Thursday, December 31, 2009


Usually I make something and then, unless I'm pledged to teach it, I never make it again, but somehow, I got all enchanted-like. I feel like a one-trick pony.
Say what you will about Czech beads, seed, fire-polished, pressed, whatever, but they come up with some gorgeous finishes that make them hard to resist. Toho liked them so much that they collaborated on a bunch of seed beads with luscious Czech finishes.

My local bead store keeps getting more and more of these slightly large (about 5 x 8mm or 6 x 8.5mm or thereabouts. Consistency in size seems not to be of the highest priority) faceted rondelles in faux stone finishes.


On the expensive side for glass beads, but they're luscious, enticing, irresistible, and actually I've been relatively restrained.
Then I came across a picture of a very rudimentary beaded bead (it looked as though someone had had an idea and then - oh look! A bird!) on some blog or another, and I was inspired and off and running. I did mention that I had some of these beads, didn't I? And that I had no freaking idea what to do with them? (I don't string much. It's just not satisfying)
And then suddenly, I had A Something To Do With Them.

And as luck would have it, the bead store started their great big end of year sale, and now I don't feel so much as though I've been so good, so restrained, but on the other hand, I'm not depriving myself either.

Feels pretty good, actually.

I like that I found something to do with them (something with seed beads, if that's not too redundant), and I like the something that I did with them. And will no doubt do again since I have quite the stash now.

And then I made some more class samples.
Flower. Pretty flower. (As a young child I had a 45rpm record of the bit from Disney's Bambi where he meets the skunk. Stream of consciousness. I enjoy the ride).

I couldn't get the mitred squares skirt out of my mind. I mentally wandered through my stash a few times.

Sock yarn?

Do I have enough sport-weight yarn for a skirt? (I don't care if I have to dye it - do I have enough?)

Worsted weight really would be too heavy, wouldn't it? Too bad, because a skirt is probably about twice a sweater in terms of the knitting, and worsted weight would really make it go faster.

What about handspun? There's that yarn collection that was going to be a Scandinavian coat/cape/cocoon thing - how far did I get with the spinning on that one? I'm definitely not using any of the luxury fibers - you really don't want to subject cashmere or baby alpaca to the indignities of being sat upon, sandwiched between tights (or a slip, if I have to) and some nasty synthetic chair cushion, after all, so it'll have to be wool. Besides, wool will be less likely to give me Saggy Butt, what with its memory, natural stretch and all that.

In spite of the immensity of the task, in spite of the fact that I'm currently knitting (and ripping and reknitting, as is my wont) a sweater on 3.25mm needles - and I can get away with such a large size needle as I'm a somewhat tight knitter - which isn't exactly an instant gratification project, in spite of all that, I came to the conclusion, aided by the Wednesday knitters, some of whom are knitting AFGHANS for crying out loud in sock yarn, that sock yarn is indeed the answer.

I made a sample using my sweater needles which was too ghastly to be memorialised by the wonder that is digital photography, and went down a size or two.
Even unblocked, I think it might do.

I have a boatload of dyeing ahead of me, and I'm actually quite pleased at the prospect, and not only because it's quite a lovely feeling to be able to satisfy an urge, but also because it's going to use up a significant fraction of my sock yarn in all those colours which were probably way more useful when I was set on making most of the socks in Anna Zilboorg's first sock book, but a whole lot less so when I realise that I really don't care to all that much.

The latter is especially pleasing as I've been weak in the sock yarn department over the last year, and not all that assiduous in terms of maintaining equilibrium. I think the entire year has seen a pair of socks, possibly two. Not quite up to par.

The dye pile has magentas and teals and yellows and blues and too many clear solids to mention without a bit of a shudder (I'm not a fan of pure primaries and secondaries; give me murk and sludge any day), and soon they will all be variegated earthy and forest tones.

Who, after all, would not be cheerful at the prospect?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

In Spite Of

It seems I'm either agonising over an impending deadline, or basking in the bliss of a near future with no deadlines, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it is more often the former.

And so it is right now.

I have what feels like a double deadline; which is to say two deadlines with almost identical requirements separated only by a week: proposals for a national beading show which require actual finished accompanying samples (as opposed to pictures only) and then the next set of classes for the local bead store, which also needs samples.

Then there was Nancy's necklace which suffered a minor setback after I thought I had finished.

I tried it on. It was chokingly short. As in, it felt almost as though I was choking.

I wasn't sure I'd have enough beads to make it long enough. I did, barely. I'm pretty sure that Nancy's neck is thinner than mine, which might have meant that the length - or lack of it - wasn't as dire as I believed, but that wasn't The Plan, and so it had to be lengthened.
Now it's up to the USPS.

I'm quite pleased with the concept over here: a large, long bead with a big hole that really doesn't want to be strung horizontally, but still has some play (read: you can fiddle with it) hanging horizontally.
I'd also like to try the same concept with a few large-hole sterling silver beads.

As I was looking for a donut (see the picture after this one) I found a two-inch section of something which at the time I deemed a horrible failure, but loved the colours together (a marbled lavender with what they call a gold-lustre bronze but which is a transparent lavender bead with so much bronzing that it's transparent only when you hold it to the light) so I didn't cut it up, saving it for future inspiration.

That future is upon me.
I'm glad, because it led to the above bracelet (which would work really well as a necklace too) which combines peyote and herringbone stitches without annoying thread joins and ends. The next sample will use contrasts instead of a monochromatic colour scheme.

This may be sad, because it's a reworking of something that's not new, but the happy part is that I only need the one sample, as I've already taught it locally, and I try not to repeat unless I have requests.

I would enjoy this extra-long (five whole days) weekend even more if I hadn't been so gung-ho with the new workout DVD. I do know that I have a bad back, and I do know that I'm no longer twenty-seven, but honestly, I felt fine until I got vertical this morning, and then not so much.

Guess my plan for working out vigourously every day while not at work isn't panning out so well - my exercise regimen is pretty much exclusively limited to non-work days only, and today I just blew one of them.

I have enough trouble dragging myself away from whatever I'm doing so as to approach the possibility of getting enough sleep for work the next day that I'm quite certain getting up an hour early would necessitate a post-prandial nap, and the new Employee Handbook specifically states sleeping on the job as grounds for if not dismissal, then certainly a severe reprimand.

I kid you not. It actually addresses the issue of sleep.

And then I'm too tired/hungry/disinterested when I get home in the evening. It's not as though I even slightly love exercise: I don't. I think it sucks that it's so good for you, keeps you healthy yadda yadda. I think it just makes it feel as though it helps you to live longer, because trust me, fifty-five minutes of sweating in front of the TV passes way more slowly than an hour of House with my knitting and some chocolate, even with commercials.

Still, a nasty back isn't my first choice for Things To Enjoy On My Time Off.

And the DVD player is suddenly all weird: the screen is shifted about forty percent to the right and wrapped, so what ought to be the outside edge of the picture now forms a vertical bar more or less down the centre of the screen, and the picture is cut in two pieces. I'm not very impressed with that either, especially since the part of the rest cure for my back rightly includes watching movies in a relaxed and reclining position while I do some gentle knitting, and now the movie part is proving challenging. Luckily I spied (and can work) a PS2.

Speaking of knitting, it's all I can do to not start Yet Another Knitting Project.

I'm burning to make another knitted skirt, which will be even cooler than the other one (allover hexagons in more colours than people expect to see me in) if not as bright. Also modular, partly because knitting on twenty thousand stitches per row would probably unhinge me at best, but also because I just LIKE modular knitting.

I really want to do it in five or more coordinating shades of sock yarn, but that just might send me over the edge, as well as necessitating a severe Stash Expansion. Let me say that it's not that I don't have any sock yarn (I do), or even enough sock yarn (I do), it's just that I don't have sufficient quantities of enough coordinating sock yarns to make an entire adult-sized non-crotch-revealing skirt. I do have some yarns that I could dye, I suppose. If I had to, but I'm not so keen.

[An hour or two later].

I just had to experiment a little. I gleaned useful information, both in terms of colour (I need to dye) and gauge (we're talking smaller needles unless steaming does more magic than I'm used to).

Stay tuned.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

So Far So Boring

The new job, that is. As expected, there's a boatload of reading to be done, and they're hurtling towards a deadline (not to mention the holidays), so giving me stuff to do isn't the highest priority in the world.

I can handle it for now.

I finally made the last pair of button loops (at the pointy end of the mitten; somehow it slipped my mind when I was making them), its need illustrated by the configuration of the left hand mitten.
My daughter says they work perfectly.

Love this little square pendant, but I'm not sure whether or not it's class-worthy,
Perhaps I'll just keep it. Or use it in a class as one in a series Of. I'm sure I'll figure it out.

The next pendant, however, tickles me. My fancy that is. Whatever that is.
You can't really see, but it's a five-sided shape (perhaps technically ten-sided, since each side folds in the middle, sort of making two sides) with each face recessed, and little swags of beads connecting the laterally-outermost points. I'm pretty sure it would scale up to an arbitrary number of sides, though at some point the bulk of the beads might impose a limit. With seven or eight sides, the space around the vertical axis would probably be big enough for it to be a slider on a rope.

Only problem is that it takes a while to stitch, what with all the repetition, so it might not be ideal for a class. Perhaps a two-parter, with homework between parts I and II. I guess I'll make another one, timing myself. And multiplying by two or three.

And then I've been messing around with a peacock feather motif, but I don't think I'm there yet.
I know the effect I want, and I know how I want to use it, and the structure is more or less what I want, but not quite.

I've cut up a few already, these are the relative successes, which tells you how bad the others were.

Ugh, I should probably spend time on something on which I could make actual progress though.

In all fairness, a great chunk of the day was sucked up by my being a halfway decent mother.

My daughter left her phone at home, and she was at work. At a mall. Less than a week before the biggest shopping cluster-fuck of the year.

And I took it to her, in the middle of the afternoon.

Actually, it wasn't all that bad. I knew I wouldn't find parking right at any of the entrances, or undercover, so I headed straight for the roof of the garage (if you call stop-and-start with mall security in fluorescent vests attempting to direct the creeping molasses of traffic).

Something got sent to Oregon (but that was a day or two ago, Janel).
Another class sample got finished.
A couple, actually.

Next week though: almost a vacation. A five-day weekend. I think I'll be able to handle that.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Two Things

The best things about the new job I start today in a little under two hours?

  1. Two days off between the last one and this one.
  2. Two floating holidays per calendar year which I feel I am obliged to use within the next two weeks. Aren't I?
I've been puttering.

I'm knitting a sweater that started with the neckband in mitred squares, then the sleeves are worked outwards to the cuffs, and then the body will be knitted down from the yoke. I've done plenty of fake sleeve caps (you short-row where the sleeve caps should be, and it makes the fake join less bulky around the underarms), but even though this is practically at sock gauge and therefore snail's pace and you'd think it would be impossible to gallop ahead, I was past the place where fake sleeve cap shaping ought to occur, and so I convinced myself that it wouldn't really matter, and forged on ahead and finished a sleeve with its mitred square cuff.

The sleeve shaping was off (too wide, though my personal fashion maven said it wasn't) and as far as I could tell, it was all bunchy at the underarm and the shoulder pulled which caused the neckline to want to slide off my shoulders, though that effect may have been exaggerated by the lack of opposing force that should have been the body (as yet unknitted), but still, my blithe unconcern for fake sleeve cap shaping was very founded, and so I ripped that sleeve and the partial (a few inches) second sleeve and started again.

With sleeve cap shaping.

There is no photographic record of this fiasco.

Some of my putter has been photographed.
I'm making excellent progress on Nancy's Necklace.
Some of my putter has been, well, less successful.
I had this fabulous idea that involved airiness and silver and sparkle and it ended up ugly. This is the partially cut up disgust.

There's also been acquisition, in spite of the fact that I DON'T NEED MORE STUFF.
But seriously, who can resist?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A First

The first real job I had here in the US started in August 1989, and although there were baby gifts when I had my kids, and although there have been the odd all-employee giftlets of candy or dime store holiday mugs, I've never had a co-worker give me not just one of the cookie-cutter gifts being distributed (I suppose that happens somewhere I've not been), but a thoughtful gift, one he gave because he thought I'd like it.

And just when I was all down on how so few people seem to reach out ever.

I'm more touched than I can explain to him.

I don't think he has any sort of ulterior motive, as I'm technically old enough to be his parent, and while Harold and Maude among its many excellent qualities really took the notion of May-December relationships to their extreme, I don't even remotely consider that this was a case of life attempting to imitate art.

Just a gift, pure and simple. Not because he had to, but because he wanted to.

A rare gem, and just when humanity was looking a little less attractive, and the life of a hermit a little more attractive.

Thanks, Micah. I needed that. The thought, the intent, the action - not necessarily the contents of your prettily wrapped package.

So inspired, I made progress on Janel's necklace.

Monday, December 7, 2009

1000 Words

Pictures speak a.


There's a story behind this one though, and I think there's still more to come.

Back in the old country my best friend Ana, she of the efficient first name and over-compensating full name (just imagine the titters at our graduation when the dean stumbled over "Ana Paula de Andrade Balthzar Palma Figeura") was quite the knitter, in fact she won some knitting competition for an intarsia confection years after I left.

Due to business travel, she was able to visit (and it turns out that this was the last time I saw her) Thanksgiving weekend of 1993. The day before she got here, my learn-to-spin kit (spindle plus three ounces of fiber plus sketchy instructions) arrived, and delighted as I was to have the time with her, I also desperately wanted to have at the kit, but it had to wait until Monday evening after work, after the kids were in bed, after I'd fed my (now ex) husband and washed the dishes.

The spinning thing really took, and because Ana had been such a good friend and because she was a wonderful knitter and because there are few things better than the perfect gift, I decided to spin her some yarn.

I bought a pound or so of raw white targhee, and a pound or so of raw brown something else not quite as soft as targhee (I think it may have been dorset), washed it, blended some of each, carded it and spun it.

White, tweed and brown yarn.

I had heard that there was a way of dyeing with pokeweed such that it kept its fabulous deep burgundy-maroon and did not fade to rotten orange, and while I can't attest to the veracity of that, I will tell you that if you let the temperature get above a hundred and sixty degrees, after fifteen years or so your yarn will no longer be maroon.

Anyway, Ana never made it back.

I threatened and cajoled and issued ultimatums, but she never visited again (and I haven't gone back there since 1989), so I used the yarn for myself. It's a good workhorse sweater, but until yesterday morning, was foolishly long. As of yesterday afternoon, the length is far more useful, but the story pauses at ick orange.
There is a plan though; time may well be at a premium as usual.

Class proposals are due in a month, and I'm off to a running start with this necklace.
Could be a bracelet; would work as earrings, and it could also be a fancier necklace (with more shtuff).

Cross-woven with overlay and fringes.

Still more leaves for Nancy.

At last count, I had five more to go, and then I start the actual necklace.

Four more days to go at the current job; new one starting on the sixteenth. Best of all, I start with two floating holidays that oh dear I just have to use before the end of the calendar year; otherwise I'll lose them. I think I can live with that.