Of Rats and Jen

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

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!

Giant Marsupial Rats

Filed under: Blogfriends,Cooking - Folkcat in the Kitchen,Rats!,Weaving — folkcat at 2:06 pm on Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Bet that got your attention, huh? The funny part is, I didn’t make that up just to make you look – I have a genuine reason to refer to “Giant Marsupial Rats”.

One of my Very Good BlogFriends, Valerie, is currently traveling around Australia visiting family and friends. She’s been able to stay somewhat connected while there, so there have been very interesting posts of her adventures, complete with photos of Aussie wildlife.

She’s also been very sweet in thinking of me while she’s there, and has sent these postcards. That’s a kookaburra on the left (kookaburra sits in the old gum tree, eatin’ all the gumdrops he can see…). The creature on the right, however, is the source of this post’s title.

Postcards from Oz

Valerie posted about her visit to Rottnest Island, and the creatures known as Quokkas, in her post here. The quokkas are cat-sized marsupials, and as friendly as squirrels in a city park. (Read – they come up to you and beg for food!) Dutch settlers thought they looked like rats – and they do, somewhat, including a long, naked tail. This is what gave the island it’s name – Rottenest, or Rat Nest, recently shortened to Rottnest.

I think Valerie knew how much I’d love the idea of a friendly, giant, marsupial rat. After all, we’re a very rat-friendly home here. We even have our own versions of rats’ nests!

Sable in her Den
Sable’s Den

Sable is still fond of the tissue box we gave her for the Rattie Birthday celebration. These days, it lives on an ottoman near the front corner of my chair, just beside the table that their cage rests on. She’s taken to spending most of her daytime sleep hours (while I’m home to supervise, of course) curled up in this box, under the celestial throw that they also like to crawl around under.

We’ve always kept a tissue box inside the cage for nesting, too. That’s a favorite spot for Star. I caught her sleeping in it at the same time I took the photo of Sable above, but I don’t think Star was too pleased to be disturbed for the picture!

Sleepy-eyed Star
Star on a Knitted Blanket

That’s a garter-stitch knitted washcloth, aka Rattie Rug, folded up for a nice cushion. Fear not, Star was not irretrievably disrupted – moments later, she curled back up and is now snoozing comfortably.

Handspun Monday

It’s not always about actual spinning, it turns out. Some days, it’s about making things with my handspun.

I’ve mentioned last week about the Weavettes looms that I purchased at NH S&W, and showed pictures of my rapid progress in weaving squares on them. Most successful so far is the pink/orange/red handspun yarn, which is coming out a lovely, heathered tweed in variations of light and dark.

I am definitely going to make a throw pillow from these squares. Each side will have four 6″ squares in the corners, separated by central vertical and horizontal bands of 2″ squares. That will make a 14″ pillow, a size I can easily buy a readymade form for.

I found vintage weaving loom books on the web in PDF format, and picked up a simple texture to add some interest to the whole thing. Half of my squares will now be done in plain weave, but half in texture, and I’ll mix them half and half on each side of the pillow.

Here’s a comparison of the two weaves – plain on the left, textured on the right.

WIP - Weavette Squares, Plain vs. Textured
Weavettes squares – plain (l) and textured (r)

All my plain squares are done – 4 large, 13 small. So far, I’ve got 2 large textured squares, with another in progress, and 8 small ones. Not much further to go, and I can start sewing these all together.

Cooking

The idea of doing more stir-fried meals is definitely catching on for me. On Sunday, I improvised a very nice Beef with Broccoli in Oyster Sauce (with red pepper strips for added color), which Gryphon couldn’t stop giving me compliments for all night – and into the next day. Positive reinforcement like that will go a long ways towards making me want to do this again!

And I already have – last night, even though Gryphon was at work, I made a nice big pile of Tofu, Asparagus, Snow Peas, and Water Chestnuts. Kept the sauce simple on this one – just soy sauce and rice wine vinegar, with a little toasted sesame oil as a finishing touch. Would have loved some ginger in it, but I didn’t have any in the house.

Had a large bowlful over rice for my dinner, and packed up two more sizable servings that Gryphon can take for his meal at work over the next day or two. It’s got me eating better, and it cuts down the number of work meals that Gryphon has to assemble for himself – making it a little easier for him to manage both the full-time and part-time jobs together. Win-win all around, I’d say!

NH S&W – What I Got

Filed under: Craft Shopping,Special Events,Weaving — folkcat at 1:31 pm on Tuesday, May 15, 2007

As I hinted yesterday, I did come home with something from the Festival. Tools, rather than fiber. They’re called Weavette Looms. They’re a direct descendant of Weave-It Looms, which were introduced in the 1930’s, and a cousin to the many brands of handheld looms that have existed in the decades since.

Weavettes Looms

Weavettes are currently made in six sizes – 2″, 4″, and 6″ squares, and three different sizes and proportions of rectangles. I bought the 2″ and 6″ square looms. There was a book of weave patterns as well, but where I had the funds to get two looms, I didn’t have enough to get a book along with them. Besides, I figured the book would be easier to turn up than the looms, which I had only seen at online sources.

I’ve actually got a small background in weaving. I own two different rigid heddle looms (though they’re buried somewhere in our storage locker), and have woven shawls and scarves on them. I also own, though I’ve never used it, a large floor loom. It was a freebie given to me by a sheltered workshop group in Syracuse – they couldn’t use it anymore because it needs repairs, and it was going to be thrown out. I’ve never since had an apartment with sufficient space to set it up, so it’s still in need of repairs. And, like the rigid heddle looms, it’s buried in the storage locker.

As a child, I also had a Weave Easy loom – a tiny loom which actually had a rigid heddle to open the shed for you. My original is lost in the decades, but some years back I found another at a rummage sale.

It, too, is buried in the storage locker, somewhere in a box of craft supplies.

As you might guess, I haven’t woven in a while. But I’ve been seeing the Weavettes in ads over the last several years, and have been hankering to try a little, handheld version of weaving again. When I found these at a vendor at NH S&W, I knew for sure they were what I wanted to take home.

When we got home Saturday afternoon, I didn’t waste any time getting started.

Pile of Weavettes Squares

Most of the squares you see, the pinkish ones, are woven from that variegated red/pink/orange handspun that is my first wheel-spun yarn. This is the same stuff that I tried to knit with, and hated how it looked.

Weavette Square in Progress

Woven, however, it’s looking great. Nice, heathery tweed.

The variegations in color throughout the yarn are making for good variety in the squares, too.

Color Variation in "Red" Handspun Yarn

I’m thinking I will make a combination of large and small squares and make another throw pillow. I’m aiming for a huge, luxurious, pile of decorative throw pillows on my bed. This would be pillow number two, to add to the quilted one I made before.

I’ve solved the issue of the weave pattern book, too. While I still want the one currently published by the Buxton Brook people (who make the Weavettes), I found an online source dedicated to all these little handheld looms over the Twentieth Century – eLoomaNation. Along with great resources about the types of looms available, and projects to make with them, they’ve collected vintage instruction books and put them up as free PDF downloads. Since most of the different loom brands were actually compatible – usually they wove a 4″ square – even the books for looms other than the Weave-It/Weavette are useful to me. I’ve begun playing with some of the textured weaves – sorry, no pictures yet since I’ve only done a couple small squares – and will probably incorporate them into the pillow woven from my handspun.

Gryphon and I are both impressed with how quick and easy these are to use, and are coming up with stash-busting ideas for my yarn collection. Curtains are a possibility – we don’t have proper ones for Gryphon’s windows. Gryphon allows as how he might actually be persuaded to weave his own – he made this little square on the 2″ loom the other night, in no time flat.

Gryphon's Weavette Square

I’ve done a couple of test squares with Sugar ‘n Cream cotton yarn as well, and you know what? It may inspire me to frog my In-Progress Log Cabin Blanket, and start over as a woven piece. I like the weight and texture of the woven Sugar ‘n Cream much better than the garter stitch knitting, and the yarn will go a lot further. Which means the blanket won’t be as heavy in the end, either.

There you have it, then. Yet Another Way To Spend My Time. ‘Cuz I didn’t have enough crafts already, right?

Coming Tomorrow:

Maybe not a step-by-step how-to, but at least a general guide to how you, too, can cover a rock with freeform embroidery.