Thursday, December 26, 2013

That darn cat, part 2

Finn is an indoor-outdoor cat. I tried to turn him into a strictly indoor cat when I first got him, and that worked over the winter, but then he began terrorizing the household in his bid to go out. We reached a compromise: I let him out after dark (for the protection of the local bird population) and he comes back in in the morning to sleep all day.

Such was the fair weather schedule. Now that winter is here, he still wants to go out, but once there, he usually does not want to stay. If it is below freezing and/or there is snow on the ground, his enthusiasm for outdoor activities falls precipitously. Now, if he stays out at all, it is for only a few hours in the evening.

The problem is, he repeatedly wants out during my waking (and non-waking) hours. Apparently, he thinks the weather may change between now and the last time he was out. At first, I thought, Dumb cat! It is still cold and will be cold for the next few months. But actually, if you think like a cat, it makes sense that he would need to test the waters periodically. After all, he can't check the weather report or read a thermometer. Even in fair weather, every time he steps out the door, the weather may be a surprise - cooler, hotter, wet, windy, sunny, etc. And if it is at all tolerable, he tolerates it.

Re the non-waking hours, if he stays in at night, he invariably wakes me around 3 or 4 in the morning, wanting out. I was hoping he would be the kind of cat who would sleep on the bed with me, but when he does, it is only to keep an eye on my movements. If I get up in the night, he tries to lead me out of the room to do his bidding. Otherwise, he stands guard at the patio door, watching for night critters, and when one appears, he wants OUT. I finally had to banish him to the West Wing at night.

Sleep on, fair Finn, and, like the rest of us, dream of warmer days.

Friday, December 20, 2013

That darn cat

Cute kitty-under-the-xmas-tree photo FAIL

Cute pets-falling-all-over-each-other-to-get-inside photo FAIL

Cute cat-watching-birds-through-patio-door photo FAIL


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

I lack the personality for this

After a year or so of combining knitting, gardening, and me into one blog, I've decided to go back to separate blogs for each. I am also toying with the idea of copying the knitting/gardening/me-related posts from this blog to the others so they will each be in one appropriate place. That sounds like a really tedious time-consuming task, so we'll see how far that idea goes. I haven't decided just what to do with this blog, though. Home improvement? Advice column? Fantasy football? Any suggestions?

For knitting posts, visit Bitten by Knittin.

For gardening posts, visit Woodchuck Acres.

For posts about me, visit October Rose.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

This old dog learned some new tricks

Even though I have been knitting for years and even though I have knit many pairs of socks during some of those years, I figured there were still some things I could learn from the Yarn Harlot, so I signed up for her "Knitting for Speed and Efficiency" and "Grok the Socks" classes at Simply Socks. I was right and wrong - not only did I learn something new, I learned a whole bunch of somethings new.

First off, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee provided us with a brief history of knitting, which is relatively young as far as fabric-making goes. Before knitting, there was weaving and people wore what amounted to foot bags for socks. Knitting was born in the Middle East, then traveled to Spain where, despite the plethora of merino sheep, the Spaniards preferred their yarn to be made from silk. Eventually, knitting reached the British Isles and the Brits came to own it, which explains why so many knitting terms come from British place names and people names: Aran, Fair Isle, Kitchener, etc. And everyone knit - men, women, children. Wars were won on handknit socks.

The bulk of the "speed knitting" class involved learning lever knitting, also known as Irish cottage knitting. Rather than have me try to explain it, click here to see the Yarn Harlot in action. What kind of gripes my ass is, I used to knit in a very similar (if slower) manner, the right needle propped on my thigh. But I wasn't confident enough to believe this was a valid way to knit and caved when others questioned my method. Also, I could not figure out how to continue knitting this way when using circular needles, so I switched to "picking", a.k.a. Continental knitting. But the resulting fabric was never as even or as sturdy.

Stephanie had suggestions for speeding up your knitting, regardless of whether you are a picker or a thrower or what have you. One is to "spring load" the fabric by scrunching it up on the left needle so it practically leaps onto the right needle as you knit. Also, when turning your work, do a "kick turn" instead of a "hard reset", simply pivoting the needles to avoid needless fumbling. Have someone video tape you as you knit by holding the camera over your shoulder, then examine your knitting movements for anything that is not knitting. I am guilty of sometimes pushing the left needle to get the old stitch off it, then welcoming the new stitch to the right needle with a little stroke. Spring loading eliminates both of these quirks, so now I knit more smoothly and slightly faster.

The goal of the sock class was to provide us with enough information that, given a skein of yarn and some needles, we could crank out a pair of socks without resorting to a pattern. Sizing socks for adults is a easy as measuring their hand: the length of the hand from heel to fingertip is approximately the same as the distance between the bottom of the calf muscle and the top of the heel flap, which is the same as the distance between the end of the heel turn and the start of the toes. We also learned the difference between picking up stitches and picking up and knitting stitches - do the former when working the gusset. But you know what happens if you don't follow all the rules for knitting a sock? Nothing. You will still have a wearable sock even if you don't turn the heel and don't close the toe with the Kitchener stitch.

I have been avoiding knitting socks for my granddaughter because I didn't want to put all that effort into something she would outgrow in a matter of minutes. By the end of the sock class, though, I was nearly done with one toddler-sized sock because - DUH! - knitting tiny socks for tiny feet takes almost no time at all.

One thing I hoped to accomplish with these classes was to jump start my knitting mojo which has been flagging lately. Needless to say, mission accomplished.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Under the spell

We came.

We knit.

She conquered.

Even though it is really hard to tell from this photo (my next phone will have a better camera), that is the Yarn Harlot. She came to Fort Wayne, sponsored appropriately by Simply Socks.

The talk she gave was extremely entertaining, if a bit earnest (she cares how the world views knitting and knitters - when she gets to be my age, she probably will not anymore). Even better were the off-the-cuff stories she told during the Q&A, some poignant, but most hilarious. I had to put down my knitting because I literally laughed so hard I cried. She also told us some secrets which I won't reveal here - you will have to follow her blog to learn them. We have a secret from *her*, though, which I also will not reveal. Yet.

I did not hang around for the meet-and-greet because I will be participating in two classes she is teaching before she wings back to Toronto. More on that in a few days.