Wednesday, August 16, 2017

My Duderino

But sometimes, there's a man. And I'm talkin' about the Dude here. Sometimes, there's a man, well, he's the man for his time and place. He fits right in there.

I'd seen the movie "The Big Lebowski" before, but Connor hadn't, so a few months ago we watched it. Connor immediately identified with the main character, The Dude.

Not long after I came across Andrea Rangel's The Knitter's Dude pattern. It was clear that Connor needed his own Dude Sweater.

This is the first sweater I've knit for Connor. I told him hand knit sweaters are like a knitter's hug. He agrees.

Connor did ask for a slight modification. The pattern's instructions are for a button closure. Connor wanted to have a zipper instead. It took me two different zippers to get it to work. I cut the first zipper too short and then had a bit of a meltdown because I didn't realize I cut it too short until it was fully installed... four hours after I started. The second zipper went in much faster.

Connor is planning to channel his inner Dude for the foreseeable future.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

A Joyful And Fuzzy Spirit

Happy 15th Birthday, Scooter!

We have been buddies for quite some time now and I'm impressed by your continued enthusiasm for life... and treats.

When you first rocketed into our lives, we didn't know how long we would get to enjoy your playful spirit.

I'm glad it has been for this long and I look forward to each day that we get to continue enjoying each other's company.

Things are looking good as you leap into your next year of life.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Logjam or Time

While Connor and I were hiking the other day we had a great conversation about the different projects were were interested in. I've got a million ideas, like usual, and felt frustrated about how I couldn't ever get to all of them. Connor lamented the lack of time he has for his projects. We then realized that there are really only two reasons a project isn't finished: Either you have a logjam or there is a time problem.

The Logjam: Mum uses this word when there is something in the way of completing a project. For example, if the house isn't clean, the logjam might be something big like you don't know where to start, or something small like you ran out of bleach. I think that with creative projects, it is more often that you don't know how to move forward rather than you don't have the right tool. One of the biggest reasons (although not the only reason) that I spent years not putting my daily comic online was because I had no idea how to create the website I wanted for it. I feel that most of these issues can be resolved by breaking project down into smaller bites, doing research, or enlisting some help. In the case of the comic website, I realized that I was never going to be able to get the calendar to work the way I wanted it to. It was beyond me. I enlisted Connor and my father to figure it out, which they did quite successfully.

Time: Connor told me that the reason he has not worked on his project because he hasn't scheduled the time for it. We realized that most people figure there will be time for a project eventually. The good old, "I'll get to it one day." I know this to not be true. If I don't chip a little bit away at a project each day, it never gets done. I've started to multitask to get some particularly boring bits of the comic project done. In the morning when I'm eating breakfast, I've started to edit my comics rather than browse the internet. I usually get an extra page edited per day if I do that.

So what have I done in order to get some of my projects to the finish line? Well, today I finally got around to taking pictures of the Peeta Socks for my Dad.

Not everyone I showed was convinced that these looked like Dad socks, but my Dad was thrilled. Proper amounts of ooing and ahhing were done.

I've turned the heel of the Primavera sock. I just need to schedule some time to sit down and pick up the stitches for the gusset. The Denature socks are getting the odd round done when I'm in the car.

Connor's Dude Sweater is getting closer and closer to being done. I successfully stepped the sweater, but realized that the facing I was planning for it wasn't going to work because it wasn't compatible with the collar. The sweater sat for a few days as I tried to move past my logjam and work out how to proceed. I think I've got an idea of what to do now. Although it won't be as perfect as I had envisioned, I think it will still look quite nice when I am done.


So what prevents all of you from completing projects? Is it a logjam, time, or are there more reasons out there?

Thursday, August 3, 2017

67 Yards Of Disappointment

Earlier in July I posted a blog about how I felt that talent could be acquired through persistence rather than randomly bestowed ability. José left a compelling comment pointing out that there are more actions that are needed when creating than just practice. In José's own words, "But how about an eye for detail, and for colour? And how about originality? I wonder if lots of practice alone is enough to come up with original ideas?" Those words tumbled around in my mind for the last two weeks. It's really hard to quantify practice vs. talent because even with practice, people are going to have different original ideas. I can only speak from my own experience, but I still think that practice is what leads to creativity.

I remember a day about 15 years ago when I decided I wanted to be better at drawing and I was going to do that by first observing everything around me. When I would go on walks, I would do my best to pay attention to the details surrounding me: the way a leaf created shadow on the ground, how different people's noses curved differently. Then I'd go and try to draw it all. I remember the great disappointment that my hand just wouldn't draw what my mind had thought up. I suspect most artists, even those advanced in their careers, have days when their brain and hand doesn't match up.

The other thing I observed is that the more work I created, the more ideas I had. There was just something about practicing that lead to more original ideas. Although the ideas sometimes came in cycles. When I was working on practicing a technique, the ideas slowed down, but when I started to master a technique, then the original ideas came. What kinds of experiences have you all had in regards to creativity and originality?

Meanwhile, in my own creative pursuits, I've had a bit of a failure. I decided I wasn't happy with the way the color of my current cuff/heel/toe looked against my Cider House socks, so I decided to spin a different colored 3-ply yarn. I was going for a DK and ended up with an Aran weight yarn. I knit up a cuff with this yarn and it was clear I wasn't going to be able to get away with the thicker yarn. It's pretty disappointing because I don't have anymore dark brown to try with.
67 yards of disappointment

Luckily that was the only spinning disaster I had. The second skein I was working on for Tour de Fleece came out beautifully. I spun up both braids of my Wonderland Dyeworks 80/20 Merino/Tussah Silk roving in the Coral Reef color way and came out with 360 yards of a 2 ply DK weight yarn.

I've also made great progress with Connor's Dude Sweater. After reading a bunch on steeks, I decided to go with a crochet reinforced steek rather than a sewn one. Connor asked to have a zipper rather than the buttons recommended in the pattern. I've decided that I'm going to use a combination of Tech Knitter's faced steek and Kate Davies's Steel Sandwich tutorials to complete the sweater. But first I'm waiting on a shipment from Knitpicks to arrive so I have the right tool to install the zipper.

So with all my other knits in limbo, I've cast on two different socks to make up the difference in my knitting time. On the left is the Denature Socks in my ball of Stray Cat Socks' Silver Star color way. I've carried this ball on many of my vacations, including Florida and Hawaii, but haven't cast on until now. I also have cast on another Primavera sock. I liked how the Cider House socks looked and thought that it would look good in the skein of Madelinetosh Sock in the Shire color way I got while visiting Black Mountain Yarns.

Here's to another week of creating!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Arizona Adventure Pt.3

Connor was going to be in Arizona a bit longer than I was because of his conference. So while it wasn't his last day in Arizona, it was mine. We met up with Brennan again (Sydney was at work) and went to the Tucson Botanical Gardens. There were just as many interesting critters around as there were plants.

After touring, we all sat down so that Brennan and I could paint a little. Brennan had been my art buddy back in college, so it was fun to be able to "art" again. I plopped down by the Mexican Fire Barrel to start with.

There were more than cacti to see at the garden, but I found the large variety rather inspiring.

It was sad to leave Brennan, but we had to drop him off so we could get back to Phoenix for the conference. Although, along our way, we stopped by the Casa Grande ruins. The Casa Grande ruins consists of a four story house that was built out of mud loaded with calcium carbonate. That made it stronger, but not immune to rain. A roof has since been built to help preserve the structure.

Around the grounds were lots of neat plants. I'm sure those of you from Arizona won't be nearly as impressed as I was, but I had never seen some of these plants. I didn't know that Prickly Pears could have any purple in them. I'd only seen the plain green kind.

I'd never seen a Palo Verde before this trip. When Connor and I first landed in Phoenix, we had a discussion over whether or not the bark had been spray painted; the green was so vibrant.
It turns out that the bark can perform photosynthesis even when the tree has no leaves

My favorite was the Ocotillo. It is sometimes used as a living fence. Often it doesn't have the green leaves, it just looks like spiney sticks. But after Brennan described them as Cthulhu emerging from the ground, that was all I could see. They all look like tentacle monsters to me now. Thanks, Brennan.

Of course while we were out and about in Arizona, we procured a few more patches and magnets for our collection. I've updated the patch map accordingly.

Even though I was only there for a few days, I came back feeling refreshed. It was good to see such a different landscape than I am used to.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Arizona Adventure Pt.2

Our next day in Arizona took us to Tombstone. Brennan and Sydney warned us that the town was extra touristy and that, "the whole town was in on it." They weren't wrong. We walked down the street and just about everyone was in period garb. Although we heard one individual in costume talking about geocaching, which was rather amusing.

The most famous event in Tombstone is the shootout at the O.K. Corral. There have been numerous movies about the shootout. The one Connor and I made a point to watch before coming out was the one aptly called "Tombstone" with Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer.

The town was fun, but just about everything had a fee to see, so I looked up the most historical aspects of the town. The first thing we chose to pay for was a tour of the Good Enough Mine. The shootout at the O.K. Corral might be why people remember Tombstone, but the Good Enough Mine is what put it on the map in the first place.

The story goes that prospector Ed Schieffelin was walking around the desert when he tripped over some silver ore. When he found the source of the ore, he staked a claim. The men at the nearby fort told him he was crazy to do so and that all he would find out there was his own tombstone. I guess Ed had a sense of humor because that is what he named his stake. It turned out he found one of the richest silver strikes in Arizona and as a result, supposedly all the Liberty Dollars with the "O" mint stamp of New Orleans from 1880-1881 came from silver mined at the Good Enough Mine.
How Ed ever recognized Silver Ore, I'll never know. It just looks like blackish rock to me.

The other thing we learned is that although the mine was in Apache country, the miners never really had a problem with the war-like Apache. According to our guide, the Apache were deeply religious and believed that the men who had gone underground into the mines would have communed with the devil. They believed that the miners were capable of stealing their souls and dragging them back underground with them.

Connor and I really enjoyed the tour. Afterwards we decided to walk around town and have a look at the courthouse. There are only a few remaining original buildings because Tombstone was burned down more than once. The courthouse, luckily, was brick, and survived. You could pay a feee to have a look around, we chose not to due to time constraints.

Instead we paid to go inside The Birdcage Theatre. I wish I could show you some pictures of the inside, but they had signs everywhere saying that you had to get written permission to post anything online. I've decided to respect that. What I can show you is the outside.

The Birdcage Theatre is one of the other original buildings to survive. If you choose to go inside you can see where Doc Holliday and Johnny Ringo had their Handkerchief Duel. There are also a fair number of bullet holes throughout the building. One of the paintings in the first room has six bullet holes and a hole from a knife. I guess things did get as wild as the movies would have you believe. There are many other interesting artifacts inside, but I think you'll just have to go see them for yourself.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Arizona Adventure Pt.1

Where in the United States is it possibly the hottest place to go in the summer? If you said Arizona, you would probably be right. Connor had a business trip that took him there. Not one to let an opportunity to pass us by, we decided to go a few days before his conference so we could see some sights. We had already decided to drive from Phoenix to Tucson to go to Saguaro National Park. A month before we were to go, I found out that my old housemate from college, Brennan, had recently moved to Tucson. (Brennan has been on the blog before. See 123) We were double lucky that he and his girlfriend, Sydney, could make some time for us. The four of us visited the western section of Saguaro National Park.
This is the only photo I have of Brennan from the trip. Sydney's shadow also made an appearance.

Despite the heat, we chose to do two very short hikes: the Valley View trail and the Signal Hill trail. There were plenty of Saguaro cacti to admire along the Valley View trail. 


The trail is a there and back again, which takes you to a view of, you guessed it, the valley.
This Saguaro looked like a tuning fork to me

The Signal Hill trail was even shorter and rewards you with a view of many petroglyphs.

After Saguaro, we all had lunch before parting. Connor and I headed out to see the Titan Missile Museum.

I'll admit, part of the reason we wanted to visit is because we've been playing lots of Fallout 4. And after seeing all that there was to see, I'm sure that the creators must have toured this facility. 
Look! It's drinking water in a can.

Part of the tour includes a simulation of what would have happened if the missile had really been launched. I wasn't so luck as to be selected to turn the key.

An actual missile is also there. This one has never been filled with fuel. It turned out that all the ones that had been filled couldn't be cleaned enough to prevent toxic off gassing. The warhead on the top is a dummy as well. But what is neat is that there is a treaty with the Russians that allows this museum to exist. Part of the treaty requires that there are blocks so that the silo can only open half way, preventing a missile from ever being launched successfully. It is the last Titan 2 silo as the rest had to be destroyed.

All in all, it was a really neat day.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Persistently Talented

The other day I was painting with a friend and I was given a compliment: I was told I was "talented." It's funny, because I didn't think so. Besides being far from where I would like to be, I knew that the way I paint now is because of the amount of time I've spent on it. I've poured over books on lighting and composition, I've invested in good materials, and I have put the brush to paper many times over. I know that with art, it is really easy to believe that someone is inherently good at it and overlook the amount of time spent on the craft. It is my belief that no one is really talented, people are just persistent... although there may be those who's fine motor skills develop a little faster. After thinking on the idea of talent, I wanted to find a way to prove that it is persistence and not talent that creates great works of art.

I've devised a little experiment to prove my hypothesis which is to learn to write with a non-dominant hand. The idea behind it was to get good at something no one starts off proficient at but everyone is capable of with practice. I know that no one ever really says, "You can write? You are so talented." But if we can get our non-dominate hand to write, it means we can get it to draw. To start off Connor and I are now both writing out the alphabet once each day with our non-dominant hand.  It has already been quite interesting. Both of us found that we were trying to use our whole arm to move the pen rather than the wrist at first. I also noticed that the muscles in my non-dominate hand are not nearly as strong as my dominant hand. I'm not sure where the experiment will end, but I think it will be interesting to see if we can eventually write with both hands.
My letters are on the left, Connor's are on the right. The first alphabet on the page was done with our dominant hand as a control.

I told my Mum what we were up to and she laughed. Something about, "As if you didn't have enough projects going on." Mum might be right. I'm working on my second skein for Tour de Fleece. I'm entirely sure I won't finish this one by the end of it, but I'll be close. I've finished the first bobbin and am a third of the way through the second.
Wonderland Dyeworks 80/20 Merino/Tussah Silk in Coral Reef

I was so excited by my first skein for this year's Tour de Fleece that I already cast on. The pattern is called Primavera. It was written for a 66 stitch sock, but is easily adapted to the 54 stitch sock I am making.

I'm achingly close to finishing my Dad's Peeta Socks. I just have weave in ends and block them. It will happen, I'm just a bit more enthralled with the Primavera socks at the moment.

The Dude Sweater is also growing quite a bit. I am at the point where I need to join the sleeves to the body. It is going to require some concentration that I just haven't had for the last few days, so it will sit a wee bit longer.

So what do you all think? Is talent something you just have or is it something you develop?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Tour De Fun

Hello friends! It has been a rather productive week here at the Bear Ears house, but maybe more importantly, it was a fun week. I finished up my skein of Cider House from Greenwood Fiberworks. It came out to 250 yards, which is the same as the last time I spun a braid of Greenwood Fiberworks. I remember wanting that skein to have more yardage just like I wish this skein had a bit more yardage. Maybe it is the fiber and not me? It sure is pretty, though.

I didn't expect to finish the braid of Cider House before the end of Tour De Fleece, so it was a great surprise that I might be able to spin something else. I've pulled out two braids of Wonderland Dyeworks' 80/20 Merino/Tussah Silk in the Coral Reef color way. 

This time around I'm aiming for a DK/Worsted weight two ply. I've made a great start. Maybe if I'm lucky I'll have a second skein by the end of the tour.

Meanwhile, I've kept up on my knitting. Connor and I have been watching Vikings. It is interesting enough that I can't work on anything that requires looking down, but my hands were getting itchy so I found that the many rounds of stockinette in the Dude Sweater kept them happy. I'm at the next stretch of color work though, and I'm a little intimidated. It took me a few days to get though the color work when I was doing it on the sleeves. The sweater body is three times the size of a sleeve... 

Dad's Peeta Sock is also growing. I have found myself in the car pretty often. Although the car rides aren't very long, a few rounds here and there really add up.

Connor and I have also been playing the odd round of Scrabble. I think I mentioned last time that turns can last a while, so it didn't take many games to finish the latest lavender sachet embroidery. I've now got three embroideries waiting to be sewn up. I think I might wait until I finish the sweater body that will need to be steeked before dragging the sewing machine out.

Is anyone else joining in on the fun with Tour De Fleece? Leave a link, I'd love to see your lovely skeins.
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