Thursday, January 26, 2012

Well, it seems like it's either feast or famine around here. One month I won't go away and the next I've got nothing at all to say.  One of the benefits of NaPloPoMo (curse its ever-present nagging!) is that I was always looking for the next thing to write about, a habit I dumped --with obvious consequences--as soon as the 31st rolled around. 

What, you might well wonder, have I been doing this month?  

First, we have been watching birds.  We set up feeders in the back yard and, should I bother during breakfast to look up from my book (Out of Oz, right now; yes, I'm enjoying it, but I'm parcelling it out in small doses so it's not over too soon), I can watch the birdies.  There is even a pair of binoculars on the table if I want a better view.  These are not our best binoculars, which hid first under an extra pillow I use to support my iPad when I'm sitting in bed (I keep the pillow on the floor normally, right on top of the binoculars), and then--after I discovered them next to my side of the bed and issued apologies to everyone who had been accused of concealing them-- hid in plain sight on top of my dresser and still have not made their way down to the table where they might be of some use.  But they do give me a slightly better view of the birds, as does the camera, although that doesn't help me until I put the pictures on the computer and blow them up big enough to see.

In addition to the jays, we have our usual chickadees, a very red cardinal, a wood pecker, and several bluebirds, but no pictures of them.

The rest of the bird watching is done here:

The chickens are up to their usual tricks, which is to say they spend the day pecking at the dirt and wandering in and out of the coop.

If they haven't seen snow in a few weeks, they tend to forget about it and then the next time it snows they are shocked and spend most of the day trying to decide if it's safe to go outside. If you look beyond all the chicken wire, you can see Laverne (or Shirley, I forget which and they don't seem to know either) standing in the doorway unwilling to venture out into this strange white world.

Her sisters didn't have the same problem,

but you can tell they are disappointed that there are no snacks hiding in the snow.

They are over their solstice blues, though, and egg production is back in full swing.  We are averaging 4 eggs a day and I've started using them as a dinner staple again instead of hoarding them like precious jewels.

Winter has also brought on a manic need to knit.  I spent the first week of the year obsessively cataloging and listing and ordering all the projects I intended to finish this year.  I prioritized them and set monthly goals and printed up a chart to fill in along the way, and when I was done with this New Year's organizational party, I started knitting.

January's goals were to finish Sullivan, which you can see below.

It is all done except for the blocking and-inexplicably- the clasp.  I was sure that I bought a pewter clasp at Hemlock this year, but I can't find it any where. I have also lost track of the magic thingy that helps me thread drawstrings through waistbands after they get pulled out in the wash, which might explain why my children have stopped wearing their sweatpants.  But that's not important.  The point is that I will be going out tomorrow to hunt for a decent clasp or pin for the sweater, and my mother has promised me that as soon as I do this, I will find the pewter clasp.  So all will be well.

Goal 2 was to keep up with the mystery knit-along, and I have done that:

We are now three clues in and I am anxiously awaiting the go-ahead to add more beads.  It turns out that I adore them and I'm starting to wonder what else I could decorate with these glassy marvels.

Goal 3 was to knit another skein worth of yarn into my Ugly Duckling Afghan.  This is the project that I started out of spite when I ordered three skeins of yarn in a color that looks like barf.  I am now in possession of 9 skeins of it and you can see below how much I have left to knit this month. Yay me.

In fact, I am feeling so optimistic about meeting my knitting goals, that I cast on for a bonus project, which is this marvelous little bandana shaped cowl-thingy.

The only thing left on my list (aside from some random weaving, which I have totally neglected this month) is some spinning.  But I still have 5 days left, and I'm off work for a bit, so I might even get that done too.  In the mean time, it is impossibly late and my husband is wondering if I know that my children are still awake.  I wonder what his children are doing?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

In Stitches

It's a little cold here:  15 degrees.  Not quite so cold that we couldn't possibly go out (I feel compelled to say this, having just learned that a friend of mine spent the afternoon xc skiing and I don't want to look like a total wimp), but cold enough that we didn't really want to go out.  We were out all day yesterday and we'll be out for large parts of tomorrow, and today, bless its little heart, was the perfect jammy day.

Everyone had a different agenda.  Most of it involved TV and butt-sitting. Mine involved knitting.

It turns out that, if you spend the entire day at it, you can get a whole lot of knitting done.  6,720 stitches, to be exact.  You can also develop a numb spot in your behiney, but that's easily solved by getting up for snacks now and then, which I recommend.

Here is photographic evidence of my diligence today:

This is part of the mystery knit along that I'm doing.  We got the second clue today, which gave me 8 more rows to work.  If you look closely below, you can even see the little blue beads I chose for this yarn.

I'm very fond of them.  I have a second yarn I'm using for a larger version of the same knit along; I'll work on that tomorrow.

Here is the Sullivan sweater.  Yesterday it was two partial sleeves and a body; today I am more than 1/3 of the way through the yoke.  I am just about to start the neck shaping and the sleeve shaping is ongoing, so the rows are getting shorter and shorter, if by shorter you understand that I mean they now have fewer than 264 stitches each.

I would like to be done with this by the end of the week.  Like I said, it got cold here and I could use another sweater. Since it's only 9:00, I'm going to get back to work on it and see if I can knit until my hands cramp.  Shouldn't be long now . . .

Friday, January 6, 2012

In Which I Weave the Place Mats of Bitter Disappointment

I am not yet an expert weaver.  I know this because I have really just started weaving and it's a complicated game and there is a lot left to learn.  So I didn't expect perfection out of this project, which is only the third project I have woven on my floor loom.  At the same time, I chose the project carefully and worked with a user-friendly yarn (3/2 cotton, if you care) and kept careful records to make sure I was following the instructions, even though it took me 6 months to weave six measly place mats. And I was really excited to finish these because I have never, ever had a matching set of six place mats and I'm really tired of only having the option of "artfully mismatched" mats on my table.

So last week, after I got a little impatient with the whole slow cloth experience and decided to bust through the last placemat (and a little bonus mat made out of the extra warp that was, amazingly, still available on the loom), I took a whole whack of pictures.  Because I was really excited.

Here is the last mat; I had already started to cut the warp off the loom, which is why everything looks so saggy.

This is a shot of the cloth beam, which is where the loom stores the roll-o-finished place mats.

Here is the entire length of place mats laid out on my couch.  For reference, the couch is about 82 inches wide.

The next three show the three different patterns that I wove, two mats in each pattern.  All of the patterns are similar.  I know I harped about having matching placemats before, but I couldn't decide which of the three patterns to weave and I am realistic enough to know that I wasn't going to be happy weaving six of the same thing anyway, so I made thematically related placemats instead.

And here is where I prove that I am as much of a rookie as ever:

I have lined up three placemats for reference, one of each of the different patterns. Do we see the problem?

Same color: check.

Same design: check.

Same size:  FAIL!

DUH!!! How could I not realize that 18 repeats of one pattern would not necessarily create the same amount of cloth as 18 repeats of another? I already know that in knitting, different stitch combinations make different sizes, so why did I fail to transfer that knowledge to weaving?  Add in the fact that the open and lacy pattern condenses more than the others after washing (it seems so painfully obvious now), and what I have woven is not a set of six mats, but three pairs of off-white placemats.



I can only hope that it is true that we learn more from our mistakes than we do from our successes.  If so, then at least I am smarter, even if I am incapable of making six matching place mats.

In the mean time, my next weaving goal is to finish the towels I started on my table loom last year.  At least, I think they are supposed to towels.  There is a cryptic note in my plans referring to them as place mats, but I don't think I'm ready to go there just yet, so I will keep thinking of them as towels.  Once I finish them, all three looms will be empty.  I know I will set the rigid heddle loom up for another pair of Bronson Check place mats.  I'm very fond of the first pair that I made, which match each other nicely, and I'm equally keen to use up the cotton that I've accumulated.


I also plan to make some form of towels on the floor loom.  The great news is that the towels don't have to be the same size, since I don't usually keep all of them out at once.  Not that this matters, because the only thing that will vary from towel to towel is the color of the weft, and that is unlikely to cause a whole lot of variation in the size of the towels.  They'll probably look like little clones of each other, and then I'll be really bitter.

Not much else to report.  In knitting, I have finished the first sleeve on my Sullivan sweater.  I started the second sleeve at the barn today, but a few rows in I realized that I had lost a stitch somewhere and had to undo most of my work (though not the i-cord cast on, for which I am extremely grateful since it is a big, hairy pain in the butt to do).  In spinning, I am working my way through two four-ounce bundles of this polwarth roving,


 which my children and my cat


loved so much last year that they couldn't stop touching it.  Each bundle will be used to make a skein of three ply yarn, and I'm on the second the the three bobbins I have to spin from the first bundle.  Not a ton of progress, I admit, but more will come.

Ah, poo!  Who cares anyway; I can't even make matching placemats.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

In Which We Fear the Tooth Fairy

Guess who lost his first tooth last weekend? 

 I came home from a walk (it was in the 40s here on New Year's Eve; how weird is that?) and discovered that the tooth had vanished without a trace.  We think it was removed by an apple fritter,* but the evidence--apart from one left over section with some incriminating pink spots on it-- had been eaten and there is no way to know for sure where the little pearly white went.

As soon as the first thrill of losing a tooth wore off, the questions began:

1. When will I get my present?
--Our tooth fairy doesn't give presents, s/he** usually  leaves money.
2. How much will I get?
--I think the going rate is a few bucks.
3. When will I get my money?
--The tooth fairy will leave it under your pillow. Usually you leave your tooth there and there's a trade, but since you don't have the tooth, you'll have to write a note explaining things.
4. Will I see the tooth fairy?
--No one here has ever seen the tooth fairy.  S/he doesn't come until you're asleep.

Silly me.  I forgot again.  Matty's official position is that he doesn't sleep.  He doesn't care for sleep.  It gives him nightmares.  Instead, he lies down at night and, regardless of the incontrovertible fact that he wakes up in the morning (and never reports any unsettling dreams), he will forever insist that he has not slept.  Which left him in a bit of a pickle.  Sleep and risk the onset of bad dreams, or stay awake and forfeit the hard, cold cash?

He chose to ignore both options and negotiate instead.

--Well, I don't know if you have to sleep. Maybe you could just close your eyes like usual.
--(Damn, he's figured that out.) Well, the tooth fairy can't come if s/he thinks you'll see her/him.  Couldn't you close your eyes a little bit?
3. (pause) NO!!!!!!!
--Well, do you ever see anything at night?
4. (sniff)  No.
--And what do you do all night?
5. (sniff) I'm just there.
--Maybe you could do that.  The same thing as always, just be there, and no looking for the tooth fairy.  O.K.?
6.  O.K.
7. (great big teary brown eyes) But can I sleep in your room?

And it worked.

No sleeping, no nightmares, no illegal tooth fairy sightings, and two dollars under the pillow.  

The tooth fairy even saved me the note:

It says, in essence:  "Dear Tooth fairy:  I lost my tooth and now I can't find my tooth and I wish I didn't lose my first tooth.  From Matthew"

He was too excited to put the money away, so he held it while he watched TV.

A little while later, he decided that no one was coming to take the money back and he agreed to 'deposit' it in the incredibly loud electronic ATM bank we mistakenly got him for Chanukah. The bank keeps track of your deposits, and Matty thought it was so much fun putting the two dollars in (it has one of those little slots that sucks up your bills, just like a vending machine) that he put them in a few more times for good measure and now the ATM thinks he has eight dollars instead of two. For the sake of the general public, I plan to steer him away from a career in finance.

In minor knitting news, I have decided to join another mystery knit along.  I wasn't too pleased with the results of the last one, but this KAL is being run by the woman who designed the Annis shawl/scarfy thing that I just finished and I think it will turn out better.  The new design will involve beads, which is a bit wild and crazy for me.  You can blame the bling on the shortage of daylight.

The pattern is written for two different finished sizes depending on whether you use lace or fingering weight yarn.  I happened to have the right amount of both weights and no capacity to make decisions, so I will be knitting two mystery shawls, because I'm stupid that way.

Bead shopping was an event unto itself.  I tend to knock things over, so I spent my time in the bead shop under great stress and moving veeerryy slloooowwwllyy to avoid any unintended disasters.

Here are the results:

I hope the KAL starts soon.  Now that I'm signed up, I'm tired of waiting for everyone else.

*The tooth-apple connection is an inherited trait.  I lost my first tooth in an apple and so did Nate.  Matty's dietary preferences do not currently include apples, so an apple fritter was the best substitute available.

**The tooth fairy remains a mysterious figure here.  Short, tall? Male, female? Magical or fictitious?  It's all hidden from us.  And what does s/he do with all the teeth?