Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Laundry List

I keep trying to make a real blog post but it just isn't coming. All I can seem to get out is a laundry list of my day and random thoughts. I'm having that problem in other parts of my life, too. Every so often I have glimmers of brain activity that I like to conserve and dedicate to tackling my inbox. Too often those glimmers of brain activity are quickly replaced by vacant stares and drool in the corner of my mouth leaving taxes unfinished and emails unanswered. I blame winter. Winter, I love ya, but you and your no sunlight have got to go.
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From Darth Vader's Twitter:

"The bad news is we had to let go of about 8,000 clone troopers today. The good news is it really only counts as 1."

I'm 95% sure I'm going to quit accepting freelance work through the service I currently use. This seems like an unwise move given the state of the economy, but I can't keep working for the Empire. The Rebels have more fun anyway.
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I culled the magazine collection today. I thought if I ever had to choose between Interweave Knits and Vogue Knitting that Interweave would win. When it came down to getting rid of magazines, I pulled the Vogues out of the buh-bye pile and put the Interweaves in. Interweave has great articles but I never ever ever go back and reference them. I usually turn to my books or to the internet. There are some great patterns in the Interweaves I destashed but I never looked at them, they were never in my size and I know where to find more if I decide I want to have them again. The same magazines have been in the same stack since 2006.

I didn't keep all of the Vogues, either. The ones I kept I kept for the photography and not the patterns. I confessed this to the knit night knitters and I'm confessing it to you now. I have a secret love of couture as art. I don't follow it like I used to and I certainly don't dress like it, but if couture happens to wander my way I stop and look.

Hey! Is Project Runway on DVD? I never even thought to look.
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I'm working on the Big Thaw Pullover from the Fall 2008 Knitscene.
Big Thaw Pullover
There has been an error in nearly every step of the pattern. At a few points the errata had errors. At one point the corrections to the errata had an error. Considering all of that, I happy that this has turned out as well as it has so far. Sure, there are a few things I would do differently if I knit it again, but they aren't egregious enough for me to knit back. I just want a sturdy sweater for Scott to keep warm in.
Big Thaw Pullover
I love this yarn. I love the way the finished sweater looks enough that I may knit this again soon in a different color using my own notes. If I were to make one change what I've knitted so far I would rip back the sleeve caps for their 4th (or is it 5th) reknit, but the husband recipient insisted they were fine and that he liked them, which is good because I devoted the better part of a week to getting them looking as good as they do look which isn't saying much. [There's always one run-on sentence in every post. I can't help myself.] The thick ropey yarn is still soft and creates a great fabric that I can't stop fondling. It is an unusual texture. I love it and I imagine many more sweaters knit from it.
Big Thaw Pullover
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I made more of the best laundry soap I've ever used today. There were a few questions about where to get the ingredients. I found mine at Schnucks, a local grocery chain. You can buy them online, too. I included pictures so you can see what they look like.
Making laundry soap
Use a good grater. It isn't worth the savings if you are going to grate your knuckles. We have a new grater that does a great job turning the Fels Naptha soap in to dust. We were going to get a microplaner from the hardware store but this $1.99 from Goodwill grater worked just fine. Just make sure the soap is grated in to a fine powder so it will dissolve fully. Try not to stab anyone with your soap shiv.
Grating soap
Making a soap shiv
The recipe is roughly 2 cups (1 bar) of Fels Naptha or other bar soap grated, 1 cup of Borax and 1 cup of washing soda mixed together well. We use 2-3 tablespoons per large load and get between 20-30 loads per batch. The Fels Naptha is about $2 a bar, the Borax is $5/box and the washing soda is $5/box. 1 bar will make 1 batch. 1 box of the borax and the washing soda will last a long time. I think we have made five or six batches by now and we still have some left.
Making laundry soap
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My mom gave me socks she knitted from my yarn that were too big for her. This is the first time I've had my own socks from my own yarn. I have knitted socks from my own yarn for other people, but I've never gotten to wear socks from my own yarn. I like it. I'm going to have to step up knitting and make some for myself. Also, it's hard taking pictures of your own feet.
IMG_6982

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Regularly Scheduled Knitting

Thank you to everyone who wrote their representatives about the CPSIA. As promised, we now return you to our regularly scheduled knitting.

The Blankie of Doom is off the needles!

The Blankie of Doom is finished! Obviously I did not rip it, although I really wanted to. I started this blanket before the mom even knew baby was on the way and I had to see it through. About a week before anyone knew anyone was pregnant, I dropped all my other projects and cast on for this blanket with the absolute certainty and knowledge that I needed to cast on for a baby blanket and I needed to cast on immediately. Considering it took me 6 months to finish this blanket, maybe I didn't need to cast on immediately, but a week later we found out that our friends Amy and Carlos were having a baby. Did Amy want the blanket for the baby? "Hell yeah" was her answer. Ha! I love my knit friends.

Blankie of Doom posing for a few quick pictures before her bath

Started: May 24, 2007

Finished: January 7, 2009 (it hibernated from August through December)

Pattern: Revolutions by Woolly Thoughts (link to their Ravelry store here) I modified the pattern by making the center and the border all one color. This pattern is extremely easy. It is knit one color at a time in sections, except for the border which I choose to knit all at once using increases. The most complicated part juggling all the stitch holders.

My, that is a bright Blankie of Doom

Yarn: Berroco Comfort worsted--2 balls of red, 1 ball of blue, yellow, green, orange
Comfort is the nicest synthetic yarn I have worked with in a long time. The blue had a slight sound acrylic yarns make, but overall the entire line is nice to knit with. It hand washed in very hot water very well. There was no bleeding or pilling. My only complaint about the yarn is the put up. The yarn is wound so tight in the ball that it is difficult to pull out. There are also several knots per skein. The yarn is a nice enough knit that I will use it again, but next time I am going to rewind each ball first so I can cut out the knots in advance.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Update/Rant--Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act

I feel like I'm in Clerks whining that I'm not even supposed to be here today.

Technically, the short sighted Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act doesn't affect me. I don't manufacture childrens goods, but childrens goods ARE produced from my product. I'm not legally liable, but my customers are. Plus I have friends who are going to be affected by this. So while this didn't feel like my issue for a long time and while I felt that the Consumer Product Safety Commission would do the right thing in time, I clearly can't keep this to myself anymore. It IS my issue because it is my customers issue. It is my issue because it affects my friends. It is YOUR issue because you have kids, or you are a crafter, or you just believe that handmade industry is important.

Please just bear with me through this, again. I promise I'll return to knitting content soon.
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There is some slight progress on the CPSIA problems. One major problem was that under the wording of the act second-hand shops and individuals selling used items would be forced to test. That issue has been clarified. Resellers

The commission tentatively agreed to allow cotton and wood to be exempt. Not definitely exempt; tentatively exempt. Thrift stores and some resellers will be exempt...sort of. No formal rules will be given until AFTER the act takes effect meaning that it is very very likely that everyone affected will be in violation. The Consumer Product Safety Council opened up a 30 day comment period to take comments from the public.

Honestly? I think CPSC is doing the best they can. Congress dumped this in their laps without any additional resources and with very little guidance. I call BS on Congress. I really don't think the CPSC even wants to deal with this. They want kids to be safe, but this act is a bureaucratic nightmare. At least, for now, thrift stores are safe. Well, safer. According to the press release:

"Sellers of used children’s products, such as thrift stores and consignment stores, are not required to certify that those products meet the new lead limits, phthalates standard or new toy standards....However, resellers cannot sell children’s products that exceed the lead limit and therefore should avoid products that are likely to have lead content, unless they have testing or other information to indicate the products being sold have less than the new limit. Those resellers that do sell products in violation of the new limits could face civil and/or criminal penalties."

Clear as mud? Okay, so better for the resellers, right? What about the crafters and artists who create clothing, toys and textiles for children? Will they be required to test?


While CPSC expects every company to comply fully with the new laws resellers should pay special attention to certain product categories...(cribs, painted wood/metal, easily breakable, toys lacking age warnings, toys with small parts).


Okay, so the CPSC is particularly worried about common sense stuff, but what is the law? What about the crafters and artists who create clothing, toys and textiles for children? Will they be required to test?

*crickets chirp*
*crafters worry*
*artists pace*

The press release assures us that the agency is working on making clearer rules. Those rules are scheduled to come out when exactly? The CPSIA takes effect February 10. According to an LA Times article, the commission voted tentatively to allow some items to be sold without expensive lead testing. According to the same article, the final version of these 'clearer rules' won't be published until after the deadline, leaving retailers and sellers in violation of the law when they don't even know what the law is. GAHHHH!

The Consumer Product Safety Commission is taking public comment for 30 days. Go forth and email your comment. Tell 'em that Rachel of Dyeabolical Yarns doesn't want to see her friends go out of business. Tell 'em that it is great that they are looking out for kids but they are going to put a lot of independent artists and crafters out of work. Tell 'em that it is imperative that they support those small businesses who supply toys and furniture to our children. Tell 'em that those small businesses sprung up out of a need to provide the children of this nation safe alternatives to the crap the CPSC allowed in to this country and to now put those same people out of business because of poorly thought up regulations aimed at the crap producers is just absurd.

I have known about this issue for months. For months I thought for sure that the CPSC correct this obvious oversight. It was someone else's problem. Those someone elses haven't been heard and now they're a month out and nothing has happened and now I have to get all involved because we have got to support each other. GAHHH! I hate getting involved.

I don't doubt that the CPSC will (eventually) do the right thing. They just need a reminder about priorities. More people complaining = higher priority, which sadly is probably how the CPSIA probably got pushed through so quickly to begin with. That's how government works, kids.

Damn, how long have I been typing. I'm afraid to scroll up and see how long this post is. All I know that the cup of tea I poured at the beginning of this quick update is now stone cold. I'm going to include cold tea in my follow up letters to CPSC. Cold tea is a DANGER.

More info: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-lead7-2009jan07,0,6917858.story

http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prhtml09/09086.html

http://learningresourcesinc.blogspot.com/2009/01/cpsc-just-released-new-standards-for.html

http://www.etsy.com/forums_thread.php?thread_id

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Consumer Protection Safety Improvement Act

[In the last day there has been a slight improvement to this issue. The commission tentatively agreed, among other things, to exempt clothing, toys and other goods made out of natural materials. Like I said, slight improvement. They opened up a 30-day comment period at CPSC.gov if you would like to let them know what you think. Keep on sending letters to your representatives, too. http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-lead7-2009jan07,0,6917858.story]

This is a little dry, but stay with me? It is important. I've put important points in bold for you skimmers out there.

Starting February 10 the new Consumer Protection Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) will take effect. The CPSIA was initiated and passed to protect our children from dangerous chemicals and components in their toys, clothing and furniture. While the CPSIA is a noble, worthwhile and needed act of Congress, it was hastily put together.

In its current form, CPSIA will require every one item from every batch of product intended for those 12-and-under to be rigorously tested using expensive lab testing. Many small businesses will be crippled by financial burden. Many parents vowed to buy handmade toys for their children this year and last. The way the law currently reads, those crafters who made your children's toys may be put out of business by this expensive and frequently unnecessary testing


This issue is really confusing. That's the problem. There are many issues involved here. It cannot be adequately explained in a few paragraphs. Look how long this post is and I haven't even begun to cover this issue. In the interest of brevity, let me short cut this for you. The act is damn confusing. Without further clarification and amending, the CPSIA could potentially bankrupt a huge number of small businesses or put them out of business. As a small business of one, that kind of freaks me the hell out. Since I supply materials, I am currently exempt from CPSIA testing. I can imagine very easily that a flurry of hastily written (but well meaning) legislative action might endanger my livelihood the way it is endangering the livelihood of crafters and artists who create for children. [Think carved wooden trucks, handmade dollhouses, knitted toys, sewn doll clothes, handmade easter bonnets, premie caps! All of these may be included under CPSIA.]

Essentially what I want you to do is to call or email your representatives and ask them to clarify this act and to issue guidlines. I really believe this will be all sorted out if enough people ask for it too be. Perhaps I'm being naive?

I think I might have stopped making sense paragraphs ago. It's late and I'm tired. Let me post some information written by people who can speak more intelligently than I can on this issue. I am also posting the text of the letter I sent to my elected officials. The same letter can be found by clicking this link, entering your zipcode, clicking the email link under your senator or representatives name, then choosing to send the letter called "URGENT: New Product Safety Laws Need Clarifications Now". After choosing this letter you will be allowed to either send the form letter or write your own.

More information:
http://www.boutiquecafe.com/home/tag/national-bankruptcy-day/
http://www.change.org/ideas/view/save_handmade_toys_from_the_cpsia
http://www.handmadetoyalliance.org/
http://coolmompicks.com/savehandmade/

Here is the text of the letter I sent. I can't take credit for it. I have put the important points in bold. Send your own letter by clicking here:

The CPSIA legislation was an important contribution in efforts to strengthen product safety laws to make sure only safe and compliant products are sold to our nation's children. While well-intentioned, this legislation contains several provisions that impose new and burdensome requirements that increase costs at a time of economic upheaval but do not offer any improvement in the safety of children's products, including toys, clothing, and footwear. If left unchanged, such requirements, especially considering this dire economic environment, will have a disastrous impact on many companies.

As you know, the August 14, 2008 legislation included a new ban on lead in children's products (no more than 600 parts per million (ppm) by weight of any part of the product). According to the CPSIA, the new lead requirements take effect beginning February 10, 2009. However, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has determined that this new requirement will apply to goods in inventory, as well as goods made on or after that effective date. This ruling effectively makes this new lead requirement retroactive. This means that product that produced several months ago, and which is safe and legally compliant today, will not be able to be sold on February 10. This seems unfair, as it means we are being held responsible for a standard that didn't even exist when those goods were made. Moreover, it will be extremely difficult - and in some cases impossible - to retroactively certify that individual goods already in the warehouses and on the store shelves meet the new lead standard.

In short, the ruling puts at risk millions of dollars of inventory.

Moreover, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has so far failed to provide significant guidance or issue regulations on how the new lead rules should apply to children’s products, even those that are inherently lead free. [Like knitted toys!--Me] While the CPSC recently released four proposed rulemakings addressing testing exemptions for products and materials that are lead free, these rulemakings do not go nearly far enough. As February 10 quickly approaches, guidance has thus far been provided in a piecemeal approach while the CPSC wades through a backlog of information requests and juggles multiple new rule makings with limited resources. Because of the incomplete guidance, companies are being forced to undertake duplicative testing of components or to test elements of children’s products that are either inaccessible or that are inherently lead free. While testing forms an important validation, these conflicting and burdensome requirements - especially for products and components that are inherently lead free – do not advance children's safety. In fact, the current system, if left unfixed, undermines our public safety system by shifting focus away from risky products.

I respectfully request your help ensuring that the CPSC institute rulemaking to clearly define the scope and applicability of the new lead regulations and testing requirements for apparel and footwear products. I also urge that CPSC announce and implement an orderly enforcement schedule that focuses initial phases on education of these new requirements. Finally, I believe the decision by the CPSC to apply the lead ban retroactively needs to be reconsidered as soon as possible since the practical impact of this decision, in today's economic environment, will have an adverse effect at a time the government is spending billions to stimulate the economy.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

I Love Deborah

Do you know what my co-worker and new bestest friend in the whole wide world did? She finished binding off the blankie of doom that I have been binding off for 3 1/2 hours THEN she began weaving in the ends. I believe that from here on out I shall call this blog the
I LOVE DEBORAH BLOG
in her honor.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

I resolve

I resolve in 2009
  • to keep attempting to dye the color "White Queen" until it looks how it looks in my head. You wouldn't think a color that was predominantly WHITE would be so hard for me to dye. It's always the easy stuff that trips me up.
  • to attend at least one meeting for the Artisan Guild of Southern Illinois (formerly the St. Clair Fiber Guild), nevermind that I don't live in Southern Illinois and I hate driving across the river. This group made a great impression on Scott and I during the Strange Folk Festival and we would love to spend more time with these people. The group is small compared to the knitting and weaving guilds in St. Louis, but what they lack in size they make up for in enthusiasm. Poke around their webpage. I would be willing to carpool if anyone is interested.
  • Explore Missouri. I have lived here my entire life and have explored very little of it.
  • Crochet at least two projects.
  • Revisit kindergarten. Today I read the following quote about organizing space that embodied exactly what I am trying to accomplish in my own living/work/creative space.
In a kindergarten classroom, everything is organized in such a way that no matter how messy the room gets, 20 five-year-olds can put it back in order in fiver minutes and find what they need again the next day. The kindergarten model works well for creative spaces, too.
  • Develop focus. I waste a lot of time going off on tangents both mentally and physically. I could get so much more accomplished if I could just stay focused.
  • Knit like crazy. I have 4 17-gallon containers of stash. I want to eliminate at least one of those. [Confession time. I also have 6 smaller containers between 2.5 and 11 gallons each of what I call 'working yarn'. I don't count it as stash.]
  • Develop and maintain a better work schedule. Remember to include work knitting, sample knitting, design, research and website time.
  • Work on my 101 things in 1001 day list. There are some things I won't be able to accomplish in the time remaining. There are other things that don't seem important anymore. What remains are things that are absolutely achievable, such as devoting more time to reading, listening to new music and knitting for others.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Balloonacy!

The stereotype that knitters are nice, kind, matronly and would never ever break in and vandalize their friends homes with 3 giant party packs of balloons is wrong. You just shouldn't trust most knitters, especially knitting friends who know how to get in to your house while you are out of town. They really can't be trusted. Turns out knitters have a wicked streak and would, given the opportunity, stuff balloons in every available nook and cranny of your home while you are out of town.

The culprits:

Sungazing, the ringleader and possibly my lord and master. She also forgot her camera which is why you get my crappy cell phone pictures instead of her professional ones.
Sungazing in the tub

Tempest in a Pot of Tea, who I thought would have talked us out of it
Tempest Tea and her Balloon

Blogless Transplant Mom, who no one would ever suspect:
Transplant Mom

and me, who should have known better.
Evidence that I am Sungazing's minion

We put balloons in every place we could think of that would be safe from feline interference. There are balloons in the fridge, the sink, the mixer, their bags, closets, filing cabinet, every trashcan, a few laundry baskets and a few places I don't think they have found yet. That took maybe 30-40 balloons. The remaining 200 or so balloons we split between two main targets--the giant tub and the office. Very little knitting took place. [Picture on the right is of two of the victims throwing their hands up in despair that they have been targeted for such a horrendous crime. Or perhaps they are enjoying a pool-sized tub filled with balloons. Hard to say. :) More pictures in my flickr account here and in the victims flickr account here]
Filling the office