Monday, February 23, 2015

A Million Thanks

It seems like a million years ago that I wrote this post. And at the same time I can't believe the benefit for my sister has come and gone. I also can't believe that I'm still tired (or else it's the onset of a cold I fought off last week only to feel it trying to creep in yesterday). Last week started with lots of driving to pick up last-minute donations and drop off tickets and things like that. That led to hours of wrapping and sign-making and ticket sorting and list-ticking off. And it ended with a snow storm. Would you stinkin' believe it? How many weeks have I been saying I want a great big pile of snow, and gotten nil? Well, Saturday we had quickly accumulating snow all afternoon. There were questions of "Should we cancel?" (no, we can't) and "Do you think people will come?" (heavens, I hope so!).

We were able to get into the event site a few hours early to make sure everything was just right. We were overly organized (thanks to my sister and her amazing list-making skills) and had an hour to pace the floor and stare at each other. We kept checking Facebook, and worrying that people would stay away (after a few cancellations from some long-haulers). But there was no need to worry. The magic hour arrived, and so did loads of folks. And the frenzy never stopped. It was absolutely amazing.

The calm before the storm. I love just being still in the moments leading up to an event, whether it's something like this or our annual Christmas party. It's like the room knows what is about to happen and is just waiting, with an almost palpable excitement bouncing off of the walls.

I only took a few pics toward the beginning as we were here, there and everywhere as the night wore on. I think we had about fifty fewer people than anticipated due to the weather, but we still an amazing turnout.

My friend Megan (we've known each other since third grade) made the cake based on the flyer we sent out. Doesn't it look great? And it didn't taste too bad either, lemme tellya.

We had this in the hallway so folks would hopefully tag any event photos so we could find them easily. These are chalkboard markers on a blackboard. If those kinds of markers had existed when I was younger I would have covered my bedroom walls in blackboard paint and never left the room except to buy more markers.

I know, the photos aren't exactly inspiring, but the evening was amazing. People I haven't seen in years came out to show their support. Some came from quite a distance, braving some quite serious elements. Others walked from not that far away. There were hugs everywhere, desserts that were amazing (and that I may have eaten as breakfast and lunch yesterday as we could take them home), dancing, laughing, and that level of excitement and warmth and love that you could almost reach out and touch. The comments we received from folks who came were lovely--ranging from "I've never been to something quite like it!" to "Damn! You guys are a FAMily!" (which was my favorite as that one word 'family' conveys so much). Yes, we are quite a family, friends included.

My sincerest thanks to those of you who sent me items I was tempted to keep they were so beautifully made, thanks to those of you who donated funds, and thanks to those of you who sent well-wishes and happy thoughts and prayers. There is something about that feeling of community, no matter the type, that gives you the warm fuzzies. Some atrocious things have been happening in the world lately, but this has reminded me that most people, the ones who don't make the evening news or the FBI's most wanted list, are good, good folks. They're kind, they're generous, they want to help, they care. Thank you for being those kinds of people.

And most importantly, I suppose, we brought in enough money that the worry of those medical bills has receded. Which, when I think back to the level of love in that room on Saturday night, seems like a nifty side effect instead of the main purpose of the whole affair.

Now that all of that craziness is part of history, hopefully this blog will return to regularly scheduled programming.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Lately

Lately it has been cold here. We even had some light snow. We're supposed to get some more tonight. And a little more on Saturday. It's about time (though it can hold off on Saturday as that's the day of the benefit for my sister).


Lately Z-man has grown up. He came in on Thursday with flowers and candy. He handed me my most favorite candy and said "Here. These are the good flavors. Not those weird ones you buy." He and I have a lengthy debate going on over who makes the best candy hearts--Necco or everyone else. He says everyone else. I say I don't care, just give me the candy!


Lately I ate this doughnut. When a co-worker texts you to get your cup of tea ready and you have an inkling why, and then he walks in the door with a box of these you don't ask questions. You send your calls to voice mail and delight in the deliciousness.


Lately I've been doing my nails. I've been trying nail wraps. You heat them with a hair dryer, stick them to your nails, and trim. I keep holding my hands out and staring at them as I'm so used to never having polish or anything on my nails. The best thing is once I'm done I can go off and do things without worrying about smudges.


Lately I've been frogging. I started a simple crochet shrug to have something to wear with my sleeveless dress to my cousin's wedding next month (I'm always worried I'll be freezing, and my current choices are a cardigan that would not work and a zippered hoodie). I made the sleeves two different lengths and had to rip almost all the way to the beginning. But I'm on track now. I think this yarn is going to be fabulous with my navy blue dress (but I can't get the colors to show properly--they look like the night sky and even have built-in sparkly star threads for a proper twinkle effect).


Lately it was Valentine's Day and a bunch of us went out for heart-shaped pizza (fuzzy pic due to dim lighting :) It was a fabulous night, and the snow was falling when we left the restaurant. No picture, but it was soft and beautiful. You don't need jewelry and roses to enjoy Valentine's Day, even if your valentines are a baker's dozen of your family members.


Lately my brain has been in overdrive with the benefit coming up for my sister and wondering if we've got all the bases covered. So I am going to go fill my brain with chain-1 spaces and double crochets instead (and hopefully finish the shrug that I've now made almost twice).

Stay warm!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Quick and Easy Lanyard Tutorial

Hello there! How's tricks? Things have been quite busy around here. We've got just a couple of weeks left until the benefit for my sister, and it's all head counts and donation organization and tiny details and a dash of stress to add to the mix. But in an odd way it's great fun helping to organize such a positive thing, and seeing how good will can almost literally shine forth from people. I suppose sometimes we need a pretty bad thing to remind us that we all belong to each other and that none of us fights through this world alone. Silver linings and all that jazz...

Anyway, during one of our meetings we decided that those of us working the affair should be identifiable in some manner. Hats were vetoed by the girls, as were t-shirts (who wants to cover their outfit, haha?). So we decided on lanyards (say that word several times--isn't it an annoying word? Lanyard. Laaaaanyard. Laaanyaaaard. Right? Anyway...). I volunteered to sew those up as I had an abundance of clips/hooks on hand, and Joann's coupons in my purse (two yards of fabric will make eighteen of these, by the way). I spent Saturday behind my sewing machine (the first stitchery in two months!!!!) and churned out oodles of these things. They're so quick and easy I took photos to do a quick and easy tutorial for you.

First you have to decide how wide you want your lanyard to be. My choice was easy as I had one-inch lobster clips on hand, so my lanyards would finish at one inch wide to fit through the loop. Therefore, I needed a four inch wide strip of fabric, with a length of forty inches (it ends up being just the right length on your body). You'll also need a clip (it doesn't matter what kind as long as it will fit your desired size lanyard).

Lavender is the color for Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Fold and press the strip in half lengthwise.

Fold and press each raw edge towards that center fold you just made.

Fold in half and press again--your raw edges on the long sides are tucked inside.

Feed the strip through  your hook. Being careful not to twist anything, put the short edges right sides together and pin. Check again that you're not twisted.

Sew that edge with a 3/8 inch seam allowance. Do a final check for any twisting.

Press that seam open.

Fold and repress the strip as pressing the seam open most likely flattened things a bit.

Top-stitch as close to the edge as you feel comfortable. I moved my needle as far to the right as it would go and lined up the edge with the 1/4 inch mark to have a line of stitching that is 1/16 - 1/8 inch from the edge. Top-stitch all the way around on each side, back-stitching to keep things secure. Slide the clip out of the way as you go.

Add as many rows of stitching as you'd like. I kept it simple as I had so many to churn out at once, but if I didn't I'd have most likely added another two rows of stitching as I like a more heavily quilted look.

I like to position my clip at the seam line like so...

...and then lower my foot as close as I can to the clip. My needle is still way to the right, allowing me to get as close as I can to the clip ring. Sew across.

Boom. I love top-stitching. 

And there you have it. 

One of these takes about ten minutes to make, so they'd be great for quick gifties (think of all the fabric options to personalize these!), and they're so simple that even the newest of sewists can easily make one. I didn't add interfacing to these, but if I was going to I would take a strip of woven fusible interfacing half the width of my fabric strip and fuse it straight down the center on the wrong side of the fabric. For something like this I don't really think it's necessary, though. I also probably would not make these as wide if I didn't have a mysterious abundance of clips this size (seriously--I don't remember buying that many)--I would probably stick with a half-inch finished width (meaning a two-inch wide strip of fabric to start--you can't make too much with that little but you can make one of these!) and a half-inch clip. 

One thing I will mention, though: if you have concerns about this getting caught on something (as it's meant to be worn around the neck) they do sell break-away clips that pop open under tension. I've never used them, and I don't know that they'd work for this particular tutorial, but I figured I'd wax responsible and mention it in case it's something you'd like to check out.

These are going to clip onto name tags, so I made a few of those, too. I simply printed labels, stuck them onto some extra comic book backing boards (I normally use them to make mini bolts of fabric), and trimmed. Not fancy, but cute and purpose-serving.


And just in case it's not stuck in your head yet...laaaaaaaanyard. Laaaanyard. Right?? Yeah, that's annoying.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Thirteen

Do you know where you were thirteen years ago? I do. I know exactly where I was. I was in a local billiards hall (and no it doesn't just sound seedy, it was seedy but it was one of those situations where you kind of have a crush on a guy and you're hanging out, so you figure you'll just go wherever even though normally you'd say "Ew! Not there!" but you have a crush so you try to be a good sport...?). OK, so that's where I was. I was most likely bored out of mind. And then, at around 10:00, the call came. I had a nephew. I was actually with several of my brother's friends at this hall (yes, I had a crush-ish on one of them) so we all left that seedy place for another to have a celebratory drink (don't judge me OK? I've grown since then :) So Z's Aunt Bee has a real classy story about where she was when he was born. But on to my point. My little guy is thirteen!!!! Teeeeeennn!!! As in teenager! Ack!!!


This was on Sunday at my brother's house. We always have a combined Super Bowl-birthday party, and he doesn't mind as he hates being the center of attention but likes being acknowledged so it works out perfectly. To get him to pose for a picture is tough as at the last second he always throws in some crazy face, so I had to be a sneak. Look at the grown-uppiness of it--the posture, the casual game playing, the hat, the 'sideburns' as this kid has a ridiculous amount of hair that grows ridiculously fast.


Somehow my sister Alicia managed to get this shot of him in between looking bored and being silly.

I don't care how old he gets. This is how I always 'see' him--


Thirteen. I have to go cry myself to sleep now over this. Which, coincidentally is how I went to bed when I turned thirteen. I was so very sad about growing up. I still feel that way.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Grown Up Toys: Knitting Needles

If anyone was wondering if it ever snowed last week...it did not. I mean, maybe two inches or so? So some, but not really. When I left work on Monday the forecast was for about a foot of snow. When I went to bed Monday night we were down to three inches. By the morning it was less than that. HowEVER, the mailman came. Oh yes he did!! So I guess one out of two ain't bad, eh?

So what was I waiting for? Well...knitting needles. I know, very exciting, very riveting. I've been doing a LOT of knitting over the past few months. And I've noticed that using straight needles for a long time kind of bothers me. So I pulled out my old set of interchangeable needles. They're OK, but the cords are kind of thick and stiff and get kinked up, and I spend more time trying to convince them to behave than I'd like. So I started looking for a new set. Holy cow, for a good set they are pricey!

My mother twisted my arm a little bit to buy them as it was a few days after Christmas and it didn't feel right to be spending so much money. Then I got a random email from my credit card company and I remembered that I've been accumulating points! And I could use them on Amazon! The decision was then easily made. I didn't realize they'd be coming from Germany, hence the month long wait. Do you know what that's like? I have become so spoiled by Amazon Prime shipping that this was a tough wait.

Anyhoodle, plop through the mail slot they did and oh my word was it worth the angst. I went for the Addi Click Turbo interchangeables. I think I had the box open before I had my coat off after work. I always thought aluminum needles were slick enough, but these are indescribable. I guess the closest comparison I can come up with is...remember in Christmas Vacation when Clark applied the non-caloric cooking spray to his sled and went for a fun ride until he ended up in a Walmart parking lot? They're slick like that. And very lightweight. You wouldn't think you'd notice on something small like a knitting needles, but you really can tell the difference.


They come in every size from US 4 through 15. And the cords? I feel funny using the word supple here, but that's what they are. No kinking, smooth and strong. Now I know why people rave about these things.


Instead of screwing together they have this twist and push mechanism that locks them in place.


I thought I was being smart and ordered a sixteen-inch cord to go with it, but there's a reason long-tip sets don't come with short cords...


It's because you can't knit smaller tubes with them. Not comfortably anyway. I tried, trust me, but it seemed like too much pressure on the ends that was going to make something snap. Wiggle room was not something I had considered....however, the lengths the kit does come with are perfect for magic loop knitting, so that's good. However, I dislike magic loop knitting because of all that back and forth and pulling through and all that. So I am ashamed to say (no, I did not return the needles as I am in love with them) that I went looking to see if there was a set of 16-inch needles I could buy. I could have purchased the same brand in short-tips, but I just didn't want to spend that money again. I did, however, come across a much cheaper option (for which I had just enough points remaining so these were kinda free, too).


These are the Knitter's Pride Dreamz 16-inch interchangeable needles. They are made of a tough, smooth wood and each size is a different color (the green needles are currently indisposed :) This kind does screw together, but they stay together. My old set would frequently unscrew, no matter how much of a talking-to I gave them about staying put. The cord is almost exactly the same size--


---but the tips are so much shorter--


I would never have thought that something like that would make a difference, but it really does. I've got an infinity scarf going that is almost halfway done, and it just flies along these things. There's no pulling or anything due to the cord and needle lengths.

Sooo....extravagant? Yes. Necessary? Not really. Nice to have? Absolutely. In all honesty, if I didn't have credit card points I could use for these they would have most likely ended up on a birthday wish list. But now I feel like I have needles for every single thing I could possibly think of making. I have DPNs, short circs, and regular circs. There is definitely an ergonomic difference from using straight needles and I can knit for a much longer time before I feel any fatigue (and that's usually my fingers asking for a stretch break) instead of my shoulders screaming.

Believe it or not they're forecasting more snow. When I left work on Friday it was 5 to 10 inches. Now there is potential for up to an inch of snow. Wowee. I better get the snow tires on the car and have the chains at the ready. The funny thing is they were so dang sure this was a snow-maker on Friday, and now they're all "Whoops...hehe...sorry."

My yarn order also came, so I'll have that to share as well. It's been a while since I made a blanket, so I'm looking forward to getting this one going. Have a good Monday, dearies!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

A Brief Note

Dear Mama Nat (aka Mother Nature)--


I get it. You tried. You made the newscasters act like things were about to get crazy, that roads were about to be slick, and that we should all stock up for the weekend.


Then you came for a brief visit overnight and were gone by early morning. On a Saturday. No chance for an early-out/late-in for work.


Now, I'm a reasonable person. I don't expect you to deliver another winter like last year every year (though I wouldn't complain--I enjoyed it all until about mid-March when it got a little tiresome).


But you can do better than this. I'll tell you what I'd like over the next few days. I'd like the mailman to get here with either my yarn or my new knitting needles so I can get on with the stitchery. And then I'd like you to do something with enough vigor to get me out of work on Tuesday.


And then you can go back to relaxing, okay? I just want one good storm. Deal?

Thanks in advance,
Bee

Monday, January 19, 2015

My Sweater Is No Longer Trying to Swallow Me Whole

On Christmas Eve afternoon I started a sweater. It felt like just the right time--later afternoon, Christmas movies on, tea nearby, a few cookies...


This is the Three Rectangles-Two Triangles Easy Knit Sweater Jacket from Very Pink. It uses a mock rib stitch that gives this fabulous texture on both sides. This is what is supposed to be the right side--


--but I think this could just as easily be the right side if you felt so inclined:


I opted for the first picture to be my right side as I can imagine myself getting those chunky purl bumps caught and pulled on everything. I spent a huge amount of Christmas vacation settled on the couch with bottomless mugs of tea and endless handfuls of these yummo chocolate covered pecan brittle bites, knitting and purling away.


I used Lion Brand Wool Ease Chunky in 'Fisherman' for this sweater, and I love the color and the texture it gives. It's one of those perfect winter colors that goes so well with everything.

I made the large size either completely overestimating the size of my bust or underestimating the amount of positive ease in this sweater (or, most likely, both). This sweater came out quite large and boxy as there is no shaping involved. It came out of the dryer so soft and squishy and cozy, and was one of the nicest sweater-seaming jobs I have ever done that I felt so stupid for making something way too large for a whole football team to wrap up in at once. I had woven in my ends nice and neat and couldn't find them again to make unraveling a consideration. I didn't want this to go to waste as I paid a bit for the yarn. So I put this aside to see what would happen. I mentioned at the end of this post that I was considering knitting up a belt, but there was so much fabric that a belt would have looked odd.

I didn't take a before shot, but you can imagine me looking like I was attacked by an afghan and lost the battle. But after some puttering about and consulting with one of my design executives (aka my mother) I knew what to do. I had to remove some of the bulk under the arms by pulling the extra fabric towards the front (as it was sticking out in the back in an odd way, too), so I created a bit of a false lapel and sewed it in place, and added some buttons for a bit of visual interest.


You can see how it lays nice and flat over my rump now. It is super hard to take a clear shot of yourself at a weird angle. I really need to get one of those remote timer thingees.


If I pull it all towards the front it meets up with the edges nice and flush. If I leave it more relaxed it opens to about here:


It was in the twenties here on Saturday and I threw on a scarf and gloves and wore this out to give it a whirl. It is so warm and cozy but without that restrictive feeling that a regular coat has. I keep feeling the urge to put my hands in the non-existent pockets, but I'll have to get over that. I know if I add pockets to this I'll have them stretched and distorted in no time. A lot of the bulk is gone from under the arms, and it's not so boxy looking. If I had made a smaller size from the beginning I wouldn't have had any issues, but I don't think this is too bad of a fix to not waste the yarn or the work.


The buttons looks like old antiqued wood, but they're plastic (washability is key around here). They're totally non-functional and I might need to move them around a little bit, or take one or two off, but they're good enough for now. And since I'm lazy in odd ways they'll probably stay that way.


I swear I can bench press a truck after making this thing as it's quite heavy. It was a fair bit of work, a little bit of money for the yarn, and a slight amount of frustration at the end, but it was very worth it as I really love the finished project. Apparently putting it aside and waiting for inspiration was key. Usually I'd get mad and shove it in a corner and sulk. Could it be I have matured? Geez, I hope not.

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