Thursday, January 30, 2014

Hey, Soul Sister

So fun! I got on a roll and just finished this sucker up last night. It took a few hours, but it pretty much just flew off the needles. Compared to all those fingering weight projects I've done over the past year this was positively speedy. 

I haven't worked on a project with cables in a long time because I always pick ones that require close attention to the pattern and I haven't had the luxury to sit and knit without doing anything else in quite a while (case in point, my now-hibernating Aidez sweater). Not true here; the cowl was simple enough in logic that eventually remembering what came next was easy and I could keep up my Inspector Morse-watching. 

The cables are a mix of big 5x5 twists and smaller double twists of 2x2 which make for a pretty pattern and substantial structure to the piece. I didn't block it at all because I did not want to stretch out the ribbed edges and I was pretty satisfied with how it looked after some pulling and fluffing by hand. The only thing I think blocking might have done with this acrylic is soften it up a little bit (based on my long ago cabled hoodie experience). I expect it will soften up over time and use. 

Here's the namesake, my 'soul sister', modeling it in the office today. I told her to look cold. It hasn't been super nippy up here lately, but here's hoping for a little bit of real California winter (rain!) before the season is over. We're having a drought Mother Nature, can you help us out?

Summary (full details on Ravelry): Double cabled cowl, 3 skeins of Bernat softee chunky in Berry Red, knit on size 11 needles. Paired up the long-tail cast on and the Russian bind off again, and it worked nicely even with the ribbing.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

chain knitting

The day after I finished up one knitting project, I started another. This is chain-knitting at its finest, folks. I am on a roll with these bulky yarn projects.

This one is the last of the cowls that jumped the line of my best intentions to stick to already-planned projects and my stash. Tatum picked out this fantastic bright cherry red yarn for her cowl that is certainly going to make a statement! it is all acrylic, but nice and soft and pleasantly fuzzy with lovely stitch definition. The day I started it I got about 25% of the way done. Those cables are potato chip knitting. Once you finish one you just have to see what the next looks like. Can't wait to see how this one turns out!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Start of Session

Since I shared the beginnings of this project, I've been a seed stitching machine. I ended up finishing the cowl two days later. That's a skein a day! I owe it all to Inspector Morse and Netflix. Having grown up on British mysteries like Morse and Sherlock Holmes, I was excited to find that they have made a prequel movie and series about the intrepid but curmudgeonly Inspector Morse called Endeavor. It was pretty much a given that I would be binge-watching them. However, being the multi-tasker that I am, I took the opportunity to knit the living daylights out of this cowl.

I named this project "Start of Session" because I began it the evening of the first day of the legislative session this year. It was a crazy day compared to the previous month of interim, not unlike the first day back at school after summer break. Things have since settled in (sort of?) but I will never forget the energy of The Building that day, my first taste of the year to come. I digress.

This pattern was perfect TV knitting. That combined with the perfect TV I found is what I credit with my ability to finish it quickly once I put my mind to it. The yarn is Bernat Alpaca Natural Blends in a lovely deep gray. The resulting cowl has a nice drape to it while being pleasantly squishy, due to both the stitch and the yarn, but the yarn is a little bit scratchy for my taste. I think it is down to my being sensitive to most wooly yarn, but Sara picked it out for herself so I imagine it won't bother her. I do like the simplicity of the pattern and the solid, but I think it would also look really great in a yarn with natural variations from dyeing to give it some more depth.

Basic details (more on my Ravelry page): GAP-tastic cowl (free pattern on Ravelry), 3 skeins of Bernat Alpaca Natural Blends in 'Stone', knit on size 11 needles. I will also note that using the long tail cast on and a new bind off I found called the Russian cast off makes for pretty equivalently stretchy edges, something I will be again in the future.

Monday, January 27, 2014

I'm still reupholstering a chair.

Once the chair was stripped, we used the old fabric pieces as patterns to cut out our new fabric. Instead of making the bottom out of several mitered panels the way it was originally done, I just cut out one big piece of fabric, draped it over the whole bottom of the chair, and wrapped it like a present. I did 90 degree 'hotel corners' at the front to deal with the extra fabric, and as a bonus I now know a new way to make my bed.

By the end of the night (11:30 or so) we had the bulk of the chair recovered. This was the point where Dave got to sit back and relax, because I did all the cutting and sewing. Though he did take the piping out of the original casing and also got me to stop stressing out about the fit of the back not looking perfect before we actually stapled anything down. I was pretty amazed at how the whole thing took shape really nicely once we started fixing everything to the frame. Pinching, shoving, pulling, it was all fair game and went really quickly!

The only part we didn't manage to get done that first day was putting the back panel back on. The irony of the situation was that the arms are attached with bolts. Despite the sheer number of sockets we have to go with our socket wrench, and even that Dave asked if he should bring them up (jokingly….), our socket wrench was happily down in Palo Alto. Dave tried valiantly to reattach the arms using the pliers we had on hand, he did in fact get them off that way, but no dice. We called it a night and decided we wouldn't be sitting on the chair until we could tighten the bolts properly.

I had a three-day weekend, but Dave was back at work on Monday. I took advantage of my free day to tackle the cushion. Having sewn lots of pillows by this point, making the cushion was a breeze. I opted not to include the piping in the replaced cover partly out of laziness but also because I think it looks better without. I did manage to reinstall the zipper properly and got everything sewn together uneventfully. The cushion was basically a top and bottom piece sewn onto a continuous strip that serves as the sides. I did notice that since I sewed the top and bottom on in different directions (clockwise, counter clockwise) that the cushion has a little bit of a 'slant' to it, but I think that I'm the only person that is ever going to see that when looking at it. I was just so impressed I got the zipper back on and the cushion in it that I'm willing to overlook that tiny detail. 

So after Day 2 of reupholstery we have a chair that could totally pass as done when put in the corner! You can't even see the fact that there's no back or bottom panels. Plus, don't sit in it, you might end up on the floor! Still, this is pretty much what it's going to look like even if the final touches aren't quite done yet…. part 3: the finale coming soon.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

I'm reupholstering a chair.

I've got this chair. It's been around quite a while and the cats (Jack, mostly) have really done a number on it over the years. The back panel has been hammered back on more than once, and the fabric at the corners looks like the silks on corn. It ended up being one of the pieces of furniture that came with me up to Sacramento on the condition that I would redo it to fit in with whatever decor I ended up with, because yellow and brown certainly wasn't going to be it. I found some classy looking brown and gray tweedy upholstery fabric at Joann's on the clearance table (for like 4 bucks a yard…. serious bargain) and it's been sitting in the corner with the chair ever since I moved up here.

So, last weekend I bit the bullet and started. By 'I' I mean 'we' and by 'we' I mean Dave and me. Neither Dave nor I have ever really done this before, but we figured oh what the heck how bad can it be. Let's have fun with it this weekend! Well…… I could definitely see how folks less stubborn than us would have stopped midway and just bought a new chair. We actually did end up having quite a bit of fun together, but we both agree that we would think long and hard before doing it again.

Dave took copious amounts of photos as we deconstructed so we could remember how to put everything back together. I think taking them forced us to actually stop and think about how everything was put on so we didn't really refer to them later, but I'd say even if you don't end up using them, having them is a good back up.

The other important thing to keep in mind is to be nice to the fabric. I made sure to label all of the fabric pieces as we took them off and we resisted the urge to just rip things off before looking at how it was attached. Even then, there was no ripping because I wanted to use the old pieces as patterns for the new ones.

The number of staples in this chair holding everything on was astonishing. And we pulled out every. single. one. By the end of just the bottom of the chair both Dave and I were pretty sore in our hands and shoulders from wrestling with the tiny pieces of steel. We soldiered through, though, and were rewarded by a stripped down chair by the early evening (we started at 11 am). After which we took an Advil/dinner break. More on stage 2 in the next post...

Monday, January 20, 2014


I just went back and reread my post in November about my crafting goals moving forward… and I quote: 'a serious goal will be to stick to the yarn stash and current queue.' I'm laughing. 

To be fair, my queue has changed around a bit to accommodate my goal of sticking with the stash, and I have actually finished one project that was in the works when I wrote that. But what I'm laughing at is the fact that I have not one, not two, but three cowls that have popped up out of thin air that I am working on with more focus than any of the projects (yarny or otherwise) that I have had planned since last year. Cowl #1 I finished and wrote about already. 

Cowls #2 and 3 are really what make me chuckle the most. Two of my coworkers cajoled me into making them (really, they had to twist my arm sooooo hard). They even went out and bought yarn and gave it to me so I could. How can you say no to that?? But still, new yarn, new projects. The anti-goal. 

The one I started first is taking quite a long time because the whole thing is seed stitch. The pattern is the GAP-tastic cowl by Jen Geigley. I've tried going back to knitting continental like I discovered I could do last fall but I'm having trouble with it for some reason. My current theory is that I'm better at doing it with less bulky yarn and smaller needles. 

Current status is just about 1/3 done -- I just finished one of three skeins of yarn. I really want to cast on and start the next one, too, to give myself a seed stitch break, but I think the gauge will require the same needles I'm using here. Bummer. Back to seeds!

Monday, January 6, 2014

back to bees

Playing a bit of catch up with bees… this little block is for December's Get Your Hex on queen bee. It was really fun to work on because the pieces are so small! Each hexagon is a little bit bigger than my thumb. It went pretty quick, and I love the vintage feel of the fabrics she sent.

I still owe November's queen her block -- I need to get a chance to actually touch my fabrics for that, though. It hasn't been possible in the brief times I've been in the same city with my stash, but I have high hopes for this weekend. Thankfully she has been very understanding about it. 

On bees:

Last year I joined two more bees in addition to one I was already in to give myself some more social contact with folks and also because I was enjoying the small potato-chip-like project of making a block or two for someone else. Part of the drawback was that a lot of my sewing time was taken up with just bee commitments and I didn't get to work much on some big projects of my own that I had planned. However I got to try a lot of new block designs and meet new people so I'd say it was totally worth it. I'd highly recommend it. That said….

Given the new job/living situation it is a bit much to continue to keep up with. I can't just pop into the sewing room anymore. It was a tough decision, but I left the Love circle of do.Good Stitches, my first bee and the group that inspired me to get even more involved. Given that we stitch from our stash and my stash is … well… 120 miles away, it seemed like a logistical stressor to make sure I got a block done every month. I wasn't gonna like it, and they weren't gonna like me if I was sporadically late. I shall miss them so. The Bee Sew Modern bee ended in September so that's off my plate, and the Get Your Hex On bee has just a couple months left. It's tempting to stick with a hand stitching bee where folks send out fabric because it fits better with my available time and resources. I'll have to see what opportunities come up once GYHO is over, but I'm trying to be responsible here :)

Sunday, January 5, 2014

belated birthday

One of the great things about being a crafty person is finding other crafty people in unexpected places. As it is I've found it to be the exception rather than the rule that anyone my own age that I've met in person is all that into sewing or yarn. Even more rare is the scientist my age that I've met who likes these things. Imagine my surprise, then, when one of the other nine science fellows fits in all of these buckets. And also lives a couple blocks away from me. Serendipity.

We've made a habit of walking to work together in the mornings (and home most evenings, too) which makes for a great start to the day. We even sometimes talk about FABRIC. What! My fellow fellow had a birthday recently, and I decided to make something in celebration. Of course, as the post title might indicate, it wasn't done ON her birthday. In fact I just finished it on the plane back from holidays in Chicago at the end of December and steam blocked it in my kitchen last night. 

It's been a bit nippy in Sac-town lately, so I decided to make her a cowl. This is an example of a project that came together at the right place and time. I had a skein of yarn left over from a shawl I made early in 2013 in a yarn and color I love. I'd been trying to turn it into fingerless mitts, but was underwhelmed with the results after finishing one. (This seems to be a pattern with me and mitts… maybe I should give that genre a break.) I perused Ravelry for a while to find an interesting pattern and came up with the Milanese Loop cowl. 

This pattern is relatively simple to do if you can keep careful track of stitch counts. It looks like fans or leaves to me, but either way it's pretty. It took me a while to memorize it but eventually I did, and it made for great plane knitting. I've decided to name it EQ, in homage to the Environmental Quality committee she works for helping to keep us 'green'. 

Details on my Ravelry page here. Summary: 1 skein Malabrigo Silky Merino in 'Dill' knit on size 4 needles.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Fawkes knitted

While this year was quite light on holiday gift-making, the one thing I did end up making for the holidays was Fawkes.

I started this Wingspan shawl for Mom on a trip to Kentucky in September and have been working on it between other projects since then. I got it to the point where I finished the last rows, but ended up short on yarn to bind off! Tinking back long rows of stitches is not my favorite thing in the world, so it sat for a bit. It managed to make it into the small stash of projects I've brought with me to Sacramento, which means I had no choice but to fix it in the evenings when my fingers were itching for some yarn. I'm surprised at how well I was able to outsmart myself there. 

At any rate it got finished and traveled with me to Chicago for the holidays. I literally blocked it in the wee late hours of Christmas Eve. I steamed it to block, so it dried pretty quickly and was ready to wrap up in time for gifting in the morning.

It turned out looking quite lovely, if I do say so myself. The slow color changes in the Mochi yarn range from light pink and bright fuchsia to brick red and ashy gray. It makes for quite a stunning effect that really could be phoenix feathers. Though Mom looks somewhat pensive in the photo, she was pleased. 

Details on my Ravelry page here, but the brief summary is: 2 skeins of Crystal Palace Mini Mochi in 'Fandango' knit on size 4 needles. The yardage was just enough to squeak by. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Get your hex on January

Happy New Year! January is my month in the Get Your Hex On bee, so I've written up a little post to outline the details for my fellow stitchers. We are going to be indulging ourselves in 'girly' and 'bright' this month. 

Each of the stacks above contains 12 hexagons and 4 squares (with the exception of two which have all squares). I've had this pack of pre-cut hexagons for a while now and I decided to augment them with fabrics from my stash to get started on what I hope will turn out to be large enough to be a twin sized quilt when I'm finished. 

We will be stitching these into concentric diamonds, with 4 hexies of one color in the middle outlined with 12 of the second color. When I get all of the blocks back, I'll add another round of 20 hexies to each block and see what I have and how much bigger I'll need to get. The blocks will end up looking rather similar to these I found on Flickr. Thank you, ladies, for helping me get started on what would otherwise be quite an intimidating hand stitched project! That's a lot of hexies.... 

Each of you will receive a set of fabric and 16 hexagon paper pieces 1.25" on a side. These should allow plenty of wiggle room on the 1.875" pre-cut hexagons for seam allowance. Please leave the pieces in when sending them back since I'll be adding to them. It will make things so much easier.

I enjoy the colors and patterns in these fabrics, I hope you do as well! I figured it would be a good way to brighten up the winter days. Happy stitching!