Friday, October 29, 2010


Several people have asked me how I de-knit sweaters. So for you folks out there, I'll try to describe the process as best I can!

Let me give you a couple tips on how to choose good de-knitting sweaters. First, you want to choose good colors and the bigger the sweater the better, because you get more yarn that way. This is up to you, but I always check the label to make sure that it is 100% cotton because it is nice and soft and a natural fiber. Bigger yarn gauges are easier to take apart too, so thicker sweaters are better for that. Zippers, buttons, and other embellishments will make the process harder so simple designs are the best. The last thing you want to check for is the seams. I've only encountered this once after de-knitting dozens of sweaters, but there are some out there that are made with large sheets of knitted "fabric" that is cut then sewed. You'll end up with lots of short pieces of yarn which is worthless. So make sure the seams look like they are edges of knitted panels. Sorry if it doesn't make sense, but you probably don't have to worry about it.

So here is the victim. Nice colors, eh? The cashier at Goodwill even commented how nice the colors were and what a great buy it was because it was Liz Claiborne. But I did have to pay a little more than usual for it (9 bucks) probably for the fancy brand. I didn't have the heart to tell the cute lady that I was buying it to destroy it so I just told her that I was getting it for the nice colors. Sorry cute Filipino lady!

Ok so, first thing you want to do is wash it and then cut any and all tags and other crap off of it. Do it carefully so that you don't cut the yarn, and try to get all of the threads out because they might catch up the unraveling.

I always start the process at the wrists. Find the seam and look through it for what I call the knot tail. It's a thick little tail formed by knots that you should find woven into the end of the sleeve. It looks like this. Now you want to cut this off at the base, where the two strings come together. Once you cut it, pull apart the seam and you'll see the thread that is holding the seam together. If you pull on it, it should pull the whole seam apart, and if you're lucky, keep going all the way down body on the same side. It might get caught at the armpit, but a few snips of more knot tails here and there should let it go. Do it to both sleeves.

Now your sweater should look like this. Next, find more little tails hidden into the seams holding the sleeves to the body. They should unravel the same way as before. Usually the collar is a separate piece also, so that will have to be separated as well. (If the sweater is a cardigan, the skinny bits where the buttons or buttonholes would be are separate pieces too.)

At this point, all of the panels (besides the shoulder seams,) should be taken apart and look like this. At this point, put the body aside and focus on the sleeves. Always start the unraveling at the top of the sleeve where it was connected to the shoulder. There is no easy way to find the beginning, just poke around, make some cuts and you'll find it eventually. Start balling that stuff up baby! (This is when it really starts getting satisfying :P)

Now the shoulders are the hardest part. These are reinforced with regular thread, and sometimes with extra fabric, which makes it virtually impossible to take apart. So you'll have to cut it as close to the seam as possible. It does make a small mess and there will be some waste of yarn, but you'll get past the mess and the piece will unravel much like the sleeves. Unravel the rest of the pieces, collar, pockets, whatever you have left and that should be it.

Now it is time to look at your final product with satisfaction. Yessssss... Doesn't it feel good to think that you paid just a fraction of what you would pay at a fancy yarn store for the same amount? Sure, it's a little bit of a time commitment, but you can do other stuff too. In this case, I watched two sweet episodes of House. Jealous?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Knitting Pattern of the Month

Now that both baby showers have come and gone, I can finally post about the baby blankets that I have been knitting lately. I've made three of these in the last 6 months and, logically, they have gotten easier each time. This is the last one I made for Lindsey with lots of fun colors! It's not too girlie right? I forgot to take a picture of the one I made for Zita, but she said she would send me one. It's mostly different shades of blue with some grey and tan mixed in.

The pattern I used is called Entrelac, and can be found here. It is a little confusing at first, but once you get your mind wrapped around it, technically, it's not hard at all. It does involve a lot of turning the project, which can get a little annoying at times, but it's worth it.

I added a hood to one of the corners, because hoods are just fun and cute, and the kid can play with it once they get older. You know, to extend the use of it a little. It's not part of the pattern on the link, I just half-assed it by folding down one of the corners about an inch or two and picked up 20 stitches from the folded edge to start. Then I worked in stockinette stitch, picking up more stitches as the hood expands down on each side. The bottom 2 inches or so is 2x2 rib. I went until it looked about baby/toddler head size and bound off. I also made fun ears by picking up 8 stiches where the ears would look ok and worked about 4 lines in stockinette before decreasing by ktog and ptog on either side until 2 stitches were left and then bound off.

The key to making the hood is to initially fold a bit of the corner down so you don't end up with a point at the top of the hood. The last thing you need is for your kid to look like part of the baby kkk. Not funny.

Now you might ask: "where did you get that awesome yarn?" Well, my friend, it is actually recycled yarn from sweaters I buy at Goodwill! Yep, I go to the local thrift store, (usually the Goodwill down the street,) and peruse their awesome sweater collections and find sweaters with colors I like. I then take 'em home, unravel them and BAM! I have tons of cotton yarn for less than 5 bucks. Awesome. I have a sweater here that is awaiting its demise, so I will take pictures of the de-knitting process and show ya'll how it's done. Until then, happy homesteading!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Wheels on the What?

I have spent many hours over the last several weeks riding the bus. All in all, I love it. I pretty much have door to door service to campus on one bus and never have to worry about parking, traffic, gas, and all those lovely things that come with driving a car. I know this sounds nuts-o, but I feel a sense of freedom with my U-Pass. I can go anywhere (well, anywhere the bus goes,) and I don't have to feel guilty about driving. Should I feel guilty about driving? Hell Yes! We drive way too much!

I used to be afraid of the bus, like getting on the wrong one and ending up stranded in no-man's-land, but thanks to metro trip planner and onebusaway, I feel way better about it. Today I even got on a bus without being 100% sure where it would go. It took me close enough where I needed to be so it was sweet.

So I love the bus. I really do. But here is a list of things I don't love about the bus:

1. Getting assaulted by backpacks. (Yo, your backpack is bigger and sticks out further than you think.)

2. People who think their backpacks deserve a seat of their own.

3. Not having anywhere to look besides the person sitting in front of you. You know, when you sit in the seats that face sideways? I end up either closing my eyes and pretending to sleep or looking out the small piece of window not taken up by their heads. And there's only so many times you can read the ads in the bus. But even still, I end up looking at people and accidentally meeting eyes with them, who are I'm sure dealing with the same awkward feelings as I am.

4. Getting motion sick :(

5. Super grumpy bus drivers or drivers that don't enunciate well.

6. The stinkies/crazies. 'nuff said about that.

7. People standing too close to me. I didn't know I had personal space issues until recently.

8. Not being sure whether to move into a newly open seat when you're sitting way too close to a stranger but only have one more stop to go...

But at the same time some of these things make riding the bus interesting.

Now onto something completely different: We got a new cat tree. The one we had was falling apart, even after we rebuilt it last year. The kitties just loved it to death. Nikolai's brother Andre had one that he wasn't using, so we traded a dome heater with his ma and pa and got ourselves that one. I think they like it.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I'm Calling It...

It's official. My soybeans this year are a big giant, FAIL. Seriously. Imagine an F as tall as your house, bold, black, jumping up and down, pointing at you and saying "Hahaa!" like Nelson from the Simpsons... and on fire.

I generally harvest the pods in September-ish, but this year I started them a little late so I was giving them a little more time. When looking at my soybean patch, you can't help but think to yourself, "My, what a splendid field of soybeans those are!" But don't be fooled. On closer inspection, the pods are virtually EMPTY. WTF??? I know right? I guess I didn't really see any of them flower this year so that probably is why. But why no flowers esse? I usually get the seeds from the Central Market bulk department. I buy raw soybeans and germinate them inside for a week or two, then plant them outside. Doing it this way is much cheaper than buying the actual seeds, and soybeans are kinda hard to find as seeds anyway. This has worked beautifully in the past, and so I had no reason to think it wouldn't work this year.

I really had no reason to think anything was wrong. In fact, I was really optimistic about them because the seeds germinated beautifully as usual and the plants themselves grew bigger then ever. People would come over and say, "what's that?" And I would proudly report "those are my soybeans, aren't they pretty?" And my parents were super jealous of them because mine were growing way better than theirs. I planted them in 5 nice neat rows and was even called OCD because they looked so freakin' good. But alas, nothing became of them.

WHY???!!! I thought I bought organic beans, but what if I didn't? Were they out at the store? Did I settle with non-organic? Would I do such a thing? If they weren't organic, were they Monsanto-tainted, complete with the terminator gene that strips all seeds from having any possible chance of reproducing? MONSANTOOOOOOOOO!!!!

I made myself feel better by making coleslaw with the last two carrots that were still in the ground and the last half of the cabbage we pulled two weeks ago. And looking at this picture makes me feel better too:

Shawn and Abby are really excited about all the pumpkins we harvested. Oh the possibilities!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Pears Be Gone!

I mentioned in my first post that we had a really good year of pears. There were so many on our tree at one point that the thing looked like a freakin' weeping willow, it was so weighed down with fruit. We had to duck even lower than usual to get to the chicken coop.

At one point around late-august, the tree started dropping 'em all. I really didn't think I was going to do much with them because the tree never did so well, and the fruit was just so damn ugly. And, just like in the past, the guys were just as ugly as ever. BUT, when you peel them and cut them open, they're beautiful. Super white, juicy, and sweet. Once I realized how many of these little sugar treasures I had, we busted out the ladder and just started collecting them. 15 minutes and a fat lip later (Shawn accidentally dropped one right on my face,) we had about 15 pounds of pears. Whoa.

So went to canning. We got 5 pints plus several small jars nicely set. Half of them went straight to friends, family and helpers. (As you can see, Nikolai likes to help me out around the house.)

A week later, I had another 10 pounds of pears. I didn't feel like canning anymore, so I took it upon myself to find as many pear recipes as I could. This resulted in pear gorgonzola penne, pear and butternut squash soup, carmelized pear appetizers, and a pie. Nevertheless, we are pear-ed out.

But guess what? I still have pears in my 'fridge! So tonight, I decided to make pear applesauce cake. (Since my refrigerator also houses some uneaten applesauce.) Even now, with the cake in the oven, I am still being haunted by 7 small, semi-shrively PEARS. I give up. They win. But I suppose there are worse battles to lose.

Friday, October 8, 2010

My Bible...

Check this out! This is currently my favorite thing in my house. My dad brought it back from my gramma's house for me, and I nearly pooped my pants when I saw it. He brought it back for me because of all the green tomato recipes. (Since this summer left us with A LOT of those.) But who cares about green tomato recipes when there are 8,000 other cool things in here!!!

Think about it: Do you think you'll ever need to know how to draw maple syrup? How about help an orphaned bird? Braid a rug? Grow super salad greens? Breed livestock? Heal with natural remedies? Break your cat's bad habits? No worries, this book has your back! I've only looked through a tiny fraction of it, but oh man, it's 475 pages of totally amazing.

The home remedies section reminds me of Hogwarts Potions class.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Start a Blog? Why not?

So here I am, joining the masses of bloggers. Here goes nothin'!

Over the last several months, I have discovered a new hobby: urban homesteading. I guess I don't know the exact definition of homesteading, so I made one up to fit what I do. My guess is it involves gardening, harvesting, and preserving and collecting food to subsist on. Living a minimal lifestyle, off the land. Now, I know I don't nearly have enough garden space and resources to live on year 'round, and I could definitely live simpler, but I try to improve everyday and do the best with what I've got. That's why it's a hobby, not a living.

I hope this bloggy thing will keep me motivated to keep doing the things I've been doing. I hope the posts will be about the projects I take on and hopefully the idea of sharing it will motivate me on those dark, rainy days when all I want to do is be lazy and order in.

A quick summary of my summer doings: Of course, like every year, I planted a garden. Only this year, I planted twice as much as I usually do, and tried some crops I've never planted before. It was a lot of work, but I like playing in dirt and hanging out with worms so it was ok. The harvests were awesome, I still have green beans and broccoli in the freezer and it looks like a couple small zucchini are still trying to grow. Can't wait to harvest the seven, count them, seven small sugar pumpkins and turn them into deliciousness.

We also got chickens. My dream come true. This meant building a chicken coop and run, which turned out to be a ton of work, especially since we tried to use as much salvage wood as possible. In the end, we ended up using an existing wood shed as the base structure and building the run onto it with mostly wood and shingles we found hidden under our house. Of course we had to buy most of the hardware, two sheets of plywood and 1/2 inch chicken wiring. Total cost: maybe $150? Considering the coops that you can buy costs at least twice as much? Not so bad, I think.

We also had a great apple and pear year so a couple dozen pounds of pears were canned and several apple pies were made. I did lots of other stuff, but I think I'll save those for later posts. (What the hell am I gonna write about in the winter anyway?)

Ok, that's enough. Back to knitting.
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