20 January 2020

Snowflake Monday


Today's pattern is a primer for next week's pattern. Both patterns have an unusual start, which I have done before in the distant past, and I thought a photo tutorial of how to achieve this type of snowflake might be a great way to kick off the new year. Today's pattern also is a great simple flake to demonstrate how pinning can totally change the personality of the snowflake.


You may do whatever you'd like with snowflakes you make from this pattern, but you may not sell or republish the pattern. Thanks, and enjoy!


Finished Size: 5.5 inches from point to point
Materials: Size 10 crochet thread, size 7 crochet hook, empty pizza box, wax paper or plastic wrap, cellophane tape, water soluble school glue or desired stiffener, water, glitter, small container for glue/water mixture, paintbrush, stick pins that won't be used later for sewing, clear thread or fishing line

Primer Snowflake Instructions

Round 1: [Ch 10, 1 dc in 8th ch from hook, 1 hdc in next ch, 1 sc in next ch (petal made)] 6 times; sl st in starting ch (same ch as 1st sc).
If you're not reading this pattern on Snowcatcher, you're not reading the designer's blog. Please go here to see the original.




Round 2: Ch 4 (counts as 1 tr and ch 1), [3 sc in next petal loop, ch 20, 1 sc in 10th ch from hook, ch 10, 3 sc in same petal loop, ch 1, 1 tr in next gap between petals] 6 times, omitting last tr of final repeat; sl st in 3rd ch of starting ch 4; bind off. Weave in ends.


Finish: Tape wax paper or plastic wrap to top of empty pizza box. Pin snowflake to box on top of wax paper or plastic wrap.

If using glue, mix a few drops of water with a teaspoon of glue in small washable container. Paint snowflake with glue mixture or desired stiffener. Sprinkle lightly with glitter. Wash paintbrush and container thoroughly. Allow snowflake to dry at least 24 hours. Remove pins. Gently peel snowflake from wax paper or plastic wrap. Attach 10-inch clear thread to one spoke, weaving in end. Wrap fishing line around tree branch (or tape to ceiling or any overhead surface) and watch snowflake twirl freely whenever you walk by! Snowflake also may be taped to window or tied to doorknob or cabinet handle.

16 January 2020

Can't Stop Dyeing

heavenly avocado skin dye

It wasn't how I needed to spend a Saturday afternoon, but it was the first Saturday afternoon I had to myself in several months, and by golly, I'm dyeing to spend it!!!


I actually started the first portion of this project a couple of weeks ago. I'd brought in five of my avocado pit and skin dyes in September prior to our first frost, hoping if they stewed a bit longer, I could eke more color from them. Some of these jars have provided four or five dips already.

My amaryllises are going nuts and all beginning to bloom, and I didn't have window space for the dyes anymore. Those cumbersome jars had to go.


So I wound four hanks of crochet thread and strained every last one of the jars. The fifth and darkest dye jar got a pair of cotton socks about a month ago, when I first started pulling the amaryllises out of the basement, one by one, one each week so the staggered blooms would last as long as I could make them. I poured the sock jar contents into my dye pot, which I left on the floor in the garage. I can't solar dye outside anymore because the jars would freeze every single night. There have been days when the dyes wouldn't have thawed in the sun because our highs have been in the 'teens. (We've also had a few unseasonable 60s, and boy, are those refreshing!)

I let the thread soak in the dyes in the jars on the floor in the kitchen for a whole week. Each night when I got home from work, I nuked each jar in the microwave for one minute. I totally forgot about the socks until last weekend. The socks had survived the deep freeze cycle, so I wasn't sure what to expect. Saturday, I strained the socks and the threads so I could reclaim my garage and kitchen floors.


The thread colors aren't as dark as I'd hoped, but I LOVE the new earthy shades, especially that pastel pink!




And check out the socks!!! Oh, my! Perhaps I should let some thread in avocado dye freeze in the garage a couple of times to see what happens!




I was so tickled with the range of colors, even though the threads are so pastel, I couldn't contain my curiosity any longer. Four of the avocados I bought about a month ago had a lot of visible red hue in the skin. Surely these skins would produce some awesome reds or pinks, right?


I typically do not save skins during the winter because I don't know if they would produce color after being frozen, like what I get from the pits after five months in the freezer. And I don't have window space to solar soak the skins while the amaryllises are craving sunshine. These red-toned avocados, however, presented more temptation than I could resist. Surely I could make space for just one little jar...


This is four avocado skins. They've soaked in the window in the sun for just about three weeks. I wound one more hank of crochet thread and strained the new avocado skin dye, then just about floated out of the atmosphere when I saw the color on the thread!!!






I'm going to let this thread soak for another week. I don't know if the final color will be this rich, but oh, can I dream!

If I do get such rich color from this batch of skins, I think I will buy a bunch more avocados and try to make another batch of dye after the amaryllises are done, and perhaps I can darken up my avocado dress next summer!!! Oh, how heavenly that would be!!!


While I was cleaning up the avocado dye mess, I decided I should go ahead and discard the first set of professional dyes I mixed, perhaps ten years ago. They've been patiently waiting to be used in the basement all this time. I learned after the first couple of dye sessions that professional dyes weaken with age and that my bottles probably wouldn't produce any lasting color after about three months. But I couldn't bring myself to throw them out. They were all very small bottles, the one-ounce travel bottles available in grocery and department stores.

As I began to collect the very aged dyes, I decided it wouldn't hurt to try using them. If the colors don't stick, no big deal; I can overdye. I dug out a PFD remnant from my snow-dyeing days and then decided a pair of socks might be fun, too. I mordanted the cotton in soda ash with salt, then laid out the dyeables on the rocks in the backyard and squirted away.


I then nuked the fabric and socks for 30 seconds, then laid them out in the basement. I didn't have any idea what they would look like after washing, but perhaps it would be a fun little waste of time.

I opened the washer expecting to find such pastel colors, they could pass as white. I am SO glad I didn't just toss the dyes! I'm so glad I gave them the chance to show their stuff! The greens and blues are pretty pale, but this turned out far better than I expected!


I then decided I could make room on one window sill for a few small dye jars. I wound eight more hanks of crochet thread, then prepared my little stackable plastic ice cream jars with a rainbow of colors.






These will get to soak for a week, also. I'm hoping for more gradients to replace what I've almost used up. I love crocheting with gradient or variegated thread I've dyed myself and watching the color changes between stitches. One of my favorite things to do on the commuter train!






Linking up with Alycia Quilts and Confessions of a Fabric Addict.

14 January 2020

iSee!


Nearly three years ago, I bought my first brand new, not refurbished, iPhone, a 5SE. On Christmas Day 2019, it went black screen, joining a toddler terabyte external hard drive that went to that electronics graveyard in the sky on the very same day.

All I wanted for Christmas was the electronics to power up!

I'd backed up my iPhone in early December right after we returned from an impromptu funeral in California. I tried to back it up at the beginning of every month in 2019 because I'd previously lost photos on the older phone when it died. I hardly ever backed up the older phone because I didn't know it was necessary. I also didn't have much on it; it had virtually no storage space, so it wasn't a miniature treasure chest I carried around with me everywhere. The older phone's primary job was recording my bicycle rides via Cyclemeter. I lost all my stats when that phone died because I'd never logged into "my account" on Cyclemeter. (I didn't know I had an account until the phone died and I tried recovering my lost stats. Duh.) I also was not in the habit of keeping specific ride details online because I'm a privacy nut.

On the very bright side, I did not lose my cycling stats when my iPhone 5SE died! I'm still a privacy nut, and you won't find my log online, but my stats were backed up to my account. Cool!

Not so cool... The phone had about three weeks of photos, a tiny few of which I had not uploaded to anything, backed up to anywhere or emailed to anyone. In addition to trying to obtain a new phone, I spent the next three days trying (unsuccessfully) to rescue a handful of photos from the dead phone.

Lizard had undergone total knee replacement mid-December. I'd sent a photo of the incision from the 10-day checkup to his mom, and after the phone died, she sent that photo back to me. So I have that one. Thank you, Mom!


I did not send her photos of the bruises on his legs. I didn't send those to anyone. They are permanently etched in my memory, but it would have been nice to have actual photos one day when we can look back and make jokes about the surgery and recovery. Those stages haven't fermented into humor yet, but the best humor takes time.

We'll have to go off memory, mostly mine, when it comes time to prove we aren't exaggerating the range and distribution of greens and purples when it comes time to sip the fine wine of knee restoration. Nothing could be recovered from the dead phone, other than the magnificent Otter Box covering it. But who else in the world is using an iPhone 5 these days!?! I suspect I may have been one of the only ones.

The Apple Store told me my iPhone 5 was in the best shape they'd ever seen that old of a phone. The screen was absolutely flawless, they exclaimed. That, of course, was to soften the blow of, "But your motherboard is dead. We can't save anything from this phone. But you had everything backed up to The Cloud, right?"

Ha!

No, I did not, and I've learned my lesson well, hope I live to tell the secret I have learned. 'Til then, it literally will burn inside of me.

Have I mentioned I'm a privacy nut???

Trying to get a new smartphone when your old smartphone doesn't work any more is almost worse than total knee replacement. Lizard probably would beg to differ, but right now, I'm not too fond of the process of getting a new smartphone because smartphones are how service providers verify identity!!!

For 12 days I felt as if I was a non-person because I didn't exist when I didn't have a working smartphone!!! How unfair is that?!?

I have complained about my internet endlessly. This Christmas not-so-miraculous debacle granted me the opportunity to change that. And get newer technology to boot. Can't beat that, right?


I think every provider in the country was running specials on Christmas Day. Except mine, of course. They really wanted to sell me the latest and greatest, which is going to be outdated in, what, two weeks? I would explain that I've been a customer for at least 25 years and that I deserve some kind of deal for loyalty, but I kept getting disconnected. I think they were in essence hanging up on me (disconnecting online chats) because they didn't want to price match the competition, which I had thoroughly investigated before trying to give them one more chance. About 16 times.

At one point, I had to ask myself: "Why are you trying to give them one more chance to be really lousy?" People in my neighborhood had discussed providers over many fire pits and backyard barbecues, and there was an actual consensus that another specific provider had better signal than any of the rest. That particular provider just happened to be running the best Christmas Day special. Switch and get free phones! Can't beat that, right?

So I switched. But it took 12 friggin' days!!!

And because it took 12 friggin' days, I lost the Christmas Day special. My new phones were not free. I did still get a great deal on one, but the second was full price. Owie!!! Did I mention that buying a new smartphone is almost as painful as knee surgery?

When it came right down to it, the nuts and bolts of the deal, the new provider wanted me to invest in the latest and greatest, too. "It's only $4 more per month per phone," they said. "See what a great deal that would be?"

The great deal is actually having signal in my home for the first time since we've lived there. I can walk around the house while I talk on the phone. The internet doesn't cut out every 45 seconds. There are still areas where my reception is not as great, but I do have better service, and for that, I am very grateful.

But why in the 21st century does it take 12 days to activate a new smartphone?!? Well, because you don't have a phone where the two-step authorization verification code may be sent, Dummy!

Okay, fine. We'll just change the trusted phone number to another phone that works. That just happens to be far away. And can't receive texts. And, oh, you have to wait 24 hours before the change may be finalized... because, you know, we can't verify it's you if you don't have a working phone. It's in a different zip code??? Well, we're going to have to fill out another form for that.

Don't even get me started on the unrecognizable external hard drive. I never wanted to trust any kind of memory storage that large because, by golly, that's a LOT of photos to lose if anything ever goes wrong. But when I filled up the previous (much smaller) hard drive, one terabyte was the smallest I could find. Oh, and by the way, my previous seven full (much smaller) hard drives all still work just fine. One of them is pushing 15 years of age! The only ones I've had trouble with are the terabiters. Oh, do they bite! But that's another rant for another day.


I have learned Cloud storage might not be such an invasive thing after all. I have learned (again) to back up photos and data that isn't going to be available anywhere else. I have learned backing things up in one place isn't enough. I have learned the iPhone 4 can outlast any of its progeny. I have learned to not take internet-only specials too seriously. I have learned I can survive 12 phoneless days. I have learned to never port another phone number. Just get a new number next time.

But, please, let there never be another next time!

13 January 2020

Snowflake Monday


The bright, colorful hand-dyed thread shown above inspired today's pattern back on February 22, 2012. Working through today's pattern in solid white thread to polish the instructions and work through pattern bugs inspired yet another snowflake I'll share at a later date. I actually ended up designing two additional snowflakes this week, so I guess I've got my snowflake groove back. About time, huh?

Round 3 of this pattern utilizes double crochet stitches around posts of previous double crochet stitches, and such stitches are designated as foundation double crochet (fdc) due to the similarity to foundation double crochet technique. I called this stitch the D-stitch the first time I shared it back in 2014. I still don't know if this stitch has an official name, but I have since learned others use it, too. No one I've talked to knows the name of this stitch, however. So it's still the D-stitch to me.

You may do whatever you'd like with snowflakes you make from this pattern, but you may not sell or republish the pattern. Thanks, and enjoy!


Finished Size: 4 inches from point to point
Materials: Size 10 crochet thread, size 7 crochet hook, empty pizza box, wax paper or plastic wrap, cellophane tape, water soluble school glue or desired stiffener, water, glitter, small container for glue/water mixture, paintbrush, stick pins that won't be used later for sewing, clear thread or fishing line

Penchant Snowflake Instructions

Make magic ring.

Round 1: Ch 3 (counts as 1 tr), 1 tr in ring, [ch 5, 2 tr in ring] 5 times; ch 5, sl st in 3rd ch of starting ch 4. Pull magic ring tight.

Round 2: [in next ch 5 sp work (4 sc, ch 3, 4 sc)] 6 times; sl st in starting sc.
If you're not reading this pattern on Snowcatcher, you're not reading the designer's blog. Please go here to see the original.

Round 3: Ch 2 (counts as 1st cluster dc), [yo and draw up loop from between Round 1 ch 3 and tr, yo and bring through 2 loops on hook] 2 times, yo and bring through all 3 loops on hook (starting dc cluster made), [[ch 4, 1 fdc in 4th ch from hook, ch 3, 1 sc in 2nd ch from hook (small picot made), ch 1, 1 fdc around post of previous fdc, ch 4, 1 sc in 2nd ch from hook, 1 dc in next ch (large picot made), ch 1, 1 fdc around post of previous fdc, ch 3, 1 sc in 2nd ch from hook (small picot made), ch 1, 1 dc around post of previous fdc, ch 4, 1 fdc around post of previous fdc, sk next 4 sc, sk next ch 3 picot, sk next 4 sc, [yo and draw up loop from between next 2 tr, yo and bring through 2 loops on hook] 3 times, yo and bring through all 4 loops on hook (dc cluster made)]] 6 times, omitting last dc cluster of final repeat; sl st in starting dc cluster; bind off. Weave in ends.

Finish: Tape wax paper or plastic wrap to top of empty pizza box. Pin snowflake to box on top of wax paper or plastic wrap.

If using glue, mix a few drops of water with a teaspoon of glue in small washable container. Paint snowflake with glue mixture or desired stiffener. Sprinkle lightly with glitter. Wash paintbrush and container thoroughly. Allow snowflake to dry at least 24 hours. Remove pins. Gently peel snowflake from wax paper or plastic wrap. Attach 10-inch clear thread to one spoke, weaving in end. Wrap fishing line around tree branch (or tape to ceiling or any overhead surface) and watch the snowflake twirl freely whenever you walk by! Snowflake also may be taped to window or tied to doorknob or cabinet handle.

09 January 2020

Gardening in Winter


It may be cold, but it takes more than single-digit temperatures and blankets of white to keep my garden from thriving.


My six pepper plants, including one dual-armed ghost pepper stalk, may not be producing chile for my cuisine right now, but boy, they are a bloomin'! I was pinching the scores of new blossoms every day, but they still fall off after a couple of days of being gorgeous. I was told to try Q-tipping the blossoms instead of pinching and to pull them away from the living room window, which might be a tad too cold for peppers to form. I moved the peppers three feet from the window at Christmas and began using a cotton swab instead of my fingers to help pollinate. Nothing yet, but I keep trying.


Two of the three hoya plants pulled a fast one, too!


The big surprises of this winter, so far, have been the bowl of hyacinths I didn't get a chance to put in the ground before our first big snow (18 inches at our house back in November!), the rosemary plant closest to the living room window, and one of two strawberry plants I rescued from the porch before our first overnight freeze. I didn't expect any of these to produce winter blossoms.


Both strawberry plants bloomed in November, and although I've now surrendered one plant due to indominable spider mites, the second one is busy brewing me another bite-sized breakfast.


The amaryllises are late, but who cares when the blossoms could last well into March???


African daisies have been outshining the traditional larkspur in my living room this year. I've had indoor larkspur almost every year since we bought our house ten years ago. This winter, I can't keep the larkspur alive. The Cape Marigold African daisies have been rubbing my nose in it -- in a good way, of course.


I've tried my hand and failed with clove seedlings. I wish I could keep one clove tree alive. The aroma when lightly touching a leaf is out of this world.


I'm still working on a pineapple direct from Hawaii. My boss who brought the original pineapple to me as a souvenir five years ago keeps asking if I've noticed a blue flower yet. The day I do, there's going to be a huge photographic spread here at Snowcatcher!!!


In 2020, I've added lemon seeds to the collection. I can't believe I'm growing little lemon trees in a plastic cup inside a plastic at work! The first plastic cup has holes poked in the bottom so the soil can drain, and the second cup holds the drainage until the soil gets thirsty again. I will soon transplant them into their own individual terracotta pots. I'm going to try growing one at home, now, too, because watching these little babies sprout has been springtime in my winter!


My first batch of 2020 seeds has arrived, and I'm going to start the corn indoors this year. A late start and a short growing season in 2019 resulted in six Barbie doll-sized ears of corn by first snow.


I've also convinced Lizard to try sprouts and microgreens this winter. I'm going to try to get the hyacinth bulbs into the ground this weekend before our next snow, and then the hyacinth bowl is going to be converted to its original purpose... an indoor salad bowl garden!

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