Chitchat and the occasional in-depth analysis about fiber, knitting, spinning, crochet, cooking, feminism, self-image, and a modicum of personal blathering.

Friday, October 31, 2008

another one rides the bus

I’m a transit knitter, always working on a sock. I carry my little sock bag (courtesy of Messie Craftie) inside my purse and pull it out once I get situated and knit until I’m almost downtown. The first thing I saw when I got on the bus today was another knitter, also working on a sock.
Instead of falling over in excitement, I smiled and tried not to geek out too much. I got out my sock and quipped that they’d have to rename this bus the knitting bus, haha, feeling like a total dork. I asked what she was working on and what the yarn was. She said it was a sock, and I was like, “I know, I have a sock too, hahahaha”. (it was “Online” self patterning in a plain stockinette pattern on DPNs, looked like size 1s.) She wasn’t nearly as enthusiastic as I was about seeing another sock knitter on the same bus, so I shut up and just knitted the rest of the way into town. It was pretty awkward.
Really, it’s very tough for me to talk to strangers especially since my appearance is so bizarre lately what with the crutch and the being a fat lady who dresses for comfort (not for speed, hahaha) and the comfy shoes with the bright hand-knitted socks. When I got off the bus, I said good bye and happy knitting, and tried not to be too embarrassed that I’d even said anything in the first place.
It’d be different if there were as many knitters on the bus as, say, MP3 listeners or phone-talkers or readers but this is literally the first time I’ve ever seen anyone knitting on a bus in Pittsburgh besides me and it was really, really cool. So, anonymous sock-knitting lady, I’m sorry if I alarmed you or made you uncomfortable, I was just happy to see someone else knitting a sock!

Here's some photos of my awesome sock bag-it's reversible, very simple, no fancy pockets or anything inside or outside but it was inexpensive, it's washable, and it won't break my heart six ways if something were to happen to it. It does the job.
Blue side...

And flowery side.

My current travel sock is “daughtersocks Mark II”, the red Beaded Rib. I’m using a suspected Trekking Handart (got in a destash very cheaply with no ballband). It was advertised as XXL but the colors match a Handart colorway called Feuerland. It feels a lot like the Handart I used to make my Hederas so I’m about 90% sure that’s what it is.
I don’t know why I can’t seem to make myself finish the damned Koi socks. I did get the heel done and worked a repeat down the foot when we went to the OTB for the Breeders Cup Races last week but I haven’t picked it up since. Got about another two repeats on the Woodland Shawl done too and nothing further. The wheel takes all my attention lately.

In other crafty news, I’ve finished the first braid of London Fog merino. 350 yards of a heavy fingering/light sport. It needs to be washed and hung out to dry before I get a WPI but it looks pretty good. I’m trying to make this into matching skeins to make Bob and I matching socks. It’s my first attempt at double-drive on the Kromski and I have to say, the yarn is very consistent. I also got into the chapter in Alden Amos about plying, which is really making me rethink the amount of thought I give to the process. To me it’s always been plyplyply as fast as you can, you can’t catch me, I’m the frenzy-ply wo-man! Well, plying this one, I slowed down, gave more distance between kate and me, and between me and wheel, and am being more mindful. It’s frustrating, but it’s going to be well worth the effort as the yarn is a lot more consistent and no snarls or overspun bits. This skein is the best yarn I've spun yet, except for the end bits that I chain-plied and I just don't like the way that looks but I didn't know what else to do with the leftovers. But the attention to plying paid off in a big way overall. Dammit, Alden, why must you make so much sense?! I’m actually trying to figure out a way to make a bobbin-winder and invest in some storage bobbins, which only cost a buck each or something.
Here's some photos of THAT.
The freshly-plied yarn on the Babe. The outer layers are chain-plied leftovers so you're not getting a very good look at the yarn itself here.
Here it is hanked up with the roving for the other skein and a partial kitty who would NOT move.
And here it is all by itself.


I have to admit, I'm a little bit in love with this yarn.

I bit on another Ravelry destash too. I’ve been wanting to try spinning some cotton for a while and now I have a wheel that can actually do that. (Dunno if I can do it, but the wheel should be capable.) I got three cotton roving braids for five bucks each, plus some bamboo fiber to play with, and a gorgeous set of mixed-fiber batts. The destasher was also sweet enough to enclose an extra mini-batt that looks like that ribbon candy-it’s totally adorable and all of the batts look like they’ll be fabulous spinning. I’ll try to get pictures of the new fiber up soon. Hopefully I won’t be lamenting my inability to spin cotton. The bamboo shouldn’t be an issue; it has a similar staple to silk and doesn’t need the speed that cotton does. I doubt I’ll be getting much bamboo fiber, though, because the process to make it is rather resource-intensive and perhaps not so environmentally wise. Cotton is also resource-intensive and damaging to the environment unless it’s organic cotton and I don’t think this stuff I got is organic, but I’m rationalizing that I didn’t buy it from a vendor, I got it from someone who is destashing so it won’t increase demand. Plus, this way I can see if I can and will spin cotton on a regular basis before spending more money on organic cotton fiber which is quite a bit more expensive. I can rationalize anything, then go on in the next paragraph to whine about money. It’s a problem, I know.

Anyway, I spun up the first ply of one of the cotton braids. Took a while to get the hang of it, as it is a very different feel with the short staple length but once I got going it wasn't too bad. Mostly it just feels weird and tiring on the hands. I think the trick is drafting short and fast and keeping the spin consistent with very little uptake. I did have to go back to scotch tension to control the pull-in, I could not get that figured out with the double-drive. Hmm. Must give that some thought and do some research.
Here's the first of it.
Obviously I need practice but all in all it's satisfactory.

I’ve been doing nothing but spinning, much to my shame. Well, not really. I got a new tool, of course I’m going to use it. But the dread holiday gift-giving season doth approach, and I have a minimum of 2.5 more pairs of socks to make, plus a wine-bottle cozy for one aunt/uncle set, plus something for another aunt/uncle set and another aunt. Plus I have to come up with a gift for my mother and the girls, but probably not all crafted except for the socks. I have ideas for the kids, but not sure where the money’s going to come from. I should get something small for elder daughter’s boyfriend, he looks like he’s going to be a keeper. (after two years) My mom, I have no idea. I guess it depends on how well she takes to spindling. I’d love to get her a nice spindle and give her a pack of fiber samples to try. I think I’m going to talk to Bob about maybe us not getting each other anything major this year. It’s silly. We don’t have the money. Maybe we can just fill up each other’s stockings and call it good. STRESS. ARGH.

A bit of good news, I sold my very first sock pattern. Some kind soul on Ravelry bought a copy of Cucumber Falls. I was unreasonably excited. I also managed to get all of my free patterns converted to PDF and uploaded to Ravelry for download as well, so if you’re over there, feel free to stop by my shop and get a copy.

I’m actually penning this (pixeling this?) at work on an 18 – minute break, of which I get two daily. And now it’s time to go back to work, so I’m going to close and maybe get some actual work done today at some point.
ETA-Now with added pictures!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Your black cards can make you money

It's not all been a vale of tears here in Buttercupia, despite the glum tone of the last post.

Last weekend, Bob was gone to Columbus to visit his parents, and I went to a spinning get-together. One of the spinners sent out an email to the group that she had a couple of wheels she was interested in selling, and, well, one thing led to another and...


This is Nancy, the lovely woman who sold it to me.


The wheel itself is a Kromski Mazurka, a wheel that's been on my short list for some time. I got a very good deal on it as well, and I think it'll keep me busy for a while. It's versatile enough, going from single to double drive, and has a wide range of ratios, making a variety of yarns possible. I'm not really interested in the super-chunky and novelty type yarns. I seem to be settling in pretty well to fingering weight to aran weight, three ply yarns as my most comfortable range. I'm keeping the Babe, of course, for travel spinning and plying, I'm not quite up to speed on plying with the Kromski yet.

It's a very pretty wheel, too. I like the walnut finish more than I expected I would.

So I've been pretty busy with the new wheel.

(that was just Saturday and Sunday last week!)

Then this fingering weight CVM that I had laying around...
I have a specific pair of socks in mind for Husbandman with this IF it will work. It might not. I'm going to have to try it and see.

Right now I'm spinning this gorgeous superwash merino in a colorway called "london fog" that I got from a destash on Ravelry. The colors are terrific, coming out more silver and slate than grey and black as they're spun.

The second bobbin of this is my first try at spinning with the double drive set up. I hope it doesn't end in disaster. It's a lot faster, for one thing. For another thing, it's a different feel to controlling the fiber. Hard to explain. Not precisely more difficult, just different and will take some getting used to it. I'm excited though, I love learning new things and this has me doing some serious Alden Amos Big Book of Handspinning reading.

My mother came over yesterday to watch the Steeler game (which sucked) and eat dinner and learn to spin on a spindle. (which didn't suck) I made a fab pork roast in the crock pot and veggies and potatoes. I was quite surprised that my mother expressed an interest in spindling, as she isn't the most patient person in the world, but apparently she picked herself up a drop spindle at some point last week and couldn't figure it out. I couldn't figure it out either, really, it had a half-hitch arrangement that we couldn't quite reason and I ended up giving her my annie may spindle to use. She took to that one pretty quickly. I also loaned her my "teach yourself visually" book. It was fun times.

In knitting, not a lot going on. I'm still crawling along on the Baby Surprise Jacket, and the Woodland Shawl, but most of my at-home craft time has been devoted to getting to know the new wheel. I did finish the Beaded Rib socks for #1 daughter and started a pair for #2 daughter.


I love the colors on that yarn. It's DK Technicolor Dream Toes.


This one is Trekking XXL but I don't know what colorway as I got it pre-caked in a destash a while ago. No ballband.


Heck, I don't actually even know if it's Trekking XXL. It might be something else altogether. It sure doesn't feel like the Trekking Handart I made the Hedera socks for myself from.

There's been a minor amount of blogging going on over at the Fritz Blitz. (see sidebar) I've decided to try to blog regularly there as well, probably focusing on the Penguins and the NHL but who knows what else might come up.

I'm starting to get a serious backlog of handspun yarns now. I might have to set up an etsy shop after all. I can't imagine knitting it all. I suppose I could do craft fairs or something like that but those are seldom lucrative. Maybe someone else who sells regularly could consign for me. I have a lot to think about in that department. All I know is my yarn stash keeps getting bigger.

Until next time.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

One year

So all day long, actually, all week long this is how it’s been. I’m going along like everything is normal, and then it hits me. Melissa’s been dead for a year now. And I’ll cry a little, or a lot. I’ll remember our times together and smile, or feel sad, or sometimes both at the same time. Then it’s back to normal for a while. Then it hits me again.

Last night was bad. Over and over I relived the last day we spent with her, my daughters sitting with her holding her hand, in the hospice, where she was no longer herself and moving out fast. Her family and their anguish. My own feeling that this was impossible. Hugging her tight, her unconscious body warm and soft and solid like it always was, kissing her on the cheek, telling her I loved her and not to be afraid. Saying goodnight for the last time.

Then, the call from her brother at some unholy hour of the morning. The pain all over again, like it was happening for real again. Getting busy, getting her house ready to receive her family, buying cookies and sandwiches for everyone, cleaning the kitchen and making coffee. My daughters and I, working together, trying to do one last thing for her. Seeing her sister come through the door of the house, with so much Melissa in her face that I started bawling all over again.

The horror of the funeral parlor, the way she didn’t look at all like herself, the way she was dressed in clothes she never would have worn in life, (wouldn’t be caught dead wearing them, she probably would have said), the way her makeup was all wrong, the awful finality of her lying there, herself and not herself, wearing a mask that would have terrified her. She would not have chosen orange. Yellows and pinks were her colors. Never orange. I fixated on that, maybe it made it a little easier to remember her in life instead. I wish they had buried her in the pink and white shawl I made for her.

The funeral, the tears, her daughter’s grief. The horrible finality that all the time wasted was really never going to be redeemed. All the hours we could have spent together were never going to happen. We were never going to see each other’s grandchildren. We were never going to help bury each other’s mothers.

So much regret. So much guilt. So much wishing I had been closer the last few years, that we’d never had that big fight, that I’d done more to help, that I’d been there for her more than I was. I got on with my own life, selfishly. I try to remember that she wasn’t perfect, that we did infuriate each other from time to time, that I would be sitting there in her kitchen, for instance, sometimes for an hour while she talked to someone else on the phone. More guilt for remembering that. And like a sack of river rock, it hits me again, not between the eyes, not across the shoulders, but right in the heart. She’s gone, and we’re never going to be able to make it right.

And I live it all over again.

I know it’s going to get easier. I hope that it can get that way without me having to forget her. That sly wink she gave me in the hospice after pitching a complete tantrum fit about not getting her meds. That smile that said “don’t worry, I’m not really this crazy. I’m just doing this to get what I want.” And she did. Remembering that, remembering her laugh, remembering her singing. Us singing together. The battles she won, and lost. The ones we fought together. The ones we fought against each other. Chess and scrabble. Love and heartbreak. Remembering her angry, crying, one night a long time ago, finally just climbing into my lap like a child so I could hold her and rock her and tell her it was going to be okay, and her saying she just wanted someone to love her. I loved her. I still do.

When you're falling awake and you take stock of the new day,
And you hear your voice croak as you choke on what you need to say,
Well, don't you fret, don't you fear,
I will give you good cheer.

Life's a long song.
Life's a long song.
Life's a long song.

If you wait then your plate I will fill.

As the verses unfold and your soul suffers the long day,
And the twelve o'clock gloom spins the room,
You struggle on your way.
Well, don't you sigh, don't you cry,
Lick the dust from your eye.

Life's a long song.
Life's a long song.
Life's a long song.

We will meet in the sweet light of dawn.

As the baker street train spills your pain all over your new dress,
And the symphony sounds underground put you under duress,
Well don't you squeal as the heel grinds you under the wheel.

Life's a long song.
Life's a long song.
Life's a long song.

But the tune ends too soon for us all.

But the tune ends too soon for us all.

Monday, October 13, 2008

But the rock's too small, she said, can't you see?

It's been an uneventful week for the most part.

I do want to share this video, with reservations. I don't like the part that says "too thin to bear children", because our worth should not be tied in with our ability to procreate any more than it should be tied in with our weight.

I do tend to try to stop people from using disparaging language about themselves or others based on weight, shape, or appearance in general. I think this video will be helpful to many women (and men) who have yet to learn to accept and love their bodies for what they are.


We went to the zoo on Saturday. It was a gorgeous day. The weather could not have been more perfect. I took ten million photos. The ones I found worthy to some degree can be found here. Here's a few highlights.

River Otters, so CUTE.



Lions being awesome.

The flickr set has a lot more and better ones.

I did better than expected at the zoo. We did buy tram passes (a tram runs every 20 min or so around to some major points of the zoo) but ended up not using them at all. Of course, I was exhausted when it was over. I thought Bob was going to have to get someone with a golf cart to get me back to the entrance, but I did make it without passing out or throwing up even though both things were looking kinda likely at one point. It's definitely the hardest I've pushed myself since the accident and I managed to NOT spend the whole day recovering yesterday, and had no leg cramps or other hideous pain at night. I'm getting stronger.

And in crafting, I spun up the merino ball that I got at Penn's Colony. It was full of neps, little lumps of fiber, and could not be spun thin as a result. I made a seriously chunky three-ply from it and then tried to dye it black and gold. It did NOT work. I don't have photos yet, but I overdyed it with blue to make it greenish. It's pretty heinous. I think I'll make myself an ugly hat out of it.

I got an awesome swap package from a Ravelry swap.
Among other amazing goodies from the package was that Elizabeth Zimmermann book. It's a knitting classic, containing the famous "baby surprise jacket" which is a legendary pattern. I want to make the adult size for myself, and it's recommended that you make the baby size first to get the hang of how it works. So I cast on one out of oddments.


It's alpaca and I have some merino in a coordinating color. Hopefully that will be enough. If not, I'm sure I can come up with something to finish it with. Then I'll have to find a baby to give it to.

Still working on the beaded rib socks


Here's a better photo of the flyaway free jacket.
I have been wearing that thing all over the place. It's a nice garment with a multitude of uses.

Progress continues to be made on the koi socks.
I'm just not very enthusiastic about them for some reason. I think I dislike short-row heels. They should be finished by the end of the week, though.

And the woodland shawl also moves along slowly.


And now there's some show on the style channel (I was watching Clean House) about how this woman has no life now because she's not hot and sexy any more, she's dressing for comfort and also hates herself because she's gained weight. This message is unhelpful. They're tarting her up in cute (sexy, "flaw" hiding) clothes and encouraging her to lose weight "for herself". Because making yourself as appealing as possible to the male gaze is your whole objective in life, ladies. If you don't do that, you're letting the menz down. Can't have that.


Ok. I'm out, I have laundry to do and I need to get some serious knitting time in.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Every picture tells a story, don't it?

This past weekend was Pittsburgh's 250th birthday party. I'm using that as an excuse to post a mostly content-free and picture-heavy post.

We made the decision to meander down to Station Square, just across the river from Point State Park (aka ground zero for the festivities)to maybe get some dinner and watch the fireworks.

Along with approximately 100,000 other people who had the same great idea we did.

There was no dinner to be had in any of the 20 or so restaurants in Station Square. Minimum waits were 2.5-3 hours. So my courageous husband stood in line for an hour and fifteen minutes to get us a hoagie and soda. I love that guy.

We got a pretty good cloudscape on the way in to town.

After dinner, we started walking back towards the car, which probably close to a half a mile away. We went into the courtyard where the dancing waters are.




There are various artifacts of the steel industry there, like this old furnace, which stands over the people like a malevolent "transformer", about to strike.

Some shots of the city skyline...



Yes, I need a tripod.


And on to the fireworks! It was truly a spectacular show, the best I've ever seen. The main blasts were going off in four separate locations at once. I hope that eventually there will be a DVD of an aerial recording of the show, that's about the only thing that could possibly do it justice.

Anyway, here's some more photos, though the entire set I took can be seen here.







This one shows the fireworks going off from the tops of three of Pittsburgh's skyscrapers in addition to each of the three rivers.

I think this one is my favorite.

You can see one of the identical displays off in the distance here.

And color bursting off the tops of the buildings again.


Needless to say, these will be better if you look at them on the flickr site linked above-in the largest sizes. But there ya go. Better than my last attempt at fireworks!