Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Dog ... Thy name is Mud!

You may have met Mud before. He made his first appearance on this blog here.
I seriously doubt it will be his last!!

He seems to have developed a fondness for soft, fluffy things.

I don't know, maybe it's a breed thing. 
He is predominantly, if not completely, American Pit Bull Terrier and 
he does have a penchant for small, fluffy things.
All I know, he's going to drive me up a wall if he keeps finding yarn balls to do his thing with!

And it's not like he doesn't have any toys. 
I've spent a good chunk of change on toys, including soft, fluffy ones ... 
so why does he go after my yarn balls???

He's been known to go into the recycling and grab empty milk bottles (plastic ones) and egg cartons. 
The egg cartons don't bother me so much, but ingesting small fragments of chewed-up plastic milk bottles can cause a significant loss of spare change to the veterinarian.
Those small bits of plastic are not kind to the insides of a dog's intestines.
The resulting diarrhea is even more unkind to my nerves ... and the carpets!

I suppose I could say he has fabulous taste, 
choosing a relatively expensive lace weight alpaca yarn.
But he got to a cheap yarn ball too.
I'd teach him to crochet if he only had opposable thumbs.

Oh well ... life with Dog, it's rarely dull.

On another note, my progress with my "Snowflake Shawl"

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

I Need a Swift!

This is a swift: 

(Photo credit:  Cats-Rockin-Crochet-Fiber-Artist although I'm not sure where she got it)

The reason for this rather elaborate contraption is because a lot of really nice yarn purchased from really nice yarn shops come in hanks like this one:

Once you've undone the braid that looks a lot like those fancy loaves of bread (what would you bet that both bread and yarn are folded in almost the exact same fashion?), you have a really wide and long coil of yarn. Since I do not have a yarn swift ... yet ... I have to jury rig one with dinning room chairs:

I had to use two chairs. The gizmo you see on the chair is a ball winder.

Here's another view ... sort of a side view which should give you an idea of how big the hank of yarn actually is.

With this set up, I'm standing on the chair so that the ball winder is above the chair pulling the yarn up, hopefully without tangling, as it winds the yarn into a usable ball.

About one hour later, give or take, I have these nice center-pull yarn balls which is much, much easier to work with than a huge loosey-goosey hank.

It would be nice if really nice yarn came already in nice, easy-to-use center-pull yarn balls, but that would add a few more $$$ to an already $$$ ball of yarn.  Handcrafters like to be frugal so we are willing to wind our own yarn, providing we have the right tools for the task. Which, by the way, also cost $$$. 

Anyhow, speaking a really nice yarn, the two blues (one called "water" and the other "wine gum" ... wine gum????) you see in the above picture are definitely really, really nice yarns! Both are made from 45% silk and 55% Merino wool. They are aptly named! The term "lace" refers to the thickness of the yarn, which is super fine and perfect for knitting and crocheting lacey things. This is my favorite weight of yarn to work with. Not necessarily for beginners, but you don't need a gazillion hours of experience either. Just some patience, the right size needles or hook, and consistent tension on the yarn.

Here's a close-up of the twist. Someday I'll be able to spin this fine!!

I found a lovely alpaca/silk blend variegated that complemented the "scrumptious lace" beautifully. While alpaca is usually softer then wool, the Merino wool is notably among the softest of sheep wool and at this fine a yarn, they feel very similar. All combined, I'm working with some seriously scrumptious threads!

Here's what I'm working on ... it will be a shawl someday, made from lacey snowflake motifs.

A different view with different lighting.

I'm not totally thrilled with the little filler motif ... took me about 10 different attempts to work something up to fill the space left after joining motifs together. I needed a square and I first tried using the variegated, but it look weak filling in the space. The darker blue (wine gum??? still not sure what wine gum is, all I get from a search are references to a candy popular in the UK) seems to work better.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Got the ughs ...

... in the form of strep. Probably contacted from darling daughter who carried it home from her friend's house where both she and her husband suffered a very recent bout. Darling daughter is NOT stuck with the ouchy throat, probably because she's been exposed to this particular bug before and her immune system knew what to do with it. I, on the other hand, am stuck with an ouchy throat.

My remedy ... which is actually somewhat tasty. This would make an awesome sauce for baked chicken! But swallowing the stuff with an ouchy throat is not easy.

The honey and garlic are local. The garlic came from Good Earth Organic Farm ... I found them at the McKinney Farmer's Market and they grow and sell the most amazing greens. The honey came from AP's Apiary. I so appreciate my local whole food sources around here. It's probably because I eat locally grown whole foods that this dumb sore throat isn't any worse than what it is. I don't even have a fever ... just a pain in the neck! hahahahaaaa

Forgive the cheesey joke, I'm not totally myself. Blame the hydrocodone.

Dare I say thank goodness for my son's knee operation last Friday for a ruptured patella tendon? There's a bunch of hydrocodone in the house that is helping to keep the pain nipped in the bud as I swallow the tasty, burning concoction that is supposed to knock the bacteria out of the body. *sighs*

Here's a shot of his instrument of torture ... um I mean, rack ... um, I mean range of motion machine ... the poor guy has to stay in this fuzzy contraption for 6-8 hours a day for who knows how long! He's blessed with even stronger pain meds than hydrocodone.

When he's not being tortured by the range of motion machine, we are doing our best to keep Nino from thinking it's a $4K chew toy.

Time for another spoonful of medicine ...

Monday, October 15, 2012

Upcycling and Lacey Threads

"Upcycling is the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or for better environmental value.
The first recorded use of the term upcycling was by Reiner Pilz of Pilz GmbH in an interview by Thornton Kay of Salvo in 1994.[1]"  (gotta love Wikipedia!)

The concept of upcycling has been on my mind for quite some time. Apparently, however, it's not been on the mind of auto-correct text code writers because Blogger's auto-correct feature is not liking the word. Hate that little squiggly red line!

As I do my best to ignore the squiggly red line, let me tell you about what's got my brain churning. The blouse you see in the photo is one I "inherited" from some one else's wardrobe destash session (hmmmm ... destash is not a correct word, either. Blogger, you need to update your vocabulary!!) It's a plain-jane sleeveless shirt from Chico with simple but nice tailoring details and pretty little mother-of-pearl buttons. It's the buttons that got me thinking of freshwater pearls as part of the upcycling process.

My plan is to make some lace using size 12 Coton Perle (known to us here in the US as "pearl cotton") with a size 12 Boye crochet hook and embellish the placket (the part of a blouse or shirt where the buttonholes and buttons are sewn), collar and hem. I also have something in the back of my mind of creating some sort of cap sleeve. Not too sure about that though ... it may end of being much too much, but we'll see.

Incorporating the pearls is going to be ... um ... interesting, to say the least!

I included in the photo three of the books that give me ideas. The two on the right are MUST-HAVES for anyone thinking of creating their own, original, unique designs.

The lace pictured is a piece I made a while back.

32" of "pineapple" motif.

This is too wide to use on the placket of the blouse, although a single pineapple motif might be perfect. I will need to accommodate the buttons though so this may take a bit of engineering to pull it off.

... a closer look at the pattern.

... a close-up of the thread I used. Size 12 of DMC's Coton Perle is the second to finest (the finest is 16).

I love working with this stuff ... it's easy to use in spite of how tiny it is. I never have a problem with tangling or splitting. It comes in a variety of colors, especially packaged for embroidery, but it is hard to find the colors on a ball like this one which works best for those of us who use it for crocheted lace. Fortunately, I found a place!

... and here is the hook I used. It has a very, very tiny hook! Even with my reading glasses, it's not the easiest to see. But I've crocheted for so long that I don't really need to actually see the hook. As long as it does it job, the work flows.

I've talked to people who can crochet (or knit) in the dark, but I'm not THAT good ... yet.

Keeping It Simple

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What's on my Work Desk Wednesday

Project started yesterday. 
Dichroic glass pendant suspended from a handmade chain of copper wire 
with Czech fire-polished glass beads and cherry quartz (which really isn't quartz!*).

Here's a close-up of the pendant. I bought this along with several others many years ago. My first introduction into dichroic glass which continues to intrigue me.

My puddle of pliers. I've used these for years. While I have access to a whole world of tools, these "cheapies" I found at Hobby Lobby are my favorites. The noses are very thin and pointy, yet they conquer most wires without blemish.

My Swanstrom cutters. These were not cheap, but were a splurge when I decided that chain-making was going to be the bulk of my work.

Playing with the macro setting of my camera! I see fiber and dust in this picture that I do NOT see with my eyes. Digital photography can be both a blessing and a curse ...

This is what I paid the big bucks for ... a beautiful flat back for a nice, smooth, straight clip. Many cheaper pliers claim to be flat-back, but you'll still see a slight bevel in the cut of the wire. With these pliers, the cut from the backside is perfectly smooth. The cut edge from the front (inside) edge does have a slight bevel, but I simply nip the bevel off with the flat side and continue.

This is what I am talking about ... see that nice flat cut? That is what a handmade chain maker wants to see on her/his wire.

It might be a while before the necklace is done. It's been probably close to 2 years since I last made chain and my fingers are feeling it! All my calluses are gone and need to be rebuilt. And the nail on my left hand index finger is getting chewed up by the wire. I used to have acrylic nails which stood up to being used as a "tool" for bending back wire, but I'm more than done with acrylic nails. I seriously doubt gel/shellac will stand up against the wear and tear. I'm going to have either have to put up with a permanently ugly nail or find some other tool to use. Or maybe, just maybe, allow that one nail to go acrylic while the other nine are shellacked??

* Cherry quartz is man-made. It's hardened glass that has been dyed and can be cut just like regular quartz.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Been Busy ...

Saturday I got bit by a bug. Not a real bug ... at least, not one with 6 or 8 legs and/or wings or anything like that. Saturday was one of the coolest days we've had in 7 months. And by coolest, I mean temperature-wise. Saturdays are normally quite busy for me, but this one took the prize.

My schedule got slightly altered and I've been bugged, for quite some time, by a human bug, aka Dear Hubby. DH got a new toy ... a new computer ... and he's been wanting to put it in our bedroom. I have no problem with that, except there wasn't any place to but it because of my rather messy jewelry-making work space.

I haven't made a single piece of jewelry in 2+ years. It's not the easiest business to be in. Everybody makes jewelry. And the Chinese are rather prolific and they sell it at the price of dirt so peeps like me have a hard time of parting Ms. Fashionista from her hard-earned money, especially in this economy. So I gave up and started to work at a place selling expensive sewing machines. There's something philosophically ironic there, but my brain just can't quite pull the thought together.

Anyhow, deep down I knew I wanted to return to making jewelry, one day, some day. In the meantime, my work space, which happens to be IN our bedroom (much to the quite, silent dismay of DH), got piled with all sorts of junk.

So, Saturday being the coolest of days we've had in 7 months, I decided to get busy clearing, cleaning and organizing so that room could be provided for DH's new toy. Most peeps do spring cleaning ... I like to go outside and play when it's spring, so my cleaning bug bites in the fall.

I blew it by not taking pictures 1/2 an hour before this one. I had already taken a ton of stuff off this table and spread it around.

Organizing a ton of stuff is not easy, especially when a ton of stuff is in a small space. I figured spreading it around into smaller piles of stuff would help. Make a bunch a smaller battles to wage. Small battles are easier to win.

So I used some of the floor ....

... and the ironing board ....

... and the bed ....

... and the area under the stairs, just outside of our bedroom.

Almost the entire day later, I had this ... a place for the computer AND a space for me. *grins*

I have a lot of beads. Swarovski crystals, Czech glass, semi-precious gemstones ... I have a ton. Well, almost a ton. Well, maybe not quite a ton, but I'm sure it's close to 100 pounds.

Another view.

The dust cleaned was rather incredible. My nose can tell you all about it. I'm grateful I've changed my lifestyle in time to deal with the worst of it. I've been feeling draggy and almost like my body wants to come down with some sort of flu and I believe it's from all the cleaning. Because frankly, once I got started, I got on a roll! I couldn't just stop with this little section of the bedroom! I spread my fall cleaning bug juice around to the living room and the dining room and the kitchen and the family room. I'm avoiding the upstairs because, really, that's the kids' place and they can deal with it on their own. Other than the sewing room, of course. But that will be a whole other blog post ... or two ... or three!

There's nothing better than a clean, tidy environment to get the creative juices raging. I can't wait to show you some of my Yarn Crawl purchases!

But I got some beads talking to me ...

Thursday, October 4, 2012

That and This and Another Thing ...

First, let's start with The Cardboard Box Diet...

I lost one pound in two weeks. One measly pound?? But guess what ... I LOST 3/4 OF AN INCH OFF MY WAIST!! <insert happy dance here>

And a quarter inch off my hips and neck. Neck?? Yeah, My Fitness Pal uses neck measurement as a benchmark. Why, I have no idea ... but whatever. Body fat is down to 32%

"Formal" exercise has been spotty at best this past week. Actually, I don't think I hit the gym once ... well, maybe once? Or maybe that was the week before?? Who knows. I felt like taking the week off anyway.

BUT ... I did care for my friend's sheep/alpaca/chicken farm over the weekend whilst she and her family were taking a much needed weekend-holiday. Part of my duties included shoveling alpaca poo and stall debris and depositing said poo onto the compost pile. We're talking about 30 pounds total each day. 

Had a fabulous horse riding lesson last night. I have no problem with the canter/lope gait and last night we were "jumping" obstacles at both a fast trot and lope. I also spent as much time as possible focusing on sitting heavy in the saddle which entails toes up/heels down foot position which is NOT natural and therefore takes effort. Also, I have a bit of a sway back so to be able to take the hard trot without bouncing all over the place I have to squeeze my abdominal muscles continuously in order to roll my tail bone forward so that I'm sitting on the tail bone. Trust me, I feel it today!! In the abs, not the tail bone! 

Now for That ...

My latest project ... fingerless gloves! Apparently they are all the rage this year, at least around here. And I've seen them in all the current crochet/knit magazines. 

I found this pattern in Love of Crochet, Fall 2012 and it's called "Misty morning mitts" desinged by Catherine Waterfield. 

The yummy yarn is Cascade yarns Heritage Silk in Raspberry. 85% Merino Superwash Wool/ 15% Mulberry Silk.

In case you are wondering, "superwash" wool is machine washable. It will not felt, as long as you do NOT use the hot water setting, so it's very practical for garments that are meant to be worn time and again.

I was curious as to what "mulberry silk" was so I googled it. Rather than explaining it, I'll direct you here for the explanation. Makes me wonder about 100% mulberry silk sheets ... how much do you think they cost?? I just checked and it looks like one can get a queen-sized set for well under $1,000. I wonder if I could get the hubby to let me splurge on a set ...

...And Another Thing

Have you heard of a "Yarn Crawl." Think "shop hop" and you'll get the idea. Jacob's Reward Farms is sponsoring a Yarn Crawl. Take a look-see at Geraldine! I've watched her get the yarn bombed. It's been a thrill!

I'm looking forward to running around the next couple of weeks ... quite a bit of running ... and seeing new-to-me shops full of luscious fiber and yarns! It looks like quite a haul all over north central Texas. I hope the price of gas doesn't decide to take a leap to the moon. May there be peace throughout OPEC for the next couple of weeks.

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