Monday, October 25, 2010

Not for the faint of heart

Children should come with warning labels ---which should be etched on their foreheads and which should not fade until the child is at least 7 years old--- to the effect that they are not to be left alone with anything that you would like to preserve.

This is because some of us, despite having lived through three other 4 year olds, CAN'T SEEM TO REMEMBER THE BASIC RULES OF SELF-PRESERVATION IN PARENTING.

Consider Exhibit 1:


These are the remnants of two of the dollies that Matty was playing with this morning.  I left them displayed on my loom (flaming idiot that I am), where I had set them up to be photographed.  I came home from Isabel's violin lesson and found him in a chair with the shredded remains of my dolls. The same dolls that three other children failed to destroy because I USED TO BE SMART ENOUGH TO TAKE THEM AWAY AFTER A WHILE.  Perhaps the hour of gluing, grumbling, and golf language that I have in front of me will serve to remind me that THE SMALL CANNOT BE TRUSTED!  Add one more thing to the list of items that -- unlike Legos-- don't just snap back together after you take them apart.

Just so you know . . .

1. Animal crackers go pretty well with coffee. Maybe not quite as good as chocolate chip cookies or (if only . . . ) Mint Milanos, but they'll do in a pinch.

2. The word 'jeggings' should be removed from common usage instantly.  Severe and humiliating penalties should be imposed for infractions.  I do not think the current candidates for office are adequately addressing this burning social issue.

3. I have dedicated the remainder of this month to finishing things.   The table loom is empty and waiting for a project.  The rigid heddle loom has recently been stripped of this plaid table runner, which exists solely to use up some old crochet cotton:

My Rhinebeck sweater is also done.   The little bugger fits like a glove and the pattern was easy and no do-overs were required, although I got a little bored knitting the collar.

  And, for spinning, I am determined to finish my Spinner's Hill batt, which was dyed in seasonally appropriate autumnal colors.  I have 1.25 bobbins left to spin, then I'll get around to the plying.  Lots and Lots of Plying.

If (hahahahahaha!) I get the spinning finished before the 31st, then I might even resort to some quilting.  But not a lot.

I'm not sure what I'll be weaving next, although placemats come to mind since we are 6 dinner eaters and most of my placemats are (a) stained and (b) in sets of four.  The only set of 6 matching mats that I own were poorly designed and developed permanent wrinkles, kinks, and folds.  The future of spinning remains similarly unclear, although I have a nice selection of little fiber bits from Hope Spinnery that I have picked up over my last two visits to Rhinebeck.  They keep tumbling out of the fiber pile at me and I think they are trying to make a point.  Up next for knitting will be an assortment of hats and gloves for my children, who claim that they are cold.

I also plan on finishing some more work, although between the knitting and the spinning, my ongoing search for cookies, and the endless bribery and arm-twisting supervision required for the kids'  homework, I'm not sure where I'll fit that work thingy in.

4. My son has involved himself in a series of short term relationships with some of the local bugs.  His first love was a box elder beetle known as "Cutie."


I actually think that Cutie might have been three or four bugs, because one minute Matty would be searching the Lego pile for his new friend,


and the next he would be coming in from the great outdoors claiming to have found Cutie out there.   Cutie was much loved for at least six hours.  He (she?) got a house


and a trip to school, from which he returned safely sealed in a Ziploc, which is pretty much the only way that I like my bugs.

By nightfall, however, it was all over and today Matty informed me that his new favorite kind of insect was a lady bug, knows as "Cutie Ladybug Guy."  CLG was also given a home,

but he proved less than durable.  I turns out that ladybugs are NOT constructed in the same way as Legos, so if, for example, you were to remove a ladybug's wing, you probably would not be able to snap it back on.  Glue, reliable standby  that it normally is in situations of repair, is also not helpful in reassembling ladybugs.  This discovery caused great consternation and heartbreak, although we may be on the road to recovery:  I have just been told to expect a visit this afternoon from Matty's new invisible friend, "Hamburgercheesesandwichguy."

5. I harvested the broccoli from my garden last week.


There it is.  All of it.  Nature's bounty, laid out neatly on my kitchen counter. I was all set to cook it up for a light snack when I noticed this little stowaway nearby:


Closer inspection of the broccoli harvest revealed several of his freeloader friends and relations hidden therein.  Once again, not a conspicuously successful gardening year.  To sum it up mathematically: six giant broccoli plants + two little stalks harvested - a kitchen full of wiggly green wormy things = no broccoli in my garden next year.

6. I did in fact go to Rhinebeck last week.  Plagued as I was by insomnia and an unchecked need to look at EVERY booth there (big mistake; it was crowded and it there really is too much to see in one day), I still had a lot of fun and I bought some cool stuff, though not the wool combs that I was really hoping for.  Next year I will try to be a little more targeted and maybe look at the demonstrations more than the stuff.  I might also wish for some really foul weather to keep the crowds down, which pretty much guarantees that it will be sunny and 70 degrees next year.

This is the entire haul from my 2010 Rhinebeck trip, minus a big wad of purple-y wool and some buttons that were purchased for a swap basket that I mailed out Saturday. The wool all came from Hope Spinnery.  I just love the muted colors of the blends and I'm still hoping to spin this stuff (and last year's stuff, which has more reds and pinks) into something suitable for a small color work project. Mittens? Hat?  Who knows, and don't hold your breath waiting for it: I've been a real slacker with spinning this year.

The spools of white stuff are cotton and wool rug warp.  They seemed like a good idea at the time. I think I was seduced by the word "Navajo" on the wool spool.  I had visions of weaving rustic looking tapestries or stunning geometric patterns, although I see now that the spool was made in Michigan, so I may have fallen prey to a marketing scheme. The shuttle is a 9" mini shuttle, which seemed like a useful thing to go with the table loom. I originally bought a bag of 10  bobbins to go with the new shuttle (and the other shuttle that came with the table loom, so it shouldn't feel neglected), but I traded half of them to Regular Deb for a giant piece of apple pie, which I ate for dinner on the bus ride home.  There is also a brass reed hook (I could swear I heard these things called "fish" somewhere, but I can't seem to find documentation;  did I hallucinate that name?  It seems so right.) lurking at the front of the pile of stuff; it feels more professional to me than the bendy plastic one that came with my rigid heddle loom.

My favorite purchase so far is the way cool knuckle saving batt picker --not only does it do a nice job taking wool off the drum carder, it can also be used to corral wayward shuttle bobbins-- but probably it ranks so high because it is the only thing I have used so far.

7. I'm closing with a picture of my dollies.


I brought them back from Russia when I was young and single and thought they would make a pretty display piece.  Since then, each of my children has begged to play with them.  They would make up stories and games and stack and unstack them again and again. The dolls might be the one toy that all four of them loved.  I still love them too, even though some of them are looking like they might have had a little too much love.


p.s. I left the dog out in the rain for too long.  When he came in, he took his revenge by walking -- on purpose, I tell you -- straight into my office and shaking all the rainwater off of his coat and onto me, my chair, my desk and my computer.  Just for that, I'm posting this very embarrassing picture of him dressed up for a luau Matty never got around to hosting  last week.  HA!


Monday, October 11, 2010

Things that might surprise you

1. Matty is boycotting a perfectly good macaroni and cheese lunch today because his dog, "Life Shadow," is afraid of noodles.


2. Here's an eye-opening tidbit that I picked up while eavesdropping on Matty and his friend Patrick while we drove to the zoo. The conversation went a bit like this:
Patrick:  Did you know that a robin is a dinosaur? And a hawk is a kind of robin.  And so a hawk is a dinosaur too.
Matty:  Yes.  And so they are all pteranodons.

3. Also, both boys can see a deer from fifty fifty fifty leventy hundred miles away.  Just in case you are not familiar with this number system, that's really, really, really far.

4.  Isabel has decided that she is a small French girl.  I suspect that this sudden change in nationality has something to do with the beret I gave her yesterday.


5. I don't actually want to work today, much like I did not really want to clean the garage yesterday.  However, I have run out of minor delaying tactics (Ravelry, facebook, blog reading) and am not bold enough to totally blow off the day in favor of something really fun (like hiding in my room all day with rental movies, a bag of chocolate chips, and my knitting), so I guess I have no choice but to get cracking.  In a few minutes.

6. I am much closer to finishing my Rhinebeck sweater,

Partially assembled Rhinebeck sweater, with right sleeve started and gratuitous monkey.

but not close enough that I will finish it in time for the actual Rhinebeck festival (estimated time until departure: 4 days, 15 hours, 42 minutes).  Also, I have developed the sudden fear that my ears will be cold on Saturday and have been straying from my Expeditious Sweater Completion Plan and looking at quickie hat/headband patterns. Intellectually, I get the idea that time spent knitting something other than the sweater actually delays the completion of the sweater, but I'm itching to see something flying off the needles and, like I said, I would hate for my ears to be cold while I'm outside all day on Saturday looking at all the woollies.  I was struck by the same fear last year and I spent the bus ride whipping up an earband, which I later unravelled (quite unnecessarily; it turned out I had more than enough yarn to make whatever I was making (my twisted rib hat, I think) without the assistance of the earband yarn, but the little bugger didn't quite cover my ears anyway, so no biggie). You might think that I would wear one of the many hats that I already own, but they look kind of lumpy when I have my hair up, as I almost always do.  Plus, I'm feeling a little distracted (which might explain why I am writing a new post instead of actually clearing my paying work out of the way so I can enjoy the afternoon) and unusually tempted by these two soft and squishy little cakes of left over yarn.


Look at them sitting there.  Aren't  they just begging to be made into warm and fuzzy hat-like things?

Just for fun, I have tootsed up the picture.  Aren't they tempting you too?


Really, there is nothing else I can report in order to delay working.  I have not spun anything new and the weaving looks exactly the same as it did last week, even though I have woven at least 4 additional repeats.  That amounts to over 20 inches of weaving, but I have to take it as a matter of faith that there has been progress because any cloth I have made is wrapped around the cloth beam where I can't get at it to make sure that it still exists.


See what I mean?

Here it is again as a pencil sketch, because I haven't wasted enough time yet today.


I suppose that when I start messing around with perfectly good photos, it really is time to get back to work.   Oh well. I hope you are more productive than I am today.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

For The Birds

So Matty fell asleep on the way home from our after school activities today.  That was at 5:30.  At 7:45, he looked like this.  Still asleep, still in his rain coat.  He looks just about perfect, but it won't last and I think it's going to be a long night for someone around here--quite possibly me.


In other home news, our new bird cage arrived Friday.  We put it together last night, which was an adventure in itself given the admirably brief instructions and blurry construction diagram.  Tonight was moving day for the birds.

We debated the best method of getting them out of the old cage and into the new cage without turning the entire house into an aviary. In the end, we decided to line up the doors of the cages and just hope for the best.  Here they are in their old cage, which is being held in front of the open door of the new cage.


Annabeth, who is much bolder, went first.
She sized up the new cage, saw that it was about 4 times bigger than the old one, and popped herself right in there.


Percy was  more of a chicken.  He hemmed and hawed, clinging to his old post while he watched his sister enjoying the new digs.


Not for too long, though.  Within about five minutes of starting Operation Bird Transfer, both birds were in the new cage. 


They seem to like it, and I think I'm going to like having them in their new location in the middle of the house where I can actually visit them during the day.  I might not appreciate the additional mess, but I'm trying to overlook that for now.


This leads me to three observations.

1. These birds are so much smarter than the chickens.
2. The birds are loud enough to drown out Glee, even when we have the volume turned up to 38.
3.  It looks like we could actually fit a few more birds in there . . .

Sunday, October 3, 2010


I think something bit me.  It looks like it might have been the weaving bug.  Last Saturday, a mere 24 hours after buying it, I warped my little table loom.  I used the instructions for direct warping that came with my rigid heddle loom, which probably wasn't quite kosher, but it worked out well enough that by the end of the weekend I had woven a couple of boring samples, and then this . . .

and this . . .

and this . . .

all courtesy of the Handweaver's Pattern Directory, which I have since purchased, along with Learning to Weave so that I can learn how to properly warp my little loom.
(I apologize for the fuzzy pictures; you'll have to trust me that the cloth looks really weave-y up close.)

The loom came with a very spiffy boat shuttle. In order to use the shuttle, I tried winding the yarn on to a little paper bobbin by hand, and immediately decided that I would have to find a better way.  Having blown a wad of cash on the loom itself, and with my trip to the money pit that is Rhinebeck a mere 12 days, 8 hours and 20 minutes away, buying a bobbin winder was out of the question. The answer? Let's hijack some unused toys from my kids. 

On my window sill you see what appears to be a wooden facsimile of a sewing machine.  But, with only minor modifications (which did not include having the dog chew on the top of the W.F.S.M.), this simple child's plaything became a bobbin winder. I admit that the handle is not exactly ergonomically correct, but this is about $95 cheaper than a commercial  bobbin winder and I'm not complaining.

In addition to some inspired toy piracy, the new loom sparked a "studio" (go ahead, laugh;  I can't take it seriously either) toss up.  I spent last week weaving in the living room with the loom perched on the coffee table.  (Are you wondering how I manage to squeeze weaving time into a week that is already pretty full of work and parenting and busting my boo-tocks to make dinner mostly on time?  My dirty little secret:  I weave while I listen to my daughter practice music.  Even better:  she plays two instruments.  Double weaving practice time!  There has never been a kid whose parent was so keen to supervise practice)  I didn't think it would be good to keep the loom in the living room permanently, plus I'm kind of uptight about wanting all of my crafting stuff around me all of the time.  So I moved my favorite table out of its hiding place in an inaccessible corner of my studio (really, it's o.k.; I'm still laughing too) and made this friendly little weaving corner:

There's room for me to sit at the loom, I can see my nice table much better, and I have my long-time pal Oren the orangutan guarding the yarn I spun during the Tour de Fleece this summer. 

The loom also makes a reasonably good display area for my current knitting project.


This is the Rhinebeck Sweater, from A Fine Fleece by Lisa Lloyd.  Coincidence that I am knitting it right now, with a mere 12 days, 7 hours and 50 minutes left before my departure for that grand experience?  I don't think so.  Any chance that I will have it done before the bus pulls out of the parking lot?  I don't think so.  But the sweater is moving right along.  I started it two weeks ago, while I was minding the fleece sale at the Finger Lakes Fiber Festival.  I am through the first 13 inches of the body and through more than a third of the upper back.  But there is still a bit left to go, and most likely I will be wearing something else for the festival.

I have also started the Oscilloscope Shawl, which for me will be more of a scarf.  I decided to try this in my Dream in Color Smooshy, which is being removed from my sock queue because I don't think that this yarn can stand up to my abuse if I turn it into a pair of socks.  The pattern is written for a worsted weight yarn, and substituting a sock yarn  will require me to knit many more repeats than the pattern actually calls for.  I hope I don't regret this. So far, it's a very enjoyable knit, or at least it would be if I were actually working on it instead of the Rhinebeck sweater.


With Rhinebeck now 13 minutes closer than it was the last time I mentioned it, I thought I should also celebrate the rapidly approaching first anniversary of my acquisition of this fabulous Socks that Rock yarn.  I got two skeins of this at Rhinebeck last year.  The first skein was a freebie I got at the end of the day from the generous people at The Fold, who were probably inexpressibly relieved that the morning throng of STR purchasers had finally gone away and been replaced by two festival weary (and cold!) women who had no clue what all the excitement was about.  The skein pictured below, which is actually mill ends and therefore only 2/3 of the price of the primo stuff, was what I purchased to thank the nice people at The Fold for the freebie.

I have been carrying it around with me since June.  It is very tightly spun and produces the most wonderfully sturdy and comfy feeling sock, but I'm finding that knitting it takes a bit more muscle than I can sustain for long period of time.  To conserve my strength, I have been knitting it in the smallest time increments possible, which often means that I don't knit it at all, but just carry it around with me in case there is absolutely nothing else I can do with my time.  To make up for my neglect, I have at least been toting this stuff around in a bag that I made from some very pretty fabric.  And, to keep the sock company, I have also been storing two pens, two pennies, a mini rubber band, a Lego wheel and axle, and a green satin American Girl doll slipper in the bag.  You never know when you might need these things and I like to be prepared.


I managed to spin another bobbin of my autumn batt. I meant to finish 8 bobbins of this stuff in July and totally failed.  At this point, though, I have only two bobbins left to spin and then I'll have a little ply-fest and then I'll have a lot of yarn. I'm hoping I'll have enough for this sweater.

(spinning wheel with bobbins of brownish stuff)

(last two bundles of brownish stuff waiting to be spun)

I did not spend the whole week on crafty stuff.  Last Saturday we took the kids to the Corning Museum of Glass.  The kids will probably remember the day for the thrill of the fire drill that caused a full evacuation of the building.  Or possibly for the hordes of tourists who trundled through the exhibits, all following informative guides who held pink umbrellas (closed, thank you) like beacons above their heads.  I hope they will also remember some of the amazing glass sculptures that we saw.  Some could not be photographed well enough to be posted, at least not with an iPhone.  But we did get a decent shot of this dress


and this totally funky pink urchin-y think suspended from the ceiling.


Matty and his new dog, Life Shadow (don't ask, we really have no explanation for the name; we're just glad that he has stopped trying to use it on the real dog) posed with some of the historical glass.


He almost looks like he was having fun in this picture, although if you ask him, he will no doubt tell you that the trip to the museum was the worst day ever, mostly because no one was willing to carry him for four whole hours.

Perhaps inspired by all the beauty at the museum, Isabel set up these home-made lava lamps:

They are for her class's trade fair this week, and they are really cool.  Oil, water, food coloring and, the surprise ingredient, Alka-Seltzer.  You know, for the bubbles (plop plop, fizz fizz?). They work pretty well, and you can add a quarter of an Alka-Seltzer any time you want to watch it go.

Rhinebeck is now a full 33 minutes closer that it was the last time that I mentioned it, so I think I'd better get some sleep.  And work on my sweater some more.  Though not necessarily in that order.