Gringo Hats: Done and Done!

Happily, the Gringo yarn was much more pleasant to knit than the hated Gringo fiber was to spin. John Horigan’s Exeter, with its allover ribbing and simple but handsome crown was a good, masculine match for the fuzzy dog yarn. I had almost enough leftover to make Twyla a matching hat, so I ended up frogging the crown of my dad’s hat and pulling back an inch to finish hers, since I figured he’d get a kick out of having matching hats to show off to his friends over our vacation (we’re going to Chile!–my parents have a place there). I used US4 needles and cast on 80 sts for Dad’s and 64 sts for Birdy’s.

The best laid plans


I had big plans for a massive surge of productivity in this, the last week before Ron gets home from tour. I was going to start on my shiny new work routine. I even made a spiffy banner to reinforce it (no, that wasn’t pure procrastination; okay, yes, it was). I was going to finish all my half-finished projects so I could look like a TCB badass. But the water had other plans for me.

Instead of whining about losing the whole week to the relentless flow of water into my basement and the battle against moisture, mildew and despair, I’m gonna focus on the bright side:

  • I finally cleaned and sorted a bunch of boxes of junk from the boiler room! Now I have buckets of plumbing supplies and buckets of electrical supplies, and the mouldering boxes and all the useless crap collecting dust and spiders is mostly gone!
  • Ditto the galley storage area. I’ve ditched a good 6 trash bags altogether, plus  a couple bags for Goodwill  and a fair amount of recycling. Take that, water! Try to disrupt my 40 Bags progress, will you? Ha!
  • I finally made a short leader hose for the submersible pump.
  • While I was at it, I hooked up a hose extender with a splitter with big, easy-to-turn levers for each tap. One goes to the courtyard and one goes out to the barn.
  • The weather, when it’s not storming, has been delightful! 70s and sunshine and puffy clouds, in June! No AC yet, barely any fans. I don’t usually turn on the AC this early, but I usually want to.
  • And when it is storming, it’s dramatic! Hours of breathtaking lightning last night, two trees knocked out over the weekend (neither of which I’m crying over–well, except the cleaning them up part).
  • The cooler weather has kept the inevitable flies at bay
  • I don’t have to fret about the sheep or chickens being too hot. (Although the barnyard is a fucking bog & I feel awful for the poor sheep.  At least I mucked out the barn before all the rain. The barn has Stable-Grid, so it can get muddy from traffic, but it drains, so it doesn’t get spongy and gross. I should just buy a hundred bucks’ worth every year and put it in a little patch at at time. The way time flies, the barn yard would be draining beautifully before I know it. Hm. Seriously, I should do that.)
  • I hired someone to cut down the trees felled by the storms and drag them to a burn pile–and learned that one of the trees (a plum) was highly toxic to sheep and cordoned it off with a scrap of fencing off before my two remaining sheep could eat it all up and die a horrible death from cyanosis. Whew! (No, that’s not what did in Mr. Shivers. The plum was out front, far from his little nibbly mouth. And I think cyanosis leaves clearer evidence.)

If you’re curious about the 40 Bags in 40 Days thing, go here. It was for Lent, so the official challenge is probably over, but I’m working on my own timetable.


And if you want to be a big nerd like me and make yourself a sticker chart, I’ve set up a template to print stickers on those ubiquitous return address labels, using the garbage bag graphic and the idea from White House Black Shutters. If you prefer a plain chart, she has one you can download; I like ticking off the numbers.

This pdf includes a numbered sticker chart and a sheet of labels, and a link to the WHBS post about it: 40 bags stickers and charts.

Another windbag going on and on about nothing.

I almost never write anymore, about anything. If it doesn’t fit into 140 characters, I just seem to cram it back down.

I miss blathering.

It’s not just the baby (who isn’t exactly a baby anymore) and it’s not just the time. I’ve gotten into this habit of self-censorship, originally born from the relative lack of privacy–or maybe just my perception of it–of in living in a tiny town, then fueled, I think, by the suffocating ubiquity of opinion on the internet. Almost none of the time am I interested in anything from the gazillion people shouting their opinions or bragging about their beautifully photographed, perfect lives and exquisite taste and marvelous dinners or repeating again and again in barely altered format the boring thing they’re doing or eating or watching.

And so I figure I don’t want to add to the din.


Maybe abandoning Disgruntled Housewife and starting Thrifty Knitter was a subconscious rationalization that if I was going make people suffer my prattle, then a least I should share something useful. Except that, once the instinct to shut up creeps in, you start to realize that everyone else does everything better, faster, prettier, with more and bigger photographs showing every gorram detail. So being useful isn’t maybe as useful, especially if you’re being useful mostly as an excuse.

Also, I drink a lot less now. Drinking weakens my impulse to shut the fuck up, to worry that I’m ignorant or boring or foolish. Muting that worry was soothing. Because, ultimately, who cares?

(I must clarify: I drink less now 1) out of mild concern for the size of my ass; 2) a desire to GTD;  3) the lack of ready geographic access to my favorite varieties of delicious, delicious alcohol; and 4) because I am an old bag and less able to withstand the physiological downside of booze. I’m not in any way anti-booze or anti-drinking. You know, unless you’re all Lost Weekend and it’s ruining your life.)

But I miss the freedom to be ignorant and boring and foolish with impunity. So I think I might just start doing it again. Drinking, I mean. And also, the other.

So! Here’s the Cliff’s Notes of the last 5 months. Maybe once I get going, my fondness for yammering on endlessly in spite of an utter lack of interest from anyone will continue.

Ohmygodthisissoboring! Hooray!

January & February: Switch from iPad check lists to a paper bullet journal, resulting in increased pleasure and productivity. Use it as an excuse to Join Ink Drop and put the Safari to good use. Ron goes on tour. Cold winter! Much snow! New Überlist! Experiment with bread machine, especially 1-hour whole wheat recipes. All manner of pancakes! Abandon the hated crib and make a little room for Birdy inside our room. Finally get caught up on old taxes. Knitting again! Lots of culling and cleaning. Much baby-proofing. I start using a fancy face cream and a  fancy hand cream and discover that my smugness about not using fancy creams was wildly unfounded, and am delighted at new supple skin that is nothing like that crumpled greasy cheap paper hamburger wrapper skin I’d been living in all winter.

March: We buy a minivan. Okay, I know. But it’s mostly for the Yarn School shuttle and touring (Yarn School had to rent twice a year, and Kid Congo and the Pink Monkeybirds were renting a van at least twice a year as well). But yes, it makes me roll my eyes at myself. Baby. Minivan. What next? (Seriously? What’s next? I need to stay on my toes.) Japanese snacks! Baby chicks! Start and make excellent progress (before Cheese and Yarn School knocked me off course) on 40 Bags in 40 Days, a lenten simplification challenge Grasshopper turned me on to.  My 40 Bags isn’t for lent, but for a vague sense that I need to take action before I ended up on Hoarders. (Is that still a show? I had to quit watching.) My 365 Projects peter off on cue as I get busy with workshop prep. Ron’s band records.

April: Another lovely Cheese School, and an renewed excitement for cheesemaking! Next year, a blue or a mold-ripened cheese will be on my Überlist. Jayne Cobb dies, which involves a couple weeks of nursing, with weeping and recriminations, part of it during Cheese School, and a sharp improvement abruptly followed by a dramatic downturn and the decision to have him put down. And ultimately, relief, as I realize how much his debility (he’s had knee problems since he was a yearling, and was especially miserable in the heat) has been weighing me down with worry and attention, which in turn makes me realize that I really had been looking out for him and wasn’t an oblivious turd. Have the vet check out the remaining sheep (healthy and hearty) and review my routine for any deficits and get the thumbs up. Ron records a band, and I feed them. They are young. Yarn School, splendid! Yarn School has been going on long enough and has enough word of mouth that it now self-selects, and now only delightful people come. People who would not have fun here or who are too fancy for our rustic setting, can tell that they will not have fun, and don’t come. This means I don’t have to feel nervous or insecure, and I love everyone and have a marvelous time.

May: Mr. Shivers gets sudden weird neurological symptoms, rapidly gets worse, and has to be euthanized a few days later. Both our local vet and the vets at K-State are flummoxed, and his necropsy is unhelpful, except to confirm that he did NOT have rabies–which was a genuine and terrifying concern for a few days. I learn that the rabies vaccine for humans is no longer 10 shots in the stomach, but 2 or 3 in the arm; and that as long as you’re asymptomatic, you don’t have to be terrified that you won’t get them in time. TV makes you think you have like 15 minutes before you have to get those 10 shots in the stomach, or you’re fucked. But, as I learned from–what? This American Life, maybe? Radio Lab?–there is no cure for rabies. Once you have symptoms, it will kill you. So, with Mr. Shivers’ sudden death rounding up a year to the week from the terrible dog attacks (which still haunt my almost-asleep brain like The Ring) last spring, Cupcake Ranch as dwindled by 70% to just 2 fat sheep. I’m sure they spend all their time gossiping about what a shitty shepherd I am.  Their new thing is snacking on the courtyard. I trim around the clover and let them come in and munch at dusk. Also, something ate Peggy, the only avian survivor of last spring’s dog attack, the same day Mr. Shivers was put down. Which was also Mother’s Day. Through a bit of cheesy experimentation, discover that I can use my cheese fridge (aka, dorm fridge turned down low) to ripen whole storebought brie and make cheap brie taste like fancy brie. Another band records. Spring and rain. Ron goes on tour.

June so far: I finally get around to making PDFs of all my Naughty Needles patterns, and an ebook with all the bonus patterns. The rights reverted back to me ages ago, but I never made the time.  I downloaded a free trial of Quarkxpress and set out to finish converting everything before it expired. Couldn’t knock out the Kindle version, sadly, and I’m afraid I’m about out of time. I’m suffering terribly from grass allergies and the relentless rain has so saturated the ground that it’s seeping in through the basement floor all over the place and I’ve had to roll up the rug and pick up everything not waterproof or too heavy to move. The boiler room’s completely flooded, and water’s coming in fast enough that the wet vac can’t keep up. But they’re scheduling sunshine Wednesday, so hopefully that will suck up some moisture and it won’t be like May 2006.

Overall: My finances go up and down (mostly down). I struggle with YNAB, which is super fun and motivational when I’m flush and depressing when I’m broke. I make lists of things I wish I could have. We initiate Sunday is Fun Day, which involves taking a break and blowing off responsibility for the day. Or, alternately, punishing the person ruining Fun Day with repeated laments of “But Sunday is FUN day!”

Birdy is becoming an actual person and astonishing and delighting me all the time. She’s just starting to talk in earnest, in 2-word sentences in a tiny muppet voice usually only Ron & I can decipher. There’s also an incessant stream of jabbering and much dancing, which is so fucking cute, but probably just to us. That’s the thing about your baby: she’s only fascinating to you. And she scribbles on everything, which, surprisingly, doesn’t bother me at all.


The hated Gringo yarn: Done! + New TV Project

Thanks to Spinsters Club last Sunday, I’m finally rid of the burden of spinning the world’s most unfun fiber: the dread Gringo fur. Gringo is a lovely beast, but his fur was soul-crushing to spin. Short, matted, clumpy, jumpy, and a warm charcoal color that, while actually quite a nice color as yarn, was fucking BOR-RING to spin. I still have to knit a hat out of the stuff, which I predict will  be numbing as well, but a Gatsby garden party compared to spinning the shit. So: huzzah!

And apologies to my fellow spinsters who had to suffer through two meetings of grumbling and scowling and cursing.

I still haven’t gotten around to writing up my elf bonnet pattern, and any minute now, it will be spring. Well, I keep thinking that, then the temperature crashes and we get more snow, so…. I thought I was in the final phases, until I realized too late that the gauge on my last sample was all goofy and I’d need to reknit it. I’m not in love with the color and it’s almost-but-not-quite TV knitting, so I just put it aside for something more mindless, now that Ron’s home from tour and we’re having marathon TV catchup. We do love our television.

This, on the other hand, is perfect television knitting.

I realized I never made Twyla a baby blanket! And I needed a TV project, so this is perfect. It’s a mitered square blanket. The only thing special (special to me; I doubt it’s a unique idea, but I thought it up myself after finding lots of single-square tutorials, which to me meant too many ends) about it is that all the squares are worked in a row, so there aren’t a million individual ends to weave in.

For each square, I CO 21 st and worked a central double decrease (skp) every RS/even row & knit all the WS/odd rows. You just work a square, then either PU/BO or slip stitch crochet (same results, but for most, crochet is faster) down one side to the corner, then CO again, work another square, repeat until there’s a little row like paper dolls. Just keep going until the string of squares is the width you’d like your blanket.


For the second row, you just start at the right again (the first square is going the wrong way because I didn’t do the slip stitch cheat, just started in on the second square), PU 21 sts across the tops of the first two adjoining squares.


After working the square…


…work down to to the top of the next square below by traveling down the side with a slip stitch again.


The PU another 21 sts over the next two adjoining sides, working exactly the same way as the first row, except that you PU sts instead of CO.


The second row looks like this.  Note that it will have one less square than the first row. As you work across, pay attention to the top of the first squares so they’re all facing the same way, if that matters to you. They tend to spin around as they’re dangling there.


For the 3rd row (and all future odd rows), you’ll need to CO 10 or 11 (you decide what feels like the best place to place that center st), then work up the outermost edge of the first row of the second square. Otherwise, you’d make a pyramid instead of a serrated rectangle. Those floppy sts are CO, not picked up along the edge of the first row. The picture’s a little unclear.


At the end of the row, for the last square, you’ll PU 10 or 11 sts along the side of the list second row square, then CO your last 10-10 sts, so ultimately your third row will have the same number of squares as your first row.

Then just alternate between the rows until your blanket is the desired length.


Spinsters Club!

Drove out to Wamego yesterday for my first Spinsters Club–and my first spinning–in forever. I’m pretty sure my last spinning was when I started spinning Gringo’s fur, over a year ago. It was such a drag that it turned me off spinning completely. It’s still a huge drag–I truly can not think of anything I’d like to spin less. Cotton, maybe? We’ll say cotton.  Maybe. But, tedious as it was, the company was wonderful and it was satisfying to get some more of that shitty work out of the way.

26/365: Gringo yarn. Bleh.

The fiber is from my dad’s favorite child, Gringo, a Portugese water dog. Gringo goes everywhere with my father, even in the plane back and forth to Chile, where my dad spends about half his time. He’s a service dog. My dad’s diabetic, but he had the dog trained and certified more so that he could spend every waking minute with the creature than because he actually depends on the dog. But with my dad’s near-complete inattention to his health, a backup plan can’t hurt. Anyway, my dad collected the beast’s fur and sent it to me for months until I finally said: enough with the fucking dog hair, already.

My current spinning project: Gringo

I agreed to card, spin, and knit my dad something from Gringo’s fur. My dad can’t fathom why anyone would want to spin anything but Gringo fur, ever, for the rest of their lives, but after spinning half a batt, and loathing every second, I was very firm that he was absolutely not getting anything beyond a hat. Maybe a Gringo hat will help him mind meld with the dog, and he’ll be content with that instead of badgering me to make him a full suit of dog hair clothes. That’s about the next logical step in their relationship.

Aside from having nice company to sweeten the odious dog yarn, I also came home with a lovely fiber swap present! Normally we do a swap at the December meeting, but shitty weather postponed our holiday swap a month. I got a crazy wool batt, a dyed mohair batt, some dyed mohair roving, all in a cute ravelry sack! I’m psyched it didn’t get swiped!


Tap, tap, tap

What’s that sound? That’s me, nailing down my Überlist for 2014!

2013 was pretty meh, list-wise. I banged out 38, solid Kelly territory (to my great shame). I think the first 3 months of the baby gave me a misleading idea of the kind of time I’d be working with. I did almost no knitting between when Birdy started crawling and November. But in November, I did bang out matching handspun cardigans for NaKniSweMO:

NaKniSweMo matchies

NaKniSweMo Matchies

Then I got on a roll and finished a couple other baby sweaters:

Silky merino 1-skeiner

Handspun ss pullover

And a couple bonnets…

Rumpled Elf

Vintage button

Santa 2014

Handspun Rumpled Elf

Handspun Rumpled Elf

I’m glad to be knitting again.

Rigid Heddle Love

Well, I’m getting a late start on NaKniSweMo, but I’m bound and determined to get at least one sweater done, and maybe 2. My plan is to make matching-ish cardigans for me and Pearly. I’m using this, a Tour de Fleece handspun from a couple years back.

It’s actually not my favorite yarn ever, a disappointing final combination of some really gorgeous fiber that promised to be marvelous right up until I plied it. I’m hoping I like it better in a sweater than in the skein–and from winding it into balls, I think I just might.

I thought I’d be doing shitloads of baby knitting, but once Birdy started crawling, I kinda put up my knitting and am only just now getting it back out. I’m hoping to be able to just wing it, using the cast-on numbers from this sweater, which has had a very long life, thanks to the all-over ribbing, but which she won’t be able to wear that much longer:

I think that was the last think I knit. OH! No, there’s something else on the needles, something that I need to hurry up and finish now that it’s cold. I think it’s going to be awesome. I hope.

Next weekend, I’m taking a weaving class from Linda Stanfill, who taught me how to warp my Knitter’s Loom during October’s Fiber School. I started what I thought would be a big throw rug from my amassed stash from fiber workshop handspun (my own, demo samples, and orphans from Yarn School, Camp Pluckyfluff, classes I taught at The Wicked Stitch, etc.). But 1) it was way too long to wind on and I had to keep unrolling and rigging it back up by tying it on and 2) I chose a weakish yarn for the warp and it just couldn’t hold up for the yards and yards required of it, and I got sick of knotting in more.

But in the end, I ended up with yards of great handwoven fabric that I’m probably making into sari silk-lined project bags for Woolfest.

Then I got the wee Ashford SampleIt! (yes, allonewordhalfitalicized with an exclamation point!) mini rigid heddle and started making scarves from handspun and commercial stash. It’s so gratifying to weave up handspun you’ve been puzzling over how to use for years. I’m hoping to weave a lot of Christmas presents, plus a nice batch for Woolfest. (Look at me thinking of Woolfest sooner than the week before! I’m a planning mastermind!)

Both of these use Laura’s Pygoras handspun for warp and commercial yarn for weft. The first one, I didn’t have enough handspun for all the slots, so I alternated between handspun and commercial. I really like the results.



[This is a post from last summer that I just realized I didn’t publish….]

I’ve been sort of turning the big blob of my life over and over again  in my mind, trying to work it into a nice bouncy dough, though it’s really more like a Katamari Damacy ball.

While on vacation, I had a smallish epiphany which kind of snowballed once I got home.

We took a train home from Seattle (which–man! totally recommend it–had no idea of the stunning wilderness you get to witness in Washington and Montana on the Empire Builder). It was an impulse decision–and I’m so seldom impulsive anymore that it was doubly fun. We had an overnight layover in Chicago and were lucky enough to spend it with our friends Grace & Anthony & their fetching daughter, Tigerlily. I was admiring the charming Spasmodica dolls Grace used to make, and we started talking about the pitfalls of making stuff to sell, and how it can turn your creative joy into kind of a grind. She said when she started complain about orders, Anthony teased her for just wanting to “play store.” And I realized that’s my downfall, too. I like making stuff, initially, and setting up a shop, but I’ve never been ambitious enough to be really successful (at anything, really), so I never rise above the level competence that allows you to do okay, but never really become a rock star.

That, and I have the curse of the dilettante. I’m pretty good at way too many things, so I can never just pick one and focus on it enough to achieve mastery. Instead, I putter around in my unfocused way and feel peevish, and envious of my more focused brethren.

But anyway, this has been my story (fractured enthusiasm without ambition or focus, dilettantism) for a long time. Why does it suddenly bother me more than usual?

It turns out babies take forever.

Luckily, it’s a good forever, and I’m hooked and madly in love. But the giant time suck that is motherhood made me realize there are things I don’t wanna do any more. Like play store.

To that end, I’m going to quit having my little half-ass shop. I’ll still sell equipment and maybe Yarn School related supplies (or maybe not), and of course, the fiber from my own critters, but everything else, I’m getting rid of.  I hope I can make up that wedge of lost income by having more time to focus on the venue part of our operation, which is way more fun, anyway (you know, except for the vast oceans of laundry and dirty dishes it generates).

The bonus is that I love quitting. Quitting was my favorite part of working, and a luxury not often afforded to the self-employed.

I’m looking forward to more quitting and more winnowing in the near future. I really want to quit facebook for good and all, thought I love Scrabble too much to ditch it entirely. I’ve got a ridiculous stash of yarn I need to give a hard stare. I’ve got a whole storage room of crap, much of it leftover from my ebay days. I have supplies for a dozen hobbies that are not really for me. I have too much food in my freezer. I have so many clothes that no longer fit me. I have too. Much. Fucking. Stuff. Period. It all pulls me down like a giant squid. I wish to be rid of a good deal of it.

And then maybe, unfettered by the clinging vines of my excess possessions, excess occupations, excess hobbies, I can turn my mind’s eye again to that big, gooey blob, and give it a chance to rise.