Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Any Random Tuesday

But! This is no random Tuesday. Because, lo, there was vacation time, and the year being busy, the vacation time it was not used. And HR spake unto the knitter and said, 'this vacation time, it must be used, or it will lost forever in the mists of time'. And the knitter said, 'woe! for the job is never done, so when may I take the vacation time?' And then the maintenance manager said, 'the plant must be closed and the boiler shut down, that maintenance and safety inspections may be performed upon it'. And the knitter said, 'extreme woe! for this means my office shall not have heat', and the knitter spake unto her boss and said, 'this week, I shall take my vacation'. And though his lamentations were many, she was firm.

And therefore, I am at home, where the wind is blowing so hard the furnace has been running all day and we still haven't got the temperature up to the thermostat setting. Which leads me to wonder if there isn't some cosmic rule that I have to freeze this week. Despite this, I am reveling in having unscheduled time off, when I am neither traveling, nor grossly overcommitted to some project or other.

So- now for some random:
1. My charming and talented sister (about whom I really need to talk more and show off some of her work) has a business designing and making jewelry as well as handmade soaps and herbal lotions. Extremely nice stuff, and her wonderfully mild soap is the only thing standing between me itching to death while drowning in gallons of lotion this time of year (that would be, dry-skin season). She's experiencing some veterinary-bill-related cash flow issues at the moment, and running a sale at her Esty shop to address the situation.

2. Speaking of my sister Kate, she was the recipient of the single most troublesome knitted article for Christmas this year. Way back in May, I started a pair of mitts for her:
late unlamented Austrian cabled mitts
These started out with the basic pattern of the mitts I made her last year (based on Eunny Jang's Endpaper Mitts). I chose some Trekking sock yarn left from the socks she got last year. I took the needle size down to 1 and increased the number of stitches. Then I decided to do the palm in reverse stockinette, added the cable pattern from the Austrian cabled socks in Interweave's best socks collection and did something funky I'd rather not discuss with the thumb increases. The result...wasn't successful. I didn't like the reverse stockinette, and the cable pattern, which would probably be fine in a heavier weight yarn, was driving me straight round the bend in fingering weight. I had started it as travel knitting (!), decided it was too fussy, and then put it into an extended time-out during which I optimistically thought, 'it'll be fine when I get it home and can work on it in good light'.

Um, not so much. So with Christmas looming on the calendar, I finally bit the bullet, ripped it back to the cuff and changed to a colorwork pattern. Which went much more quickly, and I finished days before the holiday.
fingerless mitts

3. Finishing the danged mitts was a very good thing, because I needed the size 1 needles the mitts were on, to make socks for my father. Now, normally it takes me two weeks to make a pair of socks for myself. Why I thought I could finish a pair of socks for my dad in a week is...more unrealistic optimism. But, I came pretty close. My family celebration was slated for Boxing Day this year, giving me an extra day of knitting time. And the sock yarn was Patons Kroy Sock which, when I swatched it, I found that it was somewhat heavier than the sock yarns I was accustomed to. Despite the larger size, I only needed 96 stitches around in the Kroy. So I chose a simple pattern (Twin Rib from Charlene Schurch's Sensational Knitted Socks) and started knitting determinedly. And knit, and knit, and knit. I hardly did anything else all week (except, y'know work, eat, sleep and stuff).(To be strictly fair, I used only the *stitch pattern* from the book, since the Schurch pattern calls for top down construction with a heel flap and a 1x1 ribbed cuff, whereas I did toe-up with a short-row heel and 3x3 ribbed cuff.)

And I would have made it, had I not run out of yarn. I came up 3/4" short. Argh. So, I pulled some from the first sock to finish the second, and then ripped back the first cuff and reknit that to the same cuff length. Result- I finished the socks and wove in ends while we opened gifts and was able to send the pair home with my dad. So, it was very close, but not quite a win. (Pitching the socks into a gift bag standing ready under the tree as the guests ring the doorbell would have counted. This was a near-miss.)

4. And the indirect reason my (totally reasonable and non-insane) Christmas knitting plan was derailed was an extraneous sweater (about which more anon, as this post is getting rather long).

5. Woats thinks this whole 'people all the time' vacation thing is marvelous. As far as she's concerned, this is all designed to provide her with continuous lap. I haven't discouraged this- not only is it extremely cute, it's also warm.
Woats is on top of the situation

And now I shall confound the cat's expectations by going to the grocery store, and then come home and build a fire, and quite likely make hot chocolate. I wonder how long it would take to knit long johns?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

You Know It's Winter When....

1. You walk out of the house in the morning, and bracket on your thermos cracks from the cold.

2. Half your hair is clinging to your polar fleece, the rest is standing straight up on end.

3. You think that leaving the mittens in the car isn't a good plan because they're cold when you put them on.

4. The only reason the wind hasn't ripped the tarp off the woodpile is that the edges are frozen to the ground.

5. You've spotted the Olympic speed-skating team at practice in the street in front of your house. (My city thinks that de-icing chemicals are a frivolous waste of taxpayer money.)

6. There are more degrees of wind chill than there are degrees of temperature.

7. "In the Bleak Midwinter" starts to sound like a reasonable name for a Christmas carol. (Yes, I know Israel is a desert. Work with me.)

8. Knitting yourself long underwear starts to sound like not just a good idea, but an imperative one.

Hope everyone is keeping warm out there!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Tis the Season

It's that time of year again, that time of year when I'm knitting gifts and therefore not showing you pictures until after the holidays. So, moving right along:

This year I'm making fair progress on the holiday preparations- since we're hosting family this year, I procured a tree (have I mentioned lately how much I love Freecycle?). It's even up and decorated. I know what they say about gift trees and branches, but in my book, it's better to know up front if you're going to have to improvise a missing piece of the tree stand or fabricate a replacement for a missing branch. But this tree was perfectly complete (and a vast improvement over the last free tree, which had a cracked base and occasionally enlivened the holiday preparations by collapsing- sometimes even without feline assistance).

There has also been wrapping. In another brilliant instance of forethought and planning I stuck a few old Christmas cards in the box with the bows and wrapping paper, and actually found my scalloping scissors. Voila, gift tags!
gift tag

When I first started recycling old cards into gift tags, I'd only use the ones that were blank on the back. Then I figured out that a fine point Sharpie will write clearly even on slick card stock. It pleases me to give these cards another season in the sun (metaphorically speaking) as opposed to just throwing them out after the holidays. That it helps me justify my pack-rat tendencies is possibly less fortunate.

And, I've had help in the Christmas preparations. Woats was really gung ho about wrapping until she figured out that I wasn't going to let her sit on the wrapping paper, nor would I let her eat the Scotch tape. (I don't know where she gets the whole glue-sniffing thing from, but she adores anything sticky.) So she went and thoroughly inspected the bows. (I wouldn't let her eat off the sticky bits on the back of those, either. I'm so mean.)
Woats helps wrap!

Anyway, despite Woats' help, most of the presents are wrapped. Gifts for our young nephews are boxed up ready for mailing (thanks to a brain fart, I didn't get it done early enough to take them to the post office Saturday). I'm still a couple of gift tags ahead...though I'm sure there has to be another pile of old Christmas cards around here somewhere. I could go tear the place apart looking...but maybe I'll just knit a couple more rows first....

Thursday, December 3, 2009

I Win

Things I Learned from NaNoWriMo:

1. While I can write 50,000 words in a month, I cannot do this while also working, doing housework, exercising and meeting my social obligations. People who know me will not be surprised that it was the housework and exercising that got the short end of the stick.

2. It was very useful to the writing process to have a spouse who does all the cooking. Dishes (my job) can be done on my schedule. (See item 1, re: housework, neglect of.)
2a. No, I didn't actually leave them for the whole month.
2b. Don't ask how long I did leave them. I'm not admitting anything.

3. Surprisingly, I did continue to knit.

4. While the knitting of Figuring-Out-Necklines appears to be slippers and mittens,
mittens of blue thoughts
Mittens of Deep Blue Thoughts - these used up no less than five ends of skeins.

the knitting of Figuring-Out-Novel-Plots is apparently very beautiful socks:
monkey socks
Monkey Socks in Serenity Wool/Bamboo/Nylon

5. Cats are even less help writing than knitting.

6. When one stops writing, suppressed guilt will lead to a frenzy of housecleaning, laundry and (somewhat to my surprise), mending.

7. While it has nothing to do with writing, I am still stunned that I mended a pair of pants and two shirts. (That's not the surprising part.) The surprising things: In the case of the pants, I noted the weakness in the seam before I wore them in public, exposing my hindquarters to the general populace. And with the shirts I a) found the lost buttons at the times they came off, b) stored said buttons in (two different) Safe Places--which contrary to all prior precedent proved to be actually Safe Places--I found them both when the time came to sew them back on! As opposed to the kind of safe place where you put (for example) a camera tripod or a pair of pajama bottoms that are subsequently never seen again.

All in all, NaNoWriMo proved to be a useful prod to get a big chunk of writing done. Now it's only another 70,000 words and twelve more drafts to a finished novel!
NaNo winner

Saturday, November 28, 2009


I have concluded that Woats prefers knitting to writing as human past-times. While both activities tend to pin the human in one place, knitting can easily be carried on over and around the cat, while the cat is forced to be Very Firm with the human that a laptop (despite the name), does not belong on the human's lap. The cat does.

This is why I have the computer balanced on the back of the couch and the cat firmly ensconced on the lap while I try to make it through another ten thousand words of the novel before Monday. It's going to be close.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Out of Excuses

Yesterday I was on the road, and considering the amount of time I spent sitting, there was no reason for me to keep falling asleep today--but when I finally got enough caffeine into my system to sustain consciousness for awhile, I decided there was going to be no more pussyfooting around. If I got nothing else done today, that colorwork sweater was going to be finished.

Well, I didn't get much else done, but:
sweater full view

I think that in the end, I made the placket neck more complicated than it needed to be. I did go with both an inner and outer facing. The result is thicker than I liked, but will allow the sweater to be worn partially unzipped without exposing the zipper or steeked edges. It also involved at various points having different sections of the facing and neck on three different needles, as well as a needle with sewing thread. As techniques go, it was neither pretty nor clever- but it did give me more or less the result I was aiming for.

Here's a view of the neck finishing.
Placket neck

Don't ask about the novel- I've been away from the computer almost all weekend. My husband and I spent a lot of our long car trip talking about it, but mostly it was fairly silly. I don't think his suggestion of a chase scene on riding lawnmowers is going to make it into this (or any) draft. The bad guys' secret lair on a submarine may have potential, however.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Small Progress

Okay, I finally did the third steek on the colorwork sweater and started knitting facings, but these teensy bits of sweater are looking like taking longer than the rest of the sweater put together. Yes, because I'm not working on them. Your point? All right, it's actually because I need the facings, the sweater and the zipper all in one place, preferably with sewing stuff, which means at home. And non-traveling projects are not getting much love.

The monkey socks are getting lots of love, but responding slowly, since they're still on 00 needles. (I'll take a picture of them Real Soon Now.)

Rumors of Top Secret Christmas Knitting can neither be confirmed nor denied at this time.

And of course the real activity that's consuming a big chunk of my at-home time and most of my brain: My steam locomotive is currently somewhere in Pennsylvania running out of coal, with the bad guys stuck on the wrong side of a flooded river. Which is a big improvement over yesterday, when it looked like the bad guys were going to shoot all the good guys and make this into a short story. (I was kind of on the fence about whether this was a good thing or not.) On the plus side, I'm still behind schedule, but I have broken 25,000 words. It's half done! Now if I can just figure out what the bad guys' actual Plan is, (as opposed to Just Being Bad), I might actually make it through this draft.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Weird Week

If I'd gotten around to posting over the weekend, the blog title would have been 'Still Thinking' with a picture of another pair of mittens and an incipient sock. Or possibly 'Who'd Have Thought Three Oak Trees Could Have So Many Leaves'.

Since then, I've settled on a plaquet neck and zipper (first zipper in a sweater, though I've used them in sewing) for the colorwork sweater, but haven't actually done anything about putting it in yet. We'll see if plan B survives contact with the enemy. I've formulated a plan for the neckline of the green Aran, and knit nothing on it. And I've had my brain eaten by Cookie A's Monkey Socks, in a bamboo/wool blend. Easy to see why they're so popular! (The part where I had to go down two needle sizes and add a pattern repeat to get something vaguely the size of my foot is not helping- I don't *mind* exactly, it's a fun knit, it looks great, but it does take longer.)

Any brain cells I had left are trying to deal with the complexity of stealing a steam locomotive (a key plot element in my novel).

And tonight I'm going to a wake for a co-worker, who died this week after a brief and very sudden illness. A very nice guy- he will be sadly missed.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


So, this morning I was thinking; there is no day so good it cannot be improved with the application of a chocolate doughnut. This probably has something to do with why (when I stopped by the grocery store for some fresh fruit to go in my lunch on the way to work this morning), I wound up at the grocery store with the Dunkin Donuts, instead of the one I usually go to. Also why I left for the grocery store without breakfast. I did make a halfhearted stab at convincing myself I'd be happy to eat a granola bar intead, but not even I really thought it would work. I find that convincing oneself of things is actually very difficult, especially if you don't believe them to begin with...the last couple of weeks really have been filled with deep thoughts, as you'll see.

After putting the colowork sweater in time out last week, I spent some time mulling over what to do with the neckline. I kind of already knew what I wanted (a placket neck) but it took some time to come to terms with it. Also, I'm still pondering zippers vs. buttons, and it's going to be fiddly and I'm not sure whether to double the facing in stockinette or do a single thickness in ribbing. So you can see I'm putting off doing that third steek there's a lot to decide. And I haven't had a chance to crunch the math to figure out what to do next with the green Aran (the pattern's for a turtleneck pullover and I'm converting it to a V-neck cardigan), so that wasn't helping. I needed simple, portable thinky knitting.

So. I started some simple socks for the Christmas box. And some mittens to use up some spare yarn left from the blue and white afghan. And slippers to use up the yarn left from the mittens. (Cogitating with bulky weight is always useful- the quick results are gratifying). And then I was still thinking so I cast on some children's mittens with another random leftover skein.
mittens and slippers and socks, oh my!

This leads my to my second philosophical truth of the day. Thinking uses up yarn.

And of course the other thing I've been doing- besides knitting, working and amusing the cat- is writing. I've been saying for several years that I wanted to do National Novel Writing Month, the first year I wasn't ludicrously overscheduled. For those who haven't heard of it, it's a program to encourage writing by motivating people to write a fifty-thousand word novel in a month. (That's actually a very short novel-- an 'average' paperback is around 100,000-150,000 words. And since the focus is on cranking out wordage, quality is not just secondary--it's irrelevant.) But while 50,000 words is short for a finished work, it's a perfectly respectable length for a first draft, which is what I'm aiming for.

So, if I'm not around quite as much this month, picture me lounging in a cafe, wearing a beret and exchanging elliptical remarks about metaphors with other writers. (Okay, sitting at home with the cat trying to get me to forget the laptop and pay attention to her while I resist the urge to go looking for another chocolate doughnut is more likely.)

And even though this is only day 5, I've made yet another exciting discovery. Sitting down and writing every day, makes words appear on the page. Who knew?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Fall Down, Get Up

I did promise a picture.
autumn tree
Autumn colors for my friends in other places.

Yeah, about that colorwork sweater. It is steeked. I painstakingly measured the sleeves against the body four or five times, then marked the depth. Checked the second sleeve a couple of times for good measure. So. Why, I ask you, when I started sewing the sleeves on, did I come up with the steeks an inch too deep? It is a profound mystery. One of the few un-fixable errors in knitting, and I went and did it. I put the sweater back in the knitting basket and we stared at one another for most of last week. At the end of the week, I pulled the sweater back out and wonder of wonders-- the steeks were still too deep. Drat. I'd hoped it would see reason. As in, "I measured you four times, you can't be wrong!".

Fortunately while the error cannot be *fixed* it can be worked around. I ripped back the last pattern band on the sleeves and reknit them with extra increases so the sleeve width at the end now matches the steeks. Then I sewed it all together and had my husband try it on. I'm now really glad that I made the sleeves wider, because it's still just a tad tight. Nothing that can't be resolved in blocking, I think. Still, I'm puzzled. I know the EZ percentages are a guideline, but after the first sweater I made using these I increased the sleeve width--and the sleeves are still tighter than I'd have liked. This is something I'll clearly have to do some additional work on the next time I knit a sweater using percentages. Then further progress was temporarily stymied by feline assistance. Isn't that too cute to move?
Help with knitting

However, onward. I extracted the sweater from under the cat, and started the neck. Stopped and wove in all the ends (because I hate finishing the neck, getting all excited about being done, and then realizing I have two hours of weaving ends still ahead of me).

I got a third of the way around the neck with a vague sense that there was something not right. And then I remembered that the last crew neck sweater I made, I had to make sure I had a stretchy seam to ensure that the neckline wasn't too tight. And I was being very careful of that, because I'd cast off edges and picked up instead of leaving live stitches. This was to try and combat the tendency of my husband's sweaters to stretch out at the neck. (It may have worked a bit too well.) So...I unsewed the start of the neck, contemplated schemes for introducing a bit more stretch, but not too much, firmly returned the colorwork sweater to the basket for the evening (it was almost 11, I wasn't going to accomplish anything more on it that day), and picked up a green Aran sweater sleeve.

The green Aran sweater still loves me.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Maple Baklava

I've given out this recipe so many times, I figure it's time to give it a permanent online home where people can find it. The story behind it is that my husband loves real maple syrup with a pure and undying passion. A few years back, we started a search for the world's most perfect maple dessert. Baked goods- cookies and the like- tend to overwhelm the maple, which is a delicate flavor. Maple frosting is pretty tasty (goes well on spice cake). Maple flan is excellent. But we kept looking. Then one of my coworkers gave me her recipe for baklava, and an inspiration was born. I revamped the recipe to swap out the usual honey for maple syrup (maple typically has more water, so I had to recalculate the proportions to keep the sugar content constant), and substituted cashews for the nuts- both for their mild flavor and because of a family member who is allergic to the more usual types of nuts. The result- was outstanding. The recipe has since traveled far and wide, and I occasionally meet someone for the first time who says, "Maple baklava? Oh, you're that Robin!".

I wish now I'd thought to take a picture of the baklava last week- but let's face it, it didn't last all that long!

Robin's Maple Baklava
1 lb filo dough
1 lb butter (or margarine), melted
1 lb cashews, crushed

Cut filo dough to fit 9 x 13 greased cake pan. Place one sheet of filo dough in the pan and brush with melted butter, repeat this process until 3-5 sheets line the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle nuts thinly over the sheet. Add another sheet, brush with melted butter. Continue alternating 3-5 layers of butter sheets with nuts until only 3 sheets remain. Sprinkle remaining nuts, and continue placing and buttering last 3 sheets until all are used.

Cut in diamond shaped pieces. Bake in 300 degree oven for 45 minutes, then raise the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 15 more minutes. Pour syrup over baklava.

2 c. granulated sugar
3/4 c. water
1 1/4 c. maple syrup
5 cloves
1 tsp lemon juice (or 1 slice lemon)

Combine ingredients in saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil about 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour syrup over hot baklava.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Too Busy for Pictures

Funny, the last couple of weeks is all kind of a blur. However. Since last we left our heroine:

a) She was busy cleaning things in preparation for the big house concert.

The concert went off on schedule and was a definite success. We had over thirty people- which isn't bad at all for a Tuesday evening. I made my famous maple baklava, along with an applesauce spice cake and some oatmeal butterscotch cookies to feed the ravening hordes. (The hordes ravened appreciatively.) The music was lovely, and we were largely on schedule. Very nice indeed.

b) She was knitting the colorwork sweater.

And- the second sleeve is done. All that's left is to steek, sew it together and knit a crew neck onto it. Which will hopefully happen Real Soon Now, as the weather has turned quite chilly. The only reason I haven't done it yet is having been so busy. Nothing to do with being nervous about cutting up knitting. Really. *shifty look*

c) She was knitting a green Aran sweater.

This one has also made progress- I'm two thirds of the way through the back. Not even to the halfway point though. But I'm still delighted that I'm keeping this one for myself. I do love cables, and the yarn (Northampton Dark Green Heather) is so pretty.

d) She was resisting the urge to cast on more projects.

And is still resisting- I want to get at least one of the sweaters done first.

e) She was ignoring the hapless bamboo sweater.

What bamboo sweater? Oh, that. But I can't wear it for months. It can wait.

f) She did finish a sewing project.

It was a tablecloth, to cover up the battered folding table we were serving refreshments on at the concert. I'm not going to post a picture because how interesting can a hemmed piece of fabric be?

g) She has done battle with pool hardware!

My delightful husband thoughtfully took the week of the concert off. And then spent a chunk of it doing all the pool closing prep (cleaning, lowering the water level, going to the pool store to replace the floating pillow that no longer floats), patching the pool cover. So we got the pool winterized and undercover in good time (the acorns had already started raining down, but the deluge of leaves had barely started). Over the weekend, I disassembled the filter and pump, emptied and stored them. I even managed to avoid the traditional skinned knuckles by the cunning stratagem of wearing gloves. It's one of those tasks that you really look forward to finishing. Otherwise known as, it feels so good when it stops.

In our next exciting installment... the finished colorwork sweater! Or else humorous excuses for failing to do same. Or at least a picture.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Yarn Is Always Greener

or, in Search of a Portable Project.

So, I haven't fallen out of love with the colorwork sweater, but progress has slowed down quite a bit since it got too big to carry around. Let's face it, anything with four balls of yarn attached to it is going to be awkward in the carrying-around department anyway, and only things like long car trips when a giant sized project bag isn't too much of a hassle make it possible at all. (Being just a teensy bit obsessive doesn't hurt either.) Since I finished the body and started on the sleeves, it's only gotten worse. (I'm going to pause here, and let you admire it- sweaters in progress don't always make for interesting photos, but I never get tired of this sweater!)
Now with sleeve

I know what you're thinking. "But a sleeve! Everyone knows a sleeve is a portable project! Elizabeth Zimmerman said so." Well. That would be true if I'd, say, copied down a sheet with all the patterns I chose for the sweater. (I've done it as a sampler- each band has a different pattern, and no two are alike.) Since I'm too lazy to do that- and also, it introduces another potential source of error- instead I'm just referring back to the sweater body to see which pattern comes next. And carrying around a completed sweater body, *plus* a sleeve with four balls of yarn attached- well, I think even EZ would have admitted it's a little awkward.

So I needed another portable project. Now, I could have grabbed the fine gauge bamboo sweater (which I occasionally do for variety). I don't think I've actually shown that one yet because giant rectangles are so widely known for being visually interesting. But I suppose now is as good a time as any:
Bamboo Sweater

Now, while the bamboo sweater is just the thing for when I need miles of mindless knitting/no brain required? There are times I find it just a bit boring. Plus, the point where I realized there was no chance I'd get it done in time to wear it this summer made it seem a bit less urgent. I'm thinking that after the Christmas knitting rush, when I'm up to my tailbone in snow, I'll be seized with a violent urge to knit light summery things. (It's a theory, anyway.)

But, I still needed a portable project. Socks are my usual carrying-around thing, but I've had socks on the needles continuously most of the year, and felt like a change. And (thanks to multiple designs rejected for the colorwork sweater), I had nearly a sweaters-worth of green wool hanging out without a plan. And EZ *did* say that a sleeve makes for a good portable project. So I spent one morning sitting on the floor of the sewing room surrounded by patterns, and finally selected one from a booklet I inherited from my grandmother. I think she liked it- she made at least two sweaters from the book that I know of (I still own one), though not to my knowledge the one I'm knitting now.
green aran sleeve

And I see why she liked these. In a continuation of the confluence of weirdly convenient happenings from last week, this sweater knit perfectly in gauge on the needles the pattern called for. I was so suspicious of this, I even washed my swatch (something I'm not always religious about), but it was real. My preference tends to be for densely knitted fabric, and this isn't, but once I got a couple of inches on the needles, I found the pattern draws the piece up into an air-trapping mass of poofy cables- I think it's going to be light as well as warm.

Now my only problem is- I keep knitting on it when I don't need a portable project, to the point where the colorwork is getting jealous. Really, sweaters, I can love you both. I promise.

This post brought to you by my new wireless router, which finally consented to speak to the computers on our home network after a couple of hours of pleading and the intercession of a professional matchmaker from tech support.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

This Is Getting a Little Spooky

I want to say right up front that this was not planned. I didn't look at the repeat length at all, I wasn't paying attention to the colors. I didn't even notice until I was almost through.
fall socks

Do you see it? Look more closely:
fall socks

It was when I was holding up the second sock to see if the cuff was the right length that I spotted it. A perfect match. What are the odds, people?

It wasn't the only piece of good fortune that came my way this week. Saturday morning before heading off to western Massachusetts on a family visit, I decided to pull out all the yarn for the colorwork sweater and get an estimate of how much yarn I was using. I was reasonably sure I had enough, but I've got a second project queued in the same yarn and if there was extra, I could exchange a couple of the colorwork balls to use in the second sweater.

But when I laid it out, I discovered that contrary to my vague recollection, I had only gotten one ball of dark red. So instead of discovering this later in the week, when I would have had to stop the project and place a mail order, instead I found out in time to stop by Webs and get more. I did have two extra balls of the beige and brown. And so I was able to exchange two and buy only one ball. Which I did. And that's all I did. If you'd told me I could get out of Webs spending less than $5 I'd have giggled. (Okay, I do admit that I went in, did the exchange and then told my husband we had to get out of there before I started browsing. But still. There was willpower involved.)

It helped that it was a gorgeous day. From there, we went out to the Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary on the Oxbow of the Connecticut River. The green of the forest is starting to fade a little with the first touch of autumn, and a few early adopters are starting to show some color, but it was still quite lovely, if not as showy as it will be in a few weeks:
arcadia wildlife sanctuary
See more Arcadia photos.

Good knitting fortune, self-discipline in the yarn store, perfect weather on a weekend...like I said. Spooky.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Drained but Pleased

It's not every day you have the chance to save a life. I donate blood as often as I can manage, which is pretty often, because there's a drive with late hours that happens regularly a few blocks from my house and I'm fortunate enough to be eligible to donate. And it's an absolutely stellar excuse to take knitting and a book, and go avoid housework for a while.

I knew I'd been doing it for a while, but hadn't realized I had hit another milestone until yesterday.
blood donor 7 gallon pin

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

October 6 House Concert, News at Eleven

We interrupt this blog for a brief announcement:

Canadian singer-songwriter and Celtic musician Heather Dale will be appearing in a house concert in our library (that's my personal library, not the city library!) in Nashua, NH, Tuesday Oct 6 at 7:30pm.

Reservations required, for reservations and directions email me at House Concert Reservations.

You heard it here first!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

I Think I've Finally Figured It Out

I noticed with the last colorwork sweater how astonishingly speedy it is. And the current sweater is proving just as quick. And I think I've figured out why. It's not that knitting with two hands is faster than knitting with one- it's not. And it's not that colorwork combines the speed of stockinette with the interest of patterned knitting, which it does. No, the reason colorwork goes so fast--
Long Time Courting Sweater
I just can't seem to put it down.

In Which My Suspicions Are Confirmed

One of the projects I've been working on off and on is to rebuild my kayak cart- just a little two-wheeled affair that I wheel the kayak around on instead of carrying it. It weighs about forty pounds, which is quite enough to be awkward for any distance. Plus, I can't carry the kayak, the removable seat, paddle and life jacket all at the same time without the cart. The original cart was damaged, and while repair might have been possible, I decided I wanted to redesign it to improve the stability.

Which makes it all the more ironic that on Monday, I decided to take the half-finished cart for a test drive. I had meant to put more cross bracing on it, but hadn't had time. But. The weather was just gorgeous, I had several hours free before hordes of company descended and it was the last chance I'd have to get out for the week. And the river's only a few blocks away. So I loaded the kayak up onto the cart and trundled it cautiously out into the street.

At first it wasn't so bad. There was swaying, which I expected, and I concluded with a certain amount of satisfaction that I was right about the need for cross bracing. When I got to the end of the street, leading to the dirt path that crosses the railroad tracks en route to the river, things started to get more...interesting. The swaying was worse on the ruts, and then I discovered a problem in the redesign- the center of gravity is higher than the old cart. I'd only replaced one stability problem with another. I shifted back so instead of towing the kayak behind me, I was walking beside it, making sure it didn't fall over, though this made it more difficult to balance.

At the railroad tracks, the problems were worse. I got the kayak-and-cart assembly over the tracks with the application of brute force punctuated with occasional heartfelt curses. When I hit the last rutted slope leading to the river's edge, I called it quits, unloaded the kayak from the cart, and carried it down to the water.

I'm happy to say it was totally worth it.
Merrimack river
The sun shone, the air was cool with just a hint of September in it, and there was enough of a gentle breeze to make the exertion of paddling pleasantly warming. I had the river to myself- I only saw one other boat out the whole time- and once away from the bridge there were no traffic noises- just sound of the water against the boat, the rustle of leaves and birdsong.

On the way back I carried the kayak to the edge of the pavement taking two trips, then loaded it up and wheeled it the rest of the way home. I'm not sorry I tried the cart out- taking it apart to lower the center of gravity will be easier to do before putting in the cross-bracing. And I wouldn't have wanted to skip going out. But I need to finish fixing that cart soon- now that I've finally gotten back out on the water, I'm eager to go out again before the weather gets too cold.
Merrimack river

Monday, September 7, 2009

Long Time Courting

Long Time Courting is a band, and also an apt description of the slow start to the sweater I finally cast on this week. First the band- they're a local band- they play a mix of Celtic dance tunes, and folk songs in beautiful four-part harmony. They were playing in my town last night, so we went out to hear them. Fortunately for us, we had to double check the address of the venue, and were therefore some of the few who caught a late announcement of a location change. But the performers were unfazed and sounded terrific. Flute (always my fave!), accordian, fiddle, guitar and cello. You so rarely hear folk cello, but it's a awesome part of an ensemble- the deep mellow tone lends a lot of depth to the higher instruments. By all means check them out- you can hear some of their music on their website, and find out where they're playing next.

And, the sweater:
colorwork sweater

I bought the yarn for this sweater back in the spring. The original idea I had turned out to not work at all and I wound up buying a couple more colors of yarn, to give me some options with higher contrast. Since then, I've thought through a dozen ideas, played with options for styling, swatched, test knit patterns, swatched some more. And every idea I thought would be really cool--I hated when I knit it. Finally I decided to simplify. Picked some colors. Started knitting. Picked patterns out of a book on the fly. And- I love it. It's my new favorite project. I took it to work (not because I thought I've have time to work on it, just because). But that was fortunate, since I then had it with me when I had to wait for my car at the garage. (I had a flat. Which I changed in under fifteen minutes, but since my little compact only has a mini-tire, and said mini-tire is original equipment to the 9-year-old vehicle, I wasn't about to drive it a mile further than I had to. Hence, garage, new tire, and a little extra time with my new sweetie.) I took it to the concert. I took it with me in the car today.

If you haven't gotten it yet, I'm perhaps a tad more attached to this project than is completely healthy for a yarn-knitter relationship. My husband isn't bothered though...he's known about me and yarn for a while. And, after all, the sweater is for him.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Another World

So the latest project takes a little explaining. One of my husband's oldest friends is currently living in Takhar Province in northern Afghanistan. He went out there six years ago, working for Shelter for Life International, and eventually helped found his own organization, the Marigold Fund, to take on some of the projects that needed to be done. Do click on the Marigold Fund link if you're at all interested- the photographs are incredible. One of the things that particularly impresses me about this group is the level of local involvement. Local Afghan people are involved in every part of these projects, from the decision-making to the design to the construction. They're currently finishing construction on a tuberculosis clinic.

Anyway, my husband's friend's mother is a knitter, and when knitters hear about cold people, they make toasty knitted things. She's gotten together a group to knit scarves- regular scarves for boys and extra-wide head-covering scarves for girls. Hence-
Afghan head scarf

This is the girl version. It's a very simple pattern, garter stitch, switching direction every three stitches. Yarn is Wool-Ease Thick & Quick from Lion Brand. Northern Afganistan is mountainous, and very cold in winter, so the instructions said scarves should be at least part a natural warm fiber (like wool) and the thicker the better. A quick knit, and a satisfying one.

If this kind of project is something that might interest you, let me know, I can forward an instructions flyer and contact information.

Gneiss Summer Socks

It seems like every time I've had the computer booted up this week, the camera was somewhere else. But here they are at last, the gneiss summer socks:

gneiss summer socks

I really loved the yarn (Tofutsies)- the socks are very soft and comfortable to wear. This was just a plain sock with a little 2x2 cable up the side of the ankle- I thought it looked nice enough, but very small- with such fine yarn, I could have done a 3x3 cable and it would have stood out more.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Okay, the Montreal photos have been edited, but the FO pictures I managed to delete off the camera before downloading. Drat. The FOs were the gneiss socks (which I can reshoot) but the second pair of blue spruce mittens have gone on to their new home. Of course they look a lot like the first pair, but I'd have liked a picture of the decreases, as they were much neater than in the original pair!

However, that does shorten the post considerably! So, Montreal. Two weeks ago we drove up to do some sightseeing and catch some of the World Science Fiction Convention, which was in town for the weekend. On the way up we were amused to note that immediately after crossing the border, the mountains disappeared and the terrain became very flat and covered with farms, more like the Midwest than anything we see in New England. I'd forgotten that from my prior visit. My husband drove, so I got to knit all the way- I was halfway through the cast-off of the second sock when we pulled up to the hotel.

We spent the first day walking around the city, and climbed to the top of Mont Royale- not a terribly strenuous climb (it's more of a hill than a 'mont') but a terrific view of the city.
View from Mont Royale

On our way up to the top, we walked through the McGill University campus. I was much taken with this lion, especially when I realized that he was on the school of dentistry- doesn't he look like he has a toothache?
Lion's Teeth

We greatly admired the Point-a-Calliere Museum of Archeology and History. They've excavated one of the oldest parts of the city, including the site of the old customs house, and then built a museum on top of it. You can walk through the excavated area, viewing exhibits, and in some places see computer recreations of what it looked like in various times, with spotlights highlighting the parts of the ruins relevant to each era.

Another day we rented bikes, and rode out along the Lachine Canal. Montreal sits on the river above the Lachine Rapids, which prevent ships from sailing any further upstream. The canal was the 1800s answer to the problem. Nowadays big ships go upriver via the St. Lawrence Seaway, but the canal locks are still used by pleasure boats.
Lachine canal lock

We cycled back along the St. Lawrence and stopped at the Rapids Park to get a look at this obstacle to navigation. It was quite impressively rough, though there were thrill seekers in boats, and even surfboards out in it.
Lachine Rapids

Rapids Park was quite lovely- despite the focus being on the views over the water, they had beautiful gardens.
flowers in Rapids park

To a large extent, we felt that despite the signs in French, outside of the old port area, Montreal didn't feel especially foreign. However they did have some excellent signage designed to cross language barriers:
descriptive sign

Can't get much more explicit than that!

Coming back we stopped in Montpelier for dinner, which proved to have a very nice Mexican restaurant, and a lovely New England downtown.

To see all Montreal photos, check out the slideshow.

And next up- FO pictures (this time for sure!), and new projects.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Night of the Living Ends: A Tale of Two Blankets

I've got to edit some photos before I can talk about last weekend, so instead we're hopping into my handy time machine to...uh, last week, or whenever it was I finally finished the last couple of projects.

So I've had a couple of small blankets that have been getting occasional attention in between other projects. The first one was a variation on the Baby Blanket Moderne pattern, which I started to use up a lot of odds and ends of baby yarn.
Baby Blanket Moderne

I'm happy to have done it, it's cleared out a lot of leftover yarn bits. All other things being equal, though, I don't think I'll do this pattern again in garter stitch. It does make a nice cushy thick blanket, but the boredom factor was pretty high. I started this over a year ago, and if wasn't for DVDs, it still wouldn't be finished. Also, doing this as a scrap blanket would have been easier if all my yarn had been the same weight. Some of it was so fine I doubled it, other yarns I used singly- the variation in thickness of the different sections of the blanket is noticeable. When I got to the end, I wanted a border that was all the same color, and yet I wanted to use up that last ball of yellow, so I switched to crochet, and did a half-double-crochet border until I ran out of yarn.

I like the second blanket a lot better:
Double Crochet Baby Blanket

This was made mostly from gift yarn (the white). I liked the way it looked in pattern (this is my all-double-crochet blanket), but I thought that just a little contrast would liven up the design. So I found some navy blue that was a perfect match for weight (see? learning behavior!) and threw in an occasional navy stripe. I thought it made for an understated and dignified blanket.

Of course there were ends to be woven in. You kind of expect that with blankets. But the combination of the scrap yarn for the Moderne, and 96-yard skeins (I ask you, who in their right mind makes bulky weight yarn in 96 yard skeins?!) did make for a lot of ends. Between the ubiquitous ends and the belated arrival of summery weather, all through July, I'd pick up these blankets, weave in a few ends, say, 'it's too warm for blankets' (er, that wasn't necessarily true- usually it was too boring for weaving in ends) and then go back to a nice sock. But. Even blankets eventually come to an end--and so does this post.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Appreciating Lowell

Saturday, my husband and I packed up the 70SPF sunscreen and headed down to the Lowell Folk Festival. Lowell is an old mill city, and historically has had a local reputation for being kind of run down and grubby. These days that's more than a little unfair. Sure, there are parts of Lowell, like any city, that could still use some rehab. But the downtown features lovely restored buildings:
Lowell Folk Festival 2009

Charming cobblestoned streets:
Lowell Folk Festival 2009
(Normally the cobblestoned streets are open to traffic- something I think the city should reconsider, as they make such a pleasant area when turned over to pedestrians.)

And they have an outstanding folk festival, featuring excellent food, music and dance of many traditions. Last year they said there were around 200,000 people-- we actually thought it was even busier this year, thanks to the terrific weather not to mention pent up desire to get out after weeks of rain. (And--the festival is free. Really, it's a great deal.) We were of course delighted with the Irish music- Niamh Ni Charra and her band:
Lowell Folk Festival 2009

We also heard a group of Tuvan throat singers called Alash- it's an amazing sound. There was New England barn dance music from Two Fiddles and The Sugar River String Band. Representing our neighbors to the north was Quebecois group Genticorum. No picture, I was too busy clapping and tapping my feet. We also heard some fabulous harmony singing from gospel group The Brotherhood Singers.
Lowell Folk Festival 2009

We finished off the day with excellent barbecue (they're around all the time, not just for the festival) and a second set of Irish music. There are more festival photos here.

And there was knitting. With the chitinous yarn, in fact- Tofutsies wool/cotton/soysilk/chiton blend. It's very soft and the soysilk (I think) gives it a lovely sheen. I adore the variation in color. Doesn't it look a lot like a local rock? At first I thought granite, but then I decided:
gneiss summer socks

I'm calling these my Gneiss Summer Socks.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Hat with a Curl

Back in May, I showed you pictures of the blue Spruce Mittens (from Robin Hansen's Fox and Geese and Fences). They didn't have a planned recipient at the time, but as I was finishing them, Kendra, the niece of some friends, fell in love with them. And they fit her perfectly, so clearly they were meant to be hers. And I still had quite a bit of the blue and yellow yarn, and Kendra had mentioned how she liked warm knitted things and hated being cold, so I said, 'and would you wear a hat that matched?' and Kendra delightedly said she would. I cast on for the hat that same day, but with one thing and another, only got around to finishing it this weekend.
Blue Spruce Hat

There were two challenges with this- the first being that I'd never really figured out how to make the decreases look right on the mittens. After considerable futzing around I decided that going down two stitches at time, using a sl 1, k2 tog, psso decrease was the way to go. It's neat and symmetrical, and I refrained from getting too persnickety about exactly matching things since I'd cast on before realizing I'd need a number of pattern repeats divisible by four to get all the decreases to match around the hat. (The hat has 11 pattern repeats- vexing, that.)

The second was that I decided I wanted to try a stockinette rolled brim. I thought it would look good on Kendra and it was an edge technique I hadn't tried before. I expected it to roll- what I hadn't completely internalized is that it really doesn't stop rolling unless you make it happen. Perhaps in a hat that was all one yarn it wouldn't have mattered so much- the wearer could simply pull it down to the right level. But for this hat it does matter- if the brim rolls too far, it shows the yellow floats on the inside. So I started dreaming up ways to stop it rolling where I wanted it.

Of course the obvious way would have been to have put in a few rows of seed stitch at the end of the stockinette section, but that meant ripping out the whole hat. And that was my fallback plan. But after trying out various ideas I hit upon another way. On the inside of the hat, I picked up two stitches two rows apart and pulled a piece of yarn through. Then ran the needle around it again to pull those two stitches together. Then I passed the yarn through the next stitch and sewed two loops from the next stitch over.
sewing loops on the inside of the hat

(In this picture, I'm halfway through the sewing- see how it rolls less on the right side?)
roll brim, partially secured

It's not a perfect solution- you get a ridge on the right side (mostly hidden by the rolling brim):
ridge visible on right side of hat

--and a series of small knots on the inside of the hat. These were noticeable in handling, but not especially when I tried it on. But it did stop the rolling before it exposed the floats, so I'm declaring it a victory. (All the same- next time, I'm trying the seed stitch band instead.)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Fantasy Socks Become Reality, News at Eleven

Picture me lying limply in a puddle of yarn...the weekend was extremely busy. However, as with other social events, I did a lot of knitting while chatting and listening to music (not to mention the screams of people who believed me when I said the pool was 'fine once you got in'). The socks:
Fantasy Socks
plain toe-up socks, Lana Gross Fantasy

And yes, these also match. Really, it's not my fault...just as I started thinking that it was about time for ribbing on the first one, I noticed that I was only a few stripes away from the start of the pattern repeat. So it was a cinch to end the first sock there, and start the second at the same point in the pattern. And after I'd firmly resolved I wasn't going to be persnickety about getting an exact match this time, too.

And then, I looked around at my half-dozen WIPs and said, 'gosh, I should finish a few things before I cast on something else'. Next thing I knew, there was another pair of socks on the dpns. Apparently I have the willpower of a jellyfish. (There were extenuating circumstances having to do with needing another portable project, or at least that's the story I'm going with.) The new yarn is Tofutsies' wool/soysilk/cotton/chitin blend, which I thought would make good summer socks. Although I'm going to wonder (at least until I have a chance to look it up) just how they get fiber out of shrimp and crab shells (that's the chitin).

Edit: Okay, with some help from Wikipedia, I have an answer: chitin fiber is produced by deacetylation. No, really, it makes sense, if I'm interpreting the chemistry right. (It should be noted here that chemistry has never been one of my strong points, however.) Chitin is a natural polymer commonly found in nature- second most common after cellulose (plant fiber). A polymer is a group of molecules that join up in repeating chains- natural biopolymers include things like DNA and proteins.

In its natural form, chitin is translucent, pliable, resilient and tough. The acetyl group (a clump of atoms arranged in a particular configuration) occurs regularly along the length of the molecule chains, and enables more bonds to be formed between adjacent molecules. So the acetyl group seems to be what turns it from a bunch of long microfibers to a thick solid mass. Deacetylation removes the acetyl groups, which breaks the bonds between adjacent molecules- like removing the snarls to comb out long hair. Chemically, the resulting fiber is similar to rayon.

So- they get the fiber by chemically treating the shells. Which is pretty much what I guessed, but I still find it cooler to know more detail. It's a geek thing.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Master of the Obvious

Last week I defrosted some squash because I needed room in the freezer. (Everyone does this kind of thing, right?) This particular container was given to me by a friend who was moving, and I knew I'd use it, because one of my favorite baked goods in the known universe is pumpkin spice bread. Which I usually make with squash anyway, but 'squash bread' doesn't have the same ring, so I still call it pumpkin, but you get the idea.

Anyway, I usually make it with canned squash because real squash are large, and if I suggested, say, eating squash as a side dish, my husband would give me a Look. I'm sure you've encountered this Look at some point- it's the one that says, 'is she mad?', or 'do I *look* like the kind of person who eats vegetables that aren't salsa'. (Actually he does eat vegetables. Usually stir fried, or covered in blue cheese dressing. But not squash by choice.)

Anyway, the other thing about using real squash is that it has lumps. Strings. Natural bits. Texture. I don't mind this if I'm just eating it, but I much prefer a smooth puree to use in bread or custard. And yet, no amount of beating will do the trick. Or at least not any amount of beating that I have the patience to administer. As I was contemplating this all-natural squash (which by this week I really needed to use up), I had a brainwave. I knew just how to get the smooth texture I wanted, and I even had the perfect tool right there in my kitchen. The food mill. Its mission in life may be applesauce, but I was betting that sieving the squash through it would give me the effect I wanted. And so it did.
pumpkin spice bread

Now the only question is, will there be any pumpkin bread left when company arrives this weekend? (Answer- yes, but not this loaf! Mine, mine, all mine.)

Friday, June 26, 2009

It's All In Where You Stand

Wednesday, I started a post that was so boring, it made me depressed just to read the introduction. Thursday morning, there were little patches of blue trying to join hands across the sky, and an errant ray of sunshine intermittently tickling the sun porch, and everything seemed a whole lot more manageable. This might also have had something to do with starting to recover from the extreme lack of sleep I suffered over the weekend or it may have been the two solid weeks of rain. Probably both. Of course I didn't make it as far as actually posting anything due to a severe attack of employment, but hey, these things happen. And employment is a good thing to have, so I can't complain.

During the deluge, my husband and I wondered if the the dry-adapted Colorado wildflowers were going to make it. But despite being beaten down by the ceaseless streams of water, they seem to have survived with only minor damage. We've even got new varieties starting to bloom.
New flowers in the wildflower garden

They're picking up the slack from the violas, which are finally calling it quits after nearly two months of continuous flowers. My mother reminded me that I could keep them going longer by picking off the dying blooms, but we want them to re-seed, so we're letting them go.

So- extreme lack of sleep over the musical weekend. I wish I could say this was the result of staying up late listening to music (which it partly was) but it actually had more to do with waking up early despite staying up late. How does this happen, I want to know? I mean, I'm perfectly capable of rolling over and going back to sleep- with or without shutting off the alarm- on a work day. But apparently not this weekend. On the plus side there was crafting. I started a new pair of socks.
fantasy socks

The yarn is Lana Gross Fantasy- I really liked the colors in the skein- and at first was ambivalent about them as they knit up (this seems to be how I often feel about self-patterning yarn when I cast on with it). But it's growing on me.

Thanks to general brain deadness, none of the more complicated things I brought with me got much attention. But I did do rather a lot of crocheting- I'm almost halfway done with the new baby-or-lap afghan.
lap afghan

The observant crocheters will note that I have mastered a fourth stitch, double crochet (hey, slow but steady learns the new craft). It's actually much prettier than this photo makes it look- off white and navy blue in a bulky weight yarn. All that white yarn for the afghan, about 16 skeins of it? Was a gift from my mother's friend Sandy, who has been doing a little de-stashing. She also gave me a huge amount of beautiful sport-weight cream-colored wool, more than enough for a sweater. I'm still playing with ideas for that. I'm torn between dying some of it, and doing a Norwegian-style colorwork ski sweater, or casting on something extremely textured. In a sport weight yarn I could get a lot of detail. Or I could dye all of it. Decisions, decisions! That's probably not going to be for a few months though, as I have two other sweaters queued ahead of it.

For now, it's Friday, the weekend is blessedly not scheduled for anything, and I have all sorts of things to do, knit, crochet, weed...hmm. Strangely, housework did not appear on that list, but there ought to be some of that, too.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Off the Bench

Today I wrapped up a lengthy carpentry project. Not because it was long or complex though- it had just been around a while. When I bought my house, lo these seven years ago- (What? Seven? *counts on fingers* Yes, seven. Aieee.)- where was I? Oh, seven years ago, the former owners abandoned quite a few odds and ends in their struggle to stuff several tons of clutter into a moving van. Much of it, I simply threw out, but there were some items my thrifty compulsions just wouldn't let me trash. One of them was this bench:

bench before rehab

Now, this was clearly something that had been knocked together out of scrap lumber in the wake of some home improvement project or other, but it was a more-or-less functional piece of furniture. However, brief experimentation soon proved that anyone attempting to sit on it had a better than even chance of getting a splinter...well, we won't go into detail on just how I determined this wasn't a good thing to sit on, okay? So it was removed to the basement until it could be rehabilitated into something less likely to draw blood or cause pain in the posterior.

Earlier this spring, I decided its time had come. I ripped off the top boards (too warped to save) and sanded down the body of the bench. My original plan had been to put on a wooden seat and use this as a sort of window seat in the library, but once I had it sanded down, I decided that the original construction was pretty crude, and that it really wasn't a good candidate for indoor furniture. So instead, I repainted the frame with three coats of exterior latex, and replaced the top surface with plastic decking material- suitable for people to sit on in wet bathing suits.

Woats thinks it's pretty nifty.
Bench after Rehab
Me, I'm just glad it's no longer taking up space in the basement, and has been restored to functionality. One project down, 673 to go....