Monday, December 31, 2012

My Inspirational New Year's Post

I'm not a New Year's Resolution kind of person. I have vague memories of making resolutions as a kid that never made it past the first or second week of January. I know some people do resolutions, and a few are successful. For me, when it's time to make a life change, the change usually finds me.

Instead of creating grand, doomed-to-failure goals about how I will become the perfect, well-rounded person before February, I watch for opportunities for change throughout the year and take them when they come. I quit smoking in a random August three years ago because that's when I happened to find the right method (medication, if you want to know). I re-learned to knit because I was bored and was feeling the impulse to create something usable. You all know how that went. I joined a gym because an inexpensive one opened near my house. None of those changes depended on the calendar, and they've all been successful (so far--the gym membership is still in beta testing). 

And that's how it works for me. I think of something I want to do--it may have been percolating for months or years--and suddenly I know that NOW is the time, and I do it.

There are some new life changes that I'm getting ready to start or have just started. Less knitting, more reading is one. Before I was a fanatical knitter, I was a fanatical reader, and I miss that. So I decided recently that when the Christmas knitting was finished, I would knit less and read more. I've been spending my evenings with Lauren Groff's Arcadia this last week, and only knitting right before bed. And while riding in cars and waiting in restaurants and listening to basketball games on the radio. Okay, so there's still a whole lot of knitting.

I've also started writing in a more, shall we say, determined way, and no, I don't just mean blogging about Brewster's diarrhea. You can see only so many middle-of-the-road novels before you start wondering why other people are making an income at it and you aren't. So I've been working on the plot for a novel, and have an idea for a nonfiction book as well. I don't know if either of them will make it into the world (and please don't ask me about it because I will get all embarrassed), but it's been fun to work on and I have no plans to stop. I decided to work on writing back in October, and if I had waited until January 1 to start, I likely would have forgotten that I ever intended to try. 

So if you're tired of resolving to lose the same 10 pounds every year, join me, won't you? Shun the New Year's Resolution! Don't change one damn thing "starting tomorrow." Instead, make changes when they come to you. It works. I promise.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Bertie Sue's Grab Bag Sweater

On Saturday I realized three things: (1) There's no way the Christmas knitting will be finished by Christmas. It's just not happening, so there's no point in busting my rear over it. (2) It's going to be pretty nippy this week, with highs in the 20s. (3) Bertie Sue does not have her own sweater. She's been borrowing Brewster's ski coat, but it doesn't fit her very well.

So I dropped the Christmas knitting for about 6 hours to create Bertie Sue's Grab Bag Sweater.

In addition to being a grab-bag in the sense of using up yarn scraps, it's also kind of a grab-bag pattern. Following a real pattern just seemed like too much of a thing, so I cobbled together patterns I already had in my head. The nice, wide neck that doesn't squoosh tender doggy ears is actually the cast-on for the Nancy Lindberg Christmas Sock, and the increases for the leg holes are the thumb gusset from Ann Budd's Basic Glove Pattern. (Those are both Ravelry links. If you're not already a Ravelry member, you probably don't care anyway.)

Then I just kept knitting in the round until it was long enough under her tummy, cast off half the stitches, and then knit flat until it was long enough to cover the puppy butt. Generally, Bert was patient with the try-on sessions, but there was a point on Saturday night where she had had enough, so she started demonstrating some pretty effective passive resistance.

Don't worry about Brewster. In addition to the aforementioned ski coat, he has a warm hoodie and two store-bought sweaters to keep his tushie warm. He won't be freezing this week, either.

Now, back to the Super Secret Christmas Knitting!

Happy Holidays from Chez Furry Pants! 
Stay Warm!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

I Think I'm Gonna Do It

Somehow the winter edition of Knitty came out without my noticing, and I just found it this morning. And I've spent the rest of the day periodically returning to the Rime's the Reason cardigan. I tried to talk myself out of it, but I think I'm going to do it anyway.

I'm going to have to buy all new yarn because I was planning to knit a sweater in bulky, and this is worsted weight. But I'm going to do it anyway.

I tend to dislike knitting cables. But I've finally decided that if I want to wear beautiful handknit cabled sweaters, I'm going to have to actually knit them. So I'm going to do it anyway. 

This sweater has a zipper and buttons. I've never installed a zipper or knit a button band in my life. But I'm going to do it anyway.

I printed out the pattern and it's thirteen (13) pages long. Thirteen! That's a long pattern. But I'm going to do it anyway.

Knitty rates the pattern as "extraspicy." That's the highest rating. I've knit a "tangy" before, but never an "extraspicy." I'm going to do it anyway.

So the schedule is as follows:
1. Christmas knitting
2. As-yet-to-be-determined lace stole/wrap/scarf/something out of the laceweight alpaca I got this summer because I want to wear that this winter
3. The Rime
4. Debilitating knitting defeat. Or a stunning knitting victory. Stay tuned to enjoy my yarn-related emotional breakdown. It should be along sometime in late February or early March.

Did I mention that the pattern is thirteen pages long? That's really a lot of pages. 

Update: When I was making this plan, I forgot that there were a few other things I've been wanting to make that rightfully should be ahead in the queue. Like a sweater for Bertie. And a Honey Cowl using all that yarn I thought I was going to use for a Christmas present that I wound up not liking. And about five other things. Screw planning. When it's time to start something new, I'll cast on whatever I feel like. Or all of it. There's nothing wrong within having two or three or twelve WIPs going at the same time!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Life Choices

Generally, I feel pretty good about choosing to raise pets instead of people. I don't have anything against mothers or their kids. After all, I have one of the former--a pretty good one--and I am one of the latter. But lots of screaming, buying expensive toys and clothes, and going to 8am soccer games on Saturday mornings just aren't for me right now.

But when Brewster has diarrhea, eats the diarrhea because it has tempting chunks of half-digested sweet potato, and then vomits the diarrhea he just ate, I wonder if maybe I should be focusing my nurturing tendencies on a creature a little less interested in its own feces.

Of course, when I wake up in the middle of the night and find this warm little ball of fur tucked up under my arm, I always decide I made the right choice after all. Always.

Even when he has diarrhea vomit breath.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Watch Your Nose!

Like most mommas, I want so badly to believe that my little ones, four-legged though they may be, are smarter than all their little friends. Unfortunately, evidence demonstrates otherwise. Last night, for example, Bertie Sue spent several minutes determinedly trying to get underneath a blanket she was sitting on top of.

And then there's the door.

The back porch sliding door has a storm door that I only shut when it's cold. Yesterday I shut it, which means that when the dogs go out, they have to wait for two doors to open instead of one. They can't seem to remember this. They've each bonked their noses three times apiece, now. I'm hoping this will help:

I know they can't read. But I'm their momma, and I believe they can learn. I dare you to tell me otherwise.

Update: So far from bonking his nose, the sign worried Brewster so much that he had to back up and watch it suspiciously for a bit before he could get near it. I forgot that sometimes doorways are scary, and something different is likely to cause more than usual trepidation. But at least he didn't bonk his nose. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

An Ending I Did Not Like

In 2012, Gillian Flynn published her third novel, Gone Girl, and it got a lot of press and was a really big honking deal. So when I accidentally left the house the other day without a book or knitting, and I had some waiting in line to do, Gone Girl was the novel I intended to pick up. But a paperback by the same author was sitting right there, and a paperback is cheaper and fits in your purse, so the decision was purely practical. All the best literature is reasonably priced and portable, right? Plus, whereas Gone Girl is about a marriage, something of which I have little knowledge and no experience, Dark Places is about a girl raised by a single mom in Kansas in the 1980s. I've got some personal stake in that story. And that's why I'm proffering my opinion about 3-year-old Dark Places instead of the newer novel.

I have to admit that I don't know the ins and outs of writing a "legitimate" book review. Maybe I should read a few, eh? But I cannot help but whine about how disappointed I was in Dark Places. The ending was so silly it verged on nonsensical. It's as if Flynn thought up a murder and wrote and wrote and wrote, and suddenly realized she didn't know how to solve it. So she figured out an answer that would fit the situation she had set up for herself--a ridiculous answer, but an answer--and then went back to an earlier chapter to toss in some foreshadowing and called it good.

Which is not to say that I didn't love Dark Places. I absolutely did, and that makes the disappointment all the more potent. That final nonsensical plot point aside, Flynn is a genius writer. Her characters are just like all those assholes you knew in school or at the bar. And they are all assholes to some degree, even the narrator. In other words, they're real people. Libby Day, now in her mid-30s, is on a quest to solve the murders of her mother and two sisters that happened when she was only 7 not because of a sense of duty or honor, but simply for money. She is not compelled to avenge her family; she is compelled to pay the rent. Otherwise, she'd just as soon stay in bed. (Frankly, I can relate to that, too.) A reader tempted to feel sorry for Libby won't feel that way for long. Having made a living on the pity people feel for her, Libby well understands the process of manipulation, but manipulation is not the purpose of Flynn's story. Libby's telling of her own life is straightforward and unflinching. Flynn never gives the reader a chance to indulge in the maudlin pity that a lot of writers wouldn't be able to avoid.

And that's why we love Libby. We know she's a manipulator, a thief of both unconsidered trifles and her supporters' sympathy, but she isn't stealing anything from us. In fact, she's giving us something--entry into her tightly controlled life. We also incidentally get a clear-sighted analysis of the worst possible scenario of 1980s rural poverty, alcoholism and addiction, absentee parenthood, the satanism-molestation panic, and even the farm crisis. Flynn reminds us that the 1980s had problems a lot bigger than mullets and parachute pants.

So even though the ending made me yell "That's so stupid!" I still loved Dark Places. A splendid novel isn't damned because of one flaw anymore than Libby herself is damned because of one horrid night.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

This Thing I Made

It might be stretching it to call this a "design," but let's stretch it just for fun. Without further ado:

The Grab-Bag iPod Sweater!

1. Put some leftover yarn in a bag. You know, so you can grab it.

2. Choose double-pointed needles appropriate to your yarn. In this case, you're looking at mostly worsted weight, except for the orange, which is more of a DK, on size 7 needles.

3. Check your gauge. Ha! Ha! Just kidding! It's a sweater for an iPod. Let it go.

4. Reach in your bag and grab a color, and cast on an even number of stitches in multiples of 4. I cast on 36 stitches for my 2.25-inch-wide iPod. I probably could've gotten away with 32. However many you choose to cast on, make sure it's an even number in multiples of 4, unless you happen to like wonky ribbing. 

5. Divide your stitches over three or four needles, and join to knit in the round. Do I need to tell you to be careful not to twist your stitches? I didn't think so. Use a stitch marker to mark the beginning of the round if you want, but for a project this simple, real Knitters just keep an eye on the tail to find the beginning of the round. Are you a Knitter or a mouse?

6. Go to town knitting 2x2 ribbing. Knit with your first color until you're tired of it or you run out. Then grab another color. Continue on, switching colors as the mood strikes you, until you have a tube of ribbing long enough to hold your iPod, about 4.5 inches, or whatever it is you're knitting a sweater for. (I don't want to know. This is a family-friendly blog, people. More or less.)

7. Move your stitches onto two needles (I divided my 36 stitches into two groups of 18), and kitchner the toe. Okay, it's not a toe, but it's late and I knit socks, and I honestly can't think of a reasonable word for the bottom of an iPod sweater. Probably "the bottom of an iPod sweater." (If you don't know how to kitchner, just search online. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of written explanations and YouTube videos more eloquent than I am capable of writing at the moment.)

8. Pick up four stitches at the top middle back of the sweater and begin knitting an i-cord handle. The back of the sweater should be facing you so that when you fold the i-cord over to button in front, the front of the i-cord will be facing the same direction as the front of the sweater. Does that make sense? I hope so. If not, please feel free to send me snippy letters. I'm a college instructor. I can take it.

9. Knit your i-cord as long as you'd like. I wanted mine to button onto the belt loop of my jeans or the handle of my lawn mower, so I kept it short--about 2.5 inches. A slightly longer cord would fit nicely over your wrist.

10. Now you need to create the button hole in the i-cord, and this is the part I'm kind of proud of. I'm pretty sure I thought this up myself. Google gives some results for "button hole in i-cord," but I can't see any like mine, and mine is better because you don't have to cast off and re-cast on. So try it. To knit a button hole into the i-cord, put the 2 far left stitches on waste yarn or a spare needle, and just work the 2 right stitches as its own little i-cord for 3 or 4 rows. (If you've already picked a button, you can guesstimate how much space you'll need. Generally, the answer is less than you think.) Then stop working the right stitches, and go back and work the 2 left stitches for the same number of rows. You'll need to use a different piece of yarn. I used the yarn from the outside of the center-pull ball. When you've worked the same number of rows on both sides, start knitting all 4 stitches together again for another row or two, and then bind off however you would normally choose to end a piece of i-cord. Totally up to you. This is your show, man. 

11. Pick a button from your button collection that will fit through your button hole and sew it on the front wherever you want it. If you don't have a button collection, start a button collection.

12. Weave in all your ends. Or tie them in knots. Again, it's a sweater for an iPod. Quality is important in any undertaking, but let's not overdo it. 

13. Post on Facebook about how you just knit a whole sweater in 2 hours. Your knitting friends will be all, "Wait. What?" Your non-knitting friends will be all, "God, will she ever shut up about knitting? But if she stops talking about knitting, she'll start talking about her dogs again. Where is that mutherfreakin Hide button. . . ."

P.S. No, this has not been tech edited. Again, it's a sweater for an iPod. I got the idea while I was in the shower this morning, and I knit it tonight while watching Wheel of Fortune and It's a Wonderful Life. If you find a mistake, let me know and I'll fix it.

P.P.S. For personal use only. You should please not sell this "pattern" or anything made from this "pattern," such as it is. If anyone's going to make money off this booger, remote as that possibility is, it's going to be me.