Sunday, April 26, 2020

Sometimes a craft project works and sometimes it doesn't.

Holy cats. You mean I haven't done a knitting post since August? I'd better rectify that.

Some projects work out the way you think they will, and some don't. So it is with the first project in this batch -- the Sun Glitter Shawl, which I completed last summer. A friend bought the yarn on a trip to Ireland and gave it to me. I carefully blocked the finished shawl so the lacy panels would have a concave curve along the bottom edge, just like the photo on the pattern -- and as soon as I wore it for ten minutes, the curves stretched out. Oh well. (Also, my photo is lousy. Sorry about that.)

Copyright Lynne Cantwell 2020

I'm not going to show you the next project I finished because it really didn't work out. The sweater is called the Dacite. It's long-sleeved, with an interestingly-shaped collar that comes all the way up under the chin. The problem is that the designer, bless her heart, didn't respace the knitted-in buttonholes for the larger sizes -- which is to say the neckline is too tight and the collar doesn't lay right. To make things even worse, I tried to do a fancy thing and add pockets, except the sweater is designed to be waist-length and the pockets ended up being girly pockets (i.e., too small to be of any use). In short, the sweater needs an overhaul. I have plenty of yarn left, so now that I am on sabbatical, I'm going to rip back the bottom edging and lengthen the sweater by several inches, then rework the pockets so they're a usable size. I'm also going to sew those knitted buttonholes shut and install snaps. Then I'll post a photo on the blog.

Next up was the Dotted Rays Shawl, designed by Stephen West and knitted with yarn I bought at his shop in Amsterdam last spring.

Copyright Lynne Cantwell 2020

Toward the end of February, I started working on a long, shawl-collared vest. The pattern is the Everyday Favorite Vest. It's written somewhat confusingly, but I've done enough sweater-type things by now to figure out what she was after. I finished it today.

Copyright Lynne Cantwell 2020

You're supposed to use a decorative hook-and-eye closure, but of course I had a better idea. Since I was knitting it in Silky Wool, which has kind of a rustic vibe, I decided to make ties from some latigo leather lacing I bought years ago. How to attach the ties to the knitted fabric, though?

At first I planned to loop the lacing around the shanks of some buttons I already had, but the shanks were too short. Then I remembered I had used some interesting metal closures with screw backs on a shawl several years ago. I went searching for the manufacturer and learned the closures were called conchos. Now conchos are used in leatherwork. Moreover, if you look for conchos on Etsy, you can find approximately a billion designs in all sorts of sizes -- plus they're about a third of the price I paid for the ones I bought at a yarn shop.

The vest took me longer to knit than normal because I stopped partway through it to make masks. And then when those didn't suit (I'd essentially glued the two pieces of fabric together, so I couldn't breathe through them at all), I used a better mask pattern to make a couple more.

Having powered through all of that, plus the kimono-style jacket I wove... Wait. Did I not post about that here, either? Well! Here is the kimono-style jacket I wove. It took four loom warpings, a fair amount of cursing at my sewing machine, and Fun With Tear-Away Fabric Stabilizer, but I'm happy with the way it turned out.

Copyright Lynne Cantwell 2020

Now then. Where was I? Right. Having powered through all that, I picked up a quickie embroidery project and finished that today, as well. This requires some explanation: Sometime last year, as a way to help mark the passage of #escapevelocity time, I bought myself a bunch of trinkets and stuck them in paper bags, one for each week I had left, with a piece of chocolate in each bag. The idea was to give me something to look forward to on Mondays (by the way, it worked really well). Among the things I picked up were oversized safety pins with three little loops on one straight side, one each in gold, silver, and bronze finishes, plus charms to hang from the loops. Once assembled, they would be shawl pins. I made sure I opened the bag containing the card of safety pins fairly early on, but I mixed the charms in with the rest of the trinkets.

Fast-forward to last week and the start of my sabbatical. I have opened all but the bags intended for my three post-sabbatical, pre-retirement Mondays. The silver pin has been completed long since. I have a gold pin, a bronze pin, two gold charms, and two wooden circles that are meant to be cross-stitched. (Looks like they've been discontinued. Sorry if I got you excited.) I remembered having trouble finding bronze charms, but I couldn't remember if I'd meant to use one or both of the earring blanks on the bronze pin. So...I peeked. And in two of the three remaining bags I found one more gold charm...and one more silver charm.

I don't know what the hell I was on.

Anyway, I stitched up the earring blanks today and ordered a bronze charm from Etsy. Here's where we are.

Copyright Lynne Cantwell 2020

Anybody want a silver Celtic knot charm? It'll be available to ship in early July.

These moments of crafty blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Practice physical distancing! Keep washing those hands!

Sunday, April 19, 2020

We're all more anxious than we think we are.

A couple of days ago, a friend posted on Facebook about some odd dreams she has had recently. These dreams were of the "I forgot something important" variety. I'm sure you've had similar dreams -- for instance, you showed up for a test and realized you'd never seen any of the material on it, let alone studied it. Or you arrive at work without wearing pants. I used to dream occasionally that I had to deliver a newscast without having written the copy for it.

Anxiety dreams can be caused by a past traumatic experience, or they can be due to stress about a current situation. My friend the dreamer wondered whether she was more anxious than she thought she was. I responded, "We're all more anxious than we think we are."

Gods know we're all under tremendous stress these days. COVID-19 has upended society. Many people had to suddenly begin working from home, while millions of others have lost their jobs entirely. Essential employees, from doctors and nurses to grocery store cashiers and freelance Instacart shoppers, are doing their jobs without sufficient protective equipment and wondering whether they'll be the next to fall ill from a disease for which we have no vaccine and no cure.

As tough as it is for folks to go without gym workouts, parties, and family get-togethers, we don't have enough test kits to determine who has been infected on a wide enough scale to allow society to re-open. And yet there are those pushing to make it happen.

This past week, seemingly from out of nowhere, protestors began showing up at several state capitals, demanding that their governor lift their stay-at-home order. These protestors say the orders violate their constitutional right to peaceably assemble. They're fueled by right-wing media commentators who claim the virus isn't as dangerous as the Centers for Disease Control says it is. In at least one case, protestors were told not to wear masks or gloves because such personal protection would be "counterproductive to the movement."

And President Trump is okay with it.

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Americans certainly do have the right to peaceably assemble. Whether it's prudent right now is the question. And the other question that occurs to me -- actually, it occurs to me first -- is who's behind this push to get everyone back to work, even if it's not safe.

The answer? Wealthy conservatives.

Journalists have traced the organizers of these supposedly spontaneous protests to a handful of far-right groups - the same groups that have staged gun-rights rallies and other pwn-the-libs protests over the past three or four years. Organizers of the protest this past week in Lansing, Michigan, have received funding in the past from relatives of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Organizers of the protest in Idaho included the Idaho Freedom Foundation, which has received funding from the Donors Capital Fund, a dark money group tied to the Koch brothers, who also funded the Tea Party movement.

These wealthy conservatives are making it possible for hundreds, even thousands, of Americans to gather at state capitals to harass their governors to open their states again. These protestors -- these Americans -- are being told to show up without masks or gloves because it wouldn't be a good look. They are essentially being used as cannon fodder.

And why? Because shutting down the economy is costing the rich money.

How soulless do you have to be to think it's okay to encourage people to risk their lives so that you can keep your fortune?

I know money and power have been the catalysts for every war in the history of ever. But for some reason, this seems worse. Maybe it's because it won't be just the cannon fodder who will suffer. They'll bring the disease to the rest of us. Keep your eyes open for a spike in new COVID-19 cases in a couple of weeks.

And I'm sorry if this post made you more anxious than you already were.


These moments of scary blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Wash your hands, wear a mask, and don't buy into the 1%'s bullshit.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

The things the store carried.

First, thanks very much to everyone who has bought Beach Magic. I hope you enjoy the end to Raney's tale and I cannot tell you how grateful I am for your support. The book got a glowing review from one of Big Al's Pals on Friday, and I'm told another Pal will review it tomorrow.

I'm going to keep the price for all of the Elemental Keys books at 99 cents through at least the end of this month. It's the least I can do for those of us sheltering at home from COVID-19.

Speaking of which: Here's an essay about my trip to the grocery store today. I hope this piece is more successful than our shopping trips these days.


The Things the Store Carried

(With apologies to Tim O'Brien)

I went to the store today. I carried my purse, a habit left over from the time before the virus; my phone, with a debit card and store loyalty card tucked into the pocket on the back; a list of the things we needed; some coupons; and a mask.

Actually, I wore the mask. I made it from a pattern I saw in the newspaper. It is two thicknesses of quilting cotton glued together with a type of iron-on interfacing that's adhesive on both sides. Because of the interfacing, it's stiff and ill-fitting; the channels for the tie ends are too stiff to gather the way they are supposed to. The mask fogs up my glasses when I breathe, so I tuck a tissue into the top of the mask. It helps when I am standing still and admiring my handiwork in the mirror.

I do not stand still in the store, however.

I was not supposed to go to the store today. I was supposed to have my groceries delivered. I booked the slot two weeks ago. Today was the earliest slot I could get for delivery at the time. Once I had grabbed the time slot, I filled up my online cart. But supplies of some things have been erratic, so I checked two nights ago to see what had been deleted from my cart, and discovered my delivery had been canceled.

I hear from friends online that this happens to them, too. Or their shopping service will reschedule their delivery for a few days later. There is no explanation for this, or at least not one that resembles anything like the service we would have received a few weeks ago. Supply lines, they say now. We order what we need but it doesn't come on the truck. We are doing the best we can. We appreciate your understanding in this uncertain time. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Before this uncertain time, I shopped once a week. The store rarely was out of what we needed. Now, however, we have become modern hunter-gatherers. We are making two or three trips a week, going to stores where we rarely shop and making do with unfamiliar brands.

Here are some of the items on my list today: eggs, sour cream, unflavored gelatin for a recipe my younger daughter wants to make, body wash for my older daughter.

Last time I was here, the egg case was barren. Today, the store has eggs -- an Easter miracle. It has sour cream, too. I get the biggest container so we will not have to look for it again soon. It has my daughter's body wash, but not the scent she prefers; she will try yet another store this coming week. There is no unflavored gelatin. My daughter tried a different store yesterday and they did not have any, either.

Today, the store had 100% whole-wheat bread. Last time, there was none, nor was there 100% whole grain bread, but there were many loaves of cinnamon-swirl bread.

Frozen pizzas were sold out today. However, there were plenty of the single-serve entrees that I used to take to work for lunch, back before the virus forced our firm to allow everyone to work from home.

My younger daughter prefers the gluten-free chicken nuggets carried by a particular store. They have been sold out for weeks. Sorry for the inconvenience.

The store I went to today never seems to have toilet paper anymore. Or paper towels. We have enough of both for now, but it worries me.

While searching for the body wash, I realized I had been adjusting the mask constantly, which meant any germs on it, or on my hands, were already on my face. I took off the mask and tossed it in the cart, even though the store was crowded this Easter afternoon. There was an announcement reminding shoppers of the six-foot rule -- a rule that is impossible to maintain anywhere in the store. I got in one of the checkout lines, parking my cart at the mark on the floor. Then someone stopped a clerk with a question. The clerk stood right behind me. Did it help that she was facing away from me? What about the customer with the question, who was not six feet away from me, let alone from the clerk? Were any of them wearing masks? I felt too uncomfortable to turn around to look.

At last I got to the car. I reset my mental self-isolation clock for another two weeks -- about the time my rescheduled grocery order is supposed to arrive. I reminded myself to keep an eye on that virtual cart to make sure the store does not cancel the delivery again. That is all I can do. After all, they have apologized for the inconvenience.

These moments of inconvenient blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell (who, thanks to friends, will be properly masked the next time she has to go to the store).

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Coronavirus crafting: Mask day...after day.

So now that the Centers for Disease Control have finally admitted that homemade masks can help stop the spread of COVID-19 (not because they're any good at filtering the air you're breathing, but because they stop your own droplets at the source), mask making is the new DIY craft. And of course I had to get in on it.

Lots of patterns were floating around the internet even before the CDC released its recommendation. As I understand it, the key in homemade mask design is to find the sweet spot between no filtration protection to speak of and not being able to breathe at all. It appears the middle ground consists of two layers of closely-woven fabric like quilting cotton and an inner, stiffer layer. Shop towels are apparently the gold standard for that inner layer, but interfacing also works.

Today, the Washington Post published a pattern for a fabric mask that was developed by an assistant professor at Parsons School of Design. (Go ahead and click -- it's not behind a paywall.) As I looked over the materials list this morning, I realized I had everything here at home. Moreover, I could go the directions one better -- instead of hemming the outside edge and zigzagging all over the place, I could cut out the pieces with my rotary cutter's pinking blade and use some leftover interfacing that's fusible on both sides. Cut out the pieces, fuse them with the iron, stitch the darts and the elastic casings (the designer calls them tunnels), thread the elastic through the casings and tie the ends -- poof, done. Shouldn't take more than a couple of hours.

Oh haha. If I'd made just one mask, it would have only taken a couple of hours. But I decided to make five. Why? Because that's how many I could make with my spiffy interfacing.

I started early this afternoon. It is now almost 11pm and I am not done yet. Oh, the masks are all sewn -- here's photographic proof. (The mask at top left was my prototype. I realized I'd laid out the fabric the wrong way after I cut it out. Whoops.)

Copyright Lynne Cantwell 2020

The problem I'm running into is getting them to stay on. For one thing, I didn't find out 'til I watched the tutorial video that you're supposed to cut the 14" of elastic in half and make loops that go around your ears. So I tried it -- and the elastic loops wouldn't stay put. I think the earpieces of my glasses are getting in the way. Either each piece of elastic is going to have to be longer or I'm going to have to make tie ends that I can tie at the back of my head.

Maybe I'll play with it some more after I'm done posting this.

Things sure have changed, haven't they? As my daughter Amy said the other day, if you'd worn a mask to Target two weeks ago, you'd have been followed around by a cop. Now, other shoppers give you dirty looks if you're not wearing one.

We are living in strange times indeed.

The good news for you guys is that the final version of Beach Magic has been uploaded to Amazon, and we are locked and loaded for release this coming Thursday, April 9th.

Even better news: I've dropped the price to 99 cents. If you already ordered a copy, it's all good -- you'll only be charged 99 cents on Thursday. In fact, every book in the series is now just 99 cents. (And they're all short. So if you buy the first three books now, you should be up to speed by Thursday when the new book comes out.)

And better news yet: The paperback version may go live earlier -- possibly as early as tomorrow. Keep an eye on my Facebook page. I'll announce it there.

These moments of masked blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Keep your social distance! Wear a mask! Wash your hands!