Point Me

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Cat Scarf

Remember how I wanted to make a kitty scarf for my bro in law? Well, I finally found a chart that didn't remind me of road kill

I slightly modified the pattern, as these kitties used to sit over cross bones. I guess I felt like that piratey stuff is kind of played out... I was very very proud of this, as it is my first ever project with two colors!

Like many of the skills in knitting, colorwork seems a lot harder and more intimidating than it actually is in practice. Though, that's not quite true. I should say that colorwork in the style that I used (Intarsia) is not really as hard as it seems.

I got the basic start of the method from this video, once again supplied by the Judy ("knitter to the stars")

The real challenging method to this style of knitting is that you constantly need to be twisting the yarns in certain ways to avoid forming holes in the work. I found this page to be an indispensable resource.

While I'm really proud of how my colorwork came out, there were some other aspects of this project that I wasn't thrilled with. Firstly, my stockinette totally curled like wallpaper. NO matter what I did, I couldn't stop the scarf from rolling into a tube.

This is my fault mostly. I knit with a lot of tension in my string, as you can see from how the cat face pulls and puckers the stitches around it. I read that this happens sometimes to stockinette when you knit too tightly, but I didn't really restrain myself. I kind of like pulling the string taut and snug around the needle, it's satisfying! I read though that if you do a garter stitch along the edge of your flat projects it helps deter it. Good to know for next time I suppose.

I also kind of feel that the quality of the yarn I used may have encouraged the rolling. Not that Vannas Choice isn't wonderful. But I recently started following the blog Presents Knits, and the girl puts up all these gorgeous pictures of these hand-dyed and homespun yarns that are to die for. It really makes me want to branch out a little, go somewhere with a better yarn selection, and pick out something really beautiful and unique.

The other thing to know about Intarsia colorwork, is that it is not reversible.

I tried to weave the back to reduce the risk of it catching on things, but as you can see, it's still pretty messy back here. That's why I think this style would be better for stuff like socks and hats, where the tangley stuff can be hidden. If I wanted to make this baby reversible, I'd have to master a technique that I would place solidly in the expert knitters only category, double stranded double knitting.

I wonder how long 'til I'm brave enough to try this!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Snowball Mice

I made these little mice to give as Christmas presents to Nevaeh and Grace, who are the young daughters of women who work in my office. I made them from this pattern. I think the reason mine look so different from the very very cute gray mouse the original designer made was because I used larger needles. I think this caused their faces to lose a little definition. It's also kind of a no no in stuffed animal making, because it leads to little holes the stuffing can peak out of. But since these guys are white, you can't really tell.

I made the one on the left second, and it definitely came out 500x better than the first one on the right. I got a better feel for the shape of the mouse, and I also really improved at embroidering eyes. The one on the left also could stand up by itself, the one on the right could not. I guess it goes to show that practice does lead to improvement. Its too bad I had to give one of the girls a buddy who wasn't quite as sharp looking. They kind of remind me of Pinky and the Brain.

My favorite part of making these guys was doing the tails. They're called Icords, and are really handy for all sorts of things; zipper pulls, handles for bags, or even the tail spines on a stegosaurus. They're fun to make, because you get to slide your stitches to one end of the double pointed needle and knit them in the same direction over and over again.

Take it away, Judy!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Night Before Christmas - 1933

Merry Christmas Eve everybody. If you don't celebrate Christmas, I hope you're having a nice day too.

Enjoy this cartoon from the good old days, when people put literal candles on their trees then sprayed them with highly flammable fake snow. This one truly captures the enduring creepiness of an old fashioned Santa Claus.

I had never seen this original version of this cartoon before. I had only seen a later repackaging of it, where all the seedy racial humor (3:14 and 7:16) and the puppies (7:35) had been removed. It's weird to know that this stuff was in there, and that I never knew it.

I hope you all have a very fun and festive holiday weekend. :)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Eve on Sesame St. - 1978

Christmas Eve on Sesame St. is my favorite Christmas special. Growing up, I can't remember a year when we didn't watch it. I've grown kind of emotionally attached to it, as it brings strong memories and feelings of gearing up for the excitement of Christmas time.

The music in this special is excellent. My favorite song is "True Blue Miracle" The song is especially poignant now, since the woman who sings the first solo, Alaina Reed-Amini has passed away from cancer this week. It's a really good song, and she sang it beautifully.

I've always thought that Bob was a really cool guy. He's a pretty famous Irish Tenor, and known as Bobu Magurasu in Japan...

The clip below is for part one. Watch it if you want to see Bert and Ernie have some PDA, A Muppet Pair skating number to the tune of Feliz Navidad, and Oscar the grouch flying through walls like a wrecking ball.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Santa's Land Oddity

So I was reading this great article on the Roadside America website about Santa's Land in Putney VT. This place is right up the road from my Grandma's summer place in Leyden MA, so I visited a few times through my childhood. The story really encompasses the charming weirdness of the place, including the spray-foam Xanadu house, which I always thought was there to make the elves and reindeer feel more like they were in their native arctic climate:
"We walk up the hill to the quiet of Santa's House, and can see red legs through the doorway. Santa sits, motionless. We assume he's a stuffed dummy. Then a truck klaxon echoes through the woods -- the over-the-top horn for the tiny Alpine Train -- and Santa jerks to life.
"Ho ho," he says groggily. "You caught Santa napping." The next words out of his mouth startle us even more than finding him asleep. "You look like prosperous gentlemen. Would you like to buy Santa's Land?""
Fortunately, somebody did buy Santa's Land in 2004, and apparently made a lot of really positive improvements to it. I'm really glad to hear it, as these small, independently owned attractions are as awesome as they are increasingly hard to come by.
The weird thing about this Santa's Land article though, was the discussion of a statue called "The Purple Plum Man".

The first thing that really comes to mind when you see this guy are the letters w, t, and f. He doesn't make any sense at all and looks like he came from a bad 50's space invader movie. The more I looked at this though, the more familiar it seemed. Then I remembered something...

When I went to Santa's Land w/ my bro in the 90's (I'm the nearly obscured head and shoulder by the belt buckle, he's the blondie baby) we posed for pictures with a fairly normal statue of the childhood icon Humpty Dumpty, pre-accident.

So my first reaction was, why in god's name would you paint a regular nursery rhyme character to look like that? It seemed like a really bad choice. But then the plot thickened!

Behold, Purple Plum Man in his native habitat, circa 1985. So. Either between 1985 and 2005 Purple Plum Man was temporarily painted to look like Mr. Dumpty, and eventually that was decided to be a bad call, or Santa's Land, for whatever reason, purchased two Humpty Dumpty statues and had to figure out what to do with the second one.
And the more I look at the pictures, the more the latter seems true. Purple Plum man perches on pot or sack of some kind, while Humpty opts for the more traditional wall. Also, Humpty has a more defined belt buckle.

Why two Humpty statues in the first place? And why try to cover up the truth with this ridiculous Plum man ruse? We may never truly know...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

From the Higgins Archives: What's wrong with this picture?

Click to get a larger view. This was in a folder marked "Unknown Event - Unknown Year". First person to shout it out wins a prize!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Old Fashioned Christmas Play

I have this book, I bought at a church sale called "The Complete Christmas Book." It was published in 1958, and is full of recipes, decorating tips, and holiday stories that really belong back in that decade. One chapter in the book is devoted to short Christmas plays. You know, just in case you want to invite a bunch of your friends over and do a little show for them or something. I dunno.

Anyways, one of the plays is basically just a recitation of "The night before Christmas." Except, at the end of each line is a zany, "humorous" substitution that the crowd you're doing this show for is supposed to be prompted to shout out.

The funny thing about this play is that 50% of these joke lines make ancient references to products and slogans that I don't think have existed for 50 years. The other were just bizarre and weird. I put the best quotes below:

"The children were nestled all snug in their beds while visions of sugar plums...made them drool on their pillow. And mama in her kerchief and I in my cap had just settled our brains...by visiting a psychologist"

"With what to my wondering eyes should appear but a miniature sleigh...with hydromatic drive. With a little old driver so lively and quick that I knew at a moment it...was the Fuller Brush man"

"And he looked like a peddler...In the (local) grocery emporium. His eyes how they twinkled, his dimples how merry. His cheeks were like roses...But not so expensive!"

"He had a broad face and a round little belly that shook when he laughed...Like a television picture! And I laughed when I saw him...my wool underwear tickled me"

Monday, December 14, 2009

Donald's Snow Fight - 1942

Continuing with cartoons that put you in the Christmas Spirit! Because nothing makes a yuletide gay like Donald Duck being a big ol' a hole to his nephews. Huey Dewey and Louie don't take d-bag Donald's harassment lying down, and soon they're locked in an all out snow war, quite befitting of the year this cartoon was made. Plus, this clip doubles as a primer for those Norwegian lessons you always wanted to take!

1. I love Donald's Coat. How long until those hairy things become hipsterized?

2. Those people @ 2:40 must have been making out in the park like, all night! Hawt.

3. I love that Donald yells "That's unconstitutional!" in the middle of the fight. I also love the Norsk word for Unconstitutional: grunnlovsstridig.

4. I've always found the part at 5:20 where he sneezes very disturbing. It's like seeing his death mask!

Merry Christmas indeed!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

I'm really torn here....

I discovered regretsy.com the other day, and it is amazing. The site compiles all the worst, ugly, stupid, and overpriced garbage that people try to sell on the awesome hand made marketplace that is etsy. It's hilarious, and I found myself in hysterics more than once reading through the archives.

There was one entry that I came across though, that I'm not sure how I feel about.

The Roy Road Fish Co. Hummingbird Hat. On one hand, I really do love bird watching. I spent my day off friday trying to lure the local Mourning Dove population on to my front step with Sunflower seeds so I could take pictures. The potential of being so close to these pretty little birds is kind of awesome. On the other hand, this is just a bike helmet with bird feeders taped to it. It looks like something Sylvester would order from the Acme catalog to catch the Tweety bird. Also, in this video, the guy appears to have bird poo on his shoulder, which doesn't exactly entice me to strap this baby on....

Saturday, December 12, 2009

From the Higgins Archives: WW2

The Second World War was a major boon for the Higgins Family and Worcester Pressed Steel. The company became a huge producer of military products and the factory grew to meet Uncle Sam's demands.

I love the banner in this picture. It says "The Future is in Your Hands: Be Sure to Protect Them. Safety First! Friendliness too!" Productivity was also encouraged by the domineering presence of the Worcester Pressed Steel Mascot: A suit of Armor.

There are a whole lot of pictures of this suit of armor standing in the background of factory scenes, watching people work. It's unnerving and weird. I do wonder sometimes if JW Higgins was actually in the suit, and this was his bizarre attempt to build morale. The use of armor as a mascot for the company makes a lot of sense though, because the arms and armor museum was built and opened around this time.

This picture was from a News article that the Telegam and Gazette ran about soldiers on leave learning more about the war effort at home. They talk about how this poor guy, who couldn't fight himself, felt proud working somewhere that contributed directly to the troops. The worker gets to show off his handiwork for two airmen and a seaman, giving them an up close look at arms manufacturing. The article also made it explicit that this took place 100% during the workers lunch hour, and no precious man time was wasted for the tour. Now get back to work, Flat foot!

Worcester Pressed Steel actually offered a lot of oppurtunities for the draft dodgers and the old timers to feel like they were contributing to the war. At one point, they took all the men on a field trip to a battleship.

I love the emotion in this picture. Especially the veteran grabbing his buddies shoulder on the left. I have to assume they were watching a plane take off. Very exciting! Meanwhile, back at the plant:

Next time: The swinging 60's.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Fingerless Gloves

My office at the QVCDC is always cold. Auf Deutsch: Sehr Sehr Kalt. It's in a recently remodeled building, made of poured concrete, which is really conductive of the frosty air. Not only that, but the heating system is temperamental, making whether or not we'll reach the 65 degrees the ladies like to keep it humming at a great surprise every day.

I decided to make these fingerless gloves so I could keep my hands warm and type at the same time. The pattern is loosely based on the same mitten pattern I used to make Jenny's mittens over the summer. I just elongated the wrists and didn't close to top. I wish that I had made them a little bit shorter and wider in the hand, as they aren't quite ideal for stretching my fingers across a keyboard, but other than that I am pleased.

Pew Pew!

I made them from alpaca yarn I bought at the Big E in September. It was fun to work with a new material, as I've mostly just knit with cottons and acrylics. This stuff had the tendency to make felted fuzzballs ensconcing the yarn as I ran it through my fingers. It was also kind of prone to knotting. It's nice and soft and warm though, so it was great for these wristwarmers.

I enjoy knitting, especially when my projects are done, but I do find that it's an activity that makes me swear like a sailor. There always seems to be a new way to screw things up, but it's a learning experience.

I was thinking that for my next project, I'd try to whip out a scarf for my bro in law Ryan real quick before Christmas. This kid loves cats. When he was little, he had plans to open up a restaurant with a special room in it where you could go and play with kitties while you waited for your meal. I thought I might put a silhouette of a cat head on it. I haven't done any color work before, so I wanted something simple to start. Something like this maybe:

You know, simple round head, pointy ears. However, my search for cat scarf patterns only turned up horrible scary possibilities:


This one, oddly enough, was described as a pattern for cat lovers.

I like that this one has no pretensions to livelihood in a flattened animal.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

First Snow!

We got our first snow last night! It even stuck.

It's Rose's first snow, but I'm afraid She'll disappear if I bring her out, being white and all. She's really more of an indoor girl anyhow. The last few times we brought her outside, she either ran and sat on the deck, or in the carport. Not at all like Rabi, who relished rolling in the dirt just to spite us.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

From the Higgins Archives: The beginning

My favorite part of being an intern at Higgins is getting to digitalize their extensive Archive Photo collection. It's given me this great window into local history, the Higgins Family, and how the museum really came to be. It also reaffirmed to me that working in archives would be something I'd like to do some day, handling these source materials and learning from them has been really fun.

So how did Higgins Armory get its start? It all started with this tyke:

John Woodman Higgins, pictured here around 1880 with his sister, who clearly blinks too much. This kid went from being your average kilt enthusiast to one of the wealthiest tycoons the city of Worcester ever built. He graduated from WPI, and became the founder of Worcester Pressed Steel at the age of 31. From there he nursed his unhealthy obsession with steel, but that's a story for another time.

What's really cool is Worcester Pressed Steel was a burgeoning company right around the turn of the century. You know what that means:

Ladies in the puffy-sleeves-plus-cameo-brooch look that just screams suffragette! Also waistcoats on dandies and a monster manual typewriter. I think it's neat though that they do seem to have some sort of electricity going, based on the haphazard wires criss-crossing the ceiling. Maybe with them being a big industrial business though, that's kind of a given. It wasn't until I wrote this that I realized I don't know much at all about the history of the electric utility.

I fell in love with this picture, there are so many neat details. This guys moustache screams "middle management". But what's up with overflowing wastebasket under the desk? And the bizarre saw in the corner. What's the deal with this guy?

So you can see, things started pretty simple for JW and company, but it didn't stay that way. Next time: WW2 takes things up a notch.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Can you believe it?

Holy wow, it's December! 2009 is almost over!

I'm finding myself more excited about the holidays this year than I have been in the recent past. The last few years, I've sort of let December creep over me, until Christmas is only a few days away and I panic about forcing myself to feel the "spirit". Maybe it's the fact that all the neighbors around us have put up x-mas displays already. The people behind us seem to go all out for every holiday, and even use theatrical lighting to showcase the decorations they put around the front door. On Halloween they had two spooky mannequins guarding a cauldron. For Wintertime, they've opted for classy swathes of evergreen on the door, framing an acoustic guitar with a red velvet ribbon around the neck. The people across the street to the front seem to herald every season with a dog flag. That is, a flag with a photograph of a dog on it. A Chihuahua puppy in a santa suit unfurled a few days ago.

Paul and I haven't put up any decorations yet, but I'm hoping we can get the tree over the weekend. I did however get to help deck the halls at the office. This included wrapping all the banisters in tinsley garlands and plugging in the fiberoptic christmas tree. I also got to show off my snowflake making skills at yet another work place. All the sort of passive preparation is making it feel like Christmas sooner I guess.

I'm excited though, for blogging video this month as Christmas time is theme of the majority of my childhood classics. I'll start off with this one, which was on a compilation disney VHS called "a disney christmas gift". I vaguely remember that it was mailed to us by our caring corporate buddies, free and unexpected one december. Each cartoon is holiday or winter themed, and segwayed by clips of people celebrating Christmas at Disney Land, or shots of old fashioned wind-up plutos and mickeys zipping around under a christmas tree.

"Once Upon a Wintertime" (1948) isn't about the X-mas, just December, and hopefully it will help all of us in denial about the coming snows face reality.

When I was a kid and went ice skating, I always tried to make hearts like the girl does @ 2:50, but it never really worked.

I also knew, even when I was little, that the girl rabbit and the lady were being total bitches.

My favorite part though, is that the animals are the heroes. That and the awesome narrative 40's style music.