23 June 2010

Getting Excited About My Cricut, Again

Over the past year, Mr O and I have repainted the majority of the house he brought into our marriage.  I love the new wall colors, and it's starting to feel more and more like home to me.  There is one small problem though, the walls are still a bit bare in places.

I have designated one of these bare places as our future ancestor wall.  My intention is to fill the wall with old family photos, particularly pictures of as many of our direct line ancestors as I can find.  (On a side note, if you happen to be in possession of some of these photos, please contact me, I'd love to get a copy/scan of the photo for this project as well as for my family history files.)  Since the wall is meant to honor our family lines, I thought it would be appropriate to honor one of my favorite scriptures on the wall as well.  After thinking about it for several months, I finally settled on the phrase, "Our Hearts Have Turned".  (See Malachi 4:5-6)

Now step back in time with me a few years, to the day when I first purchased my Cricut. I was super excited to finally own this amazing machine.  I had been ogling it at Roberts for months...no, make that over a year.  Mr O and I were just dating at the time, and when I shelled out several hundred dollars for the Cricut Expression, the Design Studio Software, a Jukebox, and three additional cartridges, he just shook his head and said, "if you'll use it, I don't have any problem with you spending money on stuff like that".  I think my response was something along the lines of, "I'll use it, and if I buy it now I get this free carrying bag too".  Well, sadly, I think that he jinxed me that day, because my poor Cricut has been used so infrequently that it's down right embarrassing.

Now let's jump forward to last Christmas when I purchased 4 additional Cricut cartridges, three of which had topped my most wanted list since the day I bought the machine.  That day I also purchased several rolls of vinyl and was stoked to finally start getting some use out of my investment.

Since then, I have tried to use my Design Studio software several times to come up with lettering that would look just right on my ancestor wall.  Unfortunately, none of the cartridges I had purchased were right for this project.  Not to be discouraged so easily, I started searching the other available cartridges on Design Studio for a font that would work.  Sadly, though, the software kept freezing my computer every time I got more that a few letters on my workspace.  That was so annoying that I gave up on my search for a few months.  Once more my Cricut started gathering dust.

Well, last Thursday I went out on the web and searched the Cricut site looking for a cartridge that would have the perfect font.  Let me tell you, I am NOT impressed with the Cricut website.  They make it SO HARD to see what images are available on the cartridges that they manufacture and sell.  It didn't take long before I decided to search the web to see if someone else was doing a better job at displaying the cartridges than Cricut and what I found was like manna raining down from heaven.

OK, OK, it might not have been as miraculous as all that, but after my months of looking for the perfect font on a Cricut cartridge, it sure seemed that way.  What was so cool that has me writing on my blog again after months off?  I found the most awesome creation...one that I didn't even know existed...software that works with your Cricut and allows you to cut true type fonts and other images.  Taa Daa...I want to do a happy dance here and now just thinking about the possibilities.  And it gets better...there are two different programs available that has this capability!

The first program I ran across was called Sure Cuts A Lot (SCAL).  It looked OK, but when I found the second program, Make The Cut! (MTC) I never looked back at SCAL.  And the good news didn't end there, MTC was on sale...and still is until the end of the month.

MTC is available as a free download so that you can play with the software and see how it works.  You can even cut images with the software, but apparently the cut images are "watermarked" with extra cuts until you purchase the software.  Quite frankly, I didn't get to that point.  I downloaded the software and played with it enough to know that I wanted it...even before I got to our other house where my Cricut is currently residing. 

Tonight I watched a webinar by the designer of MTC.  In the webinar he showed some of the new elements in the current version.  Oh, and get this, all of the updates to the program are FREE!  Hallelujah!  If you are interested in this wonderful program go their website and take a look around.  If you go to the forum there are a lot of training videos available which have been made by other MTC customers.  There are also recorded webinars available to watch. 

I've not been this excited about my Cricut since the day I bought it!  I can't wait to get started on my wall...and I will get started on it now that I have Make the Cut! to help me out.

21 February 2010

Deciphering Elizabeth's BSJ

Before I get started I have to say...just for the record...that after working on the Baby Surprise Jacket (BSJ) I think Elizabeth Zimmermann was a knitting genius, or knitting superhero, if you prefer.  That being said, let me tell you about my BSJ experience.

It all started a couple of weeks ago when I driving to work and listening to episode #30 of the DoubleKnit podcast.  In that episode, Erin was talking about some baby mittens that she had knit for her daughter.  Since my niece L is having a baby next month (her first), I started thinking that it would be fun to knit some mittens for one of her baby showers.  It just seemed like something that Mrs O should do.

Before I left work that day I got on ravelry and downloaded a free copy of the pattern that Erin used.  The next couple of nights after work I searched the local stores for some superwash worsted wool (as was suggested in the pattern).  Sadly, I live in an area where LYSs are in short supply and I was unsuccessful in finding the yarn I needed for the mittens.

Soon after I got to work the next morning, my latest order from Knit Picks arrived.  The week before I couldn't resist the siren call of 40% off all books at Knit Picks...where shipping is free on orders over $50.  In that order were 5 of Elizabeth Zimmermann's books: The Opinionated Knitter, Knitting Without Tears, The Knitter's Almanac, Knitting Around, and Knitting Workshop.

Somewhere between work and home that night I decided that not only would I knit the mittens, but that I would knit a BSJ (from The Opinionated Knitter) for L's baby as well.  So I checked the yarn requirements for a newborn BSJ and sent off another order to Knit Picks hoping that I would get the yarn in time to get the jacket and the mittens completed before the showers.

As luck would have it, the Knit Picks order came the day after President's day giving me the remainder of the week before the first shower and an additional week before the second shower.  Surely, I could get them done in plenty of time, I thought.  So that night I went home read through the BSJ pattern and started swatching to get gauge.  After three attempts I finally got the right needle size and cast on.  All was going along well until I got to the part of the pattern that reads, "At 5 ridges inc, 9 sts (K3, M1) across end sections, believe it or not for fullness above CUFF.".  What?  Surely I had missed something in the instructions...how was I supposed to get from row 7 to there?  I started reading ahead in the pattern to get some perspective.  When I had read through the pattern earlier that night I had thought that the language used by Elizabeth was quaint and charming, but now that I was in the middle of trying to knit the garment it seemed more like a code in need of cracking.

After studying the pattern some more, I did what any accountant would do...I opened Excel and started a spreadsheet.  I made a spreadsheet row for each row of knitting and started keeping track of the number of stitches in each section of the garment.  Then I went to ravelry and found a wiki just for the BSJ.  There I found a few spreadsheets that other like-minded knitters had put together.  I checked what I had with a couple of those spreadsheets for reasonableness and before I went to bed I had a rough estimate of what I thought was required of the garment. 

The next night after work I started the DVD player (as part of my mid-week routine) and slipped in one of the middle discs from Season 3 of 24.  I then got out a printed copy of my spreadsheet, and started working on the garment while I watched Jack Bauer battle yet another set of terrorists.  After I worked each row I took careful notes on what I had done.  By the end of the night I only had about 15 rows completed and was a little panicked that I wouldn't get it completed by either of the showers. 

Well, I guess the knitting fairies felt my panic because the next morning I woke up sick.  It seems that the crud Mr O had the week before had finally caught up with me.  Despite my cold, I went into work and submitted payroll so that we would get paid on time...it's never good to mess with someone's paycheck.  By the time I finished payroll I was starting to feel feverish, so I took the rest of the day off and told my boss that I would most likely be out sick the following day as well.

I called Mr O as I was driving home from work and told him that I wasn't feeling well.  We decided that since I was sick and since the weather didn't look too great for the weekend (darn the snow) it made more sense for me to remain where I was for the weekend instead of my weekly commute to his neck-of-the-woods.  Great, another weekend of missing Mr O loomed before me.

Well, I guess those knitting fairies sort of knew what they were doing because it's now 3 days later, I'm finally starting to feel like normal, the majority of the BSJ is done (0nly the seaming is left), and I'm now ready to begin Season 5 of 24.  On the other hand, because I was sick I missed the first baby shower...not worth taking the chance of getting L sick.  Oh well, there is still one more shower to go...hopefully, I'll get those mittens that started it all done before then.

07 February 2010

Seeing Without Glasses

Years before I met Mr O he had eye surgery done to correct his vision.  I can't even imagine him in glasses since his vision has been better than 20/20 since I've known him.  Well it wasn't too long after we started dating that LASIK came up in one of our conversations.  It was something that I had been thinking about for a long time, but had never got the courage up to do.  Once he found that out he encouraged me to have it done.  He said that he had never regretted having his eyes fixed and that the results were so good that he would have gladly paid double the price had he known.

After we got married, I decided that 2010 was going to be the year that I could once again see without glasses or contacts.  So when December rolled around I contacted Hoopes Vision and made an appointment for a free consultation.  Once they gave me the green light, I made an appointment with them for the second week in January, and I put the necessary funds in my flexible spending account at work.

I was super nervous the morning of the procedure.  We got to Hoopes about 45 minutes early and settled into the waiting room.  I took out some knitting to keep my mind on something else while we waited for my turn.  I even passed on some homemade chocolate chip cookies they were handing out because I was so apprehensive about what was going to happen.  Of course, it didn't help that Mr O keep teasing me and telling me to take a good look around me because it might be the last thing I ever saw.

Well, I didn't need to worry.  The staff at Hoopes were incredibly friendly and knowledgeable.  They were able to put my mind at ease (I'm sure the Valium they gave me helped with that) and before I knew it I was walking out of their offices with a pair of dark glasses on.

Mr O was terrific.  Aside from his earlier teasing, he let me sleep for most of the day and then took me out for some excellent Mexican food that night.  The next morning we went back up to their offices so that they could check my eyes again.  At that point my right eye was easily 20/20 and my left was close to it.  My next appointment is in a week.

I'm so happy that I can finally see without glasses!  Of course, I am now in the market for a good pair of sunglasses.