Monday, March 31, 2014

Technological Advances

The rate at which technology is advancing is mind-boggling sometimes.  Don't you think?

Viewing Movies At Home

Not so long ago, Thaddeus was working at the local mom and pop video rental store.  During his time there, they morphed from a VHS format to DVD and then started including some Blueray.  And like the bigger places, they also went out of business as more on-demand movies came on the scene that were cheaper and allowed you to access them without leaving the comfort of your couch.

And of course Neflix, Apple TV, Hulu and various other streaming applications just made the concept of video rental anachronistic almost overnight.

During that transition, many households switched over to digitally formatted televisions that could easily accept WiFi streaming or various formats of video, but we opted to stick with our huge-ass tube television.  But since we had films in dozens of different digital formats, Thaddeus found this great DVD player from Oppo that would play lots of different formats.  That was about two years ago and it was expensive to get a machine that would play virtually any format of movie.

Fast forward to a month or so ago when we had to replace our Oppo Universal player, and we were shocked that we could replace everything with this little device.

Yes, this tiny little IntelliSonic device will play any format of movie (even ones with a separate sub-title file), as long as the movie is on a USB memory stick or flash card.  And it will play them on our old tube (non-flat screen) television.  And it cost less than $40.

Truly amazing how technology advances so quickly.

Here's Finn helping me write the blog...he's so helpful!

Current Knitting/Weaving

I've almost finished the Henry Der vest up to the arm hole shaping, and I've started a new pair of socks using a different colorway of Zauberball.

But I also decided to assemble the Speed-O-Weave (not to the humongous size) and string it up a bit.

There are no instructions, just simple illustrations on the box itself showing ways you can use this thing, so I'm trying a few different things as part of my next steps.  We'll see how it works out...I'm honestly not too hopeful.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Rank Your Crafts

Here's my list of fiber crafts:

  • Hand knitting
  • Crochet
  • Spinning
  • Weaving
  • Quilting
  • Fiber preparation - washing, carding, etc.
  • Machine knitting
  • Tatting
  • Dyeing
  • Rug hooking

Applying the 80/20 Rule

The top three on that list take up about 80% of my crafting time and all the remaining combined make up about 20% of my time.

Take a short ranking survey.

Current Flea Market Finds

I found the following little (maybe not so little) item at the local flea market and thought it might be fun to play with.

Thanks to Finn helping set up the loom, you get a sense about how big this thing can be.  Not sure how much use I'll get out of this, but it cost a pittance.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Wisdom of Men

One of the founding principles of The Men's Knitting Retreats is that we look among our own ranks for expertise and workshops.

A Bounty of Expertise

And each year, I am never disappointed in some of the most interesting workshops offered by the guys that come to our retreat.

For the upcoming retreat in May,

- Learning to Knit - The Basics (for our newbie knitters)
- Intro to Spinning
- Weaving on a Rigid Heddle Loom
- Choosing Colors That Work Together
- Upcoming Yarn Trends from the Global Yarn Market
- Beyond Worsted - Drafting for Lofty Yarns
- Measuring Yourself and Sweater Fitting Techniques
- Heels for Human Feet
- Beyond Beginner Knitting (also for our newbie knitters)
- Finger-Tip to Cuff Gloves
- Striping, Shading, Patterning

You can see why I'm never disappointed...the workshops each year are always this good.

Current Knitting

Lots of progress since my last post.  I finished my latest pair of socks and I added a few inches to the Henry Der Sweater Vest in Icelandic wool.

They look very nice on as well...of course Finn had to photo-bomb that photo.

And here's the center/front panel of the Henry Der Vest.

I'm liking how this is coming out so far and it looks as if I'll have enough yarn to complete the project.  That's always a relief.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Sheep To Shawl

Who has ever been to and/or participated in a Sheep To Shawl contest?

What I Imagine

So, I guess the concept is that teams comprised of a person that shears a sheep, at least one person the prepares the fiber for spinning, at least one person that spins the fiber and then someone that crafts the resulting yarn into a shawl?

Right so far?

I'm picturing some dirty, poo-covered sheep being sheared fast and carelessly, with lots of second cuts.  Then someone carding rolags of greasy, dirty roving, while a third person spins the rolags with complete abandon into a thick, greasy cord of yarn.  And this yarn is then knit into some grease-laden monstrosity of a shawl that will be auctioned off for some charity.

Well, I guess there are some options that are a little less awful than mine.

My local yarn store, Twist Knitting and Spinning is sponsoring a Sheep to Shawl Demonstration and Auction on Saturday, April 12th and the shawl will be auctioned off on Sunday, April 13th.  I was fortunate enough to have seen the final shawl created from last year's event, and it was simply gorgeous.  But in my defense, the shawl was woven, not knit, the loom was warped in advance, and the fiber was washed and prepared for spinning prior to the event (not sheared and spun "in the grease").

I'm hoping to be there if anyone would like to meet up.

Current Knitting
I worked a bit more on the Zauberball sock, but haven't quite finished it yet.  I was distracted with yet another knitting project.

Have you ever seen the documentary, The Times of Harvey Milk?  If you haven't, you should.  If you have, then did you catch the sweater-vest that Henry Der was wearing during his interview?

I liked the center panel (which is hard to see in this photo), so I've decided to make something like that for myself.  Here's what I've completed so far.

I'm using the Icelandic wool I bought at The Southern Adirondack Fiber Festival which I made a full size pullover from previously from this yarn, and I think I have enough left over for the vest.

I'll keep you updated on progress.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Intelligent Internet Consumers

One of the best parts of living in a global internet world, is you can make much better decisions about purchases than you could in the past.

Saving Money on Appliances

In the past year we have had at least three appliance-related problems that I can recall.  All of them were resolved in a way that was much less expensive than if we didn't have such broad access to suppliers on the internet.
  1. Microwave stopped working with an error code on the display - After we discovered this was not something we could fix, we were offered the option of paying a repair person to come out an fix it, or buy a new unit - both would be over $100 in expense.  Instead, Thaddeus found he could order a circuit board and replace it himself at a cost under $30.
  2. The utensil basket in our dishwasher broke...the bottom kept detaching and letting utensils fall through.  The cost to replace the basket was ridiculous (I can't remember how much), but again, Thaddeus was able to find a generic version of the basket at 1/10th the cost (even with shipping).
  3. Finally, we had somehow ruined the decals on two of the dials for our stove-top (either by overheating them or by over-scrubbing them - or both).  The cost to replace them was was absurd.  On E-Bay, Thaddeus found parts that were listed as fitting our model stove top, compared the part number underneath the dials to the same part number on the manufacturers turns out the exact same part number (with slightly different decals) can be sold by the same manufacturer for a significant difference in price.  We ended up replacing all four dials for about $10.

Suffice it to say, it pays to do a bit of research on this stuff...Thaddeus has saved us hundreds of dollars in repairs by just doing a bit of research.

Current Knitting

I was able to finish the first sock on the pair I'm making with Zauberball.

I am using my standard sock recipe with a total of 64 stitches on US3 needles (although I do go down to US1 needles for the ribbing when I'm making socks for Thaddeus).  Plus, I can't tell you how glad I am that the second sock is already so far along.  

Friday, March 14, 2014

Knit Visits

I got a chance to meet Ray at the West Coast Men's Knitting Retreat a number of years ago.  He generously drove me around out there in his rental car all weekend and to and from the airport.

Here's How I Re-Pay Him

So he's out here on business for a couple of weeks...about 20 minutes from where I live, and after some challenging work days, he wants nothing more than have a knitting event.

I took him to first to get fed at our local Thai restaurant (Siam in Lambertville, NJ in case anyone needs to know), and then to Twist Knitting and Spinning in Lahaska, PA for Wednesday night knit night.

I've always loved that store...great yarns and great people, but this night was really one of my favorite knit nights ever.  Deb the owner is always wonderful and there were other fantastic store employees and even two guy-knitters (other than me and Ray!).  A good time was had by all, and I even had to buy things while I was there...there's what I got:
Jitterbug Sock Yarn by Colinette - rich, swampy green color

Jitterbug in a brighter colorway

More Karbonz double-points and Cascade Heritage Silk sock yarn in green and purple

Koigu KPPPM (it was on SALE!)

Zauberball Sock Yarn in a fun colorway

Current Crochet

The crochet blanket is starting to get to be more blanket size as I continue to add on more stripes.

This is going to be a nice warm lap the time I finish it, I may have to put it away for next year.

Readers' Comments/Questions

Regarding the photo of Finn on the top of his scratching post last blog post, Maureen asks, "Finn looks as though he has a bandage on his leg?

No, that's his natural coloring.  The only remnants of his shelter health issues is the fur growing back on his neck.  He had some flea bite dermatitis that cleared up in his first few weeks with us, but only after they had sheared his whole neck area to help it heal more easily.

Tim Tenclay, has also got two things going on...first, he knit up my sock recipe and it came out great.

Second, he and his family are planning a mission to help immigrants into Italy and are looking for financial support in his venture.  For those who don't know Tim and his family, they are wonderful people and the kind of folks you'd want representing humanity to people in need of support.  Support him here, if you can.

Monday, March 10, 2014

GPS - My Saving Grace

There are some areas of life where I'm extremely proficient...directions and navigating are clearly not in that list.

Worst Sense of Direction Imaginable

Anyone that knows me well knows that if they're unsure of which direction to go, they should ask me...and then take the opposite direction.

I'm convinced, I'm missing some part of the brain the lets normal people visualize where they are in the world...kind of like an inner GPS.

I'm not an overly anxious person, but I have to say that in the world prior to GPS's, I used to get quite anxious whenever I had to go anywhere new or even to places I had only been to once or twice before.

My life is significantly less worrisome since I've owned a GPS...thank you Garmin.

Current Crochet

I finished the hat using the Camel stitch in the round (and garter stitch for the crown).

I love the hat design, but the actual hat looks quite awful in this colorway.

A couple of more stripes have been completed on the crochet basket weave blanket.

This is going to be a wonderfully warm blanket when it finished, but definitely not machine washable (made in all merino wool).


This wonderful cat is only getting better and better.

I blame the parents.

Readers' Comments/Questions

Leslie asks if the Camel Stitch I used for the band of the hat is reversible.

If it's done flat (back and forth as opposed to in the round) it looks a lot different, but it looks the same on both the front and the back.  In the round, it looks like sideways knitting, but when crocheted flat, it looks more like sideways's a good tutorial.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

It's Tax Time Again

With my recent marriage to Thaddeus, and living in a State that doesn't legally recognize our marriage, my taxes this year are a bit more complex.

Still Not Equal

To be able to file my federal taxes as a married couple, the IRS requires me to calculate my Pennsylvania State taxes first, AND to calculate them as if Pennsylvania State considers us to be married (which they don't).  And Pennsylvania State requires me to re-calculate and file taxes for me and my husband as if we were single.  Insane, right?

I use tax preparation software to prepare and file my taxes (I consider it to be cheap compared to the time it saves me) and I did a quick Google search on which tax preparation softwares recognize same sex marriage complexities.  Turns out, the only one that seems to address it directly is Turbo Tax.

It did require that I pay for the downloadable version of the software (I couldn't accomplish hypothetical PA state tax calculations in the on-line version), and it was a bit more expensive than some of the other options.  But I felt it was important to buy a product from a company that kept same sex marriage issues in mind when developing their software.

All that being said, it was still a pain, but my Federal and State taxes are prepared and filed.  Thank goodness Finn is always close at hand to help out.

Current Knitting, Crochet and Spinning

I put down the sock project I've been working on, and also put down the crochet blanket project using the basket weave stitch I was working on...the ADHD knitter struck again when I saw a crochet stitch I had to try.

Yes, you read that correctly, this is a crochet stitch.  I used the Verve sock yarn left over from my last pair of socks to create the band for a hat.

The top of the hat is just done in garter stitch. but the band at the bottom is a crochet stitch known as camel crochet stitch and is explained well (including a video) on the Laughing Willow Blog.

I've also been doing a bit more spinning with the Shetland/Mohair blend from Puff The Magic Rabbit.

Still loving the color and haze of the singles I've spun so far.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Productive Weekends Can Be So Satisfying!

My to-do list was starting to feel a bit overwhelming, so I took it one task at a time this weekend, and ended up getting an enormous amount completed.  Including some crochet!

The Incredible Lightness of Being

I was starting to feel a bit overwhelmed by all I had to do, so now having completed some of the more daunting tasks, I'm feeling so much lighter than I was toward the end of last week.

Primarily, I finished filing mine and Thaddeus' tax returns, which is never an easy feat, and even a bit more difficult because of our marital status.

Having been married at the end of last year, and living in a State that doesn't recognize the marriage, it required that I calculate a fake Pennsylvania State return as if we were married and carry over some of those numbers to our federal return.  Then, I had to file both mine and Thaddeus' State taxes separately for the returns that actually get filed with the State.

One of these days, we'll have full equality.

Then, I had a bunch of work to do on the Men's Spring Knitting Retreat coming up in May...clean up the finances, work on the scholarship nominations, send out correspondence, etc.  This work is always a joy, especially compared to tax preparation, but it was still nice to get it all tidied up.

Finally, I got some fiber work  in.

Current Crochet.

I was able to add just over one more wide stripe of color to the basket weave blanket.

I noticed that the colorways on the two balls of variegated yarns are different (the top one is more purple), but I kind of like that it's not completely the same.

As I do more and more of this stitch pattern, it gets more and more relaxing and enjoyable to do.  Or maybe it's just feeling relieved at completing some daunting tasks in my life.