Saturday, December 23, 2006

In which I am not at the disco

But I'm still in a panic.

I spent yesterday in my comfy chair cross-stitching in a frenzy. A FRENZY. This is never a good thing. In my crafty haste, I mis-stitched three separate sections and found myself digging through the rumble that is now my craft room (sorry Miss Angela... the neatness only lasted until just recently...), looking for both my embroidery snips and my stitch-fixer tool. Even with a solid 6 hours of cross-stitching, I'm still nowhere near done this project. I showed Mike my progress when he got home from work (earlier than usual, but apparently he still clocked 3 or so hours of OT since the business closed up at 12) and he said, "Cool! You're almost done!"

Almost done my ass. The sweet dear doesn't realize that what's left is about 3 hours of backstitching, along with about 3 hours of stitching--PROVIDED I HAVE THE RIGHT FLOSS. Oi Oi Oi Oi. I cannot exclaim enough! This kit has been among the worst kits ever.

If all I had left to do was the cross-stitch for my mom-mom, I wouldn't be freaking out in my platform boots. But, of course, there are a number of things left to do: knitting project for the B.U.M., 4-5 bottles of cheer for the 4-5 men on my list (I keep waffling about the one man, though I think now I'm going with a bottle of Pimm's No. 1 for him), wrap, take photos, take a few shots of us for his parents, pack, travel.

That doesn't seem like TOO much, but tonight we're entertaining our neighbors and her out-of-town father (from SINGAPORE. Dude wins.). Tomorrow morning we're going to Christmas Eve morning services. And we've got to be in Delaware, over an hour away, sometime around 3.

Even though my last post professed my love of the "letting go" philosophy, I think I'm still semi-stressed from last night. I tried to save a couple hundred bucks by renting a car from a non-Center City location; and while this morning, everything's worked out, there were a few moments between 6 and 7:15 last night when I was certain my smilin' face was going to be on the 11 o'clock news: "Breaking news: Girl loses her shit at the Hertz counter".

Wet, tired, grumpy, and hungry seldom make for a happy customer. But, discounts and free additional drivers do wonders to improve one's spirits. After that, Mike and I zipped along 63 West to 309 North* where we goopily ate nachos, salads, and andouille pizza (well, the pizza was just him...) at Iron Hill before hitting the Mall. Between the restaurant and three stores we visited in the mall, we managed to get gifts for 6 people--and our time in the mall? Less than 30 minutes. THAT'S nice.

Mike is off shopping today. I volunteered to go with him since I'm obviously so good at shopping (I do know how to pick the right gift**), but he shot that idea down immediately, pointing out that 1. he was shopping for me, and 2. I had to work today.

Finally, for those of you that eBay more frequently than me: what would you think if, after not receiving an item that allegedly shipped out around December 6, you contact the seller and the seller replies, "I shipped that on 12/6--the postman must have lost it. I'll send another right away...":

  1. The seller is a jolly old soul.
  2. The seller realized upon receipt of my email that the uncomfortable feeling he had when sitting was the direct result of having shoved my package up his ass.
  3. The postman is a thief!

*Conversation from last night, as I drove in the rain:

"How's your night vision, Mike?"
"Pretty good, why?"
"I can't see shit!"
"Want me to drive?"
"After we eat--there's no where to pull over... (at least that I can see)"

Few miles later...
"Why's that guy flashing you? Do you have your high-beams on?"
*fiddles with the lights*
"Uh... nevermind about the night vision thing... I didn't have my lights on...."

**With one exception: I bought something for Mike for Christmas that is... stupid. And I don't mean stupid in a cute way or stupid like the old Michael Jackson meant bad or stupid the way some kids these days say something is sick and mean, "Yo, that's fly. Werd." No, I mean stupid in "Why did I not look before clicking, and there's no way I can return this because nobody will want it. I don't even want it, but I'm stuck with it. Why didn't the store have a pop-up when I clicked to buy the item online that said something like, 'Yo, idiot-girl. Take a look at the package in the photo. You really sure you wanna buy this?' Hell, why did the store even offer this item since, really, it's of no use to anyone, especially since by the time he opens it, it'll be about to expire in less than a week....

Anyone that can guess the item gets a prize.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Deconstructing Eddie

Here is a finished object:



But--it's not what you think! This is not a finished object in terms of "look what I knit". No. This is a finished object in terms of IT HAS REACHED THE END OF ITS LIFE:



What we're looking at here, people, is the end of my rope. After being a faithful and loyal Eddie Bauer customer, I find that I have to quit this store. There have been far too many defects in quality, though in instances past, Eddie Bauer stood 100% behind its merchandise. When I attempted to return this item, I was met by an argumentative and downright nasty manager who all but accused me of trying to steal from the store. I notified the company's customer service department, but only learned that while they apologize for the attitude of their employee, they no longer have the same guarantee. Where once I could have returned the defective item for a full refund, they now can only accept returns with receipts. And I do admit--that's understandable--people DO abuse the returns policy. And, I'd gladly take my damaged sweater home and cry in my cereal if what I was trying to return was an item that had suffered normal wear and tear.

But this is an item that has been cared for: washing on the right cycle, drying at the right temperature, hung in a closet with cedar blocks. It makes no sense that the garment should develop at hole below the raglan shoulder seam when the rest of the sweater is in near-perfect condition:



I liked this sweater--the yarn had a nice drape without being slouchy, the ribbing adding some shaping, and the color was perfect.




After exhausting my case with Eddie Bauer's Office of the CEO, I'm just going to cut my losses. It's clear that the store no longer provides the quality of merchandise it once did: the fact that 4 items in the last two years have somehow failed or otherwise disappointed me can not be coincidence. Add to that the reduced guarantee--three of the four unsatisfactory items were returned with minimum questions asked and I was refunded the full price on each--and I'm not exactly eager to pay upwards of $70 on a sweater that might not last longer than a year. Especially when that same $70 could get me a small stash of sweater yarn!

And so as to not be completely negative, here's another shot of the snuggle-kitty:

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Final Countdown

Why do we do this to ourselves, fellow craftsters? You know what I'm talking about--we all start January breathing a sigh of relief that the crazy holidays and the related stressfulness of holiday crafting are a week behind us. We might even vow--next year? Next year, everyone gets Best Buy gift cards, heartfelt creations be damned! And yet, next year gets here and you know what happens, right? The siren call, the need for speed, the craving for that feeling of the needle, and before we know it, we're knee-deep once again in UFOs without much in the way of 24/7s.

And so it is that December 17 finds me furiously knitting a pair of wrist warmers, in between cross-stitching on the seasonal tea cups, and just before I start in on my next dozen or so pairs of hand-crafted earrings. Thank goodness for the craftiness of the Booger Grammy--otherwise, I'd still be working on Christmas '05.

Unrelated, here's a drink that I can seriously NOT recommend: Crystal Light Lemonade, tequila, and triple sec. I called it a white trash margarita, and boy howdy, did I feel white and trashy after having about 6 of those drinks...

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

In the middle

In between the TurkeyChickenDay feasting and the delicious risotto, there was some craftin' in the Land of Sparks*:



Slowly but surely I'm working on the seasonal teacups. I'm nearly finished summer (just backstitching, and I ran out of the bloody floss), and some of the greens in spring (again, floss issues). I can only work on this one for an hour or so at a time. It's worked in-hand, which is to say, without using a hoop or Q-snaps. At a scant 3 inches wide, it's sometimes difficult to both support the fabric and keep the stitching area taut. I've learned that when I cross-stitch, I tend to support the hooped or 'snapped piece with my forearm or in the crook of my elbow, freeing both hands so that I can stitch faster--that's right, I cross-stitch ambidexterously and I often favor my left hand over my right.

The finishing on this piece will be easy-peasy: it's to be mounted on two dowels (already supplied) and then a neat seam can be hand-stitched. Knowing that the finishing is going to take less than half an hour is a huge motivator. That, and the fact that this is a Christmas gift...

Next up is my idiot knitting:



This is a blanket that I'm knitting diagonally (think: Clapotis, without purposely dropped stitches) using yarn that I got in a trade with...Lauren...back when I was the blogger known as Sparkomatic. Anyway, it's GGH Relax and it's in a positively delightful mix of sage-y limes and aubergine. When it's finished, it's going to be the perfect traveling blankey, too, because it packs down to such a small ball of fluff that it's unbelievable. Someone should definitely alert the folks at hoity-toity shops on the Main Line. In all seriousness, this is going to be The Craft Room blanket. I already sense the cat and I coming to blows over this.

Christmas '06 is nearly here and I'm still working on Christmas '05:



This here is a simple feather and fan blanket that's for the in-laws. It started out as an experiment in crochet and promptly sat in the WIP basket for the majority of the year, until just recently when guilt dirtied my knitterly soul and I knew, just KNEW, that I couldn't call myself a knitter and have this remain unfinished. The poor blanket went through several renditions--I was so desperate at one point that I actually tried knitting a garter stitch blanket holding 4 strands together. Having done that I can now say it is remarkably stupid, unless you have a plan more definite than cast-on and knit until done.

In other cross-stitch news, I'm one project closer to hauling home new stash come Hershey '07:



Nothing much more to say about this little gem other than it has become my personal motto these last few months. And it makes me happy to have a finished object around the house.

Moving back to yarn-y endeavors, I've done some spinning. I am aiming for a thick and thin single ply, and so far, so good:



Granted, there's not much there in terms of yardage, but there is more good than bad in that little hank. My dear friend Anj had me over last week and after gorging ourselves on La Lupe, she let me take her old spinning wheel for a, er, spin. She also quickly diagnosed the problem with my drop spindle (which is what I used to spin the yarn in that picture up there): it wants a lighter yarn than my flecked and bulky fleece:



What's on the spindle there is some BFL in cobwebby single ply. What I can't show you is the BFL I practiced with while at Anj's place nor can I show you the fleece of my own that I spun on Anj's wheel. However, Miss Anj is gracing my house with her presence next week and she's promised to bring along the old wheel and my progress so far. On the list of things to get, I suppose, would be a drop spindle suited for heavier yarns.

Finally, a little stash reduction:



10 balls of some Jiffy yarn. I'm looking for a trade (hmm, perhaps a spindle?), though money's always nice. The yarn retails around $2.50 a ball, but I'll sell all ten for $20 (or, of course, comparable trade). Anyway, this is fluffy mohair-y yarn that is super soft and 100% acrylic. Discontinued color Boston (mixed grey, dark teal, forest green) that I bought oh-so-long ago. I always intended to make some sort of hoodie out of it, but then just never did. If you're interested, leave a comment or email me directly: htsparks at gmail dot com.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Sunday's leftovers

After a fantastic dinner Friday night at a newer and somewhat amazingly posh restaurant in my hometown (I had a chicken and asparagus risotto that was to freakin' die for), I just knew I had to make a risotto myself. With a pound of already cubed and roasted butternut squash and some smoked chicken leftover from Thanksgiving, all I needed was some parmesan and some Arborio riso to complete the dish. A less-than-quick jaunt on the MC later, a half hour or so in the kitchen, and presto:



I made enough that I had some for dinner tonight and I'll probably have some more for lunch tomorrow. It's so good, though, that I could eat this for a week and not get bored.

Next up on the risotto menu: parmesan, tomato, and garlic risotto. If that turns out as nicely as the squash dish, I'll post about that one, too.

Four days of nothing

For the first Thanksgiving in years--if not ever--dinner did not end with my father cocking an ear towards the darkening outside and whispering, "What's that? Do you hear it? That... sound? IT'S THE TURKEY HEADS!!!! THEY'RE HERE FOR THEIR BODIES!!!!" Not to say that Mike and I didn't discuss this 30 year old tradition, but we were occupied with other things, like smoking our 8-pound bundle of chicken-lovin':



We went with hickory chips (the choices in stores were rather slim: hickory or mesquite, and we both agreed that mesquite would be good for pork or beef...), and that shot above is of Mike replenishing the soaked wood chips. It didn't take long for the immediate neighborhood to smell straight up delicious, though it was hard to say what smelled better: the smokin' or re-entering the house to the scent of roasting squash, stuffing, and spiced nuts.

Below is a shot of the smoking in progress (the little fruits are halved pomegranates which I used when making the gravy later on--mostly for the smoky juice):



This is a bad, bad, bad shot of Mike that I took after I showed him how my fancy digital SLR works (he may kill me for this, but he also should already know I POST SHIT LIKE THIS). For the knitter in all of us, that's a hat I made for Mike a couple of years ago. It's from SnB the first, I believe--Hot Head? Anyway, it was knit flat, and then (poorly) seamed, and the only way Mike knows which side is front is to look for the "crap in the back":



Our little Mr. Ecko tells us we're good and smoked:



...and, voila:



It is at this point that I can tell you just how god-fearing amazing that chicken tasted. I mean, it smelled good. It tasted... LIKE BACON.

No meal is complete without inviting a killer fern from outer space:



And in true American fashion, I prepared way too much food for even just the two of us:



From bottom center and clock-wise, that's some GF dinner rolls, a bottle of wine from Chaddsford, me and my plate of kibble, roasted butternut squash with carmelized onions and dried cranberries, KitchenAid mixenated red bliss potatoes with feta, whole berry cranberry relish, cornbread stuffing with andouille sausage, broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower, smoked chicken, and Mike's plate of bits. Not pictured are the spiced pecans and the cinnamon French vanilla ice cream I made.

I did well in terms of not overstuffing myself (though I will confess to eating while wearing track pants), and I didn't take any seconds. The same cannot be said for Mike, however:



That's my boy on thirds and fourths. Yes, his hand is moving that fast. I'm surprised his head's not also blurry since he was in a veritable feeding frenzy...

Even the cat got in on the thankfulness:



He's most thankful for a belly-full of chicken, though warm laps, treats, and sun-basking on the deck (built just for him, natch) are high on his list, too.

Next up: an overdue craft update, followed by how to make the most of your leftovers (or, my leftovers).

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Point of Reference

When we brought Sideshow Bob into our house for the winter last year, this is what he looked like:



For Bob currently, click here.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

New Fridge!!!

My mom is the most awesome--and I'm not saying that because she's sitting right to my right... She really is AWESOME.

For our tenth anniversary, my parents' treated us to a new fridge. Well, delivery was today and of course, the damn thing didn't fit where we wanted to put it... Cue mom (who was already planning a visit today anyway). She helped Mike and I get the fridge in its place and then she helped me get my kitchen back in shape. It's CLEAN, and it's ORGANIZED, and it's lovely.

And now... Now, mom and I are sitting in my dining room, dueling laptop style, and she's posting to her very own blog. Imagine! Mom's doing it all now!!!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Mismatched set, and something kitschy

The arm shot:



The criss-cross shot:

The details:
Pattern: Made up, with a snugger number of stitches around the wrist to prevent wristwarmer slouching.
Yarn: Nashua Wooly Stripes in Pastels
Not yet pictured: the scarf I'm making, too.

More info and pics soon!!!

Here's a shot from the pages of this book:

Monday, November 06, 2006

Sideshow Bob

When our good friends Jerry and Nat moved west to Chicago, they left behind a few houseplants simply because it would have been impossible to drive *that* far with semi-fragile houseplants and Monty-dog wagging his tail. Reluctantly, Nat left her beloved Sideshow Bob fern in our care. No sooner had the toot of her horn audibly faded than I whipped out the brand new pots and the bags of potting soil procured just for this occasion and went to work--while she left us only Bob specifically, I'd taken it upon myself to rescue two other plants that had been left on the the former E-B front porch.

When I first transplanted these cousins to Audrey II, I was positive that this would be the first and last time for such a task. I mean, in the case of the root-bound fern, how much larger could it grow? And for the little two other scraggly plants--moving on up from an 8-inch pot to a 16-inch pot... Well, that was plant life if ever there was such a thing!

The three plants flourished in their new abode and when we flew west to visit the good doctor and her cheese snob husband, we brought along a rather large portion of the beloved fern. Two years since being left in our care, and not only do I need to repot these plants, but I actually need to divide them! Behold, Sideshow Bob, the wonder fern, and his Simpsons-in-waiting, Lisa and Maggie:



What's my green thumb secret to doubling, tripling, and then doubling plant growth? Absolutely nothing. Seriously, we move Bob and the kids out back after the last threat of frost and bring Bob and the kids in before the first hard frost, and pretty much water the plants once a week or so in the winter, letting nature take care of business in the summer.

This spring, I will definitely be splitting the plants and repotting them. Bob could actually be (drawn and) quartered, while Lisa could be thirded, and the wee Maggie could get away with being halved. Until then, though, I'll have to do what I can to make sure the plants don't eat the cat.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

As promised: new sock stash

If you were to ask me how I identifed as a knitter, I'd have to say sock-knitter. Yes, I make sweaters and scarves and hats and shawls and all of that, but there's something about the knitting of a sock that really roots me in the craft. So it was no surprise that when I went to Rhinebeck, I sought out sock yarns in interesting colorways and small production--for the benefit of my beer-snob husband, fiber fests are the equivalent of microbrew beer fests. You like Stone IPA, dear; I like Socks That Rock:



STR in Downpour, a lovely mix of greys, pinks, and other muted shades. Our gang did the right thing by rolling into Rhinebeck early--even with time to spare before the official opening of the grounds, the booth at The Fold was a MESS. By the time we'd all had our fill of STR and moseyed around the rest of Building A (avoiding the gem and mineral half of things), the line at STR was obscene.

The Fold being our first booth, and I having never knit with STR, I carefully only purchased one hank of the yarn... and then I was distracted by the Brooks Farm booth:



That's 540 yards of FourPlay sale yarn in creams, tans, and pinks. It's not sock yarn, but I'm sure you all can handle this temporary distraction. I'm envisioning a frilly wrap, maybe the Ruffles and Ridges wrap from MagKnits.

Also in Building A was the Spirit Trail Fiberworks booth and my good friend Anj was (wo)manning it. Still being too early in the game for me and operating on a strict budget, I made a mental note of what I might want, fondled stuff I'd never buy, made lunch plans with mi'lady, and then hit the next stop on our list.

At Great Adirondack, Jody and I picked up almost the exact same sock yarn--she got Antique and I got what I like to call Malt Likka:



It's actually named Old English and maybe not all of you will get that joke... I envision these socks as Jaywalkers--the pattern explains the name as an homage to the street-crossing in Boston, but I think it'll work as "socks that show how you might walk after you drink a 40 of the malt likka".

One of the smaller booths I patronized had lovely handpainted sock yarn and for CHEAP! This is Dorchester, and I imagine it one day becoming a manly pair of socks... Socks with balls, perhaps?



The colors are rich, reminding me of a leather-furnished study. I expect these socks to smoke cigars or drink port. Perhaps I'll call them Richard Gilmore.

At Ellen's 1/2 pint, I resisted the urge to go completely batshit and buy the whole lot (partially because there were a couple of ladies that were blocking the true and only way to sock yarn. Continuing with that complaint, these were the same ladies that pretty much blocked shoppers from getting closer to the sock yarn in another booth: they sat on the barn floor--ew--and proceeded to remove every hank of sock yarn in a desperate search for an exact colorway match. Had I not been promised a vodka tonic for good behavior, I might have Hulked out on them...), and instead got out of there with just one measly hank of sock yarn:



Call it what you want, but this is banana split in my book. The creamy yellows, cherries, and vanillas, with some grey-blue and brown interspersed, makes me think of summer nights at the custard stand on route 40. If my dad could pull off yellow socks, these would be for him. Instead, I'd like to think that they will be MINE, ALL MINE.

My last purchase at the fest was one that I found I couldn't deny at day's end:



This is Peach Trees from Maple Creek (located in Telford, PA) and over the course of two days, I picked it up, fondled, stroked, and otherwise molested this yarn no fewer than a dozen times. As I'd walk around the yarn display in the booth, my eyes would light upon another gorgeous hand-dyed skein and I'd chuckle as I turned over the tag and found out that I was yet again looking at the Peach Trees colorway. I resisted the urge on Saturday, knowing that we had our second chances on Sunday. Sunday I told myself: if Spirit Trail has nothing I want, then it'll be Maple Creek. I was actually relieved that ST had run out of any yarn in which I was interested because MAN, I'd've hated to not been able to get the Maple Creek.

Now, the question is: when will all this sock yarn (and the BFF) get knit up? All I can say is, "Who the fuck knows?" I may die with an intact sock yarn stash, but I will die happy!!!

Finally, for JT Evans and everyone else that knows my cat only as the vet-diagnosed "Meanest Cat in World", here's another picture of Chico not gnawing on anyone's leg or trapping people in our bathroom:



In his old age (10 1/2 years!), he's becoming quite the heat-seeking kitty. It doesn't help that we have the thermostat set to 55 overnight, 62 during the day... Knowing that this old bastard of a cat likes nothing more than to curl up into a ball in the sun, Mike and I moved our bed last night so that it is now under a window that gets strong morning sun. Tomorrow I've got plans to make like a cat and seek out that sunny spot myself.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Stacks

I'm in the middle of a fairly large collection development project here at work and I spend most of my day in the stacks, shifting, pulling, and shelving material. Yesterday, as I worked on a shelf of fiction, pulling the books out and preparing to relocate them, I found an empty bag of Cheetos. Now, of course, I can't look at a bag of Cheetos without hearing the Cheetos Story in my head. And while I tell a decent second-hand version of the story, only Missy does it best. And no, I'm not telling the Cheetos story now because it's really something best told in the company of others.

However, I may one day share the story of the Rakist or I might tell the story of how my father came to love squirrels, but first he had to hate them.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Crafticus Interruptus

We've been busy here in the land of Sparksalot, and most of the time we're focusing ourselves on things that, well, need to fall back out of focus. Still, I'm finding some time in-between the chaos to sit and stitch.

Last Saturday, my Mom came up from NJ and she and I hit the Northeast Extension, headed for Tannersville, PA. While at Hershey this year (and I think last year, too), we met Jan, the owner of Mimi's Attic. We learned on Jan's site that she had a number of Saturday Sit 'n' Stitches, and so we signed up just about as soon as we returned from Hershey. By last Saturday, Mom had a list of things she just absolutely needed to have and Jan's shop was just the thing for her shopping list. While Mom shopped, relentlessly, I finished the second Red Hat sock, unceremoniously tossing the pair at her once I kitchenered the last loops, saying, "Here--a present." I was so quick to give them to her that I didn't get a picture! Note to self--get picture from Mom of her socks.

With the sock out of the way (and another FO to add to the list, hooray!), I set about working on another present for Mom:



This is a pattern from The Drawn Thread that I picked up in Hershey '05. It's something that for all the years my Mom's attended the stitching festival, she's wanted to buy the pattern but always managed to talk herself out of it. You know how that goes--"Yeah, I really want it, but I don't have the time to make it, and I've got all this other stuff to do still... If it's here next year, then maybe..." Except next year is just a repeat of the previous year, with the added, "If I really wanted it so much, I would have bought it last year." Putting an end to this hooey, I snagged the pattern and the floss kit and told Mom she just needs to get over it already.

I started stitching this piece in late summer (I'm very bad with noting things, like dates and pattern modifications--the second being something bites my ass whenever I take a vacation between knitting each sock in a pair) and it's progressing faster than I'd expected. Aside from the delicate stems along the border, I have flowers yet to stitch. I'm hesitant to get to that point, though, since the flowers involve French knots, and well, I'm not a fan of French knots. In fact, I once wrote of French knots: va te faire foutre. I didn't win over any French knot enthusiasts, but then again, FKE's can be an odd lot. I'll get over my French knot issues, I'm sure. Or, I'll secretly replace every charted French knot with a tiny glass bead.

I've also started some Christmas stitching. This is a piece I'm working on for my grandmother:



I've got a couple of complaints with this particular kit. One, the instructions are not clearly written. There have been several times when I've read and reread the instructions and then called my Mom to ask, "What the hell does this mean?" Mom's been equally stumped and the two have us have come to the conclusion that Lorri Birmingham doesn't write the best instructions... No offense, Miss B--your designs are pretty awesome and I've enjoyed taking your classes over the last few years, but you leave a little bit too much to the stitcher's imagination. Two, there are obviously 4 teacups (see here), one for each season. The floss came pre-cut and separated into four hanks. Stupidly, I figured each hank represented a season, but as I sorted the floss I quickly discovered that there was no logical explanation for the four hanks other than it might have made the task of sorting pearl white and light gray pearl slightly easier since the two colors were in separate hanks. But still! Third, I have suspicions that even diligently and meticulously sorted, I've managed to mis-sort some of the floss. When I compare my work in progress with the image on the kit, something just looks off. Of course, and this is number four, I'm also pretty sure that the sample photographed for the kit IS NOT stitched using the same colors supplied with the kit. Fifthly, I've always heard x-stitchers marvel and maim about Teresa Wentzler's patterns. My Mom calls her a nasty person, but my Mom's friend Laura swears by the TW designs. The main criticism here is that TW uses a lot of blended fibers--you know, a strand of DMC 304 paired with a strand of DMC 378. I don't rightly know if those two even go together, but the point is, many people find this blending to be a pain in the ass (no matter if they like the designs or the actual stitching, it's just something that slows down stitching progress since it involves pulling two floss bobbins for one chart symbol. I know, woe is me.). And while Lorri Birmingham's Tea for All Seasons doesn't call for blended fibers, it does call for an awful lot of stop and go stitching. In the Summer tea cup (in my photo, it's the one that is 97% complete), there's a point on the rim of the tea cup that was charted as being various shades of blue (ok, it gives a nice effect), white, and then this random single BROWN cross-stitch. I suppose what I'm complaining about here is that for a relatively small project and for something that looked simple in the package, this little piece is proving to be time-consuming. Will I finish it? Of course--it's a gift. Will I rush out to replicate the pattern in another stitching project? DON'T BET ON IT. When this thing is done, I'm shoving the leaflet in the very back of my craft closet and then forgetting about it.

Next up, more posts about Rhinebeck: Sock Stash, and an update on home appliances.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Take a look it's on display, for you

While in Rhinebeck, the land of rolling hills, strolling alpacas, and the House of Fun, I picked up four skeins of icy blue lace weight yarn:


Jody and the girls seemed to think that the yarn would knit up nicely as Seraphim, and I have to admit I'm inclined to agree. BUT, I also like this one. I've a floating date with Anj to look at other shawl patterns, though to be honest, I'm not in any rush to start just yet. Which reminds me... I want to sort of catalog my stash and evaluate projects-in-waiting. That'll be a fun afternoon!!!

Next up: more scores from Rhinebeck. Yes, I am going to drag it out like this, and I'll tell you why: I'm on a self-imposed yarn diet. No yarn purchases until Mike graduates. Place your bets as to when I'll cave, fuckers!

I really really really would rather be in bed...

When I left this morning, the second time, it was only with great self-restraint that I did not jump in bed and call out of work. I mean, after all, who could truly resist this:

Monday, October 23, 2006

RHINEBECK; busted.

Oh my stars, what an awesome, positively rock-tastic weekend that was! I'll be sure to update in more detail later, with pictures and directions to the House of Fun! For now, I just wanted to post something short and sweet: RHINEBECK, I think I love you!

Monday, October 09, 2006

C, sea, si: the return of the ABC posts

I started this post May 26 and then never finished it. Here I am, picking it up and editing it...

Cross-stitch

When I first started to become crafty, well into my twenties, my craft of choice was cross-stitch. My mother had tried, years earlier, to get me interested, but I always turned up my nose. It wasn't until my sister-in-law was getting married that I thought, "Hey! A cheap gift would be a wedding sampler, AND I'll learn how to cross-stitch..." Six months later, I gave the newlyweds the wedding sampler as part of their Christmas gift. I'd mostly finished the pattern--the background, which was supposed to be white and criss-crossing to look like lattice, never got done, and no one is the wiser!

I learned, though, that cross-stitching isn't a fast hobby, and that cross-stitching with a deadline only ups the likelihood that you will make a mistake. I ripped and ripped and ripped, and it was only after I was about a third of the way into it that I told my mom I was cross-stitching (and ripping), to which she replied, "It isn't cross-stitch unless you rip."

Since then, I've become a stitching NUT: I have a stash of patterns and 4 or 5 or even 6 containers of floss (4 are organized--there's probably enough still in skeins that would fill another 2 or 3 containers...), I have cross-stitch books, and I go to a cross-stitch convention every year. Yes, I am that girl.

Cars

We've been car-free since February 2005 when we turned in our leased Xterra and walked on out of there. For the most part, car-free living has been great. But, there have been a few occasions when we've needed a car and have had to go without. My most recent example of this is when I ran into a cross-stitch emergency--I TOLD YOU I WAS A FREAK. Anyway, my last needle broke and I had no more of that size and OMG, what to do???? I survived (by knitting...) and a dear friend picked up some needles on her way back from the office.

As of tomorrow, though, we are no longer car-free. Mike has found a job that pays what he wants and doesn't force him into overtime by locking the doors. The only problem is it's not conveniently located for Septa or for biking. And since his motorcycle needs work (it will be rideable soon!) and since we cannot rely on the car share to always and forever be at our beck and call, we've gotten ourselves a used car. It's mostly going to sit outside of our house, but it'll be nice to know we can run out to the craft store the next time I have a needle 911.

ETA: Well, since I started this post back in May, a lot has happened in the car sense (most of which dear readers know already). Still... We've put the Subaru up for sale (know anyone looking for a reliable car? Drop me a line...) and I've finally got a Karmann Ghia. I took the Ghia out yesterday for an around-the-block spin. She's not legal yet (I'm STILL waiting for the floorboards to get fixed), but I try to take her out at least once a week. I stick to the 'hood, though, because she's missing an inspection sticker and lord knows I do not want my car to be confiscated as part of Live Stop. I'd DIE.

While scooting around the neighborhood yesterday, I discovered two (minor) things wrong with the car--the engine compartment won't shut and the driver's side door won't shut. But, my neighbor (a Ghia nut; anytime he hears the car start up he comes running out to take a look) and Mike tightened the cable for the trunk release (the engine's in the back) and then the neighbor diagnosed a faulty pin on the door hinge before discovering that the door can shut securely if you first lift the door before trying to close it. Ah, the quirks of owning an old car...

Crafts

Cross-stitching is in this one, but there's so much more that I do! I enjoy knitting, some crocheting, scrapbooking, photography, and making things out of non-traditional art materials. I used to be into painting and sculpture, but I also used to want to be a horse. Some things don't last...

Cats/CATS

I like cats. I have one right now and he, unfortunately, doesn't like me. He has been diagnosed as the meanest cat ever. He's a sweetheart though: he snuggles with me in the morning for exactly long enough to figure out that OH HE HATES ME, and then he attacks. He sleeps through the night and often heads up to our bed about 10pm. He loves to sit out on our deck and soak up the rays. And he pretty much attacks any person that walks in the house that is not Mike or me (he merely tolerates me).

The other CATS is the cross-stitching festival. CATS stands for (or stood for, I think they've changed the exact name) Creative Arts and Textile Shows. Anyway, my mom and I go every year and we are usually happy with the experience. The last couple of years we've not signed up for the expensive classes and have opted, instead, to do Make It Take Its. This year, we're treating ourselves to some time at the spa that's local to the event--I've been looking forward to September 2006 since September 2005.

Cheese

Growing up, I was strictly an American cheese kind of girl. But, as I've grown up, I've found the rich and creamy goodness of fancy cheeses. If I could get away with it, I'd put cheese on everything.

Comfortable

When my husband and I were just friends, way back in high school, we would spend hours on the phone, just chit-chatting. I had a crush on him, and unbeknownst to me, he had a crush on me... In between phone calls, he'd drive over to my house and pick me up and we'd spend hours driving the backroads of farming New Jersey. And we were just friends.

On those rides, we didn't talk much. We listened to REM and drove past cattle and watched the sun sink lower in the summer sky. But over the phone, we'd talk and talk and talk. And then we wouldn't talk. I'd listen to him breathing on the other end, I'd listen to myself breathing. And sometimes, I'd ask him to say one word, and that one word was comfortable.

Cameras

I love cameras! I'm fascinated with the idea of early photography and camera functions, though I've never really pursued this interest. I have a couple of antique cameras that should work with the right person and I have a couple of SLRs (one film, one digital). I also have a Fuji digital camera and that's my current point-and-shoot gig.

Company

I love company! I love drop-ins and just-passing-bys. I like spending an afternoon or evening with friends or neighbors. I suppose it's the country in me that entertains the notion of surprise visitors just moseying on in.

Catholicism

I'm by no means religious (the last time I found myself needing to pray was probably well before my husband and I started dating), but I've long been fascinated with the Catholic Church, in both a train-wreck kind of way and a "fill the void" kind of way. I studied medieval history during my undergrad years and up until Martin Luther pulled his "no sleep til Brooklyn", the world as it was known was largely Catholic (here the "world" means Europe). Researching different reigns always meant learning about the religion. Studying Catholicism from afar like that also romanticized it for me.

Even before I found myself studying Catholicism (tangentially), I was obsessed with Catholic schools. Maybe I wanted to wear the uniforms, maybe I longed to have Sister Immaculate rap my knuckles with a ruler--whatever the case, I ended up attending two Catholic colleges (one for a semester, the other to complete my undergraduate studies). And while I definitely did not agree with the Catholic teachings (I took one class on the immorality of masturbation and the supreme morality of loving Christ first...), I feel that my time spent at the second school (St. Joseph's University) was vastly rewarding.

Children

People find it amusing when I tell them what I do for a living, promptly following that revelation with, "But I hate kids." But it's the truth, no matter how well I do my job or how happy I am with my job, I am not fond of children. I don't want children, I don't need children, and quite frankly, I don't care for children.

Still, I love being a Children's Librarian--I love working with the kids, treating them with respect, helping them find books, answering their questions... Where I failed as a teacher, I am succeeding--immensely--as a librarian.

I have no explanation for the adoration I lavish upon the babies of friends, since I cannot claim that to be "part of my job". I guess that originates from liking the parents... Lots of our friends are having babies now and while that's great for them, I am always relieved when, upon meeting the little newborns, I do not feel any sort of maternal pull. My biological clock is on permanent snooze--and that's a-ok with me! Besides, babies give me a reason to knit cute little sweaters!!!

Next up, eventually, is D.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

FO-foolin'!

Maybe it's the northern air that's slowly settling over the Mid-Atlantic, maybe it's the lingering high from the cross-stitch convention... Whatever it is, UFOs here in Sparksalot Land are quickly becoming a figment of the imagination.

Yesterday, I put the finishing touches on a baby blanket I made for a good friend. I'd started the blanket... oh, sometime in January '06. It was a simple blanket: print fabric backed with quilting. All I had to do was secure the back to the front with some hand-quilting. I started out by measuring and pinning where I'd want all the little knotted tassels to go (leaving a 1-inch tail on either side of the knot, creating a nubby surface on an otherwise smooth cotton blanket). I got maybe 1/8 of the way into this finishing before giving up (the baby came, I no longer felt the pressure of a deadline, and the weather was turning warmer). So, I forgot about the blanket, eventually removing all 159 pins so that I could fold and store the blanket without risking injury.

The cat slept on the blanket. I buried the blanket under knitting books. I moved the blanket upstairs, I brought it back downstairs. I figured if I could see it, I'd want to finish it sooner. Then I figured if I couldn't see it, I'd be more likely to want to see it and finish it sooner. I eventually stopped thinking about the blanket and started making more baby things (I'm at that point in my life when most of my friends are family-thinking--there's another baby on the horizon, and then--after that--I'm certain that another friend will get pregnant because, well, it's all part of her plan).

Then I went away with my Mom for a few days. I lamented about UFOs in my stash, and mentioned the baby blanket. She practically yelled at me in gross disbelief--she couldn't believe that I'd not yet finished it! After all, what was left, just some little knots?

So, when I got home from Hershey, I dug out the blanket and ripped all the knots out--all 23 of them, each carefully and precisely placed, knotted, mesaured, and cut (HELLO, anal retentive!). I was going to throw the blanket in the wash, fluff it, and then give it to the 7 month old baby when I stopped myself and asked, "WWMD?"* And so, I began to hand-quilt one aspect of the pattern repeat (ladybugs!), which theoretically was a HELLUVA lot more stitching, but in actuality, went a lot faster because there weren't so many stops and starts.

I finished the blanket yesterday, threw it in the laundry, fluffed it, and then presented it to a sleepy baby last night. Even though she was crying before I left, I'm pretty sure that this morning, Little Lilia is doing her best to make the blanket her woobie.

With the blanket in the laundry, I pulled out a skein of the Lion Brand Landscapes (in Country Sunset) and started on the replacement mitten for my mom. Last year, I made my mom, my sister, my (now) ex-sister-in-law-to-be (another story, another day), my sister-in-law, and a few other chicks I'm related to a set of mittens (with or without the flappy top) and a tubular scarf (I actually regifted one I'd received to my sister-in-law...) in various Landscape colorways. It was a great, quick-knit, gift--I could do up a pair of mittens in less than three hours (less than two if I didn't include the flappy top, making the mittens convertible). The tubular scarf took another couple of hours, and then, voila! It's a gift! (The mitten pattern is loosely based on the SnB Nation's Valentine mitten pattern, though by the second pair, the pattern was practically inherent.) Anyway, mom lost one of her mittens in January, at Ikea (I think), and was distraught. She told me, "I'll buy the yarn, I'll make the replacement! Just show me how!!!" I figured it would be quicker for me to just knit her a replacement and set about starting that myself...

Fast forward to last night. I cast on, did the 12 rows of ribbing, increased, bound off for the thumb, cast on to make up for the bound off thumb, finished the hand, picked up stitches for the thumb, knit the thumb, decreased and pulled the yarn through the thumb, and then went home (our neighborly LOST viewing was done and I was tired), picked up stitches for the flap, and am now 1/2 inch away from decreasing for the fingertips. This mitten is practically done. All I have to do is pick it up tonight and finish it. JUST IN TIME FOR THE CHILLY WEATHER.

If I were participating in the current round of PhillyKnitter's Secret Pal, I'd totally have a final gift for my pal. But, you all know how I DREAD the post office...

And in news of an almost FO, why I do not like Inox needles--they put holes in my fingers! Two years ago when I made my first ever hand knit sock, I used Inox needles and before I was done with the first sock, my finger looked like this:



I figured it was because I knit the first sock tight, and I mustered through the second one with a bandaid... I then used Addis and bamboo dpns for socks, leaving the cursed Inox in a dark corner. Then, I lost a US 2 dpn and while I tried to knit in the round with 4 needles, I wasn't comfortable with the way the pattern was distributed on the needles (I prefer equal stitches on each needle, whether it's two circs or 4 of a 5 dpn set). So, I had two choices--wait for the rogue US 2 to show up, or bring out the Inox. I brought out the Inox and resolved that this time, this time my knitting would be loose and light. Not even halfway down the leg of the second Red Hat sock, and I've got a deeper, more pronounced hole in my finger. SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE, HERE, NEEDLES!

I was prepared to soldier on with the sock, buying two sets of Addis at the next yarn shop I visited, when suddenly... The rogue US 2 appeared out of my suitcase. And here I'd thought I'd lost it at Anj's place during the last fiber night. Reunited, bamboo, and it feels so good!

Tonight's finishing frenzy: the mitten; the hem on a pair of slacks I picked up while shopping with Mom and Sis last weekend. Oh, yeah, a pair of pants that are in a size I've not worn in probably... TEN FUCKING YEARS. I'm not quite skinny, but gawd-damn am I starting to look mighty fine.


*"What would Martha Do?"

Monday, October 02, 2006

A match; and Hershey!

Yesterday, Mike and I hopped in our ride and ventured out to the Vortex. Everyone reading this surely has a vortex nearby; it goes something like this: home improvement store of your choice, electronics store of your choice, pet supply store of your choice, mega-bookstore of your choice, discount shoe store (or two) or your choice, prepster clothing store or five of your choice, office supply store of your choice, Marshall's or Ross (your choice!), discount department store of your choice, and a couple of specialty shops and a grocery store. A vortex.

Anyway, we had a mental list--stop at Lowe's, Best Buy, Target, Old Navy, and maybe the guitar shop for strings. We ended up passing on Lowe's, Best Buy didn't have what we wanted (which reminds me... I need to order it from Amazon...), Target didn't have what we were looking for (though we did get popcorn at the snack shack), Old Navy didn't have squat (I'm not alone in the whole anti-Fash'on thing, am I?), and by that point in the trip, I didn't want to get out and in for another shop, so we nixed the guitar shop. Besides, with Mike busy busy busy with school, he doesn't have time to play guitar, much less change out the strings. I managed just enough energy yesterday afternoon to round out our trip to the 'burbs with a quick stop at REI (my bike is blessedly fixed and running better than ever. I cannot wait to get back in the saddle!!!), and then zombie'ed my way through Genuardi's before Mike and I jetted home and I changed into my PJs.

Now, the whole point of the Vortex trip was to go to Old Navy and get a nice shirt to go under the Rhinebeck vest. I know, I know... I've tried it three different ways (two of which have been previously posted). The third way was with a buttonless button-down shirt I made in my sewing class last year... When I took the measurements and started the shirt, I was a full two sizes smaller than when I finished the shirt. I don't know about you, but someone 'round here gained a LOT of weight. Anyway, the shirt has been untouched since November of last year. Curiosity got me, though, and a few weeks ago, I dug it out (ok, it was also my mom insisting that since I've lost nearly 40 pounds, the shirt should now fit me or even be--gasped--too big!), pressed it, and then hung it up with the vest for effect:



Now, the shirt does indeed fit. BUT, it does still need a row of buttons and buttonholes. AND, the collar needs to be finished. These two things wouldn't be so overwhelming if it weren't for the fact that the homemade shirt looks a little too homemade--especially in the shoulders. Perhaps alone, on it's own, or under a blazer, I would feel more presentable. But fluffy princess-looking cap-wannabe sleeves ain't gonna cut it with a warm and wooly vest, right?

SO, I planned a trip to Old Navy. I mean, Old Navy is good for a few things: t-shirts, pajama pants, and the casual office dress shirt. Except, no luck, as mentioned. Cue shirt from the back of my closet:



With the blue shirt, I kept looking at the blue shirt. With the white shirt, I was sort of turned off by its starkness. With the self-made shirt, I just could see all my little imperfections TIMES TWO. With this shirt, I've given myself a pat on the back. I think this is the combo that *GOES* together. The pink doesn't overpower the vest, the vest works with the shirt. It took a few tries, but finally, I figured out at least part of the upper half of my wardrobe for Rhinebeck.

Now, onto more important--or, at least, equally important--things: the cross-stitch convention in Hershey! Sis joined Mom and I this year and aside from a couple of late night shouting matches (my mom snores and she had a URI, so nights were a cacophony of her snoring, sniffling, and snorting and me--allegedly--yelling at her to sleep on her belly), the three of us had a BLAST. From the inappropriate conversation with the bartender (I believe the phrase "shitting brownie batter" was used, and it came from my sister's mouth as she talked about the one time she had "herbal" brownies), to the afternoon we spent in the spa lounging in nothing more than bathrobes and taking saunas at whim, to the shop-shop-shopping it down, we three girls know how to turn a dollar.

Here's a shot of our loot from Friday's shopping, and keep in mind that cross-stitch shopping often involves little needles, pamphlets, and specialty floss. Also, in her attempt to "catch up" with us, Sis's purchases take up at least (and probably more) than half of what you see. The stuff my mom and I bought is towards the foot of the bed...



Surprisingly, there was some yarn to be found among all the cross-stitching supplies. Even better, it was yarn I wanted--sari silk!



Things we're going to do differently next year:
1. I'm not paying for everyone's spa trip. I didn't mind it this year because I'd planned on it, plus how many times does your mom turn 50 and your sister get a super-duper promotion that moves her cross-country top-to-bottom-wise?

2. We're not eating at the breakfast buffet. We can save an easy $30-45 by bringing our own breakfast stuff. Plus, more time spent in PJs!

3. We're making a third day plan and sticking to it. This means, either outlet shopping OR antique shopping OR historic touring. Not both. Not all three.

4. We need to have pre-meal drinks. Or, we need to join AA. The single martini going straight to my head and then coming right out my mouth in the form of verbal diarrhea? Hilariously not all that cool.

5. Any TV shows that we absolutely much watch should be recorded while we are away. This is to prevent us from having a repeat of Thursday night wherein Sis and I were stumbling and running down the corridor in an attempt to reverse time so that we could catch all 60 minutes of McDreamy and Meredith. Meanwhile, Mom got lost between the bar and the room--all without ever leaving the hotel complex. The VCR--it is your friend!

Finally, Friday night's dinner with my two favorite ladies:





And now, I shall get ready to collapse into bed--whatever my Mom had last week she so lovingly has passed on. I've got an appointment with the doctor tomorrow afternoon and a date with Nyquil tonight. I keep telling myself that EVENTUALLY working around all these children will do wonders for my immune system... I certainly hope I'm not about to spend the next four months dancing a drunken two-step with germs of various ilk.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Another bag of bricks

I spent a real chill afternoon with Jody yesterday and just as she served up soup, I finished one shoulder seam on the sweater vest. Not long after soup was off (and, yum, in our bellies), and I had a 99% finished object!

I rushed home to soak and block the vest, then I trained our trusty Vornado on the garment and let it dry. This morning, I paired it two shirts to see how each looked with the vest. Here it is with a white Oxford shirt:



And here it is with a Wedgewood blue shirt:


The fit is good and blocking it found the vest growing longer by about 2 inches. All I have to do tonight (or Thursday night) is some single crochet around the neckline and the armholes.

I do believe I'm ready for Rhinebeck and with time to spare!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Thank you, everyone!

Thank you to each and every one of you that donated to my MS 150 City to Shore Ride. I am happy (and sore) to report that my team (Team Catfish and Waffles!) made it from our airy perch in East Falls, Philadelphia, all the way down to Ocean City, NJ, and then back. We rode a total of 172.25 miles in about 12 hours.

It was really an interesting experience, and knowing that I can do it is very empowering. Having friends and family supporting me kept me going those last few miles!

In knitting news, I've reach the armholes on the sweater vest. And, I've reached the split for the v-neck, as well. So far, it looks great. I hope to spend a few hours on it tonight--that should be enough to get the one side of the split done and the other side at least started. I've also cast on for the other Red Hat sock, though so far I'm only about 1 pattern repeat in. I just can't not have a sock in the works, I guess!!!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

No sleep

First of all, a little shout out to Mr. JT; "nonne" us too!!!

First of all, part A and B, we here in the land of Sparksalots also miss Mmmmissy and MCJerryB. And Monty! Oh, hell, let's just tack on the whole B-E clan...

Second, I don't like the way the world looks at 4am, especially when the night before I found myself struggling to fall asleep.

Third, the wisdom of my husband prevailed last night, and not too soon. I'd just started to bind off for the armholes on the sweater vest I'm creating, and for shits and giggles, I put on this armhole-less, shoulder-less garment. The body fits very nice, so far. The armholes that I was so ready to commit to? Not exactly ready! This... premature armhole shaping is my knitting affliction. Every sweater I've knit has the same issue. Thank goodness I trudged upstairs, trailing the two skeins of yarn behind me, for that male opinion. So, a good 4-6 more rows on the body tonight. I have to remember to do a few increases for the bust, or do a few short rows...

The big ride is this weekend. I am ready to be halfway done with it. I'm mostly concerned with the ride back--we're being hardcore and biking from our 'hood (East Falls, Philadelphia) to the start (Woodcrest Patco Station in NJ), which tacks on an extra 8-10 miles on both ends. Coming home I doubt I'll truly want those extra miles. I may just have to pull a mule at the bottom of the dreaded hill and insist that someone carry me the rest of the way. Thank goodness for having Monday off.

Pictures, soon-ish. I let the battery die on my super-swank camera and I just need to charge it already...

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

New tricks, no pics

I'm just a few inches from the armholes on my self-designed sweater vest--4 inches! I could stretch it and make it less than 3.25 inches, but I smack my hands whenever I think that sort of thing. It's just that sort of thinking that gets me sweaters that are too short in the body! I've used up one and a half skeins of the Cascade Pastaza, and I must say that yarn is nearly perfect. The only complaint I have is it's, well, too fuzzy. But, not in a bad way, especially not knit up. The Pastaza calls for US 9s on its own. I'm knitting it with the Brooks Farm on 9s and the resulting fabric is sturdy, yet pliant. I think that helps control some of the fuzz, for sure. So, the fuzz that remains lends a halo effect to the garment. Just looking at the progress in my lap makes me warm and fuzzy and ready for warm cider.

The new trick is I think I'm scooping instead of wrapping. Since learning to knit, I've always been afraid of and fascinated with Continental knitting. I learned to knit with the English method and I took comfort in the ease of using one hand to wrap while two hands held the needles in place. But, I'm always up for a knitting challenge (heck, I might even try Fair Isle and intarsia one day. MAYBE.) and as I sat in my chair (Mike studying hard upstairs), I put the yarn in my left hand and awkwardly tried a couple of stitches Continentally. When the world didn't reverse on its axis, AND I didn't drop all my stitches, I tried a round. Then, I tried another round. And now, some dozen or more rounds later, I'm kinda liking the scoop. I am knitting faster--until I come to the purls... Then it's like my hands have somehow forgotten all that they've ever learned about knitting. I lose half of the time I've gained when it comes to the purls, but I'm still a little faster overall, right? I also find that the scooping is less taxing on my hands and, if I wanted, I could probably switch the two techniques back and forth when knitting for extended periods of time.

Sigh... I knew you'd all understand!!!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

On wool and being cool

I've joined the challenge of knitting a sweater by Rhinebeck, though I am cheating just a bit: I'm making a sweater vest. BUT, I should still get props for designing my own pattern:



What started out as a sketch on a small piece of paper has now been drawn up and out and knit several times. I finally got the right gauge, the right yarn mix, and the right opportunity to make real progress on this sweater earlier this week. This is what two days of knitting looks like (note the essentials to a good knitting marathon):



The final yarn? Brooks Farm Duet in Carnival and Cascade Pastaza in 043. The llama in the Pastaza beautifully compliments the kid mohair in the Brooks Farm. This sweater vest, if nothing else, will literally be warm and fuzzy. I'm already thinking that this will be the project I finish in Hershey this year, because what good is attending a cross-stitch festival if one doesn't bring one's knitting? Exactly!

Now, perhaps you ask, "Why did Sparksy have two days of nothing but the knit?" I'll tell you: we had central air installed in our 1920s row house. And while I didn't need to necessarily sit there and hold the hands of the contractors, it sure was a good thing I was home. Here are some of the highlights of the installation of our high velocity air conditioning system below.


This is my back yard. In addition to Killer Cherry Tomatos from Outer Space and Sideshow Bob, I temporarily had some odd number feet of duct, a condenser, and contractor stuff crammed in between the table and chimenea.


One quarter of my dining room was devoted entirely to central air installation stuff. It was really only fun for the cat, and actually, he probably found it kind of stressful...



The air handler was to be installed in the crawl space that is our attic. While we'd argued, originally, for it to be towards the rear of the house, we are actually kind of happy that the unit's in the front of the house. However, to get to the unit and its installation, an access hole had to be cut. This is looking down from that freshly cut hole and at my (covered) bed.


To get into the living room ceiling, the contractors first cut holes in the bedroom ceiling and then chased the ducts down through the closet and the floor. Unfortunately for us, we had to empty out not only our bedroom closets, but also our linen closet.



And, so, this is what our closets would look like if we used a bed for a closet. Not nearly as convenient, and amusing for only 47 minutes. What you can't see on the other side of the bed is the collection of sheets that were removed from the linen cloest. Also of note: shoes. One third of the shoes are Mike's!


Here's the air handler unit. You know, the one that pretty much sits over my head? It's actually pretty cool (har har)--the air handler is constructed and manufactured just so and when it's running, you hear nary a squeak from this miniature cooling power house. We also have a condenser outside, but that's just your typical Lennox dealie.


Finally, the fruits of their labors (and our dollars... Oh, our dollars...): the diffusers.


The high velocity system is designed to be easily retrofitted into homes that use radiator heat, or, that were not designed with the space for traditional ductwork. Where we would have had to deal with ugly soffits and huge registers, we now instead have these 2-inch diameter diffusers that deliver cool air throughout the house. You can read more about the system itself here and here (the second being the link for the company that did our installation).

Overall, I'm happy with both my knitting progress and the central air installation. Of course, I learned that knitting for more than two hours straight (say, 8 hours with only bathroom and lunch breaks) is not for the weak-knuckled. And that it is certain to bust any heat wave if you fork over the money and install central air. Ah, life.