Of Rats and Jen

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

Distraction Therapy

Filed under: Crafting Miscellany,Knitting,Papercraft,Sewing,Stitchery — folkcat at 1:52 pm on Monday, April 30, 2007

I’m just so tired and crappy feeling these days. Is it the stress of wondering if Gryphon will find a part-time job soon enough to count? Have we had some low-level bug pass through us? (Our bathroom habits this weekend would suggest that’s a possibility!) Is there a general malaise in Southern NH in the wake of floods, college shootings, and other miserable events dominating the news?

I’ve somehow managed to continue being productive, in spite of it all. Crafting helps to distract me from the aches and pains. The sad thing is that I have to lift my consciousness out of the creative process now and then, if only to eat and sleep. It’s at those moments that my brain has time to notice that I feel like hell.

Truthfully, I’m not too worried about it. I know that whatever it is, it will pass. And with good progress on a number of crafts, it’s hard to feel impaired by anything.

For instance, since Friday I have:

  • Cut out all the pieces for another 8 to 9 inch tall Maneki Neko papercraft model. The new one will be a different pose than the one pictured at that link, with a medallion focusing on wishing for money.
  • Stitched the stems of the vines along the sides of a path on the miniature knotted rug.NIP - Mini Knotted Rug, First Vines
  • Worked several inches of foot, the short-row heel, and a couple inches of leg on Gryphon’s Socks, Pair Two, Sock Two.
    WIP - Gryphon's Socks, Pair 2, Sock 2, Into the Leg
  • Knit the Nearly Endless Edging as far as the center of my Carnival Glass Shawl. I put it down at this point because the next step involves changing which rows attach to the live stitches for a few repeats.
    WIP - Carnival Glass Shawl, Edging to Center Point
  • Sewed a complete dogbone pillow for Gryphon. He was so taken with mine, and went shopping in my fabric stash to see if anything appealed to him. What he came up with was a discontinued Egyptian print fabric from Jo-Ann’s. Being my second dogbone, this one stitched up in no time, and Gryphon got a better made pillow than I did. (Pictures later – he’s taking a nap before work, and the pillow is in use!)
  • And I have officially turned over the rest of my portion of the PixelHobby craft to Gryphon. He’s just enjoying it too darned much, and he has precious few crafts that appeal to him the way this does. It’s not like I don’t have other things I can be working on, after all!PIP - PixelHobby, 5 done, 7 to go

You see? It’s hard to find time to feel crappy when you’re doing all this. At least the time spent feeling achy and tired is far outweighed by the time I spend successfully distracting myself from it! So, I’m planning to continue this course of distraction therapy. One day soon, I’m sure I’ll be surprised at how much better my body feels when I get up from my crafting.

A Wayback Search for Floral Sunshine

Filed under: Folkcat's Fotos,Wayback Wednesday — folkcat at 4:19 pm on Friday, April 27, 2007

Another gray, cold, rainy day here. Usually, New Hampshire at this point in the spring is filled with blossoming shrubbery, trees, and flowers. This year, the warm sunny days have been so outnumbered that I haven’t seen much for floral relief yet.

I took a dip in the Wayback Machine, and found this picture I took on April 27, 2000 – exactly seven years ago today. Oh, what a difference!

Daffodils, 4/27/2000

The apartment we lived in at the time was of the in-law variety, attached to a 300-year-old farmhouse in the middle of fields and surrounded by woods. The landlord’s wife planted many, many daffodils along one of the original stone walls.

I hope that we eventually see some blooms this year. In the meantime, I’m glad to have this photo to remember past springs by. In fact, I think I’ll make it my desktop for a while.

You all keep warm and sunny thoughts in your hearts and minds this weekend, okay? I’ll try to do the same!

Quilting, Sewing – Same Skills Apply!

Filed under: Holidays,Sewing — folkcat at 11:54 am on Thursday, April 26, 2007

Did a little sewing yesterday, on Quilting Day. I’m really pleased with it, because this time, I made something very practical that replaced something old and worn that I’ve been using for over ten years.

Dogbone Neck Pillow

The original dogbone pillow had been purchased at a drugstore a long, long time ago. It’s been in continuous use ever since, and frankly, was getting a little funky – and not in a good way. I decided I could make my own new one.

Saturday, I began the disassembly process on the old pillow. The goal was to get one of the three identical body pieces out intact. Seam ripper in hand, I attacked.

Turned out the entire thing had been sewn very cheaply – monofilament, and not a thin one at that. With much fuss, especially at the ends where all three pieces came together, I worked the stitches out and separated the desired section.

No pictures of the process. It was at this point, I discovered just how gross the thing had gotten over the years. Skin oils had worked their way into the polyfill stuffing, even. I threw that out, and set up a dishpan with hot, soapy water to wash the fabric piece.

My plan was to make a pattern by tracing the fabric. Would have worked, if I could have found a piece of cardboard good enough to make a template from. What I did find, however, made the job even easier – inkjet printer acetate transparencies! I ironed and folded the clean piece, placed it on my scanner bed, and ran a copy on the acetate.

The printer side of the acetate is a little tacky, and the ink takes a long time to set up. I didn’t want it smearing on whatever fabric I chose to make the pillow from, so I got out my Xyron laminating machine, and laminated the acetate with clear plastic on both sides. This covered the smudgy ink, and added a little extra thickness.

The final step to turn this into a traceable template was merely to cut out around the outlines of the photocopy, including the notches that indicated the center of the end (the point where all three seams come together on the ends). Et voila! I had a durable, traceable template that I could even see through to place it precisely on the fabric.

Next up was to pick the fabric. I dug into the stash, and came up with the funky cat fabric I’d bought on clearance – the stuff with the adorable, wacky cats in a large, directional print that I didn’t know what I’d ever use it for, but had to have?

Placing the template on the print, I discovered that the line of cats climbing on their branches would fit perfectly across each side! With a chalk pencil, I traced three pieces, then carefully cut them out with scissors. A quick run of the seams on the sewing machine; turn it right side out; stuff it to within an inch of its life with polyfill; hand stitch the last opening closed.

In a matter of a couple of hours, I had my new dogbone neck pillow!

FO - Dogbone Pillow

The right hand end looks larger because it’s closer to the camera. In real life, both ends are about the same size. I may have stuffed it a little on the firm side, but it works well. And I love how the cats line up so perfectly along each side.

Hey! Today’s a Day, Too!

Okay, here’s an easy one to celebrate – it’s National Pretzel Day! So pick up a bag of your favorite pretzel form – I like the mini’s myself – and have a nosh.

Endless Doesn’t Have To Mean Forever

Filed under: Daily Life,Holidays,Knitting — folkcat at 1:23 pm on Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Turns out there was a reason I had trouble sleeping Monday night. If you take a medication intended to help you sleep, it helps if you actually take the medication intended to help you sleep. When I went to my 7-day pillbox Tuesday night to do so, I found that the pills for Monday night were still in their little compartment.

Oops.

I know from past experience that such an oversight leads to me feeling extremely crappy the next day. My odyssey of discomfort yesterday included a surprise migraine in the evening, complete with both eyes tearing up. Not the “my head is split open, kill me now” level of pain, but for me, any pain with a migraine is unusual. I normally get more of the other neurological symptoms than the pain itself.

I’m fine today, though, having gotten my proper sleep last night. I just wish there were a way for me to realize sooner than 24 hours later that I forgot my sleep med.

Knitting

Tuesday is Anything Goes Day for crafting, and yesterday I chose that to mean knitting. Specifically, I pulled out my still-not-finished Carnival Glass Shawl to continue the drudgery of knitting the edging.

I took a slightly different approach this time, and found that it doesn’t have to be quite so mind-numbing. Oddly enough, the secret to making progress and not minding the knitting process is just keep knitting. It’s been my practice before this, having found that I was bored silly by the edging pattern, to make myself do four repeats, after which I’d allow myself to set it down and do something else.

Not last night. Last night, I decided to knit the edging during Craft Circle, which meant while chatting with my visiting friends. I could have stuck with the “four repeats and out” plan, but I thought, this time, that since I’d be chatting with my friends while I worked the fairly simple pattern, I might not notice the mind-numbing part so much.

I was right. Eventually, I put down the knitting, not because I had reached four repeats, but because I needed a break on general principles. The evening’s progress has brought me within about 5 repeats of the center point area, and I’ve made enough distance to actually see the difference between when I picked it up, and when I put it down.

WIP - Carnival Glass Shawl, Near Halfway on Edging

There’s still a long ways to go, but with this new strategy – ignore the mind-numbing, distract yourself just enough to do so and keep going – I actually have hope this shawl could be done this year, instead of next!

Special Holiday Note!

Today is World Penguin Day!

Celebrate by:

  • watching Happy Feet or March of the Penguins;
  • visiting a penguin exhibit at your local zoo;
    Penguins at Rosamond Gifford Zoo, Syracuse, NY
    Humboldt Penguins at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo, Syracuse, NY
  • knitting your own penguin to hugAnne's Penguins
    Knitted Penguins from the Knitty.com pattern
  • emulating the penguin experience by wearing a tuxedo and eating whole sardines.
    (Earn Bonus Points: tap-dance at the same time!)

Just a few suggestions – the creative mind can come up with many more penguin friendly activities, I’m sure!

Taking It Easy

Filed under: Daily Life,Knitting — folkcat at 3:18 pm on Tuesday, April 24, 2007

I’ve had a sluggish few days. The change in the weather, the seemingly endless traffic noise from Route 101 being diverted through our town – and right below our windows. (That link takes you to the WMUR TV news story about the landslide, including a video clip that shows the extent of the damage.) The stress of trying to make a budget work when there just isn’t enough there to do it. They’re all adding up and taking a toll.

I’m not sleeping well, and I’m frazzled during the day from the noise. So, mindless activities and soothing television are the prescription. That has included some knitting, though little else.

I finished the first sock of Gryphon’s second pair on Friday night, and began the toe of the second sock right away. When he came home from work, he tried on the finished sock, and declared it to be an even better fit than the first pair I made for him.

WIP: Gryphon's Socks, Pair 2, Sock 2 Toe

On Sunday, seeking novelty to entertain my brain, I cast on for the double knit afghan I’d recently purchased a kit for. There’s nothing really worth showing yet, but I’ll have pictures when there is. I did manage to cast on all 374 stitches, then, following the chart, knit the first 5 rows Sunday, and another one on Monday.

It was a good choice – enough detail to be interesting, but the simple, familiar act of knitting. Something new with the double knitting technique, but still built on an old, friendly foundation of knits and purls.

You’d think having to follow a detailed chart over 374 stitches would defy the need for simple and mindless. Breaking up the task into tiny, bite-size bits makes the difference. I made a little arrow out of a Post-It tape flag by cutting the adhesive end to a point, and that’s what’s keeping track of where I am on the chart. I simply point it at the first stitch of the group I’m knitting next, and move it when I’ve completed those. By breaking up the row that way, I’m never thinking about more than a few stitches (and what color they are) at a time.

I may have it together enough to knit a little on the Carnival Glass Shawl border tonight, but after that, I’ll probably switch back to the sock. It’s Craft Circle night, and I’ll need “mindless enough to talk while knitting” while the girls are here.

Don’t worry about me, folks – Gryphon and I are working out the stressors, and I’ll be okay. Route 101 can’t be closed forever – touch wood – and the noise will go away one day.

In the meantime, I’ll just take it a little easier than usual.

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today…

Filed under: Announcements,Blog Admin — folkcat at 12:11 pm on Monday, April 23, 2007

Okay, I lie. Well, maybe not lie. More like exaggerate by a factor of ten.

Truth is, it was two years ago today. That was the day I started blogging. In a way, that itself is a lie. I actually started blogging the December before that, writing a blog for my bead store. But after the store closed for good that Easter, I deleted the original blog (which only had brief announcements relating to store business, anyhow), and I started my first personal blog on April 23, 2005. I’ve decided not to count the long-vanished, purely utilitarian store blog in the chronology.

And that’s why today, April 23rd, is my two year blogiversary. Mind you, I’m a relative newcomer as bloggers go. There are some out there who have been doing this for four to six years. I tip my hat to them – they saw the potential early, and set the standards we all strive to achieve.

My first blog post was a mere, boring explanation of what happened to the previous blog. Since then, I’ve managed to be, I hope, more interesting. It took a while, but I’ve settled into a comfortable routine of blogging five days a week, with occasional bonus posts about special things.

Why do I do it? The first answer that comes to mind is, “Because I can.” The tools are there, and they’re easy to use.

More seriously, blogging about my crafts gives me an ability to focus that was I severely lacking before. Even if I never go back to read my posts, I force myself to take the time to think about them sufficiently to write about them, and I usually take pictures that make me look at my progress and technique in detail.

I am a much better crafter today, both because I read blogs and become inspired by what I see people doing, and because I write my own blog and examine my own crafting carefully.

As much as I want to give everyone who reads me regularly a gift, there’s just no room in the budget, not to make the presents as grand as I’d wish. I don’t think I’ll be going the route of a blogprize, either – I can’t imagine what I have that would be special enough to count.

All I can do is offer you my heartfelt thanks for being in my life, for your supportive, kind comments, for your laughter and tears, for your virtual hugs and well wishes.

THANK YOU

If I Plant Them, Will I Get a Jelly Bean Bush?

Filed under: Holidays,Video Clips — folkcat at 11:00 am on Saturday, April 21, 2007

“Beans are neither fruit nor musical.” – Bart Simpson

Sunday is National Jelly Bean Day! Celebrate by eating your favorite variety of jelly beans – mine is Jelly Belly. If you’re not convinced it’s worth participating, perhaps Jim from The Office can talk you into it:

At Last, It Can Be Told

Filed under: Holidays,Knitting — folkcat at 3:47 pm on Friday, April 20, 2007

I’ve been sitting on a story about mystery knitting for a few weeks now. Not because I wanted to – I’ve been dying to tell you about it. Not because I didn’t finish the knitting – it’s been done since before Easter.

Nope, it’s because the knitting involved Easter gifts for friends who read this blog. Due to an odd run of weather cancellations, this one having the flu, that one having a cold, and so on, it wasn’t until last night that I finally gave the last of the gifts to their intended recipients.

So what’s all the fuss about? Take a look at this group of characters:

peeps and friends.jpg

It all began when Kat posted her free knitting pattern for peeps – little duckies. I got a notion to make little gift baskets for the ladies in our Thursday night Knitting Around at Panera group, and started knitting.

I used Plymouth’s aptly-named Oh My! yarn – soft, fuzzy, chenille like. I’m convinced it’s so named because when you pick it up, that’s the only thing you can think of.

As I worked the first duckie, I started getting ideas. What if you made a pointed beak, and a little comb for the head? Or a muzzle and puffy tail, and a pair of long ears? As you can see, the result is a cute and slightly bizarre looking batch of chicks and rabbits, in addition to Kat’s original duck.

Kat has posted my modifications along with her original pattern, so if you’re thinking of trying these out, use the link above and you’ll see everything you need. Sorry it couldn’t be in time for this year’s Easter, but, well….you can’t always control events, can you?

For what it’s worth, the girls all loved their little peeps. Gryphon and I got to keep a couple for ourselves, too. And I had fun knitting them, so it’s all good.

There! Now that that’s finally out of my system, here’s the knitting I did last night:

WIP: Gryphon's Socks, P2S1, Final Ribbing
Gryphon’s Socks, Pair2, Sock1, Final Ribbing

We’re in the last inch on the first sock of this pair. Gryphon and I both love how the colors look like some sort of banded agate. Or jasper. (Old running joke with us – when identifying an unknown semi-precious stone, if it’s translucent, it’s “some kind of agate,” and if it’s opaque, it’s “some kind of jasper.” It’s usually even true! )

The sun is shining here today – I’ve already been out enjoying it (as much as you can while grocery shopping) with Gryphon. Rumor has it we’ll be getting nice, warm weather this weekend. Which means we’re making plans to get the A/C into the windows…

Have a great weekend!

A Quilting FO – Already?

Filed under: Daily Life,Sewing — folkcat at 3:33 pm on Thursday, April 19, 2007

Bumper sticker spotted in the parking lot at Jo-Ann’s Fabrics:

REPUBLICANS FOR VOLDEMORT

Yeah, that sounds about right…

FO Me!

Just to prove that nothing goes to waste here, those quilt squares that I made last week where my seam allowances were sloppy and more than a quarter inch? They’ve become a nice pillow!

FO - Patchwork Pillow
Bento Box Pillow
Pattern: Bento Box, by Tracey Brookshier

I started by squaring up my pieces. The inside corners (the small squares in the center) were all good, it was the side where the last rectangle was sewn on that was a little wonky. So, using the center point as my start, I squared everything to seven and three quarters inches.

I used these squares to practice getting my quarter inch seams right, and boy, did I nail it! After sewing the four pieces together, my larger, finished square was exactly fifteen inches.

After cutting the fat quarters to make these four squares, there was enough left to use as the back of the pillow. I did the two overlapping halves thing – I think it’s called an envelope pillow.

Each piece got cut long enough to allow a half inch seam with the pieced top, and a finished overlap of about three and a half inches. I added another inch to do a double folded half inch hem for the opening edges.

FO - Patchwork Pillow - Back
Pillow Back

You may notice the stitching along the hem of the opening. I made a decision not to go digging around for purple thread to match, so it’s sewn with the same white thread as the rest of the patchwork. Besides, I probably don’t have any purple thread yet, and I wanted to get this done without waiting for a trip to the fabric store. And it’s on the back, so who’s going to see it, anyhow?

When I stitched the top and back together, I decided to be a tiny bit paranoid about the fit for a fourteen inch pillow form. So instead of a half inch seam, I did a three eighths inch.

Got a Jo-Ann’s coupon in the mail yesterday, and stopped in today to buy the form to stuff inside. Et voila! a very nice, decorative pillow for my bed, to go with the wall quilt that will eventually hang over the headboard.

While at Jo-Ann’s today, I found their quilting notions were all on sale, too. I was very pleased when I stumbled upon this item:

Dritz Seam Gauge

Looks like the accuracy of my seams will be in good hands from now on!

I can’t tell you how good it feels to look at this pillow. It’s far nicer than anything I could have bought, I love the colors – and I made it all myself! This is exactly why I craft – so I can make nicer, better quality things that I will like more than what I see in the stores.

I can’t wait now to get that wall quilt done…

Hand Me That Chainsaw…

Filed under: Special Events,Video Clips — folkcat at 1:27 pm on Wednesday, April 18, 2007

BTW, today is International Juggler’s Day! I’ve celebrated by juggling scarves – my one and only performance talent – and Gryphon celebrated by watching me.

You can celebrate, too! If you juggle, spend a few minutes practicing. If you don’t juggle, find someone who does and encourage them to do a little while you watch.

Or if you don’t have access to any jugglers otherwise, you can take a peek at this video of Michael Moschen. This talented man is my favorite juggler of all time, and this is one of my favorite of his pieces.

Next Page »