Of Rats and Jen

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

The Following Takes Place Between 5:00 p.m. Thursday and 7:30 p.m. Friday

Filed under: Knitting,Sewing — folkcat at 7:49 pm on Friday, June 30, 2006

Yup. 26 and a half hours, and here’s what I have to show for my knitting:

24 Hours of Knitting
Scant Inch of Swatch

The yarn is Crystal Palace’s Iceland, color Scuba Dive. I’m attempting to turn it into a case to hold my sunglasses that we finally found in a store again.*

I think I’ve tried about 15 or 16 things now, and frogged them all. I wanted to do something clever that would have texture and show off the colors. I came up with an interesting rib pattern I haven’t seen before**, and really wanted to make work for this. But I couldn’t make the pattern work out knit in the round.

I’ve finally resolved that I’m going to knit a flat piece, felt it, and stitch it up. Of course, I tried to sit down and just knit it. Then I decided that size 8 needles were too tight for felting, and had to switch needles. Ribbit, ribbit, ribbit.

Size 10 1/2 seems okay, but it occurred to me that for this to work at all, I need to know how much this yarn will shrink by. So what you see above is what I’ve finally arrived at after 26.5 hours of knitting – the first inch of a 4×4 inch swatch to test felting percentages on.

>>SIGH<<

In other news, we saw in the local paper that a nearby quilt shop had finally been able to open in their new location. This place is located just a couple miles up the hill from me, out in the boondocks on a country road, across from a vintage (yet still working!) apple orchard. Gryphon and I decided to celebrate her new location – 4 times the size of the old one – by dropping in to check it out.

I looked around a lot, gave all the fabric a fair chance to speak, and in the end only this fat quarter of a nice retro print made a strong enough case for coming home with me.

Pretty Purple Posies

This may or may not wind up as a pointy kitty. It may become some other sort of stuffed toy. It could even become the lining of a knitted bag. Hmm…might be cute as the lining of the sunglass case I’m working on above…

I’ve always eschewed the notion of taking up quilting, but I was looking at the classes Wanda listed in her newsletter, and some of them sounded like fun. And it did occur to me that lessons in quilting could help to hone my sewing machine and cutting skills.

It’ll probably have to wait until our budget improves. But I know that the Bunkhouse Quilt Shop is always close by when I’m ready!

*The sunglasses in question are the Fits Over ones that you can wear over your prescription glasses. I have been known to get migraines from bright light, and the Fits Over sunglasses have good side and top protection for your eyes. And if you get the polarized ones, you even cut the glare.

I had a pair, and loved them. They made it possible for me to spend more time outdoors in bright light. Then the frames broke, and we couldn’t find them again. The drugstore we’d bought them at never got them back in, and no place we looked offered this brand.

We could get them online. Only thing is, the list price for these sunglasses runs from $50 and up, and I wasn’t finding anyone discounting them online. We paid only $19.95 for my pair at a local Brooks Pharmacy.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, we dropped into a new Walgreens near the Panera I knit at. And lo! there they were in the sunglass display! We didn’t have the money that day, but we decided it was a medical necessity for me, and we scraped it together this week.

Now, of course, I want to protect these precious sunglasses well. Thus, the endless effort to knit a nice little case for them!

**It’s actually not a complicated pattern, and I’m sure my not seeing it before stems largely from the fact that I don’t own a single stitch dictionary, encyclopedia, library, or compendium of any sort. I’ll bet if I had a chance to cruise through the Barbara Walker treasuries, I’d find it.

Meanwhile, I’m feeling a little clever for having come up with it anyhow. It’s completely reversible, it balances the Knit and Purl stitches (thus laying flat), and it’s got nice, bubbly texture which doesn’t overwhelm a multi-colored yarn. I’m likely to create a simple scarf pattern that features it, and offer it as a freebie here.

Administrivia – Ignore this post!

Filed under: Blog Admin — folkcat at 2:33 pm on Friday, June 30, 2006

Sheep-Rat: a Surgical Report, and Slow Knitting

Filed under: Knitting,Sewing — folkcat at 2:47 pm on Thursday, June 29, 2006

Yesterday, I worked on my Olympic Knitting again. Kiri sits and waits patiently for her turn, and she’s almost always a joy to work on.

Almost always.

WIP: Kiri Shawl
Kiri, Shown for Scale

At this point, it takes around 40 minutes to knit a row of over 400 stitches. When I picked Kiri up yesterday, the next row was an easy, wrong-side purl row. So I got off to a good start.

Then, on the next pattern row I was supposed to do, I realized in the first pattern repeat that the elements weren’t lining up where they should be. I thought perhaps I had made a mistake marking what row I left off on the last time I knitted Kiri, so I checked the pattern rows before and after to see what worked. Turned out the pattern row before lined up, so I went with it.

Until I got to the center shawl marker, and things didn’t line up again.

Oh-oh.

Checking things after the marker, I found that the pattern row I had originally thought was next did, in fact, work there. Clearly I had made a mistake when I decided it was wrong at the beginning of this row. There was no choice but to tink the entire half-row all the way back to the beginning.

Over 200 stitches.

When I got back there, I took a long, careful look at the first pattern repeat, and concluded that one of the most common errors had happened. On my wrong-side purl row, a yarn-over from the previous pattern row had been missed. I fixed the error, and voila! I re-knit the pattern row again, this time from the row I knew all along it should have been. Everything was better.

After knitting two more rows over the space of nearly 100 minutes, Kiri is now 48.3% completed. Boy, was I ever off when I thought this could be my Olympic project!

For those wondering why Kiri, of all things, is taking so long, I included the above picture to show scale. Instead of the Kid Silk Haze and size 7 needles that the original pattern calls for, my Kiri is being knit with a laceweight yarn (Merino Oro) on size 1 needles.

What a difference a gauge makes!

Sheep-Rat Surgery a Success

I spent a piece of time yesterday working on Sheep-Rat’s reconstructive plastic surgery. After 99 minutes and 99 seconds of work, he is scarred for life – but he once again has a face.

Sheep-Rat: Scarred, but Better

If you’d like to see the process it took to get there, you can find the pictures and description after the jump.

(Read on …)

Hope for Sheep-Rats

Filed under: Beading - Confessions of a Chantraphile,Blog Admin,Rats!,Sewing — folkcat at 11:44 am on Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Yesterday was a Craft Goddess night – that’s the night that a small group of my friends get together at my place for crafting. So it was a mostly at home day.

I spent a bunch of time working on this blog, but not on anything very visible. I have started going over all my old posts that were imported here, and giving them proper categories. I am also looking for internal links, and links that went to my old blogs, and updating or editing them to match current reality. And a few posts that were purely administrative and no longer apply to reality have been deleted.

It’s a lengthy process – I only got up to July of 2005 yesterday – but eventually, it’s my hope that no matter what post you look at, everything will work correctly.

Yesterday’s Crafting

Delica Bead Tags came up on my project rotation, and I made good progress. Completed two whole tags, and began a third. This is the ongoing project to create a tag for every color of Delica bead that I have, to store on rings and keep as a sampler for beadwork planning.

Bead WIP - the Latest Delica Tags

I also worked on more Kitchen Scrubbies from the 2006 Knitting Pattern a Day calendar. I had made a couple of these a few weeks ago. They’re knit from the most humble of acrylic yarns, which is actually the best way to get a nice, soft, yet scrubby texture. Gryphon tested them out on our dishes – no dishwasher, he washes everything by hand – and declared them the best scrubber we’ve ever found. The only request was to make them about 50% bigger. So I took the pattern that called for 18 stitches cast-on, and upped it to 27. I thought I was going to have to increase the number of rows to knit, too, but instead I found out that the pattern worked just fine knit to the same 20 rows as the original called for.

Looking to Today

Those who’ve been reading my blog for a while may recall that back in May, I found a toy for cats at a dollar store that I thought would be fun to let the rats play with. It was a pale blue, curly-furred little rat that I took to calling a Sheep-Rat.

Shredded Sheep-Rat

The Rattie Sisters liked it, all right – they immediately ripped its face off! For some reason, they left the body completely intact. Maybe it looked too much like an intruder, and rats go for the face first?

I was fine with the Ratties doing what they wanted with the thing. After all, I did buy it as a toy for them. But I had taken a liking to this little Sheep-Rat hybrid.

I’ve been back to that dollar store, and they’ve sold out of these toys. By all rights I should probably throw the shredded thing out, but something about it said, “Keep me.” So I actually have a notion that I’m going to try a repair of sorts.

I’ll probably start by tacking down any loose pieces of the face as best I can. After that, I’ll use embroidery floss to fill in the holes with a sort of buttonhole stitch variation. Who knows what this will wind up looking like?

So I’ve taken the Sheep-Rat as sort of a personal craft challenge. I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes. Don’t worry – I’ll take pictures so you can see what happens to the Sheep-Rat!

Monday Night at the Movies, Folkcat Style

Filed under: Daily Life,Movies,The 99:99 Plan — folkcat at 12:00 pm on Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Let’s see…

Not a lot to report. But that’s often the case. My days are frequently pretty simple. I very often get to actually do nothing at all except hang out at home crafting. That’s what life can be like when you don’t have kids and don’t go to a job every day. It does sometimes make writing a blog a bit of a stretch, though.

Yesterday was a hangin’ out at home day. I knit another preemie hat, bringing the current total in house to three. I worked on Gryphon’s Burgundy Sweater Vest, completing the back, and casting on and knitting an inch of ribbing for the front. And I spent some time clearing a stack of magazines and catalogs. I actually gained ground on that stack, and still plan to spend a little more time on it today, so there was good progress made on that project.

Along Came Polly (Widescreen Edition)I also watched the movie Along Came Polly, which a Craft Goddess friend had been kind enough to lend me. Yes, there’s a little gross-out humor at a few parts, and Ben Stiller’s character salsa dancing reminded me frequently of the posturing and posing of his super-model character, Zoolander. But I’ve found that along with the bizarre and sophomorish humor, Ben Stiller’s films have a good heart, and tell a good romantic tale.

It was wonderful watching Reuben, the overly-cautious insurance risk analyst, overcome the trauma of his new bride cheating on him on their honeymoon, and plunge into a relationship with Polly that was clearly not a safe, comfortable choice. Something in him recognized the potential with Polly, and helped him to overcome all his misgivings about germs, animals, and silly, unplanned behavior to pursue love.

Is it Ben Stiller’s best movie? Perhaps not. I think Meet the Parents rose to a certain level that few films can ever achieve. While I haven’t seen Meet the Fockers, the sequel, yet, rumor and reviews would have me believe that it’s even better than Parents. Still, I found Along Came Polly to be quite enjoyable, and the moral of the story – that love isn’t always particularly safe – is worth remembering.

If you choose to watch this film on DVD, do make sure to watch the “Rodolfo Goes Hollywood” featurette that’s included among the extras. Rodolfo is the aging ferret that plays Polly’s pet in the movie, and the featurette includes an interview with him, plus a look at his trip down the red carpet at the premiere. Marvelous!

I’d report on how much knitting I got done, or what project I worked on, during the movie, except that I didn’t. Although I can knit while watching television, the same isn’t true with movies. At least, not a movie I’m seeing for the first time. I’m such a movie fan, I get really caught up in the story, and I don’t like missing any details on the screen.

That’s why I don’t get to see as many movies as I might like – I actually have to put the crafting down to watch. But I really, really get a lot of enjoyment out of the experience of seeing a new film. And that’s why I actually have an index card in my 99:99 Plan stack of projects that tells me to take the time to watch a movie. It’s like a little treat for me among the WIPs and household chores that the other cards remind me to take care of!

More Blog Plans

Filed under: Blog Admin — folkcat at 3:47 pm on Monday, June 26, 2006

I’ve finally figured out what to do with that “Link 3” item up on the navbar. One of the blogs that got imported here when I created Crafting Jen was “Folkcat in the Kitchen”, where I posted my cooking adventures. And, an occasional original recipe.

So one of my background tasks is going to be to create stand-alone, printer friendly pages for each of my recipes, and then a gallery page with short descriptions and pictures that I can link to from “Link 3”.

In the meantime, if you want a preview of the recipes, you can click on the “Cooking – Folkcat in the Kitchen” category on the sidebar. You’ll see all the posts from my cooking blog, including the recipes that I put up.

Another thing I’m going to be working on is that lengthy list of categories. Gryphon has been researching ways to make it a drop-down menu that sorts alphabetically. Only thing is, we found that the category titles in the drop-down won’t line-wrap, and the longer titles forced the drop-down box to expand wider than the right hand edge of the sidebar. Not cool.

I need to decide if I can stand to live with shorter category titles. I may just have Gryphon put the alphabetical sorting in place without the drop-down menu in the meantime. Even that would help in dealing with my long category list.

A Trip in the Wayback Machine

Filed under: Cooking - Folkcat in the Kitchen,Daily Life — folkcat at 3:34 pm on Monday, June 26, 2006

I could also have titled this post Maudlin’ Monday, because frankly, the weekend was pretty maudlin’. It had its good points – a couple of good finds at a yard sale, for instance, and finally picking up a pack of card stock for some special printing I’ve been wanting to do – but my mood, and the weather, were pretty much in the dumper.

It would have gotten my ABC-a-long “M is for…” out of the way, too.

Not wanting to turn you away with a tale of woe, though, I decided instead to take a poke in my personal Wayback Machine – the Calendar View in Adobe Photoshop Album – and see what I was up to a year ago today.

Pea Soup

Apparently, I was making Pea Soup.

The post that goes with this picture was titled Paradigm Shift Pea Soup. It talked a bit about how our lives were changing in the wake of closing the bead store a few months before. I was trying to cook more frugally. Actually, I was trying to cook more real food. And I was finding our crockpot to be a big help with that. So much so that, when we found that the recipe I used for my Pea Soup was too big for my crockpot, we went out and bought ourselves a new, bigger one.

We now have a line-up on our counter of three different crockpots in three sizes, as well as a rice cooker. The rice cooker gets used more regularly than the crockpots. Every now and then, though, we find a bonanza in vegetables in the distressed produce rack at the supermarket, or Gryphon gets a hankerin’ for pulled pork, and we fire up one or more crocks to accommodate a small slow-cooking frenzy. (Is that a paradox? Slow cooking frenzy?)

The only thing certain in life is constant change, and Gryphon and I are feeling like we’re still going through a Paradigm Shift. Or maybe we finished the one from a year ago, and we’re into another one now. Either way, I sometimes feel a little disoriented by all the change. I’d call it a roller-coaster ride, but with a roller-coaster, at least you know where you’re going and when you’re going to be allowed to get off.

I guess that we never really outgrow growing pains. Here I am, 45 years old, and Gryphon is 56, and we’re both feeling the pain of growing and changing into whatever is next for us.

The trick may be to find a way to numb the pains, while still allowing yourself to enjoy the ride.

I think I need to go knit a bit more! *grin*

Sandy’s Saturday Sky

Filed under: Daily Life,Folkcat's Fotos,Uncategorized — folkcat at 4:36 pm on Saturday, June 24, 2006

Sandy has noticed that not much happens in blogland on Saturdays. Me, I just think it’s all of us making sure we have something to blog about on Monday.

But Sandy, you know how she likes to see the sky. So she’s come up with another excuse to get us all to post sky pictures. It’s called Saturday Sky, and she’s even going to give out a prize of some sort of yarn to a randomly selected winner.

So, even though it’s not very attractive today, here’s the sky over Wilton, NH, looking towards the west.

June 24, 2006 - Westerly View

And judging from the weather forecast, this is probably what it’s going to look like for at least a week. With the occasional oodles of actual rainfall to blur the scenery.

Yup. That sure brightened up the blog!

I Promise to Only Use These Powers for Good

Filed under: Television — folkcat at 5:46 pm on Friday, June 23, 2006

I recently watched an episode of a tv show, Crossing Jordan, from 3 years ago. I have never followed this series before picking it up in syndication, and I’ve been catching up on it. I know nothing about the history of the title actress, Jill Hennessy.

And yet, when I watch this particular episode from late 2003, I notice how the storyline is plotted, and particularly how Jill Henessy’s character of Jordan Cavanaugh, a medical examiner, is shuffled slightly to the side of the main stories. Even in her own storyline, other characters perform the main action scenes, with Jordan mostly being confined to her office to catch up on paperwork that she’s grossly late on. I witness countless scenes with Jordan wearing a baggy jacket, only being shot only in a fairly close view from the bust up, standing behind furniture and people, carrying piles of files in her arms.

I say to myself, “Jill Hennessy was pregnant when they filmed this one.”

So I go look her up at the Internet Movie Database, and I find this line in her biography: She and Paolo welcomed a son, Marco, on 17 September 2003.

I feel a very satisfying thrill of discovery when I do this. For an analogy, imagine that you’re a music lover, and you hear a familiar sounding guitar among the many instruments in a new song. You think you recognize the style of an artist not credited on the liner notes, and wonder if they made a guest appearance on the recording. You do a little research, and find out that yes, you’re right – that was who you thought it was.

I love when I do this.

Frugal Friday

Filed under: Daily Life,Rats!,Thrifty Shopping — folkcat at 4:27 pm on Friday, June 23, 2006

Today was the monthly rummage sale at the 2nd Congo Church down the block. Not much in the way of crafting supplies this time, just one piece of floral fabric, but we scored big time on shirts for Gryphon. Two long sleeve dress shirts, and three short sleeves, with names like Pierre Cardin, Perry Ellis, and Ralph Lauren. Five very nice shirts in good condition – and the fabric – for a total of $3.00.

Cool.

Gryphon and I also went on a small local retail exploration to locate one of those big clear exercise balls for the Rattie Sisters. I’ve been having a sense that it’s high time we introduced a new element into their days to keep their bright little brains active and interested. As luck would have it, we found the Giant Clear Run-about Ball that we wanted over at Agway, our second stop of the day.

We also picked up a little seed to grow winter wheat grass for the rats to play about in. Then we dropped into the greenhouses at House by the Side of the Road and picked up two little trays to plant the grass in, some potting soil, and a morning glory plant to put out by our chain link fence. (It’s our hope to cover the fence with flowers by later in the summer.)

Knitting Around at Panera last night resulted in a complete, cast-on to bind-off rat hammock to add to the supplies. I’ve now got five hammocks total, only two short of our goal of seven (to allow for daily changes if needed). I also began another ball band rat rug.

The bad news is, my left thumb that was dislocated in our car accident seven years ago was aching by the end of the evening. And in spite of the minor successes of our shopping at the rummage sales, Agway, and greenhouses today, I’m still feeling a bit of general funk. So I’m going to take a quiet Me Day today, and give both my thumb and my mind a bit of a rest.

Besides, I easily found Gryphon over $100 worth of shirts today for only $2.50. I think I’ve earned a break.

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