Thursday, March 31, 2011

Where Are They Now?

And day four (2KCBWDAY4) with this prompt:
Whatever happened to your __________?
Write about the fate of a past knitting project. Whether it be something that you crocheted or knitted for yourself or to give to another person. An item that lives with you or something which you sent off to charity.
It took a little bit of digging because most of my winter wear has been put up (and to be truthful, I don't pull this out much even then) but I have found my very first finished object.

Not pictured: All the giggling I was doing because taking photos of myself feels so silly.
Blog friends, people shouldn't be allowed onto the internet as teenagers.  They just shouldn't.  Not to protect their delicate sensibilities, but to spare them the embarrassment of going back ten years later to find the blog post they wrote about learning to knit.

The post itself isn't too bad (though I seem to have had an interesting relationship with spelling and grammar, my god) but having to go through all of My Very Important Adolescent Feelings to find it was horrifying.  Like, kid, some day you'll have bills to pay, stop whining about your English teacher being useless.*

I tried to clean up the typos and some of the grammar, though I left the frenetic run-on sentences because I still haven't grown out of those.  Here's what my seventeen year old self had to say about learning to knit:
I feel like Penelope, only I'm knitting instead of weaving.
Let me explain. 
Sometime today I decided I should learn how to knit, so I went to Michael's bought some yarn and needles and a how-to book and all afternoon and evening I've been learning how to knit. So I practiced casting on, until about three hours ago when I decided that my edge was good enough to start actually knitting so, I started knitting (while listening to "My Evil Plans" *heart*) and of course I keep pulling the entire thing apart over and over again so I can continue practicing. And my hands hurt from me making them move like they're not used to moving.
But all this pain, frustration and infernal clicking later what do I have to show for it? A slightly frayed length of yarn and an empty pair of knitting needles. That's right, I've undone it all. So this is where Penelope comes in. I work all day and carefully undo it at night, so I have nothing to show for my labors.
*whacks head on table* Somebody just kill me now. I haven't even tried to learn how to purl yet.
Shortly after learning how to purl I made the above scarf.  I remember it was Caron on 5mm needles and I hadn't learned the magic of tinking yet, so that when I made a mistake I oh-so-cleverly pulled out the needle and frogged back until I was past it.  Then I carefully put the needle back in and kept on keeping on.

Unsurprisingly, it has some quirks:

I've helpfully labelled my cast on edge (where I was still clearly in the 'ooh, knitting is hard' stage) and a row of twisted stitches where I yanked out the needle to fix a mistake.  I don't actually remember it, but I think it's safe to assume I was feeling pretty good about having this knitting thing down only to catch a mistake, curse in every language I could think of and then chuck it across the room.

Here's something I didn't notice until months later and I know I should probably fix (especially as I do still wear this from time to time) but I leave it out of a goofy sense of nostalgia:

Well, that was a fun trip back in time.  If only there were more DeLoreans and less teenage angst.

*Obviously he was if I was seventeen and still confusing 'their' and 'they're.'  Even if it was informal, off the cuff, internet-y writing.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tidy Mind, Tidy Stitches

Here we are at day three of blog week (2KCBWDAY3) with the following prompt:

How do you keep your yarn wrangling organised? It seems like an easy to answer question at first, but in fact organisation exists on many levels. Maybe you are truly not organised at all, in which case I am personally daring you to try and photograph your stash in whatever locations you can find the individual skeins. However, if you are organised, blog about an aspect of that organisation process, whether that be a particularly neat and tidy knitting bag, a decorative display of your crochet hooks, your organised stash or your project and stash pages on Ravelry.
 Curse you new floors!  That bit about personally daring me to photograph yarn as I find it?  Two weeks ago I could have done that handily and proven that, truly, there are those of us who just don't have anything in the way of organization.

Well. That may be overstating things a little.  But only just.  I have a rather large chest in the corner of the living room next to my side of the couch (the one with my hard won butt dent) that has zip top bags filled with yarn.  But the likelihood of yarn making it from purchase to zip top to chest is pretty darn small.  And if I want to use the yarn right away or just look at it for a while then I don't even have the advantage of knowing which shopping bag it was in.  It could literally be anywhere I might have put it down.  Or hidden it from the cats after putting it down.  Or hidden it from myself because it got in the way.

Despite that my tendency to lose things is actually not that bad.  In fact, I'm more likely to lose something if I've put it away someplace obvious.  Which is why I can tell the Boyfriend that the shopping bag from the trip to the hardware store three months ago is beneath the chair in the dining room near his shoes.  Ask me to find my favorite black bra after I specifically announce to myself aloud, 'I am putting this in this drawer because I have just washed it,' and I'm tearing apart the house.

So, I know my Cascade Magnum was on the DVD shelf next to Zoolander*, the red variegated sock yarn was on the corner of the coffee table, bits and bobs of the cotton acrylic blend for the commissioned monkeys was behind the left hand cushion of the love seat, the Baby Ull and half a fingerless mitt that I really need to start over was in the magazine rack.... I could keep going but why?

Now all my yarn is in three places: the chest (which has no organizational system besides 'what will fit in this bag'), a box packed with all the crafty related shenanigans I could round up from downstairs (and my copy of The Wasteland, for some reason) and the freezer.  I guess, four places if you count the trash.

Why the freezer and the trash? Well, this:

If you see this bastard anywhere in your house just burn the place down and salt the earth.  Even then you'll have nagging doubts about whether it really, truly is this time gone.

I knew there was a point to all those zip top bags when I first started using them.

*Wait, that's a filing system that almost makes sense.  If you squint.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Skill + 1UP

And it's day two of blog week (2KCBWDAY2) and the prompt is:

Look back over your last year of projects and compare where you are in terms of skill and knowledge of your craft to this time last year. Have you learned any new skills or forms of knitting/crochet (can you crochet cable stitches now where you didn’t even know such things existed last year? Have you recently put a foot in the tiled world of entrelac? Had you even picked up a pair of needles or crochet hook this time last year?

 Hmm.  I rather wish I was better at keeping note of what I've made so that I could do a proper job of this prompt.  Frankly, I'm probably more curious about the answer than anyone else.

Pater's hat that I gave him for Christmas was both the first bit of stranded color work I did in the round and managed to keep even tension with so it didn't pucker and look strange.  Here's Pater's hat, what you can see of it because he liked it pushed back on his head:

I also bought a copy of Custom Knits by Wendy Bernard which has know convinced me that I can make sweaters that actually fit me in the way they're meant.  I haven't shown you a finished picture of Slinky Ribs (Ravelry link) here on the blog yet because it's still technically unfinished.  I still have the sleeves to do.  But, I know it fits and fits well because I might have worn it as a vest once or twice.


I've also learned quite a bit about shaping knitting when it comes to making toys.  I got the hang of making various geometric shapes (like Cezanne, I see toys as basic geometric solids that simply need to be put together in the correct way) and so have gone from Monkey Mark I, who I made after quite a few improvements when it came to thinking three dimensionally in knitting, I should add:

to the more appealing Monkey Mark IV (it was apparently quite the learning curve):

On the crochet front, I've finally jumped on board with granny squares.  It's not that I didn't like them, it was that it took quite a while to power through my mental block about crochet.

My great aunt made me this granny square afghan out of bits and bobs and it's one of my most treasured possessions.

Now, once I'd thought I'd gotten the hang of crochet one of the first things I did was make a basic granny square, so I can't say that this is much of a step up.  It just took me a while to get there.  But I think that I finally understand granny squares, enough that I can stop following patterns to the letter.  Now, I don't want to say that I've come up with an all new afghan block, I used motifs from several existing squares to get where I am now.

Unfortunately, all the finished squares have been packed up because of the impending new floors, but I can show the center of one of the squares:

Sorry about the dark photo, the red was making my camera have a nutty under the lamp.

If you could just imagine the usual granny square dc 'shells' in white around it until its about seven inches, then a black sc border, I'd appreciate it.

And that's all I can think of.  Aside from learning that I should use the project notebook on Ravelry more frequently because I like the time capsule into my crafting that it provides.  But as that's a lesson I didn't learn until today I don't think it should count.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Illustration Friday - Toy

This is George.  I don't know when I originally got George, or who gave him to me but he's been a part of my life almost as long as I can remember.  His little French knot eyes are unraveling, most of the paint on him (like his nose and toes and fingers) is gone, his whiskers have been replaced at least once and he has a sort of well worn and grimy look to him that comes from being a kid's constant companion, the sort that can't be washed away.

George went with me to my first day of school, my first sleepover, every trip to my grandparents' and was one of the first things I picked up from my parents' house when I moved to my first apartment.  He's been soaked in tears, flown in giddy circles in my hands and knows all of my secrets.

He no longer has a place on my bed right by my face but I don't think I could ever really and truly put away childish things if it meant that I couldn't have George.  As I get older I'm trying to be less sentimental and to accumulate less things and give more away, but George will never be on that list. 

As for the actual painting, it's pretty crap.  Enough that I want to redo it when I'm a little more clear headed, and a little less full of allergens and rhinovirus.  At least enough that I don't get distracted half through erasing my pencil lines before starting the water color.

If anyone deserves actual effort, it's probably George.

A Tale of Two Yarns

I am (almost belatedly but I got it together right at the last minute. Way to go, self!) hopping on board with the second annual International Knitting and Crochet Blog Week. Because fun and awesome and a heap of other superlatives. Thanks to Eskimimi for doing such a gorgeous job organizing this event.

So, onto the, you know, actual post.

Part of any fibre enthusiast’s hobby is an appreciation of yarn. Choose two yarns that you have either used, are in your stash or which you yearn after and capture what it is you love or loathe about them.

Ok, here's my thought process on winnowing down the options to just two. While there are many, many yarns and I'm sure to have many, many opinions it seems best to talk about what I use the most frequently. And thus my two workhorse yarns, the ones I return to time and time again and take up the most room in my house.

Yarn the First:

Cascade 220, shown here in 'Natural' one of approximately nine million available colors.

If I was of a poetical nature I would put an ode here, perhaps a sonnet. Maybe a limerick. But sadly, that's not the way my brains work so let me try something else.

What doesn't this yarn do? Precluding sensitivities or allergies, it's comfortable next to the skin, it launders well, it shows off pretty much any pattern devised by clever knitters and crocheters, it loves to take dye, and it never asks anything of you. Ever. This is not a yarn that needs to be coddled. Well, it asks to be kept away from bugs and cats, but really, that's not unreasonable. And it's quick to forgive you if your wool chewing cat spends a little too much time patiently licking at the ball with a contented look on his face.

I can think of exactly two downsides (again, excluding sensitivities and allergies to the things of a wooly nature) the first also being one of it's strengths.

It is by it's nature not something that calls attention to itself. You will never be wearing a garment made of 220 and have someone coo over the yarn. If you want to make something that sings in stockinette, 220 is probably not the right choice.

The second, is that while it will takes all manners of abuse it's not actually indestructible. Which brings us to

Yarn the Second:

Caron Simply Soft, shown here in here in 'Blue Mint', part of the 'Brites' collection.

I make a lot of toys. To the point where I have to wonder if there's something to the occasional accusation that I'm the poster child for Peter Pan Syndrome. Happily, I have a niece and happily I can foist what I make onto her with little to no fuss.

And believe me, stuffed toys is where Simply Soft shines. Literally and figuratively.

Because it doesn't pretend to be anything but plastic it's slippery enough that it won't fight you while you make the required super tight fabric required to keep stuffing from poking through. And then, once it's been turned into whatever anthropomorphic animal has struck my fancy I can chuck it in the washing machine followed by the dryer and with a little bit of a massage to get the stuffing back where it belongs it looks like new.

These are toys that don't mind being barfed on, sharing whatever sticky drink or food the kid is currently eating or taking a ride in the toilet. Because again: washer + dryer = like new.

Again two downsides. Like I said, it doesn't pretend to be anything but plastic. You'll never once hold it against your cheek and sigh dreamily. If you were to hold it against your cheek you might end up with heat rash. So I avoid that whenever possible.

Secondly, it's splitty. Using blunt knitting needles or crochet hooks solves most of that, but I have noticed that I crochet a little differently when I use it versus another yarn. This is an adjustment I don't remember making, but obviously an adjustment had to be made and how annoying that may be will depend on the crafter.

And there. Two yarns, and some opinions. They are neither the best of yarns nor the worst of yarns, but I would truly be lost without them.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Renovations at Casa del Asterismos

The need for home improvements is quickly becoming more and more desperate. Unfortunately, there are few things I hate more than home improvement.

I know I should try and see the fun in it. I mean, we're completely redoing the downstairs - there are loads of decisions to be made that shouldn't be tedious and frustrating, but I guess I'm just not wired in whatever way it is that makes one have an opinion on whether how much I like the color of one tile outweighs how much I like the texture of the other.

I wish I was, it honestly seems like a good time when Martha Stewart does it on television.

But! The tile has been chosen. A scheme has been made. It would help greatly if the packing was done which is of course mostly my stuff since The Boyfriend is a responsible adult who can take care of his shizz. Well, there's also the heavy furniture but the floor guys will apparently help with that. Except fish tanks. They won't touch fish tanks. Which means that we've got the fifty-five gallon to try and heave somewhere. The very idea of trying to shift that behemoth makes my brain itch. At least The Boyfriend already took care of the twenty and thirty gallon tanks.

We painted swatches of possible paint colors last night which was probably the most fun I've had with this whole mess so far. Unsurprisingly I got a bit silly with it. To be fair, The Boyfriend started it. Here's what we initially came up with:

Now, for the last few years that I've lived here I've always thought that the walls were maybe one shade away from institutional white but clearly I was mistaken.

I'm not crazy about sticking to white but whoever the dweeb that designed this house was, he was definitely a big believer in the 'open plan.' Which basically means that I have no rooms or even clear delineations of rooms. So the entire first floor of the house? One color. And about half of the second floor. Thank god he believed in something as conventional as doors for the bedrooms other wise I don't even know.

I pitched the idea of declaring arbitrary lines so that I could have my cheery yellow kitchen and my blue living room and my orange entryway, but The Boyfriend was less than impressed. Apparently arbitrary lines would bug him. As well as he, for some reason, has the idea that using color in home decorating is trendy.

No, I don't know where he came up with that either.

At any rate, after being less than impressed with our collection of off whites we went and picked up more samples today. Don't get too excited, they're still safely in the land of neutral, but I think the winner's going to be the one most likely to be called a color.

A million years ago I promised you silly swatches. So here we go:

The Boyfriend did the house, I added the legless robot. Today we were more boring - the 'Y' is for 'yellow.'

And then the wall of punctuation marks.

The darkest color on the far right (the colon) I think is gonna be the one. Fingers crossed it doesn't look terrible tomorrow once sunlight hits it.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

And Then the Bats Came Out

Occasionally, my lack of time management skills has consequences that seem obvious after the fact but in the thick of it I am bewildered by things not going right for no discernible reason.

Like last night. I was feeling bad about the bag of holding so decided to pull together another small thing to give my friend.

Busted out the water colors and sat down to make a little piece of Austiniana, since while she no longer lives here the city does still hold a warm place in her heart.

Here's what I came up with:

Congress Avenue bridge with bats. Ish.

I thought I'd waited between layers long enough to keep working, but not so much. As a result I've got some muddiness and streakiness and some bits that are over worked because I could just not for the life of me get the paint to move the way I wanted it to. And clearly the way to deal with that is to just keep moving it around and adding more and lifting some and what not.

Though I did get it pretty much done in enough time to put on pants that don't involve a drawstring and a brassiere before she got here. Go me! Of course, it was still pretty damp when we were supposed to leave for a movie (Cabaret at the Alamo, complete with drag commentary. It was glorious, Fosse is the best) so I handed it to her still taped to the board and asked if she wanted it.

The answer was maybe, because while she thinks she understands the meta commentary on process and what is art etc., she wasn't sure if a DaDa inspired piece was really up her alley. Also, how would she display it? I told her that when we got back from the Drafthouse it'd be dry enough to take off the board because while I liked her interpretation I like the convenience of the board more.

If you're unfamiliar with the Congress bats, they're the largest urban bat colony. Little Mexican Free Tails living under the bridge and coming out at dusk to do their bit to rid my life of mosquitoes. I love you, little bats. Your faces are at one ugly and adorable and you are voracious.

And on an unrelated note, Penny was feeling a little needy while I was writing this, and acting as a lap desk for the iPad wasn't cutting it. So, in a valiant attempt to get me to stop doing unimportant things and pet her she co-opted one of my hands as a pillow:

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I Have Made a Thing

And it is thing like.

You may remember the iPad slipcover I attempted to make that was an absolute failure. Well, I picked it apart a bit and then put it back together in a way that would be vaguely purse like as a birthday present for a friend.

And I just don't know. It is a bag and it will hold things but as a purse it is distinctly lacking. If I had been cleverer and less lazy (a combination I'm always striving for with varied success) I would have picked it apart all the way and redone things so that I could at least box the bottom if not go all the way and put in a proper gusset, maybe get really fancy and put a pocket in it.

But I did not do those things and now it doesn't know what to be. If it was a little smaller then it would work nicely as a little clutch that would hold your ID, your phone and some money for a wild and crazy time at the bars and if it was a little larger and had some structure it would be a good everyday purse (assuming that your everyday purse is not like my purse, that is, the wild offspring of the concept 'always be prepared' and extreme packratism.)

At any rate, here it is, in all its confused object glory:

I stuffed a doo-rag in there to give it shape. My photography skills are to be envied, clearly.

If it wasn't meant for a gift I wouldn't be too concerned. I mean, what do I care if I have a purse that is a little less than useful? Not much, I assure you. But as I am seeing her tonight and she doesn't live in town so I hardly have a lot of opportunities for gift giving this is probably the best bet of actually giving her a gift in a remotely timely way.

I don't even think it can be saved by putting on a heap of pin back buttons like the last bag I gave her that was less than ideal.

Well. There's nothing for it - I'll just give the possibly useless bag and I don't know, see if I can't whip something else up before six tonight.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Catch Up

It seems like lately all of my entries (when there are entries) seem to begin with something along the lines of 'I am for sure this time not dead, blog friends.'. So, yes. For sure this time not dead.

Just incredibly boring! I figure if there's nothing of note in my paper journal since the last time I posted then really. Not exactly a whole lot going on.

I suppose I could keep you posted on all the mini-series I've been watching on Netflix, but that somehow seems even sadder than radio silence.

But some things have happened, or will be happening that I will gladly prattle on about.

First being, I got awesome new toys from Mater and Pater for my birfday. An iPhone 4, with which I've been taking lots and lots of five second videos of the cats being cats. Also, using FaceTime to talk to Pater because I don't think we'll ever get over finally having a tv phone. Now, on to the jetpacks!

And Mater indulged me in my nail art semi obsession by giving me a Konad set. Nail art is one of those things I feel vaguely ashamed about because it is just such a preteen girl thing to do. I rationalize it by telling myself that if people didn't have real jobs where they had to be professional looking it would be more common.

I'm sure that's not true, but please don't burst my bubble of rationalization.

But! If you have been hankering for some DIY nail art I really can't recommend stamping enough. I mean, there's a bit of a learning curve, but nothing compared to sitting down with tiny brushes and free handing it. This is my second go at using it:

Obviously there are still some problems I need to work out (like centering the image) but I mean. Second go and it doesn't look completely stupid.

Assuming you don't think any form of nail art is stupid looking. Which, not exactly unreasonable.

The other thing which is happening hasn't actually started happening yet. It is nerdy and silly but one of those things I'd like to try just to see if my nerdy/silly skills are up to it: the 24 hour Read-A-Thon.

Based on the advice of past participants I figured my best bet is to have a heap of brain candy type books all set to dig through. You'd think with my out of control book collection this wouldn't be too hard, but I'm feeling a distinct lack of inspiration. So, if anyone has recommendations for light and fluffy reads that won't ask me to think too hard I'd appreciate it.

To wrap things up on to kittens. Some how, some how we still have Penny and Bianca, two fosters we've had since August. I just don't get it. And now we're coming up on the beginning of kitten season so it looks like these old ladies will be hanging around for quite a while.

For comparison, Penny is the brown tabby in the middle of this kitten pile:

And here she is now, decidedly less tiny:

The only upside is that for some reason Fat Bill actually likes these two kittens, so there's a little less drama on the cat side of the household. So, I suppose if there were kittens that were ideal for hanging around forever Penny and Bianca are them.

Anyone want a cat?