Fiber Adventure Week – Day 5

For some reason, hitting the midway point on anything – event, vacation, etc. – seems to make the time suddenly being to fly, and that’s how I’m starting to feel about my Fiber Adventure Week. Perhaps this is magnified by this posting being done much later than expected. I’m well into Day 6 as I write this, having been on the  phone literally non-stop since I got up. I love my bluetooth! Hands free to weave and knit while I visit with friends and family or take care of business. 🙂

Don’t forget… Blog candy coming this weekend!

Day 5 started out with what has been my least favorite activity of the week, though it was quite needed. My trunk has become a bit of a storage unit, primarily for fleece, and I couldn’t find a thing. In fact, I wasn’t even sure what was out there in the jumble, and I needed to do an inventory as I start into working on my MSP (Master Spinner Program) certification.It looks a lot better now, I have a written inventory, and I even found a few treasures I’d forgotten about. 🙂The day I raided the Easter egg dyes at the Goodwill, I’d also gone yarn shopping – in the sweater department, of course. 😉 The big white sack in the photo is full of some really great yarn, and it cost me next to nothing. While I was folding them (The guy at the check out had stuffed them unceremoniously into 2 large sacks.) so they would fit into one bag, I was drawn to the amazing twin sweaters I’d discovered. They’d both been worn. One was a medium and the other a large, and they were near each other on the rack, though not side by side. This is the first time I’ve ever found litter mates, and that was exciting! Obviously,  it takes ridiculously little to excite me. 😉 I checked the seams and found they were chain stitched rather than serged, so that meant they would deconstruct just fine, and the best part was that they were a lovely shade of 50% merino and 50% Shetland wool – and less than $5 total. Any wonder why they came home with me?I have a stash of sweaters to ravel, but I’ve not done any for ages, so I decided pulling apart twins would suit for a FAW. In less than an hour, I had the first one apart. These are exceptionally nice for pulling apart, as even the raglan sleeves are shaped with knitted decreases clear to the top instead of being cut and serged. I had well under 10 yards of “waste” yarn from short bits at the very tops of the shoulders, and that was it. I wrapped the longest of these on a nifty cardboard tube I spotted in the bathroom trash, so I’ll have them for seaming if needed later.

Fifteen minutes later, the sweater had become 4 yarn cakes, weighing in at just over 11.25 ounces. I don’t wash the sweaters. I’d far rather wash the yarn so that it can relax and fluff. I’m holding off on this stuff, though, as I’m toying with the idea of respinning it. My finger spun samples were enticing, and I don’t think this fiber is reaching its full potential as three laceweight 2-ply strands knit together. It doesn’t seem to have the energy that it should, so why shouldn’t I add some? 🙂My next bit of business left me annoyed! Remember the A&W mug full of run off dye from the day I wet finished Nechama? I’d never gotten around to dumping it down the drain, though the other 10 or so gallons of it was long gone from the washer. Since I had the roving out, and since the crockpot and vinegar are on the kitchen counter at the moment, it was sort of inevitable that the mug of grape colored water would find its way into the crockpot…And look what I got out of it! I could just kick myself for not tossing a fleece into the washer when it was filled with this stuff! What a waste… sigh… But, yes, I’m glad I tried it. It’s really a beautiful color – and the perfect dye project for a day when I had already recycled a sweater into yarn. I never EVER thought I’d be recycling dye from a commercial yarn. 😀The rest of my dyeing for Day 5 was really exciting for me! Don’t get me wrong; I love the beautiful, vibrant colors I’ve been achieving with the Easter egg dyes, but I’m not normally a neon/brights sort of person. Besides, I do like a good challenge. 😉 I decided I really wanted to see if I could use the exact same dye tablets to produce colors that were more my style. So, I popped open the third kit (Anyone have a use for a bazillion Easter stickers and egg wraps?) and went to work. Without using any dyestuff beyond the tablets in the kit, here’s what came out of my pot.Needless to say, I’m thrilled with the results! Thought you might want to experiment a bit – with wool, eggs, what have you, so here are the “recipes.” I did dissolve the tablets in a half cup of water today. First and foremost, I wanted to be sure I knew what colors I actually had, and secondly, I wanted to have some control of how much went into the mix. The pictures show the blended results along with samples of the solids I dyed. On my monitor, at least, the group photo above seems a little bit more accurate for the actual shades of the finished roving.The olive green was precisely the color I was seeking, and I could have quit right then and been happy. I used the tablet that was apparently considered teal, but just looked like the more green of the two greens, and about half of the orange.I was hoping for burgundy from this, but I’m pretty happy with the deep rose. I used all of the brighter pink and about half of the brown to achieve this color. I’d have tossed in some blue, too, which is probably what this needed, but I had other plans for that.This was probably my biggest disappointment, and not because it’s not a beautiful shade of green, but because the dyepot exhibited the precise shade of teal I was trying to make, and utterly gorgeous. I tried every trick I could think of, but there was some blue that just refused to strike. I still think it’s pretty amazing to see a color like this come from chartreuse (spring green) and electric blue. 🙂And my last color was another bit of perfection, so I started and ended with totally satisfactory results. This pot was dyed with a yellow tablet, the other half of the orange, and half of the remaining brown – in other words, about a quarter of the brown. (That would be your clue that I’m not quite done with the blending experiments. 😉 ) It came out a gorgeous golden shade, and I’m delighted! All in all, this was a very satisfactory part of the dyeing experiments. 🙂

So, I have this ever growing pile of Easter egg dyed roving, and I want to use it somehow, but the bright colors mean I’m going to have to put some thought behind how to use them in a way that will make me love them long term. Tonight, I tried out one of my ideas, and I ended up with something else that made me a very happy person.This was my brilliant, sunshine yellow and the sherbet orange solids I dyed a couple of days ago. If you’d like to try making this gradient spinning project, here’s how I did it.

I broke the rovings into 6 equal pieces and lined them up side by side. I tore one of each color in half and put them in the center, holding back the other half of each. (Save a piece of this for samples for your dye records!)Next, tear off a small piece of the second yellow and replace it with an equal sized piece of the second orange. Continue this along the row until you have an even progression along the row, augmenting a bit with the reserved pieces as needed. If you are really feeling precise, use your scales. I decided to just wing it this time around – unusual for me, actually.I love to hand card, and these were small amounts, so that’s how I blended my strips. I tore them in half lengthwise, blended the two colors, then split those two little batts in half and blended half of each together to make my colors even. I (bravely) prepped these to be spun woolen. It’s important to keep these in order as you work. You’ll likely find that you can’t really see a difference from one batt to the next. I had two places where there was too great a jump between colors, and in those places, I took one finished batt from each side of the line and carded them together. Sorry I forgot to take pix. I was having so much fun watching this magic happen that I totally forgot about the camera.I’m really looking forward to seeing how these look spun up, but I’d like to improve my woolen spinning before I try them, so I needed some way to keep them in order. I strung them like beads on a strong sewing thread, running one up each side and tying them together. I can now roll the bundle up and handle it easily, and they will be ready for me when I’m ready for them. 🙂

Even with all this, I still found time to spin, and I’m well into the dark red now. My bobbin is pretty smooshy, and I’m getting very concerned I won’t be able to get all four ounces onto one. I really don’t want to break this single, and I’m a new enough spinner that I don’t really have a lot of good storage options for larger spinning projects. Doing 12 ounces for one spin when it has to all become singles before it’s plied is really pushing my resources if I don’t put all 4 ounces on a bobbin. :S I didn’t do much on the other ongoing projects – one pass on the triloom, and one hankie into the mawata project – so no pix for those. However, I did watch another Judith MacKenzie DVD set – Popular Wheel Mechanics. As I’m coming to expect from her, I found there was much to learn on this set, but I did find myself a little bit annoyed, too. It’s just my opinion, but I don’t think this set should be as expensive as the others. It was sponsored by several of the major spinning wheel manufacturers, and there were more than a few times that it felt more like a commercial than a class. Perhaps that was even more annoying to me since I own Kromskis, and they apparently didn’t buy into the program. The infomercial feel got in the way of the enchantment I’ve felt while watching her other DVDs this week. Yes, I did find it very fascinating to see how even small adjustments on a wheel can dramatically change the yarn one can spin on it, but I found it tiring to hear repeatedly about what a wonderful thing Ashford or Louet or whoever had done when they did this or that to the wheels they manufacture, or to hear that “on a Lendrum…” I’d have been a much happier student if the advice hadn’t so often felt “breed specific” and had been stated in more generic fashion. Too much of the presentation felt like it didn’t relate to me, even when it actually did if I turned on the mental filters to remove brand names. I hope Interweave isn’t going to make it a habit to do this in their DVDs.

Majoring a Minor

I did something tonight that would have felt like a small step had I done it 15 months ago, but today, it feels like I did something really major. And I’ve been looking at things the way they were for so long, it looks funny suddenly being done – no matter how small the step actually was.

So the “what” is a step forward on the nook project, with the specific task being to install the handles on the cabinet that will be under the TV. This has been sitting with only one handle in place, and one drawer on the floor beside it since August a year ago. The drawer was out because with no handles, it’s a challenge to open the drawers. I was originally going to put on the handles as I finished painting drawers, which is why only one was installed. Last week, I decided that since the other drawers are done and can’t be put in place until they are painted, those should be first, and meanwhile, I wanted to be able to utilize the storage space in the lower cabinet, so handles it was! However, it really wasn’t as easy as grabbing a pencil, ruler, drill, and screwdriver. You see, this cabinet is a horizontal surface, and I don’t know about you, but in MY house, a horizontal surface doesn’t remain empty for 15 months… 😦 The floor in front of the cupboard is also a level surface… in a recessed area… which wasn’t being used… Suffice it to say, I’ve spent a lot of hours properly excavating the area, since I didn’t want to just move the problem around, and by tonight, I’d reached the goal…

And tonight, I finally added handles! Drawers are partially filled, but this will be a work in progress. The things that belong in them are scattered widely around the house, having had no good home for the past 27 years. It’s in very close proximity to the computer, and for the most part, it will be housing office supplies  – mostly the spare stuff that I buy in bulk or just keep extra stocked. The bottom drawers are built with heavy duty glides and I sized them to hold more than a case of printer paper each, so you can see how much storage space I’ve gained in this. 🙂 Next time you see this, I’ll either be showing off the next tier, or you will see paint on more than one drawer, but for now, I’m just one happy person having done this much. 🙂 15 months is a dreadfully long time to live with stalled remodeling projects!

Published in: on October 17, 2010 at 4:12 am  Leave a Comment  
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For Everything a Purpose

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you may remember a couple of years ago, I knitted my first Fair Isle project – a felted (actually fulled…) basket, which decided to become tall and slender instead of short and fat as I’d planned. It still looked really neat, but instead of a low, bowl type finished project, I had one that blocked perfectly over my bathroom trash can, and it simply could not perform the same function. It wasn’t quite stiff enough to hold its shape long term on its own, so I sacrificed said trashcan to be a liner for my basket and bought a new one for the bathroom. Thankfully, the trash can was actually one of the colors in the basket, and it sort of looks like it was all intended. However, I’ve been shoving it around in my sewing room every since, having absolutely no idea how to use the thing, despite really loving it.

Meanwhile, my Navajo spindle spinning project has been awkwardly stashed in a plastic grocery store bag – not the best way to keep a long pointy stick, a lot of wool, and a ceramic spinning bowl safe and contained. The current rash of cleaning had everything surrounding this bag nice and tidy, and of course, the bag looked like trash right in the middle of it.

Since I’ve put these two thoughts together, you surely know what’s coming. It only took me HOW long to have that eureka moment???

What do you think?

From this day forward, I think I’m just going to pretend like I made that basket on purpose just for my Navajo spinning project. 😀

BTW, the beautiful mums were a gift from my lovely daughter when she came to visit a couple weeks ago. 🙂

Published in: on October 15, 2010 at 11:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Program

# 1 Daughter showed up this past week, which was both expected and unexpected. I knew she was coming, but she came earlier than planned, which threw me totally off-kilter. Far be it from me to complain, though, as I’ve had a totally wonderful four days. It’s always tough to see her leave, but we made lots of memories while she was here, and I have more than a little bit for which to be grateful. Actually, I think she should get the daughter of the year award based on just this half week!

I doubt I could even begin to list everything we did, but our activities included a spontaneous late night grocery run the night she arrived, in search of some suddenly craved ice cream, and resulting in a cart full of goodies, which later became 3 delicious meals. One night we had my special Veggie Brie Burgers with Portabello Steaks and Avocado Halves. Another night we indulged in her wonderful Pierogies and my addition of Virgin Pina Coladas. The third, we had the little known, but always tasty Sloppy Idas with Onion Rings and Fresh Peach Halves. I left the table totally sated every night, each time thinking it didn’t get much better than that. 😀

We took off on an expedition one day, supposedly picking up walnuts that were promised to me on freecycle. However, after the half hour drive to get there, we found only 3 nuts! Driving back down the street, we found another house in the neighborhood with a yard full of them, though, and a knock on the door provided a resident who was only too happy to see his yard cleared of the things. Next project for me is getting the hulls off and into a dye pot. 🙂 It was a beautiful day, and even thought it was the middle of the week, there were three yard sales set up. Having been housebound for nearly the entire yard sale season, this was an exciting development for me, and I did find a couple of treasures, though my daughter is the one who got most of the booty. I’m especially fond of:

  • My bell – Although you can’t tell it from the photo, this thing is as big around as a roll of toilet paper, and the clapper decidedly thicker than a broom handle.  It’s got the most amazing bass voice, and it gives me goosebumps to hear it ring! It will need a very special home, and I confess to buying it without putting a lot of thought into that at the time. I just couldn’t walk away once I heard it ring! I’m wondering what it’s original use was…
  • Little Turkish Rug Loom – also nabbed quickly, despite the fact that my last name is not Allen. I’m not sure, but it just might be Bleuette scale, and regardless, it’s a very interesting loom just for studying.  I’m starting to realize I might have to confess to a miniature loom collection now, as this is at least my third model scale loom that could actually be used for weaving.

We did some small needful tasks for her – choosing a ringtone for her new cellphone, finding homemaking goodies she had stashed here and needed for her new apartment, and such, and a few for me, like blocking my Sweetheart Lovey at long last,

but the main part of our energies went into some serious decluttering work for me. Since I’ve been able to get around the past few weeks, I’ve been picking at some projects and making good progress within my limits, but my daughter’s visit dramatically accelerated things, and I’m going to be smiling for weeks! There is a lot that needs done around this place that I simply can’t do alone, and it feels oh-so-nice to have some of them so much improved. I’m afraid I’m not posting before and after pix. I rarely have the nerve to share before pix, and as for after shots… what is miraculous to me right now isn’t exactly Better Homes and Gardens yet, so…

We did some major reorganization and fall cleaning in my bathroom, leaving just the parts of the project I can do easily on my own, and we worked long and hard in the “store room,” which is the center of my online sales work, storing merchandise and functioning as my packing center. It had become impassable this year as hubby toted stuff in there, and I couldn’t monitor what was happening. Now it’s functional again, and with effort, I can actually get up and down the stairs about once a day, so I’m looking forward to getting back into business again soon. 🙂 The shelves are seriously overstocked!

The last place we did some major work was in the back storage room. It’s a long term commitment, as there is the equivalent of an entire fabric store and more back there. It’s functioned as my attic for quite a few years, and it looks like it! I’m paring down my fabric collection dramatically, deleting much of the synthetics and blends, stuff I bought for my little girls now long grown, and yardage bought for a much younger me. My daughter is snagging some great fabrics for herself, I’m pulling out some pieces to list on Etsy, and the rest is going to Christian Aid, delivered by my daughter who lives near their warehouse. Each time she comes, we go through a few more boxes until we get her car filled for the journey home, and I end up feeling that although I’ve given away a lot of dreams and more than a little bit of truly great fabric, it’s going to a place where it will be used in making a real difference. This year, I suddenly got this brilliant idea to repack all of my original yarn stash into plastic tubs while we were back in that room. Funny thing happened, though. I now have 4 big outdoor trash bags of mostly acrylic yarn on my porch, waiting to be delivered to a charity, and only a shelf and a half remaining upstairs, most of which is in afghan quantities for gifting. I just discovered going through it all that I no longer found it appealing to do that much work with acrylic yarns, and emboldened by the clearing out, decided to release it to a new home. Honestly, my biggest guilt about the whole deal is feeling like I should be whipping up Project Linus Blankets and Homeless Hats with it, but I know I just won’t be able to make the time for that right now, so I’m being brave!

The last big event of her visit was my completion of the prayer shawl I’ve been knitting for her while she was in Honduras. Not only was it a joy to finally give it to her, but it also completes one of this year’s annual goals – finishing 3 old UFO’s. 🙂  I love the way it came out, and she really liked it a lot! I think I’m going to miss this project, though, as it was a special bit of love to work on it while praying for her. I felt a bit lost as she pulled out of the driveway with in on the seat of the car beside her.

The pattern I used is the Feather and Fan Comfort Shawl, which can be located online for free though Ravelry. Once you get in the swing of this pattern, it’s quick and easy, and most experienced knitters will probably find they memorize the pattern without much trouble. This makes it a great option for a prayer shawl, especially if you like to pray while you knit. You can use pretty much any yarn you would like for this shawl, as it starts at the top and is knit to the desired size with only a 6 row repeat. I wanted to gift hers today, so I didn’t use quite all the yarn I bought, quitting after about 5.5 balls instead of using all 6, about 1177 yards. I used a delicious hand-painted, superwash, worsted weight wool from Beyond Basics, but which is sadly enough discontinued.

Now, I guess it’s time to go back to real life.  I’m certainly feeling the void this evening with her gone, but in many ways, she’s still here as I look around and see the fruits of her visit and think of the doors that have opened as a result. She may be gone home, but I’m going to be benefiting from these past four days for years to come!

Goals Post – Forward to 2010!

Perhaps this post should be titled “Living in Dreamland.” 😉 It’s unquestionably the most ambitious list of goals I’ve ever set out at the beginning of the year, and I’ve not ever completed my shorter lists, but my philosophy of goals remains that having a higher target means I hit more, even if I don’t complete them all. The most important factor for me is to remain realistic in that I remember it IS an overly ambitious list, and that anything I do accomplish is a victory; it’s not a defeat to not do all of it. These are goals to help me stay on track, not requirements that identify whether I’m a worthwhile person!

That said, here are my goals for 2010:

My online miniatures group is doing a goals based project, and we were asked to spell out five mini goals, so I will start with those:

  1. Finish the interior and/or exterior of Friendship Cabin, a Real Good Toys Adirondack Cabin that we started several years ago, but which has languished untouched since sometime before the beginning of 2009. Here’s the album where I chronicled our first days working on the project.
  2. Finish my Gail Wilson Hitty, which was started with enthusiasm during the online class, worked on for three nights, and now has the rest of the girls giving me “the look” for not getting their sister done. I have a little glitch in the painting, and since this is a challenging project for me anyway, the moment I encountered a problem, I put her away for a time when I could really feel relaxed. ‘Nuff said? :S
  3. Finish my Teresa Layman Cottage By the Sea project – actually barely started, and a massive project for someone who really doesn’t like embroidery or French knots. This will be a rug for Friendship Cabin.
  4. Finish my Boat Sampler – stitched on silk gauze – lots to go on it, but most of the hardest part is completed. Like the Layman project, I started this on our last cruise. Unlike the Layman project, I loved working on this one, so I did quite a bit more of it. Also belongs in Friendship Cabin, and perhaps will be finished on another cruise…
  5. Knit something tiny – size 4/0 needles or smaller – probably something for my future miniature yarn shop

Fiber Goals:

  1. See #5 in the miniatures
  2. Publish at least 4 knitting patterns – should actually be more than this, as I have 3 projects that just need the paperwork part of this goal in order to be ready. The paperwork is the hard part of course… I’m knitting my next shawl design right now, and I’ve promised another KAL for the spring, so I’m going to be busy with this!
  3. Finish my spinning wheel – I can’t believe this sat untouched for an entire year. Where on earth did the time go??? The staining is about half done, but it’s an involved project. Once that’s done, I need to finish and assemble it.
  4. Learn to use said wheel
  5. Knit a project from wool I’ve cleaned and spun, using a pattern I’ve designed – I have a bit of a jumpstart on this, as I’ve cleaned a goodly pile and picked some of it already.
  6. Stash all my yarn on Ravelry – yes, maybe I’ll get it completed this year… – Starting with 550
  7. Get competent purling continental. I think I need to have a dedicated project for this… maybe a washcloth. 🙂
  8. Make another 2 pairs of socks for myself (maybe I’ll get the next done before I wear holes in what I have?) This was one pair until a friend twisted my arm and said I should try for two – and one pair has to be top down, to boot! Bad thing here is that I also promised a pair to my daughter, so this means three pair this year, when I’ve never done more than one. Gulp!
  9. Finish at least 3 of the projects currently languishing in my WIP/UFO tubs – items started before July 1, 2009. This one will also be a challenge. I love the stuff in my UFO tub, even though it’s all pretty good at inducing guilt. I’ve found that designing really slows down the knitting, though, especially on other people’s patterns!

Other Creative Goals:

  1. Finish at least one of the remodeling projects… sigh… Acceptable candidates are the kitchen (which is in the impossible dream category), painting the door to my future studio (easy), or finishing the nook, laundry room, or my sewing room. Nook and laundry room both depend on hubby – most especially the nook – though I have a load of work to do in those two areas, too.
  2. Organize my computer photos, then print and label as I think necessary. I’m rereading this and laughing at the thought of actually getting it done, but…
  3. Spend at least a few minutes every week making music – LOVE doing this, but I’ve really ignored this part of my life for the last few years. Looking for a flute – like I need more instruments around here?
  4. Learn my new camera – for starters, needing to know why I can’t take a decent close up with a camera that cost this much!
  5. Make up a Gail Wilson kit – see mini goal #2
  6. Finish Reba – poor thing! Her sisters were finished in 2006 (pix in this album) but my teacher suddenly stopped classes with Reba just one firing away from being done. Every attempt I’ve made to get her fired since then has ended in failure. Need to get a kiln up and going here so I don’t have to depend on anyone else.
  7. Make a pair of socks on my CSM – This could be anything from amazingly easy to a terrible headache, based on things I’ve heard. First task is getting the new needles and such that I need.
  8. Probably crazy, but I joined a Navajo style weaving Yahoo group, and now I have the bug to weave something, even if it’s small. I’m torn between tri-loom and Navajo style, but would adore trying both. One item is enough to qualify.
  9. Move one of my dolls from hospital patient status to display status – maybe Aaron, so he can show off his adorable knitted romper? He is on this page.

Personal Goals – and these tend to have a very familiar ring to them:

  1. End the year 25 pounds lighter than I started it. Why is this so hard?!
  2. Read 100 books
  3. End the year debt free – both money and promises made
  4. Go somewhere new – state or country. I have a life goal of visiting all 50 states and all 7 continents, and I need to keep at it if I’m going to succeed!
  5. Clean out one of my email accounts – frighteningly big project, but I’ve made a lot of progress already in the first two days of the year. It’s amazing how quickly this can fall behind again, though.
  6. I have a challenge with a friend to blog at least once each week
  7. Solidly memorize the scripture verses on my calendar
  8. Get the treadmill inside – Sounds like no big deal, but it’s going to need cleaned up, and the area where it belongs is packed solid with things that don’t belong where they are – which aren’t where they belong because their spots are filled with stuff that doesn’t belong where it is, which… well… you get the idea!

I Can’t Shake the Feeling…

No matter how many times I started to write this post over the last few days, I just can’t shake this feeling of being a hamster. Lest you think I’m totally nuts… well…

If you’ve ever had a pet hamster, you may have noticed that they have an inborn hobby of trying to find a way out of the confines of their cages. Let’s face it, though. The average hamster’s life consists on eating, sleeping, and running endlessly on a wheel going nowhere, and that’s not what God designed them to do. Originally, they had to hunt for food, escape predation, and seek safe shelter, which would be more than enough to keep them busy full time. So, our little caged buddies want a life. Can you blame them? Of course they want to escape that existance in a confined box! And when they get out, they vanish into thin air. I don’t quite know how it is that captive born hamsters are so good at it with no training or practice, but once they are out, they excel at avoiding capture. I don’t like it when I’m trying to be the captor, but you do have to admire that trait, if you think about it…

Anyway, if you’ve managed to recapture one of these furry convicts and plunked them down into a freshly cleaned cage after they’ve been out for a few days, you’ve seen them painstakingly explore every square inch to scope out what sort of damage you’ve done to their home, then brisky set about putting it back in order, hiding the best bits of food in one corner, excavating another to reproduce the perfect bed, and, of course, check every nook and cranny just in case there’s an opening they didn’t know about. Then, most likely exhausted, your wee friend curls up in a little ball and goes to sleep.

Perhaps you’ve already gone there with me, but I’m going to say it anyway. I think that most of us live in a cage of our own – four corners, eat, sleep, run on the wheel, and dream of getting out. I don’t think we were really designed for this any more than a hamster. I was unquestionably looking for an escape a month ago. (Well, actually before that, but by the end of July, I was getting pretty desperate – totally sick of anything to do with paint cans or mouse poo.) Along came the Ravelympics, and seeing the opening, I bolted! What a grand feeling to get out of my cage and avoid anything much resembling real life. It felt incredibly good – even if, like the escaped hamster, I missed out on a few meals.

Then it was over. I was caught and plunked back into the cage. Sigh… However, there actually was a bit comfort in going back to normal, whether I want to admit it or not. The first week I dug busily into some of the neglected chores and email, and reassessed where I stood on some of the remodeling projects. And, of course, I cast on my new knitting projects. All in all, I was doing a pretty good job of getting my nest squared away, and though I still wouldn’t mind knitting all day, it wasn’t all that bad.

Until September hit, it wasn’t that bad. I’m not going to go into all the past week brought, but it started out with my brakes going out with no warning when I changed my mind about passing a driver who was putting down a country road and ended with a YahooGroup nightmare that reduced me to tears, and those were just the bookends. Now I’m looking very hopefully toward this coming week, praying for something better!

I do have some things to share here, but will spread them out over the next few days. However, now that I’ve talked at least one of your ears off – or whatever happens to people who read long blog entries – I do want to brag just a bit about my hurdle just crossed (at long last!) You may have noticed that my sewing room project really got logged down shortly after my daughter went home. That’s because I headed back into the corner where I have my sewing desk – and where the mice must have held nightly beer parties, from the looks of things. Not only did they explore every square inch of everything that was out in the open – and there was plenty of that to explore – but they also managed to get inside every closed drawer, which isn’t a pretty picture when you are talking about a sewing desk crammed full of thread and sewing tools and such. If I were rich enough, I’d have opened the drawers, taken an inventory, employed a dumpster, then gone to the store and replaced it all. However, that option wasn’t… well… and option. :o( Instead, I got to pick the stuff out, wash it, sanitize it, scrub the drawers, and reload them at a cost of about 2 hours per drawer. And then there was all that stuff on top… All told, the time investment was at least 14 hours just for the desk and its contents, and I’ve not yet put away everything that I decided didn’t belong in there with my new organization. However, as of last night, my sewing desk has gone from this:

to this!

And for the record, everything you see in the second photo was in the first photo… Nasty, eh? Any wonder I feel mighty good to have it done? :o)

BTW, all the drawers are clean, tidy, and closed!

Published in: on September 8, 2008 at 11:05 am  Comments (2)  
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And They Said It Couldn’t Be Done!

Okay… I’m slowly creeping back into something resembling normal for me life, and hope I’ll be able to do a little better about blogging again. I have loads of posts mentally waiting for life! There was a huge let down after DD#1 went home – not surprising, considering the frenetic pace for the weeks preceding and including her visit. Right now, I have no question what I’m wanting to share though. I was going to wait until it was entirely finished, but I just can’t keep quiet any longer!

For many years, I’ve fantasized about keeping the cats out of the front room that I’m claiming as a studio. So long as the cats had access, it was an impossibility to have a work area in there – or for that matter, to even clean the space up. It was once quite neatly organized, but for some reason, they took a fondness to the place and have endeavored to totally destroy it, clearing shelves, dumping boxes, and doing far more indelicate things than I care to mention. Every time I’ve taken so much as a single step to clean up what has turned into a nightmare, they just discovered they had access to even more destructibles, and I finally threw up my hands in total frustration, and to save my sanity, stopped even going into the place, as it inevitably reduced me to tears.

About 5 years ago, I suddenly got the idea that I could put a door on that room – and the job would be simple enough I could do it myself. There were a few small problems with which to deal, however. The biggest challenge was simply that there had never been a door in that opening – and neither side was a traditional doorway. Instead, there was an opening into the front room, on one side flanked by a 3foot long wall and the other 15″ of wall that ended in a graceful, Italianate curve.

At floor level, I was dealing with a very wide, flat molding which couldn’t be removed, because it is the original plaster molding, and I wasn’t about to destroy something like that.

When I started looking online for how-to’s, I came up with about three jillion sites telling me  how to stick a pre-hung door into a normal doorway, and not one site with the imagination to solve my problem. SO, I posed my problem, complete with photos of the space, to the boards on the This Old House site. I got answers alright – basically telling me I was nuts and couldn’t do what I wanted. Night after night I sat here looking at that doorway just beyond the computer thinking and plotting, and I finally was sure I knew how to manage it. I got prices at Lowe’s for the door, lumber, and hardware – about $450 – but DH adamantly refused to finance it, and it seemed there was always something bumping the purchase into second place… a doll… a trip… a barrister bookcase… However…

After two years of cleaning the litter box in there and watching the room continue to deteriorate, suddenly this spring, DH actually told me to get a door! After I came out of my dead faint, I practically ran to Lowe’s, terrified he would change his mind if I didn’t act instantly. Unfortunately, life (at least as I seem to experience) is seldom that simple… In the five years since I window shopped doors, Lowe’s has changed suppliers – several times. I was told I could no longer purchase the door of my dreams in the odd size required by the opening. I actually manged to get clear out of the store before I started crying! But I didn’t give up… Within 5 minutes, I’d come up with a few other options and started making phone calls. A friend of DH’s found one for me, but the price was $900 – a definite no go. Then DD#2’s former minister gave me the contact that got me on budget – just $400! I wasted no time giving him the down payment and the exact measurements of the hole, with him assuring me that it was his job to know what size door to have built. Toughest part was waiting the 6 weeks for it to actually get here – especially since I’d wanted it installed before we started the papering. I thought it would be nice to be able to move things from the sewing room to my new fantasy safe spot.

Life isn’t meant to be easy… (Yes, this is a reprise.) The door was delivered 2 days after my birthday – June 30th to be exact – giving us just 2 days to get it installed before the messy work was supposed to start at the other end of the hallway. I was a little surprised to see just how big a door looked out of its hole, but what a lovely sight it seemed. It was hard for me not to just stand outside staring at it all afternoon!

DH was primed to get busy on it instantly after supper, but he was only on the job for a couple of minutes when he came to me with the horrifying news that the door was not only much too narrow, but also far too tall! So much for trusting the expert… I’m not quite sure how, but I kept my head. It might have been a bit more difficult if the salesman who sold it to me hadn’t been over an hour away at the time, though. I kept thinking about “6 more weeks” and getting this nasty knot in my stomach… then thought to call the man who had given me the recommendation originally. He does doors professionally and works with the company all the time. Perhaps I was missing something? Well… no, I wasn’t. Turns out the reason the price quote had been so good is that the salesman had just quoted for the standard door that was closest to the size of my opening rather than the custom built he had told me I was getting. I wasn’t amused. He agreed I had a right to send it back, but gave me a second idea… call Mark, who frames doors for a living. Not only was Mark home, but he was coming into town and said he’d not mind looking at it. He did a lot more than that, though. He showed up in his work truck with all his tools, and proceeded to cut the door down to size for us, refusing to take a penny for his time. It’s such a blessing to have good Christian friends who walk their talk. :o) DH decided he could shim the sides, and Mark gave him some installation pointers.

Though the door didn’t go in as quickly as either of us could have hoped (Yeh… life isn’t easy…), it is now solidly in place and waiting for paint. :o)

Now, if you would like to know what we did to make this work, it’s really quite easy. We put in a frame around the potential doorway, securing it to the walls with the appropriate fasteners, and starting it directly above the top of the molding.

After removing the doors, the frame was set into the new doorway and shimmed into place, with care taken to make all faces properly level. Once it was as close to perfect as possible, the frame was then secured to the doorway that we’d built.

Doors were reattached, holes drilled for the double dummy knobs, which are normal antique knobs installed without the workings, which weren’t needed with the ball-catch closure and would have cost a lot more, and the plates and knobs were installed.

The last step was fitting a casing around the double frame, fitting it to the wall and giving a finished look.

I’ve primed the wood (Yes, I’m sloppy, and yes, this is the same shot as before – and the baseboard WILL be painted!), but still have to do the actual painting and touch up, and once that’s done, I’ll be able to take that white plastic off the windows and decide what sort of curtains to add.

And they said it couldn’t be done!

Published in: on July 29, 2008 at 10:57 am  Comments (2)  
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Second Thoughts

So, I’m putting primer around the half window in my sewing room last night, and as I worked toward the right hand side, suddenly found myself face to face with this…

an arachnid nursery. And not just one, but two fairly large by Ohio standards, and seriously ugly, female spiders flaunting their reproductive abilities just inches from my nose. Apologies to those of you who are fond of the creatures, but I’ve just never managed to warm up to spiders – and the bigger they are, the less happy I am to see them. These gals didn’t even have webs – which makes me all the more nervous. I made a mental note to ask DH to do something about them ASAP, as the thought of hundreds of teeny spiders with the potential to grow as large as their mothers, hatching out at the edge of the window didn’t thrill me at all. After washing out my paint brush, I went back in to take a photo of the girls, so I could disgust or enrapture my readers, depending on their personal tastes, and much to my shock, I found one of the eight-legged creepers gone without a trace – egg sac and all – and the other resettling herself in a new position. That’s when it dawned on me that I would do well to rethink my plans for the next couple of days. I’d fully intended to crack the window open a bit so I could paint it without worrying about it sticking closed. For some reason or other, I’ve suddenly had second thoughts about that idea… and I won’t even talk about the rather severe goosebump problem I’ve developed…

As for the window, the former-homeowner-paneling-addict lined the recessed opening around the half window with paneling, neatly aligning the grooves with what was on the wall, then edging it with real plastic molding.

Paint and real wood moldings was the obvious rescue solution, so I pulled everything out of the window, spent a half hour scrubbing 30 years of grime off the frame, then smiled sweetly at DH, who graciously packed the grooves with wood filler. I sanded it all smooth yesterday, washed all the dust off everything for about a 6 foot radius around the window (sigh), and, of course, have now started painting. I can’t wait to compare before and after photos, but for the moment, this is all I have.

I also now know beyond the shadow of a doubt that I’d have never finished the task had I decided to fill the grooves on all the paneling in the room. I would have gone stark raving mad first!

And, I have to brag a bit about one thing that I’ve finished with several days of work. Remember the possum belly that I avoided showing in photos – the one that was cluttered beyond belief, more than 12″ deep in some spots? I’m happy to report that it now looks like this!

Too bad that I have a sewing desk that is even worse off than the possum belly and has to be cleaned up before I can do any more walls – meaning pretty much immediately (another deep sigh…). I will leave the current condition to your imagination, but I will say that my not so darling little mousy friends apparently partied not only all through the clutter on top, but figured out how to negotiate the closed drawers as well. I’m really not too happy about that – and not all that excited to go through and clean it all for that matter. However, it’s not the sort of stuff one just tosses to the trashman and replaces easily, so I guess I’m going to have to grin and bear it. I still think it is thoroughly unfair that in this cluttered house, I’m forced to clean mouse mess out of the tidily organized drawers. (Am I allowed to sigh three times in one post?) Shouldn’t there be some sort of immunity for things that are put away properly?

Published in: on July 16, 2008 at 9:54 pm  Comments (2)  
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Three Ring Circus

No, the paint fumes didn’t finish me off – yet – and both DH and I are still alive, despite some rocky days at sweat equity central. Thanks to those who have written worried, though. I’ve not posted lately for two reasons. One is that it was getting a bit depressing to have such tiny changes to show for so much work, and the other is that now I can legally claim that this place has turned into a three ring circus. Yes, there are now three very active, moderately big, totally unrelated remodeling projects happening simultaneously, despite the fact that we are but two people, and beyond that, I have this strange desire to do things like eat, sleep, and check my email…

So, what’s happening around here at the moment? Well, the nook is still creeping slowly forward. There are actually four cupboard doors hanging, though one is coming down again so DH can see if he can get it to be hanging in a more acceptable fashion. Rather a shame to mount a new door only to have it look precisely as if it’s hung there for the last 150 years warping. :o(

3 of 4 doors, waiting for latches. Also have the right lower door hung. We are officially out of hinges, so I have to order the last couple pair – soon!

I’ve yet to resolve the hardware crisis, the only logical choices not being anything like what I love and have visualized from the start. However, if I don’t buy something tonight, I believe lack of metal will officially shut down progress. Not good. Yesterday I applied sanded texturizing paint (a first for me) to the only big wall panel that is removable. It looks great – only complaint being that I did a more artistic job than the people who did the real walls, so it isn’t a perfect blend. I think I can get away with it once it’s painted. Besides, it’s inside a cupboard, so who will be looking?

The second ring of our circus is the resuscitation of the laundry room project, which laid dormant for about 6 months after I had to quit working due to all the traveling I did at the end of last year. Since I’m to a part that isn’t so much fun for me, and I’ve had more than enough to occupy my time anyway, it wasn’t particularly easy to get back on task. However, I finally reached a point where I just couldn’t bear having the deep freeze out of place and in the middle of everything any longer, so I sealed the first section of tile, we moved the freezer, and I set up for the next segment. Tiling a floor this way is the pits. I’d sure love to be able to do the whole thing in one sitting, but there is just no way to move all those appliances out of there. Besides, I think my body would never forgive me. ;o) This past weekend, I laid the second section of tile, carefully planned to allow passage through the room, which is a major thoroughfare.

28 new tiles ready to be cleaned & sealed. Note the necessity of hiding the old, stained floor…

The mortar seems to be set, so next step is to clean up a couple days of fur accumulation and seal the terracotta before grouting. The new adhesive worked far better than the original stuff, which took about 2 weeks to dry, so despite the fact that it is harder to work with and a pain to clean up, I guess it was a good move.

My sewing room is the third act – both the oldest and newest project. When we moved in 25 years ago, the whole house was starting to look quite tired of itself. It had been decorated very much in the style of the 1970’s – approximately 100 years out of character – and even then I wasn’t fond of the look – or the tastes of the previous owners. What I claimed as my sewing room was one of the two worst, though. The layout of the room is odd, giving it eight walls. One end has a three wall bay, and the other end has a corner cut out for the doorway. (I’m just telling you that so you don’t start adding up the numbers and thinking I’m nuts.) The bay was wallpapered in a flocked paper with an overall striped look, golden yellow, deep cream, and gray. Three walls were painted a light green leaning slightly toward the blue side of the spectrum, and all the woodwork was painted a substantially darker version of the same. The remaining two walls, including the longest wall in the room, were covered with a dark brown, very fake looking wood paneling. Add carpet that is perhaps avocado gold and a window treatment of crisp, very white, Cape Cod curtains, and reddish brown, natural wood shutters, and it ends up being a cacophony of color that offended my senses enough to make me brave my first ever attempt at redecorating.

Remnants of original paint and wallpaper with replaced curtains.

I removed the Cape Cods to my daughter’s bedroom directly above, which had been fitted with heavy, dark, drapes, definitely not fitting for a baby’s room, and put creamy lace curtains in the sewing room – one less color and such a relief! After a couple years of nagging didn’t convince DH to paint, I decided I surely could do that myself, so bought a bucket of paint that matched the lightest stripe in the wallpaper, and set to work removing a second color – the green walls and woodwork. In the process, about halfway through the project, I threw my back out, and wasn’t able to finish – or for that matter, move normally for quite a few years. By the time I could have done anything, I’d lived here long enough to start feeling what the house wanted to be, so had totally reformulated my plans for the room. (Okay, and I learned how to wallpaper, so had a whole new realm of possibilities!) I bought paper I adored about 6-7 years ago, and it’s been waiting in a box ever since, looking for the day that I could have a good helper…

Enter, DD#1… She’ll be home on furlough in a couple of weeks, and in discussing plans for her brief visit, I commented that it would be fun to do a special project and would she like to hang some wallpaper. She grabbed eagerly to the idea, saying it would be fun. Fifteen minutes later, I found myself looking at my sewing room wondering what I’d done.

This is where I’m starting – avoiding showing 99% of the clutter

Since it has one of the few doors in the house, it had become a repository for things that need protected from the cats, and “sewing room” had drifted to more of a title of habit than reality. The fact that the cats didn’t have access was not wasted on the mice who invaded the house a few years ago when DD#2 proved to be an apt hostess by providing a never ending feast in her bedroom. Between the mountains of stored clutter and mouse mess and destruction, I was facing a disaster area. Even worse, with the nook project recently reborn and the laundry room still torn up, and the lack of safe zones for breakables, there just wasn’t a reasonable way to approach a clean up – very overwhelming!

However… I really want that room, so as the days before her furlough started vanishing, I ditched “reasonable” and just started picking at the project, hoping that I would receive bits of enlightenment along the way. It quickly became obvious that pulling out the carpet was mandatory – even though it can only be done a few square feet at a time.

The first patch of bare floor – yippee!!!!

I’ve been slowly working a path through the room, clearing sections of carpet to remove, rearranging all the stuff I can’t take out in an attempt to buy space. Last night the bay was cleared out, and I took the frightening, but decisive step of yanking down as much wallpaper as I could access. It came off easily, revealing an extremely ugly wall, blotched in several areas with mold, which was a bit of a surprise, but I think is old history.

Looks like it’s straight out of a This Old House makeover article!

I also found the mouse hole – which, of course, wasn’t nearly so cute as the ones in the Tom & Jerry cartoons…

Grrrr!!! I don’t mind them chewing the carpet so much, but did they have to eat the molding?

I look at the room and count the 12 days until my helper arrives, and I find myself a little overwhelmed by all that needs to be done. The mantle (retro-mounted by us a few years ago, and hanging over a large portion of the wallpaper) needs to be taken out, mold needs to be removed, the walls washed, patched, and primed, areas adjacent to the area to be papered should be painted – including two big windows, 3 high shelves on the long paneled wall must be unloaded and come down, along with all their hardware, the paneling needs to be scuff sanded, washed and primed – all this with the room filled to the gills with stuff that currently has no place to go. (Did I mention the big possum belly baking cupboard and the loaded steel shelving unit that are in the way?) I have no idea how this is all going to happen, but I suspect it would help if I had a “crew” and/or the body and stamina I had when I was 25…

Starting in the Middle

Some years back – 5… 6… 7… ??? – a comment from a friend started a dream growing in my mind. One end of our family room had what we always called “the nook” – a recessed area which housed the TV that we turn on once every year or two. The area had really started to bother me, as it felt a bit like a shrine to something that we didn’t even hold in high esteem, and the area around our tiny set had turned into a somewhat unsightly storage area for our substantial media library – the largest portion of which was music. I’d been at a loss for many years as to how to store all this modern paraphernalia in a way that wasn’t such a major eyesore in our Victorian home. Enter Norm… While trying to help me decipher what might have been the original architecture in our rather obviously rearranged downstairs, he tapped on the plastic wood wall of the nook and commented that it sounded to him as if we had a lot of good storage space going to waste.

I took that comment and ran with it! In no time, I’d sketched out a concept that removed the much hated paneling and turned the hidden areas into cupboards. Then I added bi-fold doors and more custom built storage in the current nook to my design, and I was giddy with excitement and enthusiasm for the project. Not only would it resolve storage problems and dispose of two big, ugly monsters, but it would be like pulling a cork out of a bottle to help with some other difficult situations in the house. Before long, I’d arranged a loan and had a contractor coming to quote framing in the area for me. Then I got cut off at the pass. DH decided that he was going to do the job. This would save me a lot of money, but it also meant that it was going to be a long time coming.

Eventually I will find the starting date. I know it’s been at least 3 years now, and possibly longer. The project went swimmingly well in the beginning, but then ground to a halt. In fact, it hadn’t been touched for two and a half years – until today…

About two or three weeks ago, DH nearly gave me a heart attack by announcing that he was taking a week off work in May to finish the nook. Despite the fact that this threw a huge monkey wrench in my own rather major plans for May and June, I’m no fool. ;o) However, in the many months since the last happening in there, I started using the space. (In this house, empty space isn’t a luxury I can afford right now.) In order to have enough elbow room to work in the nook at all, some major excavating was required, and we spent quite a few hours over the past few weeks doing just that, only Tuesday night getting to the point that work could start Wednesday – the first day he had off. (Translation – still more digging to do…)

Here’s somewhat of an idea as to what has happened, since the real beginning pix are on the old computer. (Click to enlarge.)

Click to enlarge

When we started, this area was covered in paneling on the front and lining the recessed area, which was just slightly larger than the area you see open in the photo. We resized the opening just a bit to fit the available bi-fold doors. When we removed the paneling, we discovered that this had been a walk through to what is now my sewing room, and there had once been closet shelves on each side of the passage. It’s impossible to know which incarnation of the house that would have actually been, but it was a fascinating discovery.

In addition to reframing the center area, the upper portion has now been built in and floored with half inch plywood, and the old recessed light was removed. I painted as we went, so the ceiling and walls in the top cupboard and all other areas that are now enclosed and inaccessible are properly painted. We got walls up to partition the side cupboards from the center space, and lined everything with wood that will be primed, texturized to match the rest of the room, and painted. Only the areas inside the smaller cupboards are done to that level at this point.

Okay, now we are to day one of this construction period… aka, making lemonade out of lemons. The side cupboards had been designated as storage areas for the audio/visual library. Facing the nook, the left side was great – huge gaping emptiness. The right side made me cry! Although it had sounded hollow, we discovered that in the original house, there had been a wall – most likely an outer wall – that came in and turned a corner, ending hidden behind the paneling. Although open in the back, it comes across about two thirds of the front of the opening and is about 8″ thick.

In the matter of a heartbeat, I lost half of my storage drawers, and I have to say that was pretty devastating. We’ve recouped as much as possible by building in an open shelving area accessible from the main cupboard, and the side cupboard will still be able to hold a few movies on top and either TV trays or folding chairs in the bottom – not the same, but at least not a complete waste. Sadly, the brick wasn’t nice enough to leave exposed, and it would have chewed our knuckles and anything else we tried to slide in there, so today DH did some pretty tricky cutting around all the lumps and bumps of existing construction and old bricks to make a sheath for the old wall. I thoroughly sanded and primed both sides of the two pieces, and he installed it tonight and puttied the screwholes, which will need to be sanded and primed tomorrow.

Meanwhile, while he was out cutting, I realized that if I wanted an easy job of painting the ceiling in that area, I’d be best off doing it before there was woodwork to worry about not splashing, so I forced my poor knees up the ladder and brush-painted a three foot wide swath the full width of the room – an activity I’m paying for dearly tonight! My painting muscles are most definitely out of shape, and I can hardly move! I was most distressed when I put this picture on the computer. Nothing like the good, clear light of a flash to reveal what the incandescent bulb doesn’t. Obviously I have more time on a ladder in my near future. You can compare old and new ceiling if you look at the unpainted area in the lower right hand side of the photo.

The new ceiling paint is actually a nice sage green. Odd as it seems, it looks white once the walls are painted the correct color – a trick I learned from Christopher Lowell and use in all my rooms. It helps the light show evenly throughout the room instead of glaring off the ceiling unnaturally, and it really looks fantastic.

Published in: on May 22, 2008 at 10:05 am  Comments (2)  
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