There is no perfect project

The trees are wearing their yellow flags. The weather is crisp and suited for sweaters. Ah, Fall! I find myself turning the lamp on earlier and earlier these days. The cats sleep in tighter balls and their coats seem a bit thicker. It's the perfect time to start (and ideally finish) a cozy sweater.
I have plenty of Christmas knitting to ignore, so I did a stash dive to find yarn for a new project. My criteria: enough to make a sweater, wool, and suitable for a relatively boring project that can be knit at work. About four years ago when I worked at a yarn shop, I bought a kilo of Manos del Uruguay yarn to make a large shrug. Yes, there were plenty of jokes at work about getting a kilo from South America. Well, the shrug never got made and the yarn stayed in my stash waiting for the perfect project. I thought again about making that shrug, but it doesn't seem like something I'd wear very often.
Anyone who keeps a stash will recognize this situation. Precious, precious yarn never finds the perfect project. Nothing ever seems worthy of the stashed treasure. You can't have your stash and knit it too. There is no perfect project. Find something that you like that works with the yarn and make it. How much enjoyment is really derived from yarn sitting in a drawer?
That Manos was ripe for knitting, I decided, recalling that I had a pattern calling for that yarn in one of my books. I'd made the Not Your Standard-Issue Sweatshirt a few times before, using Malabrigo Worsted. Malabrigo is amazing, but its merino softness leads to an unacceptable amount of pilling and a shorter garment life. And readers, I wore the shit out of those sweaters. Here's hoping the corriedale wool in the Manos will give it more staying power. I've already knit the back and have started on the front. I'd say that this is a quick project, but I recall from previous versions that the hood takes forever. Oh well, I've got plenty of time to work on it during the show.


Since my last post, I have done two shows and started a third. They were: awesome, asskickingly hard, and easy-peasy, in that order. During the shows, I knit a pair of socks and two Daybreak shawls. I think that I have made six Daybreaks now, which is a record for me. The only other pattern I've knit so many times is the felted slippers from Tracy Ullman's book. Don't tell my cousin Bam Bam that, as his many requests for felted slippers have been denied. I'm not cruel, I just don't want to do all the work to adjust the pattern to fit his giant feet.
Since it is September, I have started work on my annual giftmas knitting. I probably should start a month earlier, but it's hard to get motivated about Christmas when the weather is so muggy. This year, my plans are less ambitious than in the past. I've already finished one present (a Daybreak) and half-finished a second (an Ulmus shawl in delightful Malabrigo sock). The second is languishing at the moment while I work on a lace sweater for my non-internet using grandmother. She is the most appreciative recipient of knitted gifts, so she gets the most involved project nearly every year. And, unlike many other mothers and grandmothers, she actually uses the sweaters and shawls I give her instead of stashing them away in a drawer forever, lest something happen to them.
I'm oddly fortunate with my current show. It's simple playback with lots of downtime when I can knit. The designer told me when I joined the show to being two books so that I wouldn't get bored. This is exactly what I need for my holiday knitting, though it means that I have to rotate through patterns that can be knit in the dark. My current project, a February Lady Sweater, was perfect for knitting at work while I was working on its garter stitch yoke. Now that I am knitting the lace body, it has to stay at home. Now I must strategize: I need a project that is plain enough to avoid mistakes while I am knitting under the dim run lights that will also make an appropriate gift for someone on my list. Or I can give anyone who has been unappreciative a lump of coal and knit things for myself. But have you seen the price of coal lately? I'll have to strike upon something else to give as gifts that properly conveys how little I care.


Well, my machine is back from the shop now. Ironically, my interest in sewing is greatly diminished now that I can again. The higher temps are largely to blame, since it is hardly appealing to sit next to a hot iron in 80+ degree weather. The hot weather is making totally miserable, since my car's a/c is kaput. My darling mechanic proposed putting a can of freon in it to see if the a/c would kick in, thinking that it was a coolant level issue. I hoped hard that this was the (affordable) solution, but sadly it was not. He didn't even charge me for the test, instead sending me to an associate of his who just does electrical and air conditioning work. Well, I haven't made it over there, because this will at minimum cost me $250 and possibly up to $1200, which I frankly cannot afford. Why not go the 460 ac route? Well, my car only has two windows that roll down and one of them does not reliably roll up on the first try. Since I do a lot of driving in Chicago, that means that I basically cannot drive with the window down in case I have to roll it up in a hurry.
Further adding to my misery is my recent discovery that the right channel in my car stereo has gone out. Since I am a sound engineer, this is driving me nuts. If it weren't encased in a vehicle, I could easily repair it myself, but this requires the work of someone with experience in popping off door panels. Also, anything other than NPR sounds like crap with only the left channel working and I love my tunes.
Sure, neither of these problems affects the operation of the car. It works and I am damn glad it does, after the inconvenience caused by the thermostat and radiator fan crapping out last month. It gets me from place to place reliably, but I am afraid my car is becoming a hoopdie. Sigh. It's ten years old, so these minor problems are not unexpected. On a ninety degree day, sitting on black leather(ette?) seats, the a/c does not feel minor.
The other reason that my sewing impulse has waned is that I am pretty close to finishing the Acer cardigan that I started to tide me over until my machine was usable. I'm almost to the sleeve cap on the second sleeve. After that, I just have to knit the neck and button bands and sew the sleeves on and it will be done. I won't be able to wear it until the fall, but I am happy to build up my wardrobe out of season. It will be ready for that first crisp autumn day, instead of being cast on then as is my usual weather change behavior. Oh, it's getting cold, I think, time to knit something warm. No, the time to knit something warm is before you need it, but knitting warm sweaters is a beast in hot weather. I'm pondering what to knit next and have decided that it can't be something that is knit from the top down. I don't want a whole sweater lying on my lap like an unneeded blanket. So, something that is knit in pieces and seamed together, even though finishing is one of my least favorite parts of knitting.
I also need to find something that makes good backstage knitting. I'm about to start work on a new production as a mic runner, which I very rarely do. I usually mix from front of house and am damn lucky to have an A2 backstage in case of problems. Actually, I don't think I've had an A2 since college because most producers just don't budget for a sound crew. When I'm not making my moves, I'll need some kind of basically mindless, easily picked up and put down again project to keep me from nodding off. Socks? Another shawl I probably won't wear? Decisions, decisions.


My sewing machine is still in the shop. I am trying to be patient about it, but it's hard when I have all of the pieces for a quilt cut and ready on my dining room table. I've been knitting instead and have made unbelievable progress on the Acer sweater I mentioned in my last post. I've finished the body already and used a three needle bind off to join the shoulders, which I prefer when matching cable and lace patterns to a sewn seam. Now, I am almost to the sleeve cap on the first sleeve. I don't understand why sleeves take so long. I'm knitting it in the round, so it's like knitting a worsted weight knee sock. Not that there's any rush, since I won't be able to wear the sweater until Autumn.

I also have to decide what to give my grandmother for her birthday. It's at the end of June, so if I want to make something, I should have started it yesterday. I was thinking of knitting her a little tee, but I don't know how well received that would be. I knit her a cabled Aran weight sweater in yarn that can go through the washer and dryer for Christmas, yarn that I would not have used were I not concerned about the laundry situation at her rehabilitation center. It even has a big hood that is perfect for a Lindsay Lohan style nap. Well, she looked at it for about a minute, then handed back to me and told me to take it back to her house, that she couldn't have it in rehab. Darlings, my feelings were *hurt* until my cousin later explained that she planned to ditch everything that she has in rehab and doesn't want to have anything nice there in fear of loss or theft. Fair enough. She probably won't be out of rehab until a couple of weeks after her birthday, so I am torn between giving her something that she can immediately enjoy and giving her something nice that I will have to take over to her house for safekeeping. Maybe a Hey, Teach! cardigan would be nice for keeping off an air conditioning chill. She has to keep it arctic in her basement, where she keeps her television and rarely used computer, in order for it to be a tolerable temperature up on the second floor. Split level houses are a real argument for zoned HVAC, but retrofitting one would be a costly pain in the ass. I digress. I might go visit her on Sunday and take my trusty tape measure to get an idea of her current size. My grandmother's nearly year long bout with cancer has turned her into one of those birdlike old ladies, so I have no idea what size sweater to make.


I got my sewing machine back from the repair shop on Tuesday. Today is Thursday and it already needs to go back. Somehow, I shelled out seventy bucks for my machine to work for a single day. Granted, I got a lot done in that day, but sewing machines should be like flash bulbs. Fortunately, the place that "fixed" it offers a sixty day warranty, so I'll be schlepping it back there again to get it actually fixed.
What's wrong with it? Well, something involving the bobbin. It loops. The thread doesn't feed freely when I'm done sewing a seam so that I can cut it at a decent length, but breaks instead. When it breaks, I have to re-thread the bobbin. I've tried the following: new needle, re-threading the top thread, filling a new bobbin so that it's already threaded and fed properly, taking out and re-seating the bobbin enclosure, swearing profusely, and crying. None of these have solved the problem. And yes, I am sure that the needle is in right, the foot is down, the feed dogs aren't full of schmutz. I haven't been sewing through tile. I am extremely frustrated and more than a little pissed, which is why I've decided to wait to cool down a little before carting it back to the repair shop.
In the meantime, I am knitting and watching Quantum Leap on Netflix. You can stream all of Quantum Leap! I lurve that show. The knitting is part of my wardrobe replacement initiative, the Acer Cardigan that I mentioned before--if only in the sidebar. Though there are 200+ stitches per row and it is knitted flat instead of in the speedy round, I agree with other knitters who have called it a quick knit. Sure, the rows are a bit of a slog, but the lace and cable pattern is easily memorized. Easy recalled lace is quick lace. Winston has been sprawled on the lace chart for the last couple of hours, combining his love of lying on printed materials and being nearby. He's been behaving himself, mostly, these days, so I'll let him stay on the charts.


I've been really busy lately, which is good and bad. Good that I've had gigs, bad that my cat decided to protest his perceived neglect by designating my bedroom floor as his personal toilet. Cats are such assholes. Since I was working almost all the hours in the day, he wasn't getting all the attention to which he is accustomed. Now, he wants attention in the worst way, and that's how he gets it. He is lying next to me now as I write this, getting the occasional petting and making the occasional purr.

I had to toss about half a wardrobe in clothing that he pissed on, which has inspired a new knitting initiative. I want to replace the pieces that I threw away with new handknits, so I'll be knitting out of season this summer. It lacks the satisfaction of being able to wear something as soon as it is finished, but there is a limited number of things one can knit and wear in the summer. I've already made the ones that I want (unless someone has 5 skeins of Allhemp 6 they're not going to use).

I started this plan by almost finishing my Metro cardigan. The only thing left to do is sewing down the collar, on which the pattern gives little guidance. After putting so much work into it, I don't want to mess it up with bad finishing. I've already ripped out the rolled hem, which was awkward and unflattering, and re-knit it as a 2 x 2 rib. I wish I had done that in the first plaec.

Today, I started knitting an Acer cardigan in O-Wool Balance, the 50/50 cotton/wool blend that the pattern specifies. I frequently make substitutions, but I had the yarn in my stash for another project, since decided against. After some Ravelry surfing and an inspiring couple of posts by the Yarn Harlot, I decided to use the yarn to make an Acer. The yarn is really lovely, though I am not totally sold on the fiber content. Ideally, it would have the good properties of both components, but it doesn't seem to have a lot of woolly stretch. It's what I would call a soft red (the manufacturer calls it ruby), but will probably look pink in the finished garment.

I haven't made much progress on the knitting front because I've spent most of my free time sewing and quilting. Sewing offers more instant gratification than knitting, though it is definitely less portable. I finally finished hand quilting the super secret nap quilt, after hundreds of hours of stitching away at it. It just needs a binding now and a test wash, then it will be done.

In order to have the most number of works in progress possible, I started a baby quilt for a friend who recently had a son instead of binding the secret quilt. The front of the quilt took a day to cut and piece. The whole thing probably could have been done in a couple days, but for a few complicating factors. First, I did not have a batting or backing for it, having decided to buy such things when I got around to making the front. Second, my car was out of commission, which made obtaining such things difficult. It turned out to be the thermostat and radiator fan, but I was afraid that it would be a much more expensive repair, like the head gasket or a cracked block. My wonderful mechanic got that all sorted out for me, so I went home and succumbed to a head cold and another sewing delay.

While still a little under the weather, I put together my quilt sandwich and started freehand quilting the baby quilt on my trusty Singer. My not so trusty Singer, since the bobbin thread kept looping on the underside, which is a real bitch to pick out at zero stitch length. Just as I really got into quilting my tight stipple pattern (kind of like drawing brains), it decided to quit. I was in a groove, then nothing. I'd thought about taking my machine for a tune-up after Christmas, but true to form, had procrastinated and ridden it hard since then. Well, it wouldn't grab the bobbin thread, deciding to hit the hook instead. I took it to be repaired, where they told me it was a timing issue. It will be in the shop for the next week. My mom is letting me use her Bernina in the mean time. It's a newer machine, so it has a few more bells and whistles that I won't need, and it doesn't have the same feel as my old mechanical friend. The feed dogs are more aggressive than I'm used to, so I will have to stay on my toes while I do a bit of piecing this week. Or I can just knit.


Joyeux Pacques!

I left my hermitage today to go to brunch at a restaurant that looks like a funeral home and has waitresses who've been working there since the Johnson administration. It is the towniest of townie joints out on the far south side. What could get me out of my sewing cave for that? Well, not just my love of all things townie (as long as there are no hipsters stinking up the place), but the suggestion of my dear cousin Bam Bam that we take our grandmother out for brunch there. She's been ill for the better part of year, currently living in a rehab facility. She's the only person I know who goes out less than I do, so I immediately agreed. She clearly had been looking forward to our outing all week, because she was dressed to the nines in an all purple ensemble when we arrived, ready to go. The weather was perfect, the company lovely, and the food fantastic. Our waitress looked like a drag version of Jennifer Coolidge's character in Legally Blonde. The complete lack of irony was amazing.
I should get out more.

I am almost finished hand-quilting the secret 48 x 54" quilt. I have spent easily a hundred hours quilting this thing and have realized a couple of things in the process. Because of the busy patterns on the front, I decided to mark and quilt from the back. A mistake. I soon realized that my easygoing stitches that looked fine on the back were not so hot on the front. So, I've had to resort to super tiny, show-off stitches, as though I was trying to make a precious heirloom, in order for it to look decent on the front. I'll not be doing that again. Also, the thread that I chose, which claimed to be good for machine or hand quilting is total crap for hand work. It splits. It breaks. I hate it. Once I am done with this project, it's gone. I used a fusible batting in this quilt sandwich. You don't have to baste or pin, jut "tack" it in place with an iron. This sort of works. I've had to re-tack it a couple of times and am not impressed. That said, I really don't miss getting basting safety pins caught in the frame of my hoop and them stabbing me in the wrist. Last of all, my choice of motif was unexpectedly labor intensive. I decided to do an all circular quilting pattern, tracing around various household objects. Well, the problem with curved hand sewing is that it is impossible to do a running stitch. Every single fucking stitch in that quilt had to be pulled through by itself. It is so much slower going than a linear pattern would have been. Fortunately, I really like the texture that it makes in the quilt, but I will think more than twice before doing that again.

In order to sew all those single stitches, I work with my right (dominant) hand above the work and my left below, to catch the needle and feed it back through. As a result, an overly long quilting session will leave me with aches in both hands. This has severely limited my knitting output. I am currently neglecting or ignoring the following knitting projects:
* Metro cardigan in Dream in Color Classy. It needs a cuff finished on one sleeve, the hem re-knit, and its collar sewed down. I haven't figured out the best way to attach the collar.
* Embossed Leaves socks. The first one just needs its toe kitchenered. Then the second can start traveling with me on the El. Maybe.
* Helmi cardigan in Allhemp 6. It's hemp, which isn't the easiest on the hands. Also, lots of stockinette, not in the round. Yawn.

To follow up on previous posts:
I haven't picked up that Double Irish Chain quilt that I started last year (or the year before?). I took all the pieces out to figure out how it goes together, but packed it back into its box. It's strip pieced, and only some of the pieces has been done. After that, the pieces get chopped up and sewn into blocks. Then there's more cutting and piecing. I already have a batting for this, but not a backing. Maybe by the time I get around to finishing the front, I will have found a suitable back. I want to learn to machine quilt before this gets quilted, so I've decided to make another throw (for myself, for once) before tackling a bed sized piece.

I never got around to going to a museum.

I'm still happy with my Soda Stream machine. The Dr. Pete flavor is my favorite.

My gall remains mitigated. My amazing acu-pal Stacy is a total miracle worker and has gotten my gallbladder back on an even keel. It's also really helped with some long-term lower GI problems (which might have been gallbladder related, I have since learned) and my overall feeling of well-being. I am a total acupuncture convert. I don't plan to be as annoying about it as religious converts or ex-smokers, though. I'm one of those two things, by the way. I'll let you guess which.


Crap. Is it already the middle of February? Guess I'd better decide which heavy winter sweater I want to knit next (of all of the ones on my mental list) and let the rest wait until the fall. It hasn't seemed like a pressing issue, but I suppose spring will be here soon. If I want to wear the next sweater, I better get a move on.
I was planning to visit a museum today, with my newly acquired museum card from work, but I decided to stay home and wash all of my clothes instead. No, that is not an exaggeration. I procrastinated on doing my laundry, then the laundry room was closed for a week for upgrades. I've got a lot of clothes, but there's a limit to the number of re-wears I'm willing to do.
In any case, I'm looking for a way to recharge my batteries. I'm practically hibernating these days, which is a great way to entrench a rut. So, the Field Museum? I haven't been in ages and ages. The Museum of Science and Industry? I haven't been since they moved the submarine (by hand!) to its new exhibit. My old favorite, the Art Institute? An afternoon with some Impressionist masterpieces would be very soothing, but I'm afraid I'll cry in front of the Seurat. Decisions, decisions.


The catch up

I left my hermitage today. It was an acquisition mission. I went to a quilting store (not to be confused with, say, Joann Fabrics, though I ended going there too for notions), where I bought some really beautiful batiks to make a purse for my Grandmother. The trouble is that I love them so much that I will probably end up keeping it for myself. She loves blues and greens, as do I. As do a lot of people, since blue and green are the most common favorite colors in the world. The least favorite? White. I suppose most people don't consider it a color.

I'm trying to recharge my batteries. My creative battery, my mental battery, my give-a-shit battery. Time to dust off the sewing machine! I also recently started a new sweater in a divine shade of green from Dream in Color. I bought the yarn from them ages ago, when they were selling some test lots. I showed the work in progress to my Grandmother while we were waiting at her doctor's office and she remarked on all of the colors in it and how I'll be able to wear it with a lot of things. I hadn't really thought of it as having a lot of colors, but as having a lot of tonal variation. I love implied texture, but not to the extent of having trompe l'oeil walls.

I've also been thinking about picking up the quilt that I started a couple years ago. It's a double Irish chain in modern prints. I haven't figured out what kind of motifs I want to quilt on it. A lot of people do shamrock designs, but I think that is a little too twee. The fabrics in mine are large scale florals in turkey red, with a pale yellow for the plain squares. I suppose I can finish the piecing before deciding how I want to quilt it. Long, time-sucking google searches for quilting stencils are in my future.

Other recharging things: I've started drinking more water, thanks to my SodaStream. I use it mostly to make seltzer water. Seltzer wasn't really my thing before, but I find it refreshing when freshly carbonated. It also fills my need for gadgets, because I get to play with the carbonator to make it.

In surprising news, I've recently started getting acupuncture. My fear of needles previously prevented me from even considering it, but it actually doesn't bother me (as long as I don't look). I wouldn't have started, had it not been for a really painful gallbladder attack about a month ago that kept me up all night. Since then, I have learned that I was probably passing a gallstone. It was so fucking uncomfortable that I would eat tacks if that was the cure. Fortunately, I can get acupuncture from one of my college classmates instead, who recently got a masters in oriental medicine. I was always a little in awe of her commitment to photography when we were in school, so I figured if she was half as serious about acupuncture as she was about art, it would be okay. I've had two treatments now and they've really helped with my gallbladder and general well being. Paired with Chinese herbs, this should help me to avoid "real" medical intervention. They usually just cut 'em out and I'd like to stay with as many of my original parts as I can. And really, does the world want me to have unmitigated gall?


An Open Letter to a Producer

I am not going to name your organization here because I don't want to be accused of libel, even though what I write here is true. You don't pay a living wage, or anything approaching it. Still, you expect your employees to work extraordinarily hard in dangerous conditions to make your shows a success. When is the last time your space got a visit from the fire marshal? I ask because one of the stagehands got a nasty shock when she tried to plug something into the electrical outlet backstage that was just dangling out of the wall. Cap that shit off or fix it before someone is seriously injured.
We had a standard contract that you would pay half of my fee on opening night and the other half on closing. I kept up my end of that agreement, but on closing night, the production manager didn't have checks for the crew. Sure, the actors, who have the legal muscle of Equity behind them, were all paid on time, but the crew got lame excuses about a printer in the office being out of toner. I guess the accountant's check writing hand was broken, too.
Isn't it bad enough that you paid members of your run crew $200 total for a five week run? That's not even minimum wage. Then you had the audacity to take your time paying them after they've performed the work. You ought to be ashamed of yourself for treating fellow artists this way. Hell, for treating fellow human beings this way. When I mentioned that US Labor Law requires employers to pay their employees on the date agreed upon, your production manager told me that some people in town don't even pay. I know. One of my exes got an Equity agreement yanked from a company that stiffed him $700. That's not a threat. You eventually sent me a check with both my first and last names misspelled. Thanks for that laugh.
The saddest part of this is that I had a wonderful time working on your show, with really great people. It's just that asshole in the office who handles payroll that completely soured me on your company. I wish you all the luck you deserve in finding qualified people willing to work under these conditions, because I certainly will never work for your company again.

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