Of Rats and Jen

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

Tuesday’s Crafty Round-up

Filed under: Beading - Confessions of a Chantraphile,Daily Life,Knitting,Spinning,The 99:99 Plan — folkcat at 10:39 am on Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Thanks to everyone who commented on yesterday’s post. It’s nice to know that so many people understand what I experienced.

Special thanks and much love to my husband, Gryphon, for his comment. It was not necessary for him to say it, but it means a lot that he did.

Crafting Stuff

You couldn’t tell it by what I’ve shown on the blog lately, but I have been crafting a lot.

In the last several days, I’ve done a few inches of this:

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And several rounds of this:

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I’ve spun up a bunch of this:

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And I’ve beaded these:

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If you’re still a bit unclear on the concept of what I’ve managed to craft recently, well…sorry, but almost everything’s a gift for one person or another who just might get to see the blog! So I’m afraid this is the best I can do for pictures – at least for now.

The Much Neglected 99:99 Plan

I’ve mentioned before that this went to hell in a handbasket with my asthma problems. It’s getting a little better. I still have bad episodes and am using my “rescue” inhaler far more regularly than I should have to. But yesterday, for the first time in months, I actually managed a short session of my marching-in-place exercise. Hurray, me!

Monday Night at the Movies, Folkcat Style

Filed under: Daily Life,Movies,The 99:99 Plan — folkcat at 12:00 pm on Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Let’s see…

Not a lot to report. But that’s often the case. My days are frequently pretty simple. I very often get to actually do nothing at all except hang out at home crafting. That’s what life can be like when you don’t have kids and don’t go to a job every day. It does sometimes make writing a blog a bit of a stretch, though.

Yesterday was a hangin’ out at home day. I knit another preemie hat, bringing the current total in house to three. I worked on Gryphon’s Burgundy Sweater Vest, completing the back, and casting on and knitting an inch of ribbing for the front. And I spent some time clearing a stack of magazines and catalogs. I actually gained ground on that stack, and still plan to spend a little more time on it today, so there was good progress made on that project.

Along Came Polly (Widescreen Edition)I also watched the movie Along Came Polly, which a Craft Goddess friend had been kind enough to lend me. Yes, there’s a little gross-out humor at a few parts, and Ben Stiller’s character salsa dancing reminded me frequently of the posturing and posing of his super-model character, Zoolander. But I’ve found that along with the bizarre and sophomorish humor, Ben Stiller’s films have a good heart, and tell a good romantic tale.

It was wonderful watching Reuben, the overly-cautious insurance risk analyst, overcome the trauma of his new bride cheating on him on their honeymoon, and plunge into a relationship with Polly that was clearly not a safe, comfortable choice. Something in him recognized the potential with Polly, and helped him to overcome all his misgivings about germs, animals, and silly, unplanned behavior to pursue love.

Is it Ben Stiller’s best movie? Perhaps not. I think Meet the Parents rose to a certain level that few films can ever achieve. While I haven’t seen Meet the Fockers, the sequel, yet, rumor and reviews would have me believe that it’s even better than Parents. Still, I found Along Came Polly to be quite enjoyable, and the moral of the story – that love isn’t always particularly safe – is worth remembering.

If you choose to watch this film on DVD, do make sure to watch the “Rodolfo Goes Hollywood” featurette that’s included among the extras. Rodolfo is the aging ferret that plays Polly’s pet in the movie, and the featurette includes an interview with him, plus a look at his trip down the red carpet at the premiere. Marvelous!

I’d report on how much knitting I got done, or what project I worked on, during the movie, except that I didn’t. Although I can knit while watching television, the same isn’t true with movies. At least, not a movie I’m seeing for the first time. I’m such a movie fan, I get really caught up in the story, and I don’t like missing any details on the screen.

That’s why I don’t get to see as many movies as I might like – I actually have to put the crafting down to watch. But I really, really get a lot of enjoyment out of the experience of seeing a new film. And that’s why I actually have an index card in my 99:99 Plan stack of projects that tells me to take the time to watch a movie. It’s like a little treat for me among the WIPs and household chores that the other cards remind me to take care of!

Progress on WIPs and FOs – Oh My!

Filed under: Beading - Confessions of a Chantraphile,Knitting,The 99:99 Plan — folkcat at 12:54 pm on Thursday, June 15, 2006

It’s been a productive week here at Chez Folkcat. It seems like I’ve kicked in some new level of discipline and enthusiasm, and my project rotations in the 99:99 Plan are happening easily.

I’ve got a lot of progress to report for just a couple days of crafting, so this is a long post with lots of pictures. I find it exciting to see how much I’ve accomplished, though!

Opportunities Sometimes Come Via Doors

To begin with, on Tuesday I actually invoked the flexibility clause in the 99:99 Plan, and chose to jump out of the normal project rotation to cast on something new. I’ve been hankering to knit the Bubbly Curtains from Mason Dixon Knitting ever since I got the book, and I took the opportunity with gusto.

I don’t want to use the curtains in a window – we actually need light-blocking and privacy curtains, being that we live in downtown Wilton with our windows easily visible from surrounding points. However, I do have an interior application for curtains that I decided would be suitable.

Kitchen Noren in Living Room Door
Vegetable Noren in Living Room Door

This is the door between our living room and kitchen. We like to hang a curtain here in the summer time, because the living room air conditioner works more efficiently if it isn’t trying to cool down the kitchen, too. What’s hanging here now is actually the Japanese noren that normally hangs in our kitchen window.

Noren are the curtains used in many Japanese shops to cover the doors. They’re used in windows as well. A few years ago, in better financial times, I bought a number of them to use on our windows. My bedroom and living room windows are all completely dressed with noren in several styles.

I’d like to be able to return the vegetable noren to the kitchen window, though. I’ve been toying with knitting something for the door, ever since a friend brought me this last year:

Mystery Yarn Cone
Mystery Yarn

A local beading friend who observed my rising interest in knitting last year picked up some yarn for me at her town dump, in the “Still Good” shed. (Technically, it was the “transfer station”, not the dump. But we all still call them dumps.) This cone was the largest item in the small pile. Clues to its identity are few – there was a piece of masking tape stuck to it that read “polyester,” and there’s a sticker inside that says “Model Dye Southern, Inc. Sumter, S.C., 29150″*. This is followed by a few illegible numbers and the word “Green.”

The yarn is a light fingering weight, and there’s lots of it. I haven’t taken the trouble to weigh the cone, but it’s easily near a pound. I’m making a wild-assed guess that there will be enough to knit curtains for my door from it.

Gauge Lies

I did some tests with size 4, 5 and 6 needles – the original pattern in MDK calls for size 5, with a gauge of 5 stitches to the inch. I got gauge with size 6, so that’s what I went ahead with on Tuesday night.

The plan is to knit two panels. If I get gauge, I can follow the pattern as written, since it’s aiming for an 18″ wide panel – perfect for half of my door.

By the end of the evening, I had this:

WIP - Household Things, Bubbly Curtain First Try
My Knitting is Too Loose

I wanted something not so loosey-goosey. I mean, these will be lace curtains and you expect a certain amount of open structure passing light through, yes. But I also want the curtains to have a certain amount of visual weight to them. Also, it appears that my gauge swatch lied – I was getting way too big a width here for what I was supposed to be getting.

I knew I’d need to re-group, and perhaps do this on the size 5 needles called for in the pattern. But it was the end of the night, and I wanted to go to bed.

Wednesday Slammed!

I got going early on Wednesday. Early for me, at least. Gryphon went out to do some errands, and while he was gone I did my exercises, blogged, and got to work on my crafting.

First up was the Knitting WIP category I call “Warm Things.” This is items I’ll knit for a friend’s physician mom to donate to her immigrant patients at a clinic. Great opportunity to knit every scarf that ever appealed to me, without having to keep a million scarves in the house.

I began by blocking the Slanted Eyelet Scarf that I’d completed. Acrylic yarn, so a good steaming would do the trick

FO - Warm Things, Slanted Eyelet Scarf Blocking
The Whole Thing

Don’t worry about the dark spots, the iron was spitting a bit of water because I overfilled it a little. The scarf dried fine.

FO - Warm Things, Slanted Eyelet Scarf, Detail
And the Close-Up

I think I may have worked this one a little too short. I was aiming for a length to suit a child, but given the width in the pattern, this scarf should have been longer. I will re-work the pattern next time to be at least one stripe narrower.

Still, it will wrap around someone’s neck and tuck into their coat.

And Next Up:

Having finished one Warm Things scarf, it was time to begin another. This pattern is another from the 2006 Knitting Pattern a Day calendar – January 19, I think. Alison’s Scarf.

The original is knit in a super bulky yarn with size 9 needles. Again, I’m aiming for something that kids can wear, so I pulled out the discontinued Lion Brand Wool-Ease Sportweight in Fuchsia that I’d bought a while back, and did some swatches.

WIP - Warm Things, Alison's Scarf
Alison At Bat – Click for a closer look, the cable and lace detail is nice.

Size 4 needles gave a nice look, and made a narrower scarf that would be appropriate for the young. The fabric is a little thin with the sportweight, but the nice thing about that is I can make the scarf longer for wrapping an extra time or two around the neck.

Interesting thing about this pattern is the cast on – an I-cord cast on. Basically, they give a way to knit a starting I-cord strip, while at the same time creating all your stitches that you’ll be knitting from. Much better than having to pick up stitches all along the side of an I-cord!

At the other end of the scarf, there’ll be a matching I-cord bind off as well.

It’s my plan to do all my “Warm Things” projects as sets of at least a hat and scarf. So I will be looking around for simple but pretty hat patterns to go with both of these. Or maybe making up my own!

Cast-On

After working on the Warm Things for a bit, I took a break with a couple of podcasts. I have listened to a few episodes of Cast-On, and enjoyed it, but it’s been hard for me to fit podcast listening into my routine. So what did I do? I made an item in the 99:99 Plan rotation out of it!

100 minutes is enough time to listen to two episodes of Cast-On. I’m listening to them from the beginning, and hoping to stay disciplined enough that eventually I catch up to current episodes. Yesterday, I listened to Episodes 9 and 10 from back in February.

What do my hands do while listening to a podcast? They knit! Since the podcast itself was a 99:99 rotation item, I gave myself permission to step out of the usual WIP rotation and work on whatever appealed to me. And what appealed to me was a second try at the Bubbly Curtain.

I grabbed a size 5 circular needle, cast on, and started knitting. By the end of the two episodes of Cast-On, I had gotten as far as I had with the previous try. And I liked the results a lot better.

WIP - Household Things, Bubbly Curtain, Second Try
My Knitting is Just Right!

So the Bubbly Curtains are now on track, and I think I’m going to like this a lot. You know, all our windows do have venetian blinds, too – maybe I can do Bubbly Curtains for the bathroom? But am I then going to want a matching shower curtain?

Deconstructing Silk Angora

Next up on the WIP rotation – continuing work on recycling the sweaters I’ve been picking up at thrift stores and rummage sales.

This silk angora continues to come apart nicely. I had frogged the sleeves before. Last night, I did the neckband, and a large part of the sweater front.

WIP - Sweater Recycling, Frogging Progress
Former Sweater

The only problem I ran into – the sweater was a v-neck, and I guess when they knit that they did the neckline with a steek. Because when I started frogging down from the shoulders, the yarn was cut at the neckline on every bit.

WIP - Sweater Recycling, Silk Angora Vee Front
Neck Pieces

There’s a lovely lacy cable detail down the front of each piece, so I thought rather than just wasting this, why not cut them off at the bottom of the vee and see if I can use them somehow? Patches in something, maybe make a small bag – I don’t know what yet, but that’s what I’ve done.

Phew! Lots of progress on lots of things on Wednesday. I’m pleased that I’m feeling this much momentum these days. It’s good to be able to look back and see how much I got done, and it gives me new enthusiasm for getting up and doing it again the next day!

Compulsory Exercises

I’ve had a very good response to the new packaging on my beaded stitch markers. That, coupled with Gryphon’s and my need to improve our budget somewhat, is inspiring me to work a bit harder at them – while not letting my days become nothing but making stitch markers.

My normal rotation of projects under the 99:99 Plan doesn’t ensure that anything happens every single day. When I want to make sure something gets a certain amount of attention on a specific schedule, I need to modify the plan some.

And so I’ve come up with the concept of daily “Compulsory Exercises.” Those items which I want to make specific, regular progress on, regardless of when or where they would come up in the project rotation.

I already had that in a way with my blogging – that happened every day, in spite of where the “Computer Work” card came up in the rotation of projects in my index file. So it’s not a huge leap to apply that to other things.

Like making stitch markers. If I just give them a certain amount of focused attention a few times a week, I can probably go somewhere with them. And if I can stay as disciplined with the 99:99 Plan as I have this week so far, I will still do enough other things that I won’t feel the stitch markers have taken over my life.

And So, On to Tonight

Knitting Around at Panera tonight – hope you can make it! Needing to carry a WIP for public knitting once again means I can step out of the rotation and pick whatever appeals to me to knit, and I think it’s going to be the Bubbly Curtains tonight. I’ve got to do two panels at least five feet long, and I’ve knit two inches so far – wouldn’t hurt to make some more progress!

*A Google search for “model dye southern” only brings up a couple mentions of an OSHA case of some sort. And then, only as a citation of precedence in someone else’s case.

Monday Angst (With Optimism)

Filed under: Cooking - Folkcat in the Kitchen,Daily Life,The 99:99 Plan — folkcat at 3:35 pm on Monday, June 12, 2006

Yet another Monday. This one doesn’t feel quite as Monday as Mondays usually do, though.

Let me touch wood while I type this, just as a precaution. Things are looking pretty good at the moment. Earlier this weekend, they weren’t. But that’s a story I’ll leave for after the jump. Let me put the good part on the front page first!

Today, I actually feel like I have a grip on things. I’ve already done my exercise for the day. I’ve got materials laid out for the next project in my 99:99 Plan rotation. (Beaded stitch markers, this time.) I’ve had a shower. I’m planning ahead to going out to knit at the bookstore tonight.

I even maintained a bit of the 99:99 Plan over the weekend – I did a round of exercise on Sunday, and I fit in a combination Quiet Time and Housekeeping round of reading and disposing of catalogs and magazines that had accumulated.

Cook's Illustrated Magazine

One item in the stack was a sample issue of Cook’s Illustrated magazine. These are the people with the PBS show, America’s Test Kitchen, where they explain in detail how they went about coming up with the most effective – and simplest – ways to cook, well, a lot of classic and interesting recipes. They don’t just say, “Do this.” They tell you why Doing This gives better results.

If you like the show, you’ll like the magazine, too. The articles are like text versions of the sort of recipes they do on the show. They discuss the dish they want to work on, they analyze what makes it good, what makes it bad, and they talk about the different things they tried to get better results. Then, they give you the final, best version they came up with.

As with the show, Cook’s Illustrated magazine also provides equipment and food reviews, where they test a variety of choices and give their recommendations for the products that give the best results at a reasonable cost.

I’m going to be seeing if I can fit a subscription to the magazine into our budget. While we may seldom do a recipe as they offer it, the education in how cooking works and why will help us to improve our results in anything we attempt in the kitchen.

And so, right now things are feeling good. I wish I could say that they did on Friday. Don’t bother reading on unless you really want to hear the dark side of my weekend…

(Read on …)