Monday, May 31, 2010

A NewThing I Made

Last weekend, in between coughs, sniffles and whines, I finished the sweater that I started about a year ago. I looked back through my non-searchable hand-written journal and couldn't find the exact date that I started, but I only write three sentences a day, so perhaps if it was the fourth most significant thing that happened that day. Some of you will remember that I bought a bunch of yarn at the Hillsborough Yarn Shop. I chose to use the Crystal Palace Panda Silk in "denim tones" for my first article of clothing (non-scarf, non-hat).

I have become quite enamored with the crochet designs of Doris Chan, who has written three books, Amazing Crochet Lace, Everyday Crochet, and, just released, Crochet Lace Innovations. She has a blog, also titled Everyday Crochet and she is on, a social networking site for people who knit and crochet. I find Ravelry particularly useful, because you can see what challenges other people have faced while crocheting the same pattern you've chosen, see what alterations and what yarn substitutions they've made.

I chose to make the Anisette Vest from her first book, because I'd realized that I had absolutely nothing formal to wear. Doris Chan specializes in "exlpoded lace", designs that are larger interpretations of lace doilies and other finery. In addition, while the stitch pattern is way more complicated than anything else I'd ever attempted, the construction of the entire garment was an extremely simple vest.

In the top photo, you can see the fabric immediately after I'd fastened off and woven in the yarn ends. Crochet lace fabric needs to be blocked, or dampened and stretched, in order to actually make lace. This involves briefly soaking the fabric in lukewarm water, spilling the entire amount of water in the floor, draping the fabric over a towel, rolling up the towel, squeezing it as much as possible, and then pinning it to a foam blocking board in the dimensions specified by the pattern. Knitpicks has an excellent blocking video tutorial, which leaves out the spilling step, but otherwise is very instructive.

Here's a close-up view of the stitch pattern. It's pretty much single-crochet and chain stitches. Since I would go for months without working on it, the most challenging part was always just remembering where I'd left off. When I started using stitch markers every six rows, to indicate a pattern repetition, that helped tremendously.

Here I am actually wearing it. I probably won't have an occasion to wear it for years, but at least I'll be prepared.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Update from the Squirrel Farm

I considered having "Squirrel Sundays" and then realized I just wouldn't be able to maintain even that sort of posting schedule. I'm sure you want an update on how the little buggers are doing, though. While I don't have cats to provide me with an endless supply of camera fodder, squirrels do an adequate job with perhaps equally zany and destructive behavior. Not all of them are as laid back as the fellow above.

This little guy, and I do mean comparatively little, seemed particularly perky. When I first put pieces of dried corn out there, many of the squirrels were terrified by it. They'd sneak closer and closer and then jump back as if it had bitten them. In contrast, this brave youngster chowed down on this thing for at least an hour.

As you can see, if you look closely, some of the kernels are getting stuck between the cracks, because the squirrels are good at making a mess. Guess what happens when the cob is gone? It's time to go after the remaining stuck kernels. While you may suspect they store all kinds of picks, power tools and straightened coat hangers in their nests, they decided instead to use their non-precision teeth for the job. I should have taken a photo of the aftermath with the piles of wood splinters everwhere, but I was too busy yelling at them. Yes, this morning (Pacific time), I opened the door and yelled at the cute, furry, poor and not-so-defenseless squirrel, who happened to be gnawing when I noticed. Of course, I immediately felt guilty.

Just a few minutes later, I noticed that another young squirrel had decided to climb all the way up to the second row of my bedroom windows. Once it got to the ledge, it seemed very upset and didn't know how to get down and I don't think it could have climbed onto the roof from there. You can see where I've circled it in the photo above. Eventually it jumped into the bush below, an Osmanthus fragrans.