Monday, March 28, 2011

Kay and Ann's fault

Since my post yesterday was kind of dramatic, let's get back to our regularly scheduled program of me being crazy. Not as crazy as when I accidentally spilled my black hair color on my bathroom sink and couldn't get the stain out so I decided to sponge the entire sink with the leftover hair color, but... (It worked, by the way, and everyone always said how cool my sink was and laughed their heads off and said, "Only you!" when I told them what I did, like my usual personality gives way to people being able to easily picture me doing these things. What's up with that?)

I got the two Mason-Dixon Knitting books from the library and really loved them both. The second one talks about some harder techniques that you might like to try in your knitting to take it up a notch. I mean, I've done some hard knitting. Cookie A, anybody? Hello? Read a chart much? Have nightmares about little symbols in little squares? But, I digress.

I hadn't successfully tried Fair Isle, though. I've messed around with it before, knitting a few rows in a couple of colors, to kind of prove that I understood the concept, but ultimately never cared enough. I mean, I live in Arizona. Mesa, Arizona. When the heck do we need carefully knitted double layer super oven warm anything? We have, like, a three week long winter, if you can even call it that. Leaves don't fall off of our trees until around Christmas or in January. I didn't care enough because I didn't have a reason to care enough.

This all happened to me because of Kay and Ann, the authors of the Mason-Dixon books. I had been looking through the books, mainly in the second one, and saw this lovely circle pattern Fair Isle blanket, and it stuck in my head. When I read the TYF thing, it said that the Japanese mostly wear neutral colors. This meant that, in my head, my knitted item had to be these things: easy to care for, neutral in color, and warm. My best neutral colors in easy to care for yarn were the Naturally Caron Spa yarn I have in my stash, but they would only be warm if I worked them in Fair Isle. I never would have even come up with this idea before reading Kay and Ann's books. But here I was, designing a circle pattern for a neck warmer, ready to knit it in Fair Isle. And I did it. All by myself. Came up with the base pattern and everything.


Alas, not the happy ending I had envisioned. I cast off, and wouldn't you know that the rolled edge I had knit that seemed to magically stop where the Fair Isle started (when it was on my needles, of course, deceptive little rolling edge) now suddenly burst free of any preconceived border, rolling right past the beginning of the color work and hiding my meticulous stitches on BOTH SIDES of the neck warmer.

Turns out, of course, that this is that moment in the movie where you think, "Yay! They're safe!" But, actually, they're not, because the bad guy didn't die the seventh time they thought they killed him, either, so here he's back for the final, epic battle in which the hero tries one more time to appeal to his humanity and let him live, but ultimately, Mr. Evil is felled by his own inability to reconcile himself to what the hero is trying to say, and while the hero tries not to kill the bad guy, he finally accidentally does, and then they all live happily ever after.

So that's what this is, I think. Rolled edge not behaving? Well, fine. Reconcile yourself to not rolling past my colorwork, dudes, or I'll cut you off or something extreme. But we're trying to reign it in right now by picking up stitches and knitting an extra textured edge on the inside. If that doesn't take care of their evil ways then there will be a lot of ripping out and a lot of quasi-cussing (raggafraggafrickafraggafartnuggetspoopbuttholepoopers, etc.), which I find much more fun than real cussing, actually, because it makes me laugh. And then I'll bend this thing to my will.

I think it looks properly put in its place, though, doesn't it? Take that, neck warmer, for I am not just your knitter, but your CREATOR, and I say that your edges will stop rolling. So meh. I am knitter, hear me roar.

And, yes, this adventure is brought to you courtesy of Kay and Ann and Mason-Dixon knitting books, mainly Mason-Dixon Knitting Outside the Lines. I'm buying both of these books as soon as I can and you should, too.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

One less thing.

Tempe Yarn and Fiber is collecting handknits (and crochet items) to help those in need in Japan. To find out how you can participate in this effort, click here.

There is a story of a man who walked along a beach absolutely covered in thousands of starfish who had been somehow trapped on the sand. He came upon a little boy who was hurrying as fast as he could, flinging starfish one by one back into the water. Struck by the insurmountable nature of the problem, and the futile efforts of the boy to help, the man thought to at least help the boy. He said, "You're just exhausting yourself. You can't save them. In the end, thousands of these creatures will die on this beach in spite of your efforts. Nothing you're doing here will matter."

The boy, not pausing for even an instant, threw yet another starfish back into the sea and replied, "It matters to that one!"

Last night I cast on for a cowl that will go to someone in Japan. I was struck by how futile it felt to do something like this. People have lost their lives. Those who survive have lost everything else. What do I think I'm doing? Knitting something? That's it?

I prayed about it. God helped me remember that story, about the boy and the starfish. You know, I can't help everyone in Japan. I can't even truly help one person with anything that really matters. But you know what? One person in Japan is going to have a warm neck this fall and winter because of what I'm doing here. They may have nothing else. But, damn it. Because of some knitter in the US, at least their neck won't be freezing. It will be one less thing for them to worry about and grieve.

Maybe there it is. That's what I'm aiming for. Not to think at all that my efforts will bring help. Certainly not that they'll bring comfort. My highest hope for this project and any other I do is to bring one less thing to have to think about. To one person.

And I think that's the kind of thing that will matter.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Random venting with no pics and a silver lining!

1. I hate Facebook. I still use Facebook, but it has nothing to do with Facebook. It's my people on Facebook. I wish there were some other way to keep track of my people, but alas... I must use what I've been given. Anyway, I saw the nastiest photo that I never wanted to see that one of my friends commented on (it was posted by someone NOT in my friends, apparently for good reason) and I'm kind of royally pissed that I had to see it. I don't want to look at anything that isn't from my own nicely selected group of friends. Ugh.

2. I feel lame because I haven't taken any pictures. I have been running rampant through this house like a crazy person, working here, working there, working everywhere and apparently accomplishing nothing at all.

3. I have a special order for buttons from TYF and a bunch of bracelets to repair for a friend and neither one of these things has gotten done because of #2. If Adam were reading this right now, he'd be laughing his head off because of the poop joke in there, and this time I would wholeheartedly agree with him.

4. Video games are either the most annoying thing ever to take over a child's life, or the greatest blessing God has ever allowed on this earth. On the days I'm yelling for the 752nd time that NO, Thad can't play games because of X, Y, Z, it feels like the first. On days like today, where my brain is nothing more than a huge pile of mangled mush (see numbers 1 and 2), it feels like the second. Loving anything that will keep him occupied enough to accomplish two miraculous things: 1. He stops bothering me to play video games. 2. He stops constantly asking for food.

5. I want to make cool polymer clay beads. I want to finish the socks I have going so that I can freely move to something else. I want to be (released from) finished with the (monotonous and endless purgatory) Lacey Baktus so that I can free up the needles for something (infinitely cooler and better in every way) else. This isn't to say that this is a bad pattern. I'm just making mine with yarn I don't like in colors I don't like that keeps splitting and splitting and makes the 3,858 rows of k2 tog, YO feel like a more fitting punishment for Sisyphus than the boulder thing.

6. You'd think that blogging instead of taking care of #3 is possibly why #3 isn't done yet, but that's not true. I have to rip up my cabinets and pull out all of my jewelry stuff for that and make it all and then put it all away again. And I'm going to need Adam's soldering help on one of the bracelets. And I just realized that I could make the cool polymer clay beads I've been longing to make as a fix for one of the bracelets I have to do... (It's a Pandora bracelet with a broken charm that my friend wants fixed, but also with several new Pandora beads added on. I saw wicked awesome clay beads made like Pandora beads that Bonnie made at Clay Guild this last Saturday, with eyelets stuck in the holes... Oh, my gosh. I think I just found my silver lining.)

7. Yay! I'll make beads and be working at the same time. But first I'll finish the process for all of the chicken broth I made today, make dinner, put away two loads of laundry, start muffins for breakfasts, and finish the button order. This might be how #2 happens.

Stop it, Adam.

Monday, March 21, 2011

More Yarn Stuff

Here are a couple of pictures of the shawlette I finished on March 5th:

This is the Storm Cloud Shawlette, a free pattern on Ravelry. I worked it in a worsted yarn on 6.5mm (US size 10.5) needles instead of the recommended laceweight/US size 8 needles. It was a remarkably fast knit. The openwork is a result of a double garter stitch, which really spreads out nicely. Anyway, I loved it. I just worked until thought I would run out of yarn, and as a finish, I used Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off, which is my bind off of choice for pretty much any shawl edge, hat bottom (I knit hats from the top down), or anything else I need to be really stretchy. It's wonderful!

Oh, and this was hand-dyed yarn... Colorway "peacock". I LOVE it.

Above is a skein of my handspun that I'm lovingly calling "Adam's Yak". LoL. It's a 60/20/20 merino wool/yak/silk blend. It's very soft and lovely, about 50 yards of a bulky weight. I'll go get new fiber soon and spin another skein so that I'll have enough to make him a hat.

And here is the finished single from 2 ounces of that lovely top I showed the other day. I gave the rest to Adam and he's spinning it now.

Navajo plied, this single turned into 200 yards of sock weight goodness. I'm in love. This one is called "my pet".

I've been experimenting a lot with my clay lately, too, and I'll post pics of that pretty soon. I'm making a bunch of buttons for my display at TYF. I'm having a lot of fun with different effects, such as molded faux bone buttons. Totally fun!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Long Draw Spinning/My brilliant son

I've learned to do long draw spinning. I'm in love. I was inspired by Yarn Harlot and I think I'll love her forever for this, even though I already would before I learned this. But this has solidified my feelings for her the way finding out that Adam is an incurable romantic, loves cuddling, and hates sports solidified the way I feel about him. It's forever, man. And it's beautiful.

I have been reading her archives lately. I just got completely read through August of 2005. It was somewhere in 2005 that she began discussing long draw spinning, I believe. I was finally validated by discovering her secret. I mean, seriously. The woman would sit down (saying that she was not a proficient spinner) and say, "I turned this 20,000 grams of wool into 4km of yarn this afternoon." I mean, obviously that's a huge exaggeration. But that's how it felt. I kept thinking, "How in the world did she spin all of that? She's either lying or manipulating space time." Turns out it was long draw, which I theorize IS a method of manipulating space time. Let me demonstrate.

This is four ounces of lovely Falkland wool that I got as a present from my lovely friend, Jodie. She was destashing. Lovely. I LOVE her.

Anyway, I split the entire length of fiber in half and began spinning a bit. (Okay, sorry, this is a flashback episode of the PaperSensei blog. Flash back to Sunday, when I went into TYF and Terry showed me how to spin long draw from the fold, a lot like this video on Youtube does. I love Terry. I love this lady in the video. I seriously am having amorous feelings for the video lady, too, because she did this with virtually no fiber prep. Yay! Now I am, too!)

So here, even including what minimal initial fiber prep I did (I'm breaking off small chunks, then splitting those in half, and then fanning them out a bit before beginning my spinning on the fold), after my first half hour, this is what I had on the spindle:

Give me another half hour. This is what I had:

Another half hour from today (WHILE dealing with the kids, breaking up arguments, and generally keeping peace in my house using only the sheer volume of my voice and the deadliness of my eyes... did I mention it was Mother Bootcamp, I mean, Spring Break?) made me firmly convinced that I did, indeed, learn how to manipulate space time. I was nervous about not finishing my fiber before the allotted half hour I had given myself. It was 12:26. I proceeded to spin through four, count 'em, FOUR of my fiber fluffs, and I looked at the clock, and it was still 12:26.

I almost fell over. Crying, laughing, whatever. I LOVE this. I love Yarn Harlot. I love Jodie. Terry. Video lady. I'm going through my stash at the speed of... well, I don't know. If I'm manipulating time somehow, speed would be completely irrelevant, wouldn't it?

And, last but not least, my brilliant 10 year old (who I'm trying to remember is a very intelligent and amazing child, despite his tendency to involve himself in inane arguments with his FOUR year old brother... It's Bootcamp, remember? It's just long enough to drive you totally freaking bonkers, but not so long that you actually pull yourself together and develop the rhythm you have by the end of summer that makes you almost, read, ALMOST sad to see school start again) made this jewelry set for my grandma's birthday. He picked out all of the beads himself, did the design, and even disagreed with me about part of it and did it his own way, and wouldn't you know, it's amazingly gorgeous. (It would have still been gorgeous my way, but I would never have done this myself, which is one of the primary reasons I so LOVE to make things with my children or anyone else's. I love their complete abandon in the creative process. I try to mimic it.)

All I did was attach all of the crimps and whatnot, to make sure that they were solid, and do what little wire work was involved, because we were on a time constraint. Child has done wire work on his own before, too. I think when he was about 8. He learned so well. I'm so proud of him. I'm so proud of him. I'm so proud of him.

Now to get rid of him for a while so I can watch what I want to watch on our only TV. We need to get the DVD drive on his laptop fixed, dangit.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Buttons and Elliott's Car Book

Okay, so I've figured out the weird bold thing... you have to click in a space to the right of the eraser. It showed up one day, a little white thing, and I clicked it, and then the bold thing stopped happening. Now it's not showing up anymore, but I click there, and my text is normal again without having to do the strange bold/unbold dance. I feel a bit like I've just figured out some deep blogger secret... Maybe programmers sit around, staring at their screens, watching us battle it out with these editor systems because we are the lowly ones who don't do our own HTML, or whatever the heck they use now, and we have to use interfaces built by THEM, the REAL power of the internet blog... mwahahahaha...

All I can say is, "ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED!?"

Anyway. I finished packaging up my buttons for Tempe Yarn and Fiber. Here they are:

How ridiculously cute are those? I seriously almost don't even feel like I can take credit for them. They just happened one day. God said, "Let there be coffee bean buttons for My Kathy's FreshPrinceFrenchPress." And there were buttons. And it was good.

Random possibly controversial tangent, but not intended that way: Someone just cringed because I typed out "God", but if I had said that the universe must have told me to do the buttons, you'd be fine. "The universe" is really a modern euphemism meant to replace "God" for those who don't believe in Him, but still believe that there's some power out there. It makes no sense to me. I'm saying "God". For one, it's shorter, and for another, it's more accurate. And I'm a Christian, for Heaven's sake. But I like to think I'm a Christian who can actually think, like, I can celebrate Halloween because I'm willing to celebrate Christmas. That kind of stuff.

(Whoa, did she just go there!? She just went there!) Sorry if I just offended any other Christian by saying that. But it's true. But I am sorry.

Okay, I feel better. Here's the book I made for my baby:

The child is obsessed with cars. I mean, OBSESSED. Like, almost to the point that it's unhealthy. Every single time he gets his hands on a piece of paper, he wants me or Adam or my grandma to draw him pictures of all of our cars. I can't even count how many pictures of these cars I've drawn for him in the last few months. I decided to circumvent this process by making him a mini album featuring pictures of all of the cars he makes us draw.

I'm throwing in the letters because he loves letters, too. And it was just too handy to make pockets. So far, I've done uppercase and lowercase letters and numbers. Next, I'll add shapes and whatnot, as I add more pages to the album as I get more pictures of cars for him. I love this mini album design because it is really easy to add pages on at the end.

I plan to decorate the pages more later. But this has to be good enough for now because I intend to leave it with him when I abandon him at my grandma's house and take Thad to karate. Sometimes Elliott is fine with this... He just plays with cars or wants to watch "treehouse" (Madame Blueberry) or something, and he basically says, "Go away, Mom, Nanny's house is much cooler than you." But other times he just breaks down and sobs and it's heartbreaking, but what am I going to do? Truck him around with me everywhere I go so that he never gets used to it, or teach him a valuable lesson that he can survive in the care of others and I'll always come back for him?

I might have just touched another nerve. I'm in kind of a naughty mood today. Netflix changed the queue on PS3 and it RULES again. (Thanks, Netflix people... I love you!) So I guess the primary source of irritation in my life is now gone and I'm floundering around, and all the other ones that were repressed in the horror of the SUCK queue are starting to surface again.

And I remain, as always, completely grateful, and full of praise for the fact that the Netflix INSTANT queue on my PLAYSTATION 3 being sucky was the worst problem in my life for a while. I have it so good. It's because I'm blessed.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Polymer Clay Coffee Bean Button Tutorial

I posted pics of my FreshPrinceFrenchPress over on Ravelry and a couple of people said that they cared about me posting a tutorial (because I said I'd post one if anyone cares), so here I am! This is so ridiculously easy, I feel almost embarrassed to have taken pictures, but here you go. I'm not even going to list tools because if you've been doing clay for even longer than maybe a day, you probably already have this stuff on hand. If not, then you need to go buy the stuff.

Supplies: Raw Sienna and Black Premo polymer clay

First of all, you need to mix a 50/50 blend of the raw sienna and black clays to come up with this completely yummy espresso color. I've seen some people who do a 50/50 of burnt umber and black to get a coffee color, but I really prefer this color for coffee stuff. You can tell it's still brown, and it might be technically lighter than the real coffee stuff, but we're going for more of suggestion of coffee than actual coffee. I mean, for heaven's sake. No actual coffee beans are this big, and certainly none of them could make buttons this well. But I digress. I'll be succinct and professional from now on.

Once I have my blend, I use one of my little square cutters and cut two squares from a sheet rolled out on the thickest setting of my pasta machine. I use the cutters to make sure that I'm getting the same amount every time so that my buttons are mostly the same size. If you don't have cutters, or your cutter makes too much when you cut from a sheet this thick, then run the sheet through on a thinner setting to get less clay with each cut. Just so long as you remember what your settings are so that you can get consistent sizing.

When you figure out how much clay you want per button, form it into a ball shape in your hands, and then make it more of a fat pill shape, like this:

I was analyzing actual coffee beans and noticing that most of them are not football shaped. They tend to be kind of straight-ish, with a rounded end. So I'm changing my original instructions from "football shaped" to "fat pill". Hopefully it translates. ^_~

I squash the fat little coffee pill against my tile with my palm so that one side ends up flat and one side ends up domed, like this: (Don't worry about prints for now. We'll take care of it later.)

I then use my tissue blade to peel the little pre-bean off of my tile and place the domed side against my palm in my non-dominant hand, preparing to indent the flat side.

I use a needle tool of some kind to make this mark in the flat side of the bean. (Now it's starting to look like a bean, but it's not magical yet. Just wait.)

The real magic happens now... Squeeze the sides of the bean in just a bit, squashing the line slightly, and lay it on your tile, flattening it again just a bit, still squashing a bit. At this point, I use my fingers to gently wipe away any prints off of the back of the bean.

Use your tissue blade to pick it up again and... VIOLA! How cute is THAT!? It looks just like a huge coffee bean. If only they were actually this huge, huh? Then you could get more coffee. Maybe it would cost less. Well, it probably wouldn't. But a girl can dream. Ack, professional and succinct. Okay. I got it.

Lay the bean down with the lovely little indent facing you. Use a needle tool to poke down into it as it's against the tile. It kind of looks like this. Note on holes: you can pierce longways or horizontal for beads, but because of the dome shape on the back, the holes won't really be perfect. You can experiment with it. But I also love to poke just one hole towards one end so that it can become an impossible to resist little coffee bean charm.

Because you listened to your Sensei and did the poking against the tile like I told you, you have these weird little not-quite holes on the other side. Poke through them from the other end now, widening the hole as you see fit.

LOOK at how it makes a perfect little hole. Repeat with the other hole.

Bake them flat side down on cardstock on a tile in your oven according to the manufacturer's directions. (Usually 275F for about 30 minutes.) Once they're done and they're all cooled, sand them gently with wet dry sandpaper and plenty of water with 400 grit, then lightly buff them on your shirt or your pants or your couch. Not a lot of sanding because they don't need it. It just helps them look and feel SO much better. You won't regret it.

And that's the tutorial... once I finish sanding all of the buttons I made, I'll post what they look like all finished and in their cute packaging as they're ready to sell over at Tempe Yarn and Fiber. I guess go crazy with these. Make as many as you want and sell them, too, if you're lucky enough to be able to. Just send lots of love my way. ^_~

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Busy bee, where your honey at!?

In case I ever wonder again about why my life seems like an endless sea of busy, yet somehow the work never seems to accomplish anything, perhaps this can help clear it up:

I was going to be so on top of things today. I had a very busy day already laid out when I got up, which consisted of actually finishing the clay pieces I've been making (turning them into pins), going to another parent teacher conference at Thad's school (the one for his gifted class... The other one was yesterday.), and trying to make some headway in this house. My half hearted one load of dishes per day and sporadic laundry was just not seeming to cut it anymore. Since I'm speaking of all of this lovely potential in past tense, I'm sure it's clear that this is not what happened today.

I got breakfast together, took care of e-mails, did a little bit of extra internet time because I need to make my grandma a birthday present and it's going to be the Fuzzy Feet pattern from Knitty. So I got that lined up (her birthday is on the 14th... don't remind me) and set and then finally sat to work on the clay stuff I feel I so desperately need to get done. Over comes my sweetheart, Elliott, my four year old. "Mom, I want to be with you." It was obviously too cute to resist. He yanked something out of all of my clay stuff and said, "Mom, what's this?" And I showed him that he could make textures in the clay with it. And it just sort of all went down hill from there.

You can see my lonely little unfinished pieces there to the left. Elliott is bending one of my tools in this photo. (I bent it back... no worries.) He's standing exactly in front of me so that I can't possibly hope to get anything done around him. He learned the pasta machine today, too.

My area is a complete wreck, which is just what it has to look like when I'm doing the clay. It's usually about a week at a time like this and I hate it. I like for everything to be perfectly clean and put away, but it's just not practical to pack everything up every time, so here it sits, a blotch in my living room. The other problem, of course, being that if my desk looks like this, it's likely the rest of the house does, too, because I'm so deep in production mode that I'm no longer picking up after everyone, and barely picking up after myself. So it's three against one there, and it's a losing battle.

Oh, well. He's obviously having quite a bit of fun. I won't begrudge him that. I had enough presence of mind to snap a photo of the new fish I made while he was working.

Here is the new octopus and a pendant I made for an Etsy order. (The fish, octopus, and pendant were NOT finished today. I did nothing today, apparently.)

Hopefully tomorrow I can be busy all day and have something to show for it. This is my fantasy. This is my dream. Some honey for the bee, please.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Moderate. Represent. Yee-ah.

THIS, by nothing more than the waving of five pointy sticks for about a month will be magically transformed into SOCKS for my sweet son, Thad:

It's mysterious and miraculous, I tell you. Absolute magic. I would show you, but it's a long trick, so I'll just let you see the finished product.

Also, I might become a moderator for the polymer clay group on Ravelry. Super excited. Clay and knitting. Knitting and jewelry. Knitting and everything, really. It goes with everything. Like chocolate. Chocolate and milk. Chocolate and soda. Chocolate and steak. Chocolate and mashed potatoes. (Not mixed, obviously, just like knitting... You can't knit and do another hobby at the same time. I guess unless your hobby is something like watching every single sci-fi show you can get your hands on in the new Netflix queue for PS3 which SUCKS, but we won't speak of that... Well, that's one of my hobbies. But I digress! Seriously, knitting is like chocolate. I'd be hard pressed to come up with something that I would NOT want to eat chocolate after eating the first thing... or vice versa. Knitting is like that.)

So. This is a completely random rambling post, isn't it? I guess not having any readers makes you feel like you can get away with anything. ANYTHING. Like if the kids are playing alone... As soon as I hear them stop fighting, I wonder what they're up to, and I have to go look. It's either completely cute or completely terrifying... there's just not a middle ground with these two. They will either succeed wildly or fail with such spectacular splendor that no matter what they do in their lives, they will be amazing. We're working on the succeeding part, of course.

I need more caffeine. Time to wave pointy sticks. FIVE of them.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Actually pics this time

First of all, every time I add pictures now and then go to start my blog post, I have all of this bold type that takes some mysterious combination (not sure what... seems different every time) of clicking the bold button and typing and clicking and typing and backspacing and clicking and typing and backspacing more before I get type that looks normal with the bold "b" not highlighted up there. Like, stuff looks bold even when it's not highlighted until I do the weird ritual thing. I guess I could look like I feel so important and really know what I'm talking about by having everything so emphatic, but I don't feel like it. It's just annoyed me enough now that I have to start the post by venting about it. Venting complete.

Now to the good stuff:

All of those are my newest polymer pieces that are mostly (except for the bamboo branch thing and probably the gray octopus) destined to be shawl pins for my display at TYF. I'm loving the red octopus and feel sad for the gray octopus who was the experiment. He was so cute until I made the red one. :( I know it has no feelings, but still, I feel a bit bad for it.

I also made a French press cover for my French press. I keep saying "Fresh Prince" instead. Ugh. But, seriously, try to say "Fresh Prince French Press". It might be even better than trying to say "Irish Wristwatch". It's definitely better than "Aluminum Linoleum"... you have to say the last one at least 3 times before it starts tripping you up. Anyway, it's still fun. These are the little things I like to do in my spare time. Fear me.

I love the way it looks. I knitted it out of bulky yarn and even made a little dip up in the top for the spout. I'm going to be posting the pattern on Ravelry soon.

LOOK at the buttons. They're coffee bean buttons! I LOVE THEM! I made them out of polymer clay. They are the cutest and coolest little buttons ever. EVER. Ever. Ever. Yeah.

I love how the spout opening flows so well with the cables. That was totally God there. I had nothing to do with planning that. He just likes me.

Here it is again... the buttons!

I charted random purls into the stockinette section to make it look kind of rustic. I'm really, really hoping I achieved the rustic-because-I-wanted-it-rustic look and not the rustic-because-I-didn't-know-what-the-heck-I-was-doing-and-screwed-it-up-so-I-called-it-rustic look. That's right up there with "making it look like crap means it's handmade" and we all kind of know how I feel about that. I won't rant about it today.

I'm feeling so good right now. I have chocolate. I have coffee. I have a cute French press cover. (Fresh Prince!) My kids are with my grandma. I'm blogging. I got to go to the bathroom earlier today without ANYONE knocking on the door. Or just opening it. This happened several times, the lonely toileting... It was glorious. I had forgotten what this felt like... this "going to the bathroom alone"... I think the kids should give me coupons for this. Like, on Mother's Day or something... One for each of them. "An entire day of leaving you alone while you're in the bathroom."

This is right up there with "no complaining about my brother while you're in the shower" (from Thad) or "no musical theater renditions that you MUST watch me perform while you're in the shower" (from Elliott). I mean, I'm seriously having kind of a daygasm over here, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

I don't even feel unhappy about having to undo all the buttons and ties from the French press cover because I didn't realize that I need the buttons on the left of the handle if I want to comfortably pour with my right hand. The moment I become inconsolably upset about this will probably coincide exactly with the moment my grandmother brings my children home. It will be a complete coincidence, I assure you.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Finishing up!

I realize how utterly boring a pictureless blog post is, but since I don't think anyone is even reading this, I'm going to just keep throwing this stuff out there because I think it is so fun to go back and see the growth of my processes.

Anyway... I have finish-it-upitis. I offered to touch people at TYF today so that they could possibly catch it. No, they didn't think I was weird. But none of them wanted me to touch them.

I finished Adam's glory socks which I will be trying to get Knitty to publish. Woohoo! This means that I CAN'T show a picture, even if I wanted to, since part of the publishing guidelines say that they can't have appeared before. If they don't get accepted (why the heck would that happen?), I will be posting the pattern on Ravelry.

I have been published 3 times already (3 articles in Polymer Cafe). The nervous thrill never gets old.

I finished my square of Mawata knitting that will be turned into a pillow. Knitting straight from the mawata produces a fabric so soft and so warm that it must be felt to be believed, so trying to explain it here would be as pointless as showing you a picture, so I don't feel like I have to do it now, either. Google it.

I finished my Storm Cloud Shawlette knit out of my glorious skein of Laughing Cloud (no, I didn't pick the names on purpose, but I thought it was an awesome match when I thought of it) hand dyed wool in the "Peacock" colorway. (Finished it yesterday.) It is so cool. I spent $20 on that one skein of yarn and I don't feel like it was a bad purchase. A lot of my yarn purchases are in the $20 per skein range now. If you get a knitted present from me, especially if it's hand wash, it's likely that on top of having countless hours of my life that I can never get back invested into something you won't fully appreciate, the base cost of the item was at least $20. Does that make it feel more like a "real" present now?

I'm touchy about the knitted presents. I love them and completely realize that I'm handing them off to be not-loved-as-much-as-they-would-be-if-I-kept-them-myself. Turns out I love people, though, and feel that demonstrating my love, even if it is unrecognized, is vastly important. I'll try to remember that my knitted presents are not actually possessing of any feelings that could be hurt by their rejection.

I don't think about the fact that I'm likely projecting my own feelings onto the "feelings" of the knitted objects. I'm all too satisfied with that--it means those feelings are projected, as in, not on me, so I like them that way.

I'm working in polymer clay again, but none of the stuff is finished, so I don't have pics yet. I'm making more shawl pins for TYF. I realized that I hadn't been working in it at all lately and I miss it, but it still hurts my hands.

I'm really sad that the clay work hurts my hands.

I think that's everything... big, pictureless blog entry... But I'm happy about all of my progress.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Chai, chocolate, chuddling, chillaxing, and... children?

Today Elliott woke me up by screech-singing while he was on the toilet. I began an inner struggle as I lay there, so desperate for the sound to stop, but I ultimately proved more desperate for him to think I was still sleeping. So I remained silent.

I was sleepily congratulating myself when this little cherub, my treasure, and one of the many joys of my life, stood in the doorway to my room. "Mo-om. I went poop!"

Anyway, this is what my day looked like yesterday:

I spent seven solid hours of my life working. I mean, I know that I'm a stay at home mom and I work every day and blah, blah, blah. But we're talking seven solid hours of "actual" working as I prepared pieces for my display at Tempe Yarn and Fiber and "watched" Farscape while Elliott was up, which consisted of telling him to be quieter and rewinding to keep catching the dialogue I missed. The only beef I have with Netflix (besides their totally STUPID new instant queue display on PS3, but my feelings are so strong on this that I just can't go there) is that there are no subtitles. Zip. Zilch. Nada. None. How parents of small children watch ANY TV with no subtitles is entirely beyond me.

I had purchased 1 ounce of fine silver wire yesterday morning. Starting at 11:00 (I decided to time myself for fun yesterday) I made my coils and proceeded to cut all of the rings. This is what $40 (ouch! I remember when it was $16 an ounce!) of silver looks like:

I had it all cut up into rings and it was so pretty. (Everything is lying on top of my peacock shawlette that I'm making from the Storm Cloud Shawlette pattern on Ravelry. I got to knit maybe two rows yesterday. No wonder I'm going bonkers.)

After all of the rings are cut from the coil, I have to sit with my pliers and individually close each and every single individual one of them. Individually. One at a time. Me. Closing with pliers. Now you know why my right eyebrow twitches.

And I have to say that this isn't just closing jumprings, either. It's got to be utterly precise or the resulting fused rings will either not close or be lumpy and I hate that. If even one person breathes, "Well, having it look like utter crap is how you know it's handmade," I might begin another rant, and I already avoided the one about the new Netflix instant queue (I hate that word, too... why not just say "q"?), so I'm pretty much a paragon of restraint this morning.

Here is what $40 of fine silver looks like all closed up:

Somewhere in that stage, Elliott blessedly went down for his nap and about 5 minutes later Thad got home. This was around 1:30. We had brief discussion about his day as I worked, and he wanted to watch me fusing the rings, so I showed him what I was doing. He stood there for a while and then asked, somewhat brilliantly I might add, "Why are you heating them all up?" What a cutie. Like there's some reason I painstakingly laid out 720,000 little rings on my firing brick and went around heating them all up. "They looked cold." "Because they've been convicted of witchcraft." But I didn't say anything clever or sarcastic (note to self: next time I get irritated at Thad for being sarcastic, I must search the deepest part of my soul and ponder the great mystery of just where he has gotten this tendency from and then be convinced it's Adam). I just explained that I have to heat each ring up until it melts so that the metal flows over the join and they become solid.

I showed him how each ring is actually not a solid ring to begin with (but you can hardly tell because I did the individual. closing. with. pliers. me. myself. each. ONE. step earlier) and needs to be melted and fused to become a solid ring. So he watched the metal melt for a while and seemed utterly fascinated, then asked for candy, and we were pretty much back to normal.

Finally, I was finished with fusing and hammering all of the rings. They're all hammered differently. I hammer some flat, but for these sets without beads, one ring is always hammered on the outside to give it a different texture so that if you're working in a round, you can mark the beginning of the round with the textured ring. Here they are, ready for tumbling:

Note the totally ingenious solution for searching out 50,000 rings in the tumbler. I string them on a length of craft wire first. This is what $40 of silver looks like ready to go into the tumbler. (Do you have the sense yet that I am utterly horrified that I just spent $40 for an ounce of silver?! At my awesome secret cheap supplier!? What do people who shop at bead stores do for their silver?!)

Into the tumbler they went. Then I had to begin preparing all of the packaging for the display at TYF. At about 4:30, I was printing a pile of cards and I recognized how horrible and starving I felt and I realized suddenly that it was 4:30 and I hadn't eaten any lunch yet. So while stuff was printing, I ran off and reheated some polenta and taco chicken stuff (it was SO good) and ate. I got all of the cards together and proceeded to go through the packaging nightmare, which I took no pictures of, because by this point in my day I was so tired and worn out, just mentally, that I couldn't even begin to remember or want to take photos of what I was doing.

I finished the absolute last piece of the packaging at 6:09 as Adam walked through the door. Seven solid hours of my day on this stuff. This isn't the first time I've had a marathon day of creating things for displays or my site or whatever, but this is the first time I ever timed myself. Add dishes, feeding people, and cleaning to all of that and it's no wonder I didn't feel like doing anything last night except curling up on the couch with some chai, knitting, and watching Pride and Prejudice.

Didn't get to. But I took the new stuff to TYF, came home, and Adam was making dinner. Have I ever mentioned that I love him? After the kids were in bed, I told him I wanted chai and chocolate. And then it became this big "ch" joke. Not really that funny, but it amused us last night. We both had really long days.

I suppose I had better go. It's Saturday. I should get off of the computer before one of the children comes up and starts making unreasonable demands for things like "breakfast" or "motherly affection". Can't they see I'm chillaxin? On the chomputer? Ha. Ha.


Yeah. I'm tired. Wish me luck today.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Just quick

Thad wants to watch TV once I get up and "start making dinner".

Whatever gave him the idea that I plan on doing such a thing?

Random, busy, random

Okay, so it turns out that two boys (one 4 and one 10) can really use up a lot of your time. I don't know if anyone else knew that. I don't know why I didn't know that. It's not like I didn't know what it was like having a 4 year old and a 9 year old or a 3 year old and a 9 year old, and back and back and back... But, yeah. Somehow it still always manages to completely shock me that so much of my time can be taken by caring for them (not in bitterness, I assure you... I love my family and I enjoy them). That, really, weeks will pass for me and it feels like days. I tell a person, "I'll take care of that." And three weeks later, they're e-mailing me, "Uh... I haven't heard from you..." And I'm so completely mortified that I can't manage to juggle a business, family, and household (because the house is its own separate time sucker... who knew!?) and do 68 hours of work in 24 every day of my life without letting a few things slip.

All of this to say that finally, finally I have finished new button stock for Tempe Yarn and Fiber. I have 18 single buttons and 1 set of 3 going over there TODAY. I keep telling myself that I'm going to take them when I get them and the shawl pins packed up, but seriously. Just bagging these things up was a huge portion of my day yesterday. If I could, I'd make the slow cooker my second husband. That thing saved my life yesterday.

This one has one of my favorite quotes EVER: "If you're going through hell, keep going!" -Winston Churchill. Reminds me of Psalm 23. "Though I walk THROUGH the valley of the shadow of death..." I don't know how many people catch that. You're supposed to keep walking. Not sit and wallow in it. And believe me, this is me reminding myself and not preaching.

I love the new ones I'm making with the little charms dangling inside:

Here's Elliott's new hat which I made for him in one day because it was supposed to be bitter cold last weekend and I realized that all he had were sucky store bought hats and everyone else here, plus some out of state relatives, are now the deliriously happy owners of custom Kathy hand-knit hats which are far superior in every way... But my own little pwooshbooga doesn't have one yet. So I remedied that with this lovely chunky 100% baby alpaca yarn which is pretty much the softest thing on earth which makes it heavenly even if it does shed and ever since I knit it we've been picking tiny alpaca fibers out of all the food like we own a cat or something, but we don't.

And last, but not least, here is a knitted boob:

This was made for the Knitted Knockers charity that TYF is focusing on this month. I love this idea. Basically, these knitted prostheses are much lighter, more comfy, and nicer to wear than silicon ones. These are for women who have had to undergo mastectomies due to breast cancer. They can go into a bra and be nice and cool against the skin, which is, of course, incredibly important here in AZ.

I feel really happy to have been a part of this. I want to make one more before the drive is over.

I need a friggin' time turner.