Of Rats and Jen

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

Short Take

Filed under: Daily Life,Knitalongs — folkcat at 6:46 pm on Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I know, this is later than I usually post. But there’s a good reason.

I just got home from three hours of grocery shopping, including getting myself lunch out, visiting the closest Asian market (13 miles away from home), then stopping at two different supermarkets. (One has fresher produce and dairy, the other has much better prices on crackers, and a better house brand of bread.)

Luckily for us, the stores we shop at are all in a relatively straight line from home, so it’s just a matter of going to the farthest point needed for the day, then coming back and making stops along the way. Still, no matter how efficiently we plan, the full run always takes at least three hours.

Normally, this is something that Gryphon and I would have done together. I’m not very fit, and running around doing errands tires me quickly, so Gryphon and I usually share the task, with him driving, and me making most of the shopping decisions.

But today, I did this without Gryphon. It’s part of an initiative to take more responsibility on my own head, and lighten the load where I can for Gryphon. Because he didn’t have to come along for the grocery shopping today, he had time to do the full cleaning of the rat cage, which was badly needed. The cage is far too large for me to easily maneuver into the kitchen for cleaning, and the process doesn’t really work if done in place in the living room.

You’ll forgive me, then, if I haven’t got pictures of the rats, or new progress in knitting, or other such fun things to share with you right now. That’ll come soon, I promise.

Meanwhile, if you are interested in Knitting New Scarves, there is a knitalong for the book at Knitting New Scarves Knitalong. I don’t do the knitalong thing myself, but it’s a good way to get some support and comraderie as you tackle the interesting topology of the projects. Thanks to Helen, coordinator for the Knitalong, for the link.

I’m still working on that book review I promised, too. I’ve heard back from the publisher with answers to my concerns, and I just need to gather a little data and some links to include before I post it.

I’m going to go sit still for a bit now. I feel a strong sense of accomplishment from my efforts, and the more I do this, the easier it will get. But I also feel quite in need of a rest tonight. ’til tomorrow, then!

Sometimes, Olympic Dreams are Just a Little Late

Filed under: Knitalongs,Knitting — folkcat at 4:20 pm on Monday, February 5, 2007

Yup. That’s my story and I’m stickin’ with it.

Those of you who’ve been here a while may remember that I signed up for the Knitting Olympics last year. My project? A Kiri shawl. Only I made a yarn substitution that drastically changed the gauge, and, therefore, the amount of time it was going to take to complete the project.

I finally acknowledged last February that there was no way Kiri would be finished by the closing ceremonies. She was put aside to give my hands a rest. Over the last year, I picked her up now and then and worked a few long, tedious rows.

For ages, the concept of when I should declare the shawl “done” has been debatable. I would stretch the work as best I could on the circular needles, trying to guess what blocked size I might have achieved. Last Thursday, I found myself at the end of a repeat – a point where I could decide to begin the edge rows, if I wanted.

I wanted. I guessed I was likely at a shoulder shawl size rather than a full, wrap-me-up and make me feel cuddled size. But I had become so tired of knitting rows that took 40 minutes or longer from end to end, so tired of the tiny little stitches on the tiny little needles.

So tired of the oh-so-pretty, but very repetitious, Kiri pattern.

I began the edging rows Thursday night. I worked at them over the weekend. Finally, during the Super Bowl, I began binding off.

This morning, I gave her a warm soak with a little Eucalan, squeezed her in a rolled up towel, and began pinning her out on a dry towel on my bed.

FO: Kiri Shawl

I know she’ll relax a little when she’s dry and I pull the pins out, but her pinned out wingspan is about 63 inches. Pretty respectable. Neck to point height is about 26 inches. Shorter than I’d originally hoped for, but long enough to be reasonably useful.

The biggest reason I wanted to finish Kiri is that one of my friends had given me a very nice lace shawl pattern for Christmas – the Carnival Glass Shawl from Cherry Tree Hill Yarns. (That link is to a page of shawls that won prizes in a contest they had – the Carnival Glass Shawl is the second one shown.) She included an 8 oz. skein of Cherry Tree Hill Merino Lace yarn in the Martha’s Vineyard colorway – an excellent choice because its shades of purple with splashes of other colors remind me of my favorite color of Carnival Glass itself.

Now that Kiri is officially off the needles, I feel free to start another lace project. Except that I don’t have the needle sizes called for in the Carnival Glass pattern. So I’m putting together a shared Knit Picks order with a few friends (so we can collectively meet the free shipping minimum), and in a week or two I should have the tools I need.

Meanwhile, I’ll be picking out another unfinished project to focus on for a bit. What will it be? I think we’ll just have to wait and see!

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!

Of Mice and Bones

Filed under: Knitalongs,Knitting,Stitchery — folkcat at 1:07 pm on Wednesday, January 10, 2007

I spent a couple more hours last night stitching on my Miniature Knotted Rug Kit.

Mousies and Pirates
Love to Stitch Them Mousies!

As you can see, I’ve managed to complete the central mice. Next step is to stitch the background of the circle they sit in.

There are a few spots where my knots sit at uneven heights, but that’s improving the more I do this. I think it helps when you get an entire area filled – the knots help to even each other out somewhat. It can’t entirely make up for a knot that was stitched too loosely and thus sits a little too high, but in the end, I don’t think those will be very noticeable.

Meanwhile, over at the We Call Them Pirates KAL, I got signed up, posted for the first time, and then got some good advice about my size issues with the hat. Remember, I’ve never done Fair Isle before – apparently, a common way to adjust size in Fair Isle knitting is to change your gauge.

I was so proud that I was getting gauge with the correct size needles and all. We’d made a special budget allowance to let me buy the needles. And I usually think of changing gauge as an inelegant way to adjust size – I prefer, in most cases, to do it by altering the pattern.

I was somewhat blind to the possibility of changing the gauge, even though it’s mentioned right at the end of the pattern as a recommended means of altering the size. Changing the gauge means buying new needles, which means another hit to the budget.

lowercase jen offered a link in comments to a picture of one knit with five panels and it looked pretty good. But I would really prefer to knit the pattern as called for if possible. So, if changing the gauge will let that work, I’m going to give it a try. I did a couple of test swatches this morning (with straight needles and circulars of inappropriate length for the hat), and I think I know what size I’ll need. Gryphon and I are off in a few minutes to see if I can find them.