When we emptied my MIL's condo after she died, I inherited two sewing machines, a very large tiered sewing box on four legs, and several boxes of notions. This is one, that has been occupying a spot on my laundry/craft room table since about 2003, caught my attention last night. The usable space on the table had been shrinking until it was virtually nonexistant, and I decided to eliminate some clutter. Little did I realize the riches lurking in the bottom of this box.
After removing the upper clutter from the box, the wonders were revealed.
I should perhaps give you some background here.
When I was a kid, one of favorite non-toys to play with was my mother's button box, an old Whitman sampler candy box filled with spare and leftover buttons. I would sort them by color, by shape, by the number of holes, by whether they had a shank or not, etc., etc., etc. It was a pastime perfectly suited for anyone with anal tendencies. Like me. My husband and I still joke about it; anything that requires sorting or organizing is referred to affectionately as a button box.
The years passed, who knows what happened to Mom's box, and eventually I acquired my own:
Note the nifty compartments, the organization by color and size. Still anal after all these years, yup.
So you can imagine my delight at discovering the treasure I had inherited all unknowing from my MIL. After digging my fingers through the buttons, savoring their cool touch and the soft clinking sounds they made, I began to sort.
There were big buttons,
bottons of wood and buttons covered with leather,
metal buttons that insisted on lining themselves up in military ranks,
even real mother-of-pearl buttons.
There were red ones (cat inserted for, er, scale),
a surprising number of green ones,
relatively few blue ones,
and quite a few in a funny brownish purple.
There were some oddities.
Those lime green ones make me think of a graphic of a scowl -- all those black lines converging on the center.
I can only wonder why she saved these. Did she think she would someday have another dress of this fabric that would need buttons?
I found adjuster bits from 1950s era bras, snaps of all sizes and colors, button blanks waiting to be covered in fabric to match a hand-sewn dress, a few other assorted fabric-covered buttons not interesting enough to photograph, some sparkly ones, and these:
Once again, I ask, Why? What for? Especially the brown one that is split -- what on earth would you use that for, huh? (Probably one of you will tell me. TIA.)
For lovers of natural fibers, I present Exhibit A found lurking in the box.
I will leave you with my favorite photo, of an assortment of used-to-be-white buttons, any of which would have looked right at home on summer housedress in 1947.
You know New York. You need New York. You know you need unique New York.
Wicked cricket critic.
The sea ceaseth to sufficeth us.
A proper cup of coffee in a proper copper coffee pot.
Tip of the tongue, roof of the mouth, lips and the teeth. (Not really a tongue-twister, rather, a diction exercise.)
There were more but I didn't write them down.
My boy Matthew runs the sound and/or light board at a local professional (or semi-professional, it depends on the production) theater, and he brought these home for me. They are some of the warm-ups that the actors in this year's Christmas play used pre-performance to loosen up their mouths or sharpen up their brains or something. Those of you who are conversant in theater probably know tons of these. I found them a hoot and also difficult. Especially that first one. If that's the kind of thing an actor has to be able to say fluently, it's a good thing I never had my heart set on the theater. We accountants, we don't have to talk. Just run the numbers.
Actually, Andrew brushed Bear while we watched a movie yesterday. The dog looks much tidier now and about 10 pounds lighter. The amazing thing is that she has had that much fur brushed out of her twice before in the past week. No wonder she is always panting; I would too if I were wearing such a warm coat.
It was just me and my two boys-but-nearly-men at home today, as Smokey worked a double shift on both Christmas Eve and today. Even after missing his flight out of JFK Andrew landed at MSP only 3 hours after the time he should have arrived. We picked him up and met Smokey for dinner at a Chinese buffet (bless the Buddhists!) during his dinner break so we could be together for a bit. Today the boys and I watched Clerks II -- not exactly a Christmas movie, but who cares? -- and I fixed us Christmas mac and cheese. Sorry about the blurry photos. I still haven't totally mastered this camera.
Colorful mac and cheese originated when Matthew was about 9. iirc, I made red, blue, green, and the original yellow for his birthday dinner that year. He asked for it, half in jest, and we all had a good laugh whilst eating it. Long before that we also used to have the yellow meal -- Kraft mac n cheese and corn. Sometimes just for fun we'd put yellow food coloring in the glasses of milk so the whole meal would be yellow. Kids are just another excuse to be silly, imo.
And then there's this: That's most of a bottle of Fetzer merlot. In a maple syrup bottle. Remember the Korknisse that I made? Well, I was one cork short so I had to open a bottle of wine. Darn. And even I couldn't drink an entire 1.5 liters of merlot in one sitting so I had to put it into something else, and this bottle and a Mason jar were just the right size. Matthew laughed himself silly when he saw it.
I've been knitting away on my Silky Wool double-knit scarf. My fingers did finally catch onto the rhythm of k1sl1 so it is going more quickly now. I'll put up a photo someday when there is daylight. You remember daylight? It's that stuff that happens between noon and 12:05 that hurts your eyes and makes you all squinty and stuff. We'll be seeing more of it soon.
Note the excessive number of warning labels on the cord. I was almost afraid to plug it in. Also note the ginormous price tag. Classy, huh? This whole thing was done Saturday evening in about 20 minutes. It remains to be seen if any ornaments will find their way onto the tree. It has so many lights that further ornamentation may be superfluous.
Andrew called from JFK an hour ago. Missed his flight. Cut short the call because something was being announced. Turned out to be the flight he was standby on. Missed that because he couldn't get to the gate fast enough. Called again to tell me. Called again just now to say he's on a flight to Detroit, from whence he will connect to Minneapolis. There are many flights from DTW to MSP, so apparently he will arrive sometime today. We hope. It's a good thing we are so loose about this whole holiday thing -- this would have upset a more tightly scheduled holiday a lot. I'm just glad he is [apparently] going to make it home. There are undoubtedly are many folks for whom this isn't possible -- loved ones in Iraq, loved ones too far away to come, loved ones gone forever. And so on.
I hope your loved ones are near enough to hug. I'm sure glad mine are (or will be shortly).
Others ask, "Are you ready for Christmas?" I chuckle ruefully and say, "Yes." It's easy to be ready for Christmas is you don't care if the tree is up, you don't bake, you don't decorate, you have no extended family on either side, and no one in the immediate family cares much one way or the other whether they have a big traditional Christmas or Christmas Eve dinner. Plus your husband always, always, always works on the actual holiday (double, triple, and quadruple time, folks; hard to pass up).
So, yes, I am ready for Christmas.
What's that hiding in the knitting bag under my desk?
Why, yes! It's [almost] a sock!
that will match the scarf, although the sock has no glow-in-the-dark components. I will finish this first sock tonight whilst Matthew is at work, then wrap it for Christmas. It works out pretty well that I was only able to get one done before Christmas. My idea is to make the socks fraternal twins -- reverse the colors, or maybe stick in one colorful stripe -- but it is possible that the boy may not like that idea. Better that we can discuss it in theory before I actually knit the second sock.
There was a serendipitous happening along those lines when I got the sock yarn intended for these. It was Knit Picks Bare and KP Black, plus a whack of other colors for some other projects. The black came in a pull skein but the Bare did not, so I set up my ball winder and got to work. Matthew wandered through the dining room while I was winding, looked at the what-looked-to-me-like-white yarn, and asked, "What's that ghetto stuff? It looks dirty!" I just mumbled something about yarn for Dulaan projects. Apparently he likes his white to be very, very white. So I ended up using acrylic for the white because I didn't think I would ever be able to find really white wool sock yarn in time. Serves him right.
That was almost the extent of my Christmas knitting. The other bit was these felted clogs for one of our renters. Here they are in their pre-felted state surrounding my own size 8-1/2 garden clogs:
Because I am a bad blogger I don't have a photo of them post-felting. Suffice to say they were terribly, terribly cute. Rosa, for whom they were knit, has size 6-1/2 feet. Cute. There were also the fingerless gloves originally made for Andrew's Rachel but redestined for Brenda, our other renter. But those were finished in August. Sheesh, I am SO organized.
Smokey and I are getting new mattresses for our bed; that's our Christmas present to each other. Andrew's iPod died a couple month ago, so he asked for a new one for a combined birthday/Christmas present. There. Shopping done. Well, I picked up a few other things for the boys, but really, it was all pretty painless.
On Thursday at lunchtime we had a little Christmas party at work at the library:
Here's what I gave my three co-workers:
Foolishly, I didn't read the pattern closely enough and cast on with sock yarn on US#1s.
They would have gone much faster with the worsted yarn and 3mm needles the pattern called for. Once I got going, though, I ended up making the *sweaters* too long on the two white ones -- those little guys will never be able to stand up. But I intended them to be tree ornaments so it's all good. (The books in the background are Christmas presents waiting to be wrapped. Thomas Pynchon is way too difficult for me.)
I'm knitting away on my own scarf from the Silky Wool. That double knitting is s-l-o-w. At this rate the scarf will be done in time for the Fourth of July.
Part of the slowness is due to my own ineptness. Just when I think I've finally got the rhythm of k1sl1 going, I realize I screwed up a row or two back and have to tink. Occasionally I'm able to correct the error without ripping, though -- it was very hard to *read* the stitches, especially with this dark purple yarn, at first, although I think I'm getting the hang of it. I don't think the scarf is going to be a Wow! kind of FO because the yarn isn't fuzzy or shiny or impressively soft, but it will be perfect for what I want -- warmth without bulk, fun colors, and zero itch factor.
Well, enough of this gay mad whirl. Time to finish vacuuming and flog Matthew into changing the litter box. Andrew is flying in tomorrow from NY (his last final was today), so we need to get this place a bit ready.
I have never bought cashmere yarn, but after reading this I think I never will. And now I feel guilty about the navy blue cashmere sweater I bought on clearance last May. But at least it was on clearance at Nordstrom, not Costco.
This is how many hats one Kat can knit in a week if she does [most of] them on US10s. If you are counting, that is nine (9). However, the top two were mostly knit before I decided to have a contest. How to decide the winner -- will it be the ones who guessed seven or the one who guessed nine? Oh, heck, I'm easy -- they're all winners!
Deb, Susan, and OzKnitter, c'mon down! You will be notified by e-mail about the details of the yarns so you can chose your prize. Thanks to all who participated. Some of you -- Erin, Knittymama, Chris, and Kate, in particular -- had way more faith in my speed-knitting than was justified. Thanks for the vote of confidence, though:-) If I could have given up laundry, grocery shopping, and work (not to mention sleeping) one of you could have been in the winner's circle. Sorry.
In other news, guess who has figured out how to use the macro setting on her camera? When all else fails, RTFM.
On Saturday I packed the hats and took them to the only post office I could find that was open at 10:30 on a Saturday morning.
It was almost 30 miles away. But in the lemons-from-lemonade department, I found not one but two -- two! -- yarn stores! As far as I knew a few weeks ago, the nearest pseudo yarn store is Wal-Mart, 20 miles away, and the closest real yarn store is in White Bear Lake, MN, which is about 50 miles away. But I'd been chatting with others who told me about these two shops, and my Saturday post office trip took me right past both of them. Here's what came home with me:
From the left, we have birch dpns in two sizes that I was missing; three skeins of Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool destined to become a scarf for me (the brick red is the exact color of my winter coat); a skein of Austerman Step sock yarn, the cool stuff with aloe vera and jojoba, in shades of blue and gray that will be perfect with denim; a skein of Noro Silk Garden Lite for a pair of fingerless mitts for me; a skein of brown Skacel Adagio (70% llama, 30% silk) to pair with the purply-red alpaca I didn't buy quite enough of for a Red Scarf Project scarf; and a big bottle of Eucalan, which I hadn't seen anywhere before. Mostly because I never thought to look for it when I was in a yarn store.
One of the stores had a wide range of yarns, but for a couple reasons I won't go into because I don't want to rain on her parade, I probably won't go back. But the second store delighted me. It was just one smallish room in a good-sized quilting store but there was a great selection of reasonably-priced worsted weight yarns -- Plymouth and another brand I hadn't heard of, in lots and lots of colors, and all priced $5-7/200+ yard skein. There were also Noro and some other big name yarns, but it was the worsted wools that appealed to me. To those of you who live where you have a choice of yarn vendors this store might not strike you as such a find, but it is exactly what I am looking for. I've been buying most of my yarn on the internet and feeling guilty because I'm not supporting a LYS. Now I can assuage that guilt. A good share of my knitting is for charity -- by and large, no one in our family wears wool, we're all too hot-blooded -- so decent wool yarn that isn't expensive is exactly what I need.
While chatting with the owner as she rang up my purchases, I commented on how happy I was to find her store and that I was pleased that her prices were so reasonable. She said she tries to keep it that way; she knows her market here, and there ain't no rich b!tches 'round these parts. Well, she didn't exactly say that, but she's right -- this part of Wisconsin, while lovely, has very little industry and the farming is crap, so the income level is low. Her wool yarn is ~30% cheaper per yard than the Lion Brand wool sold at Wal-Mart just up the road. And the profits stay here in Polk County. Yay.
Since my Soaring Eagles hats are done and on their way to Oklahoma, I felt free to cast on a project for myself.
Want to see my macro in real action?
It's not quite good enough for you to see that this is double knitting, though, so I'll have to tell you that myself: I'm trying out double knitting for this scarf. I think I'll make it random stripes, about 50% purple, 30-40% blue, and 10-20% red; 8" wide and as long as I have yarn for. But if I run out before it's long enough, I can go back to the store for more. Hah! Try that with an internet vendor.
For the movie buffs among you, that DVD of Junebug was Saturday night's knitting movie. I'd give it 2-1/2 stars (out of 4), but I think that's just me. The person who recommended it to me raved about it, and it was nominated for a bunch of awards, so YMMV. There were just too many non-verbal moments for it to be a great knitting movie for me. The best handwork movies, imho, are by Woody Allen -- they are all about the dialogue. The worst are, obviously, movies with subtitles. Any recommendations for good knitting movies? I'm always looking for those.
I was doing some online shopping for headphones for #1 son when I came upon this.
This is just so frickin' cool I can't stand it. From the copy:
Get children and adults
to play the smart way with the QX3+ USB Computer Microscope. The QX3
microscope magnifies anything from 10x all the way to 200x. You can view everything from the
pre-prepared slide of a honeybee leg to a close up of your own tongue.
The QX3 Microscope is not only a microscope
though, it also serves as a multi-function digital camera for taking digital
still images and creating time-lapse movies.
Obviously my inner geek is rearing its cute little head. I wish I were 10 and my parents would give this to me for Christmas. I wish (well, almost) that one of my kids were 10 again so I could give it to him. Unfortunately it just doesn't seem like a suitable gift for an artsy 17-yo computer geek or a 22-yo economics major who will enter med school next fall. Or maybe it would suit the 17-yo; he could take all manner of highly-magnified photos and PhotoShop them to his heart's content. Trouble is that I've already got his gifts.
[review from PC Magazine quoted in the copy] "It's rugged and well designed, with a smoothly rotating barrel that
lets you choose among the three magnifications. It's also an electronic
tour de force, with a USB video camera in the head. The camera
automatically adjusts to a very wide variety of lighting conditions,
even to supplemental sources. The software allows further adjustments,
so that good images are all but assured. Once you've gotten used to the
many capabilities of the QX3, your first question will be, "How did
they do all this for $99?" [Note: it's only $72.95 on the site where I found it.]
Disclaimer: I have no connection with CompuVisor (the site where I found it) or Digital Blue (the manufacturer, although the copy implies that the item was originally designed and manufactured by Intel or Mattel).
I may just have to buy this and decide later who it is for.
Thank you, Susan! From San Antonio she sent me Aspen Select Rio Grande blend
coffee ("Hints of cinnamon and chocolate" -- my two favorite flavors!),
orange-cranberry biscotti (now, sadly, all eaten -- happily, by me -- but lovely while they
lasted), Dagoba chocolate* ("Dark chocolate, chilies & nibs" --
wowza, yum!), and yarn. Oh, the yarn. Two skeins of Atacama alpaca
worsted in gorgeous shades of turquoise and black/brown. I'm quite as taken with this yarn as if I'd grown it myself.
The sharp-eyed among you will notice that only the outer wrapper of
this chocolate is present. Hey, the package came 3 days ago! You didn't
think chocolate would hang around that long uneaten, did you? :-) The only reason the coffee is unopened is that when I saw it sitting there on the counter every morning, taunting me in its whole-bean goodness, I was too befuzzled and caffeine-deprived to grind it. That situation has now been remedied.
* * * * *
I'm knitting right along on my Soaring Eagles hats. The one I was working on yesterday was only 36 stitches around, which turned out to be just a little too short to do on the circular needle. When I arranged it for a photo shoot, guess what I discovered?
Rachel has asked for 325 hats, beanies, headbands, mittens, etc., for the Soaring Eagles Project. She needs them by December 18th so her school staff can get them ready for the giveout at a school assembly on December 20th or 21. As of last Sunday, she had about 3. Okay, I am grossly exaggerating, but she was well short of her goal so I decided to move some of my hats from the Dulaan pile to the Soaring Eagles pile. And to knit some more.
She wants the items to be machine washable and dryable, I scrounged around my severely acrylic-challenged stash (I unloaded donated all my acrylic awhile back) and found a couple skeins of Plymouth Encore and set to work.
Tonight I went to W*l-M**t and loaded up on more machine washable yarn.
At back left is the first hat I knit this week; at center right is the second, still in progress. Both of those were knit from worsted-weight yarn. The whack of WM yarn purchased tonight is all heavier and will be knit on needles in the 10-11 range. I'm guesstimating I got enough for 10-11 hats. (What a coincidence.) The orange and purple heather skeins in the lower right are both stash Red Heart, and I'm hoping to avoid using those. It's scratchy/icky/good only for dog sweaters.
So, the big question is, how many hats can I knit in time to get them to Rachel by the 18th? Make your guess in the comments. The winner will be chosen by random draw from all the [hundreds of - hah!] correct answers.
Hmmm. There's something else I need to add. What was it...
Oh, yeah. The prize.
The winner will have his or her choice of one of the following:
I won't go into too much detail now (that would take away from my hat-knitting time). Suffice to say that you can tell what the first two are by the labels, and all three in the second photo are superwash merino sock yarns that I won myself in Cara's SpinOut/Heifer International contest last June. They are lovely but haven't told me yet what they want to be; maybe they will speak to someone else.
* * * * *
Actual knitting content.
Before I got so involved in the hat thing I was really rolling on a Dulaan sweater.
I started this last June (!) when we were on vacation, camping in the Big Horn mountains in Wyoming. I had taken along everything I needed for two projects, the ribbon X-back tank from Knitty (promised to Andrew's then-girlfriend) and a Dulaan sweater, but two-thirds of the way through the two-week vacation I realized (panic! sound the alarm!) that I was going to run out of projects before we ran out of vacation.
So I commanded that on our next trip into town -- Buffalo, WY, a charming town of something over 4,000 souls -- we had to find a LYS. Inquiry at the restaurant where we ate dinner (camping for us is definitely not of the primitive variety; we eat out nearly every night) directed me to a combination grocery/dry goods store, where I found the pink variegated Lion Brand yarn, worsted weight. By the time we got home I had knitted the body to the armholes and had about 6" done on the first sleeve. Problem was that a worsted-weight sweater just didn't seem warm enough for Mongolia, so once we got home the project languished, ignored although not forgotten.
Finally I had the brilliant idea of double-stranding the Lion wool with another strand of solid color worsted, even though it meant I had to frog what I had already done. I got the pink heathery Knit Picks yarn a couple months ago, and over the Thanksgiving weekend frogged, skeined, bathed, re-balled, and swatched. The knitting you see on the sweater, plus the beginnings of the first sleeve (not pictured) took less than a week. Hurrah for projects on size 10-1/2 needles.
I'm really liking this sweater now. The Knit Picks yarn is a lot softer than the Lion Brand so the fabric has a nicer feel, plus now it is thick and dense enough to be really warm. Once Rachel's hats are in the mail and a couple top-secret Christmas presents are finished, I'll be back to it.
* * * * *
Prospective candidates for this year's Darwin Awards.
I took these last Sunday. The lake had had ice on it for barely a week and had only been covered completely for a few days. Although the ice at the edges was probably safe, I would consider the ice in the center where they were to be very questionable. Matthew and I both considered these two to be candidates for gene pool elimination.