May 2007

Actually, I only made it 22 hours, but that was still enough to make me the only nut who never went home. The fact that home was an hour’s drive away helped in this. I showed up at the gallery at four pm friday, where they were still in a sort of “set-up panic”, even though everything pretty much was set up, and the only things left were the DJ equipment (not there yet) and the decision about whether to tidy the collage materials table and then sigh deeply when the first person started rummaging, or just leave it in a mess. Oona did eventually tidy it up, mostly I think for something to do. I opted for staying out of the way and spinning quietly. Four o’clock was the last time that I knew the hour for a long time, so all you get here is sequence – the next time someone looked at a watch and announced the results, it was four o’clock again!

Jodi Green was the first knitter to turn up, and I can show you the two of us knitting when she forwards me the pictures Peter took, because I was still being too dumb at that point to whip out my camera. We wound up staying in the window sort of behind the DJ – the “sort of behind the DJ” part wasn’t ideal, but wasn’t as bad as it sounds either, and the “in the window” part was brilliant. There were people stopping on the street to watch the crazy girls knitting, and people were taking pictures. Quite a few people were taking pictures, and only one of them worked for Artcite. I found that a bit odd, but then again maybe two people working on the same thing (and racing, we were definitely racing) looked neat, I guess I’ll find out when I see Jodi’s pics!

About the racing – Jodi’s super fast, but I was feeling pretty good about my own pace. We were both working two sets of circular needles, since the Round Thing was set up for four, and there were only two of us. She definitely caught up to my sets once, but for the most part I held it together. Saturday morning she came back and whipped my sorry arse, but politely assured me that by the end of her last day-night-day knitting marathon she was creeping along pathetically as well. So we knitted and knitted, and had a great catch-up visit in the meantime. I haven’t had any good ‘Jodi time’ since Narnia was released!

After Jodi left, I finally had the sense to pull out the camera and shoot the Round Thing – I’d only done a few rounds on it since the other day, so you can see we made a fair amount of progress.

There weren’t a ton of people knitting, but there were some, and the ones I hooked stayed. Davydd Cook was the first – a total novice, he learned the basic knit stitch and was off to the races – made it all the way around the circle at least twice.

Then Sandra, a University of Windsor graduate student and devoted knitter joined in. Alas, her picture is blurry, (that’d be ‘too much coffee too fast’) but perhaps you’ll be seeing/reading more of her, because she’s interested in Knitting With Others, and we just may be setting that up. Y’ hear that, Sandra? Email me, I’ll let you know what’s up and when!

(Edit: Someone sent me this not-blurry picture of Sandra and I knitting together – Sandra’s the one in front, I’m the one who looks like I haven’t brushed my hair since March. Image courtesy of Elaine Weeks.)

Here’s Cassie:

Here are Marissa and Irina – three is as many as we managed going at one time.

I also took the opportunity to introduce Marissa to the drop spindle. I think maybe some of that fibre from Emily is getting one more pass-along. Marissa here is working with the “butt fleece” (that’s Jodi talking) and couldn’t put it down.

All that kept me and the Round Thing happy until almost three am (ok, I did know what time it was around 2:30 when they took the beer away.) After that there were fewer people – only the diehards stayed past three – but I did still get some other newbie knitters out of the group. Unfortunately I can’t remember anyone’s name just now, and it was too dark to take pictures. (They turned all the lights off so they could project old educational films onto a building across the street.) I also managed to use the lull period to work on a rag rug for the bedroom, and I knit on some wire too, which I’d started and was working on occasionally just because it looks so cool.

We lost almost everybody around four thirty, and the last of the all-night crowd went home by six thirty. By then Leesa had come back (she went home and slept the sleep of the Just on friday, having been up to the wee hours all week getting the gallery ready) and she plyed us with coffee until we felt human again.

‘Round about the same time humanity returned, Jodi returned as well and we dove back into the Round Thing. Peter showed up at a time he said was about one, and he waited until Jodi helped me cast off before sweeping her away. The weather Saturday was crappy and there was no one coming in to the gallery, so we decided that the Round Thing was officially done.

Overall? This was a really fun thing to do, and I’m so glad I was involved. Knitting two and three to an object is indescribable. The awareness you have of what the other people are doing, and how you and they are affecting each other… it’s more than just the speed, you are actually knitting their stitches, you can feel the differences between their tension and your own, there was even a sort of trust thing (as in, “I am not going to ask if they are remembering to increase. I am NOT.”) And it worked out great!

(Thanks to Jodi for the picture)
Final diametre, unblocked (as it will remain): 33 inches.

But what to do with it? I shuddered to think of trying to mount it on the wall, but it looked so lonely lying there in the middle of the floor. Jodi had been trying to convince me it should be turned into an ottoman, but I said there was no way I was bringing it home to stuff! I spread it out on the deep windowsill near where we’d been working. And then, someone came in with flowers. People had been bringing us presents; presents for the gallery, and also stuff for the nutters who were staying up – like breakfast! – mmm. So this fellow came in with a huge bouquet of flowers, which were beautiful despite one of them being a sunflower.* They were in a tall glass vase, like an enormous wineglass. He was trying to make them look nice on the windowsill.

He looked at me.
I looked at him.

And just like that, the existence of the Round Thing became justified for its own sake, not only as “a neat thing to do with others”.

Art? Craft. Perfection.

*I am afraid of sunflowers. Don’t judge me.


Geckogrrl tagged me for the eight random things meme, which is probably about what my brain is able to deal with this morning (what time is it?  What day is it?  I’m pretty sure it’s still May…) So here goes:

1. My favorite color is purple

2. When I was a kid I hated Tigger and used to feel incredible sympathy for Rabbit, whose garden always got trashed.  I feel kind of mad at Tigger right now, even thinking about it.  Insensitive bastard.  Most of my philosophies about life and living can be explained by/are informed by my reaction to Rabbit’s smashed garden.

3. I have a big tattoo of a rose vine all the way down my back, and I always forget that it’s there because I never see it.

4. I have the attention span of a gnat, and if I put down a project for longer than a week there is a really good chance that I will never finish it, or will only finish it out of duty but won’t really care any more.

5. I like bulky socks and bulky sweaters and I like wearing layers even if they don’t make any sense.  I don’t like hot weather because it makes bulky socks and layers uncomfortable.  I like the feel of wearing clothes and I like sleeping under heavy blankets.

6. I read all the time.  I am fascinated by words and love to use them as images.  I paint them on my walls.  I read everything, not just books but signs and cereal boxes – I read things even if I don’t actually know how to read the language they are written in, and try to figure out the words I can recognize.  I cannot fathom how people can ever not be reading, or not have read the entire label of something they bought, because the words are there and therefore must be read!

7. Because I just wrote the phrase “must be read” I am wondering about the etymology of the word “legend”.

8. I don’t really think I’m very creative, most of the time.  I just know how to talk to fabric.  I believe that fabric already knows what it wants to be, and just needs someone’s help in becoming that thing.  Fabric likes me and is nice to me because I rarely try to force it into shapes it doesn’t want to assume.  Listening to fabric isn’t boring.  It is surprising sometimes, the things it decides it wants to be.  I can talk/listen to string and thread, beads and shiny objects too, most of the time.  I have trouble with lace and yarn – they have heavy accents, and there have been misunderstandings.  But I’m improving, with their patience.  I think the fabric puts in a good word for me, now and then.

I’m not going to tag anybody specifically, not because I’m trying to cop out but because I know this thing has totally made the rounds and I’m having trouble thinking of anyone I read who hasn’t already done it… but I like reading what people say, so if you want to do it and post a comment with the link so I can go see, that would be nice of you!

The 25 hours of art thing was lots of fun and went really well, and I have pictures, and I will post about it later when I wake up some more.

After hardly any thought at all, I have come to the conclusion that making (or Frigga forbid, buying) fancy beaded stitch markers is really lame. I mean c’mon, we’re accessorizing our knitting? Seriously? That is at least as nerdy as knitting a fancy beaded dice bag for roleplaying. Or, um, putting a gold-embellished picture of the Virgin Mary plying yarn on a yarn-plying tool.

Both of which, of course, I have done. And am planning to do again. So, with some further ado:

A Really Quick and Dirty Stitch Marker Tutorial Because I Made Some and I Might As Well Tell You How.

The further ado I mentioned – I’m not really a big “tutorial” person. Don’t spend much time reading ‘em, and hardly ever hold/write ‘em. This is not because I’m a big snob, honest! It’s because I’m a poor snob. I can’t afford to buy anything that is the “right” thing, and I make everything up with whatever I can find. I can find a lot, because we horde things, but “go get your antique mirror in need of resilvering, some empty chicken feed sacks and a bag of drywall mix older than the mirror” is a lousy way to start a tutorial.
Or so I’ve always thought. But I’m realizing I’m not exactly alone in my approach to things (which is nice), so I’m just going to start trying to explain what I did and how I did it more often, and if you don’t care, you can skip those bits. If you’re some kind of reductionist neat freak, you’re probably not reading my blog anyway, right?
One further piece of ado: You probably should read the whole thing, in case you get halfway through and decide “this chick has no idea what she’s talking about” and go off and read someone else’s tutorial on stitch markers or whatever. Because I really don’t know what I’m doing when I start things. I find out by the end of doing them whether I’ve done it right, and I’m not going to pretend that I’m some kind of genius with lots of experience. Unless it’s a sewing thing. Then I am some kind of genius with lots of experience, and you should listen to everything I say. Just kidding, it’s your call.
Also, I’m extremely flippant and prone to hyperbole. A million.

Now. What you will need to make these things is:

At least one pair of needlenose pliers, two is better.
Something to cut wire. People who use non-dedicated scissors to cut wire go directly to hell when they die.
Some wire to cut. I used brass wire, which I had some of, and which I happen to know is readily available in craft stores of all kinds.
If you happen to have an old belt or something that has closed rings that will fit on your needles, cool. If not, you can just use the same wire, or it is possible to buy rings. which even have little charm loops on them. People have used those expanding-ring things like on keychains, but I am a big clutz and would prefer to reduce the number of things that can catch in my yarn and make me say more bad words than usual.
Some shrinky-dink or similar brand item (I haven’t found anything to fake that with yet). You can also use polyclay or fimo, in which case the instructions are the same except everything that refers to shrinky dinks should be instead read as “do whatever you do with poly clay”.
Colored pencils, and a hole punch unless see above.

Oh yeah, and some beads. Duh.

Draw a picture of a bunny (or skull or seahorse, or whatever) on your plastic stuff. Remember that it will shrink – that is the point – usually by at least a third, the packaging will tell you what to expect. Cut it out.

Do not forget to punch a hole in it before you bake it! It is nigh impossible to punch a hole in baked shrinky dinks without a) getting a hole halfway through the warm plastic before it chills and won’t let you go further or b) shatters. Trust me.
Bake it in your easy-bake oven that your mom found at a swap meet because even though you never had one as a child and she just let you bake in the real oven, you use it all the time now for crafts. Or just the oven, if you must.

Now it is a small bunny. (skull, seahorse, whatever)

Either make a ring (I did this once, before I remembered the belt – used a 10mm needle to wrap it around) or bend your wire around whatever ring you have come up with. Bonus points if you can make a tidy circle with the pliers. I made one end of the wire very short, so that it will just stick into one or two beads. The other end is longer, being the “working end”. I would tell you exactly how long, but I kept cutting the bits way too long and having to trim them after, which although wasteful of wire is better than the alternative.
Thread beads onto wire, at least until that first short end isn’t sticking out any more.
Wrap the working end of the wire through the hole in your (bunny skull seahorse etc.) and bend it back up. Super cool wonder-bonus points if you can get and keep a neat circle here, I sure never managed it.

Probably there are several pleasing and effective things you can do to close off the end of this wire. I don’t know what any of them are – small wire structures are firmly in my husband’s area of expertise, and he’s not here right now. So what I did was shove it back up through the beads as far as it would go, and hope for the best.

Voila! (See, that one on the top left has the wire loop I made.) I did say it was quick and dirty! But, if the dangly stitch markers are taking serious abuse, then it is reasonable to assume that the knitting they decorate is also taking serious abuse, in which case you and the person responsible both have something far more important to worry about than whether your wire is coming out of its bead. So I think they’ll be fine. I’ll let you know after Saturday – these are so I can teach increases. (Get your mind out of the gutter – they’re bunnies so they can “hop” from needle to needle or “dig” and “hide” between made stitches”. I thought it was clever.)

Picture heavy post – turns out that “recharge the camera” actually meant “spend two days trying to figure out where I put the charger and then charge the camera”, in which time I’ve managed to generate I pile of things I wanted to take pictures of.

Got a letter from Emily today – ironically written before she knew they were visiting this past weekend. So I got a visit first, and then I got a letter – a double dose of a friend I don’t get to see often enough! Actually, Emily and Dru are very good to us, and come visit quite often, given the relative distances and the fact that I leave the farm so seldom I’ve never seen the last two places they’ve lived (or is it three?) but I still miss when everybody lived in London and nobody lived anywhere else, and we could (and did) ‘do coffee’ almost every day if we wanted. There, I’ve given it away. Emily and I were friends even back in the Time Before Knitting. (BK era? Or should we use BC for “cnitting”?) But I digress.

There was a point, honest, and it was this: While Emily was here, she very sweetly gave me some roving to play with, possibly out of pity and horror when she saw the wool I’ve been spinning… I wouldn’t have said that before the visit, I’ve been spinning away obsessively and quite happily too – look, I made another 50 metres of what will eventually, I hope, be an aran sweater for my brother.

Only 90% more to go. Sigh.

But it has been theorized that since the Big Box o’ Wool used in fact to be a Big Blanket o’ Wool, it is probably actually short ends or second cut or some other manifestation of fleece customarily rejected by spinners what have more sense than I do. Which would go a long way to explain it. Not that I’m going to stop using it or anything, it works fine, I’m just not going to get anything really “dainty” out of it. It’s probably a good thing that the bulk of it is going to this proposed aran. Having spun some of what Emily gave me, however, I have managed to prove to myself that I can spin finely, and with far less rolling of the eyes and flailing of the cat brushes, and no nubbly bumps whatsoever. So now I can at least know that what my wool is doing is what my wool wants and is willing to do.

So here, for contrast, is a picture of my roving from Em:

Yeah, white on white, sorry ’bout that. And here is a picture of some wool from the Big Box o’ same:

Now let’s see that on spindles. Wool from Emily:

And wool from the box:

That with the green is a new spindle too – I made it (out of polyclay) after being intrigued by one Emily was using, but I’m not sure I like it. Can’t be certain, since I’m using it to spin this green as fine as I possibly can and maybe (almost certainly) a bit finer than I really should, so that probably has a lot to do with it. Basically, it wants to go fast, and the wool doesn’t.

So after all that, I got this letter this morning and what did I find inside? More fibre!

I was so excited! It’s like having a secret pal without actually being in a secret pal swap. Also, I know who she is. So really, it’s just exactly like getting a present in the mail from a friend for no particular reason. There will, however, be a swap. I’m totally going to make her an Andean Plying Tool That I Won’t Call By Its Silly Name. (Emily, I wasn’t going to say anything but after this morning I decided to tell you after all. So I put it in your letter, too.)

Further proof that the Box o’ Wool can become pretty things. Here is another picture of it, dyed for that stuff I was spinning last entry (you know, “whee, tiny stripes!”):

and here are the now-plyed tiny stripes, about 60m worth:

See? A little dark circus, just like I said. Raven still doesn’t get it.

Other than that, I’ve been doing Quilted Stuff For Others, mostly. Although I did manage to generate a Round Thing for use at the gallery this weekend. It’s up to two circular needles now, my goal is to get it to four. And then hope that I can find three other people who want to work on it, or I’ll be busy as a one-armed paperhanger, running from needle to needle. Oh well, at least it would be entertaining for the spectators.

So acknowledging the vast unlikeliness of it, if any knitters who happen to read this also happen to be in Windsor, Ontario this Saturday, come drop by Artcite (downtown, Capitol building) and knit on a round thing for a while! I’ve already sucked up to Jodi.

Finally, here is a picture I drew of Velcro, the cat who condescends to let us feed her. Can you tell I’m just taking pictures because I can, now?

I drew it because I have been elevated to the position of “Recipient of Cat Gifts” i.e. dead stuff. She gave me a mouse. Which I guess means she’s getting enough to eat, now! I think probably this picture will end up being embroidered on something, it seems to call for that. Or paint, I suppose, but nothing I need to paint right now lends itself to knotwork.

(Yes, I did give her claws in the picture. It makes her feel better, and certainly makes her look like more of a mighty huntress! No point dwelling on inadequacies that are truly none of her fault!)

Last night Raven stepped outside and was nearly startled out of his skin by three young deer. They were about ten yards from the door. I tried to take a picture, but by the time I’d stopped gaping at the cute (close!) deer and run for the camera they were gamboling around in the field next door, too far away to get a decent shot. Best I could do was this “Trust me, they’re fauns” picture:

Yeah, I know. I wouldn’t believe me either.

That’s ok, though, the universe decided to make it up to me this morning. What’s this, sleeping in the corner of my bedroom window?

Let’s just take a closer look at that…

Yep, he’s right up inside between the screen and the glass. Bet he wishes it was darker, though! Been there all morning.

There’s actually fibre-related news as well, I got the yarn plied – 63 metres of it. Lots of tiny stripes. Can’t show you though, as I killed the batteries on the deer and bat. I’ve got to soak it and hang it anyway, so I’ll charge the batteries and take a pic when it’s skeined.

Busy day tomorrow – finally get to meet the kiddo, and then Emily and Dru are coming for a visit in the evening, yay! So today is “do some more work on the coat and then clear my crap out of the spare room” day. And it’s late already, so I’m going to go do that now. Happy long weekend!

Heaven help me, we have a TV again. Our television blew up, must be two years ago now. We got another one. It blew up even more dramatically, with bright flashes and actual smoke. Since then we’ve had an old monitor which won’t recieve signals, but which we can watch movies on.

Until today. Now there is a nasty noisebox television again. Gee, I can’t wait. I do hope commercials are just as much fun as they used to be.

Actually, I realize I’m feeling rather uptight about that question. The very thought of fast food commercials, for example, makes me feel just a bit queasy. I’m not (for once) being flip, but literal. There was no question that I didn’t miss the idiot box, but apparently I really didn’t want to replace it at all.

Oh well, maybe this one will blow up, too.

If you read Yarn Harlot’s entry about the spinning and the plying yesterday, I can save you the time of reading my conversation with Raven this morning. I’m carding and spinning some wool that I dyed yesterday morning, and the colours are all mixing together in tiny twisty stripes, which will of course be even more twisty and confused when I ply it. I’m very excited about this. I think it’s a real solution for me – remember how I said I really don’t wear much colour? (And those who have seen me on the few occasions I do try to wear color might be able to explain why this is a good thing.) Well when it’s all blended like this there aren’t going to be any big blocks or stripes of colour to frighten me, it will all just kind of mush together in a tweedy sort of way. It seems safer, somehow.

Raven couldn’t get as excited about the tiny stripes. I said it was like a little dark circus, but he just said “I love you”, in that way where the missing first part is understood to be “you are a complete lunatic, but…”.

Here’s a thing I’ve really been wanting to show. I’ve been working on it for a bit now, but it’s only just pulled together enough to actually look like something. This is part of that padded outfit I was talking about. Crazy, no? But I love it. Doesn’t it look like something from a comic book? A winter coat for an X-[wo]man, or something? I’m going to miss this when I ship it out, I’m getting such a huge kick out of having it in the studio.

For all you cat fans out there, Velcro the cat is doing well – at least, she’s eating and sleeping and doesn’t seem uncomfortable. (Oh yeah, it’s a she not a he – managed to do a more accurate examination when there was no distracting tuna involved. Still no claws, though. She was obviously in worse shape than we’d even realized, I’m so glad we found her when we did. She’s lost a lot of muscle tone, and can’t jump up on things she thinks she ought to be able to. So we’re packing in the protein, and letting her rest up. She likes her basket (my basket – note to self: make cat her own basket) and she still likes being on people’s laps.
And she’s killed two mice that I know about.

Raven and I are both allergic to cats. Really, really allergic to cats. This is a shame, since we live in a big old house regularly infested with mice. Raven likes cats, I don’t really care one way or the other – I like mammals generally, but I don’t have much cat “experience” and am definitely more of a “dog person” as such things go.

I am a big pushover for all animals however, and we are both unable to turn our backs on an animal in distress (including the mice) so when we heard a young cat crying the other night, we were worried about it. Raven had seen it hanging around during the day Saturday, hiding in the tall grass and staring wide-eyed at the chickens, Saturday night we heard it crying but couldn’t find it, and yesterday he saw it over in the field next door, pretty obviously watching a rodent-hole-of-some-kind.

And last night it was crying again. Around seven o’clock we heard it, definitely in distress and definitely under the porch. So, after a very short debate I decided to crack a can of tuna for it, on the grounds that it was too small to threaten our big fat hens, and if encouraged to hang around it might take out the occasional rodent.

I put half a can of tuna in a dish and stepped outside, at which point the cat lunged out from under the porch and was on the tuna like – well, like a hungry cat on fish – before the dish had hit the ground. We have never seen a cat this skinny. Its fur is soft, but you can count its ribs from three feet away… the fur can’t lie flat on its back because its spine bumps get in the way. I went in to get the rest of the tuna. Cat ate tuna, displayed great affection for people willing to give it food, and tried very hard to convince us it was an indoor cat. Preliminary investigation during cat-snuggles revealed that it is a young male, probably neutered and definitely declawed.

Problem. I am NOT able to leave a declawed cat outside. A skinny, small, soft, declawed cat on a country road.

So the cat came in the porch, while we tried to figure out what the heck to do with it. Raven called his sister. She has two cats set in their ways and doesn’t want to rock the boat. My mom and the Ed have five cats and three dogs. Raven’s parents just got rid of cats who were spraying everywhere and probably any cat who came in their house would also spray everywhere as a result. Meanwhile, the cat was emphatic about needing to be held and petted.

We got some cat food and litter from Mom and the Ed, because litter is important and the skinny cat still seemed to think food was important too. After another bowl of food, eating was slightly less important than falling asleep on Raven’s lap.

And then it killed a mouse. Very quickly and effectively.

I really don’t think we’re going to be able to keep the cat, but it’s earned some “down time” to eat and recover strength. So right now it’s conked out in a laundry basket (it is unquestionably the sort of cat who likes to be “in” things). It seems to be dealing with Bryan-the-dog and Ripper-the-chicken just fine; there have been no altercations. It is a bit threatened by the cat-who-lives-in-the-mirror, but I expect they’ll work it out. Its name is tentatively “Velcro”, my mom’s suggestion because that’s what it was sticking to me like while we were at her place last night.

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