Thursday, April 3, 2014

progress!

I have to say, now that the office is all nice and pretty/organized/awesome I'm super jealous that Dave gets to work in it whenever he wants and not me! Alas. Still, it was pretty neat to walk into it last weekend. The kitty has of course managed to make a habit of hanging out on the windowsill above my desk. But I expected that. Predictable kitty. At least I know he's keeping an eye on my desk for me.

I took the train down last weekend, which meant lots of time for knitting! Sometime in the last couple weeks I made it through the ribbed yoke section of Split Rotation, managed to bend my mind through splitting off the front sections and the arms, and am now on the much breezier stockinette part of the body. I should have written down how I dealt with sectioning the stitches at the arm holes, but oops. I'm sure it will come out fine, but don't know if I could do it again the same way!


Two and a half hours on the train gave me a few inches of stockinette. This sweater is knit so the purl side is the 'right side' and there is a single knit stitch centered under the arms each row that makes a faux side seam. I kept forgetting that little guy when I was working the wrong side -- the purl is buried in the fabric while the knit on the other side is much easier to read going across. Luckily, I've become quite adept at fixing stitches in the row below my active row without too much trouble. It's harder on a bumpy train, but nonetheless I've got my little faux seams all neat and tidy.


It's looking a little funky on the needles, as half-finished projects do. Blocking will do wonders, I hope. But before that I've got quite a few stripes ahead of me! There's a little bit of shaping in the body section but mostly it's a sea of stockinette from here on out. After that I have to edge the armholes and add button bands to the front. That's a lot of stitches to pick up. Let's focus on step one for now.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

weekend warriors

My weekends have been full. Full of errands, horses, friends, husband, cat, and … home improvement. Last weekend Dave and I decided to rip off the proverbial bandaid and finish up our office in Palo Alto. We've gotten rid of almost every piece of furniture in there (except the awesome couch, which is now in our living room), painted, got desks and chairs, and thoughtfully placed artwork. There was just one last task: detail on the wall. 


We decided when we conceptualized the room that we really wanted some striking painted detail on the wall in a deep turquoise color ("Realm" by Behr, if you're curious) to complement a beautiful vase we got for our wedding. So we settled on a herringbone pattern. 


It took some time to decide where to put it, how wide to make the stripes etc. In the end it was all about improvising something that looked 'about right'. 


You can see my highly technical improvisation method here. Yes, that's tape in my hair.


Once I decided about how big to make things and what angle to use, I got out my trusty quilting ruler to help me along the way. It was a loooot of tape, four hands, and quite a bit of patience, but we got it all taped out in an hour or so.


And I even got to painting it that evening! The first coat went on with me feeling like the Karate Kid: paint the house, paint the fence.


My arms were pretty sore for the second coat the next day, but I'd say the results are worth it. We are both excited to have a space to work in that provides mental space and simplicity but is also reflective of our somewhat quirky personalities. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

wip it good

The thing about knitting is, there's a hierarchy. New projects are pretty much always at the top of the heap in my house. This leads to the hilarity of having several projects I've been working on for-ev-er. This project is one of those that I brought up to Sacramento with me and it's been languishing in the storage ottoman while I've knit literally half a dozen other things. I've been working on this sweater for quite some time now. That's totally fine with me, but I can't really rationalize trying out a multitude of other sweater patterns until I give one I'm working on a fighting chance.


Back to the hierarchy. When I end up working on a project that requires a lot of concentration, new projects look even MORE attractive. What I've managed to make my brain do now, however, is to want to work on this project because a) it's literally the only one in my possession right now (I left my attention-requiring project in Palo Alto by accident last weekend) and b) because it's actually not that brain-intensive now that I've read through the whole pattern and planned out how I will change it to be a cardigan instead of a pullover. I also think it helps that I've done a lot of knitting since I started this, and I've learned a thing or two. I'm hoping this also ends up being a learning experience that I can use to be confident in trying out a bunch of appealing sweater patterns I've been ogling on Ravelry lately.

Onward!


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

evening wear

Last night I looked down at my feet to see this: 


Yep, I'm at it again. True to prediction, now that I've started working on the hand quilting again, I've been thinking about when I get to work away at it next. That's a good sign. I put in an hour and a half or so and got a lot of progress made. My hands are letting me know, too. Those quilting betweens are tiny and hard to grip! Between knitting, quilting, and typing my poor metacarpals are getting quite the action lately. 


You can't tell, but the center panels are almost done. All that is left is 22 little squares to outline in the patchwork, not that I'm counting. When those are done it's on to the task of marking and quilting the moat of blue. That should actually go pretty fast because there won't be so many stops and starts, just those required to start another long piece of thread. But I'm sure that actually getting the marking done is going to be another activation barrier….


I'm reasonably sure I'm deviating from the class instructions on this, but that's ok. I'm just sort of quilting as I see fit. I especially like my choice to go with an off-axis 'x' in this corner patch here. Additionally I don't think I'm going to quilt in that Storm At Sea patchwork to the upper left. I just can't see anything that won't take away from the little vignettes I've incorporated from the toile I used. Vivre la difference!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Charm scarflet, finished

This evening I curled up in my chair, feet up on my fuzzy purple ottoman, and finished this keyhole scarf. It's headed to Tara, and judging by her response to my texted picture, she likes it already. I think it suits her quirky sense of style (a gal after my own heart, indeed).


I decided not to block it at all. Reviews of the pattern I read were mixed with some folks saying it looked a lot better after blocking and some saying the curling of the neck section made it nicer to wear. I settled for a compromise and hand-stretched the piece. It's sitting folded up on my ironing board right now and it's staying flat just fine. When I tried it on, I liked that the leaves puckered a little bit. It will look really nice peeking out of a wool coat or a trench rain coat -- something we are finally using up here in Sacramento. 


The pattern, Anthro-inspired Scarflet, called for aran weight yarn but I wanted to use this teal/blue that was DK so I just held two strands together throughout and it worked out just fine. A lighter weight yarn likely wouldn't hold the structure this requires with just a single strand. The 'ribbing' is less pronounced than I was expecting, in that the fabric is quite flat instead of heavily ridged. In the end I think that's ok because I'm not sure I'd want a big fluffy leaf sticking off my neck anyway. 

Happy to have had this project turn into a stash buster. I just about used up this yarn I bought in Delft -- a little left over for some fun scrappy project in the future. I remember originally wanting to make this yarn into panels for a purse that mimicked the Delftware motifs we saw all over the Netherlands. Alas, it never came to be, but I think this yarn is much more at home as a scarf and it's going to a good home. 

Friday, February 28, 2014

relaxing. also, yarn.

The long weekend in celebration of Dave's birthday, er, President's Day afforded us the rare opportunity to 'get the heck outta dodge'. We both needed a break and had vowed with the start of our 'real jobs' to take advantage of three day weekends to do something fun. And TOGETHER. 


Back when we thought we'd be leaving California for other adventures, we made a list of all the things we wanted to do in the state before we left. Hearst Castle in San Simeon was right at the top. So we went. 

The 'castle' is actually an estate built at the top of a hill in the coastal range where the Hearst family owned a large ranch and used to camp in tents. William Randolph Hearst, of San Francisco media mogul fame, built the estate as he got older and, apparently, tired of tents. The ranch is still a working ranch, and we were lucky enough to have *perfect* weather to enjoy the vistas from the hilltop 'ranch house'. 


We saw the outdoor pool,


and the indoor pool.


We (and by we I mean mostly me) goofed around in the gardens, which were stunning.


We went down to the beach and stood out on the pier where ships unloaded all the building materials and art that eventually made it to the top of the hill. Looking out at the Pacific Ocean never ceases to impress and amaze me.


On the way back home we reveled in being Californian and drove with the wind in our hair through some absolutely beautiful country. We are lucky, indeed.

*****

What does this have to do with crafting? Not much, admittedly, but there was a yarn shop in Cambria, just a few miles down the highway from our hotel and Dave was a lovely person and took me there. He was even lovelier and bought me yarn. And to cap the trifecta, he was super awesome and helped me pick out yarn. I'm lucky in so many ways!

This particular shop, Ball & Skein & More, had Manos del Uruguay yarns in just about every color they make, if not every color. Which surprised me because I didn't see a whole lot of solids in fingering weight wool. So I settled on this beautiful skein of Alegria that Dave picked up. He's good at finding something I wouldn't normally pick and saying something like "honey, look it's like the sunset we watched last night" to make me see it in a completely different way. He was right, these are the colors of the San Simeon sunsets we saw over the ocean out our hotel window. I'm a sucker for sentimentality.


Before setting foot in the store I told myself I needed to pick a project for the yarn I would surely purchase. Getting the yarn in a destination is great, but actually using it for a project that will remind you of the place is even better. Laura Aylor's Litchfield Shawl has been on my list for a while, but I've been holding off on buying more yarn to make it happen. The designer's version is pretty beachy and makes me want one for coastal evenings like the ones spent that weekend. I originally wanted to use sandy neutrals, but really a San Simeon sunset is pretty good, no? 


I found this beautiful dove gray/brown to go with it, and I think I have enough of some other yet to be determined color in my stash to serve as the accent stripe color. Possibly the rest of the light blue from my Independence. shawl. So I will manage to have some beach-inspired neutrals along with my crazy sunset hand painted yarn. I'm not sure how the colors will pool, and I'm a little nervous I'm not going to be wild about it, but given the confluence of all other factors I think this yarn has to be this shawl. So unless it's really awful, onward Litchfield. 

I am, however, showing at least some restraint and not casting on until I finish at least one of the projects I have going right now… for now. Mainly it's because the lady at the shop seemed really overwhelmed when I asked if she could wind my skeins for me and so they're still all twisted up. But shhh I'm not telling anyone that part. :)

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Slowly, slowly catch the monkey

Dad used to say that all the time. It's just one of those weird things I remember from growing up, for no particular reason. Really it's just to say 'be patient and take it slow' which I have to keep telling myself about this quilt.


I brought this quilt up to Sacramento thinking I'd spend hours stitching away on it in the evenings and have it done by January. Ha. I hadn't touched it until last week when, sensing the stress of an upcoming deadline, Karen invited me over for soup and quilting one night. She worked on piecing a baby quilt, I gratefully nestled onto her couch and got some momentum going on this.


I started this quilt quite some time ago, and worked my way through the top in the summer of 2012, eventually basting it that December. Fast forward a year and a bit, and here we are. A lot has happened in life since then, but alas not much hand quilting. I've considered many times just machine quilting the rest of it, but that seems an awful lot like giving up, and I'm not sure I'd be as proud of it as I hope to be when I finish the last hand stitched dash. I just needed to get jump started again, because now my fingers are itching to get back to it -- a good sign. 


I'm going for subtle stitching, trying to use the colors I have to blend as much as possible. It's a pretty busy piece as it is, and I like the texture of the hand quilting, but I'm not sure I want a bunch of stitches asking for attention especially since, ahem, they aren't all even. "Organic-looking" right? I'm debating what I'm going to do for the dogwood shapes in that big sky blue border -- I will likely use one of my brighter colors, gold or coral, to make them stand out. I could also see using the cream, though. No worries I've got a lot of little squares to outline before I get to that point. 


Despite my lack of progress and apparent lack of enthusiasm during the last year of this quilt's hibernation, it is pretty special to me; it was my first big project where I used so many different techniques in one piece, the first where I challenged myself to use only the fabrics in my cabinet (hence the odd assortment of colors and textures), and it is certainly the first piece I am hand quilting. I am glad I'm happy to be working on it again instead of irritated and overwhelmed with it. I shall keep in mind the monkey and how I must move to catch it. Hopefully that will inspire me to patience and remind me it's ok to take it slow!