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.