Sunday, November 30, 2008
I assume everyone knows the basic long-tail cast on method. If you don't, you can find video of it here. This is how to tweak the cast-on for provisional, removal purposes later.
Instead of using the same yarn for casting on, and the stitch-holding twist, you'll use separate yarns. For the part you're removing later, as always, get a contrasting color, in something smooth and strong, so you can pull it back out. I generally go with a smoothly-spun cotton that's the same weight (or close) to the yarn.
Tie a slip-knot of both yarns, together. Position the slip knot on the top of your knitting needle, and drape the to-be-removed yarn over the FRONT of the needle (in this case, the orange), and the yarn you intend to knit your project with toward the BACK of the needle (the dark blue).
Work the cast-on like you would normally do a long-tail cast on. THE LOOP CREATED BY THE SLIP-KNOT DOES NOT COUNT AS A STITCH. So start counting your stitches AFTER that.
The dark blue loops on the needle count as your first row of knit stitches. The orange loops are the cast-on bit.
Knit yer whatever. I got a closeup so you could see what to expect.
When it comes time to remove the cast-on, first, pull out the slip knot.
Clip off the removable yarn very close to the edge. Tuck a darning needle or a knitting needle under the first of the loops and pull. It'll pop right out.
Then unzip, as fast or slow as you like.
This is my favored method, for, well, everything. It creates a VERY firm edge, which is helpful for doilies and other lace projects with an edge added later, and it's handy for things like a half-graft hem, where you want to pull just one stitch loose at a time. It's not like most provisional cast-ons that instantly unzip, leaving you with fifty million loose stitches to chase down. You can make it go as fast or slow as you like.
Before the meal, Grandma knit and kept an eye on the Goober, and the two of them sneaked dressing out of the dish of it.
By the time we ate, the Goob was so full of dressing she didn't really eat anything else. And since she wasn't hungry, sitting at the table with us was out of the question (in her mind), and she wound up watching TV in the living room while we ate. Oh well. Usually it works out. And from what I've seen and heard of other three year olds, it could have been a lot worse. (My brother once puked on the table at Thanksgiving, when he was a small child.)
Among other dishes, I made a batch of dinner rolls from scratch. I hadn't intended to, but I went to the store, and all their dinner rolls looked like crap, and, next thing I knew, I was setting dough to rise at eight AM Thanksgiving morning. They impressed the hell out of everyone, to the point the husbeast took a picture of them.
When grandma and grandpa came, they brought along a Tag Reading System from LeapFrog. It's a pen-shaped doohicky that has an optical reader in it. You can run it over text (from certain books, not just everything) and have it read to you. Very cool.
Goober and Grandma and Grandpa have been playing with it. I particularly like how the Goob's using her foot to hold up the book in this picture.
This morning we went out to do some shopping (nothing insane here; not like you've seen on the news) and while at the book store, I spotted a new book on ribbon flowers that I'd never seen before. We couldn't afford it, so I was desperately trying to absorb the information in it at light speed, when my mother-in-law said 'Let us get that for you'. I said 'I'm so glad I made you guys those rolls yesterday.'
If anyone remembers me bellyaching about a book the Goob wants read to her ten million times, the hated book is "That's not my kitten". Well. Today I purchased another book from the same publisher, "That's not my dinosaur." I'm such a damn pushover. I got it to distract her when grandma and grandpa go home and she's bummed, but now I think on it, Christmas is soon enough to break that thing out. Or maybe Beltane. Or Summer Solstice. Or her birthday next September.
Having a good time and a nice visit. Real blogging to commence soon (like tomorrow; they leave for home in the morning).
Friday, November 28, 2008
It is still under construction, I hope to have the rovings posted in the next few days. And a couple flowers.
We're celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow, so the last two days have been spent cleaning and cooking. The most horrific excess of the last... hell, YEAR, has been the dressing, made according to the husbeast's traditional family recipe. (Incidentally, dressing is bready stuff like this, cooked by itself. Stuffing is when you, well, stuff it. Up a bird's butt, usually. Kind of a recipe for bacteria, and it screws with the cooking time of your turkey. So we do it this way.)
Six loaves of bread, three pounds of butter, two large yellow onions, and a lot of salt and pepper. You remove the crust from the bread (and feed it to birds), tear the rest into shreds, mix with salt, pepper, and chopped onion. Pour melted butter over the whole thing and roast in the oven at 350 F anywhere from two hours to the rest of your life. Stir every ten minutes. Yeah. For three hours, today. It was a laugh riot, I tell you.
It looked like this to start; the roasting process cooks it down a bit and the two pans full reduced down to just one.
Considering this stuff exists only to pour gravy on, my mind whirls. But it isn't Thanksgiving without this stuff in the husbeast's family. For years I've wanted to do a beef roast and wasn't allowed to do it until I promised to make this dressing and gravy to go on top. Next year I want to try lamb. You can make lamb gravy, right?
They're lucky they only make it twice a year (Thanksgiving and Christmas) or the whole family would waddle to their deaths.
Otherwise I made a couple pies - one experimental - egg-cheese brunch and cinnamon rolls (doing a slow rise in the fridge) for breakfast, and prepped some other stuff so the meal will throw together faster tomorrow.
I'm beat. I still have some crap to clean out of my office before the in-laws arrive, in about an hour.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
It's the whining.
Okay, I get that everything's relative. And subjective. And every person re-defines, well, everything, by their own experience. In that, yes, I'm very post-modern. But then we get to the gloomy fuckers like Nietzsche, who stated "God is dead" and then went on to whine about it for several books' worth of gloom and doom. I do not track on the reasoning that since everything is relative, life sucks. In fact, I suspect that if we each build/define our own reality, we could take the opportunity to make it something POSITIVE, or at least NICE, since it's all subjective and in our heads anyway. Call me crazy, but if I'm defining my own reality, why not make it a nice place to live?
So there you go. Why post-modernism sucks oozing rat ass.
A few tangential but vaguely related thoughts.
First, for those who didn't take the test, the question everyone's bothered by is about burning books. Basically, if you're going to burn a book, which one would it be. The choices were: anything that advocates terrorism, the Bible, something by Nietzsche, and something by Descartes. And while I'm against burning ANY books, in principle, when I got into the spirit of the test, my answer to that question was "Hell, burn them ALL."
Second, I took a world religions class from a prof who was actually a philosophy prof and was teaching world religions because the prof who normally did that was terribly sick. He regularly begged me to take one of his philosophy classes the next semester. Finally, one day, I broke down and told him as politely as possible, I think philosophy is just mental jacking off, and if you're gonna sit around and think Great Thoughts, they should at least be your own instead of someone else's. That just made him more determined to sign me up. But I never did.
Can't stand philosophy. Every human since the dawn of humanity has wondered this stuff, and come up with their own answers. Just because some of these wankers got their own answers published in books doesn't make them more right or worthy or accurate. Just makes them published.
This was probably very post-modern, wasn't it?
For those of you thinking, "Oh right. Carpet beetles, and now selling yarn? You must be insane if you think I'm buying." here's the storage method I've used from day one.
That's a sealed box - with a lavender sachet inside. It is always kept in the Yarn Closet, which is also crammed with lavender. And the majority of the yarns are sealed inside zip-loc bags (which is how I ship, so the Post Office can drop them in the mud and we don't care). I've been plowing through the Yarn Closet like the wrath of God(s) for most of the week and so far not a single carpet beetle has turned up. So the lavender works. I inspected the yarns closely before re-listing.
The only yarns that were ever nibbled, were yarns kept in dark corners, outside the yarn closet.
So the stock is safe.
***SILLY BUT KIND OF FUN DEAL FOR ANY BLOG READERS***
If you buy anything from my shop, I'll send you a ribbon flower - color of your choice, so long as I've got the ribbon - fastened to your choice of pin, barrette, hair pin, or plain. Just leave a message for me when purchasing, in the little 'comments' window. I'll probably message or e-mail back about color choices, so make sure I can get in touch. I've got a shitload of ribbon here.
Otherwise, still knitting. I drew another line on the photo of Helmut, to show how close I am to finishing.
See the light blue line? I've got seven rounds to go. Probably won't get done before Thanksgiving, but it's giving me hope that I may get this and the sweater I've yet to finish done by Christmas. AAAAH!
Last night I was doing laundry, and the Goob eyed the laundry basket with some speculation and then told me "I could imagine that into a boat, real easy."
I'm spending the day cleaning and cooking and shelving books. We won't be doing Thanksgiving here until Saturday (that's when the in-laws get here; they're doing the long-but-fun route; they do 'real' Thanksgiving tomorrow with the hub's brother and his family, then on to us and Thanksgiving again on Saturday). We're swinging by some friends' house tomorrow to say hi and unload a cake (I want ONE SLICE - it is not going to stay in my house), and I need to find the office floor by Friday when the in-laws get here so they have somewhere to sleep.
Is it wrong to want to curl up under my chair and play Age of Wonders until it all goes away?
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Your result for The Find Your Philosophical Era! Test...
19% Ancient, 6% Medieval, 31% Modern and 44% Post-Modern!
Congratulations! You are: a Post-Modern!
Congratulations! Unlike everyone else, you Post-Moderns were born in the right era. You can even influence the further development of Post-Modernism! Post-Moderns like you are bowed down by the weight of all the writers and thinkers who have existed before them; but, rather than respecting the authority of the past, as a Medieval thinker might do, a Post-Modern thinker is more likely to reject or reinterpret everything which came before him. While the Moderns ridiculed religion, Post-Moderns ridicule religion and atheism alike. The parody is the classic Post-Modern art form.
Post-Modern thinkers tend to cast every commonly received notion into doubt. The naive, common-sense interpretation of things is shocked when Post-Modernism declares, for instance, that perfect translation is theoretically impossible, or that the connection between a word and its meaning is merely illusory. The distinction between meaning and meaninglessness is blurred--see the poetry of e.e. cummings or the works of Joyce for an example of the Post-Modern disregard for the orthodox English sentence.
Moreover, Post-Moderns like Freud and Nietzsche, with their psychological insight, cast into doubt the freedom of the human will, and helped to blur the lines previous eras might have drawn between a good person and a bad one, between a madman and a sane one.
Some post-modern philosophers: Wittgenstein, Nietzsche, Derrida, Foucault, Freud, Benjamin, Hegel, Kierkegaard
Some post-modern artists: Joyce, Henry James, Proust, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Faulkner, Woolf, Samuel Beckett
Typical post-modern art forms: the non-traditional novel, black comedy, jazz, film, photography, the music video, the psychological case study, the parody
What's really funny is, I think post-modernist philosophers should be dragged into the street and beaten to death with coffee-table editions of their own books. Or, you know, left to die of tertiary syphilis, if that's appropriate. Fuckin' Neitzsche. Guy should have been put down like a rabid dog.
First, a tale of Sekhmet, that fucker. She was curled up all cute and innocent on the back of the couch the other night:
And I looked at the husbeast and said something about "Not bad for a burglar alarm." and he said something about "At least it runs on cat food and isn't disabled in power outages." Then I started wondering if I'd ever told that tale here on the blog, and I don't think I have, and hell, there's nothing else to report, so here you go.
When we lived in Hawaii, we spent the last four or five years there living in base housing. We have always - before and since - lived 'out in town', but wound up in housing after my accident because of financial issues. For the housing allowance you give up to live on base, you also don't have to pay power, water, sewage, or garbage. Basically you pay phone and cable and internet and that's it. So it's a good deal. Except for the fact that you're surrounded by the same people you work with, 24-7. And, forgive me, most military people are insane. (I once had a July 4 party, and the neighbor next door went into some tailspin with guns and hostages and they closed off the road and my guests and I had to evacuate to the local park while the SWAT team raided the house next door, but that's another story.)
Anyway. We were living on base, and there was a rash of break-ins that later turned out to be a couple teenagers fencing people's stuff for drug money. They got really bold and the city cops had to be called in because the base police sucked so bad. Once, going into housing, we got stopped by base police to check our ID, and they said they were doing it because there'd been another break-in. The husbeast said rudely, "Maybe this time, you could catch them."
One night, at about three AM, Sekhmet went berserk. Stood at the foot of the stairs, screeching. The most unholy racket you've ever heard. She's never made those noises before or since. After a few minutes of "what in hell is WITH her?", I got up and went downstairs to make sure no one had shut the door to the laundry room, where her litter box was. It was the only thing I could think of that would make her go insane like that.
As soon as I got downstairs, Sekhmet chilled out. I said something like "You fucker." and had a glass of water and went back to bed.
In the morning, I went downstairs again. The screen of the dining room window - the one closest to the laptop sitting on the table - had been pried up, and the gate to the back yard was hanging open. (We never left it open.) Hello. Sekhmet had foiled a break-in. When the kids saw me, they must have taken off. Me standing at the sink drinking water, right next to a knife block full of knives may have helped.
So, Sekhmet got tuna for brunch, and the police were called in. (As I recall, I made the husbeast come home from work to talk to the cops, because I had to be in algebra class and I knew if I missed a day I'd be lost forever.)
She may be a fucker, but she's OUR fucker. Sekhmet also used to come and get me when the Goober cried. And I don't doubt that if someone tried to break in here, I'd hear the same unholy screech.
The other tale is a bit shorter and probably - at least to me - a lot funnier. Our local cable provider has finally gotten with the program and put the PBS (Public Broadcasting System, for those of you overseas - think Discover channel before there was one) channels on their provided stations list. Which to me, means one thing. SESAME STREET.
I grew up on Sesame Street, so the instant I knew PBS was on, the Goob was subjected to it every morning. It's how I learned to read, and judging from what I've seen, it'll be how she learns, too. (And I wonder of Gordon and Maria and the rest of the cast realized they were on a forty-year gig when they originally signed on. And I wonder what they think of the whole thing now. But there are certainly worse ways to spend a life.)
This morning, the Goob was sitting on the couch, watching Sesame Street, and I had a flashback to my own childhood, sitting on the couch watching Sesame Street. I think I was sick, because my mother was bringing me Cream of Wheat (like a wheat version of oatmeal), and eating in the living room was strictly a when-you're-sick sort of thing. (And being a mom now, myself, I think she must have loved me a lot to allow Cream of Wheat on the couch. I wouldn't. Funny how your view shifts as you age.)
We had hardwood floors back then, and walking into the living room, Mom slipped on an area rug, went down, and the bowl of Cream of Wheat in her hand went STRAIGHT UP. It must have slammed into the ceiling with some force, because when it was over, there was a big schlop of Cream of Wheat on the ceiling, hanging there like a stalactite. (Oh, and Mom went down like something Chevy Chase would do on a good day.) I remember laughing and laughing and laughing while Mom got a chair and wiped the Cream of Wheat off the ceiling. (Again, with my new view, I hope she wasn't hurt too badly, but she was able to climb up on the chair, so...)
So there you go. I still get sentimental over Cream of Wheat, thinking of it stuck to the ceiling.
Otherwise, I am almost done with the 576 repetitions of "ssk, k3, 2yo, k3, k2tog" that begin the edge of the shawl. Sometimes it sucks to be decent at math and have a calculator ready. (It comes out to four rounds of that. I'm about halfway through the fourth round.) I've got about ten rounds, total, to go on this damn thing. Then comes the slip-stitch crochet bind off from hell, which will probably take two days.
The Goober's baby pool bit the dust this summer, but we salvaged the inflatable toys. The Goob's been playing with them. So's the husbeast. The other night he got bored and decided to 'make her a Ubange'. I assume that's the tribe in Africa with the women who wear rings around their necks. Or else he made it up. You never know with the husbeast.
Monday, November 24, 2008
And the Goob's in bed for the night, so no crashing around in the room next door to clean it up.
Three days to go.
Speaking of the Goober, I made the mistake of telling the Goob that Grandma and Grandpa would be here to visit soon. She's now on a rampage.
With luck I'll have finished four whole rounds today. Sure, that's almost seven thousand stitches, but damn it. Four stinking rounds? Bah.
So that's the weekend in summary: Mess in the house, Goob on a rampage, me under a rock, knitting and pretending I don't have a huge meal to make at the end of the week.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Back in Hawaii, I was thinking of moth-proofing the stash, because, duh, lots of money spent, there. And I was going to go with moth balls (which also have menthol in them) when the Plant Freak in me had an idea. You see, back in the Middle Ages, when the Black Plague hit Europe, the two areas of Europe that grew lavender for the perfume trade - Norfolk, England, and the south of France - had almost no cases of plague. It's because the whole area reeked of lavender and menthol, and the fleas carrying the disease stayed away. That's where the whole idea of pretty smells keeping away the plague came from. It's not the 'pretty' that keeps away the bugs, it's that funky undertone of lavender, which is, of course, the menthol.
Lavendula angustifolia is the species with the most menthol, of the species grown commercially. Another plant that has a lot of menthol in it is peppermint. You could fling some peppermint teabags around your yarn and it would work. (Or, you know, rub it with Vicks Vapo-Rub. Ha.) I buy my lavender by the pound, here. The lavender oil works, too. Use it sparingly and try to keep it off your skin. It won't cause any skin problems - I use it on infected burns when I get them - but there's debate about lavender oil screwing with your hormone levels, so better safe than sorry. When I put it on the Goob for mosquito repellent, I put a drop on each shoulder of her shirt, and a drop on the cuff of each pant leg.
Other bug-repelling plants are eucalyptus, pennyroyal, most pines, wintergreen, and most mints. Available mints that grown in the US, all of them are bug repellent to some degree. Yeah, pennyroyal and wintergreen are also mints, but almost no one thinks of them that way. Of those, pennyroyal is toxic, and a little bit of pine scent goes a long way. So I suggest sticking to culinary mints or lavender.
I mentioned I was putting beads on the shawl - just two rounds of them - and there was some mild interest. So when I did the first round of beads yesterday, I took some photos.
There are several ways to put beads on your knitting. This is the easiest, but it is also the most time-consuming and I suggest only doing it if you're using a few beads. If you're using thousands (yes, some people do), the more traditional method of stringing them onto the yarn first is faster. Though stringing thousands of beads is its own pain in the ass... pick your pain.
This is what it looked like, after I got the bead placed. So you know where we're going with this.
Knit up to the stitch you want your bead on. I prefer to do this on the 'plain' round, rather than the 'action' round, in two-row lace, but that's strictly a personal preference. Doesn't really matter.
Using a piece of really stiff, heavy-duty thread about four inches long, put the thread through the knitted stitch and form a loop (sorry for the blur, you get the idea).
String your bead onto the ends of the thread.
Push the bead down the thread and onto your knitted stitch.
Put the stitch back on your left hand needle.
And knit it onto the right, just like a regular stitch.
Knit on up to the next stitch you want a bead on, and repeat. Like I said. Time-consuming, but easy enough. It took me two hours to do this bead round, but that's not really a fair assessment because I was chasing the Goob and cooking dinner at the same time. All told, it was probably closer to 45 minutes. Over 1728 stitches (48 with beads), that's not too bad.
Usually this is done with a crochet hook - you put the hook through the hole in the bead, hook the knit stitch, and pull it through - but I can never find crochet hooks small enough to fit the holes of the beads I like. (I like small beads for this kind of thing.) So, here's your alternative.
For those who asked what's up with the shawl, I pulled out the damaged hunks of the skeins, wound up the rest, and am still knitting (there were only two small but intensely chewed bits). I'm watching the yarn closely as I knit it up and am cutting out any sketchy bits but so far I've only had to patch once. Because I've gone insane on this project, it looks like I'll be starting the edging this afternoon. There's a faint chance I will have it done - the whole shawl - this weekend. But I'm not going to count on it. Ideally I'd like to have it done by Thanksgiving, but again, whatever happens, happens. Soon as I get definite the carpet beetles will get together, have a party, and burn my house down.
Oh. The carpet beetles. That's looking like a sure thing. The little bastards I thought were uninvolved appear to be some obscure species. I Googled images of carpet beetles last night (I am pleased to report I did not throw up or have nightmares), and there were several that looked similar enough to these little bastards that I think we've found the culprit. I'll be cleaning out my office this afternoon (brace for much melodrama), and ordering more lavender on payday. LOTS of lavender.
And isn't it lovely to be re-opening my shop on the heels of this. LOVELY. I've taken good care of the stock. Honest. I swear.
Maybe I'll burn the house down myself. Serve the little bastards right.
Friday, November 21, 2008
I'll be moving all the suspicious wools out to the garage for a couple weeks. With Thanksgiving coming up, there's no room in the freezer, but it's pretty cold out there. Most likely they've stayed out of the yarn closet because of the lavender and everything on the floor - or near the floor - is sealed up in plastic. The idea was to keep out general creepy-crawlies, but maybe by dumb luck, it worked. I'll check it out today.
I do know that when we clean the carpet, the waste water has bug guts in it. I doubt that's a good sign.
This place is a rental, so as long as I can save the wool (SAVE THE WOOL! we need to make posters), I'll let the house rot into the ground. Not my job to save it. Well, I'll mention it to the landlord. But I won't let him spray while we live here (my asthma, and I don't want the Goob exposed), but maybe as we move out, I'll say 'oh, by the way...'
Nearly all of my yarn is stored in the Yarn Closet of Doom. And I use old-fashioned but effective moth proofing in there: lavender. Bugs hate lavender. Every space that isn't crammed with yarn is crammed with lavender. And I've never had a problem. Not here, and not even in Hawaii. (Heck. I used to use lavender oil as a mosquito repellent in Hawaii, people would sneer at me. Until the end of the night, when they were itching from bites they got, even using commercial bug spray, and I was bite free and smelling of flowers. I use it here in the fuckin' swamp and it works, too.) ALL ETSY SHOP STOCK IS STORED IN A PLASTIC TUB, SEALED, INSIDE THE CLOSET. So, if you order my stuff, that's not an issue.
Unfortunately, the yarn has overflowed the closet. And I stored the yarn for the shawl from hell in my office, not in the closet. The yarn in question was stored in my office, INSIDE PLASTIC BAGS. Today I went to wind up the last - of two - and it was full of holes. A bunch of sliced yarn, right in one spot. (Which says Problem After Winding, to me.) So I threw it away in high dudgeon, and got out the other. It had the same problem.
Now here's the thing. I don't have moths. And I don't have larvae FOR moths. I keep an eye out for that stuff. What I do have, is little beetle-thingies. All over the house. All the time. One of the great joys of living in a fucking swamp in the South.
That's the best photo I've been able to get of the little bastards, and the brick in the photo is two inches high, to give it scale. My camera doesn't focus well enough to get a good closeup.
Far as I can tell, they're the only logical thing that could be eating my yarn (unless Sekhmet is, which I wouldn't rule out, but she usually slurps it up like spaghetti, she doesn't just chew breaks into skeins). They are all through the house - except for the yarn closet. Everywhere. In my shoes, in our clothes, in any unsealed food, in my books. I've checked everywhere I find them for damage, and never found any. (Trust me. Bugs in the books?? Oh yeah, I'm gonna check on that.) But they have been found in yarn - of all kinds, not just wool - that's been left anywhere in the house other than the closet.
They look a little like aphids, but they're not. I know aphids. (Half a botany degree, remember?) I don't recognize them at all, so they're not a major plant pest and unlikely to be part of any kind of plant life cycle in a major way. And I'm 99% sure they're not a larval stage of something else, because we never have any huge population of other types of bugs in the house - flies or gnats or moths or whatever - just these little bastards. (We get a break about three months a year, when the weather is cold.) I am as sure as possible that they're beetles, without breaking out the microscope, although knowing it's a beetle hardly narrows things down.
Anyway. I'm moving all wool into the yarn closet, fast, but anyone know if it could be these little fucking beetles that ate my yarn? Do I beat the cat? Or could it just be one of those things? (Shit does happen.)
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Wool is her favorite.
It begins with her laying on my lap, or the arm of the chair, with her face rubbing on the shawl as I knit.
Then, when I shift the shawl around as I knit, she sticks her head under.
And with each shift, she oozes further onto my lap, and further under the shawl.
Until she's fully tucked away, purring so hard my boobs rattle.
And then there's the Goob. (Can you tell I unloaded my camera again?)
She was given a box from some electronics we bought last weekend, and decided it was a cocoon.
Being THIS kid, she managed to scrounge up a plastic butterfly and tuck inside. So for four days it was "Oo. Wook. De cotoon is moovin. What in it?"
Then she'd pop it open, yell "A BUDDERFWY!"
And fly it up her father's nose.
I like that last bit.
Otherwise, I've done nothing but knit for two days. Finished six rounds (!) yesterday and five today. That's about nineteen thousand stitches. Yes, I'm getting obsessed over the stitch count.
Okay, okay, MORE obsessed.
Twenty-five rounds to go.
Monday, November 17, 2008
In the fiber arts, I would have to say that the best general good-for-you actifity isn't knitting. It's spinning. I was working with the carbon fiber yesterday and really paying attention to what I was doing, and if you get an easy-to-work-with fiber (like merino wool or S American mystery sheep from Colonial Wools) and spin a reasonable weight like worsted or DK, it is probably the best of the fiber arts for physical therapy. It uses both hands, but gently. (At least until you spin for like eight hours straight, and I'm pretty sure NOTHING is good for you at eight-hour stretches, except maybe sleep.) The act of pre-drafting the fiber, of smoothing it out, and holding it in your hand, is both soothing and reasonably easy. I've improved my grip and pinch strength, with little or no bad side effects, even after marathon eight-hour sessions that I knew better than to do. I poked around in the archives for some photos of my hands, spinning, and here are a few to give you an idea. In most of those photos my right hand is taking the photo, but usually it is used to either support the roving or mirror what the left hand is doing.
It's easy on the hands compared to knitting, where there's a good bit of stress on the knuckles to pull the yarn where you need it. (These things are, of course, relative.)
Knitting is, of course, good physical therapy and helps the strength and motion. Some things are harder to do than others. Some of that depends on you, specifically, and what you've got problems with. I find that fine gauge is easier on the hands because there's less weight, but it requires more fine-motor skill to accomplish. Wool and other animal fibers are generally easier to knit with than plant fibers (and less obviously, woolen-spun yarns are easier to knit than worsted-spun, but I doubt most people would even notice). The object in knitting is to make something that doesn't unravel. So however you get the yarn around the needle, is the right way. Though for normal hands, Continental (yarn in the left hand, 'work' done with the right hand needle) is easier on the hands. If your hands aren't normal, do whatever works. Again, there's no wrong way.
Sewing - hand sewing - though I mostly hate it, is really good for fine motor skills, and again is relatively easy on the hands. Mind you, you can make it insensible by sewing four layers of denim, or quilting through umpteen fabric layers, or whatever. One reason I like my antique-style ribbon work is I usually don't sew through many layers, and the weight of the ribbons isn't much, so it's easy to haul around. I do know a quilter who had to quit after half a lifetime of twelve hour days of hand-quilting for pay. Again, the body isn't meant to do ANYTHING for twelve hours straight.
Remember, if it starts to hurt, you need to knock it off. Usually a fifteen minute break is enough, but if you're still hurting at the end of your fifteen minute break, listen to your hands. TAKING PAINKILLERS AND THEN GOING BACK TO THE ACTIVITY THAT MADE YOU HURT IS DUMBASS. (Yeah, I do it, but for me it's the chronic pain thing. And even so, I get sent out to a specialist every couple years to make sure I'm not ignoring something important. Even then it's kind of dumbass.) Options for the ol' hands include heat, ice, anti-inflammatories (Tyelenol or whatever), massage (a good hand massage is as good as chocolate), TAKING A BREAK, simple exercises, and plain old doing something else. One way I manage to knit for days at a time is, I'm really not. I play my strategy games. So I knit for a minute, game for a minute, knit for a minute... It's a bunch of short breaks and I manage to get a lot more knitting done that way than if I were to sit down and JUST KNIT. Though of course it does take longer.
Something else most of us do, that I feel compelled to mention in the hand category: cooking and the kitchen. You can have major problems in the kitchen, especially when you add in nerve damage and trouble hanging on to things. Some thoughts:
-It's actually good for your hands to do dishes. The nice warm water increases the circulation and the wide range of non-repeated motions are good exercise. (I hate it, but it's true. Sorry.) If you drop a dish, do NOT try to catch it. You'll wind up either cut, or otherwise smashed. Better to break the plate than slice yourself. Really.
-Keep your knives sharp - you need less effort to use a sharp knife - and learn knife skills. "Knife Skills" is the collective term for all that textbook stuff used in restaurants to cut stuff up. They've got specific methods for chopping and slicing and scoring and blah blah blah. I learned them while working at a restaurant (as the bookkeeper) during my second orthopedic surgery. The chef saw I had hand problems, knew I liked to cook, and immediately said 'You need to learn knife skills.' I thought he was just looking for cheap labor, but you know what? Since I learned, I can't think of the last time I cut myself. And before that? When my hands were GOOD? I cut myself all the time. There's a reason restaurants use these methods; they're efficient. Having the help cut themselves up isn't efficient.
Alton Brown has an entire episode of Good Eats about knife skills... I'm betting it's available on a lot of the gray-area download sites. Wait. Found him on YouTube. Part One, and Part Two. Even if you can't get your fingers to do all the things his do, you can get the idea and even applying HALF the stuff makes you safer. I strongly suggest using the 'new school' onion dicing method. (Anyone got an idea how I can tactfully teach this stuff to my mother-in-law who traditionally winds up with stitches every year or two at the holidays? And bleeds at almost every big dinner she cooks?) Oh, and bottom line? Get a good knife. At least one.
Honestly, I think everyone's better off with knife skills. The husbeast has picked them up from me, and from watching Good Eats with me. The last time he volunteered at a charity cookout he was showing everyone else how to cut things up properly. Everyone was vastly impressed. (Plus it went faster and no one bled.)
Otherwise, if you have a bias against kitchen gadgets, get over it. I do; I'm one of those maniacs who used to juice a lemon with a fork. I blame "Great Chefs of the World", an old PBS series where they did just what it says: went into great restaurants and showed famous chefs preparing the dishes they were famous for. And these chefs were making amazing gourmet, world-famous, got-them-on-TV food with one beat-up pan, a dinner fork, and a chef's knife. I still fall back on that attitude. But you know what? With my hand problems, I need to get over it. For example. I think egg separators (doohickies of several designs that separate yolks from whites) are the silliest things in the world because you can use your hands/fingers to separate eggs perfectly well. But cold egg hitting my fingers feels like someone hit my knuckles with a hammer. I need to get over it and buy the damn gadget. (Preferably before I dig into the holiday baking.) You certainly don't need EVERY gadget on the market (who could afford them all?) but if there is a gadget for a certain thing you do a lot, that bothers your hands, buy it already.
Otherwise, stick with the obvious: If it hurts, don't do it. Ongoing physical therapy shouldn't hurt, or not much. The original get-it-working is brutal, but keep-it-working should be fairly painless or you're doing it wrong.
Anyone interested in video of my range-of-motion exercises I had drilled into me during three months of hard time in the physical therapy department?
Sunday, November 16, 2008
But first, thanks to all of you who left such kind comments about my health commentary and how helpful it is. I've always thought, the only point to living through really nasty shit is to help others get through it, too. So, it's good to know my experiences have sort of been useful. I hope that made sense.
First, Goob photos. The other day it was warm, and so I put her in one of her lighter dresses. It's her 'bananina dress' (ballerina dress). So I got the camera and asked her to dance.
So she did.
Will I be sent straight to hell if I admit she reminds me of Deider and Hans on Sprokets? "UND NOW, VE DANCE!!!"
I looked and looked for video of Dieder, but couldn't find anything. But I did find footage of Mike Myers dancing, which sums it up fairly well. Same general idea. (He starts channeling the Goober - or she starts channeling him - at around the thirty second mark. Except the Goob doesn't do tits and cigarettes.) And this, which is totally unrelated but amusing.
The other day, I was laying in the recliner feeling like an elephant had stomped my head into a mudhole, and asked the Goober to please be quiet and good because I didn't feel right. Next thing I knew?
She wanted me to bring her a drink. Am I the only one who is reminded of Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra, with that pose?
...yeah, pretty sure I'm not hallucinating that.
At the moment, the Goober is watching Scooby Doo and singing the theme song. Except she thinks it's all about her, and is singing "Goobie Goobie Goo, where are you?"
Otherwise, the knitting looks the same as it did the last ten times I posted photos.
I swear I'm posting different photos. Really. For refrence, that's a thirty inch long circular needle in there, and I'm pretty sure you could fit up past two thousand stitches on it, at least with lace weight. (NO. I am not going to try and see.) I think I'm also up around three thousand (THOUSAND) yards of yarn. I have surpassed my own lunacy. Before this the biggest medallion I knit went up to about 110 rounds, had 1200 stitches at once, and used about 1300 yards of thread. Once you hit the 150 round point, these things start sucking yarn like a black hole.
And the cat? We had an electrical storm the other night (two lightning strikes within about 1000 yards - from the sound of it both bolts hit the river). Sekhmet's solution has been to sleep on my head for the last two days. She's a Hawaiian kitty; they don't have much thunder or lightning in Hawaii. So, anyway, we're both pretty tired now. But she looks sillier.
She does too. Does. Does. SHE DOES TOO LOOK SILLIER.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
I'm on the next-to-last pattern section of the Shawl of Doom. Remember the other photo? I drew a little line on it to give myself a landmark.
See the dark red line at the bottom? Gives an idea how far I've got to go. Looks like a little bit, but I just increased to 1728 stitches per round (not a typo) and so it's pretty slow going. Still, I'm finally knitting something different, instead of thirty rounds of the same pattern repeat, so that's something. And I'm into the "I'm almost done" mindset where I go nuts and knit like a fiend. I got almost four rounds done yesterday, which is nothing short of miraculous. (Of course I didn't get anything else done - like blog posts - but let's not dwell on that.)
I'm making grocery lists and menus for Thanksgiving. We're having beef roast this year because I'm sick of making ham and turkey. Yum. And the husbeast for once isn't complaining about his lack of a ham. I think because he got a load of the roast and decided it looked pretty good.
Another reason I hate anonymous comments -- I can't answer them directly. The vast majority of my comments are either funny, or nice, or insightful. And some of them, I'd like to answer. Some of them I do. But obviously I can't track down the anonymous folks too easily.
Anyway, someone mentioned I discussed my health a lot (it was said nicely, and in a nice context, so let's not get all het-up, okay?) And I do. Part of the reason is for the same reason I talk about the Goob a lot: I use this blog as a journal to document things, and I know with reasonable certainty it won't disappear. You wouldn't believe the things I've lost in moves before. (Well, then again, you might.) Books in particular tend to poof on moves, so slapping stuff up on the internet is a better system.
I confess, though, one of the reasons I talk about my chronic pain problem is because I've got a small crusade going to educate the populace. It's wasted on 90% of you guys - at least - because you're nice people who REALIZE you can't judge another person unless you've lived their health problems. But still. I can't help it. Chronic pain is so misunderstood and we've got such a reputation as whining babies, that I can't resist shoving in some information when I get the opportunity.
So there you go, why I do it.
Well, that and sometimes I just can't shut up. But we knew that.
And in the 'too much information' department, the other day I asked the Goob if she'd pooed in her diaper during her nap. She said "Yes. An' then..." and went off on a really long, too-articulate description of... everything. I'll spare all of you guys the details here. As she went through her account of how her diaper got full, I stood there marveling at her vocabulary and wondering if a smart kid was really a good thing to wish for. (Just kidding. I'd rather the horrifying information dump than some alternatives.)
The Goob has officially hit that stage of childhood where they don't shut up for ten years. Gonna be a good time. When it started, I didn't say anything to the husbeast, to see if he noticed it. First weekend he was in charge of her, by the time I got up that Saturday morning, he wanted to know 'Does she ever shut up?' I told him yes. When she's asleep.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go knit. And make another trip to the grocery store. And knit. And, um, kick the shit out of some hobbits on my computer game. And knit.
Anyone in Charleston know a cheap place to get Fiestaware?
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Which is a photo out of the pattern book and swiped off Ravelry. It is "Helmut" by Herbert Niebling.
Remember when I said the more, shorter pattern repeats, the better? Because they're easier to remember? Well. This may be too much of good thing. It has 48 pattern repeats per round, and multiple rows of the same pattern, so I've been sitting here doing things like knitting 500 repetitions of "ssk, k3, double yo, k3, k2tog, yo, ssk, yo, ssk, yo, ssk, yo, s1k2tog psso, yo, k2tog, yo, k2tog, yo, k2tog, yo". I'm in the middle of that right now. Yes, I typed it from memory.
I am within a few rounds of starting the decreasing which brings each spoke to a point, before the edging of more, multiple points (144 repeats per round, won't that be delightful?) There will be no fringe. I hate fringe. I will be putting beads at the peaks of each major spoke point, and at each peak of the smaller border peaks. It'll only be about 200 beads and so shouldn't weigh too much.
I started this bitch in mid-September and have been knitting on it daily. Did I mention, AAAAAAAH!
Oh. Someone asked me about the half-graft hem. There's a link in the sidebar under "Knitting Blather" that will take you to a tutorial. Or click here. It's also listed on Ravelry somewhere in some kind of skills library, because I keep getting hits from there. But I don't know where. But anyway. Hit the sidebar.
Here's the new Spaz-along button. Let's not get excited about this; the idea is to have fun, not offend handicapped folks. I don't mind being rude to folks at all, but I prefer doing it on purpose over their stupidity, not by accident over things they can't change. I stuck with the Scream theme, and kept it simple. Use whichever of the two buttons you like.
I went to the pharmacy today. More stupidity. I swear those guys are idiots.
And Mythbutherth ith on, so I'm gonna go geek out and knit some more.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
So he's a nutball and a smartass.
Fits right in.
Yesterday, well, we used to have this collander. It wasn't a bad collander, but using it meant rearranging half the kitchen because it was big and unwieldy and annoying. The husbeast has hated it intensely and talked for a while about replacing it. Eventually, last week, he got the replacement collander. So yesterday he took the other one out to the driveway, and drove over it. With his Suburban.
Then he hung it on the wall in his garage.
Right next to the 'One Way' sign he accidentally backed a semi over, when we lived in Hawaii. (To this day he swears the sign commit suicide by jumping in front of the truck.)
But he's getting me potato chips.
For those wanting info about my hit logger, I use StatCounter. It is free, and you set up an account with them and then plug some HTML code they give you into your blog page; it can be as invisible as you want it to be. (Obviously mine is pretty invisible. Though if you look at the HTML code for the page and sift through, it IS there.) In 'New Blogger' with the damn widget layout system (am I the only one who'd rather code the HTML from scratch than deal with that bullshit?), you'd plug the HTML into a widget they have that is meant for that. It's labeled as such pretty obviously on the widget list in the layout section. If you want to go stealth, don't label the widget.
I didn't mean to offend anyone in Canada with the 'what in hell is an arbiter of fashion doing in Alberta?' comment yesterday. It's just that, well, Alberta isn't exactly the first place you think of when it comes to the high fashion industry. Or the second. Or the third. From all I've seen of Alberta, it looks like a lovely place and I'd move there in a flash if I weren't married to some guy who insists on raising his kid in the US. So I've got nothing against Alberta, or Canada in general. It's just not, uh, Paris. When it comes to clothes. You know? (That's not a criticism either. I'd rather shop Hudson Bay Company than Dior, myself. This probably means I have no taste or fashion sense, but fuck it.)
After yesterday's great rant about being an asshole on the internet, I turned right around and e-mailed Alwen and told her she's a meanie meanie boogerhead. She's got me hooked on the on-line comic Girl Genius and I've spent the last two days reading through a five-year archive. (I'm up to 2005 and vastly entertained. I think the best line so far was "I wouldn't have him if you stripped him naked and dipped him in cheese.") The good/bad thing about the comic is, it's so vivid and visual, I want to knit the clothes. Like I didn't have enough other ideas laying around here to get to. Do not click unless you have a couple days to read the archives.
They have found a new pyramid in Egypt. At Saqarra. Details here.
I had a request for a new button for the Holiday Spaz-Along. Apparently the term 'spaz' isn't PC in circles where the physically handicapped get treatment. Whoops. Sorry about that. I'm not up on my insulting terminology, apparently. (I must use it all the time.) So a new button will be appearing soon, probably today if I can tear myself away from Girl Genius long enough. I intend to use the same picture and font and everything, just use another term than spaz-along. For those who wish another term. Sorry if I offended anyone; truly, I'm clueless on this stuff. To my mind, I'm the spaz. The handicapped are... well, handicapped. I've got a lot of folks in wheelchairs and stuff in my family and I just don't think of it much because it's always there, if that makes sense. Oops.
Right. Back to Girl Genius, then.
Monday, November 10, 2008
First off, though, I just want to state that anyone in the known universe is free to disagree with me in the public forum of my comments, or privately with my e-mail address which is posted right here on this blog for god and everybody to use. I don't expect people to agree with me all the time, and in fact find that kind of boring. And I also don't expect everyone in the known universe to have a Blogger account, but there's a difference between not having an account (I like how some of you guys sign your comments so I know who you are), and hiding behind 'anonymous' to be a cowardly pussy while you call someone names.
Incidentally, the only time in my life I left a rude comment on a blog, it was with my Blogger account firmly attached to it, leading straight back here with my name and contact information.
So, ultimately, hiding behind the anonymity of the internet just makes you an asshole.
That said, I'd like to point out it's the INTERNET. It isn't anonymous and never has been. I have a hit logger on this blog, that isn't documented anywhere on the page. Know what that means? I can go from the date and time stamp on comments, to my hit logger, to a MAP OF WHERE ALL THE HITS COME FROM and document from there. And I log the harassment. Because here in the US, 'harassment' is legally defined by each state, and in South Carolina, we've got probably the strictest stalking and harassment laws in the US. Basically, if it's repeated and I find it annoying, it's harassment. Details here. Granted, I'd have to claim 'emotional distress' to have the charge stick - does annoyance count as emotional distress? - but still, the pattern of behavior and intent to be malicious is right there both in the law and behavior.
Anonymous, I've got your comments logged. And incidentally, they aren't disagreement. They're personal attacks. That goes to the harassment definition, legally. I've logged all the ISP numbers attached to where your comments came from, and I have you nailed down to a single city block in a large city in Alberta, Canada. The block is bordered on the north by 107th Ave and on the west by 105th St. I assume you're at the city college that is there; your behavior and attitude are certainly juvenile enough. If I get bored all I have to do is hand over the ISPs and the comments to the FBI and let them go hunt you down and give you a stern warning. I'm sure the school would be thrilled when their computer servers are subpoenaed.
So. Either shut the fuck up, or have the guts to open a dialogue and discuss. One or the other. Because the cowardice and whining are getting really old. And what in hell is an arbiter of fashion doing in goddamn Alberta, anyway?
Oh. And grow the fuck up.
(Apologies to every other blog reader I've got.)
Sunday, November 09, 2008
Anyway, my preferred drugged-out behavior is to knit and play strategy games. Yes, at the same time. I do turn-based strategy, so I knit a pattern repeat or two on the shawl as the computer AI takes its turn. I've done six rows in the last two days this way; at 1150 stitches per round (no, that is not a typo), six rounds is pretty good. I feel like I'm not accomplishing anything on the Christmas stuff, but the shawl IS a gift, so in fact I've been working on holiday crafting non-stop for the last two days. It's weird.
For those of you who were entertained by the last Goob video, here is another. The thing she is holding in her hand is supposed to be a magic wand toy, but the instant it came into the house, I snatched it out of her hand and started singing Dean Martin in to it ("That's Amore", if you must know). So in her mind it is ever and always a microphone now. (Hey. If you can't screw up your kid, who can you screw up?) Still can't get the little booger to sing Dean Martin with me, but she does her own stuff, which is even better.
The reason for the camera joggling and abrupt end to the video is because I was laughing so hard I fell over. If you turn it up you can hear me wheezing as I try not to get myself recorded.
Thanks to all who offered advice on getting the Goober to stay in bed. I tried reason first (it works often enough to be spooky; she's awfully young for reason to work). I told her if she didn't start staying in bed and otherwise behaving, we'd have to take the bed away and put her back in the baby boat. (The baby boat was her term for the crib.) Apparently she believed me, because we haven't had quite as much of a circus around here. In the mornings she stays in her room until she hears someone moving around in the house - kid's got ears like a bat. And at bed time and nap time, there is no more getting up to play, she stays in bed. So far, so good. Though the other morning she did walk into our bedroom at about six in the morning, kind of go 'ooops' and walk back out again. She probably re-wired the toaster while waiting for us to wake up.
Friday, November 07, 2008
That's the start of the paisley edging on the ten yards of fabric for my sis-in-law. On the right is the fabric with the stencil on it, about 2/3 waxed. On the left is a fondue pot full of wax (shoot me; I had it in the house when the madness hit, I never use it for fondue, and it has a thermostat control). In the middle is a little Indonesian doohicky known as a canting. (Also spelled tiantjing and assorted variations thereof; isn't transliteration fun?)
When I started this batik craziness, I figured the Indonesians had been doing it for hundreds, if not thousands, of years (there's some debate on the history), and instead of re-inventing the process, I'd just do what they did. The canting is a traditional tool, a little copper reservoir with a spout, on the end of a wooden handle. You dip the reservoir into the wax to fill it, and the heat transfer from pool of wax to copper reservoir keeps the wax warm enough to draw with as it comes out the spout. The wood keeps it from burning your hand. Quite a clever little gadget, really; one of those deals that is so simple and well engineered that it's unlikely to be improved upon. (Attempts at electric versions have been made. All agree that they suck.) Sort of like needle and thread, or a loom, or knitting needles - there's nowhere to go with the engineering. (Do not speak to me of light-up knitting needles. Ever.) Anyway, they come in different sizes, and this one is a 2mm, and it's too big. 2mm meaning that's the width of the line it draws on the fabric when you're using it properly. That's why the stenciling came to a screeching halt yesterday; I was actually dug in and ready to get some yardage done. (Incidentally, that stencil is about a foot long. Ten yards of fabric means thirty repeats of that stencil. I've decided not to count, it will just be depressing.)
Last night, I told the husbeast "I need a 1mm canting." He replied "And in English this means...?" "I need a smaller waxing doohicky." Anyway, I can order one from Dharma Trading next payday. Which means another week of not working on the fabric, but I'm not gonna think about it. I can always knit on other presents. Like the shawl. Yay. Ever so much yay.
As of 9:45 AM, Eastern Standard Time, today, I had all the names added to the sidebar for people participating in the spaz-along. If I missed you or if your link doesn't work, let me know. For people without blogs, I linked back to the spaz-along blog entry here, so people could read the comments if they wanted. (It is possible to do a list without links, but it would involve HTML coding from scratch, before noon, with a migraine. So... not happening. Sorry.) I will be starting a group blog for us, likely later today. I'm moving kind of slowly today. As usual.
MY LITTLE MIGRAINE TRIGGER: Yesterday (Wednesday?) the Goob was throwing a tantrum. So I pulled out the camera and thought "I'll videotape this and show it to her prom date." Of course as soon as she heard the camera click on, she began hamming it up and managed to look both pitiful and cute at the same time.
For those needing translation from Whining Kid into English, she's saying "I not say cheese." as in "I'm not posing for a photo for you." It's positively adorable unless you've dealt with the hour-long whinefest that led up to it. (Was it Hitchcock who said movies are like real life, with the boring parts cut out? And a sound track added?)
In all seriousness, it was moving her from her crib to her bed that triggered these migraines. Interrupted sleep just kills me, and she's been regularly waking me up. The first night (three weeks ago tomorrow), she had us up hourly, telling us it was morning. This morning I got up at six in the morning and saw the light on in her room. I went in and she was passed out in bed, surrounded by toys. So at one point in the middle of the night, she got up to play and fell asleep again. I really want to know why SHE doesn't feel like shit. But no. She's rocking and rolling. This strikes me as completely unfair.
Thursday, November 06, 2008
YOU ARE ELIGIBLE TO JOIN THE MADNESS IF:
You are making anything for any holiday between now and the end of January. This includes Yule, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year's Eve or Day, Epiphany, hell, let's extend it to mid February - when my gifts will probably get done anyway - and include Chinese New Year. (Anyone got a good moon-cake recipe?) Sorry I missed Ramadan and Diwali, I didn't realize they were early this year; I can never keep the lunar calendars straight (coulda sworn they were in November). Join in anyway. Or prop up the rest of us lunatics. If I'm missing any holidays - and I likely am - let me know. I'm always interested in that kind of stuff.
"Crafting" is deliberately vague and includes everything. Thanksgiving buffet for forty? Sounds like an art to me. Gifts of all forms, organizing get-togethers, any of it. It's a craft, it's an art, it's a source of stress. We all need to support each other in the madness.
THE BUTTON: As usual, save it to your computer and link it back to here so your blog readers can find an explanation for the madness.
I was making the button this morning and looking around the 'net at generic solstice symbols, like snowflakes and snow men and other happy-go-lucky shit. And you know, I realized the idea of the holiday knitting doesn't fill me with happy snowflake glitter, it makes me feel like this:
So I loaded up Gimp (free graphics program - if you need a graphics program and are cheap, get it, it's great) and got to work, and this is what I wound up with.
Which I think perfectly summarizes how I feel. And likely the rest of you.
Now. Let me post this and put the button in the sidebar and see if it's the right size. If not, there may be re-sizing in the immediate future.