Wednesday, November 27, 2013

WIP: Bug-Free House; Amazing Multicolored Neck Blanket


Among the many challenges of Beetlegate 2013, the quarantine of my yarn and works in progress has been one of the worst.  For two weeks, all I had to work on were my Snapdragon Socks, and although that was a fabulous way to avoid Second Sock Syndrome, it was also ridiculously nerve-wracking and horrible.  (Pro tip: a chronically anxious knitter without her knitting is perhaps the most unpredictable, unpleasant beast to ever burst into tears over vacuuming the floor of her closet while mumbling "everything is bugs" over and over.)

Each day I knit on my socks was another reminder that my stash was locked away in plastic garbage bags, practically radioactive with the threat of carpet beetles, and each time I would eye my rapidly shrinking ball of sock yarn and whimper with sadness.  One day I almost went out and bought a skein of sock yarn in desperation, but then Lumberjack gently reminded me that I own a metric kiloton of yarn and at least some of it has to be superwash.  (He was right, and begrudgingly through the dryer it went.  Sometimes I think I just enjoy being cantankerous.)

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So it goes without saying that the day we were able to pull the first load of clean, bug-free yarn out of the freezer was better than Christmas.  I practically bounced up and down the stairs with freezing cold bags of fabric and yarn, happily spraying and wiping out plastic bins and humming, then gently fondling each skein before putting it in its new home.  It was the best.

I also got a whole bag of works in progress out of the deep freeze, and just in the nick of time - I finished the socks the day that everything was due out!  And happily, my Amazing Seed Stitch Wrap was in that bag, which has given me many hours of delightfully mindless knitting since then.

I'm on my third skein out of ten, and oh man, this thing is massive.  I've had several people question whether a thing so huge can really be called a wrap, and thus I have taken to calling it my Neck Blanket.  It is going to be glorious, I can tell.

Now I just have to ration my knitting on it until the next colors go through the freezer.  Eep.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Party On, Wayne. Party On, Garth.

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Friends, please welcome Wayne and Garth!  (Party time!  Excellent!)

Last week, after much discussion about family, commitment, and honoring Mr. Mackie's memory, we decided that we wanted to adopt more ratties.  Shelters can be a stressful place for the little guys, and with their short lifespans and incredible personalities, it felt right that we should open our home and hearts to more - not to mention that we sorely missed our playtime and cuddles with Mr. Mackie.

We contacted our local animal shelter, Seattle Animal Shelter, after reading about two young foster boys called Yukon and Jack that we found through Petfinder.  The foster coordinator and foster mom were incredibly friendly and helpful, and got us on our way to meeting the boys within a day of contacting them.  Saturday evening, we met them for the first time, and fell in love.


The boys came in to the shelter separately, but were both agitated and timid, so they were paired up in the hopes that they would bond.  They're both estimated to be about 6 months old, so they are young enough that the introduction seems to have stuck with very little aggression.

Garth (née Yukon) had been abandoned in a parking lot in a fishtank, and found the day before a big rainstorm.  If he hadn't been rescued, he likely would have drowned.  He's a polite, slightly nippy, curious little guy who has already shown an enormous talent for nervous pooping.  He bit Lumberjack's finger while I was filling out adoption paperwork, but since handling him more,  he's been much better.  He seems to be the dominant and outwardly friendly one, but he's still gentle with his cagemate, which is really sweet - especially considering that they're not littermates.


 Wayne (née Jack/Bubbles) was the cagemate of a female rat who became pregnant, and he was surrendered.  He was the more timid of the two, and when we were at the shelter, the minute that he poked his head out his plastic igloo and nuzzled my nose, I knew that they were going to be our new buddies.  He freezes up when you first try to pick him up, but once handled, he freely climbs on shoulders and is generous with his cuddles.  He's pretty clearly an introvert - albeit a very loving one! - as he likes to sleep by himself, and withdraws from playtime to hang out alone sometimes.  (I feel you there, bro.)

This morning, I pulled both of them out and they chilled in my sweater sleeve for fifteen minutes.  It's amazing to see how much they have calmed down and become affectionate since just two days ago.  I think they're going to be great companions, and I'm so happy that we found each other!


Friday, November 22, 2013

A Knitter's Guide to Eradicating Carpet Beetles (or, DIE, LITTLE *#@$(*&$, DIE)


So, I've mentioned a few times that our life has been on a bit of a tailspin for the last few weeks, and now that we're starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, I wanted to do a post about it.

The day of Mackie's diagnosis, Lumberjack found a carpet beetle larvae in our room.  Carpet beetles, for those who are lucky enough to have never heard of the evil little beasts, are a particular bane to museum collections because of the larvae's tendency to ruthlessly devour animal proteins, starch, and pretty much anything else that comes into their paths.  (The beetles don't eat the stuff, but they do move around and lay eggs willy-nilly.)  So when we found out that we had them, my heart sank at the realization that our house is essentially a smorgasbord of vintage clothing, yarn, fabric, and other tasty carpet beetle delights.

At first, we thought it was confined to our bedroom, but as the days progressed, we started finding them in the studio I share with Sparklepants, our 2nd-floor bathroom, kitchen, living room, and stairs.  Every time we found them in a new place, I got progressively more hateful and frustrated.  Much of the first week, I spent 8-12 hours a day on my hands and knees, wearing a dust mask and camping headlamp, picking up dozens of larvae with tweezers and yelling, "I HOPE YOU STARVE, YOU STUPID PIECE OF SHIT."  (It made me feel better.  I swear.  I'm usually the girl who insists on taking spiders outside, but I have zero sympathy for these destructive little assholes.)

Currently, our house has been sprayed and all visible larvae & beetles removed; all of our belongings are bagged, and slowly going through the process of heating in the dryer or freezing, then going directly into plastic bins or bags for storage.  Anything tasty to carpet beetles that has come in or out of our house in the last few weeks has gone through one of the two cycles, as the only thing I hate more than carpet beetles is the thought of knowingly or unknowingly inflicting them on someone else.  The whole thing is overwhelming and gross, and I never, ever, ever want to deal with it again, so my attitude is to nuke it from orbit; it's the only way to be sure.

So, in the hopes that other knitters and textile stashers are spared our fate, here are 12 tips for dealing with a carpet beetle infestation:

1.  First, don't blame yourself.  I initially thought that I brought in the infestation in a bag of vintage Pendleton yardage from a consignment store, but as we started to understand the scope and locations of the infestation, the more we realized that it was from something else entirely.  Carpet beetles are found all over the world.  They usually live outside, but often migrate inside for various reasons.  Chances are, unless you skipped around tossing carpet beetle larvae all over your home, you did nothing to cause this.

2.  Carpet beetles are not a hygiene problem, but they can be combatted by stepping up your cleaning.  By a lot.  They love lint, hair, and small bits of food, so keeping as many areas clean of these things is essential to curbing their food source.  Pull out seldom-moved appliances like the refrigerator, oven, and washer and dryer, (note: if it's safe to do so!) and vacuum and scrub underneath them.  I found almost as many larvae under our oven as we did in the rest of the house.

3.  Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever store anything in corrugated cardboard if at all possible.  Cardboard boxes are like theme parks for carpet beetle larvae.  We found 95% of the larvae along mouldings & baseboards and under appliances.  The other 5% were in cardboard boxes being used as storage.

4.  Do store things in plastic.  I have a bit of a hard time with this, because plastic does off-gas and sometimes causes a smell, but smelly yarn > ruined yarn.  Plastic will defend your items from becoming infested, and contain the infestation if they do find their way in.  All of my yarn and fabric is currently being transitioned over from open-air storage to plastic containers.

5.  If you find larvae or beetles, keep at least a few of them so they can be properly identified.  That way, if your suspected carpet beetles are something else, you can get the proper treatment for them.

6.  If you can afford it, hire a professional.  Really.  They can help you identify your problem, give you tips to keep the beasties under control, and treat your carpets and nooks and crannies with chemicals that kill and/or inhibit growth in all stages of the beetles.  There are non-toxic options available, so don't fret that you're going to have to fill your house with poison to get rid of them.  The exterminator we hired was $250 for treatment with a free follow-up appointment, and to us it was worth it for the peace of mind.  Keep in mind, though, that the exterminator is only doing part of the work: the long-term effectiveness of this process is highly dependent on you.

7.  Did I mention that I was cleaning 8-12 hours a day for a full week?  Yeah.  It bears repeating.  It takes a lot of cleaning to get an infestation under control.  Vacuuming is essential, as is laundry.  I tried as much as possible to touch and inspect every single thing I own, which sounds daunting - and is - but it can be done.

8.  Let go of as many old or unused items as you possibly can, especially if they're infested.  I've thrown away 3+ full garbage bags full of stuff from my studio.  Infested or very old yarn is just not worth saving to me - I have too much other yarn and fabric that I love more, and if I have to sacrifice 3% of my stash to save the other 97%, you bet I'm going to.

9.  Rid your house, roof, or yard of any bird's nests.  Carpet beetles like to hang out in them, then migrate into your house once they've lost their food source.

10.  Carpet beetles hate extremes of heat and cold.  Run all of your washable clothing and textiles through the dryer on medium (or hot) for at least 30 minutes.  And, from what I can tell from researching it: for more delicate items, freeze for a minimum of 3 days at 0 degrees Fahrenheit, let it come to room temperature, and repeat the process again - or dry-clean.  We ended up buying a large freezer, because Sparklepants and I have approximately 16 metric tons of fabric and yarn that needs to be treated, and we don't have the funds to dry-clean all of our stuff.

11.  Be patient.  We've bagged 90% of our belongings, and it's probably going to take 3-6 months before we're able to run all of them through the eradication process.  That's just how it is - it sucks, but I'd rather do it right and never have to do it again.

12.  It's healthy to have and acknowledge feelings of frustration, anger, shame, and/or guilt - I know I struggled a lot with all of these - but keep optimistic.  You can do this, and you will.  It may feel like your life is over, but it's not.  It's frustrating to have every account on the internet be all, "I've had carpet beetles for 10 years and they follow me when I move", and not a single one say, "I had this problem, I dealt with it, and you can too."  I'm here to say that it's possible, because we're doing it.  We haven't seen a single larvae since I found and destroyed their campsite under the oven two weeks ago, and here's hoping that it stays that way.  I'll keep you posted.

In summary: Carpet beetles suck, and dealing with them is a pretty overwhelming amount of work, but I have absolute faith that it's possible to eradicate them - not to mention, completely worth it.

If anyone has any tips, comments, or stories, feel free to mention it in the comments.  Thanks for reading, and for bearing with me for the last few weeks!

Monday, November 18, 2013

WIP: Secret Swatching

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So although our personal lives have been obnoxiously unstable for the last two weeks (more on that later), I've still managed to do some swatching for a design project I'm working on with a friend.  I found a stitch pattern I really liked while browsing sweaters on Etsy, sketched it out and charted it based on the photos, and swatched a little bit the other day.  It reminded me that even though I'm not a big fan of swatching while I'm doing it, it really does give me a lot of information - especially when designing.


The stitch pattern originally had yarnovers as the method of increasing, and while I love the idea for a women's blouse with a lighter yarn, the fabric was just too airy for the garment I'm making.  So I played with lifted increases, and lo and behold, I really like it.  It just goes to show how the best laid plans are sometimes not the right ones!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Rest in Peace, Darling Mackie: February 2011 - November 14th, 2013

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Yesterday, our world lost a small but strong little light.


Two and a half weeks ago, we learned that Mr. Mackie only had a little while left to live.  Since then, he has eaten grandly, spent hours on our bed hanging out with us, and been showered with love, attention, and visits from friends.  A few days ago, I started noticing that he was cuddling a lot more than he usually did, and exhibiting signs of pain.  We took him to the vet to weigh him and found out that he had already lost 30 grams of body weight - a sign of rapid decline in small furry ones like him - so he was prescribed an opioid painkiller.  I pretty much knew then that we needed to start saying goodbye.

It's been pretty horrible watching such a sweet, energetic, and inquisitive little dude get so sick, so fast - only a week ago, he was bouncing around and snatching treats straight from the bag, but by Tuesday he seemed to have lost a lot of energy.  Wednesday night was spent with him curled up in our arms, and around 2 am we decided that it was time.  Blake was up every hour checking on him while I slept, and we took him into the vet's office the next afternoon.

It's going to be hard to come home and not immediately say hello to him, or to get ready for bed without him poking around in the pillows.  He's followed us through so much growth and change in the last two years, and he has been a constant source of solace, entertainment, and companionship.  It's amazing how such a small presence could bring so much joy into our lives.

So to celebrate Mackie, here are a few of my favorite photos of him.


His favorite places: our bed, any couch or interesting piece of furniture (including people), and his various nests of blankets, tissue paper, and cardboard.


Mackie enjoying a boop, in our first apartment in Seattle.


Always up to something.

Rest in peace, my handsome little buddy.  You are so loved, and so missed already.  <:3O~

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

WIP: Portfolio

I'm taking Portfolio class at school, so during class yesterday (and, let's be honest, until the wee hours of the night), I worked on my spreads for my Spring 2013 Collection.  I think I'm going to do a post about my graphic design inspiration later, but right off the bat, you can probably tell from these pages that I'm gravitating towards a very simple, clean look.  I like using neutral backgrounds and relying on photography to tell the story, and I've definitely already used some elements I've used on the blog as templates for spreads.

It's been really cool to learn more about graphic design, work more extensively with InDesign, and play with color, layout, and details.  Graphic design always used to seem like a scary, inaccessible medium to me, but I've started to learn that I'm actually very attracted to minimalist graphic design - which, when done right, still isn't easy, but it makes a lot more sense to my brain than amazing, elaborate spreads!  (This strikes me as funny, because in no way does my personal style usually read as minimalist; it's rare that I meet a loud, bright color combination I don't like.)  I'm inspired by more complex graphic design as well, but I don't find it to be as compelling as a clean page with beautiful photography and a few well-chosen words.

We'll see how well my portfolio lives up to those lofty standards - in the meantime, I'm having an awesome time booping around on my computer to find out what works!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Rastita Design Challenge Part III: Call for Test Knitters!

As of 11/15 at 1:43 PM, I have the test knitters I need, and I am closing the call.  Thank you so much, guys!

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Hello friends!  Sorry I've been remiss in posting - we've been dealing with some urgent personal stuff, so I've been spending all of my time on that instead of fun things like knitting, sewing, and creating blog posts.  Sigh.

However, in exciting news, the Folded Lotus pattern is just about ready for test knitters!  What I need from test knitters is feedback, particularly about:

 - readability, clarity, and difficulty of written and/or charted pattern
- layout and flow of pattern
- other notes, comments, or concerns about any aspect of the pattern

Edited to add:  Test knitters should be able to cast on, knit, purl, do simple lace, and work with two colors of yarn.  You will need 2 skeins of the main color (shown in blue) and 1 skein of the contrast color (shown in pink) of Rastita, or 500 yards of the main color and 200 yards of the contrast color, both in a DK-weight yarn.

In return, all test knitters will receive a copy of both patterns from the Rastita Design Challenge.  I will be closing the call this Friday, November 15th.  The deadline for submitting test knitting notes is Sunday, December 15th.

If you're interested, please send an email to:

cory at indieknits dot com

with the following information:

- how long you've been knitting
- your approximate skill level
- your favorite color and animal
- why you'd like to test knit for me

Thanks again for joining us for the Rastita Design Challenge!  I've had a great time doing this - so much so, in fact, that Ariel and I are already scheming another design challenge... stay tuned!

Rastita Design Challenge Previous Posts

Part I: Conceptualizing
Part II: Execution & Pattern-Writing

Part I: Design Process
Part II: Pattern Writing

Monday, November 4, 2013

Family Pictures

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So after my last post, we took Mackie to the vet again and got some very bad news.  He has a growth in his urinary tract that is causing pain and inflammation, and the associated surgery to remove it would be risky, complicated, and unlikely to improve his quality of life, so we made the difficult decision not to pursue further treatment.  Since his diagnosis, we've been giving him lots of treats and snuggle time, giving him pain medication, and trying to enjoy the time we have left with him.  (Not gonna lie - there have been a lot of tears.)

Mackie is my first rat as an adult, Blake's first rat ever, and our first pet together, so he has been an integral member of our little family.  He has been with us through two moves, my fashion show, and our wedding, so he's become the go-to furry dude for cuddles during both happy and stressful times.  It's difficult to even think about what life is going to be like without him.  Since we realized we didn't have many photos of us with Mackie, our friend Sooz was kind enough to take some photographs of all of us together this weekend.


I think she nailed it.