If you're not knitting, the terrorists win

(My mostly on-topic ramblings about knitting. And life in general. My life in specific.)

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Location: Indiana, United States

I'm a middle aged mother of 2 grown children and wife to a man who doesn't seem to mind my almost heroin-like yarn addiction. I spend my time writing, knitting, and generally stressing out.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

FO: Advent Ornament #19

Wow. I can't believe I am almost done knitting these ornaments. This is #19 for me. It's Frankie Brown's Advent Garland #11, Basket. Like all the other ornaments, this one was done with scrap yarn and was knit super fast.

Here is the basket, as I was just about finished knitting it. As you can see, it's knit flat and then seamed at the sides once you've cast off. I think it looks pretty like this. This would be a cute scarf pattern, don't you think?

Frankie's pattern calls for ornaments in the basket. And sure, ornaments say "Christmas" to almost everyone. But you know what? In my house, knitting says "Christmas." So I made these little balls (and one skein) of yarn to go in my basket.

The knitting needles are toothpicks with beads on the end. That's not my original trick. I saw a bunch of other people do that and thought it looked good. Here's my original trick: If you pull back the slipcover on the couch, the arm makes a nice little holder while the glue is drying. I also glued the ends of the balls of yarn so they wouldn't unravel.

I put a little poly fiberfil stuffing into the basket to help shape it, then arranged the yarn and "needles" in the basket.

Now, that says Christmas to me.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Newspapers, Corded Phones, And Cursive

I've been doing a lot of spring cleaning this week. The one area I'm really bad about is all the paper accumulation. I don't even take the newspaper. But still, I get the coupon inserts that come free every week. I get the junk mail. I get the free community magazine that gets mailed to everyone. (It's actually written 100% by one person. He sells ads to businesses and writes "human interest stories" about the business owners.) Anyway, all that paper adds up.

You don't even notice how much you have until you're putting it all in the recycle bin and you're thinking Good God. How many coupons for dental visits are being sent out? Can there even be that many dentists?

I don't take the paper any more, in part, because I already get all the grocery coupons in the weekly mailer that everyone gets. But also, by the time a paper is written, printed, and distributed, the news is old. I'd say I, like most people, get most of my news from TV and the internet.

It's kind of like corded phones. About two years ago, when I was still working in an office, there was a company initiative to get everyone's personal information on file in case they had to be reached after hours. They wanted spouse's name and work number, cell phone, home phone, etc. I put my cell number on the form and left the home number blank. That apparently prompted a call from my boss, who had gotten a call from the district office. I explained, I don't have a corded phone. Everyone in my family carries their own cell. We don't need another phone.

You would've thought I'd said I was going to grow two heads and speak only Klingon from now on.

Know what else I don't do any more? Write in cursive. Although, to be fair, I personally don't write in cursive because my printing is much faster and much more legible. My electronic writing is faster still and way more legible. It's a practical thing.

However, I have heard that cursive is not really taught in schools any more. I guess there is just not a lot of need for it. I remember when my kids were in school, by the time they went to middle school all of their papers were written on the computer. Only those tests or projects they did in class were hand written.

And, if the Wal-Mart commercials are to be believed, apparently even grade schoolers are working from laptops in class now. Can that be right? I'm not disputing the fact that kids could, should, and do learn to use computers as young as they possibly can. I think that's a good thing. It just seems very expensive.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Robo Knitter

At last! Two of my favorites, all rolled into one package!

Agnes the robot knits!

You've got to go watch this. Obviously, she's more of a mechanized knitting machine than an actual android, but you've got to admit it's fascinating and exciting to watch her! I especially like the way she looks up and looks around at the people watching her, before going back to her knitting.


What would be orders of magnitude more awesome, however, would be if Agnes had decided to learn knitting and chose what project to make. Maybe she would periodically try it on and then ask the bystanders "What do you think? Does it look okay? What about the color? Too much?"

Or maybe she could talk about her knitting and how she was knitting it for her boyfriend, who really didn't wear knits, but she was sure he would wear something she knitted because he's the best boyfriend. And while she's talking, she could maybe lose her place and utter some swear words before she goes back to the stitch marker and counts stitches and rows.

Or maybe Agnes could get a knot in the yarn and no matter how hard she tried, she could just keep making the knot worse. Then she would throw the knitting down and swear that she will never knit again because she's just too stupid to learn how to do it properly.

Then, of course, she would feel silly for doing and saying that and she would get up and get the yarn and either calmly untangle it, or else cut the strand and start again from the untangled end.

What? Tell me I'm not the only one who knits like that.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Orange Dreamsicle Cake

Let me tell you a story. Several years ago, T and I had some delicious orange cake at a restaurant. It was the most awesome orange cake you can imagine. T loved it so much, he asked if I could recreate that cake at home. And I said yes. Because, at the time, I was absolutely certain that I could. I mean, how hard could it be? But all my efforts have fallen just short. Good cake, but not great cake.

Flash forward to this past week, when I was trying to decide what to make for my final cake decorating class.

"Orange cake." He says. I tell him I could maybe make a chocolate cake with fudge filling and chocolate frosting. "Orange cake." I could make a Black Forest cake with cherry filling and chocolate frosting. "Orange cake." I could make a lemon cake with lemon curd filling and a light vanilla frosting. "Orange cake." I could make...

"Orange cake."

So I decided to try it again. This time, I got it right. (The trick is orange Jello, if you can believe it.)

I also flavored the frosting and tinted it this lovely shade of orange. Here, you see the paper towel trick makes the cake super smooth. There are some uneven places, but I'm going to cover those up with frosting.

One of our last lessons was Making Ribbon Roses. I made several. Most of them look like ribbon roses. I ate the others.

I thought maybe the cake had a little too much orange on it, so I also added some shells around the bottom border and some Swirled Rosettes to the top. I like the Swirled Rosettes. They are fun and easy to make.

Here's my finished cake. Not too bad.

Of course, the most fun thing about this class is taking it with M.

She is a little more creative with her skills than I am. I stuck with by-the-book decorations, but M used those lessons as a building block to do a more original cake design.

This is her Ombre Waves cake. Lovely!

And the true test of the cake came later this evening, when T sampled the Orange Cake.

He loved it!

Friday, April 26, 2013

A Nightmare

I had a disturbing dream last night. It was kind of a recurring dream. I say kind of because the theme of the dream is what recurs, even if the characters and the actual actions are different.

In my dream, I get a phone call from my dad. Weird, because #1 Dad never made phone calls, if he could avoid it, and #2 Dad's been gone for several years. He says, "I'm here. Let me in." I'm a little confused in the dream, because the phone has awakened me. Plus, I can't remember him saying he was coming to visit. It would be so out of character for him to do so. But he insists. "I'm at the door. Come unlock it and let me in."

This goes on for several exchanges, as I try to think clearly. It feels like this is not right, like it's some kind of trick, but I can't quite wrap my mind around it. Still, Dad persists, "Open the door. Let me in."

In the end, I'm right on the edge of figuring this out... Right at the moment when I realize why this situation could not be happening and what is actually going on... And then I wake up. And I'm left with an uneasy, restless feeling all day.

I've had variations of this dream. All with people who are gone (sometimes I didn't even know they were gone at the time) and all with the feeling of I shouldn't open the door even as that person is insisting I do so.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Wait... How Many Sides On A 4-Sided Die?

Math. Eh.

I started making the triangles for a knitted 4-sided die when I had this sudden, overwhelming OMG moment: Holy crap! These are triangles! Not 4-sided... Oh. Never mind.

You're probably wondering why someone would make knitted dice in the first place. I mean, obviously they're not going to roll randomly. And they probably won't hurt much if you wing them at unruly players.

Which is why I keep my baseball-sized D20 next to me when I GM. JK. I don't wing it at players. It would probably knock them unconscious and cause serious scarring if I did. Providing I could actually hit them. I do throw like a two year old. Unlike T, who has the genetic ability to hit whatever he throws at, without looking, without really even trying. And to hit it dead-on with such force as to stun whatever he hits. That's German precision, there. He gets it from his mother.

Don't get me wrong. T doesn't whip dice at players, either. Because he wouldn't. (I would, but it would just be ineffective.)

Anyway, I just thought the dice were cute, knitted up, and that they would make cute little gifts. As much as he loves Dr. Who, I really don't think T would really like a Doctor doll. (Although, you an I can agree, the Doctor is a doll! Am I right?) But he may appreciate some knitted dice.

As for me, I'm thinking if I knit these with something harder, heavier...

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Googly Eyes

Okay, so the product is actually called Google Glass. I think that's a marketing mistake. I think you'd attract more buyers to your product with a fun name like Googly Eyes.

But that's just me.

In case you don't know what it is, Google has developed a camera/human interface that is totally freakin' awesome. You wear the glasses and you can record what you see. (Come on, how many times have you wanted to do that?) You can take pictures, take video, or do other things like get directions, get translations, get other information. Star Trek stuff, people!

Google isn't having any trouble finding people to want their ill-named product, trust me. NPH has it. Alyssa Milano has it. LeVar Burton has it. Kevin Smith has it. Even freakin' Newt Gingrich has it. They all applied to and were invited to test Google Glass.

They didn't invite me to participate, just so you know. That might be because I don't wear my actual glasses, as it is. Or, it might be because I didn't apply. Who knows? They're missing out, though. Imagine how terrifying exciting it would be to drive along with me wearing those glasses! Haha! Good times!

Of course, I kid. But I am excited about this. So many practical uses. As a teaching device. As a reference medium. As an art form. As an entertainment mechanism.

And, speaking of entertainment... I have no doubt the porn industry is developing its own Googly Eyes. (What will they call it? Google Ass?) I'm not advocating porn, mind you. But there's a lot of money in that business and, as long as there's a way for the industry to make money from the technology, they're perfectly willing to put money into the research.

Don't believe me? Once upon a time, streaming video was nothing. Something only a few techies used before the porn industry decided the technology was something they could use.

I rest my case.

The sad thing is, they'll actually put more money into new tech than governments will. Hm. I wonder if we can convince them it would be sexy to amp up the space program again?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

FO: Ginger Man

Sorry. No. You're just kind of brown.

I was talking about a different kind of gingerman, anyway. This kind:

This is the latest Advent Ornament. It, like all the others, is made from scrap yarn. (Because I am nothing, if not fiscally and ecologically responsible.) It's the Gingerbread Man from Frankie Brown.

Like most of these ornaments, it's knitted flat and then the pieces are sewn together. I tend to knit about ten times faster when I'm knitting flat, so this went pretty quickly. I use a tiny bit of black yarn, as the pattern calls for, for his eyes and mouth. I was hoping they would look like raisins, maybe? And a tiny bit of red crochet chain for his bow.

Almost finished with this Advent Garland! What do you think, Achilles?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Happy Earth Day!

April, of course, is Earth Month.

I don't know if it is or not. But Earth Day is today, so I've been going with a whole Earth Month theme this month. I've been working with scrap yarn for a lot of things--or, as I like to call it--reducing my impact.

No, that's not true. I don't call it that at all.

Anyway, I do try to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle as much as possible. My composter is still cooking yard trash and egg shells and coffee grounds away for use in my garden. (Although, I think what it really does is provide a home for spiders.) And you know that I am a big believer in the power of Goodwill shopping.

You'll see evidence of that in this project. It's my Earth Day Door Mat, made from plarn. The plarn in this case is from plastic shopping bags. You can use whatever colors you want. I used the big green Goodwill bags, some big blue Best Buy bags, a pink Deb bag, some white Target bags, some tan Kroger bags, and some orange Goodwill bags. I cut them all into 3/4" strips and rolled them into balls for knitting.

Knitting with plarn is a weird tactile experience. It doesn't flow over your fingers in the same way yarn does--it acts a little more like ribbon--but it's not an unpleasant feeling. It's slick and smooth. It's also very noisy. This is probably not a project for doing in front of the television. (At least, not if other people are trying to watch TV. Don't be rude.)

It's apparently a tactile experience for cats, too. Hey, this plarn is a little wet. Have you been licking plastic again?

What? Me? No. Why would you say that?

I haven't finished this doormat yet.I'm about halfway there, though. Stay tuned and I will post pix of the finished mat. I'll also post my graph, in case you'd like to do a little Earth Day celebrating, yourself.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

More Cake Lovin'... Cupcakes!

Yesterday was my third cake decorating class. We worked on cupcakes.

This was a frustrating class for me because we got there late. Well, not late. Right at 5 o'clock. But I prefer to get there at least 15 minutes early so I can set up my equipment, get my workspace organized, my frosting colored, and my bags and tips ready.

But, I was late getting out of work. I had to pack up my tips and frosting at home. (Which, granted, I should have done before, but I had planned to have an hour between work and class.) And I had to mix up some frosting to use. So, M and I walked in just as class was beginning.

And it threw us off the whole night. I felt like I was struggling to catch up. When everyone was practicing their shells, I was still trying to find that tip. And when everyone was doing "shaggy mums" I was still working on drop flowers.

The importance of being prepared, people.

Anyway, we went through a bunch of different techniques and I tried to practice them all on my cupcakes.

You can see my rosettes, pom-pom flowers, swirls, swirled stars, and shaggy mum. (I'll let you guess which one that is.) I wanted to go back and add some leaves to my cupcakes, especially the rosettes. But I ran out of time.

As it was, we were the last to pack up our stuff and leave the classroom. Sigh. Next week is our final class. We are doing another cake. I have no thoughts as to what I will do. I'm hoping some inspiration will come to me in the next day or so.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Not Shopping

One of the worst things about blowing out my knee (except for the actual blowing out my knee part) is that it’s difficult for me to be walking for any length of time. Of course, I have to work, but I usually make sure to sit as much a possible while I’m at work.

And, yes, I am taking a cake decorating course in the very back of the Michael’s store. But I signed up for that about two months ago and already paid for it. So, I pretty much have to do it. And, since M will not push me in a cart to the back, I pretty much have to walk to the back of the store.

Ha. It’s not really that bad. This week.

But I’m still not going to be doing any marathon Goodwill shopping for a while. And I’m starting to feel a little bit of withdrawal pain. To counter that, I've been working on some of the things I've bought in my pre-immobile days—things like deconstructing sweaters.

Today, R came home from Wal-Mart and handed me these:

He found Easter Egg Dye Kits on sale and bought them for me! Yay!

Now I can really go nuts!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Dyeing To Tell You About This

Hey, that joke's never gettin' old!

I enjoyed my first dyeing experience so much I decided to do it again. This time, I used a smaller hank, wound a little more loosely. Same glass bowl, since I don't have a non-metal casserole dish of any decent size.

I also took a little more care with the dyes. For one thing, I didn't add any extra vinegar/water and made sure the yarn was just damp. Then, after I poured the dyes onto the yarn, I mushed the dye into the yarn with a spoon. (Not my finger, like last time, so I didn't end up with dyed fingers. Like last time. See? I'm nothing, if not teachable.)

Still, there was quite a bit of bleeding. These dyes are blue, yellow, green (in that order). I thought I would get some really good variegation going that way, but the blue mostly disappeared.

It's okay, though. It's like knitting--there are no mistakes, only surprises. What? You never heard that saying before? Hm.

I do really love this yarn's color. It's very happy. It reminds me of something tropical. Like a parrot. Or a rain forest. Or... I don't know. There's something I'm thinking of that's just eluding me right now.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Another FO!

Here's the back story: A while back, M and I saw this beautiful yarn at Michael's. It was a velvety soft chenille with fur pompoms. Not real fur, of course. Fake fur that looks like real fur. It's one of Red Heart's Boutique yarns and it's called Chic.

But it was expensive--$10 is a lot for 60 yds of a novelty yarn that you have no idea what you will do with. And I have tons of yarn, anyway. So I didn't buy it.

But then, one day I found it on clearance at Michael's for $3. So, yeah. I bought it. And I knitted it up, using the pattern on the inside of the label. This color is called Ebony. Here's a close up of the pompoms.

This yarn is soft and cuddly and just beautiful. I had no problems working with it at all and I would make a dozen scarves out of this... If someone else would detangle it for me.

Sweet Maby Jaby! I took the label off. Took the little string ties off. And OMG! Where is the beginning? It's nowhere! How am I supposed to ball this up if I can't find the freakin' end?

This yarn is black! Ebony is black, did you know that? Black yarn on black yarn. I can't see anything! Aaaaarrrggh! WHERE IS THE END?!

Oh. Okay. There it is. And it only took me 20 minutes to get to it. Yay.

All balled up, this yarn kind of looks like a Tribble.

But, once I got down to the actual knitting, it went really quickly. I used the pattern on the label, which is an alternating stockinette block and garter strip, but I think it would look just fine knitted in straight garter stitch. The big visual attraction is the pompoms, which end up randomly interspersed.

The pattern is called "Knits, Purls, & Pom-Poms Scarf." It's on Red Heart's website. The only change I made was that I went down to a #13 needle size, since I tend to knit on the loose side.

This will go in the Christmas Box for M.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

I'm Dyeing

Yes, I'm a little more mobile now--I even went in to work yesterday! Gasp! Of course, T made me sit down most of the time...

He had a great time telling everyone how I strained the tendon in my knee: He apparently talked back to me and I got mad and kicked at him. But I missed him and kicked a tree instead. And my kick was so powerful that not only did it strain my tendon, but it broke the tree in half. The disturbing part of this story was that every single person believed him right up until the part where I broke the tree in half with one kick.

But I am off again tonight (it's actually my scheduled day to do the behind-the-scenes work on the marketing materials, so I'm working, just not in the store) so I thought I'd take an hour or so and try my hand at dyeing some wool.

You remember this wool, right? It's the wool I unraveled from a Goodwill sweater. Actually, this is only about 1/4 of the wool I unraveled, so I might do some more hand-dyed yarn, depending on how this hank turns out.

Here it is, in the glass bowl, soaked with water/vinegar. It kind of looks like a brain, doesn't it?

I decided to use Easter Egg dyes, since I've read a whole lot on line about using Easter Egg dyes to dye yarn. Plus, these were, like, 40 cents each after Easter. I had R pick me up some when he and Bre went to Michael's last week. There are five tablets and five liquids in the box. I decided to use the tablets, since that's what most of the online tutorials I've read use.

The thing is, the only recognizable tablets out of this box are yellow and green. A couple looked red and one looked blue. I didn't want to get some accidental crap-colored yarn.

So, I used one of the red ones first. It turned out to be blue. Then I used the one that was definitely blue. It turned out to be purple. I dropped the other red one into the cup, hoping it would be red. And it was. So, my color palate is blue, red, and purple. Which is fine with me. I dumped it on the yarn in what I hoped would be an artistic manner.

Now it really looks like a brain! Ha!


Here's a tip: Don't use your fingers to poke the yarn down into the color. Seems like that would be something a person might not have to be told.

For the next step, you're supposed to cover the dish with plastic wrap. But, I don't know if I've ever told you this, plastic wrap and I don't seem to get along. (Now you know my dirty little secret.)

Tenth time's a charm.

And the whole shmear goes into the microwave.

As I took this picture, I got a sudden rush of irrational fear. What if the iPhone's radio waves somehow interacted with the microwave's... uh... microwaves and I ended up mutated into some form of superhero?

Don't be shocked. We all know I'm becoming an anger-driven, destructive beast when I mutate.

And here it is, dyed and rinsed and hanging up to dry. Not bad for my first time. I do see some issues here that are not necessarily According to Hoyle. (Or, According to Martha, as it were.) For one thing, most of the tutorials used about 100g of yarn. I'm guessing this hank is about twice that. But, I may have overcompensated by adding too much vinegar/water, since it did pool quite a bit on the bottom. Even so, there are some white spaces that didn't get any color, or didn't get enough because that purple dye is very weak.

This picture does not really do the color justice. All these colors are much brighter, especially the blue. My bathroom is just really dark, I guess.

Still, I like the way this yarn looks. I think it will look even better knitted up. I'm thinking of doing a cowl and boot cuffs with it. Not that I can think about wearing boots right now, with my janked up knee, but...

Next time, I think I'm going to try a smaller hank and see how that works. After all, I got the sweater for a dollar and the dyes for 40 cents. I think I can afford to experiment.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

FO: Rhombi

Here is the Rhombi Scarf, finished and blocking. Next stop: the Christmas Box, where it will wait to be given away.

This is for someone (but I won't say who, in case he is reading). It's a nice scarf for a man, I think. Knitted from Bernat Satin, it's soft, durable, and washable. The Admiral color is a dark navy, about as manly as you can get.

Plus, this pattern gives the scarf some visual interest without overwhelming. In other words, it's not "too fancy," as I have heard some other scarves referred to. In fact, from a distance, you don't really see this pattern. You see texture. It's only when you are standing next to the person wearing the scarf that you say, "Oh, I see..."

I like this pattern a lot. It's just knits and purls, but it's complex enough that you have to keep track of the rows and watch what you're doing. Fun to knit.

By the way, I slipped the first stitch of every row, which gave the edge a nice, finished look.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Some People Never Learn

Or maybe they just don't believe what people say until they test it out themselves.

Case in point: My knee. Sure, everyone has told me I need to stay off it. Sure, everyone has told me the recovery time would be weeks. Sure, everyone has told me not to try and rush it.

But what do they know? That advice may be true for ordinary people, but I'm Patwoman. If an ordinary person would be down for a month, I should be able to walk around in a week, right?

Plus, I have my cake decorating class, which I love. And I really want to go to. And, so what if it is all the way in the back of the Michael's store? That's really not that far to walk, right?

WRONG. It's far enough to feel like forever. Seriously. The exertion on my non-injured right leg was almost too much. I was pretty glad to be sitting for the next two hours. Except, of course, sitting means slouched in the chair with my left leg extended straight and resting on my purse to keep it from bending. Oh yeah. That's comfort.

Still, it was a fun class and I'm very happy with my cake. Even better, M is taking the class with me, so that automatically makes it even more fun.

Our assignment this week was to make and decorate a cake. I made a white cake with raspberry filling and white buttercream frosting. Mmmmmm.

Raspberry filling on my torted cake.

Frosting on top.

Then on the sides.

Here's a neat trick. We put paper towels on top of the frosted cake and smoothed out the surface.

Looks like fondant + tastes like buttercream = winning!

We practiced doing this:

So I did this:

You might notice that some of my leaves look a little funky. It's because I was accidentally using the wrong tip for about half of those leaves. And I was going to do some little pink flowers on the tree, but I ran out of time. I just pretended this was what I had planned to do. Don't tell anyone.

M did a better job at hers. She made the entire world.

But, I ate my cake anyway.

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