Tuesday, July 22, 2014

blocking block

I've had a little lace shawl off the needles since the end of May, and it's just been hanging out waiting to be blocked. I've also got a baby blanket I just cast off that's been added to the pile. This step always stymies me. It's my least favorite part of knitting besides the first row post-cast on but really does make a HUGE difference in the finished piece. Especially with a lacy project, blocking is essential.

Part of my issue is that I don't have a great place I'm willing to lay out a big project. The kitty would tear at anything on the bed or on the floor (or more likely, sit on it). As a result I end up blocking in stages on my ironing board. Second issue, I hate pinning. Seriously hate it. I get really caught up in trying to stretch a piece to the max but also not have those annoying little points from where the pins are anchoring the edge. Add to that the staged blocking and trying to pin to match up sizes and shapes along a whole piece and it's enough to drive anyone batty.

So I splurged on myself a little and bought a set of blocking mats and blocking wires! I've been thinking about buying these for quite some time, so at least it isn't an impulse splurge. The mats can be rearranged to suit whatever size/shape project I may have in line to give me plenty of room to lay everything out just so. And the wires should take care of at least some of my pinning problems (I'm looking at you, straight lines and smooth curves!).

(mats from Knitpicks)

I have lots of projects in the queue, and I'm excited for these new gadgets to come so I can try them out and hopefully wave my blocking woes a fond farewell.

As an aside: After researching blocking mats and wires, I have come to have a suspicion that my wool-based projects might benefit much more from wet blocking than steam blocking. A couple shawls of mine ended up disappointingly small and it has only just occurred to me that perhaps it was the blocking. I have a great handheld steamer so usually steam block everything. It works wonders with acrylics, but I wonder if I could get my woolies to stretch a bit more if they were soaked. I always see the fiber relax as I steam and it will hold shape after drying, but it appears soaked wool will stretch more than dry so a piece may start out already larger at the pinning stage. Hm… I may have just created a problem where none exists, but it's worth a shot on my Pacific shawl(ette) at least, as the fiber seems to have relaxed and shrunk back down over time. Thoughts?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

chugging along

Sat down tonight to work on this 'little project' for a bit. I finished the hand quilting in the entire pieced section! All that I have left to do is quilt the border o' blue, which requires my marking pen and more hard flat space than I have here in the Sac studio to mark out. Before I do that, though I want to trim and bind the whole thing so I don't end up with weird puckers at the back if my edges flap around a bit. I'll have to cut strips for binding down in Palo Alto since all my fabric from this resides down there in the office. I should also take the quilt down to trim it. Sounds like I have plans for the 4th!

I'll need to bring it back up to sew on the binding since my machine is up here - the traveling quilt! It's worth it for this one, it's been a while coming. Logistics aside, this is sooo close to being done. I hope the dogwood quilting in the borders goes quickly. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

break, broken

I've taken quite a break from crafting! I found myself so caught up in work that I would come home and literally not want to do *anything* with my projects, which is quite unusual for me. Tonight was the first night since mid-May that I've wanted to pick up something to work on.

This is a crochet project I've had on the back burner for quite a while. Last weekend I brought up some fiberfil and my project bag so I could take advantage of the fact that I don't have any other yarny things up here to get myself back to it. 

These pieces will eventually get sewn together to be a unicorn. I think I'm missing a leg somewhere… according to my Ravelry notes I had 3 finished and I only had 2 in the bag. Tonight I finished one more leg, some mane pieces, and the horn. Irritatingly enough, my gauge was of course different tonight than when I did the first of the back legs. Check out the second and third pieces from the left. Yeah. They're supposed to be the same size. I doubt it will be super noticeable when all is assembled, but still. Urg. 

So finally the break is broken and I feel up to making things again. Hurrah!

Monday, May 19, 2014

hemming and hawing

I've had two pairs of pants that have had fallen hems for quite a while, one for an embarrassingly long time that I tried and failed to fix with hem tape. Turns out hem tape doesn't work great on slightly stretchy trousers.

One of the things keeping me from fixing the pants, aside from sheer laziness about it, was that I've never used a blind hem stitch before. Turns out it's awfully simple, but I was thrown for a loop by comparing every set of instructions I could find to what I saw on the intact hem of my pants. The stitches didn't seem to look quite the same, so I was pretty sure I just wasn't understanding something. Rather than jump in and ruin perfectly good pants, I stalled and they languished.

Last week one night after work I decided I should be more useful than watching Mr. Selfridge on Netflix for hours (ahem) and got out my sewing machine and iron. I sat and stared at the hem of my pants for a while comparing the stitching I could see to the internet all the while feeling perplexed until I found this post informing me there WAS indeed another type of blind hem stitch - the industrial blind hem stitch. This stitch is performed on a fundamentally different sewing machine than a home machine, so there was no way I was going to be able to replicate it. The light bulb moment! I still can't wrap my head around how that machine creates the stitch I was seeing, but what mattered was that life could move on to the conventional blind hem stitch.

Confusion out of the way, I felt ok jumping right in and winging it on my more casual gray pants. The first pass I didn't quite catch the hem all the way around so I went a little less conservative the second go-round. As a result, the stitches aren't quite as 'blind' as I would like, but I figure the slight differences in the two hems probably don't matter as much to someone who isn't nose-to-hem with it on the ironing board. If anyone is staring at my ankles that closely, we have a problem.

The hem on the second pair went quite smoothly and after a few touches up with the iron to put the creases back, it's like I've got two new pairs of pants! And I can even wear flats with one of them. A productive hour spent. Now I don't have to feel guilty about my TV binging….

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Sapphire Diamonds, finished

Finally! It's taken me some time to finish this up, and it turned out looking so nice. In looking for some missing paper pieces in Palo Alto last weekend (which, coincidentally I found tonight tucked away in the Sac studio…) I serendipitously found the zipper I had bought to finish this off.

Armed with my finishing notion, I tried out a zipper installation along the bottom seam of this pillow. This is a new skill to add to the technique I used to finish my last pillow, setting it in the middle of the back. I'm still not great with zipper installs -- somehow I never can maneuver around the head all that well, but practice makes perfect. I fudged one section at the end by hand stitching and it turned out looking just fine.

It got stuffed, zipped, and fluffed and I'm quite pleased! I recycled an old outdoor throw pillow from Restoration Hardware that is probably a little bit smaller than the cover. I usually like really tight fits for pillows in my covers, but I have to admit the little bit of slouch I ended up with is just right.

The studio is filling up with lovely handmades!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

at the end of my rope

I mean that in the literal sense, not the figurative one. Though, ask me in a couple weeks and I might have a different opinion! What I refer to in this case is the fact that I'm mid-sweater, mid-stripe even, and have run out of navy yarn. Oh no! I'm not sure at this point if I have more in my stash at home that I wasn't carrying around with me or if I have to go out and get another skein. The irony of a knitter trying to 'use up leftovers' is that likely more than half the time it leads to the purchase of more yarn. Sigh. At least I don't think I'll have issues with dye lot since these are just Caron acrylics. (hope?)

I don't normally take that many pictures of myself to post here, but I wanted to catalog for myself how long the piece is so far and to do a reality check from neck to arm and from arm to waist. I note that the sweater is just about at my waist --- I'm all leg --- so I only have a few more stripes left. Yay! I just did the first waist increase in the last coral section and it calls for 3 more, one in each of the next stripes, so I may just do those and leave it at that. I think that should bring the length down to around my hips. 

I want the trim to be predominantly navy, so I certainly can't get away with just a little bit of yarn but I'm sure a whole new skein will be far more than enough. Grumble.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Sapphire diamonds

This pillow top is one of my favorite projects I've done recently. This was another project I started back in October in anticipation of moving to Sacramento so I could have something handmade in the new digs. The blues were my first new fabric purchases in a while and I really love the combination of navy and ice blue. 

At this point, the top got folded up and set aside for a bit. I wasn't sure how I wanted to quilt it, and didn't end up bringing all the 'stuff' up with me I needed to finish the pillow, anyway. The same weekend this April that I finished my other pillow, I mustered the effort to quilt this one. 

I used a big piece of an old flat sheet that I've been using in projects here and there to back the quilted pillow top. The quilting is simple, just outlining the diamonds inside the background stars. This way the nested diamonds pop visually and dimensionally. 

All that's left now is to put a back on, and stuff it with a pillow. I haven't yet decided if I'm going to do an envelope closure or a zipper. I'm leaning towards zipper now that I've improvised my way through the process on the last pillow. It seems like it will be more 'finished' if I do, too. So close!