Of Rats and Jen (Inactive)

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

It’s Friday Update, With Your Anchorperson, Crafting Jen

Filed under: Daily Life,Knitting,Rats!,Sewing — folkcat at 3:47 pm on Friday, August 10, 2007

Our top story…

Believe it or not, I injured myself putting my underwear on this morning. How pathetic is that?

It all began innocently (as anything involving underwear should). I stood next to my bed, clothes laid out. As I held my panties in my hands, I lifted my right foot, and BAM! Smashed the big toe, and the two small ones next to it, on the underside of the siderail.

I gritted my teeth against the burning pain, and got myself dressed before examining the damage closely. The squeamish may want to skip the next paragraph, especially if they are also bothered by that TV commercial with the toe fungus remedy…you know the one I mean…

About a quarter-inch flap of skin, right at the corner of the cuticle of my big toenail, was scraped back, and the toe was bleeding. I limped into the bathroom and hiked my foot up into the sink to clean the toe. Grabbing a large strip bandage from the cupboard, I got the injury covered. (BTW, you can hold your thanks for me not posting a picture – I’ll just assume it was a good idea.)

The toes continued to throb for a while, even with a burning pain now and then. I’m probably going to be lightly bruised on all three. But I’ll live.

Still, it’s a sucky way to start a Friday. I mean, really – an underwear injury? Dare I ask what else the day could hold?

And in weather…

It’s a nice, mild day here in New Hampshire. Last I looked, the outdoor temperature was only about 58 degrees. I’d consider turning off all the A/C and opening some windows, but we’ve got road destruction/construction going on all across downtown. Main Street is being scraped, dug, and deconstructed within an inch of its life right now, and that means dust, fumes from heavy equipment, and noise.

And joy of joys, they say this will only last until October! Yippee! (*pppffflllbbbtttt!*)

On to the crafting update:

I made good progress on Socks for Gryphon, Pair 3, Sock 2 (SG:P3S2) last night at Panera. Completed the second half of the foot, and made it halfway through the short-row heel:

SG:P3S2 - Turning the Heel

That means I’m nearly done with the fussy parts…once I get into the leg itself, finishing this will be a breeze.

As you can see, the sock was posed on top of one of my birthday presents – More Sensational Knitted Socks, by Charlene Schurch. I expect my next knitting project after SG:P3 to be a pair for myself, done to some pattern from this book. It’s time I moved on from basic ribbing, I think!

And now it’s time for the Rattie Report…

Star continues to do well in her solitary cage. Her appetite is way up, with all her veggies being consumed quickly after they’re offered, and the level in the dish containing the Red Mill rolled grains and mashed up Mazuri pellets needing to be topped off a couple times a day.

Her mood is up, too. I can tell that she’s no longer as depressed. It makes sense – she’s not getting beaten up and mugged by a teenage punk rat, is she? Star moves around her private space confidently, knowing she’s not going to get jumped, and that her food will be her food. And she regularly asks to come out and visit with me.

I’m much relieved, and I feel like I can let down the vigilance I’ve held the last few days, as I watched to make sure she was okay under the new circumstances. Which means I expect to be able to get back to something crafty today!

And the Craft Forecast…

Quilty today, with increased quiltiness over the weekend. Expect quarter-sized hexagons in abundance, with handsewn whipstitches and fabric scraps making an appearance throughout the project. Pictures Monday!

Have a Crafty Weekend, everyone!

Nothing Much New

Filed under: Rats! — folkcat at 1:48 pm on Thursday, August 9, 2007

I’m afraid I don’t have much to report on today. I spent a lot of Wednesday taking care of Star in her new accommodations. We’re mincing her veggies up fine now, and even taking the Mazuri pellets and soaking them in water to break them down into a dry mash.

It’s all making a huge difference. She is chowing down heartily on the easier to bite food, and I think her strength is up. Actually, I know for a fact her strength is up – she interrupted a cuddling session today by trying to climb the wall of the family cage to get into it!

As much as I’d love to see the three all together again, though, I can’t let her do that. Lola would just go back to beating her up, and we wouldn’t be able to keep Star’s minced food safe from either of the others.

Sable seems to be accepting the situation. She seeks out a bit more attention from me. But the last two times I offered her a chance to visit in Star’s cage, she climbed in, took a quick sniff around, and immediately left again. It’s a bit sad, as if she’s already said her good-byes to her sister, even though she’s just next door.

Lola has actually calmed down a little. With Star removed from the family cage, Lola is the definitive low rat on the totem pole, and she has to behave like it now. Oh, she still jumps on Sable and play fights. But Sable, unlike Star, can give back better than Lola can dish out.

So, that’s the nature of my Wednesday, spent observing how the new situation has changed the Rattie Sisters’ behavior. And cuddling Star. And cuddling Sable. And Lola, too. And making sure everyone ate, and was OK, and not depressed over the new reality.

Now that I think about it, I’ve been assuming I picked up the needles and knit at something yesterday. But, no, I never did. I guess I was totally focused on the girls. That’ll change tonight, though – it’s Knitting Around at Panera! Which means I’ll likely have enough progress to count on the Socks for Gryphon that are underway now. Expect a picture tomorrow!

Happy Crafting, everyone!

Happy Things, and Sad

Filed under: Daily Life,Rats! — folkcat at 9:15 pm on Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Sad Things

We’ve reached a threshold with Star. No, not that one – yet. No, last night we decided she needed to be kept in a separate cage from the others, for her own health and safety. We set up the cage Lola came with alongside the family cage, and placed Star in it.

Star’s solo home is being kept right next to the family cage, so she’s still near everyone. Sable clearly misses her a bit already – when Gryphon came into the living room this morning, he said Sable was standing on the lower ramp, looking over at Star’s cage, and making the little chirping noise in her throat that we’ve come to understand as a longing for attention or affection. (We let Sable in with Star to visit for a bit, and that seemed to help.)

There were a number of factors that triggered this decision. Problem number one was actually Lola. The Youngster has figured out that Star is weak, and can’t fight back. And so Lola has been exerting her dominance over Star frequently, jumping on her and roughly playfighting. Poor Star could only lay there, immobile, and take it. I’d rescue her when I saw it going on, but I’m not always there.

We’ve also witnessed several incidents that could only be called “muggings,” where Lola has pushed Star over and taken a treat or piece of food from her mouth. And Lola has figured out that when treats are given out, if she quickly runs and stashes hers away, she can come back and take Star’s treat from her.

Not good. Lola was bullying Star, and Star can’t fight for herself. It had to stop.

There are other benefits to separating Star. She’s not able to eat as well as she used to, and needs some specialized food – which we have to keep Sable and Lola from eating up before she can get to it. Now, we can give her exactly what she needs, and she’ll actually get it.

Also, the new family cage is so large that if Star fell over or got stuck in a back corner, I couldn’t easily reach her to help. Lola’s old cage, though it’s a three decker, is small enough I can get to Star anywhere.

We are still a bit concerned about having Star in a multi-level cage, instead of a single-level. So far, though, it seems that the ramp design, while it doesn’t completely eliminate falling, does minimize it. And with a full 1/2 inch grid on the ramps, Star has actually been able to break her fall by grabbing hold and letting herself down more slowly. So, while the multiple levels might not be ideal, they’re far safer for her than being in the larger cage, with more open areas to fall in, and with a Youngster beating her up and stealing her food.

It’s all very sad, because, as I said, this is a new threshold. Star’s condition has come down to a level that needs special care, and that couldn’t be handled in the family cage. We’re another notch closer to the day that we are dreading, but at least we know we’re doing everything within our power to make things better for Star now.

Happy Things

Like friends who convince you to keep Craft Circle on, even if they’re the only one coming, because it’s your birthday and they plan to come with things like these:

Big Balloons
Big, Big Balloons

I realize I’m not exactly petite, but these balloons are so large, they even make me feel about 4 years old! Can you think of anything happier than a four-year old with a birthday?

My good friend Bea, who brought the balloons, also brought a small cheesecake, which we shared with some freshly brewed Li Zi Nutcracker tea (from Adagio Teas), while we watched America’s Got Talent together. We’re both really rooting for the ventriloquist, Terry Fator, to win – he’s one of several amazing talents left, but he’s a multi-talented powerhouse. I’ll bet if you go search on YouTube, you’ll find clips of some of his performances. You won’t believe your eyes – or ears!

Aside from balloons and cheesecake, Bea also turned up a copy of one of the classic books in the quilting field for me – Lap Quilting With Georgia Bonesteel. This is chockful of patterns and full-size templates, and gives complete instruction for the block-by-block method of hand quilting – which is space-friendly enough I may actually be able to do it in our tiny apartment. Thanks, Bea, I’m going to enjoy this one!

And the celebrations continue. I got a card from my parents today, with a birthday check which will probably fund a nice outing with my friends to go fiber and craft shopping. And my brother said he’s still got a package to send me. I love it when people are late with the wishes and presents, it keeps the fun going!

Ravelry…Maybe Yes

Filed under: Ravelry — folkcat at 3:46 pm on Wednesday, August 8, 2007

As promised (are you here, Casey?), I’ve continued looking around Ravelry. And I think I’m starting to see things that could be useful to me.

Organizing books, for instance. It’s a relatively undeveloped feature thus far, but you can add books that are already entered in the Ravelry system into your Library. Other tabs on the page suggest that one day, you’ll be able to indicate which books you’ve actually used, and which are needed for projects in your “queue”.

ETA: Further study – I realize now that the “Used” and “Needed for Queue” tabs will actually list books based on their being associated with projects you’ve done. Or plan to do. So it’s an automatic thing. Okay!

This feature will help me a great deal, at least once it’s fully functional. I probably don’t have as many knitting books as others among you, but they’re still a lot to keep track of.

I tend to acquire a lot of books at yard sales and thrift shops, so I often have out-of-print titles. Being able to add any book to the Ravelry library (let us upload our own cover image, for instance, and add all the publication info from the title pages) would go a long way towards making this feature truly useful to me.

I’ve also been browsing both the yarn and patterns sections. And was quite surprised to find that they could be helpful to me as well. I know I said I don’t like to take my ideas from what others are doing, but you know what? I realized I could sort, say, all the Shawl/Wrap patterns by “Favorites” (or “Popularity”, or whatever they call it), then go to the last page of the results, and browse backwards. Sure, many of the least favorite patterns are at that end of the list for a reason. But many of them are very nice projects that simply haven’t been knit very often.

I love it when I can knit something that appeals to me, but which hasn’t already exploded all over blogland. Finding a less popular pattern that I find attractive feels like discovering a hidden treasure. Score another point for Ravelry!

Looking at the patterns, too, I realized that I have sometimes rejected a pattern at, for instance, Knitty, because the photos with the pattern page didn’t appeal to me. But looking around Ravelry, I could see 20 or 30 examples of what others have done with the same pattern – and often, they look much better than the photos at the source did. At least one pattern has gone into my Queue this way already.

So, see? There really is hope for Ravelry after all.

I can think of one other thing that would really turn things around for me, for certain. Except that I don’t expect it can happen for a long, long time: open Ravelry to other crafts besides knitting and crochet. That’s part of the problem for me – Ravelry is so focused on two crafts, but I’m a multi-crafter who does so many other things. Knitting is only a fraction of the crafting time I spend in any given week. If I could use these same organizational tools for all my crafts – cross-stitch, needlepoint, weaving, quilting, beadwork, and more – I guarantee you, I’d be on Ravelry every day.

Given that the development of the Ravelry project is still so young, I don’t expect to see such an expansion until at least Phase Two – or even Three or Four. But I can dream, can’t I?

Revelry, But Maybe Not Ravelry; Done Pixelating, Still Socking

Filed under: Crafting Miscellany,Daily Life,Knitting,Ravelry — folkcat at 1:49 pm on Tuesday, August 7, 2007

It’s my birthday! I turn 47 today. No, I don’t mind saying that – the fact that I’ve lived another year on this planet doesn’t bother me.

Birthday presents so far:

  1. The nice, big, new cage for the Rattie Sisters. I wanted to do right by them so badly that I considered it a birthday present that we put money into that purchase.
  2. Two books from Amazon: More Sensational Knitted Socks by Charlene Schurch, and World of Knitted Toys by Kath Dalmeny. Browsing these two titles has been a delight, and I can’t wait to actually try them out.
  3. A nice, take-out dinner from Wok-Wok, our favorite local Chinese restaurant.
  4. Spider SpudMr. Potato Head: Spider Man Spud. Found this on a clearance table at the local supermarket, actually. I found the concept amusing enough, but was going to pass on it. Until I saw these words on the front of the box: “Includes Peter Parker Parts!” For some reason, that just sent me into a fit of giggles!

    Gryphon still thought it was a whimsy that would just gather dust. But then, I showed him this image on the side of the box:

Spider Spud Storage Compartment

That’s right – Spider Spud can pull his web, his costume, even his Peter Parker Parts, out of his butt! Well, it was a done deal at that point. Spider Spud came home with us, Peter Parker Parts, Butt Compartment, and all!

Online Knitting?

The jury is still way out on Ravelry. I know everyone out there loves it. But now that I’ve had a chance to look around, I just don’t think it does anything I need. I don’t have a need or desire to hyper-organize my stash. I can find what needles I have without having to go to my computer, log onto a website, and click through menu options until I get to the needle chart.

I keep track of my WIPs and FOs on my blog, fully documenting them there. I have plenty of online social interaction with knitters and other crafters through the blog as well, and I have several real world gatherings I go to every week.

If I’m planning a new project, I’m not much influenced by what other people have done with the pattern. Same thing if I’m trying to decide what pattern to use with a yarn – it doesn’t matter to me what other knitters have done with it. I’m not a follower, I think outside the box and make up my own route.

There’s a message system – okay, fine, but what if I don’t log in to Ravelry for weeks? I realize that may seem impossible to fans of the site, but if Ravelry isn’t offering anything I have a need for, I’m not likely to log in every day just to see if anyone message’d me. And I have yet to see a means for e-mail notification that you have messages.

So, I just don’t know. It doesn’t appear to be worth my setting up any of my own data there, I just don’t have a desire for that type of organization.

Ravelry is good and useful for the sort of people who thrive on online social networking sites. I just don’t think I’m one of them. I’m not going to close my account, but I may not use it much.

ETA: Just want to make it clear, while the above doesn’t sound very promising, I still haven’t given up on Ravelry. I may yet find something there that works for me, you never know. It’s just that most of what I see so far hasn’t given me an “Aha! I’ve been needing this!” reaction. But then, not all sites can be all things to all people, right?

Weekend Crafting

I finished it!

FO Pixel Hobby: Native American Dreamcatcher
Native American Dreamcatcher, from PixelHobby-USA

The last pixels were put in place on Sunday night. Next step is to use clear packing tape on the back to bind all these baseplates – there are twelve altogether – into a single panel. Then we’ll back that with foamboard, and put it in a frame.

Dimensions on the image are 12 inches high, by 20 inches long. This will make a striking centerpiece on one of our walls.

Having pixelated to a conclusion, I picked up the current pair of socks again. Socks for Gryphon, Pair 3, Sock 2 (SG:P3S2). Only did a couple of inches – I was watching some distracting shows (Design Star, Hell’s Kitchen, Who Wants To Be A Superhero?), and kept putting the knitting down. It didn’t help that I found a knot in the yarn, either (Regia Brasil). It didn’t break the color sequence, just shortened one of the segments, but I’ll have to remember to go back and weave in those ends later.

SG:P3S2, Half the Foot

Now that the Pixel Hobby picture is done, I’ll be picking up the mini-hexagon quilt again. Stay tuned for progress on that front!

How to Occupy A Hyperactive Rat for (Almost) Four Minutes

Filed under: How To,Rats!,Ravelry — folkcat at 1:39 pm on Monday, August 6, 2007

Hello, everyone! I got my Ravelry invitation this morning, so I’m going to be exploring that site today. I’m still a little unsure what parts I’ll use, so I need to think this over some.

For instance, I have a flickr account, but I don’t really use it because I have more than sufficient capacity for uploaded photos at the server that hosts my blog. Connecting photos to my information at Ravelry will require a duplication of effort on my part – upload photo to blog, then also upload it to flickr so I can link it at Ravelry.

And no, I’m not going to start just uploading to flickr and putting the photos into my blog posts from there. I actually don’t like the way flickr photos present themselves in blog posts. If I want to click through to see the image larger, flickr loads way too slow for my taste.

Plus, there’s a good chance that, given the limitations on a free flickr account, I’ll have to upgrade to the pro level account ($24.95/year) if I do Ravelry right, too. I know that may not seem like a lot to many of you, but there are no savings to pull it from, and cash flow could keep it from happening for a long time.

So I’ve got some thinking to do, with regards to how I want to use Ravelry. Meanwhile, you can find me there as CraftingJen.

Being so occupied myself for now, let me distract you from the lack of other crafting content with a quick tutorial!

How to Occupy a Hyperactive Rat for (Almost) Four Minutes

The following took place between 8:48 p.m. and 8:51 p.m.

1. Allow rat to crawl into empty tissue box through opening on top.

Tissue Box with Rat Inside

2. Place tissue box on table, with opening on bottom.

Lola Escaping Box 1

3. Watch as rat escapes through an opening of their own creation.

Lola Escaping Box 2
Okay, a little off this edge down here…

Lola Escaping Box 3
Gonna have to clean up this top edge a bit…

Lola Escaping Box 4
Still a little too tight…

Lola Escaping Box 5
Ah! There we go!

Become One With The Yarn

Filed under: Knitting,Rats! — folkcat at 1:19 pm on Friday, August 3, 2007

Another blistering hot day here in New Hampshire. At 10 a.m., the temperature was already around 88 degrees. I think I’m going to be staying in today.

Gryphon scored sock-related points yesterday afternoon. He told me, quite honestly, that he really loves the socks I knit for him, and he looks forward to days he’s not working at the factory or on the receiving dock at the supermarket, and can wear socks other than his support ones. He said he plans to throw out all those old dress socks he’s got so he only has mine to wear when he can wear whatever he wants.

Okay, I feel better about my knitting being a useful and handy thing now. You may see lots of socks on the blog in the weeks to come!

Speaking of which, yesterday after Gryphon left for work, I finally finished the first sock of his latest pair. Socks for Gryphon, Pair 3, Sock 2 (SG:P3S2) was cast on immediately, and I made it several inches past the short-row toe while at Panera last night.

SG:P3S2 Toe

Gryphon tried on the completed sock after he got home from work around midnight, and declared it the best fit yet. This was the first where I attempted a shallower heel cup. Since I have to decrease stitches between foot and leg for Gryphon’s skinny legs anyhow, I simply decreased half of them right before working the short-row heel.

The result was a perfect fitting heel, without the bagginess that my previous two pairs for him had. After the heel, I decreased the rest of the stitches I needed to lose for the leg, then just ribbed my way to the cuff. I’ll be remembering these instructions for any socks I make for Gryphon.

Rattie Responsibilities

Last night, at home during a break from the knitting, Lola began her initiation into one of the few responsibilties that the Rattie Sisters have*. Star began teaching her the mysteries of the job of Fiber Inspector.

Star Teaching Lola About Yarn
Star: “You have to use all your senses, Lola, and really become one with the yarn. Only then can you know its true nature.”

Lola is new at the job, and has yet to learn the restraint that is encumbent upon a good Fiber Inspector. She clearly learned how to evaluate the yarn – but she must understand that when the yarn is good, it’s not hers to take home!

Lola Taking the Yarn Home
Lola: “Oooh, this is a good one! Mine! Mine! Mine!”

Looking ahead to the weekend, it should be a quiet one. Gryphon’s going to be working at the supermarket on Saturday, but only until about noon. The rest of the weekend is ours, and I think we’re going to celebrate my birthday this weekend. The actual day is Tuesday, but weekends are better for partying, I think, and this is the closest one.

Hope you have a great weekend – I expect I will!

*Okay, not so much a true responsibility. More like my acceptance of the reality that, no matter what you do, the Ratties will want to get their noses – heck, their entire bodies – into the yarn. So, instead of a nuisance, I call it their job!

Lessons in Rattie Housekeeping

Filed under: Rats! — folkcat at 2:01 pm on Thursday, August 2, 2007

I’ll be the first to admit it – there’s a lot I don’t know about Rattie behavior.

Apparently, when a large, new object is placed inside your home…

Wodent Wheel in Castle Rattie

…the appropriate response is to bury it.

Star Investigating the Wheel

This is accomplished by shoving as much loose bedding in its direction as you can. If the object has holes or openings, fill them with your chew treats, tissues, and anything else you can carry.

"Buried" Wheel

If your accommodations are luxurious enough to include hand knitted rugs, do your best to drag them out from under everything, and in the general direction of the intruder.

Rat Rug Dragged Out To Cover Wheel

Most of the disarray you see in these photos was done by Lola, who went into an immediate frenzy as soon as the Wodent Wheel entered Castle Rattie. Both Sable and Star have investigated it as well, but in a much more mature, calm manner. (They are, after all, an entire year older than The Youngster.)

It’s my hope that, as the Wodent Wheel stays in place and doesn’t magically vanish, Lola will eventually crawl inside it and find out that running endlessly with no hope of getting anywhere is a good way to burn energy. Heck, maybe even Sable will learn that she can forget about The Youngster for a bit if she runs!

Pixelating Along

Filed under: Crafting Miscellany,Rats! — folkcat at 2:23 pm on Wednesday, August 1, 2007

It’s taken me three days (at least two more than it should have), but I finally finished the ninth baseplate for my Pixel Hobby picture.

PIP - Plate 9

And here’s what it looks like in place with the previous eight baseplates.

PIP - Plate #9 complete

As you can see, we’ve started into some decorative elements that run across the bottom of the design.

I’m afraid today’s post doesn’t have much to offer besides that. I’ve been a little short on ability to focus this week. It seems that, even though Lola, Star and Sable are all living together in one cage, we still have a way to go on teaching Lola about how to handle attention, how often she can get it, and how long it can last.

I’ve fairly often needed to set aside all projects and just interact with the Ratties for a while. Lola needs to learn how to be part of the family, and Star and Sable need extra attention to make up for forcing a roommate on them. It takes my focus away from other projects, which is why baseplate nine took three days to finish.

I’m evaluating how much time they all get right now, and telling myself it’s okay to say “no” to Ratties coming out of the cage now and then. I really have to do that more than I used to with Star and Sable – Lola is just that active, running everywhere and getting into everything. It’s not like the elder Ratties, who calmly poke their noses into a few places, then tuck into a corner by my hip or a box on the ottoman to snooze most of the day. When the Ratties are out now, I need to drop everything else and pay attention the entire time.

I’m hoping to get to baseplate ten today, and see how far I can go with it. This project has been going for a while, and I finally feel like the end could be in sight!

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