Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Knitting: Summer Mania

Apparently this heat has made me nuts.  It wasn't enough that I'm working on the final draft of my first salable sock pattern, knitting a pullover, knitting arm warmers, have at least three blankets in hibernation, and a crochet shawl I'm working on for a friend.  No.  I join a knit-along for my favorite TV show and knit a practice one before casting on the real thing.  AND have at least two more pullover pattern ideas simmering in my noggin plus a blanket I'm dying to try and create.  Don't ask me how many cute things I have waiting in my Ravelry Q.

The Gray Slinky is coming right along though.  I have gotten past the ribbing on the second sleeve and am now into its stockinette section (I went for the long sleeved option, as I cannot abide sweaters with short sleeves.  What's the point if they don't keep your arms warm?  Nothing worse than having an overheated torso and chilly arms.)

I am well into the fifth body chart repeat on the Vlad scarf/shawlette.  I'm trying to slow down on it so I can keep at the same pace as my other True Blood knitting sisters.  Unless I want to go for a third one, which even by my standards is a little excessive.  The thing is though once you really "get" that pattern, it's a fun and quick little knit, and good for stockpiling gifts and using up stash.

I have not touched the crochet Dragonfly Shawl.  Now that I understand how its pattern works, I am less obsessed with actually working on it.  In fact, I may unravel it and try it again at a later date in the pattern's recommended crochet cotton, since my friend Iggy was nice enough to buy me enough for the whole project.  It actually sounds like a good project for the car trip in August, since I know from experience it will be hot, and there's nothing worse than 14 hours in a hot car with a large pile of wool in your lap.  Cotton will be better.

I do not have any additional progress photos since last week.  Sorry about that.  I know these knitting posts are pretty dry without them. It was either take photos and post this tomorrow, or post it now sans pictures.  Since I like keeping to schedules, here we are.  :D

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Television: Summer TV 2011

The lines are starting to become blurred, but there are two (for now) distinct seasons for TV watchers... Fall and Summer.  Some shows are trying to smudge things a bit by starting early.  Covert Affairs, my favorite from last summer's lineup, is already on its fourth episode this season, while Warehouse 13 hasn't even started yet.  And Rubicon, a sleeper from AMC last year, didn't even start until August 1st, and I don't expect it to change that.

So far this summer season, Covert Affairs is meeting my (rather high) expectations, considering it had quite a first season to live up to.  Teen Wolf, on the other hand, is disappointing.  I was hoping for lighthearted comedy with a supernatural theme, but apparently someone has passed a law in California that you can't have a paranormal teen show without a crap-ton of angst, midnight black sets where you can only see 50% of the action,  and child actors.  And with sixteen year old actors comes sixteen year old acting skills.  Bleah.  Sure, at sixteen I was no Lawrence Olivier, but then I wasn't trying to peddle my acting on a major network.

On the SyFy front, Eureka, Warehouse 13, and a new show I'm trying out, Alphas, all premiere on July 11th, while Haven will premiere on the 15th.  Alphas looks to be a combination of NUMB3RS and what Heroes should have been, a national special-human taskforce that takes on cases the FBI and other agencies can't solve.  They're not radioactive mutants or people affected by some weird eclipse, they're non-neuro-typical naturally-evolved humans who can do certain things better than typical humans.  This is something I can relate to with my recent Asperger Syndrome diagnosis.  Even if you're not neuro-typical, you can still function (and at some things quite well) and have an impact on society.  I'm curious to see how they play it.

There was a rumor going around that "The Walking Dead" had its premiere pushed up to July, but that has since either been changed or disproven, however you want to look at it, and we will not be seeing our favorite zombie apocalypse story back again until October, which I think sucks.  There is a ton of wonderful material in the comic books to cover, and at only six episodes per season, this is going to crawl along like a zombie geek with its legs missing.  Their only saving grace is the largely-confirmed rumor that Stephen King and his author son Joe Hill will be co-writing a script together whenever their schedules will allow.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Food: Container Gardening Makes it Possible!

Believe it or not, you can still grow a decent(ish) garden even when you're living in a dinky apartment.  Between the upside-down container planter and various 6 to 12 inch pots, I have a little corner of greenery going on my narrow patio/entry area.  Behold, not one but two six-inch Italian sweet peppers:

And they haven't even thought about turning red yet, so they could get much larger before that happens.

I am not very happy with the results of the upside-down part of the container planter, though.  The upright plants have far outgrown their topsy-turvy counterparts.  I don't think the tomato plant has even grown, much less blossomed.
This is my motley collection.  The only one not present is a cherry tomato plant that I moved into the sun before I was inspired to grab my camera.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

AoA: That feels like what nails on a chalkboard sounds like to you

My husband does most of the laundry.  Even if my back was in tip-top shape (which, having had two kids, it is NOT) he would still do most of the laundry... at least until we get our own house again and can stop hauling it up and down the stairs.  Why?  Because I can't train him to stop dropping his dirty shirts on the end of the couch.

Let me explain.  My husband is an IT tech for a major oil company.  So he has a nice-paying job, but he gets to wear golf shirts to work.  Once in a while, though, he wears something with long sleeves.  These shirts are the problem.  Several of them are made of some kind of fabric that makes my eyelids twitch... literally... whenever I touch them.  The feel of it makes me go "Eeeeeee" until I let go of it.  It just gross, gross, grosses me out.  I can't describe it any other way than the title of this post:  The fabric feels to me like what nails on a chalkboard sounds like to you.  I think I would rather stick my hand in a live bee hive than go digging in his pile of shirts and encountering one of the textural nightmare ones.  And they are sneaky.  Now, if we had our own washer and dryer, and I could train him to drop his shirts in the washer every night instead of the end of the couch, then all I would have to do is wait until it's full and push a button.  They do not bother me when they are wet, so moving them to the dryer would be no problem.

I probably sound like a big baby, huh?  For years I never had to deal with someone else's fabric choices, just my own.  And when he's buying shirts for himself, he has no idea what trips that textural trigger, so it's not like he can avoid them.  There doesn't seem to be any specific fabric type, except that usually softer is better... well, except for those faux suede things.  For some reason, that fabric also grosses me out.  Real suede is okay, but not man-made micro-suede, which is petroleum based.

I also think this is my *real* problem with mohair yarns.  For a long time I thought it might be allergies, but no... I've been on allergy medication and it still is hard to work with.  I think it's the roughness.  If I try to work with Noro Silk Garden, which has a significant percentage of mohair in it besides the silk, it feels like the fibers are wearing grooves in my fingers where it passes over.  It feels as rough as the bottom of a 3M scrubby sponge.  I've corresponded with a lot of knitters who love Noro, and mohair in general, and love its softness.  I used to think they were nuts.  Now I know we have different textural tolerances.

Knitting: Slinky and Lily Cuffs

The weeks are just flying by!  I'm going to be back in Minnesota before I know it.

Finished the body of the Gray Slinky and have moved on to the sleeves.  I am beginning to wonder about the wisdom of knitting myself a garment that will render me looking even more pear-shaped than usual, but I'm hoping that blocking and actual wear will make the ribbing less drawn-in.  Perhaps that and a good push-up bra will suffice.

I've also been trying to find ways to use up my Knit Pick's Chroma, since I've discovered they are disastrous as sock yarn.  I'm making a modified version of the Lily Cuffs from the "Sock Yarn One-Skein Wonders" book, modified because doing two-stitch cables in sock yarn is completely maddening to me... so I did a stretch of ribbed cuff in pattern, and for the arm I've switched to plain stockinette.  I plan to do more ribbed cuff at the top.

These are also going to be extra-long, to cover more arm and use up the whole skein.

This Sunday is the premiere of "True Blood" season four, and I will be casting on my "real" Vlad scarf for that.  I'll be doing it in "Warlock" by Twisted Fiber Arts, which I think will be apropos for the season if the theme follows the books at all.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Knitting: Practice Vlad Done, On to the Slinky

The practice run I did on the Vlad scarf was a surprisingly quick knit.  I may have mentioned I didn't like how this particular bamboo yarn I dyed myself had turned out, so after I knitted the Vlad I threw the finished scarf in my dyepot and over-dyed it in a thin layer of cherry red, letting the underneath variations in pinks and purples show through.

The top two photos are before over-dyeing, the bottom is after.  I'm not sure I like the lace blocking wires for anything that should be pinned out with sharp points.  I just couldn't get enough tension on the points to pull them out far enough without other things sliding around.  Using a pin on each point kind of defeats the purpose of using the wires, yes?  We'll see what I do with the "real" one.

Now that the practice Vlad is done, and we don't start the True Blood knit-along until the season starts officially on June 26th, I've moved on to a nice 2x2 ribbed sweater called "Slinky Ribs" from the "Custom Knits" book I got a while ago.  The Stripey Tang I did in my afghan leftovers?   Same book.  I've finished the shoulders and the front keyhole at the neckline, and am finally knitting in the round and working the rib detailing which does a slow shift transition from ribbing into stockinette stitch.  It's cute on the model in the book, lets hope I can pull it off with the same panache despite my smaller bust line.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Knitting: Girasole and Lanesplitter Knocked out!

In a finishing frenzy, I knocked out both the Girasole blanket and Lanesplitter skirt this past week.  Just in time, as the voting for the Ravelry "True Blood" knitting group's season four Knit Along has finished.  The Vlad shawl won (which was not my pick... I have trouble figuring out what to do with shawls).  And because I am contrary by nature, I will be knitting it twice... once immediately with some yarn I dyed myself that turned out less-than-stellar, and once in some lovely Twisted Fiber Arts Arial in the "Warlock" colorway, which is uniquely appropriate for the coming season of True Blood.  Witches.  Yep.

I actually started the practice Vlad yesterday, and it is a surprisingly simple pattern for a charted shawl.  Short charts, repeated several times, nice clean lines of YO's and k2tog ridges.  Pictures will be coming soon.  My photo area is once again buried in the crap that my family feels compelled to drop onto any horizontal surface with nothing on it.  It makes me want to put hedgehogs on the surfaces I want to be kept clear.   :D  Or cacti.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

AoA: Telling Tales

I've always wanted to talk enthusiastically on topics to the point of frustrating anyone who was listening to me.  This was brought to my attention two years ago when I was visiting my grandmother up in Minnesota.  My (now grown-up cousin) was visiting with his new baby.  He said something to me about how I always used to talk about Rick Springfield when we were kids, and how it was kind of funny.

I launched into a description of Rick's latest activities, new albums, the book that was coming out.  My cousin said, "I'm sure he's a nice guy." in a calm voice, like he was placating a mental patient.

Sigh.  I'm just more comfortable talking about what I know.

I don't think I'm very far into the Autism spectrum.  I think I got it just enough to give me the sound and smells sensitivity, the obsessive behavior, and the difficulty in relating to people.  I don't have the perfect pitch, or the eidetic memory, but I can visualize horrific things I've seen on the news or *heard about* on the radio with vivid clarity, sometimes making me wince at what I see in my head.  I can't listen to the radio anymore.  My husband's alarm is set to a radio station, and one morning it woke me up with a news story about a little boy who was killed at a reception for his own baptism by his father who was moving the parked cars around so all the relatives could fit their cars.  They hadn't seen that the toddler had wandered into the front yard and gotten somewhere behind one of the vehicles.

The mental images that news story conjured up in my head can still make me cry when I remember them, and it's been four years.  It's as vivid to me as if I witnessed it.

At least my condition has made me rather safety-conscious.  If a tall, narrow dresser is against the wall, I can see it tipping over and hurting someone, so I anchor it to the wall.  If we're in the car bringing a large purchase home, I see us getting into an accident and the item hurting someone even worse than the accident would, so I rearrange our seating so that everyone is safe.  Sometimes these imaginings make me wince, as well, but I take steps to avoid them and feel much better.  Power strip too close to the water cooler?  Find an enclosed one or move it further away.  LAN cables running across a high-traffic area because the cable company can't get permission to install a new outlet in the other rooms?  Tape them down under an area rug.

In the past, when I've said something, told a story, or made a comment, I've often heard the response "No one cares!" in an exasperated tone.  Not all the time, but often enough.  I'm getting better at telling when people are bored with me, or irritated, but I'm not great at it.  I have to do a lot of self-monitoring now.  If I'm bugging you with something, I will not be offended by a simple request to change the subject, or ease off the behavior.  It will help me learn.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Knitting and Crochet: Girasole Hanging On

So last week, I'm thinking "Oh, all I have left of the Girasole blanket is a one-inch wide border to knit on... I can finish that in a day or two."  Oh, foolish, foolish knitter.

This is my first attempt at a knitted on lace border.  For those of you not familiar with the process, you knit the lace across the width of it, using the last stitch on the right side of the work (on the left end of the needle, go figure) knitted together with live stitches you've left on another needle, one at a time, to join it to the main body of the shawl or blanket.  Basically, you're using one stitch from the main blanket every other row.

It's been a week, and I'm a little over halfway.

It doesn't help that I find this process so mind-numbingly boring that I keep distracting myself with other things.  Like games on Facebook.  Or crochet projects.  Crochet flies along at warp speed next to this thing.

My good friend Iggystar sent me a crochet book (Crochet So Fine) and enough Aunt Lydia's Crochet cotton to make the Dragonfly Shawl.  I was not getting the process at all.  Here is a quote from my Ravelry project page: 

"A friend bought me the book and enough Aunt Lydia’s crochet thread to make this shawl. Unfortunately, I just wasn’t getting the construction method. I knew I was making the side from the point out, but I just couldn’t wrap my head around the order of making the shells and SCing back across the top of the shell.

The written directions are worded very poorly in this regard.

Finally, I decided to try it in a thicker yarn, because I’m not normally a crochetter and my tension was looking all wonky and wasn’t helping. I’d ripped all the way to the beginning nine times or more.
Using the thicker yarn, and looking over some in-progress pictures here on Ravelry, I finally got it. You start with one shell (fan shape) and SC across. Then build the next row of two shells, then SC back across. Then three shells, etc.

The use of the word “row” in the written instructions is not helpful at all the way they worded it.
Since I only have the one ball of Chroma, but I like the way it’s turning out with the color progression, I shall have to purchase two more balls. Then I think I can tackle the version in crochet cotton."

Here is what the Chroma version is looking like now that I "get" it.

I love it, but this is going to be a warm version.  It's not nearly as slinky and sexy as the mercerized cotton version would be.  But at least crochet flies along, and I'll make all my mistakes on this yarn, which is fuzzy and forgiving, and will show fewer of them.