Tuesday, May 11

This stuff ain't for wimps

I know you all are ever so impressed with my happy Harriet homeimprovementmanship. However, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to tell you this story:

So I bought these big tubs and pots for the deck a few weeks ago. I got a couple of kinds. One doesn't drain very well, I discovered, so I figured I would just drill some extra 'drainage'. I get out the drill and it's cordless so I charge it for a few hours on Saturday while I'm doing something else. Then Saturday afternoon I slip a drill bit in and tighten it up real good using something called, I kid you not, a "chuck key." Mind you, the tub is full of dirt and a few plants at this point so I have to be very careful about tipping the pot in order to get at the bottom. Well, I do this and find a way to prop it while I drill and it's all good, except I'm finding that the bit is only barely marking the plastic tub (did I mention it was plastic? Made to look like wood, but not). So I figure probably there isn't enough power and decide to recharge overnight and try again on Sunday.

Sunday I recreate the tipping of the pot and put the bit back in, use the chuck key to tighten it up, and give it a few experimental whirls.

I try again to drill a hole in this plastic tub and again all I accomplish is to scrape a few curls of plastic off. I'm impressed with how well made this thing is. Maybe I'm using the wrong kind of bit? There are bits for drilling different materials, I know; I don't know how to tell them apart. So I go and look and select one that is, at least, different from the one I'm currently using. Replace the old bit -I'm getting good with the chuck key - and try again. Still nada. And I'm thinking, is this thing made of plastic-coated titanium? My frustration level is rising. I try a different place on the pot, same thing. Maybe I need more pressure? I brace the pot and try putting a little muscle into it. Still no results.

I've been sitting there on the deck trying to put a *&^%$ hole in the *&^*%* pot for 20 minutes and at this point I'm considering using the &^%$& drill as a blunt instrument and hammering a &^%$& hole in the thing. Then, as I'm looking at the drill bit and giving it a few more experimental whirls, fuming over what should have been a really easy 5 minute project, I notice that the threads on the drill bit appear to be going in the wrong direction, spiraling up into the drill, instead of down into the still nonexistent hole. Huh.

Turns out, the drill has TWO DIRECTIONS. One for drilling in to a surface, and one for extricating the bit from the resulting hole. And if you have it going the wrong way, there ain't no way you're going to make a hole in anything thicker than paper.

I timed it. I put 10 holes in the bottom of that pot in 4 minutes. It only took me two days.

Wednesday, May 5


My first exposure to crochet was watching my mom crochet covers to protect our couch and chair arms from the kind of wear and tear that happens. She used heavy thread, I think #3, and did her own pattern of chains and doubles to create a version of what is called 'filet crochet'. That's when a pattern includes closed and open spaces and, if carefully planned and charted, it's possible to create simple pictures and text that way. Think "Victorian sampler." Usually that's done in a much finer thread.

Thread is rated according to a number system that goes up as the thread gets finer. A #3 is roughly equivalent to string. It's very sturdy and often used to create things like dishtowels and facecloths because it will wash and wear very well. #10 is what you usually see used for doilies and such. #30 is extremely fine; more like sewing thread. And I think it's possible to get thread even finer than that, although you probably can't find it at your local hobby store. If you are looking for fancy lace trim on your wedding or ball gown, that's the stuff you want. The finer it is, the more drape the fabric will have. Makes sense, right?

Mostly it's made of cotton. In recent years, a blend of cotton and bamboo has become trendy. Bamboo is incredibly soft, but also terribly stretchy with no elasticity, so blending it with something else is a good idea. But it's lovely stuff for wearables. 100% cotton thread tends to feel a bit stiff when you are first working with it; but it loosens up considerably as it is worked and more so with blocking, the way an old favorite t-shirt will soften over time. I've also heard of silk thread, although I've never seen it in a store.

When I was a kid, people used doilies and lace tablecloths a lot to protect a finish and show off their whatnots. Today, you don't see it so much. I think the current trend is for less clutter and to show off the beauty of wood furniture. We've gotten away from using doilies, table scarves and so forth. I think, though, that it's going to come back around again eventually. Most things do.

The above projects, in case you were wondering, were done with #10 thread. I did the bookmark first for a small project. It was a way of getting my feet wet with thread. The second is a beaded scarf, still in progress. The beads are about the same color as the thread, but I think you can just make out their glint at the edges and at the motif centers. In the third photo, I've included the two crochet hooks I'm using. One to work the thread, and one to work the beads. Yes, there are hooks on the ends of them. One hook is 2.25 mm, and the other is 1.3 mm. The pen is by way of comparison.

These tiny thread hooks are made of steel. In theory, you can make a crochet hook out of nearly anything that's rigid. Most hooks used for yarn work are aluminum. I have a set of bamboo hooks, too. But thread hooks are inevitably made from steel because the heads are so very fine, and yet need to stay rigid. Aluminum hooks that tiny would bend. Other materials, if you could carve them to such thinness, would be fragile and probably break.

And that's your lesson on thread crochet.

Here's something else to look at. It's a baby afghan I'm almost finished with. I'm using yarn, not thread, so I can use my bamboo hooks. In this case, it's 6.5 mm. I'm using the Tunisian stitch in a technique called entrelac, which makes it look like woven strips to get the diamond pattern. I think I talked about Tunisian before. It's a cross between crochet and knitting, neither one nor the other but incorporating elements of both. You use a hook - that's the crochet element. But you cast on a series of loops, which is more like knitting.

And that's your refresher on Tunisian.