Of Rats and Jen (Inactive)

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

Small Updates

Filed under: Daily Life,Gryphon — folkcat at 4:23 pm on Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I just realized that my post yesterday contains no news about Gryphon and his poor, abused ribs. Please be assured that he’s recovering well! He was so functional by the weekend that he went on a grocery shopping run all by himself. Then he returned to work yesterday, and though tired, he’s doing okay.

In other news, my ISP is currently having an issue about outgoing mail. I’m receiving mail all right, but nothing is capable of going out. So if you e-mail or comment, and don’t hear from me right away, don’t worry – it’s not me, it’s TDS Telecomm.

Broken

Filed under: Daily Life,Gryphon — folkcat at 5:39 pm on Monday, February 11, 2008

I woke up at the usual time on Sunday morning to find Gryphon in a lot of pain. Seems he’d had a transient incident in the night of going to the bathroom in the wee hours, then passing out and falling on the bathtub. He came to lying sort of upside down over the side of the tub with his head in one corner.

With some difficulty, he got up and managed to get back to bed. But in the morning, it was obvious that something was wrong.

I talked him into letting me take him to the ER. The pain made the final sale – it was more convincing than I was. They did some tests to make sure he didn’t have something wrong that would continue to cause fainting, and he was okay on that front. Then we waited to have the x-rays done.

Two broken ribs. Not cracked, not bruised. Broken. Gryphon’s off work until he mends. Off most household chores, too – he can’t twist, bend, or lift without risking further injury.

Don’t worry about the passing out issue – this is actually a known problem with no real cause other than a tall, lanky body with sometimes poor circulation in the extremities. He’s passed out after peeing in the night before, but it has been at least 13 years since the last occurrence. Basically, he should be remembering to sit down to do his business, at least at night, and then standing up slowly.

If you want to offer Gryphon a get well wish, you can e-mail him at gryphonbrook@gmail.com . I’m sure he’d be happy to hear from you.

For the morbidly curious, there’s a photo of the bruises on his back after the jump, along with our guess as to exactly how they happened. I know not everyone will want to see them, so I put them a step away.

(Read on …)

Four Weeks Later

Filed under: Gryphon,Rats! — folkcat at 12:00 pm on Tuesday, September 11, 2007

It’s been four weeks to the day since we let go of our Star Rattie. It feels simultaneously like a lifetime, and the span of a heartbeat.

This past weekend, Gryphon told me he wrote a poem about her passing. He composed it during stray bits of time at work, the night of the day we lost her.

He expressed beautifully what those last moments were like. If you’d like, you can read it at his blog, here.

We have Lola and Sable still, but we’ll always miss Star.

I’m pleased to tell you for the first time that we’re already planning to bring in yet another generation of Rattie Sisters. We’re on a waiting list for a litter right now, with a breeder in the Manchester area. It should be early to mid-October that we’ll be bringing home another pair of Rattie girls.

Three Rattie Sisters

Once Ratties get a hold of your heart, you never want to be without them again.

Holiday Postings

Filed under: Blog Admin,Gryphon,Holidays — folkcat at 12:51 pm on Tuesday, July 3, 2007

…will be sporadic this week. Gryphon is actually only working one of his two jobs for the Fourth of July week, so we have more time to get things done together. Meaning less time for posting.

Have a great Fourth (those of you who celebrate it), and I’ll see you for certain next week!

Friday Wrap-Up

Filed under: Cooking - Folkcat in the Kitchen,Daily Life,Gryphon,Knitting,Sewing — folkcat at 1:58 pm on Friday, May 18, 2007

Yesterday, Gryphon finished up his first week of working at the new part-time job in addition to his full-time job. He’s really liking the new position, and they seem to like him as well. We also seem to be managing the household chores and his sleep so that this is doable, at least so far.

Gryphon’s spirits have been much improved by this, too, and that’s always a good thing. He and I tend to feed off of each other’s emotions – when one of us is down, we’re both down. If you believe in biorhythms, our emotional cycles in our biorhythm charts are almost exact matches. One of us is a day ahead of the other (I forget which). Talk about closely tuned! It makes things good when they’re good, but when they’re bad, it can get really bad if we’re not careful.

Fortunately, right now things are good, and outside forces like having enough income and being able to catch up on the bills are helping to keep them that way.

Cooking

I’ve been eating a little better. At least, occasionally. Not long ago, I saw a repeat of an Iron Chef America (ICA) episode where the secret ingredient was tofu. I watched in fascination as the two chefs created a huge variety of different dishes with bean curd. Every one seemed quite easy to do.

I’ve eaten tofu before, and actually like it. It’s one of those things that fell off my radar a number of years ago, though. All my desire to do home cooking vanished when I had my own store to run, and by the time we closed the store, Gryphon was working a second shift job, and there was never a meal we ate together other than breakfast. Dinner these days is mostly eaten by myself while he works.

Inspired by the tofu episode of ICA, though, I picked up a brick of tofu, a little broccoli, and some water chestnuts, and improvised a stir-fry dish. We already had soy sauce, seasoned rice vinegar, minced garlic, and toasted sesame oil in the house as standard condiments. I made a pot of rice (we love our little rice cooker!), and had a delicious meal.

It was successful enough that I’ve repeated the idea a couple of times already, refining the sauce ingredients, varying them some. I even got adventurous enough to get the peanut butter out and make a peanut sauce! Clearly, I’ve retained enough memories of how Chinese cuisine goes together to be able to create simple recipes on the fly. This has been another morale boost for me, and certainly, I’m eating better than I have in a long time.

Weekends are the one opportunity for Gryphon and I to have dinner together. I’m going to make us a stir-fry dinner this weekend. I’m thinking we’ll pick up a nice little piece of beef, and I’ll improvise a Beef and Broccoli with Oyster Sauce (another cupboard condiment). Yum!

Quilting

As for crafting, with my improved mood I have been working on some projects other than the Weavette Squares and the Embroidered Rock. Wednesday was Quilting Day, and I made the next four squares in my Bento Box wallhanging:

QIP - Blocks 5 through 8

I don’t think this fabric pairing is as successful as I’d like – both fabrics are a little busy. It was darned hard to find good light/dark pairings in the oriental prints, and this project calls for six pairs altogether. Still, the fabrics do complement each other – they share some common colors, and both have similar styles and shapes of flowers.

Besides, in the final assembly they won’t be all in the same block like the photo above. They’ll be mixed in with other fabric pairings, and almost certainly there won’t be more than one of them in any given four-block.

Here’s what they look like with a couple of the squares from last week. Already, you can see how the busy-ness of the pink fabrics is toned down when they’re side-by-side with the other squares.

QIP - How the Two Fabric Combinations Work Together

Knitting

In knitting, I’ve taken on a new project. I cut my hair a couple of weeks ago – not any sort of shocking change, I just do it now and then when I get annoyed with pulling it back in a ponytail. When it’s short, I like to wear a hairband to keep it out of my eyes. But the hairbands you can find in the stores are A) usually pretty ugly, and B) mostly made for a slightly smaller head than mine, making them too tight.

I had a Duh! moment this week when I realized I had all these odds and ends of yarn in the house, plenty of needles, and two clever hands – why not knit my own hairbands? I poked at a couple of patterns on the web, and decided I could do just as well making my own.

Here’s a completed hairband (top) and one in progress (bottom):

WIP & FO - Knitted Hairbands

I’m using any DK, sport-, fingering- or baby-weight yarn that appeals to me. The stitch pattern is a modified Shaker or Fisherman’s Rib done across 8 stitches. This lends a good stretch to even the most non-elastic of the yarns I’ve used (Sockotta, for instance). From the results I’m getting, I think I could even use Perle Cotton or butcher’s twine and get a nice, elastic hairband.

Oh, and here’s a terrible, took-it-myself-in-the-bathroom-mirror, picture of a hairband in use.

FO - Pink & White Knitted Hairband

I’m wishing I’d thought of this ages ago. The knitted hairbands are more comfortable than anything I ever found readymade in the stores. They may not be the greatest stashbuster, because they use so little yarn, but then we all seem to have those tiny quantities of one yarn or another that we just can’t bring ourselves to throw out. This project is perfect for those.

I’ll try to write up the official, oh-so-complicated, pattern sometime soon. It’s just different enough from other hairbands out there (at least the ones I found) to be worth making available, I think.

I suspect these will be my “big” project of the weekend, as I aim towards creating a full wardrobe of hairbands to choose from. I look forward to finally tossing the old, tattered ones I’ve bought over the years. Hooray!

Here’s hoping you have a satisfying, crafty weekend!

FOs, New Challenges, and Discoveries

Filed under: Gryphon,Knitting,Rats!,Sewing,Shopping Adventures — folkcat at 4:27 pm on Monday, March 5, 2007

It was a weekend of adventure for Gryphon and me. We made some discoveries of local resources we didn’t know about. I took on some new crafting challenges (I’ve hinted at them before, but now it’s probably going to actually happen). And I finished a recent WIP, as well as start-to-finish completed two more that you haven’t even heard about!

FOs

First up, though, a touch of old business. You may remember that I knit a request for a friend – a dicky for her motorcycle-riding boyfriend, Ken? Said friend recently sent me a photo of Ken wearing the dicky, along with the crocheted hat she made from the leftover yarn.

Ken in his dicky

I’m pleased with how this looks! And Ken is a great model!

On to more recent business. I finished knitting the Fiber Trends Felted Clogs on Friday, then sewed up the seams in the soles on Saturday. So yesterday was felting day!

Here’s how they looked before:

FO: Gryphon's Felted Clogs, Before

Great big floppy clown shoes!

We sent these through the heavy-duty cycle of the washing machine about, oh…I lost count after six or seven times. I had noted before that the yarn was going to be difficult to felt, but that it would get where we needed it with effort. Well, effort was right.

In the end, Gryphon decided to stop the process with the clogs still fitting a little loosely, with a comment that this way he’s free to throw them in the washer now and then, and let them shrink more as they will. Here’s the finished picture:

FO: Gryphon's Felted Clogs, After

As I said, still a little large. In fact, the instant I took this photo, I realized that the clogs reminded me of nothing else but Goofy’s shoes. I couldn’t find a good clipart for the comparison, though.

Gryphon loves them, though, and has been wearing them all over the house since. So count this as another FO success!

After finishing the clogs, I picked up a big crochet hook*, took the same doubled yarn I’d used for the clogs, and whipped up a nesting bowl for the Rattie Sisters. They have a couple of such bowls that began life as travel water bowls for dogs, but which are perfect for Ratties to curl up in and sleep. They’re getting pretty chewed up, though, and will need replacing eventually.

Here’s the first one I made, being inspected by Sable. (Star helps by turning away to wash her tail.)

FO: Rat Nest Bowl

They haven’t quite taken to it as a substitute for the doggy water bowl yet, but they will. It took them a few days to adjust to the original bowls, after all, but they grew to love them.

Having tasted Fast FO with the bowl, I grabbed some odds and ends of Lamb’s Pride, and started in on another Rattie bowl. This time, I used multiple colors, did a little fancy stitchery around one or two rounds, and cinched in the top a bit to make a cozy, nestable shape.

When I showed the finished product to Gryphon, he jokingly put it on his head.

FO: Gryphon's Crochet Hat

And dang! if it didn’t look quite good on him! He was as surprised as I was – it’s not a style of hat he’d normally go for. But he likes it, and so what was intended as a Rattie Nest Bowl is now being called a Rasta Beanie.

New Challenges

A little bit ago, I mentioned that I was considering taking up quilting. This past week, I received the e-mail newsletter from the Bunkhouse Quilt Shop. One of the tidbits mentioned was a new project/contest. Each month, for $2, you can buy a kit with a pattern and the fabric needed to make one quilt block. You sew up your block, and bring it into the store to hang on the design wall, at which time you also add your name to the jar for the prize drawing.

At the end of the month, one name is chosen randomly. That lucky winner gets to keep all the blocks! All of them are the same, so if enough people participated, you could have a whole bed-sized quilt with almost every bit of piecing done for you!

I thought, “geez, one block is a nice, easy way to get started – depending on the block. And $2? Cheap enough! Let’s check this out!” So Gryphon and I ran up the hill (they’re only a couple miles up the hill from me), and took a look.

Here are the pieces for my block, all laid out. The pattern is the Sawtooth Star, and all the blocks will be this same combination of red and cream-colored prints.

Quilting WIP: Bunkhouse Quilt Shop March Block

Now I just have to get around to sewing it up!

The quilting plan, after this starter block, is to make a complete wall hanging. This way I’ll get to do all the parts of the process – piecing, border, backing – and figure out whether I want to try quilting on my old Kenmore machine, or have it done for me. Once I’ve done a wall hanging, I’ll move on to making the queen-size bed quilt I want (and the desire for which started this whole thing about wanting to quilt).

I’ve even picked out the pattern I’m going to work with, for both the wall hanging and the bed quilt. Found it at Bunkhouse when we were there yesterday, and since they only had one copy left, I decided to take no chances and lock it in.

Quilting Future: Bento Box Pattern

This looks like a good option for me as a beginner. The pieces are all squares and rectangles. All the seams are straight. The instructions are actually geared towards using fat quarters, making it easy for me to find multiple fabrics I like for the project. They even tell me that I need so many light fat quarters, so many dark ones, for each size of quilt you might want to make.

Discoveries

Whoa…you know, I just realized how long this post is getting. So I think maybe these will have to wait until tomorrow! I’ll just offer a teaser, perhaps…

Pink Cloud?

This is one of the items Gryphon and I found a source for, nearby, readymade, and easy to get to. They had a bunch of other things I’ve been wanting, too! I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow – promise!

*I know, I know – I haven’t ever really talked about crochet here. That’s because, though I’m proficient at crochet, I don’t do it all that often. That may change, though…Claudia has talked me into reading the Freeform Crochet Yahoo group…and there’s all this stash to play with…

What a Childless, Adult Couple Does When Snowed In On Valentine’s Day

Filed under: Crafting Miscellany,Gryphon,Knitting — folkcat at 1:29 pm on Thursday, February 15, 2007

Plays with Perler Beads, of course. (Yeah, Gryphon and me – we’re an exciting pair!)

Gryphon was concerned enough – and rightly so – about the weather yesterday that he took a vacation day from work. Given the conditions we had out there, it would have been risky for him to try to travel our country roads to and from the plant in his 13 year old truck.

So we got to spend Valentine’s Day together. Such as we do these things. We had a nice spaghetti dinner, with refrigerator biscuits brushed before baking with garlic butter. And we played with Perler Beads.

Gryphon's Perler Coaster
Gryphon’s Coaster

Gryphon created this coaster. He’s got mad skillz when it comes to the ironing, too. This looks barely fused, but it’s actually holding together quite solidly. He may be the official Perler Fuser from here on.

I found a pattern at the Perler Bead website for a 3-d puzzle box. You start with these six pieces, all different:

Puzzle Box Pieces
Puzzle Box Pieces

You fit the notches together to build the box.

Perler Puzzle Box in Progress
Piecing it Together

Et voila! You have a neat little cube, solidly locked together. Until you choose to take it apart, that is.

Perler Puzzle Box, Assembled
Pieced and Complete

There are a couple of things I love about this little box. First, that I made things that I could make something else out of. So cool! I have a notion now that I could design some little part that I can make from Perler Beads that will be my own building toy, something that notches together in multiple ways.

Second, this was a good practice piece for my Perler fusing skills. If you over iron the pieces, you don’t get as good a fit, because the ends of the beads spread out a little more. I still didn’t get good, even fusing by the time I was finished with this, so I need more practice.

The Craft Goddesses and I will be having a Perler Bead night at our craft circle next week. I love the idea of getting several crafty women together in one place, all working with the same type of materials. Everyone comes with their own ideas, and you feed off of each other’s creativity. No telling what we’ll come up with!

Oh, yeah – and I knitted, too.

WIP: Carnival Glass Shawl, Chart C
Carnival Glass Shawl – Midway Through Chart C

Gryphon did manage to walk down to the Post Office yesterday, and lo! in the mail was my package from Knit Picks, containing the Options needles I bought for knitting the Carnival Glass Shawl. (I had chosen to begin it with a 20″ Addi Turbo I had in the house, knowing I wouldn’t need more length than that for a bit.)

I switched over to the 40″ Options cable with the size 6 tips, and knitted my shawl onto the new needle. And let me tell you, it was pretty interesting having such a direct comparison between knitting with the Addi, and knitting with the Options.

The Options needles, of course, have sharper tips. This makes knitting laceweight yarn, especially with Slip Two Knitwise, K2Tog, and other instructions like that to deal with. The point on the Options just gets in there much more smoothly.

What surprised me the most, however, was the difference in the joins. I think we all expect and assume that any circulars with interchangeable components must, by the nature of the beast, have a less smooth join than circulars that are constructed as a single piece.

Wrong.

With the Addi Turbo that I started this shawl on, the join made a little hump that it was annoying to have to move the stitches over. With the Options needles – no hump. Nada. Rien. Zip, zilch, and zero. The thin little stitches slide from cable to needle as smooth as butter.

I’m more convinced than ever. The Options needles don’t offer all the cable lengths I may want – yet – but they are in every way superior even to Addi Turbos, and they cost far less. I’m going to be saving every penny to build my Options collection!

Dreams Realized

Filed under: Cooking - Folkcat in the Kitchen,Gryphon,Knitalongs,Knitting,Stitchery — folkcat at 3:01 pm on Monday, January 15, 2007

I tried to post this earlier, but there’s an ice storm in the area today, and it’s playing nasty games. I was in the middle of composing this post when the power went down for just about an hour.

Not sure if the problem was a line down, or someone skidded and hit a pole, or what. The trouble line at the power company was very busy, and had a recording listing over 15 towns with outages.

While we waited for power to return, I stepped outside with the camera to show what the storm’s doing locally:

Ice Storm, Hedge
Ice-frosted hedge across the street

Ice Storm, Utility Lines
Hundreds of tiny icicles all along the utility lines

There are disadvantages to living right downtown, even in a small town like ours – noise, traffic, and more. But there are advantages, too – when you live right next door to Town Hall, and across the street from the Police Department, you’re in a zone most likely to get power restored quickly.

Back to Our Scheduled Topics!

With the power restored, I can now get on with telling you about what I accomplished this weekend!

Blissful Stitching Dreams

I am enjoying working on the miniature knotted rug stitchery so very much! Yesterday, I was able to complete a large portion of the background behind the two little mice:

NIP - Knotted Rug - Partial Background on Mice
The Mice Can Romp in Some Grass Now

You’d think that cramming all these tiny little French Knots together would drive a person mad after a while, but the fact is, it’s one of those focused activities that winds up relaxing you a great deal. You know the kind – you look up from your work and find out hours have passed, and you feel like you’re coming out of a thick fog?

Noro Dreams

I reported before about finishing the knitting and felting portions of my Noro Kureyon entre-lac bag. I’m pleased to say that I didn’t let this one languish incompleted! The straps got sewn on over the weekend, and the bag is now ready for use!

FO - Kureyon Entre-lac Bag, Side 1
Kureyon Bag, Side One

FO - Kureyon Entre-lac Bag, Side 2
Kureyon Bag, Side Two

Normally when I make an entre-lac bag, I use the same yarn the bag was knitted from to stitch the straps on. Noro Kureyon presents a problem with that idea, however. The Kureyon singles are variable in their strength, and too many sections will pull apart if used for something with a lot of tension on them, like sewing.

I went into my wool stash, and pulled out this lavendar colored Lamb’s Pride instead. I usually stitch the straps on with a backstitch a little inside the outer edge of the strap end. But since the Lamb’s Pride would stand out, I decided it needed to be more of a design feature. So I satin-stitched the area instead.

FO - Kureyon Entre-lac Bag, Strap Detail
Kureyon Bag, Satin Stitch Detail

And just because the bottoms of these entre-lac bags are always so cool, here’s a look at this one.

FO - Kureyon Bag - Bottom Detail
Kureyon Bag, Bottom Detail

I expect to start using this as my main “going out knitting in public” bag, starting this week.

Barefoot Diva Dreams

Slow going on my latest Barefoot Diva socks. I had, last week, gotten past the heel opening, cast on the stitches needed to complete the leg, and knit about an inch on both socks (I’m doing two socks on two circs).

When I picked them up this weekend, though, I found a small note tucked in the bag. I guess, way back when I started these socks, I had checked my gauge, and calculated all the numbers for the pair: starting stitches, how many to bind off for the heel, how many to cast back on. I had forgotten about it, and when I cast the leg stitches back on this week, I was working to my foot measurement, not my ankle measurement (which is about an inch bigger around).

Ribbit, ribbit, ribbit. I frogged both socks back to the end of the panel that connects foot to leg, cast on again, and got back to stitching. End result? I’m not as far along as I started the weekend at, so it’s negative progress here.

WIP - Barefoot Diva Socks
Barefoot Diva Setback

On the other hand, I have definitely learned something about my preferred knitting styles in the process. This is the first time I’ve worked two socks on two circs. I have previously worked, and proven competent at: dpns; one sock on two circs; magic loop with one sock. This pair has proven my skills at two socks on two circs, as well as two socks on magic loop (I switched between the two methods a couple of times).

Conclusions? I think I’m favoring the use of 5 dpns over any other method. I recognize the benefits of the other techniques, and I can do them if needed. But manipulating the circular needles just isn’t as fast for me as knitting a sock that’s hanging off 4 dpns is.

I’m seriously considering locating my size 2 dpns to finish these up with.

Pirate Dreams

You’ve all watched my trials and tribulations with the We Call Them Pirates Hat here, and I feel I owe you an apology.

See, I actually finished the durned thing on Friday night, and I posted it to the We Call Them Pirates Knitalong blog on Saturday. Which means that the news went first not to you, who have been faithfully supporting me in the effort right along, but to the folks at the knitalong.

In truth, though, it was a Saturday – not a normal posting day here. And the good folks participating in the knitalong were penultimately instrumental in helping me make the hat happen at all. So I hope you’ll forgive me, and enjoy these pictures of the Finished Object!

FO - Pirates Hat, Front View
Front View

FO - Pirates Hat, Inside View
Inside, Floats and Lining

FO - Pirates Hat, Lining Detail
Stitching Detail, Lining to Inside

In the repeated process of knitting this hat, I had decided several attempts ago to include a small design surprise in the piece. Can you spot it in this rear view?

FO - Pirates Hat, Back View
One of These Things is Not Like The Others

Sorry, no prize but your own satisfaction for figuring it out!

Xocolate Dreams

Finally, I’m pleased to say that last night, I was able to realize the Xocolate Dream I wrote about Friday.

It’s been years since I had anything resembling hot chocolate, and I can assure you it was almost certainly a simple Swiss Miss instant when I did. Which may explain why it’s not something I’ve done in a long time.

Well, yesterday I took the time to gently heat a cup of milk on the stove, then whisk in 3 tablespoons of the Dagoba chocolate. I poured it all into a nice, heavy stoneware mug I’d received as a Christmas gift, and sat down in my comfy chair.

FO - Dagobah Hot Chocolate in Mug
‘T’ain’t No Swiss Miss Here

It was all as I dreamed; warm cup cradled in my hands; rich aroma of chocolate filling my nostrils. Only this time, the dream didn’t end.

This time, I got to taste it.

There are no words. I could try to invent one. Fantabulous. Increscrumptious. Yummeriffic.

Nope. There simply Are. No. Words.

The flavor was rich. There was just a hint of sweetness, just enough of it. I realized at that moment one of the reasons I don’t favor the instant mixes – they tend to be over sweet, the sugary flavor overwhelms the “chocolate” flavor. And of course, the mixes are so little real chocolate, and more often artificial flavor components.

There was a visceral reaction to the Dagoba hot chocolate. I could feel the relaxation settling into every part of my body as I sipped. The chocolate flavor invaded my soul. An hour after finishing the cup, I could still feel the effects, still taste the chocolate, still sense the calm.

This is the good stuff, folks. If you ever have the opportunity to partake of it, do so. It’s more time and effort to prepare, but the lasting effects are well worth it.

In other Xocolate news, I also ate the caramel & chocolate dipped pretzel, and a few of the assorted chocolates. Equally amazing! The pretzel especially – I wish I had a source for them locally.

Thanks once again to Margene and Anne for making this “Z is for…” prize possible!

Gifts Given

Filed under: Blogfriends,Family,Gryphon,Holidays,Knitting — folkcat at 5:14 pm on Friday, January 5, 2007

If you’ve been reading here anytime since Halloween, you know that I made a fairly ambitious list of projects to knit for Christmas. I blogged about them over the season, but now, at long last, I can reveal the final results!

1. Bag from cotton yarn.

This gift was for my brother, Ed, out in Los Angeles. What do you knit for a brother in southern California?

Monk's Travel Satchel
The Monk’s Travel Satchel

Part briefcase, part luggage. The pattern comes from Interweave Press in the Folk Bags book. I knit it exactly as written, except I substituted Reynolds Saucy yarn for the Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece that was called for (my LYS didn’t have the right colors in the Cotton Fleece, and I didn’t want to wait for an order).

Monk's Travel Satchel - Side Pocket
Side Pocket – there is one on each side of the bag

This is probably the most complex knit I’ve ever attempted. There were large parts – the combination strap and gusset is 33 stitches wide, 74 inches long, and knit entirely in seed stitch. There are multiple pockets – two on the straps, a large one on the back, and a divided one inside the bag. There is contrasting piping created by picking up stitches around entire perimeters of pieces and knitting only a couple of rows. There are four pieces of I-cord to create two frog closures.

Would I do it again? I’m thinking about it, but not immediately. Gryphon is contemplating whether he wants one.

Gryphon Models the Satchel
Gryphon and the Satchel

Looks good on him, doesn’t it? We might do different colors, though.

Was it successful? Hell, yes. I was really pleased with how well it came out. And best of all, when my brother opened it Christmas morning (he was in L.A., but we always open our gifts to each other while on speakerphone), he was very happy with it. Sounded like he plans to use it as a briefcase – which he probably needs, having recently been promoted to the top position in the Disney Studio Photo Library.

2. felted bag #1.

This was the first gift I planned for a blog friend. Valerie had surprised me last year when, out of the blue, a yarn winder arrived in the mail for me! Such a wonderful act of spontaneous gift giving astounded me, and I knew she deserved something nice for Christmas.

I had loved knitting my own entre-lac bag (first pattern in the Bags: A Knitter’s Dozen book), so I thought perhaps I’d knit Valerie a bag of her own, in colors that she liked. I studied her blog, and realized she had posted pictures of yarn for a secret project she’d signed on to knit. Best of all, the yarn had been dyed to her specifications – so she had to like the colors, right?

I borrowed the picture of the yarn from Valerie’s blog, and using a web-based tool I’ve found that will choose a five-color palette from a photograph (Color Palette Generator – it’s a tool for web design, originally, but I find it useful for coordinating a craft project to a photo), I extracted five colors and printed out the screen image.

With palette in hand, I went to the yarn shop and matched up Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride as best I could. I couldn’t find a light blue I liked, though, so I used Galway for one of the five colors.

Valerie's Entre-Lac Bag
Valerie’s Entre-lac Bag

Was it successful? Judging from what Valerie had to say about it, I think so!

Would I knit it again? Oh, yeah – and already have for Christmas Gift #…

3. felted bag #2

One of the Craft Goddesses (a weekly craft circle in my home that has met for some seven or eight years) actually lives in Arizona during the winter months. This means that Judith has always missed out on our annual Craft Goddess Christmas Party, and the accompanying gift exchange.

This year it finally dawned on me – I have her address in Arizona, why not surprise her with a Christmas gift? No need for a special generator for this color palette – I know what Judith likes! Once again, the yarn here is Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride Worsted.

Judith's Entre-Lac Bag
Judith’s Entre-Lac Bag

Was it successful? Judith was very surprised, and says it goes great with an orange jacket she frequently wears out there. And that she’s been getting lots of compliments on it!

Would I knit it yet again? I love the entre-lac bag, I do – knitting it is like popcorn for me. I already have one I’m knitting for myself in Noro Kureyon, that I’ve modified to be larger, too!

4. bead knitted bag
and 9. same as #4 in different colors.

A little out of order here, bringing Gift #9 up already, but these are really a set, even though they were gifted to two different people.

Bead Knitted Bags
Bead Knitted Bags

These were gifted to the two talented knitters I participated in the Booty Swap with. Elspeth, who was the recipient of my booty offering, got the red with black beads bag on the left, and lowercase jen, who sent me a lovely assortment of booty, received the mixed green, blue, white and black bag on the right.

The pattern comes from the book Bead Knitted Pendant Bags by Theresa Williams. It’s not currently available at Amazon, but you should be able to buy it direct at Bag Lady Press – or at least find out where you can get it in a shop. The book gives versions with and without flaps. Straps are left to the crafter’s devices – I chose to crochet them, with varying numbers of beads in each stitch to create a spiral ruffle.

For jen’s bag, I knit a flap. For Elspeth’s, instead of a flap I did a small crocheted ruffle of beads around the top edge.

The materials used for this work are #8 perle cotton, seed beads (the kind that come on a hank, not loose), and #0000 knitting needles. The first two things most people think of are “Isn’t it hard to get the beads on the cotton?” and “How can you knit with such tiny needles?”

The answer to the first question is, “No, it’s not.” This is why you buy Czech seed beads on hanks for bead knitting – there’s a specific technique for transferring the beads directly from their hank string to the perle cotton, and it takes no time at all to string up more beads than you need for the bag.

As to the second question, well – the answer is “It’s not that hard.” Just remember not to use a death-grip to hold the thin needles with, and take the work slowly, stitch by stitch. The knitting actually goes quite smoothly, and the stitches move just as easily as if you were knitting with chunky yarn on 17’s. It’s just smaller, so you might want to make sure you have good lighting and wear glasses if you need them.

Three of the next four gifts you’ve already seen:

5. Unnamed object including felted bowl. (A Knitting Needle Cushion)
6. unnamed object to include felted bowl. (A Knitting Needle Cushion)
7. mesh shopping bags, set of 3.
8. same as #6 in different colors. (Another Knitting Needle Cushion)

Three of these gifts – two of the Needle Cushions and the mesh shopping bags – were shown back on the 20th, when I wrote about the Craft Goddess Christmas Party. The third Knitting Needle Cushion was a gift for my mother, and I’m sorry to say I didn’t get a picture of it. Especially since she immediately stuck it full of knitting accessories that otherwise clutter the table next to her knitting spot!

Were they successful? Oh, yeah! The Goddesses loved their gifts, and my mom is already thinking she needs another of the cushions to sit on her worktable in the upstairs sewing room.

Would I knit these again? Yup – I already plan to make one for myself, and my mother might just get another for Mother’s Day.

And Last, but not Least:

10. We Call Them Pirates” hat for Gryphon.

This one is still a WIP, so no picture yet. It’s actually on its third knitting – I’ve blogged before about the first failure of the pattern that resulted from a mis-interpretation of the weight of yarn needed.

Well, I knit almost the whole thing again with the Cascade 220 yarn we bought, and the gauge was spot on. So did it work? Uh…no. Turns out the pattern, as written, fits a somewhat smaller head than either Gryphon or I possess. Both the circumference and the length need to be increased to work.

Am I going to give up? Heck, no. I frogged all the way back, again. I crunched some numbers. I considered places and ways to add stitches in the charts.

I came up with a plan, cast on again, and am giving it a go.

Hopefully, the third time’s the charm!

Not bad, huh? Ten gifts planned, nine executed and delivered on time, all successful. The tenth, not done yet, but we actually expected that. Besides, with the weather we’ve had here so far – we’re in no hurry for a warmer hat for Gryphon’s head yet!

Would I do THIS MUCH gift knitting again?

Considering how well this worked – starting early (before Halloween), planning the yarn acquisition carefully so as not to bust the budget, keeping myself organized – I just might. The hardest part was actually figuring out what to knit, and for whom.

But no matter how much Christmas knitting I attempt for 2007 – I don’t have to think about it this early!

Driving Around Syracuse

Filed under: Daily Life,Gryphon,Holidays,Shopping Adventures,Syracuse — folkcat at 4:54 pm on Wednesday, January 3, 2007

It’s a long post today, with lots of pictures. I’ve put most of the photos after the leap, though, so those with slower connections won’t be burdened with the full load unless they choose it.

When in Syracuse, there are a number of places that are mandatory visits for us. The full list has changed a great deal over the 14 years since I moved to New Hampshire. One place that will never drop off the list, however, is this food court.

Food Court 1 - Comfortable Seating
Comfortable Seating

Food Court 2 - Chinese Buffet
Chinese Buffet

Food Court 3 - Sushi Bar
Sushi Bar

Food Court 4 - Pizza and Wings Kitchen
Pizza and Wings Kitchen

Food Court 5 - Coffee Bar
Coffee Bar

Food Court 6 - Soups, Sandwiches, Salads
Soups, Specialty Salads, Sandwiches

Not pictured, but also present, is a station serving full gourmet dinners, one making fresh subs, and a full salad bar.

So where is this wonderful food court to be found? Answer after the jump!

(Read on …)

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