Of Rats and Jen (Inactive)

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

Normal Activities to Resume…..

Filed under: Knitting — folkcat at 11:11 pm on Friday, December 30, 2005

…no later than Monday or Tuesday.

We’re back from Syracuse as of last night, but I’m still in decompression mode. You know how it is – you spend 7 hours driving, then most of a week sleeping in the wrong bed, in the wrong house, in the wrong climate, with your normal routine thrown out the window. Then you get to spend 7 hours (or more, because you’re more tired and need more breaks to stretch your legs!) getting back home, and at least a day or two getting all your things back in place and re-establishing your routines.

Then the world throws another holiday at you already, and you have to figure out how you’re spending New Year’s Eve, LOL.

There are still more posts to come about Syracuse. We had a lovely gift exchange on Christmas Day, including some very nice yarn gifts from my husband, and the receiving of knitted gifts by several beings; we found the best LYS in Syracuse on Monday; went to the zoo on Tuesday (where I took over 200 pictures that were worth keeping!), but not before we did some bead shopping; provided tech support for my parents’ audio-video set-up on Wednesday; and then came home Thursday.

Whew! I’d better stop talking about it now, I’m getting tired all over again! Trust me, though, you’ll hear all about it next week!

Channel J – a Japanese Master Textile Artist at Work

Filed under: Knitting — folkcat at 11:01 pm on Friday, December 30, 2005

Channel J

Kumihimo Braids by Master Yoshio Ohbayashi

Here’s a little treasure I found for those interested in textile arts from all parts of the globe. Channel J is a Japanese Internet Television Channel. I found them when I stumbled upon a website listing online television sources from around the world. Your browser will need to include support for Asian characters to view the site – you’ll be given instructions for how to install that if you don’t have it already.

The link I’ve given for Channel J takes you not to their main page, but to the page for videos about Japanese Culture – particularly the Arts. The very first video I looked at here was the third image down, the one that shows little knots of braided fibers.

Kumihimo is the Japanese art of braiding fibers into cords, tapes, and ribbons, and sometimes into narrow pieces of textile that can be used as cloth. This video, about 20 minutes long, shows a Master of the art at work – Yoshio Ohbayashi.

I was enraptured by the video from the moment it began. The audio is entirely in Japanese unless you use my newly found link below [ed.], but it’s still marvelous to watch his hands as they wind the bobbins with silk and set them up on the marudai. We are then treated to several minutes of hypnotic beauty as he moves the cords symmetrically about the marudai’s round top, picking them up smoothly and laying them down again, then gathering the next group without hesitation and putting them in their proper place.

Our kumihimo master then works on a kakudai, which braids in a similar fashion, but in which the finished cord is tensioned above the loom. From what I could see as he worked, this seemed to create a much tighter weave.

I’ve dabbled a little in kumihimo myself, and created several braids that we use to hang special beads and pendants on. Compared to Master Yoshio Ohbayashi, however, I am a kumihimo tadpole.

My marudai has been gathering dust. Maybe it’s time for me to take it out again, and indulge myself in the trance-like state induced by the movement of my hands with the bobbins.

Edited to add: Duh! I found the link to get the pages in English! http://www.channelj.co.jp/English/ takes you to Channel J’s home page; http://www.channelj.co.jp/English/movies.cgi?big=003&mid=0003&small=00001 will take you to the page with the videos about the craftsmen that I’m directing you to. This gives you the videos with English narration instead of Japanese, too!

Much easier this way! Enjoy!

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Thursday Night’s Knit Around

Filed under: Knitting — folkcat at 9:45 pm on Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Just a reminder for everyone – I won’t be around for this week’s Knitting Around at Panera (Thursday, December 29th). At the moment, I’m still in New York visiting family, and while we’ll be leaving for New Hampshire Thursday morning, I doubt I’ll be in any shape to go out for even the most enjoyable and sociable of knitting evenings the same night.

Remember, you can still Knit Around without me! I didn’t make it last week, either, and I heard from the Panera folks when I visited last Friday that someone was there with their knitting!

I’ll be ready to Knit Around next week, Thursday, January 5th – hope to see you then!

Folkcat & Gryphon on the Road: Day One, Sun and Clouds, Ups and Downs

Filed under: Knitting — folkcat at 11:08 am on Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Saturday morning around 11 a.m., we set off from home along Rte. 101, headed west.

A Sunny Start to the Day, Rte. 101, Peterborough, NH
Passing Through Peterborough

The sun shone brightly for much of the distance through New Hampshire, then it started clouding up as we approached Vermont.

We like to travel through Vermont along Route 9 when the weather’s not too bad. It’s lots of curvy roads that go up and down mountains, so if it is snowing, we prefer to go down to Massachusetts and take Route 2 over to New York.

Hogback Mountain Gift Shop & Scenic Outlook
Hogback Mountain Gift Shop and Scenic Overlook

A favorite stop for us is always the Hogback Moutain Gift Shop and Scenic Overlook. This is a very high spot along Route 9, with a clear view over a long valley to the south. They have those Pay-to-see binoculars, with cards that tell you where to look to see different mountains.

Binocular Key to the Sites

The numbers correspond to a dial on the base. You can rotate the binoculars to match points on the dial.

Here’s the view of the scene at #95, Holyoke Mountain Range.

Holyoke Range in Massachusetts - View from Hogback Mt., VT
Holyoke Mountain Range, Massachusetts, as seen from Hogback Mountain, VT.

Even though things were pretty cloudy and hazy by then, the view was spectacular.

We stopped in the gift shop long enough to get some genuine Vermont cheddar cheese and maple sugar candy for my folks, then we headed out again.

Our next stop came in Bennington, Vermont, near the New York state border.

You Are Here - Bennington, VT

Where I had spotted this place as we drove by on Main St.

The Naked Sheep, Bennington VT

Gryphon was swift enough to realize that a stop was necessary, so we parked and walked back. Sadly, this was what we found when we got to the door at around 2 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

Signs in the door of The Naked Sheep

Disappointing, but not entirely surprising, I suppose. We’ve made note of their location, however, so we can remember to try for them again.

Around 15 minutes later, we crossed over into New York State. Before very long, we had made our way past Troy and Schenectady, and were on the New York State Thruway.

I really knew I was nearing home when I started noticing the drumlins.

South End of a Drumlin Along the NYS Thruway
South end of a Drumlin

Drumlins are a common feature of the terrain in New York State. Much of New York’s geographical features were formed in the Ice Ages, and drumlins are uniquely-shaped hills that are formed by debris carried along and then dumped by glaciers.

Drumlins Along the Mohawk
Drumlins along the Mohawk

I grew up with drumlins everywhere around me in Syracuse. You forget how much you get accustomed to seeing certain shapes in the landscape around you. New Hampshire doesn’t have anything like the low, curved-top drumlins. In New Hampshire, either you’re a mountain, or you’re a lumpy field between mountains. There’s nothing in between, and there are seldom spaces open enough that you can get long views of anything like I did these drumlins.

We arrived in Syracuse around 6 p.m., right on schedule. Mom had a nice meatloaf dinner waiting. That was a strange experience for everyone involved, my parents included – none of the four of us really ever get to sit down to a family meal anymore.

Mom Knits a Sock
Folkcat’s Mom, Knitting

Just so you know that I come by the crafty thing honestly, here’s my mom, knitting a sock. the table in front of her has stacks of knitting magazines and books on the shelf, and she’s got baskets of supplies nearby.

Next Time (Whenever that is): Christmas Day

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Today’s Weird Factor Alert Level – Red!; and, Folkcat’s Christmas Checklist

Filed under: Knitting — folkcat at 1:54 pm on Friday, December 23, 2005

Daily Weird Factor Level: High!

Gryphon had his company Christmas party to go to a little while ago. They don’t do Secret Santa or such, what they do is the owner of the company buys a whole bunch of gifts and they do a raffle-like drawing. Last year was Gryphon’s first Christmas at this place, and he didn’t happen to win.

This year they had two drawings – one for the gift assortment, and one for a stack of really nice denim work shirts with the company logo on them.

Gryphon got drawn both times. He wasn’t drawn early in the gift raffle, so the best thing left was a $50 gift card for a grocery store we shop at regularly, but hey, that’s not bad! And he’s got a really nice new work shirt now, too.

He came into the house obviously in a strange mood after the party, around 1 p.m. He showed me these things, and then explained that they were only about 0.1% of the weird factor.

Seems he’d had a call from our landlord’s office. They were going over their books to close out the year, and had discovered something about our rent payments.

Small town, and all that – when we had our tough times the past couple of years, one of the payments that fell behind was the rent. Our landlord was kind enough to let us begin paying in weekly installments instead of monthly, and we tacked on a small amount each time to work off the past due amount.

Seems they hadn’t kept very close track of it, but when they ran the figures now, they found we had paid a fairly significant amount of excess.

In other words, we’re not only caught up – we’ve overpaid.

Gryphon was asked what we wanted to do with the money – get it paid out to us, or put it in an escrow account for future rent. You can guess which choice he made.

So the final, 99.9% of the weird factor today was when he handed me a rather large check from our landlord.

This by no means fixes everything that’s wrong with our budget and income. But it takes us out of the red, and means we don’t have to worry any more about whether we can afford the gas to get to Syracuse tomorrow. We’ve been fretting this last week or so because the budget seemed to be tightening a noose around our necks, and we may have been within a heartbeat of having to cancel the trip for lack of sufficient funds to buy gas to both get there and return.

Gryphon’s off now, putting the money in the bank. I think he’s a bit relieved, too, that he can now afford to buy me a Christmas present that he can wrap and put under the tree in Syracuse – there are hints that his outing may include extra stops I should pretend not to know about. He’d been feeling disappointed that there was no room in the budget to get me anything, but that’s changed now.

Call it a Christmas Miracle. That’s what it feels like to us. It’ll be nice not having to worry about the cost of every McDonald’s hamburger we might want to eat while in Syracuse. And maybe we can do a little better than McDonald’s, too.

Folkcat’s Christmas Checklist

Let’s see:

Christmas Spirit: Much repaired, mood elevated, almost cried in relief. It’s nice not to have to worry so much about our expenses when we’re supposed to be on vacation and seeing our family for the first time since last Christmas. We can actually relax for this trip.

Mystery Project #1: Knitted, Blocked, Embellished, and Wrapped – Check.

Mystery Project #2: Painted, Sealed, Dried – Check. Still to be Wrapped, will do later today.

Mystery Project #3: Poked, Prodded, Shaped. Still to be Be-ribboned and Wrapped. Will do later today.

Mystery Project #4: Knitted, Felted, Wrapped, and Shipped sometime last week – Check.

Gifts for Gryphon: Wrapped last night while he was at work.

Felted Catnip Mice: 2 stuffed, 12 to go. Gryphon decided the stuffing process looked like fun, and he wants to participate. We’ll do this together later today, then we’ll wrap them.

Food for the Road to Syracuse: No longer necessary to prepare enough to keep us fully nourished for a 6- to 8-hour road trip. We can afford to stop someplace along the way for a meal. So one of today’s baking chores is crossed off the list. I’ll just assemble some light snacks to sustain us between rest stops.

Laundry so we have clean clothes to pack: First load in the washer now. More to follow.

Packing: I’ll probably do that at 1 in the morning or so tonight, like I usually do.

Knitting for the trip: Still haven’t decided what to take. Wearable Hug #13 is a given, it’s partway through the second skein and is brainless, if large, knitting. I may take the yarn for the knitted capelet/poncho I want to make to replace the Ugly Crochet Poncho. Beyond that, I have a mission to find yarn for a project a friend has requested.

Christmas Wishes: Extended to every one of you! And appropriate comparable greetings to those who celebrate different holidays than Christmas.

Posting Next Week: Will happen, but probably on an irregular schedule. Look for lots of pictures, especially from the zoo. I may even set up a Flickr account to accommodate the volume – we’ll see.

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Knitted Amulet Bags and Other Christmas Goodies

Filed under: Knitting — folkcat at 6:58 pm on Thursday, December 22, 2005

Yes, I said Christmas. Everyone seems to be in a kerfuffle about “holiday” this and “Christmas” that and “season’s greetings” instead of “Merry Christmas”.

I’m not a religious person, wasn’t raised that way. I was raised with the secular tradition of a holiday called Christmas that we understood to have roots in Christianity and deeper roots in Paganism. It never bothered us that the Christians had a toehold on the holiday, I just considered that part of the overall mythology and tradition of the season. But it was definitely “Christmas”, not “that day that Santa Claus comes down the chimney” or “that mid-winter holiday where we give each other gifts and decorate a tree.”


So, I’m going to insist on saying “Merry Christmas”, and not from any offense at leaving Christ out of the proceedings. It’s fine with me if he saved you, but my personal religion, while I respect his teachings and think he was pretty special among humans of his era, is not centered around him.

No, I insist on it because that’s the name of the holiday that I’m celebrating, and pretending any different doesn’t change things. Nor does it take away from the other perfectly respectable celebrations that happen at this time of the year – Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice (a personal favorite), and others that I’m only marginally aware of, but that I’m sure anyone with good Googling skills can find.

I’m Feeling Better, and Not Better

Yesterday’s dismal mood appears to have been a pre-cursor to a genuine cold. I woke up this morning with a sick headache, sore throat, and stuffy nose. And all day I’ve been feeling like I really want to go back to bed, but I don’t because I know that will just completely screw my sleep patterns up for our trip to Syracuse this weekend.

So I’m taking acetaminophen for the headache, and some Gypsy Cold Care tea is helping immensely with the other symptoms.

I also made a decision that I should stay home tonight rather than attend the weekly Knitting Around at Panera Bread. Of course, since it’s an informal gathering, that doesn’t mean you all have to stay home if you’re inclined to show up. (Since I’m posting this past 6 p.m., and the Knit Around begins anywhere after 5 p.m., I realize this notice is kind of late to count. Sorry ’bout that.)

Craft Goddesses Give Good Christmas

Tuesday night was our regular Craft Goddesses weekly get-together, and it’s become our tradition that the last one before Christmas is a Christmas party. We all bring pot-luck goodies and exchange gifts, and generally have a good time.

Each of the Goddesses has unique talents, and each comes up with different and clever items for gifting. Bea has a long history of crafting for the holidays, making multiple gifts for friends. Vicki crafts, but she also travels a lot and visits bead shows, and she makes the most of those opportunities.

Bea Explores Her Christmas Goodies

Vicki Poses with Our Tree and Her Gifts

Gifts from Friends
Look at What Folkcat Received! Clockwise from front: Beaded Cross-stitch pin of a cat, candy sleigh, perpetual “Friends” calendar, pack of “Lost” trading cards, A.C.Moore Gift Card, special storage container, personalized “Jenny” notepad with cat design, glass beads, and a fused glass donut.

Like I said before, Craft Goddesses give GOOD Christmas.

My gift to Bea and Vicki was bead knitted amulet bags, specially designed for each of them. These are worked on size 8 Perle Cotton, using size 11/o Czech seed beads which are strung on the thread before you knit. I borrowed the pattern from a kit I had purchased and knit once.

I got the idea to make these only last Friday, when I watched a crafting show and they showed some bead knitted bracelets. I suddenly remembered how quickly I had knit a bag (under a day), and realized that I had all the materials I needed in the house.

Bea's Christmas Amulet Bag
Bea’s Bag – Metallic Purple Beads on Ecru Cotton

I’ll write more about the beads at Confessions of a Chantraphile in a day or two. What you care about here is the knitting, right?

I didn’t include anything in the pictures for scale, did I? Well, fringe and all these bags are maybe 2 or 2 1/2 inches long.

Vicki's Christmas Amulet Bag
Vicki’s Bag – Red/Orange Mix on Black Cotton

The bags are knit on size 0000 double-point knitting needles. They’re not knit in the round, though – they’re knit flat. The interesting thing is that you cast on 12 stitches, and you slip beads down the thread between the stitches you knit as you work the piece. The shaping of the bag comes almost entirely from slipping more beads, not from adding more stitches. At the widest part of this bag’s body, you are still working on only 12 stitches, but you’re slipping 4 beads down between each stitch.

The only stitch used in these bags is knit, so effectively it’s a garter stitch piece. Beads are put in place on the back of the work as you knit, and they’re placed on every row. What you wind up with is a completely reversible piece of knitting with beads on both sides. It drapes marvelously, and feels great to handle.

When the body of the bag is done, you do begin decreasing stitches to form the flap. Decreases are done at the beginning of each row, and you continue working in pattern, slipping beads between the stitches, as you work the rest of the row.

I worked with my own materials, but the inspiration and the pattern came from a kit created by Deanna of Deanna’s Vintage Styles. I bought the kit originally at my local yarn shop – you can either order kits from Deanna’s web site, or ask at your local yarn or bead shop.

Don’t let the small size of the needles, or the presence of the beads, intimidate you. The kit gives full instructions for transferring the beads onto the perle cotton (it’s sooo easy!), and really, the 0000 needles don’t feel all that small to me. I think their length makes them easy to handle. Once you get the basic method down, you can use this for all sorts of fun jewelry and accessories, including larger evening purses.

Besides, if you have to frog, we’re talking about 12 stitches a row at most! So if you’re looking for something different to try that’s still knitting, I’d suggest considering bead knitting.

And That’s Enough of That

The headache is coming back, and the throat is asking for some Throat Coat tea now. So I should probably leave it at that. I expect to be posting tomorrow (Friday), and then on Saturday, Gryphon and I leave for Syracuse. I’ll be posting while on the trip, but it may be irregular depending on how easily we find free wifi hot-spots.

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Another Desktop Wallpaper – Yarn Porn!

Filed under: Knitting — folkcat at 10:26 pm on Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Okay, here we are! Once again, I beat my “once-a-month” promise for new desktop wallpapers as I offer a dose of colorful yarn for your computer screen.

As I noted earlier, I’ve seen that a number of people come here from search engines while hunting for “yarn desktop wallpapers”. Makes sense – I have desktop wallpapers to download, and I talk fairly frequently about yarn! You’d think I would have put the two together sooner than this, wouldn’t you? Well, better late than never!

Mohair Mystique is an image I took some months ago of a pile of brightly-colored mohair yarns in my knitting basket. I actually meant all along to use it on my computer, then I got distracted by so many other things…you know how that goes!

Mohair Mystique – an Extra Bonus Wallpaper!

As with all my other wallpapers, Mohair Mystique is free for personal use on your own computer. To decorate your desktop with this – or any of my other wallpaper offerings – just visit Folkcat’s Free Desktop Wallpaper Gallery. You’ll find full instructions for downloading your choice of images.


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One of Those Days

Filed under: Beading - Confessions of a Chantraphile — folkcat at 5:24 pm on Wednesday, December 21, 2005

That’s what I’m having today. I know that I promised to post about certain things today, but I’m afraid it’s just not going to happen.

Today, I need a day for myself, and I’m going to take it. Not that my mood is leaving me much choice in the matter – I just can’t get the energy together to try to do anything important.

So, there it is. Sorry to disappoint you all, but, well, some days are like this, and we just have to ride with it the best we can.

I’ll be okay, and I’ll be back soon, I promise.

I will say this much – the beaded gifts that I gave last night were received with much delight and appreciation. And I got some nice beady goodies as well.

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Just You Wait . . .

Filed under: Beading - Confessions of a Chantraphile — folkcat at 4:32 pm on Tuesday, December 20, 2005

…but only until tomorrow, I promise. I have beadwork to report on, but can’t say anything today, since it involves gifts that will be gifted tonight.

I’m pretty happy with what I made, though, and I hope you’ll find it interesting. So please check back!

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How to Stuff a Felted Mouse

Filed under: Knitting — folkcat at 4:26 pm on Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Edited 11-11-2009 to add: If you’re looking for the mouse pattern, it did get uploaded a while back. Just check the top of the page for the menu item “Free Patterns”. The PDF of the catnip mouse pattern is there, free to download. Enjoy! – Jen

Warning: The following contains graphic scenes of surgical procedures as performed on knitted felted mice. Some images may be inappropriate for the squeamish.

I began work on stuffing the catnip mice today.

It hadn’t occurred to me that, after felting, the hole I left under the tail would only be about 3/4 of an inch across. And here I am, wanting to stuff at least a golf-ball’s worth of polyfill and catnip into these things.

Catnip Mice Awaiting Stuffing
The Surgical Station
Clockwise from Left: un-stuffed mice, polyester batting, chopstick, paper funnel made from index card,
Cosmic Catnip

I began by winding a small bit of polyfill onto a chopstick.

Gathering Polyfill on a Chopstick
Loading the Chopstick

If you’ve ever seen cotton candy being collected onto the skinny paper cones at a carnival, that’s pretty much how it works. The polyfill sometimes has a tougher time grabbing onto the chopstick at first, but once there, just keep twisting the chopstick until you have an appropriate amount of fill. Then push it through the opening in the mouse, and use your fingers to help push it off of the chopstick. Then tamp it as far into the mouse as you can with the stick.

I am filling the mice with alternating patches of fill and catnip, starting and finishing with the fill. The catnip, as you can imagine, is even harder to get through that tiny opening, so I had to call in some mechanical assistance.

Paper Funnel Inserted in Mouse
A Paper Funnel, Delicately Inserted into the Mouse Anatomy

I never expected making felted mice to be so, um…….anatomical.

Even with a funnel with the largest opening I could get into the mouse, the catnip basically sat in the paper until I used a chopstick to force it through.

Catnip in Funnel
Catnip Awaiting Assistance

In the end, you get a nice, plump little mouse that absolutely reeks (in a good way!) of catnip.

Plump, Well-Stuffed Mouse

The pattern has been re-created, but I have yet to massage it into a PDF for uploading. I need more pictures of the mice, for instance, and I hope to include some with the cats in Syracuse that will be receiving these for Christmas this weekend. So keep your eyes open, but don’t hold your breath.

ETA – see above! The knitting pattern for the mice has been uploaded, and can be found under the “Free Patterns” menu item at the top of this page. – J

About That Syracuse Trip

My laptop, Kitten, successfully survived her brain (hard drive) transplant, and is fully functional again. Additionally, we found a killer deal at NewEgg (the same place that sold us the replacement hard drive) on a wireless network card for her. I’ve been checking, and there are plenty of places in Syracuse with either free or cheap WiFi access, so I should be able to post from the road next week. It just might not be every day.

I’ve collected tips about Syracuse yarn shops from some Central New York knit bloggers I read. Sounds like the city isn’t a complete desert for yarn shopping these days, since there are choices other than WalMart, A.C.Moore, and Michaels. I’ll be reporting on my explorations while I’m there.

Coming Tomorrow

I’ll be posting about the gifts I’m giving the Craft Goddesses at our annual holiday celebration tonight. Both knitting and beads were involved, so there will likely be a companion post over at Confessions of a Chantraphile!

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