Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ze Garden

I lost my outdoor thermometer and the only one I could find is my meat thermometer. It was so hot today I put it outside anyway while I watered the plants for the second time in 4 hours. I didn't expect anything to register, especially not in the 5 minutes I was outside. The picture on the left is the meat thermometer on my desk in the A/C. The picture on the right is the thermometer after sitting on the balcony in the sun for 5 minutes. If my patio was a cooked ham it would be done by now.
The heat index for today is Rare Beef

The garden had some losses between the shock of the move, being stepped on by moving men, being attacked by local wildlife and adapting to exciting new insect life. Oh how the local insect life loves our garden! It is delightful to find colorful insects on our tender shoots. No, wait. No it isn't. I'm enjoying seeing the variety of life in my garden. I really am. I like that the bugs are unique, beautiful and colorful, but whichever one is toppling tender shoots can knock it the hell off. We lost the radishes, squash, carrots, tomatoes, spearmint, catnip and clematis to movers and wildlife. I have started let the biggest cat out on to the patio for a few minutes every morning and I notice the damned black bird and that damned squirrel have not been by.

The garden may not love being munched on or cooked like a rare slab of beef but it has loved the months worth of rain we just had. I will be harvesting summer vegetables this week or next.






Our first cuke



Here is the whole garden. Click here to see notes on the picture.

Monday, June 22, 2009


This is how today was:
  • Take Scott to the train. Boo!
  • Feed our friend Brian and sent him back to Indy. Yay, we got to spend time with Brian. Boo, we had to send Brian home!
  • debate napping, no nap, boo!
  • prep orders. Yay orders!
  • post office. Yay big drive thru boxes!
  • lay down to nap but then remember it's Monday and Mondays are for working. No nap, boo!
  • dye the minimum amount of yarn I can dye and still call it work. Yay for the colors (turq, wisteria, kilt green)! Boo for work!
  • phone it in the rest of the day. Yay slacking!
  • debate napping. No nap, boo!
  • meet Lenora for lunch, Yay Lenora!
  • frogged the enormous giant handspun socks from the yarn Annie gave me. I have big feet but not 14 inches big. Boo big socks! Yay I am confident I have enough yarn to make any damn pair of socks I want with that yarn!
  • knitted a few inches on my Crafty and Crap sock before turning it in to a mitten. Yay mittens!
  • had dinner with Lenora and Jamie. Yay Lenora! Yay Jamie!
  • Flat tire. Boo!
  • AAA to the rescue. Yay!
  • And now? NAP? PLEASE?
  • wake up early and get yarn done before another 100 degree day
  • list yarn?
  • fix tire
  • garden
  • work on website
  • work on mittens
  • and if I have time, succumb to allergies, asthma and fibromyalgia. But only if I have time.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Fathers Day!

Happy Fathers Day to all you fathers out there. Today is a busy day. A friend is visiting on a whirlwind trip to St. Louis just to see us, plus we'll be going to both dad's houses today. Sundays evenings are always reserved for packing and an early bedtime, although I doubt that will happen today. Today will be hectic but this year I am particularly happy to be able to spend this fathers day with my father.

Shop news:

I will be listing new cotton slub colors soon.

As well as some felting fiber...
Needle Felting Fiber
I am (finally) ready to do some limited sales to retail yarn shops. I am not ready to actively seek out new wholesale clients or to do large orders, but I can finally begin offering wholesale pricing on my current stock or work with a LYS to create a unique sock yarn just for them. Email me at stlrachelknits at gmail dot com for more information.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Brief shop update

I began dyeing again last week. I had a dozen or so sock blanks so I dyed them up and worked on a few special orders. Half the new sock colors and most of the cottons I had in stock went to Knitorious this past weekend for a special event. I haven't talked to Sandy today, but I hope it went well. The remaining yarns went up in my etsy shop.
The new sock colors don't have names because they are technically one of a kind. I've managed to reproduce the brown/gold one twice now so I think it is officially a color. Granted, if I keep making this color I'm going to have to start charging more for it. The 'secret' to this colorway is accidentally dumping in about $5 worth of dye when I meant to use about $.50. Pretty, but not very cost effective.

One of the best parts of Ravelry is getting to see what others have made with my yarns. Here are two knitters who shared their projects with me. [Note: you will need a Ravelry user name and password to see these links]
Fruitychick made this awesome Baby Surprise Jacket from sock yarn:
KatieItal alternated one of my yarns with a solid sock yarn to make this great checked sock:

Pretty cool!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

And the winner is...

The Random Number Generator chose comment number 21, Lacey, as the winner in the Rubbermaid giveaway. Congratulations, Lacey! Please email me your name and address and I will forward it on to Rubbermaid.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Absorba Fail and the Goddamn Sweater

[There is only one day left to enter the Rubbermaid Easy Find Lid sweepstakes. Just comment on the review post found here.]

This week I finished a long term project and a palate-cleansing project, although the palate-cleanser came before the long-term project. The only projects I have on the needles are two travel/line projects which don't count. I need another project. What if I finish my two travel projects and don't have anything to knit? What will happen then? What if my needles go fallow? What if I don't cast on for a new project right away and I forget how to knit? What if I never knit again? What if? What if? What if!

I have two hats I promised to make for others, but those are more travel-type projects. I need something large and substantial, something that isn't work knitting and something that is more than plain stockinette in the round. Ravelry here I come. Surely I cannot be the only one who gets a little antsy when her needles are (mostly) empty.

Presenting Absorba Fail and That Goddamn Sweater:

Absorba FailAbsorba FailAbsorba Fail
I was intending on making Mason Dixon's Absorba bath mat. Instead I made a small heavy floor towel. It's functional but is about as attractive as throwing a wet towel on the floor. It is too thin, too flexible and easily distorted. I almost wrote distortable. I misread the directions and used 3 strands of worsted weight instead of 3 strands of double worsted, which is like 6 strands of worsted. I enjoyed making this rug and it only took a day. I will definitely making another, but next time I'll use the right yarn. Hopefully that, plus Mason Dixon's tips on binding off log cabin will help prevent premautre sagging and unfortunate bulging.

This is THAT sweater, the one I cast on when Jennie was admitted to ICU. It is the same sweater pattern that drove me crazy with the extensive undocumented errors when I first cast on for this. This is the same sweater I knit on in Jennie's hospital, my dad's hospital and my sister's hospital. It is the same one I had to set aside and air out because it smelled too much like hospital to keep working on it.

This sweater is attractive, or perhaps it is just my fond affection for the recipient, but the pattern is frustrating. There are errors in this pattern made even more confusing by incorrect and incomplete errata. None of the errors are big, but they are frequent. The pattern is simple but I would recommend go ahead and buying the pattern directly from the designer instead of using the pattern printed in the magazine.

I had both sleeves and most of the torso finished when Scott tried it on for the first time. I used the shoulder shaping in the pattern, met gauge and the sleeves came out very large and poofy. After much discussion with fellow knitters I decided that at least 2” of fabric needed to come off of the front of the sleeve. I achieved this by ending the short row sooner and picking up fewer stitches on the front of the armhole than in the back. Enormous thanks to Nell who spent hours days helping me work, rework, rip, reknit and curse those shoulder caps and sleeves.

I don’t have the ends woven in yet, but decided to take pictures right away since I will have forgotten all about this sweater by the time Scott returns home. Even though the ends weren’t woven in I decided to wash this sweater anyway, which you should know is usually a recipe for holey jacked-up disaster. Aside from a few tangled ends I lucked out with a gentle wash and tumble dry. I wouldn't normally wash before finishing but I finished it while sitting in the laundry. Seemed convenient.

I machine washed inside out on delicate and tumble dried on high. True to the claims when I first purchased this yarn, the tightly plied merino yarn did not pill like superwash merino yarn normally would nor did the garment grow as much as a sw merino garment normally would, although it did grow a little. Mostly I am just pleased to have this sweater mostly finished and happy that Scott enjoys it so much even though it is June and not even remotely chilly.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Rubbermaid Easy Find Lids Review and Giveaway

This blog post is a review of Rubbermaid Easy Find Lids. I am not being paid but I did receive a set of Rubbermaid Easy Find Lid containers specifically for the purposes of a review and have a set reserved to give away to a reader. I am under no obligation to write a positive review.

There are 4 vital products to have when either moving house or dyeing yarn.
  1. plastic storage bags
  2. paper towels
  3. trash bags
  4. plastic tubs and containers
Getting a plastic tub hookup would have been awesome, but testing out Rubbermaid food containers? Nearly as awesome.

I could post a pre-move picture of the interior of my plastic cabinet, but that would be embarrassing. It was pretty bad. Picture, oh say, your plastic container cabinet. Pretty disorganized, right? Who keeps track of all those lids? Who keeps all of their mismatched plasticware neatly stacked and easy to access? No one, that's who.

I am taking the opportunity I have in moving to start fresh in several areas of my domestic and business life. That includes in my kitchen cabinets. I weeded through my plastic containers and recycled any that were stained, scuzzy or were missing a lid.

I started fresh in this kitchen with....nothing. I had all my other kitchen stuff, including inexplicably 25 pounds of flour and sugar, but ZERO plastic containers. They had all been stained, scuzzy and missing a lid. All of them. ALL of them. Lids must go to the same place socks go. Suddenly I was grateful that I answered Rubbermaid's call to blog about their new Easy Find Lid system. This is what they sent for me to review--2-3 sizes of 4 different kinds of containers: Produce Savers, Lock-Its, Easy Find Lids and Premier.

They weren't kidding about the lids being easy to find. All the lids snap securely to the base of their containers. They all snap securely to each other, too. Sweet. Score 1 for Rubbermaid.

So that's great for storage, but you know, I'm a dyer. I'm a dyer who just threw away $100 of leaky "great for dyeing!" bottles bought from a dye company that were stained, gross and liked to leaked all over my drawers, hands and floor when I simply picked them up. These aren't the shapes I would typically use to hold my dyes, but I'm always looking out for secure ways to store dyes long term. I want to know how these food containers actually work for work.

I used the Lock-Its and the Premier to test how well they handled dye. The Lock-Its did what it said. The lock and gasket feature held the messy dye in well. Surprisingly, so did the Premier:
Sometimes dyes like to attach themselves to plastic and never let go, especially when the dye and plastic are both heated, kind of like spaghetti sauce does in plasticware when it is heated. I heated the dye to boiling in the container, dumped it, rinsed the residue and....good as new. Score again to Rubbermaid. I'm assuming that they will handle messy, smelly foods in an equally capable way since that is what they were designed to do. [ETA: I put some smelly seafood pasta in one of the Premier containers, left it in the fridge over night, heated it up, rinsed it clean and there were no residual smells or stains. Better take stock in Rubbermaid now. I can see myself buying a LOT of these for food and for work in the near future.]
My creation

I did not test out the Produce Savers yet, only because I haven't been to the produce stand yet. I am fairly confident they will work well in prolonging the life of fruits and vegetables. The containers come with an insert that allows excess moisture to drain and promotes air circulation. Those two elements are key to keeping produce fresh longer.

So back to those 4 vital things to movers and dyers. I could give you a detailed analysis of the virtues and drawbacks of various storage bags, paper towels and trash bags, but you don't see those companies sending me free product to review, do you? *g*

Leave a comment to this blog post between now and June 9 to be entered to win a set of Rubbermaid just like the one reviewed in this post. I will select a name at random and forward it to Rubbermaid. They will send it directly to you.

Visit www.easyfindlids.com for more information about Rubbermaid's Easy Find Lid food storage system.


Locals crafty folk, I'll be here Thursday afternoon around 3 or 4. See you there?

From Matt at The Royale:

Just a reminder about the event we're having this week at the Royale:

In the spirit of handcrafting unique and local treasures, The Royale is playing on the word 'craft' and extending a welcome to the local craft community during the first annual STL Craft Beer Week.

On Thursday, June 4th, from 2 to 6pm the Royale will offer beer and appetizer specials to anyone working on making St Louis more beautiful, one stitch at a time. Feel free to bring in a small project to work on, or examples of your work, whatever your specialty. Printers, knitters, glassblowers, welders—brewers!—come show off your wares, celebrate people-based production and meet others doing the same, and let the Royale say thanks, with beer!



Monday, June 1, 2009

Mah apartmentz, let me show you them

I swear this is the last post about my apartment this week. I'm just so...so... [insert contented sigh here].

The last few weeks have not been without stress. I lost the cat which still is kind of stressing me out. Losing my already-terrified indoor cat on moving day in an unfamiliar place that doesn't smell anything like us? Turns out she was in the wall. In the wall. Then there was AT&T stress, or rather getting AT&T to show up stress. When they did it turned out that I didn't have phone lines. Oh sure, I had phone jacks but my lines apparently burned in a fire. No, really. Last summer a guy was welding on the roof and neglected to bring along a fire extinguisher. This apartment was fine but it destroyed the phone lines and any evidence there had ever been one. Those don't really compare to my biggest stressor, though. This, by far, has been the number one stress kicking my ass:

The good news is that I don't think I am quite as allergic to mold as I used to be. I can probably thank my last apartment for all that really excellent mold exposure that has bolstered my immune system, but 62,920? That's kind of extreme for anyone.

I still have the desk to sort out, the kitchen to clean and the dye studio shelf (which I'm calling Site A) to organize, but things are mostly put away. I need to wrangle the cats to the vet for boarding so some work can be done in the apartment tomorrow but then I should have the rest of the week free to do absolutely nothing work do absolutely nothing.

Things I love:
* New carpet. There is something vaguely satisfying in stopping every 5 minutes to empty the vacuum canister of new carpet fluff.
Grown women
(grown women taking full advantage of the wide expanse of brand new carpet)

* New paint. It smells like a hotel in here. The newness will wear off soon but for now it smells like I'm staying in a fancy hotel. It smells like a vacation.

* Direct entrance. After spending 15 years in an apartment building with apartments off a common hall, I find it a little unnerving that there is outside outside my door. This unnerving feeling is far overshadowed by not having to share the smoke of 20 neighbors who all think it isn't a big big if they take a little puff of whatever while they are in the common hall or laundry room.

* Quiet. I can't tell if the apartments are largely soundproofed or if our neighbors are just quiet. I suspect we may be the loudest people in the building what with our running from one end to the other and yelling 'OMG I LOVE LIVING HERE!!!!!!'

The garden is, pardon the pun, blossoming under the afternoon sun
(the garden loves its new home)

* Nature. The other apartment had a very small wooded area, more like a verge of woods, but it was mostly half-dead trees, weeds, and abandoned tires hidden by the "wildflowers". This area we are in now, although just a few blocks away, is full of manicured nature. The trees are healthy and well-trimmed, the grass is lush and green and the plant variety makes me happy. The tenants are allowed to fully garden any green space that touches their apartment so the sidewalks and nooks are filled with gardenias, clematis, tomatoes and lilies instead of uniform ugly perennials that look more like flower silks than nature.
Insert happy contented sigh here

* More nature. Every so often a family of birds would show up in one of the trees along the old apartment. We could hear a few birds in the distance and the same half-dozen or so would come by our patio to dig in our garden pots for worms and berries, but it was nothing like it is here. There is a relentless cheeriness among the birds here. Even above the (very) loud hum of the building air conditioners is a chorus of chirping birds. It's almost enough to make me want to put out a bird feeder. The only downside to the relentless cheeriness? Bird poo. Lots and lots of bird poo. Does anyone have any ideas for managing bird poo on the wood balcony aside from pulling out the hose and drowning the downstairs neighbors?

(Obligatory cat picture--Notice how they are sitting on people furniture instead of the amply supplied cat windows we got just for them. Do not notice that our temporary living room furniture was purchased in a sporting goods department and yoinked from Dennys.)

* Sunlight. OMG. The sunlight. I have one lamp in every room and it is more than enough.
(This is the only window ledge the cats want to sit on. There are a half-dozen just like it and this is where they want to sit, among my needles.)

* Space! We have gotten rid of enough stuff and acquired a big enough space that I feel like I can keep a good handle on it. We are not utilizing every square inch of space, we have a lot of white space and it is easy to move items around to vacuum and clean. We need to implement a little bit of organization in areas we traditionally fail at, but it's good. Really good. I feel like the creative knot in the base of my brain is loosening.
Dyeabolical Site BDyeabolical Site B
(Dyeabolical Site B-1. Site B-2 is the desk I'm sitting at right now. It won't fit through the door to Site B-1. Instead of working in a cozy office I am forced to write from my dining room surrounded by natural light and views of trees instead of parking lots. OH DARN! )

* Amenities. I thought I would hate having the laundry so far away. Turns out no. A well-lit, clean laundry a few blocks away is a lot better than a dank, moldy, unlocked, scary basement/transient motel that is just downstairs. Oh and yeah, two pools, a fitness center, basketball court and a playground, plus access to the community water park. I probably won't use most of these amenities but I'm pretty sure my guests could.

The only things I don't love are things I don't love about apartment living in general--the parking is a nightmare, you can't control the cleanliness of your neighbors and beige carpeting.