Saturday, December 19, 2009

Pandora- music box

When I first started listening to Pandora, I really loved it. It works kind of like a radio but you plug in the songs/artists that you like and then it chooses similar songs and artists for you. They also have notes about the artists and their discography that you can read while a song is playing. It does have some downsides, especially in the last couple of months. The adds used to be visual, but now they are audio and actually louder than the music. So, there you are by the fire listening to Loreena Mckennit when suddenly there is this announcer discussing indigestion and the wonders of Pepto Bismal. It's pretty jarring. The other downside is that the station wants/demands interaction. So, after awhile the station will stop and a written message will ask if you are still listening. You need to click "yes" and then it will continue. This can be awkward if you're in another room. You are also limited to 30 hours of free music a month. If you pay an annual subscription of $36 you will avoid the audio adverts, "Are you still listening?" messages and the time limits. So, while it is free it is limited.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Hats Were a Success!

I just wanted to update about the hats. Both of these hats sold at the St. Nicholas Bazaar in the first two hours. We marked them for $25 each as the money was to benefit local charities. I have also added some more pictures to the slide show in the previous post for those who are interested. I included my first, worst and favorite hats.

Monday, November 23, 2009

How to Knit a Felt Hat (for charity)

Our church bazaar is the first weekend in December and for some crazy reason I agreed to knit and felt a couple hats for the craft room. I chose an inexpensive wool in brown and a modification of one of my favorite hat patterns. The results are some of my best hats yet! Which figures, since they're for charity and if I keep one, the guilt emanating from the ghost of my Norwegian Grandmother will be chilling to say the least.

Since these hats came out so well, I thought I would try my hand at directions and include some pictures. This is a basic hat with a narrow brim. It is knit from the top down, so if you get bored and decide it's going to be a pill box hat or a handy basket, bind off where it strikes your fancy and move on to the felt part. However, if you can hang in there through the boring bit (the sides) I think you'll find the result is worth it.

1. You will need 1 skein of Fishermen's Wool from Lions Brand (these are big and I actually knit both hats from the same skein and had plenty left over.) I used brown (color 126), 4 double pointed needles, size 10, one 29" circular needle, size 10 and a ring of some sort to mark the begining of the row when you switch to the circular needle. You will also need a large eyed needle for weaving in the ends and some contrasting yarn for the I cord band. I'm sure there's other stuff like scissors and maybe a crochet hook or a chop stick for picking up those pesky dropped stiches.

2. Cast on 6 stitches on one of the double pointed needles. Now this part is tricky. Divide the stitches over 3 needles (2 stitches per needle), join for knitting in the round without twisting and knit into the front and back of each stitch. You now have 12 stitches. I usually have to do this at least a couple times before I get it right. It always twists and looks like proto dreads. For the next row, K1, Kfb(knit into the front and back of the stitch) repeat 5 times. You are going to create 6 sections that slowly spiral out of the center. Row 3 will be K2, Kfb repeat 5 times, row 4 is K3, Kfb repeat 5 times, etc. Continue increasing each section until you have 20 stitches per section and 120 stitches total. Switch to the circular needle and slip your ring on the needle to mark the begining.

3. You are now knitting the sides, so it's time to watch TV or pop in a movie. Knit 25 rows. On the 26th row decrease as follows" k10, k2 together, repeat 9 more times. You should now have 110 stitches. Knit 15 rows. Do a happy dance you have finished the sides and can now move on to the brim.

4. The brim needs to flair out so you are going to start increasing here. The first row of the brim is as follows: K10, Kfb repeat 9 times (120 st.). For the second row and all even rows, knit (without any decreases.) For row 3, K11, Kfb repeat 9 times. For row 5, K12, Kfb repeat 9 times and for row 7, K13, Kfb repeat 9 times. For row 8 bind off!

5. You now have a big shapeless bag with some little bits of yarn left at the top center (where you bound on) and at the bottom edge (where you bound off.) Grab a nice big needle and weave in the dangling bits. If there are any dropped stitches (maybe that movie was too exciting) or unexplained holes, close those up with a bit of yarn and weave the ends in. Do not knot as it will show up as a lump in the finished hat and you won't be able to fix it.

6. This is my favorite part, the felting. Put your shapeless bag in the washing machine. Set it for the smallest load but maximum agitation and hot water. Add dish soap- just a little or it will get too sudsy- think Woody Allen in Sleeper and the giant pudding- right only a drop of dish soap. Leave the hat in the washing machine through the wash cycle but pull it our before the rinse to check it. It will shrink up but still look like a shapeless bag that is flared out too much. When it looks like it has shrunk to the right size take it out and rinse in cold water. There are a couple ways to check for the right shrinkage. Before you felt in the washing machine, you could stitch a piece of cotton string around the bottom of the side, before the increases, and fit it to your head or you can check it on your head right from the washing machine-so it's a bit wet and sudsy, this is an art. Now, if it comes out looking like a miniature hat don't despair. Think Winnie the Pooh, it'll be a "useful pot." If it's too big, put it back into the washing machine and move the dial back so that it agitates some more and then check again. Once you've rinsed it under the tap, squeeze the excess water out but don't ring it- that will distorte the fibers.

7. Now you shape the hat. It doesn't look like much to begin with but put it on a bowl or your head and start to press in the sides and flare out the brim. I started out using my head but I like a bowl better, it gives a crisper look. I put the bowl on a towl and then shape the hat over the bowl. Sometimes the bowl isn't tall enough so then I put various things under it to lift it up- old yogurt tubs, big plastic jars of Canadian Steak Seasoning, etc. When you have it shaped, leave it to dry. It might take a day or two depending on the humidity.

8. When the hat is dry, you can trim it with I cord in a contrasting yarn. I cord is fun and easy to make. Cast on 4 stitches on one of the double pointed needles. Knit the stitches with another double pointed needle, then slide the stitches from the left of the needle to the right and knit again. This will make a tube or cord. I usually make about 24" of cord for a hat. Weave the ends in with your needle, tie the cord on your hat with a square knot and off you go!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Geography in the Library

Once upon a time, Otter and I were talking about how each public desk in the library has its own characteristics. I'm not sure which of us got the idea to compare them to major cities in the US but it's a fun way to identify the unique challenges of each location.

I'll start with the information desk. I like to think of this desk as New Orleans. It's the big easy- until disaster hits and then it's usually of hurricane proportions. Most of the time it's friendly and you simply direct people where they want to go. No mardi gras alas, but then no actual hurricanes either. The Media desk is edgier. Computers make people dark and focused inward- it makes me think of New York- cutting edge, fashionably black and self-centered. A very big city feel but no apples. Wander down the orange brick wall to the Children's desk and you feel you've travelled to a completely different place. I think of this desk as St. Louis (as in the musical with Judy Garland), it's Midwest hospitality that's almost too good to be true. But still a big city: theater, culture, noise, bustle and the occasional riff-raff. I love the energy of the Children's desk but it's not for the faint of heart.

The Reference desk can be physically cold, the air from the cooling system used to blow right at the desk making me think of Chicago, the windy city. Patricia used to wear stylish leather jackets to keep warm. The car manuals are next door, patrons worry about taxes and silently hover over their computers unless they bunch up and become loud and disruptive. This is the desk of politics and government, valueline and geneology. It's a serious place except for the silent snickers from teens prowling in the 741's.
The Periodicals desk is at the top of the building. It's hip like Seattle, everyone wants to go there. Glossy magazines, newspapers and latte's. People keep to themselves, rarely asking for help but when it rains, it literally pours. The views are amazing up there which is probably why, one time, some homeless guys thought this was a great place to have a pizza party with beer. Enjoy, but make sure that walkie talkie is working.

Keeping in mind the different characteristics of each public desk helps me to navigate my way, especially on a Sunday, when I'm usually at each of them at one time or another.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Lifelong Learners

Some of us are always learning. I don't mean that in a boastful way because usually if you're addicted to learning new things you are also pretty good at forgetting. Sometimes it's fun to read an old mystery, one read so long ago I've forgotten how it was solved. I'll get little inklings as I read along. Sometimes I can remember the solution fairly quickly but I've forgotten the details, other times it's more of a challenge. Accepting responsibility for my own learning is probably the easiest of the 71/2 habits for me. The most difficult is using new technologies to my advantage. I have always veered towards the tried and true rather than the latest thing. On the other hand, man do I love having backspace and delete buttons on the keyboard. I have no wish to go back to the old typewriters. The manuals were so hard to press down on and the electric ones vibrated and made my teeth itch. I do get frustrated and impatient when I can't figure out how something works. Why is it so hard to find the zoom on my camera? How do you disable the flash? Why does the remote have so many buttons?! Right, so to end this exercise Habit 2 is easy, Habit 6 is a challenge.