Friday, January 30, 2009

A productive day off

There isn't really anything fun about having to wake up at 7:00am on your day off to let in the workers who are continuing to demolish things in your house. Having said that, I had a very productive day.

After a little Guitar Hero, and watching them tile the walls for a little bit, I took a little trip to the Salvation Army Thrift Store a few miles from my house. Firstly, the place is huge. Figuring out where to start was a challenge, but I had also taken note of the 50% off store wide sign on the way in so was definitely determined to find something good! About 45 minutes later, I had found quite the load.
  • Soft pink cardigan with brown collar: Wool/angora blend, bulky weight yarn that is buttery soft. If I had to liken it to a commercial yarn, I'd say Malabrigo! This one is already half unraveled and has come apart beautifully with no knots and no argument.
  • Red Benetton sweater: 100% Merino wool and put together raglan style with no seams!! It's laceweight so may take a while to unravel but the no seams thing makes me a little giddy.
  • Lemon sweater: 100% cashmere. It's a women's small but nonetheless I had to snatch it up. Best part about it? It was $0.95.
  • Men's tweed sweater: Nice 100% wool in good condition. It is a tweedy yarn but is also begging to be overdyed.
The grand total price was $5.45 and I also found out that they have the 50% off sale on the last Friday of every month. I know where I'll be spending those Fridays!

I did have to run off to a lunch with some clients from work, but fortunately they're great guys and it's not a business lunch in the boring sense, so that was a good break. Then I had promised the husband to make moussaka for dinner. It's one of those meals that my mom used to make and that I loved as a kid but never tried for myself. This is the recipe I used and it turned out great. It took exactly an hour to prepare and then an hour and fifteen to bake. To top it off, our friend is on his way over with carrot cake for dessert! I could have dealt with a chance to sleep in but I definitely can't complain about how the day's been overall. =)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

**CPSIA Blog In - Important info for all.**

As parents and concerned citizens I’m sure most of us at one time or another have been confronted with the question of lead poisoning. But have you asked yourself what your government is doing to protect your children from lead contained in toys? The answer? They're banning toys, taking books from schools and libraries, hurting low income families, killing entrepreneurial spirit and risking putting the economy in an even greater depression than we've seen in decades. I'd like to introduce you to their solution: the CPSIA.

Do you know about the CPSIA? No? Then I ask you to take a few minutes to find out about it.

The CPSIA stands for Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, a new set of laws that will come into effect on 10 February, 2009 and will impact many, many people in a negative way. Make no mistake, this is very real. View it for yourself. If Forbes, the American Library Association and numerous other media are paying attention, perhaps you should too.

How will these new laws affect you? Well, here are a few examples:

To the Parents of Young Students:
Due to the new law, expect to see the cost of school supplies sky rocket. While those paper clips weren't originally intended for your student to use, they will need to be tested now that your 11-year-old needs them for his school project. This law applies to any and all school supplies (textbooks, pencils, crayons, paper, etc.) being used by children under 12.

To the Avid Reader:
Due to the new law, all children's books will be pulled from library and school shelves, as there is no exemption for them. That’s okay though, there's always television. Our children don’t need to learn the love of reading after all.
Article from the American Library Association

To the Lover of All Things Handmade:
Due to the new law, you will now be given a cotton ball and an instruction manual so you can make it yourself since that blanket you originally had your eye on for $50 will now cost you around $1,000 after it's passed testing. It won't even be the one-of-a-kind blanket you were hoping for. Items are destroyed in the testing process making one-of-a-kind items virtually impossible. So that gorgeous hand-knit hat you bought your child this past winter won’t be available next winter.

To the Environmentalist:
Due to the new law, all items in non-compliance will now be dumped into our already overflowing landfills. Imagine not just products from the small business owners, but the Big Box Stores as well. You can't sell it so you must toss it. Or be potentially sued for selling it. You can't even give them away. If you are caught, it is still a violation.

To the Second-Hand Shopper:
Due to the new law, you will now need to spend $20 for that brand new pair of jeans for your 2-year old, rather than shop at the Goodwill for second hand. Many resale shops are eliminating children's items all together to avoid future lawsuits.

To the Entrepreneur:
Due to this new law, you will be forced to adhere to strict testing of your unique products or discontinue to make and/or sell them. Small businesses will be likely to be unable to afford the cost of testing and be forced to close up shop. Due to the current economic state, you'll have to hope for the best when it comes to finding a new job in Corporate America.

To the Antique Toy Collector:
Due to the new law, you'd better start buying now because it's all going to private collection and will no longer be available to purchase. “Because the new rules apply retroactively, toys and clothes already on the shelf will have to be thrown out if they aren't certified as safe.”

To the American Economy:
Already struggling under an economy that hasn’t been this weak in decades, the American economy will be hit harder with the inevitable loss of jobs and revenues from suppliers, small businesses and consumers. The required testing is far too costly and restrictive for small businesses or individuals to undertake.

To the Worldwide Economy:
Due to this new law, many foreign manufacturers have already pulled out of the US market. You can imagine the impact of this on their businesses.

If you think this is exaggerating, here is a recent article from Forbes

And for those of you prepared to be stupefied and boggled, The New Law

Did you know? If this upsets or alarms you, please react.

New yarn, new pics

It hasn't taken me long to fall in love with the yarn dyeing thing. I was never any good at painting on canvas, so I'm now going to consider myself a painter of the yarns!

A couple of days ago, I was playing with one of the hanks from a recycled sweater and after looking at how the plies were separating, decided to re-ply it on my drop spindle. It came up with a nice rounded yarn that went into a dye bath a few minutes later! The beauty of this particular recycled yarn is that it has wool, angora and cashmere in it. There's a little rayon as well to give it strength most likely, but it's a wonderfully soft blend that has a slight rabbity (yes, not a word I know) halo. =)

This time I went with a grape and blueberry mix and it has to be said that I adore the end result. I'm calling this Foggy Morning. I'm excited enough that I put it up in my Etsy shop.

I tried something a little different with my photographs for this one, not going with a plain white background but a more subtle grey that I think matches the tone of the yarn really well. Would love to know what you think.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

So close I can smell it

Our bathroom is going to be done today and ready for use by tomorrow morning. I am totally psyched! I took off the rest of the week (use them or lose them vacation days) so I can babysit the demolition and remodel of the guest bathroom. I took some pics last night of the bathroom in it's 80% done state to share. Today they're grouting and cleaning, plus adding a nice tile base board to replace the wooden ones that were there before. I have to make a quick trip to Home Depot at lunch but definitely worth it!Around the bathtubThe floor is under there somewhere.
Check out my awesome mitered corners on the ledge around the tub! I was very impressed.

With any luck I will have completed photos tomorrow and then the before and after of the other room are to come!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

I'm dyeing!

I believe I said I wanted to give dyeing yarn a try and this weekend, while it's pouring with rain outside and the husband is out playing poker with his friends, seemed like a great opportunity.

The first sweater that I bought to recycle was always destined to be my first victim. I was a little worried about the dye taking properly because it's a wool/acrylic/cotton blend, but I figured it would be worth a shot.

It's not a full tutorial, but here's a rundown of what I did in 10 steps!

Step 1 - Soak the yarn in warm water with a dash of dish soap (I did this for about 20 minutes).
Step 2 - While yarn is soaking, mix up Kool Aid packs. I had 2 packs of orange and 2 packs of strawberry. I've seen some tutorials suggesting using 8oz water for each pack, but I decided to make it a little more saturated than that because of the fiber blend so for each color I put 2 packs in 12oz water.
Step 3 - Remove yarn from soaking and gentle wring out the water.
Step 4 - Place yarn in microwave safe dish and pour on Kool Aid mixture. I originally was planning on doing one color per hank, but ended up doing one hank that was a random mix of the two colors together!
Step 5 - Cover dish with plastic wrap and poke a few holes to let the steam escape.
Step 6 - Place dish in microwave for 2 minutes.
Step 7 - After the 2 minutes in the microwave, pull it out and take a look to see whether the water at the bottom of the dish is clear. If not, let it sit for a couple of minutes, then pop it back in the microwave for another 2 minutes.
Repeat Steps 6+7 as necessary until water in the bottom of the dish is clear. For me, this was 2 runs through the microwave for each.
Step 8 - I had left the water that the yarn was originally soaking in still in the bowl. So, after I was done microwaving the yarn, I removed the yarn from the microwave dish and threw it back in the original water to let any extra dye seep out and to cool off a little.
Step 9 - Once the yarn is cool enough to touch, pull it out of the water and gently wring it dry.
Step 10 - Hang to dry!
Here are my final products waiting to be hung up to dry. Top hank was dyed with about 7oz of orange flavor, the middle one is whatever was left of the orange plus a few oz of strawberry flavor. (It's somewhat variegated but hard to see right now.) The bottom hank was dyed with the strawberry flavor. It's probably the least saturated of the three and looks like more of a watermelon color to me.

As always, the concept of dyeing yarn seems so much more complicated than actually doing it and I'm really glad I had the chance to just give it a try!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

So that's what was under there!

There is something to be said for having your house taken over by a bunch of men who are demolishing things. I've been very impressed by our contractors so far - not only have they shown up on time but have been very productive, are looking to get the job done by the end of next week, and have made sure to cover half the house in plastic so as not to get everything dirty! It does sound a little bit like I'm walking around wearing plastic bags on my feet, but I'd rather that than the alternative.

In fact, they were so eager to get started this morning that the doorbell rang at 7:45 while I was in a state of semi-undress, having just got out of the shower and not quite decided what to wear. I quickly threw my PJs back on to let them in, at which point they were very apologetic for having woken me up.

I've been taking photos to document progress and have a first few to share with you. I'd like you to meet our old bathroom....One word to describe it? Bland. While retro is "in", there's something about the 1980s white tile and delightful vinyl flooring combo that just doesn't quite work for me. Even better than that, check out the handles in the bathtub. Are those a nice smokey gray plastic? Oh yes, I believe they are. Oh well, out with the old and in with the sledgehammer.

When I got home last night I was greeting by a bathroom with no walls. It's definitely odd to see what's underneath all the lovely tile that existed. You have to excuse the crooked photo - that's what happens when you stick your arm through plastic sheeting and aim blindly!Right now they are putting up new walls and tile is soon to be going on top of that. It's definitely an interesting experience but no complaints so far. More photos once they start laying tile...

Monday, January 19, 2009

May the demolition begin!

When we were first buying our house, one of the things that we were desperate to do is remodel the second bathroom. It started with a broken shower door, which turned into "well, we might as well replace the shower base too cus it looks old". That became ripping out the tile in the shower area and tiling the floor. I made the observation that if we're redoing the floor in one bathroom, we should probably tile the floor in our bathroom as well. After meeting with a couple of contractors, we decided that we could just re-tile the area around the bathtub while we're at know, get it all done at once!

About 15 estimates later (ranging from $1300 to $11K), we finally picked a lovely contractor to help us with our first real venture into the equity building mess of remodeling. He came over today to help finalize our contract with him, and work begins on Wednesday of this week. I've spent so many hours watching Sweat Equity on the DIY Network that we might wonder why I'm not just getting down on my hands and knees and doing everything myself. This is definitely one of those cases where my end of year bonus will buy me the peace of mind of having a professional with a sledgehammer do it on my behalf!

Before and after pictures will be following of course. =)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Acrylic yarn to a good home?


My charity knitting group at work just went through our stash of donated yarn (we were overflowing!) They asked me to post it as we want to share the wealth with others who may have use for it. It has been split into 3 lots.

Note that all of this yarn is acrylic, and much of it appears to be vintage. Send me a message (organicstills [at] gmail) if you’re interested and which lot you would like...first come first serve on that. =)

Lot 1
2 skeins mustard color, 1 skein black, 1 skein navy, partial skein of royal blue, partial skein of brown, 2 partial skeins black (a little tangled together)Lot 2
1 skein white, 1 skein black, 1 skein royal blue, 1 skein brown, 1 skein purple/white variegated
Lot 3
1 skein navy, 1 skein grey, 1 skein orange/yellow/brown, 1 skein + 1 partial skein grey/red/white variegated, 1 partial skein royal blue

Friday, January 9, 2009

What is lavender, fuzzy and makes you sneeze?

After the success of unraveling my first sweater right before New Year's, which yielded about 800+ yards of yarn, I am finding my new supplement to the fiber arts to be quite entertaining. I've never been one for finding excellent thrifty deals but when I read about the finds that the thrifty folk on Ravelry (who inspired me to try this in the first place) seem to come across, I'm encouraged to keep looking!

The selection of thrift stores near home and work aren't wonderful, nor are these places super cheap. The concept of a wool sweater for $0.50 leaves me in awe and extremely jealous as I just can't see these particular stores selling for such prices.
  • American Cancer Society (Burbank) - gorgeous stuff, but pretty expensive and more a place to go if you're trying to buy a $300 pair of designer jeans for $50.
  • Goodwill (North Hollywood) - nice big and bright store, but terrible quality of sweaters right now. They're mostly acrylics and sweaters that just aren't in good condition.
  • American Way Thrift Store (Burbank) - where I've been having the most success so far, but is accompanied by that very authentic thrift store "smell" to go with the dark and dusty warehouse looking room that it's comprised of. It also seems to be quite popular and is picked over quickly so the good stuff isn't around long enough to go on sale!
On my most recent trip this week, I went to American Way (at the intersection of Magnolia and California in Burbank, just in case any locals are reading this). The sweater section seems to be hugely depleted right now, probably on account of the 3 days of cold weather that we've had recently. Go figure that I would start trying to find sweaters to reclaim during the "cold" part of the year in L.A. Having said all that though, I did find a couple of nice sweaters.

The first is a beautiful lavender nylon/angora/wool blend. It appears to have been made in a raglan style and the seams have been pretty easy to work with. The downside being that I am completely covered in lavender angora rabbit fuzz and have had several sneezing sessions this afternoon seeing as it's taken over my office completely. The lace weight yarn that I'm getting from it seems worth it to me though and I am hoping to have well over 1000 yards once I'm done (insert happy dance).

The other sweater is a wool/rayon/angora/cashmere blend. The seams have been a little resistant but I am being patient and trying to remember how lovely and soft the yarn will be once I can get it undone. The other interesting thing is that what appears to be a worsted weight yarn in the sweater is actually 6 strands of lace weight. I'm going to keep it as a worsted 6-ply (sort of) because I don't really want to deal with un-stranding and weakening the yarn.

I am telling myself that this new fascination with commercially made sweaters is so that I can learn more about the formation of knitwear. After all, guys have been taking things apart to find out how they were put together for years right? =)

All the pretty colors

I was told today that I've been included in a treasury on Etsy (always a nice thing to find out!) The colors are so pretty and eye-catching that I just had to share.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

One way to stash bust

I just came across this video of Extreme Knitting, an art form brought to us by Rachel John in the a crazy brit to come up with something like this! (I should know, I am one). Using hundreds of strands of yarn and fence post sized knitting needles, she creates seriously over sized knit pieces that have no apparent practical use, but definitely look comfortable; which is a good thing because it seems like a lot of work to create the piece in the first place.

I'm in awe of the artistry involved in her work and I'm still sitting here scratching my head and trying to figure out how on earth you'd keep the yarn from tangling. I have issues untangling 2 strands, let alone several hundred. I am inspired though and am now contemplating whether it would be possible to knit a large rug with needles the size of the handles on my Swiffer duster! Well, if my yarn stash ever takes over, I now know how to get rid of it quickly.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Happy (Crafty) New Year!

2009 is finally upon us! While I'm not one for New Year Resolutions (just seems like setting up for failure), I have been formulating a list of fun crafty things that I'd like to try this year. I'm not under any assumption that I will actually manage to do all of these things, but one can wish! =)

- Try dying yarn with Kool-aid (perhaps move on to roving if that works out ok)
- Do the cross stitch pattern that I bought (see picture)
- Figure out if I really do want to buy that darn weaving loom!
- Finish the sweater that I've been working on for a year now that's been hiding...crazy cable patterns lead to long time knitting!
- Sew the curtains for our bedroom
- Learn to sew zippers properly
- Go on a couple of field trips with my camera (definitely need some new portfolio shots)
- Thrift more yarn (I had fun with my first sweater so will try to find more!)
- Attempt to felt something in the washer
- Write down a couple more of my knitting/crochet patterns. I have them in my head but not yet on paper.

In between all of this, my number one priority this year is to get my inventory fully listed on my own website and figure out the details of Zencart! I've been making some progress but definitely want to focus on it more.

If you have crafty things that you're planning this year, please comment below as I'd love to know what you're going to be up to!