Saturday, September 28, 2013


I need to learn that every time I go into my favorite area yarn shop (Nine Rubies in San Mateo -- before I organized my stash this week!) I change my mind and leave with something different than I intended. This time, instead of yarn for a cable scarf I left with yarn to make a cowl. They had a sample worked up over by the Malabrigo Mecha in the loveliest blue-green. The handy tag on the piece told me the object of my affection was a Casu Cowl and the pattern is free on Ravelry. Bonus!

The reason I headed out to acquire more yarn was because I wanted to make fast projects, meaning bigger yarn. I've been on a sock yarn kick and that just isn't going to fly off the needles the way bulkier yarn will when I'm on a tight deadline. The Mecha is new to me, but I'm already looking for more projects to use it on. The instant gratification is kind of nice, and boy is the yarn pretty. Sadly, there was no more of the particular sample color in stock (ain't that always the way?) but I did find a beautiful navy called Prussian blue. The eventual recipient is rather fond of dark blue, so it works out.

I actually think the yarn just MAKES this project. The stitch definition is awesome and the color variations in the yarn make the piece practically glow. The depth of color is why the sample piece caught my eye, for sure.

The pattern for the cowl is relatively easy, but it packs a visual wollop. Moss stitch and lacy panels are juxtaposed to make a fabric that I think works wonderfully to provide dense coverage around the neck (the moss stitch) while being really drapey (the lace). This way you can have a satisfyingly wide cowl that is solid yet flexible negating the need to peek out from behind your knitting as it hugs your face up to your forehead. 

After a light steam blocking, the cowl measures 7 inches wide and 48 inches in circumference, enough to wrap around twice and hug close to the neck. I think this will do nicely for barn wear on chilly mornings!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Petals, leaves, and vines

I said I'd take this slow in March, and I sure kept that resolution. I've got a little shopping bag under my desk with a few handwork projects in it. It got lost in the shuffle the past few months, moving from place to place and never getting emptier. Since I've been home and 'relaxing' post-PhD, I took this wall hanging out a couple weeks ago to have at it again, and I've been slowly adding to it and finishing up.

The flowers were all cut out, they just needed to be sewn on. I fiddled with it a bit to see if I wanted to add more felt pieces but I decided I like just the three big dimensional flowers. Instead I'm adding in a lot of embroidery on the background. I've got lots of colors to play with!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Karenina the finale

I finished knitting this in December and just got the buttons on it now. Better late than never! Karenina is a lightweight collar made from Dream in Color Smooshy in Fierce Scarlet. It looks fierce, too! Just the thing to match Anna Karenina's fiery disposition in Tolstoy's book. I knit this while reading the book so I could watch the movie. Dorky, I know, but every movie adaptation of any book I have seen has suffered from a lack of context if I can't remember the book. I had never read Anna Karenina before, either. It was good! I think I have a thing for Russian literature. I digress.

The hold up was mittens. I was thinking of making a pair of mittens to go with this collar, but in the end I didn't like what I had after making one. So I did what any good knitter would do and put it away frustrated. I even had buttons picked out! Sad. At any rate, in a fit of motivation to finish things this week, I sat down for the requisite five minutes and sewed on buttons. It just took a little bit of thought to line everything up, and bam. Done. I sewed the buttons on using embroidery floss rather than yarn, which I think is less bulky looking and sturdier. 

The collar is about 6 inches wide and 20 inches long. I adapted a free pattern for a scarf called Winter Flame, details are on my Ravelry page. Basically I knit the scarf pattern and then added a short stockinette section to house some button holes. I chose the buttons to tone down the formality a bit. This would look quite elegant with some filigree buttons or something similar, but I picked these big chunky tortoise shell buttons to make it a little rustic.

I still have about half a skein of this yarn left... I may end up making some gloves to go with it, after all!  Until then I'm going to enjoy rocking this out solo on chilly fall nights. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Taking stock.

Having brought the contents of two offices home in moving boxes at the end of August, dumped it all in the spare room, and subsequently spent the next weeks traveling or otherwise occupied (ahem, CDS championships) I'm now suffering the consequences. The last day or so of being home in pretty much mess city has forced my hand. I spent the morning cleaning up.

It started out pretty innocuously. It wasn't even cleaning, it was supposed to be *just putting away* my recently acquired yarn and getting my wip basket out of the living room. Right. My yarn cabinet was kind of a mess and I just didn't have the heart to shove one more skein in there to fend for itself. On top of that, my Ravelry stash wasn't up to date (gasp!) and was missing photos of several yarns (ok, a lot). This fact had been poking me in the ribs every time I'd login, but I'd been pointedly ignoring it. I even found a few (unphotographed) skeins hiding out in my wip basket. The solution to all of these woes was obviously to dump all the yarn on the couch and start updating. The advent of iThings has made this so easy, I just snapped a bunch of pictures with my iPhone and updated Ravelry on my iPad (we are an iFamily indeed!).

I brought out the big guns -- the scale (or masser, if your'e my husband) and the calculator! I decided if I was going to do it, I'd do it right and just weigh leftovers to figure out how much I yardage I had left. Much more scientific than eyeballing it and guessing. And now I know! I'm sure this will help me use up my leftovers much more efficiently than the boat I just jumped off of.

I've neatly stacked the skeins back in the cabinet, in an organized chaos that probably only makes sense to me, and I've even packed up a few lovely skeins to be shipped off to a new home (the bulk of the most recent yarn purchase, for a gift). I was hoping to get a couple cakes of dk for a new shawl I've been itching to cast on, but I'm going to get a few more things made and out of the way with this yarn first. Nothing like taking stock to remind you you don't NEED anymore.

Then there is the wip pile. Mixed in with the actual wips were some bits of projects I started and have no intention of finishing. I frogged, wrapped and weighed, then cataloged the yarn. I organized the baskets, and now the only things in them are actual wips, no hibernating bears. I even found a few yarn needles and a row counter in the process. The goal? Cast on only *one* new project (it's for a gift, on a particular day, I get a break) and then chip away at these wips until a couple are finished. I'm not requiring the 2 sweaters to be done, but at least the 3 small projects before I go gallivanting off and starting new ones. And one or two of those new guys to be done before I go buying myself more yarn!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Striking solid stripes

The Love circle blocks this month are kind of cool, and huge! Rachel wrote up a tutorial for these striking stripey blocks made using foundation paper piecing that end up a whopping 15" x 24". She asked for all solids in a mixture of grays, dusty blues, a variety of aquas, citron yellow, and medium pink. 

I don't have much in the way of solids in my stash. I have a good chunk of white and linen, but other than that it's sort of whatever little scraps I have left from previous projects. Soooo I went out and bought a few quarter yards to combine with those scraps. The colors here are Kona candy blue, pomegranate, and gray, a tone-on-tone white I had strips of already, and that interesting yellow/green from Mom's sewing machine cover I've been using the remainders of lately. 

To get a big enough piece of paper to chop up, I figured rather than piece together printer paper I'd be clever. I pulled out my roll of freezer paper. Hilariously as soon as I started ironing I realized why Rachel hadn't come out and suggested it -- it sticks to the ironing board! Duh. It actually wasn't at all bad. It peeled off easily and left no stickiness behind. As a bonus it stabilized the pieces and prevented wonkiness of the template paper while I was pressing. (Thankfully I was pressing on the 'paper side' so I didn't gunk up my iron.) The only thing was it was a little bit tacky on the sewing machine when feeding it through, but barely. Silly me, though. 

It has been a while since I've had the mental space to want to turn on music and sew. Sewing had become my time to quietly let my mind wander and decompress. Feeling particularly relaxed today after a morning of riding and afternoon coffee with 'the girls', I turned on some older music I haven't listened to in a while (ahem, R.E.M Automatic for the People) and went to town. I'm taking advantage of these next couple months before I start my new position to relax, ride, and enjoy myself. Check! This was an enjoyable block to make.

It feels a little bit nautical to me, probably because it's basically primary colors with their fancy clothes on. I'm looking forward to seeing the whole quilt top with all the other colors. Of course, I always look forward to that part.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A LYS find

What to do when the project you're working on is finished and you are away from your yarn stash and wips? Buy yarn, of course! Some internet surfing found me several local yarn stores in Louisville. We ended up going to Sofie's Fine Yarn Shoppe which was just around the corner from Dave's parents. 

The ladies in the store were super friendly, and there was a nice selection of yarns with lots of example projects knitted up to ooh and aah at. (Which we did pretty much at every piece.) To be honest, I got asked if I was finding everything all right a few too many times for this Yankee's taste, but better that than walking into a place where everyone is stone faced and intimidating, right? I do like to take my time and ruminate over my yarns, though. I finally settled on a couple of squishy skeins of Mini Mochi yarn in "Fandango" which has plenty of fuchsia, lavender, and gray blended together in a variegated yarn with slooooow color changes.   

When we all got back to the house that evening (after consuming some scrumptious barbecue for lunch) I cast on a Wingspan. Another garter stitch project! I saw this described on Ravelry as "potato chip knitting" and it certainly is. I think I may have overdone it because my hand has been a little on the stiff side lately... must knit in moderation! I'm taking advantage of these types of simple projects to work on my speed, but that might be a mistake with smaller needles and fingering weight yarn. 

Speaking of needles, those little green guys were also purchased at Sofie's. They are Knitter's Pride Dreamz and I love them. The cable is really flexible, the joins are smooth, and the needles get nice and supple as I knit with them. The wood started out a little rough from the package and grabbed the yarn a bit too much for my liking, but I soldiered through and now they are smooth and wonderful to knit with. Because, just the same as not having any yarn available, one must buy needles if you've got only one set of the incorrect size packed! Ah, travel knitting.

Linking up to WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Newton cowl, completed

While on vacation in Kentucky last week, I had the opportunity to knit. A LOT. I loved it. Evenings on the couch with some Midsomer Murder mysteries, tea, and knitting are my idea of a relaxing vacation.

I finished up my Newton cowl that I started last month, and look who is all curious about it now that we are home. The namesake! Now that I have seen the two Newtons next to each other, I must say the (completely accidental) color matching is uncanny. I couldn't have planned it better if I tried. 

The yarn is Cascade Eco Duo, a blend of undyed baby alpaca and merino wool that is oh so soft. The natural colors are be-au-ti-ful, though I must be a bit biased. This particular colorway, despite matching my cat, is called Zebra (#1701). The other colors available are pretty, too. I am usually drawn to saturated colors, but I'm beginning to develop a fondness for neutrals. 

The yarn isn't twisted very tightly, so it was a challenge to pick up stitches along the unit edges as I worked along, but since it does have a bit of "fuzz" to it overall, I don't think it impacts the final product. It was just kind of annoying in the making. I decided not to block it, I don't think it needs it. The fabric has a nice drape, is cuddly soft, and looks great around my neck as-is. 

The pattern on Ravelry is free, and I also watched a few online tutorials as sanity checks to help me decipher some confusing parts. Kudos to anyone who takes the time to write up a pattern -- it can't be easy. All in all, this was a fun first entrelac project. It definitely satisfied the nerdy itch I had to figure out how in the world these cool looking fabrics are constructed.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Fresh Sewing Day September

Well August has seen me back on the crafting wagon. I got a lot of bee blocks done (early finally!), made a couple quick baby gifts, and finished blocking my Independence shawl. It's been really great getting back to my hobby now that my Ph.D. is officially complete. 

I'm looking forward to a couple months off before starting my new job. I will get Kelly's baby blanket done (cough) and start working on a couple of big quilt projects for family.

I'm linking up to Fresh Sewing Day at Lily's Quilts and will be browsing through the list there to see what others have been up to this last month.

Lily's Quilts