Saturday, March 31, 2007

Short Takes II: Southbound and Down

It feels a little strange to take out a project not to work on it but to photograph it for the blog, but I'm inspired by the Bolter's beautiful post about her beautiful finished socks. My shorts are far from finished, but I have made some progress this weekend. I finished the waistband (and the elastic I plan to put in it arrived today!) and now I'm working my way through the long middle section of stockinette, with only one set of increases every twelfth row to look forward to. Things will get much more interesting once I arrive at the crotch (what??), where I get to divide the piece into two rounds and work a bunch of mysterious bar increases. Then I will have to decide whether to follow the pattern and duplicate stitch a cutesy heart on the leg or to dream up some other fun embellishment (or just leave them as they are, since I guess it's possible that hot pink knitted shorts don't need much in the way of decoration). I'll have to give this some thought.
This weekend I also reopened my jewelry (making) box, having finally recovered from the disappointment of last weekend's failed projects. I made several pairs of earrings which I plan to list throughout the week -- tonight I just listed these, but they've so far seen little action. Nonetheless, I'm pleased with them and their perhaps too kitchsy title. We have much to be pleased with here tonight, it seems.

My only friend: the end.

That's right, ladies and germs: a finished pair of socks! That I am keeping for myself! Forever and ever and ever or until they get holes and probably even after that!

Get ahold of yourself, Bolty darling; you might scare the children.

In any case, the beige tweed socks are done, and they are delightfully warm, and I have only found one mistake (a purl in the ribbing where I should have knit). The yarn--Phildar Preface, as I've mentioned before--is really lovely, both in terms of the colorway (it's hard to to tell from the photo, but the yarn is actually variegated) and feel. I think the brand is Canadian (?) and moderately difficult to get ahold of--mine came from Double Diamond Knits. In any case, I also have a couple skeins in a flat brown; I might use the leftovers from these socks to do heels and toes on those and make some cute socks for next winter. I see yarn in my sleep, you guys.

In sadder news, I'm going to have to frog the green almost-argyles yet again due to purl laddering. My new plan is to put the argyle pattern on only the front of the sock (32 stitches) and do the back 32 in plain stockinette, which seems to come together much better at needle joins. I think I'll probably have to wait until I have better technical skills to do the pattern as it's written.

Pepsi One: Can 4

I have spent many an hour painting today, and many miles to go before I sleep. It turns out that painting around the trim is approximately 98734543798 times easier than using the roller across the walls. The last time we painted this bathroom, I did the rolling and, reasoning that it was easier to spread more paint than eke out a little, I caused quite a few drip marks, which I'm suffering for now. Suffering both because I can't quite sand them away so they're besmirching my current efforts, and also because my consequent change in strategy means that I'm pressing the roller like crazy to get a thin coat and my palms are blistering. It feels too late to give in to the drip marks. And yesterday it became undeniably clear that a second coat will be necessary-- I imagined I'd get it all done today, but it's 8pm and I still have a bit of the first coat to finish. For that matter, every five minutes I have to leave the room entirely to let the sweat evaporate a little. I'm thinking about that scene in X-Men where the anti-mutant senator, post-torture, wades nakedly up the beach, drained of color, and I can't understand how I could have sweated so very much and still have big legs. Something should have washed away.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Be bold; be not too bold.

A joyous post may follow sometime soon about how I learned to walk and chew gum at the same time, but for now, I will note that though I am almostbutnotquite done with my current sock project, I decided to attempt something slightly more challenging--a knit/purl one color argyle pattern from Knit Picks--and am feeling rather exhausted. One problem with knitting on double points is that it can be difficult to pull the stitches tight enough at the joins between the needles; this is particularly a problem if one is trying to join two purl stitches. A way out of this, at least mostly, would be to use two circular needles. I, however, kind of hate circular needles, in the way that one hates things that flummox one, and am not especially inclined to try either the "magic loop" technique with one circ or the double circular needle technique or the double-circ-two-socks-at-once technique either. In any case, I'd forgotten how much trouble the "laddering" effect can be, and it pretty much ruined my first attempt at the argyle pattern; you can see why in the picture. I had to frog about fourteen rows. I decided to go down a needle size (the pattern recommends 2.75mm; I went down to 2.25mm) and also go from using five dpns to four, eliminating one joint and possible site of ladders. The pattern repeats in increments of 16 four times, so having five dpns worked out nicely, but after redoing the 14 rows I ripped out, I think it looks a little better.

The yarn is Knit Picks Essential in Grass, and it's really soft, especially for a superwash yarn. I'm worried about durability, but so far I'm really pleased with how it feels.

Painted ladies, pt. II

Today I continued my painting around the trim and added the edges along the ceiling. The slightly strange device that I used for working around the trim is actually intended for corners-- there are two flat, fiber-y panels at a right angle-- so those are going, too. What else is happening is that I'm sweating so much (glowing) that the newspapers I have covering the floor are sticking to my legs and ripping when I try to peel them off. Again my DIY skill set and my desired results are irreconcilable. To do a second coat or not? I think about nail polish, and the occasional uneven, sheer spots that might be improved with another coat, and then I think about the horrifying bubbles when the second coat goes awry and I look like I have toe fungus. I don't want a fungused bathroom. And I suspect painting interiors is not like knitting a sock, where you can note a misstep and back up or abandon it entirely. Lord knows I've abandoned scarves in my time, but it's very complicated to brush my teeth in the bathroom as it is, and I don't know how much longer it'll feel like camp.
Moreover, I'm worried that I can't smell the paint.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Not so young as they are painted

In the shadow of true creative arts, I have a more prosaic effort to document. Yesterday I started preparations to paint my bathroom in earnest, and learned that even unthinking solid colors are a pain in the ass. (Paint in the ass-- hah.) I had help removing the towel racks, cleared out as much as I could of toiletries, and then started taping with absurd bright-blue painter's tape, all along the trim, mirror, and outlets. I tried to tape just where the white trim stopped and the acid-green wall began, but it wasn't necessarily where the wall and trim had initially been divided by their Creator. I spent a couple hours, breathing in the tape's gluey smell, aggressively debating whether I should try to abide by the original trim's boundaries, or just try to cover the bits where green overstepped. Surely it's less classy for fluorescent green to be splattered around the edges of the new, hopefully classy green? It is ridiculous to be engaged in trim philosophy, knowing that any attempt to sell this house will require professionals to revamp the whole thing. And for that matter no one will stare at the trim line. But I'll know, and that remains the power of DIY-- the torment of learning by doing, and then having to live with the repulsive fruits. Spotted, bruised, misshapen fruits, flecked with acid green.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Love for the LYS

The Local Yarn Shop, that is. This Saturday, the Bolter and I were living dangerously: not only did we try out a new grocery store, we also visited -- and purchased from! -- a real live brick and mortar yarn shop. The Knit Kit (so brick and mortar an establishment that they DON'T EVEN HAVE A WEBSITE) is conveniently located just a couple of miles up Rt 27 (Just look for the pink-framed door in the row of ambiguously zoned roadside...spaces...). The Kit is charmingly disorganized,very well-stocked with lots of exotic and colorful yarn, and comes complete with its own community of knitters. While we browsed, we overheard one woman giving another her first lesson in purling, and to our amazement, this woman got the hang of it on the first try. There must be some kind of magic in the air at the Knit Kit.

Committed online shopper though I am, this visit made me think that there is something to be said after all for touching fibers and comparing colors in person before buying yarn. I know it was the brightness (Orchid Thistle!) and texture ("slightly unspun"!) of the Lamb's Pride worsted weight that made me choose it for my shrug project, though I'm not sure it would have struck me as anything special in a photo. The Bolter made some exciting purchases as well, but I'll let her tell you about them.

And since I produced so few finished goods this past weekend, I'll leave you with this photo of the beef and broccoli fried rice I made for dinner Saturday night. I used some of the (embarrassing amount of) produce I bought at the Pathmark grocery store with this simple fried rice recipe, and came away quite satisfied (with myself). I think it might turn out that some of my favorite crafts are foods.

Turning over a new leaf.

Quick post of the sock work-in-progress, which I've been messing with whilst I make a dent in my Urania reading. One advantage of a giant book is that it'll stay open on its own. I am not reading or knitting very efficiently, but at least I've turned the heel correctly and begun the long, slow march towards toe decreases.

Lilyriver will post later about our visit to our local yarn shop ("LYS" in knitting blog parlance, apparently; one learns so many things on the internet) so she could get yarn for a shrug. I did not need yarn of any kind, but I got some anyway. I am now on a yarn freeze, for real*. It's called Tofutsies, which I'm sure we can all agree is totally appalling (I'd be happier with "Tofoot," I think), and it's made out of wool, soy, cotton, and crab shells, of all things. I think I'll give this a go next because I'm really excited about the texture. With all of those things in it, you wouldn't think it would be as soft and slick as it is.

*Well, unless I find some Lorna's Laces at a bargain price.

Saturday, March 24, 2007


DAMN DAMN DAMN. I finally finished the leg of the tweed sock. I did the heel flap. I knitted about twenty rows of the gusset. And then, while reading tales of knitting horror stories over at the Knitter's Review forums, I realized that I FORGOT TO TURN THE HEEL. I'll have to frog the project back to the heel flap and do it all again. This is not the first time I've forgotten to do a heel flap, either. I hate frogging. I do, however, love the verb.

I really shouldn't complain; at least it's not a sweater that's almost done.

Oh! A happy end, of sorts: Brittany, the maker of the needles I snapped last week, apparently will replace broken needles for free. I'll be happy to have the shorter needles again because it makes the knitting go a bit faster. I think for my next pair of socks, I'm going to try size 1s (2.25 mm--some needle makers call size 2.50mm 1s, but mine are the smaller size). I still think 2s are too big, but the 0s take for-flipping-ever. How people have the patience to knit intricate sweaters is beyond me. Apparently, you can get needles down to size 00000000 (.50mm)--that's eight zeros, folks, and I can only imagine that's like knitting with a strand of hair.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Short Takes

After a week of intense intellectual application, the kind I suppose I'm meant to relish but which has actually left me feeling a bit weak and listless, I dove back into my big box of crafts last night after seminar. Unfortunately either none of the ideas I'd been storing up for days and days were feasible or my few skills totally failed me; in any case I used up two hours and eight inches of sterling wire and came away with nothing to show for them except a few half pairs of sick-looking earrings. I was forced to retreat to the old plastic bag bag, my most mindless project of them all, but at least this meant I was able better to enjoy our evening of delicious TV on DVD.
Tonight I'm hoping for better results, as I have finally committed myself to the little knitted shorts, for which I'm using a free Knitpicks pattern and their Shine Sport cotton yarn in Orchid. As you can see, I'm still working through the ribbed waistband, but I can say already that the Shine Sport yarn is at least as delicious as good TV on DVD. Though it's still early to count on success, I'm hoping these will be the perfect pajamas for my first summer in our sweltering New Jersey apartment-box. And if I really apply myself, perhaps I can finish them by Sunday and wear them when we go to meet at the train station the prospective English grad student we're going to host! Because nothing says "Yes, by all means, come to grad school!" like uncomfortable displays of eccentricity.

Your epidermis is showing.

The mouse body is finished and, as I was told I had to name him, christened Graham, and now I'm going to put him in a drawer and never look at him again. No, that probably isn't true, but I have to say that finishing him off gave me a world of trouble. I've always been a bad finisher (cf. backlogue of sock projects) and even when I do come to the end of a project, I tend to rush with the details (cf. failure to proofread papers). I got the head on the body all right, if not smoothly, and the ears turned out okay, but the limbs; oh, god, the limbs.

The pattern directions were simple and straightforward: thread yarn through one arm, pass it through the body, thread through other arm, repeat until secure. I, um, had to improvise with stuffing, and used deconstructed cotton balls instead, and the yarn needle just did not pass through the cotton. I threaded it between the knitting and the cotton instead, which made the arms hang a little funny, and, at any rate, they weren't secure enough for my taste, so I secured them to the body at the shoulder sockets with a few more stitches. The mouse looks like he's about to be crucified, but at that point, I figured I could fix it with the sweater. The mouse legs had the same basic instructions, but I, having learned nothing from the arms, managed to attach the right leg crookedly. I tried to snip it off so I could reattach, but it was impossible to figure out what could safely be snipped without damaging the mouse body, so I did some triage and gave it up for lost. Maybe I'll make him the crutch I linked to the other day and he can hobble around like Tiny Tim.

The sweater, which, as I have noted previously, was my favorite part of the pattern pre-knitting, but, as you may have gathered by now, that didn't go very smoothly either. I used some leftover self-striping sock yarn (DGB Confetti from in gray, light blue, and navy) and made each sweater half. I wasn't happy with the way the colors knit up--since the garment is so small, the stripes really just look like huge blocks of color, and the light blue and gray are very similar--and I was even less happy with the size. The pattern indicated, somewhat vaguely, that the sweater could be made up and then put on the mouse, but looking at the mouse's giant head and childbearing hips, I realized there was no way that was going to happen. Then it turned out that the sweater was too small around the neck to even be sewn on. I tried again with larger needles in cotton Knitpicks Shine and modified the pattern a bit...and, after panicking and making the neck too small, that doesn't work either. I need to think it through again...but not any time soon. Sorry, Graham.

So, in the end, I have a crippled, naked mouse with a Messiah complex.

Never (again) the twain shall meet:

Thursday, March 22, 2007

You've got to climb Mount Everest to reach the Valley of the Dolls.

You may look at these mouse bits and wonder why the mouse has no right arm or tail. The plan had been to push through and finish the mouse body today so I could do the mouse sweater tomorrow and then maybe after that get on with my life, such as it is, but it's hard work playing Frankenstein. Also, I'm sick of all the TV I have on my computer knit along to, and I'm maybe even sick of watching TV altogether. Here's an equation for you:
Four (4) hours of Firefly + two (2) episodes of Top Model + one (1) episode of Top Design + one (1) episode of Criminal Intent + two (2) hours of Gattaca* = 5/6 of a mouse
It might be horrifying for you to discover that the state of New Jersey is paying me to watch five billion hours of things I've mostly already seen and knit children's toys.

*admittedly, a movie, and not by choice, and I spent the entire time trying to untangle the mess I'd made of the end of the hank of the yarn.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Ziegfeld Follies.

Like butterflies from cocoons, Lilyriver and I emerge.

My new project--and no, I'm not done with the sock yet, but I deserve something new, and do not even ask me about the tote bag project--is this mouse pattern from I thought a toy would be a quick, fun project, and while I can't say I was wrong about the fun--quick, not so much. It took me three hours of (admittedly, tired and somewhat distracted) knitting to make the tiny mouse leg at right. I'm using the Lion Brand organic cotton I bought awhile back, and the yarn, while incredibly soft, is kind of a pain to knit with because it's quite loosely plied. I learned how to do a few things to shape the foot, though, so it was time and effort well spent. You can see in the blow up that some of the stuffing peeks through the knitting around the ankle. I'm pretty sure it's the nature of the stitch (this crazy "p2tog tbl" business that made me feel like a real knitter once I deciphered what the hell it meant) and not my un-mad skillz, but we'll see how leg #2 goes.

I'm most excited about the tiny mouse sweater with functional pocket, especially since Lilyriver has forbade my putting clothes on the cat. I'm not saying that I really think pet clothing is a good idea, but come on, y'all, tiny sweaters.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

When weird knitting happens to good people.

Christ on a what?* (pdf)
Making you feel weird inside.

*joke (TM) Lilyriver

Oh, Jesus.

You Belong in Summer

Energetic, creative, and very curious about the world...
You're not going to let anything hold you back, especially a cold day.
Whether you're chilling out at the beach or partying all night, you live for the warm weather.

Friday, March 16, 2007

lilyriver on demand

Because this whole Etsy venture is still new enough to me that every sale is a narratable event, I'd like to share the pleasure I took in completing my first custom order, a shortened version of my "Swinging Squares" earrings (also the blog's namesake). I was in fact so pleased that I was moved to include an emoticon in the item description of the listing, and now I am moved to repeat it here :) Yay! There -- now I've got that out of my system, hopefully.

In other crafty news, last night I made some serious headway on the plastic bag bag while watching Brokeback Mountain for my Queer Narratives class. I figure it will only take about four more feature-length films to finish it, and then maybe only about four years or so before I figure out what use I can put it to without feeling self-conscious about it...Unfortunately, none of my remaining homework is compatible with my knitting, but this doesn't mean I'm not more interested in deciding which project to start next (I'm thinking either some cute little shorts or a shrug to go with my new H&M sundress) than I am in deciding which feminist reading of pastoral poetry to commit to. I am SO ready for the Great Crafting Spree of 2007, set to begin, let's see...May 23. If I start to associate summer and crafting any more closely, I will probably ending up making this.

Based on a true story.

Lilyriver and I have temporarily left the world of crafting for the world of pastoral poetry. We hate pastoral poetry. Well, I hate pastoral poetry, partly because it's all about sheep, and sheep equal wool, and wool equals yarn, and yarn equals things I'd rather be doing than reading pastoral poetry.

Check out that smooth transition.

Whilst at the MoMA, I decided that the colorways I'd like to pursue for my planned yarn dyeing adventures will be based on art pieces. See, for example, the Andreas Gursky photograph at right. My plan is that the hank (I'm envisioning it to be about 220 yards, or enough for one sock) would be dyed a chalky gray. The top maybe 25 yards would be handpainted at regular intervals with flecks of red, to represent the red balls on the powerlines, and that halfway through the hank or so, I'd have a few bits of bold color like the corporate logo signs; the bottom fifty yards or so would be a darker gray. This is all obviously very literal, and I think it would be interesting to experiment with how far the concept can be taken. We saw about half a dozen Seurats chock full of the tiny pointillist dots, and it's just insane how many different colors go into creating the effect of even one square inch of a painting (Lilyriver and I felt extremely sorry that Seurat did not live to see pixellation; he'd have peed his pants). That'd be really fun to reproduce on yarn (this, I realize, is the principle of variegated yarn, but, um, art's all about context, right?).

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Made to order at Lilyriver Labs (TM).

Broken needles. Broken dreams.

One thing I have learned from knitting blogs is that one really can knit anywhere, anytime: the movies, the doctor, waiting in line, hanging upside down on a gyrosphere. When I say "one," I mean, of course, "people who are not me." I brought my newly-begun sock (mate to beige tweed below) to the airport to pick up Lilyriver's sister, Lilyriver Deux, and nearly made myself carsick on the turnpike. If you know me, you know that I was not driving.

My knitting stayed, forgotten, in my tote (the Roxy bag from shop owner, Theresa, is lovely!) all day. At the movies this evening, I discovered the carnage: two of my size 0 birch doublepoints had snapped.

I sang a dirge for the tiny, toothpick-sized shards in my hands as the credits for Reno 911: Miami rolled. My fellow moviegoers gave me dirty looks, but it was only because they didn't understand.

Friday, March 9, 2007

A Natural History

Today I listed a new pair of earrings that I'm a little bit in love with -- they were born of an idea I had while stuggling up a hill on one of my runs last week, and when I finally had time to make them, I was so pleased to find that my idea actually worked, because that is certainly not always the case. My dilemma in general is how to secure ends and fit pieces together with only pliers (since I have no metalsmithing skills or even a clear conception of exactly which metalsmithing skills I'd like to have) without ending up with something that is flimsy or boring.

I considered oxidizing these, but decided against it since I liked the contrast between the shiny silver and the black glass bead. Plus I didn't want anything to distract from the awesomeness of the pink fossil beads!

Slash bunny.

This one's for you, Claudia.

Sometimes I ask why. And sometimes I just do not want to know.

Needle in the hay

Did I learn my lesson posting about all my unfinished sock projects? The lesson about how I should frigging stop buying yarn? No I did not. Another eBay non-steal: three skeins of Lion Brand organic cotton in Cypress. Lilyriver's love of organic food has spread to my yarn. What does "organic" cotton even mean? I mean, yes, I can read what Lion Brand says that it means, but while reading up a bit about this, I found someone making an apt comparison between Lion Brand and Wal-Mart, and we know that Wal-Mart lies. This does not prevent me from shopping at Wal-Mart, that steel-toed boot of oppression on the neck of--well, you name it, Wal-Mart's there. Something tells me Lion Brand's Yarn Empire might be more of a Barbie shoe. This metaphor has gotten away from me.

What's attractive to me about the LB organic yarn is, of course, the color palette; I've been crushing hard on earth tones lately (forays into Kool-Aid notwithstanding), and I love the idea that this color was produced in the growing process. As far as colors go, the real winner in that line is Bark, in terms of saturation and loveliness, but I think Cypress will suit the washcloth project I have in mind. --Oh, drat. I just saw the care instructions. Hand wash only. fjdlasjf;ldjasl;j

Thursday, March 8, 2007

partial success at lilyriver labs

Before I sit down to ignore my schoolwork tonight (that is, to spend a few hours bending the last of my sterling wire into submission), I thought I would update on last weekend's round of projects (note that all my weekends are four days long, since I only have class three days a week, which I guess problematizes the term "weekend," but I digress!). I was so inspired by the Bolter's yarn science that I decided to give oxidation another try and had much better (and better documented) results this time.

I was working with some hoop earrings I'd made in what was something of a burst of inspiration, which is not to say that hoop earrings are original in any way, just that I suddenly saw how I could make them satisfactorily with the limited tools and skills I have. The copper pair is on earwires, but the design of the silver pair is even simpler, so I thought I'd really be able to see the results of the oxidation.

There are apparently many, many methods of evenoxidation available, one that uses only eggs, but I bought a compound called liver of sulfur, which comes as a smelly yellow powder. The last time I either more powder or hotter water. Since it was impossible to tell which, I used both this time. As you can see, the solution was quite a dark color, which alarmed me a little.

The tarnishing of the silver happened almost immediately, within about 20 seconds or so, and I took the hoops out pretty quickly after that for fear of ruining them. The color was exactly the bluish back I'd been hoping to get. The copper earrings, however, refused to darken, though I left them in for a good five minutes, far longer than you're supposed to. The spots I'd hammered turned black, but the rest stayed just as shiny as ever, and I don't really like the effect that created. But one wearable pair out of two is good enough for me, I guess.

And the silver hoops have proved very wearable; in fact, I've hardly taken them off all week (though the Bolter said I can't sleep in them, and she's probably right about that). I was a little disconcerted though when someone asked me whether I'd made my own earrings -- should I be flattered by that, or does it mean that I was right to fear they look like something a pirate scraped off the bottom of a long-buried treasure chest?

I have fewer reservations about my contribution to Ellen's package, which I think are my favorite earrings I've made so far. But I did just get my dinosaur fossil beads in the mail, so who knows what jewelry-making excitement is in store!

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

In memoriam.

Lilyriver made me a pair of flipping awesome earrings, based on the Cirque ones for sale in her shop, and I lost one on their test drive yesterday. I suck, and beg Lilyriver's eternal pardon. Let's have a moment of silence for their oxidized awesomeness.

Secrets and expiation.

At right are the dark secrets of my soul: unfinished sock pairs. My collection drives Lilyriver crazy. And I understand this, I really do.

And I'll come totally clean: the two socks on the far right and the bright blue sock won't ever have mates. The bright blue sock is obviously deformed. The yarn is a Jawoll cotton blend, and it's light and nice, so I might reclaim it. The yarn of the other two, however, really isn't. It's Lion Brand Wool-Ease worsted, which I was horrified to find is 80% acrylic. It's way too heavy for ordinary use and doesn't breathe well. Also, I pillaged the yarn to make mittens. I do, however, intend to finish the other three pairs. I have two of the one, but I still need to weave in the yarn ends and block them. I am most excited about the beige tweed socks. I cannot think of an appropriate joke to mitigate the effect of revealing that I am excited by beige tweed socks. The yarn, however, is a fingering weight (I think?) Phildar Preface, and it's quite soft and (I hope) eminently wearable. With that sock, I finally got my pattern modifications down. --I'll take a moment to note that my yarn supplier for the finishable socks is Judy at

You have to be a sock knitter to understand some of the astoundingly awful sock yarn on the market. Logically, you know and I know that multi-colored stripes are usually ugly. But I, with an all too easily accessible PayPal account and an itchy mouse finger, look at this stuff online and think: self-patterning yarn? What is this miracle? I must have some! Two balls! Twelve balls! But I'm not going to lie: I have no perspective when it comes to yarn. In sock yarn, I've got some brown Phildar Preface waiting for me, and, from, some green and some reddish brown tweed. I will come for you, yarn, and it will be glooooooorious.

Quote of the day, from Lilyriver, opening a package of knitting supplies sent from home: "I remember these needles! They're like old friends."

Monday, March 5, 2007

In Progress

Theorem: reading and knitting are not compatible activities, even if it is just an easy washcloth. WITH AN ALIEN FACE.

Corollary: the Vogue Stitchionary is the exception to every rule.


Dye Another Day

Warning: it is not likely the awful puns will cease any time soon. I seriously almost called this post "Hooked on a Felting."

To refresh your memory, Reader: the Tiny Tote at right was born out of a swatch of Kool Aid-dyed yarn and I-cord. Call it Ishmael, if you'd like. I decided to try felting it, both because of the larger felted tote bag project I've got going and because I needed to do my laundry anyway.

I tossed the bag in with a load of T-shirts and underwear and hoped that it wouldn't dye my clothes pink. It came out of the wash as it did in the picture at left, and I encourage you to click on the picture to get the larger version if you'd like a sense of how the felting works. Wikipedia tells me that it has something to do with scales on the wool and the zzzzzzzzzzzzzz
In any case, the washer, as you can see, felted TT (TM) a little bit, but not overmuch. Small things, I gather, are supposed to be more difficult to felt than larger projects. I probably should have put it in a pillowcase and with less other stuff (you do need something to agitate the wool, like a pair of jeans or a towel), but it costs $1.50 to do a load of laundry here and I've got bills to pay, if you know what I mean.

But I wanted the bag to be more awesome, so I worked at the material in a basin of hot water in the kitchen sink, and that seems to have done the trick. It felted excellently, as you can see, I hope, at right, and didn't take more than maybe 20 minutes to do. I can't imagine doing the felting by hand on a project much larger than a mitten, say. In the interests of full disclosure, I will note that the water became slightly pink, and not because I was working my poor fingers to the bone. The color of the tote didn't appear to fade, but it's certainly not entirely colorfast. In ordinary usage, I don't think the color would rub off, though.

And the surprise (trendy, bourgeois) usage: a little iPod bag. There are some obvious flaws to this, the biggest being that one's headphones obviously can't fit in the bag unless one uses earbuds. In the picture, my Phyllida stands in for Ellen's Buddy; here's to hoping for a long, happy, copyright-violating future for everyone.

Sock Monkeys Are People, Too

This adorable sock monkey that my sister made has been left unnamed by its new owner. Any suggestions?

Dye Hard with a Vengeance.

Another yarn story, Reader: I turned my Black Cherry samples into a a felted Tiny Tote, almost as awesome as it is alliterative. I had begun thinking I would just knit a swatch and leave it at that, but the swatch grew in direct proportion to my knitted dreams*. My second thought was to make a little soap saver bag for Ellen's package, and that's what my goal was until I reached the final stage of the project. I'm an unrepentant spoiler junkie, but I'll make you wait until the end of the post to reveal the twist**.

The unevenness of the dye on the yarn actually turned out to be a great effect--I'm not a great lover of variegated yarn, but the swatch came out pleasantly homey. The bottom half of the swatch is the khaki and the top, the cream, but I don't think you can much tell the difference.

Having started life as four separate bits of yarn and reached middle age as a flat swatch, the tote is crudely put together. I'd certainly recommend doing it in the round. I used size 4 straight needles and then just a tapestry needle to sew up the bottom and the sides. I didn't try anything fancy with the binding--just whip stitch--and that's probably the least aesthetically pleasing part of the whole thing, because I had to use the khaki yarn to do it, having run out of the Black Cherry.

The Black Cherry was sacrificed to a good end: I gave I-cords a try, and damned if they aren't just the best thing ever. I'm supposed to use I-cord to make the straps on the Tote of Doom (you can see it behind the swatch-in-progress) and was anxious to give it a go beforehand. During the OJ Simpson trial, I made a tube of finger-weaving probably long enough to wrap around the whole house. I believe I had the vague idea that I could use it to escape my bedroom during a fire. I should note that our house only had one floor. In any case, I-cords are certainly an advance in tubular yarn crafts.

Voila, Reader: a Tiny Tote casting tiny tshadows on the wall. I'm going to keep you in suspense until tomorrow for the actual felting. You'll love it, I promise--hey, where are you going? Come back! For god's sake--

*My dreams are not, of course, actually knitted, but I suspect that's only a matter of time. There's a scene in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie where the improbability drive turns the Heart of Gold into yarn dolls. It's not impossible, is all I'm saying.
**Lies, all lies.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

The Spirit of Etsy

This weekend we've been witnessing Etsy history in the making, as the administrators unveil (and reveil, and re-unveil) the new Etsy constitution, a document that has inspired so much debate on the forums that I fear the friendly tone there will never be recovered. There were many changes, but most notably, the vintage category is being phased out, commercial supplies are being limited, and there are new rules about digital prints and design copyright. I didn't wade through all of the hundreds of pages of accumulated outrage, but I read enough to conclude that there is a whole lot of masking going on. First of all, many users claiming to be interested in "what's good for Etsy" seem more motivated by a need to assert some kind of seniority or superiority over other users, which I guess is pretty typical in an internet community. Also, I think that this nebulous "Spirit of Etsy" that everyone keeps invoking to justify their arguments is pretty clearly an increasingly meaningless piece of rhetoric. I mean, selling handmade goods is still selling goods, and no amount of Etsy spirit can cancel out that essentially self-interested impulse. At the end of the day, the sellers on both sides of the debates just want to get buyers into their shops, and I think they would do well to admit as much.

I'll admit as much, and more -- I'm desperate to get buyers into my shop, or even just people who will look at my things and tell me they're pretty! Having lots of schoolwork to avoid, I've been especially interested in making jewelry this weekend, and have produced eight pairs of earrings and one bracelet (a bracelet so boring I don't know what I'm going to do with it).

I bought these amazing champagne glass teardrop beads, and I just had to keep for myself the first thing I made with them. For these I used the same wire-wrapping technique I've been using for awhile now, but this time I oxidized the silver with liver of sulfur. Um, I apologize for the creepiness f my ear out of its context, but it's the better to see the earrings with...I still haven't mastered the oxidation process, so I don't think I'll be listing anything oxidized for awhile, but it is really fun, and since everyone warns in their instructions how toxic liver of sulfur is, it makes me feel like I'm living dangerously, though of course, I'm really just spending my Friday night playing with nasty-smelling powder and then blogging about it...

I did produce a few new listable pairs of earrings, however, especially these experiments with long pieces of hammered wire that I'm pretty jazzed about. No one who's looked at them seems that jazzed, but still, I predict many more ideas in this vein before I'm discouraged enough to abandon it. I'll spare you the awkwardly embedded photos of my other new listings, but they include a fun piece made with polymer clay beads, and some more brightly colored briolettes. I'll never get over briolettes, I don't think.

Dyeing Young: A Yarn Story

Apologies for the crappy spacing with the photos. I've fiddled with it so the text doesn't spill over onto the photos (at least in Firefox), but that seems to be the best I can do.

The yarn, it turns out, is a bit stiff and scratchy. I'm trying to mend this with a wash in some extra-moisture baby shampoo, but it's never going to be sock yarn. I suspect that it will felt well, though, and I'm regretting already that I didn't wait for it before I started my bag. Granted, when I started the tote, I had no idea that children's powdered drink mixes would become the new governing passion of my life. To the right is a swatch I started of the cream on size 4s.

I chose Black Cherry Kool-Aid for my first go at this because I thought the color would be quite rewarding. I was not wrong, though I ran into a few problems, as I will note below. I made a solution of one part vinegar to three parts water, more or less, plus the packet of Kool-Aid. One set of instructions I read said the vinegar wasn't necessary and another said it was. This, luckily, is not nuclear physics, and I do not have a positronic brain. That I know of. Anyway, I dropped two khaki-colored bits and two cream-colored bits into the dye bath in the hope that the khaki would yield a more muted tone and the cream a brighter one. They came out, however, more or less the same, as you can see in the photo. As you can also see the photo, the yarn bits soak up the Kool-Aid entirely. This was an anticipated effect, but still very kool.

The problem I mentioned above is clear in the photo at the right: the yarn bits did not dye evenly at the point where I tied them together. Lilyriver has suggested I wrap them more loosely, perhaps with some thread, and I think that's probably the way to go. I suspect also that a bit more Kool-Aid might be in order (when is it ever not?).

I will post later today, I hope, with a swatch done in the dyed yarn, although with my rate of accomplishment lately, you might read "later today" as "sometime before the revolution comes."