Sunday, 26 July 2015

Knitting, Crocheting, Cooking and Vacuum Cleaners

Aside from yesterday's devotional, I realized it's been over two months since I last posted on my blog. So this may be a long update. I'll start with vacuum cleaners. In order to take some of the pictures for today's post, I wanted to vacuum the carpet first. With two cats in the house, one of which is long-haired, cat fur accumulates rapidly in my house. However, when I started the vacuum cleaner up, it was leaving most of the fluff behind. I also noticed a peculiar "whine" to the motor and the smell of burnt rubber. I turned the vacuum cleaner off and checked all of the extension wands for plugs: nothing. Then I remembered that the last time I had used the power head, I had problems with it and determined to take it apart and clean out all of the "stuff" wrapped around the roller. I hadn't done that yet. So I got my tool kit, sat down on the floor and took the power head apart. Yuk! What a mess of dirt, hair, cat fur, thread, yarn, tinsel, whatever! The dirt was caked on so thick that I was scraping it off with a flathead screwdriver and I was still not getting it all off. I finally resorted to spraying it with Fantastik and got it relatively clean with that. I didn't even know that there were instructions for changing the belt embossed on the inside of the top until I got it clean enough to see them. I was calculating and figure I've likely had that vacuum cleaner for about 8-1/2 years. And I've never taken the powerhead apart. I'm not sure where the instructions are for it, but I don't remember reading anything about taking the powerhead apart regularly to clean it. I guess I'll have to add that to my spring cleaning tasks. Hmm, just remembered that I've got a powerhead on my central vac as well. I probably should take that one apart too... And, in case you're wondering why I have both a canister vac and a central vac - I had the canister vac before I bought my house and the central vac came with the house. The central vac is really old, though it still works, and I just seem to alternate between the two of them. And currently the central vac is "out of commision" as I have taken the cannister off to get behind it to finish the drywall. It's in the sewing area of my basement, which I'm supposed to be renovating. 
And on the topic of the renovations - not much progress there. I just find it very difficult to work full time, cook, clean, maintain the yard, pursue my hobbies and complete renovations. And I'm a little bit intimidated about doing the flooring myself. So I have determined to get an estimate or two to see if I can afford to pay someone else to get it done. I'm really getting tired of not being able to quilt and having all of my supplies stacked in the living room. Kind of puts a damper on having company: "Just pull up a box of fabric and have a seat."
On the crafting front, June's "Learn a Stitch, Make this Cowl" was the Le Papillon Cowl. I'm not sure what "Le Papillon" has to do with it because I do not really see anything reminiscent of a butterfly in the cowl. I bought the suggested Red Heart Boutique Unforgettable yarn and began the cowl.
It really wasn't going well. And I have decided that I really don't like this yarn. While it comes in beautiful colours, it is not fun to work with. It's marked as a 4 weight, but it's unevenly spun and there are long sections where it's probably only a 2 weight between slubs of 4 weight. It also has a bit of a nap (I know that's a fabric word, but I don't know what to call it in yarn) which makes it really difficult to frog, and I ended up breaking it at least 3 times as you can see in the picture above. I'd had enough. 
And I'm puzzled. Red Heart has so many different yarns, so I don't know why they would choose to use the same yarn in more than one cowl. March's Lovable Cowl was also made with Unforgettable yarn. I had problems with that one, too, but I blamed that on my knitting skills. And both January's and April's cowls called for Medley, though I didn't use it for April's. And I decided not to use Unforgettable for June's either. I bought a skein of Super Saver in Monet and proceeded with that. 
Meanwhile I was having issues with the pattern.
I really didn't like the way the pattern said to do the bobbles. You end up with 11 loops on the hook and then have to yarn over and draw through all 11 loops. That is an awful lot of loops to get your hook through. I tried it and ended up with what looked like messy balls of yarn. You can see that in the Unforgettable yarn in the foreground of the picture above. Not only did I not like the look of it, but I thought all of those loose loops of yarn would be easy to get caught on something. So I decided to do the traditional bobble stitch with the Super Saver yarn, as you can see above, and I'm much happier with it. 
And here's the final product:
Super Saver was much easier to work with than Unforgettable. And I love the Monet. And here I am trying it on:
I also made progress on my grandson's cardigan:
This is the left front and I've still got a lot of ends to work in, as you can see. I've got the right front done to just below where the picture starts. His birthday is August 30, and I'm hoping to have it done by then. It's the first time I've tried Intarsia knitting and I'm not unhappy with how it's turning out. 
Also for my grandson's birthday is the Choo-Choo Train Afghan.
No choo-choo train on it yet, however, but the main body of the afghan is finished. I have to finish adding the fringe on each end, then crochet the train cars and stitch them on. You can see how little space I had to spread it out because of all the sewing room clutter in my living room.
You'll remember that I've been working on the Vivaldi throw. Here it is to date:
Still a long way from being finished. And it needs to be done by August 16th. I had a friend offer to buy this one from me, and I told her that I don't sell my projects, but I kept the fact that she liked this one in the back of my mind. I didn't have a recipient in mind for it when I started, but when I found out this same friend is celebrating her 50th anniversary this year, I knew who the recipient would be.
One Sabbath morning when my daughter and grandson were visiting, my daughter was wearing a sundress for church. As it is usually a little chilly in the mornings, I asked if she wanted a wrap. But most of my wraps were more for winter and she said that they were all too heavy. I ended up giving her a large muslin scarf, but said that I would need to make her a lighter weight cotton wrap. I later bought some Bernat Handicrafter Cotton in Lotus Blossom, but needed to find an appropriate pattern. As it is intended to be a summer wrap, I did not want a very densely crocheted pattern. It's not that I don't have patterns at home, but decided to look at what was available while I was at Walmart.  I found the summer issue of Crochet! Magazine, which had 3 wraps in it, none of which were done in 4 weight. But it's just a wrap, so I figured I could adjust the pattern. I really love the Feileacan Shawl, which has Celtic knot butterflies down the back. The pattern calls for a 2 weight yarn and so I decided to try the butterfly to see if it looked acceptable in 4 weight. I was happy with it and proceeded to make the right half of the shawl.
This is the completed right half of the shawl and the one butterfly. I haven't finished sewing the butterfly yet. I actually completed the whole right half following the pattern, but it ended up being much too long in the back, so I frogged enough rows to eliminate one butterfly down the back. Or was it two? Anyway, not all of the pattern was working to my liking - the rows weren't lining up the way they should. So I made my own alterations, but don't ask me now what they were. Hopefully I can remember them when I complete the left half. The Ravelry link that gives pattern corrections (but not the ones I wanted) can be found here. There are supposed to be beads added along the bottom edge of the shawl, but I haven't decided if I'm going to add them or not. The only ones I found that were the right size with a big enough bore hole are silver and I'm not sure if that's the best colour for this yarn. Besides leaning back against beads on a wooden pew might be rather uncomfortable. Feileacan, by the way, is Irish for butterfly. This is the first time I've attempted a crochet pattern with a rating of 6 (challenging). My daughter's birthday is September 5th, so I hope to have it finished by then.
July's cowl is the Love this Lacy Cowl. It's a knitted pattern and just emphasizes the reason why I prefer crocheting over knitting. Somehow I got my stitches out of order and the pattern doesn't line up like it should. But frogging when you're knitting is more trouble than it's worth. So I've left the mistakes in there and figure it will still be pretty. Just not perfect.
The pattern called for Red Heart Sparkle Soft, but I'm using Bernat Satin Sparkle in coral. I generally go with what I like that's available locally in the appropriate guage. I can't always make a trip to the city and don't necessarily want to have to pay for shipping if I order online. It's less than half finished and, by next weekend, the August cowl pattern will be available. For a pattern that's rated "easy," I'm not really finding it so. It will likely have to be set aside until September as it's intended for a Christmas present, whereas the above 4 projects have more imminent deadlines. However, my vacation starts Friday, July 31, and I'm hoping to get at least the Vivaldi throw finished during that time. I can't afford to go anywhere, especially if I end up paying someone to complete my renovations, but will hopefully get some serious crafting time in. 
July 31st is also the 7th anniversary of my divorce. Maybe I should do something to celebrate!
Meanwhile I actually had time to do some real cooking this week. By "real cooking" I mean more than just boiling some pasta and pouring on some sauce from a jar. I made Scrambled Tofu Breakfast Burritos. The filling is made overnight in a crockpot.
Yummy! This is from one of my new favourite cookbooks.

This cookbook is perfect for me. I love slow cookers and the recipes are for one or two people. 
Now it's time for lunch. I have a lawn to mow and a handyman to find who can give me an estimate on my renovations. Not to mention a powerhead to put back together now that it's had a chance to dry out after cleaning. So that's all for now.