Sunday, August 28, 2011

Success Fail

It's sad face time.  The Deneb bolero blocked great and I had no problems sewing up the seams in time for mom to try it on.  Then I tried it on as a test run.  You know what helps make a bolero fit?  Having an opening both large and flexible enough to fit over your shoulders once you have the arms on.  That's right.  All my hard work just went to crap because there is no way anyone older than maybe 4 could actually put the thing on.

Everything else about it is great, but I have to make it all over again.  )-:  I do have enough yarn that making a second attempt won't immediately require the frogging of this one, so that should help make sure I don't end up with a too small opening again.  

To save face, I attempted another new (to me) technique.  I have now manage to make a decent applied I-cord.  I am happy to say that the I-cord did, in fact, work out.  I've been designing a top-down pullover and I had to come up with something to make the front and back neck edges lay flat.  The top isn't all the way done yet, I still have to do the I-cord on the back edge and weave in ends but this is how it looks so far.

It's a raglan with ribbing on the sides for interest and shaping.  There is also ribbing on the sleeve cuffs.  I'm lazy so not having to count to make a garment fit nicely is happy time for me.  I like ribbing.  This is a closeup of the I-cord edge.  It's kinda hard to see, my camera has been giving me fits and never seems to take photos as nice as I think it should be able to manage.

Still, it is success of a sort, just tiny success.  Hopefully things will go better with the sweater I'm trying to design.  If I manage to do it it's going to be epic.  In the mean time, I have yarn to make the Draped Lace Shell by Lien Ngo.  I think I need comparatively easier lace than the Deneb bolero before I give it another go.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Possible Success!

I've just taken the Deneb bolero off the blocking board.  It seems to have worked better than I had expected.  My blocking boards aren't gridded so I was eyeballing dimensions as I was pinning.  Amazingly, when I fold the bolero in half, either direction, it is even!  I still want blocking wires if I have to do this kind of thing again, but I have a lot more confidence in my ability to make it work.  I would post some pictures, but I have managed to misplace my camera battery charger.  Once I find it I'll post pics of however much is finished.  Today must be a good knitting day, because on top of my blocking working out the top down pullover I've been creating is mostly done and also working the way it's supposed to!  I've been taking notes of what I've done so I may even be able to put a knitting pattern up soon.  Of course, then I'm going to have to learn how to do sizing.  That could be interesting.  There's nothing quite like yarn and successful projects to turn a lousy week around.  (-:

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Frustration and Kitty Poo (cookies)

Wow, have I had a hectic last few days.  Tuesday was a mess from almost when I got up and I got my hand closed in a door before things started to improve.  Today the worst that happened was massive traffic on the way to work...until I start making rice for stir fry only to find that my rice is full of bugs.  The only good thing that came out of Tuesday is that I got the Deneb bolero to the point where I could bind it off.  Grumpy knitting is apparently very efficient.  The bolero is currently soaking so that I can block it before I try to sew it together.  Should be fun, I've never needed to block anything before and the bolero is made from alpaca yarn which I've heard can be a bit of a challenge.  Unfortunately I'm still not to a place where I can start other projects.  My mom is coming to visit and will be trying on said bolero and I haven't even started the edging and I'm not really wanting to take up that challenge at the moment.

Obviously, I'm still kinda grumpy. But you know what takes the grumpy away?  Yarn can hold it off for a while, but the real cure for the grumpy is Halloween and the party I have.

Yes, I know it's not even September yet.  The sad thing is that it isn't even September yet and I'm behind on my planning.  As you may have guessed, I go a wee bit overboard for Halloween.  Or so everyone tells me, I don't think I go overboard at all.  I mean, I didn't go all out and get a full sized, anatomically correct, partially dissected cadaver prop that looks AWESOME.  Of course, it also costs 2 grand which puts it dramatically out of my price range.  My one bit of happy excitedness that I've been holding on to is a very lucky discovery. Clorox cleanup seems to be able to take out fake blood stains.  If my tests prove it then my decorating is going to be substantially easier.   It's not as scientific a test as I would like to do but there isn't a good way to measure out the stuff without making a huge mess. Then I have to start deciding on the other decorations.  You would not believe how hard it is to find decent and affordable severed limbs.  Apparently you can get them cheap if you don't want them to be realistic, which totally defeats the point if you ask me, or you can get more realistic parts for a more hefty price.  This is part of why my planning takes so long.  I have to find what I want and price compare it then figure out how many of what things can be fit into the budget.  The menu has been a lot easier.  I think I've about got it set.  I have a few new dishes to test; one of them involves a mold so I have to make sure that the recipe is firm enough to hold a shape.  The others are repeats of favorites that happen pretty much every year.  Like my kitty poo cookies.  You will not find more realistic kitty poo in food form anywhere.

When the kitty poo is made from a baked cookie I've found that they either flatten out and spread but taste good or they hold their shape and taste awful because of the amount of flour in them.  Don't even get me started on the kitty poo cakes.  Tootsie rolls are not convincing poo, if you ask me, and the cakes never have an authentic look.  Plus, once you start eating the cake form it stops looking like a full litter box.  Unfortunately I'm also really bad at taking pictures so I don't have any photos of my magnificent creation.  But, since it's still well before Halloween and other people might need a better recipe, I'll share it with you.  You can try it and see for yourself how much better it works out.  It's really simple so it's very easy to test.  I will warn you though, it is VERY realistic.  I have people that won't eat the kitty poo, even if I do it first and four or five people eat some after me.  The reason for this is that the cookies themselves are soft and a bit gooey.  As the cookies warm up they soften.  This does two things, makes them appear slightly different in color because of the coco powder on them and makes the cereal "litter" stick to them.

This recipe is best made the day before you need it.

You will need:
1 washed brand new plastic litter box pan
1 washed brand new plastic pooper scooper

1 package oreos
1 8oz package of cream cheese, softened
coco powder

Kitty Litter
2-3 boxes of grape nuts
blue/green food coloring

Line several cookie sheets with wax paper and fill a small dish with coco powder.  Put the oreos and cream cheese into a food processor and blend until the mixture is smooth and has a tar like consistency.  Scoop the mixture into a bowl so you can get it without risking finger cuts from the food processor blades.  Break of bits of the cookie mixture and roll between your fingers until it has a poo like shape.  Don't be afraid to vary the amount that you use or the shape of the poo as you make it, cats make more than just long skinny poos.  Once your poo cookie is the shape you want, put it in the coco bowl and coat it all over.  You don't have to do this step but I've found it adds realism and makes it easier to get the cookies off the wax paper.  Place the coco coated poo cookies on the cookie sheet.  Once you have a full sheet put the cookies into the fridge and let them harden until you need them.

Kitty Litter
Preheat your over to 350.  Foil line a cookie sheet.  Scoop about 1/2 cup of grape nuts into a small bowl.  Mix food coloring into water and coat the grape nuts.  You want just enough water to make the color take but not enough to turn the cereal into mush so do this part slowly, only a tablespoon at a time.  Once the cereal is coated and is nicely blue or green, pour it onto the cookie sheet and spread it out as much as you can.  Put it in the oven and check it every few minutes.  It doesn't take long to dry the cereal out again but you don't want to burn it.  I check mine every 3-5 minutes to make sure it doesn't brown or burn.  Once the cereal is dry, mix it in with the rest of the grape nuts.

To serve, pour the colored grape nuts into the litter pan. Dig little spaces in the "litter" and hide poo cookies all through it.  Leaving some partially uncovered on the top has a great effect.  Stick the pooper scooper in the pan to serve.  In the words of the Nutri-matic, "Share and enjoy!"  (-;

Update:  Wet alpaca smells awful, I need blocking wires, and I hate lace.  That is all.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Lost in Translation

I have restarted work on a bolero for my mom. :: Rewind to a few months ago:: My mom wanted a nice looking, light bolero. So, I found a batch of patterns for her to look over and she instantly fell in love with this fluffy, lacy thing. If you're on Ravelry the pattern is Déneb by Marielle Chautard published in Les Bergers Cathares. I would link it but the link to the pattern no longer works. Now, this wouldn't ordinarily be a monumental task except for the pattern involved. It started out life in French. As it happens I suffer from the usual problem of being American; I speak only English. I did take Chinese in high school and Latin in high school and college, but patterns in either of those are thin on the ground. French presented a much larger problem. As I saw it, I had only two choices.

Option number one was to find someone who spoke the language in the pattern and have them help. Then I realized that none of my friends speak French. Option number two was to give the pattern a go at translation by myself. Hesitantly I set out to do just that. It took me a while to figure out the best way to go about it but I now have a workable system that will get almost any pattern translated. If you find yourself in this same situation, here's what you do.

Step 1: Make sure you have a copy of the pattern you want to translate saved. DO NOT TRUST THE INTERNET TO STILL HAVE THE LINK WHEN YOU WANT IT! I did this thinking I could just go back to the pattern pdf online whenever I wanted. And I could, until the day that a handful of patterns inexplicably disappeared on me. The bolero I've been working on is one that vanished too. But I was very lucky. I already have a translation for two of the patterns I really wanted and a print out of the original for one. I also got extremely lucky and was able to contact someone on Ravelry who had done the other pattern who generously shared the lace pattern I hadn't bothered to translate since it was fully charted. Just save the pattern, it will save you a lot of frustration.

Step 2: Search for “insert language here knitting terms” and dig through the results until you find a site set up in a way that makes sense to you. Here are some that I've used.
Japanese: I haven't used this one yet, but it has some of the best instruction I've seen so far for Japanese patterns.
Step 3: Open the language tools in Google and use their translate option that allows you to paste text in. I should note here that Google translator is a wonderful tool but is not without limitation. For instance, if you type in the French abbreviation for “purl” which is m. env. Google will tell you it says “Mr. approximately.” This is why you need the terms dictionary.

Step 4: Paste small sections of the pattern into Google translate and use your 'dictionary' of terms to work out the bits that confuse the translator.

Step 5: Copy the translated portion from Google translate into an email or a text document so you can save what you've done and continue to edit it. Make sure you reference the pattern file so you can find it again and connect it to your translation.

I would recommend a very simple pattern for your first try, it can be a tedious process until you get used to it. After you translate a few patterns from one language it gets a lot easier.

::Fast forward to today:: The lace bolero still isn't done, even though I started it what seems like forever ago. My family went on a trip back in June and, honestly, I was afraid to work on the bolero in the car. It isn't a hard pattern exactly, but it has a bunch of repeats and it's my very first real lace pattern. When we got back I was afraid to go back to it because I hadn't worked on it. There is no good reason to keep putting it off though, so I picked it up today. And found that some of my pegs in my stitch counter had fallen out. I knew which pattern row I was on, but my markings for the decrease pattern rows are now nonexistent. The yarn I'm using is really fragile so I can't just rip back nor is my lifeline in a useful place.  Having to make it up as I go is not comforting. I don't think lace is my thing...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Crochet Conundrum

Over the last day or so I've been attempting to make toys for my exercise wanting kittehs.  So far I've worked with both cotton and hemp twine.  My girls like to chew things with texture so I was hoping that using a variety of natural fibers would convince them to play with at least ONE of my creations.  No such luck.  I've made 4 toys, 2 in each fiber type, and they have all been spectacular failures.
As you can see, they're nothing much.  The cotton is Sugar and Cream that was leftover from a purse and I picked up some hemp twine to play with for more "chew" oriented toys. I made a mouse before and they barely play with it.  I was hoping the large bean shaped one would be large enough to fight with, but they haven't taken to it at all.  Maybe a finer natural fiber would work.  Sisal or twine will probably be too heavy.  I'll probably try some different shapes too.  Calliope likes to wrestle with things so I may have to make a large pillow like toy for her.  Perhaps a knitted toy would be more to their liking.  


Monday, August 15, 2011

Mis-measured Measurements

Working on my cat toys brought my attention to a certain, lets say, irregularity in my crafting tools that I had noticed a long time ago. It wasn't until recently that I realized how irregular they are. Quite a while ago I got some large crochet hooks in size L, M, and N. For those of you not familiar with crochet hook sizing, hooks get bigger the farther down the alphabet you go. Therefore an A is smaller than a G is smaller than a K. It didn't take long to see that there were some pretty big differences in size, and not the way you might think. The L claims that it is 8.0mm in diameter, but them M and N hooks both claim to be 9.0mm. This alone is rather fishy, but what really got me is that the N hook is obviously SMALLER than the M hook and is about the same size as the L hook. That didn't bother me so much when I was just crocheting because I hadn't yet comprehended the might of the great god Gauge. With knitting came an awe for the wonder of Gauge and its incredible helpfulness. So when I dipped back into my hook book my normal yarn working joy was gradually interrupted by a nagging feeling that something was horribly wrong. My mind wandered back to my awkwardly sized big hooks. Then I wondered, how many of my faithful tools are horrible liars? Enter the knitting gauge. These handy little tools have holes of varying diameter that you can put knitting needles (or crochet hooks) into to see what the diameter actually is. I decided to test my erring hooks and sure enough, the L and M measured up with their stamped diameter but the “9.0mm” N hook came in at only 8.0mm. Intrigued and mildly annoyed I started measuring my other crochet hooks with shocking results. Virtually all my hooks are not the size they claim to be nor are they off by a constant amount! Within the same brand hooks were both larger AND smaller than they were labeled. Slightly obsessed at this point, I moved on to my knitting needles and found another surprise. My needles are all the size they say they are. Each and every one of them. Even the ones from the same brand with the horribly irregular crochet hooks! Now I understand why I had such an incredibly hard time getting my crochet work to come out at the required gauge for any given project. With inconsistent inconsistencies it's amazing that I was able to get close to the gauge at all.

Having found out all these things, I have two questions for everyone.
Does this sort of thing only bother the OCD crowd, or does it annoy everyone?
What do you do about it?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

And Away We Go!

Hello all.  I've finally decided to jump on the blog bandwagon and see what I can do.  If you aren't a fan of yarn, cats, yarn, knitting, yarn, crocheting, and yarn this probably isn't the place for you because that's what I tend to go on about.  Frequently.  And at great length.  For instance...

Today was vet day.  That meant getting two adorable cats into their respective carriers before they turned into evil, razor clawed fiends and listening to the endless cacophony of howls from the back seat on the trip there.  Happily my darling beasties are in perfect health.  Well, almost perfect health.  Turns out that my great plans of healthy kitty lifestyle is only working on one of them.  Cassandra weighed in around 13ish pounds which is heavier than I would like but at least she didn't gain anything this year.  Her sister, Calliope, did.  My little chub-butt Calliope is up almost a pound and a half to 15 pounds.  She's supposed to weigh 10 or 11.  They aren't overfed (and my vet does agree with me on that count, it isn't just me thinking they aren't overfed) so I'm not sure what exactly is causing the problem.  To prevent my girls from getting heavier we are going to start some kitty calisthenics and anything else I can think of to get their weight down.

Enter the yarn.  To get the beasties more active I'm going to try making them a variety of toys in the hopes that it helps get them moving a bit more.  I crocheted them a mouse not all that long ago but they don't go after it as much as I would like.  Maybe it needs catnip, or a rattle, or me to put it where the cats aren't supposed to go.  It's hard to tell with cats.  Honestly it would probably be faster for me to go buy some milk and give them the little plastic bit that milk bottle caps are sealed on with, but that wouldn't be as much fun. I'm thinking maybe some different sized mice, maybe a few balls, and a couple of pretzel-y things that they can drag around the house and chew on.  Once I get going at it I'll post the patterns for whatever it is I come up with.  If anyone has a "tried and true" cat toy pattern in knit, crochet, or macrame I would love to know what it is. I've not played with macrame yet but it looks like the sort of thing you could make really nice, chewable toys out of.