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Scarlet Quince Ramblings

Cross stitch ... art ... life

October 19th, 2010

I ran out of 3854 Sunday night. First there were 2 strands left, then 1, then none. My progress on the peacock is heartbreakingly slow (I hadn’t realized how slow until I went back to the first page of the chart, which I had highlighted in pink and began highlighting in green) so it wasn’t a crisis. But it did mean that I needed to make a list of the floss I still needed, which meant making progress on the Get-The-Floss-Organized-I-Mean-It-This-Time project. I have a box of the bobbins I’m using currently, a couple of boxes of bobbins not in use, several bags of miscellaneous floss, a little set of plastic drawers with extra floss for the current project, and weirdest of all, a lot of floss in baggies paperclipped in numeric order to wire coat hangers hanging in a closet. The intent is to merge all this into 2 sets, current and not, organized somehow, so I can find what I need in finite time, and know fairly definitely whether I’m really out of a color or not. A friend who was moving gave me a whole lot of those Sterilite plastic chests of drawers, the kind with 3 drawers, each the size of a ream of paper, and I have all those baggies … those will figure in the answer but I’m not sure yet exactly how. Anyway, after much pawing through piles of floss, I arrived at a shopping list and went to Michael’s.

One of the things about Michael’s (and other not-exclusively-needlework stores) is that you can’t just take a skein from the 3854 bin and GET 3854. You must examine the label before you put it in your basket, or you may get 3853 or 3855 (which would at least be excusable) or 720 (which isn’t). Who puts the floss back in totally wrong places? When I find that, I “help” by leaving the misfiled floss on top of the rack. The other thing is that they are always out of random colors (probably; there could be some misfiled far from the correct bin but who knows?). Once I spoke to the manager after making a couple of trips only to find that they were STILL out of the color I needed and pressed him fairly hard about when they were getting more. He assured me that they would have it tomorrow because they got a shipment every day and their inventory system wouldn’t allow them to run out. He explained that when the floss was scanned at checkout, it was subtracted from the inventory and when they got low it was automatically reordered.

He really believed that. Here’s what happens when you arrive at checkout with a pile of floss. The clerk scans the first two skeins — this usually takes 3 or 4 tries because the bar codes are so small. She then counts the skeins and rings them up as 43 of whatever the last color she scanned was. The manager would probably have spent an hour scanning the individual skeins because he knows what happens to the inventory if he doesn’t. I’m sure if I had told him how it really works he would have said “They know not to do that.” It would be better if they would realize that some things are too small, and purchased often in too large quantities to scan individually, and that they just needed to keep an eye on those items. But they have a System, so they don’t, and that’s why I still have 4 colors I will have to get somewhere else.

I guess there is a lesson in here for me: if I really want to know what floss I have (and more importantly don’t have) it’s going to take more than putting it in drawers and hoping for the best.


September 8th, 2010

That’s how much rain we’ve had from Hermine. So far. (There’s still rain to the west of us but I don’t think we’ll get much more.) It rained gently all day yesterday and was soaking in nicely, but after dinner it started to rain harder. The yard flooded and there’s a lot of dirt in the pond now. This map shows how much rain fell around here. We’re in the purple spot.

ewx_ntp

We have a “tipping bucket” rain gauge which I love. Seriously, it’s one of my favorite possessions. If you’re going to get a ton of rain, you want to know how much you got, but ordinary tube rain gauges fill up at 6 inches, and then you either get to go out in the rain and major puddles and empty them, or not know. We don’t often get more than 6 inches at a time, but it happens probably twice a year at least. This one never fills up. It catches rain in a little bucket and the bucket tips over and empties every time it has 0.05″. Then it sends a signal to a receiver inside the house and we can just watch the total go up and up while staying dry.


September 3rd, 2010

We have an atrium in our house — windows on 3 sides and 2 skylights on top. There’s a tile floor, and since we painted the walls white (they were originally brown) it’s a great place for plants. It’s under the peak of the roof and the lowest point of the ceiling is at about 12 feet and slopes up to 15 feet. The skylights open and close and have screens. Last night, about 4 AM, MRA woke me to tell me that two racoons had tried to walk on the screens and fallen into the atrium.

They were climbing the walls and the plants trying to find a way out and pretty much wrecking the place.

Rac1

I knotted three sheets together (including the top sheet we were using at the time) and MRA went up on the roof, in the rain, in the dark, and tied one end to the skylight and lowered it down. They could have climbed it but chose to keep trying other things. One was clearly the leader and the other one just followed it wherever it went.

Rac2

Two of their confederates were waiting for them on the back deck, probably wondering what on earth had happened. The two in the atrium kept up a steady chittering. They didn’t seem afraid of me at all. It was interesting to watch them, because they kept trying different things. After they had tried to climb in one corner and fallen, they would go somewhere else to try. Finally they made it to the peak of the ceiling and the leader went all the way across the beam, upside down, and the follower followed him. There was no future in that, and it looked like the follower finally thought, “Hey, this guy doesn’t know what he’s doing” so it went back across the beam and worked its way over to the skylight and somehow climbed out and joined the two outside and they left. Kind of rude.

The other one kept falling. It was painful to see an animal fall that far but he never seemed to be hurt, probably because racoons are made of pure evil.

Rac3

After two more falls, he got discouraged and lay down. I wondered if it would be possible to throw a blanket over him and swoop him outside, but I didn’t dare try it. He rested awhile, then had two more climbs and falls. Then he began climbing in the corner where the floodlights are mounted. I thought he was probably going to knock the lights down but he got past them without incident, and this time he worked his way to a skylight and got out and I heard him running off across the roof.

Rac4

Now we have a mess. Both screens were knocked loose — one fell to the floor and the other is hanging from the skylight. You can see my 12-foot tall fishtail palm lying on the floor. It wasn’t damaged but the plant it fell on isn’t looking so hot. Most of the plants came through well although many of them lost a lot of leaves. They got into most of the hanging plants and knocked one down, and most of the brackets are bent. MRA closed the skylights before it got light so that the atrium didn’t fill up with birds. I think in the future the windows will just be cracked enough to keep the humidity down. I enjoy seeing wild animals, but enough is enough! Snakes, skunks, racoons — it’s like Wild Kingdom around here, only I don’t have a Jim. (Remember how Jim always got the dirty jobs? Marlin Perkins was always saying things like, “We’ll wait here while Jim subdues the boa constrictor.”


September 1st, 2010

vialMy cat, Lucky, has diabetes. (Yes, this is the cat who also has a heart murmur, hyper cardiomyopathy, inflammatory bowel disease, and asthma.) We found this out in May and we’re still trying to get the insulin dose right. If I take him to the vet to have his glucose levels checked, stress causes his blood sugar to go way, way up, so I’m testing him at home with a little glucometer. The test strips come in a little vial with an attached lid that snaps tight shut. It is PERFECT (once empty) for keeping needles in. Not only is it just the right size, these vials have a dessicant built into the lining, so they should keep rust down. If you know someone who has diabetes (and from what I read you probably do, whether you realize it or not) ask them to save you a vial. (The vials for human test strips are the same — we started with a human glucometer but they don’t work right for cats.)


September 1st, 2010

hot cat

I don’t make her go outside, she wants to. Cats make good thermometers. This is what 95 looks like.

Although you can’t tell from this picture, Topsy is on the “catio”: a little useless porch that is enclosed top and sides with chicken wire to keep the cats safe (and to keep them from wandering off, since Jemima doesn’t come when called).


August 21st, 2010

I’m working on Blue Peacock – Jesse Arms Botke, and in most places the colors are mixed to very mixed. Since I’m working on 22 count aida, my size 24 needles are a little too big, and that’s what I have the most of. I bought a new packet of 26s when I started this, and have several times raided the various places I put needles, even coming up with an old packet of 28s. I don’t know why I have them because I don’t like them much — besides not having a very smooth finish, they bend easily and I have somehow broken the eye in a couple of them. So to make a long story short, I have been chronically short of needles on this project, partly because I sometimes have 2 or 3 needles going with the same color in different spots. I went to Michael’s recently to get more needles and they were out of 26s, of course. The JoAnn that was near us has moved, and while they didn’t move to Timbuktoo, they’re probably 3 times as far away as they used to be. It’s probably only a couple of miles further (there’s an algebra problem for you) but the psychological distance is much greater.

I’ve been thinking about getting some needles in bulk but the only sources I knew of had packages of 1000 needles and I wasn’t quite ready for that. But earlier this week I settled down to solve the problem of needles and I found a place that has bulk needles in packages of 25 or 50. It’s Anita’s Little Stitches. She has John James and Bohin needles. I’d never heard of Bohin (they’re French) but she says that they’re the best needles on the market so I ordered 50 of those. I also wanted to try Thread Heaven so I added that. This didn’t get me to the minimum order of $15 so after wasting time admiring the scissors I included a needle minder, which I’ve never tried either. When she emailed me that my order would ship the next day, I couldn’t help replying to say how excited I was! Then I thought, how pathetic to be excited about needles, but I’m sure she understands.

Here’s my loot.
My loot

I’ll tell you more about the needles after I have more experience with them. I’ve only used one as yet and now I don’t know which one it is. The most interesting thing so far about having lots of needles is the effect it has had on my stitching. I no longer hesitate before starting a new color. I don’t spend time checking whether I may get to a stitch with this color where I will need to put in stitches of another color above it before I can do that stitch. When you’re short of needles, you spend a lot of time trying not to run out. I was running out a lot and robbing needles from parked threads, which obviates part of the point of parking (not having to rethread needles). It makes my stitching, even in the confetti areas, much faster and much more fun.

I like the needle minder too. I usually weave the needles I’m not using into the edge of my fabric but it was getting pretty dilapidated. I then pinned a scrap of extra fabric to the edge and put my spare needles into it. But the needle minder is really fast to use. (It’s in two pieces, with a magnet glued to the pretty front and a separate magnet. You put the front on the front of the fabric and the loose magnet on the back and that holds it tight to the fabric.) You just drop your needles on it and they stay put even when you flip the frame over. I don’t think it will hold 50 needles but when you have one to a few needles not in use it works really well.

I haven’t tried the Thread Heaven yet. It’s gummier than I expected but I’ll let you know what I think of it too.


August 18th, 2010

One night recently, MRA went out to see if the wild cats had food (we leave food for the feral cats in the garage, and have 3 or 4 regulars), and there was a very small skunk eating the cat food! Very cute.

A couple of nights later, the little skunk was back, and this time he had a friend with him.
Skunks 2

I was nervous taking this picture because you never know what might set a skunk off, but it didn’t faze them. Sandy, one of the not-very wild cats, was hanging around, and he didn’t seem to mind the skunks and they didn’t mind him. Fortunately, the skunks have not continued to multiply.


July 30th, 2010

I’ve been a believer for many years in continuous process improvement, which basically means that when a problem occurs, you look for the root cause and do something about it so that the same problem doesn’t occur again. So for example, if someone returns a pattern because they thought they were buying an art print, I look at how I can make it clearer what is being sold. The thing about feedback is that you have to understand it before you can act on it.

Recently, I’ve heard from a couple of people in Canada that their orders took much longer to arrive than they had expected. One told me, when her order finally showed up, that the package had been cut open, then taped back shut (presumably in Customs). When the second person received her order, I asked if it looked like it had been opened, and she said the flap of the envelope had been taped, so that one was opened too. I’ve been puzzling over this. Why would Customs need to open the envelope? The customs form says clearly that the contents are cross stitch charts and the value. What else would they need to know? Were they curious? It didn’t make sense. The problem was that shipments were being delayed because Customs was opening them — but why?

Then I had a request from a regular customer in the UK, where cross stitch charts are supposed to be duty-free, to add “printed matter” to the customs form. He told me they are having their shipments held up in Customs, they have to pay the duty, and then apply to get the duty refunded. (I’m not sure why it has to be so circuitous, but maybe British Customs doesn’t open the packages.) I suddenly realized — if “cross stitch chart” doesn’t automatically tell you that it’s “printed matter”, you must not know what a cross stitch chart is. Canadian Customs must be opening the packages to find out what’s in them. At least this is the first explanation that makes any sense.

There is already a numeric code on the customs form which indicates the content is printed booklets, and this code is part of a supposedly internationally-agreed upon system. I don’t know why that isn’t enough, but apparently it isn’t.

So I’ve changed the wording on the customs form to “cross stitch booklets (printed matter)”. I hope this will help international orders go through faster. I don’t know how Customs works (and I’m sure it’s different in every country) but I can imagine that if they can determine whether a package is dutiable or not by looking at the customs form, it goes through quickly, and other things go into a pile for some backlogged person to open.


July 11th, 2010

There are two online needlework shows coming up in the next month — both retail.

First is the Needle Show Retail, July 15-18 (Thursday through Sunday).

Following that is the Counted Wishes Cross Stitch Festival, August 1-7 (Sunday through Saturday).

banner

Scarlet Quince will be featured in both shows and we will be offering different show specials, so be sure to visit both shows for the details. These are retail shows which means everyone can shop the shows, so don’t miss them!


June 16th, 2010

OK, there’s only one snake, but it’s a big one. [Full disclosure: I consider any snake over 6 inches long to be a big snake.]

I first saw this snake crawling into the jasmine in the back yard. I only saw its tail but there was plenty of that. After some hunting around online I decided it was a blotched water snake. They eat fish. So I looked out at the pond and THERE IT WAS right by the pond. Creepy.

snake 1

I saw it go into the water a couple of times and the first thing it does is stick its head under water, I guess to see who else is there.

snake 2

Then it takes its head out, gets situated, and just dives in. I think most of our fish are too big for this snake to eat, but probably not all. I don’t know how long it has been around or if any of the fish are missing. I got the skimmer and bothered it around the pond a lot but I couldn’t make it get out. I didn’t see it attack a fish and they didn’t seem overly concerned but if there is such a thing as smart fish, they don’t live here.

snake 4

The snake mostly just hangs out under water. This is blurry but he’s just lying in a water lily pot.

snake 3

He comes up for air about once a minute. How does a snake tread water?

That was Monday, and I haven’t seen him since. I hope he decided our pond wasn’t as peaceful as he thought it would be, or that there wasn’t anything to eat, and moved on. Of course there are a million places a snake could hide in our back yard and it worries me not knowing where he is. It’s not a poisonous snake but it will strike if it feels cornered and I don’t know how paranoid they are. As a friend said, it doesn’t matter if it’s poisonous — if it attacked me I would drop dead on the spot.




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