Of Rats and Jen

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

Frustration

Filed under: Knitting — folkcat at 4:33 pm on Friday, March 31, 2006

Well, the post made from Blogger worked. But I still can’t get my post created offline to go up.

I’ll try again in a few minutes, but I need to leave shortly after that for knitting at Panera tonight.

Sigh

Filed under: Beading - Confessions of a Chantraphile — folkcat at 3:48 pm on Friday, March 31, 2006

This is a test – I’m checking to see if entering a post directly at Blogger’s editing screen works. I’ve been trying for a while to upload a post created in BlogWriter the way I always do, and I keep getting an error related to Atom that seems to be preventing my post from being created:

“Error posting entry – The Atom create/edit entry request failed: Exception caught but no reason given: com.google.blogger.exceptions.PostNotFoundException”

So I don’t know if a post will go up from Blogger itself, even. Let’s see – I’m about to push the “Publish” button…

Sigh

Filed under: Knitting — folkcat at 3:45 pm on Friday, March 31, 2006

This is a test – I’m checking to see if entering a post directly at Blogger’s editing screen works. I’ve been trying for a while to upload a post created in BlogWriter the way I always do, and I keep getting an error related to Atom that seems to be preventing my post from being created:

“Error posting entry – The Atom create/edit entry request failed: Exception caught but no reason given: com.google.blogger.exceptions.PostNotFoundException”

So I don’t know if a post will go up from Blogger itself, even. Let’s see – I’m about to push the “Publish” button…

Pirates Stole My Knitting Time

Filed under: Knitting — folkcat at 12:24 pm on Thursday, March 30, 2006

I was busy all day yesterday, but not actually knitting. It was heavily knitting related, but almost no actual manipulation of yarn with needles occurred.

Almost. I did work an inch or so of the Baby Blanket that’s on my WIP list.

What kept me so busy? Tomorrow is the deadline for mailing packages to our Booty Swap pals, and I still had to gather together most of the things I’m sending. But the biggest part of the job was completing the writing, the photography, and the layout for The Pirate Project. That’s the new knitting pattern I’ve designed especially for the Booty Swap, and which I will have available here as a free, downloadable PDF file after swap packages have found their destinations.

It takes a lot of work to put a pattern into publishable form. Even after the hard process of actually creating the design, then managing to write down accurately how you did it so others can duplicate it. There’s taking, and then selecting, the pictures; writing the descriptive text; remembering all the extra instructions, like I-cords, that must be included because you can’t assume that your reader knows them; figuring out what abbreviations you used and providing definitions for all of them; proofreading, testing, and proofreading again to see if your directions actually work. And then taking all that and laying it out in an attractive way on the printed page.

The good news is, I totally got the whole thing done yesterday. Well, I finished it. I’ve actually been working on it on and off for several weeks now. But I’m pleased with the final result, and even though I was tearing out my hair a few times, the hard work was worth it.

You’ll get to see it next week, and can judge for yourself then.

Sable in Hammock
Sable says, “Get back to knitting, Mom! We lurrrrrv our hammock, but we’ll outgrow it before you know it!”

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Nashua Area Knit Groups, Mar 29 – Apr 9

Filed under: Knitting — folkcat at 8:25 pm on Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Group Report

I realize that I’m a bit late posting this today, and the information for tonight’s meeting will be outdated by the time anyone can see this. My apologies. I think I’m going to change the weekly group update to either Monday or Tuesday next week. That’s a day I’m pretty busy anyway, and could use a blog entry that almost writes itself.

Last week’s Panera knit outings were as good as ever. I take it as good news when there’s little to report every week, except that a number of people came (as usual) and everyone seemed to have fun (as usual).

The monthly Eats, Knits & Leaves group (second Monday of the month at Toadstool Bookshop, Milford, NH) has now established an online group at Yahoo!, the better to make announcements to the membership, discuss knitting between meetings, and communicate with each other. You can join this group by visiting it at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/eatsknitsleaves/.

Knitting Groups for Wed., Mar. 29 to Sunday, Apr. 9.

Remember, you can also view these events (and more) at the SnB-NH calendar at Yahoo! Groups.

Please note: where phone numbers are given for “Info”, that is the contact phone for the location, not the knitters organizing the gathering. Since none of these events are officially coordinated by the host sites (except as noted), if you reach someone by phone and ask them about the knitting group, they might not have any clue what you’re talking about.

Wed. Mar. 29 –

SnB-Chelmsford, MA @ The Java Room, 5:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. Ginger Ale Plaza, Rte. 110, 14 Littleton Rd., Chelmsford, MA

Info – phone: (978) 256-0001

Thurs. Mar. 30 –

Knitting Around, 5 p.m. – 9 p.m., Panera Bread, 590 Amherst St., Nashua (Rte. 101A near Target)

Info – e-mail: fiber AT folkcatart DOT com

Fri. Mar. 31 –

SnB-Nashua @Panera Bread, 5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. 590 Amherst St., Nashua (Rte. 101A near Target)

Info – phone: (603) 821-6021

Sun. Apr. 2 –

SnB-Nashua @ Borders Books, 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. 281 Daniel Webster Hwy., Nashua, NH

Info – phone: (603) 888-9300

Wed. Apr. 5

SnB-Chelmsford, MA @ The Java Room, 5:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. Ginger Ale Plaza, Rte. 110, 14 Littleton Rd., Chelmsford, MA

Info – phone: (978) 256-0001

Thurs. Apr. 6 –

Knitting Around, 5 p.m. – 9 p.m., Panera Bread, 590 Amherst St., Nashua (Rte. 101A near Target)

Info – e-mail: fiber AT folkcatart DOT com

Sun. Apr. 9 –

SnB-Nashua @Panera Bread, 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. 590 Amherst St., Nashua (Rte. 101A near Target)

Info – phone: (603) 821-6021

Folkcat’s Plans?

I will, of course, be at the Knitting Around meetings on both Thursday nights. And I’ll attend all the SnB-NH gatherings that happen at Panera Bread as well. Plus, I may just be able to make it to Borders on Sunday the 2nd!

Happy Knitting!

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Tuesdays are for Knitting Around

Filed under: Knitting — folkcat at 4:37 pm on Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Once Upon A Time…

I Knit Around is the name of this blog, and if you click on the appropriate link on the sidebar, you’ll see what that means. The quick version is that I knit in places that I find interesting or meaningful, and have my picture taken doing it.

I put out an invitation back in January, suggesting that anyone who wanted to could submit their own Knitting Around photo and story. Thus far, no response, although a few people have said they were going to try to think of a picture to take. The announcement may have been overshadowed by the Knitting Olympics, which La Harlot produced that same week, and which certainly got a large, well-deserved amount of attention.

The Olympics are long over, and I think most of us who participated are well on their way to recovery. So let’s try this again. This is my reminder to you that I’m accepting photos for the Knitting Around gallery. If you enjoy taking your knitting with you wherever you go, please check out the information here and in my FAQ section, and consider submitting a picture. And if you think this sounds like a fun idea, please feel free to tell your friends about it!

I hope no one’s making it harder than it needs to be. I’m sure most of us carry knitting almost wherever we go, so opportunities should be easy to come by. And if you look at the list of places where I have knit around, some of them are pretty humble. Like the kitchen of my favorite Chinese restaurant. Hardly of great historic significance, but meaningful to me, because Gryphon and I are always welcomed like family there, and the food is the best.

If you think you’d like to participate in the Knitting Around Photo Gallery, my best suggestions are simple ones.

1. Carry your knitting – and your camera – with you so you can take advantage of opportunities when you find them. If possible, bring someone who can take the picture, too, so you don’t have to depend on the kindness of strangers.

2. Don’t overthink it. A Knitting Around location doesn’t have to be immediately recognizable by anyone who views the photo as meaningful. It can be as simple as knitting with your grandmother on her front porch, because she’s the one who taught you how to knit. Or because she never knit, but now you’ve taught her. What makes the picture meaningful to us is when you add the caption or text that explains that.

3. There are probably places to Knit Around all around you. But because you see them everyday, you forget that they are special. Try to see your surroundings with the eyes of a newly arrived visitor, seeing the sights for the first time. You’d be surprised at what exists as meaningful locations in even the humblest of towns.

4. Check the Knitting Around FAQ for my complete list of Knitting Around locations, and see if it gives you an idea.

5. If all else fails, tell a good friend about the Knitting Around project, and ask where they’d like to see you knitting. Then make them take the picture for you! Be careful which friend you pick, though, they may have some strange ideas…

It’s really that simple. Perhaps with the arrival of warm weather and increasing numbers of outings and vacations, I’ll start to see some submissions. I wish I could say there were prizes to be had, but my budget makes that promise impossible at this time, I’m afraid. Maybe later in the year – we could have the annual Knitting Around Awards, perhaps. Most Meaningful Story. Weirdest Location. Oddest Knitting Position. Best Team Entry. Youngest Knit Arounder. Most Unusual Knitting Companion. Hmm…maybe we’ll need a contest just to settle on the categories!

In the meantime, I’m hoping to find new opportunities myself, so that I’ll have pictures to share with you. I’ve declared Tuesdays to be Knitting Around Day, and you see how often lately that even I’ve had anything to offer.

Gryphon and I do have a plan for a special Knitting Around project – a series of photos that will probably take at least two days to shoot, and should provide blog fodder for at least a week. Now, we just have to have a weekend with nothing else to do…

Sable & Star Snoozing
Sable and Star say “Nothing else to do is the only way to live…”

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The Ship Can’t Be Sinking – the Rats Just Got Here

Filed under: Knitting — folkcat at 7:24 pm on Monday, March 27, 2006

The good news is, the funk I was in last Friday has passed. I credit lots of distraction over the weekend, and a return to normal routine – with minor alterations – this week.

This was the distraction:

Sable Stops for a Bite to Eat
This is Sable

Star Peeks Out the Door
And This Is Star

Sable and Star are sisters. They came to live with us Saturday. We don’t know how old they are, but we know they’re not full grown. If you’ve ever seen the pet rats offered at PetCo, where they sell small, Medium, and LARGE rats (which just means they’re selling younger or older rats), I’d guess Sable and Star are about a Medium. (We didn’t purchase them at PetCo, but at a local independent pet shop that breeds their own – Family Pet & Aquarium of Nashua. No website, but if you’re in the area and in the market for small pets, check them out. I recommend them highly. Good animals, and they know what they’re doing.)

They seem to be adjusting well to their spacious accommodations. In the store, of course, they were in a simple tank that they shared with two more sisters. Now that they live with us, they have a three-story condo all to themselves. All kinds of nooks and crannies to explore. And boxes to crawl in. And toys to play with. And treats.

They don’t seem to mind the camera a bit.

Sable Investigates the Camera
Sable Goes in for an Extreme Close-Up

They’re still getting used to us. And us to them. The “minor alterations” to normal routine that I mentioned above relate to caring for the girls, and encouraging them to socialize and bond with us. We’ve got a careful program going of offering treats from our hands, and making them come a little closer and a little closer as they get more comfortable with it. Yesterday, Star climbed completely onto my hand to get at a piece of bagel. A little oatmeal to lick off my fingers was a big hit with both this morning, and you should see the reaction to peanuts in the shell!

Knitting?

Between the Friday funk and the new additions to the family, there wasn’t a scrap of knitting through the weekend. Until Sunday afternoon, that is, when I went over to Panera to knit with the SnB-NH group. My knitting for the afternoon was Preemie Hats. Between last Thursday evening, and this Sunday, at Panera, I did two more hats for a total of 4 complete, with another one on the needles.

On Thursday I also worked on the Warm Things project (warm garments and accessories to donate to immigrants from warmer climates). I gained a lot of ground on the pink Slanted Eyelet Scarf (from the 2006 Knitting Patterns calendar). And today, I picked up the Burgundy Sweater Vest for Gryphon and added a couple of inches to the back.

WIP - Preemie Hats and Sweater VestWIP - Warm Things: Scarf
Photographic Proof of Knitting

I mentioned before that I’m getting back to a normal routine this week, and I’m glad. Last week was all over the map, trying to get the cage finished and supplies purchased so we could bring home the new family members. By Friday, I felt a bit ill. After posting to the blog with that dismal, rambling account of my mood, I decided to spend the entire evening lying in my bed watching junk television. We don’t have a couch, or I’d have spent the time horizontal in the living room. But at least I have a television and a second Tivo in the bedroom, so there was plenty to pass the time with. I stayed there until Gryphon came home from work, which is a little after midnight, and then, of course, it was basically bedtime anyhow.

The important thing is, I’m feeling much better now.

Special to Christine

You know who you are, and you know what you said. Thanks so much – it made a huge difference in my mood. I appreciate that you took the time to tell me. Hugs and happiness to you. 8^)

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Frazzled Friday

Filed under: Knitting — folkcat at 4:14 pm on Friday, March 24, 2006

This spring is certainly playing havoc with sinuses and allergies. I woke up exhausted again, probably because I woke up a few times in the night with coughs caused by post-nasal drip. Plus, I ache all over from the hard work we’ve been doing to get ready for the rats, from long shopping trips to multiple bigbox pet stores to hours spent manipulating hardware cloth into cage-worthy accessories.

Aside from some minor assembly points, though, the cage is ready. We have bedding, food, and containers as needed. Tomorrow morning, we finish the last touches on the cage and then go select our new pets.

Meta-blogging, Again

There seems to be an inevitable cycle in blogland where people devolve into examining their motivations for blogging, and then blog about it. I’ve noticed another such rising of “meta-blogging” lately, and I find myself caught up in it, too.

I don’t really care if I ever have hundreds – or even thousands – of readers for this little blog. I do what I do here because it does serve as an online journal for me, helping me to focus my thoughts. In the process, I have managed to connect with a few like-minded people who visit here and share their comments, and that’s all good.

But you know how it is when you look at that little number under your blog name at Bloglines – the one that says “X subscribers”, and you see that you have one fewer than the day before?

I say I don’t care about subscriber numbers, but then I see a change downward and wonder what I did. I suppose it’s inevitable as a human being – we all just want to be liked, don’t we? So it’s hard to see that reduction in numbers and not feel a little bit rejected.

To that degree, then, I suppose I would like to have hundreds upon hundreds of readers some day. Enough, at least, that I don’t feel like I lost so much if one person changes their mind. I’m realistic enough to know that, even if I have a prayer of ever attracting that kind of following, it’s going to take a long, long time. So I’d better learn to suck it up and not mind so much when someone decides that my blog isn’t so much for them, after all.

Not All Rats – But Not All Knitting, Either

It does make me wonder what people are looking for here – what they’re expecting to find. There are all sorts of blogs out there that call themselves “knitting blogs”. Some are more technically oriented and offer detailed analysis of their latest knitting projects, complete with photos and complete instructions for how you, too, can create the same masterpiece. Some are full of stories about trips to yarn shops and getting together with other knitters, and all about the Secret Pal swaps they’re in and the latest treasures to arrive unannounced on their door steps.

Many have active, large families, and write extensively about their adventures in everything from grocery shopping with toddlers to getting a repairman out to fix a washing machine. Lots have pets, and include anecdotes about their latest antics, with plenty of pictures of cute animals posing, with or without yarn.

So What Is Knitting Around About?

A lot of that isn’t present here at I Knit Around. I don’t have kids, I don’t have frequent reasons to go out of the house for interactions with store clerks, government officials, doctor’s offices, teachers, play-date parents, soccer practices, or the general public. I don’t have a lot of money to spend constantly going to yarn shops, knitting shows, or SPAs. My life is pretty low-key and simple. There will soon be pets to write about and share photos of, but I don’t plan to make that the primary focus of this blog.

I don’t consider myself a teacher, except by osmosis. By which I mean that if people come away from something I say feeling they’ve learned from it, then maybe I served as a “teacher” in some sense at that moment. But I long since realized (while I had the bead store) that teaching is a specialized skill unto itself. Being proficient at something doesn’t necessarily mean you have the chops to be able to teach it, too.* I made an effort at teaching bead lessons at the bead store, and it became clear to me early on that the way I think about my crafting makes it hard to put into lesson form.

And so you’ll not see much in the way of deliberate teaching here, except on the rare occasion where some process makes itself clear to me in a way that lends to clearly explaining it to others.

So what do I offer? Well, this is a general life blog, with some concentration in the area of knitting. The knitting is enough of a star in my life to be in the blog title, but it’s not the only thing my life is about.

I do feature my knitting on a regular basis, but though I knit pretty quickly, I have to confess I’m stymied sometimes by how fast some bloggers out there – with day jobs, even – turn out finished objects. They always have a lot to blog about with their knitting, both about the process and about how well the piece came out.

I don’t finish objects all that fast. Partly because I have a large working list of ongoing WIPs that all get regular attention. When you work on 17 different projects in the course of a week, you may feel personally satisfied with your progress, and you may enjoy the huge variety of different knitting experiences. But it’s hard to blog about.

Stop Rambling Now

Okay, I think that’s more than enough to subject you to. Random rambling makes for boring blog posts, I’m sure. It’s clear that the pouring out of my thoughts onto this screen isn’t resulting in any sense of understanding or focus for me, so I can only imagine how dreadful this is for you to slog through. Assuming you’re still with me.

Sorry for the lack of knitting content today, but I’ve been working hard on other things like preparing for the additions to the family. About which, I’m sure there will be pictures on Monday.

You can go now. I’ll be okay. I’m just Frazzled.

* It seems to be hard for the general public to grasp this fact. They assume that being good at something equates to being able to teach others how to do it. That’s just not the case. My big aha! about my inabilities as a teacher came when I realized what my creative process is. I get an image in my head of what the end result should be, and I manipulate reality until I get there. It’s hard to break that down into steps that a beginner can follow. It gives me an appreciation for how special the teachers in our lives are.

Go, hug a teacher today, and thank them for their talent at what is too often a thankless profession.

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One Year Later

Filed under: Beading - Confessions of a Chantraphile — folkcat at 2:59 pm on Thursday, March 23, 2006

It’ll be one year ago on Monday that we closed The Big Little Bead Store. It seems so long ago, and our lives have changed so much – it almost seems like the bead store was part of someone else’s life. Still, every now and then I still meet someone who tells me how much the store meant to them, and that feels good.

I seriously have to evaluate the place of beading in my life right now, though. I don’t do nearly as much of it anymore – knitting has really taken over. And yet, I still have a tendency to get caught up in the frenzy when beading friends compile group orders. I wind up ordering beads just because it’s my habit to buy beads, not because I really need any right now. And I inevitably end up spending more than I should and regretting it a bit.

I don’t know where I need to go with this. I don’t intend to completely give up beadwork, but I don’t think I’m doing enough to justify blogging about it every week. I mean, really – if you look back at the last several entries, they’re mostly apologies for not having beaded anything to blog about.

Makes for exciting reading, no?

No.

This blog certainly won’t go away completely. The “Chantraphile” concept is too good to give up. But my blogging focus has to adapt to what’s really going on in my life.

Stay tuned – I’ll be sure to keep you informed.

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Thursday Thoughts

Filed under: Knitting — folkcat at 2:52 pm on Thursday, March 23, 2006

Knitting Yesterday

As I mentioned yesterday, my knitting for the day included the Ladder Yarn shawl and my Barefoot Diva socks. Still nothing picture worthy there. I also worked on the Pirate Project and made good progress – look for the full reveal after the end of the month.

Habitat for Rodentity?

A lot of Wednesday’s creative energy went into working on the rat cage. Since you last saw it on Monday, Gryphon made the hinged lid that forms the roof of the cage. On Wednesday, I added the shelf for the first floor, the one that eventually will hold a wheel for the rats to run on. It was a lot of work – the shelf is constructed of a sheet of 1/2 inch hardware cloth folded in half.

Wires from the edge of one half were folded over the other half to hold it together. Then, because a 1/2-inch grid is actually harmful for rats’ feet if they walk on it, I folded a piece of aluminum screening over the entire shelf. This I stapled into place along the long edge (the edge that will be along a wall in the final assembly).

Finally, the wires from the edge of the remaining half were carefully inserted into a row of grid squares on the walls of the cage. The trick here was managing to get them all lined up and poking through the grid at the same time, on three sides of the shelf. Then I had to hold it there while I used pliers to start bending the wires around the cage wall grid to hold the shelf in place.

All in all, the construction of one simple shelf for the cage took a couple of hours time.

I also managed to cut the opening in the side of the cage where the drop-down door will be attached. It’s well placed so I can reach everything in the lower levels of the cage handily, and large enough that passing rats, toys, and food and water containers through it will be easy.

I’ve been thinking about how to build ramps and ladders for the rats to climb from level to level on, and had a good idea last night. We have a large ball of butcher’s twine, a loosely spun, thick string made of 100% cotton. Plus, I have basic macrame skills – can you see where this is going? At least one of the ladders will be knotted from the twine and tied to the walls of the cage.

Still to complete on the cage; the upper deck, and the door itself. Should be easy enough – Gryphon will make the door, since the cage clips used to hinge the parts are a bit tough to crimp and need more hand strength than I have. The shelf will be built the same as the first one, only probably will be a bit wider.

We went on a shopping trip today to start equipping items like food dishes and such. One stop was a local hardware store, where we purchased a section of flexible dryer vent hose. This will be used as a ramp/ladder between a couple of levels, and a section curled on the floor of the cage can make a hidey-hut for the rats, too.

We also confirmed that our rat source of choice, Family Pet of Nashua, will have six female rats in the store by Saturday to choose from. It looks like there will be eight more little feet in the house this weekend! The timing is just about perfect, because we can complete the construction on the cage on Friday, in plenty of time to have it fully set up before bringing the new family members home.

Knitting Tonight

At Panera, as usual. I’m going to bring what I’m calling the Warm Things Project (random scarves, hats, and mittens for charity), and the supplies to knit preemie hats. Hmm…looks like an all charity knitting night for me!

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