Monday, December 28, 2009

Where have I been?

Yeah, I've not been around a lot. Not since November! Whoa. The thing is, I started a new job at the end of November and I have been wiped out! It's a longer day, and I just don't have a lot of energy, time, or much to talk about that's blog-worthy. (I've had some knitted things to share, but they're gifts (and I didn't get great pics).) Hope everyone reading this is well.

Big news is that I've declared 2010 to be the year of knitting for me. At least every other project (on average) will be for Mel. I have a bunch of small projects lined up: hat, mittens, scarf, cowl, slippers... just things I need or have been wanting.

Happy New Year!!

Read More......

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Hack, Cough, Wheeze

(Just a note -- blog posts turn up on my Facebook feed as a note; this is old news for anyone reading on FB.)

I've been sick since last Tuesday evening: allergy-induced Bronchitis. I get it at least every other year, around the same time, with the same symptoms every time. Throat suddenly hurting? Inner ears starting to itch? I know exactly what to expect. Knowing what's coming (and that it will pass) does not help me be any less of a big wuss. I'm tired of the deep, painful cough and the phlegm. (Let's leave it at that, shall we?) Whine, whine, whine.

cascade superwash pinkI can't really nap, because laying down makes the cough worse. Things were so-so until Friday night (at least I got through the work week mostly unscathed), but I spent the weekend propped up on the love seat in our little library room here, with some DVDs (the entire run of Frontier House today) and my Giftmas knitting. If nothing else, I got quite a bit of knitting/finishing done! (Working with the pink stuff to the right at the moment.)

It's very important that I get over this in the next few days. We have family coming Thanksgiving evening, I have some knitter friends coming over on Sunday, and on Monday next, I start a new job.

You read that right! I'm sure many people who are reading this have been in similar predicaments: your company is going through rough times, or maybe is already reorganizing; rumors are flying, and you don't know what's coming at you next. So, you get your resume updated and maybe post it online -- doesn't hurt to be ready, right?

What I didn't expect was to have a call within 2 hours of posting the resume, and a request for an interview the next business day! I posted my resume on Friday, had a formal interview on Tuesday and a job offer the same afternoon. (Right about the time my throat started to hurt!) I'm very excited about this new opportunity. With the market the way it is right now, I know precisely how lucky I am.

Hope this finds everyone healthy and well!

Read More......

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Giftmas Crafting Starts Early

09-stockings-hangingI made stockings for John & me about 4 years ago. They made the move - we used them last year - but I can't find them. It's a little early, but I have plenty of knitting to do for Giftmas, and I figured I should get this out of the way. Stockings are one of my favorite things about the holiday. It goes back to my mom (I think they were one of her favorites, too) -- she'd start collecting things for our stockings in January. After she died, the family tradition died as well, until John came into my life. Now, we exchange stockings the morning of Dec. 25th every year. So the old ones had to be replaced (if they turn up, we can always rotate.)

As luck would have it, I'd found the perfect material for the stockings, in the form of a (probably very scratchy) sweater I thrifted last winter. It was made up of hundreds of short pieces of yarn, so there was no way it was going to be unraveled & recycled. I felted it, but it didn't turn out as fabulously as I'd hoped. But, yes: perfect for stockings! Here's what I did, if you want to give it a go yourself.

09-stockings-materialsGet all of your materials together. You need a paper template (see notes at bottom), felted sweater, long straight pins (mine have the leaf topper) and scissors (sturdier ones than shown -- I ended up using a different pair than the one pictured). Not shown: sewing machine (you could also hand-sew, if you have the patience).

09-stockings-patternThe sweater was an adult small, and felted, was even smaller, so I couldn't quite get two stockings out of the body. I wanted our stockings to match as closely as possible, and I was lucky that the sleeves, taken apart and laid with right sides facing, were an exact fit for the template (I could also have just resized the template, but we each usually end up with a DVD in the stocking, so the right width was important). I put the two pieces together, right sides facing and pinned the template to the material in several places.

09stockings-sewingIt always seems like when I cut something out and try to sew it together, something shifts and it ends up uneven. So, I thought I'd be clever and sew around the template first, then cut it out. It worked pretty well, although it was a little tough to maneuver at times.

09stockings-sewnHere is the first stocking, sewn and cut out. (You can see why the sweater couldn't be unraveled.)

09stockings-finished1Turn right side out and kind of push the seams into shape. Our new ones need a tiny bit more attention.

Stocking #1 complete. (Pic of both stockings, pre-hanging. They look different because the sleeves and the body felted at different ratios. So one has a firmer, fuzzier fabric.)

When you're all done, add a loop for hanging. I used some random scrap yarn and crocheted a 4-5" chain, then used the tails to knot the loop firmly to the back edge of the stocking. Hang by the chimney (or wherever) and stuff with gifts at the appropriate time.

Notes: For the template, I did a Google Image search for "Christmas Stocking Template." As luck would have it, the first result was the shape I wanted.

Read More......

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Not very observant, I guess

nesting-dolls1I bought this nesting doll, made in the Ukraine, several years ago at a silent auction (I had organized the entertainment for the charity event, which was Renaissance-themed). It's beautiful, and I've taken good care of it, but guess what I never did? That's right. I never opened it.

The other day, we had some friends over to celebrate Halloween (a little belatedly) and watch some bad Sci-fi movies (Plan 9 From Outer Space and Robot Monster). One of our guests, a young lady who came with her parents, asked if she could open the doll. After awhile, she came to me with a tiny doll the size of a peanut (not in the shell). "Do you think this is the smallest?" I said that it looked pretty small to me. Then she twisted it open; there inside was yet another doll, just a squinch larger than a grain of rice.

nesting-dolls2Squee! I never had dolls like this as a kid, and have never seen one that nested so deeply (if that's a good way to describe it). For all I know, this may be typical, but it still brought me a bit of joy. I had no idea what a little treasure I had.

Read More......

Sunday, October 25, 2009


John is a faithful reader of, and makes sure to send me links to any knitting-related comics (plus any other geek thing that he thinks I'll find funny (he's almost always right)).

This is appropriate because I decided that I had to finish any works-in-progress (WiPs) before I got too deep into my Christmas gift knitting.

I'm doing really well, too. I finished ½ of a pair of socks a friend's baby several weeks ago, but hadn't gotten around to starting the second half. Earlier, I ran out to the car and found the project bag(gie) and knit while we watched our usual eclectic selection (Dagon and 1 disc of Monty Python's Flying Circus). It's a cabled sock - my first cabled project ever - and I've got about an inch to go in the foot before I start decreasing for the toe. This little guy has rather large feet -- the socks I knit for him pre-birth didn't come close to fitting when he was a couple of days old -- so I hope the toddler socks will fit!

Other WiPs: a gift for a friend that really requires a small amount of knitting, then some finishing and sewing, and my socks. I'm not counting a scarf I started, because I'm not sure I want to finish it anyway. I figure if it never made it into my Ravelry queue, then it's not official.

In other news: I don't think I mentioned that I'm on a crazy-strict medically-prescribed diet (and John is on it with me). I have pledged to not use my blog (or Facebook or Twitter) to continually post updates on what I'm eating (or not eating), how many calories taken in, how much weight lost, etc. But I'm feeling so much better, and that's excellent. Whenever I'm tempted to cheat (actually pretty rare), I just picture my dad's feet. He lost both legs below the knees - in stages - and I had to help change bandages on occasion. Now that I seem to have high blood pressure in addition to the diabetes, I have no choice if I want to hang around.

I do need to plug one of my favorite finds (may have been mentioned before): Fage 0%. It's Greek-strained yogurt, but I use it as a substitute for sour cream. May not be the best thing that the yogurt reminds me of sour cream, but hey, it works. Some of the food we get is pretty boring, but some "sour cream" and low sodium salsa really makes a difference.

Read More......

Friday, October 23, 2009

Holiday Knitting

Neo Christmas 08I'm sure most people on my Christmas list appreciate the fact that I don't always do handmade gifts for everyone, every year. I try to alternate (unless money is impossibly tight). There are also few surprises, especially for knitted gifts, because I've learned that - at least for my people - it's best to find out if what I have in mind is something they'll actually use. (I'd much rather be told "no," than spend time and use yarn for something that's not going to be used/appreciated.)

Last year, I contacted the moms of kids on my list to see if any of them might want hats and, if so, what style. Some said "yes," some said "no." Those whose parents thought they'd appreciate hats, got fun hats. Those whose parents did not think so, did not get anything knitted.

This year, I'm getting a late start, but in my defense I didn't think I had that much knitting to do. Once I started making the list, and had a couple of conversations, I found out how wrong I was! Most of these gifts aren't surprises, so I thought I'd share some of my plans, in case other were looking for ideas.

First on the list is a young lady who wants the same kind of hat I knit for her guardian (mom??) last year. My goddaughter, at the ripe old age of 21, has become legal guardian to a high-schooler. I've been assured that this doesn't make me a "grand-" anything, but I'm happy to add K to my Christmas list. Like I said, she wants the same kind of hat I knit for Sarah last winter. Sarah, in turn, asked for flip-top/convertible mittens. And K would like the same, please, in her color (pink).

  • This Slouchy beret is not tough to knit and it works up fast on size 11 & 13 needles. I might go down a needle size, because I'll be using 2 strands of worsted-weight (Cascade 220 Superwash) instead of the bulky it calls for.
  • Peekaboo Mitten (Ravelry-only link, sorry!) - I plan on knitting a pair of these myself. But for now, I need 2 pairs.
  • He's not a boyfriend - he's my goddaughter's fiance - but The Boyfriend Hat (aka Hat Fit for a Boyfriend on Ravelry) is also in the queue. Planned yarn is more Cascade 220 Superwash.
  • I hope to get this monster, Olivia, knit up for honorary niece, M, and add a little tutu, like some of the images show. M takes ballet and I think she'll get a kick out of it. (If you like this pattern, check out the multi-pattern deals available in the shop. I believe all of her patterns are also available via Ravelry downloads.)
I kind of still owe at least one hat from last year (have had a rough time getting my hands on the right yarn), have a couple of things in mind for John, and one other Christmas hat. While I wait for my yarn order to get here from Oregon, I'm still plugging away on a pair of socks for me. I love how they fit (sock #2 is about 65% finished)!

Other "me" knitting: My favorite scarves have turned out to be basic ribbed numbers in squishy soft yarns. Add to that the fact that I finally learned how to do a basic cable, and this "Rib Rib Cable" scarf is a natural choice.

Read More......

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Emergency Yarn Ornaments - Now in PDF form

Knitter's Emergency OrnamentThis isn't new; it's a "pattern" (really a tutorial) I created a few years ago and posted on my old blog. But I've always meant to convert it to a PDF and make it available for download -- other things just always got in my way. Recently, people have been having trouble accessing the original blog post, so I finally got my butt in gear and finished the PDF. It's not perfect, but it's not that bad, either.

I originally called it the "Emergency Knitter's Ornament." I know of at least one person who did, indeed, break open the glass to get at the yarn. But she was nine and loved pretty yarn to knit with, so I cut her some slack.

Now, called "Emergency Yarn Ornament" (because "yarn" is shorter than "knitter's/crocheter's/weaver's/spinner's/dyer's"), the pattern is currently hosted on Ravelry as a free download. You should be able to obtain it using the following link:

download Emergency Yarn Ornament now

This is the ideal time of year to churn out a bunch of these. The clear glass ornaments are available at most "big box" craft stores and are frequently on sale.

Limitations: Only one store currently has permission to print and distribute copies of these (Nestucca Bay Yarns, in Oregon). Otherwise, making more than the necessary couple for personal use is a no-no. (Giving a copy to a friend who isn't online a lot is fine. Printing out stacks to hand out anywhere is not.) Store owners interested in an approved copy (with store logo added) to distribute should contact me. See PDF for the traditional copyright notice.

If you do make some, and are on Ravelry, please add them to your notebook. I really love seeing what other people turn out!

Read More......

Friday, October 2, 2009

Interim House Contest Results

(Finally, right? I wanted to give the other person a really good chance to respond about her package. Plus, I needed to make this fancy-schmancy collage so you could all see the goodies that these fine people sent!)

Before I get to the winner, I first have to say how very much in awe I am of the generosity these packages represent. Some were large, some small, some seriously tricked out, but they all are going to a great cause and the ladies at IH really get a kick out of hearing about them. They love the cards/postcards and notes that are frequently included, and the tools and yarn area great addition to their therapy.

It's all wonderful, and I don't want anyone to think that by calling out a couple of things that I don't think it's all fantastic! We had a small helper this year, with one (very) young lady helping photograph her mom's box. "WMK" included a card that read "It's Mel's Birthday/And I'm celebrating/By sending presents to YOU." Tvini sent one of her (now) famous (to me) scarf kits.

Sarah, Pam, Robin, Nadine, Stephanie, Tvini & WMK: thank you so much!

The winner: Robin! She will get a skein of Urban Legends yarn and a project bag.

She already knows; I emailed her after the drawing when I knew the announcement would be delayed.

However, everyone is going to get something. I'll be in touch to check on mailing addresses. If you want to send me an email now with that info., go right ahead.

Read More......

Thursday, October 1, 2009

IH Results Delay for sad reason

I have the IH results ready to share -- they'll be up tomorrow. I'd planned on posting them tonight, but while I was looking for links for all the participants' blogs, I found that my dear internet buddy, Sarah, also known as "gwensmom" lost her sweet angel last week.

I'm kicking myself for being so bad at keeping up with friends' blogs. Hopefully I can rectify this before another friend goes through a severe crisis. I just don't have it in me to have a super upbeat message go live.

Read More......

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

New post on Halloween Blog

Post on Books on the Halloween blog, including review of a children's book, and great resources for free downloads (PDF or Kindle) of great spooky classics.

Read More......

Monday, September 21, 2009

Red Scarf 2010: Care Tags & Wraps

Finally getting these uploaded & live again.

Red Scarf Care tags:

Wrap (2 per page):

Read More......

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

IH Contest - Did I miss anyone?

I'm going to give this a couple of days to make sure I have all of the entries. (I've searched my in-box for every keyword I could think of; I think I have them all, but if I don't, please get in touch ASAP.) I'm preparing a collage to share as well.

  • Heather H.
  • Robin. *
  • Stephanie *
  • Clara
  • Pam
  • Sarah T.
  • Nadine *

I think you all ROCK.


PS: 22Sept -- I'm waiting to hear from one person who indicated that she was going to send a package. As soon as I do, I'll take care of the drawing. (It's a special case; normally I'd stick with the deadline, but this is the person whose blog brought IH to my attention in the first place.)

Read More......

Friday, September 11, 2009

Why over-packing is good

Greetings from "Beyond."

Beyond is the property my brother and I inherited from my dad. John and I have been here for about a week, and have been working on a horror/comedy film. Tomorrow is probably the last day of principal shooting -- secondary shooting will pick up in a week or so around home.

I have so much more to write, but not much time. There have been close to 30 people here, total, some for one evening to play drones/zombies, others for longer stretches. I came along, mostly to be emotional support for John; I was also going to be having a small spoken part (as a "peep"), and act as combination production assistant and co-producer.

To prepare for the extra-with-one-line role, as requested, I dyed my hair black (badly, as it turns out). I packed a variety of outfits, suitable for 9 days camping out in a barn and running around. I always over-pack. Always. I wish I'd packed more, but I'm glad I had as much as I did (clothes were stuffed into one of the huge blue bags from Ikea), because I ended up with a significantly larger role. Like, one of the main 4 parts.

On indie movies, at last on this one, a lot of times cast is responsible for their own wardrobe and makeup (except for specialized stuff). I have 2 pair of pants and 4 tops that I'm rotating, depending on which scene we're shooting. And wow, are they limp. It's just what I packed -- 1 outfit for my little part, and the rest for just day-to-day stuff.

It's freaking hot here during the day, and almost freezing at night, but beautiful. It's been absolutely beautiful every day. Not a hint of rain (so far), and cold nights are excellent for fog scenes. We've had issues with bathroom and shower availability and I've gotten almost good at getting changed just around a corner or under a nightshirt...there is little privacy (it's like a giant slumber party).

I have so much more! But I have to go kill some monsters now.

Read More......

Monday, August 24, 2009

IH Contest Extended, Knitting in the Movies

I totally forgot that I'm going to be neck-deep in monsters the week the contest was supposed to end (working on a horror movie that John is directing), so I'm extending the deadline to September 19th. (I'll update the main post, so there is no confusion!)

Packages already sent by: Heather H. & Sarah T. Many thanks, ladies!

Speaking of horror movies... if you think you might be interested in acting in a movie, or - at the very least, playing a zombie-type extra - check out Filming starts September 5th in the NW part of the state (south of Cadillac, MI), and all the zombie stuff is happening that first weekend (Labor Day weekend). It's a low-budget deal, and we're camping, and it's going to be TONS of fun!

This is a fun bit of news: There is going to be knitting in the horror movie. Once details are finalized, I'll be back to share the sponsor info.

Read More......

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Updated Snake Scarf Pattern Available

I forgot all about this! A few months ago, I updated the pattern for the snake scarf I designed for my nephews (bio & honorary) and put it up on Ravelry as a for-sale download.

One thing I love about Ravelry is the library section. You can save patterns (free or purchased through the system) in your library, and they're available to download whenever you want. I didn't realize until recently that I could add this little button and offer the pattern via my blog. (I don't know if a Ravelry ID is required to purchase or not.)
Just $2.00
The pattern has been test-knit (by someone other than me), and is very robust -- I even included a template for the felt tongue and charts for the head & tail sections.

If you can access Rav, click on the link in the first paragraph and then the projects tab to see how others have interpreted the pattern - there are some really fabulous versions!

I also have a free pattern available on Ravelry: view Bath Scrubby on Rav; or download PDF now

Read More......

Monday, August 17, 2009

Knitting Finds: Robot, Darning Needle Case

The story's happy ending first: Check out Danger Crafts for a super-adorable knit robot pattern (and several other great toys). I just placed my first order with Rebecca this morning, the 5-for-$20 deal, and had to have the robot as one of the selections. (See end of post for the beginning of the story.)

I received my email well within the 24-hours promised (more like 2 or 3) and am very impressed! The patterns appear to be very clearly written, with lots of pictures showing all the steps. (As a visual learner, I always appreciate this kind of thing.)

If you have babies or small children to knit for (or monster/robot fanatics), I highly recommend these patterns! I cannot wait to cast on for one... just have to decide which one* is first.

*I also got: Daphne & Delilah (Momma & Baby Monster); Frances, the Charismatic Monster; Olivia, the Audacious Monster; and Penelope, the Empathetic Monster.

My new knitting accessory
This was my birthday present to myself. It's a (darning) needle case, and it's even prettier in person. These fabulous cases are hand-made by a gentleman by the name of Dr. A (I don't know if it's cool to share his entire name).

Here's a quote from an email I received from the good doctor: "I work in rare and beautiful woods from around the world and especially America, all harvested from otherwise what would have been scrapped wood. If you have a particular piece of wood with sentimental meaning, I can also craft one from that. Also, as you know, I also work in acrylic plastic, which has an infinite range of color possibilities."

My case is acrylic, because that's what I wanted. The cost was $25, including shipping, and it arrived the day after I paid. (Delivery times could vary, I'm sure, depending on several factors.) It was the orangest one he had in stock and I was too impatient to wait for one of "my" sick greens or other shades of orange. I have no regrets; not only is it very pretty, it also kind of matches my dagger. I'm going to add the sock needle gauge (mentioned in the previous gadget post) to the ring, as well as another gadget that's on its way, and pop the whole thing in my main notions bag.

Check out other samples of his work on his daughter-in-law's blog, Reading While Knitting (link goes directly to the needle case entries). Directions on how to order can be found in the entries.

The beginning (for me) of the Robot pattern story
Once upon a time, there was a pattern for a really cute robot. It was available for a very limited time, in a small booklet, which sold out very fast (two printings). The designer opted to not release any more booklets, as is her right. Right now, you can only get legit copies at very high prices on eBay. I knit one of the robots myself (not well -- it was my first attempt with insartia), and while it's little more than a square with arms and legs sewn to the sides, it is a cute pattern. I remember getting pretty pissed-off at a magazine for featuring the robots on the cover, with a statement implying that the pattern was included (even though I already had it). I've been on the lookout (casually) for another robot pattern to recommend. So glad I found it.

Read More......

Thursday, August 13, 2009

IH Contest Update

I heard from Kathy, the social worker at Interim House (the one who created the program this contest helps out), and she shared some current special needs with me:

  • Straights size 8 and up
  • Circulars size 11, 13, 15
  • The ladies love the multicolored Red Heart kind, and they always love fun fur.
Feel free to send whatever you'd already planned. This is for folks who wanted some guidance.

Also -- the post card isn't a requirement. Just a request/suggestion. If that's the only thing holding you back, don't worry about it.

I've heard from several people who were going to be working on packages: thanks to you all, and to anyone who is thinking about it!

Read More......

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Happy Birthday to Mel - IH Contest Time Again

Please note that the deadline has changed to September 19th. I'll be updating the graphics as soon as I can!

For the last few years, I've held a contest that ended on my birthday. This year, I had to mix things up a little, and I'm starting it on my birthday. Help out a worthy cause and win stuff! This is the 5th contest, but the 4th I've held linked with my birthday.

Short version of the details

  • First Prize: 1 skein of Urban Legends sock yarn in a to-be-determined (and dyed) colorway)
  • Second Prize: 1 Urban Legends project bag (There may be more, but I don't want to promise until I'm sure)
  • Deadline: Package mailed and email to me by noon on September 19th, 2009
  • You could have up to five chances to win (1 for mailing, 1 for blogging, up to 3 for referrals) - see the part about spreading the word. Of course, you need to enter yourself for this to work!
  • Absolutely EVERYONE qualifies, no matter where you live or if you won last time.
Longer version of the details
Interim House is one of a very small number of charities that I both trust and support. It's a rehab facility that (very successfully) added knitting and crochet to their curriculum. Volunteers come in to teach and show off projects, and all the clients learn at least one of the crafts. It contributes a huge boost to their self-confidence to finish something tangible. You can read more about it at their blog. Please note that you'll never see the faces of the clients in the images for privacy reasons, but you'll see their volunteers and interns modeling the clients' work (and their own).

On to the details: It's simple!
  • Between now and noon (ET) on September 19th, send a package to Interim House, containing yarn (see notes at end about what to send) and/or notions/tools. Make sure you take a picture of the contents!
  • Please include a postcard from your area (the ladies like knowing where the packages come from!)
  • Send stuff to: Kathy Duffy, Social Worker
    Interim House Inc.
    333 W. Upsal St.

    Philadelphia PA 19119
  • Send me an email telling me that you sent a package. Please include a picture (or a link to one) of the assembled goods (and who referred you, if that's the case (you can't refer yourself)). My (spam-proofed) email ends with and starts with crazycatladymel (just switch the order and pop 'em together).
  • Keep track of updates via this link, or click on the button in the sidebar. I'll post about developments, update about prizes, etc.
Please, please, please spread the word! Don't think of it as lowering your chances of winning. If you're meant to win, you will! Feel free to grab the button and link to this post. In addition, to sweeten the pot:
  1. If you post about this on your blog (and let me know), I'll put your name in a second time. You can post about it before you mail, of course! As long as you get a package out before the deadline, both entries will go in.
  2. If someone enters and says you referred them (and you entered too), I'll put your name into the basket again. Up to 3 more times!
Sometime after noon on the 8th, I'll put all the names into a basket (including the bonus entries) and draw the winning name.

What to send
  • Please send at least a couple of complete skeins. After that, feel free to pile on any partial balls. (It's absolutely fine if you shop from your stash 100%.)
  • An assortment of accessories and tools would also qualify (new or gently used). Lingerie bags are helpful because of the popularity of felted bags. (Update: requests from IH.)
  • Please send what you feel led to; however, if you need ideas, I'd consider sending things like feltable wool (felted bags are very popular) circular needles (short for bags, long for shawls & blankets), darning needles, etc.
  • Please don't send scary yarn. Barring texture and fiber preferences (e.g. fun fur or acrylic), if you wouldn't knit with it, please don't send it. This is my request, not necessarily theirs, and I've never yet had an issue with it. But I've seen the kind of things people donate to charity... it's okay to throw some things away!
A great thing that more than one person has done in the past is to put a kit together, with everything needed for a project: yarn, needles and pattern. Most of the women that come into the program start out as beginners, but some of them progress really quickly, so they can use virtually any kind of project (cotton washcloths, felted bags, lace shawls). If you're a sale-watcher, watch for clearance items like tape measures or yarn. If you're a knitter/crocheter, then you KNOW what to get (anything!).

Read More......

Monday, August 3, 2009

New Blog: Mel's Halloween All Year

I've been wanting to do this for ages: Mel's Halloween All Year. You can follow it in Google, or subscribe to it in a reader. From now on, I won't put full Halloween posts here, just make tiny announcements that there's new content over there.

Read More......

Monday, July 27, 2009

Urban Legends Yarn In the Shop!

dark and stormy sock
All limited edition colorways, including "Dark & Stormy Night" (above), "Golden Arm" (I want my golden arm!), "Amityville," "The Babysitter," and more! Shop link.

Read More......

Sunday, July 26, 2009

More Showing Off

After my little run-in with a not so pleasant client, I backed off from making myself available to do ads for Ravelry (and elsewhere). I'm still working with existing clients, and taking new ones on a referral basis.

Nestucca Bay Yarns & Fibers ( was an early client and has kept me busy throughout the last year plus. It's kind of become my LYS (local yarn store), even though it's not remotely local (Oregon). They recently launched a new site that's even easier to navigate (and is connected to their in-store sales, so the quantities available are pretty accurate).

This little baby on the left is something I whipped up for them, although I can't take credit for the artistic elements (except the picture of the yarn (that's my own Malabrigo)): just the composition is mine. This one is in the current knitscene magazine (fall09), and will be in an upcoming Interweave Knits. It's my third such ad, and every time, I get pretty excited and have to show off. (I can't wait to see the Facebook ad pop up!)

Read More......

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Pens Cost More Than the Planner

By request/suggestion:
Last fall, I needed a planner.I don't know why I didn't have one for the calendar year already, but I didn't. I picked up a spiral number at an office supply store, relieved that they had some that started in September. I popped it into a (slightly beat up) planner cover that I'd been saving for some reason, and went on my merry way.

What I didn't realize is that it only had pages through the end of June (and the first few days of July, to finish the week). Well, crap. (It wasn't a traditional studen planner -- no homework schedules, etc.) I tried muddling through with printouts from my work scheduling program, but I needed something more solid, something that I could carry around with me and, you know, plan stuff with. Ordering one now would a) land me in a similar predicament next year, and b) would require an expenditure I didn't want to make. I decided to make my own.

I consulted a co-worker, who sent me several online possibilites, including the Hipster PDA (index cards & a binder clip). I finally settled on my interpretation of the DIY Planner.

This would have been SO easy in InDesign, but for reasons I can't go into, I had to create it in Publisher (ick). Still, I'm pretty proud of how it turned out.

I used some scrap paper to make a "mechanical" so I could get the pages laid out correctly (they needed to line up right when printed on both sides and folded together). The first few pages are month calendars, followed by some notes pages, then each 2-page spread has a weekly calendar one one side and a to-do list on the other. At the very back are some more notes/ideas pages. I stuck 2 sheets of slightly thicker paper together with adhesive, and used that as the outer cover (to slide into the cover's sleeve) and stapled the center several times with a long-reach stapler.

To make a six-month calendar, I used 18 sheets of paper, printed on both sides I might be short 2 weeks, since I started it on 13 July, so a full calendar would be 20 pages. If copying costs were 10¢ each, that's about $4. Half that if you get a deal and can print for 5¢ a side. Because I'm also using this for work, I printed it on a duplex machine here. So... free. (If you want a PDF of this calendar, leave a comment with your email address.)

The only thing that bums me out is that I started filling in the dates with an orange Flair pen, which started to give up the ghost. So I picked up a package of metallic gel pens to continue the job. Now it doesn't match! If I decide to make a planner for 2010, it might have the dates pre-printed and will probably be spiral-bound (cut in half instead of folded).

What I love about doing it myself is the fact that I can have the pages the way I use them. I don't have a lot of appointments, but I do have a lot of things to do! (I do have an appointment tonight: meeting John & my friend Jdub at the movie theater to see Harry Potter & the Half Blood Prince.)

*A "mechanical" is a way to confirm page placements when you're doing things manually. In an application like InDesign, you do your pages in the order you want to see them, and a plug-in will - ziiip - put them in the right order.

Read More......

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Introducing: Urban Legends Yarn

Urban Legends Yarn

Squee! I renamed my Etsy shop (same user name, though (edited to fix link -- thanks, Sarah)) and have been added to Ravelry as a "yarnie," in preparation for the launch of my new endeavor: hand-dyed yarns! Over the weekend, I plan do do some more dyeing, and some sewing, to get some stock into the shop.

When the dyeing bug bit, I knew that I'd eventually have to come up with a theme for my colorways, even if I didn't sell them; it's kind of a tradition, but it also just sounded fun. Urban Legends was born out of my love for horror movies and supernatural TV shows. When a skein of yarn I dyed for John turned out nothing like I expected, I put it in time-out for awhile, then decided that I liked it. I thought it looked like a field of wheat, and named it Crop Circles. The Urban Legends line was born.

I've since done Swamp Thing, Bloody Mary, Bathtub Kidney (by request) and Area 51. (If you can't get to Ravelry, you can see some colorways under my "urban legends" Flickr tag.) Colorway names will fall under the categories of urban legends, monsters, conspiracy theories, lore and phenomena (maybe some phobias, too).

Also coming to the shop are some sewn items: project bags similar to the one shown in the previous post (less complicated bags mean lower prices), some skull pillow shams similar to ones I made a few years ago*, and more! I hope to do an update by sometime on Sunday.

I have a couple of goals. Mainly, to make enough money to buy more yarn to keep dyeing more (and learning more); also, to make some "mad-money" so I can buy doo-dads without worrying about making ends meet. Just because I'm working full-time and bringing home a paycheck (monthly, eeew), doesn't mean I haven't forgotten what it's like to be broke and wondering if I could make my insulin last until I got benefits (I did!).

*I'm thinking about picking one pillow size (say, the travel pillows you can find everywhere) and making just the shams to save on shipping costs for my customers.

Mystery Solved
I don't believe I shared here that I solved the mystery of the Crop Circles yarn (that was supposed to be Mossy Green). Weeeel. It's kind of embarrassing, but I'm sharing anyway. When you work with acid dyes, you need a mordant, something that helps set the dyes. A very commonly used mordant is your basic white vinegar, but it turns out that the smell of vinegar (spread by the steam from the boiling water) makes John nuts. No problem -- another one that's fairly easy to get is citric acid. I had just been given a bag of it, but remembered having some with my bath-salt making supplies, so I figured I'd use that up first. Guess what? It wasn't citric acid. At least not entirely -- I must have mixed some salts that were just waiting for scent to be added and forgot. Tossed the whole container in the trash and haven't had a problem since!

Read More......

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Born on the 4th of July

New Sock Bag in use
I did a little sewing on Saturday morning. I wanted to take a little gift to the daughter of the people we were going to be seeing at a pro-freedom rally/tea party protest, and I really needed a small sock bag that I could hang from my wrist while I wandered around. At some point, I'll try a drawstring version, but I liked this one just fine.

I stitched up two bags before we hit the road:

  1. The one shown above was made using one of my favorite cherry prints (I hoard those pieces!). For the lining, I used a nifty red print from Jennifer/Feltmouse (I won a contest on her blog ages ago -- haven't done a lot of sewing since, but I'm ready to start working through it). I made it long, and kind of deep, so it holds a small notebook, a big ball of sock yarn and a sock-in-progress. During the event, I also managed to cram a bottle of water and my camera in there, along with some literature. Now, it's back to just holding the notebook, yarn & sock.
  2. The green one, which you can see on my Flickr page, was made using some really cool green vintage fabric that reminded me of strawberry leaves (the recipient loves strawberries), also received from Feltmouse; for the lining I used a fruit print that I had in my stash (second from right, here).
I'd love to talk about the event, but I need some time to collect my thoughts. There were three excellent speakers, but the remaining speakers veered way off the course of pro-freedom discussion. In every other way, it was a great day; I met some fascinating new people and even got to take some video that John may use in an upcoming Think Twice News episode. After we got home, when it started getting dark, we were treated to a pretty decent backyard fireworks display (our neighbors had a professional set-up). It's a short video:

On Friday, I visited a local cemetery with KarenD. I'll be posting pics to my Flickr account in the next couple of days (need to do some resizing).

Read More......

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Gadgets, part 1: Needle Gauges

This started out to be a post about shopping early for Christmas winter and other holiday gifts for knitters. It got really long. So, I'm breaking it up.

I've been collecting a list of links to things I'd like in my notions bag(s). I thought they'd make good stocking-stuffers (etc.), so I was going to wait to post it, then someone started a similar topic on Ravelry, and I realized that people might want to start shopping now (for themselves or friends/family who knit). I started it, but like I said, it got looong. Then, yesterday, I got a new gadget in the mail, and had to show it off, so the series was born!

Go-Go-Gadgets Part 1: Needle Gauges/Sizers
sock needle gaugeNeedle gauges are a real must in a knitter's notions/gadget bag. They're used for exactly what the name says: to determine needle size -- helpful because a lot of needles don't come with the size printed on it (KnitPicks) or the info. wears off after use (any bamboo/wood needles). Most gauges also have a small ruler so you can figure out your stitches per inch (also called "gauge," in the US at least).

  • The gauge shown here is a great item for sock-knitters! I ordered mine from ScoutJ on either Sunday or Monday, and it arrived on Wednesday. Most gauges just have the even needle sizes, except the 10½ (all sizes given are US), which makes it tough when you have sock needles in sizes like 1½ & 2½. This one only goes up to size 4, because that's the usual range for socks. The mini ruler is 2" long -- a standard length for ribbing on many sock patterns. ($12)
  • The same maker has a regular needle gauge (same page as linked above) that starts at 8-0 (that's 00000000) and goes up to size 15 (doesn't seem to have 0, but I could be missing it), with a 4" ruler. ($16)
  • These metal ones come in a wide variety of colors are are pretty enough to wear as a necklace. Even though they don't have the odd half sizes, I want at least one. This link goes to the best price I found ($16).
  • I found the "i needle u" man-shaped gauge yesterday, and think it's hysterical. This link goes to the best price I found ($10).
  • You can get simple metal ones from any craft store for under $3. They're perfectly fine, but can be a pain because they bend so easily.

There are even more options out there, but these are my favorites!

Related gadgets:

  • The Knit Kit - Many gadgets in one! This is like a Swiss Army knife for knitters, with a tape measure (how it fits into this topic), tiny scissors, and lots more. ($19.99)
  • Tape measures - range in price from $1 (small metal ones from places like Home Depot) to $10 (fancy sheep-shaped ones). I lose these things pretty frequently (they eventually show up again), and any child that gets their hands on one tends to pull the tape right out of the case, so I like to find them on sale and stock up. This one from KnitPicks is only $1.99, and since it's yellow, would be easy to find in a dark bag!

Read More......

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Smooshy Socks @ Lunch #2I've been knitting for about five years, and the idea of knitting socks both fascinated and terrified me at the same time, up until about a year ago. Some people start on socks as one of their first projects, some wait awhile. I waited a good long while!

I taught my friend, Anita, how to knit a couple of years ago, and she was knitting socks (two at a time!) within a year, while I was still intimidated. Then, I found a book that changed everything for me. Come to find out, with the right instructions -if socks are something that appeal to you - they aren't that hard or scary at all; in fact, they're downright magical. Wearing hand-knit socks is like having your feet hugged all day long.

I've found it to be rather difficult to knit socks for people when I can't see them a few times during the process and try them on, so I've declared that - from now on - I only knit them for John, myself, and babies.

Before I made that decision, I got some yarn to knit some socks for my friend Heather's birthday. I ordered three skeins, because she's kind of like an Amazon (tall! biggish feet (although if you took my shorter feet and multiplied by width, they're probably similar in size)), and I wanted a pair, too. We have matching tattoos, so matching socks (at least with the same yarn), would be no big deal. I got the bright idea to ask her if she wanted me to knit the socks for her, or if she wanted to learn herself. Woot! Off the hook: she wanted to learn how to knit socks.

It was a little late, but her "birthday" package arrived at her doorstep late last week. I combined the yarn with the book that demystified the process for me, and some other goodies, and sent it off. About 3 months late, but that's how we roll. Heather is ready to get started, so I sent her a big, long email with a bunch of tips. I figured I'd share it with you all as well, with some modifications for a broader audience.

The book I sent: Getting Started Knitting Socks. There are tons of tutorials online (including some with videos), other books, classes, etc. This is what finally made it all make sense for me. Your mileage may vary (YMMV). Heather already knows that the copy she got is one I already owned (not new). I misplaced my first copy, not long after purchasing, and had to go buy another. Of course, a few weeks later, the first book turned up in a drawer (I don't generally keep books in drawers).

TIP: Make a photocopy of the pattern you're going to use, and any supporting pages and pop those in your knitting bag, rather than carrying the book around. As long as you own the book, this is perfectly acceptable.

The yarn I sent is not the yarn she'll start with. This requires a size US2 needle (or thereabouts); pretty small for a first time. But it's fabulous, is it not?

I've suggested that she take a similar pattern for a baby sock, and use worsted-weight yarn to get a feel for the steps involved. This pattern - North Country Cotton Baby Socks (rav link) is pretty much identical to the basic pattern in the book, except for scale.

I've been pretty amazed to find that one can wear wool socks during the hottest days of summer, and have one's feet be the most comfortable part of one's body. The type of yarn I like to use is superwash wool with 20-25% nylon for added durability.

Please note that there are several methods of knitting socks, and each has its pros and cons - and fans. I'm introducing Heather to the most basic, top-down socks.

Stuff you need:

Pattern. There are some excellent free patterns online for beginners.

Notebook & Pen. I highly recommend making notes on something besides (or in addition to) your pattern copies. Why? Notebooks are a little harder to lose. I write down everything that might be different from the pattern so I'll remember for sock #2, or a future pair. Because I lost my notes from John's first pair (see!) I've been extra careful this time.

I make notes like: "7 spi, size 3 needles, DK yarn. CO 68 with MC, 4 rows 2x2, switch to CC, 4 rows, MC - 10 rows." Translation: 7 stitches per inch (actual name of pattern AND my gauge), needle size, yarn weight. How many stitches I cast on, and the pattern I work in (k2xp2 ribbing) I'm using 2 colors of yarn, so this reminds me where to add the stripes.

Needles. I am a huge fan of the Magic Loop method, and do one sock at a time, cuff-down, on one 32" circular needle. You can also use two shorter circs or a set of double-pointed needles (DPNs). I love the fixed circulars from Knit Picks (KP). They start around $4.99 a pair for the metal ones, and the cables are plenty flexible for Magic Loop (more on that later).

Be careful when ordering from KP - they list two size 2 needles (for example), but if you look, the size given in mm is different. The first is a US2, the next would be considered a 2½.

Gauge. Even if you're one of those people who always gets the gauge printed on the ball band, you're going to need to knit up a small swatch in the round, to find out your gauge. Most sock yarn bands list a range of gauges for a range of needle sizes. When you knit in the round, you have a slightly different tension than when you knit flat.

Stitch markers. Most sock patterns are written for DPNs. I use stitch markers to indicate where the yarn would be divided on needles, and just pretend. I mark the end of the round with a double-ringed marker, which makes it very easy for me to figure out where I left off if I was in a decrease (or increase) row. You put it on the first loop when you're on a decrease row, and the second loop for the one after that (always plain knitting). Very simple.

Row counter. You need something to keep track of your rows. For some parts of the sock, I just go by length, but in other areas (like the heel flap), you need to count rows. There are many different kinds. You can get one of the clicky kind at the craft store (use a coupon - they're like $11!), one that hangs from your knitting where your roll a small dial, or just make marks on a piece of paper. (You'll want to take notes anyway.) Another way is to link a series of rings together, and move to the next loop on every row (like these) There are even bracelet kinds, but I haven't made or used one.

Notes on Techniques
  • Magic Loop (ML) method. I learned Magic Loop by watching a video on (Advanced Techniques - scroll down to "small diameter circular knitting" - it's the third item). I haven't seen the video that KnitPicks has on their site (might even be the same one). If you do ML, you must have circular needles with a long and thin/flexible cable.
  • Picking up stitches. Probably the toughest part, and it's not really that hard. Just don't get too far ahead of yourself and you'll be fine. One thing at a time.
  • Toes. Everyone goes on and on about the Kitchener graft. They either love it, hate it or are afraid of it. Count me in among the haters. I just do a gathered toe (back of the book), like at the top of a hat, then turn the sock inside out and make sure I weave in the ends really well. If John can't destroy the toe, I think it's fairly safe.
  • Cuff. I have big ankles, but even when my socks fit comfortably, I tend to scrunch the sock down. I figure, why spent a whole lot of time knitting a long leg/cuff when it's going to end up bunched around my ankle? I usually do about 3" of ribbing, then a few rows of st st before I start the heel flap. If you have more slender ankles, or like longer socks, just knit longer before you start the heel flap.

This is just one person's view of knitting basic socks. YMMV.

Read More......

Monday, June 15, 2009

Back to Sheena's - Comfort Food 2

Sheena's BBQ BonesOne night last week, Wednesday, I think, a friend of John's was over, working on the next episode of the news show and helping with something in the basement. They were finishing up just as I arrived, so I suggested dinner -- at Sheena's. R_ had never been, and I'd been craving the stuff for ages.

It was pretty busy when we pulled up, but we received quite the warm welcome! It turns out that Sheena had received my note, linking to the first blog post. She loved the pictures showing off her food, and all the nice things I'd said (all true) about the taste of the food and the cleanliness of the place. (She also said it made her cry, I'm guessing in a good way, considering what happened next.) R_ got a tour of the grill, but no offers to taste things, because Sheena had something else in mind. She told us to order our dinners, and then she'd set us up with some other goodies.

Sheena's Brisket SandwichSo, we ordered and paid for our meals. R_ and I both got the brisket sandwich (mine with coleslaw, his without) and fries; John got the Red Hots dinner. And we all got lemonade (in larger cups!). I had enough left over from my sandwich to make another one for work the next day (between two slices of regular, boring bread).

I neglected to get a photo of the fries this time, and still haven't seen the making of them in action (I'm so easily distracted), but John says that they're fresh cut, on the spot, not frozen. He also says that they heat up - in the oven - pretty well.

Besides our meals, other food just kept arriving! It seems that the blog entry may have sent some business her way. It was definitely shared during a business expo. in Detroit a couple of weeks ago, showing a possible result of good product and customer service. (It's just as easy to write a bad review, but I find it infinitely more enjoyable to write a good one, with all the trimmings (pictures, details).)

Sheena's Red Hots & Hush PuppiesThere was a tiny bit of confusion when the food first started arriving. I hadn't heard John's order, so we thought this pile of deliciousness was a surprise from Sheena. Oops! It was John's dinner. But sharing a couple of pieces of Red Hots (that are really too hot for me) wasn't going to be a problem for him, because then the real surprises started showing up!

Sheena's Ribs, 2 kinds of beansFirst, half a slab of ribs and both kinds of beans, with smoked apples. I didn't have much of the ribs, because my goal was just to taste everything; I still had my own dinner to eat! The guys raved about the ribs; I thought they were pretty tasty and really liked the BBQ sauce. The beans were great, too.

I wish I'd taken a picture of the whole table, instead of the individual dishes! R_ did, with his camera-phone. I should see if he'll send it to me.

Sheena's Smoked Chicken and ApplesI am not a huge fan of poultry, because poultry doesn't like me. I am a sucker for good chicken strips (largely because of the Ranch dressing), and Popeye's chicken nuggets, but I tend to avoid the stuff in general. I will, however, make an exception for this smoky goodness!!

Sheena's Cornbeef Soul RollThis here could just be my new favorite thing. If you like a traditional Irish corn beef & cabbage dinner, this might appeal to you: it's one of Sheena's Soul Rolls, lots of cabbage and some other fresh veggies, tossed with a healthy quantity of juicy, sliced corned beef. This wasn't ours -- I wasn't kidding when I said that Sheena liked my photographs! She called me up to take a picture of another customer's food before he took it away. But then she brought me half of an identical one to try. Oh! It came with the (optional) hot peppers, which I would not order for myself, but I picked them out and devoured the entire half, forgetting about the pile of hot fries, ribs, chicken, etc. I need to point out again that these are only $3.95!

When the weather gets colder, come sometime this Fall, Sheena will close up and focus on her art (she was an art teacher until this calling, and sculpts in her spare time) until it gets warm enough to be outside a lot. I am going to miss it, but since it's only halfway through June, I have lots of time to get my fill until bleak weather takes it all away.

Read More......

Oh, so many things

I've had many things to blog about, but not so much the energy or time. So a few short blurbs (light and funner stuff first):

Crafty & Stuff
Glass Swan Stitch Marker

  • If you get the joke, you may want one of these stitch markers: Glass Swans. They are not truly suited for practical use, but are truly fun to have and giggle at. Available in my shop.
  • A new online knitter's magazine just launched (as in last night or this morning): Petite Purls. Focus is on adorable patterns for small children; the first issue has a knitted lobster toy that either gender would enjoy.
  • I'm about a third of the way finished with the second sock of the pair I'm knitting for John. Sock #1 fit perfectly (woot!) and I believe I'll meet my goal of having these done by Friday. As soon as the pair is done, I've promised something for a charity as part of knitalong on Ravelry. Then, maybe a pair for me again.
Fast & Furious
I've had the 'flu for past couple of days. Woke up Saturday, around 4 AM with what may have been a "regular" migraine, but it could also have been a precursor to the illness. As the day dragged on, I felt less and less okay; until, by mid-afternoon, I was quite ill. Sunday was a day of many naps and lots of DVD-watching and knitting. Today, I'm not at work, because I still have very little energy and my fever kept coming back last night and I hate people that show up to work with fevers (frequently means contagious). I'm pretty confident that I'll be fever-free tomorrow and able to walk the two blocks from my parking lot to my building!

Crisis Averted
We have had a small leak in the basement from the floor above for some time. At first, we thought it was just condensation from the air conditioner; however, once we had a dehumidifier running non-stop, it didn't get any better. So John contacted the home warranty company, and they had a plumber out the next day. There was a crack in the hot water main! Not covered, sadly, for convoluted reasons, but cheap to fix considering the alternative (if it broke wide open)! That wouldn't have been covered either.

So Confused (and this won't help a lot)
You may have noticed that I edited the two posts related to the ad debacle. Well, the ads are staying down, but things have gotten, shall we say interesting(?), and I've had to contact a lawyer. What's frustrating is that I thought everything was resolved, and several days later got a series of emails from official channels, opening up an ever bigger can of worms. People really need to get the whole, up-to-date story before they try to dive in and "help." You know?

Next: Back to Sheena's. It would be a way-too-long post (again) if I included that.

Read More......

Monday, June 8, 2009

Thank You!

Thanks to everyone who came by and left comments during the last few days. I do have comment moderation on, but I posted every single one received, and I'm grateful for each and every one of them.

Read More......

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Ad Update

There's an update in Friday's post, but I don't want anyone to miss it. Ravelry has removed the disputed ads from the site again. The ads were removed, but it looks like it was temporary... again.

Kind of back to where things were. At least as regards the ad.

Read More......

Surprise Colorway

Last weekend, I decided to try my hand at dyeing some sock yarn with Wilton food coloring (previously, I've only used KoolAid). A sweet Rav-pal sent me an assortment package of the dyes a few weeks ago, along with a skein of exactly the yarn I needed for a pair of socks for John (I hadn't mentioned that anywhere - it was a total random coincidence). I looked all over for color-mixing charts that would get me the mossy green color I wanted, and found one, forgetting that most of the directions out there are for icing. When you add heat to the mix, the colors break up. (I knew that in the back of my mind, but had forgotten for the moment.) Edited to add: I definitely used vinegar in the pre-soak and some in with the dye itself.

My Hand-dyed: UnnamedFirst, since I had a few skeins of undyed merino sock yarn (another RAK gift (I am so lucky!)), I decided to try dyeing one of those first. I figured I'd end up with some kind of green, which my feet would always happily wear. I played around with it, combining the yellow and violet, which were just not getting it done. So I added some brown. I ended up with a bright green with a touch of greenish brown splotches. I liked it, so I went ahead with the yarn for John, using the hand-painted method instead of the kettle/stove-top.

My Hand-dyed: Crop CircleSomewhere along the lines, something went really wrong. The yarn I put into a gallon Zip-loc bag (to steam in the microwave) was, indeed, a deep mossy green (mostly). What came out... something else altogether. But John liked it, so I decided to leave it as is. After I wound it into a ball (cake), I christened it Crop Circle. (I'm learning that you must name your yarns.) I haven't named the green yarn yet... still thinking on it.

Crop Circle Socks - Day 1Yesterday I packed my emergency knitting bag* for a road trip. (John had to film an interview in Ohio.) I cast on and just knit and knit, the whole way there. There was some rearranging once we arrived (due to vehicle constraints), and I stayed with John's partner's wife and young daughter. We did some gardening, and walked around, and blew bubbles, and I just blathered on nonstop. Later, we went back inside, and I took up the knitting again. I got more done than I think I've ever accomplished in one day, especially on a sock! Plus, I was able to spend time with some lovely people, and stay away from this blasted machine (and not think about certain things) for most of the day.

Later, we went to dinner at a Mexican restaurant they like. The food was fabulous, the company excellent, the service... confusing.

Plans: try a different method of heat-setting the yarn; get some other mordant (I think that's the right word) besides vinegar; try some commercial dyes (which will mean a dedicated set of pans, dishes, etc., but might be worth the trade-off for the control).

*It's so corny; I was saving this bag until I could actually pack it as an emergency kit. Someday I will, and I'll tuck it under the seat in John's car. But it's a great regular knitting bag, with little pockets all around. Highly recommended.

Read More......

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Back to knitting

I know, I can't believe it either! It's been a couple of weeks since I did anything but a few half-hearted stitches on a fall-weight ribbed scarf. Last weekend, I attempted to dye some sock yarn. I'll post about that once I have the photos onto Flickr.

John had to film an interview in Ohio today, and I tagged along. I cast on for his socks as we were pulling out of the driveway (didn't actually join the round and start knitting until after I got something to eat), and knit pretty furiously off & on all day. Tonight, I'm starting to decrease the gusset. Feels pretty good.

It's been almost a knitting wasteland here for almost a month. First, I was having pains in my left wrist, so I figured I'd give it a break. Two weeks ago, we lost Sheldon, and I just haven't been in the mood. Today, it just felt like something I needed to do!

*Can't get two socks, even short crew ones, out of a ball of sock yarn for him.

Read More......

Friday, June 5, 2009

This is not easy

Update, Sunday, June 7: Heard from the folks at Ravelry that they have removed all of the ads. They can't, obviously, police her account, but if I spot any that are this similar again to let them know. Looks like this info. wasn't entirely accurate.

Something's happened to me that happens all of the time to creative people: someone has picked up something I created and used with without my permission. In the grand scheme of things, it's hardly the end of the world. It's just a squiggly line. But my response to that is, "yes, it is, just a squiggly line, so why can't you make your own?"

In mid-May, I was contacted by a Ravelry user about the possibility of doing some advertising. Until today, I had in my profile a link to a "roll call" thread, displaying some samples of my work, and an offer to exchange ads for cash or yarn. I'm not terribly busy with it, but I have gotten a few skeins of yarn out of it, and met some nice people. As reasonable as my rates were (about half of what some designers* charge), after they hear my rates, more than half of the people I hear from don't get back in touch. This person did, and we ended up speaking on the phone.

I was told that there had been another designer on the job; she'd been paid, but the work wasn't exactly what my new client wanted. Could I base an ad on what had been done, but create the artistic elements of it myself (the remaining elements were straight gray lines and her own logo, plus a typed tag line)?

Disclaimer: I didn't know right off the bat who this first designer was, but I honestly saw nothing wrong with her version of the ad. In fact, I still feel that it was superior to mine. And, I must say that I felt really uncomfortable with this, but against my better judgment, went ahead with it, because sometimes, people just can't work together. Later, I discerned that the cause did not belong on designer #1's doorstep.

I created an ad to her specifications -- mostly tweaks of the original, plus a wavy line that I created. I sent it, like I always do with new clients, as a .JPG file with "DRAFT" embedded into the image. Soon after, when the client didn't like many things about the ad, I decided that it just wasn't worth it, and told her I couldn't help her. I did not bill her, because I didn't finish, nor did I deliver a usable product (because of the DRAFT portion).

Imagine my surprise when, a few days ago, I'm reading a thread in Ravelry, and I see an ad pop up. One that looks very similar to mine. As in, pretty much identical. In this image, the one I found on Ravelry is on top, and on the bottom is the one I sent back in mid-May:

At first glance, they look identical, except for the absence of the DRAFT portion. I immediately contacted my ex-client and gave her 24 hours to remove the ad. On closer inspection there are a couple of tiny differences. Since most of it, except for the placement of the items and the wavy line, were the work of the first designer, I sent another message to the client, stating that all I was concerned about was the wavy line; she couldn't use it in any way, but I didn't care about the rest of it.

It was at this time that I got in touch with the first designer. I didn't find her earlier because I'd mis-heard her name. But I took another look at the designers in that thread on Rav, realized who it was, and sent an email, apologizing for my part in the whole debacle. She was gracious and sweet, did not blame me for any of it, and offered to go to "the powers that be" (TPTB) on Rav and support my story.

I won't bore you with the back & forth conversation I had with my ex-client. She offered to pay me for the ad, but by now it had become about the principle of the thing, so I declined. Eventually, she sent an email stating "Hi Mel, The ad you worked on has been pulled." (Emphasis mine.) In the meantime, I'd located another ad, using the same line, just recolored and a bit lopped off the end. I asked her to remove this. She stated that she had to wait to hear back from her designer, to see if she had created the line. So, I sent this (my Photoshop layers, in red, nudged up a little higher so you can see them both - I made the top line red instead of the original green):

I finally had to get TPTB at Rav involved. They removed the above ad, as well as a group badge and banner I hadn't even seen. That was yesterday.

A breakdown of how the line in question was created, so you can see how minuscule the odds are that someone would create the same line:

Today, I discover that not only was there a third ad, but the first two are back, with subtle changes. (However, the group banner & badge have been replaced with completely new art. Interesting priorities there.) Basically, her designer just squished the line:
If you can't make out the text above the red line, it gives the height & width changes (~95% of the width & ~117% of the height, give or take) that were made to the line. Just squishing the line isn't replacing it. (The little dip was cut off for the first iteration of the second ad, the long one with the knitted fabric.)

Ravelry has since stated that they can't control what their advertisers do ("advertisers have control over their accounts...we can not and will not arbitrate these types of disputes.") Which does confuse me, because if someone had a dispute regarding images on another site, that content would be removed pending investigation. Not the case on Ravelry. I'm waiting to hear back from my lawyer, but I'm thinking I won't be able to afford taking legal action. So, here I am. As of this writing, almost 48 hours after the first deadline passed, the ads containing my work are still present.

As a result, I'm no longer creating ads, except for one long-term client and a few past clients. It's not worth the hassle (plus, people steal bigger stuff all the time, and I'm just not going to open myself up for that in an environment where I have no recourse). I left the design group where I've been modding for over a year, for which I created dozens of group badges and banners (for free). I'm not leaving Rav, because I have found a fabulous group of friends, and the notebook and pattern-finding features are out of this world. I do plan on scaling back my participation in other ways.

Really, who does this kind of thing? And on the same site where she found me? Lame doesn't begin to cover it.

*I'm not a graphic artist. I think people that can apply that title to themselves accurately deserve more money.

Read More......

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


I'm not addicted to Farm Town. I can stop whenever I want. Just let me plant one more row. (Just like knitting! Sort of.)

This image is of my farm early this morning. I was too tired last night to plant it all, but I did get some commemorative art work done in the bottom left plot before I fell over. (I try to only plant in the evenings because of the growth cycle. Yes, I have thought about it this much.) The dollar $ign will stay -- this is a gulch after all! (Atlas Shrugged reference FTW!)

It's been a lot of fun, and because I have so many friends that play, that makes it even better. I was "hired" to harvest a couple of big farms* right off the bat, which gave me a significant stake, allowing me to plant my entire garden and get the ball rolling.

In turn, I've tried to hire all of my "neighbors" who are just starting out, at least once, to give them the same leg-up. If they aren't online when it's time, I've found a forum I can go to & request help, rather than going to the dreaded Marketplace, which is full of beggars. Plus, the forum people leave my trees alone (I like them for color).

*There's a real false economy in the game. It starts out okay enough - it costs (in-game) $ to plow every square, and varying amounts for the seeds. Then there is the growing period (4 hours to 4 days (a day is 20 hours)). Then it's harvest time. If you harvest your own crops, you make X. But, if you hire someone to do it, they get a 25% cut PLUS you make 25% more.

On an unrelated note, word to the wise: temper tantrums are not attractive and they don't make people like you or want to help you. After a while, it doesn't matter what your real-life problems are, people are going to quickly move past pity, to annoyed, then peeved.

Online, some people exhibit all the behavior patterns of a troll, even if they aren't intentionally doing it to create drama and tension. I don't know if this makes a person a troll or not, since it's not on purpose. But it's definitely not the way to win friends and influence people. In my mumblemumble years participating in online forums, I've developed a list of things that don't work, and make you look silly:
  1. Constantly demand that an entire site be reprogrammed to match your preferences. The fact that other sites do it a certain way doesn't mean it's the only way, or the right way. Some site owners are innovative and are capable of thinking outside the box.
  2. Keep bringing up the same shit, over and over, after you've been told "no, it's not going to happen."
  3. Refuse to use the tools that are in place to help you avoid dealing with people you don't like. (It's called managing your own experience. Firefox extensions (like AdBlock or MyImageHere) are a prude's best friend. They're also the friend of people like me who are not prudes, that still like managing their own experience.)
  4. When people disagree with you, accuse them of being trolls or being mean to you.
  5. When it becomes obvious that you are in the minority, or that people are not coming around to your view, demand that a topic be shut down or deleted. Better still, just declare that the conversation is OVER. (We saw a thread like that somewhere a couple of weeks ago, and it was hilarious.) At some point, type this in ALL CAPS.
  6. When that doesn't work, start insisting that everyone else is a loser for being online and not doing something real. (Because, friend, you're online, not doing something real, right at that moment.)
  7. Start ad hominem attacks by calling people names based on their user names or avatars, or going through their profile and finding something to use that has nothing to do with the discussion.

The above may be slightly related to events that happened on a forum yesterday, but they're really universal. I've seen every one of these happen (there are more steps beyond #7, but you get the point - I didn't even touch on Godwin's law): on a scrapbooking forum, a cat forum, a wedding-planning forum, a Buffy the Vampire Slayer forum and, yes, Ravelry, time and again. If you find yourself exhibiting any of these behaviors, it's my advice that you turn off the offending browser page/tab and either find something else to do or go for a walk.

A lot of times before it progresses to #7, someone will flounce. That is, announce that they're taking their ball and going home. But usually... they don't. They cannot stay away.

Another thing they might do is get mad and start deleting all of their posts, so the discussion looks lopsided and weird. To that I say: BLOCKQUOTE, people. If you're in an online discussion and what you're responding to is crucial to your post, copy it, paste it in your post, and mark it so it's obvious it's a quote. Some sites have tools for this. If they don't, put quote marks around it and italicize it or something. You'll thank me later.

PS: If you're viewing this via a reader or anything besides the blog page itself, you might be missing some of the formatting. Facebook, for example, does not display the post formatting.

Read More......