Of Rats and Jen

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

FO, WIP, QIP

Filed under: Announcements,Cooking - Folkcat in the Kitchen,Knitting,Sewing — folkcat at 4:05 pm on Monday, August 27, 2007

It’s been a strange weekend here – an odd mix of relaxing at home, and getting out to do errands. More like zonking at home, really – Gryphon has been very tired, what with two jobs and all, so as much as possible we let him just sleep the weekends away to catch up.

We did, finally, do something on Sunday we’ve been meaning to get around to. We visited a local farm stand, and bought some newly picked Paula Red apples, and fresh, local raspberries. I made a wonderful apple-raspberry cobbler last night, and we’ve already consumed over half of it. But it just tasted that good!

I did get back into my crafting groove over the last several days as well. First of all, at long last I have a picture of the most recently FO’d Socks for Gryphon:

FO: Socks for Gryphon, Pair 3

They don’t actually have black cuffs – he’s just wearing them over his black support socks in the photo. We’re both really pleased with the fit, and Gryphon has just been ga-ga about how much he likes the color and pattern.

As for my own socks, I’m about halfway through the foot on the first sock of this pair (SF:P3S1).

WIP: SF:P3S1, Half a Foot

I’m still loving the colors, especially the way some splotches just scatter around the sock, and some form spiral stripes, but then break up. Very unpredictable yarn! I can’t wait to see what happens next…

A lot of work this weekend went into the handpieced hexagon quilt tablemat. Since I recently got an extra package of the Quilt Patis, I can make more hexagons ahead. This lets me get longer stretches of quick and easy whipstitching them together.

QIP: Hexagon Table Mat, Column 6

It’s still not a fast project, but it finally feels like I may see the end of it someday!

In other news, the new review blog is under construction. I have a lot of template-tweaking to do, as well as writing a new “About Me” and even a FAQ. But it’s possible it might be live by next week sometime. Which is good, because I’ve got a few more review copies of books coming already…

Our Own Version of MASH

Filed under: Rats!,Sewing — folkcat at 3:24 pm on Monday, August 13, 2007

Star continues to appreciate the separation from the teenage punker rat, Lola. On the other hand, her health is still declining. She’s started having seizures in her sleep, whole body spasms that make her jump.

I’m guessing they’re leaving her even weaker than before, because it’s harder for her to eat, too. Dry foods just stick in her mouth, and she seems to have trouble swallowing them. She’s still eager to eat, and chows down as enthusiastically as she can on minced up cooked sweet potato, beans, and broccoli.

Her main diet of rolled grains and mashed up pellets started to be a problem over the weekend, though. I’m also not sure how well she’s drinking from the water bottle. In an attempt to solve two problems at once, I decided today to make her grains and pellets into a cooked mash, kind of like oatmeal.

The wet mash smelled good enough to attract her immediately, and she started eating.

Star Eating Mash
Star Eats Her MASH

She practically has to lay her face right down in the food to get a bite, she’s that weak. I have since thinned the mash down even more, making a thin oatmeal consistency. It’s my hope that it will be even easier for her to get a mouthful, and that it will provide better hydration as well.

I fear that we’re starting to count the days with Star. By the end of the day, she is so tired out from simple eating, and moving from nest box to food dish, that she wobbles as if she’s super-drunk. I try to comfort her as best I can, but there’s not a lot to do for her except make her comfortable, see that she keeps eating, and make sure we’re paying attention so we can spot the moment when it’s just not working for her anymore.

And each night, when we go to bed, I’m going to Star now and telling her that we love her, and she’s always been a good rat, and that if she needs to let go, it’s okay, that she has nothing to regret, and we’ll always remember her. Just in case. Then I go into my room, and cry.

On a Happier Note:

I’ve ordered some goodies with my birthday gift money. They haven’t arrived yet, but I expect them in just another day or two.

What did I get? More of the 1/2″ Quilt Patis, so that I can work even better on this:

QIP - Four Columns
Mini-hex Table Mat

More Patis means I can get more hexes ready before I have to stop and stitch them together! I also ordered the second package of 1″ Patis I’ll need if I want to make my queen-size bed quilt. Which I have all the fabric for, I just need to plan a layout now…

As for the table mat, you can see from the picture above that I’ve finished the fourth column. If you’ve been here a bit, you may remember that the two leftmost columns are randomly selected fabrics, and only with the third column did I begin incorporating an all-over floral pattern. When I get to the other end, I’ll do two more columns of random to finish the mat.

Of course, it will be a little while before I get there. Here’s the table mat so far, in place on the table it’s meant to cover:

QIP - About 1/5, 1/6 done

I think that’s, what?…a fifth, a sixth done? And really, only half of that – I’m planning to make the mat reversible, which means there will be a different pattern on the back. Of course, by the time I get there, I may decide I’ve had enough of tiny little hexagons, and just stitch it all to a solid backing just to be done with it! Only time will tell!

The other thing I’ve done with my birthday money is pay for a new game from Reflexive.com. I’ve fallen in love with what they call seek-and-find games – a sort of hidden object puzzle, with images of rooms filled with things, and you have to find those on a specific list. It got so bad, that I was downloading one or two demos of this game type every single day, and playing out the entire sixty minutes they give you for free. With my birthday money, I was able to just outright pay for one, and that’s been occupying much of my spare time in the last 24 hours since I did that.

Hmm…I’m feeling a need to do a little more seeking-and-finding now….think I’ll sign off until tomorrow!

Take care!

It’s Friday Update, With Your Anchorperson, Crafting Jen

Filed under: Daily Life,Knitting,Rats!,Sewing — folkcat at 3:47 pm on Friday, August 10, 2007

Our top story…

Believe it or not, I injured myself putting my underwear on this morning. How pathetic is that?

It all began innocently (as anything involving underwear should). I stood next to my bed, clothes laid out. As I held my panties in my hands, I lifted my right foot, and BAM! Smashed the big toe, and the two small ones next to it, on the underside of the siderail.

I gritted my teeth against the burning pain, and got myself dressed before examining the damage closely. The squeamish may want to skip the next paragraph, especially if they are also bothered by that TV commercial with the toe fungus remedy…you know the one I mean…

About a quarter-inch flap of skin, right at the corner of the cuticle of my big toenail, was scraped back, and the toe was bleeding. I limped into the bathroom and hiked my foot up into the sink to clean the toe. Grabbing a large strip bandage from the cupboard, I got the injury covered. (BTW, you can hold your thanks for me not posting a picture – I’ll just assume it was a good idea.)

The toes continued to throb for a while, even with a burning pain now and then. I’m probably going to be lightly bruised on all three. But I’ll live.

Still, it’s a sucky way to start a Friday. I mean, really – an underwear injury? Dare I ask what else the day could hold?

And in weather…

It’s a nice, mild day here in New Hampshire. Last I looked, the outdoor temperature was only about 58 degrees. I’d consider turning off all the A/C and opening some windows, but we’ve got road destruction/construction going on all across downtown. Main Street is being scraped, dug, and deconstructed within an inch of its life right now, and that means dust, fumes from heavy equipment, and noise.

And joy of joys, they say this will only last until October! Yippee! (*pppffflllbbbtttt!*)

On to the crafting update:

I made good progress on Socks for Gryphon, Pair 3, Sock 2 (SG:P3S2) last night at Panera. Completed the second half of the foot, and made it halfway through the short-row heel:

SG:P3S2 - Turning the Heel

That means I’m nearly done with the fussy parts…once I get into the leg itself, finishing this will be a breeze.

As you can see, the sock was posed on top of one of my birthday presents – More Sensational Knitted Socks, by Charlene Schurch. I expect my next knitting project after SG:P3 to be a pair for myself, done to some pattern from this book. It’s time I moved on from basic ribbing, I think!

And now it’s time for the Rattie Report…

Star continues to do well in her solitary cage. Her appetite is way up, with all her veggies being consumed quickly after they’re offered, and the level in the dish containing the Red Mill rolled grains and mashed up Mazuri pellets needing to be topped off a couple times a day.

Her mood is up, too. I can tell that she’s no longer as depressed. It makes sense – she’s not getting beaten up and mugged by a teenage punk rat, is she? Star moves around her private space confidently, knowing she’s not going to get jumped, and that her food will be her food. And she regularly asks to come out and visit with me.

I’m much relieved, and I feel like I can let down the vigilance I’ve held the last few days, as I watched to make sure she was okay under the new circumstances. Which means I expect to be able to get back to something crafty today!

And the Craft Forecast…

Quilty today, with increased quiltiness over the weekend. Expect quarter-sized hexagons in abundance, with handsewn whipstitches and fabric scraps making an appearance throughout the project. Pictures Monday!

Have a Crafty Weekend, everyone!

Inch by Inch, Row by Row

Filed under: Sewing — folkcat at 4:22 pm on Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Having worked on the Ms. Poppins Bag so diligently for 4 days, it was time to go back to a non-knitting project yesterday. So I once again pulled out my Hexagon Table Mat, being made with 1/2″ hexagons and using Quilt Patis.

I finished the third column (counting from the left), and began the fourth.

QIP: Hex Table Mat, Starting 4th Column

What you can’t really tell yet is that after 2 columns of randomly-chosen fabrics, I’ve started piecing this to a pattern. Random started feeling tired to me – I enjoy so much watching shapes building as I put together a craft project, whether quilting, beadwork, or knitting.

Using some hexagon graph paper (see the Graph Paper Generators link in my sidebar), I plotted out a simple, all-over floral pattern.

QIP: Hex Table Mat with Pattern

When I get all the way to the right hand side, I’ll do two columns of random fabrics again to balance the two columns I began with.

Until I do a couple more columns, it will be hard to discern the pattern. At the moment, the best evidence is at the bottom of the two right-most columns – a yellow center with red dots, surrounded by three bright pink petals.

Today, however, I go back to knitting Rat Rugs. Gotta do a couple more before I can put that project to rest!

Happy Crafting, everyone!

QIP it Up

Filed under: Daily Life,Rats!,Sewing — folkcat at 2:14 pm on Monday, June 25, 2007

The Rattie Sisters got their first dusting with Carbaryl powder this weekend, and have survived the experience. Though they did hide under some sheets for comfort for a while after. I think they were making a point about the dignity of furry critters.

Even more interesting was that we wound up trimming Star’s teeth on Sunday. Saturday night, I happened to look at her just as she opened her mouth, and realized that one upper was longer than the other, and the lowers were starting to splay. I did some research on the web and found good resources for how to trim them ourselves. (http://www.ratballs.com/RatTails/Tails080.html is the one best how-to that I found, in the event you ever need to know about trimming rat’s teeth.)

Star was none to happy to be wrapped in a cloth and handled in the way necessary to get the job done, but it went quickly, and she calmed down immediately after. The honey-yogurt drop she got as a reward may have helped. And you have to believe that, as smart as they are, she would have felt the difference in how her teeth aligned and realized that her mouth was better after than before.

In other medical news, I had my own routine check-up today, and the doctor seems to think things are going well. Of course, I still need to continue working on getting exercise, and eating the right things. But while there’s room for improvement, things aren’t looking bad. Yay!

As for crafting this weekend, there was a fair bit of knitting on Rat Rugs 2.0 (Garter Stitch), but since all we’re talking about is more multi-colored garter stitch than I had last time, I didn’t think it was worth showing a picture yet.

What is worth a picture is the progress on my first Quilt Patis quilt. This is destined to be a table mat that will be 16 hexes high, and 25 hexes wide, with each hexagon being 1/2″ on an edge.

QIP - Mini Hex Table Mat
I’ve been picking away at this both at home, and all night Thursday at Panera. My progress thus far is a little over halfway into the second vertical column. (What you’re seeing is a vertical strip of the tablemat, 16 hexes high.)

The little divided plate I’m working on is a TV tray from Target – 99 cents over in the seasonal housewares area. It’s perfect for coralling the project when I’m at home.

When I travel with it, I put everything into this pencil case – oddly, also a Target purchase from a couple of years ago. It holds my pins, thread, scissors, the QIP, and even a small stack of fabric strips wide enough to cut my hexagons from.

Pencil Case Quilting-on-the-Go

I’m really pleased with how this is working out so far. I’m not arranging the fabrics in any special pattern – yet. I have decided that I’m starting to tire of trying to be “random” with them, though, and I’m changing the plan to two columns of random hexes on either end, with a simple geometric plan in between. Probably just diagonal stripes or something equally easy to work without a chart.

When I can, I’m making the effort to fussy-cut the fabrics. This little white flower on the pink fabric below is the only example so far.

Fussy Cut Hexagon

I like the effect, but won’t use it everywhere – just now and then, for a little visual surprise as you look at the quilt.

That’s how things are in my neck of the woods – still a little overloaded with stuff to take care of, but starting to feel like we’ve got a handle on it. I hope you’re having a good start to the week as well!

Ratties and Patis

Filed under: Rats!,Sewing — folkcat at 1:06 pm on Wednesday, June 20, 2007

More great advice for the Rattie Sisters in the comments. Christine, who has had a number of rats of her own, suggested a new trick for getting them to take the antibiotic – soak it into a little square of whole grain bread, then add honey. If we’re prescribed more antibiotic at the new vet tomorrow, I’ll be giving that a try. Thanks, Christine!

I suspect that Star won’t have a problem taking it if she needs it. At least once, after we went through the minor torture session that was squirting the liquid into Sable’s mouth, Star expressed great interest in licking Sable’s chin, like it was coated with the most lucious rat candy imaginable.

More on all that after the vet visit tomorrow, though!

Meanwhile, I mentioned yesterday that I’d be posting about a new quilting tool I’d ordered – assuming the Postal Service tracking was correct and it arrived. It did!

Quilt Patis

Of quilt types, I have been most seriously interested in making hexagon quilts like Grandmother’s Flower Garden. These are usually hand pieced, with pieces of paper used to form each unit of the quilt. You can buy pre-cut papers, but the fuss involved in the basting, removing the papers, taking out the basting stitches, put me off the idea.

Then at the end of March, I caught the last on-air episode of Simply Quilts on HGTV. (The show has since gone to a web-based format). It was a repeat from several years ago, and featured Pati Shambaugh and her innovation that makes hexagon piecing easy. She die-cuts flexible plastic pieces to use as the form, which simply pop out afterwards and can be re-used!

(I’ll give links to all the pertinent sites about the Quilt Patis at the end of this post, I promise!)

I was sold on the idea right away. And so, apparently, were hundreds of others. Every source I found online for Quilt Patis was already sold out. I located Pati’s home website, and found that she was severely backordered, and cranking out packages of Quilt Patis as fast as she could.

Meanwhile, I could only sit, and wait, and save up my pennies so I could purchase some. At last, everything came together, and I was able to place my order last week from Mama Sylvia’s Fat Quarters. Mama Sylvia seems to be one of the strongest promoters of Quilt Patis out there – she even started a Yahoo group after the episode aired, such was the increase in demand.

Of course, I joined the Yahoo group immediately. It’s worth it if you’re a fan of these gadgets – Mama Sylvia and Pati herself are both moderators, and so information is available straight from the source.

I won’t get into exactly how it happened, because the circumstances that brought it about were somewhat chaotic. I ordered Quilt Patis Friday, and joined the Yahoo group. I posted my first message to the group on Monday. My Quilt Patis were put in my hand via Postal Service delivery (and my husband picking up the mail) about 1:40 p.m. yesterday afternoon. During the day Tuesday, I had a couple of interesting exchanges with Mama Sylvia about the group and messages.

At 2:55 p.m., I had the e-mail from Yahoo telling me I’d been made one of the moderators of the group.

I shouldn’t be surprised. I tend to jump into the deep end when I get excited about something. Still, it happened so fast that my head is still spinning a little today.

Of course, what good is having Quilt Patis if you don’t actually start piecing something with them? I purchased two sizes – 1″ hexagons to use for a bed-size quilt, and 1/2″ hexagons to make table mats and miniature quilts.

Last night, I started working on a table mat with the 1/2″ hexagons and some jewel-toned fabrics from my stash. I’m doing a random arrangement of the hexes here, no specific pattern. The goal at this time is just to get the basic technique down.

1/2" hexagons in progress

I suppose I should have included something to show the scale. Each edge of those little hexagons measures 1/2 inch, and the hexes themselves are about the size of a quarter.

I won’t go into all the details of the how-to – other sources have done that quite well already, and Pati includes excellent instructions in the package. I did find the process quick, easy, and fun to do.

I think my favorite type of beadwork says a lot about why I like this. I’ve always been most fond of the seed bead techniques that have you stitching one tiny little bead at a time, attaching it to all the other tiny little beads to make an all-over pattern. Like peyote or brick stitch.

Hexagon quilts are the fabric equivalent. Any wonder I like this?

Here’s a closer look at the hexes, including a good view of the back of one:

Hexagons Detail

You can see the basting stitches on the back of the pink hexagon there, holding the fabric in place around the plastic form. The plastic will come out after the hexagon has been stitched to every other hexagon it will ever be stitched to, and it will be re-used for another hexagon. The basting stitches will stay in place – because of the plastic, that stitching never comes through to the front side. So there is no need to spend time just picking out the basting – it can stay right where it is!

The hexes are attached to each other with simple whipstitch. The plastic holds them firm and stiff so they can be easily held together and sewn.

It’s that simple.

I’m looking forward to exploring this process. I have plans to make at least one queen-size and one full-size bed quilt with hexagons – not these tiny little 1/2″ ones! That’s what I got the 1″ hexes for. The technique lends itself to using tiny pieces of fabric, so there’s very little waste, and it’s a great way to recycle clothing that has worn beyond usefulness.

I will, of course, keep you all posted about Hexagon Progress as I go!

If you’re interested into looking into this more, here are some useful links:

The Creator:
Pati Shambaugh’s Quilt Pati Site: http://quiltpati.tripod.com/
Pati sells the Quilt Patis directly, and also has links to many video clips she’s filmed for www.quilterstv.com about using them.

An Excellent Retail Source:
Mama Sylvia’s Fat Quarters: http://www.steigerfamily.com/quilting/other.htm
Sylvia Steiger sells everything Quilt Pati-related, at a good price, with friendly service and very fast shipping.

Quilt Pati Tutorial:
Mama Sylvia’s “How I Use Quilt Patis”: http://www.steigerfamily.com/quilting/pati.htm
Good guide with text and pictures.

The Yahoo Group:
Quilt Patis Fans: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Quilt_Pati_Fans/
The one place where you know you’ll find the best information about Quilt Patis and how to use them. Pati Shambaugh herself is a moderator, along with Mama Sylvia.

Quilt Patis at Simply Quilts (HGTV):
Simply Quilts’ Instructions: http://www.hgtv.com/hgtv/cr_quilting_blocks/article/0,1789,HGTV_3299_1374019,00.html
Simply Quilts has gone to web-only airings of the program, and you can’t select shows from the archives to view. Sadly, the video for Pati’s Grandmother’s Flower Garden episode isn’t available at this time. The basic text how-to is here, but not any pictures that help make the instructions clear. Still, I considered this worth inclusion because it was, after all, Simply Quilts that introduced me to Quilt Patis to begin with.

Second Shelf Rat Rugs

Filed under: Knitting,Rats!,Sewing — folkcat at 12:39 pm on Tuesday, June 19, 2007

This weekend was Re-Think and Re-Organize time again when it comes to my crafting. Both Gryphon and I have had lots of ideas recently for “things I could be making for the house,” but they’ve all just been floating around in my head making me crazy. You know how it is – I’ve actually been excited about all the projects, and want to see each and every one of them finished now. But how do I choose where to begin?

So we sat down together, made a list on actual paper so we could look at it, and chose a priority. Which is why I’m once again knitting Rat Rugs!

WIP: Second Shelf Rat Rugs

Q. Didn’t you knit a bunch of Rat Rugs before?

A. Yes, but they fit what we refer to as the Top Shelf of the cage. The cage is three levels – the Floor, the Top Shelf, and then a shelf in the middle we usually call the Second Shelf. The two shelves are the same width – the full width of the cage – but the Second Shelf is narrower than the Top Shelf.

Q. These don’t look like the Rat Rugs you made last time!

A. They aren’t the same pattern. Because the dimensions of the two shelves are different – but not by much – I wanted a visible difference in the rugs for each shelf. The Top Shelf rugs were knitted with the waffle/brick pattern found on ball bands for Peaches & Creme yarn (and in the Mason-Dixon Knitting book). Second Shelf rugs are being created in straight garter stitch.

Q. What’s that yarn? It makes a crazy pattern!

A. Simple Sugar ‘n Cream cotton yarn. The pattern comes from alternating solid colors and variegated colors. Knit 2 rows of solid, knit 2 rows of variegated. Whenever a color runs out, I grab another solid if it’s a solid, or a variegated if it’s a variegated. Russian Join to add in the new yarn, and just keep knitting.

Quilting Updates

I’m expecting a new set of quilting tools to arrive in the mail today. At least, according to the tracking information I looked at this morning. They’ll give me some exciting new options for hand pieced designs with hexagons. More on that tomorrow, I think – if they’re actually in today’s mail, I’ll certainly have a QIP to show by then!

Rattie Updates

Not much to report here, as they don’t see the new vet until Thursday morning. But Sable’s back does seem to be a little less scabby, suggesting that she’s not scratching at it quite as badly. The first ivermectin shot she got at the old vet last week may be doing its job.

More news later this week, I promise!

Hot Days, Cool Crafts

Filed under: Knitting,Sewing,Weaving — folkcat at 3:09 pm on Thursday, May 24, 2007

The weather is turning hot again here, which means I’m cranking the A/C as cold as it can get and staying indoors. I just don’t tolerate the heat well. But then, since we have no yard, and I don’t like most outdoor activities anyway, I don’t have much need to cope with it. So I’ll stay indoors, contentedly crafting away.

Like I’ve done all week so far. Monday and Tuesday were spent weaving the rest of the Weavettes squares I needed for my pillow, then sewing them together. Here are the results.

Weavettes Mosaics

I love how you can see the variations of color that I got throughout that length of handspun.

It’s not easy to get the seams straight on these, especially if your tension on the weaving was a little loose. I did somewhat better on the right hand piece than I did on the left hand one. But I figure that once I seam these together into a pillow, that’ll sort of straighten itself out. Sort of. I know, it’ll probably still look a little crooked in some spots, but I’m okay with that.

Meantime, though, the final pillow assembly may be delayed. Being my first time working with the Weavette looms, my calculations for the finished pillow size didn’t account for the way the fabric draws in after you pop it off the pins. My 2 and 6 inch squares actually come out a bit smaller, making the entire piece less than expected.

I had thought that I’d be getting a 14 x 14 inch finished pillow with this arrangement of squares, but in fact, it’s more like 12 inches. Oops! Good thing that 14 inches wasn’t a hard and fast plan.

Crafting as an Intuitive Process

It’s not so much that I went into this saying, “I want a 14 inch pillow,” as “This is a cool arrangement for the squares, I wonder how big it will be?” Obviously, based on my original calculations I thought the answer was 14 inches. Instead, it’s 12. So now I get to ask myself, “am I okay with 12? Or do I want to make more pieces and get to 14?”

I’ll let you know what I decide.

Quilting

Meanwhile, here are the Squares of the Week for my Bento Box wallhanging.

QIP - Bento Box, Squares 9 thru 12
QIP – Bento Box, Squares 9 through 12

This is my favorite fabric pairing so far.

I now have three sets of squares done, and there are three more to go before I figure out what my final arrangement will be for the wallhanging. Look at me go! A year ago, I don’t think I’d have ever believed I’d do any quilting, let alone an entire finished piece like this.

New Socks

No picture, because I’m only about a dozen rounds into the first toe. But I finally figured out my gauge issues on a pair of socks for myself. (Quick summary – Using Regia yarn, knitting socks for my feet, I started with US size 1.5’s as I had for Gryphon’s socks, and found the fabric looked like netting to my eyes. Wound up going down to US 0 and a 9.5/inch stitch gauge, then had to re-do all my calculations because of that. Put the project aside while I did more brainless things like hairbands.)

My issue now is that the only size 0 needles I have are from that Susan Bates set of “sock needles”. So, while they’re perfectly functional as knitting needles, they are also a full seven inches long and made of metal. I already wound up frogging half my work yesterday because I spotted a dropped stitch about 14 rounds back, which probably wouldn’t have happened except that the long needles get in each others’ way, and the metal is so slippery.

That, then, will be tonight’s Knitting at Panera project. But I’m probably going to stop at the LYS on the way, and see if I can find some shorter birch or bamboo size zeroes. I can knit on what I have, but I’ll be happier with the right needles for my work style.

I’m using the same basic toe-up pattern from Sensational Knitted Socks that I used for Gryphon, but I’ll probably pick a different stitch pattern. I’ll post a picture when there’s enough to be worth looking at!

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!

It’s Official

Filed under: Sewing,Special Events — folkcat at 1:50 pm on Thursday, May 10, 2007

I finally made up a new batch of business cards for the blog, and after my name, I listed, “Knitter, Spinner, Quilter, Beader, All-Around Multi-Crafter.”

For a woman who always said, “I do just about any craft except for quilting,” it’s a big deal to make that declaration. I guess now I have to start saying, “I do just about any craft except for scrapbooking.” Only I’m afraid that might guarantee I’ll become a scrapbooker, and I just don’t need to get into that stashing opportunity, LOL

Just to prove that the Quilter declaration isn’t a fluke, I made another set of squares for my Bento Box wallhanging yesterday.

QIP: Bento Box Wallhanging, Squares 1-4

I know this is actually the second set of four made for the wallhanging, but since the first set got re-purposed as a pillow, these will count as squares 1-4 for the quilt.

This is the first set of Bento Box squares made using the new seam allowance guide that I wrote about a few weeks ago, and they came out with perfect 1/4″ seams. All four of these squares are 8 inches, just as they’re supposed to be. Bodes well for the rest of the wallhanging!

NH Sheep & Wool

Gryphon and I will be going up Saturday morning. There’s been a bloggers’ meetup announced over at Carole Knits – Saturday at noon, outside the Roby Building, facing the Goat Barn. Hope to see some of you there!

Next Page »