Friday, June 30, 2006

Oh for a good night's sleep...

Greetings to my ever-patient readers. Sorry about the disruption but I’ve been on a bit of a break. It was scheduled to be the OddBall Family annual vacation but plans got changed. This year’s interruption in service has been sponsored by Diabetes Mellitus and its ugly step cousin, Hypo Gylcemia. Nasty pair they are. I haven’t got a whole lot done because I’ve spent much of the last two weeks looking for enough sugar in my body to run my brain. Unpleasant, to say the least.

But hope is on the horizon. My insulin type and dosage was changed yesterday to something which promises to be more stable and if the Gods are willing and the wind is right, this will be the last episode of this nonsense, until of course, the next episode. Welcome to the wonderful, wacky world of diabetes, where all constants are variables and the adventure never ends.

On the knitting front, I actually have done some of it. I’m still working on the samples for the Highland Games although sad to receive the news yesterday that Jackie won’t be able to attend with us. Something about cottage, free, vacation, quiet, enjoyable, happy kids trumped Liz, me, whiskey and a thousand men in kilts. Man, she really must love those kids

Of course, July is on the horizon which means it’s Tour de France time and as the annual preamble to the greatest sporting event ever invented, it’s doping, doping and more doping. Things are so bad this year that any minute now I expect the phone to ring with some sporting director seeing if the OddBall IT and Technical Support Division is ready to make the Tour as a last minute rider. Yup, things are that desperate. As of this morning, Ullrich, Basso and Lord knows who else is sitting on the sidelines. Nice.


I’m so glad that the Spanish criminal authorities are in the loop on this one. The sporting authorities have repeatedly demonstrated that they couldn’t catch a cold on a good day. Now, maybe, just maybe, we’ll have a proper investigation to this matter. And not that any professional cyclists read this blog, but here goes the OddBall opinion anyway. I’ve spent the best part of the last month trying to manage a chronic illness and literally going to bed wondering if I’ll wake up in the morning, only to be jolted out of sleep by my body screaming for help. My work mates have been keeping an eagle eye on me and my reactions, so I don’t actually kill someone. I have very little sympathy for these lads. They want to play with needles, they ought come try out my needles for a while. The real problem is mine come with a life sentence and it’s a shortened one at that.

Okay, back to the bit of tying knots in string -- no, really, I feel better for that rant, honest -- I’ve managed to block all the pieces for the felted briefcase and I think I’ve finalized the plan of attack for putting it together. I have managed to get some serious pondering done in the last couple of weeks.

I haven’t got a damn thing done on Miss Flirty Ruffles, which is fine. I’ll play with her after the Highland Games.

In any event, here’s to hope that normal service will be restored and I’ll be back to the needles and the Blog in record time.

Talk at you’se laters; thanks for reading.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Catch up

Blocking the Blues

Yeah, I know. As ‘Bloggers go, I suck this month. I’ve been negligent. It happens and happily, this time it’s happened because I’m actually getting something done. This would be quite distinct from the number of times I’ve been a Bad Blogger for no reason other than I’m laying in the foetal position in the middle of the living room floor sucking my thumb over something.

The Felted Briefcase, after several attempts and no small amount of cursing, is felted. It’s not exactly in its finalized briefcase format because…well, I just haven’t got it that far yet, now have I? I’m waiting for hardware to arrive and the pieces are still drying.

Miss Flirty Ruffles turns 135

Miss Flirty Ruffles is mid-way through Chart 4 of 873. Actually, it’s not that bad. I’m 135 rows into the 236 rows for the main body. Note to non-knitters: that’s not anywhere near half ways because I’m knitting a triangle and it gets bigger by 4 stitches every 2 rows. In yarn terms, I’m about ½ way through Ball # 1 of 3. It’s moved onto the circulars which makes it much nicer for knitting.

I’ve been reading some of the Amazing Lace columns and it seems that a lot of knitters, lace knitters anyway, hate Addi needles. I’m of the “you’ll get my Addi-Turbos when you pry them from my cold, dead hand” school myself. Apparently, they prefer Inox needles because they have a sharper point. I need to check these out for myself at some point, but it’s not today. Doesn’t help that my LYS doesn’t carry Inox. In the meanwhile, Miss Flirty and I are going great guns with the Addis.

And I’m still knitting samples for the Shetland lace display at the NB Highland Games. In short, I'm too busy knitting to write about it. Next week, I’m going to be equally negligent. It’s the time of year for the OddBall Family to literally pack up the tent and go play in the rain -- yup, it’s les vacances de la famille Excentrique, heading to the fogbanks of the Bay of Fundy for a week. All members of the tribe are expected to survive the experience, only because Momma will be packing the gin.

Talk to you’se all laters; thanks for reading.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

It doesn't look like much...

Batteries not included

This pile of plunder is a briefcase. Some assembly required.

No fur-bearing animals were harmed during the creation of this briefcase. Allergy alert: may contain nutmeg , but we doubt it. Return for refund where applicable. Not recommended for persons with caffeine-restricted diets. Batteries are not included -- best of luck finding them. May cause irritability, sleeplessness or fractured molars after prolonged use. Contents under pressure. BHT added to preserve freshness. Shake well before using. No vacuum tubes or other user-serviceable parts inside. Do not operate under water.

I'll let you all know if me and the briefcase are still on speaking terms after it goes for The Big Wash.Probably not... damn thing hates me already.

Talk at you'se all laters ; thanks for reading.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Because I ** need** another project...

Field of Flowers

What’s up at the Knittery these days?

Well, I’ve been mostly occupied with the fun and games that come with being a Momma…orthodontist appointments and et cetera. I hate having to run here, there and everywhere to look after these details. I know, it makes me your nominee for Mother of the Year but good grief, it makes accomplishing something just a tad on the difficult side.

Bitching aside, I have managed to actually do something. I’ve finished most of the machine knitting for the felted briefcase and I’ve overdyed 2 skeins of yarn for the remaining section. Just waiting for it to dry so I can knit it up and then it’s all going into the big felting machine in the basement. Undoubtedly, that’s when the cursing will start in earnest.

I carefully calculated the amount of material I need for this and then basically added either 8 stitches or 8 rows in all directions. The main body of what I’m doing is done in black wool and it felts like a dream. What I’m really trying to avoid is going to sew the bag together and find out I’m ¾s of an inch short right at the worst possible place. You know it would happen, so the fudge factor was factored in. I’m probably still off by a factor of about 10. Me and felting -- sometimes it works and sometimes, not so hot.

To help me relax with the machine knitting -- let’s face it, that thing is just WORK -- I’m still beavering away on Miss Flirty Ruffles. I think I’m at row 108 or something, almost finished Chart # 3 in any event. It’s getting knit away intermittently with the latest latest project.

Every July, here in Fredericton, we host the NB Highland Games. It’s a celebration of all things Scottish, from pipe bands, and Highland Dance competitions, caber tossing and other Scottish games, whiskey tasting, Gaelic language lessons, Gaelic choirs, tartan weavers, etc, etc. This year is the 25th anniversary of the Games and in honour of that, I’m putting together a static display on Shetland lace. Eventually, I would like to have a full display on Scottish knitting in general, but realistically, the only thing I’ll get done this year is some lace samples.

Above is sample one -- Field of Flowers on both stocking stitch background and garter stitch background. Obviously, I have a few more to knit up between now and the end of July.

Talk at you’se all laters; thanks for reading.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Mystery Swatch Revealed!!!

Absolutely nothing like this

A rose is a rose is a rose and sometimes, a swatch is a swatch is a swatch.

The yellow swatch posted earlier was exactly that -- a swatch. It’s not going to become anything although it might get sacrificed to the wool gods yet when I need little bits of yellow stuff cut out of felt.

But, OddBall, you said it was Step 1 of some mystery project? Well, yes, my little partridges, I didn’t lie to you or even dissemble. It’s the first step in me figuring out how to build a felted briefcase. The felted briefcase is envisioned to be exactly like the one picture above except for the few adjusted details noted below:

  • Different colour
  • Different yarn in both brand and weight
  • No buttons, beads or windings
  • Different or no buckles
  • Different handles
  • No dangly lariat thing
  • Different motif design
  • Completely different construction

But other than that, it’s exactly like the one pictured above and, in interests of credit where credit is due, was found in the Winter 2005 issue of Knitter’s magazine. I loved the idea of a felted bag but for starters, there is no way on God’s little green earth that Mrs MacKay’s idiot daughter Kate is going to hand-knit a bag to felt the living tar out of it. It is not happening.

And I’m not into that whole SouthWest motif thing. And why would I use anything other than my good old home grown Briggs & Little when I’m planning to beat the living jebesus out of it in the first place? And I don’t like the construction technique for the corners. I thing they can be sharpened up a bit. Okay, I like the leather wrap on the handles but don’t like the handles, per se. And I’m all for the feet on the bottom of it. And the dimensions probably work for me. But other than that, it’s about to be OddBall’d all to Hell and gone.

The point of doing the swatch was because at some point in the design of this here briefcase, I’m going to have to figure out how many stitches and how many rows, etc, etc, etc. So, in the interests of being scientific, instead of my usual eyeballing it, I crank up the knitting machine. Eyeballing it doesn’t work so well when step 2 of the project involves lots of hot water and about 5 cycles through the washing machine. Enter the 100 stitches by 100 rows swatch. When I’m finished felting it, I’ll have an idea of how many stitches I need to cast on for each piece.

Other than that, knitting has been somewhat boring around here. A bit more has been done on Miss Flirty Ruffles. The Addi-Turbo circulars just arrived so I can switch off the straight needles.

I’ve knit 4 stockings for felting, along with some do-dads to go on the other socks. They’re in this felting run through. I would have had 5 stocks finished but, alas, I ran out of navy yarn about 30 feet short of the finish line on the last and of course, it was the last skein in captivity. I feel a Briggs & Little run coming on shortly but I’m trying to hold out a little while longer. The stash is getting to the almost manageable stage and I’d like to keep it there for a while.

In any event, work to do. In this case, it’s the work I actually get paid for but I’m off the night shifts. Talk at you’se all laters; thanks for reading.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Happy Birthday, Jackie...

Our birthday girl

Jackie pulled off the birthday Trefecta...booze (and booze supplies), yarn and the shirt off the bartender's back. Literally. You go, girl!

Don't tell Nigel, but actually, the shirt looks better on Jackie than him. NO editorial comments will be made on said bartender stripped to the waist.

Talk to you'se all laters; thanks for reading.

Swatch This Space

Step 1

It's a 100 row by 100 stitch block of Briggs & Little single ply knit on the machine. It's step 1. Step 1 to what? More on that later but I'm off right now to a doctor's appointment that I've waited ONLY 18 months to get seen. I don't think I'll miss it in the interests of schmoozing with you lot.

Right now, I just stuck it up there because I'm really blogging to wish Jackie a very happy birthday. Pop on over to One Thread Two Thread and give her your best wishes. See the rest of you at the pub tonight.

Talk at you'se all laters; thanks for reading.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Amazing Lace Challenge

My Amazing Lace Companion

Well, I went and giddy-upped and go’ed and joined the summer knit along “The Amazing Lace”.

Why? I have no earthy idea why I do these things to myself. Perhaps a vain attempt to keep myself focussed on a project, or six. In any event, the organizers of the Knit Along are looking for members to make regular contributions on their blogs about the project and that’s what this column is about. It’s the June 4th , Amazing Lace knit along official introduction column, in which I introduce myself and the project to the fellow lace-aholics. Regular readers of this column might want to give it a pass.

So, down to brass tacks. I’m Kate. I’m 43, live in Fredericton, NB, Canada with my husband, child and a spoiled rotten cat. They are usually referred to in this blog as The OddBall IT and Technical Support Division, Ditto and the Terrorist. I dispatch police cars for a living and to keep myself sane, I knit. I have many friends and acquaintances who will tell you that the knitting as sanity saving strategy isn’t working too well but what do they know? Most of them are weavers. Not a group you’d describe as having all their oars in the water, if you get my drift.

I wasn’t always a lace knitter. No…once upon a time I was a regular, ordinary, functional sane knitter. I knit a few sweaters, which for the record I hate knitting. They are huge commitments and I get bored easily. I knit hats and scarves and mitts and more of the same. I was a good knitter and then I got a knitting machine. I went all high tech and that was the end of me.

For the record, I like the knitting machine. I just haven’t figured out what all to do with it really other than it’s handy for knitting stuff to felt. Let’s face it, it’s a total waste of time to hand knit something and then shrink the living daylights out of it. For this sort of entertainment and amusement, you can’t beat a knitting machine. With felting projects, the knitting is the least of the process. It’s what you do to get to where you can have some fun.

But it’s not knitting for the process of knitting. Now before 8000 machine knitters descend upon this column and batter me about the head and shoulders for the aforementioned comment, I’m not dissing the machine. I own two of them and you’d be hard pressed to get me to part with either. Having said that, they also lack the satisfaction of hand knitting…the shaping and twisting of string to make a coherent shape. And for me, there’s nothing on earth that beats lace knitting for that sense of accomplishment. I mean, really, it’s just a mass of knotted bloody string but oh-la-la, what a mass. I like the persnickity bits of knitting lace. I like watching it unfold and seeing how a k2tog shapes differently than a sl1, k1, psso. I like seeing how twisted stitches add subtle texture and lines that draw the eye.

I’m also taking a bit of a break from the skull sweat involved in designing. I just designed a shawl for charity and I spent enough time ripping, frogging, scrapping and throwing my hands up in the air to last me a while. Right now, I’m in the mood to just follow the damn instructions, will ya? It doesn’t happen often but that’s where my head is.

So for the Amazing Lace challenge, I’ve opted for a commercially available pattern so I don’t have to work out a darn thing. Some very clever designer has already done it for me. In this case, the very clever one is Dorothy Siemens of Fiddlesticks Knitting, right here in Canada. I’ve chosen the Flirty Ruffles Shawl, forever more to be referred to as Miss Flirty Ruffles. It’s based on the traditional lace pattern “Print o’ the Wave” and it’s very nice. It’s an intermediate level pattern with nothing too weird in it. I’m not even going to work out yarn choices on this one. In spite of the fact I have about a zillion miles of silk and/or silk blend yarns in this joint, all undyed and waiting for a project, I grabbed 3 balls of Jaggerspun Zephyr Wool-Silk blend in ice blue right off the shelf and a pair of 3.25 mm needles. No swatching involved. I’m not in the mood to think or scheme or figure out how to make it work. I want to relax and just knit the damn thing.

Speaking of which, I just finished row 100 of the main shawl body and I may be writing a fan letter to Dorothy Siemens before this is over. For those of you who have never used a Fiddlesticks Knitting pattern and this was a first for me, and may have been put off by what looks like a high sticker price at the shop, forget it. The patterns are worth every cent of their retail cost. I can’t remember the last time I worked with such an easy pattern. The charts are very clear, large enough to see and well documented. The instructions assume you don’t know how to do this already and leave nothing to guess-timation. I’m impressed. It’s one of the nicest commercial patterns I’ve ever worked with and it’s made the first 100 rows a very enjoyable experience.

The shawl itself is easy to work on. The pattern repeat is only 17 stitches long and while I’m obviously still glued to the charts, it’s easy to remember blocks of stitches and not be continually looking back to find your place on the chart. And with only 17 stitches, it’s easy to rip back when you’ve made the inevitable boo-boo.

The yarn? Dreamy. The softness of merino, the strength of silk. Can you get any nicer on the hands than that? I think not.

So, there you have it … the Amazing Lace Team for the summer of 2006 consisting of Miss Flirty Ruffles and one OddBall, tied together with a bit of wool and silk.

And that’s a wrap for now. Talk at you’se all laters; thanks for reading.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

NO, I'm not on vacation

Yup, it's red alright

Well, the productivity levels around this joint have pretty much dropped to nothing. I think the only thing I’ve managed to knit completely is a ruffle for a Christmas sock and a couple of do-dad corkscrew thingies for another. They still haven’t been felted.

Never fear, this does not mean that there is a whole lot of spare time going to be happening around here. Recently I decided, as in last weekend recent, that if I had to spend another minute looking at the ratty old dirty ugly horrid hand-me-down sofa in my living room, some one is going to get hurt. My place is pretty much decorated in Early Student Loan …still … in spite of the fact that schooling was long, long ago. In fact, it was so long ago that the student loans for both of us are actually paid off and have been for a decade and we’re now eyeballing tuition costs for Ditto. But I digress…

In any event, after this many years, the OddBall IT and Technical Support Division knows well enough to not argue with me when I’ve got a full-head of steam under me and my knickers in a twist. The sofa was going. That was IT and the least painful route for him is to just nod, smile sagely,drive me to the furniture store and make plans to move whatever is going to need to be hauled, moved, juggled or rearranged. Like everything else, one thing leads to another to another to another and what started out as something simple, becomes an official PROJECT.

The purchase of the sofa (mid brown leather) begat the need for new paint on the walls, which meant coming up with a ’colour scheme’. For the record, it is chilli pepper red, light sand and paper grey. Two walls are going the OH MY GOD THAT IS RED red. Did I mention it was red? Very red. Tres rouge, even. And like all dark paints, it’s a son of a gun to apply. I’ve just rolled on coat # 3, after two coats of ¼ tint primer and we’ll be looking at another coat before I’m done. That’s what I’ve been doing when I’m not solving the world’s problems over a cup of coffee with Liz after going to the paint shop to buy yet another gallon of OMG That's RED red.

In the mean while, Miss Flirty Ruffles the Shawl is getting picked away at. I just finished row 85 which reminds me I need to write a column for the Amazing Lace Knit Along. What possessed me to sign up, etc? Personally, I’m going with the “gamma rays from the Planet Xeon make me knit big things on little itty bitty things needles” theory but I might be wrong on that. I’ve been wrong before you know (Feb 16, 1973 to be exact).

It gives me something to do with my hands while I’m plotting felted throw cushions. I have them on the brain in a serious way these days. In fact, I think I’ll go knit up some yardage right this minute and get a jump on that.

Talk at you’se all laters; thanks for reading.