Tuesday, February 24, 2015

considering

In August 2013 I posted a tutorial for a Lonestar Hexagon block to be made by my quilting bee mates at the time. Yikes time flies! It took some time to receive the blocks (in fact, two never got here - sad sauce) but really most of the gap between then and now was me putting it away and taking a break from quilting. 

Now I'm ironing and trimming. :) 


I had quite a few wrinkles to get out and 60 sides to trim to get these bad boys approximating regular hexagons. When I start sewing them together we will see just how good of a job I did! I think looking back it was quite brave (read: naive) of me to put away blocks with potentially distortable edges for so long. Any block can stretch out if not treated gently, but triangles and diamonds? My goodness. All I have to do is look at it and think "stretch". 

We all made from our stashes following general guidelines for colors. I really enjoy seeing everyone's interpretations of a single color scheme and all the pretty fabric combinations in these blocks. Originally I pictured in my head a more unified color palette, but I love the crazy quilt feel of this now!


I played with these on the floor (aka my 'design wall') for a while before I got to a place where I liked the relative positions and mixture of colors. Now I'm just trying to decide on a layout. I started out thinking I would sew them all together plain and simple but then wanted the quilt to end up bigger. Then I considered sashing between all the blocks which would look neat, but then I turned the blocks 30 degrees and put them all point to point. I'm kind of liking this idea. I would cut a bunch of equilateral triangles to fill in those gaps and end up with a secondary star pattern - a star-within-a-star if I'm imagining it correctly. Might be kind of cool! 

I'm hoping to make it a twin-sized quilt for my niece's birthday in April. Maybe Christmas! Now that I'm looking at it, I'm wondering if should make 4 more blocks and add columns of two on each side to make it a hexagon quilt…. anyone want to help? :) Maybe I should get my triangles sewn into what I have so far first.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

out of hibernation

What's that I spy? A long lost knitting project peeking out to make its presence known? Why hello there, Aidez, it's been so long since I've seen you. 


I haven't touched this project since January 2013 when, a few months after starting it, my primary goal was to knit through enough of the pattern to decide if the yarn was a good match and it seemed like something I could reasonably do given my skill level. I did, and I liked it, but in the whirlwind of wrapping up my Ph.D. and diving headlong into my policy fellowship, a complicated cable sweater pattern just didn't' seem like something I wanted to tackle. 


Fast forward to now: thesis done, fellowship experienced, and new job well underway. I've finished quite a few longtime in-progress projects the last few months and decided it was time to pick this one back up to continue the trend. Turns out the activation barrier was purely mental and it's not that complicated of a piece to work on. I can't really heavily multitask while working on it, but certainly it's ok to watch an episode of Arrow while knitting.


I'm already through half of the back and still itching to get my hands back on it each day. That's a good sign and one I hope will mean progress will continue at a steady pace. Similar to projects with stripes, this pattern makes me want to keep working "just one more row" to see the center latticework emerge. Like Dory in Finding Nemo, just keep stitching. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

tide pool

This arrangement of yarn and stitches is reminding me of some of the tide pools down in Monterey Bay.


Metaphor aside, I've made some significant progress on Fomhar since December. The whole central panel is finished. This is still my slow and steady in between project, but I'm excited to see what this looks like when it blocks out. It will certainly grow, and all of the little lace details will really open up and show off this yarn. 


I'm getting better at reading complex charts for sure. The final border section of this pattern may have some mistakes in the written pattern (according to several Ravelry folks) so I'm hoping to refer primarily to the charts from here on out but boy do they sometimes get confusing! I'm on to the first border section which is more lacy little fans. Still loving the yarn and the pattern choice.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

so this happened

This folks, is a bound Modern Medallion quilt. It's been sitting around waiting to be trimmed and bound so I can start the final round of hand quilting. Apparently the small sewing project on Tuesday night got me rummaging around in my sewing stuff enough to want to work on some more. 


I had intended all along to make a scrappy binding. Part of the reason this took me so long to do was that I wasn't in love with that idea. With the last round of fabrics I thought the quilt all of a sudden got "too orange" and the thought of adding even more warm colors in the binding wasn't doing it for me. I settled on the solid blue linen and made about 7 yards of 2.5" binding. After ironing it in half, I sewed it on the front with about a 3/8" allowance, give or take. 


Instead of folding over and zig-zag stitching it down on the machine like I usually do, I sat down on the couch, kitty at my feet, and hand sewed the binding to the back using a quilter's between and hand quilting thread just like Dave's mom taught me. It took the better part of two evenings to do but I'm glad I did. As Dave pointed out, it goes along with the hand quilting nicely.


I want to finish this soon so we can use it on our bed come spring. I just need to get some suitable colors of pearl cotton thread to tackle that last border. Woo! The end is in sight.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

inspiration strikes

Last night I had a thought. That thought turned into action and in no time I had the little card table out and about again after a long hiatus. Hello there, iron! Long time. 


It went like this: as I was icing various bits and pieces with a frozen Gatorade bottle, I sat and wondered how I would be able to more easily ice my neck. That thought led me to remembering the wonderful little wraps the ladies at the nail salon put around everyone's necks while they work. They are lovely tubes of fabric all warm and cozy. Light bulb -- I've heard of those being used cold, too. Bingo. 

I had some time left to wait for some things to dry in the dryer, so I decided to putter around with the sewing machine and make one. I started out looking at my stash of cottons, but got to wondering if flannel would be a nice alternative. After sifting through my scrap bucket I came up with this lovely piece left over from Dave's laptop case. It was about 18" square, which seemed long enough to use. I cut the piece down to 18" x 9" and ironed it before folding it lengthwise. 


Starting on a short side at the fold I sewed along a full short side, the long side, and about an inch of the second short side using a straight stitch. After that, I followed it up with a zig zag stitch in the seam allowance to stabilize it a bit more given that there will be bits of rice pushing their way along the seams. I used a 1/2" seam on the long side and the edge of the presser foot, maybe 3/8", as the guide on the short sides just to try to make it as long as possible. 


Once my tube was turned inside out and pressed again I wandered into the kitchen to find some rice. We have one of those big 20 lb bags hanging around so it was easy to just grab a funnel and start pouring. 


And pouring. And pouring. I actually filled it up a bit too much at first so ended up dumping some back out. You want enough rice in there to wrap around your neck without all the rice ending up at the ends and none in the middle, but not so much that the tube isn't flexible and wrapping becomes difficult. I used about 1.5 lb of rice when all was said and done. 


All nice and filled, I took the tube back to the sewing machine and stitched the end closed with the same two lines of stitching as the other sides only this time I did the zig zag centered on the straight stitching because after folding in, it seemed like I had very little fabric to work with. Just doing whatever works. 


When I took the fabric and threw it in the microwave, Dave sat up and wondered "what ARE you doing, wife?" So I grinned and threw the wrap around his neck when it came out and told him "well this one's for you!" He proceeded to walk around sporting his new neck wrap and a happy grin, understanding that this contraption gave free, warm neck hugs. 


Of course this meant I had to make one more. I found some gray polka dot flannel and did the same thing over, except this time my fabric was about 21" long. (This would be a great use for a set of fat quarters.) So after a short bout of sewing, I've got a happy little pair!


To warm them, I just put them in the microwave for 1 minute on "express cook" which I imagine is "high". I haven't tried it cold yet, but I think you can just stick them in the freezer for a bit to cool them down. I'll be trying that in the next few days. 

I'll close with today's chuckle, an outtake that every cat owner will nod at and understand: 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Split Rotation

I showed my friend Cindy how to knit a while back because she wanted to make leg warmers to match the fingerless gloves I made her, and she's been having fun ever since. We laugh when I agree with her when she says "I knit like I read… once I start I have a hard time putting it down!" She came over the other night with a shawl she knit while traveling for the holidays. The mission that evening was "show me what blocking means" (ah! the next step along the knitterly path!) so we sat down to block her shawl.  

Having the paraphernalia out helped me along the way to blocking my cardigan. Which I did, grateful that I treated myself to a set of blocking wires last year. The wires made easy work of lining everything up and making sure tension was even along the various directions. I measured myself for the dimensions of the rectangle of stockinette stripes, but fudged the top part into looking proportional because I wasn't sure what the most useful dimension was to focus on. 


In the end, after a thorough steam blocking (remember, it's acrylic) it turned out all right! I wore it out the other day and was pretty comfortable. I really like the length it ended up and am even 95% happy with how it lays in the front. The button bands have a bad habit of flipping out near the bottom and I think will benefit from stabilization with some grosgrain ribbon, which I bought yesterday. I've decided against putting buttons and buttonholes in. Maybe I'll change my mind and do a couple right at the top but I like it as an open cardigan. I swear I'm not just being lazy! If it fit looser I'd probably do the buttons all the way down. I've read that you can use a sewing machine just like normal if you're careful about stretching and there is ribbon or some other stabilizer on the back, so we'll see. My guess is that even though I blocked it out a little bigger than me, the spring in the yarn still won out and it came back some. Still, not bad for a freshman effort. 



I'm really glad I chose to do the color changes as written in the arm band ribbing, which I was considering making just solid navy, and also happy with the choice to do the bottom and button bands in solid navy. For the button bands I picked up about 100 stitches along the front edges, 2 for every 3 rows. Actually 99 and 104, but I can't tell the difference and wasn't going to rip out the second one to make it the same. Still don't know how that happened. I added a single crochet row along the top and bottom edges of each button band with the tail from binding off. The ribbing was pulling in a little bit and this helped even it out to meet the other ribbing edges neatly.

There are a few things I'm not wild about. For example, the increases in the body shaping show *really well* in the persimmon color. Also a couple places where I joined yarn are pretty obvious to me, again in the persimmon and not the navy. If I made this again I'd do like some other folks and add some sleeves, maybe 3/4 length since these short caps do little to flatter my arms. There are so many other great patterns to try though, that I doubt that will come to pass.

I do like the texture of the reverse stockinette, the interest of the yoke, and how mixing in the navy helps me wear this pretty coral color without looking red in the face. Also, the knit rows at the color changes between the purl stripes are super nifty. I have to say there were plenty of times along the way when I was skeptical about how this would turn out, regretting my decision to go off pattern and make it a cardigan, or just wondering if that yoke ribbing was really not going to be super saggy when all was said and done, but I'm glad I perservered. The rest of the details are on my Ravelry page, but here's the basics:

Pattern: Rotation (by ANKESTRiCK, free on Ravelry)
Needle: size 6 and size 7 circulars
Yarn: Caron Simply Soft Solids in Dark Country Blue and Persimmon

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

the forest moon

I'm making Dave some flip-top mittens. I've had the yarn and the pattern picked out for over a year (two?), but the activation barrier to actually wind the yarn was simply too much. I know, le sigh. Also, my having never actually finished a pair of gloves before was kind of standing in the way. Now that I've got those stranded mitts under my belt, I'm feeling pretty confident about these guys. 


Like the last mitts, I'm using magic loop on a size 8 needle, single ply wool yarn that has a thick-and-thin tendency, and there's a generous garter stitch cuff. Unlike those mitts, these are worked from cuff to tip and there is no provision for fingers. Reading through the pattern and some of the comments, I knew I was going to at least figure out how to lengthen the section that goes inside the flip top so there would be no gaping at the palm. I asked Dave if he would rather have fingers or one big tube and he chose fingers. Of course. But to be honest, I think I'd prefer it that way too. It's just going to be harder given that I've never knit fingers bottom up before. It would have been too easy to just look up some patterns and adapt the instructions, so of course silly me I improvised. I fought with these last night, grumbled and groaned, but I think I managed to pull out something that will turn out decent. I even remembered to write down notes so I can repeat it for the left hand. The pattern would be nice and easy peasy without modifications, but we just have to be fancy and complicated here.


I'm going to weave in all those tentacle-y ends before picking up stitches for the mitten top to be sure the holes between fingers close to my liking before proceeding. Anyone have good ways to avoid those gaps? Are they unavoidable? 

Setting all process annoyances aside, now that I'm looking at these in the daylight I'm loving the colors! Dave thinks it looks like a sunset at the beach (he seems to think this a lot…) but I'm going with Endor, the forest moon. Look out for Ewoks, folks.