February 26, 2017

Coffee Lament: A Useless Perspective on Sinus Infections

My coffee may as well be made of yarn, like my
double knit pot holder pictured here.
I can taste my coffee. I think. Let me take another sip...no, well, not sure. It has been so long, now, since I have had the real, deep pleasure of tasting my coffee that I am starting to settle into a new way of enjoying it: memory and fantasy.

I have, like so many others in my local area, had the misfortune to contract the worst cold/sinus infection/bronchitis in ages. I work in healthcare; I wash my hands constantly; I change out of my scrubs after working with the public all day; I wipe down my work areas with hospital grade disinfectant that would take out even the most stubborn tuberculosis spores. And I still got it. The Cold. And I don't mind so much, in a way: the painful, constant coughing; the headache from it; the annoying-as-crap inability to get out of bed; the body aches that constantly scream for a heating pad. But it took away my coffee. And that is unacceptable.

After about a week of no taste/no smell, I had the most vivid dream. It was a cup of coffee. The best one I'd ever had. It was the sort of cup that made me question if this cup was some special recipe I had accidentally concocted. It made me wonder if I should start measuring the grounds in grams or use a special sort of water. In the dream, I decided that it didn't matter how the coffee came into being, it just was. And it made The Cold just a little bit more bearable -- for a while.

That memory of the dream fantasy -- the perfect heat of the drink, the perfect sweetness, the perfect tackiness on the tongue, the perfect creamy texture -- is fading now. It has been another week. And I sit here facing a cup that I cannot detect. It is like having face blindness, but to food. I look at the stranger on my desk and wonder, when?? When will we get to know each other again?

If we were discussing my romantic endeavors, you would all think me the most pathetic person in the world; living in a memory of a fantasy! How sad! I guess I can just be glad that, in this case, each day brings a tiny bit back, though often it is almost imperceptable. I think I can tell the sweetness. I think I can smell it if I just bring it really close to my nose. I think that drink was a better one than the last. In time, it will all come. Not like princes, who sometimes don't.

Yes, eventually all will be right with the world. And we always have knitting.

Another test knit for Gabrielle Danskknit! I bet you can guess what
this is!

February 11, 2017


If you haven't caught on to this, you should! Knitters, crocheters, weavers, spinners, dyers alike; this is for you! Instagram is hosting this cute event! With fun prompts like "travel projects" and "oldest stash," people are madly posting their photos and their stories to Instagram, revealing their knitting lives. (Check out Mary Jane Mucklestone's crafting space! To die for!)

I am surprised and delighted at what others share. Very sweet, hilarious and sometimes profound.

Check it out! Find me on Instagram here. And post your photos with #yarnlovechallenge. There is over half a month left! Want more yarn love? There is a Ravelry group for this, too!

Mary Jane Mucklestone's crafting space. Looks like a dream to me!

My 7-year-old's idea of "tools" day! Thanks, Amy Rose!
("Mom! Don't call me 'Amy Rose!' Just use one name! you
are so embarrassing!!")
Yes, I am in for it in a few years. 

February 8, 2017

Where's all that yarn?

My yarn stash. The closet is in the back. Yes, it all fits in there.
 You may be wondering about my yarn stash. When I remodeled the craft room, I didn't mention yarn storage. Maybe you aren't wondering about it, but in the event that you are, rest assured that it is all in the craft room.

Part of the point of the craft room was that my stuff was sort of stored all over the house (sound familiar to anyone?). I had fabric in the linen closet, yarn in my clothes closet, yarn in the makeshift craft room (at the time) and yarn in baskets -- just everywhere. It needed to be consolidated into one location, where it could be accessed easily, and seen, too. No one wants to have to dig through their entire stash of crafting supplies to find a single skein of yarn or a pair of scissors. Enter Ravelry's stash storage page!

Ravelry is such an awesome website -- and web community -- for so many reasons! Indexing one's yarn is only one of them, but it is one of my favorites. When my craft room was done, I went through my entire yarn stash (Well, almost all...I left out 2 Rubbermaid totes of acrylic yarn that I use for prayer shawls/slippers for Christmas. I know which bins they are and the contents pretty much stay the same.) and catalogued every single item.

This took a separate weekend, and I used the time during some recent snow to do it. It was a total of about three days. I photographed all the yarn in groups (unless I already had it in the stash, then, in some cases, I left the original photograph), I recorded how much I have and for a lot of the entries I also included my intentions for the yarn.

It was a great exercise to be reminded of why I bought certain things, and to be reminded of projects I wanted to make. In almost every case, I still want to make the projects. Now that I have a lot more experience with knitting, I feel more ready. I used to spend a lot of time fretting over if I "ruined" a project, but I had spent all that money on yarn! Oh, no!! (I'm over it -- mostly) It would also be fun to complete old project ideas to feel like I did it and for the nostalgia of remembering how wide-eyed I was then about knitting. Nothing wrong with recapturing the magic!

When you record your entire stash on Ravelry -- and use it correctly afterward -- you will enjoy a lot of other benefits besides rekindling your original yarn-knitter relationship.

Ravelry Yarn Stash Benefits

  • Ravelry will help you keep track of your stash yardage when you draw from the stash for each new project. To do this, create a new project page and say you are using "stash yarn." There is a button for this midway down the project pages under "Yarns." Didn't do it originally? Not too late. Go back to any project page and put it in there! It will ask you how much you used. This takes a little effort on the part of the knitter, but I think it is well worth it. If you do this, you will only ever need to touch the stash page to add new yarns. 
  • Having a complete stash record is great, too, when you look at patterns. Pull up a new pattern you are considering and the pattern page will automatically tell you what ideas for yarn you already have. You'll quickly know if you need to head to the store, or if you can pull from your stash. Knitter's choice to ignore this one and head to the yarn shop anyway. 
  • Do you have a hard copy pattern in your hands and need yarn for it? You have a couple of choices. If you look up the specific pattern on Ravelry, you could look for yarn that way. Or, you can go to your stash and filter it using the little drop down menus at the top of the page. One says "sort by name" (of yarn) and one says "filter your stash..." . Both of these contain all manner of filters for use when you are looking for yarn. 
  • One drawback: I noticed that when I filtered my yarn for weight recently, it did not include all the yarns I thought it would. For example, I wanted a bulky weight yarn that would get me 3.5 stitches per inch, that's pretty specific. But I started with a "bulky" filter. It left out Lamb's Pride, which was one I had in mind. Turn out the filter considers Lamb's Pride Bulky to actually be a super bulky yarn. I just fixed this by adding a couple of more weights to my search, like aran and super bulky. No system is perfect, and, in the end, you still have to swatch and really see what works in real life. 
  • Finally, it is just fun sometimes to peruse your stash and see what you have, what you might need. Or what might jog your memory: Oh, yeah! I forgot I had that! This is a little easier than digging through multiple boxes and baskets, searching for yarn. Though on a rainy day, that is a fun activity. 
My yarn is in the closet in the craft room and there is a bit of overflow in the room itself, with 2 towers of Rubbermaid bins against the wall, next to the bookcase. I personally keep all my yarn in clear Rubbermaid bins (bugs hate the sunlight, I hear) and this time going through my stash , I also packed my wool into ziplock bags, some in groups, and some individually. We don't have a huge bug problem here in the Northwest, but there are those carpet beetles. I hate them like no other! 

I rotate my wool-containing bins in and out of the closet, so they all get some sunlight time, but not too much so as not to fade the yarn. To further deter the insects, I put little bags of crushed, freshly dried lavender on the walls behind my yarn bins, and I keep little cedar blocks at the bottoms of my yarn baskets. I haven't had a bug eat my yarn since I did all these things. (To be fair, bugs have only eaten my yarn once: It happened to some sock yarn that was sitting in a basket that was sitting wayyyyy too long on a wool rug by a frequently opened window. That incident was enough to cause an overreaction on my part! Protect those yarn investments!!)

A lovely time to stay indoors and count yarn! This is the view from my upstairs craft room window. We look over the
street, as from the "top." All the forced-air furnace steam makes me think of the rooftops of London. I know. It's a

The snow was so lovely...

Until it wasn't. Dang rain!!

February 6, 2017

Crazy Knittin' Grandma!

What do you do when you have your first grandchild? You knit loads of stuff, of course. I admit, I did not take as many photos as I should have of the little guy Ethan in all his new duds, but I have some samplings!

First up: In the birthing "suite," my daughter Jolene, my son-in-law Andrew and I snuggled in for a very long time together, waiting for the arrival of baby Ethan. Jo in the bed eating ice chips, and Andrew and I ordering occasional room service from the hospital kitchen and eating it in front of Jolene. For 20 hours. (Eating in front of the laboring mom may be considered rude, but I figured it was my turn; this was my first experience not being the mom in the bed. And wow it was awesome!)

Between the eating and non-eating of food, Jo and I knitted the hours away, while my son-in-law
fidgeted and paced the room, periodically asking if Jo was okay. (This amusingly reminded me a bit of Colonel Brandon, in Sense & Sensibility. Without the danger part, of course. )

The knitting was productive as we had such a long time to produce. I made the baby a new little to-go hat and started some tube-sock style knee highs for his little legs; in the event that he may want to play some basketball later. Babies are, after all, cooped up for some time in utero and you never know. ;)

Second order(s) of business for the knitting grandma: I had left behind a blanket at home that I had started a couple months before. The baby was coming about 4 weeks early and the blanket wasn't ready. It was a pattern I had been saving for 8 years -- since about the first month or two I began knitting. Jolene was still in college back then, no babies on the horizon, but I came across the pattern at the Knitting Bee Yarn Shop in Beaverton, Oregon and I just had to have it. The pattern was too complicated for me at the time, of course, but it embodied the spirit of my home state of Oregon; and more importantly, it embodied the spirit of my hippy dippy daughter.

Delivery room hat! Matching socks not pictured!
The blanket pattern was knit in one piece but looked quilt-square style, with alternating evergreen trees and raised peace signs. These were celtic knots, but I didn't know that at the time. Looking back, this made the pattern even more meaningful, given my Scottish, MacLean heritage. The name of the pattern is Peace, Love and PDX and it is actually free!

I purchased some Cascade 220 in a color called "Shire," making the whole thing even more charming to all of us. Once I knitted the main part of the blanket, I added the called-for i-cord in a contrasting orange color, as Halloween is Jolene's favorite holiday. Then, I felt it needed a backing. Like flannel. But how? TECHknitter to the rescue! This woman's website is so chock full of good information -- it truly is astonishing. Her help in adding a flannel backing was key to my final success!

The flannel took about 3 hours to whipstitch on with a tiny sewing needle, using orange thread on orange fabric, but it was so worth it. I think I may want to line a hat next! I was able to give it to baby Ethan pretty quickly after he got home, which was great!

I knitted the baby a lamb hat by Gabrielle Danskknit and then a jolly roger-motif hat with some mittens.
On the blocks, drying and stretching out.

The flannel backing made the piece feel much more substantial. 

There be pirates here!

February 4, 2017

Refurbishing a filing cabinet

Note the old school cabinet on the left. 
Remember that taupey, greyish filing cabinet in the previous photos? Well, it is no more! Using the power of Pinterest, the suggestions of friends, and some trial and error, the filing cabinet has been made new!

After my co-worker Lindsay mentioned what a blast it had been to "make" a chalkboard for a patio party out of an old piece of wood, I asked her how she did it. "Well," said she, "Rust-Oleum chalkboard paint, of course!" After staring at my bland filing cabinet for two years, her remark sparked a sleeping curiosity to life that had been deep within me. I wondered if the paint would work on metal? Lindsay didn't know. I had not originally planned to fix the filing cabinet -- I didn't know it could be done. Now, I just had to know if it could. I went home and searched the internet high and low, finding a very helpful blog post here. I hit Home Depot and then Craft Warehouse (eventually) to find some different paints for my project.

My husband and son took the filing cabinet to the back patio in parts -- drawers, then body. It was unwieldy and it made those weird, denting-like noises that only metal filing cabinets can make, as it popped and jostled its way from the second floor craft room, down the stairs and out the back patio door. We put it on a painting drop-cloth out there. It was a pretty warm day and I was hoping the sun would help hasten the painting. It was the end of my remodel week! Time was short; it was Saturday and work was Monday.

At first, the sun was great. I could see really well for sanding. I roughed up the entire outer surface with finer grit sandpaper to help the paint stick and I sanded off some interior rust on the lower portion of the cabinet. Of course it was in the hardest place to reach -- the back interior wall behind the lowest drawer.  After climbing back out of the cabinet, I used a rag and my own breath to wipe and blow off the dust from the whole thing.

I applied the chalkboard paint with a roller, not a spray. This seemed to be the most economical way as the spray paint was more $$ per ounce. My friend Lindsay had used spray, but the woman in the blog post I was using also used a roller and it looked great. I sort of felt like I was taking a chance.

The sun dried the paint a little too fast -- or so I thought -- and the roller marks seemed to be showing, though in the end, they did not. The fear of failure just caused me to put on 4 coats of paint. If I did this again, I'd do it in the garage. It took about a day for the cabinet to dry outside completely, too, with all those coats of paint. So weather also is a consideration; the possibility of rain would be an absolute NO!
I hated this. It looked like a hornet.

This is all AFTER I fixed the paint leakage. Took forever. Years ago, I
stopped taping my ceilings. Time to add filing cabinets to the list.

Once the main part was dry, I first painted on a yellow trim color. That was my plan: make it look like the pink one in the blog post, but make mine a vibrant yellow. I used painter's tape to get a straight line, but guess what? NO. It was a mess. I had to go back and do the whole trim over by hand. This included using the chalkboard paint to recover the black areas. This, I did all indoors, by the way.

I poked holes in a box, then screwed the hardware down for painting.
This saved on fingerprints -- and annoyance.
Once that emergency was averted, I tried out painting the hardware. I learned that without sealer, you will fail in painting tiny metal parts. (I do like my method for securing the hardware to a box to paint. This made is ultimately easy to spray with the sealer I did eventually purchase at Craft Warehouse. See pics in this post) I also decided I hated the yellow metal. I went back to the store and got orange. And I had some pink laying around. And some sponges. My yellow-themed idea was saved.
Secure for painting, but I wasn't loving the color. 

Switching to orange was a good choice. For the little metal frames,
I just pressed them into the box for stability, as they have no
screws. These are pictured before the sealer. After that, they
are shiny, which looks MUCH better!

Amy Rose and I poked little dots in two sizes all over the cabinet. This was pretty fun. I just tipped my sponges to get the ones on the edges to look like half circles. There were a few spots that I touched up with tiny paint brushes -- also had those lying around.
Purchased at Craft Warehouse: Sealer and
craft paint. The craft paint tends to be
around $1.

:Little sponges I had from painting Amy's room long ago. 

The most fun part of the project.

I had to use tape for the little sliding openers on the drawers, but I used a tiny
brush for safety!
Now I have a cute cabinet that the kids write all over in chalk. Oh -- BE SURE to WAIT on the chalk! Follow the instructions to wait a few days for the curing of the chalkboard paint. It was hard to wait, but totally worth not having one more mess to fix!

The white swipes you see on the drawers went away after curing and
wiping the whole thing down with a damp cloth, per the directions.
These are hand marks from carrying and moving the cabinet around.

I got the little pink trash bin from IKEA to put rolls of paper and
large rulers in.
While the little painting mishaps put my project well into the evening of Sunday, causing me to lose that as a "day of rest" after the weeks' remodel, I think it was worth it. I have only the curtains to sew and some furniture to buy. The chair ideas can be found on my pinterest site, and the curtain fabric is here, along with a NEW IRON. Never thought it mattered so much. (Look at that old crappy thing on the right!) And it wasn't too bad: $39.99 Rowenta 1600 watts on Amazon. Who knew?

New iron to the left, and retro-sewing-themed curtain fabric on the right. Why is it taking me so long to make those curtains?! I guess I was waiting to get back on the blog! :)

For a step stool? Love these. Everyone's grandma had one in the kitchen.

Eventually want to buy this little guy to replace my rocking chair. Or not. Still thinking!
I DO have a grandbaby now, after all.