Saturday, December 28, 2013

Into the Closet

Last post I showed you the gifts I gave- but I also was the fortunate recipient of some cool crafty gifts.   My mom noticed a lack of couch cushions in the library (I threw out the old ones- they were disgusting).   And so she gave me some new ones she had made (the quilted one) and a couple more she had been given- cat and yarn themed, even!
And look at the colors! They're a great match for the couch.  My mom has a really terrific eye for color. 

And then my sister, who has some kind of magic superpower for finding things in secondhand shops, scored an absolute treasure trove of knitting books. 
No less than four fabulous books on lace knitting, a book on traditional Fair Isle, and another book of patterns.  This is going to provide years of knitting inspiration. 

And then my dad joined in on the crafty action with a card case.  Index cards in fact (which we were low on and needed more of...he may be psychic too).
But where is the craft connection, you wonder?  Look more closely:
The case was an advertising piece for the Franklin Process Company- the calendar is from 1934.  The Franklin company was a yarn dyer- weavers would send natural thread to them for dyeing, and they would return it in the ordered color wound onto rods ready to load into the commercial looms.  A rather cute piece of textile history.  I've put it on the shelf in front of my recipe box, but a bunch of the index cards are already planned to be used for notes on a space battle (in a game we'll be playing at New Year's).

It's been rather an odd holiday week.  Having Wednesday off, then going back to work on Thursday and Friday has me all turned around- I don't know which day is up.  Today, Saturday?  Still, I've been moving along with various projects. 
The last of the bulky-weight hats is done:

Once I cast it off, I experienced a state of mild confusion...I don't have any knitting deadlines!   Quite odd.  While I was trying to organize my thoughts and decide what to do next, I cast on another sock.   It always helps the thinking process to have my hands moving. 

I pulled out a couple of skeins of Panda Silk (wool/bamboo/silk blend) that I had in stash and cast on a toe up version of the Sagittarius socks- still having the pattern in memory was convenient and I also wanted to see it in a solid color- a good choice, as it's even more stunning than it was in the multicolor yarn. 

I actually sort of do know what I'm doing next- there are a couple of sweater WIPs that need to be finished up-- but they're not all that portable, so having a pair of socks on the needles is never a bad plan. 

Also, since I was home today with (surprisingly) no commitments, I was determined to try and get some house projects moving.  I got a start on one off the Lost Projects list .  (I'll show you that one later- I've got to wait for glue to dry, and I'm not altogether sure it's going to work anyway.) 

I did get one small project completely finished, however.  Technically, it's not a lost project, as it's only been on the list a couple of weeks.  But I figured that heading it off before it became lost was a worthy endeavor.  Plus, it's really annoying having most of my work clothes in a pile on the chest in the bedroom.   See, my closet had a small structural failure. 
See the bracket bend over double?  That hook is what used to hold up the west end of the clothes rod in the closet.   This, of course, is a classic case of procrastination not paying off.  My husband told me that bracket was pulling out of the wall 6 months ago.  And I knew when I originally put up the darned bracket that it wasn't as secure as it ought to be.   The problem was, the wall on the right had no studs located where I could easily put a support on the wall.   And while the other end of the pole does have a stud and I did put a support on it (which is the only reason both brackets didn't pull out), it was a crappy plastic support.   Add to this my laziness in not putting my summer clothes away in the cedar closet downstairs when I got the winter things out (I just crammed everything into the upstairs closet thinking I'd deal with it later)--well, the results were predictable. The whole thing collapsed with an almighty crash in the middle of the afternoon a few weeks ago. 

Being as I had knitting deadlines for Christmas, I didn't jump right on it.  But the whole lack of functional closet space has gotten old fast.  So I did hit the hardware store for some replacement rod brackets last week, and this afternoon I tackled the job in sensible steps.   First I found the inconveniently located studs and installed some cross-bracing, so I'd have something solid to mount the clothes rod hardware to.  (This was accompanied by a certain feeling of chagrin, as it was what I knew I should have done in the first place.  Can't complain too much, however, as the crappy original job did last 7 years.)   Then I measured, re-measured, checked levels, and finally mounted the new (and much stronger) hardware.   The rod had to be cut to length- the room taken up by the bracing meant it needed to be shortened.  And finally I straightened the bent bracket and re-mounted it, moving it over a stud for additional security.  Overkill, since I wasn't planning on hanging clothes from it again, but I figured that since I had to move the bracket anyway, I might as well do it right.  Really, there's a remarkable amount of fussy measuring and fitting for even a simple job like this one.  But the in end I got a functional closet.   
Of course the job wasn't complete until Biscuit had inspected it, and pronounced it satisfactory. 
Either that, or he was dismayed that I'd vacuumed up all the cat hair along with the drill droppings, and is now planning to start over covering it with fluff. 

I'm torn between being pleased it's fixed, and annoyed because if I'd done it this way to begin with, I'd never have had this problem.   It is very gratifying to have had all the tools on hand to deal with it, however.  Now I just need to keep up my momentum, and knock some more projects off the list while I have the chance....we'll see if that plan survives contact with the enemy!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

All is Revealed

Not that it was all that much knitting this Christmas.  However, I started with a pair of Fetching mitts for my sister.  Yarn is Patons Canadiana, which is heavier than the pattern calls for...but then we run to big hands, so having the mitts come out bigger was really what I was after.  And...I apparently never photographed them.  Drat. 

Second project was a pair of socks for my mom.  These were made in Berroco Comfort Sock, which is an acrylic/nylon sock yarn, and by far my favorite of the wool-free sock yarns I've tried. 
I was very pleased with them- pattern is Small Capitals from Charlene Schurch's Sensational Knitted Socks. 
And last- and most astonishing, is a pair of WanderingCat's Sagittarius socks for my sister- in a skein of yarn my sister gave me (hey, this kind of behavior should be encouraged!) from Deep Water Dye Works.  Very pretty stuff, and lovely to knit. 

The colorway is called Pensacola Bay, and I told my sister she should imagine she was wading in warm tropical water every time she puts them on. 
What was astonishing about them, you wonder?  They are fast.  Seriously fast.  These socks?  Were a ball of yarn on Thursday night.  I grafted the toes on them Tuesday evening.  I didn't even have to stay up late.  The only remotely comparable pair I've had were a pair of short plain socks I knit at a music festival- to do a pair of patterned socks in 4 days flat (two of which I worked, and could only knit in the evening)- that's unheard of.   And I had to add a pattern repeat (72 stitches around is pretty much the minimum that will accommodate the feet in my family, and I don't like to go up in needle size because I like a dense fabric for long wear).  
The only downside is it's going to give me an inflated idea of how much knitting I can get done in a short amount of time next year! 

Sunday, December 22, 2013


I keep thinking of things I must blog about, usually at some completely un-useful time, like when I'm in the car, and then being startled when I get online later and realize, nope, haven't written that post either.   So, let me run down the list:

Department of New Yarn:
I received my order from Wandering Cat Yarns just after Thanksgiving.  And just the packaging was so pretty, I decided to save it and open it at my knitting group so there would be more than just me to appreciate it.  For example:
It came with an adorable card...and, see?  A pawprint stitch marker.  Awwww....

And the yarn itself inspired a round of impressed petting and serious lust among my fellow knitters:
My photo really doesn't do it's gorgeous!  Of course now I want to cast it on- cast it all on!

Department of Holiday Preparations:
Holiday prep is going about as well as can be expected.  The last bit of baking is in the oven, boxes that needed to be shipped have been shipped (late, but what else is new?), and all shopping is complete and wrapped.  Despite the best efforts of my stalwart know what is less useful than a cat helping with your wrapping?  Two cats.  And I'm given to understand that curling ribbon is very, very exciting.  I did not get any photos of this activity, being rather too busy trying to rescue the wrapping and gifts.   Biscuit was miffed.
Curling ribbon, yum, yum!

You notice what I left out here?  Yeah, that would be the knitting.   Which is actually fine, given my usual known propensity for putting more on the knitting list than is actually humanly possible to accomplish.  Since I have learned to accept this and divided my knitting into an "A" list and  a "B" list (that's the wildly optimistic part of the list), it's not really a problem.  Thanks to the Lost Projects, I wound up demoting one project to the B-list, and the rest is completely probably doable.

Speaking of B-list, the last chunky hat didn't make it in time to be collected at the knit-a-thon, so I'll have a starter for next year's holiday knits. 

And that brings me to:
Department of Lost Projects:
This hasn't been the sweeping masterpiece of efficiency that I hoped it would be (I knew better, but hey, optimist here.)  But I have made some progress.  I was astonished and pleased when I went to look for replacement buttons for a favorite jacket and found:

Identical buttons to the missing one still being sold.  (The top one is off the jacket, the two below are the new ones.)  How awesome is that?  So I got just the two and sewed on a new one plus the one I'd snipped off to take to the store with me (it was loose and needed to be re-sewed more securely anyhow).   And that was one.

And for my next trick, I tackled the glove liners my husband has been asking for- he loves his knitted wool gloves, but on windy days, they just aren't warm enough.  This is the project I bought rip-stop nylon for- not once, but twice!- and hadn't gotten to in over a year.   It went surprisingly quickly once I remembered (from my last foray into glovemaking circa 1993) that all the fiddly little sewing is much easier to do by hand than on the machine.  It didn't hurt that I've done enough hand-quilting since then that my hand-sewing is a lot faster and neater than it used to be either.  They look kind of funky- being liners, I left the seams on the outside so the inside would be more comfortable on the hand, and I had to put darts in the side-seams (the pattern was written for a stretchier fabric), but they came out fairly well.   I'll see how they wear- I'm considering a layered concept for a future pair of gloves.  For an encore, I darned up a hole in the gloves.  (Another pair of gloves is going to become a priority for next year, I'm thinking.)

The first piece of rip-stop nylon that I mislaid hasn't turned up yet, but I'm expecting it any day. 

So- now it's time to go back to knitting on my A-list project, dreaming about promoting the B-list one back onto the Christmas list, and wondering if I can fit in another lost project without losing my grip on the other two.  Hey, we all have to have ambitions, right?

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Valley of Lost Projects

It was positively embarrassing.  My parents were visiting last weekend and my mom and I went into the sewing room.  Which was trashed, admittedly, but that's not the embarrassing part.  No, I was horrified to note the piles of projects which I had decided to do.  Planned to do.  Obtained materials for.  In at least one case mislaid the materials so thoroughly I had to get more materials.  (Naturally as soon as I finally do the project the original materials will turn up.)  But, piles of materials- and I had never started the projects.  Gah.  I hate when that happens.

So this week, I resolved that holiday knitting or no holiday knitting, Something Must Be Done.  First off, there were the couch cushions.   Way back in the summer we had an Unfortunate Occurrence involving cat pee and the couch.  We washed everything of course, but getting it scent free enough that the cat does not pee on it again is a tough proposition.  After duly considering that the cushions that came with the couch were possibly as old as I am- or at least old enough to be president- I decided that replacing them was justified.  The seat cushion was easy if expensive- just a new piece of foam.  The three cushions that lined the back were harder.  There were no pillow forms the right shape and size, but coincidentally I noticed that the plastic bags of fiberfill were exactly right.   So I got three of them, and they've been sitting in the sewing room ever since.

So, I started by taking the casing off one cushion to use as a pattern.  (Note the original pattern of the upholstery.  File under, reasons this couch will be reupholstered one of these days Real Soon Now. )
Then I sewed up the long sides of the new covers, leaving the ends open.
Then I opened one end of the bag of fiberfill and stuffed it into the cushion, still in the bag.  I had no idea how this would work- but to my delighted astonishment it was even easier than it sounds.  I whisked the bag out of the casing, leaving the fill behind.  Piece of cake.

I whip-stitched the end closed, and then it was ready to stuff back into the cushion covers- or at least it was once I replaced a broken zipper on one of the covers.  Not to mention some awkwardness as Cookie climbed on my lap in the middle of this.
And at last- three bags of fiberfill and a small pile of fabric out of the sewing room and back on the couch where it belongs.

For my encore, I'm tackling the pile of mending. Several things repaired and put away already, a couple more I have officially given up on and will be tossing out.  But the sewing room already looks marginally better.  Still a long way to go, and I've been switching off other projects with holiday knitting, but at least I feel like I'm making progress.

And the cute cat photo of the day:  Cookie, the library cat, contemplates great literature.  "Hey.  Can I eat it?"
I'm so maligned.  I've sat on Shakespeare, you know.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Thanksgiving Yarns

Thanksgiving, with its long drives and socializing is always a productive knitting time for me.  I was somewhat hampered this year by the feline contingent, who responded to the cooler temperatures by trying to sit on my lap whenever I wasn't standing up.    However Biscuit does also like the quilt, even if it lacks a person under it. 

Cookie also tried to get his share of the hot cat-on-lap action, but when I failed to sit in an appropriately receptive posture, he had to take steps.   In this picture, I'm attempting to look up how long the turkey needs to cook.  Naturally the page I need is under the cat. 

Jake?  Jake is a charmingly well-behaved gentleman cat, and restrained his demands to nighttime cuddling.   I have a feeling he's going to pick up the other two's habits as time goes on.

And yeah, knitting.   So I continued zipping through the available bulky weight to the tune of a couple more hats.   Finished the second Thanksgiving day, on my way to meet and eat with in-laws.

And then I switched off with some mittens, to break up the string of hats. 

While out and about, I took a look at kids that I saw, trying to see what the in style of hat is this year, and I saw a lot of boys wearing solid-color slouchy hats.  So I figured I'd try my hand at one- we
need a variety, after all. 

Not very interesting-looking, but I'm moderately pleased with the design.  I started with a really long Judy's Magic Cast-On, and left one side on a spare circular, while I started knitting in the round in stockinette on the other side. When I got to 3-plus inches, I purled a turning row, then knit another 3 plus inches and then knit the stitches off the spare needle together with the working stitches.  The result is a wide double-thick band that goes over the ears.   And because the two thicknesses are knitted together, it stretches evenly, with no difference in stretchiness due to the cast-on.  And I extended the length a bit to get the slouchy effect.    It was pretty quick to do, but I'm going to really need plain knitting for something before I do another one!  Not the most interesting knit. 

And of course there was also Secret Holiday Knitting.  Of which I cannot speak at this time.   Speaking of the holidays, I'm thinking I may have to shut myself in the sewing room and ignore the door rattling and meowing to get my wrapping done this year.  I tried to wrap just one little present a couple weeks ago, and the help I got was nearly insurmountable.  Take a look:

I'm definitely going to need to put things safely away from little paws if the wrapping is going to last until the intended recipient gets it.   (This one was fortunately rescued with only a slightly chewed bow.)