Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Christmas FOs...

I'm very lucky in my family, not only because they're lovely people, but because they are, one and all, practitioners of some kind of handcraft- woodworking, sewing, knitting, leatherwork, jewelry...and that's only a few. And not surprisingly, this makes us all very appreciative recipients of handcrafted gifts.

My sister Kate took possession of the Fools Rush socks for her birthday (earlier in the month), and told me she'd worn them through large parts of the big power outage, for their woolly warmth.

My husband was suitably surprised by his sweater...though it wasn't until we got home that he gave me a puzzled look and asked, "When did you find time to knit this, anyway?" Personally, I was thrilled to find that it fit perfectly. Whew!
grey guernsey sweater

My dad cuddled his cabled socks possessively- not that he's in any danger of losing them- no one else in the family could wear a men's size 11 wide sock...! (Those socks? More stitches than the sweater above. Same goes for the Fools Rush socks.) These are the Moss Cable pattern from Charlene Schurch's Sensational Knitted Socks. I knit them toe up in a sort of consensus version of all my favorite sock techniques.
cabled socks

And the subject of my last post, a pair of heavily modified Endpaper Mitts also for my sister. These are the mitts that I started, found that I could not get gauge on, and decided to knit anyway, by re-figuring all the stitch counts and just knitting at a much tighter gauge on size 0 needles. I'm still not sure whether the problem was entirely the yarn, or simply that I really prefer a very tight fabric for mitts and socks. At any rate, I was pleased with the result.
Endpaper mitts

And now that this set of deadlines has passed, I can knit anything I want! The colorwork mittens, perhaps, or I can use a hat. Then there's that yarn I bought on sale for a summer top. Except- what's that whooshing sound coming from up ahead? A baby? Well, of course his blanket will be done by February. I'm right on schedule, I've already bought the yarn!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Twas the Night Before Christmas....

10 pm Christmas eve, the last end of the last knitted gift is woven in, the baking is done, and I'm only a couple of gift bags away from being fully wrapped. Okay, that was maybe a little closer than I wanted to cut it. Partly it's that I was so close to being finished that I took the time to do other things. And partly-

Well, in addition to other useful tips for Christmas knitting, I'd like to mention that if you should a) decide to knit a pattern you've never knit before as a gift, and b) if when you swatch this pattern you find that you *cannot* get gauge in the yarn you have on hand, and c) you decide to use the yarn you have and rewrite the pattern to make it all should possibly not leave this gift to be the last one. Deadlines on the calendar may be closer than they appear.

So. About that enlightenment. Being as I was busy rewriting a knitting pattern on the solstice, I didn't really have time for more than a brief cheer as the sun started to return, but I did indeed note it. I don't mind winter, not even twenty-plus inches of snow we got over the weekend- but the dark, now. The dark, I really hate.

So last week (or the week before??) I was running around trying to make things more light. Exhibit A: I retrieved this lamp from a dark corner (where it was banished due to ugliness) and gave it a place of honor in the living room. It may be ugly, but it has a 100-watt fixture.
mustard-yellow lamp

Then there was this lamp, Exhibit B. If memory serves, it came from a household auction when I was furnishing my first apartment after college. It's a torchiere style, but I found a shade that would clip onto the bulb. It went very well with my Early Garage Sale decor- which is to say nothing matched, so it didn't stand out in the least. Then it experienced a severe electrical failure, and was unplugged for reasons involving not wanting to burn anything down. I eventually got replacement electrical bits from the hardware store and rewired it, but the shade was unsalvageable. So last week I finally dragged the lamp with me to the hardware store and got a shade that actually fit it.

Next up was Exhibit C, another floor lamp with lovely wrought-iron-work that my parents got us. That started making unpleasant crackling noises during the summer and also got unplugged (see re: Exhibit B, not burning things down). This lamp had already been rewired- my dad did it before he gave it to us. So that I gave a little more thought to. The bulb is always the first thing to check, but that wasn't it. (A relief since I'm glad to know that bulbs don't make that sort of noise.) The cord seemed to be in good shape, and was anyway not likely, since the lamp had been rewired so recently. That left the switch. I got a new switch, replaced it, and yay! Another working lamp.
wrought iron floor lamp

That brings us to the last and most challenging barrier to my aspirations to extreme candlepower. Exhibit D- it's one of four hanging lamps in the library, almost brand new, and with the diabolical timing usually known only to major appliances, it stopped working about six weeks after the warranty ran out.
library lamp

We've verified that there's current going into the lamp. So. This seems likely to be a switch problem as well. The lamp has three bulbs which can be turned on using one switch. With considerable difficulty, I dismantled the fixture and located the switch. The replacement switch appears to be the right sort. I carefully unwired the old switch, wired up the new one, and we rehung the lamp (from the 14-foot cathedral ceiling--oy!). And--it doesn't work. Darn and drat. So I'm back to square one. Time to finally break down and get a multimeter, and go over this again from the start. Because after going to all the trouble to take the darned thing apart once, I'm not accepting defeat.

In the meantime..I'm three lights ahead of the game. And I'm not staying up until four am knitting, either. I call it a net win for the season.

Happy holidays, and I hope you're not knitting until 4 am either!

Saturday, December 13, 2008


When I was a kid, waking up in the morning to some kind of fearsome weather, it was an exciting moment. My sister and I would huddle next to the radio, listening for our town in the alphabetical list of school closings- and let out a whoop at the delightful moment when we heard our school name. Snow day!

As an adult, snow days are pretty rare- nothing short of a real disaster causes my work to close. The day last year when we were let out early because we'd had 30 inches of snow (over 3/4 of a meter) in eight hours? Involved a three hour commute home followed by several more hours of shoveling. Kind of sucks the fun out of it, really.

So when I got up yesterday in the dark, powerless deluge of freezing rain and showered by candlelight I wasn't thinking about much except whether I could score a doughnut and coffee on my way to work in lieu of breakfast. (I could- double chocolate and cinnamon coffee- it was the highlight of the morning.) I headed out into a dim landscape of bleached trees and white-limned branches. When I turned into the street my job is on, I saw this:
fallen tree in ice storm

Moments later, I found that my work was dark and empty. A lone employee keeping station by the light of a fork-truck headlamp told me we were down, they'd call if we got power back, but they weren't expecting it until Sunday.

So I turned around and headed home. By this time we had some actual daylight and I could see more clearly what we were up against.
ice-covered bush The news reports had by this time enlightened me to the scope of the thing.

Back in my chilly living room by 8 am, I contemplated my options. At some point I needed to build a fire in the woodstove. But the really important question- what to knit? I had started swatching for the last remaining Christmas project, but I needed needles in a size I didn't have. But that would be for later. Right now, I needed a simple project, something that I could work in variable light. What I had was sock yarn. So:

Garter rib in Panda Soy (soy/bamboo blend), colorway Fudge Brownie). Soft and lovely stuff, and it's giving me a wicked sweet craving. I've christened these the Fudge Brownie Sundae socks.

Just about the time I was thinking about calling my LYS and seeing if they were open, my work called. Power's back, come on down. When I got home in the evening, I knit brownie sundae socks by the light of an oil lamp beside the wood stove. If it weren't for the many many people still struggling without power, I'd call it a pleasant diversion.

We got power back early this morning, my LYS has supplied needles to continue swatching the Christmas project, and I'm back on track. Now I just need to figure out how to put the socks down...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Zippy Project

I'm procrastinating on enlightenment again, so I'll talk about another project.

I gave up on purses some years ago in favor of a little bag that straps to my waist. I started using it for travel because I liked having my hands free for luggage, and every vacation it took longer to switch back- until I finally got rid of my purse and that was that.

The current bag was a relatively recent purchase, which is why I was rather miffed when the zipper broke. Okay, it had something to do with cramming more stuff into it than was probably strictly practical. But really, these bags are supposed to be sturdy. It's the principle of the thing. Also, it took me an annoying amount of shopping, which I dislike, to actually find one I liked, neutral in color, the right size, a separate pocket for my gym pass, business cards and phone...

So that's why for the last two or three weeks I've been going around with the broken zipper fastened with a safety pin. Until tonight:
zippered bag

Yeah, I bought a new zipper and replaced the broken one. This, contrary to the title of the post, was not an especially fast project. First I ripped the broken zipper out. This was the point of no return- the bag wasn't really usable with raw edges of fabric hanging out, so it meant I had no choice but to go ahead and finish.

Then I rethreaded the sewing machine. Which then jammed repeatedly for some reason that's probably obvious, but I lacked the patience to troubleshoot it at this time. So I pulled out my backup machine. (See, you recalcitrant tool? You can be replaced. Think about it.) This one having been recently propitiated with the sacrifice of three machine needles during the giant drapery project, consented to let me make it sew.

Okay, the top stitching isn't the straightest. (You didn't think the lack of close-up was an accident?) But at least I won't be going around unzipped.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Six Appeal

So, Karen tagged me for the following meme:
*Go to your sixth picture folder and pick your sixth picture.
*Pray you remember the details.
*Tag five others.

And since I'm currently in straight out Christmas knitting mode, which really ought to have some elements of stealth to it, I thought, sure. And I wonder what it will be? So I counted six folders, six photos....and what I had were fabric swatches for the giant theatrical drape project. "Well," I said. "That's boring." So I deleted them, thus cannily giving myself a new sixth folder. Which had only four pictures in it. So I reversed the sort order- and got both lousy test pictures I took when I first got my new camera *and* less than six! (Karen, is this supposed to be a trick meme?)

So I deleted the crummy test photos, and the next folder was birthday pictures of my nephews, also fewer than six! Clearly this is a sign that I need to consolidate some folders and delete all the crap. Finally I went to the six times six folder (36th) and found a sort that actually yielded a photo:
cat on a lap

This is hardly surprising, since Woats is way more photogenic than any other member of the household, and has her picture taken a lot. (Often sleeping, since when she's awake, she'll come over interestedly to sniff the camera, and all I get is a gigantic nose and a couple of whiskers.)

Of course, only when I went to post this, did I realize that I could equally well have gone to my online albums. The sixth photo in the sixth album there was this:
load bearing beam

Okay, most people probably think this is pretty boring too, but it's a darned rare sight- the load bearing beam that holds up the new second story of my house (now covered over with drywall and paint). It was step one in a project to turn this house:
ranch before construction

Into this one:
colonial after construction

Neither my husband nor I were very experienced carpenters before the start of the project, but we were a lot more experienced by the end of it.

Along the way, I got a lovely new sewing/craft room:
sewing room

And the piece de resistance- the library:

We're quite ridiculously pleased with the way it all turned out. (As if you couldn't tell from all the pictures!) If your thirst for home renovation photos is still unslaked, check out my project website. It started out as a handful of photos that I took daily to keep my other half informed (I was living in the house during the construction, he wasn't). I posted them online for easier access, and since they were there, forwarded them to family members, and it snowballed from there.

So the last instruction of this meme is to tag other people- but I'm not entirely certain I actually *have* five readers, so I believe I'll renege on that part of it.

Tune in next time for a post I guarantee will be enlightening!