Of Rats and Jen (Inactive)

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

Guess the WIP!

Filed under: Retired - Folkcat's Fiber Crafts — folkcat at 9:17 pm on Friday, September 9, 2005

Mystery Object OTN – Hey, Let’s Have a Contest!

Lots of bloggers seem to be presenting mystery objects for their readers to guess at lately. It’s coincidence that I cast on for something today that counts as one.
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Looks Like a Toe-Up Sock
But it’s not a sock. It’s not even a garment.

It began with a flat bottom using the classic Pi formula for shaping a round shawl, which I worked until it was 72 stitches around.

Clue: I’ll probably use this every single day.

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It Sits Up On Its Bottom Side
When I got to 72 stitches around, I did 6 rounds of plain knitting, then switched to a K1, P1 rib for 6 rounds. By then, I realized I could easily fit a lace pattern around this thing. I flipped through Traditional Knitted Lace Shawls, and choose Traveling Vines, which fits 9 times around.

Ignore the baubles – they’re not part of the finished object, they’re my stitch markers separating the lace repeats.

Another Clue: The shape is very important. It needs to fit the item it’s on to do its job right.

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It’s Got a Shape
I’ll continue working the lace pattern until it’s about 4-5 inches high. Then I’ll switch off to, hmm….I’m thinking the Wavy Garter Stitch Cuff from Cool Socks, Warm Feet would look good. I’ll do about 1/2″ of that, then bind off. Weave in the ends, and it’s done.

Final Clue: I won’t need to block this, since in regular use it will A) be stretched over a form, and B) likely be a little damp – depending on conditions.

And Now For The Contest: Leave a comment with your best guess as to what I’m knitting. Be sure that there’s a way for me to contact you – if you don’t have an e-mail contact set-up at your Blogger profile, be sure to mail me one.

You no longer have to have a Blogger account to leave comments, but if you prefer, I will take e-mail entries as well. If you do choose to enter by e-mail, however, you must use the link at the side of this blog under “Want to Contact Me?” for your submission to count.

If anyone manages to guess it exactly, they’re the winner. If more than one of you guesses correctly, the earliest time-stamp wins. In the event that no one guesses closely enough, I’ll draw randomly from the comments. You have until midnight Sunday night (September 11) to enter. I’ll announce the winner on Monday.

Now, for the prize….hmm…how’s this? Winner gets their choice of 2 sets of my beaded stitch markers. I’ll show you some photos to choose from after I contact you.

But What About the Bridges?!?!?!

I’m afraid we’ll have to continue that saga on Monday. The next installment features a total of four bridges – numbers 5 through 8!

11 Bridges in 140 Minutes, Part II: Parallel Realities

Filed under: Retired - Folkcat's Fiber Crafts — folkcat at 11:07 pm on Thursday, September 8, 2005

But First, This Brief Announcement: Thursday Is Knitting Day

Well, everyday is knitting day, really. It’s hard to get through even one without picking up the needles at some point for a few minutes.

What I’m referring to, though, is my new resolve that I’m going to take all the different things I want to be doing more of (and better at), and aside from the casual amount of work I do at them, give them each a day that I focus more hours on them alone.

And so, Thursday is Knitting Day. I had hoped to spend several hours working on my “Wings of the Cat” shawl, but it seems I’ve been doing so much knitting lately (and some of it in odd circumstances) that my hands actually ache. Especially the base of the left thumb, the joint that was dislocated in the car accident some 5 or 6 years ago now.

So I kept the knitting light, but still made real progress. Sock Experiment 4, Sock 2 (SE4/S2) was close enough to done that I finished that up and grafted up the toes. So here they are.
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Finished Objects!

It’s worth noting that I worked the pattern one size larger than last time after re-calculating my gauge, and these seem to fit much better than SE3 did.

I did work on my shawl, too, and actually knit about 6 rows. The pattern in the center panel is building nicely, and the wings should have enough stitches in about 8 more rows for me to begin inserting the lace pattern there. Before I laid the work down for the day, I was spreading it out on the needles and spotted one place in the center panel where there’s a stitch error. I’m not going to tink – it’s a small error (somehow came up with an extra stitch) that, while noticeable, will be minimal in the whole shawl. I marked it with a clip-on stitch marker, and I’ll fix it on the return row by knitting a couple stitches together. Should be fine.

And Now, Our Top Story

You may recall that our heroes, Folkcat and Gryphon, are on an epic journey to see how many bridges they can photograph Folkcat knitting on, all in one day.

When last we left our Extreme Knitting Team, they had knocked off Bridges #1 and #2 of their odyssey within sight of their own home.

“We know there’s a whole bunch of bridges we can do easily in Milford,” I said, “but I’ll bet we can find a few West of here. Let’s head out on Rte. 101 and see.”

So we piled into the car, and drove up the hill to visit the western part of Wilton along State Route 101. Watching both sides of the road as we went, Gryphon spotted an old bridge on the left side of the road. “Let’s go a little further, and then come back,” he said. “We may find more, and the turns will be easier.”

We continued until a little past where Rte. 31 diverged South to Greenville without seeing any more bridges. Turning back, we turned on a small side road near the abandoned bridge, and parked.

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Folkcat Scopes Out the Setting
And we mean abandoned. This is even older than the Savage Road Bridge that my first Extreme Knitting escapade took us to. Gryphon called this the Old Intervale Road Bridge. According to a plaque on one end, it was built in 1916, which means it would have been for a mix of automobile and horse-and-buggy traffic. Now, if it was ever paved, it’s lost under thick grassy growth and weeds, with only the barest hint of tire ruts.

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As Seen From Below, East Side
Our first camera angle here put Gryphon down on the riverbank below. Plenty close to get a good look at me knitting.

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River Shot, West Side
The river bank was clear enough that Gryphon could walk under the bridge and get an angle where the sun wasn’t behind me, too. And while we took this shot, I looked across the way from the bridge and realized…I was looking at a guardrail along the side of Route 101, and we could get a shot straight across that would show the Souhegan River below me nicely.

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As Seen From Rte. 101
And then it dawned on me – duh! Where Gryphon was standing along Route 101, parallel to the Old Intervale Road Bridge, was another bridge! The shoulder was wide, and there was a guardrail, so….

Well, then, we just had to swap positions. After all, we’d found another twofer location!

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Playing Near Traffic – Don’t Try This At Home
I’ll bet most people who drive by on 101 here have no clue about the Old Intervale Road Bridge. Once upon a time, it served the purpose that this new bridge on 101 has taken over. Now, they drive by, oblivious to the fact that symbols of two different eras in transportation history live parallel lives here – one in retirement, one in constant use.

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Big Bridge
Heck, I’ll bet most people who drive by here don’t even realize they’re on a bridge themselves. You have to look down through trees as you’re traveling 45 MPH to notice the slip of a river here.

So, we now had Bridges #’s 3 & 4 under our belts. We’d gone as far west as we were willing to for this trip, and we couldn’t think of any other safe and easy bridges within Wilton. So, off to Milford!

Check in tomorrow to see the next installment!

11 Bridges in 140 Minutes, Part One

Filed under: Retired - Folkcat's Fiber Crafts — folkcat at 7:22 pm on Wednesday, September 7, 2005

First, a Short Subject

First things first. In ordinary knitting news, I’m making lightning speed on Sock Experiment 4, Sock 2 (SE4/S2). I’ve already begun the toe decreases. I’ll have a new, wearable pair of socks by the end of the week.
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And Now We Present Our Main Feature:

Gryphon took some time off last week, and we hoped to spend some of it roaming around, doing some geocaching and some Extreme Knitting. But then, well, you know what happened in the world.

It wasn’t until mid-afternoon on Monday that we finally felt like we could go out and do something. And I actually got an idea for extreme knitting that I thought would work.

“How about,” I said to Gryphon, “if we try to see how many bridges we can photograph me knitting on just today?”

In many parts of the country, this may seem like a farfetched idea. But here in New Hampshire, you can hardly turn around without tripping over another bridge of some sort.

Gryphon thought it sounded worth pursuing, and we started considering where to go. I decided that for our purposes, a bridge had to go over water – or over a place that water sometimes was present. In other words, the water had to be the reason for the bridge’s existence. We also established that for a bridge to qualify for the project, it had to be safe to knit on – a sidewalk (or a wide shoulder) if it was along a road, for instance – and there had to be a safe place for Gryphon to stand with the camera. There were many bridges we passed up because they didn’t meet these standards.

“Well, we could start right outside our building here, ” I said. “There’s the bridge by the police station, and then the one around the corner from that.”

And so it began. I packed up Wearable Hug #12 in a tote bag, and we set off. The first two bridges were less than two blocks from the entrance to our apartment.
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Burns Hill Rd. over the Souhegan River, Wilton, Seen From the West
Bridge #1 is this picturesque bridge where Route 31 crosses the Souhegan River. The brick building in the background is one of the original mills. Currently, the Wilton Falls Building houses the Wilton Main Street Association and Illuminart, a company that makes fine art nightlights and magnets.p9051459.jpgp9051457.jpg
Knitting on the Burns Hill Rd. Bridge, Seen From the East
At each location, we took a zoomed shot of me knitting, as well as a long shot that shows that I’m knitting on a bridge. Where we could (or where we remembered), we also took other images of: the place Gryphon stood for the camera angle; the view up- or downstream from the bridge; and any signs that identified the bridge, its purpose, and its age.

Our first picture for the day was taken at 2:55 p.m.
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Looking West From the Burns Hill Rd. Bridge
The most interesting feature at this bridge is the dam just to the west of it. This was probably part of the original power set up for the mill building.
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Island St. Bridge – Or is it Mill St.?
Just around the corner of the Wilton Falls Building from Bridge #1 (and over the railroad tracks), we find Bridge #2. It’s a little unclear from the maps whether this is Mill St. – which goes off to the left of the blue pickup truck in the picture – or Island St., which is the street the pickup is on. Either way, this one counted – we had a waterway underneath, and a sidewalk for me to stand and knit on.

Safety issues prevented us from picking off Bridge #3 here. Gryphon’s camera angle actually has him standing next to the railing of a railroad bridge, just parallel to the bridge I’m on. But this time of year, there are tourist trains running, and we weren’t sure enough of the schedule. For that matter, if we’d been sure of the schedule, we could have gotten both Bridges 3 & 4 – just a short walk down the tracks is a railroad trestle.

With only 50% of the bridges here safe enough to include in the project, we’d have to move on. But to where? Tune in tomorrow and find out!

Stash Enhancement, Sock Progress, and Previews of Coming Attractions

Filed under: Retired - Folkcat's Fiber Crafts — folkcat at 4:34 pm on Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Okay, I lied. My posting didn’t just get spotty, it nearly vanished altogether.

I won’t repeat the same things that everyone else is saying. There’s no need. We all know what’s on tv, we know what we’ve heard from friends and relatives, and we know the political sniping that’s happening.

I’m not a political person, I’m an emotional one. I cried today watching a marriage proposal on a sit-com, of all things. Events on the order of Katrina leave me numb and speechless.

On Saturday, Gryphon and I put a package in the mail to the Give A Little fund. It contains a dozen sets of my beaded stitch markers, with a total value of $120. I wish I could give cash, but we have so little right now, and I at least have a decent bead stash from before to work from.

That said, it feels a little odd now to tell you that we decided that the small amount of money I earned from selling beaded stitch markers to my LYS went to improving my yarn supply. But, I’m trying hard not to feel guilty every time that I buy something that isn’t an absolute necessity. Life has to go on, and it’s been so abnormal for us financially lately, that having a couple dollars to spend for craft supplies is a genuine luxury for me.
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Yarn Feels Good

I almost cried when I got home with this little pile. It was unbelievable how much a modest bag of simple yarns felt like abundance to me. I was pleased to see that A.C.Moore carries Lion Brand Micro-Spun yarn now, and I got enough for two pairs of socks. The Red Heart yarn was on sale, and there’s enough there for two sweater-vests I hope to knit for Gryphon.

As to Works In Progress (WIPs), I cast on and started knitting Sock Experiment 4, Sock 2 (SE4/S2). I started with the remains of the skein of Sockotta that I knit the first sock from, and now I know how far I get with one skein:
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A Bit More Than Half-Way

What you’re seeing is about 7 rows into the foot after finishing the instep decreases. This means I can reliably get three socks from two skeins or Sockotta. Or if I want two pairs, I only need three skeins. It’s good to know these things.

The other WIP of the week is Wearable Hug 12 (WH12). As with the others, this is knit of Lion Brand Homespun yarn, this time in the Coral Gables colorway.

And with the mention of WH12, I’ll give you a sneak peak at the stories you’ll be hearing about the rest of the week. I’ve been Extreme Knitting again. The concept this time: 11 Bridges in 140 Minutes. WH12 is the project that went along for this wild ride, and she has come away with a name – Bridget. Here are thumbnail views of all the locations you’ll be hearing about:
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Keep a Prayer in Your Hearts

Filed under: Retired - Folkcat's Fiber Crafts — folkcat at 3:43 pm on Friday, September 2, 2005

I haven’t heard from the winner in my drawing, danserz, yet, and after watching the hurricane relief efforts on CNN for 2 days, I suddenly had a horrible suspicion. I checked, and yes, danserz lists her residence on her profile as Mississippi. No wonder she hasn’t answered.

Out of respect for the whole situation, I will not be drawing a new name. I will hold the prize in reserve against the possibility that danserz is ever able to claim it.

My thoughts are with her. I hope she is all right. I hope against hope that she wasn’t actually on the coast. I hope she still has a home.

Say a prayer for her, and for everyone else in the Gulf. Be sure to visit the Knitter’s Relief effort at the Give A Little website through the button at the top of the sidebar, and donate what you can.

All I Can Think About Today

Filed under: Retired - Folkcat's Fiber Crafts — folkcat at 12:31 am on Friday, September 2, 2005

Give what you can, how you can.

WH11 to Have a Home; and Intermittent Blogging Ahead

Filed under: Retired - Folkcat's Fiber Crafts — folkcat at 4:40 pm on Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Wearable Hug 11 (WH11) was finished last night, and I know now who it’s for. There’s a friend who I’ve never met – one of those Internet things, and I know her through some other friends, too. She lives in New Orleans – can you see where I’m going with this?

She and her husband and dog had escaped early to visit relatives in another state, but as I understand it, their home is near a levee. I just don’t know which one, but looking at the images of New Orleans on CNN, it doesn’t seem like it matters.

A friend who visited with me yesterday told me she likes “Mardi Gras” colors. WH11 is primarily a rich purple in color, but as I finished it last night, I realized that I hadn’t noticed the flecks of color mixed in – gold and green. Purple, Gold and Green are the Mardi Gras colors. That was when I knew for sure where WH11 is destined to be.

The Mardi Gras effect is a subtle one, and I think that’s appropriate. The phrase that came to mind is that “you have to hold the shawl close to your heart to see the New Orleans in it.”

It’s just a matter now of engineering the delivery, which may be tricky. We obviously can’t send it to her New Orleans home, but we’re not sure of her address in refuge. But it will happen, of that I’m sure. As sure as I was that I had to finish this hug soon, and that I would know who it belonged to by the time I was done.

“I love it when a plan comes together.” – Hannibal Smith, The A Team

Having completed WH11, I now had one too few projects on the needles, of course. So I’ve gone back to Sock Experiment 4 (WE4) and cast on for Sock 2 (WE4/S2). It’s nice to get back to size 2 needles in my hand, after handling the 13’s so much for WH11. And I get to use my new beaded stitch markers with the sock now.

My blogging over the next week may be a little iffy. I should have foreseen this, but Gryphon has taken some time off this week, and while we can’t afford to go anywhere, we will be doing more things together that we don’t normally get a chance for. So my desire to blog daily will probably fall by the wayside. I’ll be sure to post when I can, though. Stay tuned!

More Extreme Knitting

Filed under: Retired - Folkcat's Fiber Crafts — folkcat at 2:15 pm on Tuesday, August 30, 2005

I did it again. I went Xtreme Knitting this weekend. This time, the venue was less risky. And it was very close to home. Next door, in fact.

The Wilton Town Hall Theatre was originally built when the Town Hall was, in 1885. At first, it hosted vaudeville performances. Some of the greats rumored to walk this stage include Sophie Tucker and George Jessel. The theatre started playing movies in 1912, becoming one of the earliest movie theaters in the country. In 1923, equipment for sound film was added, making the Town Hall Theatre one of the first to adopt the new technology.
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Folkcat Knitting on the Vaudeville Stage

With only a gap from 1966 to 1973, the year the current owner, Dennis Markaverich, took over, the Wilton Town Hall Theatre has otherwise operated continuously since 1912. Many great films have played here, and it has a reputation as one of the best art film houses in the country. It’s also a little-known fact that the actual world premiere of the first Star Wars movie, back in 1977, took place right here. Yes, right here, in the Wilton Town Hall Theatre.
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Look Closely at the left – there is an audience!

For more on the history of the theatre, visit this article.

Being a film buff myself – and this being a small town – I have come to know Dennis. When I told him about the Extreme Knitting project, and my idea to knit on an original vaudeville stage in one of the oldest continuously Ma and Pa Kettle at the Fairoperating movie theaters in the country, he thought it sounded like a lot of fun. So he graciously let Gryphon and me come in Saturday afternoon. We took the pictures in front of a small audience gathering to see his weekly free Saturday Afternoon Classic. (This week was Ma and Pa Kettle at the Fair.)

Oh, yes – the piece I’m working on is Wearable Hug 11. As of last night, it’s over 5/6th done. I imagine I’ll soon be finding out who it’s for.

And the Winner is….; also, More About Pricing

Filed under: Retired - Folkcat's Fiber Crafts — folkcat at 4:21 pm on Monday, August 29, 2005

…danserz!

Congratulations, Bonnie! Please take another look at the pictures here, and make your selection of any two of the sets shown. Send me e-mail through the link on the right under “Want to Contact Me?”, and let me know your choices, and the snail mail address to send your prize to.

Many thanks to all who participated! As you must have guessed, this contest amounted to a bit of market survey for me. Since I’ve never bought beaded stitch markers, I had no idea what price a nicely made set could get.

I have a lot of experience in pricing my finished bead work, but as I explained in Friday’s post, the final step always requires a reality check. This means matching up the price you think you have to get against the reality of “Will people actually pay that?” Ultimately, if your materials and labor add up, to pluck a number out of the air, to $10, but the item is usually readily available to the public for $7, you’re going to have trouble selling any.

There are several things you need to do in this case. First, make absolutely sure your technique is good. The overall appearance of the finished piece must look as though it’s worth what you’re asking. If your wrapped loops are uneven, if your beads are supposed to be round and they’re misshapen, if your pliers have scratched up the wire – they will look poorly, and people won’t be willing to pay as much. If everything looks like perfection, though, people may pay more for an obviously better looking product.

Next, see if you can refine your technique to work more quickly, reducing the labor cost. The only way to do this is practice, practice, practice. If the technique is wrapped loops, as for the beaded stitch markers, get a bunch of cheap wire and make loops until you can turn them out almost without thinking. By the time I was done with the first ten sets of beaded stitch markers, I had my technique perfected to where I could turn out a set of five in about six minutes. Labor cost, at my standard rate of $15/hour – $1.50.

Finally, do what you can to reduce the cost of materials. Choose the best quality of materials you can afford, and find ways to purchase them less expensively. Most mail-order bead vendors offer significant discounts if you purchase in multiples. If you have beading friends, consider pooling an order and sharing the savings.

Once you’ve taken these steps, re-calculate your base price for your product again.

(Materials * 2) + Labor = base price.

In the case of my beaded stitch markers, if I make a set of five using beads and findings comparable to what I’ve used so far, that comes out to:

($0.75*2) + $1.50 = $3.00

And here’s where the reality check comes in. I think we can all agree that, even for a wholesale price for a complete set of 5 markers, $3.00 is a little low. I’ll probably mark that up to $5 wholesale – which allows retailers to do a standard mark-up and sell them for $10.00.

Keep in mind that I’ll be adding in some sort of packaging, too – at least a small zip-top bag and maybe a printed card topper. That cost has to be added in to the final figure. In my example of beaded stitch markers, marking the wholesale price to $5 not only covers packaging materials well, but I clearly have some wiggle room to work a deal for quantity purchases, and still make a profit.

Given all this, if I were to sell these on eBay, I’d probably set a base price for bidding at $6.00, that being a price that gives me a comfortable profit, but can still give a bidder a nice bargain over retail. If I sell directly to someone at retail, I’ll likely go for $9 – $12, depending on the market. If I were to use more expensive beads, such as Swarovski crystals, or vintage Czech, then prices go up accordingly. But that will already have been accounted for in my basic formula.

Keep in mind that you always want to set both a wholesale and a retail price for your goods. If you only have one basic price, and you sell to a craft gallery at that price, they’ll be marking your product up to re-sell it at a profit. They’re not going to want to learn that they marked the earrings they bought from you at $10 (or sometimes more, depending on their policies), but that you sold direct to the public at craft fairs for the same $5 price they paid. Consumers are smart; they won’t buy from the gallery if they know they can get the item direct from you for cheaper. And you’ll lock yourself out of the possibility of gallery sales.

The same is true if you put your crafts in a consignment-based gallery. You never want the portion that you get from the sale to be less than the wholesale price you have set. If you are asked to set the final selling price for the piece, be sure to check that you’ll get that much after the gallery takes their percentage.

There are other factors that can be considered, too – for instance, if the price you set is too low when compared to the going market, even if you’re making a fair profit at that level, people may perceive your pieces as cheap, even if they’re not. You never want to leave the consumer wondering that the price is so low, it may have been made in a sweatshop in a Third World country.

The examples I’ve used here are for pricing beadwork, but the same principles will work for any handcraft. All it takes to apply them is to 1) perfect your technique, 2) know your materials (and shop carefully for them!) and 3) know your market.

I hope this little guide to pricing – and my first post about it, here – have been of some help. Pricing is often intimidating to crafters who are trying to break into selling their goods, but it doesn’t have to be. With a little information and thought, there’s no need to ever worry that you’re undervaluing – or overpricing – the work of your hands.

Entries are now closed

Filed under: Retired - Folkcat's Fiber Crafts — folkcat at 12:22 am on Monday, August 29, 2005

By my clock, it’s now about 12:19 a.m. Eastern time, Monday morning. Entries in the beaded stitch marker give-away are now closed.

Thanks for all your input – I’ll discuss it in more detail later when I also announce the winner. But you’ve all been very helpful, and given me a lot of information that I couldn’t have come up with on my own. It is appreciated.

Keep watching – this was enough fun that I may do more contests! I just have to come up with more ideas….

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