Of Rats and Jen

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

Of Heads, Horns, and Half-Done Socks

Filed under: Beading - Confessions of a Chantraphile,Knitting,Thrifty Shopping — folkcat at 4:17 pm on Monday, June 4, 2007

As I said on Friday, “Expect a finished, modeled picture on Monday, and perhaps even a photo of Socks for Folkcat, Pair Two, Sock One (SF/P2S1) in progress!

I do try to keep my promises. 🙂

FO - SF/P1
FO: Socks for Folkcat – Pair One (SF/P1)

WIP: SF/P2S1
WIP: Socks for Folkcat, Pair Two, Sock One (SF/P2S1)

I seem to have finally gotten my sock knitting mojo in good order. I guess I’ve knit just enough of what I originally termed “Sock Experiments” that something finally clicked. There were two crucial turning points: working toe-up socks for Gryphon, and discovering the No Wraps short-row toe and heel method at Oz Yarns (link opens a PDF file).

I now have the confidence in my sock knitting to calculate my gauge, and, knowing my measurements, just start knitting without reference to a book or pattern. So far, I’ve only used a basic 2×2 ribbing for texture – that’s what I consider my “plain vanilla” sock. I have plans, though, to start lifting stitch patterns out of other sources, including existing sock patterns that are written for smaller feet than mine, and inserting those patterns into my own toe-up socks.

As for the details about these socks:

SF/P1:
Yarn: Regia Patch Antik Colors #5758.
Needle: Brittany Birch 5″ DPN, US 1.5
Pattern: homebrew, my own assemblage of toe-up with short row toes and heels

Notes: These socks fit well. I worked the foot with a 1/4 inch negative ease (mostly for simplicity of calculations – my foot is 10.25 inches, it’s easier to multiply by 10). Since my ankle is an inch larger than my foot, after I finished the short row heel I increased a stitch on either side of the ankle on the next round, worked a round without increases, then repeated the increases. This added four stitches, just about a half inch, to the circumference of the leg, leaving about a half inch of negative ease. I then worked the legs only 4 inches from the ankle before binding off, using a sewn bind-off that I can’t remember where I got it from.

As I sit here with the Regia socks on my feet, they do feel a bit on the itchy side. I don’t know if that’s just because they haven’t had a first washing yet, or because it’s the nature of the yarn. Time and use will tell.

SF/P2S1:

Yarn: Cherry Tree Hill Supersock, Spanish Moss color
Needle & Pattern: Same as above.

Notes: I finished the blue pair sometime Saturday, then started in on SF/P2S1. At this moment, I’ve just reached the heel, and expect to finish that and most of the leg tonight.

I’m loving the Cherry Tree Hill sock yarn. It’s colorful (although this colorway is a bit on the somber side for me), and soft. Given my sensitive feet, I may find that I shy away from yarns like Regia in the future, and favor yarns like Cherry Tree Hill. Of course, that means my socks get more expensive. But if I can actually knit socks that are comfortable for my feet, it’ll be worth it. And they’ll last forever if I take care of them right!

Yard Saling!

I don’t know that Gryphon and I will do much of this over the summer, what with his two jobs and all. But we couldn’t pass up a community-wide yard sale happening only 3 blocks from our house this weekend.

Yard Sale Finds, June 2nd 2007

At the front, several bundles of horn heishe beads, totalling 88 strands. At least, they did before Gryphon claimed a small bundle of 13 strands for himself. Still, I’m left with 75 strands. What will I do with that many horn heishe beads? Not a clue. But when you get that entire pile for less than 5 cents per strand, you leave no bead behind.

The sad-looking little cat on the right was a whole 50 cents. I can’t believe I actually waffled over whether to spend 50 cents on “yet another cat for the Folkcat collection”. Maybe it was the heat – it was sunny and humid on Saturday. At the end, though, I went back to her table and picked her up, figuring that even on our budget, 50 cents wasn’t worth fussing over. And I’m glad I brought her home.

The real find of the day for me is the glass head to the left of the cat. I’ve been wanting some sort of model for hats and other head accessories for some time. I’m sure I could have turned up a foam wig stand somewhere, but those are boring and white, white, white.

I was delighted when I spotted this glass head sitting on a table at the sale. At $10, she’s a bargain compared to finding one online and having to have it shipped. Gryphon agreed it was a worthy purchase, and so she came home with us.

I thought about having a blog contest to name her, but no sooner did that pass through my brain than I knew what her name had to be. It is, therefore, with great pleasure (and some anticipation of ducking rotten tomatoes!) that I present Heady LaVerre.* She doesn’t have much to say, but you’ll likely see her back whenever I knit another hat or hairband.

*For those who didn’t take French, and aren’t old movie fans. There was a famous actress named Hedy Lamarr. And “LaVerre” is bad French for “glass”. (To be grammatically correct, it should be “LeVerre”, because “glass” is considered a masculine noun.)

I Woke Up Today in a New World – New to Me, At Least

Filed under: Daily Life,Knitting,Thrifty Shopping — folkcat at 2:44 pm on Monday, January 29, 2007

Another Monday, another week. Nearly the end of January – already almost a twelfth of the way through the year!

Many thanks to all who offered their sympathies and well-wishes for the cold that took both Gryphon and I last week. We’re both feeling much better now, though I still have a bit of a cough, and a nose that’s trying to be at least as productive as I am. Soon, though, it will be completely over. (Knock wood!)

A good sign that I was feeling better this weekend is that I actually got some knitting done. The non-Möbius version of the dicky I’ve been knitting (at a friend’s request) is knit, blocked, and – packaged and on its way to Arizona without being photographed.

Sorry about that! I was so enthused about having it done and on its way that I blazed ahead through the packing and shipping part of the process without even thinking about it! Maybe the recipient will send me a photo I can post showing it in use by the biker it’s intended for.

My evaluation of the project? It came out well, I think. It looks remarkably like a dicky, even like one you might pay money for in a store. I did three stripes – one thicker, bracketed by two thinner – of Harley Davidson orange on the turtleneck collar. A pain for weaving in ends, I know, but it looks good. And I used the Stem Stitch Bind-off from Montse Stanley’s Knitter’s Handbook at the bind-off edge, since it was the top of the turtleneck. Gotta tell you – that’s a marvelous, easy to do bind-off that leaves the edge every bit as stretchy as the ribbing!

I was so impressed with the Stem Stitch Bind-off, in fact, that I used it on my other FO of the weekend – my latest pair of Barefoot Diva Socks.

FO - New Barefoot Diva Socks

The yarn is KnitPicks Simple Stripes, which is discontinued. I forget the name of the colorway – Sunset? Southwest? Southwest Sunset? Something like that.

The gauge was 9 stitches per inch on size 1 Addi’s. I worked this pair with a half inch of negative ease in both the foot and the leg. (My previous pair had negative ease only in the foot.) These feel a little tight in the back of the ankle, but I think that’s not from the negative ease. I think it’s too short a connective band between foot and leg. My short-row shaping in the connective band was identical to the last pair I knit, and now that I have them on, I’m thinking that the rows per inch of my gauge was enough more that I should have done at least one or two more short-rows on each side to make a slightly longer connection between the sections.

Still, they fit well enough to keep them. Which brings me to a total of two pairs of Barefoot Diva Socks in the drawer. I’m going to keep going until I have enough to wear at least every day of the week. The goal is to be able to get between laundry days and not have to do without.

Gryphon and I were feeling enough better to get out a little this weekend, too. One of the last stops of the weekend was at a local consignment store, just for a quick look around. Was I ever surprised when I found this laying on top of a buffet!

Found Object - Long Sock Stretcher

It was labeled a sock stretcher, and priced at only $6. The leg portion (top to heel) is 25 inches long, and the foot about 8 1/2 inches. Too small to do a good stretching job on socks for my size 10 WW feet, but it should serve for posing them for photos!

One side of the wood has that gray, dusty look that suggests this was sitting around unused somewhere for a long time. The price tag offered no suggestions of how old it might be, and I don’t think there’s any way to tell from the stretcher itself. But that’s okay – it was cheap, and it looks cool hanging on my wall!

The other big thing we did this weekend involved a significant paradigm shift for me – a change in how I handle some mundane tasks every day. I’ve had a Palm Vx for, oh, a long time – I think we bought it in 1999. It has served me pretty well, and still does. I have software in it that tracks my various medications, for instance, and sounds an alarm when it’s time to take a pill.

But for quite some time now, that medication timer and a solitaire card game have been the only things I really used it for. Well, that and a calculator function. But I’ve been getting concerned about what to do when the Palm finally, inevitably, gives up the ghost.

I certainly don’t need anything on the same level as the Palm Vx. Once upon a time, the various functions meant something – I was opening and operating a retail store, and life was much more complicated. Now, I just needed a way to track addresses and calendar items; a way to stay on top of my meds and take them regularly; and a form of entertainment for those odd moments of down time.

This weekend, we made some decisions and replaced my Palm – before it can disappoint me. So what is my new reality?

The most expensive part serves the entertainment function – and brings me new options in that field.

New Toy - Creative Zen V

A Creative Zen V. The Target edition – it’s white with red accents. I probably won’t use this for music so much, but I had a lot of audio books from Audible.com from several years ago that I’d never listened to. (They were purchased at a time when I thought having them to listen to would help me pass the hours while I set up the store. And then the store opened, and I never had time!)

Under my new reality, I am finding that sitting at my spinning wheel, or crafting at the craft area in my bedroom, are less likely to involve watching TV. But I still like something to listen to. Radio reception is nearly non-existent here (a river valley between two ridges) – even if there were any stations locally that I liked. This little Zen – who has, by the way, been named L’il – will give me a good option for listening to my audio books while I craft or spin.

And yes – I’m already contemplating what I might knit or crochet for a L’il cozy!

That’s the entertainment function down. How about the organizing? We bought me a 6-ring planner at Staples, with 2-page per month calendar, good notes pages, and a reasonable section for an address book. It’ll be larger in my purse than the Palm was, but I can now get rid of the other little notebooks and things that I used to carry.

New Tool - Planner

The calculator function is easy to replace – every gadget with keys has a calculator these days, even my cell phone! And as for my meds, we’ve adjusted my pill-taking times a little and worked out ways to make sure they happen – for instance, that same phone that has a calculator in it has an alarm that I’ve now set for my evening dose.

My head is still spinning a little today, and I don’t think it’s from the last lingering symptoms of the cold. No, I think it’s because of this fundamental shift that forced me to re-think how I’ve done so many things, for so many years. Reality has been shaken up, people, and that can only be good!

Bargains I Found

Filed under: Books,Folkcat's Craft Library,Knitting,Shopping Adventures,Thrifty Shopping — folkcat at 5:44 pm on Friday, December 8, 2006

***Update!! See Bottom of Post!!***

Whew! I have been puttering around at Christmas Knitting, and almost forgot to post. So here, at last, is the final installment about what I did last weekend.

Late on Saturday afternoon, Gryphon and I decided to get out of the house. Just, you know, to get out of the house. We made up an excuse about browsing for a few things at one particular store, and set off.

While driving there, it occurred to me that the One-Time Only Westminster Fibers sale that I’d heard about was only a little further down the road. We’d get there in the last hour or two of the last day of the sale, but I still felt it might be worth a try.

Let me tell you – I wish I’d had a chunk of money to work with! Not so much for the yarns, though they were inexpensive and luscious (brands included Rowan, Schachenmayr, Gedifra, and more).

No, what I lusted after most was the books. Dozens of titles, all at 65% off of cover price. Being something of a kamikaze, unexpected trip, though, I made sure only to buy one or two things I knew I would regret leaving behind.

Folk Hats: 32 Knitting Patterns & Tales from Around the World (Folk Knitting series)Like this book: Folk Hats, from Interweave Press. This has been on my wishlist for a long, long time. When I saw the small stack of them on the shelves at the sale, I think I left a scorch mark as I grabbed it!

Another unusual item was wrapping paper in three designs – all photographs of Kaffe Fassett knitted materials! At 8 sheets for one dollar, these were a steal – I got two dollars’ worth.

Finally, I did get some yarn. Most of what was available fell into either the chunky or the novelty categories, and didn’t impress me as anything I’d want to knit with. But Gryphon spotted an open case of this Schachenmayr Micro yarn, and I formed a plan. It seemed like this should be suitable for a nice t-style top for me.

Westminster Fibers

The color I liked best was this bright lime green. (Regular readers know that I like bright colors!) At $10 a bag (10 skeins), this was a bargain. It’s an acrylic microfiber yarn, and oh, is it soft against the skin!

I did my best to make a quick guess in my head how much would knit a t-top for my large frame, and decided to go for two bags.

In the end, I only spent a few cents over $30 for all my goodies. I’m pleased with everything, though of course, I wish I’d had more budget to work with! But I made a couple of reasonably careful choices, and got a few things I know I can use.

I hope. Once I got the yarn home, I realized how thin it is – the gauge on 3.5 – 4.5 mm needles is listed as 24 stitches, 32 rows over 10 cm. And these are 50 gm. balls. Hmm. If I’d thought more about it, I would have purchased another bag.

I’m hoping to resolve this – I found the e-mail contact for the yarns at the company website, and explained my dilemma. I specifically asked if there was any chance of purchasing one more bag of this yarn. After all, I know where their offices/warehouse are now, and the sale was only a week ago. Maybe there’s still some left?

Of course, I’m sending this e-mail late on a Friday – so it will probably be no sooner than Monday at the best before I hear anything. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed. At least, so long as it doesn’t interfere with my knitting!

***Update – wow! I got a reply from the National Marketing Manager at Westminster Fibers already, timestamped 6:20 p.m.! Word is they have one bag of the yarn left, and they’re looking for it for me. Seems that, what with the sale being a week ago and the company moving to South Carolina, there’s a possibility it’s already down there. But it sure sounds like I’ll be getting it! Kudos to Westminster Fibers!***

Frugal Friday

Filed under: Thrifty Shopping — folkcat at 2:25 pm on Friday, September 22, 2006

Frugal with words, mostly. I’m not going to say much because the coughing has been fairly persistent the last couple days, and it’s wearing me out.

Today, however, was the first rummage sale of the season for the 2nd Congo Church down the block from me. Gryphon lucked out and found three heavy, long-sleeve shirts for 50 cents each that will fortify his work clothes wardrobe.

The big find, however, was mine. A huge garbage-size bag of yarn, plus a box about a third full of pattern flyers and books (and topped off with more yarn). At least 90% of the yarn is cheap acrylic, which I’ll share with my knitting friends.

I’m so exhausted that I’m not planning yet on digging into the pile of pattern books to see what’s really in the box – not today, at least. But a quick glimpse at the top layers revealed lots of doll clothes patterns, and crocheted versions of Cabbage Patch Kids. Who knows what lurks in the depths? Should be interesting to explore. And the entire collection, yarn, books, and all, was certainly worth the $6 they asked for it. (Well, truthfully, they asked $10. But I talked them down!)

The Thrill of the Hunt

Filed under: Thrifty Shopping — folkcat at 2:33 pm on Thursday, July 27, 2006

Thrifty shopping took another form today, as I followed up on a clue from another knit blogger’s mention of a find she made. (Sorry, I can’t remember which of the 170+ bloggers that I read made the discovery.) She posted about visiting her local T. J. Maxx store, and finding several knitting books for around half of list price.

Gryphon and I went out to do errands today, which took us to the plaza that houses both Target and T. J. Maxx. So naturally, we had to stop in and check for ourselves.

T. J. Maxx isn’t really known for books, but you can find a small section of them back in the area where they shelve the home decor items. Most of the rack is filled with blank books and planners, but there are a few coffee-table type books as well. You aren’t likely to find more than one copy of any title, but if you can find something you like, you’ll get a good bargain on it – usually about 50% of cover price.

I found something I like.

Vogue Knitting Stitchionary Volume One: Knit & Purl: The Ultimate Stitch Dictionary from the Editors of Vogue Knitting Magazine (Vogue Knitting Stitchionary Series)Vogue Knitting Stitchionary, Volume One. List price, $29.99 – T. J. Maxx price, $16.99. Works for me! I finally have the start of the stitch dictionary collection I want to build.

I scoured the rack carefully, and this was the only knitting book that they had at this particular store. Still, it suggests that I should be going back to check now and then, since I’m sure they will get in more completely random selections of books. You never know when there will be more knitting books – or other crafts, even.

As we left the store, Gryphon and I talked a bit about the thrill of thrifting that we’ve been feeling. There’s an actual adrenaline rush that I feel when I find these incredible bargains, whether at a yard sale, thrift store, or a surplus goods store like T. J. Maxx, Marshall’s, or Home Goods.

It’s the sort of thing that could, with carelessness, become an addictive problem. The trick is not to fall into the trap of buying something just because it’s a bargain – I have to really know that we have a use for the item in question before we spend the money and bring it into our already crowded house.

We’re handling it carefully, and not buying things just because they happen to be cheap. And we’re pleased that we have been able to improve some areas of our life for very little cash outlay, because of our thrifty shopping.

We plan to keep watching the weather forecasts every weekend during yard sale season. And visiting the thrift stores makes a good back-up plan for rainy days – as well as a thrifting option that can last all year ’round.

She’s Feeling Much Better

Filed under: Crafting Miscellany,Knitting,Thrifty Shopping — folkcat at 4:49 pm on Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The little Japanese souvenir doll has been repaired successfully. I suspect she’s feeling much better – and loved – again.

Japanese Doll - Repaired

I have a greater confidence in my ability to make repairs to thrifty finds than I once did. I’ve always looked away if something on the yard sale table wasn’t absolutely perfect. Now, I think I’m more inclined to argue the price down and make a repair if it’s something I’d enjoy.

In knitting news, I spent some time working on Gryphon’s Burgundy Sweater Vest yesterday, completing about half of the distance on the front before the neck and arm shaping. That’s about 6 or 7 inches of knitting, mostly plain stockinette. Not bad!

Nearly Nada

Filed under: Crafting Miscellany,Knitting,Thrifty Shopping — folkcat at 1:02 pm on Tuesday, July 25, 2006

That’s what I have today. Nearly nothing that I can show that will make much of an impression, anyhow.

I finished another preemie hat yesterday. But do you really need to see yet another preemie hat? It looks a lot like those I’ve done before.

I stitched a little while on the oriental crane needlepoint. But not enough to produce progress readily visible to a person not working on the stitching.

I can report that Gryphon and I stumbled across a decent yard sale on Sunday, while we were out doing errands. I picked up a new-in-the-box Atlas pasta machine for only $8, which will make it easier for me to get back into making polymer clay objects if I wish.* Also a couple of simple flower presses, a rabbit fur pouch that I may either add new straps and a lining to and use as is, or use as raw material for a luxurious plush animal, and a couple of shell necklaces. I think we spent a whole $11 altogether. Not bad.

I never did mention that, in spite of the rain on Saturday, we did find one garage sale that hadn’t shut down. We just weren’t impressed with most of what they had there. I did find one thing, though – this little Japanese souvenir doll for a quarter.

Japanese Souvenir Drummer Doll

She’s in need of a little TLC, though. The golden pouch-like object with the red rim that’s hanging from her neck is actually her hat, and should be sitting on top of her head. You can see a little white bit of glue on top of her hair. In the process of getting pulled off, the hat messed up her hair something fierce, too.

Other than that, she was only a little dusty from sitting unappreciated. So I’ll be fixing her up one day soon, and she’ll be restored to her former glory.

*I had given all my polymer clay supplies to my assistant at the bead store a little before we closed up the shop, as she seemed to be genuinely interested in the craft, and I hadn’t had either time or inspiration to pursue it for a while. But lately there’s been a profusion of new tools available in even the big-box craft stores, and I’ve been feeling a tug…

Bring Me The Head of Maneki-Neko; and, Sweaters for the Frog Pond

Filed under: Knitting,Papercraft,Thrifty Shopping — folkcat at 3:51 pm on Monday, July 24, 2006

A little while ago, I posted a picture of a small pile of mysteriously-shaped pieces of cutout paper, with a promise that you’d learn more eventually.

Eventually has arrived! I’ve been working on a new-to-me craft, 3-D Paper Models. There are projects all over the web that you can download for free. You print them out on cardstock on your home inkjet printer, and then follow the instructions to cut and glue them together to create sculptural models.

Some are very simple, and some are quite complex. Disney A Disney Fan* recently came out with an impressive, 18.5 inch tall, 22 inch long model of the ship Wicked Wench as a promotional item for the new Pirates of the Caribbean film., based on the ride.* The instructions alone are 16 pages long!

For my first project, I didn’t choose the easiest one, but I stayed away from the hardest as well. This rendition of a Japanese Maneki-Neko (a legendary beckoning cat said to bring good fortune) can be found at the Canon Creative Park website. (They also offer many realistic animal models, some scientific models and dioramas, and a number of holiday decorations.)

Paper Model: Maneki-Neko Head

Obviously, I’ve still got a ways to go before this is complete. But I’m feeling a good sense of accomplishment even from just finishing the head. And I’m endlessly fascinated with the process that must be involved to design such a project – turning flat, 2-dimensional cardstock into a nicely rendered 3-d sculpture.

* Edited 8-9-06 to correct: Based on a comment from a reader, Mikey (Thanks, Mikey!), it’s been pointed out that the ship model wasn’t an official Disney release, but rather the creation of a Disney fan, and wasn’t a promotional item for the movie, but was based on the ride.

Disney fandom is a marvelous thing. There are many such talented folks involved who are creating objects so magnificent that it’s hard to remember they’re not the product of the Disney corporation itself!

More Thrifty Finds

I promised on Saturday to show you the six great sweaters I found at a thrift store that day. Since there are lots of pictures of sweaters and labels, I’ll put that after the jump for those who are genuinely interested. Read on!

(Read on …)

If It’s Saturday, It Must Be Sky

Filed under: Folkcat's Fotos,Thrifty Shopping — folkcat at 4:33 pm on Saturday, July 15, 2006

Saturday Sky, July 15, 2006

Sky Over Target, Nashua, NH
Sky Over Target, Amherst St., Nashua, NH

Today started sunny and hot, then became partly sunny and hot, and now it’s cloudy and hot. This picture was taken in the parking lot at the local Target store at 1:42 p.m., looking up at an interesting patch of clouds. That tall black thing is a light pole.

We went yard saling today, but made no huge scores. We did find a Black & Decker Dirt Devil handheld vacuum, in working order, for $5. We’ve been wanting a little handheld of some sort, and this will do the job. Other than that, the best find of the day was a ceramic piggy bank that says “Beer Money” on the side of it. Gryphon’s going to save up his coins in it so he can buy some better beer now and then, or maybe the supplies for a batch of homebrew. Best deal of the day, probably – it was in a box labeled “Free”.

Yet Another Yard Sale Bonanza

Filed under: Beading - Confessions of a Chantraphile,Books,Fiction,Papercraft,Thrifty Shopping — folkcat at 12:39 pm on Monday, July 10, 2006

Yard saling started out slow on Saturday, but turned out to be big in the final analysis when we got all our goodies home and had a chance to really see what we had. But there are so many pictures, I’m going to put the yard sale portion of this post after the break.

Meanwhile, just to keep some intrigue on the front page, here’s a look at what went on at last Thursday night’s Knitting Around at Panera:

Judy Spins at Panera
Judy Spinning on her Majacraft Wheel

Blogless Judy brought her spinning wheel along, and we all watched in fascination as she worked! Normally, Judy would bring some knitting to work on, but this time she was hindered from knitting by this:

Judy with a Cast
Judy and a Cast of One

Yes, Judy broke her hand back in June, and can’t knit for now. But she figured out she can still operate power tools, and more importantly, she can spin. So that’s what she brought to work on.

Folkcat’s New Projects

And here’s a peek at a couple of new things I’ve taken on. I’ll just give you teaser photos of these, because they’re not far enough along to really look like anything yet.

BIP - The Pear
Beads on a Wooden Pear

But what will it be?

PIP - Maneki Neko
Paper and Scissors

And very strangely shaped pieces cut out.

You’ll learn more about both of these projects in the days and weeks to come. For the meantime, it’s enough to know that I’m enjoying what I’m doing with them – right?

And now, a whole cavalcade of photos and descriptions of the yard sale finds from this past weekend. Lots of yarn, including some special skeins. Take a look after the break!

(Read on …)

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