Friday, April 27, 2012

Nubi on the Woolsack
Actually, the Lord Chancellor of England sits on the Woolsack.  Nubi is sleeping on the sack where I keep my acrylic-mix yarns.  It isn't easy to get a good picture of a long-furred black cat.  Too often it comes out as a black blob or could be mistaken for any other small animal.  Nubi's shy about having his picture taken, too.

I featured his litter mate Tiger a few weeks ago.  I say 'litter mate', since it's fairly obvious different fathers were involved!  Nubi is gentler than Tiger and is the one cat I have who doesn't bite.  The reason for that is a fortunately mild case of gingivitis.  Nobody knows what causes gingivitis in cats or what to do about it, except for expensive steroid shots.  I started mashing up canned food for Nubi, just like I did for Hollywood when he was a baby.  When his mouth is bothering him, Nubi eats by dipping his right forepaw into the food and eating off his paw.  Lately, he hasn't been bothered and even occasionally eats dry food.  If he hurts his mouth, he runs around growling and swearing - you can tell when cats are swearing!  Of course, now the other four cats who share his living area now want their food mashed up and mixed in water.

In crafting news, I have machine washed and dried the bathmat and facecloth I wrote about here, and they came out just wonderful!  The part-hemp face cloth seems even softer than ever.

Also, I've fixed an inadvertent error on Peaypatch.  I had misnamed my online catalog as "Shopping Cart", which I know sounded like you were committing to something.  The label is now "Online Store", and I hope you will enjoy browsing.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Aircraft and Artisans
My father undoubtedly had a photograph to refresh his memory of Jones Field in Bonham, Texas in 1944.  This picture, painted in 1988, is a memoir of his flying days during World War II.  He was never sent overseas - thankfully for me! - but he trained as a bomber pilot with the Army Air Force, mostly in Texas.

Flying had always been his dream, but it took a war to make what his father called a "rich man's hobby" into a reality for Fulton Peay.  He grew up on stories of the "flying aces" of World War I and learned the details of every aircraft.  Flying did seem an impossible dream in the Depression of the 1930s - but then came the war.

Even before the United States entered WWII, Daddy was working at Vultee/Stinson/Crosley-Bendix/Philco-Bendix/Avco/Textron, as the aircraft plant on Vultee Boulevard was variously known.  He started out in the Blueprint Room, and, by the time I started to school, he was an 'engineering change analyst'.  (It seemed like I had to learn a new name for the company every school year, and his title was too long to fit on the blank for what your father did.)  He actually met and worked with some of the old 'barnstormers' and military fliers from between the wars.  

And he was absolutely dedicated to building a good airplane - or missile or outer tank for the first space shuttle.  (He and two other employees won an award from Lockheed for their work insuring the safety of their part of the job.)  My grandfather, who was a master mechanic, had drilled him in the importance of doing the job right.  Sometimes Daddy's job required him to count the rivets on a blueprint so they could order the proper number for each plane.  He counted every rivet on the tail of the C-130 TWICE.   We stayed very quiet at home on nights when he had been counting rivets.

Manufacturing aircraft is a roller-coaster business depending on contracts and a LOT of politics.  It remains a high tension industry, and he was in it for 44 years.  What bothered him most were the times when Management knew little or nothing about aircraft and liked it that way.  Once he suffered through several months of a supervisor who had no idea what the department really did or what contractual obligations they had.

Aircraft, like many other inventions, was too big a business to leave in the hands of inventors and artisans.  That's inevitable.  You cannot depend on your job for fulfillment or self-worth.  That's why Fulton Peay drew, painted, and wrote letters and reminiscences.  It's why I kept up painting and writing during my own career in insurance. - And it's why I'm trying to build a blog and a store to encourage everybody to create.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

New Yarns Available at Peaypatch
I promised some new cotton yarns for my store, and the above picture is a sample.  These yarns are especially designed for summer clothing and accessories.  I was very excited to get the KnitPick catalog and learn about these.  Knitwear for the summer?  I'd never thought of that before.

I have four 50 ounce balls of each of these yarns.  Three of them, the two blue shades and the orange one are CotLin - a mixture of 70% cotton and 30% linen.  Each ball contains 123 yards with US 5 - 7 needles recommended.  Thanks to the linen content, these yarns get softer with each wash, and the fabric you make actually drapes.  I certainly hadn't thought of that before!  Officially, the colors are Hydrangea, Conch, and Seafoam.  Four balls ought to be enough to make a summer shell.  The cotton fibers will absorb moisture and pull it away from your body.

The fourth yarn - the pinky-purple one - is what is called Comfy Worsted, 75 % cotton and 25% acrylic.  This yarn will allow the garment's shape to hold longer than cotton alone would and provides some elasticity.  Slightly heavier than the Cotlin, each ball contains 109 yards, and US 6 - 9 needles are recommended.

Naturally, I ordered some yarn to try out myself!  I economized by choosing a cotton boucle yarn that is being discontinued.  This color is called lilac, and the recommended needle size is US 5 - 6.  Because I only bought four balls and never underestimate my size, I decided to use US 10 circular needles.  I cast on 100 stitches to form half of a camisole, and it appears this is a good width to make the garment in four pieces - front, back, and straps.  To prevent the large sections from rolling, I started out with five rows of seed stitch and am doing 6 seed stitches at each edge of the fabric.

Like all yarn made for mail order rather than sale in a store, the ball you see is compacted very tightly.  It is finer than the cotton yarns I've become accustomed to and is interesting to work with.

You will have noticed that all the yarns I chose to stock specify medium needles.  I deliberately did not order any 'fingering' yarn.  Yes, these work up wonderfully in baby clothes, but I think beginning knitters might have as much trouble with tiny yarns as I did.  When I first began knitting again, I ordered some alpaca yarn, since I'd read about it but never seen or felt any.  Unfortunately, it is a 'baby' alpaca/wool mix, and it simply twisted and tangled up when I tried to knit or crochet it.  It does, however, make a first class embroidery thread.

In addition to the new yarns, I also have a bottle of iridescent medium available at Peaypatch for painters.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Joy of an Iridescent Acrylic Medium
I can't say enough good things about Windsor & Newton's Galeria Acrylic Iridescent Medium.  I just discovered this recently, and you can be sure I'm going to figure out ways to order some for Peaypatch.  Everybody who works in acrylics should have this kind of access.

You notice the sky in this picture?   Usually I hate to draw outdoor pictures because I can never get the sky to look right, no matter how pale I make the paint mix.  Even iridescent colors don't really help.  With this medium, you can actually see light behind the sky.  Even the color of the water is a little better, though here there is not much of it.

 I even was able to get a good night effect, as you will see on the top left side of the box.  The picture on the bottom left seems a little darker, but still it is not just grey or black paint.

My father considered Windsor & Newton one of the trusted, prime brands of painting products.  I see he was right!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

My First Crocheted Tote Bag
Since I haven't yet mastered uploading from Google + after using the creative kit, I've had to make do with the original photo.  I hope you will recognize this as the completed bag made by crocheting two yarns together at once.  It was very easy to make.  I chained 10 to make the bottom and sides, then chained 6 to make the handles.  To get the handles right, I measured the handles on a commercial tote bag.  20" inches, with an extra inch on each side to attach to the bag, seems to do the job.

Naturally, I'll try out the product myself before trying to sell one.  So far, it holds up very well when loaded, though I would not put my car keys in there.  Small items do tend to drop out or get caught in the fabric when you use a US 16 crochet hook.  You also need care in sewing together the pieces.  I tend to have gaps on the horizontal edges of my crocheted work, so I had to be careful not to leave my seam full of holes.  If anyone knows how to solve that problem, please let me know!  I think I'll try my next tote bag using the bulky yarns I've bought.

I am also using the facecloth that was the subject of my last post.  It is proving quite helpful in a somewhat unexpected use. - I know I'm not the only senior in the world who has to contend with dentures.  The adhesive holds much better if you apply it to dry dentures.  I had been looking for a thin, soft cloth that would do the job without immediately stiffening up.  This does the job and is thin enough I can dry all the small spaces.  Make some for your older friends; they'll appreciate it!

I also have ordered some new cotton mixture spring yarns for Peaypatch and will be announcing them shortly.  Please forgive my relatively small inventory, friends; I'm starting on a shoestring!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Making & Blocking a Knit Washcloth
Making household necessities with cotton and other washable yarns is my own private version of Rage Against The Machine.  So I decided to try a regular bathroom washcloth.  Washcloths are traditionally smooth, unlike dishcloths, so I used what I have since learned is called stockinette stitch.  (Why didn't they teach us these things in home economics, where I learned to knit?)  Stockinette gives you a smooth, uniform front and a slightly bumpy back.  It turns out thinner than a seed stitch dishcloth, but it also rolls up at the edges.  Thus I tried my first experiment in steam blocking.

I used a small bath towel to pin my finished washcloth into appropriate straightness, then folded the towel over and sprinkled it (rather too vigorously, as it turned out).  Then I began ironing the towel.  After several passes, I unfolded the towel and let the washcloth dry on the ironing board.  This seemed to work very well.  I do plan to buy rust proof T-pins before I do this again; regular pins do rust.  I was banking on not having to leave them in overnight.

Later, I learned on the web that if you surround your washcloth with seed stitching (4 stitches each row, seed stitch 4 rows at the bottom and top) you can omit blocking.  This sounds like a winner to me.  Blocking something is rather like drying it flat, an instruction I hate to see on a garment.  Honestly - where can you lay something flat for 24 hours without it being disturbed by your child, significant other, or pet, all of whom want that particular space for something else?

The website I consulted advised that a set of hand knit washcloths is a good hostess gift.  I believe they would make good bridal or baby shower gifts as well.  I have just gotten in a yarn catalog that includes yarn types I didn't even know existed.  Expect to see some of them on sale at Peaypatch within the month.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

My Heritage
My father, Fulton L. Peay, did this oil painting he called "China Moon" in 1988.  He had been drawing and painting for most of his life, and this is the kind of thing I grew up with.  The immediate inspiration, strangely enough, was a graphic novel he'd found in a second hand bookstore.  He was forever looking for 'material', and he told me the artists in graphic novels and heavy metal magazines were some of the best he'd seen.  This particular China-based novel let to a series of Chinese Junk paintings.

The moon and the water were his natural heritage.  He grew up near Nashville's Cumberland River, where his father superintended a water purification plant.  On summer nights, he would wander out of his room behind the garage and go to the river.  There he would float in the shallows while his terrier Trixie snuffled about on the shore.  At that time, the area was mostly summer camps, and he watched the wealthy at their camp outs.  I have many paintings he made of nights on the river and the sights he saw.  Above all, he watched the colors of the sky and the water.

He considered himself an 'old high school boy', since college wasn't in the cards except for rich folk in the 1930s.  Thus he was always shy about showing his pictures except to friends or in the local library.  He had taught himself, using such art books as he could afford and, years later, a television art program.  But he certainly gave me the art bug.

I knew I could never draw like he did and strove to find my own style.  My little dressed-up cat angels and operatic cats got me started.  Daddy encouraged me to find my own way, offering only some suggestions and a few drafting instruments.  (You need straight lines and proper curves, no matter how individual your style.)  He also started me painting by giving me an acrylic starter set he'd bought to try out.  

Acrylics couldn't do for him what oils and even pastels could.  They dry too quickly and they tend to shrink, especially on canvas.  I myself was a bit frustrated until the iridescent and 'interference" colors were developed.  Now there is even an iridescent medium.  Now I can at least do skies and waters that look like they have light behind them.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Crocheting with Two Strands of Yarn at Once
I've blogged about the technique of crocheting two strands of yarn at once to make  a thick, reliable potholder.  In that instance, I used some cheap black yarn as my second thread, so I wasn't too impressed with the results.  That's a good potholder, I thought, but that's about it.

Then I decided to try the technique again, still using washable acrylic yarn.  This time I paired a solid apricot yarn with  a variegated yarn in pink, green, white, and brown.  You see the results above.  What a stunner!  I had chained 30 with my US 16 crochet needle, which I realized was a little too wide for an ordinary potholder.  Also, by jingo, it's too bright and pretty!  I decided to create a tote bag.

To do this, I'll crochet another 12" x 12" section like this one, and three narrower sections to form the sides and bottom.  Then I'll do a couple of lengths of 5 chain crochet for handles.  It will be easy to assemble the bag with a yarn needle, and it will make a striking product - one I hope someone might want to buy.

Using two yarns at once is a simple way to create distinctive color combinations and eye-catching accessories. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

What Our Cats Really Think of US
Tiger really looks suspicious, doesn't he?  So how did I get him this close up for a picture?  Well, Tiger has his habits, and I happened to have the camera out at the right time.

I've already written about how I used Kahlua to catch Tiger and his sister Ophelia when I had to sell my mother's house.  Tiger is a young cat, and my folks were too old and feeble to take the time to domesticate him.  He lived in the basement with a number of other cats and ran wild.  After I brought him to my house,  I would take some time every week or so to visit the wilder cats I had acquired (the ones who were upset by the move) and take Tiger into my lap.  He enjoyed the attention and would sit and purr for the longest time.

Eventually, he graduated from the cat room (where I now have two geriatric cats) to roam the house.  Generally, you can't bend down to pet him; he's still skittish.  But he's decided it's his time to sit in my lap when I'm sitting on the bed and the other cats aren't around.  This is what he decided the night I was photographing crafts on the bed.  It doesn't matter that I don't necessarily want a lap full of cat just then.  When he decides to sit in my lap, he does it.  Thus I was able to get this great close-up.  He is really a loving cat, but he does get excited and bite occasionally.

Tiger's mother was a feral cat Mama named Kabuki.  Kabuki was very smart; she knew when it was Monday night.  Mama always caught the cats for spaying or neutering while they were eating on Monday night.  Her favored vet operated on Tuesdays.  We've never figured out how Kabuki knew it was Monday night, but it was about two years before Mama could catch her.  The result is that I now have Ophelia, Tiger, and Nubi.