Thursday, May 31, 2007

I Can't Get No . . . Purse Making Satisfaction

Why is it that I can't seem to get no purse- making satisfaction? This is the cabled purse that I tried to make but mine came out wider and squatier than Alie's version in the shop. Actually, mine is the right length, according to the directions - it's 10" deep but instead of being Alie's 9" in width near the top - mine is a wider 13" in width, and lacks the tapered look, even though I did the decrease rounds. Mine has a kinda squarish/rectangled shape. I should have knit more length and maybe it wouldn't have appeared so wide? Also, I should have perhaps decreased more toward the top of the bag.

Ultimately, it probably doesn't matter, because I don't like this bag enough to spend the effort redoing it.

I don't actually have the handles sewn on yet, I'm just setting them there on top the purse for display purposes. I will sew them on this week - maybe. I'm not honestly very motiviated to finish this thing - but I suppose I will. I want to have something to carry at Stitches for a regular handbag.

You can't see it well here, but my Grammy, as usual, did an EXCELLENT job of sewing in a very neat, attractive lining (complete with requested side pocket). But we didn't sew in the magnetic snap yet, because the one I selected was so darn strong, we were afraid it would pull through the fabric. Weird magnet - it is super strength. I'm trying to decide whether to find a less super-strength magnetic closure to attach inside the purse (which would require me snipping into the lining) or if I should just attach a pretty button to the outside? Not sure. It needs something to keep it closed, but what? Hmmm.

When I think back on it, very few bags end up turning out like I want. I don't know why. They are cute enough, I suppose, but somehow I expect them to be more USEABLE and no matter what I do, they end up disappointing.

Maybe this one will grow on me? Not sure. I think it's like my Mom said, while we both enjoy making bags, we don't end up carrying them a lot. I'm not sure why - is it because they are floppy and unstructured, unlike a regular handbag? Any theories or insights would be appreciated - especially before I blindly fall in love with another bag pattern, then spend hours and good yarn making another one of these shelf-liners for my closet. Someone stop me, will ya? Or else give me the secret to making a truly well-loved bag project.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Time Well Spent in St. Louie-Louie

I don't know why, but many years ago, Bob and I started referring to his hometown as "St. Louie-Louie." (Probably because of the movie MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS). But anyhow, that's where we sojourned on Friday afternoon. We spent Friday and Saturday night at the Drury Inn and came back this (Sunday) evening. We had such a good time. I can't say enough about that Drury Inn, they even let you bring a small dog, so Domino, our Shit-zu tagged along. Our teen girl spent the weekend in Branson with a friends' family so we went by ourselves.

What a nice, peaceful FUN weekend we had together. We visited a few friends there, but mostly just walked down Memory Lane - going back to many of Bob's favorite haunts, including his childhood home. We saw a young woman sweeping the garage, so we walked up and introduced ourselves and asked her if we could peek into the backyard. Soon the woman's husband joined us out in the yard and we explained why we were staring at their house. When we told her Bob grew up in that house, she became very excited because they'd just moved in and wanted to hear the history of the house. Bob told her about the entire neighborhood, including the best local restaurants. She seemed really happy. We didn't go inside, because they said the house was full of unpacked boxes. But we had a chance to get to know this lovely couple a bit and we promised to send them some old photos and segments of home movies that showed the neighborhood in the 1960's and early '70s.

Many of the homes in University City, where Bob grew up, are made up of brick - real solid brick! The one at right is just one we snapped a picture of while walking by, but it typlifies the brick that is seen EVERYWHERE in this older neighborhood. I love these homes and wish we had more like them in the Kansas City area. Ah well, we don't. It's wood siding around here, and what can you do? They just don't make brick anymore - too expensive perhaps? Housing prices in St. Louis have skyrocketed much like they have here.

To the left is a photo of Bob's Aunt Renee on the left and my mother-in-law, Syl, on the right. We went to see Renee over the weekend. She's one of the sweetest people on earth. I adore her. Renee and Syl are not actual sisters - but best friends. Bob has always called her "aunt." She makes the famous "Renee's Poppy Seed Cookies." This woman is the best Jewish cooks you ever met. Her home is always warm and inviting. You can show up on her door night or day and she'll always invite you in for a visit. You feel so at home, like you never left.

While visiting, we shopped by two yarn shops. One is called "Chris' Needle Craft Supplies" in Chesterfield. They have a website, which is Very cute place! With knowledgeable knitters, including the manager named Wayne Davis, who is not only a talented knitter, but he also makes lovely handmade shawl pins such as this one I bought, in Bolivan Rosewood. And, as you can see, I couldn't resist buying my first skein of Tofutsie sock yarn in an aqua, green, lavendar, pink colorway. Very summery, wouldn't you say?

My friend, Carol, has already made some socks out of this yarn, in a different color, so I know how soft and lovely this yarn is from touching her socks. I just HAD to have some. Who can resist yarn with shrimp shells ground into the yarn to make it softer? Mmmm.

Did I tell you that during the drive to and from, I finished the cabled purse? Well, I did. While in St. Louis, I found some cloth to make the lining. And I need to sew the lining, attach the straps and the magnetic closure -- do all those finishing things so that I can show you the completed bag - maybe tomorrow or sometime this week.

I started a new project, a summer sweater, but it's been a bugger-bear so far. I struggled with it, and finally visited yes ANOTHER yarn shop, both to buy a bit of yarn, but mainly to get advice on what I'm doing wrong on this bugger-bear dang sweater pattern. We all agreed, the Math just didn't quite work out - it was one stitch off. But I think this one will be okay once I get the hang of it.

"Knitorious" is the name of the shop where they offered their knitter's hand-holding service. Bob patiently waited in the car while the folks at "Knitorious" did a pattern analysis for me. I've been there before, and it is a "not to be missed shop" near the St. Louis zoo. Their website is and the owner is Sandy, a wonderfully helpful person - along with her colleague Lenora. Together, Sandy and Lenore are a dynamite team. I recommend them and the shop highly.

The colorway below with a mixture of brown/copper/peach and blue color elements is another Colinette Jitterbug find of mine in a colorway called "Copperbeach." Since falling in love with shawls, I may just HAVE to whip this into another shawl perhaps?

Friday, May 25, 2007

In a Blink

Book review Friday. Normally I'm not able to write blog entries on Fridays because I'm at work. But today it's "Book Review Friday" because I'm off work. Yay! (See last entry). Four days off is simply decadent! It really is. I got up at my usual time, 5:30 a.m. and hardly knew what to do with myself. It's such a luxury to poke around the house and not hurry.

I've been reading this book called "Blink" by Malcom Gladwell. It's about the realm of adaptive unconscious - where our minds process information very rapidly without our knowledge and allow us to make snap judgments that are sometimes more accurate and on-target than our more thought-out conscious decisions. He calls this instant knowing "thin slicing" because we only need to take a small sampling or "thin slice" of information to gather a much deeper and more "gut level" reaction that is often more accurate than our carefully gathered and consciously-analyzed decisions.

Gladwell's book is fascinating. It's really a series of almost vignette-style examples from various psychological research to support his conclusions. He's taken various research studies and research from other researchers and compiled them into a framework of supporting his conclusion that people have an unconscious decision-making process that operates much faster and more seamlessly behind-the-scenes than we ever realize. In many ways, if we could trust this "instant intuition" we might prevent many disastrous conscious decisions.

On the other hand, there are definitely circumstances where conscious analysis is more useful. He gives examples of "Blink" gone awry, such as the marketing of New Coke and one of the most horrible presidents in history, Harding. He also talks about how we have unconscious prejudices, such as the unconscious belief among most people that tall people are natural leaders, that can lead us astray in trusting people whom we should take a second look at.

While I enjoyed this book immensely, the one thing missing that I would have liked is a way of practicing the quick-thinking intuitive judgments, a way of honing your "thinking without thinking." It would have been to have included a series of exercises or something. I think I rely on my intuition a lot, and it most often steers me correctly (i.e. finding my husband and trusting my immediate hunch that he was a great guy) . . . but then sometimes I start second-guessing myself and screw up what MIGHT have been a great hunch and turning it into a great big clusterfuck. (Sorry but that's the only word for some of my contorted misjudgments).

I would recommend this book to those who are interested in learning more about how decisions - both good and bad - are made and how we should probably do more "thin slicing" that is, taking less time and a smaller sampling of information, to make reliable decisions.

One of the most fascinating research studies was about the marriage researcher who could decide, in 15 minutes, whether a new marriage would survive or fail (with 95% accuracy), based on a segment of conversation he observed with hundreds of couples. His method of research was very logical and rational, but through it, he developed a way to tell very quickly based on four behaviors he observed that doomed a relationship, namely: contempt (the most disastrous) along with stonewalling, defensiveness, and something else I forgot. Anyway, I've heard about this researcher before, his name is John Gottman. He called those 4 behaviors that doom a relationship "the four horseman of the Apocolypse" because they were the precursors to a failed relationship.

Just take a thin slice of this book yourself and let me know what you think. How about that?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

I Live for Long Weekends!!!

Oh boy, I am as giddy as can be --- why? Because I'm off work tomorrow. That means a four day weekend!!!! I feel like I've been released from corporate prison. With all the tension there all this month, I thought if I had to spend one more hour there, I'd snap. (Remember there is a GOOD reason this blog is called, "Hanging By A Thin Thread.")

The song "Freebird" rushes into my frazzled mind.

Anyway, I'm not going to think any more about that place, I'm free to be relaxed.

I am free to knit, and roam, and shop and think, and lull around, and loaf. Maybe knit. Maybe read. Maybe I'll finish that cabled purse that has taken me FAR too long. Maybe I'll start on something else for Stitches. Maybe I'll stay sane for one more day. Doubt that.

I am so very happy to call four days in a row my own. Life is good. At leasdt for four days.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

A New Way to Get Around

Well, we've been having this Plymouth Caravan that hasn't been of much use to us in recent months. It has a variety of mechanical maladies, including a slipping transmission and broken air conditioning . . . so I've been telling Bob, "We need to just get rid of that thing, it's not worth fixing." (Mainly because we hardly drive it - we've outlived our minivan days).

With gas prices going up, up, up and with our teenager growing increasingly independent, what we need is another driveable little "getting around" car that gets good gas mileage. Especially since I drive 22 miles to and from work each day (44 miles today round trip). So . . . we've been going car shopping lately. And you can see what we drove away with yesterday. Toyota Yaris.
Now the color, which is sort of a cross between navy and saphire may surprise those of you who know how much I DON'T like blue. Blue is the only color in the whole palette that I run, not walk away from. But here it is. It drew me immediately. I knew it was MY car. I love driving it. The handling . . the interior roomines . . . the cheap price . . . the great gas mileage. It just felt like mine.
Because of the skyrocketing gasoline price, these Yaris cars are selling so fast that they can hardly keep them in stock at our local dealership. This was the LAST stickshift transmission car that they had on the lot, and we wanted a stick. It gets 40 mpg on the highway, and I mainly drive highway.
I've always loved small cars - one of my favorites have been "Brown Bomber" - my old rusted out Toyota Corolla that ran until you could see the road beneath your feet, literally!!! It had like 218,000 miles on it.
Emily will soon inherit "Groovy Grape" my loyal and long-serving Dodge Stratus. It's been good to me and will be a good safe car for her to use while she learns to drive.
What is really funny about this is that when I got home last night, I was catching up on the many blogs I read. Guess what I discovered? My friend Kay bought the same kind of car last week in silver! This is so funny!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Post-Shawl Knitting Lethargy

The thrill is gone . . . .

Not with my man (see him at left, holding the knitted yarn cake he made a few weeks ago when he was spinning my Colinette Jitterbug yarn trove).

But the thrill is gone (at least temporarily) with the knitting. It's been 10 days since I completed my lovely Forest Canopy Shawl and I'm missing knitting it already. I want to do another . . . seriously. I'm really missing it. And I don't need another shawl, at least not immediately, I need instead to focus on creating a Stitches wardrobe, but my mind keeps drifting to yarnovers when I should be knitting . . . cables. Yes, my current project is CABLES, darn it, NOT lace.

See this lovely pattern by Ali of The Studio? It's a cute little cable purse, and I really want to do this. It should be a quick project, but my mind keeps drifting, not paying attention. I had half of it done last Sunday but then had to rip most of it out again when I discovered I'd missed cabling two cables. It's a really cute, easy pattern. It uses Noro Kureyon yarn and it is NOT felted. I'm going to need to make a lining in it. The purse at right is their Studio sample purse. The one I'm making is the same color, though. Mine is about 1/3 done.

Why is it that when you complete a project that you really love, it takes a while to feel the love for anything else?

So no matter how much I try to fix my mind on cables, it keeps drifting to:

Stop that! Yes, okay, I ordered that book. The last thing I need is more lace-induced daydreaming.
Back to the danged cables. Okay, I will bargain with myself: you can maybe start another shawl only AFTER you finish the cable purse. How's that for self-compromise?

Monday, May 07, 2007

Forest Canopy Shawl Adoration

Here's after blocking - now I'm wearing it.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Forest Canopy Shawl - It's A Wrap!

Here it is: the completed Forest Canopy Shawl in Colinette's Jitterbug/color: Tuscany. Size 7 needle. Started 3-17-07 and completed this morning 5-6-07.

Unblocked it measured 46" wingspan/23 inches center back. After being wetted and blocking it is 66X30. It's fairly large. Eeeks! I called Mary in a panic miscalculating that it was 76 but I added wrong, it's 66. I did 3 extra repetitions while knitting, thinking I wanted it larger, but now it might be too large. SIGH.

Lesson learned: next time I want to block a shawl, instead of immersing it in cold water and then rolling it in towels, I think I would do as Mary suggested and just pin it down and then spritz it with water so it doesn't expand quite so much.

It's been storming really bad all weekend here in KC. To the west of us, in Kansas, on Friday night, they had tornadoes that were so bad, one town of Greenburg was leveled. I feel so sorry for those people.

Twenty-five years ago, on June 7th to be exact, I was in a small house that collapsed from a storm when two trees went through my tiny house (no basement), with me inside! I was lucky I wasn't smashed to smithereens. So I can imagine the fear those people faced when another tornado front moved over that same area again last night. Everything here is fine - just a lot of storms and heavy rain, thunder and lightening. No tornadoes. Thank Goodness. We've been resting, staying in and cleaning the house a bit.

I visited The Studio yesterday and had a great time. Found a new pattern for a cable handbag that the storeowner, Allie, designed. I'll be making that for Stitches. I'm also going to be starting a new vest. These are the yarns for the Jane Thornley Sunset Bolero vest:

Isn't this cute?

If it turns out, then it will go to Stitches with me. It's one of those Freeform "not an exact science" kind of projects. I love the colors of this vest, and I hope it won't look like I'm an overstuffed sausage wearing it. You can bet that I won't be wearing it with my midriff exposed such as the young girl modeling this vest is doing. But it's my next project. Wish me luck.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Neil Young Makes a Spring Day Even Better

Today was a beautiful spring day. At lunch, after eating a grilled salmon salad at Panara's, I sat with the windows down in my car, a cool breeze drifting by as I sat knitting on the Forest Canopy Shawl and listening to one of my favorite musicians of all time, the Neil Young's Greatest Hits CD. What a treat! It was really relaxing and fun.
Best of all, it's Friday! Yes, an end to a long (too long) week. Peace and tranquility, please find me this weekend.
I did really really WELL on both the diet and exercise front this week. I didn't drink coffee. I didn't drink soda. I drank water, had hot lemon water or green tea in the morning instead of caffeine. My exercise was walking. Didn't eat junk food or stress-eat all week, even though it was a challenging week. I'm really proud of myself. Whew!
Now let's see how I do on a less-structured weekend. Neil Young, keep me calm and reflective, okay? Oh yeah, I need to do that for myself.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Am I Falling Apart or What?

Jeez, I joined this walking/exercise class with Mary and Carol that we're doing through a hospital. We've been doing this for about 4 weeks, and I've been trying to walk most every day for 2 weeks now. This week, we got back the results of our lab tests and I discovered that I really DO have motivation to lose weight and exercise. It seems that my overall cholestrol is 211 with the "bad cholestrol" being too high and the good too low. That's not a huge surprise, it's hereditary in my family.

But blood sugar is also higher than it should be, at 114. Bummer. I need to start watching that now too. It's time to really go low-carb - giving up pasta, bread, sweets, chips, white flour etc. I really can't eat that junk anymore.

After last Sunday's entry on addiction, I decided that for at least one week, I want to totally give up coffee for just one week. Why? Mainly just to see if I can do it, because I adore coffee more than anything. I miss it. Green tea just isn't the same. I don't care what anyone says. I drink my coffee black, without sugar, cream etc. I like it because it is rich tasting, thick, hearty, warm and comforting. I can sip green tea, and it's okay, but it's just not the same. So far this week, though, I haven't had any - not Monday through Thursday so far! I just wanted to see if I could do it - give up something I love for a week. Yes, I probably can. Do I want to continue this? Not sure yet.

Actually they say that coffee LOWERS the risk of diabetes, so considering my elevated blood sugar, maybe I should continue drinking it and enjoying it forever, who knows? Ah the ways we justify our addictions. Isn't it simply amazing?