwort that the socks have arrived and more or less fit, so now it is time to reveal the ...

Secrets of Making Doctor Who Socks

plorkwort gave me a copy of the Doctor Who Pattern Book for Christmas last year. Later, she noticed the Knitty Very Tall Socks pattern and mentioned that if she were more of a knitter she would make a pair using the stripes and relative dimensions from the Tom Baker-era Doctor Who scarf. At last, an opportunity to repay her thoughtfulness!

A few things had to be worked out, though. First, there was the question of which scarf pattern to use. After some consideration, I decided not to use the pattern in the Pattern Book but to instead go with Chris Brimelow's. The next question was which season scarf pattern to go with (as the scarf became damaged it was altered somewhat), but it seemed obvious that I should go with the original Season 12 pattern.

I also decided that instead of making the socks identical I would make them each take up about half of the original scarf pattern. The conceit would be that the sock would start at the end of one sock, go down into the shoe, emerge from the other shoe, and continue up to the other end. I thought this would look nicer and more Doctor Who-like, would have the added advantage that I would be able to make the individual stripes wider, and would mean that it wouldn't be too big a deal if I didn't get the conversions quite right.

Next to do the math. After making a bunch of simplifying assumptions I multiplied together a bunch of conversion factors and, surprisingly, ended up with a ratio of 2:1, meaning that every two rows of the original scarf would correspond to one row of sock. Also happily the original scarf was done in garter stitch, with each color being used on an even number of rows. And, finally, Chris Brimelow's pattern site even had a diagram with the number of rows divided by two. This made it all very, very convenient.

To select the yarn, I took a printout of a photo of the scarf and tried to match colors as best I could, which approach worked pretty well, I think. The Knitty pattern calls for cheap acrylic yarn; I ended up getting a couple of different kinds at a couple of different stores.

The knitting was pretty straightforward. A few notes:

  • Note that the Knitty pattern calls for five #2 needles, not a set of number fives as I initially misread.
  • In the 'Work Short-Row Heel Shaping' section there's a line which says:
    Row 5 [WS]: Sl1 pwise, p8, p2tog, turn.
    It should instead say:
    Row 5 [WS]: Sl1 pwise, p8, p2tog, p1, turn.
  • When it comes time to knit the heel flap, continue with the same color for the entire flap instead of trying to continue the stripes. The problem isn't so much that it's difficult to continue the stripes as that you end up with a lot of loose ends, which is probably not desirable for the part of the sock that you're actually going to walk on. (Although there are probably tricks to get around this if you are a better knitter than I am.) Instead, do the heel in a single color and resume counting rows once you start knitting the top of the sock again (in the final step before the 'Shape Instep' section).
  • Note that these socks are both very warm and very heavy. A sturdy garter belt will be required!
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Update: plorkwort has kindly provided some pictures of the socks being worn!

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