Let’s hope this one doesn’t take 15 years…

I might regret this, but I want another cotton blanket, and soon – we’ve been fighting over the one.

So I took two of N’s old sweaters:

brown black sweaters

And reduced them to stringy cakes:

brown black yarn

I started with a linen-stitch thing, but the colors don’t have much contrast (these photos lie a bit) and though that pattern is speedy, it’s not as speedy and nearly 99% foolproof as knitting only.

So I ripped and started over.

I like reversible blankets, but this one won’t be, but so be it – I wanted to do all garter stitch, but in the round I’d have to purl, and that slows me down a tiny bit and/or taxes my wrist a bit more, so I’ll only do a few all-garter bands here and there – it’s mostly the same pattern as the other blanket I finished last year.

I knit the center garter rectangle at the shore. Cotton turns out to be a very good beach knitting material, so that just bought me a few good chunks of knitting time (if the weather cooperates with our time and ability to go – we’re now just slightly over an hour to the shore rather than the 35-40 minutes it took when we lived in the ghastly vinyl village).

brown black blanket

(Let’s hope its expression isn’t a true expression of how it feels…)

And seashells work for for emergency stitch markers…

brown black shell

I’m not happy that the gauge is so loose – loose gauge is up on the list of my knitting pet peeves, but the next size needle down is on another project, and the next one after that just seems wrong to use on a large project that I want to believe will be quick, or at least not slow…

But ugh, cotton… My wrists and hands can only take a few rounds at a time, and the rounds are still short…

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Anatomy of a hex

I’ve yammered on about my love of the hexagon shape for a bit now, and have finally put needle to cloth and started to play…

hex-green

I’m still obsessed with the hex-tile floor and passing though my old city recently, I was shocked to see more lovely old buildings ripped out and re-planted with soulless new shitboxes. All of the other lovely and unique architectural details destroyed aside, I mourn for the very likely loss of hex-tiled entrances, halls, coatrooms, mudrooms, bathrooms, and maybe even kitchens. I still dream of living in a house that was untouched by vinyl, paneling, laminate, textured paint, beige ceramic tile, and all other destructive DIY – unless it was carpeted and paneled in a way that preserved everything underneath and it would be a matter of unwrapping a lovely surprise room to room…

But  I digress…

To date, all of my fiber hexing has been via the English paper-piercing method. I ordered some pre-cut little buggers last year and was on the lookout for some plastic ones I’d seen that require basting stitches cinched up, but weren’t stocked in my area until I forgot about them. I started cutting some shapes out of mylar to try out the general idea, but got distracted and moved on.

hex-plastic

The plastic ones reappeared at the big box recently, and at a time when I had good coupons, so I finally got some thinking that I would fall in love with them and they would last forever and I was happy that they were manufactured in the USA… But sadly, I just couldn’t get them to work for me (or I’m too set in my paper-piercing ways).

The main problems were: I had to run too many basting stitches, it was fiddly to get the tension right and the corners sharp, they are too thick to finger-press the fabric, they are slick, and the whole thing took longer.

I should back up first – I’m working on a project that needs to be very portable and not require electricity (will take on a rustic vacation later this summer) and I’m making it out of old shirts that have some poly or stretch that makes the fabric harder to control. The plastic shapes did work better with rougher, stiffer quilting cotton or  good lay with a hot iron, so all hope isn’t lost for them, but they’re just now what I need right now.

(And in general, I’m usually working on pieced things on another floor from the ironing board, or on a hot day when the iron is banned.)

So I attempted to make them more usable by drilling some holes to provide better stability with a piercing method. That helped a good deal, but I was still slow in finding the drill holes with the needle, the thickness still prevented a good finger press, and they were still too slippery.

hex-drilled

So I tried to drill some bigger holes and score the surface with a variety of rasps, but that was an utter failure…

hex-fail

So finally, I just used the shape as a template on the other half of the coupon used to purchase them (and lifted from the recycling bin) and voila, success!

hex-samples

But that was the only piece of scrap card stock in the house, so I have to wait for the mail to arrive (for a few days likely) to obtain more…

hex-templates

This piece might end up into something finished, and perhaps something with a bit of meaning… but the green hexies at the top are just a doodle for now.

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From dirt to delicious

We installed a few rain barrels off of our gutters back in April.

N tapped into his Roman ancestral knowledge of aqueduct engineering and rigged a system to flow away from the utility meters and wiring at one corner of the house a barrel down a hill and close to one of the garden gates.

Then it didn’t rain…

Until the first week of June.

(In the meantime we rigged over 200 feet of hoses from a very stupidly placed spigot on the opposite side of the house to the somewhat delicate well and I had more than one fit of anxiety over the whole thing…)

But now the barrels are filled, the garden is going really well (except for a moderate skirmish with the three-lined potato beetle on our too-few tomatillo plants that seems to be under control now thanks to neem oil, and aphids or something on  the eggplant, but I’m not that crazy about eggplant* anyway) and we’ve been able to stuff our gobs from it a bit.

pasta-rapini

I was a vegetarian for most of the 1990s and early 00s and lived in a city that only caught up with food trends (and since far exceeded them) in the last decade or so. Going out to dinner meant getting the same delicious eastern/easternish ethnic thing over and over and over and over again (vegetable lo mein, falafel, veggie korma, etc. ) or something that was often disappointing and not worth it – especially in “Italian” (Italian-American) restaurants where my only option was

pasta primavera.

Those two words in combination are a quick ticket to destroying my appetite.

The veg was almost always out of season, overcooked, under or over seasoned; the pasta was always bland and overcooked, and then there would sometimes be an overwhelming inappropriate flavor – dried herbs or an entire grove’s worth of lemons.

But N recently whipped up a little variation with some baby rapini I just thinned from our dirt, and local veg from a new-to-us organic farm just a couple of miles away, and my faith in the dish is restored.

pasta primavera

(Though I’ll still never order it again in an American restaurant…)

Since then, and after perhaps too much rain, (but I’m not complaining at all, but have had to try to air out the dirt a bit) the whole edible green-goodness has gone gangbusters. That baby rapini went big fast and has replaced our need to purchase any supplemental greens. I’m a bit worried about the zucchini only still producing male blossoms, but there’s still time for the ladies, and the dudes are at least tasty in the interim.

blossom salad

(And I don’t want to jinx it, but we might actually have ripe tomatoes in a couple of weeks which I can’t believe and I’m so excited about, but it almost doesn’t seem real, and it could all utterly fail before then…)

But for not expecting much in the first year of our dirt, I’m exceptionally pleased.

Although weeding and general garden-tending has taken a considerable bite out of my sewing/knitting/puttering time…

*Eggplant Parmesan was also one of the few dishes I could get as a vegetarian, and was most often a disaster, so it killed my taste for the veg all together – I’m only just now warming back up to it, though I’d rather have it grilled or mushed up into baba ghanoush, or baba ghannouj, or babaganouj or however the hell it’s spelled…

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A time to dye

I had one of those stupid frustrating telecommuting days last week wherein I couldn’t connect with my work computer…

and couldn’t connect with a person there who could re-connect my computer to me…

So I couldn’t work, but I had plans to work so that I’d have time later in the week to do some non-work work, and I really couldn’t stand not being able to get the work work over and was frustrated and pissy and feeling like I didn’t exist – a feeling probably common to telecommuters, but I don’t know any others so it might just be me, and there are times when in fact, I do not exist…

So I did something I hadn’t planned on doing any time soon to ease my unease.

I thrifted some comfy but insanely red linen pants  last year, and though I like bold color, I have a few red t-shirts, many green t-shirts, and most often wear a pair of yellow sandals, so I either looked like a cardinal (bird), Christmas, or condiments if I wore any of them with the pants.

(And I don’t really like yellow mustard, especially next to ketchup).

I also had a sorry once lavender t-shirt, and a commercially sewn floral canvas bag that served its purpose at the time, but I never use anymore and keep almost getting rid of it…

teal dye-before

I also have a few old boxes of that powdered dye knocking about, so I simmered the threesome in teal (which really was more turquoise).

I wanted the pants to be anything other than bright red, and was hoping for burgundy, purplish, brown, or some murkier variation thereof.

teal dye-during

And now all is well, except for the bag – I’m really ready to get rid of it finally.

I know the dye won’t stick around forever, and I know well enough to only wash these things with darker things, but since the pants and shirt were already old, the dye should hopefully hold up for the rest of their lifespans, or else the yellow sandals might wear out by the time the pants become red again…

teal dye-after

And it also became evident that the pant’s manufacturer made no effort to match the inside button to the outside and/or made the inside button match the outside, but the outside button an odd beige (now pleasingly turquoise) accent piece…?

teal dye-button

Or perhaps the original owner replaced it…

Either way, now I’m either a giant gradient when wearing a red t-shirt, pleasantly almost-complementary when wearing green, and let’s just say I’m enjoying a robust red with something mustard-schmeared…

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Fiber recycling, international edition

This video has been knocking about the fiber sphere

With its lilting life-affirming soundtrack, it straddles a very strange position of being a quasi-anti-capitalism statement and pro-slavery propaganda piece…

See the poor workers in the big factory with wide smiles on their faces?

Don’t you feel good knowing that when you discard your bejeweled panties they end up in the hands of a beautiful woman in India making something new from them?

Recycling is good and right and necessary.

Clothing becomes worn or misshapen beyond repair, and it should be reused for new yarn, moving blankets, and insulation and the like…

But how many of those garment slashers have slashed themselves? Have become unemployed after loosing fingers?

Exposed whirring circular saws and scimitar-like blades…

And oh, good god, the fiber dust – one woman wore a scarf over her face – does she already have asthma or worse…?

And India gets hot, really, really, really hot.

And how many hours for how much pay?

And the kids – do they work there too? Do the parent not make enough for school or their care? (Yeah, there might be cultural differences on that one, but probably not.)

And what about benefits?

And what about retirement?

And what is the environmental cost of all that shipping and water and waste from re-manufacturing?

Oh, but they have hope! And quaint comments about our excess! And big smiles!

Textile recycling should exist and does because we’re wasteful fatcats but it probably wouldn’t be viable to the capitalists unless it’s cheap, and it can only be cheap if it’s done like this…

kinda sounds like that old American cotton argument…

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When the drapes became the bedspread

It’s been the time of year when I have to give up my much loved down duvet for a lighter bed covering for a few weeks now.

I have to shamefully admit that we’ve been using a plain green store-bought quilt for the last few summers since buying a bigger bed. (And I still haven’t gotten around to finishing a bigger quilt… yes, that shirt one I started years ago isn’t any further along, and it is even further from my thoughts.)

I’m thinking of other quilts I’d like to make, but I don’t really have the space or patience right now to make one as big as I’d like – at least king-sized, though the bed is a queen – so I accepted another summer of the boring commercially-made thing.

Then a week or two ago, I stopped by the thrift store to find some summer pants to replace the ones I intentionally (and not) turned into paint pants, and happened to wander by the home textiles – a land of either intimately disgusting, or wonderfully fabulous, textilely things. In the past I’ve scored vintage drapes and tablecloths that I’ve re-sold well online, and our current perfect-condition woolly throw blankets are pre-owned.

bedspread-curtains

This time, a set of jacquard toile drapes – two panels and two valances – caught my eye and passed my it’s-pleasant-to-the-touch, seems to be natural fibers, and doesn’t stink or have gross stains test (though the dye had bled and the fabric was a bit puckered from a hot wash or dry). I passed them by, but came back just before leaving, figuring I could use the fabric to make knitting bags…

or perhaps, a bedspread?

Now, the fabric really isn’t my thing. I collected blue and white dishes for only a half a second in my past, once put a cobalt blue wine bottle on the kitchen windowsill for a few weeks, and only have just a few toile pieces in my stash. I like deer, but don’t like hunting scenes, and the over-the-top romanticism?

No, because it falls in with things I don’t like such as the paler pinks and purples, some peach (but not peaches), pearlized things, potpourri, Precious Moments, things with panache, plump, perfume, things with poof and pounce, pathetic romance novels, and most of all:

putti.

bedspread-putti

And our house is an amalgamation of mid-century modern, late 19th century office, Italian/Moroccan/New Mexican fusion, and art school detritus – nothing frilly or froofy or sickeningly sentimental between our walls.

But I wanted this perfect-weight cottony thing on the bed.

bedspread-no binding

And so it is.

bedspread-binding detail

I cut the curtains in half, alternated the right and wrong sides, and added one of the valances.

I wanted it to be reversible, so I sewed twill tape over the seams. I wanted to dye the tape, but I figured that would set the project back days or years. The seams on the tape are a bit wonky due to my impatience and the difficulty in shoving this huge heavy thing into my old machine on a too-small table, but it is a practical piece that will get laundered and abused, so perfection is pointless.

bedspread-binding

And I think I like the tape side better as the public side…?

bedspread-deer

So now I can slumber under slaughter-in-progress deer, and hope the putti don’t plunk down in my dreams…

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For the birds

I found this in the yard.

yarn litter

It isn’t mine.

[Sniffs and tilts head upwards] I don’t do acrylic.

But in all seriousness, don’t leave this shit out for the birds.

Yes, I know you feel like you are helping your little feathered friends (even though your cat might be killing them too) and seeing a nest with brightly colored bits brings a little puff of joy to make your earnest heartstrings quiver and sing, but really you are polluting our fine earth.

Yes, creatures feathered and furred like to help themselves to our freshly washed fleeces and fluff drying in the yard, but there are millions of us knitting and crocheting and weaving away, and millions more children overseen by overly smug adults providing hands-on enriching [cheap-ass] “craft” projects, that there’s just too much of this stuff knocking about out there now.

Birds have happily had sex and hatched eggs for millennium without our plastic scraps lining their nests – in fact, they are some of the oldest beings on this planet and no doubt preferred life without our smokestack shenanigans and DDT dirt.

This bit of blindingly colored yarn will not break down, biodegrade or otherwise become safe and tolerable in our lifetimes – not to mention it’s already been rejected by the neighborhood birds here and would likely wash down the sewer into the river which drains into the ocean.

If you really feel the need to contribute something to nest building and you are in an area starved for plant diversity, consider the following instead:

Clip your dog’s (as long as it isn’t treated with pesticides, or your own if it’s also chemical-free) hair outdoors.

Leave a few puffs of undyed fleece behind on wash day.

Leave the spiderwebs under the eaves for a few days.

Let a few of the weeds stay and go to seed – hell, I’d like a milkweed bed myself…

And if you must, only very occasionally leave behind a snippet of yarn, make sure it is 100% wool.

And keep in mind too, rodents love the soft stuff just as much, if not more, so you are really contributing to the nesting behavior of rats and mice – do you want rats and mice in your home? Or Squirrels in your attic? Chewing on wires, pissing in the walls, and leaving potentially disease-ridden poops in your precious darling’s cereal bowl?

Otherwise stuff those scraps in toys and pillows and draft snakes and pincushions and pet beds (or give them to someone who will).

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