Tuesday, May 30, 2006

socks + sewing madness

It was a long, hot, wonderful, relaxing Memorial Day weekend full of crafts, beer and did I mention relaxation?, and I pronounce it good. One of the products of the three-day weekend was Socks. She's a little bit shy, but she's a mostly friendly sock monster cat thing. Here she is relaxing in the backyard.

Sewing a sock monster is different from sewing other things. It's not very precise. It's a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of sewing project, without a lot of concern for perfection, or even sewing straight lines. But making all these sock monsters sort of started deluding me into believing that I like to sew, and maybe that I ought to sew some more things.

no straight lines here

And after ooh'ing and aah'ing over the beautiful set of shirts that Jay just finished making, I was feeling kind of inspired. Then my sister mentioned that the fabric store was having a big Memorial Day sale, and, well... I took on a sewing project.
I bought a pattern.
I bought fabric (on sale for $3.49 a yard!)
I bought thread.
I dragged out all the equipment.

Then I spent HOURS last night cutting out pieces of tissue-thin pattern paper, pinning it to fabric and painstakingly cutting out dozens of pieces that have to be just right. ARGH! Sewing! Why is it always like this???

Ahem. Tantrum over. Anyway, the pieces are all cut out and the fusible interfacing fused, and I am just a few dozen hours of sewing, cursing and kicking away from a shiny new.... bathrobe!

Yes, that's right, I'm making myself a new bathrobe. I live in North Carolina, I am too cheap to use the A/C most of the time, it's already 90 degrees, and my bathrobe is made from heavy winter fleece. Hence the sewing project.

I just wish sewing weren't so dependent on all these straight lines and matched-up pieces. It makes me crazy! I'm going to have to make a crazy monster with the leftover bathrobe fabric to re-orient my craft-making mindset.

perhaps I can orient your mindset?

Saturday, May 27, 2006

saturday at home

It's nice to be home for a change on a Saturday, even if I am working some. This morning I went out into the yard to snap a picture of what's blooming, and noticed a very busy bee among the poppies. He posed for several photographs - this is one of my favorites.

This morning while drinking my tea I did a few rows on the super-bright sweater I'm making with some great yarn from my Secret Pal, Becky. It's Filatura di Crosa Ad Hoc Piu, which doesn't seem to be available anymore. It's not even listed on the Yarndex! Mystery yarn, but it's a nice easy-care blend of wool & acrylic in a funky bright color - perfect for a kids' sweater project.

And a shot of some happy footies - another stash-reduction project in keeping with the spirit of Use What You Have Month II, even if I'm off the non-shopping wagon. *sigh* I am so weak!

stripey anklets

I haven't decided yet what to do with these footies - now that it's ninety degrees, wool-blend socks don't seem quite like the perfect gift. Maybe I'll squirrel them away in the craft cabinet and use them as an Xmas gift.

I'll be working on that yellow sweater a little while longer, but next I am dying to make the fish blanket that got Gray La Gran making little fishies. She generously sent me the pattern, and I happen to have a friend with a baby coming... I think it would look great in Blue Sky Alpacas organic cotton (my favorite yarn for newborn projects).

P.S. - For those of you who admired my felted snail purse รก la bugheart, now you can own your own! Well, not the snail one, that's mine, but bugheart has begun putting her gorgeous creations up for sale at her etsy shop! Go take a look! (And while you're there, buy something, would ya? The girl's a grad student).

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

sparkle sparkle

Farewell to the money-saving virtues of Use What You Have month... I threw it all away this weekend in DC, unable to resist the siren song of Beadazzled, where I dropped $50 and didn't even buy a single bead. I had to stock up on supplies, because I needed to make my donations for an art auction that starts this weekend.

Well, I almost made it through May. And I'm still working on lots of projects with the stuff I already had - in fact, although I had to buy some wire and stuff, all the beads for both of these necklaces were stuff I already had. The necklace you see here is the 'silver starfish necklace,' made from an old vintage silver brooch, and it has both old crystal beads and new Czech glass beads. I don't like the clasp all that much so I'm just showing you the pretty part. I don't know if you can tell but there are tiny green beads between all the crystals - very subtle. I almost wore this to work today, but if I had I would have wanted to keep it and you know how that goes. So it's in its box, ready for the auction.

The other necklace is the funkier one - I'm calling this the 'sacred stones necklace.' It was made with a lot of beads that my friend Nora brought me from Nepal several years ago.

The big center stone is a carnelian, and the beads are carnelian, jasper, coral and bone. The silver is a mix of old and new beads. Some of them are so tarnished I just can't get them clean, but I actually like the way tarnish on silver looks with red stones, so I'm not too worried about it.

Lest you worry that I didn't get anything for myself out of this project, take heart. While I was rummaging around in my desk looking for jewelry boxes to use, I found a particularly ratty one with a surprise inside.

Holy cow! Art deco earrings! The white parts are abalone. Aren't they gorgeous? I have no idea where these earrings came from. I can only imagine that I bought them at some antique store ages ago and forgot where I put them. At any rate, I can't wait to wear them. I adore jewelry and design from the 1880's through the 1940's, but it's not easy to find and the pieces are usually pretty beat up, but these earrings are in great condition, despite some obvious wear. What luck!

If you're in North Carolina, you should come out to the Scrap Exchange for this art auction to benefit Student Action with Farmworkers. The opening 'Sneak Peek Reception' is this Saturday May 27 from 10am to 1pm, and the closing party will be Sunday June 11 from 3-5 pm. The gallery show (and the bidding) will be open from 5/27 to the closing party on 6/11. It's a great cause, and as you can see, the art will be fabulous.

Monday, May 22, 2006

home again

After several hours on the train, wondering just exactly how many pine trees there are in Virginia, here I am back in Raleigh. It was sad to leave bugheart this morning, in a flurry of craziness and complications as always, I hardly got to say thanks.

I love going to DC. Generally I need to go up once or twice a year for conferences and meetings and suchlike. This spring I went for a conference, and as always stayed at bugheart and grub's. Sadly grub wasn't there this time - grub escaped for a weekend in NYC with friends while bugheart and I visited with each other and with papa bugheart, as I'm sure you all read in yesterday's wonderful guest post, and in my ramblings yesterday on bugheart's blog.

The main thing I love about going there, even more than Teaism and museums and big city life, is the time with dear friends. Do you have someone that you never tire of being with? I feel so lucky to have a friend like Bugheart, even though we live kind of far apart now and I'm not very good about calling on the phone. Every time we get together it's like it's only been an afternoon since the last time we talked.

For those of you who don't know her, Bugheart is an amazing artist, photographer and craftista, which you have probably already deduced from her blog. She is also a really gifted scientist. As a liberal arts major myself, I really admire scientists, even though I don't always get along with them (my idea of hell is to spend an eternity in a locked room with an engineer). But biologists... oh baby. They are holistic thinkers. Big picture people with powers of concentration that allow them to focus on the tiniest of life cycles... biologists are hot stuff. Bugheart is an artist-biologist. She loves to find the itty-bitty details that make whole systems work. For her, I think, beauty is in the tiny mechanisms of living systems, like the cilia that let an insect skate along water on sheer surface tension.

Her photos and her artwork are full of little details, too. If you are ever lucky enough to get a package or a card in the mail from her, it will be full of tiny wonderful things that amaze you and make the whole package a delight (and if you know her for very long, you probably will get a package sooner or later). Bugheart is enormously generous, and she shows her love by showering people with gifts (though sometimes months or even years later than she intends to...). As proof, here are the parting gifts I left DC with this morning:

a vintage red top with embroidered leaves

a sleeveless linen blouse to wear with my fancy work clothes

an olive green top with embroidered flowers

my most recent monday give-away item: a sparkly green brooch

a vintage purse - the perfect size to cram a bunch of junk into

...and my new most prized possession, a bugheart original. the snail bag! be still my heart...

You can get some goodies too, since today is another exciting installment of the Great Monday Give-Away. What a haul! In exchange for the snail bag I owe bugheart my old Gocco printer, which I am swapping to her since I haven't used it in quite a while. I know she'll get good use out of it.

But of course, these are all material things. It's nice to have remembrances of the people you love, but time together is infinitely better. Thanks Bugheart for making so much time for me this weekend. I hope that all of you (those that slogged through all this sappiness and are still reading) get to spend some time with someone you love soon, too.

If this were a bedtime prayer I would close by saying "...and please bless HWWLLB, and Sis, and Grub, and Bugheart. I'm thankful for tea and for good friends." Good night!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

no more bourbon

this is bugheart
making a special appearance
here on ms. pea's blog...

i am holding ms. pea
captive in my apartment
the nation's capitol.
i am forcing her listen
to my father's lectures
on physics
the benefits of lactase...
all the while
plying her with bourbon.
for the
aforementioned reasons
so she is unable
to update her blog.

in my family
we have a name
for the person
that rescues you
when you
are buttonholed
by a person,
namely my father...
we call them
the sapper.
this term references
the british term
for one
who clears minefields.

ms. pea
has been
my guest sapper.
thank you
dear ms.pea!

cannot just
be left to anyone...
it takes
a very special friend
who is willing
to go in and rescue you.

do you find
it difficult
to introduce
your friends
to your parents...
especially when
you are much older?

i feel like those dreams
that you have
when you are a kid...
you know,
those ones
in which you
find yourself naked
in front
of the entire
6th grade class.
that's how i feel
when people meet
my parents.
it's like they have
a window
into me as
a little vulnerable kid.
they hear storeis
about how i would follow
my dad around the house
as a little girl
and tell him what to do
that i use to faint
all the time
during choir practice.
those weird stories
you usually don't tell people.
not because you
are particularly
embarassed by them...
but somehow when
your parent is
laughing over it
with your friend
it takes on
an embarassing quality
it never had before.
why does that happen?
is it because
you have some
cool cover
that is getting blown?
seems like
that's not how
you should feel
at 31 years old.
i am so glad
the person
to hear those stories
was f.pea...
i don't mind
her hearing these
embarassing stories
because i know
she will still love me
in the morning.

some of you know
f.pea well...
some of you know
her only through
her lovely blog...
but she really
is an amazing women
and my dearest
and closest of friends
here on the east coast.
she knits a mean
pair of socks

and booty shakes
and sings in
jack white's
tennessee accent
like no other...
to name only
a few reasons
we are having
a rocking time
here in dc.

good night ya'll...
your f.pea
is headed back to nc
and i have
dishes to clean.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

wednesday lunch break

What do you do on your lunch break? I used to go out and eat semi-fast food, sometimes with friends or colleauges, admire the scenery, play fashion police inside my head while people-watching, and drop $7 to $10 on a lousy meal.

Over the winter I decided to tighten up the budget and commit to bringing my lunch, every day. Sometimes that means I eat a can of soup or a PBJ, though today I had tasty leftover sesame noodles with tofu and bok choy from the farm. I don't eat out unless I have a lunch meeting, which averages to about once a week. So instead of $35-50 a week for lunch, I'm spending probably about $15, all told. It feels like I got a raise!

But that also means I don't go anyplace. Just down to the kitchen to grab my lunch, and then back up to my desk to eat it (unless it's a really nice day and I take the time to go eat in the park). No visits with friends, no fashion police. Am I missing out on something? Fresh air, at least.

Today I'm blogging on my lunch break, something I do quite often. And I just randomly stumbled onto a kind of amazing website, the blog of the Feminist Mormon Housewives. Yes, you read that correctly. Feminist Mormon Housewives. There are such creatures. There are apparently five of them, and they have this blog together. I'd imagine you'd have a lot of pent-up frustration to vent if you were a Feminist Mormon Housewife, so it kinda makes sense.

Anyhow, I got to reading and read the founder, Lisa's, post on how she became an FMH. It was an amazing story of faith and self-discovery.

"...And I was getting older, seventeen, eighteen. And I voted for the first time for George HW Bush with a warm glow that all was right in the world. And I was shocked! Shocked to wake up in the morning to that Bill Clinton guy!

"And the questions really started to add up. A Sunday School teacher who taught us that “Nothing Good came out of the Women’s Lib Movement.” And even as stoutly conservative as I was, my jaw still hit the floor. And it mystified me, could a truly righteous man stare the facts in the face and really believe that. Really?

"I was (not sure why) fascinated by Women’s history, and the Civil Right Movement. And as I read more deeply my initial impressions of distrust in “movements” and all those connected to them, grew slowly into admiration and a longing to emulate those brave enough to create movement."

You should go read this, it's a really good essay. But the other thing it was making me think was, how come artists and writers have to have really insane or difficult lives to be good? I mean, think about the really great artists - they're all manic depressives! Who ever heard of a happy artist? Personally, I had a healthy happy suburban upbringing, and I am a basically happy secure confident adult person in a secure and loving relationship, and my art is bad. My writing is boring. Writing is all about telling what you know, and what I know is so happy and boring it could put an insomniac out like a light.

I saw "Be Here to Love Me," the documentary about Townes Van Zandt, the other night. If you don't know Townes, you probably know his music (though you may not realize it). His songs have been recorded by folks like Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard and Emmy Lou Harris. In the movie, Steve Earle calls Townes the "greatest American songwriter." It may have been true. The documentary bascially focuses on Townes' depression and alcoholism. He wrote beautiful songs, left three wives and three children behind, and died of alcoholism at age 52. Brilliant songs. Brilliant artist. Horrible life.

Art is like that, I'm afraid. Those of us who have never been diagnosed with depression, who don't get beat up by our parents or our partners, we have it pretty good. We're the lucky ones. There is no art for us. For us, there are crafts. We may be boring, but we can follow a pattern like nobody's business!

So even though I'm not such a hot writer (or at least I don't have any interesting stories), I do know that I'm supposed to wrap up this post by connecting back to the opening thought... which was about lunch and what to do with one's lunch break. But I don't have anything to say about that.

Instead, I think I'll just end with a chirpy reflection on the transformative power of art and how it's this amazing human capacity to save ourselves from our own tragedies. If you were here in my office right now, you'd see me do a cheer for art... GO! ART! [imagine insane jumping with poor arm formations] This is the kind of thing we happy people do. We cheerlead about deep topics like artistic transendence.

That's it from the lunch desk. Back to you, Work!

Monday, May 15, 2006


Oui oui, Claudette, elle est fini!

I am so excited... this is the first non-scarf garment I've ever made for myself, and I am particularly proud of the fact that I designed it, and it worked, and it fits, and I can't wait to wear it!

This is also a bit of a revolution in my knitting, because as I have mentioned before, I never ever knit myself anything. In my New Year's Resolutions (woe unto so many of them!), I vowed to knit things for myself and wear them once in a while. The baby tiger scarf was a less-than-impressive first attempt. Claudette is the triumphant comeback.

You're waiting for a picture, aren't you? I love you guys. It's coming, I swear.

Back to the verbosity: I struggled and struggled with the neckline. I wanted vintage laciness, and assumed crochet was the way to go. So... I took up crocheting, borrowed books from generous friends, practiced on scrap yarn, and eventually decided crochet was not the answer. The evidence:

big chunky first crochet picot attempt

slightly daintier second crochet picot attempt

f**** crochet! knitted lace rib sample
what does it say about my camera that this yarn is a different color in every picture?

The single crochet hook leaves me feeling like I have giant tiger cub paws for hands, and I fumble like crazy. Give me my two knitting needles any day!

After finishing the little cap sleeves, I was really liking the clean look of the ribbing, so I just used the really simple lace rib from sample #3. And voila! Here she is!

i think i'm going to be wearing this more than just once in a while.

There are some adjustments I need to make to the pattern to smooth out some bumps, but overall I am quite proud of my little design. Perhaps it will be made available via an upcoming Free Pattern Friday, if I can figure out how to offer other sizes without knitting this thing over and over again.

By the way... I love all this saving-money and saving-the-earth resulting from Use What You Have Month II, but my consumerist acculturation is hammering at me. I am really looking forward to June so that I can rush out to buy me some Opal Rainforest sock yarn (thanks ever-so Gray la Gran for tipping me off to this yarn). My debit card is humming in anticipation...

Thursday, May 11, 2006

what's in your attic?

There is a lot of stuff in my attic. For one, we have a ton of flattened moving boxes. Why did we keep the boxes? I guess to avoid going out to find more boxes when we inevitably move again.

There's also a cat up there. Jackie is pretty reclusive, and spends a lot of her time lounging on a pile of - you guessed it! - flattened moving boxes.

Then you've got the Christmas decorations, HWWLLB's recently established quilting studio, and a few boxes of random stuff like photos, old dishes from Granny Pea, camping stuff, and art supplies.

And then we have the antique store. Well, it could be an antique store. It's actually Bugheart's corner storage space in my attic, but as I opened storage box after train case after hatbox on Sunday trying to photograph everything that was up there, I realized that I could have been making a tidy profit off all this stuff all along. But I didn't because I'm not that kind of friend. Also, I had never gone snooping to see what all was up there.

So what all is up there? Enough to fill a photo set on Flickr, I'll tell you. Vintage cameras, vintage shoes, vintage typewriters, vintage housewares, vintage plastic bags full of unidentifiable vintage items... it's amazing. I'm sure you'll be seeing some of the goodies coming up some time soon on the Great Monday Give-Away, so if you like vintage what-nots, as Bugheart (and I) obviously do, you'll be in heaven.

See, Miss Bugheart is a collector. She collects mostly stuff from the fifties, like traincases, cameras, furniture, and containers of any kind. She loves clothes from the sixties though (the colors suit her amazingly well), like Vested Gentress wrap skirts and cardigans with huge buttons. I love her collections, and I never cease to marvel at how varied they are, and how much use she gets out of them. So three years ago when she moved from a spacious co-op house in Chapel Hill to a tiny (and I mean TINY) apartment in Our Nation's Capitol, she had to store some stuff. As she already has a small army of storage spaces containing various vintage items dotting this great nation's landscape, it only seemed right to offer her a corner of our roomy attic. Thus the antique store was born.

I myself am not a collector. I like to joke that my hobby is throwing away other people's collections. It has always bothered me when people assume that because I like cats, I would like a cat-related dust-catcher to display on my bookshelf, or because I have a Hello Kitty pencil sharpener, of course I will want a Hello Kitty stuffed doll/purse to carry my... um... business cards?

Every year at Christmas, my aunt generously gives me a piece of Christmas-themed Lenox. She has even passed this tradition on to her son and daughter, my cousins, who now also give me (and my lucky sister, also a minimalist), Lenox items. For those of you who have never experienced such opulence, Lenox is a maker of china, I guess, and their products include all sorts of very useful items like candy dishes, teapots, curios, whosits and whatsits. In case you're curious, among my treasures I have this, this and a Santa & Rudolph teapot that I only wish they had up on the website. Well, okay, so I don't have them anymore. This spring I unloaded my Lenox "collection" at a charity yard sale. I'll say this: they fetched a nice sum for the benefiting organization. People will pay a lot of money for collectibles.

Do I feel a little guilty for ditching all my Christmas presents? Um... maybe a little. But I mostly feel good, and lighter, for having rid myself of a "collection." Is this one of those hugely-human categorizable personality traits, like lumpers and splitters? Collectors and throwers-away? Maybe that's why I love Bugheart so much - opposites attract, right? Or maybe I just wish I looked as good as she does in sixties cardigans with giant buttons.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

killer bunny

Watch out! Killer Bunny is on the loose.

He looks so innocent sitting there politely on the porch swing. This photo was taken just before he leapt from the swing and went after a neighbor's papillon dog. Thankfully nobody was hurt in the scuffle.

Killer Bunny was made over the weekend from a cute pair of socks my sister passed along to me recently, and the leftovers from Fluffy.

His tail was the pom-pom from a Hello Kitty tennis sock. The socks themselves still remain - I am looking forward to making a demented Hello Kitty monster out of them.

Besides making a sock monster, I spent the weekend doing lots of knitting, partly in honor of the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival, on which I have no report because I didn't go (sniff, sniff). But - no pity! Because I really did enjoy many quiet hours on the couch with yarn and a cat snoozing nearby, so the weekend was really pretty wonderful.

Claudette is finally approaching the end - I knitted up the front and sewed her together. Now I'm just dragging my feet on the cap sleeves and the neckline - I can't decide on what kind of fancy collar edging to make. I'm starting to think crochet wasn't such a hot idea after all. I am actively seeking inspiration, but so far none has hit.

And I started a little sweater with the awesome bright gold yarn from my SP7 Secret Pal, Becky. I love bulky yarn, and I love knitting from the top down. Already the thing is about 1/3 done. This is another Use What You Have project, and I have everything I need already on hand except for the buttons. Maybe I'll be able to snag them in a swap.

maybe i'll eat your f***ing buttons.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

free pattern friday: the cell phone cozy

Besides keeping your phone warm on cold days, this little pouch will keep it from getting nicks & scratches in your bag, and protects it from shock when you drop it on the pavement as I seem to do at least once a week. You can easily adapt the pattern to make cases for your iPod, Blackberry, or whatever other space-aged gadgets you've got that need an old-fashioned cozy. Make it with or without the caller ID window.

Sizes: One Size

  • Cascade 220 (about 1/4 skein ) - this is the best felting yarn in all the land, but be careful not to get the Superwash - it won't felt!
  • US size 9 knitting needles
  • one 5/8" Button
  • Tapestry needle
Gauge: (pre-felting): 4.5 st/inch

Knitting the pouch:
CO 16 st
K in stockinette st until piece measures 12 inches.
Next RS row: BO 2, K to end.
Next WS row: BO 2, P to end. (12 st rem)
K 2 more rows in st st.
(Dec row A) Next RS row: K 2 tog, K to last 2 st, SSK (10 st rem)
K 3 more rows in st st.
Next RS row, repeat dec row. (8 st rem)
P 1 row.
Next RS row: K 4, YO, K2tog, K to end
WS row: P4, P2tog, P to end. (7 st rem)
RS row: Repeat dec row A. (5 st rem)
WS row: P2tog, P1, P2tog.
BO 3 rem st. Weave in loose end.

It's not totally necessary, but this would be a good time to block the piece and let it dry flat - this will make it easier to sew up.

Fold the piece (K side out) so that it makes a pocket, as shown in the picture. Line up the cast-on edge with the top corners where you did the BO rows. Sew the sides. You now have a little pouch to felt!

If you have never felted before, it probably wouldn't hurt to read about it some on the internet before doing it yourself. Knitty has a great tutorial in this article. But it's easy and won't hurt a bit, I promise.

Stick the item to be felted into a pillowcase and tie the pillowcase top in a knot. This step is really important if you are felting more than one item of different colors at the same time - the lint of the other item will felt itself into your fabric (but you might like the effect, so don't let me tell you what to do).

Okay, put your item into the washer along with a pair of jeans or a towel or something to add weight and agitation. Use a tiny amount of gentle soap, turn the temp up to hot, and run a 10 minute wash cycle. Stop the washer before it gets to the final spin, and check your item. You will really need to tug on it to get it into any semblance of the right shape. Does it look about right? One way to test it is to stick your cell phone into a plastic baggie and then put it into the pouch. Does it fit? If it's too loose, send it back through another hot cycle in the washer. I usually find that it takes two 10-minute wash cycles to get my cell phone cases to the correct size.

Once you've shrunk this thing down to the right proportions, you can stuff your protected phone into it, or cram it full of plastic grocery bags, and let it dry in the correct shape. It will take a full day or two to dry.

First, the buttonhole probably needs to be stretched some. Cram a pencil, your finger, or whatever through the buttonhole and stretch it out until your button will fit through it snugly. Then put your phone into the case, fold the flap over and mark where your button should be sewn on. Remove the phone and sew the button on tightly.

If your phone has caller ID, you may want to make a window in the case so that you can see who's calling. Just cut the window into the finished case with fabric scissors (be conservative in your cutting - the fabric is stretchier than you think. If the window is too small you can always trim away some more). Then go back with a piece of yarn & a tapestry needle and use a blanket stitch around the window to finish it off & keep it from fraying. I usually use the same yarn the case was made from, but you can use a contrasting yarn (like in the picture) to be fancy if you want to. You can make a fancy contrasting blanket stitch edging around the flap or the top case opening too, if you like to sew. I don't have the patience for that kind of thing, myself.

Now you're all done!

Customizing the cozy to fit your gadget
The finished size of this case is about 4 inches tall and 3 inches around. Your phone may be bigger or smaller than mine. But you can easily customize the case to fit any phone (or i-Pod, or whatever).

The yarn I use in this pattern, Cascade 220, shrinks predictably on a hot wash cycle. After two 10-minute cycles, items knit in stockinette stitch shrink 35% in length (top to bottom) and 21% in width (side to side).

So if your phone is 6 inches tall and 4 inches in circumference, you'd multiply 6 x 1.35 and 4 x 1.21, and you'd get a result of about 8 inches high by about 4.75 inches wide (this is not an exact science - rounding is just fine). You'd need to knit your case to be about 16 inches tall (because it gets doubled over). Since the pre-felt gauge is 4.5 st/inch, you'd multiply 4.75 (width) x 4.5 (gauge), and cast on approximately 22 stitches. Then knit until the piece is 16 inches long before starting your bind-off rows. See how simple the maths are?

You can use other yarns, but Cascade is my hands-down favorite for felting, and the color selection is unbeatable.

I hope you enjoy this project - it's a breeze knit, and they make terrific gifts.

important notice: This is a free pattern and you are welcome to use it for all the non-commercial purposes you like. However, you may not reproduce this pattern to sell, and you may not sell what you make with it. You may donate what you make with it to charity, and you may use it for charity fundraisers only if 100% of the proceeds are donated to the charity (and by charity I don't mean your kid's college fund). Thanks for understanding!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

tough luck

I think I've mentioned before that I live on the edge of a pretty fancy historic neighborhood. This neighborhood is right smack in downtown, so it's a funny mix of small-town neighborliness, gated-community snottiness, and downtown funkiness. Most of the time, I love it. But as y'all know, sometimes I really hate it.

Being close to the bus station and the homeless shelters, the verdant lawns and conspicuously enormous houses of this neighborhood attract a good number of panhandlers and petty thieves. Back when I used to read the neighborhood listserv (a.k.a. Rumor Mill), the big flap was often over a rash of porch thievery ("Re: Another topiary stolen!"). I've been panhandled here while walking home from work at least as many times as I've been asked for directions. Sometimes by con artists, and I'm sure as many times by people who are truly in need. I think the down-on-their-luck must take a look around and think, "Wow! All those rich people - I'm sure to make some money there!"

Sadly, it's not true. Rich people are tightwads.

Yesterday while walking home from work I waved hello to a gaggle of well-heeled neighbors and their overpriveledged children who were standing on their freshly re-sodded lawn and chatting with another neighbor who was idling in the middle of the street in her Cadillac SUV with the window rolled down. Not an unfamiliar scene. (Yes, I almost gagged a little).

A bit further along, a young guy came up to me and asked if he could talk to me for a minute. He was dressed a little nicer than the average panhandler, but I knew what was coming. He told me his hard-luck story. He seemed pretty sincere. In fact, he didn't seem like a regular pandhandler at all - he wasn't very smooth. He appeared to be almost in pain - I think he was, actually. It seemed to pain him to have to beg on the street like that.

We chatted for a little while and I gave him what I had in my wallet - a ten dollar bill. That was my pocket money for the week - but I have an ATM card, and no hard-luck story.

He seemed to be suppressing anger as he told me about how hard it was to come by some work and some honest money. He'd been asking around the neighborhood for any kind of work he could get - mowing the lawn, cleaning out the rain gutter - but nobody would help him out.

I looked around at the giant lawns and overly-long stretches of gutter around us, and thought about all the hired help that my neighbors use every day. The problem, I wanted to tell him, is that rich people are tightwads. Nobody here is going to be sympathetic to a hard-luck story, because they've never been in a tight spot themselves - unless you hit the shabbier houses (like ours). Hell, the worst place I've ever been, I could still call my parents up and grovel for their money.

If you really want to find generous people, I wanted to tell him, go back to the shelter where you're staying. Or walk down the street, across what my neighbors refer to as "the frontier," to the under-managed rentals and tumbledown apartment buildings, and see if anybody has a few dollars for you. Those folks know what it is to need. They'll give you what they can.

Instead, I gave him the ten-spot from my wallet and he hugged me, awkwardly, and told me I had a heart of gold. I wished him good luck and went home, feeling sort of useless.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


I like making up stupid words, but it drives HWWLLB nuts sometimes. Especially when I say that (for example, with reference to cats) something is "cat-tastic," "cat-tabulous," or "cat-alicious." So in honor of the fact that HWWLLB is probably not listening, I pronounce this week to be pin-tastic.

Y'all saw all the pins I made over the weekend for Mother's Day (and future feminine events which may require gifts). Monday, this gorgeous Flower Girl pin came in the mail - I ordered it from Camille Marie. Click on the picture to see it in more detail - her fine crochet work is amazing! I can't believe she only charges $6 for these things - this pin is sooooo nice and the picture doesn't do it justice. She even sent me a little bonus pin - I think it's made from a bit of vintage scarf.

I also ordered a star pin made from broken mirror pieces from Anezka handmade, but it hasn't arrived yet. I am going to be so accessorized this season. Maybe even a little over-accessorized.

The sad part of today was saying goodbye to Bilious, my first sock monster. He graciously stepped in when Fluffy got cold feet and decided she wasn't ready to be swapped (I had intended to send her to my swapping pal in the Use What You Have made-stuff swap). Here's Bilious bravely being packed up for his long trip overseas:

Lucky he's got a permanent stiff upper lip.