Month: January 2008

Yarn behaving… sorta


Here we have the hemp in what seems to be closest to its “behaving” phase. This contains three rows of actual fabric, but doesn’t show the blisters on my fingers. (With apologies to John, Paul, George and Ringo.) I will likely have been dead six months before I finish this project.

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In the flesh!


You thought I was making that up, didn’t you? This is it. This is exactly the configuration in which the next pile of yarn fell. It’s alive. It’s evil. It’s the Yarn Troll.

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The Yarn Troll

A year or so ago I went through a yarn-acquisition phase during which I seemed to fall over great deals every time a breeze blew somewhere in the world. Among those acquisitions were a big bag of flax yarn that when knitted will become something of linen; another was a big box of olive-green hemp yarn, which I decided a few weeks ago would become a top for me—a novel thought all by itself, knitting something for moi‘s ownself.

I’ve enjoyed fondling hemp fabrics and often wished I had something of hemp, since I can’t wear synthetics, but it’s pretty expensive. With such a good deal on this yarn I was looking forward to this project. The only drawback is that it’s fingering weight, which is very light—suitable for knitting lace, but at probably 7-8 stitches per inch on little needles, not too attractive time-wise, given the expanse of corpus that needs to be covered. Combining two strands of yarn to make a larger yarn, about DK weight, appeared to be a good alternative.

I combined two strands and wound up knitting, I think, four swatches before I got everything right. This by itself surprised me; I’ve not had so much trouble getting gauge before. And I discovered the yarn, while naturally stiff and not at all stretchy, also has a light starchy coating on it that makes it slick and uncomfortable to handle. So I wound one ball into a hank (like winding a rope around your elbow and wrist), washed it, and dried it. This helped a little, but not much, and I won’t even talk about the frustrations of just trying to wind this stuff around my arm to make a hank except to say that I had to cut it a couple of times and tie it back together. I was beginning to think it was inhabited by a Yarn Troll.

After learning that it’s a good idea to make a double strand of small-gauge yarn by using both ends of the same ball rather than two separate balls, I decided to take the hank I wound from this unruly stuff and make it a center-pull ball. That would allow me to pull the two strands and build in a little twist, which in this case is a good thing. Didn’t have anything majorly handy around to do this with, so I picked up a wooden fan and started winding the yarn around that.

Despite great care and caution, this yarn, which by now I was quite sure was inhabited by a Yarn Troll, snarled and growled and tangled until I had to cut it a couple more times. Yeah, yeah, I’m not the most patient person on earth, but I really tried hard to untangle it before I gave up and severed it. It took a very long time (about 180 yards per ball) and was not particularly good for the shoulder that’s in physical therapy, but I got it done, and had the inside and outside ends poking out on the same side. That took probably an hour—a ridiculous amount of time—and I was absurdly pleased with myself for completing this obviously complicated (!) task.

Last night, I sat down to take the center-pull ball off the fan and place it gently over something on which it could rotate freely so I wouldn’t have to fight tension enough to support a suspension bridge. Boring, I thought, but still better than watching the State of the Union Address, and much less likely to make me angry…

Clever readers have already realized the problem that I, normally a woman of reasonable intelligence, had yet to recognize: A fan has a trapezoidal shape. It is larger at one end than the other. At the small end, a metal pin goes through it to hold the individual blades together and leaves sticky-outie bits on which yarn will hang up if one tries to push it off over that end. Therefore, the yarn could only be removed by pushing it off the larger end. . .

I began, optimistically thinking I could compress the fan blades sufficiently to remove the ball, to work the yarn down the length of the fan toward the large end. It got tighter… and tighter… and… sigh.

I’d wound it so it was impossible to get the yarn off without tearing up the fan or making great wodges of the yarn useful only as pillow stuffing. About half the ball was off the fan, the other stuck tighter than a tick to a dog in June. I could hear the Yarn Troll guffawing.

“OK,” I said to myself through mentally gritted teeth, “I’ll unwind it off the dang fan and onto a toilet-paper tube. That’ll show it who’s boss.” The roll, I reasoned, would squish easily, dishearten the Yarn Troll, and thus allow me to get the center-pull ball off and onto said minimal-tension item, which turned out to be a wooden size 19 knitting needle.

Picked the cardboard roll out of the trash, pulled off a few tendrils of tissue still clinging to it, and commenced. Shortly realized that this process, which is beyond my skill to describe, was going to delight said Troll, because the part of the “ball” that was hanging off the end of the fan was flopping in and out and twisting around the bits I was trying to wind onto the cardboard roll.

I poked the floppy bits into the hole in the end. No good. I held the whole assembly upside down. I discovered that with only two hands, it wasn’t physically possible to unwind with one hand, wind with the other, and keep the floppy bits from twisting into the equivalent of anchor line on a three-masted schooner.

I glanced around the house, but didn’t see any spare hands. I, too, snarled. The Yarn Troll was slapping its knees and howling.

Once again, I had to cut the yarn. Twice. Eventually, I ended up with about 50 yards of hemp piled in my lap. Ever observant, I noted to myself: “Self, if you try to turn this pile over and wind it onto the ball from the underside, it’s going to tangle again. Better to wind the pile from this end into a little ball, then wind that onto the cardboard tube.” With a smug smile at my cleverness, I began to wind the loose yarn into its own little sphere. Er, ovoid. Once that was done, I picked up the cardboard roll with the little (and ever-more-little, what with all the knots) ball on it and began to wind the teeny little ovoid onto it. I even had the courage to watch a little TV in the background… and the Troll pounced: THIS stuff got all tangled up, too!

I won’t repeat what I said or how long it will take until the air cools down enough that my furnace will come back on. Suffice it to say that the Yarn Troll has been subdued, albeit temporarily, and the center-pull ball, placed carefully over said size 19 needle, rests delicately on a cushion soft enough and isolated enough to prevent the untimely explosion of nitroglycerin.
And I have ordered a swift and a ball-winder.

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It’s all a lie!

Whatever Snaotheus says about what I did to his car today, it’s a lie, totally and completely a lie. What actually happened was that I had an opportunity to whack the bejaysus out of the back side of his car and I took it. I knocked him and KrisDi halfway through next week and across the parking lot, without even trying, and his car looks like a tyrannosaur gnawed it for breakfast. Best thing was, the sun was setting so I could blame it all on low-level sun in my eyes. So if he tells you I just bumped his bumper (which is what it’s made for!) and left a couple of scratches that will disappear the next time he washes it, don’t believe him!

I was down there to do the final walk-through before they close on their house. Couldn’t help but compare this house to the first one Dad and I bought—this one’s about three times as big and much more luxurious. Our second house wasn’t anywhere near this schmancy, although it was much better after we got through remodeling and adding on to it. The third one was, but we had that custom-built in North Dakota for less than half what we’d’ve had to spend in California. Or Seattle, for that matter.

The landscaping in the back and front looks really good, as long as the fill was thoroughly compacted behind the retaining walls. It’ll be a little difficult to landscape, but will also offer them several areas where they can experiment once they get into it. It’s a beautiful house, and they should be very proud and ferociously excited!

Wasn’t any fun driving down and back. My shoulder was fine when I got in the car, but started to hurt in less than an hour and was pretty awful by the time I got home. Shoulders down. Shoulderblades back. Stretch the pecs. Concentrate, concentrate.

Bah. Cultivate good posture now, while you can.

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Another topple

Grandma was laughing about her thump into the litter box, but when she toppled over last night and whacked her head and it wasn’t quite so funny. The nurse called me (as they’re required to do), said the lump was about 1.5″ (she said this in a tone of voice I’d’ve used for 16 feet), and that Grandma really, really ought to go to the hospital.

“But she refused! She said no! She said she’d rather die!” Poor woman’s voice was, as they say, distraught. I laughed. Poor choice, but I couldn’t help it; it sounded so much like Grandma. Evidently, this nurse doesn’t know Grandma well enough to get her sense of humor. Grandma wasn’t having any neurological issues and hadn’t lost consciousness, so I told her I wasn’t going to worry just yet. She sounded as if she thought I was being neglectful—but I know how desperately Grandma hates to go to the hospital and won’t make her go unless it’s really important. Dropped by to see her today and she was fine, except for a rather ugly bruise on her noggin; not even any swelling left.

I told Grandma the stories cousin Donna Gayle told me the other day—that her dad, my uncle Don, when they were kids, used Grandma as a horse tester. If he wasn’t sure about a horse, he’d make Grandma mount up; if it didn’t throw her, he’d figure it was OK to ride.

“Yep,” Grandma said with that flash of fire in her eyes. “He sure did! I rode better than he did, then. But then a horse threw me, and Don thought I’d been killed and went to get Dad (your great-granddad). Dad was so mad, he tanned Don’s hide and forbade me ever to ride a horse again!”

We talked a bit about how mean big sibs are to younger ones and she said that her sister, Aunt Fan, had been horrible, mean, nasty, and sharp-tongued. This amazes me, because I remember all four aunts as being nothing but supportive and encouraging whenever I saw them. And how dearly they all four loved each other as adults. Any time the three sisters were together, they talked constantly, all three of them, and somehow managed to hear everything all the others said. Maybe that’s why Don wasn’t such a huge talker. 🙂

“I remember not long after (her sister) Fan got married,” Grandma continued. “I came home from school one day and brought in the wood, then I sat down by the fireplace. It was so quiet and nice. I told Grandma (my grandma, your great-grandma) that it was really pleasant in the house with Fan gone.”

That sounds a lot like something I heard a few times after someone else’s oldest sibling left home!

In other news, I went to PT again today and they did the Graston thing again, but it didn’t help nearly as much. It hurts. I’m going to get ice now.

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Recovery is sweet

I should have waited until yesterday to take a photo of my arm. It was a lot more dramatic.

“Eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables,” said the PT folks on Monday.

Yummm. Kumquats. Blood oranges. Tangerines. Yummmmm. And today, the PT folks only did stretching, no physical abuse, and the range of motion on that side of my neck is much, much improved. Yummmmmmy kumquats. Yummmmmy tangerines. Recovery is sweet.

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No exaggeration!


In case you think I was exaggerating yesterday, here’s a photo of my arm, palm facing forward so it’s rotated outward just a bit. This is where she was digging around under the deltoid. I’m not even going to look at the less socially acceptable areas, let alone try to shoot them.

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Purposeful pain and intelligent wounding

Someone once described surgery as a crude technique, nothing more than intelligent wounding.

My physical therapy sessions haven’t reached that point, but they have turned into what I’m trying to think of as purposeful pain.

They started Graston techniques on me today. This uses steel bars and pointy things, scraped across and pounded into various parts of your anatomy. In me, that included subscapular spots, very distal deltoid spots (the pointy bit at the bottom, and underneath the muscle) and pec minor work in addition to the others they’ve been working on. All those are really, really deep.

The outfit’s Web site says the technique causes “mild discomfort.” What it causes is screaming, yowling, jaw-clenching pain. (I didn’t scream, though. My therapist’s assistant said when she demonstrated it on him he screamed like a little girl.)

It didn’t help that they brought in every therapist in the place to see how tight my shoulder, back, chest and arms are. Evidently I’m setting a record.

Now I have to find some ice. Yeowitch.

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Translation frustration

This has nothing to do, as you might suspect it does, with a telenovela. It has to do with design vs. art.

Having spent the majority of my life in graphic design, I naturally think in those terms and am most comfortable with the tools involved—all of them, in my background, involving precision and control: pencils, pens, squares, triangles, rules, tape, pica poles, and knives. (Computers are a new addition and have their own problems.)

So here I am working on this painting snaotheus wants for his housewarming. After a false start with watercolors (during which I realized I couldn’t possibly gain the requisite manual skills with brushes as quickly as I needed to), I went to pastels, which I’ve used a fair amount and which, obviously, allow control similar to the harder tools.

However, I ran into texture problems and realized I was going to have to underpaint the piece with something other than pastels. I am frustrated with the floppiness of brushes and my inability to make them go where I want them to when I want them to do it (part of this is related to the meds-induced tremor that’s gotten worse over the last ten years or so). Artsy types would call this “spontaneity,” but in my world, it’s lack of control. “Loose” is not yet in my vocabulary, though I hope to add it during the next year or so.

Besides that, fine arts and design require different sets of criteria. I’ve gone through twelve background plans for this thing and discarded all but two. I have to let them sit for a while before I can see what’s wrong with them, in fine-arts terms, and then figure out what to do. This compared to usually coming up with a workable design first time out of the chute. So it’s taking longer than I expected and causing more turmoil than anticipated. Which is OK; the challenge is good. But it’s still frustrating. I’m unaccustomed to having to do something more than once or twice to get it right.

Feh. Human fallibility is not a pleasant characteristic.

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Amphibians for brains

Frogs, to be precise, as in “frogging back the second sleeve,” which is knit-speak for ripping the darn thing out. All that yapping about the brilliance of Karen’s method of short-rowing a sleeve cap and I was three inches into Sleeve Two before I realized I’d just knitted it ’round without the short rows. Snow for brains. Or frogs. Something wet and insubstantial, fershure. Yeezles.

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One-armed sweater

pirate sweater

This makes me think of pirates, which shows you what a sicko I am. So far, I’m pretty pleased with it. I did the body in the round and adapted the armseyes from this pattern. (It may require you to register to see it.) Not a seam in the piece anywhere. Well, a shoulder seam, but with a three-needle bind-off (which I rather astonishingly made up myself before I knew it existed; very bottom of the linked page) you still don’t have to sew it. Starting a few rows above the initial armseye bind-off, I did a simple K2P2 texture stitch front and back. I’m not sure you can even see that it’s a V-neck in this shot; my laptop isn’t the best for image manipulation. I think it’s understated and classic and I hope its intended recipient likes it. if not, I’ll find someone else that size who does. So there.

Having discovered on the previous sweater, knitted for myself, that armseye bind-offs aren’t quite as intuitive as I’d hoped, I wanted a pattern to go by with this one (even though my gauge was different). I didn’t want to do drop-shoulder sleeves. Many thanks to Karen for explaining how to pick up and knit the sleeve into the armseye to make a proper sleeve cap—it went quite splendidly. 🙂

I’ll need to repair a couple of very minor spots that no one but me will ever notice, but I prefer to think of that as intentionally leaving a flaw so as not to offend the fiber goddesses through perfection-induced arrogance.

I’m not sure why that center area looks lighter. In person, it appears to be a difference in texture (shinier/more reflective vs. rougher/less reflective in the rest of the body); the skeins were all the same dye lot, so I hope it’s not a color difference. 🙁

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