Monday, March 27, 2006

Bikers and Bunnies and Bubbles, oh my!

I spent a good part of my Sunday attempting to strip wallpaper in our guest bathroom, an exercise which has so far proven more frustrating than fruitful. I just hate how you have to get the timing exactly right or you're screwed. Spray remover, wait fifteen minutes, scrape. Wait too long, it dries out, don't wait long enough, paper doesn't come off. So my wonderful plan of spraying the entire wall slowly, then scraping, so that I always came to the next section after 15 minutes would have worked great, if it hadn't taken me a half an hour to scrape one freakin' section. Argh. Frustration.

So imagine my delight at being diverted from this torture at noticing an inordinately large number of motorcycles parked in front of my house. And also imagine me not noticing them until I looked out a window. Seriously, these must have been the nicest bikers, ever. The boy was down for his nap and didn't let out a peep.
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My next door neighbor lady, who seems as mild mannered and suburban a mom as you can possibly get, has a big ol' hog. I knew this already. However, knowing that she occasionally rides her 'bike and having an entire biker gang camped in the street are two entirely different things. And I'm not complaining! I actually thought it was kind of cool, and as I said, they were super nice and didn't do any of that revving of motors that makes me despise other sorts of motorcycle enthusiasts. And look how pretty the bikes are, shining in the sun.
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There were about twenty bikes out there, eight alone in front of my house. When they took off again, it was like a parade, I swear. Well, a parade of one. I think I was the only neighbor watching. Probably everyone else was cowering inside in abject terror.

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Here's a nice springy shot of my kitchen, with man and boy. The strange floating bunnies are actually a mobile I made. I copied it from one I found online, because I desperately wanted it, but it was made of paper, and I wanted one that would last in a house with a toddler. (So yes, it is technically a copywrite violation, but I ain't selling it, so no harm done.) I made this one of craft foam, and it has been entertaining us all very well. Mobiles are fascinating, because they never stop moving. And you can blow a puff of air from across the room, and they will react a minute later. Amazing.

Also amazing are these. Zubbles. Read all about their invention and their inventor here. Took the poor guy ten years. Yikes.

And look at these guys. Aren't I the luckiest girl in the world?
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Ta for now.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Links, Links, Links! ( and then maybe some more links....)

Okay, first up in the smorgasbord o' links (multicultural, ain't I?) are craft blogs I visit but do not have in my blog list to the right. Why don't I have them there? Don't laugh, but it's because I like to visit them infrequently so that I can read a whole bunch of new stuff at once, and I use my own blog as a reference for sites I go to every day. Dorky, eh? This should probably change, since a few of the blogs I go to I can only get to by going through certain other blogs, and it gets kinda confusing. I should just put them all in the list at the right, but then where's the adventure?

First up, the aforementioned Loobylu. Then there's Wee Wonderfuls, Angry Chicken, A Bird in the Hand, and Little Birds. Finally, my two new favorites, Whip Up and Thrift Craft. Whip Up is a collaborative craft blog that is, as Kay of masondixonknitting put so perfectly, a rabbit hole.

Need some cool free knitting patterns? There are always Knitty and Magknits, of course, but have you seen Hello Yarn? (I must make the skull cap) How about The Garter Belt? Most of the Garter Belt's patterns are for sale, but look like they are truly worth it. I picked out seven or eight things I'd like to make. Also worth seeing? See Eunny Knit! Great tutorials and lovely patterns.

Next, funnies I have found, such as You Knit What???, which you could call the Gallery of Regrettable Knitwear. Hilarious, sarcastic, occasionally mean, and totally horrific. I spent all day yesterday going through the archives. Also, have you seen the Lego Death Star? I might need to get one to go alongside my 3D puzzle Millenium Falcon. (I think the comments on this guy's photos are hysterical. Make sure you read the titles of the photos first, or you might get confused.)

Oh, and now I MUST OWN EVERYTHING THIS COMPANY PRODUCES. LIKE THIS, AND THIS, AND THIS. Unfortunately, they don't do retail sales from their site, and the sites they have listed don't actually sell all of their products. Something that MUST BE REMEDIED AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. I'M NOT KIDDING. So, somebody get on that, 'K?

Finally, if you like movies, read this guy's blog. Always interesting, always informative.

All right, that's all for now. Sorry if you visited everything I just listed and completely wasted your entire day. Think of it as "creative research". Bye for now!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Best Craft Blog?!?

Okay, I wasn't really paying that much attention to the Bloggies (awards for Blogs, naturally) but when I found out that the Best Craft Blog winner was this, I was a little shocked. I mean, come on. Sure, they make stuff, but I'm sorry, a home made arc welder? Revamping an NES to make it look like a PS2?!? Do these strike anyone as a little, ahem, male? I hate to cry sexism in this day and age, but look at the other blogs nominated: Loobylu, NotMartha, Yarn Harlot, and Angry Chicken. All brilliant, all worthy. And all of the softer, female craft variety. Were the only people to vote teenage boys? I can admit that Yarn Harlot tends to stick to knitting and spinning, but NotMartha is an equal opportunity craft site. One that I constantly visit, incidentally. Okay, admittedly, the winner does have a "Make your own sextant" link, but I really don't think I will be making a sextant anytime soon. And it just doesn't seem very craft-y to me. Maybe I need to look up "craft" in the dictionary...

Okay, so by definition, craft is "to make by hand" so I guess it qualifies. I just find it annoying that the other sites make by hand, and beautify, and this site makes by hand to have nifty gadgets. Could just be a personality conflict, I guess.

edited to add: Hey, Loobylu won for best Australian weblog! That's at least a bit of a relief.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Okay, I might be a little crazy

I love Easter. It's not that I'm some super christian or anything. In fact, you could say I am the dreaded A word. But I love Easter.

It's probably just that celebration of spring thing. And the bunnies. There is nothing I like better than a stuffed bunny at easter. We got one every year when I was a child. And there is something about filling your house with bunnies and candy and bunnies that appeals to me.

That is probably why I bought all of this.
Silly stuff
I think one of the main reasons I had a child was so that I could feel less guilty about buying this kind of stuff. But come on! How could I resist? How could anyone resist the...
Silly stuff
Bunny Paratroopers, for example? Oh, they work great, by the way.

And how about the...
Silly stuff
Tower of Bunnies? Could you really truly walk by this at the grocery store, and not covet it? I know I couldn't. My favorite part is the little bit of text on the upper right, "Fun for Everybunny!" Everybunny! I love that shit!

And finally, in a gesture to a family story that always seems to come up when you get two or three of my cousins together, we have the...
Silly stuff
Duckie Sunglasses.

Okay, so there isn't much knitting content today. In fact, we might just not mention how INCREDIBLY LONG IT TAKES TO KNIT A %#@^& SOCK.

Instead, more pictures of my camelias.
More Flowers
More Flowers
and once more, after the rain:
More Flowers


Saturday, March 11, 2006

Spring, Sprang, Sprung

My camelia bushes are currently glorious, which makes me feel better about the fast approaching hell that is summer around here. (it could be that we move to a somewhat cooler climate, soon, but deals are still underway)

So here are some pictures of my new favorite flowers. These are camelias, right?

First, a white one:
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And a pink one:
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The pink bush:
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Now wait a minute. What's that?
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There. In the bush. I can almost see it....
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Oh! It's my Bay Window Bear! I could hardly see him, what with his green and fuschia shirt. Yes, I knit a bear for a nice little charity that gives handknit bears to orphans in Jamaica. The free pattern(link to pdf) made for a cute little bear, but the original is supposed to be wearing a sweater and a scarf. In Jamaica?!? I don't think so. So my little guy is keeping cool in a short sleeved t-shirt.
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Now he just needs a shoebox and some postage. Wouldn't it be great if we could travel to Jamaica like that?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Magic Loop!

Oh, Magic Loop, how I love thee. Most of the time, anyway. I have started trying, once again, to knit socks, despite my better instincts. It's not that I don't like socks, per se, or that I think handknit socks are pointless and time consuming. I like handknit socks. What I hate, most egregiously, are those damn tiny dps.

Now, you have to know a little about me. I am 6 feet tall, and I have exceedingly large bones. That is NOT a euphemistically kind way of saying that I am fat. I have really big hands, so big that a friend of mine (a friend, mind you) compared them to hams. And he was a man. I play the double bass, after trying the violin and cello and finding them way too delicate. So, hands, big. Is it any wonder that I feel like a giant trying to reassemble a broken birdhouse constructed of toothpicks when I attempt a sock?

Now, I have made a pair of socks. One pair, for my mama, from 6 strand Regia. Those were ok. The needles were large enough that I didn't feel like I would rather stab one of those tiny, pointy little needles in my eye rather than juggle those damn things in my hands for one more freaking round. And I made another sock, from the regular 4 strand Regia. See?
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The problem is this. I figured, in my early knitting days, that if I just used a slightly bigger needle than was called for, the number of cast on stitches would go down, and I wouldn't have to spend quite so much time making the thing. So what I made, basically, is a completely unwearable sock. The stitches are so loose that you feel like you have just slipped chain mail made of dog hair onto your foot. So this sock remains just this. A lone sock, never to have his trusty sock mate. Just imagine how lonely.

So what possessed me to start a Jaywalker sock on size 0 dps? I dunno. I guess I just got tired of reading, on other knitting blogs, how much they loved knitting socks. And I found some Regia in Germany that I liked the color of. So I cast on for the bigger size.

All those who have made Jaywalkers can spot the problem here immediately. The pattern calls for size 1 needles. I wanted to make wearable socks, this time, and was scared off by the larger needles, and figured my gauge would be a little larger anyway. So I used the 0s. No, I didn't swatch. If I swatched, there would be no story, and who wants that?

The first two inches were nightmarish, annoying, frustrating. And beautiful. I kept stopping every row or two to admire it. I showed my husband the two inches of sock with pride, and he dutifully agreed that it was the loveliest sock he had ever seen. I kept my weeping over the dps to myself. I never let on that each needle I traversed felt like a mountain scaled, only to fall back to the bottom again as I reached the next, a Sisyphean task. I cursed Continental style as being a method only useful for long stretches of ribbing on sweaters, and completely useless on dps for a sock.

That nagging voice at the back of my mind? The one that kept whispering that the sock looked awfully small, especially for such a large boned gal as I? I ignored it for as long as I could, finally succumbing to its seductive pull only after researching Magic Loop online. I could try this, I thought, but what size needle to buy? I had to check the size of the sock. I slipped it on some scrap yarn, and slipped it on my foot. It stopped right at my heel. It was never going to fit over it.

So, rather than add eight stitches to the cast on number, something that caused me to feel a little queasy, I decided to use the called for needle size, and try Magic Loop. For those of you who don't know what that is, it's a way to knit socks on one long long circular needle, preferrably an Addi Turbo. Google it, there are plenty of online tutorials.

And I have to tell you, I love Magic Loop. It is so much faster than dps, so much easier, and once you have the hang, feels nearly the same as knitting flat.

Magic %$#@& Loop!

Then, the Incident. The Incident involved much cursing, crying, hyperventilating, and, eventually, the use of one of those tiny crochet hooks from Oma. You see, one bad thing about Magic Loop is, well, the Loop. The Loop likes to swallow your working yarn when you set your work down. The Loop is ever hungry. The Loop is a nemesis worthy of the capital letter. So last night, I picked up my second attempt at a sock, and tried to arrange it so I could start on the next round. Huh, that's funny, I thought. The yarn is looped around the Loop. So I juggled the Loop and the needle points around to free the working yarn. And somehow, it was now double looped. Hmmmmm, I thought, that's odd. I pushed the needles through the Loop, and straightened things out. Triple looped. Hysterical laughter started to rise from my belly, but I pushed it down. I can fix this, I thought. I have always been able to untangle xmas lights, rope, extension cords, I can certainly untangle one strand of yarn. I examined the loops carefully. I followed the path of the yarn with my needle points. I pushed them once more through the Loop. I straightened things out, sure everything would be okay. Quadruple looped. At this point, the panicked hyperventilating began. It only stopped when I realized I just had to knit to the other side of the sock, and slip the loops off the needle point. Oh ho ho, silly me, I thought, and merrily knit my way across. I discovered half way that I didn't have enough stitches between pattern stitches. There were seven rather than eight. Ruh Roh. I had dropped a stitch TWO ROWS BACK right at the increases. So then there was much cursing and use of the aforementioned crochet hook on the dropped stitch and the two others I dropped as I was trying to get everything back on the needles in the right order.

Exceedinly long story short, I am back on track. We'll just have to see if this sock ends up a bachelor, or one half of a commited relationship. Right now, I'm not even sure if he will ever be able to walk. Just gonna have to take it one day at a time

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Here, the lovely Jaywalker sock begun. On the right, too small version done on size 0 dps. On the left, just right version done Magic Loop style.

Edited to add: Just one more thing! Found the craziest thing, today. Check this out. Click on the little flock of sheep on the right for a knitted object I now desperately covet. What size needles would you call those? 100?

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Oma's Sewing Box

Okay, the Oma news just goes on and on. While I was in Germany, my hubby rummaged around in Oma's sewing box for me, to find any knitting needles that hadn't been purged by his mother. He only found some rather decrepit steel dps, which I declined to take. However, there were further treasures to be discovered, which I only found when I decided to take a peek in ye old sewing box myself, when I was on a search for a yarn needle.

First, an overview of some oddments:
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They are, clockwise from top, some Regia and Woleza reinforcing yarn for socks, black elastic thread, two packages of Prym hooks and eyes, Inox plastic crochet hooks, teeny tiny wooden crochet hooks, a sewing rolly thingamajiggy (does anyone know what those are called? it's the black thing lower left), and five small pearlescent buttons. The wooden crochet hooks are the craziest things I have ever seen. You can barely see the hook at the end on a couple of them. Oh, and the big wooden stick? Actually hides the smallest rug hooking hook I have ever seen in my life. What in the world could you make with such a thing?

But the best is yet to come.

First, some more buttons:
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The big white ones in the upper left are beautiful mother of pearl, an inch and a half across. The ones just to their right are also mother of pearl, as are the small six sided ones below. The two yellowish ones to the left look like bone to me, but I don't really know. The green Art Deco thing to the right is actually a clasp. Would look great on a capelet. There are various other singles on the lower right, and when I get a chance, I will photograph them so you can see just how incredible they are. I can't believe I just used the word "incredible" to label buttons, but there you go. I'm going insane.

Finally, the find of all finds:
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These are copper monogram plates. I don't know what else to call them. They were in a little paper envelope, with another little envelope holding a piece of blue tint. You tint the monogram onto your fabric, and then you can embroider it. Why oh why don't they make things like this anymore? Now it's all computer files and sewing machines that embroider for you. I am so glad I have these, as memories of my husband's grandparents. I am thinking I'll make a shadow box with these, and probably some of those wooden crochet hooks. Not sure, though. Ideas?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Oma Ernst and the Buergermeister

Well, I am back from the wilds of Koenigsbach-Stein in Germany. I missed pretty much all of the rest of the Olympics, knitting and otherwise, and yet I have a victory to report.

This trip was mostly to visit my husband's Grandmother, Margarethe Ernst, who turned 95 last wednesday. Our visit was a surprise for her, and when we walked into the kitchen in my in-law's house and said hello, she was totally shocked. I was a little afraid for her heart, to tell you the truth, but she managed just fine.

Then, the mayor came to visit.
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He was a very nice man, and he and a lady from the newspaper got Oma to tell a little of her life story. This is always compelling, as she survived the fire bombing of Dresden in WWII. And, despite her 95 years, her mind is still clear. Her memory does occasionally have to be jogged, but not nearly as much as you might think.

The party was lovely. Many of Oma's relatives and old friends came, and she had a wonderful time. I, however, had to disappear upstairs a couple of times. The German style of having a party is to start at, oh, say, eleven o'clock in the morning. Nice, a brunch, you might think. Yes, but then everybody stays until about 4 pm, when you have coffee and cake. Not so bad, you might be saying, everybody loves cake. Ah, but then people stay until 7 pm when dinner is served. Okee dokey, I hear you thinking, this does go on a bit, doesn't it? So a party which, in the US might last a few hours, takes ALL FREAKING DAY. And that's a little too much German language speaking for me. Makes my brain hurt.

What about the victory? Never fear, for here it is!
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One hat and scarf, knit for Oma Ernst in two days from one Big Ball of Schoeller Stahl. Big Ball is the name of the yarn, and they aren't kidding. It is about a foot across. 7 stitches to 4 inches, size 12mm needles. I didn't have a pattern, so I really winged it with the hat. I knew Oma's head was pretty small, so I planned on a 20 inch circ hat. I finished it once, held it up to the back of her head when she wasn't paying attention to check the size, and knew it was going to be too short. I checked the (scarily little) amount of yarn I had left, and calculated that I could add about 4 rows to the straight part of the hat, and ripped back. Oh, those last few rows were frightening, let me tell you. And yet, the magic Olympic Spirit was with me.

This was how much I had left.
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Alles Gute zum 95th Geburtstag, Oma.