Saturday, October 31, 2009

Navigating Horizons (long)

I have—I’ll face facts—roughly a bazillion projects either in various stages of completion, or in queue. The logistics of it are overwhelming. I want to both stay on track, and not overlook an important project that has a deadline attached to it (like a baby surprise jacket for the pregnant French woman. I make such a stipulation so that my knitting posse doesn’t think I’m referring to another member of my posse who is also pregnant. But she doesn’t like BSJ, so no BSJ for her!).
Not only do I only have so many hours in a day, but I also have projects that conflict in some way with other projects. Think of it like a DVR that can only record two shows simultaneously. Choices must be made.

In response to this, I applied one of my most finely tuned attributes—anal retentiveness—and listed four categories of craft projects on sheet of legal paper.

The categories are:

Under each of these categories I listed approximately four projects that fit that criteria.

Massive projects are those that take up a lot of real estate in my craft room, so should only be worked one at a time.

The Tessera rug is one example, as is anything involving my spinning wheel. I can do both simultaneously, but I can’t do spinning or Tessera while I’m using my hollow core door propped up on saw horses that I use when making curtains or other large sewing projects.

Innovation is anything involving new skills with a huge learning curve, or involving the development of patterns. The LED Firefly bracelet falls under this category.

Easy is any project that is so mindless that it can be done during knit group. Radha anyone?

Challenging are lace or similar projects that involve a huge amount of paying attention skills.

As you can see, I can realistically work on about four projects at the same time, but only one from each category. And I’m itching to begin piecing my new winter quilt, which falls under the “Massive” heading. So I looked at Tessera and did some calculations.

Which was one of the stupidest ideas I’ve had in a long while.

I counted rows and projected a possible completion date based on a certain number of rows being completed every day. (Did I mention that I haven’t actually completed an entire row in one day for approximately two years?) Anywho, I counted 184 rows, which meant that if I managed to complete four entire rows each and every day, the rug would be finished in two months.
I don’t know what’s worse: that I’ve never ever been able to do more than two, maybe three rows in a single day; or that even at that impossible level completion would be months away.
Yeah. Counting and projecting was a terrible idea.

Since I did the above projection I have managed to get a total of ONE row done. Awesome.

Screw the work plan. The saw horses are comin’ out, baby!

I’ve made sufficient progress on Radha that I know I absolutely will need more fiber. It is not, as I told my knit group a few weeks ago, noRO yarn. It’s noBEl, and therefore not sold at my LYS or any other nearby yarn store as far as I can tell. (Yes, noRO and noBEL are two entirely different words, but I have a “thing” with similar words like Ohio and Iowa, Columbus and Columbia, Ginger and Ginseng. That last one led to an odd dinner one evening, btw.)

I’d bought my small stash of Nobel from Busy Hands in Ann Arbor in the fall of 2007 and 2008, so I picked up the phone and made a call. They had exactly two skeins in my colorway. That’s it. That’s possibly it for the whole of the U.S. for that matter. I’m pretty sure that that will be a sufficient quantity to finish the main body of Radha. I’ll find something soft and black for the arms at a later date. That’s okay. I don’t think I would want the entire sweater made out of that single colorway of Nobel, anyway.

Now for a few personal accomplishments I’m proud of:

The window project is now completed and partially painted.

These replaced the gawdawful “windows” made in a previous ownership. Their method of construction involved taking panes of glass, and securing them in place with narrow strips of plywood. Freeze/thaw cycles took their toll, and most of the glass had broken.

In addition, none of the panes were made to allow fresh air in, which made the room as stifling and potentially life-threatening as a car sitting in the middle of a parking lot in 100° heat.

The best wood option at my local Home Depot was cedar, so I used the clearest lumber they carried. I ripped the 2 x 4s down to a more appropriate dimension, then switched to my dado blade to make lap joints. Then I routed out a reveal for the glass. Each window frame was then custom fit for their specific installation.

Because we wanted to let in fresh air at some times of the year and not others, I made three windows as screens, and routed a channel on the back side for a piece of glass edged with aluminum to sit. Small plastic clips hold the glass in place, or swivel to the side so the glass can be removed.

These windows have had a huge problem with rain in the past because the glass roof above it has zero overhang, and the sill is perfectly flat. That resulted in rain water puddling and actually penetrating to the solarium’s interior. To solve this, I took a 2 x 4 cedar board, and ripped it to 2 x 2. Then I set my table saw blade to 45° and ripped the board again. This gave me two 8' lengths of cedar wedge. I then cut them to appropriate lengths, and attached them at the base of the window to help shed the rain water.

For the screen windows, I added a 1 x 6 cedar board set at an angle above the window, which essentially created a protective overhang to the screen. This should keep most of the rain water out, except for water that splashes up from the pavement outside.

Also proud that in the year and a half that I’ve owned this house and owned a specific pair of heavy suede work gloves purchased specifically for this house, that I have worn a hole right through. As Michael puts it, I worked my way through the side of a cow. That’s why I feel so dern exhausted half the time!

And less proud but more pleased, I’m lovin’ my new Craftsman electric blower/vac with 240 mph blower and 380 cfm (cubic feet per minute) vac.

With it, I managed to clear most of the yard in a few hours. Then the vac attachment mulched it sufficiently to where it all fit nicely in 4 lawn bags.

So what’s next? The fabric for the new quilt is currently in the wash. And I have Christmas money burning a hole in my pocket, begging to be made into a pair of cool new winter pajamas!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

One of Those

Yesterday I had one of those days. You know the ones, when a series of unrelated but icky events occur in a narrow time frame?

I have business things that are bogging me down, like checks that are woefully late. And I’m not feeling 100%, like a bug is testing my resistance but hasn’t yet gotten a foothold.

I did manage to empty and dispose of five book-sized boxes of stuff from our move, either finding homes for the contents, throwing them away, or setting them aside for inclusion in the March family garage sale. If that were the end of the unpacked moving box pile, I’d be ecstatic. But it’s so not.

I made the minor fit adjustments for the removable storm inserts on the solarium windows I built. Now the solarium is both summer and winter ready (as soon as it gets a coat of paint, that is).

And I managed to pry up the last of the rotting railroad tie steps in the back yard, which will enable us to build a complete staircase next year. When time and money permit.

But the last tie was a massive struggle, given that the stump of a volunteer mulberry we’d cut down earlier in the year was still locking down one end. I get a lot accomplished with sheer willpower and muscle, and when I enthusiastically applied this methodology to the tie it nearly gave way. But at the last minute I gave way instead, stumbling three steps backward before unceremoniously landing on my ass with a thud.

I called in the emergency backup human to help me locate its elusive give point, and with his help I was able to add the final tie to my stack to be chopped up this weekend and fed into the trash over the winter.

Aspirin and quiet time should have been enough to recover from that. But then a client called, and I’m pretty sure I called him by the wrong first name.

And then I retrieved the mail from the mailbox, and discovered a snotty note had been left anonymously in my mailbox by someone who thinks our back porch lights—that are original to our house, I might add—are “truly garish” and we need to “tone it down” like the rest of the neighborhood.

Anonymous or not, we’re confident that we know the identity of the note’s author. It was an easy conclusion. Who among our neighbors has a view of our porch lights? Of those, who is both a bully and a coward? That narrowed the field to exactly one man.

And yes, that note is now in the hands of the local Postal Inspector, because slipping such a love letter into a mailbox is a violation of Federal law. And yes, I was happy to supply said inspector with the name of the lead suspect.

Because I’m generous that way.

Frankly, the inspector was more freaked out by it than I was. And said inspector will likely pay a personal visit to said neighbor. Did you know Postal Inspectors carry sidearms?

About the time I returned from the post office, I discovered one of my editors had requested a second round of revisions from me on an article that I had initially completed last month. And yes, payment won’t be processed until they receive a final approved version.

In times like this, I find no solace in knitting. Knitting only gives me time to reflect and obsess. Time and distance are the only effective therapies.

In the meantime, getting final approval on this article will be an acceptable band-aid. If I can ever get the answers to my latest questions, that is. And in a few years, the row of arborvitae we planted in the spring will eventually form an effective privacy barrier between us and him.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Can-Can Crisis

It’s my fault. I know it’s my fault. There’s nothing like allowing a bit of cocky to slide into a project of any challenge level, to ensure disaster will follow.

I have managed to successfully knit most of the back of Can Can. And this is major, because two weeks ago I had only managed to finish one complete repeat. In the interim two weeks I have completed 4 1/2 repeats. It’s painfully close to reaching the desired 19 1/2" length. But I want Can-Can to be as long as possible given my yarn supply, so I’ve transferred the back onto a second set of non-working needles.

So far I’ve used two entire hanks of Seduce, and am halfway into a third. So I took three skeins of my stash and set them aside for the front. Then I took what remained and divided it into two piles. These are my limits for the sleeves. After I knit both sleeves to an appropriate length, I’ll knit the front to my desired length, then return to finish the back. It’s almost like a plan!

Yesterday I cast on for the first sleeve, using the Bryspun circular needle that I’d freed from the back. I got as far as row 7, then realized that I’d made a mistake on row 5 which left me one stitch short. I decided to tink back only as far as WS row 6, do an increase that would give me the correct number of stitches to do my lace stitches on row 7. This was a lazy person’s way out. I should have tinked back through the entire row 6, and row 5 until I found my mistake, knit it properly, then moved on.

But I didn’t. I had a Tim Gunn “make it work” moment. And to be quite honest, I think I found a place to add the stitch in the pattern where it will be the least noticeable, and it’s near the seam edge, which means it will be on the inside of my arm. So there.

But then...

I was halfway across row 7, feeling somewhat guilty about my corner cutting but still confident in my choice, when I felt an odd sensation in my left hand. I felt a rough plastic edge.

And I looked.

And I saw this:

Yep, the Bryspun cable has come unseated from the needle. And yep, those are live stitches hanging precariously off the ass-end of the needle.

Karma, baby. Karma.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Love is in the Air

A few days ago my lawn guy came by to blow out my irrigation system for the winter. It’s a relatively easy process, but it involves the use of one of those contractor-grade compressors that is towed behind a truck to various job sites. You know, the kind that is often seen suspended from a crane at an idled construction site?

Anyway, we were standing around in a cold fall rain, watching the water get forced out of the irrigation pipes zone by zone, when out of the blue, the lawn guy asked what kind of a birch we had.

“It’s a Royal Frost Birch,” I said. “It’s a relatively new hybrid, and I think it’s only been around for fifteen or twenty years.” My specimen is immature, so the trunks are still dark. But I explained that they would eventually have the nice white bark of a classic birch.

Most birch leaves turn a bright gold in the fall. These turn copper. In the summer the leaves are deep plumb.

He remained quiet for a time. “I just bought some birches for my yard this year.”

“There are a ton of plants out there,” I continued, filling in the silence, “but every now and then you spot one, and you just know it is special,” I said, glancing over at him. His gaze was still on the tree across the lawn, but it was a soft gaze, like a new grandfather seeing his newborn grandchild for the first time.

“Yes,” he finally answered. More silence.

“Are you wishing you’d bought a Royal Frost?”

“Yes,” he said.

I told him where I had first seen them, and where I had bought my clump locally.

Later I emailed him a link to an online seller that carried this birch so he could read up on the particular hybrid. He wrote back to tell me that he was going to buy one in the spring. And my favorite part of his email was this, “I might be the first one in my area with one.”

That’s a lawn guy after my own heart.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Here’s the Weird Part

The skunk(s) has/have continued to return to my yard for nightly feedings. Thankfully my bulb protection plan is working. The bulbs most favored by the skunks were covered in 1" chicken wire tacked to the ground, covered with a layer of mulch. And while I sprinkled the added insurance of bobcat urine over the bulb beds the first night, it has rained several times since, so the urine has lost all its impact. And yet the bulbs remain undisturbed.

I have read since that it isn’t the bulbs themselves that attract the skunks, but organic amendments that are applied at the time the bulbs are planting. Like bone meal. Which I in fact added to the soil at the time I planted the bulbs.

This jives with the physical evidence. A number of bulbs had been dug up, but were abandoned without being eaten. Since I was using the last of my bag of bone meal, I was down to the powdery bits. My guess is the dust coated some of the bulb surfaces, transforming them into a yummy skunk treat.

The yard is a different matter. Huge tracts of lawn are being scored and abused on a nightly basis. And it’s all because the skunks are looking for grubs, and we have a grub problem this year. I just had no idea how bad our grub problem was until the skunks alerted us.

Yes, if we took care of the grub problem, the skunks would go away. But it’s too late in the year to treat for grubs. In fact, the skunks are the only effective method we have of ridding our lawn of grubs.

One of the many skunk scores in our lawn. They look kind of like squirrel holes where a squirrel might be burying a nut, but the holes are snout shaped.

This is where I surprise myself. I’m actually more annoyed at the grubs than I am of the skunk.

The skunk isn’t living on our property, nor is it spraying our property. It’s merely using it as a cafeteria. I have zero desire to rid our property of the skunks. As long as they stay in the yard in the middle of the night when we’re safely inside sleeping, and as long as they stay away from my bulbs, I’m totally down with having skunks. In fact, having a skunk rid my yard of grubs is a delightfully green approach to pest control. But I won’t go so far as to name the skunk.*

*Actually, this isn’t true. It’s of course called Pepé, as in Pepé Le Pew of Looney Tunes fame.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Lesson in Glazing

It’s been full steam ahead on house projects of late. I’ve been making a series of new windows for our solarium, which I will describe in more detail after that project has been completed. But in the meantime, I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to provide a brief overview of glazing a wood framed window.

When we bought our previous house, it was approaching the century mark. It was a project house in the fullest sense. A beautiful Queen Anne Cottage, but one that had been muddied and mangled and neglected for several decades.

We bought the house prior to the real estate inspection process that is required today. In fact, the only inspection done to the house was for termites. There was no one to look over the property and tell us what needed to be done, replaced, repaired.

Several things we could figure out easily, like that the old knob and tube wiring needed to be replaced and updated, and that broken windows needed to be repaired.

Others were less obvious to a young twenty-something who had never owned a home, like the boiler. It was one of those gravity-feed hot water boilers that had been converted from a coal boiler. When we bought the house, we noticed a tag hanging off one of the pipes. But what it said didn’t mean anything to us, so we hired a professional plumber to come to the house and explain the system to us. He mentioned one or two things, but basically ripped us off because he didn’t address the tag situation at all even though it was in plain view, and it turned out to be a critical situation.

Exactly how critical revealed itself about four months later. I was home sick, recovering from pneumonia, when the gas company paid a visit. For some reason they had to relight the pilots, or something. The exact reason eludes me, because what they said after they came back up the basement stairs eclipsed everything that had transpired before that moment. They shut my boiler off. Middle of winter, a week or so before Christmas, they turned off my heat. Because the tag? It was a “red tag,” which meant the boiler had previously been declared unsafe to operate.

At this point I was freaking out. A lot of things came out of my mouth, beginning with “You’ve got to be freaking kidding me!” which was followed by a sob story about how we had just bought the house a few months before, how I had pneumonia, how we’d been robbed the week before, how I’d hired XX plumbing company to look over the system and the guy didn’t explain what the tag meant... It was a classic meltdown moment. The gas men quietly went back to the basement and re-lit the pilot light.

I recovered from my pneumonia, we replaced the boiler that winter, insurance replaced some of the items we had lost, my sense of trust was never recovered.

I mention this only because it was a formative moment. I realized that I could not rely on “professionals” to do the right thing when it came to my home, and that I needed to learn how to do things myself, or at least recognize what needed to be done and how it would best be accomplished. Re-glazing windows turned out to be one of the easiest things to learn to do.

First, you will need glaziers points, glazing compound, putty knife, linseed oil, and a rag. If you are re-glazing an old window, remove the broken glass, and glaziers points, and chip off as much of the old glazing compound as possible. Now you’re ready to work.

Use the rag to apply linseed oil to the channel where the glass sits. The wood will want to wick moisture from the glazing compound, which will dry it too quickly and make it brittle. Linseed oil will help prevent this.

Next use small amounts of glazing compound to make a downy bed for the glass to rest.

Place the glass in the channel, and push the glaziers points into the wood frame at several points around the glass. The glaziers points are holding the glass in place now.

Now take more glazing compound, and begin applying a wedge around the glass. Use the putty knife to push it firmly in place,

then use the blade as a polisher to smooth the surface of the compound, while also creating a straight line where the compound meets the glass. Patience is your friend.

That’s it. Your window is now ready to use. Glass cleaner will take the compound smudges of nicely, but be careful around the compound because it is still fresh and highly pliable. The rag should be allowed to air dry outside or in a well ventilated room before disposal, because oil soaked rags are a fire hazard.

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Stinky Dilemma

Last week I managed to finish planting the last of my tulip and daffodil bulbs. This was not an easy task—not that planting bulbs ever is—because we were in the midst of a a-seasonal cold snap. The last 100 were planted under gray skies when the temperature was rising from 32 to 39, and the ground was damp.

Afterward I celebrated. (Yay! My sacrifice now will mean beauty in the spring!)

Since then I have made two discoveries.

Discovery A: We have a skunk visitor.

Discovery B: Not only does the skunk like to dig for grubs in our yard, but he/she is very grateful for the delicious bulbs I set out for him.

Discovery A occurred within 48 hours of the last of the bulbs going in the ground. It was around 4 a.m. when I heard the motion detector doorbell ring. I went to the door expecting to see one of the neighborhood cats through the side lites. Instead, I saw the skunk.

Discovery B occurred after Michael returned from Mexico. We roamed the yard so I could point out where I had placed the mystery bulbs. (The actual revelation of what I planted will occur naturally in the spring as each blooms.) To my dismay, I found bed after bed that had been disturbed, with about a dozen bulbs sitting on top of the ground in various stages of consumption.

My lawn care provider stopped by this morning to bring our order of steel border. While he was here, we decided to pick his brain. There were two issues. The first was a series of shallow holes that had been dug in our lawn. The second was the bulbs. Without me mentioning that I had seen the stinky one, he immediately identified the culprit as a skunk. I would call that a firm identification.

So what to do?

I bought some new bulbs to replace the ones that were devoured. Over it, I used lawn staples to secure 1" chicken wire to the soil surface. And over it I have placed new mulch. Will this be sufficient? We’ll see. But for added insurance, I purchased a container of Bobcat urine, distributed by Leg Up Enterprises, of all things. I sprinkled this over the bulb beds.

I also took the opportunity to alert several of my neighbors to the skunk situation. Each has dealt with skunks in previous years. Each had a completely different way of dealing with it.

Neighbor A:
Had a skunk living under their porch. They called a critter company who trapped it.

Neighbor B:
Spotted a skunk walking across his backyard from his upper deck. He took his shotgun and shot it in the head. Skunks are nocturnal, so this naturally occurred in the middle of the night. According to Neighbor B, I need to get a gun, because “woman, you live in the country now,” and shooting them in the head is the best way to get rid of them. Actually, I’m pretty certain I live in the city, but I guess that’s a side issue.

Neighbor C:
Had a sow burrow under his porch and settle in to raise a litter. He sealed the hole to her burrow closed with fresh concrete. Occupied. Need I go on?

Here are three highly effective skunk resolutions, morality and legality (and humaneness) aside. It will be interesting to see if my fear- and frustration-based methodology is equally effective. Or the least bit effective.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Ah-Ha

I continue at a fast pace on Radha. Of course, there is such a significant amount of knitting involved in Radha that my progress is negligible. Still, I have declared a major victory.

Radha is a Berroco pattern. But for all of Berroco’s blessings (and there are many), these patterns always leave me scratching my head. The shaping is entirely unexpected, and I have to force myself to “trust” that it will all work out in the end. My mother was successful in wiring me in many ways, but “trust” was not part of the schematics. My “snarky” is straight from the factory, but “trust” is an aftermarket accessory that doesn’t work more often than it does.

I re-read the written instructions dozens of times, and finally determined that it contained errata. Because the way it was written was impossible, right? So it had to be wrong, right?

Except that in none of the other project files on Ravelry did I find any announcement of a mistake in the pattern. Neither could I find a listing for the errata when I googled. The closest thing I found was one knitter who bemoaned the fact that the pattern was difficult to understand, and that she finally had to seek the help of a much more experienced knitter to assemble it.

That information left me fairly convinced that the pattern was correct, but I wasn’t reading it correctly. And since I am altering the gauge significantly, I absolutely need to understand the pattern on the front end.

I re-read that sucker over and over and over. The repeat between asterisk instructions weren’t completely clear to me, and I suspected the second asterisk was in the wrong place.

It wasn’t.

The two dimensional schematic didn’t correspond in any way whatsoever to the shaping of the completed shrug as seen in the photo.

Actually, it did.

I finally realized that two measurement lines on the schematic begin and end in little curves. In other words, the schematic was showing a piece that was folded onto itself. That realization made all the difference.

As frustrating and painful as the figuring out stage is, that moment when the key finally turns in the lock releases a flood of endorphins that I’ve heard - but never personally experienced - runners experience during marathons.

And then it’s ahhhhhhh...

I have now determined that I am knitting a cone. A freakishly large cone. In acrylic bulky. Yay me!

To make the cone, I have to work periodic wedges of short rows. But since I am knitting a different gauge than originally prescribed, how will that affect my short row?

First, I made an Excel spreadsheet showing the original beginning stitch count. (146)
On the spreadsheet rows below that, I subtracted the proper number of stitches as called for in the pattern until I arrived at the final number. Then I numbered those rows. According to that, I needed to knit 64 rows in the original gauge.

How many rows do I need to knit in the new gauge in order to gain the same length? For this I need to make use of some simple algebra.

64 rows desired / 26 rows (original gauge is 26 rows = 4") = x /16
16 rows in my new gauge = 4".

Now I need to solve for x, which will be the number of rows I need to knit in the new gauge.

26 * x = 64 * 6
x = approximately 40 rows.

That should leave about 10 stitches on the needle before I resume knitting the entire length. Then I knit 22 complete rows before resuming my short row work. And I do this about seven times total.

In more exciting news, Can-Can and I have met with a mediator, and after several meetings and counseling sessions and the creation of a myriad of crutches and helpmates, I actually find knitting Can-Can to be…joyful.

Yes, I said it: joyful.

And productive.

Is this what it’s like to become a pod person? Because this isn’t the Sally we all know.

Especially after the visit to Hancock’s this morning, which I can only describe as “transformative.” More on this in a few weeks.

“Me Week” officially comes to an end this evening.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

There’s No Explanation

Recently, I visited a new-to-me craft store. The store has been in business for a number of years, as I understand it, though I’m not certain if that means five years or 25.

When I entered the store, there were three people inside. One may have been a customer, though she didn’t have any purchases in her arms. A second was an employee. The third was the owner. And I do know she was the owner, because I knew of her from my travel writing work and another business she operates. We had never met face-to-face, however. The three women were discussing the owner’s legal woes regarding a cloudy deed on some property she owns.

As I started to roam, the employee came over to assist me. She gave me a brief tour of the store. I explained that I was looking for some pieces to blend with existing items, and I would be going to my car to retrieve them momentarily.

The owner, still wrapped up in her legal woes, stopped long enough to thank me for stopping by. The employee and I explained that I was coming right back in. The owner returned to her conversation.

When I returned, the employee looked through my stack, and pointed out locations in the store where I could find matches, including a top-most shelf in a back room that required the use of a ladder. She (the employee) then left me to roam. The owner had shifted her conversation to how well her stocks were doing.

I found the items I needed, which I pulled off the shelf one by one. But one was on that dreaded top shelf. There was no ladder in sight. The employee was now at the front of the store conversing with the other “customer.” I set my stack by the checkout and explained to the owner that I needed one more item that was on a top shelf. She marched back to the back room and made a beeline for a bolt of fabric that was sticking out slightly from the rest.

“Here it is!” she exclaimed, and started to pull it down.

“No,” I said. “That’s not the one.”

“But you had started to pull this out,” she replied.

“No I didn’t. I can’t reach the fabric. I haven’t even touched the bolt of fabric I need.”

It’s important to the story that you realize that all the fabrics I had in my arms were earth tones. The bolt that she went for was bright rainbow. Further proof that she wasn’t paying any attention at all.

She had just started to cut my order when she got a phone call about an upcoming community festival. She stayed on that phone conversation for about five minutes while I was left standing there. Her employee (who could have taken over cutting while she was on the phone) continued to chat with the other “customer,” who was standing near the door preparing to leave. And again, she had no purchases in her arms.

I have zero intention of returning to that store. As for the associated business, I got the same vibe from the limited dealings I’ve had with it. And while it could have been a focus business for a round-up I’m working on, now I’m reluctant to mention it at all.

Because if her personal life is more important than helping a customer in her professional life, I would hate to inconvenience her by sending more customers her way.

I’m considerate that way.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Project Status

The sun finally came out, so I stole a few minutes to take photos.

First up: Can-Can Travel.

You may recall that I was having a great deal of difficulty keeping track of my lace pattern on this tunic. And with travel plus everything else that’s been going on, Can-Can was put in short-term hibernation. But he’s out now. I’ve managed to nearly do a full pattern repeat, which is a much greater accomplishment than it should have been.

The Design is Can Can by Berroco, and it’s worked in Seduce as specified in the pattern instructions. Rav link here.

Now for the new knitting project, that for now I’ll call Radha Redux.
The Rav link for the original project is here, but I’m modifying the pattern a significant amount.

I had landed on this project after buying yarn that I loved at Busy Hands in Ann Arbor. Unfortunately, they only had three balls, and I actually needed 10 for this project, according to my rough calculations. When I returned to Busy Hands last year, I found that they had restocked, but the yarn was a bit different. The blues weren’t quite as stunning, nor the burnt umbers. Part of that can be accounted for by the different dye lots. But even the balls were wound to different lengths.

I poked around the store a bit and found a shrug I (thought I) liked in Jo Sharp’s Knit Issue 2. And for that, I decided I only needed one more safety ball. (The shrug comes in two sizes, which makes it purposefully tight, or a bit looser. The version I liked is similar to this one (Rav link).

But as I began think about casting on, I envisioned wearing the finished shrug. And I realized that it would be much tighter than I wanted - even the loose version. I wanted the drapey blankety feel of Radha. I want it to be a cozy, around the house on a chilly day, kind of sweater.

But, one thing I really do prefer about the Jo Sharp shrug, is its loose gauge.

And I think Radha’s gauge is much too tight. For me, anyway.

So I’m upping my needle size significantly on Radha, but making a valiant attempt at keeping its original size. Which is quite a challenge because the construction is 100% Berroco in its complexity. In fact, I’m not at all certain what I’m knitting or how it is supposed to come together in the end. Like they say, “if you don’t know where you’re going, then you’re going to get there.” (To make that make sense, say it out loud.)

I’m knitting this on size 11 needles. The fiber I’m using is a super bulky that calls for size 6, and the pattern calls for a worsted in size 8. Clearly I’ve gone off the reservation.

My plan is to knit the main body in Nobel. If I have enough to do the sleeves, too. Great. Otherwise, I’ll make a trip to my LYS to find a complement. I’ll probably want to do the sleeves in a tighter gauge, anyway. And if necessary, I think I can frog Nobel without damaging the fiber.

Now quilting.

The quilt design I’ve chosen is the Australian Rail Fence pattern from A World of Quilts by Beth Ann Williams. That’s the one on the cover, btw. I’ve of course changed the proportions of her quilt to match my exacting standards. I’m also not using her ethnic prints. That quilt uses Indonesian fabrics.

So... I like the color play, but I don’t intend to use anything similar to these prints. What to do, what to do...

She uses 7 fabrics to make 2 block styles. One fabric is used in both blocks, while the other fabric is limited to one block. I, on the other hand, would prefer not to be limited to 7 fabrics.

Since this is a winter quilt, I decided to look at her fabric choices, and assign them a winter mood or theme.

This tower of fabrics represent (from bottom to top)
  • crackling fire (2)
  • wool blanket (2)
  • pine needles (2)
  • ice storm (2)
  • crocuses (2)
  • snow field under a full moon (2)
  • cloudy night (2)
The creamy fabric in the earlier photo is my backing. I only need a framing sash, border, binding, and batting.

So it’s got all the colors of a rich winter quilt, with a teeny bit of hope that spring is around the corner.

Other than stopping at Hancocks to buy project thread (Notion sale for Columbus Day weekend), these supplies will be set aside until the snow begins to fly. I’ve got too many outdoor projects that are demanding my attention in the meantime.
Thursday Highlights

On Thursday, my dado blade and I became fast friends,

I made the first fire of fall/winter 2009/10,

and my knitting non-helper watched as I cast on for a new project.

More on that to come. But the sky was lousy yesterday for photos, so the reveal will have to wait until the sun comes out. I’ll only say that it’s knitgroup knitting, using stash, making a project completely unlike any I’ve done before, I’m modifying it heavily, and that doing so may spell disaster on the scale of “the agony of defeat” skier from the Wide World of Sports.

I can hardly wait!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Diminishing Time

Me Week is tumbling into oblivion. I still have 5 strong days left, but that’s not a lot of time. Not when considering what I’d hoped to accomplish by week’s end. I’ve swept many of these dreams aside as impractical, or non-essential, so I can concentrate on just a few.

The few:

Work. Though I try to limit myself to 3-4 hours a day, generally ending at 10 a.m.. I’m hoping to have the four last episodes of Season One of our vidcast done before Tuesday. At this point I’ve done 1 1/4. Plus my editor has sent me back revision rounds on my last two articles. This is something I was expecting because she’s a working, thinking editor, and she’s not bound to my original word count requirements.
Reading. I finished an actual novel this morning, and plan to crack open a second tonight.
Gardening. I promised myself last year that I would make time this fall to plant bulbs. In the past two weeks I’ve purchased around 160, and have successfully planted a little under half that. With rain in the forecast tomorrow, I probably won’t be able to return to that task until Friday at the earliest.
Woodworking. Much slower, because I’ve been taking advantage of dry daylight hours to garden. But the new table saw is now set up, and I’ve got 2 x 4s sorted and ready. I plan to start ripping boards and making lap joins tomorrow while it’s raining.
Quilting. Took a drive into the country on Tuesday and now have most of a quilt’s worth of fabric for my new winter quilt. I’m only missing the sash, border, binding, and batting.
Cooking. Took a cooking class last night. It went fairly well, but I realized I need to give myself a lot more credit on my knowledge and skill base than I tend to.

Cleaning. The refrigerator and freezer have been emptied, scrubbed and inventoried. And I’m currently working on washing cupboard dishes, wiping cabinets, and reorganizing. My winter clothes are mostly washed, except for sweaters that need to be hand washed and laid flat to dry. There’s a limit to the number I can do in a week.

What haven’t I gotten to? Except for finishing my sister’s socks, I’ve done zero knitting. I haven’t taught myself crochet, made a dent in my rug, spun, returned to my firefly bracelet project, or done anything else similarly craft. I haven’t researched the history of the house. I haven’t begun transcribing my family history. I haven’t taught myself MySQL. And I haven’t put my summer clothes in storage.

But I understand I should have an unusually high number of me weeks in 2010. There’s always next year.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Being Myself, Yet Again

I recently took an online personality test thanks to a link on this blog. It turns out that...I’m moderately judgey.

I know. We’re all shocked!

So in that spirit, and trying my very best not to be overly judgey (because that’s what the test said. I’m only “moderate”), did anyone else find it ironic that the writer of this article in a recent newspaper proclaimed herself to be a “true foodie at heart?”

I’m not anti-canned salmon. It’s convenient, sure. I don’t use it. Haven’t since I discovered that filets are readily available, delicious, and über easy to prepare. But I have a hard time imagining that any “true foodie” would espouse its use. That goes doubly when followed by promises of crock pot recipes.

Which, again, I’m not anti crock pot. It has its uses, and I get a lot of mileage out of mine.

But then again, I don’t proclaim that I’m a foodie, either, which is essentially the equivalent of a gourmet. Gordon Ramsay is a gourmet. James Oseland, the editor of Saveur Magazine is a gourmet. I have truly serious doubts that either of them keeps canned salmon in their cupboard.

The taste and texture of a meal is a product of the quality if its ingredients. The process of freezing changes the molecular structure of food, and breaks down proteins. Canning also changes the food, and almost always creates a mushy product. Freezing and canning can also negatively affect the flavor.

Saveur does have a delicious-looking Salmon Croquette recipe on their web site, by the way.

And saying the recipe came from the Food Network isn’t much of an endorsement. It’s essentially the Food Porn Channel, for people who would rather watch food being cooked, than actually prepare a meal. It’s food entertainment.

But speaking of food, I’ve got a fresh batch of bran muffins cooling in the kitchen, and all this talk of food is making me hungry.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

An Actual Finished Object, and Me Week Begins

The mis-matched socks are off the needles and currently in blocking. I still need to sew in the ends, but I’ve read that that works better after the piece has been blocked. So I’ll give it a go.

Early this morning I dropped Michael off at the airport. We’ve been to the airport so often lately, that we’re beginning to recognize TSA staff. I started home as soon as the sun rose. I get jittery this time of year when I’m on the highway around sunrise and sunset. It’s deer season, you know. So Me Time didn’t really begin until around 8:30 or 9 a.m.

I had made a pact with myself that the first thing I would do, would be to lay down and read a book for a good long while. So I did. I’m currently heavily invested in The Museum of Happiness by Jesse Lee Kercheval, who is one of the nicest and sharpest writing teachers I’ve ever had (and a darned good writer, to boot). The book has been on hiatus for a few months, but today I got a third of the way into it. You know, when things start getting really interesting?

I could have read more, but I had a ton of other things I wanted to get accomplished. So I read a chapter, then started defrosting our mini-fridge. Read a chapter, rolled over and took a nap. Read a chapter, assembled our new table saw. Read a chapter, intentionally killed our rose bushes.

Here’s all that’s left of 6 former bushes:

They were very short chapters, too. So I got quite a few things ticked off my task list. There’s also quite a bit on that list that didn’t get touched at all. But I decided to concentrate on doing the non-work stuff today, so that tomorrow (a work day) can be more work-focused.

I’ve put together a general plan for the next week-ish, but I’m being careful not to get too ambitious with the project list. Among my tasks is a shopping outing. Depending on the weather (severe thunderstorms are in the current forecast), I plan to drive to Baldwin City and Overbook on Tuesday to visit some quilt shops. I’m planning a new winter quilt, to go into use in the winter of ’10-’11. I had originally planned on a better-quality flannel to replace Flannel Funk, but my pre-shopping at Sarah’s taught me that my flannel options are pretty much limited to forest and holiday-themed prints. For me, flannel isn’t as important as color or pattern, so the flannel option is now out. I managed to spec out my fabric needs, which required two calculators and the application of proportions and the Pythagorean Theorem, followed by a full dose of Advil and another nap.

With a deadline a whopping year away, it should give me plenty of relaxed time to cut, piece and hand quilt. Yes, hand quilt. No more pushing the elephant through the sewing machine.