*note: in the process of replacing images*

Saturday, 29 January 2011

One, One Recycled Yarn Blanket! Muahahahah!

Take two found-on-separate-occasions Shetland Wool sweaters. $5 and $6 at Goodwill.

Take them apart. Turn them into a blanket.

I edged it with Lion Brand Fisherman's Wool (in Oatmeal) to give it a more finished look, but it's otherwise a straightforward granny square with two strands of each colour yarn held together. If you're looking to make this, I suggest taking it slowly - each sweater took me a day to unravel, and Ravelry has me at about 22 days of making this between other projects.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Quick Links

  • 10 Lessons Learned From Building a Kitchen - there's nothing fundamentally irritating about our kitchen, but it's going to get a rehaul in the next five years. The cabinets need stripping/restaining, the linoleum badly needs replacing. I want to replace the sink with something more useful (and hopefully a stainless steel drainer) and the countertops are cheap, chipped and hideous. So when we do, I'll need this. I especially like the diagram of the lighting plan. And the mini sink. Now I want a mini sink.
  • If you're looking to back up your Flickr account, I highly recommend Flump. It's Adobe AIR based, so works across all platforms (including Linux). Choose a destination folder and it pulls all your public images back down to the device of your choosing. It also means you can download other people's streams... open to abuse, but also perfect if you want to take some of the public archives offline for browsing.
  • How to wind your yarn into a center pull cake [via Ravelry] - I enjoy winding yarn by hand, so I don't think I'll be buying a swift yet, but I do love the cakes that swifts create. This looks like an easy way to reproduce it, and it only involves your thumb. Or someone else's thumb, if that's the way you roll.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

How does your garden grow?

January has shaped up to look a lot like this...

January 2011

A closer look at the raised bed?

It's layered with peat, homemade compost and mulch, waiting for spring (aka: when the seedlings are ready). Speaking of which, these are the results of ordering from Baker Creek:


This took two hours to organise, label and plant. Multiple types of tomatoes, watermelon, a few types of squash, strawberries, two types of pepper. These are just the smaller containers, we have bigger ones out back facing the sun too (pepper seeds need light to germinate).


I'm a bit nervous they won't all come up. It's a waiting game. While we wait, say hello to my leetle friend:

He was pretty active that day, never seen them pop their heads all the way out and stay there. He was eating the weeds, so at the moment he's less of a pest and more of a gardening friend.

And so, things keep going. Aside from the odd hurried day of mulching and planting, things stay quiet until Real Spring.

You can see the plants bouncing back after the rainstorms (my tomatoes made it through and continue to fruit). I was worried about this Jasmine plant for a while.

Still don't know what this one is.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Thrifted Today

Decided today to break my thrifting abstinence and visit the small animal charity thrift store next to Fred's dojo. Good news! The people in there had organised absolutely everything: linens in ziplocs with prices and details on the front, nearly everything with tiny store-style price tags, collectible vintage sorted and displayed.

Bad news! Prices have gone up.

I don't tend to go there for anything but quality selections of t-shirts, so price hikes didn't depress me too much (it's still for a great charity dammit), and thus managed to get the two above (brand new Hanes XL t-shirts), plus a Banana Republic soft v-neck and another nondescript logo'd shirt for $1.50 each. Green tag sale that I'd neglected to note meant that one was actually $0.75! Hooray thrift store sales.

Other things bought: a plaid flannel pillowcase, a green linen tablecloth, a couple of books, a strange Japanese scarf (might upcycle the material), some containers and a wallet type item that might be useful for holding USB cables.

Total: $16. The one thing I passed over was a wonderful slightly-aged-but-properly-working scale. It was $40. Homie don't play that for something that would no doubt collect multitudes of dust and cat fur.

Friday, 7 January 2011

I hope I'm not running before I can walk...

Big thanks to Doodlebug Yarn who, as a great start to 2011, have all of their worsted weight stock 25% off until the end of the month*. Which meant at $7.80 a skein I could absolutely justify my first Malabrigo purchase.

Look at it.

It's gorgeous! I consider this my gift to myself for suffering two straight days of a dizzy drunk migraine. Losing days to your malfunctioning brain is no fun at all.

And as a bonus: even though I didn't need it, I thought it would be a great time to try Cascade 220, because it's only $5 a skein and come on, these are chain store prices here people.

This will probably be a cowl. Double strand the yarn? Or small stitches. Or even yet: my first knitted project. We'll see.

One lesson I learned last year is that you really have to use yarn in the wild before you can really know what's worth buying in bulk or for treats. Beg, borrow and steal (OK maybe not steal, that's lawbreaking) scraps if you can. But more than anything: go for the sales and discounts like a rabid dog, and always buy more than one skein if you can. Just in case of apocalypse.

[*I ordered on Wednesday and it arrived today. For $5 shipping, that is the best value and speed I've received so far.]

Thursday, 6 January 2011

End of the Year: Garden Downtime

I meant to post this before the year went out and got drunk and left us all with a new year and a bunch of resolutions we might never keep. But things got in the way (mostly cookies and yarn). Not very much happened in the garden after October - we could have kept a winter garden, but then rainstorms came and might well have washed it all away. The local news said that $6 million of damage was incurred to the county. Rain in Southern California is nearly as much of a threat as fire.

But anyway. Spring is looming and spitting on our car from a bridge, so it's almost time to get working again.

Sticks for the chipper

Still got a lot of twigs and sticks and branches to break down into mulch, but that's not my department. Also our wheelbarrow has a flat tyre and we can't seem to find an easy replacement from Lowes. Guess we'll have to repair it. I heard tale of rubber cement being used.

I bought some hummingbird feeders the other week. I've yet to whack them into the ground, but thankfully the hummingbirds that spend time in our garden are not fussy either way. As long as there's a tree.

Speaking of not fussy.

Gopher Holes

Yeah we still have gophers. It's not in me to have them removed, although one mythical tale of a woman's house collapsing thanks to a wild idea to flood their tunnels does spring to mind.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Best Yarns of 2010

This year has seen a lot of yarn coming through my door - at least $200 worth. I think that sounds worse than it is - I've made three small blankets, three cat mats and many many dishcloths. Hopefully 2011 will see a return on my investment! But as a result, I've seen plenty of low-end yarn, and now have a few favorites.

Without further ado:
  • Lion Brand Wool Ease Worsted. The most accessible, available and washable quality wool-blend that makes genuinely warm blankets and clothing. Because it's available in chain stores as well as online, the potential for buying on sale is great. Bonus endorsement comes from Dandelion the kitty - she absolutely adores sleeping on/under the small blanket I made with it, and will often sit there and just knead and knead it with her paws. Because it's so cheap, I don't mind any potential cat damage.
  • Lion Brand Fisherman's Wool - definitely the best entry 100% wool yarn. Kind on the fingers and not too scratchy on the face, as well as being hardwearing, I'll be looking out for this on sale during 2011 and stashing for a blanket in our bedroom, and possibly another for the couch.
  • Loops and Threads Impeccable - this is Michaels' (chain craft store in the US) own brand acrylic yarn. Great colours, no shine, feels great under the fingers. Really easy to wash too. I may or may not plan a proper (read as: nice looking) granny square blanket with this next year.
  • Berroco Vintage (and Vintage Chunky - an affordable, soft wool/acrylic/nylon blend in the most beautiful colours. Just absolutely stunning, and while this is technically cheating this list (because I only bought it two days ago, but dammit, it's still 2010), it absolutely belongs here. If you think, like I did, local yarn shops have nothing for those on a budget but they stock this stuff, at the very least you need to visit, touch it and consider it. And then spend all your damn money on it. Whoops.
  • Special mention also goes to the discontinued Caron Perfect Match I discovered via the epic estate sale earlier in the year. I had to scour Ravelry to find people willing to sell me their leftovers, but it's well worth it. The first skein of yarn I every used was a yellow Caron Simply Soft, and while it does live up to it's name, I really hate shiny non-metal items. Mostly yarn, but also furniture (combined with the mass produced nature, it just looks cheap). But the Caron Perfect Match is indeed quite perfect, and I'd like to see it brought back, or at least combined with Simply Soft to create a yarn I actually want to buy. 
TLDR? I was fairly impressed by Lion Brand this year, and fairly disappointed by Caron yarn until I discovered a discontinued line. My yarn related New Year's Resolution is to move away from using acrylic brands and start moving into more lovely wool blends, if not 100% wool itself (bonus points for this because, despite being itchy, I can compost it). I still have a lot of acrylic to burn down, and it makes such great cat related items so I doubt it will ever be completely removed from my stash. But by 2011 I want to have rounded a definitive corner in the quality of materials I use and the stitches I make. A good plan to have.