Of Rats and Jen

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

Wag The Dog

Filed under: Announcements,Blog Admin,Blogfriends,Books — folkcat at 4:33 pm on Monday, November 26, 2007

First things first – I’ve posted a review of the new Potter Craft Book, The Yarn Lover’s Guide to Hand Dyeing, over at Shopping Jen. Do go read it – there were some, um, interesting developments in the process of examining this title.

Second – over the Thanksgiving break, I’ve had a chance to think about the place that blogging holds in my life. I originally created my blogs with the intent that they would support, and help me to explore, my crafting.

I have generally really enjoyed the process, writing blog posts, making connections with so many people who have become friends. Which is why I was really surprised to find last week that I felt relieved not to have to blog. That had never happened when I’ve taken breaks before.

I had plenty of time to think about the why and wherefore of that discovery. The conclusion I came to was that the blog was no longer being driven by the crafting – the crafting was being driven by the blog. I had reached a space where I would alter my crafting choices so I had something to blog about, make myself work on projects when I didn’t feel like it, and more.

I had become a blogger, not a crafter. And Crafting Jen is supposed to be about my development as a person who crafts. Not as a blogger.

Clearly, the blog has started to get in the way of me doing what I really want to be doing. It makes sense, then, to change that.

I’m not saying I’ll never blog again. But it will only be when something really noteworthy happens, like whenever we finally get a new pair of Rattie babies to add to the family.

As for Shopping Jen, I had already pulled that back to a “when I have something to review” basis, and I think I’ll leave it there. So it won’t go away, either.

I realize this choice will make it difficult for my readers who don’t use a news aggregator like Bloglines or Newsgator to read. I’ll understand if you can’t keep checking back to see if I’ve posted something new. But I have to do what I have to do.

As a corollary to the above, I’m also going to stop reading the vast majority of the fiber blogs I follow. There are some that are genuinely entertaining that I will continue reading. And of course, there are some of you that I feel a special connection to whose blogs will stay on my roll as well.

If I am known to have read your blog in the past, and I disappear, please know that it’s not you. I just can’t keep reading all the blogs that I do, and writing a blog daily, and continue to pursue my crafting in a way that is meaningful to me.

Freebie Fridays will also disappear, though I may offer a freebie on random occasions where I come across something to good not to give away. I won’t promise anything – we’ll just have to see what develops.

It’s been a long, strange ride, and I’ve learned a lot from my blogging, and from all of you. Maybe I’ll come back to this one day, maybe not. Meanwhile, I’m leaving the blog up so the information it offers will still be available to all who want it.

Thank you to all my friends and readers, and have a very Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

Freebie Friday Hiatus, and Thanksgiving Break

Filed under: Announcements,Contests,Holidays — folkcat at 3:53 pm on Friday, November 16, 2007

Sorry, folks – I know how some of you look forward to Freebie Fridays now, but I’m afraid it has to take a bit of a break. I’m having one of those days.

Those of us in America will be celebrating Thanksgiving next Thursday as well. I know that Turkey Day itself isn’t until Thursday, but planning and preparations will throw off every day between now and then, and on until the following Monday, too.

Crafting Jen, then, will be taking a break until November 26. Freebie Friday will return at the end of that week, on November 30.

Don’t be surprised if you see some short messages here over the coming week. Depending on what I wind up doing, I may not be able to resist posting now and then.

The somewhat beleaguered book review that I’ve been promising all week may pop up on Shopping Jen in the meantime, too. I really do want to tell you about this title – once the publisher fixes some problems, it could be an essential reference for many fiber artists.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday, however and wherever you celebrate it! Gryphon and I are planning a quiet meal for two at home, with special snacks for the Ratties.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Knit Kimono

Filed under: Books,Knitting,Reviews — folkcat at 3:36 pm on Thursday, November 15, 2007

I realized this wound up being a mini book review, so I’ve cross-posted it to Shopping Jen. Enjoy! And no, this isn’t the review I’ve been hinting at that needed feedback from the publisher – that’s still to come.

Winter is coming soon, and I have a problem.

I haven’t had a proper winter coat in a couple of years.

For a long, long time, I wore a leather jacket that I found at an incredible sale at Lane Bryant. A $230 jacket, for something like $60. Classic bomber style, and a little large for me at the time, but come on! Such a deal!

That was about 1991. I loved it to pieces – literally. It was comfortable, and warm enough for me, and served its purpose well.

I finally decided, a little over a year ago, that it was time to retire it. The leather itself was starting to shred in places, the lining had torn out years ago. The knitted cuffs were unraveling.

Last year, I got by with a polar fleece jacket I’d purchased a while back at a Burlington Coat Factory. But it was always a tight fit, and I’ve gained weight since buying it. Add the //zap!// factor of perpetual static electricity generated by polar fleece, and I just don’t consider it an option any more.

So, here’s the problem. I’m a big girl. Even local shops that have plus sizes, don’t have my size – they stop a little short. I’m also hard to please, style-wise – I tend to think most fashion trends look pretty bad. I want a good, basic, functional coat, and if possible, one in a style that I actually like.

Okay, I’m a knitter. What can I do that will work, and be fairly quick?

Knit Kimono: 18 Designs with Simple ShapesEnter the Interweave Press book, Knit Kimono, by Vicki Square. This is not a review copy – I actually chose to buy the book from Amazon myself. I’ve been fond of some of Vicki’s other Interweave books – Folk Hats and Folk Bags, for instance – and I’m passionate about Japanese design.

There are 18 patterns for jackets, vests, and kimono in this book, all based on traditional styles. And all knitted. Some of them are even large enough already to accommodate my body, without modification! And those that aren’t will be easily altered, since the essence of kimono is that they’re made from rectangles. How hard would it be, then, to simply add a little width to the parts? Not very!

The issue at hand, then, is a coat for myself. Can I answer that with a kimono? I think so! I’ve got a couple of prime candidates in mind. Sorry for the flare in the photos, I couldn’t take them without flash on this gray, rainy day.

Noragi

Noragi, from Knit Kimono

Based on a field worker’s garment, this is built from simple garter stitch rectangles. The yarn called for is Plymouth Linen Isle, a cotton/rayon/linen blend, but I could probably use any worsted weight yarn that will give a nice hand to the finished fabric.

Cons:

  • The size of the garment in the pattern finishes with a 50″ measurement at the chest. This is at least 8 or 9 inches narrower than what I need.
  • The sleeves as designed are impractical for a utilitarian winter coat.*
  • Miles of garter stitch could be boring.

Pros:

  • The construction of the garment is simple rectangles. It will be easy to add the width that I need without harming the style of the coat.
  • I could replace the sleeves with a tapered shape more suitable for a coat.
  • Miles of garter stitch is perfect mindless knitting for television watching, or Knitting In Public.
  • Garter stitch also can be finished without absolutely requiring blocking.

Water & Sky

Water & Sky from Knit Kimono

Water & Sky was inspired by the way that “Japanese architecture harmonizes with the environment, weather, and geography.” Vicki describes the yarn she chose (Classic Elite Fame, a rayon silk blend) as “a blend of pale natural colors that represent the reflection of sunlight as water trickles over a rocky streambed.” The bottom edges have an open-work, ripply stitch pattern to further evoke the sense of water, while the bulk of the garment is knit in stockinette stitch.

This is a roomy piece – the circumference measures as about 73 1/2 inches! That would be perfect for layering. The sleeves are a more practical design for a winter coat, too.

It’s a bit long, though – 42″ shoulder to hem. The model wearing it in other photographs shows it coming down to her knees. I’d probably shorten it.

Cons:

  • Miles upon miles of stockinette stitch.
  • Uses over twice as much yarn as the Noragi.
  • Specialty stitch pattern at hem, coupled with short row shaping to induce curves, takes the beginning of each front piece and the back out of the realm of mindless knitting.
  • Blocking will be absolutely essential to prevent curling of the large stockinette pieces.
  • Garment is too long as designed. Might even be too wide!

Pros:

  • The style of the Water & Sky has somewhat more flare, with the curved hems and the rippling stitch pattern at the hems.
  • Altering length is even a little easier than altering width. Just stop knitting sooner.
  • After the fancy stitchwork at the hems, this is miles of stockinette stitch. But if I shorten it, not as many miles. The stockinette stitch portions also take this back into the world of mindless knitting, at least for portions big enough to count.
  • Garment as designed could be layered for extra warmth.
  • Sleeves are perfect style – in fact, if I do the Noragi after all, I’ll probably steal these sleeves!

Of course, anyone who has read here for a while knows that I would be knitting either of these choices in different colors than the designer did. They’re beautiful, mind you, just not me.

Neither garment has provisions for buttons, but it would be easy to either add a frog-type closure, or use a pin. Or just wear them open – I seldom fasten my winter coats anyway.

What will I decide? That may be influenced by the choices of yarn I can find. I doubt I can afford to make these in either of the yarns called for, so substitutions will be in order. Using a wool or wool blend will be warmer anyhow. I’m planning to stop by my LYS today and see what I can come up with. She’ll be having her annual Anniversary Sale a week from Saturday, too, and all yarns will be 20% off that day – maybe if I plan right, this project won’t have to cost much!

Stay tuned for more – I’ll be sure to report on developments as they arise!

As for my overall opinion of the book – let’s just say that in the end, I want to knit all 18 designs offered here. They’re just that gorgeous!

Related Links:

*I have to admit, though – the more I look at the classic kimono-style sleeves on the Noragi, the more I like them anyway…hmm.

Short Take

Filed under: Daily Life,Knitalongs — folkcat at 6:46 pm on Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I know, this is later than I usually post. But there’s a good reason.

I just got home from three hours of grocery shopping, including getting myself lunch out, visiting the closest Asian market (13 miles away from home), then stopping at two different supermarkets. (One has fresher produce and dairy, the other has much better prices on crackers, and a better house brand of bread.)

Luckily for us, the stores we shop at are all in a relatively straight line from home, so it’s just a matter of going to the farthest point needed for the day, then coming back and making stops along the way. Still, no matter how efficiently we plan, the full run always takes at least three hours.

Normally, this is something that Gryphon and I would have done together. I’m not very fit, and running around doing errands tires me quickly, so Gryphon and I usually share the task, with him driving, and me making most of the shopping decisions.

But today, I did this without Gryphon. It’s part of an initiative to take more responsibility on my own head, and lighten the load where I can for Gryphon. Because he didn’t have to come along for the grocery shopping today, he had time to do the full cleaning of the rat cage, which was badly needed. The cage is far too large for me to easily maneuver into the kitchen for cleaning, and the process doesn’t really work if done in place in the living room.

You’ll forgive me, then, if I haven’t got pictures of the rats, or new progress in knitting, or other such fun things to share with you right now. That’ll come soon, I promise.

Meanwhile, if you are interested in Knitting New Scarves, there is a knitalong for the book at Knitting New Scarves Knitalong. I don’t do the knitalong thing myself, but it’s a good way to get some support and comraderie as you tackle the interesting topology of the projects. Thanks to Helen, coordinator for the Knitalong, for the link.

I’m still working on that book review I promised, too. I’ve heard back from the publisher with answers to my concerns, and I just need to gather a little data and some links to include before I post it.

I’m going to go sit still for a bit now. I feel a strong sense of accomplishment from my efforts, and the more I do this, the easier it will get. But I also feel quite in need of a rest tonight. ’til tomorrow, then!

Real Knitting, Virtual Gardening, And An Upcoming Book Review

Filed under: Books,Knitting,Second Life — folkcat at 4:19 pm on Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Finally, here I am with pictures of the current Scarf In Progress!

Linked Rib Scarf

Pattern: Linked Rib, from the book Knitting New Scarves
Yarn: Plymouth Boku, Color #7
Needles: Bryspun dpns, size 8 (6 needed for project)

My best advice to anyone who wants to knit from Knitting New Scarves – follow the instructions carefully, and have faith in them! When in doubt, don’t be afraid to frog back to the beginning and start over. Ultimately, just trust in the pattern and your intuition.

The first trick to the Linked Rib is that you’re knitting a three-lobed shape, but knitting flat. Trust me, it works. Just pay attention to the photos in the book, and the instructions, and you’ll get there.

Linked Rib Scarf - Needle End
Detail of working end at beginning of transition back to three lobes

The second trick is that you then take those three lobes that you’re knitting flat, and convert them to a tube that you’re knitting around. Then, several rows later, you switch the stitches back to knitting three lobes flat. But now, your lobes are offset to sit between the lobes of the previous section.

It seems like magic, until you’ve done it once or twice, and then you go A-HA! and don’t need to refer to the instructions again.

Linked Rib Scarf - Cast On End
A look at the cast-on end

I am loving the process, and the yarn is very nice to knit with. Plymouth Boku is 97% wool, 3% silk. It’s fairly soft, and the colors are nice. I think it’s meant to compete with yarns like Noro Kureyon and Silk Garden. The Noro colors are better, but at only $5.99 for a 50 gram ball, I have to confess the Plymouth Boku is a reasonable substitute.

I don’t know how many balls I’ll be using, or how long I’ll knit the scarf. I bought four in the same color, and feel I should have enough to make a useful neck wrap. What I’ve knit so far – what’s in the top picture – is about 15 1/2 inches long, and I still have enough of the first ball of yarn to get a few more lobe sections. I’m guessing 3 balls of Boku would give me maybe 60 inches – 5 feet – of scarf.

Second Life Gardening

I went in and took an aerial shot of our land in Second Life today.

Landscaping in SL

Just out of sight at the bottom of the screen is a canal. At the left, you see a little woodlot – that’s wild mountain pine and birch. The pale gray blob in the middle is what’s visible of a Native American sweat lodge.

On the far right, there’s a gray line – that’s the fence at the edge of our neighbor’s property. I expect to plant more trees along our property line there. The row of structures you see before that are a tiny one-room Japanese house, a cherry tree in bloom, a Turkish-style tent, and finally, a small pavilion. Each is considered the “home” of one of my or Gryphon’s avatars.

There’s a lot more landscaping to do. The woodlot needs underbrush – I’ve got wildflowers and grasses to plant. I need a firepit of some sort for the tents. The Japanese house needs a little bit of a garden, and maybe a koi pond again.

I also need to decide if I’m going to do anything along the shore of the canal. I could cut into the land a tiny bit, make a little inlet, and perhaps have ducks there or something. Haven’t decided yet.

Best thing of all – there’s no dirt under my fingernails, it’s perpetually temperate weather, and I can plant the tallest of trees without any assistance!

Coming Soon

I’m hoping to have my review up this week of the new book, The Yarn Lover’s Guide to Hand Dyeing. The quick take – generally, it’s very good, but I’ve found something I consider a glaring oversight, and I’ve contacted the publisher for their input before I post. Hopefully, we’ll have a good resolution to the matter!

And the Bead & Button Magazine Tote Bag Goes To…

Filed under: Announcements,Beading - Confessions of a Chantraphile,Contests — folkcat at 2:38 pm on Monday, November 12, 2007

Sarah! With four kids – three of them boys girls (my error!) – I’ll bet she’s got lots of stuff she could be carrying around in this roomy bag. Congratulations, Sarah!

While I watched your comments and links trickle in this weekend, I was busy myself. I’ve made good progress on a scarf from Knitting New Scarves. And in Second Life, I’ve been landscaping our property. There’s a nice little woodlot developing, as well as small homes in various styles for a number of our avatars. Pictures of everything, knitting, landscaping, and all, Real Soon Now!

Entries Closed for Freebie Friday, Nov. 9th.

Filed under: Announcements,Contests — folkcat at 1:00 pm on Monday, November 12, 2007

It’s noon, Eastern time, on Monday, November 12th. Entries are now closed for this week’s Freebie Friday drawing. I’ll announce the winner later!

Freebie Friday, Nov. 9, 2007 – Bead & Button Magazine Tote Bag

Filed under: Beading - Confessions of a Chantraphile,Contests,Knitting — folkcat at 4:26 pm on Friday, November 9, 2007

It’s that time again – Freebie Friday time! This week, Freebie Friday represents one of our previous winnder giving back. Judith, who won My First Entrelac Bag a couple weeks ago, picked up her prize, but also left something to offer as a new prize. So here it is!

Disclaimer: Because of the size of this week’s prize, I’m sorry to say I must limit entries to mailing addresses in the United States and Canada only.

Bead & Button Bag
Bead & Button Magazine Tote Bag

This is an official tote bag from Bead & Button Magazine. Judith won it at a bead retreat she attended earlier this year. But, like so many of us, she has plenty of totes, so it’s never been out of the plastic bag it came in.

I attempted to measure it in the package, and it appears to be huge – about 13 inches tall by 22 inches wide. I can’t vouch for the third dimension -the way it’s folded, I can’t get an angle with the ruler.

There is one flaw to note in the bag – at the bottom, it appears that a hot knife at the factory accidentally cut into the package, and nicked the bottom of the bag in two places. Technically, then, this is a factory second. The cuts are small, and right in the nylon webbing that reinforces the bag and forms the handles. This material isn’t likely to fray, but there are two tiny holes at the cut point.

The bag should otherwise be fully functional – just don’t put tiny, loose items in the bottom! Like, oh, say, beads. I can see this holding a fairly large knitting project. There is an exterior pocket, too, that would be perfect for tucking your pattern and notes into.

If you’d like to have this flawed, but official, Bead & Button Magazine tote bag for your very own, it could happen! Just follow these simple instructions to earn your entries in the drawing:

  • 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, November 12th. 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.

Thanks once again for taking part in Freebie Friday! I hope you have a great weekend. As for me, I have started a new scarf project from that book, Knitting New Scarves, and I’m really excited about it. I’ll tell you all about it – with pictures – next week!

Out of Focus

Filed under: Knitting,Rats!,Second Life — folkcat at 4:26 pm on Thursday, November 8, 2007

Wow…haven’t blogged yet today. Let’s see what I’ve got to say…

Ratties

All is still peaceful on the Rattie front. Lola and Sable are still getting along. This is the longest we’ve been worry-free about that matter, so I think I can confidently say that it’s sticking this time. Yay!

Knitting

My knitting is in a restless phase. As the Rusty Entrelac Bag creeps to a conclusion, I’m trying to think of the next project to cast on for, and finding myself unable to focus. I did swatch about 6 inches of one of the scarves from Knitting New Scarves, by which time I had readily grasped the unusual topology of the process.

I then decided that I had picked a random yarn in an idle moment that I didn’t really want to use for a scarf, even if I knitted that particular pattern, which I was no longer sure I wanted to. So it’s been frogged.

I don’t know what will take its place. I do have a remaining supply of assorted feltable yarns, maybe it’ll be another random entrelac bag.

Or maybe not.

Second Life

Regan Blackburn spent something like two hours in Second Life yesterday. He started by shopping for textures (the graphic images you can put on the surface of an object you build, so that it will look like something). Then he built an easel, suitable for displaying art.

In real life, you’d grab a few pre-cut pieces of wood, some bolts and screws, and whip the thing together in no time. In Second Life, I had to build my own pieces of wood from scratch, choose a texture to map onto the surfaces, then take the pieces of wood and painstakingly manipulate them until they all came together at the right angles.

The end result is crude, but not bad for my first multiple part build. Sorry there isn’t a picture yet – by the time I was done, I didn’t have a chance to set them up in the shop so you could see how they look and function. Soon.

Lookie There – She’s Been Knitting!

Filed under: Books,Knitting,Second Life — folkcat at 7:38 pm on Wednesday, November 7, 2007

First things first – over on Shopping Jen today, there’s a new review of the Veronica Mars: The Complete Third Season DVD set.

Told you the crafting wouldn’t stop! Here’s how far I’ve gotten on the Rusty Entrelac Bag.

Rusty Bag, Ran Out of Black

I had hoped to continue the bottom in solid black from this point on, but I ran out after the third round that used that color. So the bottom of the bag will be red. Which means the straps will probably have to be in the yellow color. That even works – the top of the bag is where the yellow is anyhow.

This bag, then, is winding down to a finish. I think I need to decide which of the scarves in Knitting New Scarves I need to cast on for next!

Speaking of Knitting New Scarves, I actually heard from a couple of the editors at the publisher, including Melanie Falick herself. They pointed me towards the new Stewart, Tabori, & Chang blog, both for up to date news about their books, and a link to a knitalong for Knitting New Scarves. It’s at www.melaniefalickbooks.com – check it out! These are also the folks who published such titles as Loop-d-loop, AlterKnits, and Knitting Nature, so I have a feeling they bear close watching!

Virtual Crafting

I’ve been very, very busy in Second Life. Here’s what I’ve created:

Probably Art Gallery

Yup, that’s the gallery I’m calling Probably Art, located in the sim known as VLS. (A sim is a geographic unit in Second Life.) There are photographs by Genna Lunasea; paintings by her twin sister, Probably Perhaps, who is also the proprietor of the gallery; and graphic art by their cousin, Regan Blackburn.

The floor looks a little empty – I expect to add more items as I create them. I have plans to make easels that I can display additional art on (as well as selling the easels). And Regan wants to put some of his art on t-shirts.

If you are in Second Life, and would like to visit the gallery for a closer look at my art, just click this link: Probably Art Gallery.

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