Monday, August 10, 2015

hand quilting

I'm back to working on my medallion quilt! It has been snoozing in my ottoman waiting for me to find some good colors of perle cotton to use in the border. It was surprisingly difficult to find brick and mortar stores that carry very many colors of #8. I can find the basics - white, cream, navy, and black - but not much else. I know they exist though! I have the aqua to prove it. I may have to break down and buy a color card so I can just order what I want online. I'm happy I did it for the solid fabrics, so I bet I'll be happy if I do it for the thread.

In the end, I got some #5 to use. I've used it for embroidery in felt before but wasn't sure how easy it would be to quilt with the thicker thread. Dave helped me pick out these fantastic variegated skeins and it got me excited to get back to this project. The man certainly has an eye for color. 

Turns out it works beautifully! If you use a big enough needle, that is. I was sure I needed to bypass the traditional between (I doubt the thread would even go through the eye) but after one evening of using a slightly bigger needle and having a hard time pulling stitches through the quilt sandwich I went even bigger. The needle I ended up using (on the right) looks like overkill, but it isn't. It's much nicer to use the larger diameter because it paves the way for the bulky thread to breeze on through. My second evening of quilting was much more pleasant.

I've finished the straight lines and am partway through the dogwood blossoms. It sure zips on by when you don't have to keep tying off! The middle took me so long because there were so many patchwork squares and short spans of quilting. It should even out, fewer stitches more tying off/more stitches less tying off, but somehow for me the long stretches of stitches kept me more engaged and allowed me to get into a groove. I am positive this will be done before the end of the month, and I'm very excited for that.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Kelpie, finished

Here is another knitting finish. This one must be a record for me -- I finished knitting it in a month and it took me less than two weeks to actually block it! It's a miracle, people.

I pinned this out using a combination of my blocking boards and the floor since it was a bit bigger than my measly nine boards could accommodate. This made me miss the big play mat set at Mom's! At any rate, it was stuck horizontally to the floor so I used my iron instead of my hand steamer to steam block it. That worked ok, but I am not convinced I got as much steam through the fabric with each pass. I did something like four times over before I felt like the garter stitch wasn't just going to spring back into place once I took the blocking wires out. I probably could have stretched it out more aggressively but it still turned out to be 72" wide and 20" deep which is actually larger than I was expecting. The edges as-written were no problem to stretch, and I used an Icelandic bind off from my Cast On, Bind Off book at the end which gave me a really nice stretchy but still structured edge to work with. That one was new to me and a little slower than a regular bind off, but I'll be using it again.

Given the surprise size, I'm really happy with how this turned out. The pattern itself is quite modern looking with its simple angled lines, and the colors I chose turned out to be sufficiently edgy as a combination. The blue-green (Big Sur) is an especially lovely shade that I'd be happy to use again on something else. There are colors varying from deep turquoise to brownish-green along the mostly minty aqua fiber. This gives the final fabric a subtle variation in tone which, when considering the name, could definitely be likened to the kelp floating along in the ocean waves off the coast. In fact, the colors remind me very much of this picture Dave took off of the pier at San Simeon last year:

The picture above popped into my head one evening while I was working along, so for a short time I figured it would end up being simply 'Kelp'. But as I've mentioned before, I've recently been experiencing Scottish culture through the written word while reading the Outlander series. The word kelpie came to mind. A kelpie is a water spirit that inhabits the lochs of Scotland, most often in the form of a horse. Sounds like my kind of spirit! As soon as I first considered it, the modification stuck. And so I give you Kelpie, my latest yarny finish.

Pattern: Pendulum (Ravelry link to my project page)
Yarn: Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light in 'Big Sur' and 'El Greco'
Needles: Size 6
Dimensions: 72" across the top and 20" at the deepest point

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Endor, finished

This project could have taken me just over a week to finish -- I finished the first glove in six days back in January. Alas I got distracted by other things (starting a new job, mostly) and then didn't relish the thought of recreating my pattern modifications despite the copious notes I took. What finally did it was that I finished a few other projects and wanted to cast on a new one. I got out the yarn and pattern all excited, but I couldn't find my size 8 needles! I must have lent my interchangeable tips to Cindy, and when I got to thinking I realized my standalone circulars must be tucked away in the ottoman with the erstwhile Endor gloves. Shoot.

I've been pretty good at not stacking up too many knit-wips at a time. Keeping it up, instead of throwing the gloves on stitch holders and purloining the needles I put my other yarn away and sat down to finish the right glove. The issue keeping me away was that I left off at the part where I added fingers to the fingerless mitts. Yep, the fancy bit. Also the hard bit. It took me some time to decipher my notes, but in the end I remembered how it all went and one James Bond movie later (Roger Moore in Octopussy if you're curious) I was finished with fingers and flip-top. Somehow no matter how good notes seem at the time you write them, they don't always make perfect sense when you refer back to them. It used to happen to me in lab sometimes, too.

I'll have to soak them a little bit to get some of the dye out of the wool before Dave can use them. While I was working on these my fingers and nails got pretty stained. I do love the deep colors though. I remember I picked this up on a whim from a knitting expo in San Mateo. It was labeled kroy pencil roving and seemed super durable and outdoorsy. I had Borough gloves in my Ravelry queue for a while, wanting to make them for Dave so he could look hip while we were camping. I think the yarn and pattern match perfectly. I 'simply' added fingers and changed the way the flip-top was constructed. Notes on these modifications can be found on my Ravelry project page.

Dave is pretty tickled with these. I'm looking forward to colder weather so I can wear some of my new knits, and now so is he. Hopefully we will get to take them camping! Maybe we'll even find some Ewoks.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Mo Chridhe, finished

Mo chridhe, as far as I can tell, is Gaelic for my heart. It is used as a term of endearment by the Scottish main character in the Outlander novels, which I have been eyeball deep in for a few months and thoroughly enjoying. The phrase is a simple expression of affection, the simplicity placing emphasis on its sincerity. I like it. It is a happy coincidence that the name of this pattern is 'Hearts on a String'. So, Mo Chridhe it became. 

Unlike the expression, this was anything but a simple knit for me. I have a well-marked up chart on my iPad to attest to the fact that I needed to keep track of every yarn over and decrease. I even missed some, but even when I looked hard while blocking, I couldn't tell. I did a pretty good job of fudging recovery on the following row if my counts were off. That's a good knitterly skill set to build up!

Speaking of the iPad, this was the first time I used an interactive app to read my pattern pdf. Usually I just open them in iBooks and keep a row counter going to tell me where I am. In this case I used Notability as a side kick to my row counter. With that I can write notes, highlight repeats, and cross off sections as I go. It was really handy for this project since I worked on it only occasionally . 

The lace looks pretty when it's blocked and the yarn is really light and floaty. I think this will make a nice scarf for Fall, especially being this lovely maroon color. I can already think of several things I can readily wear it with. Bring it on, Fall!

Pattern: Hearts on a String Shawl (Ravelry link)
Yarn: Loops & Threads Woolike in 'mauve', about 650 yards
Needles: Size 3 (3.25 mm)
Dimensions: 48" across the top and 25" from top to point 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

granny squares a-multiplyin'

I put these away for a while in preference for knitting, which is more portable. Hard to take a sewing machine on vacation, it turns out. I also ended up starting and finishing another quilt top with brighter, prettier fabrics that distracted me last week. But last night I had a hankering to keep piecing rather than deal with backing and basting so I found my tote bag full of granny squares-to-be.

I was happy with past self for neatly organizing all of the strip sets into the groups for blocks rather than just shoving them all out of sight. That meant I could easily lay everything out and start stacking pieces for - you guessed it - chain piecing! I had already finished the task of sewing the individual strips together and slicing them crosswise. That's quite a bit of the work, actually, so all I need to do now is match and sew these into the final granny square blocks. Here's one I tested out before the hiatus:

The contrast between rounds isn't as much as I'd like in this one, but I'm confident the others will do nicely. This one will be a quieter block surrounded by its rowdy cousins. As for the rowdy cousins, I got through about half of the blocks with another eight to go.

I really enjoy patterns that take simple shapes and turn them into more complicated blocks in creative ways. These all started out just from long strips of fabric; I didn't have to sew all those little squares together! Sadly, there is no way to shortcut trimming and squaring up blocks. There will be a lot of that to do once I get the rest of these blocks done. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

knitting the hours away

The wonderful thing about having a relatively simple project to work on is being able to pick it up anytime, anywhere. 

This garter stitch shawl is great because I only need to remember to count after a wrap and turn and to add single increases at the end of each row. Easy! On a plane? Sure. In a tent? Piece of cake. Watching Outlander/Wayward Pines/Dave play Arkham Knight? Sure thing. On the porch with some cold brew? Don't mind if I do. 

I'm loving the color combo and the ridge-ity bumpy garter stitch texture. A discerning eye will notice that the lines from the color changes are visible on both sides of the piece. That's because somebody can't read directions. I noticed about halfway in that I hadn't doubled back in the appropriate places to ensure the color changes would all land on the same side (i.e. the eventual "back"). It doesn't bother me though. I kind of like the extra little sparkle of that one row of mixed color and to be honest I wasn't going to rip back that far to fix something that wasn't going to totally ruin the thing. 

It grows and grows! Time to look for an appropriately stretchy bind off. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

cutting is my least favorite part

But how can you complain when you've got such good company? Obviously Kepler is mistaken as to what the card table is actually for. He sat there pretty much the whole time while I worked. Helping? Perhaps. You can see Newton rolling around on the floor just off to the side trying to get him to play in cat world instead. Not interested.

Everyone has their favorite part of any craft. In quilting, mine is piecing. I really like putting the puzzle pieces together. Making the puzzle pieces on the other hand, not my favorite. I don't know if it's because I agonize over every 1/8" and straight line or because my back always ends up sore after leaning over to hold my ruler firmly in place. Likely it's a combination of the two with a plethora of other little niggling things. Are those squares really square? Do I need a new rotary cutter blade *again*? How do I deal with cutting a big long piece of sashing accurately? Etc, etc. 

I do, however, like when I can cut a bunch of pieces and have them ready for chain piecing at the machine. The quick and steady progress of piecing collated stacks of fabric makes the effort in quality prep work worthwhile.

Still, look at what a mess it makes!