Monday, October 15, 2012

Cable Knitting

Okay, I know I've been posting about knitting a lot, but it's a fairly new skill for me, and I'm super proud of the fact that I'm teaching it to myself.

I've "mastered" the basic stitch, that is a "knit" stitch, so I figured it was time to learn the other basic stitch, the "purl". This did not go as smoothly as I would have liked. To knit a stitch, you place the needle behind the existing stitch, to purl, the needle goes in front. This was apparently mind-boggling to me. I could not understand this very basic concept, and it drove me up the wall.

So I set all of my knitting aside for a few months. Fast forward to Friday. I came across a lovely pattern for something called a Cable Knit scarf. I was intrigued. It was soooo pretty, and when I looked at the pattern, it looked like something I could actually do! It was only knit and purl stitches, that's simple right?
Oh right, I have no idea how to purl. Oh well, I thought to myself, how hard can it be to learn? Haha-haha-haha... Oh, I'm so dumb sometimes. :o)

I sat down, grabbed my knitting needles and some grey scrap yarn and stating knitting. The pattern I'm working off of calls for 42 stitches, so I cast them onto my needle and got started. And surprisingly enough, the purl stitches weren't that bad. I was so busy concentrating on the pattern that I forgot that I suck at purling. 

After a few rows of very intensive knit and purl work, I had something that looked like this:

I know it doesn't look like a whole lot, but I was super proud of it. Until I got to the third row and discovered that somehow I had 43 stitches. Shit. Now what? Pull the whole thing off of my needles, start over. Okay, I can do that, it's not a big deal. 
Cast on 42 stitches again, start knitting. Mess something up, unravel the piece, cast on again.
Repeat this about 7 times.

The 7th time I restarted my piece I actually made it all the way to row 8, which is the cable row. To cable knit, you need to take a few stitches off of the needle and hold them out of the way while you knit the stitches behind them. Then you bring those stitches back up and knit them. This gives you a really cool crossing-over look. The first row of cabling was dificult and the stitches probably came our a bit too tight, but I did it!

I put the arrow in so you can see exactly where the stitches cross over. Isn't that cool? I was so happy that I was able to do the cabling, that the next set of rows went really well. To make this scarf, there is a pattern of knit and purl stitches that repeats for seven rows, and the eight is the cable row. Then, you simply repeat those eight rows until the scarf is as long as you want it to be.

So, after I successfully completed my first cable row, I started back at row 1 to repeat the pattern. I made it all the way to my second cabling row. It was harder than the first one, but I thought I'd done it well, until I realized that I had added an extra stitch... again.

Arggg!!! Unravel the whole thing, start over, again...

Fast forward a bit to attempt number 9. I've made it through two cabling rows, and once again, I'm feeling pretty optimistic about this scarf. I might actually finish it one of these days! Plus, I'm at the point where this is actually staring to look like a scarf:

I'm psyched to finish this one up and start wearing it. The way things are going around here, I'm going to need it. Cold is coming.

Okay, that's enough of that, don't you think? I'll be back soon with more new and exciting posts about what I'm knitting, or reading, or watching, or other boring things like that. I kid, I kid, I know you guys love this stuff, don't you?

I think I've finally mastered this pattern, what do you think?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Reading A Metric Ton of Books

Okay, maybe not a metric ton, maybe not even a regular ton. But I've been reading a lot. And I thought I'd share some of my more recent books with you guys. Aren't you lucky ducks?

Four Past Midnight  - Stephen King
I've always been a big fan of Stephen King. I picked up a copy of 'Salem's Lot back when I was a wee little thing of 12, and I've never looked back. His novels are fantastic (and fantastical), but his short stories and novellas are not to be neglected. Four Past Midnight is a collection of four novellas, each centered around the theme of time, and how time affects us all. 
The first story, The Langoliers has been made into a movie, and it was easily my favorite in the collection. The story is about a small group of airplanes passengers who wake up in the middle of a flight to discover that everyone else on the red eye flight has vanished.
Next up is Secret Window, Secret Garden which was made into a main-stream movie starring Johnny Depp. Believe it or not, I haven't seen the movie yet, but the story was great. It's about a novelist who gets accused of plagiarizing a short story, and how he deals with the increasingly bizarre consequences. 
The Library Policeman is a great case for returning your books on time, and will probably scare the crap out of any of us who might have kept a book out of the library a little longer than we should have.
The last story, The Sun Dog reminds me a little bit of an old episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? It's about a Polaroid camera that seems to be taking pictures of another dimension. One that houses a very terrifying and angry looking monster-dog.
Like I said, I've always been a big Stephen King fan, and this book didn't disappoint. I loved all of the various characters and the different stories. While I love sitting in for a long story, and getting all of the juicy little details that can only be revealed in a longer novel, I also love getting to know a character in the short snapshot of biography that's allowed in a short story.

Christine - Stephen King
Another Stephen King novel? Shocking. Just shocking. But seriously, I have so many Stephen King books sitting around my house it's embarrassing. I keep telling myself that I need to read some of the books I already have sitting around before I start buying more of them. So, over the summer I made a real effort to cut down that list. Christine had been sitting around for a long time, both the book and the car, which is fitting, I suppose.
The book's about a junked-up car that slowly takes over the life of a teenage boy. It's spooky, of course, but it's more than that. While the book might be short (for a King novel, anyway) but the way that the story draws out and builds tension is masterful. The story centers around a teenage looser, you know the type, "Every school has two". But this looser finds a car, Christine, that makes him into something much more.
If you're looking for a quick thrill, this probably isn't it. But if you're looking for a story that will draw you in and scare you at every turn, look no further.

Asleep: The Forgotten Epidemic that Remains one of Medicine's Greatest Mysteries - Molly Caldwell Crosby
I'd picked this one up at Barnes and Nobel a few months ago when I had some time to kill. Medicine has always been a hobby of mine. I'll read just about anything I can get my hands on if it's about medicine or the history of medicine (which is a favorite topic of mine). So when I saw this at the store, I knew I had to read it. I grabbed it off of the shelf an sat down in an overstuffed chair to read. I devoured the first few chapters, and I was hooked, I knew I had to read the rest of the book. Which is exactly what the first few chapters should do!
I ordered a copy of the book on amazon (it was too expensive at the store) and read it over a vacation to Boston. It's a non-fiction piece about the history of Encephalitis lethargica, better known as Sleeping Sickness. The disease reached epidemic proportions in the 1920's in the United States and elsewhere in the world (though the book primarily focuses on America). The book talks about how the disease affected not only the patients who had it, but the doctors and facilities that treated them. From soldiers in WWI to children in sanitariums across rural New York, the disease spared no one. And the most terrifying aspect of the disease (and the book) is the fact that the survivors of the disease were left forever changed, some of them doomed to spend the rest of their lives literally frozen in mental institutions. Oliver Sack's book Awakenings (and the film with Robbin Williams) focuses on the after-affects of this terrible epidemic.
Overall, I liked the book, though there were some things about the author's writing style that I didn't much care for. Her transitions were almost non-existent and she tends to jump from topic to topic with little warning. If you are interested in medicine though, especially the history of disease, then I would recommend this book, the story is compelling and the history is almost unbelievable. 

There's more that I've been reading lately, but this post is already getting ridiculously long, so I'll have to save the rest for another post. Keep checking back, and as always, your feedback is always appreciated!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Making a Quiver

 Heads up folks, this is going to be a long one. :o)

At the beginning of the summer, The Boyfriend and I started going to this fantastic little semi-local archery practice. I had shot a handful of times (most of them three years ago) and came with my dinky little fiberglass bow and my loaner arrows. But everyone there made me feel comfortable and welcome. It's a great practice, and I should write more about shooting at some point.

Anyway, The Boyfriend decided that I needed a quiver. Since his quiver is handmade, and we wanted mine to match, we went online to start pricing out leather. It turns out though, that leather is expensive unless you're buying in bulk. And since we didn't really need 100+ yards of leather, we decided to ask around at the archery practice, to see if anyone had any resources for buying smaller chunks of dried out cow skin.

The Forrester who runs the practice (and owns the range) told us that he happened to have some leather sitting around. Turns out that he's the kind of guy who has a little bit (or a lot) of everything laying around, ready to be shared or given away. It was a nice big piece of leather that probably cost about $50 or so, so The Boyfriend and I settled on a trade. We would get the leather, and in turn we would make a quiver for the Forrester. Deal.

So we took the piece of leather to The Boyfriend's house and got to work. This is what we started with:

The next step was to look at the leather we had, and try to envision a quiver. Since The Boyfriend had made a few quivers before (and taught a class on it) he knew what we had to do. He had me get out some paper and start the design work.

You can see some of our design work in this picture. We dug out the box of leather scraps to see if we would be inspired. In the end we decided to make a simple black leather quiver with a tan stripe down the middle where the lacing would go. Next we got some newspaper and started cutting out pattern pieces. It's always important to measure twice and cut once, and doubly so when you're working with an expensive (and tough) material like leather.

We laid the pattern pieces on the leather and carefully cut everything out. We measured the pieces against each other to see how the finished product to see how it was going to look.

Not too shabby, huh? The Boyfriend had the tan leather laying around, and since it looked so nice we decided to add another stripe across the top of the quiver. The next step was to sit and use a leather-punch to punch holes up and down the sides of the pieces so that they could be sewn together.
My hand did not like that particular activity...

After all of that punching it was time to start the very tedious job of lacing all the different pieces together. First the sides:

Then the bottom piece:

  Then the decorative stripe across the top and the strap that would allow someone to wear the quiver over their back:

Don't I look cute? And finally, it wouldn't be one of The Boyfriend's projects without a power-tool involved, so he got out the drill to add some final holes to the top of the quiver.

And that's how you make a quiver! Or, at least, that's how we make a quiver. Here's the finished product from the back, and being modeled by my FFIL (Future Father In Law):

The quiver was a ton of fun to make, and I really think that The Forrester was impressed with it when we presented it to him. He said that he definitely got his money's worth in terms of our little trade. Eventually, we'll use the considerable amount of leather that we have left over to make my quiver. Which, if you'll remember, was the entire point of getting the leather... Oh well, I'm sure we'll get to it eventually...

We worked on a few other projects throughout the summer (we built a back-top for The Boyfriend's archery target), and I hope to be able to post about them some time soon. But for now, I hope this little post will hold you guys over.