Of Rats and Jen (Inactive)

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

Lucky Number Six…

Filed under: Announcements,Contests — folkcat at 1:51 pm on Monday, October 22, 2007

…that’s the number the Random Integer Generator came up with. And that number belongs to Angela in Italy! Congratulations, Angela!

This was our biggest Freebie Friday yet. We had a total of thirteen entries from ten hopeful readers. That’s three people who posted links to the contest on their own blogs and earned an extra chance in the drawing. Angela was one of them, and it sure paid off for her.

Anyone who didn’t win this time – don’t forget, Freebie Friday comes every week. So be sure to keep your eyes on this space for the next prize offering!

Entries Now Closed – Freebie Friday, Oct. 19th

Filed under: Announcements,Contests — folkcat at 12:00 pm on Monday, October 22, 2007

It’s noon on Monday, October 22nd – entries are now closed for this week’s Freebie Friday drawing for the handbeaded bracelet. I’ll announce the winner later!

Freebie Friday – Beaded Bracelet!

Filed under: Beading - Confessions of a Chantraphile,Contests — folkcat at 2:24 pm on Friday, October 19, 2007

It’s time for Freebie Friday again – and this one’s open to international entries – Yay!

How about another handbeaded bracelet?

RAW Bracelet, Purple, Pink, & Green

This is a bracelet made of glass beads – seed beads and 4mm round beads – using a stitch called Right-Angle Weave. Right-Angle Weave (RAW) is a needle-and-thread technique. The seed beads in this bracelet are first stitched together to make a base band with RAW, then the round beads are added on top as an embellishment.

The bracelet is a generous 8 1/4″ long – I sized it to fit my own wrist. I’m giving it away, though, because as much as I enjoyed making jewelry, I never wear any.

The colors are non-traditional. The seed bead base is made of lavender-colored 11/o’s, with a pearl finish. The 4mm round glass beads on top are a 50/50 mix of a peridot AB finish (Aurora Borealis), and a fuschia-lined blue (clear blue bead with a pink lining in the hole). The overall effect is bright, fresh, and funky. The colors are fairly true in these photographs.

RAW Bracelet Clasp

It fastens with a magnet clasp, making it very easy to put on your wrist – just get the ends close to each other and they’ll snap shut. If you win, though, wear the bracelet with caution – although reasonably strong, the magnets can pull open if the bracelet catches on something like a purse strap or the edge of a pocket.

Would you like this bracelet to be yours? Here’s how!

  • All readers are eligible for entry to this drawing, including international mailing addresses.
  • Enter by commenting to the contest post before Noon, Eastern Time, on Monday, October 22nd. Only one entry per person for commenting.
  • Earn a second entry by posting about the contest on your own blog, and linking to this post. E-mail me at fiber AT folkcatart DOT com to tell me you’ve done so. Don’t forget to post soon enough that your own readers have a chance to join in the fun!
  • Have you won a prize at Crafting Jen before? No worries, you can enter again!
  • The winner will be chosen by a random drawing from all entries received before the deadline.
  • I’ll announce the winner on the blog on Monday, and will also e-mail them for their mailing address.

Good luck to everyone who enters, and have a great weekend!

Remote Blogging

Filed under: Uncategorized — folkcat at 4:48 pm on Thursday, October 18, 2007

Remote Blogging, originally uploaded by Folkcat.

Oops! I forgot to blog. So I’m messaging this picture by phone from Panera so you can see that I’m actually getting to knit tonight.

Sad Ratties and the Things That Make Them Happy

Filed under: Rats! — folkcat at 12:12 pm on Wednesday, October 17, 2007

At the end of last week, Sable started withdrawing, and had appetite loss and general depression again after Lola started getting aggressive. We’ve kept them strictly separated since, and have decided that’s just the way of the world for us now – separate Rattie sisters in separate cages. Lola will not be allowed the opportunity to attack Sable again.

The worst moment was when Sable had a clear incident of night terrors or nightmares again. I had carried her cage to a small table next to the desktop computer in the other corner of the living room. As I sat there working, she snoozed in a felt bag on the top shelf of the cage. Suddenly, I heard her thrash around. When I looked over, she was posed in a very odd position in the hammock, across the cage from where she’d been sleeping. Eyes staring straight up into the corner, body poised as if to leap through the roof of the cage, she stood there frozen, unmoving.

I opened the cage door and got her attention. She looked at me, looked down at the open door, and dashed around the cage to get out. Climbing my shoulders, she huddled at the back of my neck, under my ponytail, refusing to move or even to acknowledge a finger offering a skritch.

I called Gryphon in from the other room. He collected Sable from my neck, and sat with her in his chair for the longest time. She huddled, tucked in the corner of the chair down by his hip, letting him stroke her gently. Eventually, she must have felt better, because she climbed back up into her cage again on her own.

Sable is clearly traumatized, both by the loss of her sister, and by the ruthless dominance-asserting attacks from Lola. We can’t bring back her sister, but we can do what we can to offer comfort and contact as much as possible.

I’ve been keeping Sable as close as I can at all times. She often naps now on my lap, tucked under a blanket with my hand cradling her. She’s taken to this completely, and has even started specifically crawling onto the palm of my open hand as if it were another rat to sleep in a pile with. These sessions last well into deep sleep on her part – often, I feel the twitches of feet and nose as she dreams. It’s difficult for knitting to have one hand tied down like this, but a small price to pay to keep her happy.

Her appetite went off so severely I was worried – she even refused favorite goodies offered by hand. But we watched to see what she was eating regardless of her mood, and made those more available. The morning dose of supplement-fortified baby food always went well, so now she gets a second one in the evening. And the homemade applesauce we made on Sunday was a big hit.

Then there are the small pleasures she finds in the world. We’ve actually been getting temperate autumn weather here, which means we can occasionally open the windows and let the natural air come in. Sable loves it!

Just look at how eagerly she sniffs the air! When something as simple as this can make her happy, why withhold it?

As for Lola and Sable together, we’re simply not going to go there at all. Lola and Sable will not be allowed to get into a position where Lola can attack. Sable doesn’t need to have that experience of fear and vulnerability in her life.

Lola is feeling the isolation, even though her cage is side by side with Sable’s and sitting within inches of my chair. We’re making an effort to give her equal, but separate, attention. We’re also trying to make things more interesting for her, since I think part of the problem is sheer boredom of a smart Rattie. Several times now, we’ve rolled up her portions of produce in paper towels, stuffed them inside a toilet paper core, folded the ends over, and either given it to Lola directly, or threaded it with string and hung it high in her cage. She loves attacking the “toilet paper bomb,” as we call them, and it takes her a long time to get everything out.

Rattie life, then, is making adjustments, and moving forward in a fairly reasonable way. Everyone’s getting what they need. And we aren’t ruling out that we may still take a new pair when the litters at the breeder become available!

The Knitter’s Book of Yarn

Filed under: Books,Knitting — folkcat at 10:00 am on Tuesday, October 16, 2007

knitters book of yarn book jacket.jpg

The Knitter’s Book of Yarn by Clara Parkes

Published by: Potter Craft (Random House)

Acquired by: Free copy from Publisher

List Price: $30.00

Available: Oct. 16, 2007

Every time I sit down to examine a book or product for review, it’s my profound hope that I’m about to make a great discovery. Sometimes, I am at least delighted with the find. Occasionally, I am bitterly disappointed.

I am very pleased to say that today’s review is about a great discovery. If you are a knitter, and you want to better understand what your yarn is, why it behaves the way it does, and how best to show it off, The Knitter’s Book of Yarn is a must-have for your library.


First, though, a disclaimer – though I have been a knitter for almost 40 years; and have been reading (and writing) knit blogs for nearly 3 years; and likewise, have been using online resources for knitting information over those same 3 years; still, I was completely ignorant of the resource created by Clara Parkes known as Knitter’s Review.

If Knitter’s Review is new to you, briefly put, it’s a weekly, online magazine format, which presents how-to articles, as well as reviews and news about knitting books, tools, and especially, yarns. I don’t think there’s anywhere else on the web that offers such in-depth examinations of different yarns, including swatching results, blocking data, how they hold up to washing, and more.

The Book

Now, Clara has taken the passion for yarn that is apparent in her online yarn reviews, and put it all into The Knitter’s Book of Yarn: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing, Using, and Enjoying Yarn. This is the reference book we knitter’s have needed for years.

The knitter is taught everything about yarn, from what the properties of fibers from the different sources (protein, cellulose, etc.) might be, to how they are used in a yarn, to what the knitted results tend to be like. Clara explains how we should evaluate a yarn before buying – what qualities to look for, and how to see them. For instance, I never knew about guard hairs in cashmere. Clara not only explains their presence, but tells us how to see them in the finished yarn, and what it means for the quality of the yarn.

I’ve only read word for word up to page 35, and I think I know more about yarn now than I’ve managed to learn by trial and error in 40 years of knitting.

Section 1 covers Fiber Foundations – the sources and types of fiber. In Section 2, Clara explains the various things that happen to those fibers as they become yarn – from being processed in Mills and Microspinneries, to various methods of dyeing. We’re also taught about some of the ways we can find some of the rare, one-of-a-kind yarns, by seeking out local fiber farms and festivals.

The largest part of the book is devoted to Section 3, Ply Me a River. Here, we not only learn about the properties of different plies of yarn – single, two-ply, chenilles. We are also offered 40 patterns for knitting, each one designed carefully to make the best use of the yarn it’s paired with.

The final section is called Putting It All Together. Here, we find even more valuable information. How to care for and wash all the fiber types discussed in the book. How to remove odors from yarn. What WPI (wraps per inch) means, and how to apply that number, complete with a chart for converting it to a meaningful understanding of the weight of the yarn. An explanation of the Craft Yarn Council of America’s Standard Yarn Weight System. A guide to abbreviations and techniques; a list of online resources for yarn and notions.

If you want to learn more, Clara has included a guide to Recommended Reading that is more than just a simple list of book titles – she discusses each book in brief, including why she will turn to it and what it can teach us.

The Patterns

Although the patterns aren’t the sole reason for buying this book, they don’t hurt its quality a bit. Aside from Clara herself, there were sixteen other designers who contributed to The Knitter’s Book of Yarn. Among them are such instantly recognizable names as Norah Gaughan, Cat Bordhi, and Teva Durham. Other names may be known more from their blogs – for instance, SABLE stasher Amy King of www.spunkyeclectic.com.

I mean that last statement. While I might not be interested in knitting every one of these forty patterns, I didn’t find a single Ugh in the book. Not one. When was the last time we could say that?

The projects run the gamut from home decor, to pet toys, to garments and bags. There is lace, cables, colorwork, felting, and even plain old stockinette. There are items both simple and complex here, so knitters of every skill level should feel satisfied.

Each pattern begins with a listing of materials, measurements, and gauge. Specific yarns were used, and are called out by brand and color number. Because this is The Knitter’s Book of Yarn, we are also told exact fiber content, length, and weight of the skeins, as well as specific information as to what to choose if we want to substitute.

Artyarns Silk Rhapsody (70% mohair, 30% silk; 260 yards [238m]/100g) 1 skein #RH123. If substituting, use 260 yds (238m) of 2-ply worsted-weight yarn, preferably a yarn with shimmer and drape.

Even the visual properties and the hand of the yarn are mentioned, making for a great chance of success for the knitter who picks an alternative yarn.

A paragraph or two at the start of the instructions explains the choice of yarn, and what properties in that yarn influenced the design of the pattern. The instructions themselves are to the point, but inclusive of everything a knitter needs to be told to complete the object.

If you’ve read my other book reviews, you probably know that by now, I’ve usually mentioned the issue of garment sizes. Not this time, though! That’s how good this book is – I like it a lot, and don’t care if the sweaters will fit me as written. And with the patterns including so many items that aren’t fitted garments, there’s a lot to work with here regardless.

It’s All Good

Seriously. Still, here are a few of my favorite projects from the book. As always, click through the picture to see a larger image.

Cabled Tea Cozy
Cabled Tea Cozy designed by Jennifer Hagan

Knit from Malabrigo, you could also use any single-ply worsted-weight yarn. The quality of the Malabrigo being displayed here is how a single-ply yarn will show a sculptural knit such as cables with good definition and stich clarity, yet still have a soft look.

Rhinebeck Hat and Mitts
Rhinebeck Hat and Mitts by Shelia January

Knit with a three-ply yarn (Spirit Trail Fiberworks Bluefaced Leicester), this project shows the effective use of a solid color together with a variegated yarn in Fair Isle knitting.

Cabled Swing Cardi
Cabled Swing Cardi by Norah Gaughan

I love the lines of this sweater – I can imagine it would flatter almost any figure. It’s designed for bust sizes up to 54″ closed, but there’s enough overlap there I believe I could make it work for me with very little modification. Just one change I think I’d make – I’d add a second button, at the top of that collar end on the right front.

The original model shown here was knit from Berroco Ultra Alpaca, though you could use any 3-ply worsted weight yarn.

Wavy Socks
Wavy Socks by Amy King

I like the soft waves of cabling in these socks. I can imagine these moving through the knit blog world like a tidal wave. Expect to see lots of Wavy Socks online in the coming months. The yarn used for the book was Karabella Aurora 4, but it’s suggested you could use any multistrand DK-weight yarn instead.

A Sturdy Book

The Knitter’s Book of Yarn is destined to be a staple in every knitter’s library. The designers of the book knew this, and planned for a book that will be pulled off the shelf and referred to frequently. The covers are sturdy hardbound, with a matte finish. The pages are made of a heavy matte paperstock, just shy of cardstock. Though not spiral bound, the book lies fairly flat when opened on a table.

A lot of thought went into the creation of this book, and it shows. Clara Parkes has clearly, through her work at Knitter’s Review and her own knitting, been preparing to write this book for many years. The designers she’s gathered together have put their hearts and souls into creating beautiful projects that make full use of the yarns’ best qualities.

I am honored to have The Knitter’s Book of Yarn in my library. I hope it stays in print for a long, long time!

Related Links:

The Knitting Fairy

Filed under: Knitting — folkcat at 6:41 pm on Monday, October 15, 2007

I’ve been busy – when I can, at least – knitting on the desert-themed entrelac bag. The body of the bag is finished, as is one handle, and I’m a foot or so into the second strap.

Christmas Knitting, #3 & 4 - Desert bag, plus a new start

As you can see, there’s an odd formation in the top right corner of this picture. Could it be…another entrelac bag?

Yup. I hadn’t planned on starting a new one yet. I think the Knitting Fairy intervened to demand that this one happen.

See, Thursday night was Knitting Around night at Panera. Normally, I’m quite well prepared, with a knitting bag full of all the things needed for the current project. Often a backup project, too, just in case.

So last Thursday, I stuffed the large zipper bag containing the desert-themed entrelac project into my knitting bag, and headed out. But after eating dinner, I opened my knitting and discovered I had nothing with me.

Well, not quite nothing. I did have three cakes of yarn – the yellow, and the two different shades of red used in the desert bag. I had the circular needles needed to knit the entrelac body of the bag. I even had the completed bag itself.

What I did not have were the blue cake of yarn with the i-cord handles in progress. And even if I’d had those, I had also left behind the pattern book, which I still need to refer to for the ends of the i-cords.

There I was, a bag full of yarn, needles even, and no knitting.

I looked down at the cakes of yarn. Yellow, two shades of red. Hmm. Could be the beginning of a rusty entrelac bag. I had the right needles to knit it, but not the book – could I remember enough of how to start? I’ve only done six of these now, after all.

I began casting on, and voila! A seventh entrelac bag, and the fourth project for this Christmas, was underway. I knitted the rim, picked up the cast on stitches to knit with the live ones and make a tubular edging, even managed to correctly work the starting round of triangles without the book.

After that, I was lost – the nature of this bag has a different number of stitches picked up for each round, and you connect the squares to the previous row at different points as well. But it was enough – I’d managed to knit through the entire evening at Panera.

Clearly, the Knitting Fairy had a notion that a specific, rust-colored bag was going to be needed for Christmas this year. And she went to a great deal of effort to make it happen. I just hope that, by Christmas, it’s this obvious who it belongs to!

The Winner of the Cross Stitch Kits Is….

Filed under: Announcements,Contests — folkcat at 1:51 pm on Monday, October 15, 2007

Cheryl! Congratulations, Cheryl – I’ll be e-mailing you shortly for the address to send your kits to.

Thanks to everyone for playing again. Don’t worry if you haven’t won yet – there will be another Freebie Friday coming along at the end of this week.

Oct. 12th Freebie Friday – Entries Now Closed!

Filed under: Announcements,Contests — folkcat at 12:00 pm on Monday, October 15, 2007

It’s noon Eastern time on Monday, October 15th – entries for last week’s Freebie Friday contest are now closed! Thank you for playing – I’ll announce the winner later today.

Freebie Friday, Oct. 12, 2007 – Counted Cross Stitch!

Filed under: Announcements,Contests,Stitchery — folkcat at 3:51 pm on Friday, October 12, 2007

Here’s something a little different for Freebie Friday – a pair of counted cross stitch kits that have been sitting in my needlework stash!

Because of the size of this week’s prize, I’m afraid I must restrict entries to mailing addresses in the United States and Canada only. My apologies to my international friends – there will be opportunities for you again soon.

We’ve talked in this blog about how I do many, many different crafts. Currently, knitting, quilting, and a little beading and spinning are at the forefront, but lurking in the background are counted cross stitch, needlepoint, and other forms of crafting.

Like many, I’ve developed stashes for each of these crafts. Sitting in the needlework stash are a number of counted cross stitch kits bought over the years, usually on sale. I’m mostly fine with keeping them for the “someday” when I will get around to taking the time to stitch again.

Looking through them, however, I realize that my tastes have changed since the purchases, or that I have more designs in certain categories than I really need. So I thought that this week, rather than let some kits that have fallen out of my personal favor continue to stagnate in my stash, I’d offer a pair of them up as the Freebie Friday prize.

Freebie Friday, Oct. 12, 2007 - Cross Sttich Kits

On the left, we have a Bucilla kit that I’ve only had for a year. I bought it at an amazing bargain at a yard sale last year.

Bucilla Kit - Cats In The Sewing Room

The theme is cats, and I have many, many more cat-based counted cross stitch designs in my stash. I think this purchase was more for the low price I paid than a personal need to have and stitch the kit.

The package is completely sealed, and therefore contains all the supplies that originally came with it – 14 count aida cloth, cotton floss, floss separator(s), and gold-plated needles. The finished design is 12 inches by 12 inches.

NeedleMagic Kit - Happy Hearts Sampler

The other design is a traditional style sampler from the NeedleMagic company. The copyright date on this is 1980. I believe I purchased it a few years later than that, but probably no later than 1983 or 1984. The package this time is open – I had a habit at the time of being so excited about a new kit that, even if I didn’t plan to stitch it right away, I’d open it up and examine all the contents. I can assure you that everything is in the package and in good condition, though the front cover paper with the finished photograph has been crinkled and torn at the top.

This has been in my stash for some 23 years, at least. At the time I purchased it, I was fascinated by the history of cross stitch, and particularly by vintage samplers. Now, not so much. I still have a profound respect and admiration for the roots of the craft, but no longer feel a desire to decorate my home with samplers in this style.

Do you do cross-stitch? Have you thought about taking it up, but been intimidated by the cost of the kits? This pair of kits could be yours if you enter and win this week’s Freebie Friday drawing!

Each contestant can have as many as two chances to win – just read and follow these simple rules to get yours!

  • Only mailing addresses in the United States and Canada are eligible for entry to this drawing.
  • Enter by commenting to the contest post before Noon, Eastern Time, on Monday, October 15th. Only one entry per person for commenting.
  • Earn a second entry by posting about the contest on your own blog, and linking to this post. E-mail me at fiber AT folkcatart DOT com to tell me you’ve done so. Don’t forget to post soon enough that your own readers have a chance to join in the fun!
  • Have you won a prize at Crafting Jen before? No worries, you can enter again!
  • The winner will be chosen by a random drawing from all entries received before the deadline.
  • I’ll announce the winner on the blog on Monday, and will also e-mail them for their mailing address.

It’s that simple! One of you will have a chance to be stitching soon – will it be you?

Best of luck to everyone, and have a great weekend!

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