Saturday, August 19, 2017

the long and winding road

So much yarn! There is even more of that navy blue and forest green that remains unwound waiting for some progress to be made on the rather large projects those are destined to become. New, you say? No just newly wound. I buckled down and wound up a bunch of hanks that have been lounging around in the stash for a while. I haven't picked out projects for all of them yet but I found myself wanting to start one of my long planned projects, a shetland shawl from a book of traditional shawls I bought at Powell's on our last trip to Portland in 2015. That deep blue yarn is destined for that. I figured as long as I was winding up a couple of hanks already I would wind up some others and lower the barrier to starting projects with them by having them ready to go. 

Similar to finishing up quilts in progress helping me mentally want to plan a quilt again, I think the same can be said for having a relatively clean yarny slate. I've made so much good progress on whittling down my stash this last year and a half as well as finishing up works in progress. With the exception of the socks I just started and the aforementioned shetland shawl the only other WIP is my gray tree of life afghan. That's pretty amazing. 

The other thing that is pretty amazing is my winding set up. Last year for my birthday I treated myself to a ball winder and swift. What precipitated it was that I bought a lot of yarn all at once last September for making gifts for Dave's family's handmade holiday. There were so many people in the store that I didn't want to wait around for my yarn to be wound (and frankly I don't think they wanted to wind up seven large hanks all at once for me anyway). I figured I would go back in stages when I was ready to start different projects to have hanks wound, but ended up finding another solution.

With my birthday right around the corner in November I started researching ball winders when I got home with my new stash. It took me a few weeks before deciding on what to get, but I ended up dishing out some dough for a nice sturdy hand operated winder and a relatively inexpensive swift. Perhaps at some point I'll upgrade the swift but this ball winder is solid. Like my great grandkids will probably still be able to use it, it's that well made. 

It is really nice to have the ability to wind my own yarn, especially since a lot of the yarn I get now comes in hanks. It saves the winding time for both me and the shopkeepers when I'm buying from brick and mortar stores and is the perfect solution when I buy the occasional hank online. All told I wound about 3600 yards and it only took me an hour or so. Now for more stash busting!

Friday, August 18, 2017

rainbow sherbert

Omg this is so cute. And it is also the ultimate using-up-the-stash project. When I found out my friend Cindy was expecting, I knew I was going to have to knit her baby something since she's my knitting buddy. It was February, well before the due date (she arrived just last week!), and my brain went past booties, hats, or a stuffed animal and said "blanket". 

I have had this fuzzy purple/pink yarn in my stash for a long long time. Like before I even met my hubby long. It was originally supposed to be a sweater but that was overly ambitious of me back then, for sure. I'm glad it hung around for so long because this turned out to be an amazing use for it. I hope it washes well - everything is acrylic so at least it will be easy to deal with. Since I knew I wanted to pair it with a 'normal' yarn that meant I went hunting for a simple pattern so the texture difference was the star rather than anything complicated pattern-wise. Trusty chevrons. Always there when you need them. 

Funny story about the peach yarn. I recall, also many moons ago, that I was reteaching myself to knit. I was watching some old episodes of Star Trek (don't ask me why I remember that, or why old Star Trek, for that matter) and wrestling with this yarn and a needle that I realized only much later was far too big. Fast forward to the brilliant thought of 'I know! I'll unravel that blanket I tried forever ago and use it in this one'. Not a bad idea, but each time I had a section where I switched from knit to purl the yarn was twisted. This meant I couldn't just pull on the yarn and have it unravel. The moss stitch borders were particularly terrible. Turns out I was unraveling from the cast on edge rather than the bound off edge. It took some doing, but I worked out a system to undo things so I could actually use the yarn. Sharing just so we all remember it's ok to be human :)

I'm really pleased with the texture, the pattern, the everything. This baby's getting a fine piece of knitting! Originally I wanted to use gray superwash wool instead of peach but after realizing I had plenty of peach acrylic and not much gray wool I decided to try it out. It really does remind me of rainbow sherbert. 

I used the pattern as a guide, knitting stripes that are 10 rows thick (5 repeats) and kept knitting until it seemed big enough to me. As frustrating as unraveling the peach yarn was, I gave myself a break and weaved in ends as I went along - highly recommended practice for large projects in general. I added the thin stripe at the end to use up the rest of my ball of purple and I like that little inconsistency. It was steam blocked one evening along with Flamingo Foot and Stanford Pride and remains folded up all ready for my first visit to see the little miss. 

Rainbow Sherbert (my Ravelry page)
Pattern: Chevron Baby Blanket by Espace Tricot
Yarn: Red Heart Classic in 'peach' and Jo-Ann Sensations Margherita in 'purple'
Needle: US 9
Size: 32" x 40"

Thursday, August 17, 2017

bear down

Whenever my mom comes to visit me I try to con her into something related to crafting. That and gardening are two of the things I miss doing with her the most. One time it was helping me finish her birthday quilt, and I'm pretty sure that same trip she and I spent hours in a park one afternoon knitting/crocheting where I made a lot of progress on a lace shawl. Last trip, just before the holidays last year, we went to Fengari in Half Moon Bay so she could help me spend a gift certificate. She may or may not have also left with some yarn :). 

The lovely navy yarn in this project was one of my purchases that day. Also this was the trip where we saw the finished object that inspired the project itself, a huge poofy infinity cowl. I really appreciate when yarn shops have samples made up, mainly to see how the yarns feel in finished fabric, but more than once I've seen a project and decided I needed to make one just like it. This cowl was floating atop the piles of Malabrigo yarn in a really great pea green and fuschia color combo. I knew I wanted one when I saw it because a) stripes b) bulky yarn c) color combo fun and d) so soft.

Of course once I decided I wanted to make it along comes the dilemma of what colors to use. I hemmed and hawed and ended up taking just the navy home. I know. I passed up the opportunity to buy TWO colors, and there are so many pretty colors of Malabrigo. But in the continued sprit of trying to use my stash yarn I knew I had an orange that would work out really well already hanging out at home that, besides being the complementary color to navy (color wheel theory, people), would make me the perfect accessory in which to root for the Chicago Bears. Let's not discuss last season - I'm a sports optimist. After all, I've rooted for the Cubs all my life and they had just won big!

The pattern is striped not only in color but also in weight. The bulky yarn is paired with a much lighter weight yarn that makes for a really interesting texture in the finished fabric. There's nothing fancy about the construction, just a big long rectangle of knitting grafted together to form a cowl. The edges are just plain knit stitch and so roll under as you'd expect. I won't be blocking it at all, but this was another one of those projects in the box with my ball winder -- it took me some time to muster up the will for grafting, but in the end easy peasy. Looking forward to some cozy times with this one this winter.

Bear Down cowl
Pattern: Polar Opposites (my Ravelry Page)
Yarn: Malabrigo Mecha in 'persia' and Madelinetosh Merino Light in 'terra'
Needle: US 11

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

summer rainbows

I've been in finish-it-up mode in both my yarn and fabric pursuits trying to get works in progress cleared out of the queue. That makes it sound more formal than reality - there is no 'queue' but there is certainly mental and physical occupied space. That said, I've done a really good job of it the first half of this year, which I will continue to write about in the coming weeks, and am happy to be back at the point where I can let myself think on new things.

After the great quilting finishes of 2015 (six!), especially the Christmas marathon of three, I slowed down on the quilts and worked on some smaller sewn items and mostly worked on whittling down my yarn stash last year. Finishing my Retro Granny has given me the space I needed to start thinking about my next quilt.

I think for Christmas, but in any case as a gift, my mom got me a book on French Braid Quilts. It's an interesting construction technique, somewhat related to the log cabin block, that the author provides a general tutorial on and then showcases variations on a theme across the rest of the book. 

The really satisfying part is playing with fabrics and coming up with just the right 'run' of colors that work nicely together. I didn't realize this at first because I started out thinking I'd work with just one collection of fabrics that I'd gotten myself some time ago (Mustang by Melody Miller for the curious) and jump right in. Once I started arranging things though, I quickly realized that all the tidbits in the tutorial were totally true - smaller prints are better than big prints, directional prints only work in some cases, and the choice of order is important in making the whole thing look cohesive. 

Scrapping my original plan, I went back into my stash and brought out some of the Indie prints I have as well as some purple batik. I didn't start with the intention of a rainbow run, but in the end I think I've got a bit of a slant rhyme to a traditional rainbow that works out quite well. It will be staggered across the quilt in the pattern that I chose, so hopefully won't end up looking too predictable or on the other hand too muddy and mixed up. I'm sure with some more careful fabric choices for the rest of the elements it will end up looking pretty cool. I'm happy with the initial half braids I have so far!

Monday, August 14, 2017

flamingo foot

I was looking around for my ball winder the other day and found this bundled up in the box along with it. I believe what happened was that when I reorganized my craft closet I decided that putting yet-to-be-blocked FOs in with the ball winder would be a nice reminder to block them. I suppose it worked because when I wanted to wind yarn to start another project the guilt trip of an unblocked project sitting around while I considered starting a new one was indeed too much to bear. Oh past self you are so wily. 

This yarn is acrylic so a steaming was in order. It's also huge and I don't have enough blocking boards or table space to accommodate huge, so I did it in halves. The piece is a rectangle which made it super easy to get blocking wires in and everything pinned out, straight edges everywhere. It didn't take long to get it all done, and it is looking much more presentable. It would have been fine without being blocked, but being stretched out really helped those loopy bits start to behave themselves more and it just helped even things out in the rest of the stitch patterns.

Having finished this last summer I lovingly decided to call it "Flamingo Foot" after a nickname my grandpa used to call me. The colors are just too perfect to not think of flamingos and Florida. Now that it's truly done it goes in the ever growing stack of self-made pieces that I get to wear! Much better than a box in the closet. 

Flamingo Foot shawl (my Ravelry page)
Pattern: Stitch Sampler Shawl
Yarn: Red Heart Boutique Unforgettable in 'Parrot'
Needle: US 10
Size: 18" x 80"

Sunday, August 13, 2017

more colorful socks

I was crawling up the walls a couple of weeks ago and I wanted an easy, satisfying knitting project to take the edge off. I had some blankets going, one of which was a pretty easy pattern, but not the type of satisfying I was looking for since progress in inches was slow to see. Recalling the happiness I've derived from little projects I decided to tackle socks again! 

I picked up the rest of my skein of Regia and I've quickly worked my way through the first half of a sock. Now that's what I call satisfying. 

stanford pride

I started this scarf last September, bound off in February, and finally blocked it at the beginning of August. Dave will be ready for this football season! Last year when it got chilly at night in Stanford Stadium he wore *gasp* a blue and yellow scarf. Cal colors. The horror. I gave him a hard time about it and he, being quick of mind and wit, suggested that I make him a more appropriately colored accessory. This was hard to argue with, and so a project was born. 

He picked out this yarn at the King's Mountain Art Fair, which I am looking forward to again this year. The woman who dyed the yarn is a local right in the neighborhood up on the mountain where we want to live someday. While enthusiastic that he found the right colors, in a self-striping yarn no less, Dave had no idea of the commitment required to take lightweight fingering yarn in one end and come out with a scarf on the other. Yikes! If only it came in worsted. Good thing I like him a lot. 

Dave was into chevrons at the time and so he picked this pattern out of a few options I showed him. I was worried it would come out looking a little bit feminine with the lacy yarn over bits, especially with the lightweight yarn, but in the end it's totally fine. The only modification I made was to change the type of decrease at the points to make a symmetrical center decrease rather than the right-leaning one in the pattern. 

The striping of the yarn along with the width I picked serendipitously ended up giving me this really interesting pooling where the stripes on the edge are thicker and the ones in the middle are thinner and jumbled up a bit more. I don't think I could have planned that. I suppose I could have fiddled around to see what width would give me pure and regular stripes, but I asked Dave how he felt about it after a few inches when I realized it was going to continue repeating itself and he liked it so I stuck with it. 

I used just one skein of the two we got, so I will have another chance to play with this yarn. Maybe I'll make him some matching mitts! And a hat for me? Go 'Card.

Stanford Pride scarf (my Ravelry page)
Pattern: Sunray Scarf by Annick Willemans
Yarn: Schafenfreude Fibers Luster Sock
Needle: US 4
Size: 10" x 54"

Saturday, July 15, 2017

instant gratification

I love green, blue, and aqua in almost anything. These are some of my favorite fabrics I have in my stash, and I am so pleased with how pretty they all look together! That starburst fabric is a particular favorite of mine, so it was a perfect pick for the pocket of a little gift I made a couple of weeks ago. 

I followed the Crochet On The Go Bag pattern I found at Sew Mama Sew (here) and ended up with a cute birthday gift in an hour or so. Super easy and fun to play with fabric. The idea is a bag you can throw your yarn in and hang over your arm as you crochet (in lines, walking around (!), etc.). I also think it's a cute project bag even for someone who doesn't want to wander around with their work.

The part that makes it really fun is the pocket. It adds interest to the outside structurally and is also a place to mix and match different fabrics. Let's also not forget how much difference the perfect button can make. There is no orange in any of the fabrics, but just that little bit in the button pops and makes everything else look even better. I could also say that the round shape ties in nicely with the round starbursts and polka dots, but that might just be too much design speak for me to describe a situation where it really was 'I just picked the coolest button I had in my stash'. 

There are several pockets on the inside, and the way it is sewn onto the bag makes a deep pouch between the pocket and bag that is good for holding larger things (a printed pattern maybe?) as well. The pocket is slightly smaller than the pattern calls for, just by an inch or two. This is primarily because the fabrics I wanted to use were scraps that weren't large enough for the pattern as-is, but I think if I made this again I'd still like the pocket smaller like this.

I added top stitching around the handle because I like the way that finish looks, and it also helps make it feel sturdier. The bag is large enough to hold a couple of full skeins of yarn, and I included some of the more commonly used crochet hook sizes in the pocket. 

It was so nice to start and finish something in the same day --- similar to the smaller knitting/crocheting projects I don't think to do very often because blankets, shawls, and quilts are so much more tempting. Lesson learned at the sewing machine as well! Do the small things, they're super fun too.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Retro Granny

It's so funny to go back and track down when I last picked up any given project. My last post on this quilt was from January 2016 and full of optimism that it would be done very soon. hehehe. It took me until early April 2017 to do so, and it's now July and I'm writing about it.

First off, Kepler would like me to explain to everyone that is is very hard to be a cat in the Schoen household. But he does appreciate all the opportunities to help out with craft projects.

Secondly, I can explain that the long gap was partly due to a new job taking up time, but mostly because I didn't have quilt batting. A normal person's solution to that problem would be to go out and buy some batting the right size for the quilt. My solution? Order a huge roll of batting online. Seriously. I have something like 40 yards of batting on a roll in my closet now. It's a beautiful thing. Of course, it required totally reorganizing the closet to get it to fit in there, but now I have the convenience of cutting off whatever size batting I need for all the quilts I'm going to make. (For like the next 10 years....) 

Back to the quilt at hand, the roll o' batting really did make it very easy. I had a gray flat sheet hanging out with my fabrics that I think works with the 'cool' colors in the Millie's Closet fabrics really well. 

I thought about hand quilting it, but ended up machine quilting using straight stitching along each side of the sashing strips and adding in diagonal lines across each row of blocks. The photo below shows one of the diagonal quilting lines where I chose to stitch three parallel lines. I did this every other diagonal, which made a really neat looking pattern that for some reason makes me think of argyle socks. Maybe it's more of a slant rhyme to plaid, but either way it's cool. White thread makes it just a textural effect rather than additional color. 

I used leftover strips from the Millie's Closet jelly roll to make binding. Jelly rolls make binding oh so easy. The colors progress from pink to yellow to green to blue around the edge of the quilt rather than being assembled randomly. It's probably not noticeable to anyone else, but I'll know it! I stitched the binding on by machine as well, tacking it down with a zigzag stitch in green thread. 

The final quilt is 43" x 54" which is a pretty good size.

Friday, June 30, 2017

christmas catch up

It's really too bad that I didn't get a picture of all the things I made for Dave's family last Christmas because they were pretty awesome. So awesome that Dave wanted to pack the up and ship them off before I took pictures! :) In addition to the couple pairs of socks I've already written about, I made my sister-in-law a hat, my brother-in-law a set of fingerless mitts, and my mother-in-law a scarf. The scarf at least I have a picture of (as it dried from blocking late on Xmas Eve....):

I'll start with the mitts. Dave requested them for his brother after I finished his Endor gloves that he loves so much. Knowing that I wasn't going to have time to finish the fiddly finger bits, I went looking for another pattern and found Lambing Mitts, some super cool open top mittens. I used the same heavy duty yarn, and they turned out looking much like Dave's pair, only no fingers. Success!

The hat and the scarf were both patterns from a slip stitch knitting book of patterns from my new local yarn shop in Los Altos. The hat went SUPER fast, and I made it with forest green yarn that I had in my stash from another project. Yeah for stash busting. The amount of yarn (about half a skein) was just enough to finish the Siska Hat and it took me like a day (and an extra half a day to tink back and add in a repeat I skipped). With the pattern and the color, it ended up looking like a pine tree forest all around the hat. The fit was great (on my head at least) and it was a hard one to give up. 

The scarf, as you'd think, took longer to make. It is interesting in that you don't knit width-wise and make it longer; you knit length-wise and make it wider. That means each row takes forever, but it isn't as mentally painful as the "normal" way of making a scarf, in my mind anyway. Dave picked out the colors, which I think are really great and a departure from what I would usually pick. The pattern was really fun to knit with all the slip stitching and color changes keeping it interesting. Sure enough (just to keep up with my m.o. of course!) I finished it on the plane to Louisiana and weaved in ends and blocked it the night before Christmas, letting it dry until morning.

Whew! Hopefully this will clear up my writer's block now that I've got this post out of the way. I haven't been doing too much this year, but I have been getting some crafting in here and there. More to come. 

Be a Lamb mitts (my Ravelry page)
Pattern: Lambing Mitts
Yarn: Newton's Yarn Kroy Pencil Roving 
Needle: US 6 dpns

Wayward Pines hat (my Ravelry page)
Pattern: Siska Hat
Yarn: Lion Brand Heartland in King's Canyon
Needle: US 5 and 7

Peachy Keen scarf (my Ravelry page)
Pattern: Volna
Yarn: Berroco Ultra Alpaca in Grove Mix, Barley, and Candied Yam Mix
Needle: US 8

Saturday, April 8, 2017

indie quilt

The last time I wrote about this project was Labor Day weekend - a month before the wedding for which it was due. In true "me" fashion, I took it right down to the wire, but it got done and turned out to be a really pretty quilt that I hope my cousin will enjoy.

I like to think of these wedding quilts as 'picnic quilts' because when Dave and I first met one of our favorite ways to spend time together was on picnics with a basket full of fruit and cheese. Nothing like sitting in the sunshine on a nice day with a book, a guitar, or a nap. (Oh How California!) It does feel a bit decadent when we manage to do it now - less often, but no less appreciated.

Because it will end up on grass and dirt and ground the back is a very sturdy flat sheet I had in my stash. The red sets off all the colors nicely and will certainly hold up to use. I brought the backing around to the front as the binding as well, so this sucker is ready to go.

It's been a while, but I'm 99% sure I took this just as the finished front and the sheet for the backing to my parents' house so I could finish it before the wedding. Rather than taking a bulky batted thing along we just popped out to her Joann's and got some batting and I decided to give my trusty old machine (my first sewing machine) a break and tie the quilt instead of doing a lot of quilting. I remember at some point Dave had a tied quilt and I liked the look of it - turned out nice here too. I used salmon colored pearl cotton with some complicated knot to make sure it doesn't come undone.

Dave, my trusty photographer whenever we go on vacation, snapped a bunch of great pictures literally minutes before I wrapped it up in ribbons to go the wedding. What a sport. I loved working with these fabrics and colors. The saturated berry and teal were my favorite colors, and any one of the creative florals are just amazing. These Anita's arrowhead blocks look great with a combination of solids and prints, and I like the way the whole thing sparkles. It ended up being a nice blend of modern and traditional, something that suits my cousin really well!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

belle fleur at long last!

It seems fitting that I start writing after a bit of a hiatus by sharing a project that also enjoyed a raaaaather long hibernation before I finished it this week. 

I started this blanket May 1, 2010 according to Ravelry .... and it took me until this past weekend to finally get Kepler to help me finish sewing it all together. 

I loved crocheting all of the individual flower motifs - they go really fast and are all super interesting. What took much longer was sewing it all together. I think I was just intimidated at not knowing what I was doing there. Mom did quite a bit of assembling on one of her trips, and helped get me jump started. Of course that didn't mean it didn't enjoy more hibernation while I knit all the other shiny things. At least I knew what I was supposed to do with it ;).

I must admit I was not convinced even while assembling that this would end up looking any good. I was imagining huge gaping holes, comparing to pictures on Ravelry where others had filled in with extra motifs or in fact HAD huge gaping holes, and just generally thought I'd end up with a big floppy swamp thing.

Well I didn't! It looks great and I'm glad I persevered. The one modification I did make was on the tassels. I left out the last round on the tassel cap, used fewer strands in the dangly bit, and sewed 5 of them directly onto the largest flower motif instead of making long cords to hang 5 off of each end. They are still begging to be cat toys, but at least it's not as bad as having way danglier things to play with.

Of course, given how awesome it looks, the cats are NOT allowed! Because look. It totally fits in with our new duvet cover. Good job picking a color, past self. That pea green pops. It's a super dimensional, super cool blanket that I'm proud to say I made. At last!