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!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The finally-finished socks

Because I know how to live, obviously, it won't surprise you that my exciting plan for January 4 was to get up early for a meeting about kitchen cabinets and spend the rest of the day finishing these socks:

Both of them were about 10 rounds short of the toe, and I had lined up an excellent schedule of movie viewing and snack eating as knitting accompaniments.  BLISS.  Had I but known that my real date for that day was with a pair of broken fingers and a lot of Emergency room staff...  But never mind all that, the socks are finally finished!  Slowly and not at all surely, I got through all the remaining stitches and am now the proud possessor of alpaca socks with a gaping maw at the top which is drooling out a whole lot of yarn I need to run in.

It really surprises me how much knitting is like golf, in that you can do it for years and years and have plenty of good days and still mess up badly for no reason.  I hope you don't know what I mean, and on that note, I will explain.

I noticed a mysterious problem with these socks, and now with the new pair I'm working on instead of running in ends and Kitchener-stitching the toe, that is just ridiculous.  And it dates back before my altercation with the sidewalk, too, so I can't blame it on the splint.

Somehow, I'm dropping a random stitch from one round while knitting it during the next, so that there's a little bar of unused yarn on the back and an elongated stitch on the front.  And if I'm not doing that with one stitch, I'm doing it with two or three, and somehow twisting the bar of unused yarn so that it gets knit into one or two of those stitches again - AFTER I've used the loose new yarn I'm holding in my hand.  Or instead of it?  Either way I'm not noticing as I do it (so I have no idea how I'm managing it) and I'm only catching it many rounds later when I stop to admire how nice the fabric looks and see a funny little pulled area where the loose yarn is all knit up, but not in the correct vertical order.

Probably I could ignore the little pulls and gaps and the end product would be fine, but it bothers me and as a result, I have expended a great deal of clumsy left-hand energy on dropping down the offending stitches, straightening it all out, and laddering everything back up again.

It is really, really annoying.  All I can think is that I'm getting sloppy and taking my knitting for granted and will have to work much harder.

I mean, it's worth the effort, right?

Because to me, these look crazy comfortable.  Well - okay, crazy comfortable once they don't have needles sticking out of them.  They also look like sock puppets, but I am pretty sure they will settle easily into their keeping-my-feet-warm duties once they are completely finished.

Okay, time for other news:

I don't have to wear my splint any more!!

I saw my doctor this week and in addition to giving me four new physical therapy exercises which are sooooo painful (but necessary since I still have stiff little sausages where my fingers used to be), he said it's time to stop wearing Lambchop.  He also wants me to use my left hand for all the normal things I use it to do (including typing, which is why I am finally posting another Hug - I was SO TIRED of having to talk to the Dragon software, repeating myself over and over and correcting lame mistakes.)  This means I can knit, pour tea with the lid still on the pot, chop vegetables...

SERVICE ALERT: raw fennel, with Boursin cheese smeared on it.  DELICIOUS.

ANOTHER SERVICE ALERT: when I went to get that Boursin link I saw that this is a Quebec cheese and is maybe not available in the U.S.?  You could sub in cream cheese, I guess, or goat cheese for sure.  You have probably been doing this sort of thing for years anyway, I know I have, but since I've been nibbling on it while writing this I felt I should share.


... and wear an actual coat.  With sleeves.

Here's an interesting discovery.  Today in Toronto the temperature dropped back down to 'super cold' from 'unseasonably balmy', and with my awkward bulky bent splint out of the picture, I was thrilled to be able to put on a cashmere sweater and my parka for an early morning errand.

I froze.

When I went out the second time I swapped the parka for a wool sweater jacket and my alpaca cape/poncho thing.  And I was warm!!!

I mean sure, I still looked like an enormous bat, which has been my chief objection to poncho living, but man.  It's true what they say about the value of layering.  And the insulating value of wool and alpaca.

Which is what went into the yarn for these fluffy soft socks.

Oh, I can't wait to have these finished, so I can wear them for three minutes before winter is officially over.

Do you still have winter projects on your needles, now that we are officially into March?