Monthly Archives: July 2013

Third time isn’t the charm; seeing stars and I don’t want the walls to talk

We just got f*cked on house #3.

My wall words

It was a late Victorian, it had enough space, it had more than one toilet, it had old doors and knobs, it had gas instead of heating oil, it was in good shape but still needed some sprucing up, it was light and bright and airy. The sellers accepted our offer, and everything was going swimmingly.  I started researching the house history, I had a warm paint palette in mind, and visions of hex tile designs dancing in my head.  We even picked out new vanity license plates* since we’d also be moving to a new state.

The night before the inspection, the seller told us they got another offer for $5,000 more.  Just $5,000…  We are in an area with a disgustingly inflated cost of living and obnoxious salaries – $5,000 is probably less than the price of one of the seller’s wife’s purses.  The seller was already going to profit hundreds of thousands of dollars.

What happened to civility and honoring your word?

A bigger profit of $10,000 or more?  Yes, I understand that and would possibly do the same.  The asshole who offered slightly more money?  Well, shame on you.  In the past, we have chosen not to bid on houses that already have offers on them – but perhaps we must become a bit more unethical ourselves.

So now, we have no house, again.

Everyone says it is for a reason.  It is a sign.  But there are no signs pointing in the right direction nor do I have any reasoning left.

I can’t find a job and we can’t find a house.

Now I have to clean the scummy sh*t off the shower that I thought I’d be leaving behind.  I went to the big-box hardware store.  I nearly broke down in sobs.  I used to cry a little when I had to go there again and again and again all in the same day just to buy the right screw when we were remodeling our old house.  This place isn’t for the unmoored shitbox apartment dweller.  I wanted to buy the non-native invasive pesticide laden flowers to liven up my window boxes.  I wanted to browse for new vintage-inspired sink handles.  I wanted to buy cement for N to fix the goddamn back step again.  Instead all I needed was some caulk for our frighteningly moldy tub since the management does a terrible job with such things here.

Last night we found a slug slimeing its way up the living room wall.

I know this post breaks my rules of telling tales of personal woe and rants as outlined in my manifesto/mission statement.  To bring it back somewhat on topic, at least on the topic of home decor which does include fiber arts (but not this time) allow me to bitch about the aesthetics of many of the residents in our area. (And yes, I am channeling my inner curmudgeony old man with canned corn stuck in his teeth right now).

So many houses we’ve looked at have these goddamn stars all over them:

  stars4  stars3  stars5 stars6 stars7

Are they supposed to be quaint and country?  (Didn’t country thankfully die in the 1980s?).

Are they supposed to attract celestial dwellers?

Are they patriotic?

I guess I am not patriotic, from outer space, or own a denim shirt with embroidered hearts because these little bitches set my teeth to grind.

Another thing?  I don’t want my walls to tell me to live, love, laugh or describe the room’s obvious function even if it is in a European romance language – I don’t want the walls to say anything.

wallwords2  wallwords3   wallwords6**

I can almost accept putting your child’s name on the wall of her bedroom – I’m all for literacy.  But one house we viewed had “Laundry” in cheery script over the washing machine – really?  And the ubiquitous “Live, love, laugh” in the bedroom – it was the home of a divorcing couple.  I guess they didn’t love or laugh – the living one is hard not to do as matter of routine.  Does anyone’s house say f*ck, cry, die?  I might buy that in vinyl script…

*Our attempted new state is known for its asshole drivers and we thought we’d look a little more like friendly drivers having plates with old buildings or woodpeckers or trees or smiling puppies on them.

**All pics yanked from real estate sites.  It’s likely I’m violating copyright.  Realtors aren’t my favorite people at the moment.  My apologies if I made fun of your house, but really, if you want to sell it, take that sh*t down.

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Stash

stash-stitch

No, not that kind of ‘stash you silly hipster.

Stash

I’m referring to yarn.  Lots and lots of yarn.*

I’ve come across many instances lately of people talking about having stashes so large they exceed life expectancy (aka SELE).  I’m not quite there yet, but I think I’m awfully damn close (or you could live by the thought that you could always get hit by a bus at any given moment and then nearly ever knitter would leave a wooly estate).  I don’t know what my comfortable stash level is or should be.  It might be exactly where it is right now?  If so inclined, I could start a few sweaters, tights, a drawerful of socks, and a whole sh*tload of accessories at any given notice.  Yet it’s starting to make me a little uncomfortable… I feel almost as if I’m eating a giant delicious sandwich in front of a waif-child.  I try to live as simply as a typical American (who still needs an auto, has outdoors hobbies, has tools for a major house renovation and small farm, has a teensy nostalgia problem, etc.) can, yet my stash requires a whole closet or very small room nearly all to itself.**

Some of my recent test-knitting has been a half-assed attempt to slim the stash, yet most patterns call for yarn currently on the market and easily available, so that also leads me to the occasional justification for a purchase when I don’t already have something quite right.  My yarny souvenirs from travels are justified to some degree since they are only material thing I buy, but sometimes (but not so much these days) I’m a sucker for the $3 or less skein of 100% wool or bag sales of the stuff for a song (which is also how one can end up with loads of discontinued stuff).  Wool can always be used in/for something – it felts/fulls, can be mixed and matched, dyed, used for embroidery, and in my mind never needs to be destashed.

I’m horribly tempted to catalog it all and post it on my ravelry stash page, but I’m embarrassed to show I have this much and I don’t want to turn off any current or potential ravelry friends.  I have to admit when I see ginormous stashes full of primo yarn (though mine isn’t the fancy stuff for the most part) I think the person must be very rich, and if you are very rich you are probably evil (or you might be a designer with a sponsor or a LYS owner, so that’s ok).  And then the work of photographing and logging the data would take a few days to do and it’s something that my tedious-loving other evil Gemini twin*** would love to do, but really is a waste of time.  But on the other hand, I can choose to list things as available for sale or trade, so it could be a win-win  –  I may have something discontinued that someone needs to finish a project, or make a buck or two on the side.  That, and I could check my inventory without having to unstack, unbag, or generally make a mess of things.  But don’t I have other things that I should be working on…?

*There’s a good amount of spinning fiber and a couple of sewing machines in there too, so it’s a little deceiving, but then again none of my WIPs (or possible froggers) or sweaters waiting to be unraveled and harvested are in there…

**Really the bigger problem here is my fabric stash.  So much bigger.  So much more unwieldy.  So much heavier.  So much less organized and contained.  So much it’s actually a problem worthy of an episode of reality TV hoarding show.  So much that it really does need a room of its own.  So much that I will never share the extent of it with anyone other than N.  And my “fabric” is mostly carefully curated but old and wrecked clothing so it’s not like I can re-sell it or even give it away.  Maybe to a rag picker… Ah, the olden days…

***Both twins are evil – an uptight bossy bitch and an unmoored drifter.

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Let’s [not] do the time warp again…

Timewarp

It’s happening again… things have only ramped up by a quarter or a half turn and suddenly I can’t account for great blocks of time.  Many things are in the works, nothing is ready to be finished yet, and my wrists now ache constantly.  Part of the time is sucked away into to the house-seeking black hole – houses that have been on the market for months, years are suddenly going under contract the minute we decide to move forward (and after we’ve spent the mental energy and time it takes to look at the place, review the flaws, and decide to pull the trigger).  Part of it is my part-time work is cycling up to the busy time, and the other parts when I’m not knitting, sewing, spinning?  I have no f*cking clue.  It’s so hot, it’s so humid; my spinning is sticky and not so smooth, the power keeps going out for short periods in the afternoon, and I can’t keep to my schedule although I’m working nearly constantly.

Some of my work doesn’t involve having to pay attention to words so I can listen to music while I do it.  When I worked at my old full-time job I’d have days on end of correcting numbers, making database tweaks, and looking at thousands of images so I could listen to episodes of Radiolab and This American Life, those teach yourself a new language programs (though they never stuck), and even audio books while I worked… it was, and I mean this with no irony and with a shrill teenage-boy tone, awesome.

tapes

So lately I’ve been making an attempt to weed and dispose of my old cassette tapes when I’ve got a chance to listen to things.  Unlike my peers at the time, I don’t have too many – I preferred vinyl albums (but made tapes from them to preserve the albums!) and then later bought CDs (for a while I even saved those ridiculous longboxes in which they came).  I don’t think I ever bought a non-blank tape except a few from small local bands; most were mixes and dubs, and a few commercial ones were acquired second-hand (ahem, or shall I say out of the trash).  The fact that I still (only) have a stereo that plays cassettes might say something – actually it isn’t even a stereo per se, just one of those old bookshelf boomboxes (c.1988) with a full-deck CD player (c. 1992).  But it works and sounds surprisingly good.  I also have a tape deck in my car (and yes, my car is that old) but it works, but it doesn’t sound that great, the air-conditioning is broken, pieces keep falling off, but it gets me around.

tape-det

I came across this tape recently and I have no idea of its origins.  It wasn’t mine – it’s not my handwriting nor my preferred type of cassette.  And it also couldn’t have been mine or a friend’s because we all listened to alternative music so it’s odd to have labeled something “alternative music” as if it is an exception to the collection.  It wasn’t from an old suitor as there are no love songs or particular attention to themes.  And the songs are merely jotted down on the insert and not decorated in fancy fonts or different colors.  A brief aside about tape decorating:  I arrived at speech class one day and didn’t know or remember it was my day to give a demonstration speech.  I had a backpack full of tapes so I demonstrated how to decorate them – I actually got an A – I wish my one ultra successful winging it episode wasn’t wasted on high school.  Anyway, the last time I acquired some tapes was from the detritus of someone who left my old apartment building maybe 8 or 10 years ago, so that is the possible provenance, yet most of those tapes were commercial and I keep them in my car now…  so it remains a mystery.  And an even bigger mystery because many of the songs on it are the ones I listened to, but the biggest mystery is that it has several tunes from the Rocky Horror Picture Show on it.  I went a few times back in the day but I was in no way a regular…  Was this given to me by someone who wanted me to go more often?  I have no idea.  But I’m blaming the time warp for everything for which I cannot remember.

I’ve been dismantling the tapes since the spools take up a lot less room than the whole boxed cassette.  But I haven’t decided if I’m going to knit, weave, or do anything with the stuff.  I hear it’s toxic due to the metals in magnetic tape and I’ve tried knitting with it already and hated it, but sometimes my brain likes to dispose of things slowly and in stages, so I’ll let it this time.  Let me know if you are a fan of cassette tape for purposes of making sh*t, and maybe I’ll hook you up…

Oh, and I saw this article recently about the Knit the Bridge project in Pittsburgh – looks like a very cool thing and they still need money, so spare some if you’ve got it!

[And one last anecdote about tapes – around 15 years ago my flatmate left a box of old dub and mix tapes on the curb for the trash (or a passer-by).  Later that week, I found some of the tapes at a Goodwill several miles out of town!  Yay for the considerate trash-picker!]

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Gradually getting kooler…

I’ve been wanting to start dying yarn for quite some time, but we currently lack the space, ventilation, and decommissioned cookware.  So I finally got around to dying with the stuff you can’t technically die from, but I certainly wouldn’t want to ingest, though millions do.

Kooldye

Yep, good old Kool-Aid – and I stand by my opinion that the stuff really is truly horrid, but I’ve been wanting to try gradient dying with this tutorial and it’s cheap and I thought readily available.*  A [not so] brief aside about my relationship to the beverage – the only positive thing I can associate with it is its endearing camp name of “bug juice.”  We always had bug juice at summer camp, though I don’t remember drinking it.  Why?  Because I barfed fruit punch flavored Hi-C** as a small child and have always carried the world’s worst aversion to the scent/smell/taste/whiff/hint of fruit punch (and bright red beverages to a lesser degree) into present day.  In fact, that is partly the reason that my only fear in life is anything to do with vomit – both my own and others’, and the pile on the sidewalk, or the remnants in the bowl in a public restroom, or boats, or amusement rides, or pregnant women, or drunks, or babies, or children, or hospitals and doctors offices, or even the offhand comment by someone that her/his stomach feels a little funny, can send me into a tailspin of fear and trembling.  The other reason is my second grade teacher had me clean another student’s puke off some wooden puzzles.  I was above average for my redneck school, so I was off quietly reading to myself – an Encyclopedia Brown book in fact – when the teacher was conducting a reading lesson to the rest of the class.  I was absorbed in my book, and didn’t notice what happened in the back and the subsequent sudden shuffle of students and a teary girl running out of the room.  Then my teacher sweetly asked if I could help her, and being a generally obedient child, I did.  Usually the teachers wanted to rub their excess hand lotion onto you (which seems mildly horrifying now), or help watering the plants, or straightening the [outdated] books.  No, I was presented with a stack of puzzles covered in chunky upchuck and told to take them to the restroom (or maybe she called it washroom) and clean them off.  I did.  I think I cried.  I think my mom raised holy hell at the school afterwards.  But all I remember is the spilled stomach contents and it haunts me to this day.

But back to the dye job.

kool-sweater

I started unraveling this thrift store sweater around the time we moved a year ago so I never finished it and have only recently found the box in which it was shoved.  I hate to unravel something hand-knit even from a big company that most likely exploited the labor (though I have no proof of that so don’t sue me) but this was a late 1980s, early 1990s monstrosity with gaping drop shoulders that reached the naval.  Maybe I killed something really important to fashion history – I killed it for its pelt.

kool-yarn

The wool is good – very sheepy.  It was knit with two strands held together to make for a bulky weight – unplied you’ve got twice the yardage at a still generous worsted weight.  I wanted at least 150 yards, so I wound off 100 thinking I’d go the worsted option and then have 200.

kool-dye

I bought several packets of the evil drink mix, though I was disappointed that there was no green or blue – what about lime or blue raspberry (even though there isn’t such a thing as a blue raspberry on this good green earth)?

What follows are notes to myself that I’m sharing so use the tutorial or check out the What a Kool Way to Dye group on Ravelry for technical details.

kool-little ball

First bath was two packets of lemonade, and one of watermelon.  The lemonade was basically useless as yellow, but it helped turn the pink slightly more coral.  My ball was pretty dense and I was sure the dye didn’t get very far so I wound off all of the first color.

kool-balls&pot

Then I left it out of the pot and stuck the bigger remaining ball in.  Second bath was a packet of tropical punch and one of orange.  This is where I nearly lost it, and unfortunately only later found out that cherry is basically the same color and I never had to endure the fruit punch in the first place.  I can’t even begin to describe the odor – artificial flavor and scent, wet wool, the sh*t that was stuck to the burner and burning, and the remnants of eau de thrift store. (The sweater had already been washed once but the yarn hadn’t had its second bath yet).  I couldn’t take it for very long, so before the liquid had gone clear, I rinsed and wound this around the little pink ball so the last undyed layer was on the top.

kool-mold

Then added one grape packet to the pot and sprinkled on another directly to the ball.  It looks like mold.  It smelled like hell.  But the grape covered up the worst of the fruit punch stink.

kool-soak

Then I soaked it a couple of times in cold water and vinegar.  I hoped that the vinegar would help with the stink, and it did to a degree, but I’m still picking up a whiff I’d rather not.

KOOL-SKEINED

I don’t know the color fastness of the final product, and it’s faded a bit after drying, but I don’t mind if it fades a bit more.  I suspected that the plies would felt and they did, so I’ll probably end up using this as 100 yards of bulky weight yarn.

And yeah, wear gloves.  I did except for the one time I really should have been (see top pic).

*The fancy grocery stores that we as food snobs frequent do not stock the stuff, so I had to visit a grocery on the other side of the tracks to find it.  But it is one that I will return to as I found lower prices on a few things I buy, and smaller sized things – though that is a crime – the smallest portion is always the most expensive in terms of the price per serving and the poor gets screwed with that, but for some things, I only want a little bit since I end up having to throw larger portions out.

**Never give a child with a stomach ache anything that contains food coloring.

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Just beachy…

We went to the beach twice last week which seems downright decadent.  I know I bitch about where we live now, but we have access to a lot of good places so it sometimes evens out.  Our day to day life sucks but the weekends are great; before our day to day life was good but weekends took more planning and travel and another day off or two.

Beach-pan

We were at the shore on the 4th, which is probably the busiest beach day of the year, but if you get there early enough, it’s not too bad.  And the day was festive with dolphin sitings, blimps, and biplanes (unfortunately only the dolphins weren’t there purely for the sake of advertising).  There was a surprisingly cool breeze (just along the coast only, not the sweltering interior where we live) and the water seemed frigid, so we didn’t swim.  Instead I finished test knitting a piece that I really love but with a yarn I really hated.

Lion Amazing-Arcadia

I want to publicly declare my hatred of acrylic, and this Lion Brand Amazing has too much of it!  I like the colorway of this one, Arcadia, and I think it’s supposed to mimic Noro.  This was one of my last big box store yarn purchaes a few years ago and at least at the time it was made in Italy and it was fairly inexpensive or else I bought it on sale.  Now it seems pricey for what it is and there are sooooo many other yarns in the sea that should be purchased before this one.  The stuff is fuzzy but not as soft as it seems it should be – not scratchy but plasticy from the acrylic.  And it was so sticky and grabby that I could drop the ball and pick it up with the working yarn and I often had to rip it apart from itself.  Blech – unpleasant.  But I love the pattern and will try to repeat it with another yarn soon.

Beach-knitting

And on Sunday we got up even earlier to hit the beach again and I brought along my Lacy Batkus because it is my assigned beach knitting for the summer.  But the day was hot and the water felt great, so I didn’t even finish an entire repeat.  And yes, my skin is nearly the same color of the sand – we haven’t been outside in full sun or out of the woods much this year yet.  And it’s also really annoying and quite disturbing because other pasty folks tend to set up around us and it looks like some sort of klannish enclave.  But since we’re there in the early morning, we’re gone by the early afternoon when it becomes nearly impossible to swim without getting whacked* by someone and the chatty suburban mommies drown out the the regular beach soundtrack of surf and squeals.

PRS-storm bobbins

And my thumb has healed so I’m back on the wheel.  I finished my Pigeonroof Studios** SW Merino “Storm” this weekend and I’m waiting to ply it soon.  Next up is a braid of the same wool in a pale green colorway.

*Yes, for those with stereotypical views of New Jersey, getting whacked could sound quite violent for an innocent day at the beach – I’m talking about waves thrusting flailing people at you.

**Every time I pop on over there to grab the link, I see more, more, more I want!  But I really can’t, not now, and I’m coming pretty close to declaring that I’m entering a period of time wherein I buy absolutely nothing beyond food.  And a watch band.  And sewing machine needles if they all break…

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Back to the woods…

We were in the Adirondacks last weekend for a couple of days of soggy hiking and down time away from our frustrating and increasingly desperate home (and my job) search.

ADK-Phelps

I know that I said earlier that I needed another bout of cabin time to finish designing that shawl but I have to focus on other projects at the moment now.  I took all of the letters I need to cut out and baste for my newest quilt (I think there are 26 total) but I only managed to finish a whopping four.  Pretty lousy progress.  And I’m not entirely sure I’m doing them right or how to handle some of the narrow slices that I really can’t fold down.

ADK-letters

So I easily got distracted since basting is tiresome to me and doesn’t seem to amount to much since I still have to sew the damn things on.  In my current overwhelmed and distracted state I forgot to pack socks for the weekend. It was a good excuse to buy a new woolen pair, though I could only justify the one and had to wash them after every hike and hoped they’d dry enough for the next time.  Our cabin was infested with carpenter ants and chasing after one to photograph it was a perfect basting procrastination activity.  Do you realize how hard it is to get a clear shot of a very busy (and harassed) little ant?

ADK-ant

Bugs were definitely showing off their strengths over the weekend.   Inexplicably, black flies were suddenly crazy about my eyebrows  and one little f*cker bit me so successfully that blood was shed on my favorite wool t-shirt.

ADK-bite

But the weekend also held one of those magical and rare summer afternoons when all that mattered was swimming in a mountain pond and feeling the sun.

ADK-pond

(Thanks to N’s family for their hospitality and the afternoon at their awesome lakeside cottage on Sunday!)

And since we were away, I had a late start in the Tour de Fleece, and promptly suffered a wipe out when I sliced open my thumb on a yogurt container of all things.

TdF-Wipeout

I need my thumb to spin dammit!  I should probably lower my yardage expectations now but I’m willing myself to heal quickly.

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