Sunday, November 29, 2009

New Items in the Etsy Shop - and Free Shpping!

The holidays are right around the corner, and if you're looking to avoid the craziness at the mall, there's no better place than your computer!

Not only will you save time and gas, you can buy US made items from small, independent artisans, and give gifts that are unique and most often, one of a kind.

This weekend I added two new items in my Etsy shop, perfect for the holidays. The first is a baby cap and booties set in rainbow colored machine washable wool. Suitable for either a boy or a girl, this set should be a good match for any color of winter coat.

The other item will help with holiday decorating. This is a set of 8 handknit Christmas stocking ornaments, in various colors and sizes. I have made dozens of these over the years, and I add new ones to my tree every year. I also like to hang them on cabinet knobs, door handles; anywhere that needs a little holiday cheer. They could also be used as gift holders, for those precious little gifts, or tucked into Christmas cards for folks far away.

These ornaments feature my special technique of a 'knitted-in' hanging loop, made so the loop will never detach from the stocking. Most knitting patterns have the loop added as an afterthought, and often it will detach if any weight or strain is placed on it. Not these!

As always, the kitties think the catnip toys are the best, and I think several of my repeat customers agree. Even cats that don't normally play get excited about these!

Take a look at these or any of the other items in my etsy shop. Many now feature free shipping to the United States, and will be shipped in time for the holidays. 

Monday, November 16, 2009

What I'm Thankful for...

Ok, I know it’s a little early for Thanksgiving, but something happened this weekend that made me think about this. One of those family challenges that put me in an awkward spot, and made me think, and think, and think...

And what I realized was the following:

I’m thankful that I have a roof over my head that is mine. Well, mine and the local bank’s, but I’m able to afford the payment each month, and even though sometimes I feel like the house is falling apart around me, it’s my cozy haven, and I love it and enjoy it so much, that I hate to leave it.

I’m thankful that I’m able to keep my head above water financially. Not much above, but I’m not drowning. Last week I sat down and wrote a fairly long list of how to cut costs and save money this coming year. I hope I can stick to it, because if I can make some headway, the impetus should help keep me on the path to success.

I’m thankful that I don’t have an addiction, well, other than yarn and books! I’m not overcome and consumed with drugs or alcohol or gambling ruling my life, making my decisions for me, and robbing me of my independence. I’ve never had this problem, other than yarn and books, but I can see the havoc it causes in other lives, if only from a distance, and it’s not pleasant.

I’m thankful that I have the ingenuity and skills to be creative. These were a gift from both my parents, and I can’t imagine my life without them. Not only does creativity entertain me and challenge me; it’s helped me be resourceful and helped me feel like there is always hope – always a way to solve a problem or get out of a jam. I have an Etsy shop because I like to make all sorts of things, and selling them gives me an outlet so that my house isn’t covered in an over-abundance of knitting. It also makes me feel resourceful, and even though I could never make enough money with it to give up my day job, the extra income does help in its small way.

I’m thankful that I have some family nearby. As we all age, it seems more important to connect with each other and spend time together. I’m especially thankful for my brother, who can fix anything, and does it for a spaghetti dinner!

I’m thankful for distant friends who are coming to visit for Thanksgiving. I’m such a homebody, and haven’t made any trips in several years. But I’m tickled and delighted that they can come here, and look forward to entertaining them.

And of course, I’m thankful for the three kitties that share my life and home. Rusty, Rollie, and Lily provide such good companionship, entertainment, and the unconditional love that makes every pet a treasure. I can’t imagine a day without them.

So there it is. I could probably come up with more, but this is the core. In a world that can seem so overwhelming, and so disheartening, it gives me great reassurance to feel that there are riches well beyond money, and reasons to treasure each new day.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Music to Watch Leaves By...

So, it's a gray Sunday, and I'm knitting and looking at the Innerwebs, and watching the squirrels jump from the house to the walnut tree. And I have the Windham Hill Thanksgiving cd on the stereo.

And the big yellow leaves are falling from the maple tree, just drifting down slowly to the ground. The track playing on the stereo just perfectly matches the leaves falling, that slow twinkling piano music. That piece ends, and the next one comes on, another slow, twinkling piano piece, perfectly matching the leaves drifting down. That's Windham Hill for you...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Clever Cat Bed

I’ve mentioned before that the cats have been after me to provide them with some adequate sleeping equipment for some time now. This past spring, when I was cleaning up the house, I took all the fur-covered rugs and blankets and hid them away to be laundered. Then summer came, and I didn’t think the cats wanted to curl up on wool afghans. I think I was mistaken. There must be something unappealing about smooth upholstered furniture. I guess they need to nest more than I realize.

Last weekend, I came up with a new cat bed that I thought was quite clever. I was trying to straighten up the laundry area in the basement, when a blue plaid wool mini skirt popped to the top of a pile. Where did it come from? I can’t remember – either from a thrift store, or a free box at a rummage sale, or it was given to me by someone who knows I can use wool material for weaving.

The skirt had a short back zipper, and a lining. I realized that with some simple sewing, I could have a new cat bed pronto.

I took out the bottom hem of the skirt, and turned it inside out and sewed a new seam across the bottom. Then I turned it the other way, and sewed the bottom of the lining shut. My plan was to top stitch across the top of the skirt, which lacked a waistband. I would leave a small gap where the hook and eye closure was.

Unfortunately, the skirt top was too bulky to fit under the sewing machine presser foot, and after a few failed attempts, I gave up, and just whip-stitched the top closed with a doubled length of sewing thread. This worked very well, and I got quite a feeling of satisfaction from doing the hand sewing, which made me wonder why I don’t do it more often. The zip opening was too small to fit a pillow form through, but my plan was to use loose stuffing. Somewhere, I have a pillowcase full of second cuts of raw wool that I thought I’d wash and use for stuffing. Could I find it? No.

Rooting around in the basement, I found the next best thing. I’ve had a particular ball of space dyed roving for over 15 years. I got it in a swap at one of the local Spinners and Weavers meetings. At the time, I didn’t know any better. However, I soon realized that whoever dyed this roving had half felted it. I couldn’t draft it no matter how hard I pulled. I didn’t know if there was any way to save it, but I hung on to it anyway.

After messing with it for a while, I realized I could pull it apart widthwise, instead of lengthwise. So I pulled tufts and tufts, and stuffed them into the cat bed. I kept checking to see if it felt hard or lumpy. It didn’t seem to, so I used the whole ball of roving this way. It took half a day for the cats to notice it, but now it’s the best new thing on which to sleep. I’m sure it will be warm, with all that wool. And I can pull the stuffing out for easy washing. All in all, a good project: recycling, making do, and above all, keeping the kitties happy!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Halloween is Near...

Either that, or the neighbors have some explaining to do...

Friday, September 25, 2009

Lullaby, and Goodnight...

When I was a little girl, my mom used to sing Brahms’ Lullaby to help put me to sleep. Sometimes she’d sing the words, sometimes she would just hum, and I remember being curled up against her and feeling the vibrations in her chest as she’d rock me and sing. It was probably the most comforting feeling I’ve ever known.

Oh, how I could use that now. I have not been sleeping well this summer. Some nights, it’s too noisy. Some nights, it’s too hot and stuffy. Some nights, it’s too cold and clammy. I wake up at least three times most nights. If I’m lucky, I can calm myself back to sleep. If not, I don’t fight it – that just makes it worse. That’s when I put the light on, and do some knitting, or work a puzzle, or read until I feel drowsy. Unfortunately, that doesn’t usually occur until it’s almost time to get up. This week, in addition to the all the above, I’ve been having nightmares. Not just bad dreams, NIGHTMARES. All-out, Technicolor, terror-filled, traumatizing nightmares. And not just one. Multiples: three on Wednesday, three on Thursday. There were several earlier in the week, but luckily I can’t remember them. In addition to the psychological messages prevalent in these dreams (anxiety, fear, etc.), there are vivid images to rival any horror movie: an inferno of trees engulfed in flames, and dead kittens crawling with maggots, to name a few.

WHY? What did I do to deserve a subconscious like this? Was it something I ate? Drank? Didn’t drink? Didn’t do? Life is stressful enough just now, thank you very much. I don’t need be run ragged while I’m unconscious. Sleep should be a period of rest and renewal. It’s been ages since I’ve awoke in the morning refreshed, and got out of bed without feeling tired and uncomfortable.

I blame it partly on the weather. It was such a mild summer, but the nights weren’t always “good sleeping weather”. Now it’s the end of September, and we’ve been in the grip of extreme humidity, and temperatures above average. I’m hoping this weekend that will finally change.

I don’t know. Now that the weekend is here, I hope I can relax, both while awake, and especially while asleep. I can't remember the last time I had a good dream. Maybe what I need to do, is get the rocking chair in these photos back from my brother. Maybe that’s the key to a good sleep. Sure looks like it…

Monday, September 21, 2009

Oh Baby!

Finally, a big project finished! I started this baby blanket back in March, for Lauri, a former co-worker who was adopting a baby girl from China. Originally, her baby shower was going to be in May. Good thing it wasn’t. This project languished for a while, and I’d pick it up every now and again and make some progress on it, then put it away for a while.

The pattern is the “Old Shale Baby Blanket” by Evelyn Clark from the Vogue “Knitting on the Go – Baby Blankets” book. It’s worked from the center out, so at first, the knitting goes fast, but later on, as the blanket gets bigger, it takes much longer to work even one round. I started out on double pointed needles, switched to a circular needle, and then ended up using three 60” circular needles to handle all the stitches and bulk. Thank goodness for the KnitPicks options needles. I already had two long cables from a previous project, so I only needed to order one more cable and three sets of #7 tips. I did have some problems with the screw joints loosening up, but it wasn’t too bad. It only needs to happen once, and you start watching for it, and tightening the tips every time you change needles.

The yarn for this project was actually two yarns held together. The cream colored yarn is an acrylic yarn that my brother picked up one day at Goodwill. It’s a bit loosely spun, and had a wavy texture. The rainbow colored yarn is Four Seasons Leone, which is a machine washable wool. I think it added just the right amount of accent color to the project. It’s a good example of two yarns that aren’t so great on their own combining to make a decent item. I was hoping to wash the blanket and dry it after knitting, to see how that went; but I only finished it a few hours before the baby shower, so I had to be content with blocking it with the steam iron.

And yes, I know steam blocking can “kill” an acrylic yarn, but it’s just something that needs attention when you’re doing it. When this blanket came off the needles, it was flat in the center, then bulged up, then flattened out again toward the edges. The bulge came, I’m sure, when there got to be too many stitches for the one large circular needle that I had. When the stitches are crowded like that, I think my gauge changes, and it could be that I actually (“gasp”) tighten up a bit. I know Elizabeth Zimmermann used to say you could knit an entire shawl on a 24” circular, and maybe that’s true for lace weight yarn, but I find that when the stitches get bunched together, bad things happen. I should have switched to longer circulars sooner, but didn’t realize it right away, then had to order them and wait for them to get here.
Steam blocking took out the bulge, and also helped the edge scallops lay flat and not curl. One thing about knitting the blanket in the round, even on long needles, was that it was almost impossible to lay it out as it was be worked, and check the progress. For the most part it just looked like a big blob. It was such a treat to cast off and lay it out, and see the lovely scalloped edge that happened as if by magic. The pattern was not difficult, but it did require a bit of attention. Every fourth round was the “action” round where the old shale shaping was done. The other three rounds were worked plain, and I opted to purl the roound just after the action round, to give an added bit of texture. I placed markers at each of the four corners of the blanket. I should have used additional markers for each full pattern of lace repeat. Since the blanket increased from the center out, there were always extra stitches being added and worked into the lace pattern. It wasn’t always easy to follow, and there wasn’t a chart with the pattern. I did get off track a few times on a section, but if I couldn’t figure out the mistake, I just fudged it at the end of the section, increasing or decreasing to end up with the right stitch count. If you hunt closely you can find a few odd jogs in the old shale, but the for the most part, the fudging is hidden, and the overall look is still the same.

I had planned on knitting this blanket until I ran out of yarn, which I thought would happen before I got to the end of the pattern. It might have, but I had to end the blanket sooner than expected because I ran out of time. I ended one full lace repeat sooner than the pattern, and worked the last few rounds in garter stitch, instead of stockinette, which I think worked better. The finished blanket measured 32” square, which is plenty big for a baby blanket. It’s a bit hefty too, so it should be a good wintertime blanket. As I said, the work in progress was a big blob, and couldn’t be laid out, even to measure. I had to measure one of the diagonal “seam” lines, and then use (“gasp, again”) geometry to figure out the total measurement. (The good ol’ Pythagorean Theorem). Since baby Sarah is already 14 months old, I didn’t want to make anything that would be too small to cover her. Hopefully this size will let her get some use out of it for a while yet.

I might make this pattern again someday. I would like to have one baby blanket “in stock” for a gift so that I don’t have to worry about finishing for a deadline. In general, I like giving blankets as baby gifts, because you don’t have to worry much about size, or gender, and I think they get more use than clothing, which babies grow out of so quickly.

If I do make this pattern again, I’d like to try it in a sport weight yarn, and smaller needles. Or maybe I’d just use the “center out” shaping concept and try a different stitch pattern. Lots of choices here.

One final good thing about finishing the blanket: Now I can work on something else, maybe even something for me! Something like that blue wool cardigan I started last month. After all, the first day of Autumn is tomorrow. Can I have it done by then? What do you think?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Order Out of Chaos? Not Quite Yet...

I thought a three-day weekend would be plenty of time to organize my upstairs needlework haven, and still have time to crank out beautiful handmade sweater or two.

Yeah, right. I was so deluded.

After three days, I only managed to put away three totes full of yarn, empty two boxes of needlework magazines, and create more chaos than when I’d started. The only thing I produced in abundance was frustration. I hardly did any knitting. Nothing “flew” off the needles, anyway.

I realized late last night that I need to move even more stuff out before I can bring everything back. It’s time to let go of the excess, in both patterns and fibers, and concentrate on what I really want to work on.

It’s funny though, because just when I think I’ve made that decision, it backfires. Example – Yesterday when I was sorting yarn, I came across a few balls of mohair that a friend gave me. As I contemplated it, I realized that I don’t really like mohair, and I could get rid of all my mohair, and never miss it.

No sooner that I thought that, I came up with the idea of combining the mohair with some of the other yarn I have to make slippers. I have a favorite slipper pattern, and I usually make a few pair every year. I like to knit the slippers out of several strands of yarn, coming up with something totally unique and very warm. So the mohair stayed, rather than go on the garage sale pile.

And then, to prove my point to myself, I took the one oddball of mohair, a few other oddballs, and a cone of rayon chenille, and whipped up a crocheted cat mat.

Rusty and the other cats have been pining for appropriate sleep gear. Rusty has been sleeping on an old beach towel, folded and re-folded every time it looks like there’s too much cat hair on it. His pleading stare seems to say that he deserves better. The rayon chenille was the constant in this mat. I added the mohair yarn first, even taking apart the little sample swatches that were included with the ball. I made a double crochet square, using directions from the old reliable copy of “Reader’s Digest Guide to Needlework”. When I ran out of mohair, I added the boucle yarn that was part of a yarn bag from Goodwill. I switched to single crochet, and just worked around, not making any more increases at the corners. This made the mat start to cup slightly. When the second yarn ran out, I thought I was done, but after a while, I decided to make the edge just a little deeper. I pulled out some other cones of black yarn, and kept crocheting. I even worked a few decreases, to help with the cupping. The finished product is kind of funny looking. The shallow sides aren’t quite sturdy enough to stand on their own. I’m not too concerned about that. I am going to machine wash and dry the mat, and see if it gets any sturdier. It will work out either way – Rusty was already curled up on it this morning when I left for work. And the beach towel had finally made its way to the laundry pile.

Starting today, and continuing this week, I’m going to move out more of the boxes that are still in my way, and continue the reorganization process. I have a few things set aside for my sister’s garage sale on the 19th, and I’m sure that stack will grow. It better!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

RustyCat Spokesmodel Says...

Come on over and check out the new sets of catnip toys just listed at The CreativeMind Shop on Etsy.

Annie’s been working diligently to get more toys ready for the fall and winter seasons. Those times when kitties like us have to stay cooped up indoors, and don’t get any fresh greens to nibble on. The catnip in these toys is dee-lish, let me tell you! I usually hunker down next to Annie while she’s knitting, and when it comes time to stuff the toys, one piercing look usually gets me a pinch of catnip on a little dish. Scrumptious!

And even though I’m getting up in years, I still have fun tossing these toys around by the tail. And two tails on every toy. Well, that’s just double the fun. Of course, as soon as I start having my fun, that little stinker Rollie has to butt in and see what’s going on. Such an attention grabber he is. That’s when I just look all cool and aloof and saunter away real casual like. But I know just where I tossed that last toy, and he doesn’t…
Buy some today, for the kitties you love!

We now return to our regularly scheduled blogging….

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Eek! I have Startitis!

…and I think it’s incurable.

I had the luxury last weekend of two days with no commitments, and realizing this, I was able to get the housework and chores done before Friday, so I could have a big block of time to work on some of those projects that need that extra time.

On Saturday, I decided to work upstairs, and go through the middle bay of the long closet, and get that organized, and set up for yarn and pattern storage. The right hand bay had been cataloged years ago, but in my haste to clean up this spring, I filled it with boxes that need to come out so I can get to what’s there. These bays are deceptive – it looks like there’s lots of space, but in reality you can’t store too much in there without making many layers. I put most of the boxes around the perimeter of the bay, and have shelves and can stack, but I like to be able to see everything without having to dig too deep.

The middle bay was partially organized, and after pulling out the boxes and bins that weren’t cataloged, I set to work. I had moved a small bookshelf in there, and a filing cabinet filled with patterns, but still had room for several totes. Over the two days, I entered over 300 balls of yarn in my excel spreadsheet. This sounds like a lot, but when they’re purchased in 8 or 10 balls for a project, it’s not so much. Well, ok, it still is a lot, but so what?

The problem with handling all that yarn, is that my fingers get the urge to start new projects. I resisted for most of the first day. After all, I have plenty of projects going, and several that were very close to being finished. That’s what I should be working on. Right?

But temptation was too much, and late Saturday afternoon, I pulled down a cone of cotton yarn and started a baby sweater. The yarn was white, with dots of pastel baby colors. I just wanted to see the colors play off each other. I worked a few inches, and it will be a nice sweater, but I really do need to get those other projects finished. On Sunday, as I continued to sort through boxes, I came across a partial ball of a linen cotton mix. It was one of those odd balls that I bought on clearance, just because it was linen, and just because it was colorful. I see a pattern here – colorful yarn gets me into more trouble where willpower is concerned. This yarn was not the nicest linen, and I was going to toss it into the charity pile, when a tiny voice said “just make a dishcloth”. So I did. Well, I started it, anyway. It’s one of my made up ideas, working from the center out, so I can use up the yarn and make a square that’s big enough, and if I run out of yarn, I can add another yarn, but it doesn’t end up looking like I ran out of yarn. On Monday evening, I don’t even remember why I went upstairs. Do you think maybe yarn sings a siren song? I must have been looking for something. Suddenly, I was pulling wool out of one of the wire storage bins. There were six or seven hanks of natural colored two ply wool, without any tags. I laid them out, and was trying to discern whether or not they were the same color. After some deliberation, I decided that I just couldn’t tell. I pulled more yarn out of the bin. Suddenly, I pulled out several hanks of navy blue wool with flecks of purple. That did it. Before I knew it, I had one on the swift, and was winding it into a ball. I had wanted to make a simple wool cardigan that I could pull on when it got chilly this fall. I swatched, and started a top-down raglan even before the swatch was dry. And yesterday, because I wasn’t sure I had enough knitting to make it through the baseball game, I had to start a pumpkin cap. I would have had plenty without it, as it turned out, but you just never know… So that’s four new projects in four days. Did I finish any of those that were so close to being done? No. Did I make any progress on any other projects? Well, yes. I worked on the baby blanket, and I worked on my current pair of socks. I made a few catnip toys. But really, I didn’t need to start any more projects. Especially since, in sorting through boxes, I found a number of other unfinished projects. This is where startitis becomes a serious problem!

I have another commitment-free weekend coming up, and if I can, I’m going to try to apply some “finishitis” to the startitis condition, and see what happens. I’m hoping to get at least three items done. And not start any more new ones. Really.

And finally, here’s Lily, happily dozing in the force field which keeps her immune from Startitis. Move over Lily!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

And the Knitting Goes Round and Round....

…and it comes out here! This is one of my latest projects, and while it’s not too elaborate, it’s the kind of mix of mindless knitting and genius construction that I love. Thanks so much to Frankie Brown for figuring this out this shaping. Her easy-to-follow pattern can be found on Ravelry. I’ve wanted to make a small bathroom rug to use up my scraps of Lily Sugar & Cream cotton for some time. This fits the bill perfectly. Even a small 36 inch leftover bit made quite a few rows of pattern. I’m trying to alternate dark and light leftovers, and let the colors all jumble together. One note: when I made the center circle, I had fewer repeats than Frankie’s pattern called for. I didn’t worry about this, I just made enough to make sure the piece lay flat. After working the first complete round around this circle, I realize that was the right decision. It now measures just over 12 inches across, and it’s still laying flat.

Being able to join the strip while knitting is great. I started making a blanket once with this concept, in a square shape. It was turning out great, but I lost interest in making a full size afghan, so it became a cat throw instead.

I will knit this pattern again. Well, I’ll use the shaping, anyway. I have plans to make a cat cushion, by making two circles out of wool, felting them and stuffing them with more wool fleece. Once the whole thing is joined together, it should be one thick and sturdy cat bed. Gotta keep the kitties happy!
I’m also going to use some finer weight wool and make some coasters. I can see where this shaping will really show a yarn with graduated color changes to its best advantage. I’ll have to root through the stash and see what I can come up with.

Thos projects are in the future. For right now, I’m looking forward to the upcoming weekend, and working on this rug. I will actually have two solid days with no commitments, no plans, no big chores to do. I’ve been working hard each evening this week, getting laundry done, and housecleaning, etc, so that come Saturday I’ll have huge blocks of uninterrupted time for the following: working on my etsy shop, continuing the reorganization of the upstairs needlework haven; cataloging more of my book collection, and lots and lots of knitting!

I’ve been listening to the Harry Potter series on audio book this summer while I walk on the treadmill. I read all the books when they first came out, but Jim Dale really makes them come to life. After I finish each one, I watch the corresponding movie. Right now I’m halfway through “Prisoner of Azkaban”. Treadmilling and doing laundry is so much easier when half my mind as at Hogwarts!

Monday, July 20, 2009

From the Daylight to the Moonlight

This past Saturday, I had to chance to see something for the first time. The Southern Pacific 4449 Steam Locomotive, also known as the Daylight, rumbled through Trempealeau pulling a train of vintage passenger cars on its way to Chicago. It was here and gone in a few blinks of the eye, but it was wonderful to watch. I can remember watching trains all the time growing up, and it’s one of those very nostalgic memories. The rail line that ran behind our house, the Chicago-Northwestern, runs no more, and is now a State Bicycle Trail. But the memories remain, and believe it or not, every now and then I dream about those trains. Another memory of another first is also occurring today. I can remember huddling with my mother and brother in front of our tv set, well into the night, 40 years ago, watching Walter Cronkite and the very first lunar landing and moonwalk. At seven years old, you knew it was important if you were allowed to stay up past your bedtime. Looking at the re-broadcast tonight of that epic event, I realize that CBS had me believing at the time that their simulated model was actually the real shape ship. I do remember vividly, going to the screen door and looking out at the moon, every night while Apollo 11 was up there, squinting really hard, trying to see something that looked like the lunar module. I squinted so hard it made my eyes ache. I could never be sure if I saw anything or not.

Times change. Locomotives are now hulking diesels; boxy things without much character. Anchormen pass away, taking part of our past, but leaving the history. Computers are smaller and yet more powerful than those that launched the Apollo missions. But the moon is still there. Still beaming its brilliant moonlight. And tonight, I’m going to squint really hard when I look at it, just for old times’ sake.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Klik Klak Redux

It’s common knowledge to me that not very many people read this blog. I see the stats, and they are pretty pathetic. That doesn’t really bother me – I know I’m probably not going to be another Yarn Harlot or Panopticon. In fact, it’s fairly liberating, knowing that I can pretty much write anything I want, without having to live up to anyone’s expectations.

One thing that I find amusing though, is that the blog post that gets the most hits from people searching is the one called the "Saga of the Klik-klak". I wonder if, like me, they are trying to find a source for Klik-klaks, or need to vent about Klik-klaks, or just happen to like them.

So I thought a little Klik-klak update might be in order. I’ve had mine for about eight months now. Personally, I still really like it. Remember now, I got the one with the storage bin underneath. The sofa is a nice neutral color, and so far, the cats have not been able to damage the microfiber fabric. I love the storage feature, and have finally found a place for much of the extra bedding I have. That’s been great. There are a few tiny drawbacks.

The first one is this: In most traditional sofa beds, there is a horizontal bar that hits you right in the back, and makes for uncomfortable sleeping. On the Klik-klak, there really isn’t a bar, per se, but a harder area, and it runs vertically, rather than horizontally. So you can’t really sleep in the center of the sofa bed, you kind of have to pick a side, or a diagonal. For me, this isn’t too much of an issue, I’ve managed to find a comfortable position on the few times that I’ve tried it out. I’m just a little hesitant to subject any visitors to it. It hasn’t been an issue yet, but it might be someday. I think I can alleviate the problem by adding a nice feather tick.

The second issue is this: For me, the Klik-klak has been fine, and yes, I still love it. However, I can see that it’s already losing some of it’s “vitality” in that the padding is starting to compress a bit, and the fabric is not as taut as it used to be. And, I’ve seen on the local Freecycle a rant from a Klik-klak owner, getting rid of hers because her kids broke it in a month, and why can’t they make something that will last? Well, I agree, active kids jumping on furniture would probably wreck my Klik-klak. College kids in party mode would probably wreck one. But sedate, middle aged knitters who just want a comfy place to sit will not do much harm. Some say you get what you pay for, but I still feel this sofa was a value for me and fits in perfectly with my lifestyle and storage needs.

I feel so strongly about it that in November I bought a second one! I wanted one for the spare bedroom, so that it would become more of a home office, sitting room style room, but still useable if someone needs to sleep there. The problems with back orders and stock issues seemed to be cleared up somewhat, and I was able to buy one on sale at one of the area Shopko stores. It is identical to the first one, and what I actually ended up doing was moving the living room Klik-klak into the bedroom by myself, so that the new one didn’t have to be carried as far. I was able to put the sofa up on end and kind of “dance” it through the doorways and around the corners. That was another plus – being able to move it myself. Since adding the second sofa, I’ve spent much more time in the spare room, which has become a cozy little haven. It’s nice to get away from the tv, but still have a place where all the cats and I can relax together. I sit and knit and listen to podcasts or audiobooks, and the cats have a nice ledge to look out the window. And the new Klik-klak in the living room adds even more storage space. A win all around!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Do You Love Books?

I must admit, I was born a booklover. Both my parents were avid readers. My Dad belong to several “…of the Month” clubs, and one of my favorite photos of him is where he is seated at his desk, and nearby there is a pile of books stacked almost to the ceiling. I do come by it naturally. When I was four I had my very own bookcase filled with books. I still have it, as well as some of those favorites from way back when. That's me on the left, in my favorite dress at the time, with roosters all over it. Over the years I’ve purchased many books, and while some have been brand new, most have been used books, ex-library books, or vintage books. I seem to prefer older books. Once I read an author I like, I like to find all their books. Or collect all the books on a particular subject. I have bookcases in every room of the house except the bathroom, which only houses a magazine rack.

Collecting books, like any other hobby, can be expensive, even when looking for bargain priced books. A few years ago, I was made aware of the website PaperbackSwap, and over time, my library has increased while my book budget has shrunk!

Now, before you jump to the first conclusion, let me tell you: this website isn’t just for paperbacks. I don’t even like to buy paperbacks, because usually I want to keep the book and therefore want a hardcover. But PaperbackSwap has all versions of books: paperback, hardcover, audio cassette, and audio CD.

The basic rules are this: You create an account, and list five books that you would like to give away. Right up front you are given three credits, which you can then use to “order” books from other members. When someone requests one of your books, you get an e-mail message. If you agree to send the book, then on the website you will be given the requestor’s name and address on a printable label. You pay the postage cost to send out the book. When the book is received, you get a credit for it. That, basically, is it. If you see a book you want, you can request it, and soon it’s on the way to your address. For free!

Although part of the idea can be to receive a book, read it, and then re-list it for someone else to claim, you are not bound to re-trade any book you receive. I’ve kept over 95% of the books I’ve received.

Most of the books I’ve requested have been hardcover, and with only a few small exceptions, many have been in very good to excellent condition, many being like-new. These books would have cost a pretty penny to purchase new in the store, even at a discount. I’ve been able to use several as gifts.

The books I list for trade are books that I’ve decided I no longer have an interest in, or have duplicate copies of, or are paperbacks that I’ve replaced with hardcover editions.

Some categories on PaperbackSwap are less well-stocked than others. If you are looking for current fiction, you’ll find it, although there might be a wait for the really popular books. No problem, just add the book to your wish list, and when it’s available, you’ll be notified. Knitting books, however, are scarce as hens’ teeth, and get snapped up the moment they get listed.

Of course, browsing the site has led me to discover all sorts of new books and authors that I’d never even heard of. And, since there are books of every age, I’ve even found a few vintage editions to add to my collection.

This little narrative just scratches the surface of how PaperbackSwap works. They also have sister sites for CDs and DVDs. If you’re interested in books, and in saving money, check it out!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Stash Busting - March Update

Stash Busting is going well! The only thing is, I’m not sticking exclusively to that bucket o’ yarn that I featured last month. I’m trying to focus on those yarns, but sometimes I just need to work other projects, still busting stash, but not necessarily that stash.

However, I have managed to complete four more projects from that particular collection of yarn. First of all, here’s a photo of that stash today:

I pulled out most of the small balls and took the ones I wouldn’t use to the local Goodwill.

Out of the remainder, I made the following:

Two hats for charity. I had this rainbow hat started last month. I was intending it to fit a child, however, I got carried away, and it’s actually a little large even on me. I added it to the charity box. That yarn was Red Heart Worsted. The black hat is from the one ball of Phentex Angorel. This is also acrylic, but a brushed, fuzzy yarn. I started at the top, aiming to make a tam style, but changed that midstream, to a hybrid style hat. It fits an adult, and went into the charity box as well.
A felted bowl. This crochet project used up the 1+ balls of Lion Wool. I had fun crocheting it, and like the way it turned out. A pair of socks. There was only one ball of Cervinia Jacquard in the container, but I knew there were more balls elsewhere in the house, so I found another one and knit this pair of socks, mostly during lunchtime at work, and while on the treadmill. I like making the socks a little longer and shaping the leg. This pair will go in my Etsy shop. Projects in the works are a crocheted market bag, and another water bottle cozy. More on those in the next update.

There are a few balls in the bucket that I’m going to store away where they belong. For instance – that pink chenille from Hobby Lobby. I know there are three other balls elsewhere in the house, and why this ball got separated, I don’t know. And that pale blue Brunswick cotton has some companions in a box upstairs. So part of stash busting is actually stash management. But don’t worry – once this container is empty, there’s another one lurking just around the corner!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Le Bon Temps Roule

Rusty is all ready for a wild Mardi Gras. Too bad we live so far north...

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Stash Busting 2009

For me stash busting has been an ongoing process for several years. I rarely buy new yarn for a knitting project, but I did buy yarn last year to enhance the stash, for future, yet-to-be-determined projects. That was not supposed to happen. It didn’t happen a lot, but it wasn’t supposed to happen. At all.

I suppose that in order to bust stash I should know just how much I’m dealing with. Well, I did start organizing the yarn and made up an Xcel spreadsheet a few years back. But after 1,500 balls, I ran out of storage room in my upstairs closet, and didn’t add any more to the list. Now this closet isn’t small – it runs the length of the house. But half of it was full of puzzles, games, sewing supplies, and other odds and ends. I’ve been working at getting it cleared out, so I can continue with my yarn storage project.

But try as I might to keep it contained, yarn just seems to keep showing up everywhere. In my bedroom, there are four totes hung on the doorknobs, with in-progress projects. There is also a pressed tin bucket that my sister gave me a couple of years ago. This became a catch-all for odd balls, and a few balls I brought down to try in projects, that didn’t make the cut.

I’ve decided to start with this bucket, and work on the yarn in it until I use it up, or put it away. It will be interesting to see how long it takes to empty the bucket, and how many projects can come out of it. One of those cases where, if you write it down, you’re more likely to do it!

Here’s a photo of the bucket today.
I wish I would have thought to take one before I started, but you get the idea. Full! Here’s another picture of the contents, spread out on the sofa.
I’m going to put all the tiny oddballs either in the leftover totes for their specific fiber, or in a bag to take to the Goodwill. I usually try to use up every bit, but see that purple eyelash yarn? I have no idea what to do with that little leftover bit. I made and sold a hat from the rest of that ball several years ago. I’m sure this little bit would make great trim on a Barbie dress, but I’m not ready to go down that road just yet!

Here’s what I’ve made so far:

Two cotton washcloths, using a ball of Lily Sugar and Cream, and Bernat Handicrafter. I should have gotten two blue cloths from the Sugar & Cream, but there was a knot in the yarn, near the beginning, so I cut it out. After I finished the cloth, the remaining balls were not big enough to make another complete cloth. These, and the leftover Handicrafter, will go in the “leftover cotton” tote upstairs. A Ganomy hat from Elizabeth Zimmermann’s “Knitter’s Almanac”. I used one of the two balls on Lion Wool. The hat came out a little on the small side for me. And it only used a little less than one ball, so now I have to figure out what to do with the remaining ball. In progress is a child’s hat. This is from a ball of unlabeled acrylic. Probably Red Heart. Rough texture, but cute colors. I know that I can steam this into something that feels better, but I don’t want to take away too much stretch. And the next project from the bin? A pair of socks. There was one ball of Cervinia Jacquard in the bin, minus its ball band. I found another ball in a box upstairs, and I’m hoping that they’re the same dye lot. I can’t see any difference. I like this Cervinia yarn. No, it’s not as posh as some sock yarns, but I think the finished socks look and feel just fine. I’m basing this pair on another Cervinia pair I made in October, and had the foresight to take notes on!

That’s the stash busting update for now. I’ll continue these updates as I work my way through this one bucket. It isn’t much, but I have a feeling it’s going to take longer than you might think to get through it. And hopefully the projects will be unique, and a bit creative. We shall see!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Welcome to 2009!

A little belated, but still heartfelt. I didn’t make any resolutions for the New Year, but I do have good intentions about keeping up with the blog. So here goes!

The year seems to be off to a good start. I was on leave over the Christmas holiday, so I enjoyed several relaxing days at home, knitting, watching old movies, and snoozing with the cats. It seems like every two or three days we’ve had snow or sleet or some kind of weather to deal with. The latest was icy rain, which made all the roads and surfaces slick and shiny. It hasn’t really been warm enough to melt yet, so walking around outside is done by taking baby steps.

Much knitting was done during this time. It seems like lately I’ve had so many ideas for new projects, but just can’t knit fast enough! I’ve written most of them down, so hopefully I won’t lose the idea or inspiration.

This is one spur-of-the-moment project. Nothing fancy, but it’s my first attempt at a wine bottle cozy. Instead of digging out a pattern, I just made it up, figuring out the shaping as I went along. I like my basic premise, so I will use it as a jumping off point for future wine cosies. The yarn was an old ball of Brunswick Crystal, that I got from who-knows-where. It’s similar to Lopi, but I never really had any coordinating colors to put with it, and knew that one ball wouldn’t go very far. I wasn’t even sure that I’d get to the top of the wine bottle. The string tie was all I had left when I cast off. Even though it’s kind of plain, it still made a nice gift bag.

My other project that went from start to finish during the holiday was this Christmas Stocking. I adapted the stitch pattern from a vintage sweater pattern, and let the repeats determine the size of the stocking. It’s a little on the large side, especially the foot, but I think Christmas stockings can be all sizes. The yarn for the stocking was – GROAN - Red Heart Super Saver. I don’t intentionally go out and buy this yarn. It just happened to be mixed in with some more desirable yarn in a bag at Goodwill. I was going to use it for charity projects, and still might, but the colors worked well for this project. This is actually the second stocking to come from this yarn. It’s not that pleasant to knit with, but I did find that by washing the finished item in conditioning shampoo, then liberally shooting it with a steam iron will take away most if not all of the roughness and make the hand and drape of the finished item much better. I won’t go overboard with the steam on this stocking, as I want it to have some structure, but I know it will soften up considerably.

Finally, here’s a photo of a recent visitor to the back yard. It was a snowy day just before Christmas, when this pileated woodpecker came swooping in, and spent a good 40 minutes working away at my old black walnut tree. This bird is bigger than Lily the cat, and looks so intimidating! And since it normally doesn’t visit neighborhoods, I felt honored to have it in my yard. It came back last Sunday, which was much sunnier, but I was too close to the window when it swooped in, and couldn’t move to get the camera without scaring it away. What a treat!