Still Life, With Cats

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Knitting

Mostly

I looked at today’s pattern and noticed something that wasn’t there in any of the others (so far): beads. The fact that this also comes on a day when I have rehearsal in the evening, which means even *less* time to fiddle with stupid snowflakes, wasn’t very helpful either.

I pondered skipping this one. I reminded myself that I do, actually, have some beads in stash from when I made my Golden Orchids shawl, so I figured okay, fine, I’d suck it up and use the damn beads. But then I realized they weren’t really the right size and I decided that I was not going to go buy a tube of beads just for one snowflake, so…here you go. Snowflake #22, sans beads.

Snowflake22

Sigh.

Clearly I screwed up on this one. I am pretty sure I know the row it happened, but I ripped that one out twice and redid it and it still went weird, so…eh. A lopsided star is what you’re going to get when it’s late and I’m tired and quickly running out of…ahem….’flakes’ to give on this project anyway.

Making a snowflake a day for Thingadailies.



Outlier

Last summer at some point I found some kind of vague schedule for when you’re supposed to be trimming and pruning certain things in your garden. Technically, January was when I was supposed to hack back the grape vine, and February is when I am supposed to be pruning the citrus. I have no idea if this is correct or not, but I figured I might as well go with it. And hey, considering that so far the grapevine has thrived on complete and utter neglect, giving it a bit of a chop couldn’t do much to hurt it.

So I went out and cut away a couple big patches of the vine, as well as cutting down some of the stupid pecan tree saplings that have been sprouting up amid the giant tangle that happens when you leave a grapevine untended for 3+ years (there is a pecan tree in the neighborhood, and the squirrels diligently bury the nuts all over the place, such that I am forever having to yank up tiny little pecan trees from everything. Years from now, when the zombie apocalypse is over and the neighborhood is deserted, it will morph into a healthy pecan orchard, and this is why). I also took a whack at the two citrus trees in the front yard. I have been hesitant to do much with them because they’re small yet, and while any plant in our yard must be hardy enough to survive benign neglect, these things definitely needed some help. They now look more like trees and less like unsightly bushes, so here’s hoping I didn’t completely kill them in the process.

Anyway. Here is today’s snowflake.

snowflake13

When I started working on it, I was struck right away by the fact that, unlike every other snowflake pattern in the book so far, this one did *not* start with me chaining 6 stitches and joining them into a circle. At first I thought perhaps this was an error, but then I read the next row and it didn’t make sense if there was supposed to be a circle to begin things with, and I reminded myself that this book has been out a long time, so I took a deep breath and just plunged right in, and eventually it sort of started to make sense.



I am my own weathervane

I spent most of today feeling vaguely queasy and doing my best to keep a headache at bay by throwing ibuprofin at it every few hours. I did go for a couple short walks, thinking maybe if I got up and moved around things might improve, but of course they didn’t. The weather was rather nice outside though – warm for this time of year, and sunny, and it wasn’t until this evening that it finally dawned on me that the issue was, as usual, my sinuses. Any time the barometer decides to do a big change, my sinuses respond by throwing a massive tantrum. So much fun Ah well.

Yesterday’s snowflake turned out much better than the day before’s, primarily because I did it at home, all by myself.

snowflake11

I rather like this one because of the non-pointy ‘points’. It feels as if, were I to remove the pins, it would just roll merrily away. The roll would be a bit wobbly, of course, because I am still working on keeping a consistent gauge, but it would be fun to watch. Well, until it was trampled by a cat, because that is the way of things in this house.

Today’s snowflake looks a lot like a couple of the previous snowflakes I’ve already made (except slightly neater, because I really *am* getting better at this. Slowly. Very, very slowly).

snowflake12

But I swear it is a different snowflake. It is #12 in the book. So I shall trust the designer to not have snuck in a duplicate when the editor wasn’t looking.

Making a snowflake a day for Thingadailies.



Thunderbolts and lightning

I was browsing lazily through Facebook this morning, cat on lap, as one does, and stumbled across this, which is so awesome I had to share it with the rest of you.

I watched this and it occurred to me that they should set up a carousel where they play *this. Because even if anyone who rides it can manage to hold it together throughout the first half, there is no one who can resist the head-banging section in the middle, and by the end, every single person would be singing along at the top of their lungs.

*****

Today’s snowflake suggests that maybe, just maybe, I’m starting to get the hang of this.

snowflake7

We shall pretend that I did not have to rip out the first point twice before I finally got it working. Shh..

Making a snowflake a day for Thingadailies.



Brains

So on the flight to Atlanta, earlier this week, I did something I haven’t done in a very, very long time.

I brought a book.

Oh, I read on planes occasionally, but usually I do it on my phone because I read extremely fast so I’d need to bring 2 or 3 books per flight, and those start to get heavy really quickly, especially if one isn’t checking one’s luggage. Mostly on planes, I tend to knit, as at least that way I’m getting something productive done.

But for the flight to Atlanta, I wasn’t able to get an aisle seat (preferable for knitting), and instead I had a window. And while I was packing, I noticed the stack of books-to-be-read on the shelf and decided that a flight to Atlanta was the perfect time for a crash course in neuroscience – the inner workings of the human brain. I am speaking, of course, of the absolutely delightful book by Timothy Verstynen and Bradley Voytek: Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep?: A Neuroscientific View of the Zombie Brain, which I received as a Christmas present a year or so back and for some bizarre reason, never got around to reading until now.

I read the entire thing on the flight to Atlanta (and had time left over to take a nap) and thoroughly enjoyed the book. It made me giggle under my breath more than a few times, while at the same time providing a fairly comprehensive (for the non-neuroscientist, that is) overview of the inner workings of the brain, and all the myriad things that can go wrong with it (with the accompanying symptoms), all while laying out a hypothesis for the sorts of damage to the brain that could result in a zombie. If you like science, and anatomy, and also have a passing fancy for zombies, I highly recommend it.

*****

So I feel as if each snowflake I make, I get one teensy tiny baby step closer to knowing what the heck it is I am doing. Here is today’s snowflake, which shall be used as a visual example of how I really need to figure out how to get a more consistent gauge when I am crocheting. But overall, it’s not that bad. The general shape is there, and I suspect that when I do the final starching & blocking of these things at the end of the month, I will able to smooth out most of the lopsidedness. Maybe.

snowflake6

Making one snowflake a day for Thingadailies.



And I would walk 10,000 steps…*

So aside from doing this whole snowflake-a-day project, and also a test knit due by the end of the month, and oh let us not forget that whole ‘working full time’ thing and also rehearsals and so on, this month also is the start of my workplace’s ‘let’s encourage everyone to be more active’ annual challenge. And this year the deal is that in order to meet the challenge, we have to walk 350,000 steps in between February 2nd and March 28th. Technically that’s only 6250 steps per day except that you get extra brownie points if you hit 10,000 per day, or something. Huh, I could really go for some brownies right about now. Mmm. Brownies.

Yesterday I flew to Atlanta for work. There were lots of extra steps getting to the airport and getting to my gate, but by the time I landed in Atlanta I was still a couple thousand shy of the goal. So instead of taking the gate shuttle, I just walked the extra-long hallway, and while waiting for the MARTA train to arrive, I paced up and down the (rather long) platform, so that by the time I got to the hotel (also more walking, from the MARTA station) I was only a couple hundred shy, and that I was able to make up by pacing around in my room.

Today I had grand plans to get up early and go walking, except that as I sat on the bed, blinking blearily because the brain does not shift so easily from west coast to east coast time zones, the skies opened up and it began pouring. And I am sorry, no brownie points are worth getting drenched.

Anyway, all throughout the day my coworker (who has also signed up for the challenge) and I have been finding ways to sneak in a few extra steps here and there, and we even picked a location for dinner that was half a mile away, just for the extra steps. One should never underestimate the allure of mythical brownie points.

So at this point, two days into the challenge, I’ve hit the goal every single day. Go me! Also, my coworker and I are meeting tomorrow morning at 6am (which, those of you paying attention to what I said earlier may note, is actually 3am to my west coast brain) so we can try to knock out a big chunk of the 10K before the meeting gets started. Whether one or both of us then dozes off during the meeting later is anyone’s guess. I sense tomorrow is going to involve caffeine. A lot of lovely, lovely caffeine.

*****

Today’s snowflake technically was made yesterday, because I did not feel like dragging along all the parts to make them while traveling, but as this is my personal challenge I get to make up the rules as I go along, so there. I did not, of course, make tomorrow’s snowflake early, so I sense that I shall be blearily crocheting what I am sure will be a *lovely* snowflake at roughly 11:30 pm tomorrow night when I get back home, but oh well.

snowflake3

Clearly I need to spend a lot more than 30 seconds pinning these things out. You can see that there is still that weird little lump where the circle joined, but I figure anything that is less lopsided than yesterday’s has to be counted as a win.

*No, I am not sorry for the earworm. Not sorry at ALL.



Thingadailies: Let it snow

It’s February! Which means that, at least based on last year, it’s time for me to take on some sort of ridiculous yarn-based daily challenge. Last year, faced with a bin full of cotton yarn, I knit up a dishcloth a day (in fact I ended up with more than 28 dishcloths because there were a few days I was on a roll). This year, I pondered what to make and vaguely recalled that somewhere, lurking in the back of my stash, were a couple little balls of crochet cotton, and somewhere on the bookshelf, a book all about making snowflakes. Piece of cake, I thought to myself, and didn’t bother to drag out either the book or the yarn until this morning. At which point I stared at the cover and thought ‘oh yeah. This is how to *crochet* snowflakes.”

I am a…modest crocheter, by which I mean I have a general grasp of the basic stitches and can crochet an edging onto a lace shawl with no stress. But I haven’t really delved much into that side of yarn crafting, beyond the single and double stitch. So what better way to do it than with crochet cotton (size 30, in case you are wondering and I am sure you are), a 1.9 mm needle, and a book of snowflake patterns?

Here is my first one. Quarter is included for scale. It is slightly damp because that’s the only way I could get all the little points to lie flat.

Snowflake1

Now that I look at the picture, I notice one of the little points is folded over, but eh, I’ll fix that when I block them all with stiffener at the end of the month.

I am not the only one doing a daily challenge this year – as we’re now in charge of the Holidailies site, I had a neat idea of setting up an additional monthly thing called Thingadailies. So check out the page (it’s the same link) to see what other people are making daily during the month of February.

*****

Our house was at one point split into two flats – an upper and a lower – which I suppose is the reason for why there is a set of double doors in what is now the master bedroom. They’re annoying doors because they have glass inserts, although the previous owner covered those with wooden shutters….from which we ended up removing one slat to save our sanity due to a certain grey tabby (Rupert) pawing repeatedly at them when he was younger so that he could look outside (the fact that he could have nearly the SAME VIEW from the window not five feet away was irrelevant). Because the lower level is about 2 feet below ground, there’s a step down immediately after you come through those doors, which means there’s really nothing to hold the doors in place except a cleverly placed pin in the floor.

At some point – who the heck knows when – one of us must have opened the doors for some reason or another and pulled up the pin, and then never bothered to put it back. Not a big deal except that last night there were crazy winds…which is to say that when I came downstairs to go to bed, I heard a weird roaring sound and realized that what I was hearing was the wind through the OPEN DOORS.

My first thought was someone had broken in. My second thought was sheer panic that Sherman had taken this opportunity to escape. I screamed for Richard, and then shockingly saw Sherman *inside* the house (either he’d already been out and come back, or he’d not yet discovered the clear avenue to the Great Outdoors). I shut the doors, we hastily did a head count (all cats accounted for, phew), and that is when I discovered that the locking pin had never been deployed.

That has been fixed and large furniture has been moved in front of the doors because now we’re both on the paranoid side, and we’ll be working out a more visible method of ensuring this never happens again. Gah.



Duo

I have been, lately, in the mood for knitting lace.

This hits me from time to time, usually when I am already heads down in the middle of one or more important projects, such as a test knit, or something complicated that has a set deadline. But ignoring the urge doesn’t really help because then I just don’t knit anything at all, so it’s always better to just go with it, until the feeling passes.

All this is to explain why I whipped these two things up in the span of roughly two weeks last month.

The first one is Artesian, and I used MollyGirl Diva sock yarn, which arrived at my house via the magic of Yarnbox.

Artesian&Grey

Oh, what’s that you say? It’s hard to see the actual knitted item when there are cats on it? Yes, yes welcome to my world. It is also hard to *knit* when there are cats on it. But I digress. Here is a better picture I managed to take in the 0.3 seconds that a cat was *not* trying to actively sit on it.

Artesian2

This is actually the second time I’ve knit this; the first, however, was for a shop sample for a Verb for Keeping Warm, so I didn’t get to keep it. I really liked the pattern, and the yarn I used (Even Tinier Anapurna), so when they gave me store credit, I bought a skein for myself. However, when I started knitting it with the yarn I specifically bought for it, I realized I’d rather use that yarn for something else. So I used the sock yarn for Artesian, and used the yarn from A Verb for Keeping Warm to make Golden Orchids instead.

GoldenOrchids1

You probably can’t tell from the full view, so here’s a close-up. This project happens to be my very first foray into knitting with beads. Verdict – working with beads is tedious when you have to stop and put them on each individual stitch with a tiny crochet hook. Also, working with beads when you live with cats is very nerve wracking. I will let you draw your own conclusions as to why.

GoldenOrchids2



L is for Lace

When I start a lace project, I usually get really obsessive about it and finish it pretty quickly. Except when something goes horribly wrong, and then the project goes into time out and sometimes never gets touched again (Heere There Be Dragone, I’m looking at you).

I started my most recent project back in March, eagerly diving into lace after spending February knitting nothing but test projects and dishcloths. I picked Regrowth as the pattern primarily because 1) it is really pretty, and 2) it is adjustable at every step, and I had a skein of gradient yarn that I wanted to make the most of.

Things were going along swimmingly until I was in the final section of the project – the edging chart, at which point I had a few billion stitches on the needles. Okay, possibly I exaggerate; it was only a couple hundred, but it sure *felt* like a few billion by that point. And then disaster struck. My interchangeable needles unscrewed just enough so that the stitches caught on the join, and as a result I dropped a whole bunch of stitches. Worse, when I tried to pick them back up again, a couple of them laddered down. I tried undoing just that small section a few rows down, but that only made things worse. By the time I finally gave up, I’d come to the realization that the only way to fix it was to unravel at least six rows back; maybe more. I stuffed the project into my bag and decided it (and I) needed a time out.

This month, however, a friend and I have come up with our next knit-along project (another Niebling pattern that is likely going to involve no small amount of swearing due to the size and complexity). I knew I really wanted to get the current lace project finished before I cast on for a new one. So I finally pulled it out of the bag and grimly spent several hours undoing row after row (final count – 8 rows, several thousand stitches) until I’d gotten back to a point where everything was okay. Ugh.

Thankfully, though, once I slogged through the worst of it, finishing it up was quick. I did a quick block (ha, ‘quick’) tonight with judicious use of the blow dryer because due to the fact that our spare room is occupied by kittens, I have nowhere with enough floor space to block a project of this size that is safe from certain grey cats who think it is oodles of fun to flop around on my lace and pull pins out with their teeth.

So here it is, in all its gradient glory.
Regrowth-Full

And here is a closer shot that shows the actual motifs in the pattern.

Regrowth-Closeup

I had a rough idea of how much yarn each row would take and by the end of it, I was weighing the remainder every 2 rows, so I could make sure I’d have enough to finish. As it was, after I bound off, on a whim I decided to weigh what was left. Less than 1 gram. I’m not sure I could have cut it any closer if I’d tried.

The letter L is brought to you by the Blogging from A to Z Challenge



J is for Jars

In our house, you cannot drink anything cold out of a regular water glass. This is because in our house, we have Rupert, a determined grey tabby who has made it his mission to tip over any glass of cold liquid he can find. And it’s not as if he’s just trying to drink out of the cup and it tips; no, he will sneak up, hook his paw over one edge, and deliberately tip it over, just to watch the mess .

This has led me to a continual search for ‘Rupert-safe cups’ – basically any drinking vessel with a sturdy lid, in which cold liquid will be safe even if overturned.

As a canner, I own a rather large collection of glass jars, in all shapes and sizes. So I was thrilled when I discovered that canning jar manufacturers have come out with screw-on lids that include a hole into which you can place a straw, essentially allowing you to repurpose canning jars into trendy ‘hipster’ glasses. Of course, glass jars are heavy, and cold liquid leads to condensation, which leads to the need for a coaster for the jar. Also, a heavy, wet, glass jar is prone to slipping when you try to grab it off the table.

Pint-closeupSo back in February, in the midst of my Dishcloth-a-Day personal challenge, I noodled around with some dishcloth cotton and came up with these. I started first with the quart jar size, because that’s what I happened to be drinking out of at the time, and then made some adjustments and did the smaller pint jar size next.

Over the past month or so, I’ve had a coworker test drive the smaller version for me, and had a couple friends do some quick tech edits of the pattern itself. I’ve also been using both cozies on a regular basis, making sure that they worked the way they were intended.

Pint-handleshotOverall, I’m pretty happy with the cozies. The ribbing allows the cozy to fit snugly around the jar, while the handle provides some much-needed stability when you’re picking it up. The cozy is knit all in one piece; so there is no seaming, and the entire thing is knit in the round. Made out of cotton, they’re easy to toss into the washer and dryer, ready to be used whenever you’re in the mood for a cold (or hot) beverage. And bonus, it means I get to have a big glass of ice cold water near me at all times, without having to worry about tracking down a coaster, and also without having to worry about chasing off a persistent grey tabby cat.

Want to make some Hipster Jar Cozies for yourself? As of today, the pattern is now available for purchase and download via Ravelry. Enjoy!

The letter J is brought to you by the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.




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