Casting-on madness

Does the feeling of impending unlimited leisure time with the start of summer (that was had only as a very small child) ever go away? It’s this time of year from which I have to clean-up, catch up, and be burdened by (to a degree) unfinished projects for the rest of the year. I cast on several knitting projects with the excuse that: I’ll have vacation knitting time and don’t want to run out of projects (I never do because I’ll only have like 2, maybe 3 days of vacation where I’m not doing something else), I’ll have long evenings of natural light (I do but I can’t knit for any longer than if I didn’t), I’ll have undistracted time to knock out something more complicated (I sort of do, but never enough for anything larger than a hat), and I need a few mindless things on different needle sizes so I don’t have to pay attention to my hands (these are most of my projects these days).

Summer hasn’t meant significant leisure for nearly 4 decades now, but I still acquire a large number of paperbacks and projects – the books are usually finished by the following year, the projects usually not.

And I still haven’t finished last years vacation knitting, or in the case of a long suffering sweater, the year before that…

But I’ve also got it in mind to start spinning with more of a purpose and sooner-on-the-needles time now too. I don’t have too much handspun (that I like) waiting to be knit up so it’s not really a problem – it’s easiest to solve things that aren’t really a problem. That fiery roving I got last fall is becoming a sontag-like shawl – I’m not sure I’ll use up all of the yarn on it yet, and I’m not sure I like it yet, but I do like the black portion and have been wanting a black neck-thing for a bit, and I do have some black roving, so spinning a lumpy bumpy black yarn and knitting it up will be maddening on both counts, but on my list of fiber priorities and I know it will get a decent amount of wear.

Unlike this one? I don’t know – I was thinking it would be a good visibility piece for hunting season walks, but I don’t wear knits in the woods due to branches and brambles, so unless I stumble across some meadows or moors around here it isn’t likely I’ll use it for that purpose…

I just tossed and re-organized the stash and only found one surprise – some cotton I’d forgotten about, and I’ve now forgotten why I got it – I think it was going to be a skirt since I got it (on sale) around the time I’d made another cotton knit skirt (that I’m likely going to frog soon).

Otherwise the rest was familiar and waiting patiently – I’d even paired a few skeins with the pattern I intended to use…

I’ve been thinking/half remembering about this one for a bit – a Shapely Boyfriend out of Malabrigo and Noro – my only hesitation is that Malabrigo is absolute shit for wear and tear. I made a scarf for N out of the stuff a few years ago and it was a pilly fuzzy mess before the season was out.

But the ones I’m actually sticking in the summer knitting bag are an Amiga out of gold bamboo & cotton, and a Burton Vestigan out of green wool & mohair. The biggest gaps in my closet are spring/summer/fall things and buttoning things.

Also soon on the needles is a hat for N out of reflective yarn.

And this very rustic handspun for mittens for me, but the spinning won’t be finished for a bit.

Filthy rough kinky (wool). #spinning #wool #spinningwheel

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I’m also thinking about felted things, though I haven’t felted with our front-loader yet – some felted clogs for others and myself, and I’ve got some skeins set aside for a couple of felted bags (as well as a heap of feltable cheap/scrap yarn).

And I’m also thinking of a cabled pullover with some special wool, a few other cardigans I can’t decide on yet, possibly a blanket out of handspun llama (or alpaca?) I’ve yet to spin, a poncho – make that two – one for N and one for me (but not matching), gloves (never made those yet), more mittens, more scrappy stole/scarf things like the one earlier this year, and a coat, (and socks -I’ve taken a wee break on those at the moment, but that moment won’t last long).

(Still on the needles is a cotton blanket, a pullover that’s reeaally close to being done if I’d ever work on it, a Paulie cardigan on small needles that has zero satisfaction since I can work on it for hours with little progress to show though I’d get a lot of wear out of it assuming I don’t get bigger before I finish, a dish/wash cloth (I think the last) for waiting room knitting since I don’t have a pair of socks on the needles for the first time ever, a couple of thrift sweaters getting knitted cuffs, collars, and button bands, an old shale/feather and fan scarf that I’m 95% sure I’m going to frog, and this shawl/scarf that I love and should just keep on keeping on with it…)

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[Late] spring cleaning

Spring finally slowed down, cooled down, and I’ve had a chance to line up with the season again. The house still needs a deep, very deep clean – there’s still dust from the bath reno underneath the furniture, and I don’t think it’s ever had a lift-up-the-rugs-and-wipe-down-the-walls cleaning yet. And the windows could do with some clarity and de-dogslobbering.

A couple of weeks ago I sadly had to say goodbye to the best little vacuum cleaner I ever had. When I left my first (technically second, but the other was brief) professional job out of grad school, my fellow co-workers chipped in to give me an incredibly generous gift card as a going away present. I treated myself to the vacuum cleaner, channel lock pliers, and a fancy saucepan. It merrily sucked away in my old squirrely apartment, our first house, our shitty but adequate apartment, and this house – for a lifetime of about 15 years. I even bought a few new parts for it a year or two ago.

N got the same model a few years later, but it sucks – not good vacuumy sucky, just doesn’t suck enough, suck. So I can still clean, but it doesn’t look like I did.

But the woolens come first, and all of my neck things are freshly washed and tucked in plastic bags for the season. Some of my sweaters are still needed at the office, but the others are mostly washed and tucked away now too.

Though I still have a fairly small closet by US standards, it’s bigger than my last, so the rest of the hung up woolens can stay and just be moved to the hard to reach side rather than encased and crammed into another closet on another floor that was always an avalanche when opened.

I still have some things (nostalgic and/or supplies) in boxes and tubs – I think all have been consolidated and I know what’s in them now, but I was happy to finally find a few things I thought were lost.

Those scissors were nearly new before they were packed up – in a place I thought would be memorable and handy but wasn’t – and I’m over the moon about that spool pin – it goes to my Red Eye Singer 66 that I recently turned into a hand cranked machine.

I whipped out a quick knit for a gift, and forgot to photograph it in its finished state…

But it was another Turn a Square in 2×2 charcoal and grey-green stripes.

And I finally tackled the mending pile – some things of mine, some of N’s.

Visible mending, or can't be arsed to change the spool? #visiblemending #zigzag #mending #notmybutt

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I keep thinking I’m going to unravel this cashmere hoody that is one of my favorites, but is a tad too short, and I blew out one of the elbows. But I knit up a patch from leftover yarn and it’s good to go again (as long as I’m wearing a long shirt underneath it).

Blew out the elbow on a favorite thrifted cashmere hoody, knit new one… #visiblemending #knitting #mending #patch

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And lastly, it was time again to toss the stash –  I never incorporated the yarn from the errant box I found last year (hell, that was two years ago now), and I’m maddeningly missing a small niddy noddy that has few places left to be hiding.

The niddy noddy was not there, but everything was in good shape, is now entirely organized, and in a reduced number of boxes – it’s a good stash now, not too overwhelming (though it could still loose several pounds), and enough to keep me busy with enough variety for some years to come.

And now I have a raging case of startitis…

 

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The mutt and the pebble

We’ve hit the one year anniversary with Rocco, and it’s likely he’s hit, or is about to, his 5th birthday. He’s just finished a class for reactive dogs in which he was a decent, if not excellent at times, pupil except for a pop quiz with a stuffed (obviously fake) king charles spaniel.

Life with a reactive dog is challenging, limiting, expensive, and still far more stressful than I’d like, but he is improving.

We’re changing the shredded sheer curtains less often – and the last very mauled batch was last fall in the peak of fresh tomatoes ripening on the counter – he helped himself then became enraged at something outside the window and left evidence…

But the most distinct change is that he’s learned to, nay embraced with every last whisker, relax (at times).

He’s had full run of the house and sofa privileges for the last 8 months or so, so most days after his epic dawn hike with N until about 3:00 he rotates between naps on the sofa, his crate, a bit on the wood floors, and the cool stone hearth if he gets overheated. If he’s not too conked out, he’ll join me in whatever room I’m in and try to find the comfiest spot.

During my process of selling used/vintage clothes over the winter when I had things freshly cleaned, darned, and laid out to measure and whatnot, he selected a 90s jcrew rollneck as his spot.

(I let him have it – in the end it was mine I think – I know I thrifted one to sell too – I can’t find that one I think, or maybe mine is put away?)

His spot in my workroom is a 90s oversized sweater too.

I was hesitant to make another stuffed bed for him – the one in his crate has been mended and patched well over a dozen times…

But he leaves the pad beneath it alone, so I started browsing the clearance dog crate pads from time to time to add a few more comfy spots in the house and found one in his size for not too much. But he never used it, and seemed to go out of his way to avoid it. So I sat on it, laid on it, rolled around on it, and was mildly shocked over and over…

So that’s why a synthetic plush pad ends up at the remainder store and on clearance – and I should have known better.

But making a cover was easy enough, and I had leftover cotton fabric – the brown was the excess fabric I trimmed off of the office curtains, and the patterned one was a couple of yards I got to make the main sofa cushions before I decided I liked the yellow better (seen above – though the yellow isn’t such a good choice now with a partially black dog…).

And he took to it right away.

 

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Pants!*

Last Saturday was a rainy day – an entire day of persistent rain – not spitty, not a brief but dramatic downpour, not a start and stop kinda thing that tricks you into getting to work outdoors and then makes you pack it in just as you’ve started.

It was perfect timing – the garden was planted enough and I was tired of yard work and house work, and paint doesn’t dry well when it’s damp outside and I can’t open the windows to let out the fumes, right?

So I decided to fire up the sewing thing again in preparation for finally sewing a few simple summer garments this year.

But I forgot that all of the shit from the basement utility room waiting to be painted was piled up in front of my serger…

(The serger is way in the back behind the rooster towel – but luckily it’s pretty light, so it was easier to move it rather than the stuff.)

I thought I’d whip up a pair of pajama (pyjama?) pants.

In my youth, I’d made at least a half dozen or so pairs of jams-like shorts, so I figured muscle memory and deep brain reserves would take over and I’d end up with something at least functional, if not decent.

I sort of need pj pants too – my favorite couple of pairs from Ageing Army are getting a bit ragged, and I was thinking I’d rather sew a new pair than to fix the blown-out waistband on this one – amazingly the elastic is still fine though.

I didn’t have a pattern, but figured I’d trace my favorite pair that are loose but not too baggy with a perfect rise that isn’t too high or low. But then I discovered their construction is a bit odd – likely it was cut from the bottom of the pile at the sweatshop and had gotten a bit twisted, but the twist made them fit great, but made a quick pattern draft not.

So I grabbed an old silk pair that had also seen better days. (Around the turn of the last century I scored several sets of fancy silk PJs for a song at a fell-off-a-truck kind of store in my old city – they’ve all just about gone tits up now, but the tops are still largely okay since I don’t wear them as a set often, so I’ll likely sew those into something else… eventually.

I laid them out (yeah, I had to take them off first) on freezer paper to trace. I was a little dubious that the front and back crotch curves ended up a bit too similar, but I couldn’t figure out how go rogue enough to modify them.

I had some thick and soft flannel I bought a couple of years ago on impulse – it was the last of the bolt and on sale, so I think the piece was just under 2 yards and $3 – something like that – and I was planning on dyeing it and using it as a wearable (or failable) muslin.

I couldn’t remember if I’d traced it with enough of a seem allowance, or too much – I was going to mostly serge them, so I didn’t need too much. But then it was too much, and I took in the sides several times (and should have done so several more).

And I don’t really know how to use my serger yet – at least doing anything other than straightish lines – too much of a curve and I kept slicing the crotch.

I worked and worked on trying to make the fit better and the crotch correctly curved, and then stopped – I’d blown a few hours by then and PJ pants shouldn’t take more than an hour.

They fit enough and stay up, and add 75 pounds and shorten my legs to stumps and makes me into a blinding squat clown gnome stompy troll.

I was planning on leaving the bottoms un-hemmed and kept in their rough, selvage-edge state, but of course they didn’t end up quite lined up, so I had to hem them even though they were a bit shorter than I’d like already…

But I oiled up and played a bit with my zigzag machine that hasn’t sewn many miles (by me) yet for the finishing, and that was a bit of fun and should make my eventual other simple garments a little more functional (I’d like to eventually venture into some knits, but I don’t have much hope for success).

(These old socks are are also destined to become knitted washcloths after another season or two of wear.)

So in the end, are they functional? Yes.

Are they comfortable? Sort of – soft and warm, but they’re so wide they bunched up to short ruffly chicken thigh bloomer height by morning.

Are they ugly? Hell yes, but not worth the effort or the $3 or so to dye them.

Will I make another pair with the lessons learned from this? Maybe, but I’ll probably get a legitimate pattern first, and I won’t need more for another couple, three years or so.

Did I repair the black plaid ones seen above so I wouldn’t have to wear these too often? Yes.

If I ever get around to widening my patchwork flannel duvet cover will they become part of it? Probably.

And did I finally get some legitimate work done last weekend? Yes, the basement utility room got its fresh paint on Sunday.

And the freshly dyed rug.

And I can be safe in knowing I can lie on it and be camouflaged in my new fat gnome pants.

*UK variation.

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Maymeanderings

I’ve got a few posts about small side projects in the hopper, things that I was futzing around with before the bathroom project hit, and now the garden and yard have hit, and hit hard, and once again my wrist isn’t happy and the projects still have yet to be photographed and/or cleared of their winter cobwebs and/or condemned to life or death…

My brain still has some cobwebs though – I’ve hit the anniversary of shit hitting the fan last year and I can’t say I’ve quite come out the other side yet – I still don’t know what I want for a career again and/or the right (or right enough) work for me – I know more about what I like and don’t, but those are just luxuries and I don’t get to be choosy.

My meantime work is renewed for another term though so at least I’m keeping afloat.

But afloat is also adrift, but I can’t go down that hole just now…

I’ve had a dumb week of former employer/COBRA/health insurance/fuck-ups and appointments cancelled and re-scheduled woes – things that take up time – time I thought I would have a bit of again now that the plumber isn’t here all day on my day off every week.

*****

N and the dog brought home some glorious morels from their dawn walk the other day.

I was over the moon – hillbilly gold. I miss my childhood home and land,  but not the people, or the area in general, or the state mostly as a whole, but these make me a tiny bit homesick (and they’re the only thing I saute in butter). We threw their soaking liquid in the yard hoping a stray spore or two might take hold.

Oh yeah… #morel #fungusamongus #morelmushrooms #mushrooms

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(If only I could find a Paw Paw patch here too…)

My winter/early spring online used clothing sales did pretty well – thankfully I don’t usually unravel my thrift sweaters until I’ve got a project about to hit the needles, so I can sell off the excess ones that are still in decent shape – and I don’t love unraveling the thin cashmeres anyway. What’s left of the vintage wool clothes and whatnot should fit in just one tub for the fall when I’ll try to sell it again or just re-donate. Up next is more random shit – vintage dishes mostly – things that don’t do so well, but I just can’t give away without trying…

But I have half a closet free in my studio/sewing room now, and it’s the first visible progress in a bit – much of my organizing and purging is invisible – trashing the dried-out paints in a box of paints still leaves you with a box of paints, only all usable and at the ready now…

I’ve got to do some repairs and lots of painting to do in the utility room in the basement next – just the walls though, not the cabinets yet – but hopefully that should take no more than 3 days.

And I’ve got a quick gift knit on the needles to revive my tiling-sore fingers and remind my wrist what its place ought to be.

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Flushed

The bathroom is finally [almost but basically] done.

I was going to wait until the last of the touch-up paint was dry, the rest of the pictures re-hung, the little vintage medical cabinet back in its spot, and new rug and towels procured, but then I saw the missing threshold and knew how long I can take with those, and I don’t have immediate plans for the new built-in cabinet, so enough already.

This is what we started with:

What you don’t see is the three broken light fixtures, a broken fan, a broken window, some broken plumbing, the big stain in the floor by the toilet, and the well-worn acrylic tub and surround.

What we did for the meantime (that was supposed to last 3-5 years) was to fix the window, the electrical (including the light above the sink), replace the rusty triptych medicine cabinet that bisected your face, and paint everything – especially the floor. And we thought we fixed the leaking toilet.

But the toilet was still very sloooowly leaking, and eventually we couldn’t ignore that we were finally stepping on a spongy oogy spot – the leak had spread in the subfloor a couple of feet.

So we committed to fix the whole damn thing ahead of schedule.

And I went a little nuts over the whole thing – not good nuts – just frustrated and confused and decisive and indecisive and then frustrated again and again. I don’t know what went wrong – I can usually bang this shit out – there were too many options but not the options I wanted. And then everything was more expensive than I wanted to pay, everything I’d picked out went discontinued or out of stock in a matter of days, I couldn’t find professional help where I needed it, and then the sewer pipe went bad too, and then I (we) changed my mind over and over again…

This shit woke me up in the middle of the night and it is absolutely something that shouldn’t do that.

But then I got what we needed and the plumber was able to book us for 5, yes 5 weeks in a row….

His first visit for the bath was the longest, and I was whirling in the throes of reno anxiety- we’d removed all of the fixtures and demoed the floor which is fun and rewarding (thank you for dealing with the toilet N since that isn’t fun) but then all of the worst is yet to come so it is a false reward, it’s the ribbon for participation without achievement. The first day of the plumber was also the first spring-feeling days and the leaves had yet to come out. Our new tub sat in the yard for hours (as did some copper pipes) and I equally fantasized about the bodies that could fit in its box and was amused that we live someplace “safe” enough that copper can lie about unsupervised…

But afterwards the real work began.

I’d researched some of the new waterproof wall systems and was planning to use one of them, but to save money in the end, we used backerboard and a paint-on membrane. By then the membrane fumes and the project crazy converged and I think I vocalized a few of the redrums shouting on repeat in my brain.

But once the bath tiles were up, I cooled down to a workable, only slightly unhinged, state.

The wall color choice was a bit of an issue – I wanted to repeat one we already had in the house, and we loved the kitchen’s mint, and online polling voted overwhelmingly for the mint, but it was just too intense (as was the yellow).

(I don’t wear make-up and the two of us have yellows and greens in our skintones, so I wasn’t worried about looking in the mirror in a green room.)

But we fairly easily agreed the dusty/dirty “champagne glee” pink would be the best – and we’re happy with it.

And then it was time for floor tile – I’ve used a similar one to this before, and our half bath has a mosaic pattern too.

I knew I needed to spend the time to dry fit it to make sure that the pattern was right and to make some of the cuts beforehand.

N numbered the tiles and made a handy chart for me to use – it was foolproof.

I thought the layout was perfect – N found a flipped tile, and we didn’t see any manufacturing flaws.

But there was one.

And we didn’t spot it until it was grouted.

But it was barely an issue and now I can’t believe we were willing to put up with the almond plastic bathroom for another couple of years – that old bath had some sort of stockholm hold over me…

The elements are both a bit more vintage than the ’50s, and contemporary – but it isn’t out of place with the rest of the little house.

And the tile feels so nice on my feet…

And the shower is roomier and brighter, and the tub worth taking a lingering bath – thankfully we got it in springtime when the well is full.

(And yes, we really need that threshold).

 

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In the meantime

Spring is well underway without me.

The garden is far more behind than I wanted it to be (the late blizzard snowed in my very early plans), but last autumn’s late spinach that didn’t do much then, came back in green glory, so I’m quite pleased about that. The garlic is doing its thing and the rhubarb, gooseberry, asparagus, and blueberries all have leaves, blossoms (where applicable), and new growth. I need to look into more of these sorts of perennial edibles – I love establish and maintain gardening more than plant and re-plant and tear out at the end of the season gardening… not too much of a veg option though? But more fruit and herby things at least.

(The poor magnolia has its glorious blossoms frozen off, so sadly we didn’t get a show this year.)

The seeds that started indoors did disappoint somewhat – the peppers and tomatoes likely just didn’t have enough/right kind of light (or attention), but the squash are robust and will hopefully be the strong beasts they need to be to fight the beetles and borers. Other veg and herbs are puttering along, and I’ll try some more herbs and flowers next.

Sprouting (a couple of weeks ago). Autumn's spinach in garden now. #organicgardening #seedstarting #growyourown

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I’d like to get rid of at least 40% of our lawn – the priorities being the most annoying places to mow or whack, and first up is a little hill on the west side of the house. I’ve been ridding it of Chinese wisteria, and left a bit in one place to train and braid (and it has started to grow together) but it still wants total domination, so it will go, and hopefully the little hill will accept a couple of fig trees and a mess of woody herbs that the deer won’t touch.

N finished breaking up all of the front sidewalks to nowhere and dug some expanded beds. Those now have a mess of perennials we somehow managed to finally plant, and in a few weeks or so we’ll be able to dig up all of the bulbs (mostly hyacinth – achoo!) that have clumped together and on top of one another and re-distribute them better and throughout the yard.

And the bathroom?

We’re finally on the other side – the plumber is here now for his (fingers crossed) final visit and I’ve got a mess of grout sealing and paint touch-ups to do later today.

(And I’ll probably get some new towels and a rug since our “nice” ones don’t really look it anymore, and some others may have gotten encrusted with mortar and caulk schmears…)

It's still not finished… #renomadness #tiling #hex #whenwillitbeover #bathroom #floor #diyfatigue

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I was a bit cocky about the floor – I thought it would be easier than the walls, and in some ways it is, but there are some seriously wrong joints despite a meticulous layout. And I was tired, and I’d had an aural migraine, and I just wanted to get it done, but for something basically permanent in your house, you need to take care and have a better attitude…

And of course I’d finished the grouting before noticing a defect on one of the tiles – a black hex in the wrong row – I was going to leave it for character, but it was in a prominent spot for viewing while on the john, so I pried it up and re-set it.

The whole room has enough “character” as it is…

 

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