Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Now Only 2 Projects in Progress

Okay, now I'm down to 2. I finished the scarf and the hat for my niece. Now I'm down to the Alien Scarf and the Padded (not padded) Footlets.

But then I went to the yarn shop for browsing and I ended up with three luscious balls of purple & green Malabrigio for my Clapotis (yes, I'm going to make it. I can't stand the peer pressure. I want to be a fancy French lady and eat croissants, too!)

And now I want to start on that!!!! If I don't start soon the yarn will be worn out from my petting it and nuzzling it :-)

Monday, February 27, 2006

One Project at a Time?

I keep holding this up as a goal to myself. And I'm wondering if it is a) possible or b) desirable.

I was working on the S&B Alien Illusion scarf. It's not tough, but it does require concentration. I'm halfway through, but this weekend I just didn't wanna work with green & black yarn, I just wanted to make something fuzzy and soft and PINK.

So I went to my stash and fished out some pink yarn (thanks Long Laurel Silversmith!) and some leftover fuzzy white fun fur and made a pink ribbed scarf with fuzzy white ends for my 6 yo niece.

And then Monica inspired me to make the Interweave Padded Footlets out of some pink/coral sock yarn I had, and so I had to jump in and start on THOSE.

In three days, I went from one project to 3. Hmph.

I was just getting down on my annoying self-indulgence when I realized 2 things.

1) The second 2 projects were stash yarn, so they really don't count.
2) More philosophically, the second 2 projects fulfilled a need that the Alien Illusion scarf just wasn't filling. The socks are more challenging and more fulfilling than the repetitive scarf. And the pink fuzzy scarf was prettier, softer, and easier (a necessary quality, when knitting in the movie theatre) than the Alien Illusion scarf.

So I have decided it's okay, and I can embrace this so-called self-indulgent streak. As long as I am still finishing projects, working on more than one means I will not be getting tired of any of them as quickly, and will always have something appropriate to work on.

Unfortunately, it also means I'll always have a messy spot on my couch or wherever I decide to knit ;-)

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Bathroom Done, Now Have Time to Knit

This weekend I began the Alien Illusion Scarf from S&B. I've been meaning to do it for as long as I've had the book, but just never got around to it. It isn't really a HARD pattern, but it requires you to count and think and pay attention, which is challenging me thus far. Each alien head is successively easier, which is a good thing. It will be a Christmas present for one of Mr. Knitty's friends.

I want to knit something for myself though. I want something light and fun and fresh for spring. Something that is pretty but good for work too. Something out of nice yarn.

And then I realized that I know SO little about really nice yarn. Name off a cheap yarn from Michael's and I can tell you all about it; how much yardage, whether it fuzzes, what the fiber content is, etc. For most of the time I have been knitting I have simply not had the money to buy nice yarn; maybe 1 ball here and there but not $60 for one project. Or even $40 for one project!

I was looking through the Patternworks catalogue and I see so many pretty things but I don't know if they drape nice or if they grow funny or are annoying to knit with. My nice-yarn knowledge is limited almost exclusively to Cascade 220 and sock yarn.

So I don't know quite what to do. I don't want to make an expensive mistake. I've paid $30 for yarn and found it unsatisfactory and THAT sucked, I certainly don't want to spend $60 for yarn and find that unsatisfactory, too.

If anyone is reading this and has a suggestion for a nice lightweight summer yarn that won't grow, pill, fuzz, or hang funny, do tell ;-)


A [somewhat related] rant. For the past 6 years I have happily knit with Lion Brand yarn. My schedule makes it difficult to get to yarn shops very often, and Michael's is nice and convenient to my house. The yarn is pretty inexpensive and most of it is washable. There *was* a range of weights and textures. I know that a lot of knitters don't like Lion yarn, and that's okay. I respect that. But it was good for me, so I was happy with it.

Now I am becoming a bit disenchanted with it. I get a nice shiny Lion Brand catalogue 4 times a year in the mail. And it seems, though the knitting world is growing by leaps and bounds, Lion has decided to abandon almost all of their nice, lightweight yarns (by this I mean anything smaller than worsted weight) in favor of more *Quick 'n' Easy* chunky novelty yarns in tiny little put-ups. Each issue I see another nice yarn that I liked; Cotton Ease, Kool Wool (wasn't one of my favorites, but it was a fairly serious yarn), and now Wool Ease sportweight. Which was my husband's very favorite yarn for socks. And in come more big, fat, loopy, chunky, goofy thick yarns.

I *like* thick yarns and I agree they have their place. But it bothers the heck out of me to see so few resources being devoted to more serious, challenging patterns and materials, when there are LOADS of resources being devoted to 'quick 'n' easy' patterns.

It seems we in the knitting world are really selling ourselves short. In my vintage magazines and pattern books, mittens or socks are considered a good beginner project. Oddly enough, the patterns are not peppered with repeated assurances that they are 'Quick 'n' Easy'. Why is it we are so afraid to attempt any pattern that is not a 4 inch wide garter stitch rectangle in Super Ultra Huge yarn??

Friday, February 17, 2006

Bathroom Pictures!

Wahoo! People actually read my blog! I'm so flattered, I feel like I have something to say!

Here's some pics of the remodel. Regrettably I did not take 'before' pics but just suffice it to say it was pretty horrible.

Sorry about the bizarre layout, but technologically crippled people gotta do what technologically crippled people gotta do.

Check out the cute stripey towels I got at Target!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Things I've Learned; Bathroom Remodeling

Metal drain assemblies are much preferable to plastic ones. If you find a very nice brass faucet for under $50; the manufacturer saved their money on the drain assembly; it will be plastic.

You can connect PVC pipes to galvanized pipes, but you should always use galvanized fittings.

Use Teflon tape when attaching fittings.

But don't use Teflon tape in compression fittings, it can make them leak.

When selecting a vanity, take notice of the location of the plumbing in the wall.

When buying a toilet, don't buy the Eljer ones; those have the highest return rate.

When installing a toilet, buy a couple of extra wax rings in case you have problems.

1/4 turn shutoff valves are better than multi turn ones. They won't leak and they are easier to operate. They also won't freeze up on you like multi turn ones.

When selecting a TP holder, look for one that has a bracket you cannot bend with your bare hands.

When installing a drywall anchor, use a drill bit that is a slight bit smaller than the anchor. When installing a concrete anchor, use a drill bit that is almost the same size as the anchor.

Learn the locations of ALL the shutoff valves for your house's main water shutoff. If there is a quarter turn one, use that one.

If the woodwork is dark blue, it will take three coats to cover it with white.

When installing a TP holder, try not to drive the anchor into a spackled hole.

Kohler toilets make a statement. Consider the statement you wish to make before selecting a toilet!

It is DONE and it is SO pretty!

Well, Friday evening I finally licked the drain problem (not literally, of course). With the advice from the plumber at work I solved all my leaky problems. I have been going down and feeling the connections all weekend and no drips yet (knock wood). The metal drain assembly really IS better. Worth the extra money.

Feeling jazzed by my drain fixing skills, I figured installing a TP holder would be easy peasy. Well, not so. The bracket on the TP holder was so flimsy it bent with the first attempt, and after that it was never right. I am not a strong person. I should not be able to bend the bracket with my bare hands. I fought with it for an hour; here I was in tears over this stupid TP holder when I've just replumbed my whole bathroom. I felt like an idiot. At least I got some nice pretty stripey towels.

Saturday, however, the Mister took me to Menards and we picked out a different holder; one with a better bracket design. We got a matching towel ring and we got both of those up without incident. Sunday he installed the mirror for me, and replaced the switch (it was ugly beige, of course).

But all that is behind me now; it is all done and it looks beautiful! It is actually pleasant to go in there now, it's so fresh and clean and nice. I am so proud of myself and I've learned so much!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Renewed Confidence

Well, the benefit to working in the maintenance department is there is always someone to help you when you have a home improvemen problem.

Today I asked the plumber here for some assistance, and he was more than happy to help.

Apparently I can remove the escutcheon plate at the wall and move the p-trap a little to get it to line up. And I measured my pipe wrong; I have 1 1/4 inch rather than 1 1/2 inch pipes. And I shouldn't be using a plastic slip nut on a galvanized pipe. And I should be using teflon tape. And I should be using a slip nut with a brass washer. And I should have a metal drain assembly instead of a plastic one.

Between all of these things, something's gotta work. Fingers crossed. The Mister is at a movie tonight and so I have lots of time to work.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

I Thought the Sink Would Be the Easy Part

More setbacks. Grrrr.

We bought a nice new vanity/countertop combo. The combo cost less than just the countertop we had previously bought. I decided I wanted white after all; white cabinet and white countertop. They *look* very nice.

Unfortunately the drain and faucet are giving us fits.

The drain pipe is just *slightly* offset from the p trap. I figured it would be fine; where's the water gonna go anyway? Well, I got my answer. It bubbles up slowly around the union, because the pipe is tilted in the p trap.

Also frustrating was that the faucet came with a plastic drain assembly. This is nice in that they don't corrode or anything. Unfortunately, they are impossible to tighten to the point of not leaking without breaking them. If you hand tighten them, they leak. If you use tools, they break (and then they still leak).

The Mister says that that's just a fault of the plastic. He says we should buy a metal drain assembly and try again. I am really hoping that works. My bathroom looks so nice but I feel so lousy because it's leaking and not functional. Makes me feel like I can only make things look nice, not work nice. :-P

The thing that gets me is that the faucet replacement was so EASY in the other house. And now it's a mess and it doesn't seem to be working at all. Of course, I wasn't messing with the drain assembly then, just replacing the faucet itself.

The other thing driving us nuts is the stupid popup drain. It has all these little parts that have to be perfectly aligned.....except they are all too long to be perfectly aligned between the drain and the wall. The space from drain to wall is about 4 inches. The thing is 6 inches long. The picture in the instructions gleefully shows it fitting just perfectly between drain and wall with no space problem at all. Stupid instructions.

Tonight we can't work on it because I have knit group, and Friday the Mister is going out. This is annoying me no end! I thought I'd have it done and it would go together perfectly and it is just enough off to go Nyah Nyah Nyah You Can't Do It!!!!


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Hmph. A Minor Setback

So last night the mister had a late night movie marathon to go to so I had all evening to install my vanity. I had the vanity, the sink top, the faucet, the supply lines, the drain extension, everything. I opened the vanity, all excited to put it in and see it in place.

And it didn't fit. Well, technically it fit, side to side, but the cabinet had a support in the middle of the back for the drawers, which was right where the plumbing was. So there's no way to install it without, um, moving the plumbing, which I'm not about to do.

It's not like I was that in love with the cabinet, I just picked one. I liked the sink top but not that much! But I was very frustrated. I had my remodeling mojo working and I had to stop. The vanity is the first step and it didn't fit, so there was nothing I could do. I went to the Home Depot to look at other cabinets, but they wouldn't fit in my car. And after we worked so hard to get that big vanity cabinet home! Now it has to go back.

The plus side of all of this is that I'm going to save a ton of money. The wall cabinet, vanity cabinet, and counter top cost a total of $450. The new one I'm planning to get will cost about $60 for the vanity and counter top, and then I get to pick a different storage cabinet. But the ones I was seeing were under $100 too, so I will be getting away with less than half of the original cost.

So that is the silver lining. But it's still frustrating. It was nice to have an evening to read and take a nice bath and make myself a pretty dinner, but I would rather have been able to install my stupid sink!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Adventures With Wax Rings

Last night we replaced the toilet. It was a bit of an adventure. The actual concept is not really hard; you remove the old toilet, scrape off the old wax ring, stand up the closet bolts, put a new wax ring on the new toilet, flip it over, center it over the soil pipe, and pop it over the closet bolts.

The PROCESS is challenging though because you're trying to maneuver a heavy toilet base, get it centered over the soil pipe, get the wax ring seated, AND do this all without tipping over the closet bolts, which are just standing there waiting to fall over.

As Mom says education is expensive and so we went through 3 wax rings before we got it right. Fortunately, wax rings are only $3. We eventually got it done by having the mister hover over the soil pipe with the toilet base, while I laid on the floor holding the closet bolts upright and getting them centered under the holes in the base, and making sure the wax ring was centered on the soil pipe---I got the glamour job this time. We must have made quite a picture.

Once it was on, however, we attached the tank, hooked up the water, and took an inaugural whiz without issue. I went down to check this morning and found no drips or anything so fingers crossed it remains that way!

Tonight I am installing the light fixture and then hopefully the vanity and sink. I truly cannot wait to see it done, it will be so beautiful. It looks so different already. It is actually pleasant and cool and breezy-looking, not a dark, cavelike hole!

We did have some funny hijinks with the very nice and helpful man at the Home Depot. It's hit or miss at the HD. As a woman (who looks like a 17 yo), I get a range of responses to my asking questions about home improvement. Some of the guys that work there are more than happy to help me, treat me like I am competent, explain things to me in language I can understand and not act like they can't wait to get away from me. Other times I get kind of a grudging answer, like they're trying to shut me up so they can get away and help other men instead of this ditzy girl. Over the weekend I asked a question and the guy told the answer to my husband. I must have been working on my ventriloquy skills without even realizing it--he must have just thought that high girly secretary voice came out of my 6 foot tall HUSBAND!

However, this time we got real, good help. The man patiently explained the price differences in toilets, made sure we had all the stuff we needed, and made recommendations without being pushy. He even told us about a sale at the Menards so we could have them price match.

While we were looking one of my main concerns was covering the 'footprint' of the old toilet. I had figured the previous owners, being the jackasses they were, didn't take off the toilet to put down the floor. So I was looking for one with a larger footprint than the old one to cover the bare spot on the floor. One toilet had a HUGE footprint but it was $250. I asked the man what made it different than the $100 one we were looking at, because it looked like it would cover the hole well. He laughed and said "I wouldn't buy a $250 toilet to cover a hole in the floor, this is a toilet you make a STATEMENT with!" A statement with a toilet, huh? Mr. Knittykat says the only statement he makes with toilets is "I don't want poop in my house."

As it turned out, I was utterly surprised when I picked up the old toilet and found they HAD done the floor under the toilet. A little scrubbing and it was good as new. We still liked the toilet we selected (the $100 one; our statement is that $250 is too much for a powder room!) so we still went with that, and it covered the little line on the floor where the old one sat.

So that was my adventurous evening. Hopefully the vanity/sink installation will be....somewhat less adventurous ;-)

Monday, February 06, 2006

LOTS of Progress!!

Well, Friday after work I went right home and started work on my bathroom. Since all the wallpaper was down, I picked up a tub of spackle and filled all the holes and things left from the TP holder, etc. being removed. I also filled in the drywall patch that the previous people did, but not well, I might say.

Saturday morning I sanded. And sanded and sanded and sanded! I went through half a package of sandpaper but my walls were nice and smooth with no wallpaper paste left on them, and all of my spackle was smooth, even the patch of drywall I did and the crappy drywall patch they did!

Then I decided to tackle the shutoff valves on the sink. I thought I was home free as the sink had shutoff valves. Not so much, as they were all calcified absolutely shut. The man at the Home Depot said that we would have to replace them. We had to shut off the main water shutoff, and still ended up all wet and drippy and frustrated. BUT we got them all replaced and they don't leak. We then did the same with the toilet. Unfortunately that one took nearly an hour to replace, with much cussing and swearing and creative solutions. But it got done! I went to turn the water back on and found to my dismay that the main shutoff valve was leaking! This is not good at all!

I got out the yellow pages and started calling plumbers. Oddly enough, "24-hour emergency service" often means "We're booked and we can get you in 3 days from now." I would hate to think what would have been the case if I had a geyser of water in my basement rather than a trickle! We finally found one that would come the next morning. We wrapped a rag around the valve and went to bed. The nice plumber repaired the valve and showed us a different one that we should have been using. Oh well, I suppose education is expensive, eh?

The important thing was at that point it was 10 a.m. on Sunday, I had 3 brandnew shutoff valves and perfectly smooth walls, and a full can of paint ready to go. It took me all day, but I got up 2 coats of Rain Water blue and 2 coats of glossy white on the woodwork.

It is *unbelieveable* to me how different the bathroom looks. It used to have a granite-colored floor, walls that were navy blue on the top and khaki stripe wallpaper on the bottom, and the 2 plumbing walls were left without wallpaper (I assume because it was too hard to paper around the fixtures). The only light was a dim fluorescent fixture with a dingy plastic cover. There was a rusty medicine cabinet and a foggy mirror.

Now the only things that are the same are the fish wallpaper border, and the gray floor. And the gray floor looks much different when surrounded by lighter colors than when surrounded by dark dingy colors! The woodwork is all shiny and white and clean, and the walls are a fresh and lovely blue. The baseboards were all yucky because the previous people had had a flood that stained them. But once they were painted over they looked just fine!

Tonight we are replacing the toilet. I do not expect it to be too hard. And then Tuesday night we will tackle the sink. I already have the cabinet and supply lines and need only the sink top and faucet. And I actually KNOW how to install those! Now that all the 'behind the scenes' work is done the visible stuff is going very fast. I am at the Home Depot at least 3 times a day but it is totally worth it! Even only half done the bathroom looks entirely different and very pretty! I cannot wait to see it done!

Now the Mister wants me to start in on his bathroom!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Wallpaper Down

I am chronicling my bathroom remodel project on here!

Last night I removed the medicine cabinet, removed the TP holder and towel bars, and took down wallpaper. It was an awful khaki and blue stripe; YUCK. But they put up the cutest border with fish on it. I wanted to keep the fish. So I decided to run a utility knife along the ugly paper just under the fish border, and then peel the wallpaper down from there. It WORKED!!!!! I was proud of myself for that little creative problem solving.

I took a trip to the Home Depot to check prices and sizes on the things I wanted, and I found that the bathroom cabinetry was 10% off. Not a huge discount but when you are talking $350 worth of stuff that actually makes the faucet free, so it's worth it. I selected a 30 inch maple cabinet with two drawers and one door. It is taller than the wall lavatory we have right now so this will be much nicer to use. I also got the matching wall cabinet that goes on the wall over the toilet to store extra TP and towels and things. Since it was the last day of 10% off we decided to just buy them even though I'm not quite ready for them.

I also selected (but didn't buy yet) a one piece counter/sink top that is marbled and the sink is shaped like a seashell (awwwww). The faucet I picked is a simple chrome two-handle model, a little more modern than the ones we had in the other house (with the porcelain handles) but this house is newer, too! And I picked a pretty light fixture. It is actually from the same line as the ones we had in our other bathroom (which I really liked). The old ones were single lights and this is one fixture with 4 lights. The bells are frosted and the fixture itself is chrome. It's very elegant looking.

I will probably have to have the mirror custom cut though. All the ones they show are just not big enough. The wall is a little messed up behind the current mirror. Plus the people that put up the cute fish border didn't do a very good job, and so there is a little muddly spot that I want to cover. I figure rather than invest more time in fixing the wall; I'll just do what I can and then cover it up with a mirror ;-)

This weekend I am hoping to get the painting done so that I can start next week on installing my vanity!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Even More Headway, and a Clean Craft Room

Well, I got some of the things done. I ended up hanging out with my mom, which was much more fun than painting windows, so they can wait.

Last night I made another beaded picture frame, using up all of those beads so I no longer have to stress about them. I also used up some sequins and beads I had to make up a silver and gold ornament. So that's two little bead compartments empty, and that is definitely a start!

I have a new project in mind now, though. In our new house we have a powder room that needs some help. Help as in paint, a new mirror, a new light fixture, a new sink, new faucet, and a new sink cabinet. And a new toilet.

I have decided that I am going to challenge myself to working on some of these projects on my own. I already have the skills for many of these projects. Painting is of course easy. I know how to install a sink cabinet. A drop in sink is easy enough, provided it fits on the current plumbing. And I know how to replace a faucet. I also know how to replace a light fixture, too.

I have made up a plan of action. First order of business is to remove the old sink, mirror, and light fixture. Then I can paint that wall, and the other walls. Then if I can get a little help in bringing home the sink cabinet, I will be able to install that and the drop in sink top. Then I can hook up the faucet and the plumbing. I am also planning to replace the water supply lines with vinyl tubing supply lines.

Hanging the mirror will be easy. I can also find a nice new light fixture, and I know I can replace that.

I am thinking if I take it one step at a time, I will not bite off more than I can chew. It doesn't matter if it takes me a while as we have 2 other bathrooms. I know how to work slowly and carefully and take precautions not to flood my house or electrocute myself.

Usually my husband and dad take care of remodeling for me. Unfortunately, both of them have been working extra hours lately. I would feel bad asking them to spend their weekends playing with plumbing. But mostly, I want the pride of knowing I did it myself, or, at the very least, I gave it my best shot and did what I could before getting help. If I do it myself it is *my* project and I am in control of it.

Now I am eager to start!