Ilivetolearn's Blog

March 30, 2009

felting, fulling, fusing, forgiving

Filed under: fused plastic,laundry,sewing/knitting,Uncategorized,upcycling/recycling — ilivetolearn @ 1:22 pm

I have now spent weeks producing fused plastic and making it into tote bags. I learned how from an Etsy tutorial, and also got hints from craftzine-digital.com and craftster.org. Pretty much every site compares the plastic “fabric” we are creating to Tyvek in that it is lightweight, durable, waterproof, and easy to sew. So I thought I’d check out the official Tyvek website: http://www2.dupont.com/Tyvek/en_US/. Wonder of wonders, they have the audacity to call Tyvek “The original nonwoven technology.” There are Mongolians and others in central Asia who would dispute this. They’ve been producing felt (the real original nonwoven technology) for thousands of years, predating weaving, knitting, and pretty much any other fiber work. I know this because I recently went to the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum for a fantastic felt exhibit.

I was carrying the bag pictured below, which I call “felted” but is actually “fulled.” Fulling is subjecting previously knitted or woven material to wetness and compression to make the fibers bond together tightly, whereas true felting is subjecting fiber itself, recently on the sheep but cleaned and carded, to wetness and compression. Many people have fulled something by mistake, as I did when I washed one of my adult-sized hand-knit sweaters in the machine and it came out fitting Elliot, then 4. The buttonholes I had carefully spaced out on the right side of the cardigan shrank themselves out of existence and I had to install a zipper. So to get the bag to its current size (about 9-10″ in either dimension) I had to knit a sack resembling a pillowcase. Fortunately the fulling process hid all the imperfections of my first attempt at entrelac…the knitter’s term for the diamond pattern.

Fusing is equally forgiving…if you have the iron on too hot and produce some holes you can just patch them up with a few more layers of plastic bags. Next I’ll work on installing zippers.

March 14, 2009

happy pi(e) day

Filed under: food/groceries,Spain — ilivetolearn @ 2:49 pm

When we lived in Madrid, Evan’s math teacher announced that March 14th was Pie Day (3.14…pi…get it?) and Evan prevailed upon me to make an apple pie for him to take to school. So I did. This year I read in the NY Times that January 23rd is National Pie Day, decreed so by (who else?) the American Pie Council. They clearly didn’t consult mathematicians when choosing the date in 1986. Maybe they picked 1.23 to illustrate the saying “easy as pie.” Their main event, though, the Great American Pie Festival, including the National Pie Championships (yes, a bake-off) takes place in late April in the aptly named Celebration, Florida. If past winning entries are any indication, there will be recipes to avoid (Peanut Butter-n-Strawberry Explosion Pie) as well as a few to try.

Today I’m on pie-day hiatus. The girls are on spring vacation, the boys are out of the country, and no hungry math teachers have wheedled me into baking.

March 13, 2009

across, down, knit, purl

Filed under: crossword puzzles,sewing/knitting — ilivetolearn @ 6:14 pm

There may be a large overlap between puzzle solvers and Star Wars/Star Trek fans (I’m in a different circle in that Venn diagram) but I found common ground with knitters while I was at the tournament. Several stopped by to comment on my felted bag,

bagand one saw that I was knitting socks and asked me to come to her table and give a mini-tutorial on the magic loop method.

socksWe congratulated ourselves on having a constructive way to use the “relaxed” minutes between the crosswords, since puzzles 1 through 7 took only 20 to 45 minutes, depending on difficulty. Other competitors might leave the tournament with a cash award, a new game, a bottle of sake (one of Friday evening’s prizes), some additional arcane knowledge, or fond memories…but she and I would also leave with new handmade garments!

One of the things I like about knitting is how easily it lends itself to multi-tasking. I can knit while conversing, while watching TV, while reading (OK, listening to a book), while seeing a movie (the cinema projects have to be truly idiot-proof; I have not yet indulged in light-up needles), while driving (yes, officer, only at red lights), while queueing, but not while doing puzzles. More’s the pity.

March 11, 2009

more thoughts on the crossword world

Filed under: crossword puzzles — ilivetolearn @ 2:35 pm

Well, yes, my life has actually changed since the ACPT. I never used to bother doing the Monday to Wednesday puzzles and now I do them all–there’s always something to learn, or something funny, or just the thrill of having seen the constructor of the puzzle in person. (I never paid much attention to the bylines before.) I’m not obsessively timing myself, but if I do go back in 2010 all this practice will redound to the good.

It was a kick being in a room with so many smart people. My neighbor at the Saturday table managed to work into the conversation that he had been a Jeopardy champion; I’m sure he wasn’t the only one. The general level of discourse reminded me of my favorite dining-hall moments of college–in fact, I ran into a ’75 classmate, who was there with his dad. Very sweet.

And now I’m addicted to KenKen too. Thanks, Will Shortz.

March 6, 2009

American Crossword Puzzle Tournament; an exercise in humility

Filed under: crossword puzzles,Margo's life rules — ilivetolearn @ 4:27 pm

About this time last year, I entered a local crossword puzzle contest, a fundraiser for the Makefield area AAUW. This was a result of Margo picking up an event-advertising bookmark (she collects them), which was sitting on the circulation desk of the local library branch. “You should go, Mom…you’d be great. It would be fun.” As usual, she was right. Bill often says that if we want advice on how to live and especially how to get the greatest enjoyment out of life, we should just do everything Margo suggests.

There were between 40 and 50 people competing and although I came in 11th (they gave prizes to the top 10) I did bring home a prize for Sudoku, and I later realized that all the solvers who had beaten me were veterans of the ACPT (the national tournament run by Will Shortz) and had finished in the top 100 there! So, bitten by the competitive puzzling bug and mistakenly thinking I was in their league, I went to Brooklyn this past weekend to play against the big boys. There’s evidence of me sitting a couple of rows behind the now five-time winner at:

http://wordplay.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/02/28/the-tournament-begins/

In photo #7, you’ll see Tyler looking up; he’s finished and is checking the clock. I am looking down, probably thinking, “Damn! I don’t know half this stuff.” Other photos show how these ACPT-ers are a species unto themselves, with crossword-themed clothing, etc. They cheerfully label themselves geeks and nerds, and the overlap with Star Wars enthusiasts is about 90%. If you’ve seen Wordplay, you’ve had a glimpse of this alternate reality.

Let me just say that this year’s final was more exciting that any scene in that movie. And despite my lackluster finish (I was 427 out of 674, 83 out of 178 rookies), I at least squeaked out of the humiliating E division (the bottom 35%) so I’ll probably go back next year and proudly compete as a D-minus!

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