Thursday, January 24, 2013

Solstice Slouch

Don't those look like the colors of winter? I've crocheted a slouchy hat that I hope will make me feel a bit more in the mood for frosty. After all, the weather here has been unseasonably cold! Mornings at the Red Barn have been quite cool, the horses are fresh. The color combination reminds me of crisp snowy mornings with clear skies. Or the frothy ocean waves rolling in - especially that pretty forest green in the center. So I've named it Winter Waves. It seems kind of funny to name each and every project, but I keep track of my yarnwork on Ravelry so I try to come up with creative names just to keep it fun. Totally not taking myself seriously, here.

This project is another one of those satisfyingly quick work-ups in cotton yarn that I had in my stash. I looked around on Ravelry and settled on this (free!) Autumn Slouch pattern. I thought about doing a more complex design, but a variegated yarn calls for simple, in my opinion. The crossed double crochet gives the fabric a nice texture without looking busier than the colors already do. This yarn is a self-striping colorway from Lily, and the colors are my favorite part. I kind of wish the stripes were a little thicker around this hat, but the color change every row or so works out ok, too.

As soon as I let the ball drop to the floor, Newton (the new kitten) was on it in a flash. Jack wasn't a playful kitten (nor is he a playful cat), so I've never actually seen a cat play with yarn before. It was hilarious! But, Dave quickly realized that in a few more minutes the ball would be an unredeemable tangled mess, so we stopped that. 

To achieve the desired amount of slouch I added 2 more repeats of the pattern where the option was indicated. It's just enough to achieve a jaunty looking hat without it hanging down to my shoulders. 

I've been wearing this hat all evening since I finished it. It's quite warm and hasn't slipped off my head once! This is a peeve of mine with some hats, especially if I leave my hair loose. Maybe my head is shaped funny. I am hoping this doesn't stretch out of shape. It might because it's all cotton, but I'll just hope we avoid that. Fingers crossed. Other than that consideration (oversight) I'm pleasantly surprised at just how much I like this hat! 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Cardigan Challenge

I like to travel with either a knit or crochet project in my bag. Right before the holidays I found myself with only an Aidez sweater on the needles. The pattern is too complex for me to tune out and knit on the plane so I needed to start something else.

I've started a Rotation sweater using some yarn leftover from two of my favorite projects from the last year: a scarf for grandpa (from Xmas 2011) and a hoodie vest for Samara. Most of the sweater is stockinette stitch (easy!) and the pattern for the yoke section isn't too bad, just twisted ribbing. It worked out really well at the airport and on the planes; I'm almost done with the yoke.

I love the persimmon color but have a hard time wearing it (it makes my face look red) so I'm hoping combining it with the navy will help that a bit. I saw another version of this sweater on Ravelry in a pretty solid yellow that the knitter had modified to make into a cardigan. I liked it a lot more than the pullover (and I think it will like me more, too) so I'm planning on making a cardigan out of it, also. I think I'll have to put my markers in different places when I increase for the back but other than that it seems really quite simple to take the in-the-round instructions and just knit flat.

Linking up to Work in Progress Wednesday at Freshly Pieced -- I love seeing what everyone else is up to!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Aidez-ing Along

One of my goals from the last 100 days of last year was to knit enough of an Aidez sweater to know if I wanted to keep going. I did so, and I *do* want to keep knitting away at this one. It just seems so slow! I have to admit, before I pulled this out to photograph it in the wonderful light we had one afternoon, I was thinking of giving up. But now looking at this photograph, I see potential. And that fantastic orange color doesn't hurt, either. 

This yarn is coming off of a crochet jacket that I made back when my husband and I first met (wow! like, more than 5 years ago???). It was the first sweater I ever finished for myself, and was such a disappointment when I put it on and it was waaaay too bulky, especially under the arms. Saddened, I put it away in a cabinet for years trying to think up something to do with this beautiful yarn. I loved the color and texture, so tried a cabled blanket with it, but got one section done and ended up bored. I really wanted to *wear* this stuff, not end up with a pilled mess on my couch. 

Along came Aidez. This cardigan, the result of listless searching around on Ravelry for *something* to make with the bulky yarn that wasn't a scarf, hat, or bolero, seemed like the answer to my wants -  a challenging enough project to keep my interest (check) and a knitted project for this yarn that would mean the fabric wouldn't be as bulky as crocheted fabric (check). One person even used this kind of yarn for her sweater! I have high hopes, Aidez, high hopes indeed.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Seeing Stars

I worked on a couple of quilt blocks this past week, using stars as the inspiration. I found a couple patterns that were half-square triangle (HST) friendly since I wanted the construction to be relatively simple. Step one: cut a lot of squares and make a lot of HSTs! Chain piecing is my friend.

For this first block, I wanted to see if I could make a Swoon block out of all HSTs that would end up being 12.5" square -- I basically looked at how many squares would be across the block, divided and cut my squares appropriately. The astute reader will notice this is not a Swoon, since the base of the yellow petals are actually indented instead of flat. I found a block called the Carpenter's star that is most often shown with alternating colors of diamonds around the outside to form the petals. (Google carpenter's star block and look at the images, and you'll see what I mean). I just took the color layout for Swoon, applied it to this, and ended up with a swooning carpenter! Or something like that. Most of my points match up.... next time I will strive to be more careful about that. But really, it was a LOT of triangles, so a few oddballs here and there don't bug me. 

The second block is my favorite. It is called a Spinning Star, and I am seriously considering re-thinking my Amsterdam quilt to use this block instead of what I've started. I love how it looks like a pinwheel and star all wrapped up in one. Also, the gray and yellow looks pretty much awesome but I think this would work well with the orange and green scheme, too. This block was much easier to process and put together. There are many fewer pieces (by a factor of 4!) so it was faster and the larger HSTs made point matching much nicer. 

Aside from being super pleased with the way these look, I am also amazed that I managed to make these completely from scraps! I know! Those jars on my shelf are actually serving a purpose -- first coasters, now quilt blocks. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Lumbar Lovin'

My chair at work won the contest of wills when I tried adjusting it to help my posture at my desk. I decided a good fix would be to just bring in a pillow. But of course it can't be just a plain pillow. Oh no. I made a new cover for one.

Last Thursday I looked around and had an odd-man-out on the sofa in the sewing room that has been waiting for a new lease on life, so no worries on the pillow front. Then I remembered I had a quilted top I made way long ago and wasn't sure how to finish sitting around in my cabinet. More than halfway there and I just started!

To add some personality I added a bright and busy print on the back. This Amy Butler Lark print (Heirloom, in Jade) is one of my favorites I have right now but I've had trouble thinking of good uses for it. I think the print would lose a lot of charm if it were cut up too much, and I haven't got a whole lot of other fabrics that go with it. (I did make a necklace and drawstring bag using it, which I think look fantastic!) I really just bought a little of it because it was so darn gorgeous. And so darn ME.

I tried out French seams for the first time. They are much easier to sew than to read instructions for. All I did was put the pillow together everything right sides out, stitched a 1/4" seam all around, turned the whole thing inside out through the envelope back, pressed, and stitched about a 3/8" seam all the way around. When it is right side out the seam looks like any other but inside the raw edges are encased. This is awesome because the linen frays like crazy. Sometimes just trying something on a simple project is the way to get it in my mental toolbox for winging it on other things later on. French seams: check.

The flowers are slightly squished because, well, I use it!

The plain linen and simple grid quilting needed something to spruce it up, so I browsed through my pins on Pinterest and rediscovered a really cute design with simple cut out flowers in a grid layout - seemed like just the thing! The flowers give great dimension in a non-fussy way, and the cross stitches were just what I needed to add some more color to the front. I used some bright blue linen for the flower petals (only one 2" circle, unlike the tutorial above which uses two) and cut smaller circles from scraps of plain linen for the centers. Two colors of pearl cotton were used for the stitching - gold and salmon. I couldn't decide which I liked best so I just used both.

The funny thing about this whole project was that I started it right before bed thinking I would just add a back and be satisfied. Hah. I was sitting in bed, cat purring and snoozing in my lap, stitching flowers on until the wee hours of the morning. I think what took so long was cutting out the circles and notching them. I realized a little too late that stacking 3 or 4 pieces to cut and notch worked just fine. Oh well. I still felt well rested the next day, and I sat at my desk with a much happier back. Yeah for lumbar pillows.

Linking up to Finish It Up Friday -- this top has been waiting around since summer, so it's a pretty satisfying finish!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Quick crochet

I had a hankering the other day to start and finish a quick yarn project. Dishcloths are really fun small projects, and I have several balls of cotton yarn hanging around in my stash. I browsed around the interwebs for a while looking for a different pattern than the ones I've been using and found this lovely specimen based on an African flower hexagon motif.

I really love the salmon-y orange shown in the picture on that webpage. I have some pretty variegated colors, but I think this particular design benefits from a solid color in the center at least. I grabbed my yellow yarn and spent a nice relaxing evening on in the sewing room hanging out with our new cat (!!) and crocheting up a cute little dishcloth. I outlined it in bright green and added a chain stitch loop at the end as a hanger. It is now hanging up on the wall over the kitchen sink spreading the sunshine around. I really, really like that flower motif in the center.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Pinwheel Progress

This week I started a baby quilt I've been planning for a while. Anna and I traded pictures and ideas back in the fall and came up with this Pinwheels in the Park quilt to make for her little one due in February. I need to get cracking! This has to be finished in time to ship to Switzerland in February!

This is the first block I made, to test out the piecing. It goes together quickly, and just look at the size of that block! This top will be done in no time. So far I'm really enjoying the fabrics I picked out. I really think the pinwheels pop using the same fabrics in all four blades. I'm also pressing my seams so the lighter portion recedes and the darker center sections are raised. There are 11 more blocks to do in muted reds, yellows, and blues. The background is a pretty light green, and I've got some awesome gray flannel for the backing.

While cutting and sewing I've also been slowly introducing our new cat to Jack. We got him Friday and I'd say he is adjusting well! Now I will have TWO sewing buddies.

Linking to WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

Monday, January 14, 2013

White elephant

What to do for a white elephant gift exchange? With labmates? Last Wednesday my lab got together for dinner and a white elephant, as opposed to dinner and a movie. I wanted to give something that was in the spirit of the activity, something perhaps useful or desirable to someone but not me, but I also wanted it to have a bit of my personality thrown in for kicks.

I had a couple of glasses that I'd been wanting to get out of the cupboard for a while -- tall glasses that are great for milkshakes and smoothies but I actually don't like them very much and have mugs that serve the same purpose. They're perfectly good glasses though; great for the white elephant.

But getting a box with two plain glasses is kind of odd, so I decided to indulge in some sewing and make a set of quilted coasters to go with. Inspired by the jars of scraps I have organized by color on my shelf, I improv-pieced coasters each in a different color family. I kind of think using scraps for these (including the batting!) is also in the spirit of a white elephant, just something you have hanging around.

The fronts and backs were pieced to be 4.5 inches square so the finished squares are about 4 inches on a side. I did a simple square spiral to quilt them after topstitching the edges. By the end of the evening I ended up with four - red, orange, green, and blue. Wrapped them in ribbon and voila!

The glasses and coasters were a great success at the gift exchange - stolen a maximum number of times! Some people really liked the glasses and others just wanted the coasters, so I was pretty happy with that. Our other gift we brought, hydrophobic sand, was also just as popular. Of course, we're all scientists so that's probably unique...

Friday, January 11, 2013

Pajama Party

I do believe that this is the last post on projects I finished before the New Year, and this was my biggest challenge to myself on my 100 Day Hustle List. I'm sitting here with a smug little smile and patting myself on the back that I did it.

Over the past year I've made quite a few pint-sized articles of clothing for my two nieces: pajama bottoms, sweaters, skirts. I think the small size and freedom to use wild and fun fabrics and colors is part of the reason, but truth be told in the past I've tried making things for myself and they haven't ever turned out. The smaller garments have been great practice and I mustered up the motivation to finally use the flannel and pattern my mom gave me a while ago to make myself some PJs. Still wild fabric, just a bigger size. I love the colors in this flannel, and the tile pattern is something I've always been drawn to.

Pajamas are a pretty forgiving project. They are loose, simply constructed, and low pressure because pretty much no one is ever going to see them outside of my cat and husband. So if I mess up a little bit there won't be much judgement or impact to the overall garment.

I used Butterick pattern 6837, which is a unisex pattern that includes robes, long sleeved tops, tanks, shorts, and pants. The construction was simple and the instructions clear. My one gripe is that the pants are waaaaay baggy. It's fine, they don't look bad or anything but I think if there was less fabric used there then I would have had plenty left to do a button-down long sleeved shirt to go with. Instead I ended up making a tank top and having a pretty good amount left over. I do like this fabric a lot so it will be great for more projects, but still. 

In making the top I wised up and checked the fit as I went along. Not that there is much to making a tank top, but the armholes and bust are always an issue for me in terms of placement and ease. Despite measuring myself and using those guidelines for the sizing, I still had to let out the side seams a quarter inch or so to make it a comfortable fit under my arms. I was also pretty proud of myself that I could add in a simple pleat at the neckline to make it sit better on my shoulders. I hid the junction with a cute little button from Britex. 

All in all I'm really pleased with the results. I think garment sewing will get easier and easier as I do more of it, and the more familiar I get with this type of sewing special details and improvisations will start popping up. 

I'm linking up to Finish it Up Friday at crazy mom quilts with this one!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Blanket Bonanza

This one is one of the best 2012 projects of all because I got to work with my mom. It's really all because she was so crafty while I grew up (and continues to be) that I do any of these things at all so it was especially fun to help her out while I was home for the holidays.

You know, the blankets where you tie the edges of two pieces of fleece together? We made three. We stopped in the fabric store, right next to the DSW ;), and had lots of fun picking out fleece combinations for boys. Having two nieces it gets pink and girly pretty quick so picking out boy oriented fabrics was a fun change. What boys don't like robots, monkeys, and football?

I will admit, Mom did all the hard work of squaring up and snipping the edges. I just followed along and helped her tie.

She and I finished two blankets in an evening, and she completed the third the night after I left. Somehow I ended up without a picture of the robots, my favorite one, but here's a look at monkeys and football.

I think these will be enjoyed! I know I have loved and worn out the two I have from years ago. There may or may not be some cute owls for me to use the next time I am home...

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Knitting Lesson

Well this is a special wip post... My niece started knitting a scarf!

I gifted her a book called Annie and the Swiss Cheese Scarf this year, written by Alana at Never Not Knitting. In it a six year old girl begins to learn how to knit. It's a really cute story, and beautifully illustrated. More importantly, it was a really great way to introduce knitting to my six year old niece. I think having Annie the same age as her made the activity something approachable rather than intimidating.

And boy did she pick it up fast! I cast on and started a couple of rows, to save on that frustration we all experience in the beginning, but after a few step by step demonstrations and using the little rhyme in the back of the book she quickly got all the steps down to make her first knit stitch. See the look of amazement on her face? It was adorable. I held the yarn to adjust tension for the first few stitches and there were some finer points to learn and continue practicing (like don't let the stitches slip off the needles), but she's pretty much got it. I'm so impressed.

We got a couple rows done the first night, and the next morning as I packed my bags she sat down in my room and said, "Hey look Auntie Alia, I can still knit!" while slowly working her way through another row. Priceless.

I highly recommend using bamboo needles and chunky yarn. We used Lion Brand Hometown USA. The friction on the needles helps (we tried pink metal ones first) and the big yarn makes stitches easy to see, not to mention grows the scarf faster.

She has a few inches done, but is already planning her next projects: scarves for everyone! Isn't that just like us all, though? On to the next thing before we finish the first.

Linking up to WIP Wednesday on behalf of my niece!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Holiday crafting at home

Well here's a sight you don't see very often! That's three generations of crafters from my family at one table. My mom, my oldest niece, and I are all enjoying ourselves with some bits of yarn and cardboard tubes.

We are making small gifts for the patients at the VA hospital where my sister-in-law works. She showed us how to wrap yarn around sections of cardboard tube to end up with these little guys that look like hats. One of her co-workers showed her how, so she decided the girls at home could manage to make enough to gift to her floor. 

"This is not a hat for your head, it's to warm your heart instead"

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Perfect Pouch

One weekend just before Christmas, of course when I had a million other things to be doing, I wanted to try making a zippered pouch. I also have been wanting to see how quilt-as-you-go works so I combined the two ideas and made a gift for my mom. I mostly winged it, but before starting I read the tutorials found herehere, and here.

I started out with the front panel, improvising a log cabin block based on scraps I already had hanging around. In fact, this whole pouch, including the batting, is made with scraps I had except the pieces for the lining! 

The quilt-as-you-go method of making this block was really fun and gives such a nice texture. I topstitched the top, bottom, and side bands after adding them to make it look nice and tailored. The finished panel is nice and sturdy from all the quilting. I could imagine using my 'wave' stitch, or some of the more decorative stitches on my machine to add even more interest to the quilting on another pouch, but in the end the simple lines really look great here.

I also improvised the back panel using the same QAYG approach but only densely quilting in the colored bands. I alternated the striping as I added pieces to keep it interesting. I kept the top band of fabric the same as the front, and my zipper matches the blue in the Park Fountain print almost perfectly. Serendipitously of course. 

For the lining I used a print in my stash that I had gotten with Mom in mind. She loves her gardening! I also added a little patch pocket in on one side. No matter what she uses this for I think a pocket will be useful.

In the end, the finished product is big enough to hold an iPad and also iPhone in that handy little pocket, so it could be a neat carrying case for iThings. Alternatively if she has on-the-go craft projects (ahem) then it will be a useful project bag! The possibilities are endless. In fact, I used it to "wrap" her SF Giants World Series Champs shirt.

It took me about three hours from start to finish including debating fabrics and stopping every so often to photograph. :o) The QAYG definitely adds time (and thread!) to the process but is completely awesome and worth it. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Anticipating travel

Dave and I will be traveling a lot this winter. First off, there is the obvious holiday travel, and secondly we are hoping to be going on some interviews for professorships! At the last two conferences I went to I wised up and packed an extra bag for laundry. This came in handy for socks and things so they didn't get lost in the hotel rooms, left in the drawers, or mixed up with clean clothes.

My bag is just one of those freebie cloth backpacks (with the cord drawstrings attached to the bottom corners) from a dressage clinic I went to this summer. Since in all likelihood Dave and I will not be headed to the same places at the same time like we were able to in Boston, I decided Dave should have his own laundry bag.

I gave him free reign to pick whatever fabrics he wanted out of my stash. I must say I would not have put the three prints he picked out together, but I really like it! The bag is drawstring, lined with my favorite linen, and we have had the cord stashed away forever. Yay for finding a use for it!

It has the stamp of approval from Dave, and has already been put to good use on this holiday trip.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Finished necklaces

I used up the last of my grosgrain ribbon from Britex in the city, which is sad, but it just looks fabulous as ties for these necklaces.

I made Mom one back in May, and I really love wearing mine, so I took Mom's advice and made some as gifts for the holidays this year. They turned out great, and I hope they are liked by their intended recipients. I think they're a fun way to wear some color and whim while still being somewhat subtle about it.

Now to trek up to the city for some more ribbon!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year, new projects

Happy New Year! How time flies. It really feels like I was just home for the holidays LAST year. Lots has happened in between, though including travel for work, travel for play, finding a great instructor for horseback riding, and lots of crafting. I caught the knitting bug again this year which tumbled me right into my craft room and sewing again. It's been a really great creative outlet for me, and starting to 'diary' about it on this blog has been really fun and motivating, not to mention how it has opened my eyes to the online community of quilters, knitters, sewists, etc. that provide so much inspiration and encouragement.

Holiday shopping in Chicago

In the spirit of new beginnings and resolutions, I started a list of projects I've had on the back burner in my mind for a while that I'd like to keep track of over the next year and work on. So much comes through my brain almost daily as I read books, blogs, and Ravelry that I forget whatever I really wanted to do the week before.

Baby quilt - have fabric and design
Modern medallion quilting - basted and begun
Amsterdam quilt - have fabric and design, started piecing
Millie's closet quilt - have jelly roll, probably need a solid
Quilt using Indie fabrics - have fabric (oh how I love these fabrics)
make mom a quilt - know design from Shape Workshop book
Kyle and Lisa quilt 

voile tunics/blouses - have fabrics, need to find a good pattern and make a muslin first
Dave pajamas

Driftwood sweater
Aidez sweater - have yarn, started
Dave's gloves - have yarn
Dave's cardigan
crochet unicorns for V day - from scrap yarn
Echo Flower shawl in worsted weight - probably enough have yarn in a good color in stash
Rotation sweater - have yarn, started
entrelac cowl - have yarn

How quickly this list grew! This is by no means limiting but just something I want to return to every so often because for most of them I HAVE the fabric/materials already, excepting two sweaters and a quilt. I suppose in part, this is a resolution to work a lot from my stash and try to stay focused in terms of my 'big' projects.