25 December, 2012

Christmas Knitting 2012

My family has always opened our gifts on Christmas Eve, which is just a smidgen of extra pressure for me when it comes to handknit gifts.  I didn't go too crazy this year, which I believe demonstrates an amount of self-restraint and an ever-growing grasp on reality which is to be commended.

The only person who received a knitted gift this year was my sister-in-law.  And actually, it happened because of a complete lack of self-restraint, as documented in the previous post, so maybe never mind what I just said.  However, showing that my grasp on reality is still somewhat in evidence, the pattern I chose for the two-tone two-ply was fast and simple, and would have been finished in time for the opening of gifts if fate had not intervened.  So, I handed my SIL a gift bag with the admonition "Don't drop the needles!", and a promise to finish it up ASAP.

All I had left to do was bind off the second mitt, sew down the three remaining hems, and knit the thumbs.  I finished both mitts this morning before she and my brother left for her family's more traditional Christmas-day opening of gifts.  She was quite happy with them, and put them on immediately.  It's nice to have something be appreciated by a clearly delighted recipient.

I think my gauge was a bit tighter than called for, and am planning to knit a pair for myself in the same size, but going up a needle size.  I think the yarn would benefit from not being knit quite so tightly.  My SIL's hands are slightly smaller than mine, so I think if I go up a needle size I will get mitts that fit me just fine.  Hers being knit so tightly is good, because hers needed to be super dense and warm for the Ukrainian winter she'll be heading back to in just a few weeks.

This is a super-boring post, and I'm sorry, I'm not feeling especially brilliant or witty today.  The thing about opening presents on Christmas Eve is, Christmas Day is very slow and sleepy.  Nice way to finish off all the madcap preparations, and (since we observe Advent), a great lead-in to the 12 days of Christmas that follow.

More details on the mitts on their Ravelry page, here.

08 December, 2012

Yarn Fumes

Today was dreary, wet, chilly, and really all-around rather miserable.  That is to say, it was the perfect day for curling up in front of a fire with some knitting and a hot beverage of choice.  Please take note of that, because it has a direct bearing on what happens next.

A dreary, miserable day.  Come on New England; this is Winter, not Mud Season!!  Get your act together!
 I needed a new set of dpns for a hat.  That's another post, but the bottom line is, my dpns are too short to hold all the stitches, and I don't like knitting on 16" circulars.  Makes my hands hurt.  So off to the the LYS I went, never dreaming what that would precipitate.  I am, after all, a knitter with some experience in resisting the allure of new yarn.  (My husband is snorting over that and muttering "Have you LOOKED at your stash lately?", but I maintain it is a reasonably-sized stash to have collected over the course of the eleven years we've been married.)  I am quite capable of heading off to my LYS and walking out with nothing at all, or precisely the item I went in for, and nothing else.  I do it on a regular basis.  Today, however, was different.

Right inside the door I browsed through the pattern books, glanced briefly at the needles (that was why I went, remember?), and then turned around to look at the yarn.  And there it was:  A Baby Surprise Jacket knitted in the softest merino imaginable, colors set off beautifully by the garter-stitch texture.  My 8-month-old was on my back, and I suddenly realized that he had to have this sweater in this yarn.  It was perfect.  The shop model was clearly too small (my son is rather...erm...large, for his age - he wears a size 18 months), so after determining that it had used up one entire skein, I bought two:

Indulgence 6-ply Distrato in color 021 - be still my heart!
 Noticing the rack of buttons just around the side of the display case, I decided to choose some for the sweater then and there:

They're perfect!
I kept walking, and the next yarn that caught my eye was a plump two-ply tonal yarn in a variety of colors that, frankly, just looked like fun.  What could I do with that?  I wasn't sure, so I kept going.  Then...have I mentioned that I'm a sucker for color?  Beautiful colors cry out to come home with me.  They whisper sweet nothings and tell me how beautiful I will look in them and...well, it may have been then that the yarn fumes really began to get to me.

Nordlys superwash by Viking of Norway, color 949
I have no idea what I'm going to do with it, but I knew I had to bring it home.  I got two skeins, just in case.  Then I remembered the two-ply, and also that my sister-in-law gets very cold, and is currently living in Ukraine, which is a miserable place for someone with bad circulation.  I went back for the two-ply:

Ewetopia (how could I resist?!) by Frog Tree , color 1226
I wandered about a bit more, grabbed a few packages of coilless safety pins in pretty colors (one for me, one for Christmas), got a needle gauge since I never seem to have one when I need it, and finally found the needles I came in for.

Total take.  I don't know what to say.
For the benefit of knitters everywhere, I would like to provide this warning:  Be very careful when entering an unfamiliar yarn store on a wet, cold day.  Further research is needed to determine whether the cold and the rain combine to produce the elevation of potency in yarn fumes, or whether one or the other, or both, will produce this effect when operating alone.  Further research also needs to be conducted in a variety of stores to investigate if an immunity to the potency of the fumes can be developed by way of multiple visits to the same store.  I will be happy to continue research in this important area, but not tonight.

I have a stash to update, and some new projects to cast on.  :-)

23 December, 2011

Miss Manners

I've been reading through some old Miss Manners columns this morning.  I haven't had time to look at these for months, so I thought I'd take a bit of time and catch up.  It's a good thing to do while I'm putting my feet up, which I needed after running all over town yesterday evening and this morning.  Craziness!  I never go out this close to Christmas if I can help it, and waddling all over town five months pregnant was a bit much. 

At any rate, I was very pleased to discover that Miss Manners not only doesn't mind KIPing, but also realizes that annoying knitters may be hazardous.  She's pretty sharp! 

03 December, 2011

Ze knitting, she 'as been 'appening

Really, I've been a much better knitter than blogger this past Summer.  I finished two pairs of socks.  One for my sister, and one for myself.  The pair for my sister (the Jelly Bean socks, on my Ravelry project list) was presented on her birthday in August.  The pair for myself, the beautiful Lake Effect Socks, has disappeared into some vortex, which I failed to notice until cold weather arrived.  I prefer not to talk about it.

I also have been knitting for a special little man who arrived at a friend's house this summer.  First I made him Cargo pants, with a matching hat.  The pooling isn't nearly as noticeable in the actual garment; I hadn't even realized it did that until I looked at the camera.  I modified the pattern with a few short rows across the seat to accomodate cloth diapers, and used the cuff from the pants legs for the brim of the hat.  I was actually quite pleased when the hat brim started pooling, because I thought it would show off the colors nicely, where they really just look more mottled in the pants.  I'm not sure what happened with the picture!  Yarn used: Plymouth Yarn Fantasy Natura.

Then I heard he was outgrowing the hat, just as the weather turned cold, so I knitted him another one.  It came out a bit large; it's modeled here by my youngest, whose head is 2.5" larger than the baby's.  Hopefully he'll still be able to use it.  There was no pattern for this one.  I cast on 84 stitches, joined, knitted for a while, then began decreasing at four equi-distant points every other round.  When I got down to four stitches, I knitted i-cord for a while, then tacked it in a curl when I wove in my ends.  Yarn is Cascade 220 Superwash.  I was going for a gnomeish effect.  What do you think?

I also made mittens, but not enough.  So my youngest is wearing the pair that are too small (actually two halves of two different pairs; he calls them his Stoplight Mittens) so my oldest can wear the youngest's new mittens until I get mittens made for the oldest.  Did that make you dizzy?

Mittens drying in front of the heater, after the first (very wet!!) snowfall!  All knitted with Cascade 220.  You can barely see, in the turquoise pair, I ran out of yarn and finished the thumbs with the same yarn I used for the baby hat.

Pictures of wips coming soon, because there is Christmas knitting going on as well!

09 March, 2011

Where's the logic in that?

I posted this on my other blog, but since I began the chicken saga here as well, I thought I should finish it and not leave you all hanging.  So, here it is:

This post was supposed to be full of chipper advice about the wonders of Freecycle.  On Freecycle, I found shingles for my chicken coop roof, paint for the walls, and wire for the enclosure.  My hens have finished their molting (mostly) and we've been getting three eggs daily.  The whole family loves the chickens, and we've had so much fun watching them and just enjoying them.

However.  This past Monday I went before the City Council to plead for my hens...and was turned down.  Because last year, the citizens of this city informed the City Council that chickens in the city were Not Acceptable - apparently, they are noisy, smelly, and the eggs (!) attract rats - and so the new zoning regulation that would have permitted them was defeated.

And despite the fact that MY chickens are quiet, clean, don't smell, and don't attract rats, there are No Exceptions.  Not here.

Chicago will allow you to keep an unlimited number of chickens in the city (as long as they are for pets or eggs, not slaughter).  Toledo, Ohio allows chicken owners to get a variance from the City Health Inspector, an exception to the prohibition against "farm animals" in the city.  But not here.  Apparently, these people know better.

The next time these people are walking behind their dogs with little baggies of poop (or wishing that their neighbors would), I hope they think about the fact that chickens don't poop in other people's yards.

The next time a dog barks madly at three a.m. right next door, I hope they think about the fact that hens never make a noise louder than a t.v. or a noisy a.c. unit, and that only during the day.

The next time they shake their heads about the filthy yard full of cats and dogs (or one dog, or whatever) down the street, I hope it crosses their mind that it is FILTH that attracts rats, not chickens.  I find the assumption that I would allow my chickens to be filthy really quite insulting.  (And, by the way, I don't leave the eggs in the coop.  We bring them in the house and eat them ourselves, silly people.)

But, there is no reasoning with Concerned Citizens.  So, having cried in front of the City Council ("Clearly this is a very emotional issue for you." they said.  As though no rational person would be frustrated or upset at having to give up their pets because other people are being ridiculous.), as well as the Mayor, I'm re-homing my chickens.  And to everyone who will sleep better at night as a result, I wish a dog next door who barks at three a.m.

04 March, 2011

True Conversation

Tonight I decided that I should knit a sweater for my husband, so I went on Ravelry to look at patterns.  There's lots of patterns for men's sweaters.  I saw a nice basic v-neck sweater, and asked him, did he like it?  Yes, he replied, that was nice.  I made several comments about the construction, etc., and then pulled up the pattern page.  Looking at the photos more carefully, I realized this sweater has ribbing down the sides. 

I have no idea what my husband considers "manly" when it comes to knitting, and since I know that some men are rather particular, I thought I'd better ask.  Was ribbing ok?  He shrugged.  Did he like the ribbing?  He shrugged.  Would he like a sweater with this type of ribbing??  (I showed him the picture.)  He groaned and replied "I'd like roller skates."

22 February, 2011

How to build a chicken coop for free

Several weeks ago, I found an ad on Craigslist - 5 laying hens for $30.

There are women in this world who dream of fancy clothes, perfectly manicured nails, and beautiful shoes.  I dream of...chickens.  And how could I pass up a deal like that?

Problem the first:  Chickens need a place to live.
Problem the second:  We're poor.

Someone (was it Bell, or Einstein?) said that all you need to be an inventor is a pile of junk and a good imagination.  So we pulled out our pile of junk and looked it over.

This is what we came up with.  We also found two sheets of plywood (one long and skinny, one 4'x4'), and two rolls of linoleum that had been left here by the previous owners.  It seemed like a good start.

We took the platform that is there on the ground, and decided to make that our floor.  It was originally screwed to the crib ends for a loft bed for our oldest, and I thought we could just screw it back on further down, and close in the sides.  However, my husband had other ideas.

The 2x4s were different lengths, so he sawed them both in half, then used some strapping he'd saved to add a bit of structural integrity.   My baby helped:

I will say at this point, we looked at a web-site that said you should never start to build without a detailed plan for what you're going to do.  We didn't listen.  It worked out just fine, but the disadvantage of doing it that way is, you have to keep pausing to figure out what you're doing next.  I don't think it probably takes any longer in the end (planning takes time, whenever you do it), and it seems easier to me when you're trying to work with what you've got.  But I'm kind of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of person anyway, and you might prefer a bit more forethought.  So there you go.

Anywho, at this point we decided more wood was called for, and headed over to the local building supply store.  They have a pile of pallets out back, available free to whomever wants to pick through them.  We came home with these:

Can you believe all that wood was just going to be thrown away?  Pulling apart the pallets was a pain; my shoulders are still sore.  But they were free!  So we used those to cover over the walls.  We put another piece of strapping across the middle of each wall, and just screwed the boards to that, top, bottom, and middle.

The screws were a bit too long.  Fortunately, my husband got a dremel for Christmas, and he used that to cut off the ends flush with the wood.

We cut the 4'x4' piece of plywood to cover the floor, leaving it hanging out one end for egg boxes (we had to piece it to make it long enough).  That was where we left it Saturday night.  There wasn't a cloud in the sky, and so we left it out in the yard to finish Sunday afternoon.

Sunday morning when we woke up, it was raining.

We moved the coop into the garage, hoping it would dry quickly.  We didn't want to put the linoleum down on wet plywood, but (this is how I work) we were picking the chickens up THAT afternoon, so the coop sort of needed to be done.

We came home from church and continued working under grey skies, but the floor had dried, and we went ahead and tacked down the linoleum.  We finished the walls, and used a sheet of heavy plywood off one of the pallets to make egg boxes.  They were inserted into the end of the coop and screwed to the 2x4s, and then the floor was screwed to the bottom of the box.

Then we took the long, skinny sheet of plywood for the final wall.  Cut in half, it perfectly covered one long wall.  We hinged it at the bottom (with hinges we found in the basement) so the entire side can be opened up for cleaning.  To let the chickens out, we'll open one half, which will then work as a ramp.  Actually, the coop is low enough that I'm sure the birds don't need a ramp, but that was easier than figuring out how to prop the door open if we had hinged it from the top.

We finished that up about 9 o'clock, so we left the roof for another day.  The only cost for the coop was $3 for the tarp, plus hasps and latches for the two doors and the egg box.  We haven't put those on yet, so we're holding the egg boxes closed with bricks in the meantime.  The doors are held shut with screws, until we get those latches on.  So, to water the chickens, I have to get the drill, unscrew the door, and then screw it shut again when I'm finished.  That's a project for next weekend.

Here's a view of the egg box end:

Next up:  "It's not about what you have in your closet!  It's about who your friends are, and what they have in their closets!"  (Name that movie.)