February 2010 Archives

January Room Wrap Up -- Play Room

With January behind me, it's a good time to wrap up on the first room in my house that I took the time to work on: Z's play area.

You can find the "before" view and my goals in the post here.

To review my goals:

  1. Get a second toy storage frame so that the two can be placed back to back and Z can have an area to play on top of
  2. Replace the toy bins and label them so that toys like Legos and Tinker Toys have a dedicated storage area -- hopefully this will also help others get the toys back to the right place.
  3. Get rid of the metal crates and get a real book case of some kind for her books.
  4. Cull out old toys she doesn't play with and find a place to donate/share/recycle.
I'm actually pretty pleased with what I accomplished. 

20100201_PlayArea3.jpgI found it really hard to photograph the area because of the dimensions of the room and the lens I was using.  This is the view from north to south.   I was able to get the extra Trofast storage unit from Ikea, and I replaced the bins that Z had broken or damaged.  We also purchased an Expedit bookcase from Ikea -- selected because it wasn't specifically "kid furniture" and could be put into service somewhere else, if necessary -- getting those things pretty much knocked out goals 1, 2 and 3.

20100201_PlayArea1.jpgThis is a detail shot of the corner with the easel and the bookcase.  In addition to the storage, I wanted to start to create an art area for her.  That easel was also from Ikea, and, at $15 it was something both John and I could agree on.  It has a chalkboard on one side, a white board on the other and a nice way to hold a roll of paper for her to draw on, too.    The blue circular bin behind the red chair is also an Ikea purchase.  It is being used to store balls and balloons and a few stuffed toys.  I really like the Expedit unit and all the uneven height shelves.  This makes it perfect for storing toys and books of a whole variety of sizes -- and most things are at kid height, but there are still some areas out of reach for things that we need to go into "time out".

20100201_PlayArea2.jpgThis is the toy storage area.  We already had the bottom Trofast system, we purchased the middle and top units.  The top unit will hold art supplies (things that should be out of reach unless adult supervised) and the middle additional toys.  We're not sure that this is the final configuration.  Right now we're also trying out having the second large unit sit at a right angle to the first unit (along the carpet line) so that Z can have two areas to play on. 

As far as goal 4 is concerned, we're still mid-sort.  Not surprisingly, I didn't find too many books or toys worth parting with, and once I had the bins to sort things into, it made it easy to start to find all the pieces for things that I thought were broken or missing too many parts to be worth keeping.  Just goes to show that a little organization can go a long way towards understanding what we really do have!

Overall, I'm extremely pleased with my first month's efforts.  I think that keeping the goals simple and manageable made it easier for me to keep my eyes on the prize.   Tonight those bins will get their photo labels (an idea from the comments on my first post that I thought was brilliant -- thank you Anna!), and I will get a chance to play with my new laminator for the first time!

Now it's time to pick the next room!

Putting the Heddles to the Mettle

Once you have your warp all ready to go, it's time to start this:

20100205_HeddleThreading1.jpgI have now started enough weaving projects to realize that I really don't mind warping looms.  If you need to clear your head and refocus, warping a loom is a perfect activity.   At one level, it's very "lock and load", the tasks are simple and repetitive, hands are engaged.  On another level, you are forced to keep both brain and hands in action, especially if the pattern you need to use when threading your heddles has a longer repeat.  For the color gamp project I am working on, the final product will be a huck lace blanket.  Each section is made up of 40 threads of the same color and the heddle threading pattern is 40 ends wide.  It's memorizable, but you have to pay attention.   I've done the heddle threading for all but the last two color sections (I could have kicked myself when I found that I left my camera at home last night) and I've had to pull the threads out and re-start on three or four of the colors because I found that I was off somewhere.   Whenever I let my mind drift off, it's easy for something to get out of whack.

And that makes this the perfect perfect project for me right now.  There's a lot spinning around in my head these days and projects like this help me put that stuff into another compartment and keep me centered -- not to mention provide me with some color therapy... Chicago has been nothing if not unremittingly grey this winter. 

I'm also making good headway on my Blooming 9 Patch.  All the strips have been sewn and I'm starting on the process of sewing them together.  I got three of them sewn together yesterday and looking at them made me feel so good!  The lines and seams are mostly where they should be and the colors are just blowing me away.   And like the weaving project, this project requires focus now, careful pinning and careful sewing. 

John's Aspinwall is coming together, too.   It actually looks like a real sweater and it is now clear that I won't run out of yarn.   A collar, a zipper, the sewing in of ends and a good blocking are really all that stand between this sweater and it's owner.

I know my blog posts have been a bit infrequent of late... I appreciate those of you who are bearing with me on this.  I do enjoy your comments any your email and hope to get a little better at being regular on posting and responding soon.

Aspinwall Progress

Well, well, well... most of the major knitting on Aspinwall is complete.  I need to pick up some stitches and knit up the collar, but that's the last element in this knitting adventure.  It doesn't even look like I'm going to have to get concerned about running out of yarn -- something I am almost always doing somewhere along the way when I knit a large project.

Once the chest band of two color knitting is done and the sleeves are attached, it's a pretty easy run to the finish line.  It's a bit bulky moving the thing around, but I'm happy to deal with the bulk to avoid dealing with a lot of seaming later on.   Which is not to say I executed perfectly on the top half... somewhere along the way I seem to have picked up (or not decreased) a couple of stitches.  I've looked over and over and I can't figure out where exactly it happened.  One is on one of the fronts, the other is in the back.  I could have ripped back and figured it out, but since the extra stitches don't seem to affect the look of the sweater, I've decided not to worry.  I think this is one of the benefits of working with a somewhat irregular yarn.  The presence of big slubby stitches here and there softens everything and your eye doesn't really look for perfection everywhere.

After the collar goes in, the only thing left is to find a zipper and sew it in and weave in the ends.  Keep your fingers crossed that John will be wearing this item before the end of the month!

Walnut Socks

A post on a Wednesday.  Amazing, eh? 

With the start of John's foray into Mass Effect 2, I've decided to start another pair of socks for him.  These are in garter rib (which is a delightfully easy pattern to knit with given the satisfying results it provides) using the cashmere blend Sophie's Toes that I purchased a little while back.  The colorway is "Walnut".  I have never liked knitting with brown yarn so much!  Isn't the variation beautiful?  And I'm having a hard time seeing much in the way of noticeable pooling.    While I have a nice little cache of Emily's yarn in my stash, this is the first project I've started on with it.  This cashmere blend also contains nylon in addition to the merino content -- soft and tough.  Perfect stuff for the husband man, and pretty nice for the knitter as well!

(A few minor details for posterity... socks are knit on US size 1 needles and are 64 stitches around).

Blooming 9 Patch Progress

I've been sewing up a storm when it comes to my Blooming 9 Patch Project.  This is the first half of the quilt (the strips are sewn together from the center outwards).  In truth, I've actually finished sewing the first half, but haven't had a good opportunity (or location) to take a good picture of half a queen-sized quilt. 

While pinning the strips together is a little mind numbing and fussy, the results make the effort worth while.  My horizontal seams are really incredibly good (at least for me... I am sure there are spots where an experienced quilter would be less happy with) and the effect is to really make this quilt look like it is made up of pieced together blocks instead of strip pieces. 

So far, this project has also been very visually inspiring for me.  The bright yellow morphing through a progression of colors out to a deep blue edging.  I imagined this quilt with "fire" in mind, the dark colors meant to evoke both the blues that sometimes show up in flame as well as the embers and it still reads that way to me.  One of the first times that I've used color to try to express a theme -- and feel that I've done it successfully, at least to my own eye.

February is a short and cold but jam-packed month chez Biologist, so the smart Biologist picks her house battles carefully and with those limitations in mind.  The second stop on my room a month tour is my Laundry Room.

20100214_LaundryRoom.jpgThis strange looking picture is a composite (it's hard to get a full on good shot because of the whole long/narrow issues with my house layout).  This organizational embarrassment is my laundry area (it's not really a room -- more of a largish closet).  You'll also note the server in the top right corner -- my poor laundry room also serves as our home network closet and houses not only the big honking server (nicknamed "gargantuan" because of its capacious harddrive room) but also a variety of satellite TV equipment and other miscellaneous home networking miscellany.    And as if that wasn't enough functionality for one closet the top left part of space is taken up with some storage stuff.

Over the years I make attempts at making this space better.  The wire shelving, the shelving between the machines were part of those attempts -- and I'm happy with that stuff. My big mission in this space is not to refurbish (what I wouldn't give for a front loading washing machine!) but simply to get it cleaned up and more functional. 

The goals for this space:

  • Go through all cleaning products and discard any that I no longer use. 
  • Get all clean laundry (that pile on top of the drier is actually clean <sigh>) to where it belongs.
  • Get the laundry in the bag with the blue markings taken care of -- this bag is my sweater bag of shame... mostly because I discovered some garments with, horror of horrors, moth holes.  Anything in this bag needs to be washed, discarded or taken to the dry cleaner.  I have some good sweater cleaning supplies from The Laundress that I bought last year to help me with this task. 
  • Sort through stored junk to make sure that all of it has a reason for being. 
  • Find a way to keep the server stuff organized and out of the way.  I've resolved myself to the fact that this hardware has taken up permanent residence, but the monitor, keyboard (buried under clothes) and other things have to have a way of being stored neatly when they are not in use (which is most of the time... it's just that when John needs them, he needs them to be there)
Wish me luck... this space is small, and seems manageable, but always very resistant to actual change!

Half A Quilt

Well, I just couldn't leave that dreadful picture of my laundry room at the top of my page for too much longer.  So instead, I present the first half of my Blooming 9 Patch in all of it's slightly rumpled glory

The second half took me a little while to get going on, but it's now officially underway.  I have a feeling that when I get this quilt top finished, I'm not going to want to share it with my guest room. 

I'm already trying to decide what kind of backing it's going to get... after putting the minkee on the back of Z's quilt, I'm very tempted by the idea of giving it a black minkee backing of it's own...

Sock Gambling

Enough yarn?  Keep your fingers crossed.  I really hate ripping and  re-knitting ribbing.

Fire is Blooming

20100221_Blooming9PatchComp.jpgBlooming Batik 9 Patch -- "Fire"

This picture makes my heart sing.   My Blooming 9 Patch in Fire inspired Batiks and Prints is complete.   The finished quilt is 83" x 93" (making it very hard to find a good place to lay it out for pictures) without a border.  Since The only border that would make sense is the same fabric as makes up the dark edge bits and I wasn't smart enough to think about stashing a few yards of that when I started the project, I don't think this quilt will have a border beyond what you see here. 

When it comes to quilting, I know that I am not and will never be a technical artist.  The truth is, I don't really have much desire to actually do the quilting part, and I doubt that I will ever be a truly sophisticated user of my sewing machine.  What makes me so gleefully happy about this project is the color and how it came together.  When I first started knitting, I was really in awe of people who could work well and design well with color. Making a quilt top, for me, is about the color study.

My goal for this project (as I mentioned in a previous post) was to work with a color pallette out of my standard zone (blues, greens, purples) and to try to evoke an idea.  I have always shied away from yellows, reds and oranges. I don't wear colors with yellow undertones very well, so don't tend to work with them in my knitting.  But a quilt project is the perfect place to play with colors like that, since a housewear item doesn't have to complement my skin tone.  So I started with that notion and decided that I wanted to evoke the idea of warmth and fire. 

The fabric in this quilt is mostly composed of batiks -- batiks are my first love when it comes to fabric.  I gravitate to them like I gravitate to silk yarns when I knit.  However, there are a few standard prints in there as well  (mostly in the red zone).  Were I to do it again, I think I would select all batiks, because the properties of the batik and standard cottons were different enough that in some places is made the sewing more challenging than it needed to be.

I'm still deciding on the backing, but leaning heavily towards black minkee so that it will have a bit more soft and inviting quality to it.  

And Then There Were Walnut Socks

The gambling paid off.  There are now socks:

20100223_WalnutSocks.jpgThe Specs:
Garter Rib Socks,
Man's US Size 11
Knit on US size 1 Needles
Sophie's Toes Cashmere Blend in "Walnut"

I had vanishingly little yarn left over, which actually makes me pretty happy because I always feel like I've done a good job when I maximize yarn usage in a sock project.  John has found them to be quite satisfactory... since he's worn them three days in a row.  I'll take that as an endorsement.  And the wear on them doesn't look to bad, either, which makes me feel good about this yarn and definitely increases the likelihood that there will be more of this yarn (Sophie's Toes Cashmere Blend) in his future.

I like this pattern stitch so much, I'm almost tempted to turn the Sophie's Toes that I got for myself into the same thing. 

But the best thing about these socks?  The model:

20100223_WalnutSockModel.jpgThis is what I got when I said "hold Daddy's socks while I take your picture".  Not the best picture of the socks but a pretty good picture of the kid.  She's now beginning to understand what I want when I give her knitwear and ask her to hold it while I take a picture.  And she was very excited afterward when it was time to give Daddy the socks.

P.S.  Thank you to everyone who commented on my quilt top.  Y'all made my day and just added to the warm fuzzy happy feeling I have from getting that completed.  Fear not that this will be the last showing of the quilt on the blog.  When the quilting is done and the weather is better and better pictures are possible, all will be provided.  

Fingerless Farinelli

This project knit up so quickly I didn't even have time to post a progress shot.

20100228_FarinelliFingerles.jpgThese are the fingerless version of the Farinelli gloves by Ysolda Teague, published in the Twist Collective.  I loved them when I saw them, but wasn't sure I'd get much use out of over the elbow opera gloves.  Ysolda then published the modifications for a shortened, fingerless version on her blog -- and that was all the remaining convincing that I needed to purchase the pattern. 

I have been wanting a pair of fingerless gauntlets for a long time.  Sitting in my home office in the winter can get quite chilly, and my mouse hand, in particular, starts to ice up.  I bought the Dream in Color "Smooshy" in the color you see above (I just can't remember the name, and the ball band is long gone) for the specific purpose of knitting myself some fingerless goodness, and, then, true to my usual pattern, took two years getting around to finding the right design and getting them knit up.  I wash about to design something myself when I found Ysolda's pattern and realized that it had all the elements that I wanted.

20100228_FarinelliModeled.jpgAs with other patterns of Ysolda's that I've worked, I was impressed with the easy to follow instructions.  I love that the pattern is mirrored on each glove.  Besides the modifications she suggested for shortening them and making them fingerless, I made only a few small changes to suit my own needs.  I chose a 2.5 mm needle instead of a 2.75 mm needle (I have pretty narrow forearms and wrists and didn't want the gauntlets to be too loose) and added a couple extra rounds around the knuckles.  They were a little stiff pre-blocking, but after a soak, they softened up and have a very lovely drape without being too loose.  Smooshy seems to come with pretty generous yardage, because I used right around half a skein for this pair of gauntlets.

These gloves are a little present to myself.  They celebrate an earlier in the month birthday as well as a career transition not to mention finding my crafty mojo again.  And they are pretty much the first knitted hand gear that I have ever made for myself.  They came together so fast that I might have to treat myself to another pair, though perhaps the second pair will have a flip top -- one of the things that any northern climate iPhone user needs in the winter is a nice pair of gloves that supports the occasional exposed fingertip!


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