Tuesday, April 25, 2017

At long last knitting... plus simplicity in tea and packing

It's true, this is a picture of a handknit!  On a knitting blog!

I almost forgot I write one, and not just because I hardly get to post more than once a week right now.

Again, this is the same fingerless mitt pattern I've been working on for - what, 18 months?  Yeesh.  Well, the house is nearly done and after I have packed us up and moved us there, I will have more time for writing Hugs.  Also, I will have a beautiful and bright space to take Huglike pictures in.

The yarn is what really makes this project, in my opinion.  The mitts are fun to knit - just repetitive enough to be mindless for TV watching, but with regular shifts to mark your progress, and a pretty speedy conclusion so you feel you've really accomplished something.  But when you do them with Viola yarn... well, that stuff looks so beautiful in plain stocking stitch, and there is plenty of that in this particular pair.

(I would like to apologize for again linking to Emily's yarn shop when it has no yarn in it.  Her stuff sells out so fast, what can I say?  and probably she is holding on to stock ahead of the annual Knitter's Frolic here in Toronto, which I am missing, because I will be packing to fly to Frankfurt, and yes I am apologizing for that too, to myself!  I can't BELIEVE I am missing the Frolic. AND the season premiere of my guilty obsession, The Good Witch.)

Knitting these mitts got me more excited about knitting than I've been since Christmas 2015.  That is a LONG time not to have knitting mojo don't you think?  But at this moment, if I could justify not typing, I would cast on a second pair in my 'Jasper' (aka brown) Viola sock yarn, since I have some caked.  It was that nice to work with the blue.

Speaking of which: the blue was a one-off.  Sometimes Emily experiments with colourways and doesn't like them enough to make them official. If it were up to me, this one would be a Forever stock item.

I only have a few days left before I have to wheel a suitcase out the door and you know what, I am not really ready.  In my dreams, I am a person who can travel with next to nothing and just pick up what I need en route and wash the rest in Soak in the hotel sink, and every time we do a big trip like this I try to get closer to making that a reality.  And I find this confusing, the heartfelt hopefulness that drives me - because who aspires to do laundry on a daily basis??

I had a friend years ago who aspired to that kind of mobility and trained himself to drink tea without milk so he could pack more easily for camping.  I thought he was taking things a bit far, but recently I stopped putting sugar in my tea in an attempt to cut back my overall consumption and the world did not end.  I mean, milk does have some natural sugars in it.  Then the other day I read that the many health benefits of tea are pretty much washed out when you add milk to it, because of some chemical reaction I didn't understand, and I thought, Right Then.  No Milk Either.  Pretty sure the world survived that shift as well and now here I am, drinking my tea without anything in it but tea and water.

You know those awful diets they put you on before you have a specialized medical test, or after surgery, which feature black tea or coffee?  Whenever older relatives had to comply with that I was horrified, but now here I am, able to drink black tea on a daily basis.  Life skillz!

But I digress.  Because I will not have time to stop and shop for things once I arrive, I decided on a travel wardrobe made up entirely of black and white clothing that features three cardigans - one is a thin linen blouse, one is a linen/cotton cardi, and one is a heavy Merino wool sweater - and three pairs of pants, several of one particular T shirt to wear under one of two smock things, and three sleeveless linen tops that I can wear as a base layer or even solo, on a warm day.  This feels like a LOT of clothes to me but then I glanced over at the pile they created and thought - really?  Because there was still space on the sofa to sit down beside it.

Then I did a test run packing my carry on bag.  My carry on for this trip is a RUME All bag - a small reuseable tote that folds into your purse, which I like because it has a zipper and two pouches at the ends for a water bottle.

Actually it's this exact bag, because I got obsessive about the black and white thing.

RUME bags weigh nothing and hold 50 pounds, and the ALL is not very big - it's about half the size you're allowed to carry on.  So you wouldn't expect to fit a lot in it.  I packed it with enough clothes to get me through three days without deprivation on the off chance my checked luggage is lost, and then I put in what I will need for the river cruise we are taking to kill time until our hotel lets us check in.  And then I thought - really?  Because there was still space in the bag for my Ziploc of liquids and my makeup AND my purselet, which I plan to wear cross body during the flight as it's just roomy enough for a book, my iPods and earbuds, my phone and its charger bank, and a few sweets.

So - I feel like I might be getting closer to the dream. What was left on the sofa after I packed all that will fill about a quarter of the suitcase I am sharing with Pete, even after I throw in the socks I cast on to knit on bus rides.  The secret may be "lightweight linen", but I prefer to take the credit for myself.

Where, you might wonder, will the fingerless mitts go?  Neatly inside in the pocket of my smock thing, to clutch or meditate over during takeoff and turbulence.  Them, and a tiny stuffed bunny, of course.  Can't fly without a bunny.

So: today's lesson is, you can make do with a lot less than you think you can.  Less stuff in your tea, less stuff in your suitcase, and - shockingly - less stripes in your knitting.  Amazing!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Yarn luxury, temporarily thwarted

There has been a lot of yarn stuff going on here at Hugs Central, but it hasn't all been knitting.  Watch this:

This yarn has a gorgeous, gorgeous colour - several colours, in fact, all muted, featuring everything I want to pack in fingerless glove form to go with my green raincoat, new blue jeans, and white handbag when we're on holiday and heading into the Alps or somewhere else that's chilly.  It's dyed by Emily at Viola, whose yarn I save for super special occasions.  And... oops!

Okay sometimes tangles like this happen, but it's not always a total disaster.  If you're really lucky, you can catch a big yarn snarl before it gets worse.

Not this time though! 

Thankfully Pete was on the other side of the yarn winding table watching TV and offered to try to fix it for me, so I went off to make us supper.  When I came back, he looked like he was caught in a yarn snarl blizzard.  He stuck with it all through the evening but that yarn did NOT want to cooperate!

After a couple of days, between the two of us, it got wrestled down to this:

And on the third night I couldn't sleep so I got up and worked at the remaining knots and tangles until it could be caked properly. 

Whew!  All ready to be knit, and not a moment too soon because we leave at the end of the month.

By contrast, the brown yarn I wanted to pack for travel knitting took 15 minutes to cake.

Isn't it beautiful?  There are SO many gorgeous coppery colours in here.  In fact I am struggling with that now because I don't think I want to waste this colour on feet.  Also, this yarn is just a bit finer than my beloved Vesper Sock, and I would have to cast on more stitches to make a comfy sock, which I don't feel like doing.  I think I should make more fingerless gloves with it instead, don't you?

I absolutely love the fingerless gloves pattern I'm using.  It's so simple to knit, just a hand and wrist warmer stripped to the essentials.  And I've been wearing my original pair so much lately, to keep the now-healed fingers on my left hand pliable as I got through the physiotherapy stage, so I am constantly reminded that they super comfortable and pretty to wear, too.

Which leaves me with more decisions because I have rather a lot of Vesper sock yarn already caked for sock-readiness and, since it would be in use only on the ground in places people don't mind knitters, I can just throw some in my bag.  But - which to bring?  I didn't take a picture of this because they are all in little baggies that don't photograph well but there are fourteen possible sets.  They literally spanned the back of our sofa as I set them out to consider what colour combinations I would most want to look at while on a bus on a highway. 

Finally I narrowed them down to three and showed them to my whole family for input and here is what they said - all of them, I mean, even though I asked them independently and they weren't influenced by each other:

First choice, the Vespers that look closest to the colour of the German flag

Second choice, a colourful stripe that is my second choice too

Not even on the leader board: the lovely stripe that is my first choice.  GAH! and this is why it's good to be independently minded.  I mean at least they confirmed my preference for that one colourway.  Still not 100% sure it's the one I'll take, but it's a start.

Or it will be once I get this yarn knit up!

Have you got yarn you can't wait to knit?

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Tiny travel things

I guess if I traveled more, or was less particular about taking as little as humanly possible while still having access to every sort of thing I am likely to need while away, I would not find packing to be such a production.  Things being what they are, though, I've spent the past few days spending irresponsible amounts of money on things to make our fast-approaching trip to Germany a breeze.  And here are the finds that thrill me the most! the things that cost the least.  TYPICAL.

Yep, a tiny purse-sized pack of dental picks is up there with the gorgeous black lab coat I found on the clearance rack at Eileen Fisher.  I am telling you, the older I get, the more I appreciate a good dental pick!  I have sort of registered that these purse-sized cases are available, and the single-use toothbrushes you see sometimes too, but the lightbulb only lit for this trip. I prefer biodegradable wood ones, but I like the little bristles on these for long days far from my toothbrush. 

And there will be long days, because we aren't just flitting off to Cologne, Regensburg, and Munich for no particular reason, but to be groupies for a choir we especially like with singers we know and love.  It's more of a social thing than a vacation - our particular group will be traveling together with a tour guide and going to museums and concerts and, I hope, some restaurants.  But I've done this before and I know - they will get us out the door early and drop us back at our hotel very late before doing it all over again the next day.  This little dental pick case will be a good friend I'm sure.

I'm also completely besotted with the Venus travel razor I found in the travel-size section of a local drugstore (it's at Shoppers', fellow Torontonians - I found mine in the TD Centre.) 

The little pink case has drainage holes and fits in the palm of my hand; the actual razor can be refitted with blades readily available the next aisle over.  I have been using a standard man's razor handle since I started shaving my legs lo these many years ago and I am not used to the Pink Overload (or do I mean, Pink Overlord?) but omigosh it's so TEENY!  I can't wait to use it.  And believe me that is not something I normally say about shaving devices.

You know what I really love though is this phone charger from Kate Spade. 

I found that at a Winners store about five minutes before a physio appointment this week and had to line up right away to buy it even at the risk of less hand-fixing time.  I can't stop looking at the stripes!  I really, really love stripes.  And it's so much lighter weight than my current tubular one.  It's not even as big as my phone, which is the outdated and miniature-compared-to-the-6 iPhone 5.

And... it should be able to charge my phone fully a couple of times, which will prove extremely helpful I am sure.  I say this because I am testing it out on my phone as I type, and the charging is happening superfast.  Thankfully I also tested the cable and discovered the one supplied is for an android phone.  So, I will leave that at home.

To extend the battery life of my phone and avoid the expense of the noise canceling headphones I had wanted for this trip, to block out the sound of plane engines, I decided to make use of these little iPod Nanos.

I'm not sure why I have two.  Probably one is Pete's, but another possibility is that when we traveled last time I couldn't find my original Nano and decided to spring for another because they are really not that expensive.  Now that I have two, and located their chargers no less, I have charged them up and loaded them.

The grey one implies sleep to me, so it's housing eight hours of the sound of rain falling on a river, with the odd roll of thunder in the background.  This is ideal for sleeping in a room near an elevator or over a busy street; I just clip the Nano to my pyjamas and lock in my earbuds with the headband I knitted myself for our trip to Italy, and I am good till morning.

The green one - green means go! - is for daytime use.  I loaded that up with my unabridged audiobook of North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, narrated by Juliet Stephenson.  I mean if that woman and her wonderful voice can't get me through turbulence, nothing can. And because I've watched the miniseries so many times I will be able to follow the plot easily no matter how many extra bits were cut for the screen, in practically any stressful circumstances.

Pete and I are hoping to share one checked suitcase, plus daypack-sized carry on bags.  So, the small stuff is the biggest thrill for me!

Per suggestion - I looked up our airline's guidelines for knitting needles and the answer was 'Pack it in your checked luggage or say goodbye to it forever,' so I am going to pack sock knitting in my checked luggage.  I mean we will be in a bus a LOT for 10 days, so I am pretty sure I will be reaching for it a fair bit. 

Instead of flight knitting I am hoping to make do with the two Nanos, a stack of good reading, and a cute miniature sheep I bought myself for Easter and promptly misplaced, but will find again in time I hope.  And I am thinking about bringing a little sketch book and a felt tip pen for drawing or possibly even writing with.  Pretty sure a watercolour pan set is impractical in Economy.  Even without one though, I can create shapes to colour in later.  Carol says I should pack delicious little food treats too, so I don't feel so hard done by when the plane starts bumping a lot.

And also: sleep.  Our flight over is at night, and with luck, that will be possible.

What's your favourite way to stay amused on a long plane trip?

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Sewing a rain poncho

The ponchos that little girls wore when I was small were usually bell-shaped, with pom-poms at the end of a drawstring threaded through the neck opening.  Picture a lot of kids leaping around a skipping rope with their arms pinned to their sides and pom-poms whapping them in the eye, and you'll know why I have steered clear of them as an adult.  But... in a Boxing Day sale this year, I saw a gorgeous length of 100% cashmere cloth sewn into a boxy poncho and I couldn't resist.  And even if I hadn't broken my fingers the following week and found myself wearing a splint that didn't fit through any of my coat sleeves, I am pretty sure I would have been wearing it constantly because it is so wonderful.

The cashmere poncho is not just warm and soft and special-feeling.  It's actually flattering!  It drapes beautifully and the asymmetrical grey stripes knitted into the cloth make it look kinda glam.  It's the opposite of a frumpy sweater, while having all the assets of a frumpy sweater.  Well, except that it's easier to take a pan of roasted sweet potatoes out of the oven when you're wearing a frumpy sweater than when you're draped in a giant poncho.

(Don't ask me why I kept needing a sweater even when I was pulling something out of a 400 degree oven because I have no idea.)

So there we go: I am in love with my black and grey cashmere poncho.  I love it so much I bought a second one in a later sale, so that when the first one wears out I will have another in the queue.  And it's now April.  Soon it will be simply too hot to wear, not to mention depressingly dark in colour.

I was all set to part with regret until the fall when I started planning my travel wardrobe for our trip to Germany.  I have a sensible black raincoat I can bring, but it's not something I want to take off and carry when the day warms up or dries out; it's waxed cotton, so it needs a little care lest it look worn, and also, it's got lots of zippers and snaps that are heavy and prevent it from being easily rolled up into a pillow. 

A much better idea: comfy sweaters plus a fold-down rain shell.  Or better still, a fold-down rain trench!  So that my legs stay dry in the rain, too.  But I couldn't find any... until after I acted on the brilliant idea that occurred to me next.

Yep: I decided to make my own rain poncho!!  I mean, I already had the basic design, right?  I could just copy Mr. Cashmere.

It was surprisingly easy to find a Canadian supplier of black ripstop nylon and you know what, that stuff isn't even expensive.  I bought two yards and some sharp sewing machine needles and then about an hour later, found a pretty good-looking pocket-sized fold-down trench coat online which I also ordered, just in case.

Because, you know, I have some experience with my bright ideas, and I wanted insurance.

The fabric arrived within days - actually, on a day when I had a free evening and was able to get right to work.  So that's what I did.  Go me! 

I trimmed off the uneven edges and cut the piece into two 1-yard segments.

Then I used an eye dropper on the scraps to confirm which side was water resistant...

and folded the edges in for a nice clean hem on three of the four sides of each piece.

Then I fussed around with the neck.  On the cashmere poncho, it's 10 inches wide, so that's what I chose for the rain poncho, except I forgot to hem the neck opening before I started the French seams for the shoulders.

And also, after I did both lines of stitching for the shoulders and added a third in topstitching, I realized I hadn't tested the neck opening, which OF COURSE was too small because ripstop nylon does not stretch and cashmere knits do.

Duh.  How many hats have I knit anyway? How could I forget my head is 23" around, and that 23 >20?

So I ripped out the neck edges of the French seam and sat down to finish them properly

and then I thought - Wait.

Maybe I should try this on and see how it looks.  And maybe I should ask Pete what he thinks.

I looked in the mirror and thought, I look like a giant bat.

I showed Pete and he said, You look like you're about to get on the Maid of the Mist and go under the falls.  You know, in one of those cheap plastic rain ponchos they sell there, but black, like a garbage bag.

And I considered whether either of these looks is really what I want to go for while we're on holiday, any time it rains over the twelve days we are away.

Then Pete, who was still considering the black water resistant shroud I was wearing, asked, "Isn't it kind of hot?  I mean, it's rustling like it's really airtight fabric.  Are you going to go crazy wearing something hot?"

Which is why the poncho is now folded up neatly in my sewing bucket, waiting to be made into some lightweight waterproof bags.

Isn't it lucky I ordered that trenchcoat?  Won't it be great if it actually fits?

Something else I learned while making the poncho is that I don't love running seams as much as I remembered.  It felt kind of like work.  Maybe it would be different if I were sewing something other than stiff black nylon taffeta.  But - I'd been considering whether I could sew some of my own curtains for the 'new' house, to save some money for back yard landscaping, and now I'm thinking No.  Just - no.  Somebody else should do that job, who likes it.

And how is your week going?

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Task lighting and other LED bulb adventures

This week there was a very exciting development on the home renovation front: I was asked to deliver the lighting fixtures for the second floor!  Excitement illustrated below with my favourite light fixture, which is not only not task lighting - it's going over the kitchen table - but also not on the second floor:
Hudson Valley's  Odessa flushmount - doesn't it look just like a retro spaceship??

Okay, okay - being asked for light fixtures probably sounds like the definition of UNexciting but since I bought the lighting for the whole house last May I am pretty thrilled to be getting rid of all those boxes.  One of them is about two and a half feet square and eighteen inches tall.  They are stored in our bedroom in a 5' x 8' stack because I didn't want to rent a storage locker just for light fixtures.  Oh me of little foresight.

My joy at this news was short-lived because when I looked at the lighting storage zone I realized the second floor lights were all mixed in with the main floor ones, sorted by what would stack most compactly rather than what I would want to get at first.  aiiiieeeee

Also, I am supposed to deliver the light bulbs for all the fixtures at the same time, so they can be installed and lit up in a sort of conga line as the paint dries room by room.  By this logic I will be delivering the main floor lights next weekend, or maybe a little sooner.

But rather than dwelling on how my entire Friday evening was spent on dismantling the storage locker, identifying all the boxes, and then reassembling it to accommodate the four kitchen table stools we had to take delivery of yesterday, let's pause for a moment of smugness, shall we?

See, everybody I know who has renovated has gone through the ACK! moment when they are asked to supply the light fixtures for installation.  Like me before all this started, they only perk up for really pretty lights they see in somebody's house or in a display feature somewhere, and otherwise don't look much at what's on the ceiling until it needs dusting, and then they forget again.  Also, most normal people are pooped after choosing tile and paint colours and countertops and they sit down, forgetting they wanted new lights, and that those lights will have to go in when the trades are still in the house to do it.  Then when they get the go-ahead to supply lights, they have no choice but to run off to a big box store, or perhaps a dedicated lighting store, to pick up whatever is carried by them and in stock.  Then they are stuck with lights they may not love after spending a fortune on renovating their space.

I did not want this to be me, so I spent months researching lighting in online shops and design blogs.  I did comparison pricing.  I thought about a colour palette for the house and a roster of metal finishes that would complement what we were using for doorknobs and cabinet hardware.  I noted trends in fixtures that many manufacturers were doing a spin on, and I thought about how much light I wanted in different parts of the house based on what we would be doing there.  Then I talked to Pete and we doubled up because the old version of our house had such terrible lighting, and we want lots of options this time around.

This is the mindset that justifies two chandeliers hanging over our long and narrow dining table...

Pottery Barn 'Graham' - and you know those swoopy bits will dangle handknit socks at Christmas
... each with six 60-watt candelabra bulbs.

Yes, that's a ton of light.

Yes, I gave in when Ray winced and suggested a dimmer even though I really dislike dimmed lights.

and Yes, I will still be glad I picked those fixtures in three years (I hope??) because a long narrow table is EXACTLY where you want to cut out fabric, and gather your friends for a knitting party.  Or, you know, do paper crafts or whatever.  And I can always downgrade to 40 watt bulbs, right?

Compounding our desire for lots of light, I thought about task lighting.  I mean sure, when there are a bunch of people doing crafty stuff at the dining room table we will want lots of light.  When we are actually dining there, we can use the dimmer.  But what about the piano?  It needs task lighting too, right?  So there are going to be two more lights over in that corner of the dining room, flanking a painting for balance...

Sconce by George Kovacs

... each with a 60-watt bulb.

Obviously I will not put on all those dining room lights at once unless somebody loses a contact.  But it gives us the potential to put on one of two of the swing arm lights with the shade directing all the light toward the sheet music, or one of them facing down to bolster candles on the table or mantelpiece.   Or one as a soft cheery light for somebody who's coming home late, after everybody else is asleep, to light the path to the stairs.  Or one pointed toward the window, as a secret neighbour signal to say I Just Baked Cookies, Don't Tell Anyone, Just Quietly Knock For Your Share.

Or whatever.

So - yes.  Too much lighting in every room.  Overkill lighting, really.

In our kitchen for example there will be four LED spotlights under the upper cabinet at my butler's pantry counter, plus the 2-light version of the cute Odessa flushmount on the ceiling just above where I will stand to sort mail or whatever.  Then as much undercabinet lighting again across the main cooking area, with four or five more LED spotlights in the ceiling over where we'll stand to work, a spot over the sink with undercabinet lights either side, more undercabinet lighting over the smaller sink we'll use to fill the kettle at our tea and breakfast counter, and finally a three-light Odessa fixture over the kitchen table.  Now, to be fair - the kitchen is just a weird shape with several different work areas, several of them quite small.  And while Pete likes to work with a ton of lights on and music playing, I like quiet and very focused task lighting when I work or clean up, so we had to come up with a plan to accommodate our differences.  It's still a lot of light, but it won't all be on at once typically, and it's covering a wide area.

But my office is a different story.

It's a small space, about 5' x 8.5'.  A bathroom really, which is what it would have been except I refused to consider stepping into the tub to open and close the window, as that was my big pet peeve in the older version of our house.  Also, if we'd done that, I'd have been working in the admittedly much larger space the bathroom eventually got, which has light tubes instead of windows.  I really wanted a window in my office.

It would be very sensible to light a space that size with a two or three light ceiling fixture and a desk lamp, but where's the fun in that?

I mean yes, there is going to be a three light ceiling fixture.  It is technically a chandelier, which I bought because it was a good colour, enormously sale-priced, and felt sort of 1930s French industrial to me - but was in hindsight a great choice because it will draw the eye down from the rather ugly 18-inch square ceiling cassette that provides additional cooling or heating when needed.

Robert Abbey, 'Aunt Bee'

Also there are two sconces over the daybed nobody believes I have room for in there.  (I do though - I had it custom-made a little smaller than standard and am planning on a 14" deep desk.  Meh, I do a lot of my writing and knitting designs curled up on a sofa anyway, and a daybed also makes a great surface for sorting papers or yarns or sewing pattern pieces.)  This is a modestly-priced fixture by Quorum Lighting - I think I got my two on sale for a little over $20 each - but it's small, it's the right colour, and can take up to a 100 watt bulb.  Also I think the style looks okay with the other lights in the room and will pull in the black metal base of the desk I still have to ask our stair railing supplier to create for me.

And of course you need desk lights... but if all you have is 14" you don't want to waste any of it on a table lamp... so we are putting in two more swing arm sconces, a pair that match the chandelier.

Robert Abbey, 'Aunt Bee' Swing Arm

I cannot WAIT to be able to focus additional light right on the needle bed of my sewing machine!  The one that's in the machine itself is good, but I often find I need more to light the fabric that's on its way to be stitched.

In the end, we decided not to reuse any of the lights we'd had in the house before.  Some were really cute and had the right amount of light, but the new ceiling heights and room sizes just begged for something bigger.  For example, in the hallways, we are using this light, which I think is pretty cool but still era-appropriate, rather than our old selection of a compact metal base with a trio of fluted glass shades:

'Diamond', from Feiss

Notice anything about this fixture?   Or the Odessa fixture?  Maybe you won't think of it - I didn't, when I first fell in love with the style and surprisingly affordable price - but changing the bulbs is going to be a serious drag.  It will mean climbing a ladder and unscrewing the whole thing, which makes the lights we used to have seem pretty fabulous by comparison.

And that loops us back to the second responsibility I have right now.  First, unearth the upstairs light fixtures.  Second, supply the light bulbs.

Want to know how many standard 60-watt A-19 light bulbs we need for all the fixtures going into the second floor?



There are only 17 on the main floor, but that's because some of what we bought for that floor wants candelabra-style bulbs, which is going to be another project.

And the thing about light bulbs is that if you want incandescent ones, you are really only getting 43 watts now instead of 60.  Which is okay... but they don't last, either, and you have to change them a lot.  Since six of our fixtures are closed (four 'Diamond's and two 'Odessa's) I really don't want to be changing them.

Instead, we are going with LED replacement bulbs.  I found a website here in Toronto that can have them to my door before enough paint is dry to install the first fixture, and their standard A-19 60-watt replacement is a warm white with a super long lifespan and graded for use in closed fixtures.  Not all LED replacements can be used that way, because what little heat they do emit can burn them out faster than in an open fixture.  Bonus: they only need 9 watts to produce the same amount of light as as standard incandescent bulb. That means we'll use a ton less electricity to light our house on top of a ton less gas to heat it, thanks to our underfloor heating/serious insulation combo and our on-demand water heating system.

And you know what all that means, right?  Not just an earth-friendly, sensibly-lit environment for making stuff but -

more money for yarn!!!! 

And that's exciting, even if light shopping isn't, right?

Hope you have a great weekend and I'll see you again soon!

Friday, March 24, 2017

The travel knitting plan

Springtime is travel season at our house, and this year it's the southern part of Germany.  Yay!  But more on that another day.  Today is all about packing.

I don't usually take knitting on these trips but when we were in Newfoundland two years ago I got antsy and had to buy yarn and needles and so on under pressure - which reminds me, I still haven't finished the cowl I started there - and I don't want that to happen to me again.  For one thing, I checked at Ravelry and apparently knitting is not such a big thing in Germany!  What you can get is mostly acrylics.  So I will have to bring my own. 

There is a chance I will want to knit on the plane this time.  The last few flights we've taken have been not so fabulous, and I need to do some more cognitive behaviour therapy work to be okay actually stepping into the plane, but so far what little refresher work I've managed has been enough to make me think I could, and I want to be ready and 'normal' if possible.  Though it's probably not possible.  In my experience, my hands are usually too sticky with nervous sweat at the moment I decide knitting is what I need to be doing, so even if I bring something to work on I have to put it away again... but our flight is super long and then there is a second flight and after that a bus ride to get to our first port of call (Cologne) and even though I will be exhausted by the end of all that, there is a lot of potential knitting time in there.  Some of it isn't even in the air!

Here's my thing about the stuff you take on a plane.  There are SO many restrictions now, and knitting needles are pointy, and I feel like even though they have been okay'd by most staff at most airlines up to now... there is still a risk that the day we board our flight, somebody will take offense to my needles and want them not to board with me.

And I've heard that sometimes, if the needles are attached to yarn, they want the yarn too.

So here is my plan.

Part One:

Wind a skein of sock yarn into two smaller cakes. 

Assign each cake with its own set of wooden needles (I feel like wood seems less threatening than metal, given how quickly and easily a thin wooden needle can break.) 

Put one cake/needle combo into the carry on luggage with a sock pattern, separating the needles from the yarn within the bag.  Put the other cake/needle combo into the checked luggage with a fingerless mitt pattern.  And also, a third set of needles.

At this point, several things could happen.  I might be allowed onto my flight with my sock knitting gear. I might be allowed to move them to my checked luggage.  I might have to hand over just the needles, since they are packed on their own, or I might have to hand over everything because yarn is string and who knows?

In the worst case scenario, I have no knitting for the flight, but I still have books (and more on that later).  In the maybe-kinda-crummy case, I have yarn I can knit during the holiday with the third set of needles wisely packed in my checked luggage.  In the best case scenario, I have knitting to cast on into a sock during the flight, or maybe just a cake of yarn to squeeze during really heavy turbulence.

Part Two:

Packing for the return flight. 

In the best case scenario, a lot of knitting happened during the first flight and the trip and I have a finished sock.  But even if it's only partly finished, it goes into checked luggage for its safety. 

Instead, the carry on bag gets the second cake and needle set, packed separately as before, with the sock pattern, to be cast on during the flight.  In the worst case scenario, instead of the sock pattern, I will pack the fingerless mitt pattern - because I can knit a pair of those out of a sock's worth of yarn, and that half of the skein will still be useful.

Again: several things could happen.  It may be that the second cake of yarn is confiscated, rendering the first sock forever mate-less.  Or I might keep the yarn and lose the needles.  Or I might get on the flight and knit a second sock. 

Part Three:

Home again.

What am I unpacking?  Two mostly finished socks?  A pair of fingerless mitts?  A single sock, forever alone?  A sock and enough yarn to finish the mate?  The memory of beautiful sock yarn and a single set of wooden sock needles?  Only time will tell.

The key to making this work is to choose yarn and needles that are easily replaced, but special enough to work with and enjoy.  So I picked this Viola yarn in Sea Storm - it's one of Emily's most popular colours and I have a second skein at home already that I'd set aside for socks for Wayson, but I can certainly get more. 

Needles, too - I really prefer square needles and the ones I like best are out of production so there is NO WAY I would risk taking them on a plane.  But thankfully, I was able to get square wooden ones in my usual size from Knitter's Pride.

And that's me, flight-ready except for the actual winding and pattern setup.  And, you know, calming scripts to read to myself if I start to freak out about being on a plane again.  They work very well but you have to take the time for them and remember to bring them with you.

Books: I was smart this time and have already looked into what I want to read in bad turbulence. 

When we were flying to Boston on a tiny propeller plane, I turned to my funny book for comfort only to find it was full of Zombies amusingly dining on entrails, so I have learned my lesson about making sure a book is going to be helpful before I pack it.  I have rejected The Economist for similar reasons - too dry, and then abruptly horrific, and only engaging for short installments because each issue is after all summarizing what's going on all over the world.

This time, I decided on the Mapp and Lucia books by E. F. Benson.  The series was written in the 1920s and about two hilariously socially competitive women - there should be no entrail surprises at all, unless possibly in the kitchen being cooked into a pie?  I listened to the first one many years ago as an audiobook and it is VERY funny, but for some reason never hunted up the rest... and they aren't consistently in print, except in trade paperback size, which is a bit big for a flight.  So I decided to order second hand Penguin copies from Biblio, and they've already arrived and are nice and compact, and I'm just not looking at them so as not to spoil them. 

While I was hunting for those I found an Anita Loos book I hadn't read - No Mother To Guide Her - and decided to get that too, for insurance. 

I feel the 1920s is a safe period to read about on a plane because people were looking for distractions then and all the social commentary is so far in the past as to not be painful to read now (except in that we are going through all the same social scenarios we did then, because humans will never learn apparently, and this is something I plan to ignore while stuck in a narrow seat far above my preferred level of Ground.)

Oh, and you know what?  When all this is over, even if I come home with just one sock, it will be exactly the right colour to match our living room sofa.  So I can hang it on our mantel at Christmas.  That's what I call a good travel knitting plan.

Have a great weekend guys and I'll see you again in a few days!

ps I just had a terrible thought.  Sea Storm.  Maybe not a good colour name to choose for an overseas flight at night?

Monday, March 20, 2017

Necessity: the mother of design invention

Last week was full of exciting design adventures at the house that sprang from Eaurg! moments - you know, the sound you make when something you thought would be easy or wonderful turns out to be Not?  Sometimes when I hear myself responding to these surprises, I wonder how the conversations would go if I were more rigid or demanding or focused on our renovation budget (which I should be: this is a failing, for sure.)  I don't think I would enjoy the process so much, you know?  But as it is, there is room for fun.

And once again: illustrating the top of this post with a random pair of socks because we want to keep Hugs colourful and right now the house is still just black and white and blonde all over.  (ironically, these are socks I made for myself while testing out needles a size smaller than I usually make, which is how I managed to achieve my dream of knitting socks for my neighbour Beth, whose feet are very small.  When I went to knit a pair for Monique a few doors further down, I had to do it on purpose.)

There are two current design crises at the house.  Which to tell you about first?  Fireplace or powder room vanity?  hmmmmm

Let's start with the fire.

I wasn't able to be at the house when the fireplace was installed and just gave direction over the phone.  I said I wanted a mantel, and that the unit should be installed flush with the front of the cabinets on either side of it, and here is what that turns into:

That right there folks is a big honking exhaust pipe going up about four and a half feet from the floor and out through all the spray insulation in the exterior wall.   As I understand it, that's how high you have to go when you are venting this particular gas fireplace that far out from the wall.  Oops!

Any mantel that could go above that pipe would be above eye level, which doesn't work so well in a narrow room with a tiny fireplace.  So the mantel will have to go out front, which is fine if you don't mind eating an extra foot into your living space and losing maybe five square feet of viable storage space on top of that.  Which, given that our house is still quite small, we do.

After much thinking and debate and Googling of fireplaces images we came up with three options, all of which involve moving the fireplace back to be flush with the wall and designing an attractive fireplace surround and mantel with a lot of depth.  Ready?  Or do you need a nap first, because I've bored you so much?

Okay, here we go...

1/ vent the fireplace out the back of the unit, or out the top of the unit and then immediately turn it 90 degrees to vent out of the house.  Both involve cutting an extra hole in the insulation and putting the vent at about shoulder- or head-level for anybody passing by outside.  We're putting a safety cage on the vent so nobody burns themselves but still: it's a pain (potentially literally for anybody who smacks into it.)  And the mantel top would be a little over two feet deep, which might be a little weird.  In fact, this would have been the result if I'd been on site on installation day, so I am beating myself up a little less about that.  Bonus fact: apparently the wall is 2' deep behind this point, owing to the location of the previous fireplace's chimney, so venting out the back of the unit is not even possible.

2/ leave the vent where it is, box it in with drywall in front, install an attractive 10" deep mantel, and hang a painting.  This is the cheapest option and would look the most conventional and clean, but it does mean the loss of all that storage space.

3/ commission a cabinet to go on top of very deep mantel once it's installed, to provide storage space on either side of the boxed-in vent and provide the illusion of a 10" deep mantel in front of a paneled wall.  This is the expensive option and means any painting we 'hang' over the fireplace would probably just lean on the mantel and have to come down any time we want to open the doors. Which is fine, if we store seasonal stuff back there or other things we need to keep but not access much.  There is an amazing amount of stuff like that in life, have you noticed??

After several days of planning on Door Number Three, we realized the clearances around the pipe would minimize our storage options even further while costing the same.  So now we are looking Door Number One, with a boxed in 'shelf' at the back of the mantel to make it look shorter and provide a sort of frame for a painting.  I know that sounds bad too but it works in my head and that's a start, right?

And it may also be an end, depending on how far up the wall the previous chimney started to angle sideways, resulting in a thinner exterior wall.

This picture has nothing to do with anything but I felt we all needed a breather.

Now let's look at the powder room, aka the one room in a renovation project where the trend-conscious owner is allowed, and even encouraged, to go wild!

(I don't know why that is, because unless you are blessed with a bathroom of conventional size that can be addressed by big-box hardware store products, the job is hardly ever DIY and definitely never cheap, and the sooner something dates or gets overwhelming to look at, the sooner you are redoing it.)

Our powder room faces a common challenge for powder rooms, which are generally squeezed into leftover gaps: it's not deep enough for a proper door swing and a standard-depth vanity.

As it stands, we have about two inches between our fully-open narrow-ish door and the front of the vanity, which is about as tight as I can agree to.  And the vanity is just 19" deep, leaving... not much space for the 17" sink I found (the smallest standard white undermount sink I could find that isn't square.)

You will be surprised to learn that this 1/4" scrap at the back of the sink is not actually enough space for a set of taps.  It's sink or taps.  I mean we sort of knew this going in, but we had hoped to find a smaller sink in the time we had before the countertop was being measured, and it turns out nobody but me was open to the idea of a stainless steel bar sink, and I couldn't persuade anybody else on the crew to spend 25 hours looking at sinks so they'd come on board to my mental state.  So....

Ray is redoing the plumbing to fit the vanity with a wall-mount faucet.

Tears sprang to my eyes when he suggested this solution, and I had to force them back because I was on a site visit with a bunch of guys who would not get it.

But I think you might, right?

It was because I looooove wall mounted taps! 

We had them in our kitchen before the renovation and they were my favourite thing, and the hardest to give up for the new kitchen, but I decided it was more important there to have a pull-down spray nozzle this time around than to never have to clean around taps on the countertop.  I thought about some for the bathroom at the start of the project, but at the time you couldn't find nice ones (our old kitchen set was hospital grade, and sized to match.)  Then all of a sudden wall mount bathroom sink taps started to be a design thing, and now you can buy them pretty easily.  Sadly by then we had already plumbed in for surface mount taps and I couldn't justify the time it would take to change them.

Just the day before The Terrible Discovery, I had been e-mailing with a friend who is just starting on a big home renovation.  She had been visualizing a very classic, traditional powder room and was coming to terms with the fact that the room she has is too small for the furniture-style vanity of her dreams.  Instead, a floating vanity had been recommended, to maximize the sense of space.  My opinion after nearly three years of working with all kinds of different people, each with their own (usually modern) perspective on design, is that you have to stick to your own vision or you will end up with a house built by committee, most of whose members aren't going to be living in it.  And a floating vanity is always going to look very very modern unless you actively work to make it otherwise.

I felt sad for my friend.  I mean, I had dreams for my powder room too, most of them dashed by budget considerations.  Like the wallpaper I love irresponsibly, and which costs over $300 a roll before you even install it or think about the cost of removing it when, many years later, it starts to curl off the wall.  And the marble I adore but which isn't really practical for us.  So I Googled images of floating vanities with a traditional look and found one with a wall mounted faucet and - this is the kicker - a solid marble backsplash that soared upward in the middle and back down again, to frame the faucet installation.

Of course, the minute Ray said he'd change the plumbing and I'd finished welling up, I found the image again and showed it to Andy to ask whether we could do the same thing, and we can!  With quartz, but still.  A wild design!

Faucets have proved to be the bigger hurdle because even though it's possible to buy nice ones now, they tend to fall into two camps: Very Modern and Very Victorian.  (well, there's also Very Expensive, but we are ignoring that one.)  Added to the problems of polarization, I need a faucet that sticks out no more than eight inches from the wall and preferably seven.

So to go with our Restoration Hardware Bistro light fixture...

we are choosing between one we love from Riobel, which is half an inch too long so I'm not even going to show it to you, it will just break my heart, and this one from Kohler, which is just right but pretty starkly modern except for its flanges:

Exciting times.

I have to say, I kind of laugh now at the luxury of flipping through decorating magazines and talking with friends about dream homes and the perceived horror of choosing taps and lights and doorknobs and so on as a reason not to follow through with a renovation idea.  The fact is, there is VERY little choice.  The 'horror' is sifting through the things it turns out you can't have, because every early choice impacts later ones.  Even with the shift to wall mounted taps, I was restricted to chrome, because I'd already bought the powder room's towel bar, light fixture, and cabinet pulls.  But if I was starting fresh I would have had more faucet options because there are some cute ones that aren't offered in chrome.

Anyway that's what I learned last week.

Sometimes you have to step back from dreaming over endless knitting patterns or beautiful rooms, and look at what you have to work with right now (stashed yarns, body shape, fiber allergies; stashed light fixtures,  room size, budget) and move forward from there.

That's where the creativity really happens, don't you think?  Within the boundaries of constraints and needs.

Hope your weekend was wildly creative and I'll see you again soon!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

A knitter plans a laundry room

Here is how this knitter plans a laundry room: by doing any other possible thing, even showing off the last two months' worth of sock club yarn.

I just noticed they both have a cloud theme, which is nice because I'm a cloud fan.  Yay!

Okay, laundry room.  I know you will all have clicked to read this whole post because you too are crazy about laundry rooms and spend all your spare moments designing them, dreaming of the magical day you will possess the truly glamourous kind I saw last night in the photo montage of a newly listed $4 million house in my neighbourhood.  HA.  Don't expect to see any of my own laundry room pictures in this post, is what I am telling you now.

(seriously, FOUR MILLION DOLLARS??? it seems like just a few years ago somebody listed their place for a million and our neighbours were like, that is never going to sell. and then it did and we all fell over, knowing we could never afford a bigger place without renovating what we had, which we are all now doing in turns.)

I mean of course, we all want to stand in a shiny glossy luxury kitchenette to do our laundry without missing a moment of whatever movie is running on the TV, but who wants to pay for it to happen?  Not me.  Plus, I have other priorities and I know you do too.  I'm not looking to put out party food on my laundry counter.  I want to put out giant mats for drying newly finished knits.  Similarly, I want my laundry appliances to have character and a work ethic, not just really attractive colours and smooth finishes you want to pet all the time.  (I lie: I really want laundry appliances that look good. Why can't somebody make laundry appliances that look good and work well too??)

What I knew about our 'new' laundry room going into all this renovation business is that it was going to be in a really large space formerly dedicated to storage and a big workbench and our furnace and water heater.  How it was going to look after the new in-floor heat and super efficient on-demand water heater system went in was not something I planned to think about until it was a reality.  Nobody could tell me, and even in progress I had only a very little input.  All I could hope was that Ray would box in the air vent things as compactly as possible, and he did, and now we have our finished space.

It's still large. One short-ish wall is absolutely studded with pipes and gaskets and levers for the in-floor heat. In front of that, embedded in the tile floor, is an unsightly sump pump.  A water heater borders one end of the room and stands beside a busy electrical panel that I will probably smack into whenever I try to open the dryer door which has to be where it is, because that's where we embedded the dryer vent into the spray foam insulation.  The floor is laid with large rectangles of off-white tile, and a tiny window in one corner offers a little natural light to support the crazy huge array of ceiling lights Ray installed because we both felt a laundry room should be bright.

Now that I have a room to work with, the first priority was to find homes in it for the top four priority items:

1/ the Gramma table (a generously sized enamel-topped kitchen table built by WWI veterans and left to Pete by his Gramma) for folding laundry and laying out drying mats for the handknits

2/ my shiny chrome rolling clothes rack for hanging clothes to dry

3/ a long 12' deep run of shelves for freshly folded clothes, because why carry everything up two flights of stairs from the laundry room when there's a shower right next door for people cleaning up after a run or a messy bout of gardening?

4/ a fold-up treadmill because that was my price for organizing this whole build.  Actually I wanted an elliptical trainer but the ceiling is too low and I decided it would be foolish to give up my office for an elliptical trainer with a view, when I can use our new staircase as a fitness tool and am not terribly inclined to exercise in the first place.

CAN you believe, it all fits?  The Gramma table tucks right over the sump pump and the pipes that gasp out from it, and there will be no problem running a curtain along the back and side of it to hide the HVAC uglies.  And I still have about a nine foot run for washer, dryer, laundry sink and a small cabinet.

From left to right, here's how this is going to go, when we are at the end of the journey:

Below, a white laminate countertop with a sink in it, over two cabinets with pull out trays meant for recycling to hide the dirty laundry bins, and then a washer and dryer

Above, a wall cabinet to match the one immediately below it, and then a 5' run of custom retro shelving we had built for our previous kitchen about 15 years ago. 

What more could you ask for, really?  Maybe... a really cute faucet?

Yeah, and tiling for the laundry part of the room, which I am on the fence about since I saw the invoice for the fireplace installation today, and pretty lights, and nicer finishes generally because if you're here at Hugs, you are crafty, and you know how much time crafty people spend in a laundry room either preparing what we've made or rescuing our clothes from the aftermath of the making itself.

Still, I have a gorgeous porcelain tile floor now instead of scuffed vinyl tile that was always weeping out its adhesive, and a beautiful vintage table instead of nothing, and the hanging rack near the washer instead of on the other side of the house, and the house itself.  So I think what I have is more than luxurious enough, really.

But back to the point of this post.  The 'planning'.  I have 'planned' the laundry room but Ray was always busy on another part of the house and I didn't want to buy a washer and dryer before they could be delivered.  So it was a surprise to me when Ray started asking me about my final laundry sink.  Where it was going to go, how big it would be, etc. etc., once we removed the emergency stopgap plastic leggy one we bought a few months ago.

Then one day he explained that he needed to know because it was time to install the BASEBOARDS.

Baseboards.  In my laundry room.  The same 7" tall gorgeous baseboards that went in everywhere else. 

That's the side view.  He had some leftovers and he wanted to use them and suddenly my laundry room has something to live up to (the basement bathroom is getting them too, and I know because Ray called today to see whether I still wanted him to build custom shelving in a niche beside the shower entry, for towels, because he wanted to cut the baseboard around them.

Can I please just take a moment to say, again, how lucky we are to have Ray building our house?

And here I am thanking him by not choosing a laundry sink.

The trouble is, I want a Speed Queen washer/dryer pair.  In Canada the line is called Huebsch but it's the same monster, just with different spelling and far fewer vendors.  Like, just one who I'd feel safe buying appliances from, and that place told me last weekend they don't resell them any more so I have to look elsewhere.  I have been panicking, thinking that I have to allow enough room on the 9' run for whatever laundry pair we end up with, so how can I commit to a laundry sink position??

Today I realized two things:

a/ whatever we buy has to fit down the stairs, which are so narrow as to barely pass code and will require wrought iron railings as there's no room for anything else; and

b/ even deluxe washers and dryers seem to be about 27" wide, which is what I'd been planning on anyway.

So I went ahead and braved the IKEA kitchen cabinet planner.  I think this was the real mental block, because if buying from IKEA is stressful, buying from their kitchen section is a niiiiiight-mare!  We sing that last word, Pete and I, when discussing IKEA's kitchen section, hence the unusual spelling.

After I worked all that out I picked a faucet I could see was in stock at Ray's favourite hardware store so he could pick it up next time he's there, and I told him the size of cabinet we chose and gave him free reign over a stainless steel sink to put in it as long as it's 8" deep and has rounded corners because I can't see me ever cleaning the corners of one of those new squared off sinks, aiiieee.

Which leaves just one thing.  The exact thing that a knitter planning a laundry room would stop dead at, and that is actually purchasing the cabinets, or rather - getting Pete to do it.

I did give him three choices.  I said we could order them online and have them delivered to the condo, where he could load them into his car and take them to the house ($55).  Or we could order them online and he could painlessly pick them up from the aptly named Pickup part of the store ($20).  Or he could go line up in the kitchen department with his list and wait to be allowed to purchase them (sanity.)

He picked door number three, because it gives him something to complain about.  So I guess it's all a win, right?  He gets to complain, and I get to stop thinking about the laundry room, and Ray gets to finish off his baseboard and move the table saw back upstairs.

And now this knitter is going to work on a sock, because there's gotta be something nice to go wash in that new laundry room, right?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The moving finger(s)

I'm taking some time out from my busy schedule of sticking my hand in hot water for three minutes, then cold water for one and a half, to not tell you about the faucet crisis I am experiencing right now.  These subjects sound related, don't they?  But they aren't.  Let's open with a faucet pic, since pails of water are not nearly so beautiful:

This is a 'Campaign' faucet from Restoration Hardware and it's huge - a monster, really.  Or it was, until they discontinued it after we bought ours at clearance pricing.  (you can still buy the tub filler.) But I'm not telling you about how we have now discovered it may simply overwhelm our shallow counters, or about the other faucets we had to replace in a hurry today because the counters are coming in soon and we decided we really don't like the ones we'd picked originally.

Instead, we'll be talking about Going To The Physiotherapist.

Are you excited?  I was, till I realized how much this is gonna hurt!!

I chose my physiotherapist based on two factors: location and location.  I left out the traditional third location - the office is not a deluxe glam-decor relaxing space like my orthodontist's, which seems unjust because frankly I have less pain at the orthodontist's.  But the first 'location' is important, since we are likely to be moving halfway through my treatment program and I want to be able to get there easily from both condo and house, and the second 'location' is pretty nice too - you can get there through PATH which means I can stay dry on rainy days like yesterday, when I went for the first time.  I can live without glam.

(to be fair, the reviews I found online were also very positive.)

As an added bonus, the geographic location puts it just over the intersection that stands between Old and New City Hall here in Toronto and the view from the windows is AMAZING.  I have never seen Bay Street from this angle, though I have walked it many many times over the years.  The elevated view makes it looks SO much more beautiful and also, foreign and unfamiliar. It fascinated me to have the chance to see Toronto for the first time again even though I've been coming here since I was five and moved here more or less permanently at eighteen.

Somebody was skating on the rink in Nathan Phillips Square in front of new city hall as I waited for my appointment.  It was raining, and surely the rink was mostly melted?  but there was this guy, bundled up and gliding around with much finesse.  Later I watched a Zamboni slowly moving around the ice to clean up all the shavings, like it wasn't rainy out and about 7 degrees Celcius.  It was nice to be taken out of myself and the pain of my hand to see all that, before I had to lie down and try to breathe through having my fingers and hand bent into the positions they used to be able to achieve by themselves without consequence.

I would like to point out that I did not swear during all that.  I was able to resist because I am pretty sure the pain was not worse than the pain from the eight needles I had to have before having the reduction in Emerg. for my two broken fingers, though I might be in denial, and since I didn't swear during that I wasn't going to cop out during physio.  But it wasn't that I didn't desperately want to both times - I just didn't want to hurt the feelings of the guy who was creating agony in order to help me.

I mean, how much does it stink to have a job where you have to hurt people at regular intervals, even though you know it's helping them in the long run??

After the painful part, which came with tips on how to stretch out at home the tissues that shrank while I was in the splint, I got some ultrasound treatment on my two broken fingers.

And let me tell you, if I could have had that on all four fingers?  HEAVEN.  Because it really knocked down the stiffness, and even some of the swelling.  I mean, after nine weeks of sausage fingers, you are really ready to have that extra fluid go somewhere else and give your skin and joints a break.  Sadly, that wasn't allowed.

But the pots of hold and cold water are. I wish I'd known about this trick before because it's amazing.

First, you have to find two pails and a way to comfortably hang out with them for twenty minutes or so while sticking your hand into them.  My solution is two stock pots resting in the sink at the kitchen, and boy am I glad the condo has a double sink and not a skinny single.

Then you fill one with water as hot as you can stand, and the other with water as cold as you can stand.

Then you stick your hand in the hot water, clenching a fist and then stretching out your fingers as straight as they'll go, over and over for three minutes.

Then you plunge your hand into the cold water and make fists and stretch all over again, for half as long.

For twenty or so minutes you go back and forth with this, and the idea is to trick all the gory stuff inside your hand to wake up already and start pumping out all the excess fluid because after nine weeks it's not like it can pretend to be doing anything more impressive than learning to play poker, which frankly isn't as helpful as letting me have the use of my hand back.

In addition to the water trick, I've got some exercises to do to strengthen my wrist again.  I didn't realize how far out of commission that got until my physiotherapist checked to see how far it can bend these days. OW. (again.)

All these exercises take a ton of time and just the one session with the physiotherapist was so enormously painful my hand was sore the rest of the day and I couldn't face typing a Hugs post.  I couldn't even tap out an e-mail to anybody and that's pretty unusual for me.

But then today, as part of the faucet choice/fireplace installation/garbage bucket hardware crisis, when I had to pick up the faucet and try to photograph it for Andy to see?  WHOA.  My wrist was really, really not up for that task.  And if I can't pick up a faucet, how am I going to be able to pack to move back home?  I just gotta do the physio, I guess.

And if I do the physio, maybe it will hurt less when I go back for the next session.  We live in hope.

Hope you've been having a great week!  I'd stick around and not tell you about faucets some more, but there are some buckets of water calling my name.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Laundry day for busy socks

After I got over the ludicrousness of handknitting socks that could otherwise be purchased cheaply and ready-to-wear in a store, the one thing that always worried me about the idea was how to wear a handknit item on my feet.  You know, without putting holes right through them.  Answer: choose hardy yarn, knit at a tight gauge, and don't wear them on a bare floor.

And after that, I worried about how I would WASH them.  Would I need a sock blocker?  If I washed them by hand, how could I be sure I'd rinsed out all the soap, and what sort of soap should I use? 

It's actually pretty easy to wash handknit socks.  You don't need a sock blocker - I just heave mine over the flat run of a plastic hanger.  I don't use soap at all, I use Soak, which doesn't need to be rinsed out (though I do usually run a rinse cycle anyway, because they are socks after all and it strikes me as a good idea to have a little more help removing any odors or bacteria from the fiber.)  And I don't do it by hand in a bowl any more, like I did when I had only a few pairs.  I use the machine, after I've put the socks into protective bags to save them from any altercations with the agitator in the middle of my machine.

You may not have an agitator in the middle of your washing machine in which case you may not feel you need a protective bag, but I like them regardless.  It's SO much easier to fish a bag or three out of the machine than a dozen socks, and the socks get less wear in a confined space than if they were rubbing up against each other in a bigger one.

I've developed a fondness for Laura Ashley laundry bags.  I bought my first two years ago at a Winners store (a sort of discount department store, if you don't have them where you are) and always watch for more, because they almost never appear and certainly not when you want them.  I got lucky last month though and was able to get two more big bags and three bags especially for socks  (okay, I see now the packaging says 'hosiery', but I am so far out now from consenting to wear nylon legs except under duress, I automatically interpret 'hosiery' as 'handknit wool socks'.)

The idea is to separate pairs into their own individual pouches, which I think is a bit frivolous and completely fun, because that's how I'm built apparently. 

Four pockets in each bag means I can now wash 12 pairs of socks at a time if I don't use big bags to supplement the supply, or double up pairs in each pouch, though there is definitely room for that.  Honestly, what kind of person has the need to wash 12 pairs of handknit socks in one load - with, one would assume - enough clean socks in the pipeline to cover all foot-warming needs while the 12 pairs dry?  But as it turned out I was washing 14 pairs when I photographed this, and opted to tuck the extras on top of already-full pouches.  I was too enchanted by the pouch idea to remember that I had more big bags, sigh.   

I like to fill the washer to the lowest level - enough to cover the wash bags, eventually - and add a squeeze or two of Soak as the water is running, so it all mixes together without agitation.  Then I throw in the wash bags, spacing them around the agitator so they're evenly distributed. 

Then I leave the lid up - no agitation - for anything from the requisite 15 minutes to the accidental 8 hours when I forget I started the process and have no reason to idly pass the washer again until bedtime.  Soak is so gentle, my lack of focus doesn't do any harm.

When I do get around to the next step, I close the lid for maybe 10 or 20 seconds, just enough for a bit of agitation to push the water through the fibers.  Then I advance the cycle to drain the tub and spin dry.  You can stop here, but as I say - I usually fill the tub a second time, skip the sitting stage, and advance again to empty-and-spin-dry.  Then, when they're done, I simply lift out the bags, unzip them, and hang up the socks for a day or so, depending on how dry and warm the air is at home.

What could be simpler?  Really, the most challenging thing about handknit socks is KNITTING them.  And since that's also the fun part, there's no reason not to.  Unless you are Trish, who is firmly anti-sock knitting.  She's got way more appetite than I do for giant shawls and scarves though, so I am happy to agree to disagree on this point, heh.

Thought I'd close off today's post with a nostalgia shot from the old house.  Ahhh, radiators.  I haven't lived with one for nearly two years now! and when we move back home, all the radiant heat will be invisible, under the hardwood.  I will miss the graceful shapes but not the dry air or floorspace-grabbing.

Have a wonderful weekend, even if it involves laundry, and I'll see you next week!