Friday, August 31, 2007

Finished Object: Sydney

I had most of the clothes sewn last night, and early a.m. today sewed the hat, sealed up his stuffing holes, and dressed him.

Ta DA:

On the travel writing front, my super-secret project went to the fact checker on Wednesday. That’s great news, because it means that my article is definitely slated for the November issue of SUPER SECRET magazine (that I will divulge in late October/early November when it hits the store shelves). But, it was bad news for the fact checker who has been tearing her hair out trying to verify the details of my article. She seemed to be under the impression that everything I state in my article should be found on a single web site. Nope, I had to work long and hard to find the details, and I relied heavily on phone and email correspondence with these entities - contact information included in my resource document. No, these facts are not easily found and she seems to be holding it against me.

Yesterday I received an email from her asking about the size of one of the properties because I had written 17 acres, but she could only find the figure of 70000 square meters, so where had I come up with 17 acres? I replied that I had used a conversion calculator and that according to that, 700000 square meters = 17.297377 acres. I simply rounded down.

Later in the day I got another email questioning my use of the word JUNGLE when I probably should have said FOREST (yes, she capped these words). Clearly she had gotten totally stressed over this job, and by now I knew (because I have done fact checking myself) that she was desperate to find something to correct but as of this point had found nothing. (I’m that good.) I decided to throw her a bone and told her I could see her point (even though I didn’t) but that if she changed it to forest it should be tropical forest because otherwise it had the wrong connotation. At least her email-yelling made the eye twitch she gave me the day before go away. And really, jungle vs forest is a question for the editor to decide - not the fact checker. BTW, the editor had agreed with my use.


Now that Sydney is complete I can turn my attention to the flannel funk quilt, and will have more handwork time freed up to progress on Ragna. So today I need to clean out my work areas so I can start making a new mess.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Ten Fingers and Ten Tiny Toes

The process has been a tad painful - I seem to have a knack for overlooking important steps in the instructions - but I’m almost at the finish line for Sydney #1. All that is left now is to ladder stitch the stuffing holes closed, and make his little outfit.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

All Hands on Deck

Sydney continues to progress, though the going is slow.

With the hands done, now I can turn my attention to the feet.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Meet Sydney

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Sydney Sunday, or Face On


The past week has been slow on the crafting front. Yes, I had completed my super-secret travel writing assignment so that no longer occupied every waking moment, but while I had been working on that I had been neglecting other projects. Here is a brief transcript of a client meeting I had Wednesday morning:

Client: We’ll need to finish this before “Male-Boss” leaves for China for three weeks.
Me: Right. That’s coming right up. I suppose you’ll want that White Paper before then?
Client: Yes.
Me: Right. I had set that aside while I started on the building history that “Female-Boss” asked me to write. I’ll move that to the back burner. Monday then? Is that okay?
Client: Sure. And have you gotten prices on that reference card yet?
Me: No. Have you asked your customers yet which size they would prefer—letter size or legal?
Client: No. I forgot.

Then we gave each other the same toothy grin that Claudia Black delivers in the Avalon episodes of Stargate SG-1 Season 9.

I managed to get the tam on a blocking board Saturday morning, so I had no easy project to take to my Lawrence knit group. Time to swatch! I brought with me the Virginia wool I plan to make into a simple button-down cardigan, Rowan cotton wool for the Bi-Color Cables, and the super-fine alpaca I plan make into a self-designed sweater I’m tentatively calling the “Little Ricky Swing Jacket.”

The Virginia wool gave me perfect gauge on size 5s right out of the gate. Rowan, however, is being a pistol. The pattern calls for a gauge of 22 stitches and 32 rows over 4", but the Rowan knit up at 20 stitches and 24 rows over 4" on a size 6 needle. That is quite a ways off! Elinor from my knit group suggested I drop down to a 4, and assures me that row gauges decrease faster than stitch gauge. She cited applicable experience knitting baby booties. I’ll try again in the next few days, but by this time the knit group was over and I had more errands to run in Lawrence before heading home.

Last week I was invited to another press trip - this time to southern Michigan in late October. While that seems like a long way off, it is really only about 1 1/2 months - and well into winter-bedding time... winter bedding, as in “Flannel Funk Quilt” time... and as I recall that quilt requires a lot of work before it’ll be ready to throw on the bed. It’s in a sack somewhere, but think there are a few seams I need to re-sew; I have the backing fabric but I’m not sure if that is in one piece already or I’ll have to seam it; I know I don’t have the filling; and I know without a doubt I have to quilt it. Luckily I now have the proper foot for my sewing machine, but I would like to finish Sydney before I resume work on the quilt.

And thus, Sunday becomes Sydney Sunday, giving him a face.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Nacho Stumbles Across the Squirrel TV Channel

Monday, August 20, 2007

Finished Object: the Amy Butler Messenger Bag

It’s done! Now I need to load up all the pockets and take it to the library for tomorrow’s research day.

I disregarded Amy’s instructions to use Velcro or a magnetic snap closure, instead making an adjustable closure using a single overalls clasp. I’m super-pleased!!!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Saturday of my Edification

Yesterday morning I headed to Overbrook’s Quilt Connection to attend my first doll club meeting. I went with an open mind and no preconceived notion about what I would get out of the day. Keep in mind, that I had been invited while this woman had been at work—and a busy work day at that based on the frequency that her co-workers hounded her—so I hadn’t been thoroughly briefed.

I knew only these things: The location and time of the meeting, the name of the club, and that the members would love to help me. Oh, and she said something about a woman teaching how to make crazy quilt dolls, but that didn’t mean much.

This is what I hadn’t known: The meeting duration (it included lunch), that I should have brought a some scrap fabric so I could learn and practice various embroidery stitches being taught in the class, that club members would be so wrapped up in the intricacies of learning to make feather stitch that they were understandably too preoccupied to assist me, and that when they did (or this one person did) they understood the monkey instructions even less than me. But all was not lost.

Since I had never been to Quilt Connection before, but had heard wonderful things about it for years, shopping was the first item of business.

First, I got a sewing machine foot that should allow me to do free motion machine quilting. I started to pay for it but they told me they’d start a tab. TROUBLE...

Then I noticed that they had supplies and instructions for making locker hook rugs. I saw my chance to finally get a clear explanation of the difference between locker hook, latch hook, and regular hooked rugs that I never received when I visited Holly Berry in Colorado Springs.

Latch hook uses short individual lengths of yarn or fabric that are knotted to a canvas backing. The result is a rug with raw tufts standing up.

Hooked rugs are essentially punch embroidery on a large scale. The finished face of the rug is made of loops of fabric. The problem is that the rug can easily come unraveled.

Locker hook rugs have the same appearance as hooked rugs, but the stitches are locked in with a length of twine woven through the loops.

In other words, the path I had been prepared to take, based on Holly Berry, would have led to disaster.

I soaked all that in, then went back to the doll club meeting. While everyone else got started on their stitches, I pulled out Sydney. I had made the armature earlier that morning. The body was already sewn and turned right side out, as were the arms and legs, but I had skipped over an important instruction - cutting holes in the arms and legs to fish the armature through. I had skipped it because the illustration of that step seemed to contradict the instructions, and looked nothing like either the arms or the legs. I stewed over it for a long time before having an a-ha moment. Then I marked the slots to be cut and turned to my neighbor (who had sewn one of this designer’s dolls as part of past doll club meetings) and asked her to confirm my interpretation before I put scissors to cloth.

She stewed over it for a long time, undid all my pins so she could make sense of things, asked why I couldn’t fish it through the holes in the backs of the limbs (because those were the stuffing holes), asked why I couldn’t stuff through the large hole at the ends of the limbs (because that is where hands and feet will be attached) turned everything over and around a dozen more times, then decided I must have it right.

I made the cuts, threaded the body onto the armature, then the limbs, and looked ahead at the next step: basting limbs to body. I can handle that myself, and hadn’t brought the proper thread with me in the first place, so I put Sydney away and went back to the shop, asking them to put a fat quarter on my tab so I could learn the feather stitch. Done! Then I turned to the herringbone stitch. Done! Then it was lunch.

I’m sure I could have stayed, but I hadn’t anticipated the meeting’s length and I still had a full day ahead of me. I went back to the shop to buy: rug canvas, locker hooking twine, and a needle so I can make a practice rug before doing a big one for the new house;

and a book on fabric dying for beginners for the same reason.

I was making chit-chat with the owners as I settled up the bill and discovered that I also needed a different kind of foot to do straight-line quilting. So they added that to my bill, as well.

Then I confessed that I wasn’t fond of my Janome, and cited its inability to go handle especially thick layers of fabric such as the side seam on pant hems. She walked over to her Janome (it looked suspiciously like my own model) lifted the presser foot, then gave it an extra tug. It went higher—much higher. Dang! I tried it when I got home and sure enough it did the same thing! Dang, dang, dang!

All in all a very educational and productive Saturday.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Preventive Medicine

After frogging the tam countless times (and I do mean countless because I lost track at #4) I decided it would be wise to take this incarnation off the needles to give it a test fit.

And it does! It fits!! Woo-HOOOOO!!!!

Gosh, is it possible that I am making the tam for the final time???

My editor for the super-secret project did an amazing job marking up my manuscript for revision, which I received on Wednesday afternoon. I’ve spent the last two days recontacting all my sources with follow-up questions, and revising my article. The stress of writing for a magazine of this caliber that I had experienced last week had disappeared, but it turned into the stress of desperately needing the various representatives to fill in a few details. And wouldn’t you know that their internet service was down, people were away on vaca, or finding shelter as a hurricane was barreling down and Tsumani warnings were issued (thanks to the Peruvian earthquake). And then Skype was down all day Thursday.

But 1 p.m. today it was as polished as it could be (and darn good if I don’t say so myself), so I sent it back to her and spent the rest of the afternoon shopping for necessaries—necessaries being wire for the monkey’s armature, longer hemostats, polyfil fiber, cat food, and a hostess gift for a party tomorrow night. By four I was back home, completely depleted of all the stamina I had remaining. Thankfully I did stay upright long enough to polish off the Blue Bunny Personals Peanut Butter Panic ice cream I had stashed in the fridge for my private completion celebration and watched one episode of Judge Judy. Then it was pillow drool time. When I celebrate, I celebrate BIG!

News Break: Did you hear about this? A little 8-year-old girl, who had recently moved to Florida with her family, decided to bike all the way back to their old home in Ohio after hearing that Hurricane Dean was headed their way. That is one determined little lady!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

An Invitation to Join the Roach Clip Club

Before you raise your eyebrows any more than you have (they’re about to pop off you forehead), let me assure you that I don’t mean that literally. A bit of explanation is in order.

Looking ahead to the monkey instructions, I realize I would soon need supplies I have not yet purchased. These include wire for the armature (not an issue, just haven’t made that trip to the hardware store yet), eyes (this might be a problem - where the heck does a person buy 15 mm brown eyes?), and a hemostat. Hemostats are used for turning and stuffing, and are critical to the creation of the doll. I’d already asked all my normal craft outlets if they carried hemostats, and the answer was either “huh?” or “we used to but we don’t anymore.”

So Wednesday I got online and began googling doll suppliers in the Kansas City area, hoping I would find one that carried eyes. There aren’t any.

Then I googled online retailers looking for said-eyes. They were remarkably hard to find, (there was one that had the tag line “we’ve got eyes for you,” but when I pulled up the site I found they are discontinuing their eye line and no longer carry the size I need in an appropriate monkey color. Blue, as striking as they might be, are not appropriate monkey eyes.) but I finally found a pair and looked up the price: $.40/pair. I’m sorry, but I’m not going to put $.40 on my credit card, and they had NOTHING else I would want to buy.

What to do?

I did what any self-respecting Kansan would do: I went to my local electrical supply store where (your eyebrows are up again, aren’t they?) I recalled a woman worked who had a small doll making business. She was at a funeral that morning, so I stopped by again in the afternoon under a blazing sun during literally THE HOTTEST DAY of the year. Time and temp signs around town read 104-110. It wasn’t really 110, but it was 103, or 40 Celsius. I didn’t think she would be able to help, but thought perhaps she could direct me to a good retailer.

Her eyes sparkled as soon as I set my pattern on the counter. While she hadn’t made the monkey, she had made the rabbit by the same designer and LOVED IT! The electronics store carried some hemostats, but they were short and too high a quality for my purpose, but she gave me gave me a straw from her stash to help me when it came time for stuffing (I assume this will make sense later), gave me her home number to call that evening and she’d see if she had eyes in her own stash, and invited me to the local dollmaker’s club meeting that will be held Saturday at a quilt shop outside of town.

Oh, and eyes? She suggested I go to Hobby Lobby. No, I hadn’t been there yet because I have become so disappointed in the quality and selection of their goods in general that I assumed they would only have those clear plastic eyes with the pupils that jiggle around.

And the hemostat? Medical supply house.

I asked if she thought they would sell it to me. “Of course,” was her answer. “Why not?”
“Well, er, back in the 70s, if I’d asked for a hemostat...”
“Oh! A roach clip!”
“Just tell them you’re a dollmaker.”

Nacho had been neutered that morning, even though his blood work still showed kidney problems, so Mike and I swung past the vet’s office for a short lesson in giving cats fluids (necessary to flush the anesthesia out of his already-damaged kidneys), then on to a medical supply house for said-hemostat. They only had one to choose from, so I bought it at less than $4 while Mike kept the air conditioner running in the car for our newly-deballed Tom, then off to Hobby Lobby where I found (gasp) exactly the 15mm brown plastic animal eyes I needed - among a wall of jiggly clear plastic eyes, of course.

Then we returned home with my hemostat, eyeballs, groggy angry cat, and bag of IV fluids, set the alarm for 2 a.m. to place a follow-up call to Madagascar, and jotted my Saturday appointment with a bunch of dollmaker’s on my calendar. Who says I don’t know how to have fun??

And Uniball, er, I mean Nacho? In case you were wondering, he had all the normal equipment. It’s just that 50% of his equipment was tucked inside so his surgery ended up being more of a spay than a neuter.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Like My Size 4s?

’Nuf said

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Monkey Bits

With the article in my editor’s hands (still waiting to hear if it’s been approved or not) and the Amy Butler Messenger Bag off my sewing machine and at my tailor’s, I finally screwed up the courage to do a bit of sewing on the Grinder Monkey.


You will kindly note a torso, two arms, and two legs. Head will follow at some point, but the instructions ask that I work on the armature next, and that’ll mean a trip to the hardware store. Since I’m on a self-imposed spending freeze for the remainder of the week, the monkey is going to take a bit of a nap now.

Not sure if I told you, but I’ll likely be making a second monkey to give my brother-in-law. But that’s not today, and it won’t be until after we see how the first one turns out. I’ve already had one request for a modification on the design - - to make the jacket removable. Looks likely that the monkey will be changing his outfit from time to time.

I’ve also re-cast on for the tam. I have run up against one of the problems that stem from setting a project aside for a month or so. I referred to all my copious notes on the tam including stitches per inch, etc. One thing I failed to jot down was the needle size (!). So I guessed based on the needles I’d put in that project sack: #5, and #6. I would have thought the 5 would have been used to make the ribbing, then switched to #6 for the stockinette. But I don’t have, or can’t find, #6 dpns, which will be required - especially as I decrease on the top - but I do have #5 dpns, so I used it for the ribbing then continued on up the main body. Worked about an inch or so in stockinette then compared it to the scarf. Too tight! I frogged back to the ribbing and re-considered.

I don’t have any recollection of how I made the first tam. If I truly don’t have #6 dpns, then I must have worked it on two circs. Now I only have two #6 circs, so it had to be those two, but I notice now that while they’re both #6, that they are .25 mm different in size because of the whole metric thing. One is truly a 6, the other is one metric step up from it. That means my tam is one gauge on one side, and a second gauge on the other...

Think I will forge ahead for now, but as soon as my self-imposed spending freeze is lifted I’ll pick up a set of #6 dpns. Frankly, I’m not convinced I won’t have to frog this anyway and cast on a different number of stitches.

Addendum: I’ve just looked back at my old blog posts to see if my chance I mentioned needle size in it. Dang it if I hadn’t! Ribbing on size #4 dpns, stockinette on #5. Sigh... Of course that changes nothing with regard to my gauge being OFF when I knit on the 5 a few days ago... Sigh... Size 6 is looking better and better...

Monday, August 13, 2007

A Divining Time

Before I begin this story, let me first confess that I forgot my aunt’s birthday. Yes, I knew it was coming up, I had her present (unwrapped), and I even remembered late yesterday. But I forgot about her party. My excuse of the day is my recent focus on 15th-century Portuguese ceramic tile, and determining the time difference between Kansas and Rarotonga. But with the first draft now in my editor’s hands, I called to find out how the party went.

Turns out I’d forgotten something else. Something, perhaps even more important than a birthday, about my own family. We divine. Well I don’t, but my father’s side has and does. (If you’re wondering what divining is, it is a process of finding things of interest that are below ground - water, for example - using two long rods that are held loosely, but parallel to the ground. Perhaps you’ve seen in demonstrated on T.V.)

My aunt casually brought the subject up at her party, and one of nieces had never heard of it. Can’t have that! So aunty went to her car, retrieved her divining rods from the trunk (yes, she keeps them in her trunk), and proceeded to divine my parent’s yard to show niece how it is done. Everyone took turns, and several reportedly got strong hits over the grave of a dog we had when I was little.

Sorry I missed it. Instead, I spent the evening watching Design Star, and obsessing about historic 18th-century greenhouses or whether Euphorbia parvicyathophora is sufficiently rare to justify mention my story.

Nope, I’m still not talkin’!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Limited Crafting Content

Despite my schedule this week, I managed to carve out some time to nearly finish the Amy Butler Messenger Bag. By “carve out some time,” I mean that for several days in a row I got up between 2:30 and 3 a.m., and sewed until 7 a.m. By “nearly finish,” I mean that I had exactly two more seams to sew when this happened:

I had reached my machine’s capacity. It simply could not handle the thickness of fabric I was trying to pry under the presser foot. So I wrote out the steps to be done, stuck it in the bag along with my thread, name and phone number, and took the messenger bag to my tailor for her to finish. She is on vacation now, but her assistant said she’d be back on Wednesday and will call to talk to me about it then. I love my tailor. I think everyone needs a good tailor in their lives.

In cat news, I have picked out a name for Feral #5. I proposed several names over the past few days: Lincoln, Davis (for a friend who may have saved my butt on this writing assignment), Uniball (just kidding on that one), but the cat didn’t express an interest in any until until... “Nacho?” I asked. “Are you a Nacho?” He flicked his tail and blinked.

Nacho it is.

That inspired this phone conversation with Mike this morning:
Me: What is it with the food names?
Mike: Nacho... what else is there?
Me: Eclair
Mike: Oh, sure.
Me: T-Bone
Mike: These were all your names.
Me: T-Bone wasn’t. My name was Astra. You nicknamed her T-Bone.
Mike: Well I was thinking more like T-Bone Burnett, the musician, or that baseball team from Kansas City.
Me: Still...
Mike: And then there’s Caper. You named Caper.

Later another thought occurred to me: Collins could also be considered a food name. Collins, as in Tom Collins? That should probably count even though she was really named after the lead character in “Dark Shadows.”

Which just leaves Aspera, aka Purr, with a non-foody name. I seem to be obsessed or something.

So here he is (drum roll please):


...along with two of my other ferals: Aspera who hasn’t yet decided to be friends with Nacho, and T-Bone, Apera’s daughter. We think real friendship will only come after he’s been snipped. She used to love intact Toms. Apparently now, not so much.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Like a Bat Out of Hell

I was having a lovely, if not highly unusual morning (up at 2:30, 4 hours of sewing and knitting, call to Madagascar... you know: Stuff) when it was time to head downtown. I had planned to spend the bulk of the day at home writing, but there were a few things I forgot to print off my main computer the day before. Just a few minutes, right?


First, let me refresh your memory as to the layout of our office building. We work on the 2nd floor of a building that straddles two street addresses. There are two street-level restaurants, and between these two establishments are doors and stairs that lead either down to basement apartments, or up to a landing, through double doors, and up another flight of stairs to the 2nd level. The stairs open to a large common area, ringed with offices. The men’s and women’s restroom is shared by everyone on this level, and are also off the common area.

We’re the first in the building that morning. We turned off the alarm system, unlocked the landing doors, turned on the common area lights, went up the last flight of stairs, took a hard U-turn, and opened our office. As I was booting up my computer, Mike headed out to the bathroom to get some water for a cup of hot chai. He didn’t get very far before he raced back, and closed the door behind him. BAT!

We were essentially trapped. There was no way to leave without going through bat territory, nor was there any way to get to the bathroom, which we anticipated a need for at some point during the day.

If we were home, I’d have my net... the ability to open rooms and windows to aid in the bat’s release... etc. But I was not home, and we’re trapped.

I called my landlord’s cell phone. “We’ve got a bat, and Mike says it’s big,” I said, looking at Mike who’s peering through a crack in the door. He’d already stuffed newspaper into the mail slot to keep the bugger out. The bat was circling the common area, and flying low.

These were my landlord’s responses: “I wonder how he got in?” (he repeated that multiple times), “I wonder how he didn’t set off the motion detector,” and “I’m heading into a meeting. I can’t do anything about it now, but I’ll go home over lunch and get a net.”

Lunch?? I called him at 8:32 a.m.! Have I mentioned we’re trapped? But there is no persuading him. I hung up and saw that Mike has now pulled a bar stool over to the door so he could stand on it and spy through the clear glass transom above the door. All seemed quiet. The bat, it seemed, had settled somewhere. And I needed to leave. I had work to do, and I left T-Bone and Eclair in the conservatory for their therapy session - - a conservatory that has tons of windows, no a/c events, and we’re in the middle of a heat wave. I pulled my papers off the printer, wrote a “Bat Warning” sign to tape to the landing door alerting late arrivals, checked my guts, and headed out while Mike watched through a transom to alert me if he began to fly behind me.

At the top of the stairs it was quiet. I took the time to look around, hoping I’d spot him. I saw nothing except several transoms that were ajar enough to allow a bat to squeeze through. He could have been anywhere, but at least he wasn’t swooping over my head. I breathed a sigh of relief, waved goodbye to Mike who was still watching through the transom, and headed out the landing doors, pausing to post the sign. When I turned back, movement caught my eye. I ducked instinctively, it was the bat!

He had squeezed through the gap between the landing doors, and was flying in frantic circles in the airlock. I flew past me, and I saw my chance. I ran for the outside door, opened it, and was out on the sidewalk.

I looked back and saw that he was very very angry at this point. VERY angry. But I was free. What would you do?

I hugged the hinge side of the outside door, pushed it open as far as I could, and watched. The bat circled a few more times, then spotted the open air. I felt a breeze as he flew past. And then he was gone.

Heading back in, I removed the warning sign, and let Mike know that the coast was clear and to email the landlord. The landlord responded by asking if we had taken pictures because it would be great for Halloween.

Um... the guy’s wife is a nurse. He’s got little kids. He’s had a bat in his own house. Does he not know that bats are dangerous? That bats carry rabies? That this isn’t a joke???? I’m not anti-bat. Bats are very helpful. But bats should never, ever, be handled.

One more year. One more year.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

No Knit Content Today…

because of my HUGE assignment. I’d love to be knitting on tam redux this morning (it’s been cast on and the ribbing is complete, by the way) but instead I’m up at 4 a.m. working out the time difference between Kansas and The Cook Islands. So instead of knit, I will take the time to give a cat update.

“Buddy” is coming along really well. He is a sweet, gentle spirited guy, and he has come to love being petted from head to toe. His back end has excellent elevator action when I hit the base of his spine. The house is still very overwhelming to him, so we are taking it slow. But last night we dismantled the crate and gave him free range in the bathroom. Even that small space is pretty scary, and so far he’s hanging out behind and under the tub. (Clawfoot, in case you’re wondering.)

The thing that most people don’t understand about ferals - and I’m including staff at animal shelters when I say “most people” - is that they come in a wide range of temperaments just like socialized cats. Some cats are sweet and would never dream of biting a human. Some would as soon claw your eyes out as look at you. This guy is on the extreme sweet end of the spectrum. So our job is simply to gain his trust, and begin to slowly introduce him to the normal sights and sounds of a household. Last night we spent a couple of hours watching TV together, and all he wanted to do was sleep on my lap, or inches from where Mike was laying on the floor.

He has a good appetite, and instinctively understands the purpose of a litter pan. (Perhaps the other cats will teach him about covering stuff up, but that’s a minor issue.) My main concern at this point is the health of his kidneys. I know his bloodwork was troubling, and he is drinking and urinating heavily. But it’s hard to know at this point whether his nerves are making him drink more than average, or if it’s something else.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Got ’Im!

Most (sane/normal) people add a cat to their household by three tried and true means: visit a local animal shelter, visit a pet store, or adopt the stray kitten who shows up mewling on the doorstep on a cold November morning. I, clearly, do not fit in any of those categories. It’s not that I’m against methods 1 and 3 (though I am a bit against method 2), but none will work to adopt the cat voted least likely to be homed. I’m talking about feral cats.

For the past year I have had my eye on one cat who has made a home in our yard. We haven’t fed him, but we talk to him (“Buddy, if you don’t move off the driveway you’ll get run over,” for example). He has learned to trust us. He doesn’t run away when he sees us. In fact he blinks, then starts to groom.

There are other neighbors that do put out food. The biggest food source is a house of nuns who live across the street. They are very proud of “their” cats, but they limit their care to providing food. No animals are spayed or neutered, though they pray that they won't reproduce. Guess what happens? The cats have kittens, and the kittens aren’t socialized and they continue to reproduce, etc., etc.

“Buddy,” as we refer to him now, has ample access to food, and as far as I can tell his shelter is under our car or a bush in our yard. He’s also one heck of a hunter. I have seen him take down a squirrel with surprising grace and agility. Let’s say for a moment that all his needs are met. Why would I choose to interfere in his life, remove him from the only world he knows, and introduce him into an unfamiliar and scary environment?

Because the Sisters are talking about moving. When they first came to the neighborhood most were teaching at one of the nearby private schools. But they have aged, or fallen ill, and many have retired. The new Sisters service other areas of the community. The purpose of this house in this place is all but gone. And when they move, who will feed the ferals who have come to depend upon them?

Because we are moving. If all goes as planned, it will be next year. And when we move, where will Buddy find a safe haven?

Because Buddy shows many of T-Bone’s genetic traits. She was a feral born in our neighborhood to a feral mother cat. And she has turned out to be one really great cat. She is sweet and mellow, and sleeps the majority of the day. Buddy has a completely different coat, but I see in his eyes and his manners that he comes from T-Bone’s father “One-Ear”.

Because besides the obvious dangers of cars and stray dogs, as long as he is roaming the neighborhood he is susceptible to diseases like felines aids and leukemia that spread easily through fighting.

Because as long as Buddy is intact, he will continue to breed, aggravating what is already a serious problem.

Since we made the decision to catch him, he has been doing an amazing job of avoiding me. We went rapidly from him trotting over to me when he saw I had special food, to trotting the other direction no matter what choice morsels I had. The worst day was when I was trying to share bits of roast and he ran away like I was tossing pebbles at him.

It was time to bring out the big guns. I planned pork chops for dinner one night, and a live trapping the next. Day-old pork chop bones are my bait of choice, ya know.

The first night I caught one really pissed off possum. He was not at all appreciative of being trapped, nor of my efforts to release him. But he finally left, I hosed the poop off the bottom of the trap, and re-set it using the second chop bone. At dawn the next morning the trap was still empty. At 9 I had this:

He will have several tests he must pass to become a permanent part of my home. The first is the aids/leuk test, and I’m happy to report he passed that with flying colors! The rest are behavior issues, and those will come with time.

So this morning I dropped him off at the vet to be dewormed, have his nails trimmed, have an aids/leuk test, apply a flea treatment, receive vaccinations, and do bloodwork in anticipation of being neutered. Well, he was dewormed, and he did get his nails trimmed, and he did pass his aids/leuk test, and he was treated for fleas. There was no neutering because the bloodwork showed troubling kidney levels, so we also held off on most vaccinations except rabies. His kidney results could have simply been from the stress of the past few days, but he might have died on the surgical table. And without a history to refer to, well, neutering was postponed.

We also got an interesting lead on a name. He has only one testicle. This has a very scientific name, but I prefer to just refer to it as uni-ball. How’s that for a name? “Uniball.” Has a certain ring to it. Mike riffed on that, coming up with “Bic.”

Don’t worry. We’re still considering all options.

In the meantime we socialize. Socialization means frequent visits to his crate, hand-feeding, and demonstrating the magic that opposable thumbs can perform upon a scarred cat’s ears...

This evening I pulled him out of his crate, hand-fed him morsels of steak, and rubbed him like nobody’s business. Mike, too, held him and rubbed his shoulders. When it was time for us to leave “Buddy” dug his trimmed claws into my jeans. He didn’t want to go. He’s decided that he’s a lap cat.

Just as I thought he would be. Ferals ROCK!

In other news, I received a AMAZING assignment today. AMAZING! And no, I can’t talk about it. But I will say that it involves an incredible amount of work in only one week, so it is unlikely I will have knit/quilt updates until it is done. Thank you for your patience. Now I must sign off so I can research inexpensive ways to make phone calls to Madagascar and Madeira.

I’m such a tease!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

A Moment of Silence for the Dearly Departed…

Thank you.

Friday, August 03, 2007


Say goodbye to the tam, tam. It is too large. WAY too large. I knew when I wove in the ends that I would likely need to rip it back, so it came as no surprise. Should that make me feel better? Not sure.

With the help of The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns, I have drafted a new pattern with 20% fewer cast on stitches than the first. This too, will be an experiment, and may have to be frogged.

But I won’t think about that today. Today I will only schedule a convenient time and place to rip version 1 back to its original component balls.

Tomorrow. Tomorrow seems like an excellent day to do just that.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Two Stories and Two (Unrelated) Photos

Last night as we prepared to leave the office, we found a man sitting quite comfortably reading a magazine in one of the overstuffed leather chairs in the common area of our floor. I looked around and saw that none of the other offices were occupied, so taking turns kicking people out as we do, Mike took the reins.

“Are you waiting for someone?” he asked, fully expecting him to answer that he had an appointment with the photographer.

The man looked up and answered, “OHeicohb coohciehbnse pay chcicneghaiendiv CPA neidoguned?” (hic) And then he paused and stared at Mike waiting for a response.

Mike said “I don’t know who that is, but no one else is here and we’re leaving and locking up.”
“Oh,” he said, getting up and stumbling toward the stairs. “kdchwoedkcybne chdielcgoenec cheodochenged.”

He managed to get down the stairs without falling, though he had trouble with the basic operation of the doors (push, pull), and I saw him disappear into the bar at the street level despite the fact that the signs all read “CLOSED.”

Today I took the car back to the dealership to have the new part installed, (I have a working fan now - WOO HOO!) and I added that we’d been hearing a noise. I specified the type, location, and conditions under which we heard it. After the fan was fixed the service manager took it for a drive. He called up from the road and told Mike he’d gotten up to good speeds on the highway and still couldn’t hear it. Mike patiently told him again that we heard it at low speeds, that the sound was like a rock in the tire but it didn’t match that rhythm, and that we only heard it when the window was down because it was coming from outside the vehicle not in. He had completely misunderstood the message, so he took it again on a drive through the neighborhood. He called again stating that he still couldn’t hear it. I suggested that he might have hearing loss at that frequency (that sounds like a slam but it’s not. It was a high-pitched but quiet sound and adults often do lose the ability to hear sounds within the upper ranges.) He agreed, and said he’d ride with me when I picked up the car.

The shuttle driver picked me up, and the service manager had my keys in his hand, so we went out to the lot and he started to get into the back seat of a car.

I paused, not quite knowing how to approach this situation. Then I said, “If you want to hear what the sound is like in my car than you won’t hear it there. That’s not my car.”

The manager stuttered and stammered, and said, “This is where I parked it. Did they move it?” he asked, looking up and down the lot. I told him the color he should be looking for, and he punched the alarm on my key fob until my car honked from the other side of the lot.

It turns out that the service rep had handed him the wrong key to use for the test drive, and he’d been out “joy-riding,” I mean “test-driving” in another customer’s car.

We went for a nice drive in my vehicle, and of course it didn’t ping at all.

Now photos:

The Amy Butler Messenger Bag in process, but with my modified latch - an overall hook

Ragna with the four tabs now worked as one for the back

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Mapping the Boundaries of Progress

As of this morning I have cast on, yes - cast on - for the 4th and final tab for the back of Ragna. Unless things spiral out of control, I should be done with it and ready to slide the other three completed tabs onto a common circ to begin the long haul working them as one large piece with many, many cables. That sounds so serious, doesn’t it? But I cast on for the first tab exactly one week ago, so it should be no different speed-wise knitting all the tabs at once for two chart repeats, as knitting each tab separately for two chart repeats. I don’t have the pattern in front of me, but I think it’s reasonable to assume that I’ll be starting the arm hole decreases (if there are any... or were any...) in another month, and certainly in two will have the back finished.

Same with the front... let’s say 2 1/2 months.

The arms are reverse stockinette... let’s say 1 1/2 months to be conservative.

So certainly by February I’ll be living in Ragna. Ahhhhh.

I have begun cutting out the grinder monkey, but decided to put that aside for the moment as the messenger bag has entered the sewing stage, and I have my machine equipped with an upholstery needle for it. Being lazy/efficient, I’d rather not change needles and re-thread the machine every five minutes.

The messenger bag... Wow! It has potential for being a really nice bag! With two layers of decorator-weight fabric around a heavy canvas core, it is quite sturdy. Unfortunately, I seem unable to read the instructions properly, so the seam ripper is again my best friend. Today I managed to sew two pieces together (this involves much more sewing than you might think), and looked ahead to the next step: creating the closure.

Ms. Butler has give two options. The first option uses a magnetic snap, and the second uses Velcro. I would prefer the snap because it is easy and quiet, but I plan to occasionally use the tote for my laptop, and since magnets and laptops are not friends, Amy has provided the Velcro option. But are the magnets in magnetic snaps really strong enough to hurt laptops? I don’t know, and I can’t find the answer. To make things more confusing, I have found several commercial laptop cases that use magnetic closures, but just because they do it doesn’t mean it’s smart.

I posted the question on my manufacturer’s forum, but so far no one has given an answer. So I posted the same question on Ravelry. And you know what? Someone else has made the same bag and has offered up several excellent suggestions. Love, love, love, Ravelry. Now I need hardware.

I have several store options near my knit group this evening, so on my way to the office I stopped at a quilt/fabric store on the other side of town to see what they had. I dreaded walking in the door because it’s the shop where I bought my machine over 15 years ago and the guy was a jerk then and he’s still a jerk. I hoped one of his staff would be there instead, but no. I looked on one side the store, then approached the desk and asked if he had any adjustable closures. “NO,” he said. “We don’t have anything like that.” I told him I’d continue to look around. On the opposite side the store I found a display of adjustable buckles. Yes, adjustable buckles. I could have purchased exactly what I need at his store, but I can’t bring myself to give him money. So I left. I’ll look at two more stores tonight. I can always go back if I have to.

Progress continues on the feline front, as well. This morning T-Bone actually jumped down on the floor inches from Eclair and strolled out into the main house. Eclair sat in her chair and stared at me, completely unconcerned that T-Bone was in a “feline no-fly” zone. And T-Bone actually took the time to use a downstairs litter pan before returning to her upstairs apartment.