Thursday, September 30, 2010

I've got mail: Day 6 & 7

I've caught that cold that everyone else in the tri-state area seems to have, so I've fallen behind on my swap blogging duties. My copilot was kind enough to snap some photos for me while I languish on the couch. I present Day 6 and 7 combined:

Mmmm delicious Tar Heel coffee....

I was perplexed by these at first...then I realized they were handmade magnets. Very clever!

And some buttons. I LOVE buttons. Probably unhealthily so. It's my cross to bear.

And so concludes my coverage of the Blog Hub Swap. Another big thanks to Sara for an awesome parcel! If you'd like to check out the reaction of the gal who received my package, you can find her here. She is graciously pretending to like the crap that I sent her.

Monday, September 27, 2010

I've got mail: Day 5

I'm not much of a weekend blogger, so I saved my musings on my 5th and 6th packages from the Blog Hub Swap for weekdays (I didn't wait to open them, of course). Day 5, holy smokes. I sequestered myself in the pantry for the ritual unwrapping (as one does), as the goodies were revealed I'm pretty sure unintelligible noises starting coming out of my mouth; then I came bursting out, waving a skein in each hand and demanding, "Look at this LOOK AT THIS!!!" to a baffled copilot.

Sock yarn from New Zealand, in the possum-merino blend I raved about during the Knit and Crochet Blog Week.

You know how sometimes people get so excited on the internet that they can't seem to reliably hit the shift-key? !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1!!!!!1!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11111111!!!!!!!!!!1!!!1 Yeah, it was kind of like that. I LOVE this stuff. It's so airy and lightweight, yet so warm! And better yet, it reminds me of the wonderful time I spent in NZ on my honeymoon.

(Total sidenote: Listening to Bob and Tom last week, they mentioned a news story about a New Zealand school that was getting heat for sponsoring a "possum throwing" contest. It was pretty much exactly what you would imagine from the name. Apparently PETA was not happy.)

Speaking of honeymoons and spouses and such, I've also been working over the past few days on a little project to help keep my copilot warm. (Second sidenote: I'm totally comfortable referring to him as my husband at this point--it's been over a year--but using the term copilot still amuses me.) Last winter, I bought some sock yarn for myself and the copilot from a neat little shop in Truckee, CA called Lake Tahoe Yarn Company. I had every intention of turning them into socks, then somehow my skein turned into this, and inspired by that, I guess, I decided to make his into gloves as well. He's not all about the fancy-shmancy stuff, so the pattern is straightforward and simple.

He hadn't been home to try on the work-in-progress until I was halfway through the index finger (thumb completed), but as soon as he did, it was clear that the thumb wasn't in the correct place. Indeed, it gave him some artificial webbing between his thumb and index finger. Unconvinced by my claims that it would help his swimming abilities, he requested a modified fit. As I unraveled the work there were numerous apologies for the inconvenience, and I may have amped up the drama a bit with some theatrical sighing, but this is part of the appeal of knitting for me. You have the ability to create something that uniquely fits. And it looks great:

His conclusion: "It's so weird...I've never had a pair of gloves that actually fit my fingers before." That right there is one of the big reasons that knitting is so sweet.

Friday, September 24, 2010

I've got mail: Day 4

Holy flippin' huge needles, Batman!

My favorite brand of needles, Takumi Bamboo, in a whopping size 15 for the slippers project. And of course, an accompanying tube of puff paint for the treads (my swap partner is a clever girl).

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I've got mail: Day 3

Today's package: a squishy, soft wool yarn that fills me with warm feelings. And, it's cleverly matched with a pattern for felted slippers. I've been wanting to try felting for a while now, so I am all over this. I'm also starting to feel that the package I've put together is inadequate...but it's all ready to go, to be sent out later today (or tomorrow, depending upon the level of procrastination).

I put everything on a high shelf for safekeeping, and made a run to the local pet supplies store on the next block to restock on dog food and chew sticks. I literally ran. I didn't think that anything was in the dog zone, but I was taking no chances.

Now, you guys are going to think that I'm a complete moron at this point (when is she going to learn???), but I swear, he couldn't reach this shelf before and his front leg is broken in like twelve (OK three, but still) places. But see for yourself...

Flippin' crippled Houdini managed to find and bust into the yarn package. I'm pretty sure he can smell yarn at this point. I was mortified. The yarn is fine, but it's all disheveled and doesn't represent the true glory of htNevele. Very fortunately, I happened to treat myself to a skein of the same yarn, but in a different color. Phew!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I've got mail: Day 2

I can't seem to find my camera's memory card to visually document my second item. I've been teetering on the edge of meltdown this week (and crud, it's only Wed.). I don't like to bring negativity to the interwebs (Jebus knows it has enough of that already), but well, look:

Don't you give me the stink eye. You wouldn't be in the cone of shame if you didn't consistently try to chew off your stabilizer.

Sammy had surgery last Friday (9 hours of it) to try to correct a gap in his elbow joint that developed as a result of some puppyhood injury that occurred before we adopted him. The red thing on his (shaven and kind of ridiculous looking) left leg is a skeletal fixator to try to stretch out his bone. We have to keep the pins clean and change his bandages daily-a two person job-and my copilot learned at the last minute that he had to go out to the client site for work. The client site in Seattle. So, I'm sequestered with ol' cripple and tending for him mostly solo, with some wonderful help from one of my friends with the bandage changing. If you're reading this, YOU'RE A LIFESAVER.

But the swap package could not have arrived at a better time. Every time I get too stressed out, I can go in the pantry and treat myself to a little knitting surprise. Last night it was a copy of the fall issue of Interweave Knits--I love having books with patterns, so why in the world have I never looked into knitting magazines? It's perfect! It also has a sweet hat pattern that calls for my Malabrigo yarn. I was thinking hat...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I've got mail: Day 1

While I was away attending Mystery Wedding last weekend, a package arrived for me. My copilot went down to check the mail the evening we returned home, with parting words from me, "Why bother? We never get anything good anyway." Next time I'm going to try, "Why bother? Daniel Craig is never down there waiting to make out with me."

My blog swap partner is the lovely Sara of North Carolina. You can check out her exploits at Wool Durham. Lovely stuff!

I kind of wanted to open everything.

But I resisted, and obediently followed the numbering on the items. Item #1 contained sheer awesomeness:

OK, so I've heard a lot about this stuff. It seems like people wet their pants and/or will exchange their firstborns over Malabrigo yarn, so I'm pumped to see for myself what the fuss is about! It is quite soft....

Monday, September 20, 2010

Adventures in blocking

Confession: I'm terrible at blocking my knitted work. Explanation for my non-knitted readers - blocking is a 'finishing' process for a knitted item. When you knit something by hand, the stresses in the fabric may not be entirely equal; this can result in curling, twisting, and any other number of unfortunate side effects that can make your lovely item look like a wrinkled old piece of garbage. Blocking usually involves wetting the item with water, pinning it in the desired finished dimensions, and letting it dry. Doesn't this seem like a stupid part of the knitting process to be bad at? Does anyone else consistently have trouble with blocking, or is it just me??

I came to a sudden realization last Wednesday: the wedding that I was knitting Mystery Wedding Project for was only three days away. Now I'd long given up on getting MWP done in time, but I did want to finish my shawl so I could show off the hand-knits a little bit. All I needed to do was block.

I collected some advice from some of the ladies in the shawl-KAL, and based on their suggestions a (half-baked) plan began to brew - instead of using a million pins, I would make a wire frame. First, I picked up some low-gauge stainless steel wire from the local hardware store:

I washed the heck out of it, since it probably had residual oil and grime from the production process. I couldn't resist playing with it a little bit:

Fun for a girl and a boy! And a dog, apparently.

The first setback was the fact that the wire did not want to keep any shape but a coil. I applied my materials engineering knowledge to something useful (for once): the wire needed to be 'work hardened' before it would be useful. Basically, work hardening is the concept that a metal becomes stronger when you do 'work' on it.

In this case, I used my hands to bend the wire back and forth, and when those got tired:

Wrenches! I used the wrenches to pull small sections of the wire straight. With the wire primed, I bent it into a rectangle measuring 60" x 20". I fed the shawl onto the frame in a 'running stitch' style - basically passing the wire over/under the selvage stitches:


I did break down and use a few pins to hold the frame steady.

I moistened the fabric using a spray bottle filled with water. It dried within the course of a few hours.

Did it work? It did!

I couldn't really believe I had produced something so delicate (me = bull in a china shop).

Would I do it again? I would, but with the caveat that I'm really glad that I don't have to do the work hardening of the wire again--it took a while, and if I was to do it again, I would work with the wire long before I was ready to actually block the shawl, just to break up the tedium a little bit.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Yarn score

I'm still working on perfecting my swap parcel. I want to give my swap-ee some tastes of Madison, at least my little area of it (read: totally hippie, or crunchy granola if you will). One of my favorite yarn gurus is a local gal who used to sell her yarn, htNEVELE through the now defunct LYS. I used a skein of her sock yarn to construct my very first pair of socks, which also happen to be my favorite pair of socks:

As my swap-ee is a sock yarn lover, I knew I just had to get her some. But how to obtain it, now that the LYS is an S&M boutique or a sausage factory or whatever it was they turned it into? I found her website on her Rav profile, and shot her an email to ask what the lead time is on getting the yarn after ordering. I still have a fair amount of time before the swap deadline, but better safe than sorry.

She kindly offered to meet me, seeing as how we are both Madison-ites and even live in the same crunchy granola area. Where and when to meet? It felt a little like a drug drop. I pictured us meeting in a dark parking lot, pulling up our cars next to each other. However, we (probably wisely) selected a nearby coffeeshop at sunny noon-time. Now, I won't show you what I got for the parcel, just in case, but I couldn't help getting a little goods for myself:

I had to make her trip worth her while, of course. Mmmm, drool worthy.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Oh, (cold) snap!

As my commenters so wisely predicted, a chance to wear my (relatively) newly minted fingerless mitts would come sooner rather than later. The first chill came on Friday, and I took the mitts for a test drive at their 'intended' use: typing. I started them during a time when I was a visitor in a very chilly lab. I wanted to keep my hands warm, but I needed my fingers so I could still type for important work stuff like blogging, as well as knitting while my experiments run.

Of course I didn't complete them until after I'd returned home, but they are indeed good little typing mitts. I gave them another test drive this morning as bike commuting mitts, and again, awesome-ness. I love 'em! I'll try and find out if the designer ever published the pattern, if anyone is interested (they were a test knit).

I also started suffering under the delusion this week that I might finish Mystery Wedding Project on time. Two months ago, it became clear that the only way that I was going to complete MWP by deadline was to go through one skein a week, and that certainly hasn't been happening. The reason it seems possible, methinks, is that I only have three panels left to complete--however, these are big-ass panels compared to the previous ones. But only three! That sounds doable, right? The pile of skeins that aren't even wound yet says no. I'm reminded of this Dilbert comic:

Since I haven't achieved any of that (yet), my idea is to take a picture of what I have and put it in a card, possibly with a sample of yarn. What are your thoughts on that? Any other ideas?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Monday, I worked from home. I've left the wild beast to roam the homestead while I've gone to work before, but I didn't have any work that couldn't be done remotely so I figured I'd stay home and keep him company (and vice versa, of course).

That evening, I started on a lil' something for my partner in the swap I'm participating in through The Blog Hub group on Ravelry. If you've never heard of such a thing, it's kind of like doing a Secret Santa drawing, but in this case just for the fun of it. I'm not sure if my swap-ee reads my blog, so I'll refrain from revealing what it is for now (don't let the intrigue fool you, it's not that cool). It's a double-blind-esque swap, so the person I'm sending stuff to is not the person sending stuff to me. Mystery! This is my first swap, and I'm really enjoying it so far. I love to get stuff in the mail, and I like to try to find stuff that I think other people will get a kick out of.

One of my buddies successfully defended his doctoral thesis that morning, so naturally we had to go celebrate. I put my knitting supplies up onto the counter top that was theoretically out of the dog zone (aka the places that the beast can reach, the DZ for short). I had three different kinds of yarn and a circular needle.

I arrived back home a few hours later after several rounds of delicious burgers and brews to find a veritable explosion of yarn. This is the epicenter:

Here it goes, trailing into oblivion:

Sorry about the lousy photo, but it's not a brightly lit room. It's not like I'm going for the Photography Pulitzer here, you get the idea. This kind of thing was trailing off in every direction. Random sections of the yarn were crusted with dried slobber.

The yarn wasn't the only casualty:

So, I went through and trimmed out all the contaminated areas and tried to put everything back into three balls. I'm thinking that my object is just going to switch colors at random times, since the yarn is cotton and ergo can't be spit spliced back together. But, it was the strangest thing, one color of yarn that I was sure I had collected went missing.

Now, I'd planned on posting this yesterday, but Tuesday's beast escapades left me too sour to find the humor involved. After the events of the previous evening, I was concerned that Sammy was feeling bored and hence getting himself into trouble. I took him swimming that morning at a nearby WI state park, thinking that a super fun car ride + extra exercise + fun stuff to sniff would keep him satisfied through the four flippin' hours I was going to be gone. I loaded up a toy with food for him to coax out, and even left a bully stick to chew on.

I will not describe the crimes that were perpetrated against the carpet and the beast's own digestive system, because they are too repulsive for polite conversation. Suffice it to say that I was none too pleased when I arrived home from work. I don't even know where he found my US8 bamboo dpns, but four of them were destroyed and the fifth missing and presumed consumed. I didn't take any pictures of the carnage, because at this point I was mostly just trying to refrain from anything that would get Animal Control and/or charges of animal cruelty involved (kidding...mostly). And I still couldn't find that damn third color of yarn from the day before.

I spent the evening harumph-ing around. It's all fun and games until the handknits and bodily functions get involved. How was I supposed to know the DZ was ever-expanding? I thought we were making progress! And where the heck is that yarn?!

I finally noticed Sammy sitting happily in the recliner, chewing on a strand of something. Hey! There's the missing yarn! He willingly dropped it out of his mouth and wagged his behind. Good pup. Yeah, we're cool.