Of Rats and Jen (Inactive)

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

A Touch of Life, a Touch of Death

Filed under: Daily Life,Knitting,Spinning — folkcat at 1:07 pm on Tuesday, April 3, 2007

First Things First

The plans for complete handknit domination of Gryphon’s sock wardrobe proceed apace. Here are today’s reinforcements to the troops, delivered by UPS only an hour or so ago:

Sock Supplies - Regia Yarn

Purchased on sale from Knit Happens, three different colors of Regia – two for Gryphon, one for me.

Monday is for Spinning

At least, that was the plan – to spend a fair chunk of time with my drop spindles and wheel, gaining ground on the various SIPs (Spinning In Progress) that are sitting around.

SIP (Spinning In Progress): Yellow Laceweight on Drop Spindle

I did manage to pull this drop spindle out of the jar and work on my yellow laceweight for a fifteen minute session. But I’ve been so long since doing the drop spindle…let’s just say, I haven’t lost the knack, but my shoulders didn’t take long to complain about the motions.

As for the rest of the day – I did pretty well at getting the compulsory exercises done. Worked on the book, blogged, etc. Didn’t fit a real exercise session in, but that’s partly for the same reason that I didn’t do more spinning.

A Touch of Life

The world itself spun a little yesterday, you see. I’ve got a friend, Anya, who with her husband adopted a kitten a few weeks ago. This was sort of a rescue/adoption – the previous owners, who lived in another building in their complex, were routinely careless about letting the cat get outdoors. The cat, meanwhile, somehow zeroed in on Anya’s apartment, and started turning up on her balcony – her third floor balcony! – every time she made her escape from her “home”.

Anya takes a strong stance on responsible pet ownership, and was furious with these people. They kept promising every time Anya and her husband brought the cat back to them that they’d be more careful about keeping her indoors, and yet, a couple days later, there she’d be again – meowing to be let in from the balcony.

Finally, Anya and the Professor just kept her. The previous “owners” had said they were moving out, the cat turned up again, and Anya was simply furious with how they were endangering the cat’s life with their irresponsibility. Plus, the cat was getting to “that age”.

There was eventually one final encounter with the previous owners, in which they officially relinquished the cat, now known as Kaylee, to Anya and the Professor. But it was too late – she’d gotten outdoors enough to encounter some roving tom while in heat, and she was pregnant.

Anya has been nervously watching Kaylee’s belly grow to basketball-like proportions since then. And yesterday, the big event finally happened. By half past noon, there were four little kittens in the box in the closet, and a still uneasy Kaylee not wanting Anya to drift very far away.

This was Anya’s first time experiencing kitten birth, and with her husband working, she was home alone for most of it. When I was able, I went over to spend a few hours with her. I’m glad I did.

We sat on the floor outside the hall closet for a long time, reassuring Kaylee and watching her with the kittens. A couple of times, we tried to move into the living room to sit and talk, but Kaylee would always get nervous and come wailing, and aggressively rubbing our hands with her head, begging for attention. So we’d move back to the hall and sit with her again, skritching her head, skritching the fuzzy little babies.

A Touch of Death

Around 4:30, about four hours after the fourth kitten had arrived, we found out why Kaylee was so needy. Turns out there was a fifth kitten still to arrive that we’d been completely unaware of. Sadly, after all that time trying to come, it was stillborn.

Kaylee spent some time washing the kitten, trying to revive it. We allowed her to keep it for a little while, to give her a chance to do what she could and come to terms with it, before removing the tiny form from the box.

The little dead kitten would have been a gray tuxedo cat, with about half a foot’s worth of extra toes on each of the front paws. I held its body in my palm. It was so amazing, so much like the other babies, yet the spark of life just wasn’t present. So small a difference, yet all the difference in the world.

Anya and I got to touch both life and death yesterday, and to feel their touch in return. There’s only a breath of difference between the two states, and a complete mystery as to where each will take up residence, and why.

I’m still thinking about Anya, and Kaylee, and the five kittens. So much new life, and such a little difference to take it away from one. I hate to think of Anya sitting there alone with what happened. As it was, I was able to take the time to be there with her, to sit together through the rougher part of the birthing, to stay until her husband came home.

Anya and her husband will be burying the little kitten in a patch of woods near their complex. As for the other kittens, there will eventually be a search for homes. Good ones, where the people promise to spay or neuter the kitties promptly when they’re old enough, and where they understand that the outdoors is not a place for domestic cats to ever, ever be. Especially in New Hampshire, where we have coyotes and fishers that are known to kill and eat them.

Aside from having kittens younger than she should have, this story has ended well for Kaylee. She’s in a home where she will be properly cared for, and she’ll be spayed as soon as feasible now that the kittens have arrived.

Love your pets today, folks. Give them an extra hug. Take them to the vet when they need it, spay and neuter them. Play with them, and take them for a walk, and let them know you think the world of them.

Because, after all, they think the world of you, and your world is better for it.

It’s (Almost) All About the Perlers

Filed under: Blogfriends,Crafting Miscellany,Daily Life,Knitting,Spinning — folkcat at 4:01 pm on Wednesday, February 21, 2007

And so, we have yet another theme post!

Every Tuesday night, a few of my friends come over to my house for a craft circle that’s been going on for, oh…around eight years now, as near as we can recall. Occasionally, we’ll have a theme night, where one person suggests a project or craft to work on, and we all join in.

Last night, at my suggestion, it was Perler Beads night. I arranged the living room where we gather with small tables to work at, and a large assortment of pegboards, idea books, and two huge jars of beads to pick from. Everyone was encouraged, as well, to bring along any Perler Bead supplies they had, and possibly cross stitch charts for inspiration.

We had a great time! Chatter was down from our usual levels as we all focused on putting the little Perler beads on those even smaller pegs. An ironing station was set up in the kitchen for the actual fusing of the pieces.

Anne and Bea at the Ironing Station

The distance to the ironing station made for slightly nervous walks with pegboards of loose beads, but we used cookie sheets to help carry everything a little more solidly. No Perler beads were lost or jostled out of place in the making of these projects!

We worked for a couple of hours, and in the end, here’s what we created:

Our Perler Products
Front, L. to R.: Bea’s Rainbow and Patchwork Heart, Anne’s Jack o’Lantern w/Cat, Bea’s Christmas Tree. In Back: Jen’s Pencil Cup

Bea used her imagination and some of the idea books to create ornaments for all seasons. Anne took her design from a Better Homes & Gardens book of cross stitch motifs. She adapted the design slightly to work with the Perler beads, but what you see is essentially what the cross stitch chart offered. Then she made little feet to slip onto the bottom so it will stand up.

I took the pencil cup directly from one of the many projects listed at the official Perler Beads website. It’s built like the puzzle box I made the other day, flat pieces with tabs and notches on the side that lock together to form the structure.

I don’t actually need a pencil cup, but you know what I do need that this is perfect for? A spoon cup!

Spoon Cup In Place

And so this now sits on my dresser/altar, holding my little collection of spoons. From left to right, they are: a Charlie McCarthy spoon I found at a local antique shop over the Christmas season; two cereal spoons from my childhood, Woody Woodpecker and Tony the Tiger; a wooden honey spoon that was a gift from a very special friend this Christmas; and just peeking up from the depths, a New York State souvenir spoon purchased along the NYS Thruway after visiting my family for Christmas this year.

Knitting? Spinning?

Didn’t get a chance to knit yesterday, nor yet today, but I probably will later. As for spinning, it’s been a bit tough to sit down at the wheel lately. It seems like I’m reluctant to do so if I think there’s any chance I might be interrupted before I consider myself done for the day. Which is just my own little mental hump to get over.

I did manage a half hour today, and spun about another half ounce of the red variegated merino I’ve been working on. Another half ounce to go, and then I can ply it!

Feeling Back to (Almost) Normal

Filed under: Knitting,Papercraft,Spinning — folkcat at 6:21 pm on Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Yesterday afternoon I pulled out another craft I enjoy, but haven’t done very recently – Papercraft.

The project of the day was my first mechanical papercraft. It comes from a company in England called Flying Pig – their specialty in the papercraft world is animated papercraft models. Most of their items are available for purchase only, but they have a few free downloads, of which one is this Agreeable Sheep:

Papercraft FO: Agreeable Sheep

Appropriate for a papercrafter who’s also a knitter, don’t you think? Standing only about five inches tall, this is, indeed, entirely made of card stock. I printed the project some time ago, and yesterday, I cut and assembled it.

Being only my third papercraft, my gluing skills are still under development. You can see a big blotch at the bottom right of the model, just below the crank, where I got a smear on the outside. Even so, this was a very simple project to put together.

The real amusement comes when you work the animation, though. Turn the crank on the side, and the sheep nods his head up and down, agreeing with anything you say. It’s the ultimate yes-sheep! If you go to the download page here, you’ll also see a little animated graphic showing the motion.

Knitting and Spinning

I continue to work on the fingerless mitts from my own handspun that I spoke of yesterday. The good news is that each half of the yarn is enough to knit an entire mitt, so I won’t have to add in any extra! I should have these finished in just a day or two – I’ll post pictures then.

And today, for the first time since before I got so sick last week, I sat down at ‘Zzy-‘Zzy and spun some more of the red/pink variegated merino roving I’ve been working on. It’s coming along well – I have about one ounce more to spin before I can ply the two singles together.

Spinning in Progress: Red Roving

Other Projects

Many moons ago (like, a year ago this past Christmas), I knit some felted catnip mice from my own pattern. I said at the time that I’d share it on the blog one day, and you know, I’ve been very bad about that – the pattern has sat idle all this time, without being refined into a finished work.

I’ve had a request or two for it recently, and I’m going to make a promise that I’ll work on getting it ready for primetime. What I won’t do is promise a specific deadline for completion – those always seem to blow up on me. But if a few weeks pass and you haven’t seen me post it yet, feel free to call me on it in comments or e-mail!

I haven’t had a request for the Barefoot Diva Sock pattern, which I also suggested I would make available some day – for purchase, probably, not as a freebie. But when I knit the last pair, I had to acknowledge to myself that differences in gauge between different sock yarns and needle choices add more complications than I think I can reasonably accommodate in a written pattern. So I’m going to officially state here that, though I’ll be glad to offer a general description of how I approach the creation of toe-less, heel-less, socks, we shouldn’t expect to see a formally written pattern for them.

A reader last week asked me for an opinion on how to work a cast-on at the end of a row of knitting. My Barefoot Diva Socks and my Freedom Mitts both have openings created by binding off several stitches, then at some point later, casting new ones on and continuing to work in the round. This is similar enough to the reader’s query that I have taken a series of pictures showing my technique for this casting-on in the middle of knitting. I plan to post an illustrated tutorial showing how I, at least, do it, either later this week, or early next.

Whew!

I think that’s enough for now. Besides, there’s lots of stuff there that I won’t be able to blog about – unless I stop blogging and start doing. So let me just say, thanks to everyone for your great comments, questions, and suggestions. You’re what make this blogging thing worthwhile!

Moving On

Filed under: Knitting,Spinning — folkcat at 1:24 pm on Tuesday, January 30, 2007

With my spinning progress, that is. I spin sporadically, and even though I’ve been doing it since August last year, I’ve only got two small skeins of yarn I actually finished – both spun and plied on spindles. And I’ve never knit with my handspun.

Until now.

WIP - Handspun Fingerless Mitts

This is my second skein of yarn, pink and yellow mixed batting of unknown species that I spun on a top whorl spindle. Last night, I got out my digital scale and yarn winder, divided it into two (approximately) equal balls, did a quick gauge swatch, and began knitting a pair of fingerless mitts.

I love how the colors are coming out. The yarn itself is obviously over twisted in places, but then, it was my second yarn ever, and it’s actually pretty good for that. I’m knitting from the finger edge down towards the wrist, but there may still not be enough yarn for full mitts, so I have some purple Galway standing in the wings to add on as necessary.

The pattern is, well – sort of my Fingerless Mitts pattern (PDF), except that I’m not referring to the pattern at all and just winging it as I go. Which is more than good enough for a simple tube with a modified buttonhole!

So how does it feel to be knitting with yarn I made myself? Fantastic! I can’t wait until I get past my “using up the roving I have in the house” phase, and start routinely planning specific projects from the wool all the way to the finished object!

There we have it, folks. It’s a small milestone, but a milestone nonetheless. And hopefully, only the tip of the iceberg of things to come!

A Quick Update

Filed under: Crafting Miscellany,Knitting,Spinning — folkcat at 12:53 pm on Thursday, January 11, 2007

Earlier this week, I finished spinning the first half of the merino roving I’m working on:

Merino Roving, Part One

Yesterday, I began spinning the second half of the same roving:

Merino Roving, Part Two

Also yesterday, we got the size 6 needles I need to get a better gauge for the We Call Them Pirates Hat, and I got a bit of knitting done:

WIP - We Call Them Pirates, Take Four

This has been tried on – it’s going to fit this time!

Other accomplishments for Wednesday: changed over my Betty Boop calendar for January (I have the one with the little date tiles and the 12 figures of Betty, changing it is a matter of moving all the tiles around); made a polymer clay cane (I’m making an assortment in a specific color scheme); tried to add rails to the file drawer in my computer desk (not very successfully, but at least we know now what doesn’t work).

Whew! I’m getting tired just writing all that up!

Tonight: Knitting Around at Panera, where I will continue working on the hat, and maybe a little on my current Barefoot Diva socks.

Moving FO-ward

Filed under: Knitting,Rats!,Spinning — folkcat at 2:54 pm on Monday, January 8, 2007

I’m not the sort for New Year’s Resolutions or anything. I try to constantly evaluate reality and make changes on a daily basis, so the notion of sticking a pin in the calendar and hanging all your plans/hopes/dreams for change on a single day doesn’t make sense for me.

So you’re not going to see any sweeping statements here about how I plan to improve my life in 2007, because that’s just not how I think about these things.

I did enjoy having a flurry of Finished Objects as a result of my Christmas Gift knitting, so I’ve decided to re-focus my knitting energy. Instead of flitting from project to project all the time, I’ll let whichever one has my fancy at the moment take precedence. Whether I stay monogamous to it until it’s finished or not could depend on whether it’s a convenient project for where I’m knitting – the Log Cabin Blanket long ago became too large to take to Panera, for instance – or if I need to rest my hands from stressful yarns.

My hope is that this way, I’ll more often know the joy of a Finished Object. And of course, be able to show pictures of actual, completed knitting! That should be good for both me and the blog, and make for more interesting reading for you.

The plan is already working. Remember in the Gifts Given summary on Friday that I mentioned I was working on another entre-lac bag for myself? This weekend, things moved along quickly, and I not only finished the knitting, I got the bag and straps felted!

Noro Kureyon Entre-lac Bag
Noro Kureyon Market Squares Bag

Pattern: Market Squares Bag, from Bags: A Knitters’ Dozen
Yarn: Noro Kureyon, in color #’s 40, 153, and 159 (mostly 40). Not sure how many skeins – maybe 7? Maybe more? I really didn’t count. The yarn was accumulated in dribs and drabs over time, some from gifts, some from one or two skein purchases.
Needles: Size 9 Addi Turbos (I think), about 29″, with size 10 dpns for the I-cord straps

Modifications: I knew I wanted a larger bag than the normal Market Squares pattern would create. The original is 12 entre-lac squares around – I added two more, making a total of 14 repeats around.

The squares in the bag increase in size after the starting rounds, then begin decreasing until you achieve the mandala-like effect at the center bottom. To make the bag deeper (longer), I took the two rounds of the largest size of squares, and repeated them.

No changes were made in the strap instructions. A larger bag doesn’t necessarily need longer straps. So I knit those exactly as specified. You can see them draped over the bag above.

The felting took two full heavy cotton cycles (stopping short of the spin) before I was satisfied with it. Being a larger bag, the popcorn gift tin that I formed the previous entre-lac bags over just wouldn’t cut it this time. Luckily, it turned out that an office-sized waste basket was perfect.

The parts are taking a while to dry – it’s been warm but rainy here. When they’re done, I’ll have to decide what to use to sew the straps on. The previous bags, I could use the same yarn they were knit with, but Noro Kureyon has this problem of pulling apart in places if you pull too hard on it, and I’m afraid that doesn’t make for strong sewing. I’ll probably see if I have some Galway or Lamb’s Pride in a compatible color.

There has been spinning here as well. I couldn’t take the wheel with us to Syracuse, so ‘Zzy-‘Zzy sat idle for over a week while we were away. I wish I could say I’ve been doing the “15 minutes a day” thing, but, well…no.

Last Wednesday, however, was the first meeting of 2007 for the Southern NH Wool Spinners at the Milford Library, and my first opportunity to take ‘Zzy-‘Zzy to that group.

I had nothing in progress, so Wednesday afternoon I picked through my bags of roving. I settled on a 4-oz. bump of some lime green Dorset, but had a dreadful time drafting that evenly, even after carefully fluffing and trying to pre-draft the fibers. So rather than take spinning that wasn’t making me happy, I popped an empty bobbin onto the wheel, and made a big decision.

I have several very nice merino or merino-silk rovings that I had bought, multi-colored, soft, and lovely. My original intent was to get very comfortable with the hand and foot coordination of spinning on a wheel before attempting them, and I expected to work through more of my pile of various Romneys and such before feeling ready for the merino.

After the frustration of the Dorset, however, I looked at my roving, and made a decision – the way to go for my next spinning project was a high quality fiber.

I grabbed a 4-oz. hank of merino roving in various reds, pinks, and salmons, split the length until I had divided it into 8 sections, and started spinning.

Since the color variations run the length of the roving, dividing it the way I did put different color groups in each portion.

Divided Roving
Color Variations in the Merino

(The true color is a little less orange than above, but this is otherwise pretty close)

I decided to grab balls at random, and spin each completely before moving on to the next. I hope to two-ply this – it looks like 4 balls, which should be about half of the roving, will almost fill a bobbin:

Bobbin Nearly Full
Nearly 2 oz. of spun singles

I spun for about an hour before heading out to the spinning group, then spun steadily for two hours there. Boy, were my legs ever sore when I got up at the end of the night! That was my longest spinning wheel session so far, and I felt it. In fact, I made a point of going to a supermarket afterwards so I could walk around a little, rather than driving straight home and letting my thigh muscles lock up on the way home.

And that’s the big reason I need to be doing this a little every day – to get my thighs, my calves, even my belly used to the exercise that treadling is for someone at my poor fitness level. I spun for about a half hour Friday, I think, and haven’t over the weekend. I need to do better.

I can try harder to remind myself that the results are totally worth it – here, take a closer look!

Closer Look at Singles
Merino Singles Up Close

I’m still using the lowest ratio on the wheel. These singles are perhaps a fingering weight – I expect maybe worsted weight by the time I two-ply them. They feel soft on the bobbin, too, so I suspect I’m getting a good twist – not too much, not too little.

I’m pleased with how the merino is working up. It’s a smooth, easy-drafting spin. I’d heard that merino was supposed to be difficult to spin, not recommended for beginners, but I’m finding it very easy.

The Rattie Sisters

They haven’t appeared here for a while, have they? They got to go with us to Syracuse – we didn’t have anyone to leave them with here in NH. I don’t think they liked the trip, though. Gryphon and I were on the go every day, they didn’t get to have me sitting by their cage much. It didn’t help that they had to be shut away in the third floor bedroom, either, far away from everyone, because my parents have cats.

While we were in Syracuse, they were timid and reluctant to come out of the cage. Since we’ve been back, however, they seem to come out to crawl on me more often than ever. And they’re more likely to just sit and hang out on my lap or shoulder, being gently petted.

I’m sorry for the upset we put them through for the trip. But I have to believe that bringing them with us was better than boarding them would have been (not that we could have afforded that). And now we have an idea of what the travel puts them through, we can form better strategies for keeping them from feeling abandoned on future trips.

They seem to have recovered well, though. Star and Sable have a real fondness for crawling between the layers of a woven throw folded in two on my lap:

Star Peeks Out
Star Says, “Blankets are good!”

And they enjoy sharing breakfast with us as much as ever. I got this picture this morning, as they perched together on Gryphon’s leg, nibbling tiny pieces of english muffin. It’s the new desktop image on my desk computer:

two rats munching.jpg
Sable Says, “But Munchies with Dad are better!”

Gifts Received

Filed under: Blogfriends,Family,Holidays,Movies,Spinning,Stitchery — folkcat at 4:00 pm on Thursday, January 4, 2007

This was a year when I felt the blessings of family and friends very strongly in the wonderful gifts I received. For the first time ever, I exchanged gifts with blog friends as well, which is even more magical – heartfelt gifts from people you’ve never even met!

Cool Entertainment From My Brother

My brother, out in Los Angeles, sent me some great movie selections:

Clerks X and The Haunting DVDs
The Haunting & Clerks X

These were purchased at Jay & Silent Bob’s Secret Stash in Los Angeles, which is director/actor Kevin Smith‘s own store. Hence, the autographed copy of Clerks. And The Haunting shown here is the earlier, 1970’s version of the story told in the book The Haunting of Hill House, considered by Stephen King to be one of the top horror novels of all time (as listed in his non-fiction book on the horror genre, Danse Macabre).

Though I’m a fan of Kevin Smith’s work, I’ve never seen Clerks, his first film. And I enjoy a well-made horror film – which, from the reviews I recall, this version of The Haunting is reputed to be. I’m looking forward to seeing these!

My brother’s day job is as the head of the Disney Studios Photo Library, and that gives him the opportunity to send me things like this as well:

Signed Beauty & the Beast Artwork

An 8×10 photo of original artwork for the character of Gaston in Beauty and the Beast, personally signed to me by the artist, Andreas Deja! I’ll be adding this to my collection of other stills from the movie – which is one of my favorites of all time – all of which were gifts from my brother. Thanks, Ed!

Gift of Choice From Parents

My parents gave Gryphon and I a little cash each, and we got to pick our own gifts. I mentioned yesterday that Gryphon bought himself some really nice beer and a pub glass at Middle Ages Brewing Co. as his gift.

As for me, the gifts I found came from two local crafty shops. Both are new since I moved from Syracuse to NH some 14 years ago, and both were absolutely new to me as of this visit (though at least one has been around for seven years).

First up was Mission Rose Quiltery, on South Main St. in North Syracuse. This shop, which has both quilting and knitting supplies, was jam-packed with beautiful yarns and fabrics. In the end, though, what called to me loudest was this little travel iron:

Travel Iron

Only $8, it’s simple and small. The woman behind the counter said that they’ve sold over 300 of them, and only one ever got returned (and it was merely dead right out of the box). It’s got only two settings – on and off – but these irons are apparently commonly used by quilters going to classes, since they pack easily and both warm up and cool down fairly quickly.

I hadn’t seen one like this at any quilt shops in NH, so it was a must have. Since I started sewing an occasional stuffed toy, I’ve been wanting a way to just press a quick seam right next to the sewing machine. All I need now is a small pressing board!

Next was a needlework shop that I discovered on the Internet before this visit: A Stitcher’s Garden.

I don’t blog about it much, but in addition to the beadwork, knitting, and spinning I also do needlework – cross stitch, needlepoint, and so forth. So I was curious to see what this little specialty shop had to offer.

Well, I found my next gift from my parents there. See, I’m also fascinated by miniatures, and in almost the last corner of the store I looked in, I found a series of kits for tiny miniature rugs. Designed by Teresa Layman, these kits use French knots and Colonial knots to create the look of a hooked rug.

The detail is amazing, the designs are adorable. I fell under the spell, and bought this one:

Kitty Corners Knotted Rug Kit

This is actually one of the largest designs Teresa makes – 3 3/4″ by 3 3/4″! The kit includes the printed fabric, two size #10 English crewel needles, and full instructions. You supply the threads, which in this case include 24 colors of DMC floss, and 4 colors of a special over-dyed floss from A Gentle Art.

Every bit of the design is filled in with either French knots or Colonial knots (which are a slightly larger stitch), worked with only a single strand of floss. Depending on which knot you’re using, that’s anywhere from 1,100 to 2,000 knots in a square inch.

Here was my progress after nearly an hour of stitching:

Kitty Corners Detail
Kitty Corners in Progress

In case you can’t see that (click on the photo for a larger image), I’ve stitched the eyes and the insides of their ears on both mice, and the outside of the ears, part of the hind leg, and the tail on one of them.

Yes, it takes patience, careful focus, and my Mag-Eyes to do this. Teresa Layman’s instructions estimate between 3- 6 hours of work per square inch of finished stitchery. But I’m loving every minute of it!

And I’ve got to tell you – my mother was pretty impressed with how well she chose a Christmas gift for me this year!

Teresa Layman offers many different designs for rugs, needlework accessories, and jewelry, all using this knotting technique. She doesn’t have a website of her own, but if you Google “Teresa Layman Designs”, you’ll find many online stores that offer them – complete with pictures. Be careful – if you’re inclined towards this type of stitchery, you may be hooked.

Blessings From Blog Friends!

This was the big change in the holiday this year. I had a number of blog friends I made gifts for (more about them in another post). And I received gifts from two blog friends – one as a planned exchange, and one as a spontaneous surprise!

The planned exchange happened with Claudia of Heal My Life. The story I’d linked to about The Spoon Theory had resonated with her, and we decided that a collection of spoons, to symbolize the hope that you’ll always have enough of them, was a great idea. And Claudia suggested there was no better way to begin that collection than with an exchange of spoons among friends.

And so, I found a lovely spoon at a local antique shop, added some chocolate goodies, and sent it off to Claudia as a Christmas gift. And in return, she sent me this amazing piece of work:

Honey Spoon from Claudia

It came with Claudia’s advice to not “forget to add the sweetness!,” and an assortment of flavored honey straws and a honey/nut/berries bar.

Gryphon, being a fan of granola bars, snarfed that up, and I’ve been finding the honey straws very soothing when the coughing gets bad and my throat becomes sore.

Meanwhile, this beautiful, carved cherry wood honey spoon just leaves me breathless. My next step is to find the jar that will hold my spoons on my dresser top alter, with a prime place of honor to go to this gift from a special friend.

Claudia, you’re a doll! Thank you!

Another blog friend, the very talented Valerie of Further Adventures of the Secret Yarninator, gave me a gift to use with my new spinning wheel:

Valerie's Gift of Roving

Click through to make larger, and you’ll be able to make out the website for Spritely Goods, the folks that produced this wonderful bat. It’s a blend of several colors of merino wool, and a sparkly fiber called firestar. I don’t know that the full effect can ever be captured by a camera. You’ll just have to trust me when I say that the colors are wonderful – and surprisingly, very similar to the colors in the gift I sent Valerie! (But more about that later.)

Part of me wants to tear into this bat and start spinning it right away. But I think I’m going to wait a little longer. I’m still working on perfecting my hand/foot coordination for basic spinning on my wheel, and haven’t moved to thinner, laceweight spinning yet. And I think this will be gorgeous in a thin, thin yarn! Should be enough for a scarf, at least, if I can do that right.

Valerie, thanks so much for this soft, warm gift!

I feel so blessed and so rich, receiving such well chosen gifts from the heart of family and friends. Hugs to all of you!

Z is for ‘Zzy-‘Zzy

Filed under: ABC - Along,Folkcat's Fotos,Spinning — folkcat at 3:56 pm on Thursday, December 21, 2006

Yup, I said ‘Zzy-‘Zzy. Which is short for DiZzy LiZzy. As in, my Lendrum wheel that just came home for the first time last weekend!

I’m still new at spinning on a wheel, and it’s taking practice to learn to draft so continuously, while coordinating your motions with a proper treadling speed. But it’s coming along.

I decided to take some glamour shots of ‘Zzy-‘Zzy to share with you, and I wrote a little musical tribute to go along with them. It’s to the tune of Sharp Dressed Man by, of course, ZZ Top

Spinning Wheel

'Zzy-'Zzy Treads

Two treads, big wheel
And I don’t know just how it’s gonna feel.

'Zzy-'Zzy Wheel

Soft wool, fast fly
I don’t need a reason why.
I’ll be spinnin’ fast, it makes my head reel
Coz every girl crazy ’bout her spinning wheel.

'Zzy-'Zzy Bobbin with Yarn

Romney, merino
Any fiber, I’ll give ’em a go

'Zzy-'Zzy Orifice

And cotswold, tussah silk
I’m spinnin’ fibers just as smooth as milk.
I’ll be spinnin’ fast, it makes my head reel
Coz every girl crazy ’bout her spinning wheel.

'Zzy-'Zzy Flyer

Laceweight, worsted chunk
Thick or thin, no spinnin’ funk!

'Zzy-'Zzy Footman

Ply it, skein it up
Soft and warm, I’ll knit it up
I’ll be spinnin’ fast, it makes my head reel
Coz every girl crazy ’bout her spinning wheel!

'Zzy-'Zzy

We’re Ready – Are You?

Filed under: Daily Life,Gryphon,Holidays,Special Events,Spinning — folkcat at 2:54 pm on Tuesday, December 19, 2006

On Saturday, Gryphon and I got out the gingerbread house kit we’d bought – and the massive piles of auxiliary candies – and decorated it.

Gryphon Piping Icing
Gryphon Knows How to Work an Icing Bag

Gingerbread House - Front Door
The Front View

Gingerbread House - Rear Door
The Rear View

Our gingerbread houses always have a bit of a split personality. Partly from each of us working on opposite sides simultaneously, and partly from our decorating getting sillier and sillier the further along we get.

Starting Sunday afternoon and continuing up until just a short while ago, we decorated our tree.

Christmas Tree Chez Folkcat & Gryphon, 2006
Ta-Da!

No time for close shots of ornaments now – I’ll try to do that later this week. We’ve got some nice ones there – my brother, who runs Disney’s Photo Library out in California, has sent me some wonderful Disney-themed pieces.

There are presents under the tree as well.

Craft Goddess Presents, 2006
Craft Goddess Gifts

No, the item on top of the center one hasn’t fallen over. That was the first package I wrapped, and I didn’t realize until the second one that I could get those cute little marshmallow characters to stand up under the bows.

Gingerbread House and 'Zzy-'Zzy
‘Zzy-‘Zzy and the House

Then there’s the gingerbread house in its final display spot. The table is dressed with a Swedish handwoven table runner that was my grandmother’s.

And as you can see, the largest gift I’m receiving this year stands in a place of pride, right next to the house. Her name is Dizzy Lizzy, but I’ve taken to calling her ‘Zzy-‘Zzy for short. More about her later!

The final decorative touch we’ve put in place is a new one this year. I was lucky enough to find one of the exquisite paper-cut garlands by Tord Boontje at Target. Before the meager supply sold out and was never re-stocked, that is. It is now providing a very elegant touch around the top of our entertainment center.

Tord Boontje Garland
Paper Cut Swans – Beautiful!

I love these because they are a modern take on a very traditional Scandinavian holiday decoration – paper doll-like garlands of holiday images. Usually full-color printed and die-cut, they probably stem from an even earlier, home-made, hand-cut garland. These laser-cut (I assume) designs by Tord Boontje blend the simple elegance of the originals with a modern sensibility, and an intricacy that would have been almost impossible if cut by hand.

So, there we are – decorated and ready, at last. The Craft Goddesses come for our annual party tonight, and then, Gryphon and I get to enjoy the decor until we leave for Syracuse this weekend to spend the holidays with my family.

It’s hard work, but it’s so much fun. And the results are so beautiful!

Friday Report: Christmas Knitting and Wheel Retrieval

Filed under: Holidays,Knitting,Spinning — folkcat at 1:03 pm on Friday, December 15, 2006

In a very short while, Gryphon and I will head out to get my spinning wheel.

To keep you distracted in the meantime, here’s the Christmas Knitting update. In spite of a setback that I’ll explain in a moment, I’ve made more great progress – there are only two projects remaining to finish:

***1. Bag from cotton yarn. Status: DONE!!! (and shipped)

***2. felted bag. Status: DONE!!! (and shipped)

***3. felted bag Status: DONE!!! (and shipped)

***4. bead knitted bag Status: DONE!!! (and shipped)

5. Unnamed object including felted bowl. Status: Need to felt bowl, and have two more pieces to knit. Then it just needs assembly.

***6. unnamed object to include felted bowl. Status: DONE!!!

***7. mesh shopping bags, set of 3. Status: DONE!!!

***8. same as #6 in different colors. Status: DONE!!!

***9. same as #4 in different colors. Status: DONE!!! (and shipped)

10. We Call Them Pirates” hat for Gryphon. Status: Began last Thursday night, have knit about an inch. First time doing Fair Isle-style colorwork. This past Tuesday night I knit all three repeats of the skulls, then transferred it to string to try on before working the top decreases. This resulted in a complete frogging.

Today, the hat is back to being raw balls of yarn. Yes, I had to frog it all. Say it with me, everyone – “Gauge is your friend!”

Turns out I had mis-interpreted what the instructions said about the weight of the yarn used. My substitution of Encore DK for Dale of Norway Hauk produced a smaller stitch, meaning that I lost 4″ in the circumference of the hat. Row gauge was off, too, making the hat too short.

Knowing now that Dale of Norway Hauk is a worsted weight yarn (online sources I’d looked at said otherwise – proving you can’t always trust the internet!), when we go to get the wheel, we’re also going to choose new yarn for the hat.

Expect a picture of Dizzy Lizzy Lendrum in her new home over the weekend. And have a good one, everybody!

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