Of Rats and Jen

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

The Electric Kool-Aid Dyeing Test

Filed under: Knitting — folkcat at 4:21 pm on Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Today, I present you with the results of my latest experiment. Forgive me if this research paper is not in proper format for scientific purposes, but, well, I’m more artist than scientist.

A few months ago, I spent some time at my now-archived fiber blog writing about how I wanted to start my first lace project. I never got more than ten rows into it before realizing A) I was going to keep making errors as long as I didn’t spend longer lengths of time working on it, with shorter intervals between work sessions (both forcing me to forget what I was doing and have to find my place all over again), and, B) I really didn’t like the yarn color.

The Undyed Yarn Ball
Merino Bore-o in Ecru

I had purchased the one lace yarn that I could afford at my LYS, and had been forced to settle for, not a color I actively liked, but the least offensive of the colors available. Other choices had included dark forest green, navy blue, brown, and white, that I can recall. Bleah.

I should have realized that if I didn’t love it, I wasn’t going to enjoy working with it. But no, I plunged ahead, got as far as 10 rows on the shawl I hoped to make, then gave it up and frogged the whole thing.

The yarn ball has since then been sitting in the little hand-basked I dedicated to the lace knitting project, taunting me. Finally, I resolved I would do something about it.

Skeins and Balls

I’d read plenty around the blogs about dyeing wool with Kool-Aid, and saw many encouraging examples of colorful results. Okay, I can’t afford a handpainted lace yarn right now – but maybe I could simulate one by dyeing my dull ecru? It seemed worth a try.

Of course, having gone through much headache getting the ecru yarn wound into a nice center-pull ball, I now had to undo that hard work and make it back into a skein. Not having any tools specially for the purpose, I resorted to the ones attached to my body. The skein got wound over my left hand and elbow. All 1700 yards of it. It took around an hour, by my best estimate. My guess may be off, though, because by the end my upper arms were complaining about having to work non-stop in a way that was not normally asked of them.

Finally, though, I wound up with a loosely tied skein of yarn. And two very, very sore arms. I took Tylenol, and called it a night.

Bath-Time!

A day later, my arms were still complaining, but only slightly. Time to move on to the next step.

I’d read many different blogs and web sites and their guides to the Kool-aid dyeing process. The only solid conclusion I came to was that there were as many approaches to this as there are dyers!

Common elements, however, seemed to be present.

  • a dye-proof container
  • warm water and vinegar as an initial soak
  • Kool-aid in various colors, preferably several packages of each color
  • heat

The methods of providing each of these elements varied greatly. Here’s what I settled on:

Undyed Yarn Soaking In Dye Pot
Ecru Yarn Soaking in a Pyrex Casserole (2 qt.)

The yarn was laid out in a 2-qt. Corning Pyrex casserole dish. The skank just fit, sort of folded into a “C”, in a single layer. I pour warm water over it to cover – it took just 4 cups – and added a big splash of plain white vinegar. A very mild amount of swishing helped to assure that the vinegar traveled a little around the pot.

The Dyes - Five Flavors of Blue and Green Kool-Aid
(l. to r.) Ice Blue Raspberry, Lemon Lime, Watermelon Kiwi, Berry Blue, and Arctic Green Apple

The colors on far left and right are a little milky in nature because they’re intended to make a “frosty” looking drink. As you can see from the stirring sticks that I laid on top of the cups, I had an initial indication that the Arctic Green Apple, far right, wasn’t likely to take as well as the others.

I didn’t measure any of the water I used to mix with the Kool-Aid – I just added a splash until it “looked right”. I think most of the colors wound up being between 1/4 and 1/3 cup in volume.

Yarn in Dye Pot, Ready to Microwave
Dyed in the Pot

I applied the Kool-Aid by directly pouring it over the yarn in the pot. I had more of some colors than others – there were some that I only had one package of, and some I had as many as three. As a result, some of the colors that I had in larger quantity wound up being poured over several areas.

The picture above is what the pot looked like after I poured on the Kool-Aid. I’m sorry I can’t give exact details about how many packages of Kool-Aid I used to achieve these results. I was pleased with how the assortment of three greens and two blues went together, though. And I held back some packages of color in case I wanted to add more later. I turned out to be happy I did.

Yarn in Dye Pot, Water Clear
Dye All Used Up

I put the glass lid on the casserole, and popped it into the microwave. (Ours is an 1100-watter, fyi.) Two minutes on high – still some color in the water bath. Two more minutes, and the water ran clear. I know it looks milky above, but you have to account for the fact that two of my colors were “frosty” ones, which had a milky component added to the mix. Since the color itself was all used up, I didn’t worry about the milkiness, and it didn’t seem to affect the yarn.

Yarn Hangs Over Sink After First Dyeing
Done for the First Time

I let the yarn sit in the casserole until it reached room temperature, then rinsed it lightly in lukewarm water. Then it was ready to pull out and look at for the first time. I hung it from a cupboard handle over our kitchen sink, so it would have a basin to drip directly into.

My first impression – far too much of the ecru still showing through. And that’s why I was happy I still had some packets of my blues and greens left. I started the process again, only this time I didn’t bother adding the vinegar to the initial bath. I poured additional color onto some of the paler areas, cooked the yarn again, and let it sit to cool.

Yarn Hangs Over Sink After Second Dyeing
Much Better

Way better, even. There are still some ecru areas, but now it looks more like green and blue with some ecru accents than ecru with green and blue spots. Much better balance of color.

I had originally conceived an image of doing the dyeing in two broad areas of color, green and blue, overlapping. Obviously, that’s not really what I got. The result we’re seeing here is more of a tie-dye effect.

Dyed Yarn Hangs in Bathroom for Final Drying
Still Damp, Hanging in the Bathroom Now

Not that I object to tie-dye, as you can see from my favorite bath towel.

This morning, the skein of now colorful lace yarn was dry enough to be moved from over the kitchen sink, where it could drip freely all night, to hanging from the shower rod. Our bathroom now smells fresh and fruity.

Which prompted Gryphon and I to briefly consider Christmas gifts of handknit, Kool-Aid dyed, fruity air fresheners for all our loved ones.

Don’t panic – we immediately overcame the fruity high and realized what a bad idea that was!

I look forward to the point where this is completely dry, and I can once again wind it up into a nice, center-pull ball. Then I just have to come up with a pattern for my first finished lace piece, something that will suit the colors I have here. Free is required by the budget, so it’ll have to be something available on the web. Any suggestions? We’re working with 1700 yards of lace-weight merino, and a knitter with the courage to try almost anything.

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A Dreadful Secret Revealed

Filed under: Knitting — folkcat at 1:51 pm on Tuesday, November 29, 2005

First, a Word From My Sponsor

Or about him, at least. I haven’t mentioned it in a while, but my husband, Gryphon, has a blog of his own. He just doesn’t post to it very frequently. When he does, though, it’s often thoughtful, sometimes philosophical, and frequently just downright insightful about something that’s happened in our lives.

He recently posted an entry about our little pre-Thanksgiving DSL outage. You’ll find that he can give more technical detail than I was able to, and he offers some thoughts about what the incident had to say about the place that the Internet holds in our lives.

Please do check it out – and if you’re so inclined, some encouraging comments sent his way would be great. Gryphon sometimes wonders if anyone besides me is reading him!

And now, Our Feature Presentation

Be warned – I’m about to show you a picture of a dreadful, awful, horrible Finished Object. If you do not want to be struck blind by the sheer ugliness of this item, please turn away without scrolling down the page.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Ugly Crochet Cape

Folkcat Wearing the Ugly Crochet Poncho

Isn’t that the tackiest thing? And it’s crochet, which is a technique I’m quite good at, but normally hate for garments. I made this in a fit of boredom one day last year, when I needed a quick-working project that would use up a multitude of odds-and-ends of Lion Brand Homespun yarn that I had lying around. The original pattern can be found here, at the Lion Brand website.

The truth is, though, that this capelet/poncho is also the finished yarn object that I wear more often than anything else I have ever created. We live in a drafty apartment, and gosh darn it, this ugly cape actually does the job. It stays in place and keeps the drafts off my shoulders. It doesn’t hinder my arms, and it isn’t long enough to get in the way of what I’m doing.

This time of year, I wear it almost every day.

To be honest, I don’t wear it the way that Lion Brand intended. They were going for a funky, modern, trendy look, and they have you wear the opening over one arm, like this:

Ugly Crochet Cape - Lion Brand's Suggested Styling

Stylish? I Think Not

But to me, that’s all wrong. My left arm would be cold, my right arm would be encumbered by the poncho, and face it, it just looks silly. I could wear it the other way, but then my right arm would be cold, and…well, you get the picture. Besides, it’s made from Homespun, which is a warm, warm yarn – if you meant it to be a fashion accessory only, and not to have any functionality as a warming object, you should have used something lighter weight.

Ugly Crochet Cape on Chair

Modeled by my desk chair – no arms blocking your view!

I did have to size the pattern up significantly to fit me. I’m sorry, Lion Brand, but in my world a 40-42″ bust is not large. (Edit: There were originally a few words here that were meant in jest, but on reflection I feel may have come across as mean-spirited. They were about the relative matter of size and where the definition of “fat” falls. It was not, nor would it ever be, my intent to offend anyone. I apologize.)

But enough about my size.

Back to the original Lion Brand pattern – to my credit, I did leave off the ginormous crochet flower that they have you make and sew a pinback onto so you can accesorize your own Ugly Crochet Poncho (UCP). As for the pink “fun fur” edging, I think by the time I got finished with the cape, I looked at it and decided it was so ticky-tacky anyway, I might as well send it over the top. (I say “fun fur” because it’s actually a hand-dyed variety of the stuff that I bought at my LYS, and not Lion Brand’s variety of the stuff.) Hey, if you’re going to go ticky-tacky, don’t do it in a half-assed way, right?

Evolution

As I’ve been doing more and more creative knitting this year, though, I’ve been starting to get ideas when I slip my UCP over my head each morning. I keep thinking of the 3 skeins of Fuchsia Homespun that I have in my stash. Theoretically it’s waiting to be knit into a Wearable Hug and then gifted to someone in need. But I have to admit, I lust after the color myself.

Fuchsia Lion Brand Homespun

Gorgeous

It’s not quite as pink, and it’s more purple-y, than it looks in this picture. But you get the idea. It’s bright, and the color makes me smile.

So I’m starting to make plans to knit myself a new version of the Ugly Crochet Poncho. Hopefully, it will turn out nice enough I can call it the Gorgeous Knit Poncho. Or at least the Happy Knit Poncho. We’ll see.

I plan to use the same shape and structure that the UCP has – a band of circular work for a neckline, then work flat for the cape itself, leaving a 1 1/2″ to 2″ opening at the front. My neckline will be in rib stitch, and I think I’m going to keep the cape simple – maybe nothing more complex than a seed stitch variation for a little texture. The idea here, aside from the practical value of a nice-looking poncho to keep my shoulders warm in a drafty home, is to let the color be the star.

So, after I finish the current hat in progress (or sooner if I get bored with knitting hats), this will likely be the next work in progress. I’ll be sure to keep you all updated.

Thanks for reading – I love being able to share my knitting with you all!

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Playing With Clip Art

Filed under: Beading - Confessions of a Chantraphile — folkcat at 5:38 pm on Monday, November 28, 2005

For starters, I’m pleased to say that I finally got the 1″ punch I needed to make creating the circles to insert in the bottle cap charms easier. Hooray!

pb202577_edited.jpg

1″ Paper Punch – Massive Time Saver

Before picking this up, I was spending a lot of time with a circle template, an extra-fine point Sharpie, and a pair of scissors. I’d place the 1″ hole in the template over the magazine or catalog image I wanted, trace it with the Sharpie, then use scissors to cut out the circles as carefully as I could.

Talk about slow. Even if I did it assembly-line fashion – go through the stack of magazines, mark all the circles I wanted, then go through all the stacks and cut everything out – it’s a tedious, fussy, pathetic process.

Now that I have the 1″ punch (purchased at A. C. Moore with a significant coupon), I feel less compelled to have all my possible circles pre-cut. It’s so much easier now to punch out the image I want at the time I’m making the charms that I’m likely to just keep the stack of mags and catalogs stored for when I’m ready to work, then punch as I go.

Experiments with Scrounged Components and Glossy Accents

I wrote a short while ago about how the Craft Goddesses divvied up some decorative “bead” curtains from Target to use as scrounged beading components. The plastic pieces were all molded directly onto the hanging strings, making them not really “beads”. Still, we Goddesses saw potential.

My first experiment is with one of the larger plastic rings. I kept them with the string passing through the hole in the middle, not knowing what I might do with them.

I started by taking some of the clip-art that CG Judith gave us for our bottle cap charms, specifically a little brown moth. I chose these moths because they were completely symmetrical – if I placed them back to back, they’d match perfectly. I cut out two of them, and used the Glossy Accents clear adhesive and glaze to coat each little moth out to the edges of the design.

Cut-Out Moths with Glossy Accents Coating

Glossy, Domed Moths

The Glossy Accents gave the moths a clear, raised coating. It did curl the wings a bit, but these can be gently bent into place before the product completely cures. Just don’t stick your fingers in the wet adhesive, you’ll leave a mark you can’t get out.

Paper Moth Glued Onto String

Moth Glued Onto String in Component

I glued the two moths together, sandwiching the string in the middle of the plastic ring along the length of their bodies. I used the same Glossy Accents as the adhesive that I had used to coat the wings.

Paper Moth Pivots on String

Pivoting Moths

As you can see, the little moth will pivot on the string. The string is taut, and the moth doesn’t really swing free, but it can move.

I went into this experiment with no plans for how to use this piece. The full intent was to try this particular technique and see what happened. Now that I’ve got it, I could consider using this as a focal point on a necklace, with loops of beads attaching to either side of the ring above the moths. Or I could add beads to the ring to accent the whole thing, and hang it as an ornament.

No telling what I’ll do with it, really. It may even just live in my samples drawer to remind me of what’s possible.

Coming Soon

I’m starting to think of making a bottle-cap charms bracelet with a Christmas theme. I’ve got plenty of images from the catalogs already, and I have un-used bottle caps in Christmas-y green and gold already. For a red accent, I’m eyeing my empty prescription bottles from the Target Pharmacy – they’re a lovely, seasonal, transparent red. And I’ve got some metallic-finish glass beads in crayon-bright colors that would make great dangles.

Of course, you’ll see pictures when I have some to show!

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Surviving Turkey Day

Filed under: Knitting — folkcat at 5:10 pm on Monday, November 28, 2005

I know I was grumbling the week before last about the absurdity of cooking a 20-lb. turkey for just two people. We survived the process, though not without stress.

Our apartment building, the best we can figure, was last remodeled and the kitchens updated in the 50’s. I’m fairly sure the electric stove must be newer than that, but it’s still far from new.

Cooking anything elaborate generates a lot of tension, since there seems to be an issue with the heating element in the oven chosing random times to shut off. This has been an intermittent and infrequent issue, since we just don’t oven-cook that much, but with this Thanksgiving and trying to spend over 5 hours cooking a 20-lb. bird, we became convinced that it’s a major cause of our cooking anxiety.

Turkey Monster Ready to Roast

The Buttered Bird Awaiting Its Heated Conclusion

My review of turkey roasting techniques consistently turned up the notion of covering the bird with folded cheesecloth that’s been soaked in melted butter. This surprised me, since no one I’ve ever had roasted turkey with had ever used this approach – to my knowledge, at least. Still, it seemed worth a try, so that’s what we did.

When I cleaned out the turkey, I looked at the neck and decided not to waste any time. I dumped it straight in the crockpot, added some vegetables from the freezer, poured in some chicken broth to cover, and started it cooking. Not entirely without incident, though, about which more later.

Turkey Soup #1 in the Crock

Turkey Neck Soup

Our ornery oven tried at least three times to thwart our turkey roasting efforts. First, the original pre-heat failed; then, twice during the roasting period, when basting the bird we discovered that the oven temperature had dropped and the heating element wasn’t kicking in. Turning the oven off and then setting it back to the desired temperature restored the creation of heat in each case. Our point, though, is that we shouldn’t ever have to wonder if the oven is heating properly or not.

Folkcat Carves the Turkey

And She, She herself – the Grinch – carved the Roast Beast

Sorry, couldn’t resist that. In the end, the turkey did roast through beautifully. We removed the butter-soaked cheesecloth for the last half hour or so to let the skin brown, which it did nicely. The meat was cooked through, and may have been ever so slightly dry, but it was nevertheless tasty.

Chive Turkey Soup

Turkey Soup #1, Completed – Chive Turkey Soup

The Fine Art of Identifying Frozen Vegetables

Apparently, it’s not as easy as one would think. When I selected the homepacked bags of frozen vegetables for the turkey neck soup, I thought I grabbed one bag of carrot slices, and one of broccoli florets. I was much surprised when I first stirred the soup a couple of hours into the process, and could find no evidence of the broccoli anywhere. Yet there were all these little, grass-like green things…

As it turns out, what I thought was broccoli was actually chives. This summer, a friend had given us a huge cutting of fresh chives from her garden. I had snipped them all up and frozen them in an ice cube tray, anticipating that I’d be able to pull out a cube of chives to season a soup.

What I did not expect was to pull out the entire bag and mistake it for broccoli, thereby dumping the whole thing into the pot.

I located a package of actual broccoli in the freezer and added that. The chives I couldn’t do much about – but they added a nice flavor, and a certain amount of folklore, to the finished product.

Which, of course, I’m now calling Chive Turkey Soup.

More Leftover Magic

The next day after Thanksgiving, of course, we were faced with piles of prepared food we needed to deal with. Actually, scratch that – it wasn’t the Friday, we were still too toasty from doing battle with our oven the day before. Dealing with the leftovers didn’t start happening until Saturday.

Gryphon took on the job of picking the meat off of the turkey carcass. When I came into the kitchen, he’d removed everything he could get easily, and had popped the still meat-clad bones into a stockpot to loosen what was left.

“Honey,” I said. “You know what you’re doing, don’t you?”

“What’s that?”

“You’re making soup.”

Freezer- and cupboard-diving I go, looking for what will work to make another nice soup. The main criterion was that it had to be different enough from the other one, or why bother? So we added a bunch of frozen chopped peppers and onions, and some carrots, and I decided that closer to the end of the process I’d add rice for the carbohydrate component, and some instant mashed potato flakes.

Instant mashed potato flakes? In soup?

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. But it’s an old trick I learned a long time ago. The mashed potato flakes simultaneously thicken the soup, and give it a creamy texture without having to add dairy products. It does quite a good job of it, too.

Creamy Turkey Soup with Rice

Creamy Turkey Soup with Rice

A little rosemary for seasoning, some salt and pepper to perk up the flavor, and I declared this soup finished. Both soups came out tasty, but I think this one is my favorite of the two.

Thanksgiving Dinner as a Moveable Feast

My favorite leftovers by far are those that you can turn into a portable meal. Thanksgiving Dinner works perfectly.

You can work with pie dough for these little pocket pastries, but I prefer packaged refrigerator dough – either biscuit dough, or better yet, croissant dough. The version in the picture below uses Pillsbury Grands Flaky Biscuits, since I had them in the house already from our Turkey Day groceries.

If you’re using biscuit dough, you have to get out your rolling pin and a little flour and roll the biscuits out big and thin. Really big and thin. If you think you’ve got them big enough, keep going. I roll until they’re at least 5 inches across myself.

Thanksgiving Dinner in a Pocket

Thanksgiving Dinner to Go, With All the Fixings

For the Thanksgiving Dinner in a Pocket version of this, my filling will consist of the following, listed in the order I’ll add them to the pocket:

  • stuffing
  • mashed potatos, if there are any left
  • white and dark meat turkey, chopped fairly small and mixed together
  • gravy
  • cranberry sauce

A small amount of each of these is placed on half of the dough. Remember that you don’t want to put it all the way to the edge, since you need free dough there to seal together. Also, you don’t want to put too much filling, or your pockets will burst on you. If you have vegetables leftover, you could add a bit of those, too.

Bake according to the instructions for whatever version of refrigerated dough you’re using. I find that they don’t take any longer to cook than the usual biscuits or crescent rolls you’d make do.

I recommend storing these in the refrigerator, or you could freeze them. They can be eaten at room temperature, or warmed gently in a toaster oven. Microwaving works, too, but tends to make them soggy and the dough may get a little tough.

Obligatory Fiber Mention

I knit a fair bit over the past week, mostly hats. I’m working out the details of converting my Inverted Cloud Hat concept into a full pattern, and it’s turning out a little more involved than I might have initially anticipated. I’m planning to offer instructions that will cover three sizes and a number of gauges. So watch this space, and I’ll let you know when I have something ready. If it gets very involved, I may put up the most basic Inverted Cloud Hat as I’ve already posted it, then offer the more complex, all sizes-all gauges pattern as a pattern for sale.

I’ve also postulated a double-layered, self-lining hat that would be great for really cold weather, or for yarns that are too thin to ues as a single knit layer. So I’m working on that variation as well, which I’ll probably offer as a separate pattern unto itself. Stay tuned.

In Conclusion

The sunset sky as we found it after running errands on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving.

Sunset, Day Before Thanksgiving, 2005

As Sandy might say, All Your Skies Are Belong to Her

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Sweaters for Penguins – Tasmanian Conservation Trust

Filed under: Knitting — folkcat at 8:57 pm on Friday, November 25, 2005

Tasmanian Conservation Trust

Over at the Makezine Blog, I found this story about a Tasmanian project to collect handknit sweaters for penguins who were caught in oil spills. I thought at first it was a joke, but no, it’s the real thing.

I found this image of fairy penguins in colorful jumpers at an Australian news site.

Aren’t they adorable?

The project is now over – they report that they collected over 15,000 sweaters, or “jumpers” as they are called in former parts of the British Empire. Their current effort is focused on motorist awareness of the penguin habitats – apparently there’s a large problem of penguins crossing the roads being struck and killed.

The jumper patterns, however, are still available at the site – kept around against the horrible event that they are ever needed again, I imagine. While there may not be a current call for jumpers for penguins, I imagine the patterns could still be useful – how about a handknit jumper for the stuffed penguin you give a favorite child for Christmas?

Meanwhile, I’m just going to bask in the wonder that is handknitting – it’s saving penguins! Is there anything it can’t do?

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Pre-Holiday Postus Interruptus

Filed under: Knitting — folkcat at 12:22 pm on Wednesday, November 23, 2005

I’m writing this offline on Tuesday evening. I am hoping I may be able to post it on Wednesday.

It feels like I had a million things, as usual, to blog about. Can I think of a one? No.

Our DSL connection went bad today – the modem, specifically – and a replacement modem picked up at the office down the street failed as well. They were supposed to bring us yet another replacement sometime this afternoon, but that promise failed us when instead they called and left a message that said, “We tested the modem you brought back, and it works fine, so we need you to tell us what you’d like us to do.”

How about you give us equipment that works? We’ve been with this service two years, and have had at least a half dozen modem replacements – and several of those were dead out of the box, so they really count more than once.

How about you pay attention to the fact that my husband brought in the replacement modem this afternoon, after spending much time on the phone with your technicians trying to get it to work and failing? That he told you it wasn’t working and he was instructed to bring it in for yet another replacement? Telling us, “we tested it and it works fine,” doesn’t fix our problem, it doesn’t address the fact that we had a DSL connection this morning and first our existing modem crapped out. It doesn’t address the fact that the replacement he was sent home with the first time failed to operate, even under the telephone guidance of your own technicians. It doesn’t answer anything.

What would we like you to do? We’d like you to provide, without unreasonable interruption, the Internet service we pay you for.

Face facts. Internet Service Providers are utilities now, like the phone company (which, actually, you also are), and like the electric company, like the cable company and the gas and oil. You are expected, like those other services, to provide reasonably uninterrupted access to the service you have contracted to provide us with.

You are expected to provide equipment that operates correctly out of the box. You are expected to listen to us when we tell you what has already happened with that equipment when it fails, and if you have to get back to us with an answer later, that answer is expected to account for and accommodate the information we provided you, not ignore it completely.

Since you were unable to comply with those expectations today, we are left without access to the Internet tonight. And for an unforseeable amount of time into tomorrow, too. Tomorrow, Wednesday – the day that Gryphon and I were going to spend finalizing our grocery shopping list for Turkey Day and running errands together to get ready.

Now, instead, I get to run the errands alone, while Gryphon likely spends a large part of the day wrestling with our telephone/Internet company to get our connection back in service, the day before a major holiday weekend begins.

Before you suggest that we find another service to sign up with, you need to understand. We’re not with the major telephone company. When we moved into Wilton, the little, locally-owned Wilton Telephone Company, a true Mom-and-Pop operation (Stuart Draper now runs the Wilton Scenic Railroad), had just been sold to a company called TDS. TDS, as far as I can tell, is in the business of buying all the little non-Verizon-type phone companies around.

What that means for us is, as far as DSL is concerned, we don’t get to go to anyone else. It’s TDS or nothing. Our other broadband option is the cable company, but we still hear bad reports about the reliability of that service from friends who use it.

Truthfully, TDS DSL works great 99.9% of the time. Failures have almost always been in equipment, and previously, they’ve been pretty good about taking care of the problems. This time, for some reason, we seem to have some severe disconnects between what Gryphon reports to them and what they hear.

If you’re reading this, we may have gotten our service back. Or we may have used the almost-useless dial-up option for just long enough to push this text up to my blog.

I would have hoped that if this sort of failure happened, I’d at least be able to spend time composing a decent post to put up when our service is back. Instead, as I mentioned before, I’m stuck. I can’t think of a thing I wanted to write about.

The rhythm of my day has been severely disrupted. I follow something like 148 blogs that I read regularly. Many of them you know – Yarn Harlot, Mossy Cottage Knits, Grumperina, Queer Joe, Franklin’s Panoptican, and The Knitting Curmudgeon among them. I catch up on blogs, I knit, Gryphon and I may run some errands, then I write my own blog posts.

Our DSL failure came early enough today I never got to read even one blog. The train of my day derailed coming out of the station. TDS kept us in limbo for the entire day about whether we’d be able to get this fixed, and effectively has kept that from happening until sometime Wednesday at the earliest. Assuming Gryphon can bring them to their senses.

I hoped to get a bit of rhythm back this evening. Tuesday is Craft Goddess day, when a certain group of friends come to visit and craft together at my home. We had planned to go ahead this week as usual in spite of Thanksgiving, but it seems that no one was able to make it after all. I had the table all set up and everything, and then wound up sitting alone.

It’s all added up to make me feel very disconnected, out of touch, lonely, I thought I’d try to fill some of the time ripping my holiday music CDs to the hard drive, but I realize that’s only setting up a task I can’t truly complete – the computer can’t go online to get the album information. I’ll have to go separately to collect that for all the albums I rip tonight.

It’s amazing how much the Internet connection is a part of our lives these days. When it works, it’s seamlessly integrated into the majority of what I do.

My bull detector tells me I began rambling ages ago, so I think I’ll leave it at that for now. Since I’m unlikely to be able to post this before Wednesday, you should probably expect this to be the last you hear from me until Friday at the earliest.

Thanks, as ever, for listening when I needed it the most.

Hugs to you all, and may you have much to be thankful for.

Edited on Wednesday to add:

Gryphon walked into the local tech office – not the main office – today. It’s located just at the other end of the building we live in. Talking directly to the techs themselves was, as usual, the answer. A short while later, one of them walked up to our door with a new modem, which Gryphon plugged into the system and our problem was solved.

Sometimes it pays to live in a small town. Of course, one could argue that it’s not reasonable under any circumstance that we should know the technicians for our DSL company by name, since we don’t have any common social grounds for knowing them.

Gryphon and I are off to run our pre-holiday errands now. Have a happy one!

DSL is Down – Chantraphile Post Will Have to Wait

Filed under: Beading - Confessions of a Chantraphile — folkcat at 11:13 am on Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Our DSL modem died (again), and the replacement they had us pick up at the office was dead out of the box. I may not get a real connection back today.

I’ll post as soon as I can.

DSL Down

Filed under: Knitting — folkcat at 11:13 am on Wednesday, November 23, 2005

I may not be able to make a regular post today. Our DSL modem died, then the replacement they had us pick up at the office was dead out of the box. We even had to call customer service to get a local dial-up number so I could post this much, since that information is only available otherwise online.

*sigh*

I’ll post for real as soon as I can.

A Folkcat Culinary First; A Mossy Blessing; and, Knitting Around With Hidden Treasure

Filed under: Knitting — folkcat at 7:06 pm on Monday, November 21, 2005

More Culinary Experimentation

I’m 45 years old, which is all the more reason why you’re not going to believe this one.

I’ve never had a BLT sandwich before this evening.

I know, I know. How in the world did that happen? It’s not like I didn’t have exposure to them as a child – my mother would frequently make a BLT for herself. Every restaurant on the planet seems to have a BLT offering on their sandwich menu. And according to the segment on a recent Martha show that inspired the tale I’m about to tell you, BLT is the second most popular sandwich on the planet, bowing only to Ham and Cheese in first place.

So how’d I avoid it? And why? Goodness only knows. I can’t say I’ve particularly felt I was missing anything, and it’s not like I was starving without them – anyone who’s seen my pictures knows that’s not the image of a starving person.

This afternoon, I was sitting watching an episode of Martha from a couple of weeks ago on my Tivo. David Alan Grier was the guest, and Martha and David were having a sandwich cook-off, Martha making her “Perfect BLT”, David making his signature Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich.

Suddenly, Martha’s BLT looked and sounded quite tasty to me. I was already working up the energy to go to the supermarket to buy lettuce – why not go the extra step and pick up some bacon and tomatoes as well?

And that’s just what I did. I found a decent-looking brand of bacon on sale even, and I managed to identify two tomatoes that were not only ripe-enough-to-use-right-away, but hadn’t gotten squashed in the bin. As soon as I got home, I popped the no-stick skillet onto the stove, and started prepping lettuce and tomatoes and toasting some bread while it heated.

I sliced the tomato thick, around 1/4 to 1/3 of an inch. Fried up four strips of bacon good and slow – they didn’t shrink nearly as much as I feared they might, and there was hardly any curling, but they were nice and crisp. Some nice house-brand oat nut toast from the local supermarket, some Cain’s Mayonnaise (sorry, Martha, I just don’t have it in me to make my own), and a big, crunchy leaf of lettuce.

It was quite……

TASTY.

I’ll be doing this again.

Inverted Cloud Hats Get the Go-Ahead

After dropping Ryan at Mossy Cottage Knits an e-mail to tell her about my modification of her Dulaan Cloud Hat pattern, I received this lovely note back from her:

Jenny,

I’m so happy when someone enjoys–and then improves on–one of my patterns! (I even hesitate to call the Cloud Hat “my” pattern because I’m sure it’s been done a million times before.) Your changes are great!! I will be absolutely sure to post a link to your modified pattern on my blog.

And *feel free* to post your pattern on your pattern list! With patterns where I was more creative and spent more time designing the finished product, I might care more about the copyright issues, but not this silly ol’ one.

(BTW, I loved the photo of your husband wearing the hat. That made my day.)

Ryan, I can honestly say that your note made my day! Since I have your blessing, I will indeed go ahead and create a full-fledged pattern and PDF for my Inverted Cloud Hat. It has occurred to me, too, that unlike the original Dulaan Cloud Hat, knitting the inverted version for different sizes isn’t as easy as casting on a different number of stitches. As I wrote it up yesterday, it makes a hat for a large adult head. So I’ll spend some time making the calculations and writing the pattern to suit a number of sizes, and I’ll put it up on my sidebar.

Meanwhile, I’ve actually completed the first Inverted Cloud Hat now, and Gryphon and I went out to our favorite local park (Emerson Park in Milford) to take some pictures. This berry bush made the perfect setting, don’t you think?

Gryphon Models the Inverted Cloud Hat

Gryphon in the Inverted Cloud Hat, Berry Colorway

pb212604.jpg

This May Be My Favorite Photo

I almost missed this shot. I had turned away thinking we were done, and when I looked back, Gryphon was goofing around with some of the taller berry branches.

Knitting Around with a Hidden Treasure

This past summer, Gryphon and I discovered geocaching, a worldwide phenomenon where thousands of individuals are hiding boxes, then posting Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) coordinates at www.geocaching.com, the official website for the game.

We found 10 caches in New Hampshire in the first few months, then we decided we wanted to hide one of our own. We did so this summer, at Emerson Park in Milford. The Milford Memory Box has seen a fair bit of traffic. People seem to like that it brings them to a park that is a hidden treasure in downtown Milford, NH, and they comment on how well the box is hidden, virtually in plain sight.

Gryphon and I visit the park every week or two to check up on things. Today was a beautiful day out (over 50 degrees, and sunny), so we decided it was time for a walk there again. And I realized something – I’d never done the Knitting Around thing there.

So here I am, Knitting Around in Emerson Park.

Knitting Around in Emerson Park

Knitting Around in Emerson Park

For all you budding (or experienced) geocachers out there, these pictures are a bonus clue. In the one above, the site where the cache is hidden is actually visible in the picture.

Knitting Around - View from the Cache

Knitting Around in Emerson Park, Side B

And in this picture, I’m being photographed from the viewpoint of the cache.

Anyone in the area who’s inclined to give geocaching a try, the Milford Memory Box is a nice, simple one to begin with. The location is easy to get to, and quite attractive. No bushwacking or climbing is necessary. It’s even wheelchair accessible, though I should point out there are lots of dead leaves and small twigs on the paths this time of year. If you want to visit our cache, the coordinates are N 42° 50.182 W 071° 39.032. For more details, visit the geocaching listing for The Milford Memory Box at this website.

A Final Note

As you may or may not have noticed, I added a section to the sidebar of this blog titled “Free Stuff”. The Freedom Mitts Pattern is now linked to there, and soon I’ll do the same with the Inverted Cloud Hat pattern (once I’ve finalized it.) There’s also a sub-category for Desktop Wallpapers where I’ll eventually be posting monthly downloads of free wallpaper images for your computer. I need to create the gallery page that you’ll hop to first, though. But keep watching, it’s coming soon!

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Inverted Cloud Hats – a Pattern Mod; and, Knitting Around Town with Surprise Guests

Filed under: Knitting — folkcat at 5:25 pm on Sunday, November 20, 2005

That blue hat that I knit for Gryphon the other day turned out to be a success. He’s worn it every day since. His assessment – the yarn is soft and warm, and the gauge came out tight enough that when the wind picks up, his bald spot doesn’t feel cold. Yet the stitching is still elastic and comfortably stretches over his head for a good fit.

The only change we’d make in the whole thing is to knit it longer. As it is, it fits well, but there isn’t enough length to fold up a cuff for extra warmth over the ears.

Gryphon in His New Blue Hat
Gryphon, Crusin’ and Stylin’ in his Blue Cloud Hat

I was working with Mossy Cottage Knits’ Dulaan Cloud Hat pattern, which knits from the cuff up, and of course I had to guess when to start decreasing. Turns out I could have kept going another inch or so if I’d wanted.

The hat was enough success, though, that Gryphon agreed he’d happily accept more of them, in different colors. A veritable winter hat wardrobe. So Saturday, the two of us popped out together so he could pick out the yarn for himself.

Angel Hair Yarn from Jo-Ann
Jo-Ann’s Exclusive Angel Hair Yarn –
Colorways (top to bottom) Berry and Forest Green

His choice of the Berry colorway surprised me a bit – I wouldn’t have picked him for something that bright, and it has a deep pink component to the mix as well. But he told me he wanted something in nice, bright fall colors, and this sure fit that description.

Fall Colors Hat in Progress
Inverted Berry Cloud Hat in Progress, Showing Magic Loop

I took a quick look at the Cloud Hat pattern again, and realized how easy it would be to invert it and knit from the center top down – especially if I use the Magic Loop technique. This time, I wanted to show the Magic Loop I meant business – I pulled out my size 10, 60″ Addi Turbos. It turns out to actually be easier to work the Magic Loop when you have more “loop” to pull through, especially when you’re working the smaller stitch counts.

The inversion of the pattern was easy. I won’t put it up as a PDF, since it’s my modification of someone else’s pattern, and I make no claims to the idea at all. In fact, I suspect that a bunch of you have probably already made the conversion in your heads – that’s how easy it is! If Ryan at Mossy Cottage is interested, however, maybe she’ll offer this as an alternative version at her own site.

Inverted Cloud Hat

Needles: Size 10, circular or dpn depending on your preferred method.
Gauge: 1″ = 4.5 stitches, 6 rows

Cast-on 6 stitches, using whatever method you prefer. Join, and begin knitting around as follows:

Rounds 1 & 2: K1 front and back in each stitch (K1FB). (12 stitches after Round 1; 24 stitches after Round 2.)

Round 3, 5, 7 & 9: Knit

Round 4: *K1, K1FB. Repeat from * around. (36 stitches)

Round 6: *K2, K1FB. Repeat from * around (48 stitches)

Round 8: *K3, K1FB. Repeat from * around (60 stitches)

Round 10: *K4, K1FB. Repeat from * around (72 stitches)

From here on, work even in stockinette stitch until the body of the hat is desired length, then switch to K1, P1 rib. Continue until the hat is as long as you desire – or your yarn runs out.

Bind off loosely. Weave in ends, and enjoy.

Surprise! or, Always Go Out Prepared to Knit and Take Pictures

Our Saturday outing included a stop here:

A. C. Moore, Nashua, NH

Where we never expected to find this opportunity!

Knitting Around with the Mouse Family
Knitting Around with the Famous Mice

Of course, both Gryphon and I looked at them standing in front of the store, and our first thought was to get out the knitting and take the picture. It’s a good thing I always come prepared for Knitting Around, isn’t it!

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