Sunday, August 9, 2020

We are fortunate

 We took two of our grandchildren on vacation with us for 10 days. Since the end of the French "confinement", we'd seen them a couple of times: a picnic in the yard the first weekend of deconfinement, a birthday party in our house and then off we went. From mid-May to mid-July, when we took them, they had been back to school and had spent a couple of weeks with their other grandparents. Their parents had been back to work sporadically and we adults had all gone food shopping and been out for appointments. We wore masks, but not when we were together.

France, on the whole, is not doing too badly with containing Covid. The numbers have been creeping up, though. The RO number announced this weekend was 1.32. Ideally, it should be under 1. Restrictions can become quite serious, again, if it goes over 2. As it is, Paris, suburbs, and other cities with crowed streets have decided masks must be worn outside, too, when in crowded areas or on crowded streets. In Nogent, that's the walk along the Marne, along the main street Grande Rue, and the outdoor areas of the market place. I have an appointment in Paris on Monday and the street, Rue d'Avron, is on the list. I couldn't find the RO number for the US, either as a whole or in parts.

Our vacation was in an area with remarkably little Covid. We stayed at a hotel, the one we always stay at when we visit E and G. L'Hôtel la Belle Rive, which gets shortened to Le Belle Rive (for grammarians, that is the result of an ellipsis between LE hôtel and LA rive). Covid prevention rules were strictly adhered to. The kids, though, under 11, did not have to wear masks indoors. In Najac, all was calm - eerily so. There are hardly any tourists. Wherever we went (and we really didn't go anywhere), we saw that people were putting their masks on before entering any place.

So, how were we, perhaps, slack? We spent our days with E&G. Not a problem. The family from the U.K. arrived with their trailer: 2 under age 11, a teenager, and 2 adults. That brought us up to a group of 11 people, from different areas. We were joined for the last few days by our other daughter coming from Paris. She had stopped to visit friends in Lyon on the way. That means that just our little family created a rather large group of 12 at its peak. In fact, when we had an end-of-vacation family dinner at the hotel, we had a children's table and an adults' table -- not so much because we wanted the peace and quiet of not sitting with the kids, but because a restaurant cannot serve tables of over 10.

We are fortunate that none has shown any symptoms of the illness. In retrospect, perhaps we should have worn masks more when around one another. But we spent the whole time outdoors and not all that close, when you think about it. 

Saturday, August 8, 2020

A "New" Knitting Machine

 I had three knitting machines: 

  • An LK150, purchased new a few years ago. That's a midgauge and it handles sport weight yarn. All patterning is done by manual manipulation.
  • A Knitmaster Empisal Thimmonier 323. It is a standard gauge machine for finer, sock yarn. This is the machine I bought in 1974 or 1975. I know I had it well before my eldest child was born in early 1976 because I knitted many of her baby clothes on it. It is a punchcard machine, meaning patterning is done by means of a 24-hole-wide punch card that determines whether to knit, tuck, slip or insert a second color, depending on the lever's position on the dial. It has a ribber, which is a second bed of needles that connects to the front of the main needle bed and, as its name suggests, it serves to do ribbing and much more.
  • A Brother 950. It is also a standard gauge machine. It was produced in the mid-1980s, but I bought it four years ago. It is an electronic machine, meaning patterning is done by means of a program and a 60-stitch-wide mylar sheet. This increases patterning capability. It also has a ribber.
At one point, I also had a Brother 260, a bulky gauge, punchcard machine with a ribber, but within a year I resold it because I determined that I really do not knit really thick yarns that much. In fact, as far as machine knitting goes, I do not really knit very much. I'm still family-oriented and knit pretty much for the family, only. 
The Knitmaster and Brother machines are old and parts are hard to come by, so when I saw an ad for a Knitmaster (no model number) at a recycling center for €80, I thought I should take a look at it and see if it might be good for spare parts. I wrote the shop and found that the recycling center was an hour's drive from E's place in Tarn-et-Garonne. It is closer to Toulouse, straight south of Gaillac (good wine). We were at E's for our vacation, so on a Thursday we drove down to Caraman to the recycling center after I confirmed that the machine was still available. Surprise! It was 50% day! At €40, I was sure I'd buy it. I mean, even the recovering needles was worth that.
We put our masks on and entered the shop, which must have been an old garage or factory. One of the volunteers at the shop went to get the machine. The case was in very good condition and when I opened it up I discovered a Knitmaster Empisal 324 -- a slightly more recent model than what I already had -- in filthy, grimy, but otherwise good condition. Then, the woman said she had to go back to the stock to get the rest! She came back with the ribber. And she went back and came back with another box of accessories. Needless to say, I bought the lot for €40.
This week I cleaned it all. 
Before starting, I ordered a sponge for the sponge bar, officially known as the needle retention bar, and the side racks, which had disintegrated. Total expense for that, including postage, was about €18.
First job was to clean out the disintegrated sponge and replace it with the new, which I did as soon as the new sponge came.
Then, I had to take out the 200 needles of the main bed and put them in a jar with white spirit for a good soaking.
Next, I went to the hardware store and got some petroleum cleaning fluid to soak the carriage. The carriage is the part that rides over the needles, selects the ones to be knitted, or not, and places the yarn in the right place for the needles to catch it. I had to take apart the carriage (See the AnswerLady's husband Jack) because the plastic parts should not soak in the petroleum. That also allowed me to see that all the springs were there and that the parts that are supposed to move moved, even though they were gummed up. I put the soaking pan outside and let the carriage soak overnight. 
In the mean time, I washed the plastic bits. This machine must have been set up behind a sunny window because the plastic is quite discolored, almost orange. I got as much lint out from under the needle bed without dismantling it and then I cleaned the surface of the bed. 
The next morning, I wiped off each needle, checking for rust and making sure the latches moved freely before putting them back; I wiped down the carriage and made sure I got all the lint and collected dirt out before I put it back together. 

I tried it out: 
And this morning, I cleaned the ribber. I just finished putting back all the needles. 
Now, I really must decide to sell one, maybe two, of the standard gauge machines. 

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Taxes are done and on the knitting front...

Our French tax declaration is due on June 11. It's all done on line, with most of the lines, for most people pre-filled. All you have to do is check they are correct and modify if they are not. We have non-pension, non-salary income that we have to enter manually. The instructions are pretty clear and almost everything get automatically updated in the main form. Except, not everything. And that's where I had a problem, which I think I managed to correct. There's a zone at the end of the procedure to write a note and or questions, so I wanted to detail what I did, what information I couldn't get on to the form, and the fact that I am an Americans and the treaty allows.....
The directions on the text zone specify that one should not copy/paste. You have to type out everything and I had a lot to type. It wouldn't accept it. The message said no special characters and no tabs, so I got rid of the tabs and the € sign and typed in EUR. No go. I took out the =, the ( and ), and even the -. Still no go. I kept making the whole thing less and less legible in French. Still no go.
In the end I deleted my text and wrote that I was sending an email with the details. Even that got rejected until I switched all accented letters for unaccented ones and removed the apostrophe in "J'ai".
I can't imagine how the French administration created a site that refuses to accept standard French punctuation.
At the end of procedure, once the declaration is submitted, there's a prompt to do a survey and make a remark. I did. Then, I sent the email with all the details I couldn't put into the online form. But it's done.
And my US tax declaration went off last month. I have to have all the French info, which is sent to us or put on line in May, in order to prepare the US taxes.
Taxes are done!
I have made my first yoke sweater on the knitting machine. Usually a yoke is made on circular needles in one piece. On a knitting machine, it's in two pieces. Fortunately, the pattern I was using (by Irene Woods, in the Facebook group Machine Knitting Round Yokes) is calculated so that the seam joins are not noticeable. 
I used left over self-striping sock yarn for the fair-isle pattern, making sure that I started each piece at the same point of the pattern repeat. I really like the effect. 
I love this blue merino yarn from Yeoman's. It's for next winter for S. I hope it's not too big, then. I'm sure it's too big now. It'll look great with his eyes!
In May, I made a sweater for C, 15. (There are too many names in the family that begin with C and Ch!) It's a lovely cotton/acrylic blend in a nice shade of green. It did require hand manipulation on the front and sleeves for the lace and lines of purl stitches. I sent it off to her along with all the things we had in stock to take to the UK on our cancelled March trip.
The work on the bathroom is almost finished -- yes it has taken 3 weeks, so far! There's still some finishing touches -- like sealing the bathtub, hooking up the sink and sealing. And the toilet we ordered is now delayed until mid-August!
France started de-confinement on May 11. The second phase started on June 2. We are no longer restricted to a 100 km radius from home. Restaurants in the green zones (everything except the Paris area for mainland France) could reopen and so on. Restaurants in Paris could serve outside. There are strict distance rules, but whereas some countries recommend being 2 meters (6 ft) apart, in France, it's 1 meter. I've had my hair cut and I've been to some delayed medical appointments in the neighborhood. Other than that, though, I still haven't gone out much. Tomorrow, though, I have an appointment in Paris. Of course, I'll be masked up. In the neighborhood, though, there's no point in putting on a mask until I get to the boulevard. People are just not out.
I would have gone to Paris, yesterday, for the sit-in that was planned near/in front of the US embassy, but the organizers did not get the permit. I imagine there are plenty of reasons for that, but the one mentioned in the news report I read, was that outdoor crowds of more than 5000 were currently not allowed because of Covid-19. I'm pretty sure that the location was also a factor. I don't know if it went ahead, anyway. There was an unauthorized demonstration earlier in the week about a French case of police brutality and racism. It's not an exclusively American problem. I am wary of unauthorized manifs (demonstrations) because there's more risk of them being infiltrated by troublemakers. Look what happened to the Gilets Jaune demonstrations last year.
We've gone ahead and made our reservation for the hotel in Najac for mid-July with the grandchildren.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Bathroom renovation underway

We're lucky. We live in a house and it's big enough so that the work crew of two can be upstairs and away from us, making a lot of noise as they dismantle the old. In fact, I think I'll go for a walk.
France relaxed its confinement rules starting on Monday. I don't need a permission slip with the reason for my being away from home any more. I can go into the Bois de Vincennes or to the center of Nogent if I want. Until the noise got really bad after lunch, I didn't feel the need to get out of the house.
That's not quite true. I took the car this morning and went all the way to Costco. My 40+ year-old sewing machine needs repair and the minimum for just a "revision" is €90. I gave in and got a new, less elaborate machine. I don't need an elaborate machine. I just want to finish off the masks, for the time being.
The drive was good for the car. The battery had drained during these months of non-use. Paul had hooked up the charger and charged it, but there's nothing like taking a car on the road to get the battery up to where it belongs. That, it did. The drive was unlike any other -- hardly any traffic. It only took half an hour to get there and the same to get back. It usually takes us about an hour each way, which is why we don't go frequently.
Everyone at Costco was well disciplined. We all had our masks on and a line formed outside the store with everyone well spaced apart. I had my gel and disinfected the cart handle when I took the cart, but upon entering, an employee had a disinfectent wipe and wiped the handle -- just in case. The store was not crowded. I got what I needed -- the sewing machine and the rest of the list I had.
I had everything packed away before lunch! Now. I'm going out in the sun. I'll unpack the machine when these workers leave.