Thursday, July 30, 2015

En Pointe

I made those feet. She made them be awesome.
Iris gets her pointe shoes this Saturday. This is a big deal for a dancer, like getting your wand before you go to your first year at Hogwarts. The shoes and the dancer's feet have  to be just exactly right for each other or disaster follows. She could be injured or worse-- expelled!*  At any rate, I'm proud of how hard she's worked to get to the place where she has the opportunity to work even harder. Here are some Australian dancers explaining this a little better than I can:

The best way I know how to express my joy for her is with knitwear, so a pair of rainbow socks seemed like just the thing. The socks pictured above are called Beautiful Feet and it's Lara Neel's Fork in the Road socks, toe up version of my own devising, in Knit Picks Felici: Rainbow and Studio Avenue Six Self Striping sock yarn: 2 light blue, 2 dark blue (discontinued).

I made some headway on the second link to the BFF cowl as well and I seem to be hitting my stride. The first part of the cabling is a little wonky and I'm going to leave it because I'm a little wonky and my BFF knows it.

Leto, on the other hand is stuck in the black hole of being made out of lace weight and longer than is strictly necessary, but I love the drape of a finely knit fabric and, frankly, kind of want to have a big wide chunk of that border pattern. It's a process knit, anyway, and not a product knit. Its lesson is patience and persistence.

 The black alpaca got a little bit of attention this week, too, and finally got carded and spun a little. Tour de Fleece wasn't going to happen this year, but I'm glad to move the fiber queue up a little.

In ballet, to be en pointe is representative of skill, persistence, dedication, and strength. Taking point in the military means to be up front (where the danger is). Being on point in other contexts could mean to be at the forefront of an issue or to be someone who exhibits competence and style.

Sometimes I feel like I'm running to stand still, but I've had a good week. I feel on point/en pointe myself, and you can take any of those meanings you like except for the one where I'm literally standing on my toes.

Because that's really Iris' thing.

I only do it to reach things on tall shelves.

Which, frankly, is kind of often.

This is this year's Colors of Fall Outfit-a-long all finished. One plaid casual men's shirt from stash flannel and one Trillian by Martina Behm in Silky B Cashmere in a navy sparkle, bringing my Stash Dash total meterage up to 1,462, about halfway to the 3k line. I deviated from the official OAL patterns, but I'm going to get a lot of wear out of both of these, so that's a definite win. I feel competent, in front of things, skillful, and maybe even a little stylish.

Iris is definitely all of those things and more. I'm proud of her. Good job, kiddo.**

*no one is getting expelled. Chill, Hermione.
** I also realize that the only picture of Iris in this post is the one of her feet. She's elusive and difficult to photograph, like Bigfoot, but more graceful and with better eyeshadow. She's certainly less hairy. I'm also very proud of Bu, who is full of so much potential energy and deserves much more than a footnote.

Thursday, July 23, 2015


Toddler for scale.
In ancient times, people would make a pilgrimage to Athens right around June or July for the Panathenaia. Back then, one of the things they did was to dress the statue in new clothes, which, considering that it was 42' high, was kind of a big deal. Fortunately for me, "pilgrimage" really only means about a half an hour drive. Why go all the way to Athens when we've got a perfectly good Parthenon just up the road?

So every year, right around June or July, we head up to the Parthenon and have our own festival. For us, this means a picnic and some time to be quiet and present in the temple cleverly disguised as a tourist attraction. I'll bring an offering of wool, leave a prayer, and knit or spin while I listen to what Athene has to say. Most of my prayers are for my kids, but not all. We had a picnic after and this year was particularly nice because we had the opportunity to stop by the SSK marketplace afterward. I brought home a skein of Miss Babs' Yowza in the colorway Joan of Arc and Iris brought home a little something for herself with which she might make a hat. Bekah summed up the visit pretty well, actually.
This is Sam's brother, Frank.

The fiber arts mean a lot to me, if you haven't noticed. They've shaped who I am at least as much as any single event or even my academic pursuits (also the purview of Athene). Especially when I'm sewing, there's a connection to the people who taught me or inspired me. Mom taught me to use a sewing machine and Mamaw (her mom) gave me a sewing kit that I gave to Iris. I'm not that far removed from those who had to sew from necessity and though I don't really have to, there are lessons I've learned from sewing and later quilting, knitting, spinning, and weaving, that have been invaluable. I won't go naked if I don't sew or knit, but I still need to for other reasons.

On a completely physical level, I would not have the dexterity or spatial reasoning I do now if I hadn't learned to sew at a very young age. Understanding the connections between fiber arts skills and academics is, to me, like saying that spoons are great for both soup and ice cream. ...I'm not entirely sure that makes much sense, but here is a goddess who presides over two very important parts of my life that often overlap in unexpected ways. I can't not seek excellence in both, not only because She expects that of me, but also because there is so much joy to be had when the socks fit or when your paper is well-researched and clever. No small part of that joy is gratitude toward the ones who taught me and who continue to teach me.
It's not so much that I'm learning particular skills, but really that I'm continuing to learn, period. Focus, patience, and perseverance are each part of what it takes to become skilled in a craft and you have to practice those so that you can practice the things like cabling, buttonholes, afterthought heels, spreading butterflies, writing papers, making distribution maps. By extension, Project Make isn't about making things, as such, but really about making a better me through practice. That's where the wisdom is.

I'm rambling today. I hope you'll forgive me for it.

I don't do posts like this often, but knitting is happening, too. I've got one heel done on these.

And the BFF cowl is back on active needles. 34 sts, as it turns out, was the magic number. 

And I froze some corn this week, which isn't really related.

And this happened. There was a laundry basket, so she climbed in it. You might remember the shirt from earlier.

I'll try to be back next week with a more regular post with a little less incoherent philosophical rambling and a little more actual fiber arts content.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Busy times

It's actually too warm for flannel shirt shenanigan, but I'll be ready when it finally cools down. I ended up using a men's/boy's shirt pattern and initially cut it much too large. Thanks to my experience with the boys' dance shirts, though, I was able to cut it down to a more sensible size. Miss Lladybird's tutorial helped me match the plaids and last week's buttonhole video helped me make neater, more even buttonholes. The next shirt will fit a little better, but for kicking around in cool weather, this one is just right. Successfully matching plaids is pretty darn satisfying and I can totally see me doing up another one in the future.

Pattern, fabric, buttons, and thread came from stash, so all I had to buy was interfacing for this one. If I were to do it again, I'd get a woven plaid instead of a print, but the whole project only cost a couple of bucks (and a ridiculous amount of labor).

So that's one half of the Colors of Fall Outfit-a-long all done and ready to wear. The knitting on Trillian is done, but it still needs a wash and a block. I'll try to get some shots of both together next week. It's done enough for Stash Dash, though, so that puts me at 1245m and still moseying along.

I'm doing up some project bags in this same fabric, which will go into the Project Make bin as representative of the aforementioned plaid-matching shenanigans. The next bit of sewing after that will be a t-shirt for me out of some discount jersey. I'm picking through my neglected projects and I've worked on Leto a little bit this week, but I think the next thing will be the BFF cowl. Aside from the purse socks, I'm pretty sure that's the closest project to done, so far as yardage goes. That means I've checked off three of this month's goals:

  1. Finish the plaid shirt
  2. Finish Trillian
  3. Find a neglected project and begin working on it before month's end
  4. Sew a t-shirt for myself
  5. Card the rest of the black alpaca and finish spinning it

I'm also studying for the GRE again and getting Miss Fluffalo ready to start high school, so it's busy times at the House.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Moving right along

This week's post is a little late, due to some extra adulting that happened yesterday. With luck, patience, fortitude, and persistence, I will be moving to the next stage in my professional career. That process is going to be a job in and of itself, but there could be very good things at the end of it.

It's not every day I treat you to a picture of my armpit, but I thought I'd share the results of my plaid-matching shenanigans. I gotta tell you, seeing it line up like that is pretty darn satisfying. Unfortunately, the other side wasn't nearly as tidy, but it turned out pretty well, all things considered. I still have buttonholes, buttons, and a bottom hem to go, which shouldn't take too long if I can ever get some quality time with my sewing machine.

Knitting is boring this week. I made it to the 400 yard mark on my Trillian, but have a whole other two hundred yards to go. It's going to be huge, squashy, warm, and wonderful. I can't wait to wear it.

This week's technique is buttonholes. There are several ways to do buttonholes and you do them by hand or fancy it up a bit and bind them with fabric. For the most part, though, and for a casual shirt like this one, I generally use the buttonhole setting on my sewing machine.

When you cut the buttonhole open, you can place a straight pin at the end so that you don't push your seam ripper through the stitches. I also use embroidery scissors to cut the holes open because I feel like I can be very precise with them and the pin trick would still work.

That's it this week. I'm hoping that by this time next week, I'll have a finished shirt to show you.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Rainbow-themed Jubilance

This week has been a pretty darn productive one and, looking back on June, I'd have to say I'm pretty happy with the way things are going. 

Thematically appropriate mug choice for this week.
I just want to knit and sew rainbows all over the place, but I have a shirt and a shawl to make for OAL shenanigans and will not be distracted from my goal. You will be mine, plaid flannel shirt, Oh yes, you will be mine.

Cutting continues at a slow pace and, wouldn't you know it, I didn't have enough interfacing. It's always the interfacing. I think I have some, but "some" always turns out to be maybe a quarter of a yard if you were to line up all the scraggly little pieces into a sort of rectangular shape, between which no actual pattern pieces will fit. 

It's fine. I bought more. 

I also came home with three new patterns because McCall's were on sale: 6613 is to replace the one I'm currently cutting, 6964 is for... because t-shirts, and 7141 is for my sweet otaku Fluffalo. 

I do still have some rainbow socks on the needles for the aforementioned Fluffalo, though, and that satisfies my need for rainbow-themed jubilance pretty well. They're my purse knitting, though, so aren't seeing much action. 

What is seeing a lot of action, though, is Trillian by Martina Behm. It's the second half of the OAL and my morning knitting. I'm well into the 2nd of three balls of yarn now and knitting with laser focus. I want to be done and I'd like to step up the pace on the Stash Amble/Mosey (aka Stash Dash for those doing more finishing than I). 

I did finish Die grĂ¼nen, Easy Ribbed Legwarmers by  Carol Wells:

And those ended up being over 300 yards of old stash. I really love them, even though they're about the simplest thing you could knit, and I'm hoping to get quite a bit of wear out of them in the cold months. 

Then there was jam:

The observant among you will notice that my floors are really clean. Generally, while I wait for the jars to cool, I use the water from the canner to mop the floors. Most of these jams will be retained for us to have through the year, but some will end up given away at some point. There's still jelly to be made in the fall, so I'm sure there will be plenty to share. I'm toying with the idea of selling a few jars, but I haven't decided. What I may do is offer a few jars at the end of 2015 as part of the culmination of Project Make, but at this point I'm just thinking out loud.
This week's technique is processing jars of jam for safe storage. The best resource is the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning and I'm a big fan of federally funded science that results in the common good, but I'll also outline my method here as simply as possible. 
  • Before you start, sanitize your jars on "Heat Dry" in the dishwasher or in boiling water for about five minutes
  • Make the jam or jelly, put the jam in the jars with about 1/4" head space (the gap of air between the jam and the lid).
  • Heat lids in warm water, not boiling, five to ten minutes, until the plastic seal is soft. Use new lids. They're a couple bucks for a dozen, which is a bargain for food safety.
  • Carefully wipe the rim of the jar clean as clean can be
  • Place a lid on each jar and secure with a metal ring
    • The metal ring should be secure so that the lid stays on and in place
    • But not so tight that air cannot escape
  • Submerge jars in boiling water that covers at least an inch to two inches of the jar for seven minutes
  • Remove from the boiling water, you'll want a jar-grabber thingy, and let them cool until you hear a POP! from every jar. 
    • The jars that don't POP! can be re-processed in boiling water or refrigerated and eaten right away. 
Looking back, I like what I'm seeing. I feel good about the things I'm making and because I want to continue this trend, I'm going to be bold and set some goals for this month:
  1. Finish the plaid shirt
  2. Finish Trillian
  3. Find a neglected project and begin working on it before month's end
  4. Sew a t-shirt for myself
  5. Card the rest of the black alpaca and finish spinning it
Those are completely doable goals, I think. It's okay if I don't get all of that done before the month's out, but I'm so focused on the few things I am doing that I think I can get much of this short list done.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Because of magic

So, that happened. 

Last week we went to Cocoa Beach for a couple days and then to Disney for another four days mainly for dance-related shenanigans. Do you see that smile on my face? That's the real deal and I'm smiling like this in all of the photos I'm in because I am genuinely having a blast. Frankly, I'd forgotten what it felt like to be relaxed and have a nice time. Even when we did the Showcase of Bathrooms with the little bit, we were having a good time. Aside from a few unfortunate potty-training-related difficulties, it was one of our best vacations. 

The best part? Everyone was super nice and not only because it was their job. I saw buckets and buckets of genuine compassion, playfulness, kindness, joy, and general awesomeness. Even guests were uncommonly kind to one another because... of... magic. That's all I can come up with.

I also left my tablet at home for the entire trip, which means my brain got a rest, too, but it also means that I'm short on pictures this week, so here's a gratuitous photo of the Fluffalo hoarding kale chips.

I actually got quite a bit of knitting done this past week, though almost no knitting happened during our four days at Disney. Much of what happened was during the 12+ hour drive. I got about 1 1/4 of Fluffalo's socks done, minus heels, on the way down and I managed about 2 1/2 feet of Trillian on the way back. I'm almost done with the legwarmers, too. It's amazing what you can accomplish if you spend hours doing nothing but sitting and knitting. It's like magic. 

Now that I've started Trillian, the Outfit-a-Long is gaining momentum. I'm focusing this week on getting my shirt cut out and working on my shirt-making skills, including matching plaids. I'm mostly reading and watching videos about matching plaids right now because the fabric is still in the wash, but Miss Lladybird's tutorial looks like it hits the OCD/lazybutt balance just right. So that's this week's technique. (Woo!) I'll let you know how it goes. Right this second, though, I have to go put the fabric in the dryer.

Ummm... because mint

And speaking of being thorough, I just skimmed through my monograph on little (mostly) brown South American butterflies and remembered just how flippin' thorough I can be. I've spent some time away from it while Professor worked on the edits to send it to a journal and I wanted to look through it one more time before sending it out in the world. I'm proud of my work and I hope it will serve to help other scientists learn about these beauties for a very long time. Even as long as it is and as thorough as I was, it's not complete and never will be. It's taken nearly two hundred years to understand even as much as I do about this group and I know I'm only scratching the surface. Anyway, I'll let you know how that goes, too. I'm not sure what the timeline is for publication for this particular journal is, but it shouldn't be too long. 

So, did you miss me? How has your June been going? Did you have a Happy Solstice?

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Not bad for having mucous for brains all week.

In spite of a pretty bad cold, or possibly because of it, I've had a pretty productive week. I've been working to keep the house tidier so it's not a huge mess or stressful to clean before we leave for our trip and a ten minute tidy at night combined with the eldest's help in the kitchen has been quite effective. I finished both of Miss Bu's Florida shirts (the second of which has yet to be modeled in its finished state), made a little progress on my legwarmers, and figured out where I was on Louise-- the sleeves, in case you were wondering.

And I've started a sock for the Eldest, too. This will be more or less a plain sock with a stripe of 1x1 ribbing up the leg, toe up so I can use all the yarn, and using Lara Neel's Thumb joint hat top heel from the Fork in the Road pattern. It only took a little bit of turning my brain sideways to make it work and I think she's going to love them.

In other news, I kind of tossed "gardening" into the Project Make excellence salad, not really knowing a hundred percent what I'd do with it, but I did prune some of the trees today so that we could get under them to mow a little easier, so I'll throw in some tree-pruning in for this week's technique. The trees I pruned are quite large and I only worried about what I could reach today, so this is a little more information than I really needed, but might be handy again when the cherry and peach trees get to be a little more mature. I probably should be worrying more about this in the fall, but I hardly took down any branches at all, so today's pruning likely won't cause any harm.

Of course now I have a pile of perfectly good oak branches that could be turned into something, but no time to really do anything with them before we leave the state.

By this time next week, I'll be in Florida, chilling on the beach, but I do plan on posting from there so that the fun here at Lace Maze won't stop. And I'm alonging with Bekah, who has summed up better than I what I'm up to. I kinda feel like I'm Stash Ambling instead of Stash Dash-ing, but I'm sure this is just a lull in the finishing. Once I card and spin the rest of the black alpaca (spinning from the locks was a no-go today), I've got some gradient batts waiting in the wings and will be jumping into the gradient-along, too. In the mean time, I've got some serious planning to do.

And I plan to focus the awesomeness into a laser beam of awesome.