Ilivetolearn's Blog

October 31, 2011

more felting madness; it’s a bag! it’s a hat!

Filed under: knitting,sewing/knitting — ilivetolearn @ 9:08 pm

Here’s this year’s felted bag for the Watershed auction:




It looks a little bit Halloween-y compared to last year’s:


But the Silent Auction committee chose this autumn palette over the other one I offered:






I almost donated both, but friends told me the one above would look great as a hat, so that’s what it became. I didn’t bother to sew in the lining or attach the straps. Here’s Margo modeling it:












And hard as it may be to believe, it was cold enough for her to wear it this past weekend in a snow storm!

Next year I’m back to the greens/blues/purple.

March 25, 2011

ACPT 2011

Filed under: crossword puzzles,sewing/knitting — ilivetolearn @ 5:54 pm

My third outing to the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament was this past weekend. As usual, it was a blast. Since I had finished in the 400s the first year, and in the 300s last year, my goal was to get into the 200s. Success! I was at 269 Sunday evening, then 270 for the early part of the week, now back to 269. Surprising, since scoring changes in the past have only made my rank worse. I still can’t break into the top 40% it seems (there were 655 competitors, so I’m guessing 262 is the cutoff)…maybe that’s a goal for next year. I despair of finishing in the 100s anytime soon, unless Puzzle 5 happens to be right in my wheelhouse, as the bloggers would say–let’s see a puzzle that rewards those of us who know twill from toile and melton from moire and serge from selvage! Not likely, unless I construct it myself.

Last year I suffered from a couple of silly mistakes, so this year I did a lot more checking before handing them in. And STILL I left a blank, on puzzle 7. Oy. Otherwise I would have had 5 perfect puzzles, one error on number 6, and one total clusterf**k.

But as everyone agrees, the best part of the tournament is the fascinating people, the commiserating, the joking, the thought-provoking conversation. For part of Saturday I happened to sit between two left-handers. We speculated that the percentage of lefties in the room was probably greater than in the population at large, and I agreed (Margo is a lefty and I feel attuned to living in a right-handed world) that even with a second copy of each puzzle, so they wouldn’t have to obscure the clues while filling in the grid, they were at a disadvantage. How hard would it be to print up a mirrored subset of each puzzle, grid on the left and clues on the right?

Another contestant (also left-handed) had been sitting at our table but moved over a section. When I observed that he had scored an empty seat between two attractive young ladies, my gallant neighbor said, “In my opinion all women are attractive.” I thought he must be in the diplomatic corps. We had a great discussion of opera and made amazing progress on #5 as a team (with his extra copy) after they had taken away our dismal official mostly-blank versions.

The biggest laugh riot I had was on the way home. My family had tagged along with me to the city to do cultural things while I puzzled, and they decided to try their hands at Puzzle #1 (which took me 6 minutes). Bill, Evan, and Margo labored for over 2 hours, with generous hints from me, while I drove. A typical exchange was:

Evan: One down: Like many a fast-food order.
Bill: Crappy.
(later, with the first three letters in place, they were guessing “toga?”)

Bill: How about 14 across: Like a big brother.
Evan: Crappy.

Can’t end without a photo. Here is my concession to the nerdiness of crossword-themed apparel, whipped together the Thursday and Friday before the tournament, of which I was inordinately proud, and which ony two people actually commented on:

the left-brain side:

the right-brain side:

And now it is a very long wait until March 16, 2012.






August 29, 2010

socks reborn

Filed under: sewing/knitting — ilivetolearn @ 12:23 am

I almost never leave a yarn store without buying something (which goes back to my employee days, watching customers come in, carefully examine and palpate all the merchandise, and then depart empty-handed; oddly depressing for us stash addicts) and if all else fails, it is often a ball or two of sock yarn that jumps into my bag. This allows me never to be without a pair of socks on the needles for whiling away time in long grocery lines, at red lights, etc. As a result I have more pairs of handmade socks than I will ever need:

Of course, I have also given away at least ten pairs. If someone admires the ones in process, that person tends to be the next recipient.

So my drawer of sock-yarn remnants is full to overflowing, and though I had no earthly idea how I would ever use them, I refused to throw them away. Enter Evan, home for the summer and looking for something to knit. He downloaded a pattern for a tie (I think it was the Knit Picks Bias Knit Tie) and chose the remains of this project…

…the only pair I’ve ever knitted that I find truly ugly. They are so borderline unwearable that I actually sent them to camp with Margo, risking loss of one or both. But they said “necktie” to Evan. Here is the finished product:

And here is the “real f***ing” knitter (and future stash addict) himself:

This is how he was dressed to fly back to Portland last week. Maybe I should have given him the parental socks.

July 10, 2009

how to have a perfect day at the beach house

–wake up, drink coffee, read My Stroke of Insight, fascinating book by a neuroanatomist who had a stroke at age 37 and writes about her recovery and right brain/left brain stuff (thank you Lea Pearson for recommending it)

–work on Kalahari tote #3

–have Ella over for the morning; pick wildflowers and press them for future bookmark project, teach her new solitaire game
–play Set with Margo
IMG_1525 –do laundry, hang on line
–attempt to remember how to make sewing machine make letters in order to produce name tapes for girls’ camp clothes; finally succeed

–see 4″ baby bunny in bayberry patch out front
–drive girls to camp, stop on way home for first of raspberries and last of snow peas
–pick rosa rugosa flowers and mint leaves for essential oils; bake at very low temperature for 3 hours to infuse aroma into oil; make house smell wonderful
–bike to Art and Bette’s with Margo (who is on fitness kick), visit one hour, discuss Palin’s resignation, bike home
–cook artichokes for dinner
–make 7 jars raspberry jam
IMG_1528 –at sunset, go to dock; bail 6″ rainwater out of creek boat. Escape gnats by wandering to beach, find jingle shell the exact color of my toenail polish
–mix up token martini in olive green teapot used as Mattituck martini pitcher by Phoebe and Art in years past
–eat dinner with Margo

–watch Religulous, setting phone alarm for 9:43 so we can take a break to watch moon rise over Robins Island. One day past full, orange, partly obscured by thin clouds. Point out big and little dippers to Margo

–finish Religulous, attempt to finish an evil Sudoku, fall asleep

June 27, 2009

another before and after

Filed under: sewing/knitting — ilivetolearn @ 5:26 pm

I’ve loved my Kalahari Tote so much I just had to make another with greens and blues. Here are the before and after shots:

bag #2 beforebag #2 after

I’m really pleased with how the colors blend and soften in the fulling process. I’m already into bag three, with a different set of heathery hues I found on sale at Pins and Needles. At least the first two bags helped reduce the stash…

May 28, 2009

my most recent felted (or rather, fulled) bag

Filed under: sewing/knitting — ilivetolearn @ 12:40 pm

I already have more felted bags than I can use, but when I got the latest issue of Interweave Knits (Summer 2009), I couldn’t resist the Kalahari Tote, designed by Vivan Høxbro. I even had all the right colors in my stash, though instead of her suggested yarn I used Frog Tree alpaca, which I know from previous experience felts nicely in a boucle-ish way. So off I went, on size 5 needles, doing mitered squares. Another technique that benefits from felting, in my opinion…all the little holes and glitches go away. Here is the before item, measuring 17 1/2 by 18 1/2 inches:

bag before

After a go-round in the machine, in hot water with a pair of jeans for extra agitation, it looks like this:

bag after

and measures 10 3/4 by 12 1/2 inches.

I lined it with a light color so it won’t become a black hole for wallets, cell phones, and keys, and even put in a zippered pocket for some of the aforementioned items:

IMG_1304And here is the finished item, modeled by Margo (but in reality, I will never let her use it):


And I’ve already started another one in blues and greens. I may never go back to entrelac.

April 28, 2009

casa della lana e del cotone/house of wool and cotton

Filed under: on the road,sewing/knitting — ilivetolearn @ 8:40 pm

Most people go to Ravenna to see the incredible mosaics from the 5th and 6th centuries and the eight–count ’em, 8–UNESCO World Heritage Sites there. Of course, I did all that. I love mosaics and visited all but the one site that was closed for renovation, taking lots of pictures that do not do justice to the complexity and vibrancy of the subjects. Here is one anyway:


But perhaps my favorite moment in Ravenna came when, having just wandered out of the Neonian Baptistery, where the ceiling mosaic shows an anatomically correct Jesus being baptized in the Jordan River–

img_1171I crossed into Piazza del Duomo, a lovely tree-filled square with the portico of the cathedral on the left:

img_1195and directly to my right was–wonder of wonders–

img_1195_2the only yarn store in Ravenna. Of course it was closed. (It was the day after Easter and a holiday for many businesses.) But I went back the next morning, carrying my felted bag (see post of March 13) which never fails to start conversations in yarn stores in the states. Not in Italy. The two employees studiously ignored me after briefly asking if I needed help. One was on the phone with her mother, describing at great length her Paschal feast of lamb, exactly how she cooked it, how delicious it was, how much she ate, etc. The other was surreptitiously watching me–although the store’s layout was the US style with accessible inventory, not the European style with everything in cubbies behind the counter, there was definitely a feeling of “Are you here to buy or just to paw all the merchandise?”

I found some self-striping sock yarn made by Grignasco in Italy, but since no one knits socks here, it is labeled not “footsie” or “trekk” or “soxx” or “sockittome” or any of the cutesy names you find in US stores: it is “Strong Print.” I guess I’ll knit a strong.

In my ten days in Italy, I only saw one person knitting. She was an immigrant selling cheap imported clothing at  a street stall in Parma. And I only got one comment about my knitting; a fellow train passenger asked what I was making, and after Elliot and I managed to communicate “socks,” she turned to her friend and in condescending Italian said, “Well, I suppose it’s a way to pass the time.”

April 17, 2009

trying to convert people to my latest idiosyncratic hobby

Filed under: fused plastic,sewing/knitting,upcycling/recycling — ilivetolearn @ 1:17 pm

I’m getting ready to spend the day at the Hopewell Valley Greenmarket tomorrow, demonstrating how to fuse plastic and make bags. So I wrote up the process with pictures and made it a “page.” Scroll down the right-hand side to find it, under the calendar, the archives, the category cloud, the blogroll, pretty much at the bottom of that column. Have fun.

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 and 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: 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 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.

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