Of Rats and Jen (Inactive)

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

Mistakes – I’ve Made a Few…

Filed under: Beading - Confessions of a Chantraphile,Rats! — folkcat at 3:20 pm on Thursday, January 18, 2007

We all make mistakes. The real test is how you deal with them.

Way back in November, I told you of a large bargain bead purchase I stumbled into. Delica beads in quantity, many, many colors I didn’t already have, and at wholesale prices.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. Partly because it was such a deal. Partly because Gryphon, who I count on for reining things in if they’re going overboard, went along with the commitment.

Normally, the two of us making decisions together works in our favor. This time, my failure at limiting myself clashed with Gryphon’s inability to say “no” to me, and we wound up committed to buying far more than we could afford on our budget.

I’ve been hemming and hawing about this for two months now, and last week, I finally owned up to the seller that I felt a need to recind the purchase. She is, of course, disappointed, as I am. But she’s a friend, and she was far more generous and patient than she had to be in agreeing to accept them back.

She only was concerned about the difficult task of re-integrating all those out-of-order Delica beads into the remaining stock she has, and I absolutely agreed that would be unreasonable to burden her with. So yesterday, instead of knitting, I spent the day doing this:

Sorting Beads

That’s what my card table looks like when it’s being used to sort 595 flip-top boxes of Delica beads. (What you can’t see are the bowls and boxes being used to contain portions of the pile under the table.) They’re all being put in order by color number. 20 boxes fit neatly in a sandwich-sized zipper bag, and a label on the front of the bag says what number range it contains. The way they’re packed, everything will stay in the order I put them in until my friend opens the packages and puts them away at her end.

It took a lot of getting over my fears of upsetting a friend to admit to my mistake here. Once I actually got it together to do so, the consequences weren’t anywhere near as bad as I feared. (Are they ever?) I feel a lightening of my spirit from finding a resolution to the matter.

The whole thing also forced me to re-evaluate the place of beads for me right now. A big part of my discomfort was the amount of money being spent on materials for a craft that, yes, I’m still doing – but not as my dominant craft any longer. I think part of the original decision to buy so many beads was a remnant of old buying habits for the bead store – when you get a bargain, you buy in quantity.

Hopefully, I have learned to make better decisions about these things in the future. I can’t just spend money on beads just because they’re brought right into my home, right in my face, to buy! Obviously, I hadn’t learned that lesson before this opportunity came into the house. Maybe next time, after the effort I’ve had to go to in correcting this mistake, I’ll have an easier time remembering.

To my friend: I am so, so sorry about this. The beads will be on their way back to you shortly, and should be easy to put back in their proper places. Thank you – a million times, thank you – for being so patient and understanding. I wish I knew what I did to deserve a friend as good as you are!

Meanwhile, at the Rattie House

Star proved to me that she can give puppy-dog eyes, too.

Star with Puppy Dog Eyes

Diva Socks Take Wing

Filed under: Knitting,Rats! — folkcat at 2:05 pm on Wednesday, January 17, 2007

I mentioned yesterday that I had moved the Barefoot Diva Socks, which I had been knitting two at a time on two circular needles, onto DPNs. The result? Rapid progress!

Here’s one of the two socks on the circulars, before the switch. The portion on my hand is the foot. Where you see my fingers peeking through is the opening for the heel.

WIP - Barefoot Diva Sock, Slow Progress on Circs

Multiply this picture by two. Then realize that the thin band above the heel opening, on both socks, is all that I was able to tolerate knitting in a single day.

Fast forward to Monday night: I got the socks switched over to DPNs, and got to work.

Here’s what the top of one of the socks looks like on DPNs. I use five DPNs total – four to hold the sock, with a fifth for knitting around. I find this leaves the tube nice and open, easier to handle, and doesn’t create the strain at the joins between needles that can sometimes lead to loose stitches or ladders.

WIP - Barefoot Diva Sock on DPNs

And to show how much more quickly I knit this way, here are the two socks this morning.

WIP - Barefoot Diva Socks, Rapid Progress on DPNs

Makes a huge difference for the better, don’t you think? At the new rate, I can imagine finishing these sometime soon!

The whole process of this pair of Barefoot Diva socks has made me think about what sock knitting is all about for me. I don’t have the same love affair with socks that so many knitters do. I don’t long to have my feet swathed in warm fuzzy stuff from toes up to the knees. My sense of touch is very, well, touchy, and I have trouble tolerating anything that encloses the toes, fingers, or my entire head.

Hence, my fondness for knit accessories full of holes. Fingerless Mitts. Toe-less and Heel-less socks. Ear warmer headbands instead of hats.

I have been working on the pattern for the Barefoot Diva socks for nearly a year now. There are a couple of failed attempts sitting in my sock yarn basket, awaiting frogging.

Sometime last year, I finally got a pair that worked, and I wear them now and then. I love the way my feet feel warm and comforted by the sock clinging to the foot and lower leg. Yes, my toes are colder than they’d be if they were enclosed, but my feet as a whole feel warmer, and that’s good enough.

The concept has been successful enough that I want enough pairs to take me through at least a week between laundry days. That’s six more pairs, at least, including the ones on the needles right now. The experiment with “two socks on two circs” was an attempt at speeding things along, and instead wound up feeling like torture.

I honestly hated moving those needle ends around. I hated the circulars getting twisted up. I hated every time I had to change from one sock on the needles to the other, switching balls of yarn, getting the needles to go where they belonged without poking myself in the eye.

Sock knitting was feeling like a chore, and an extremiously tedious and difficult one. Not fun at all.

So back to the DPNs, and an acceptance that for me, the old ways really are better. I can make that announcement in good conscience, because I gave the other approaches to sock knitting – one or two sock(s) on two circs or Magic Loop – a fair chance. And for me, at least, found them wanting.

The message here? There is no “wrong” method for anything in crafting. The “right” way is the way that works best for you, regardless of what anyone else tells you. Don’t worry about the trends if you like how things are going.

If you want to feel really confident in your choice, do give other techniques a try – you will either be surprised to find that you like one better, or you will be assured that your original method is the way to go. Either way, you’ll know for certain that you’re comfortable with what you’re doing, and that’s really all that counts.

Rattie Moment of the Week

Puppy dogs do it. Little children do it. They give you that sweet, sad, longing look when they want something from you, the look you just can’t resist.

And now, photographic proof that Ratties do it, too.

Sable - Sad Puppy Dog Look
“Please, Mom, may I have some more?”

Do you think Sable’s auditioning for an all-Rattie version of Oliver Twist?

Game Called Due To Weather

Filed under: Daily Life — folkcat at 3:56 pm on Tuesday, January 16, 2007

We had intermittent power failures all day and evening on Monday – the sort where the power comes all the way down, then immediately back up. Enough to send all the electronics in the house into a frenzy, but not enough to stop you doing things.

Then this morning, we woke up to a full blackout. A call to the power company garnered a recording stating that they were still assessing the situation, and couldn’t give any estimate when power would be restored. Our hot water and, therefore, our hot water baseboard heat, both depend on the electricity. And our kitchen is all electric.

Not promising. We went to McDonald’s in the next town for a late breakfast, then a couple hours later, still powerless, we went to the supermarket to buy a bag of ice to keep the contents of the refrigerator chilled.

Naturally, no more than five minutes after placing the ice in a dishpan and positioning it in the refrigerator, the power came back. I humbly submit that there should be some sort of compensation due us. After all, it was obviously the magic invoked by our acquiring the ice and installing it in the fridge that caused the return of the modern age to downtown Wilton, NH.


Given the topsy-turvy nature of our day, I’m afraid this is the best you’re getting for a post. Otherwise, you’d be seeing a picture of much progress made on a Barefoot Diva sock that was transferred from the circs to dpns, confirming that dpns are my faster method of knitting same.

But that will have to wait for tomorrow. Meanwhile, y’all keep warm and dry wherever you are, okay?

Dreams Realized

Filed under: Cooking - Folkcat in the Kitchen,Gryphon,Knitalongs,Knitting,Stitchery — folkcat at 3:01 pm on Monday, January 15, 2007

I tried to post this earlier, but there’s an ice storm in the area today, and it’s playing nasty games. I was in the middle of composing this post when the power went down for just about an hour.

Not sure if the problem was a line down, or someone skidded and hit a pole, or what. The trouble line at the power company was very busy, and had a recording listing over 15 towns with outages.

While we waited for power to return, I stepped outside with the camera to show what the storm’s doing locally:

Ice Storm, Hedge
Ice-frosted hedge across the street

Ice Storm, Utility Lines
Hundreds of tiny icicles all along the utility lines

There are disadvantages to living right downtown, even in a small town like ours – noise, traffic, and more. But there are advantages, too – when you live right next door to Town Hall, and across the street from the Police Department, you’re in a zone most likely to get power restored quickly.

Back to Our Scheduled Topics!

With the power restored, I can now get on with telling you about what I accomplished this weekend!

Blissful Stitching Dreams

I am enjoying working on the miniature knotted rug stitchery so very much! Yesterday, I was able to complete a large portion of the background behind the two little mice:

NIP - Knotted Rug - Partial Background on Mice
The Mice Can Romp in Some Grass Now

You’d think that cramming all these tiny little French Knots together would drive a person mad after a while, but the fact is, it’s one of those focused activities that winds up relaxing you a great deal. You know the kind – you look up from your work and find out hours have passed, and you feel like you’re coming out of a thick fog?

Noro Dreams

I reported before about finishing the knitting and felting portions of my Noro Kureyon entre-lac bag. I’m pleased to say that I didn’t let this one languish incompleted! The straps got sewn on over the weekend, and the bag is now ready for use!

FO - Kureyon Entre-lac Bag, Side 1
Kureyon Bag, Side One

FO - Kureyon Entre-lac Bag, Side 2
Kureyon Bag, Side Two

Normally when I make an entre-lac bag, I use the same yarn the bag was knitted from to stitch the straps on. Noro Kureyon presents a problem with that idea, however. The Kureyon singles are variable in their strength, and too many sections will pull apart if used for something with a lot of tension on them, like sewing.

I went into my wool stash, and pulled out this lavendar colored Lamb’s Pride instead. I usually stitch the straps on with a backstitch a little inside the outer edge of the strap end. But since the Lamb’s Pride would stand out, I decided it needed to be more of a design feature. So I satin-stitched the area instead.

FO - Kureyon Entre-lac Bag, Strap Detail
Kureyon Bag, Satin Stitch Detail

And just because the bottoms of these entre-lac bags are always so cool, here’s a look at this one.

FO - Kureyon Bag - Bottom Detail
Kureyon Bag, Bottom Detail

I expect to start using this as my main “going out knitting in public” bag, starting this week.

Barefoot Diva Dreams

Slow going on my latest Barefoot Diva socks. I had, last week, gotten past the heel opening, cast on the stitches needed to complete the leg, and knit about an inch on both socks (I’m doing two socks on two circs).

When I picked them up this weekend, though, I found a small note tucked in the bag. I guess, way back when I started these socks, I had checked my gauge, and calculated all the numbers for the pair: starting stitches, how many to bind off for the heel, how many to cast back on. I had forgotten about it, and when I cast the leg stitches back on this week, I was working to my foot measurement, not my ankle measurement (which is about an inch bigger around).

Ribbit, ribbit, ribbit. I frogged both socks back to the end of the panel that connects foot to leg, cast on again, and got back to stitching. End result? I’m not as far along as I started the weekend at, so it’s negative progress here.

WIP - Barefoot Diva Socks
Barefoot Diva Setback

On the other hand, I have definitely learned something about my preferred knitting styles in the process. This is the first time I’ve worked two socks on two circs. I have previously worked, and proven competent at: dpns; one sock on two circs; magic loop with one sock. This pair has proven my skills at two socks on two circs, as well as two socks on magic loop (I switched between the two methods a couple of times).

Conclusions? I think I’m favoring the use of 5 dpns over any other method. I recognize the benefits of the other techniques, and I can do them if needed. But manipulating the circular needles just isn’t as fast for me as knitting a sock that’s hanging off 4 dpns is.

I’m seriously considering locating my size 2 dpns to finish these up with.

Pirate Dreams

You’ve all watched my trials and tribulations with the We Call Them Pirates Hat here, and I feel I owe you an apology.

See, I actually finished the durned thing on Friday night, and I posted it to the We Call Them Pirates Knitalong blog on Saturday. Which means that the news went first not to you, who have been faithfully supporting me in the effort right along, but to the folks at the knitalong.

In truth, though, it was a Saturday – not a normal posting day here. And the good folks participating in the knitalong were penultimately instrumental in helping me make the hat happen at all. So I hope you’ll forgive me, and enjoy these pictures of the Finished Object!

FO - Pirates Hat, Front View
Front View

FO - Pirates Hat, Inside View
Inside, Floats and Lining

FO - Pirates Hat, Lining Detail
Stitching Detail, Lining to Inside

In the repeated process of knitting this hat, I had decided several attempts ago to include a small design surprise in the piece. Can you spot it in this rear view?

FO - Pirates Hat, Back View
One of These Things is Not Like The Others

Sorry, no prize but your own satisfaction for figuring it out!

Xocolate Dreams

Finally, I’m pleased to say that last night, I was able to realize the Xocolate Dream I wrote about Friday.

It’s been years since I had anything resembling hot chocolate, and I can assure you it was almost certainly a simple Swiss Miss instant when I did. Which may explain why it’s not something I’ve done in a long time.

Well, yesterday I took the time to gently heat a cup of milk on the stove, then whisk in 3 tablespoons of the Dagoba chocolate. I poured it all into a nice, heavy stoneware mug I’d received as a Christmas gift, and sat down in my comfy chair.

FO - Dagobah Hot Chocolate in Mug
‘T’ain’t No Swiss Miss Here

It was all as I dreamed; warm cup cradled in my hands; rich aroma of chocolate filling my nostrils. Only this time, the dream didn’t end.

This time, I got to taste it.

There are no words. I could try to invent one. Fantabulous. Increscrumptious. Yummeriffic.

Nope. There simply Are. No. Words.

The flavor was rich. There was just a hint of sweetness, just enough of it. I realized at that moment one of the reasons I don’t favor the instant mixes – they tend to be over sweet, the sugary flavor overwhelms the “chocolate” flavor. And of course, the mixes are so little real chocolate, and more often artificial flavor components.

There was a visceral reaction to the Dagoba hot chocolate. I could feel the relaxation settling into every part of my body as I sipped. The chocolate flavor invaded my soul. An hour after finishing the cup, I could still feel the effects, still taste the chocolate, still sense the calm.

This is the good stuff, folks. If you ever have the opportunity to partake of it, do so. It’s more time and effort to prepare, but the lasting effects are well worth it.

In other Xocolate news, I also ate the caramel & chocolate dipped pretzel, and a few of the assorted chocolates. Equally amazing! The pretzel especially – I wish I had a source for them locally.

Thanks once again to Margene and Anne for making this “Z is for…” prize possible!

A Dream of Xocolate

Filed under: ABC - Along,Blogfriends — folkcat at 5:37 pm on Friday, January 12, 2007

Yesterday, Gryphon and I set out to do our usual Thursday errands, which include a stop at the Post Office to collect our mail. There was a box in his hands when he came back out to the car. It was squat and brown, with the smirking grin of a famous online shopping site on the side. “Huh?” I thought as I watched him walking, ” we didn’t have anything coming this week, did we?”

As Gryphon came closer, I realized the box looked a little more worn, a little more taped up, than the original shipper would have done.

Gryphon leaned into the driver’s side of the car before getting in. “Do you know a…Mar-jeen?” he asked.

“Oh, that’s Zeneedle!” I exclaimed. Snatching the box from his hands, I started tearing away at the tape. Gryphon calmly sat, buckled in, and began driving.

A luxurious aroma of chocolate filled the car. I opened the flaps, and found a gift bag filled with Xocolate delights.

Xocolate Delights
Clockwise from left: a small box of assorted chocolates; a tin of Dagoba Hot Chocolate; a caramel and chocolate-dipped pretzel rod.

For the mysterious box with the smirky grin did, indeed, contain my prize from the Z is for… contest, in which my name was randomly drawn from all those ABC-alongers who had completed the entire alphabetic challenge.

I gazed in wonderment at the goodies in the bag, then reluctantly set the box in the back seat. We were, after all, just setting out to tend to our chores, and these treats deserve to be consumed at a moment when I can devote my entire attention to them. With all I had planned for the next two days, I’d have to wait until the weekend before indulging.

Last night, I dreamed I was handed the most delicious mug of hot chocolate I’ve ever smelled. Somehow my dream self resisted the urge to sip too soon – a burned tongue would do nothing to enhance the experience, and I wanted to be able to enjoy the flavor fully. The dream ended as I cradled the warm stoneware in my hands, and inhaled the aroma deeply.

Sometime this weekend, I’ll be setting the scene to repeat that experience in real life. Only this time, I don’t want to wake up before actually tasting the chocolate!

Thank you so much, Margene and Anne, for both the ABC-along and this wonderful prize!

A Quick Update

Filed under: Crafting Miscellany,Knitting,Spinning — folkcat at 12:53 pm on Thursday, January 11, 2007

Earlier this week, I finished spinning the first half of the merino roving I’m working on:

Merino Roving, Part One

Yesterday, I began spinning the second half of the same roving:

Merino Roving, Part Two

Also yesterday, we got the size 6 needles I need to get a better gauge for the We Call Them Pirates Hat, and I got a bit of knitting done:

WIP - We Call Them Pirates, Take Four

This has been tried on – it’s going to fit this time!

Other accomplishments for Wednesday: changed over my Betty Boop calendar for January (I have the one with the little date tiles and the 12 figures of Betty, changing it is a matter of moving all the tiles around); made a polymer clay cane (I’m making an assortment in a specific color scheme); tried to add rails to the file drawer in my computer desk (not very successfully, but at least we know now what doesn’t work).

Whew! I’m getting tired just writing all that up!

Tonight: Knitting Around at Panera, where I will continue working on the hat, and maybe a little on my current Barefoot Diva socks.

Of Mice and Bones

Filed under: Knitalongs,Knitting,Stitchery — folkcat at 1:07 pm on Wednesday, January 10, 2007

I spent a couple more hours last night stitching on my Miniature Knotted Rug Kit.

Mousies and Pirates
Love to Stitch Them Mousies!

As you can see, I’ve managed to complete the central mice. Next step is to stitch the background of the circle they sit in.

There are a few spots where my knots sit at uneven heights, but that’s improving the more I do this. I think it helps when you get an entire area filled – the knots help to even each other out somewhat. It can’t entirely make up for a knot that was stitched too loosely and thus sits a little too high, but in the end, I don’t think those will be very noticeable.

Meanwhile, over at the We Call Them Pirates KAL, I got signed up, posted for the first time, and then got some good advice about my size issues with the hat. Remember, I’ve never done Fair Isle before – apparently, a common way to adjust size in Fair Isle knitting is to change your gauge.

I was so proud that I was getting gauge with the correct size needles and all. We’d made a special budget allowance to let me buy the needles. And I usually think of changing gauge as an inelegant way to adjust size – I prefer, in most cases, to do it by altering the pattern.

I was somewhat blind to the possibility of changing the gauge, even though it’s mentioned right at the end of the pattern as a recommended means of altering the size. Changing the gauge means buying new needles, which means another hit to the budget.

lowercase jen offered a link in comments to a picture of one knit with five panels and it looked pretty good. But I would really prefer to knit the pattern as called for if possible. So, if changing the gauge will let that work, I’m going to give it a try. I did a couple of test swatches this morning (with straight needles and circulars of inappropriate length for the hat), and I think I know what size I’ll need. Gryphon and I are off in a few minutes to see if I can find them.

Those Dastardly Pirates

Filed under: Knitting — folkcat at 1:04 pm on Tuesday, January 9, 2007

The Pirates Hat continues to mock me. I revised the chart to create an additional 16 stitches around the girth of the hat – which, at gauge, gave me about 2.6 inches extra circumference.

With the new chart, I knit through two vertical repeats of skulls, plus a little. Then, knowing that the stitches would slide back on the needles readily (having already dropped a few off once and replaced them without incident), I threw caution to the wind, pulled out the circular, and tried on the incomplete hat.

Well, it went on. But kinda tight. Fair Isle knitting just doesn’t have the same give that my previous hat standard, 2×2 ribbing, does. And the “We Call Them Pirates” hat is knit with a lining, besides – requiring an even greater circumference for a comfortable fit.

I started the third frogging, then decided to wait until Gryphon gets home from work around midnight and have him try it on. We do wear the same size hats, but I might as well have him see for himself why his chosen Christmas Gift is getting started over – again.

The test, as expected, proved the same thing that putting the unfinished hat on my head did – that it’s too small.

Gryphon and I talked about whether to even worry about knitting the hat now, what with the unseasonably warm weather New England is experiencing. This hat would be warmer than anything he currently owns, but he’s hardly needed a hat at all so far. So we had a notion that I might just wait until next winter before fussing about making the “We Call Them Pirates” hat.

And then, fate decided to mock me, too. This morning, via the Craftzine blog, I learned about the We Call Them Pirates! Knitalong. So, the minute I have decided to put the hat into limbo until next year’s cold season, a knitalong is announced. Sign up by January 15, finish by March 15.

Mind you – this pattern has been popular around the internet for quite some time. And only now does someone decide to have a knitalong? Who could have seen that coming?

So, it looks like I may just have to go ahead with the hat now, anyhow. Obviously, someone out there wants me to knit it. Even provided me with a knitalong for support at the critical moment.

I’m a fatalist, in that I believe in looking for the signs that something is meant to be and following through on them. I guess I’ll be joining the knitalong! I mean, who knows how big a hammer the fates would hit me with next if I didn’t do it?

My new theory for making the hat work? No modifications to the chart, but cast on 160 stitches and repeat the chart five times instead of just four. Based on this latest experiment, I think that will do the job. Now, to see if I can knit with my fingers crossed…

Moving FO-ward

Filed under: Knitting,Rats!,Spinning — folkcat at 2:54 pm on Monday, January 8, 2007

I’m not the sort for New Year’s Resolutions or anything. I try to constantly evaluate reality and make changes on a daily basis, so the notion of sticking a pin in the calendar and hanging all your plans/hopes/dreams for change on a single day doesn’t make sense for me.

So you’re not going to see any sweeping statements here about how I plan to improve my life in 2007, because that’s just not how I think about these things.

I did enjoy having a flurry of Finished Objects as a result of my Christmas Gift knitting, so I’ve decided to re-focus my knitting energy. Instead of flitting from project to project all the time, I’ll let whichever one has my fancy at the moment take precedence. Whether I stay monogamous to it until it’s finished or not could depend on whether it’s a convenient project for where I’m knitting – the Log Cabin Blanket long ago became too large to take to Panera, for instance – or if I need to rest my hands from stressful yarns.

My hope is that this way, I’ll more often know the joy of a Finished Object. And of course, be able to show pictures of actual, completed knitting! That should be good for both me and the blog, and make for more interesting reading for you.

The plan is already working. Remember in the Gifts Given summary on Friday that I mentioned I was working on another entre-lac bag for myself? This weekend, things moved along quickly, and I not only finished the knitting, I got the bag and straps felted!

Noro Kureyon Entre-lac Bag
Noro Kureyon Market Squares Bag

Pattern: Market Squares Bag, from Bags: A Knitters’ Dozen
Yarn: Noro Kureyon, in color #’s 40, 153, and 159 (mostly 40). Not sure how many skeins – maybe 7? Maybe more? I really didn’t count. The yarn was accumulated in dribs and drabs over time, some from gifts, some from one or two skein purchases.
Needles: Size 9 Addi Turbos (I think), about 29″, with size 10 dpns for the I-cord straps

Modifications: I knew I wanted a larger bag than the normal Market Squares pattern would create. The original is 12 entre-lac squares around – I added two more, making a total of 14 repeats around.

The squares in the bag increase in size after the starting rounds, then begin decreasing until you achieve the mandala-like effect at the center bottom. To make the bag deeper (longer), I took the two rounds of the largest size of squares, and repeated them.

No changes were made in the strap instructions. A larger bag doesn’t necessarily need longer straps. So I knit those exactly as specified. You can see them draped over the bag above.

The felting took two full heavy cotton cycles (stopping short of the spin) before I was satisfied with it. Being a larger bag, the popcorn gift tin that I formed the previous entre-lac bags over just wouldn’t cut it this time. Luckily, it turned out that an office-sized waste basket was perfect.

The parts are taking a while to dry – it’s been warm but rainy here. When they’re done, I’ll have to decide what to use to sew the straps on. The previous bags, I could use the same yarn they were knit with, but Noro Kureyon has this problem of pulling apart in places if you pull too hard on it, and I’m afraid that doesn’t make for strong sewing. I’ll probably see if I have some Galway or Lamb’s Pride in a compatible color.

There has been spinning here as well. I couldn’t take the wheel with us to Syracuse, so ‘Zzy-‘Zzy sat idle for over a week while we were away. I wish I could say I’ve been doing the “15 minutes a day” thing, but, well…no.

Last Wednesday, however, was the first meeting of 2007 for the Southern NH Wool Spinners at the Milford Library, and my first opportunity to take ‘Zzy-‘Zzy to that group.

I had nothing in progress, so Wednesday afternoon I picked through my bags of roving. I settled on a 4-oz. bump of some lime green Dorset, but had a dreadful time drafting that evenly, even after carefully fluffing and trying to pre-draft the fibers. So rather than take spinning that wasn’t making me happy, I popped an empty bobbin onto the wheel, and made a big decision.

I have several very nice merino or merino-silk rovings that I had bought, multi-colored, soft, and lovely. My original intent was to get very comfortable with the hand and foot coordination of spinning on a wheel before attempting them, and I expected to work through more of my pile of various Romneys and such before feeling ready for the merino.

After the frustration of the Dorset, however, I looked at my roving, and made a decision – the way to go for my next spinning project was a high quality fiber.

I grabbed a 4-oz. hank of merino roving in various reds, pinks, and salmons, split the length until I had divided it into 8 sections, and started spinning.

Since the color variations run the length of the roving, dividing it the way I did put different color groups in each portion.

Divided Roving
Color Variations in the Merino

(The true color is a little less orange than above, but this is otherwise pretty close)

I decided to grab balls at random, and spin each completely before moving on to the next. I hope to two-ply this – it looks like 4 balls, which should be about half of the roving, will almost fill a bobbin:

Bobbin Nearly Full
Nearly 2 oz. of spun singles

I spun for about an hour before heading out to the spinning group, then spun steadily for two hours there. Boy, were my legs ever sore when I got up at the end of the night! That was my longest spinning wheel session so far, and I felt it. In fact, I made a point of going to a supermarket afterwards so I could walk around a little, rather than driving straight home and letting my thigh muscles lock up on the way home.

And that’s the big reason I need to be doing this a little every day – to get my thighs, my calves, even my belly used to the exercise that treadling is for someone at my poor fitness level. I spun for about a half hour Friday, I think, and haven’t over the weekend. I need to do better.

I can try harder to remind myself that the results are totally worth it – here, take a closer look!

Closer Look at Singles
Merino Singles Up Close

I’m still using the lowest ratio on the wheel. These singles are perhaps a fingering weight – I expect maybe worsted weight by the time I two-ply them. They feel soft on the bobbin, too, so I suspect I’m getting a good twist – not too much, not too little.

I’m pleased with how the merino is working up. It’s a smooth, easy-drafting spin. I’d heard that merino was supposed to be difficult to spin, not recommended for beginners, but I’m finding it very easy.

The Rattie Sisters

They haven’t appeared here for a while, have they? They got to go with us to Syracuse – we didn’t have anyone to leave them with here in NH. I don’t think they liked the trip, though. Gryphon and I were on the go every day, they didn’t get to have me sitting by their cage much. It didn’t help that they had to be shut away in the third floor bedroom, either, far away from everyone, because my parents have cats.

While we were in Syracuse, they were timid and reluctant to come out of the cage. Since we’ve been back, however, they seem to come out to crawl on me more often than ever. And they’re more likely to just sit and hang out on my lap or shoulder, being gently petted.

I’m sorry for the upset we put them through for the trip. But I have to believe that bringing them with us was better than boarding them would have been (not that we could have afforded that). And now we have an idea of what the travel puts them through, we can form better strategies for keeping them from feeling abandoned on future trips.

They seem to have recovered well, though. Star and Sable have a real fondness for crawling between the layers of a woven throw folded in two on my lap:

Star Peeks Out
Star Says, “Blankets are good!”

And they enjoy sharing breakfast with us as much as ever. I got this picture this morning, as they perched together on Gryphon’s leg, nibbling tiny pieces of english muffin. It’s the new desktop image on my desk computer:

two rats munching.jpg
Sable Says, “But Munchies with Dad are better!”

Gifts Given

Filed under: Blogfriends,Family,Gryphon,Holidays,Knitting — folkcat at 5:14 pm on Friday, January 5, 2007

If you’ve been reading here anytime since Halloween, you know that I made a fairly ambitious list of projects to knit for Christmas. I blogged about them over the season, but now, at long last, I can reveal the final results!

1. Bag from cotton yarn.

This gift was for my brother, Ed, out in Los Angeles. What do you knit for a brother in southern California?

Monk's Travel Satchel
The Monk’s Travel Satchel

Part briefcase, part luggage. The pattern comes from Interweave Press in the Folk Bags book. I knit it exactly as written, except I substituted Reynolds Saucy yarn for the Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece that was called for (my LYS didn’t have the right colors in the Cotton Fleece, and I didn’t want to wait for an order).

Monk's Travel Satchel - Side Pocket
Side Pocket – there is one on each side of the bag

This is probably the most complex knit I’ve ever attempted. There were large parts – the combination strap and gusset is 33 stitches wide, 74 inches long, and knit entirely in seed stitch. There are multiple pockets – two on the straps, a large one on the back, and a divided one inside the bag. There is contrasting piping created by picking up stitches around entire perimeters of pieces and knitting only a couple of rows. There are four pieces of I-cord to create two frog closures.

Would I do it again? I’m thinking about it, but not immediately. Gryphon is contemplating whether he wants one.

Gryphon Models the Satchel
Gryphon and the Satchel

Looks good on him, doesn’t it? We might do different colors, though.

Was it successful? Hell, yes. I was really pleased with how well it came out. And best of all, when my brother opened it Christmas morning (he was in L.A., but we always open our gifts to each other while on speakerphone), he was very happy with it. Sounded like he plans to use it as a briefcase – which he probably needs, having recently been promoted to the top position in the Disney Studio Photo Library.

2. felted bag #1.

This was the first gift I planned for a blog friend. Valerie had surprised me last year when, out of the blue, a yarn winder arrived in the mail for me! Such a wonderful act of spontaneous gift giving astounded me, and I knew she deserved something nice for Christmas.

I had loved knitting my own entre-lac bag (first pattern in the Bags: A Knitter’s Dozen book), so I thought perhaps I’d knit Valerie a bag of her own, in colors that she liked. I studied her blog, and realized she had posted pictures of yarn for a secret project she’d signed on to knit. Best of all, the yarn had been dyed to her specifications – so she had to like the colors, right?

I borrowed the picture of the yarn from Valerie’s blog, and using a web-based tool I’ve found that will choose a five-color palette from a photograph (Color Palette Generator – it’s a tool for web design, originally, but I find it useful for coordinating a craft project to a photo), I extracted five colors and printed out the screen image.

With palette in hand, I went to the yarn shop and matched up Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride as best I could. I couldn’t find a light blue I liked, though, so I used Galway for one of the five colors.

Valerie's Entre-Lac Bag
Valerie’s Entre-lac Bag

Was it successful? Judging from what Valerie had to say about it, I think so!

Would I knit it again? Oh, yeah – and already have for Christmas Gift #…

3. felted bag #2

One of the Craft Goddesses (a weekly craft circle in my home that has met for some seven or eight years) actually lives in Arizona during the winter months. This means that Judith has always missed out on our annual Craft Goddess Christmas Party, and the accompanying gift exchange.

This year it finally dawned on me – I have her address in Arizona, why not surprise her with a Christmas gift? No need for a special generator for this color palette – I know what Judith likes! Once again, the yarn here is Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride Worsted.

Judith's Entre-Lac Bag
Judith’s Entre-Lac Bag

Was it successful? Judith was very surprised, and says it goes great with an orange jacket she frequently wears out there. And that she’s been getting lots of compliments on it!

Would I knit it yet again? I love the entre-lac bag, I do – knitting it is like popcorn for me. I already have one I’m knitting for myself in Noro Kureyon, that I’ve modified to be larger, too!

4. bead knitted bag
and 9. same as #4 in different colors.

A little out of order here, bringing Gift #9 up already, but these are really a set, even though they were gifted to two different people.

Bead Knitted Bags
Bead Knitted Bags

These were gifted to the two talented knitters I participated in the Booty Swap with. Elspeth, who was the recipient of my booty offering, got the red with black beads bag on the left, and lowercase jen, who sent me a lovely assortment of booty, received the mixed green, blue, white and black bag on the right.

The pattern comes from the book Bead Knitted Pendant Bags by Theresa Williams. It’s not currently available at Amazon, but you should be able to buy it direct at Bag Lady Press – or at least find out where you can get it in a shop. The book gives versions with and without flaps. Straps are left to the crafter’s devices – I chose to crochet them, with varying numbers of beads in each stitch to create a spiral ruffle.

For jen’s bag, I knit a flap. For Elspeth’s, instead of a flap I did a small crocheted ruffle of beads around the top edge.

The materials used for this work are #8 perle cotton, seed beads (the kind that come on a hank, not loose), and #0000 knitting needles. The first two things most people think of are “Isn’t it hard to get the beads on the cotton?” and “How can you knit with such tiny needles?”

The answer to the first question is, “No, it’s not.” This is why you buy Czech seed beads on hanks for bead knitting – there’s a specific technique for transferring the beads directly from their hank string to the perle cotton, and it takes no time at all to string up more beads than you need for the bag.

As to the second question, well – the answer is “It’s not that hard.” Just remember not to use a death-grip to hold the thin needles with, and take the work slowly, stitch by stitch. The knitting actually goes quite smoothly, and the stitches move just as easily as if you were knitting with chunky yarn on 17’s. It’s just smaller, so you might want to make sure you have good lighting and wear glasses if you need them.

Three of the next four gifts you’ve already seen:

5. Unnamed object including felted bowl. (A Knitting Needle Cushion)
6. unnamed object to include felted bowl. (A Knitting Needle Cushion)
7. mesh shopping bags, set of 3.
8. same as #6 in different colors. (Another Knitting Needle Cushion)

Three of these gifts – two of the Needle Cushions and the mesh shopping bags – were shown back on the 20th, when I wrote about the Craft Goddess Christmas Party. The third Knitting Needle Cushion was a gift for my mother, and I’m sorry to say I didn’t get a picture of it. Especially since she immediately stuck it full of knitting accessories that otherwise clutter the table next to her knitting spot!

Were they successful? Oh, yeah! The Goddesses loved their gifts, and my mom is already thinking she needs another of the cushions to sit on her worktable in the upstairs sewing room.

Would I knit these again? Yup – I already plan to make one for myself, and my mother might just get another for Mother’s Day.

And Last, but not Least:

10. We Call Them Pirates” hat for Gryphon.

This one is still a WIP, so no picture yet. It’s actually on its third knitting – I’ve blogged before about the first failure of the pattern that resulted from a mis-interpretation of the weight of yarn needed.

Well, I knit almost the whole thing again with the Cascade 220 yarn we bought, and the gauge was spot on. So did it work? Uh…no. Turns out the pattern, as written, fits a somewhat smaller head than either Gryphon or I possess. Both the circumference and the length need to be increased to work.

Am I going to give up? Heck, no. I frogged all the way back, again. I crunched some numbers. I considered places and ways to add stitches in the charts.

I came up with a plan, cast on again, and am giving it a go.

Hopefully, the third time’s the charm!

Not bad, huh? Ten gifts planned, nine executed and delivered on time, all successful. The tenth, not done yet, but we actually expected that. Besides, with the weather we’ve had here so far – we’re in no hurry for a warmer hat for Gryphon’s head yet!

Would I do THIS MUCH gift knitting again?

Considering how well this worked – starting early (before Halloween), planning the yarn acquisition carefully so as not to bust the budget, keeping myself organized – I just might. The hardest part was actually figuring out what to knit, and for whom.

But no matter how much Christmas knitting I attempt for 2007 – I don’t have to think about it this early!

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