Of Rats and Jen

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

What a Blogger Will Do

Filed under: Craft Shopping,Knitting,Knitting Groups,Shopping Adventures,Special Events,Spinning — folkcat at 12:34 pm on Friday, September 29, 2006

We had quite the cheerful crowd at Knitting Around at Panera last night! When I walked in with my friend Anne, there were already four happy, chatty knitters sitting by the fire – Bea, Judy, Lucille, and Kathy (all blogless). The needles flew as fast as the conversation, and we had a grand old time!

In Which I Go The Extra Mile For My Readers

Oh, the things a blogger will do just for something different to write about. Yesterday, it was time once again to cast on for socks.

Now mind you, I’ve been perfectly content with my sock knitting technique. I knit one at a time, and I can switch at will between 5 dpns, Magic Loop, and 2 circs. And I’ve never been bothered by the so-called second sock syndrome – I just accept repeating the entire process as a natural part of sock knitting.

So what approach did I take last night as I began a new pair? Well, any of the above would have been boring, because you’ve seen me knit socks in each method before. And there was no novelty factor to be found in either my pattern (my own Barefoot Diva Socks) or the yarn (Knit Picks’ discontinued Essential Stripes in Sunset, which you’ve all seen a million times on many blogs and in the catalog, I’m sure.)

How, then, did I make a new pair of socks worthy of blogging? By teaching myself a new knitting parlor trick!

And so, without further ado, I present to you my first

Two Socks on Two Circulars

Two Socks on Two Circulars
Two, Two, Two Socks in One

Yuppers – last night I bulled my way through the mental gymnastics of figuring out how to get this cast on, and how to manipulate the needles, balls of yarn, and the knitting itself. All so that I would have something new and different to show you.

The things I do for you!

The Truth

Okay, it’s not entirely that I did this for the blog and my readers. I’ve been meaning to try this out anyhow, just to see what the fuss was about. You, my readers, provided a handy excuse for going after it sooner rather than later. Thank you!

What do I think of it? Well, it’s a bit of a trick keeping things straight. I’m working on two 40″ Addi Turbo size 1’s, and while the length has never been an issue when working a single sock on two needles, I’m wondering if shorter cables might simplify the maneuvering as I switch between socks. Still, it’s clearly doable with what I’ve got, so I don’t think I’ll go to the approximately $30 expense that getting two sets with shorter cables would entail.

As a knitter used to whipping out single socks fairly quickly, it is a little discouraging to see what feels like only half the progress for the same amount of knitting time. The mind’s eye has trouble making the leap to realize that the half amount of progress should be multiplied by two for a true measure of accomplishment.

Since I’ve only managed around an inch of each sock so far, I think it’s too early to really pass judgment on the 2 socks/2 circs technique. So I’m going to continue to evaluate this as my work progresses.

Coming soon!

A week from tomorrow (Sat., Oct. 7), I’ll be making the rounds of the 2006 NH Wool Arts Tour. Gryphon will drive, and I’m hoping to bring a couple of my friends along for the adventure. I’ll try to remember to take pictures, but I’ll also be shopping – I’m hoping to come away with one or two nice laceweight spindles.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Desperate Times Call for Goofy Pictures

Filed under: Daily Life,Folkcat's Fotos — folkcat at 2:15 pm on Thursday, September 28, 2006

Must be desperate – I spent yesterday doing nothing but Christmas Gift Knitting, which I can’t show you.

So instead, here’s a picture of the goofiest thing I saw as Gryphon and I ran errands today: the Willow Tree Chicken Salad Cluck Truck!

Cluck Truck

And if we look at the bigger picture that I cropped that from, it’s not a bad Thursday Sky photo.

Thursday Sky

Yes, I have a bobbing head kitty cat on my dashboard. 😆

I’ll have more knitting to show soon, I hope. I’m going to cast on for my next pair of Barefoot Diva Socks tonight!

Voila!

Filed under: Papercraft — folkcat at 1:03 pm on Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Finished Maneki Neko!
Finished!

Model: Free, Lucky Cat (Beckoning People) from Canon Creative Park
Height: About ten inches
Skill Level: Intermediate. Yeah, maybe I should have picked an easier piece for my first one. But, well – I had to do a piece I loved, and I do love my Maneki Nekos! Plus, I’ve never been shy of reaching a little on the far side…
Time to Complete: Unknown – but it was several hours even just to cut out the pieces. Expect to do this in several sessions.

Mag EyesNotes: Papercrafting starts with the cutting – if your cut edges aren’t precise, the pieces won’t come together well in the finished product. Use good scissors, and if you need them, magnifying glasses or a pair of Mag-Eyes so you can see well enough to cut precisely on the edges of the shapes. If needed, use a craft knife to cut into sharp inside angles – of which there are a lot.

You’ll find dotted and dashed lines on your papercraft. These are crease lines. Don’t ignore these! Use a straight edge and a fine-tip embossing tool – or something else with a dull point – to mark these with an embossed crease line before folding. They’re there to make sure you have a good sharp edge in that area, and your piece won’t look the same if you simply fold by hand without creasing.

Use a good white glue – I used Aleene’s Tacky Glue. You won’t need a lot. I used a two-compartment porcelain sauce dish that I’d bought at Target for $1 as my glue dish. I put a small dab of glue in one side, and kept a small amount of water in the other. Cheap, plastic-handled children’s paint brushes served as my applicators. I always used the brush wet, and blended the water in with the glue a little before brushing it onto the tabs of the paper.

A piece with tabs that will be glued to another part of itself may have the tabs numbered to show which order to glue them in. Pay attention to that, it works! When glueing two separate parts together, however, they may not be numbered. Dry fit the pieces to see how they fit with each other before doing any gluing – you should be able to decide on a sequence, or see if you need to apply glue to all the tabs involved at once before putting the parts together.

Take your time, and be willing to consider your first project a practice piece. Odds are, no matter how carefully you work, until you’ve practiced this a bit you’ll make some mistakes. I did! My Maneki Neko looks pretty good in the picture above, but I’m painfully aware of all the spots where:

Sloppy Glue Work
My gluing was a little sloppy (along the line in the center) and a little water spilled in my work area (water spot at the bottom left):

Mismatched Ear Sections
I didn’t get print edges to meet well enough before the glue dried: or,

Misplaced Arm Tab
I didn’t get the tab folded and placed exactly right.

There were also a few too many spots where, while putting the tabs together, I got glue on my fingers and then got a dirty smudge somewhere on the cat. But no matter how sloppily some pieces go together, the whole sculpture will look okay from a distance.

Don’t get me wrong

Mind you, I know I did a good job for my very first 3-d papercraft piece. So even though I’m pointing out all the mistakes I made, I am very pleased with the results. And I know better now what to watch out for when I make my next piece.

Meanwhile, I need to figure out where this sizable Maneki Neko – now the largest in my collection – is going to sit.

Maneki Neko Paper Sculpture
Hey, you! I gotcher Good Fortune right here!

And then, I have to decide what my next papercraft sculpture will be. Hmmm………

Stray Bits Tuesday

Filed under: Daily Life,Knitting,Papercraft,Rats!,Spinning — folkcat at 11:41 am on Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Something’s working right. Maybe it’s the fact that on Sunday, we finally sealed all the edges of the plastic around the gaping hole in our bathroom. But yesterday, I began to feel an abatement of the asthma symptoms for the first time since the hole was put there.

This led to a functional enough day that I almost felt normal by the end of it. I crafted, I cleaned and organized. I even did a few dishes, which Gryphon will testify is so far outside my normal behaviors it’s almost a signal of massive illness itself.

Today’s off to a good start. Aside from a little morning coughing to clear some of the overnight crud, I’m doing okay.

This post will be a bit disjointed – I have extra errands to run today, so there’s limited time to pull a coherent theme together. Unless maybe the theme is Stray Bits.

Papercraft

Papercraft In Progress - Maneki Neko
Paper Body Parts

It’s been a couple of months since I completed the head of my first papercraft sculpture, Maneki Neko. Yesterday I finally strip-mined my craft table down to a working surface, and assembled a few more body parts. The feet at the front weren’t too bad to put together, but the arm behind them is a very complex, multi-bend tubular shape made of only two flat components. Some of the tabs were in such nearly inaccessible spots inside the structure that I sort of glued, folded, and hoped that they would hold.

They did.

Knitting

I did some knitting, but mostly more of the type where a photo wouldn’t show any noticeable progress. So I’m not going to waste bandwidth on one.

I can attest that I’m satisfied with progress on what I worked on, though.

Spindles

Didn’t do anything really new with my spindles, except to get them hung up again. But the way I’m storing them is sort of interesting, so here’s a picture.

String O'Spindles
String O’ Spindles

The lamp is one that my Aunt Ann made, oh, forever ago. She is another of the crafty types in my family. She had a phase where she was using a torch and institutional size tin cans to make these great wrought iron looking lamps. She even entered a contest for crafts done with cans, and won the $1,000 grand prize – considering this was in the 70’s, that was a large amount!

I have two of these lamps hanging in my living room/studio, and I use the chains to dangle little tchotchkes from. It’s what I do instead of hanging them in the window like suncatchers – given our downtown location, our curtains don’t get opened much due to privacy issues.

When I suddenly had an accumulation of spindles with hooks on the end, I learned how annoying it can be to try to store them. And then I looked up, and realized the answer was right above my head.

Rattie Pic of the Day

We know by now that Star and Sable love, well, eating. Especially anything that Mom or Dad eats.

Star and Sable Like Cottage Cheese
Yum!

Mom had a dish of cottage cheese the other day, and the girls got to lick it afterwards. Happy Ratties!

A Declaration

Filed under: Blogfriends,Daily Life,Rats!,Spinning,Stitchery — folkcat at 2:52 pm on Monday, September 25, 2006

When, in the course of Crafty Events, it becomes necessary for one Woman to dissolve the gloom of Asthma, Mold, and gray New England Weather,

Gray Monday, Sept. 25, 2006
Today’s Weather: Gray and chilly, with more than a hint of autumn color.

She holds these truths to be self-evident:

That Blog Friends bring a Ray of Sunshine when it’s most needed.

Blog Friend Goodies!

A Gift from Aija of sock prØn
l. to r.: Henry’s Attic Superwash Merino, Easter Egg Dye, Brown Sheep Mill End Roving

This package arrived in the mail today. Aija had decided to do a little stash-busting, and offered the Easter Egg Dye and roving on her blog. The Henry’s Attic Superwash is s-o-o-o s-o-o-o-f-f-t, I can’t wait to try it out. And the Brown Sheep Mill End Roving, which she bought from The Sheep Shed Studio, is nearly as soft, and the colors are wonderful. (Yes, it’s that Brown Sheep, the company that makes the nice Lamb’s Pride yarn.) I can’t wait to try out the Easter Egg dye – my next dyeing trick will be to dye some roving to spin!

Many thanks to Aija for her generous gift! It will be much appreciated and enjoyed!

That the Right Tools make a Job more Pleasant – but can make the Worker Look Awfully Goofy

The Mad Needle-ist
Look Out! It’s the Mad Needle-ist!

I did a little stitching on my needlepoint this weekend. It occurred to me that the way I gear up for fine detail work when I really want to “cocoon”, as I call it (which means wrapping myself in a shell of audio/video/comfort zone) can look pretty strange, so I had Gryphon take a picture.

What you see here is pretty typical. I’m wearing my glasses, of course, which I haven’t been able to see without to do anything since fourth grade. Then there are my Mag-Eyes, which now that I’m of “a certain age”, my eyes seem to demand in addition to the bifocals to see small detail up close.

Finally, we have the wireless headphones, which give me the sound from the television in a way that helps me shut out distracting noises. Like small children running in the apartment upstairs, or motorcycles revving their engines on the street outside.

That a Good Game of Tug-o’War with a Rat can make You Smile

Star Tug-o'war
Star Gives a Good Tug

And the Ratties look like they’d smile if they could, too.

The Crafter, therefore, Whimsically Publishes and Declares, that This Day is Brighter on the Indoors than it is on the Outdoors, and that despite the occasional Ravages of Asthmatic Throat Tickle, She is Having a Good Time.

Frugal Friday

Filed under: Thrifty Shopping — folkcat at 2:25 pm on Friday, September 22, 2006

Frugal with words, mostly. I’m not going to say much because the coughing has been fairly persistent the last couple days, and it’s wearing me out.

Today, however, was the first rummage sale of the season for the 2nd Congo Church down the block from me. Gryphon lucked out and found three heavy, long-sleeve shirts for 50 cents each that will fortify his work clothes wardrobe.

The big find, however, was mine. A huge garbage-size bag of yarn, plus a box about a third full of pattern flyers and books (and topped off with more yarn). At least 90% of the yarn is cheap acrylic, which I’ll share with my knitting friends.

I’m so exhausted that I’m not planning yet on digging into the pile of pattern books to see what’s really in the box – not today, at least. But a quick glimpse at the top layers revealed lots of doll clothes patterns, and crocheted versions of Cabbage Patch Kids. Who knows what lurks in the depths? Should be interesting to explore. And the entire collection, yarn, books, and all, was certainly worth the $6 they asked for it. (Well, truthfully, they asked $10. But I talked them down!)

True Yarns

Filed under: Rats!,Spinning — folkcat at 1:48 pm on Thursday, September 21, 2006

As promised yesterday, here’s a picture of the finished pink and yellow handspun.

Pink & Yellow Handspun
Pink & Yellow Handspun

Those colors are fairly accurate – the skein was sitting in a sunny window.

On close examination, you can see that I still have consistency to work on. The single still varied from thick to thin, though it was much improved over that first purple skein. 2-plying evened everything out a lot, however.

I have yet to wash this skein and hang it to dry – I want to wait until I’ve done that before taking a WPI and measuring yardage, too. So there will be more stats at a later date.

Yet Another Fiber Activity

I went to the Milford Public Library last night for one of the twice-monthly gatherings of the Southern NH Wool Spinners (no website, though I may see about changing that…). I had attended this group once late in the summer of 2005, when I first got the notion that I might want to spin. That earlier meeting proved of little use for either socialization or getting to see spinners in action, though, as it turned out to be a once-in-a-blue-moon photo slide show, instead of just sitting and spinning together.

Now that I’ve been a spinner for about 7 weeks, though, I thought I’d try again. I’m doing okay learning on my own, but I know that, as with any craft, being around other people who are doing it, too, will help me to improve.

I have to give Elizabeth, the organizer and contact person for the group, a lot of credit – she actually remembered me from my last visit. (Granted, it probably helped that she used to be a customer at the bead store now and then.) I was greeted warmly. Attendance happened to be low this time – just me, Elizabeth, and Kathy – but we had a good time sitting there, working away at our fibers and chatting.

The Southern NH Wool Spinners meet twice a month, on the First and Third Wednesdays. I’ve added them to my calendar of Southern NH Knit Groups, which you can find over on the sidebar. The calendar listing has full contact information for the Spinners, if you want to learn more.

Professor Star Continues Experimenting

Star is still determined to try getting a second sesame treat into the cage on one trip. This time, her theory was to move it in stages. We were ready with the camera, but still had trouble getting a good shot.

Star and the Sesame Treats
The Professor and the Treats

What you’re seeing is my lap as I sit Indian-style in my arm chair. You can see how big the sesame treats in the tub are. Star already has one in her mouth, and at the moment the camera caught, she’s dropped the second one on my lap and is trying to pick it up. She managed to do that, and moved the treat a few inches closer to the cage before ending this attempt.

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh (Aladdin Fantasy)Part of me wants her to succeed. But part of me (the part that read Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH and Animal Farm as a child) is a bit afraid of what else she might consider learning how to do if she manages this…

On the other hand – the Ratties do have cunning little hands…maybe they can learn to knit? They’ve already shown they love yarn!

What’s Up? Wednesday

Filed under: Knitting,Spinning — folkcat at 5:37 pm on Wednesday, September 20, 2006

For those who are thinking, “Okay, rat stories are cute, but what’s up with her crafting?”, the answer is, “It’s still happening – but I can’t show you.”

Everything I’ve worked on this week (so far, at least) has been Christmas gift knitting that I can’t display here. Feel assured, though, that I’ve been making good progress.

As to spinning – haven’t done a lot of that this week. We’ll see what happens tonight, though – I’m going for the first time to the local spinners’ guild at the Milford Public Library.

First time since I actually started spinning, that is. I attended one of their meetings late last summer, when I was feeling like I wanted to give spinning a try. But that meeting wound up being nothing but a slide show of a member’s trip to South America, and didn’t really offer an opportunity to either get to know the members, or learn much about spinning. I’m hoping that tonight is more of a social occasion.

I have finished balancing the ply on my second skein of handspun, the pink and yellow stuff, and I skeined it up today so I can show it off tonight. It’s real purty – I’ll have a picture for you tomorrow, I hope.

Oh, and I’m signed up for a spinning class at The Fiber Studio in October. This will be my chance to learn how to translate my spindling skills to a wheel, and to become familiar with how the wheels work, and what to look for when I buy one. I’m looking forward to this!

The Second Coming of the Rats of NIMH

Filed under: Rats! — folkcat at 12:31 pm on Wednesday, September 20, 2006

True Story

Last night after Gryphon came home from work, the Rattie Sisters were having one last crawl around on Mom and Dad before getting put to bed for the night. Typically, to get them back to their cage without a fuss, I’ll offer them a treat, which they promptly take home to nibble in a safe corner.

The offering of the night this time was some small, round, sesame-peanut snacks. We bought these at the grocery store (after first buying some sold as small animal snacks, for an exorbitant unit price). About a half inch round, you have a shelled peanut inside a baked shell that is encrusted with sesame seeds.

The Rattie Sisters love these things. So, on this night, I took out the plastic tub, called out, “Star! Sable! Treats!”, and rattled the snacks.

The girls came running. Sable grabbed a treat in her mouth, and hesitated a moment as if wanting to pick up a second one. But she quickly realized that there was no way more would fit in her overstuffed mouth.

Star, on the other hand…she also grabbed one with her mouth, and hesitated. But faced with the bounty of an entire tub full of the snacks, she was a little more determined than her sister. Gryphon and I watched in amazement and delight as she reached out with her little hands, picked up a second treat in her paws, and tried to carry it back to the cage.

Since she has yet to master the concept of walking on her hind legs, she only got as far as pivoting around and lunging down to my lap before dropping her bonus goodie. But she did get that far!

Oh, if only we’d had a clue…if only we could have gotten the camera in place to take a picture of it. I hope my word picture has done justice to the wonderful sight.

One of the things I love about this story is that it shows just how smart both Ratties are. Sable considered a problem and decided on an answer that made sense to her, and acted on it. Star, on the other hand, considered the problem, proposed a solution, and then tested it. Both approaches show a great deal of intelligence.

Watching Star and Sable work things out this way is one of the reasons that rats have turned out to be such fascinating pets.

Star hasn’t given up on the concept of grabbing a second sesame-peanut treat yet. This morning, she made a serious effort to grasp one with her paws before deciding she was hungry enough she just wanted to get on with eating the one in her mouth.

Anyone want to bet on whether she’ll make it work someday, though?

It’s Like, A-r-r-r-r…You Know?

Filed under: Downloads - Original Knitting Patterns,Knitting,Special Events — folkcat at 12:55 pm on Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Pirattitude!: So you Wanna Be a Pirate?: Here's How!

Today, September 19th, is International Talk Like A Pirate Day, dedicated to the attitude of Pirattitude.

I’m afraid I’m not much of a role-player, so the title of this post is the closest I come to really talking like a pirate. I feel I have lots of Pirattitude, though, because I believe in trying new things, being bold about my life choices, that having fun is better than a boring grind, and that there are more important things in life than following the rules just because they’re there.

And in case you doubt the level of Pirattitude present Chez Folkcat, here’s a picture of Gryphon – Piratically known as Iron William Flynt – from my Free Patterns Page:

Iron William Flynt Says, "A-r-r-r-r!"

Gryphon is, of course, sporting my original knitting pattern, the Felted Eye Patch. If you’ve a mind to display a little Pirattitude yourself today, but don’t have any pirate-y accoutrements, the Felted Eye Patch is a quick to knit, quick to felt item that you could complete in an hour or two. Take an iron to it after felting, and you can even have it dry to wear before midnight.

The pattern’s even in two sizes, adult and child – here we have the Dread Pirate Earnest showing off his own eye patch…

Dread Pirate Earnest

I haven’t figured out how to get one to stay on the Ratties’, or I might be able to show you a picture of that as well.

More Pirate-y Fun

The Yarn Harlot posted a series of links to fun pirate knitting patterns on the web today, too. Go Check It Out!


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