Sunday, March 26, 2006

Tote Around - Finished!

May I present the felted Tote Around. Finally this bag is done! And I love it.

Project Details
Pattern: Tote Around from
Yarn: Noro Kureyon # 134 (5+ skeins)
Needles: 10.5 US

Dimensions before felting
Bottom: 12" diameter
Bag length: 19"
Strap: 60"

Dimensions after felting
Bottom: 7.5"
Bag length: 11.5"
Strap: 40"

This bag was knit from the center of the round base on circular needles. The bind off was two rounds of ten stitch applied i-cord. The strap was integrated into the bind off. The side of the bag opposite the strap has a slot to feed the handle through to secure the bag closed. It is a great size to carry around a small project. The strap is long enough to go over my shoulder or crosswise across my body. I think I'll be making a couple more of these. I think it would make a very nice gift.

I thought it would be interesting to show a close up of the fabric as it goes through the felting process.

knit_fabric felted_fabric shaved_fabric

The first picture shows the knit fabric before any washing has been done. The middle picture shows the finished felted fabric. You can see that the Kureyon does pill up quite a bit it and that it is also really fuzzy. The final picture shows the finished bag fabric. I pull off all the large pills by hand and them go over the entire bag and strap, inside and out, until all of the pills and extra fuzz is gone. It is hard to see the amount of fuzz that actually comes off of the bag from these pictures.

This picture shows the fuzz that the shaver was able to take off the bag. The little round object is a US quarter for size reference.

This fluff would be great for paper making. I should probably start making paper again with all this fun stuff to add into the process. Hmm, Kureyon paper...

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

F is for Fused Glass

I can't believe I almost took pictures of Fruit Loops instead of thinking of this! Hopefully this will be slightly more interesting than cold breakfast cereal. The picture above is of some pendants that I made. Except the squarish one - that is a pin. The pendants actually hang as a long rectangle - most of them are pictured sideways. A chain or some type of cord can be slipped through a hole that goes through the top.

Several years ago when beads were my thing, I did a little research on what it would actually take to make my own lampwork beads at home. Now my husband has always supported my crafts, but when I mentioned I wanted to bring home glass rods, a torch, fuel and oxygen tanks, and a kiln, he frowned. He then envisioned all that could go wrong, fires, big explosions, and then he told me to pick a different hobby. So we compromised and I decided to work with a small kiln and learn to fuse, slump, and mold glass that way. The item to the left is a little plate I did. The design was created with frit. Frit is crushed glass.

These little guys are magnets and pins. Their hair and facial features are made with copper wire. Sometimes they end up with beads in their hair.

And last but not least, here are some stitch markers that I made with some little beads I made in the kiln. I haven't done much glass work since we moved into our house three years ago. I really don't have a place set up to do it yet. Cutting and grinding all the pieces of glass can create quite a mess. But it is really fun to do. It is the only one of my hobbies in which my husband is an actual willing participant.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

2 Socks on 2 Circular Needles

Yesterday on Knitty I found a new knit along for socks, the Sock It To Em Knitalong, and I decided to join. If you are into socks, take a look. Everyone really has some nice projects going. And even if you aren't into socks - take a look. You might be inspired to try a pair.

But back to me... I figured if I am going to be part of a sock knit along, I ought to at least have some socks on the needles. Especially since I blathered on and on about sock knitting after the Knitting Olympics. I also figured I needed to try something new to expand my sock knitting skills so I decided to finally figure out how to knit 2 socks on 2 circular needles.

I used a tutorial by Sheron Goldin and found that everything was explained very well. If you are interested in knitting socks this way, I really recommend the her online lessons. The instructions were very clear and there were pictures to help you throughout the process step-by-step.

And here are the socks I got started last night:

Yeah, I know they don't match and I won't end up with a pair of socks when I'm finished. And that IS one of the main reasons for knitting two at a time. I may regret the decision to start two pair at once, but it is too late now. I'm not frogging these. I was in a tiz to get this technique started and under my belt. I didn't want to use my "special" sock yarn that could have been easily put into two separate balls like the Lorna's Laces or Koigu I have stashed away. I'm saving that until my skills are a little more refined. So I started with some of the self patterning yarn I had on hand.

Sock one is being knit out of On Line color 765 and Opal Ladybug. I'm knitting them on size 1 (24") addi turbo needles in a basic 2x2 rib pattern. I know they'll fit because it is basically the same pattern I used before. I might try a different heel and toe though this time. Maybe a different one for each sock. I am really excited to try some of the more involved stitch patterns I see for socks, but I want to make sure I've really got some of the basics down first.

Tote Around update: The bag has been felted and is being blocked/dried now. I thought I would have been able to post the finished bag by now, but it is still damp. So it is still hiding in the laundry room. It'll be out soon. As soon as it dries and it gets a good shave I'll get it posted.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Tote Around - Ready to Felt

Finally, the bag is off the needles and ready for the washing machine! I cast on for this bag right after Christmas vacation and got almost completely finished with it in a week. All I had left to do was the strap. But it just sat around and stayed untouched. Basically because I knew it had to be redone. It was way to wide and wasn't nearly tall enough to survive the felting process and be of any use in the end. So here it is in all it's glory just waiting for the hot water torture treatment I have planned.

I'll get around to felting the bag this weekend. It usually takes me forever to get Noro Kureyon to felt. I like the result to be a solid fabric that has almost no trace of the actual stitches. It takes forever, usually most of a day. I probably run it through at least half a dozen cycles. But I really like the end results and the colors/striping effect of Noro - so I'll keep using it. I also don't mind the knots and the little extra bits that are often floating in a skein. Heck, I knot the ends together when I start a new skein. I know that goes against good knitting practices but I wouldn't do it unless I was felting the thing. It's never been a problem and you cannot see the knot in the finished product.

When I felt something, I usually put in a small squirt of Ivory dishwashing liquid in the washer. And no, I've never had the washer burp bubbles all over the laundry room. You don't need much - a little dab will do ya just fine. The knitted item goes in a mesh laundry bag that has a zipper. I sometimes throw in some old towels, jeans, or sometimes even a tennis ball or two. I choose the hottest setting my machine will allow and then start the cycle. I also let the complete cycle run - yes even the spin cycle. The spin cycle is supposed to terribly deform the object and pull it all out of shape. But it is the blocking that creates the shape of the final piece. Yes, this is another rule I break, but I can't see any damage the spinning does and the drying time is cut down. Besides, I'm not much for rules. And yes, I do know what I am doing is technically fulling, but I don't get all bent about terminology either. I just repeat the washing cycles until the thing is felted and the stitch definition is all gone or it is as small as I can possibly stand without having to give it to my nieces for their dolls.

I did read a tip on Knitty that Murphy's Oil Soap is a good thing to use. I might give that a try. The piney scent may be better than the wet sheepy smell the process usually produces. Although the smell is not present when the object is dry. I've also seen that some people throw their projects in the dryer between cycles. It makes me a little nervous though to completely change my process now. This is my second attempt using this pattern and I wasn't pleased at all with the first results. So for that reason, I had to do another and I have to get this one right. I want a bag that I will use. I'll be really disappointed if I have to throw this one out too. Well, stay tuned. Hopefully by Sunday I'll be able to post the final results.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Meet Biscuit & Gravy

Well I figured it was about time to exploit the kitties. I've exposed Sherman to the internet by name, photo, and deed. I've only mentioned the kitties by name. It's their turn for a little exposure. The kitties are about 4 years old and are from the same litter. We got them when while we were living in a townhouse and a puppy was out of the question. There was a neglected neighborhood cat that we took care of sometimes. We actually even bathed her a couple times so we could bring her in the house to stay through bad weather. So when a friend told us that she knew of some kitties that were looking for a home, we went and brought two home. We just knew we wanted a cat of our own.

This is Biscuit. She is by far the most dominant of the two. She is aloof and really doesn't seem to care much about people either way. Her main concern is food. If you have food (or catnip) she'll follow you till the ends of the earth. If you don't you have any treats, you'll be lucky to get a passing glance. She's bigger than here sister and quite the bully. She'll push Gravy out of the way for food. We've tried the tow plate thing two. Biscuit will try and muscle Gravy out and eat both dishes. I often sneak little treats to Gravy when the thug isn't around.

And this is Gravy. She's lighter than Biscuit in color and weight. I think biscuit eats all her food. She likes people a little more than Biscuit, but she is very nervous and scared. She runs away at any noise or movement at all. And if we have company, she won't come out until they are gone. She also has a nervous habit of pulling out chunks of her fur. She doesn't do damage to her self, just leaves all these little hair clumps all over the place. The only remedy the vet could come up with was putting her on kitty prozac. Now, I don't know about you, but giving a cat a pill a day doesn't seem relaxing or calming for anyone involved.

So that is a quick look at the feline members of our house. They are the laziest things I have ever seen. They really didn't even play much when they were small. Occasionally they scrap a little or Biscuit will play chase with Sherman. But usually it's just a nap on the ottoman or in the sill of an open window.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

E is for Easter Basket - shaped like a peep

I can't believe how hard it was for me to find something for E! I spent almost two weeks trying to think of something and couldn't come up with anything. Last night I was in the pantry gathering ingredients for dinner and looked up and saw these forgotten Easter baskets on the top shelf. I got these on clearance last year at Target right after Easter. They were no more than a dollar each and they actually came with peeps candy. It is amazing to me the wide range of Easter baskets that can be had nowadays. When I was little everything was the wicker type pastel baskets with that weird plastic green grass. Now you can get so many neat things. I usually only buy holiday type decorations and doodads when they are on clearance and put them away for the next year. Last year I also ended up with a string of pink peep bunny lights that were really cheap. Now I just have to figure out what to do with those.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Dog Day Afternoon

Looking at this photo of my puppy and his friends always cheers me up a little. My goofball is the one on the far left with his tongue hanging out. I love the scowls the brothers Kasey and Kaiser have going on - perfect for my day today. I think this week should officially declared over. I definitely have spring fever going on and this week and on the whole it has actually been a pretty craptacular week! The weather is warming up though and I want out of this cubicle hell for a while. A little change of pace would do me some good. All this conditioned recirculated air is driving me nuts. I feel like I am working inside an episode of The Office. If you haven't seen this show yet, you should. It is one of the best on TV.

If I stand on my tip toes I can see a sliver of outside through a distant window. I wish I could smell the clean outside air instead of the nasty lunch the person next to me is eating and hear the birds instead of the annoying personal cell phone calls that seem to be going on. I mean do I really need to know my co-worker's deepest thoughts on the merits of serving mac & cheese instead of potatoes? And I certainly don't need to hear that damn Copacabana ringtone again either. But apparently this dinner choice is significant and it must be discussed with everyone under the sun. The rest of my co-workers are either on the internet or have left early for some meaningful task like getting a manicure or doing homework for their kids. Or hell, a couple of them probably just left early because it is Thursday. That would certainly meet the usual criteria around this asylum.

That is enough of a rant for now; I'll save the rest for when I get home. I'm sure my husband will love that! I'll just spend the rest of my lunch break outside and take a quick walk; it will help to escape even if only for a little while.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Hairy Potter and the Horticulturist's Apprentice

On Saturday my husband I went to the first winter open house for Plant Delights Nursery and Juniper Level Botanical Garden. The title of this post comes form the Spring 2006 Catalog Cover. They have Jack Pittman design the cover for each catalog. He is a commercial artist that specializes in humorous illustrations and it is always great to see his new cover design each time the new catalog arrives. The catalog is also written with a very humorous tone. It is probably the best overall piece of mail I get.

Gardening and plants of all kinds are a big interest for me. If you live in the Raleigh area and are interested in gardening you really should check out the wonderful display gardens that are there. They are generally open only a couple times a year, and this is the first year they have had a winter open house. The spring open house in May is great time to go. There are a lot of plants blooming and it isn't the hottest part of the summer. The plants on display and those available for purchase tend to be more unusual or at least hard to find varieties of more common plants. It's a real plant connoisseurs dream. I have lived in this area for almost ten years, but only found out about this place a couple years ago. I read about it on a gardening message board. (Isn't the internet is great.) We went mainly to see the underlying structure of the garden to get ideas for our own yard. But there were many wonderful plants that were already blooming.

The first plant we saw that is a must have for our yard, was the giant leaf paper plant, Edgworthia chrysantha. This plant was really more like a small tree (maybe the size of a Japanese Maple tree) and was covered with small clusters of yellow/white flowers with a very sweet smell. We weren't able to get one on this visit, but hopefully they will have some available during the spring open house in May. We already have a spot near the house picked out for it.

We did end up buying a Colocasia - gigantea Thailand Giant Strain. It is an elephant ear plant that can grow to nine feet tall and the individual leaves can be more than 5 feet long and 4 feet wide. The plants are also supposed to get large white scented flowers. I've never seen an elephant ear plant flower, but hopefully the deer will leave this one alone long enough for us to see the flowers. I do have several other varieties of these growing in the yard and the deer have left them alone. So far so good. If we get some good sized leaves this first year, this summer I'll try taking a cast of one of the leaves to make a bird bath. We also got a Euphorbia x martinii 'Waleuphrud' (Rudolph's Red Nosed Spurge). The small green and red flowers on the left are on the blooming euphorbia we purchased.

They also have some terrific bog garden plants.
I've always wanted to try some, but don't have the right conditions in my yard for them. Although while were looking over the pitcher plants (right) in the greenhouse, another visitor gave me a couple terrific suggestions for growing some at home. The plants grow in peat and she suggested getting a slow draining container, filling it with peat and soaking - creating my own portable little bog. Another idea was to dig a hole in the garden and line the hole with plastic and to put a few holes in the plastic for some drainage and then fill the hole with peat and your plants -and viola your own little bog garden.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Starting Over

Well I decided to frog the bag I'm working on and start over. I decided not to worry quite so much about the bottom lying flat. It's not laying flat on this restart. I decided I had really made the first one too wide.

I had tried to enlarged the pattern so I could felt the hell out of it. But I didn't have enough yarn to make the length work out in proportion. I really prefer felted items that have lost all of their stitch definition - I don't like that halfway look. I like felting that creates a dense fabric that an uninformed observer would have no idea that the item was actually knitted. I also like that the stripes of color in this version are a little wider. Not much but a little. Hopefully I can get through this quickly. I want to get on with the Weekend Satchel I'm working on too. If you count having knitted one handle many months ago as working on.....

Felted bags are really something that I like to make, to carry, and to gift. Actually a felted bag was my first project. It was absolutely perfect. I got to work some great yarn and any mistakes disappeared in the wash. As a bonus, it can be a completely mindless knitting project and the finished project can come out great. Most of the bags (all but 1) I have made to date were gifted to family members last Christmas. Now, I'm going to use some of my stash to make a few more.
I'll probably keep one, but most will end up as Christmas presents again. They were a big hit last year and I had several requests for this year. All I can say is be careful what you wish for.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Gold Medal in Knitting

The medal has arrived! Congratulations to everyone that participated. It has been a lot of fun looking at all the individual accomplishments that are being posted.

It's amazing to think of all the knitting that was started and completed around the world in 16 days. How much yarn that would be? I used only skein of sock yarn, but there were over 4,000 participants. I wonder what distance that yarn would stretch! Maybe next year there will be a statistician and someone to keep all kinds of records. Training could become a year round activity.

This challenge really was a lot of fun and did get me over the "sock block". I finally finished a pair and now I'm hooked. I'm trying to use up stash yarn for all my knitting this year. I made a promise at the start of the year to myself not buy any new yarn until I had used up a good potion of my stash. (I did however, make a nice stash enhancement before the promise - I'm not insane.) So new yarn to feed the new habit is out. I am going to order the sock book as a compromise though. After all, that wouldn't be cheating, it isn't yarn. And it will help the cause, I'll be knitting from the stash.

But the book will help with the fascination of it all. Maybe this is because this is the first really "fitted" garment I've made for myself. , But sock knitting has caught my interest in a completely different way than any other knitting has yet . I'm actually interested in the different construction methods for all the individual sock parts. I want to actually try different techniques. Toe up, cuff down, two socks on two needles... The possibilities seem endless. For the first time, I am really interested in the whole process. Usually I'm more interested in the finished product.

I've really just the knitting equivalent to a button monkey from the office. Not that there is anything wrong with that. I certainly will still continue to knit projects where the only goal is to finish the darn thing. I have also even learned techniques to get something done. But this is something I'm actually going to figure out. I've even started looking at different stitch patterns trying to come up with something for my own sock pattern. Hmm.....I wonder if anyone wrote their first knitting pattern for the 2006 games... There is always next year.