Thursday, October 28, 2010

100 Projects or Bust

So, after reading Toni's latest post, wherein she does the unforgiving math on just how many knitting days there are left in the year, and further points out that some of those days are holidays, which tend to take up a lot of time that can't be devoted to craft projects, I stared in the mirror and asked, 'why did I sign on for this again?'. And, because I'm silly that way, I answered myself.

Me: Why did I sign on for this 100 projects-in-a-year challenge?

Robin: You thought it would be fun.

Me, weakly: Really?

Robin: Sure. And besides, last year you only made what, around 35 FOs? This year, you're already over 70. If you stopped right now, you'd be twice as productive as last year. Doesn't that mean anything?

Me: It would mean I'm a loser. The challenge was 100 projects.

Robin: You made ten FOs in January, and you have over two months left. It's still doable.

Me: But six of them were fingerless mitts. And some of those were for children! And my first FO, the sweater, was three-quarters done!

Robin: Picky. There's nothing to stop you from knitting 27 pairs of fingerless mitts for the win.

Me: That would be dumb.

Robin: Your mother is already over a hundred projects for the year. And her list included 24 quilts!

Me: She's retired! Besides, I have a bunch of stuff I want to knit that I have materials for.

Robin: Then why are you talking to me? Knit, already.

Don't you just hate it when you argue with yourself and lose?

So, I took inventory of my planned projects. While I'm not abandoning any of them, it's clear that I'm going to have to work in some more mitten and smaller projects if this is going to work. So with that in mind, I stopped by Joann's the other night and got some more mitten yarn. A lot of the miscellaneous worsted I'm given tends to be light colors, which is not ideal for mittens (hence the attack of pink and yellow hats you've been seeing on the blog). Anyway I picked up a couple of darker (and not incidently more colorful) yarn to liven up the mitten knitting experience. Hence:
Note: the color on these is not true. These are so bright I think the camera sensor was dazzled.

Yet more mittens. I may wind up knitting until the giant apple falls on New York, but at least I'll go down fighting crafting!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Houston, We Have Mittens!

Okay, that's hardly a shocker around here. But after the part where I got partway into the mitten, redesigned it, knit my own pattern wrong, ripped it, reknit it again, screwed up the tip shaping, ripped it and an inch short of mitten one started having that uneasy feeling that I was running out of yarn... well. This particular pair of mittens feels like an accomplishment!
gray stranded mittens

(Thanks, Mom, for the save on the yarn!)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Nothing But Sky Blue

I had a draft of a post written last week, but I wound up never finishing it because it lacked a snappy title. I'm a sucker for a snappy title. Fortunately I was rescued this week by my weekend activities. Sunday afternoon, my mom and I dyed that lot of cream-colored yarn. In the end I opted to dye it all, I've a plan that involves something vaguely Jerseyish in style, though I haven't yet decided on a pattern. Anyway that light ketchup-magnet cream is now all a rather nice blue:
newly dyed yarn

The color in the photo is pretty close to the actual color of the yarn- the dye color was called sky blue- I think this came out more the true color of the sky than the Crayola color. I learned a few things in the process.

1. I should probably have tied the skein in more places. These skeins came out looking kind of messy, but I slipped one onto the yarn swift and wound a bit from the beginning and it's not bad at all- it's not much tangled, it winds off smoothly enough. A few more ties and I think it would have stayed even neater.

2. My other big concern was not to felt it-- this is profoundly not machine washable yarn. But I handled it more or less the same way I do knitted garments in feltable wool, and it seemed to work fine.

3. If you take elaborate precautions, you might actually be able to dye yarn without covering the kitchen, your clothes and yourself with dye. In fact, my mom and I somehow managed not to splash ourselves at all that I can tell. Unless I dyed the back of my hair blue and everyone has been too polite to mention it.

Other than that, I've been working on a bunch of things, but not finishing that much. I'm on the second gray and white stranded mitten, and my mom gave me the rest of her skein of gray so I can be sure I'll have enough to finish. I'm still working on a pair of socks. I'm giving the green Aran some time to think about its sins before tackling it again.

There are a few things that have gotten done in the last couple of weeks--I finally shoveled out the pool filter and stored it, which was the last pool-closing task for the year. I keep trying different methods, and this year's wasn't too bad. The pool filter has over 200 lbs of wet sand in it, but I cleverly half emptied it before manhandling it out from under the deck. Though I still think that last year's method was the best- getting someone else to do it!

I finished another pink hat- this one child-sized. I had started it as a headband, but ran out of that particular pink when it was child sized. So I used a different shade for the body of the hat. One evening when I had been knitting on the hat for much of the evening, my husband suddenly frowned at it and said, "Wasn't that a headband the last time I saw it?"

"I ran out of yarn," I told him.

"And it got bigger?!" he replied. (He's getting more observant. I once knitted a whole sweater for him for Christmas without him noticing anything.)

"And I decided that a child of the age the headband would fit would be dressed by her parents. And parents would prefer that a young child wears a hat," I explained. "It's teens and adults like me who dislike hats that mainly wear headbands."

"Ah," mystery solved, Jonathan went back to his book.

So, here's the mutant pink hat:
pink child's hat

Not a huge difference in shade, but enough to be noticeable without being separated by the design, I thought. The I-cord edging proved to be nearly as easy to pick up and knit from as the one-stitch garter edging.

And I did finally take a picture of the two latest pairs of children's mittens:

So. I feel like not much is getting done right now, but I do have a bunch of things in partially finished states- I'm hoping that will add up to a bunch more FOs before long.

Friday, October 15, 2010


1. Happiness is a purring cat on one's lap. Even if said purring cat is on one's lap because we haven't turned up the heat yet. (We aren't participating in any macho contests involving leaving the heat off until you can see your breath in the morning, because the furnace is also what heats the hot water. Hot showers are non-negotiable, no matter what temperature the house is.)

2. A hat and mittens, which I finally got around to photographing. They sort of match, but not really, since the mittens are child sized and the hat is adult.
Unoriginal Hat and mittens

3. It turns out my burst of cleaning and carpentering industry last week has completely sapped my will to do anything but lie around and read.

4. I went to work and worked anyway.

5. The cold weather makes me dead keen on finishing the green Aran. Unfortunately I've concluded after about five attempts that the only way to get the patterns on top of the two fronts where I'm decreasing at different rates on two edges (you know, the absolutely most visible part of the whole sweater) is to rip them both back to the point where they start not matching and then reknit them both at the same time so I can make them match. This has not yet happened (see note 3).

6. Despite note 3, after a long heart-to-heart with the bathroom scale, I have resumed riding my exercise bike in the mornings. Cookie finds this exceedingly puzzling. So do I, if I think about it.

7. Seven items on a list are traditional. I don't know why.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Best Laid Plans

Thursday was the day of the house concert and I had what I thought was a Pretty Good Plan. It involved going in to work early, getting out early and swiftly executing the remaining house concert preparations. It notably did *not* involve having my car die on the highway, having it towed, having some throttle work done and getting a new battery and arriving at work *late*. It could have been worse, of course. I had coffee, I had knitting, I had my work computer (and actually logged some work time via the car dealership's exceedingly handy wi-fi). And hey. At the rate I'm going, I'm going to have a new-ish car soon. Kind of like the old country song about the guy who worked in a car factory, and smuggled out a part a day in in his lunch pail, and after several years had a whole car. Funny song..but I always wondered what kind of lunch pail would conceal the chassis and axles....

Anyway. My day continued along those lines, with multiplying meetings, andn various minor customer crises. I left later than I wanted but still got home at a reasonable hour, dove into baking, schlepping chairs and arranging lighting and table space for the concert. It actually went very well- my husband made it home early and we had a couple of friends come over to help, which always makes things easier. We had twenty people, plenty of refreshments and didn't run out of chairs. And the music was excellent- here are Heather and Ben, in concert in my library:

We had been initially a bit concerned that Cookie would be weirded out by the invasion of company. He's only been with us two weeks, after all, and in that time he hasn't had to deal with any visitors at all. We took care to leave the bedroom and cellar doors open, so he'd have places to retreat to, and then left the decision to him. But to our delight, he was completely unbothered by the company, came out and greeted all the new people, accepting pats and neck-scritches with gracious aplomb and was generally charming to everyone. At one point in the evening, he went streaking across the floor and went belly down in front of a bookcase, peering with concentration underneath it. We didn't understand what was going on until one of our guests reported that they'd seen a mouse run under there. He kept the place staked out for the rest of the evening.

Now, mice are not really a problem we generally have, but it is October and with the weather turning chillier, the mice do sometimes try to get in. However Cookie takes his role as defender of the household very seriously...or at least he takes the potential for tasty mouse snacks seriously! When I originally wrote this post I said that if the problem persisted, I'd have to put out some traps. As it turns out, that probably won't be necessary. On my return home from work Friday, I discovered that the Cookie's persistence had paid off. Yep, one stiff little mousy corpse, laid out for my approval. Cookie was rewarded with cat food--apparently cat food tastes better than mice, since he'd made no attempt to eat it.

In other news, I have skeined up all that cream yarn ready for dying. I haven't quite mastered the knack of twisting my skeins neatly, but I'm getting better. I started by pushing on the pegs to turn the skein, which worked fine, but on the last skein, I realized that I could twirl the swift much more quickly without getting in the way of the yarn by pushing on the armature. The swift is really and truly seriously fast. I love it!

I finished knitting the latest hat during the concert and wove in the ends Friday- haven't taken a photo yet. It struck me when I was doing the last hat, that the yarn would go well with my raincoat, which I wear as a top layer most of the time in the winter. And I don't really like hats, but often wear a headband to keep my ears warm. The headband I've been wearing is polar fleece, and it's so old all the fleecy bits have worn off. High time to knit myself a new one. So for my next trick, I cast on a headband, using the same sort of circumferential band I've used for hats, only with an i-cord edging on both sides:

That got finished yesterday on a drive out to western Mass. to visit my in-laws. Annoyingly, I've misplaced my book light so I didn't have any light to knit on the drive back. Which might actually have been a blessing in disguise since I was so sleepy by the time we got home I pretty much fell into bed. Today has been a fairly lazy day- sleeping late and reading, for the most part. At least there weren't any commitments that required us to drive anywhere!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

House Concerts and Other Diversions

Another whirlwind week at Chez Holly-Turner. The big news of the week is that we're hosting a house concert on Thursday, again with Heather Dale and Ben Deschamps who played here last year. If you're in the area and like Celtic music, it's at 8 pm on Thursday October 7. Drop me an email and I'll reserve you a seat.

In other news, you might be thinking that building the yarn swift was my weekend project, but it was only one of them. We also closed the pool. It was rather challenging, since the rain of leaves and acorns came down almost as fast as we could scoop them out. Also, acorns plummeting thirty or forty feet? Really sting if they hit you.

And then, embarrassed by the industry of my neighbors across the street, I spent a couple of hours tidying up the yard. I refuse to start raking until more leaves come down, but there are lots and lots of thorny and or woody vines that are trying to take over. I went around ripping them up by the roots and stuffing them into a yard waste bag (composting only encourages them). I'd like to say I put the fear of Robin into them, but a) I'm way too haphazard with the yard work to really sustain a culture of intimidation and b) plants aren't very bright.

*And* I knit a pair of mittens, and started a hat. Really, it was so far from a lazy weekend, I'm not quite sure what came over me. And it isn't over yet, since the threat of impending company has us scurrying around, attempting to render the house fit for company day after tomorrow. No doubt I'll sleep all of next weekend.

Back later...!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Winding Swiftly

I know that carpentry isn't a craft I share with a lot of my blog friends. But here's the kind of carpentry project a knitter can get behind:
DIY yarn swift

Yes, I have just built myself a yarn swift. It's something I haven't really minded not having. I wind occasional balls by hand without any fuss, and I don't get all that much yarn in skeins. But going from balls to skeins- that's a different story. See, one of the lots of free yarn I got a while back was a whole bagful- probably around 2400 yards of lovely cream sport-weight wool. And I thought 'Hmm. I don't really want to knit an all-cream sweater, but if I dyed some or all of it....'

And I poked around and looked at some dyes but I have enough other projects on my plate that dying the cream wool wasn't something I put any priority on. Enter my mother. My mother is an avid and marvelously skilled quilter, dyes some of her own fabric, and occasionally does workshops on dying. She's planning to have a dye-your-own day at her house and invited me to come and dye all that cream wool. And I said, 'Huzzah! Expert dying instruction.' And then I said, 'Oh, poot. Now I have to skein all that yarn.'

So I priced yarn swifts, and decided they were a little more than I wanted to spend for something that--however useful it would be on an ongoing basis--was really intended to facilitate one project. I considered a niddy noddy, which would have been even easier to build- but that's only really good for skeining, and if I'm going to have something like that lying around, I'd rather be able to wind from it too.

I looked online for people who had built their own, and found several very clever ideas, including people who had built swifts out of Lego and Tinker Toys. But alas, my Tinker Toys have been gone for 30 years. The most applicable plan I found was this one, done by a guy who has a heck of a lot more tools than I do. It's gorgeous. I figured that I could probably do something similar but simplify it a little- maybe substitute a square base for his elegantly crossed legs. But looking it over carefully, there was one aspect of the design I didn't care for--the way the armature is tensioned. It seemed to me that there could be some wobble in the arms. The arms basically turn on a single central bolt, which is tensioned using a washer, nut and wing-nut combination. What I really wanted was in that position was a bearing, the kind with top and bottom races, like a lazy susan. I have a little lazy susan for the kitchen, which I mainly use for frosting layer cakes, and I briefly contemplated sacrificing it for the cause. But it's plastic and I'd have had a better-than-even chance of ruining it and not getting a usable swift.

So I went back to the internet, and lo and behold, I found that you can get a four-inch lazy susan bearing at the hardware store (they stock it with cabinet hardware). Well. That simplified the whole design considerably. In fact, I think I could have made it even simpler by just mounting the top bearing plate to the arms and letting the whole thing spin on the bottom plate, but I wanted more stability, and something just a bit better looking. So I yanked some scrap out of the scrap lumber bin in the workshop and put this together in a couple of evenings. If I say so myself, it works extremely well. It spins quietly and easily on the bearing. For the speeds and loads this will see, it doesn't even need oil (the bearing is rated for something like 300 lbs). The price was right- less than $6 for the bearing and everything else I had on hand. Here's a photo of the pieces unassembled (you can click on either photo to enlarge them):
pieces of yarn swift

Components list:
wood base- 9" square by 3/4" thick
wood top - 4 1/4" square by 3/4" thick
1 4" four-inch lazy susan bearing
2 arms 26" long by 1 1/4 wide by 3/4" thick (1x2 or 1x1 would work fine)
4 pegs 5/8" diameter by 6" long
3 wood screws 1 1/2" long
8 wood screws 1/2" long

drill guide (optional- I found it useful for keeping the peg holes straight)
router (for notching the arms together, this could also be done with a wood chisel)