Monday, October 27, 2014

Felted Clogs, Carpet Trauma & Tylenol

Here's one of my pet peeves: wearing shoes on carpet.  I grew up as someone who preferred to be barefoot or in my socks if at all possible.  I'm still someone who only puts on shoes if I'm planning on leaving my yard.  I didn't used to care what other people wanted to do with their feet while at my house....then I went through the experience of pulling out all our old carpeting.

My guess is that it was maybe 15 years old.  At the time we had been in our house for around 13 years and the carpet had been replaced a few years before we moved in (or so they led us to believe....)  The previous owners had a large dog, so I'm sure that contributed to the condition of the carpeting.  But I had been good about renting a big Rug Doctor rug cleaner on a yearly basis for about the 5 years leading up to tearing out the old carpet, so I thought we were keeping it in decent shape.  When it came time to replace the carpets, we did the tear-out ourselves to save a little cash.  Ermagherd, I could not believe what we removed from our house.

First off, our house is about 65 years old and we always thought it had a musty smell.  For years we thought maybe there was mold hiding in the basement (there wasn't) or the crawl space had some sort of disgusting standing water (it didn't).  Then I learned from a neighbor that the family that built our house were smokers.  We had already re-painted every surface in the house, often with Kilz paint, so I thought that would seal in any sort of smoker smell, but for all my new painting projects, I switched to the paint that has baking soda in it.  You know, the paint that says it will make your house smell clean and fresh!  Still no change.

Then we finally save up the money to buy new carpeting.  Once we had the old carpets (and all the random debris that came with them!) off the floor, and out of the house, we realized it was not only the carpet that smelled horrible, it was the subfloors beneath them as well!  I'll put it this way - you may think you did a decent job cleaning up whatever your large dog did on the carpet....but no, the evidence is just 2 inches below the spot you scrubbed, and it's soaking into the subfloor.  I think the cigarette smoke smell had marinated into the wood as well.

After removing that nasty carpet, there was no way I was putting new carpet over the disgusting sub-floor, so I set to work cleaning and sealing it.  It was me, a bucket with diluted bleach, and a sponge, washing maybe 800 square feet of subfloor on my hands and knees.  I followed that with a couple coats of Kilz paint to hopefully seal in any nastiness I couldn't wash away.  I can think of a few more enjoyable ways to spend a week, but man am I glad I did that.  When we walk into our house now, even after a week away, we don't smell anything except possibly the garbage we forgot to get rid of before we took off.  Baby steps, people.

Even though the saga of our flooring isn't very interesting, I had to include it so you'd understand the motivation behind my love of no shoes on the carpet.  I'm totally fine with people walking through the wood and tile-floored rooms of my house with shoes on, and in fact I designed it so you can walk back and forth between all 3 doors that lead to the outside without ever having to walk through a carpeted room.  I can sweep that stuff away without leaving a trace.  But baby, if you decide to veer off the hard floors, you'd better do it in sock feet.

I've learned something about people in the three years I've been asking them to take their shoes off in my house: kids don't bat an eye, and 90% of the time, they will take their shoes off for ever more without me asking again.  I think there's one of my kids' friends who I've maybe had to remind 2 or 3 times.  But the kids who come to my house for piano lessons?  (Have I ever mentioned here that I'm a piano teacher?  Well, there you go!  Now you know 2 random facts about me!)  They jumped on the bandwagon right away and never looked back.  And their parents either follow suit, or, if they don't feel like taking the shoes off, they stand in the foyer adjacent to the room with the piano when they show up a couple minutes early to pick up their kid.  It's so not a big deal.  But adults?  Especially the ones who are related to you?  They think it's totally weird that we have a "no shoe" rule and basically leave them on until I physically remove the shoes from their feet.

So after giving it some thought, I decided to help the adults out.  After all, there are certain houses that I visit where I pack an extra pair of socks (or some slippers if it's someplace I'm super-comfortable).  Since I have a "no shoe" thing at my house, I like to treat other people's homes with the same care as my own.  But I hate having cold feet.  So my sock/slipper packing is my way around that.

I decided I just needed something similar at my house.  I'm borrowing a move from the Japanese playbook, just without the obvious shelving for outdoor shoes.    I already had a great pattern for felted slippers that I've already used a dozen times: Felted Clogs by Bev Gelaskas.  I've made them for everyone in my immediate family as well as gifts for 4 or 5 other people and they've always been very well received.  I needed to make myself a new pair this year anyway because I've worn the bottoms out of the ones I made about 5 years back!  I love this pattern because A) Being felted means the sizes are fairly adjustable B) Even the finished slippers are fairly loose on sizing, the way flip-flops don't have to fit exactly right, C) Worsted-weight held double + Size 13 needles makes for pretty quick knitting, and D) These slippers are like little foot ovens.  VERY warm.

Anyway, the plan was this: make enough pairs that there would be enough slippers to shoe any group we invite over.  In cooler months, keep them in a big basket by the front door and offer them to guests  I figure most people will keep their socks on, and if they don't the slippers are easy enough to run through the washer.  It should be a pretty low-maintenance situation, and a pretty strong hint having them sit by the door.  And it should invalidate the foot-dragging (pardon my pun) motivated by "I'm going to just keep these shoes on because otherwise my toes will be cold."  The feet of all will be cozy and warm, and I won't find myself on my knees any time soon gagging over a bucket of bleach water!  It's win-win!

As it happened, at the beginning of this month I got hit with a semi-truck in the form of a headache that just wouldn't stop.  It started on the top of my head, then gradually moved to mid-face, then the jaw as the days and weeks went on.  I'm not a person that has ever dealt with more than the very rare "I didn't get enough sleep" headache, or the "I need to drink more water" headache.  So having head pain that drove me to take Tylenol as often as the label would allow was something of a concern.  Multiple friends told me that a weird headache virus was going around, so I figured that's what I had.  And since I could barely stand to do anything except sit quietly and wait for my next dose of Tylenol, it was the perfect time to start my slipper project.

I wasn't in any shape to drive myself to the craft store that is 25 minutes away to buy more Paton's Worsted Wool (my favorite felting wool), so I dragged the "reject yarn crate" out from under my bed.  That's where the stuff that isn't pretty goes to hide out until I need it or until one of my kids says they need yarn for a craft project.  "Spare the pretty, expensive yarn!  You may use the Paton's Wool under the bed!"

I was surprised that I had quite a few skeins and partial skeins in there.  I think I had about 4 slippers done before I had to send my husband to the store to fill out my yarn needs.  He did ok, picking up about half the things on my "Must Have Yarn" list.  I made a few more slippers and by the time I was done with those, I had figured out how to get the pain killers to give me a decent chunk of the day where I could do functional things like drive and go to yarn stores.  I hit a different place and found the rest of what I needed.

I ended up with 5 new pairs of slippers.  My son immediately claimed one pair for his own (the blue & black ones), but then generously gave his outgrown slippers to his sister, who had also outgrown hers.  So I get to add her outgrown child-sized pair to our guest basket.  The beige & purple pair are kind of mine.  I haven't really broken them in yet, but I've got my eye on them.  My old pair can't go in the basket though because they are dead.  Worn hard and fulfilled their destiny.  Time for them to go to the wool mill in the sky.

My slipper factory lasted about a week and I ended up with 5 pairs for the communal basket.  If I hit another project lull this winter, I may make 3 or 4 more pairs, a couple of them in kids' sizes.  The crazy headache thing, if you were wondering, lasted 24 days.  It started October 1 and I finally woke up this past Saturday and thought "Hey!  I haven't taken Tylenol in 24 hours and nothing hurts!"  It was fantastic.  I did go to my doctor mid-month and she told me that at 39 years old, she thinks I've developed seasonal allergies.  It's possible I was just strange that allergies would hit me so hard despite the fact that I take a daily anti-histamine (for non-seasonal-allergy reasons).   No hard freezes here yet, but maybe the 2 light frosts we had in the past week took care of enough allergens to make my headache go away.  Or maybe I really did just have a crazy 3-week-long headache virus.  Whatever it was, I say "good riddance!"

How about you?  Are you a shoes-on or a shoes-off person?  Do you religiously wear slippers in the winter like me or are you fine with chilly toes?  I never remember having cold feet until I lived in my current house, so I don't know if we just have cold floors or if it's just a symptom of not being a carefree kid anymore!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

New Release: World War G{loves}

Here's a funny story for you:  About a month ago, I was hard at work on my husband's secret birthday sweater.  I brought it with me to Knit Night every week, with a decoy project in tow as well, just in case Jason asked me what I had worked on that night.  Darn those husbands that take an interest in what you takes a lot more effort to pull off a surprise for them!

So on this particular day, I happened to meet my husband for lunch.  I told him that I had just finished up whatever project I had been working on....and as soon as the words were out of my mouth, I realized I had made a mistake.  Now I had no decoy project to take with me that evening to Knit Night.

But I left for Knit Night before he got home from work that evening, so he didn't see my bag that was "chock full of sweater".  When I came home that night, I actually left the sweater project bag in the trunk of my car, so he didn't see it when I came home either.

But as I sat at The Fiber Universe that evening working on his sweater, I thought about what I was going to say if he asked me what I worked on.  For most of the evening, I thought I was just going to tell him that I didn't work on anything and just decided to sit & visit with the other knitters.  But just before I was ready to leave, the answer hit me:  the new Frog Tree Llambrosia yarn I had been drooling over.

My local yarn shop just started carrying this line of yarn in September, and I had been eyeing it, thinking I would definitely want to use it to write a pattern.  I bought two skeins of yarn in a light brown that I liked, still not knowing what they were going to be.  My plan was now to tell m husband that I had stared at these two balls of yarn all evening trying to figure out what they might be.  He'd believe that story.  I spend a significant amount of time staring at yarn.

But it takes me about 20 minutes to drive home from the yarn shop.  And by the time I got home, I knew that the Llambrosia was going to be gloves, probably fingerless ones.  I wanted them to be simple but interesting.  No fussy stitch patterns, but I didn't want plain stockinette, either.  I had experimented with some alpaca yarn a couple months back that I had considered turning into fingerless gloves, and I remembered liking the way it looked when the stockinette fabric was kind of "bunched up" with wrinkles showing.  And the idea of welts was born.

The welts are super-easy to do.  If you can pick up stitches and knit 2 stitches together (1 stitch from each of 2 needles held parallel), you've got this.  If you're still not sure, you can check out my welting video here.

In keeping with the theme of "simple & slightly rumpled", I went with a turned hem.  I didn't do a purl row as the turning row (because that gave them too tailored of a look), but I'm sure some will prefer to make that modification.  Which is great - I can't remember the last pattern I knit (besides my own) that I didn't modify in some way!

And the name?  When I showed my husband the finished gloves and said, "What do these make you think of?" he read my mind and said, "The apocalypse."  I guess that's why we're married....we tend to share a brain sometimes.  I had been knitting them up thinking, "These look like fingerless gloves that might be worn by an army of zombie-fighters in one of those crazy movies."  He agreed.  Playing off the name of one of the more famous recent-ish zombie movies, "World War Z", I named these "World War G{loves}".  I was pretty pleased with myself, then immediately started to wonder if this was going to end up being an inside joke with myself.  Luckily, some of the lovely people who are connected to my Facebook business page reassured me that they got the reference, as well!

MargiBorck, WoollyKim, & LTimms were the brave testers who took on this project.  They all called this an intermediate project, and I agree with that.  There are a few techniques used that might be new to a less-experienced knitter (find a list on the pattern listing page here), but I give links in the pattern for the ones I think might throw you for a loop.

If you're substituting yarns, I'd recommend using one with a significant amount of llama or alpaca in it.  Wool will work, but the 100% baby llama yarn the sample gloves were made from have a drape that is much more similar to alpaca than it is to wool.  The welts will end up a bit stiffer & more pronounced when done in a high wool-content yarn.  Even having a plant fiber-blend (such as bamboo), possibly with some silk in there for strength, will give a drape that is relatively close to the llama yarn.

This pattern is written as a "one size fits most women" size, but suggestions are included for using sport-weight yarn paired with a smaller needle to make a child-size pair, or worsted-weight yarn paired with a larger needle for a man-sized pair.  I used Mirasol Yarn's Nuna  (a silk/wool/bamboo blend) which made a beautiful child-sized pair and Cascade 220 (100% wool, which is why I know now not to recommend high-wool content yarn!) for my man-sized pair.

These gloves were a quick knit and might make a great gift for someone on your holiday list this year!  The pattern is now available on Ravelry here!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Where Does the Time Go?

Saying that life has been busy sounds so lame, because whose life isn't busy, really?  

The school year started off with a bang.  I made lists.  I decided to do a deep clean / purge around the house.  I took a day or two with each room and took a number of boxes to Goodwill and filled up our garbage can week after week.  How I can stuff a kitchen-size garbage bag full while cleaning my son's room is beyond me.  How can all that trash be in there and we can't see it?  

Anyway, as a reward for my organizational efforts, I'd knit.  I came up with 2 patterns since school began, both of which are being tested now.  I'm hoping to release a pattern for fingerless gloves in a week or two and a pattern for a double-knit cowl in November.

But crazy health developments have cropped up once again and have been biting at my heels, not allowing me to do everything I'd like.  I have some sort of undiagnosed swelling problem that happened 3 times last month.  Once it was my bottom lip, once it was my top lip, and once it was the upper side of my nose near my eye.  I know going to the emergency room for an IV dose of Benadryl stops the swelling and sets things right, but who wants to do that every 7 days?  I went once and joked with the nurse that they probably think I'm a drug seeker.  But really I was.  I came in, announced that I had swelling that has been seen by a few different doctors and no one can tell me why it happens, but I know what to do about it.  They gave me the Benadryl and I slept most of the day away.

In an attempt to keep the swelling under control & maybe not have a major reoccurrence, I took a lot of oral Benadryl in September.  Which means many of my days went like this: Wake up, take the kids to school, take a dose of Benadryl, sleep for 4 hours.  Wake up groggy, try to find something to eat, attempt to stay awake until kids get home from school.  It was not the end of the world, but it definitely put a cramp in my style.  

But nothing has swelled up for about 3 weeks now.  I thought I was on the upswing, then last week I managed to catch a virus that is basically a very minor cold with severe head and face pain.  It's the craziest thing I've ever had.  I would be worried that I actually had something seriously wrong with my teeth or jaw except the pain arrived at the same time as the cold (and when I say cold, I mean no fever, enough sinus stuff that I might blow my nose 3 times in a day, and I might cough or sneeze 3 or 4 times a day).  Plus, because of the wonders of Facebook, I've seen a handfull of friends post status updates over the past month about their kids coming home from school with bad headaches.  When I posted about it on Facebook, I was immediately answered by two friends that currently have this virus and one who said her husband had it and it lasted a few weeks for him.  Meanwhile, I'm considering buying stock in Tylenol, because it has become my new BFF.

So all this is just to say: the blog has just fallen off the list for now.  I look at it occasionally and want to update it, then immediately think of 5 other things that are more pressing.  Yesterday, during the 5 drugged-up, pain-free hours that I manage to have every day, I wrote up 4 proposals for new knitting patterns and sent them off to yarn companies.  One sweater, one that would fall into the "housewares" category, one summer sleeveless top, and one hat.  I'm excited to find out which one I get to start first!

I did accomplish one other thing so far this fall.  Early this year, after I gave my husband a hand-knit sweater for Valentine's Day, he asked if I would consider making him another one.  I said, "I'd love to, but I can't take knitting another mile of brown worsted-weight."  He said, "I totally understand.  How about gray?"

He's cheeky, that one.  We agreed on a pattern, and when I was ordering some yarn on-line for a couple projects I wanted to do but couldn't find the right materials at my LYS, I showed him some options of tonal gray yarn I'd be able to stand knitting with.  He picked one and it sat in the stash all summer.  I kept telling him I'd work on it when the weather cooled off.  

But his birthday is at the end of September.  Perfect timing for a new winter wardrobe piece.  I knit on the sweater when he was at work, I knit on it on the evenings that he played basketball, I brought it with me to Knit Night at the LYS.  In 6 or 8 weeks, I had sneaked around enough to have a finished men's XL sweater.  

He said he loved it and he's backed up that claim by wearing it about every other day.  It reminds both of us of a sweater he had in college when we first started dating.  He wore that sweater until it had holes in it, so I had a hunch that re-creating the thing might be a winning idea.  

Anyway, here's a picture of him in his birthday sweater.  He's a cutie.  He has also recently lost about 20 lbs, so feel free to tell him in the comments how fit & trim he looks in his stylish new sweater!

One other bit of excitement: a fellow knitwear designer who showcases different indie designers on her blog decided to feature me!  She published her post today, so head over there and check it out.  I was very flattered that she had such nice things to say about the patterns she chose to feature. 

Back to resting for me....the headache is kind of under control from the Tylenol, but we've had roofers at our house yesterday and today, so the pounding is not helping the situation.  I'm going to put in some earplugs and see if I can take a little nap before the kids get home from school!