Friday, February 27

Two Things

Okay, here are some pictures. The sweater on the left isn't nearly as bulky as the picture makes it look. In fact, it has a really nice drape to it. It's a pattern from Doris Chan's book Everyday Crochet called Haru. I have no idea what that means. I made the sleeves a little longer than those pictured in the book, and didn't include the side slits at the hip. Well, I would have included them, but by the time I had worked the appropriate number of rows the sweater was already long on me. I could have taken out some rows and reworked them to include the slits, but why? I liked it just fine as it was. The yarn, Simply Shetland's Silk and Lambswool, is just as wonderful as I thought it would be. It's a light weight yarn, but still warm and cozy to wear. I'm very happy with it.

So happy, in fact, that I used some left over in this "waffle weave" scarf where the laciness of the yarn shows up much better. Probably this will go to my sister for her birthday in a few months. Probably.

I like doing scarfs. You can't beat them for perfectly portable projects, and gauge isn't important. Gauge is all about sizing, how many stitches you work per inch. This is important when you are working on clothing because you are usually trying for a particular size, and your sweater, or whatever, isn't going to be the same at, say, 5 stitches psi as it would if you are getting 10 psi or even 2 psi. Too many stitches per inch and your piece is going to run small. Too few per inch and it's going to work up a lot bigger than what you want.

So how do you know? Look at the pattern. A pattern is a set of instructions that tells you more than just what stitches to make. It will also have yarn weight and hook size recommendations, and information on gauge. The hook size is just a suggestion. Here's the thing about handmade as opposed to machine made: stitch size is harder to regulate. Two people can use the exact same yarn and hook, and yet not make their stitches exactly the same size. Back to the original question, how do you know? You make a swatch. A swatch is exactly what you think - a sample. Your pattern will say, for example, '5.5 per inch in pattern.' So you work a few rows using the pattern stitch (double crochets or shells, for instance) to maybe 4" square and then you measure how many stitches and rows you have per inch. If you come out with too many stitches per inch, try again with a larger hook. Too few per inch, try going down one or two sizes in the next swatch. When you get it right, you have your gauge; and when you have your gauge, it's easier to work a garment to the size you want.

When I started the sweater, I think I did three 4" swatches before I got it right. Is it a pain having to possibly work a few swatches before you can really get started? Yes. Which is why something like a scarf or afghan is nice sometimes; no gauge worries. If it's a few inches short or a few inches too wide, who cares? And if I don't tell my sister that the scarf is the wrong size, she'll never know. Nya!

Tuesday, February 24

I'm Working On It

About a year ago I picked up some paint chips to get ideas for the hallway. No, I still haven't painted, or even definitely decided on the color. It will be some shade of green, probably in the khaki or sage family. I will get to it. Eventually.

I'm still in the process of decluttering drawers and closets. I have started and each small accomplishment gives me a sense of peace that keeps me going. But, you know, there are other things that have to get done, too. Like laundry and cleaning the kitchen floor. And while I could find more time to devote to the decluttering project, it would take away from more fun stuff and there's not enough fun stuff as it is. But I'm getting to it little by little.

There are still some tree branches I didn't get to last fall because I couldn't quite reach them and decided that tree trimming is fine while my feet are planted on the ground, but doing so while up on a ladder without a spotter is stupid. It's on my list of things to do this coming year.

I need to put up a new light fixture in the powder room. There is a fixture in there now, it just doesn't have a proper shade. As long as we aren't, uh, powdering in the dark, I don't see any big hurry for this.

I'm mostly finished with the wrap I intend as a gift for my mother's sister. It's supposed to have pockets, and I've crocheted them, too; but now I need to actually sew them on the wrap itself. That part is boring so I've been putting it off. Maybe by Christmas.

And speaking of crochet projects, I finished the Haru sweater a few weeks ago. There will be a photo up here eventually, because I like having this catalog of finished projects. I just have to remember to have the sweater and my camera in the same room at the same time.

I don't do anything very fast, as you can see. I've tried being one of those "see it through from start to finish" type people and mostly I just stressed myself out so I don't do that anymore. I've learned to pace myself, to prioritize. All the really important stuff is done; I've even finished my taxes and sent them in. I'll get around to everything else a little at a time. But I'm going to do it on my schedule. All of this stuff will happen. There is a plan.

I'm working on it.

I'm considering having those words put on my tombstone someday.

Wednesday, February 18

Time Passages

Well I'm not the kind to live in the past
The years run too short and the days too fast
The things you lean on are the things that don't last
Well it's just now and then my line gets cast into these

Time passages
There's something back here that you left behind
Oh time passages
Buy me a ticket on the last train home tonight

excerpted from "Time Passages" by Al Stewart

My niece, the first baby in our family, will be 24 next week. I'm having a lot of difficulty adjusting to that. At 24 she is really and truly an adult, eligible to do anything except run for president or apply for Medicaid. But in my head she is still that kid who had to practice winking and who held my hand as we walked through a parking lot.

Her one brother will turn 16 in a few months, old enough to drive more than a Big Wheel, and just possibly mature enough, too. He's well and truly a teenager now, and will likely never again sit next to me on the couch under an afgan just to cuddle.

Yesterday, after much arguing with my niece via text messaging, I have had to accept the fact that my youngest nephew, the real baby in the family, is now 11. I knew, logically, using certain events as points of reference, he was at least 10 and possibly 12. Now I have to deal with the fact that he probably doesn't even remember honoring me with admission into his "secret" fort in the back of his bedroom closet.

When I was younger I couldn't understand why my parents had such trouble keeping track of my age, or dealing with the fact that I was getting older. I understand a lot better now. I like these kids a lot. I enjoy being in their company. I just want them to stop growing up so fast.

They'd better become some really outstanding adults, because I'm not going to get these days back again and I think I deserve some compensation. Maybe a trip to Disney World. They owe me.

Tuesday, February 10

Stuff ... and Nonsense?

In my quest to organize my real space in an effort to organize my head space, I've been clearing out drawers and closets. Slowly, to be sure. Baby steps. But little by little I'm making headway.

If asked, I would have said that I'm not a collector. Of anything. No stamps, or pincushions, or thimbles, spoons, china ... nope, not me. I have lots of books, but I'm not collecting them. Collectors worry about first editions and condition and so forth. I'm only concerned that all the pages are present and accounted for, and not stuck together. I also find myself buying lots of yarn, but that's because I intend to use it, not display it.

But for all that I don't deliberately collect anything, I do find that there are things I have an awful lot of. Containers, for instance. Cardboard, tin, ceramic, whatever, I can't seem to get rid of them. And not particularly special ones either. I mean, I'm not oohing and ahing because I have a limited edition pillbox or anything. It's just that once a box with lid comes into my environment, I can't let go of it. I'm sure I'll find the perfect use for it and if I do get rid of it, probably come to regret doing so at some point in the future. They're useful, which gives me a perfectly good excuse for saving them. If, in fact, they actually got used. Mostly they get forgotten about until I need to clean out a closet or drawer and then ...

It could be a kind of metaphor, now that I think about it. I have a need to be organized that conflicts with my inability to avoid clutter. Maybe, subconsciously, I view boxes as a compromise, being things in which I can organize and store the clutter. Except the boxes themselves have become clutter which then needs to be organized. Probably I need a box for my boxes. Oh wait, I have one. It's called a house.

Which brings me back to square one. I'm working on it.

Friday, February 6

The Archbishop in Andalusia

So, I read The Archbishop in Andalusia by Andrew Greeley, the latest in Greeley's mystery series featuring Archbishop Blackie Ryan. I would say that if you have enjoyed the Blackie series before, you will probably enjoy this one, too. If you haven't ...

Here's the thing: they aren't really typical mysteries, so they might not appeal to everyone. I enjoy them because I like Blackie's character and some of the secondary characters that inhabit his world. But the stories are very much about the characters and their relationships, and a little less about the plot, so the appeal may not be universal.

Things I liked about this book:

Blackie's character. He's just likeable, an engaging philosopher who has no problem poking a little fun at himself.

More background on Cardinal Cronin* and how he and Blackie first met. Things about Cronin that were hinted at in past books were a lot more fleshed out here, so that was fun.

Some interesting stuff on the history of Spain. I guess it could be considered infodump, but that doesn't bother me because I enjoy learning something new; and if infodump is done correctly, it can do a lot to lend atmosphere to a story. The book takes place largely in Spain, and the background on the country provides perspective on the culture of the people, so the history stuff was useful.

Things I didn't care for:

One of the central characters, and the one who's situation Blackie has been charged with fixing, is less than sympathetic. She's supposed to be this strong, admirable woman, beloved by all of Seville, but I thought she was rather wishy-washy. Confident in business situations, she's a complete hand-wringer when it comes to her personal life. Possibly the ensuing angst is a cultural thing, but I found myself thinking "do it or don't do it, but make up your mind and get it over with." That said, it's entirely a personal opinion and may well be the kind of drama other people enjoy.

Some of the secondary characters were a bit flat. While Greeley can be very good with some characters, I found Blackie's nephew and his fiance to be lacking in personality altogether. They were in the last book, too, and in fact met during the course of that book. But in this one, they were just there being such garshed darn nice young Americans that they made white bread look exciting. Also, their presence didn't seem to serve any purpose and wasn't, to my mind, adequately explained. Blackie could have been conversing with a brick wall in some of the scenes, and at least the wall would have lent texture.

Overall, the book was a pleasant read. I wouldn't rush out and recommend it everyone I meet, but I didn't throw it against the wall either.

*In case you decide to read it and start worrying, let me just say now that it does have a happy ending.