Wednesday, July 23, 2014

little birdhouse in your soul

As I write this, They Might Be Giants are playing on repeat in my head (you're welcome.): 

Blue canary in the outlet by the light switch
Who watches over you
Make a little birdhouse in your soul
Not to put too fine a point on it
Say I'm the only bee in your bonnet
Make a little birdhouse in your soul

In looking for something to occupy myself this evening, I ended up tilting out the contents of my little storage ottoman where my craft projects hang out here in the studio. Hankering for some hand stitching, I had to pass on the hexagon blocks for Jasmine's quilt because my basting thread and needles snuck away to Palo Alto. Too bad, because I haven't actually wanted to work on that for a while. Go figure. 

Instead what I found was this little guy hanging out at the bottom of the ottoman. I haven't picked up any cross stitching in quite some time, but I've been finding all sorts of needlepoint and cross stitch that I like popping up around the great wide internet. (Coincidentally, Amanda just recently posted some on Everyday Fray…) This is kind of a cross between the two, as it's cross stitch on flexible plastic canvas. LOVE. It's much faster than traditional aida cloth because there's no question about poking a needle through where it doesn't belong. I had some of the birdhouse started, but got through quite a lot more tonight as I relaxed on the floor with my strawberry smoothie. 

I think I'm actually near the home stretch with this, and should make short work of it over the next week or so. Exciting! A finish on the horizon! It's long overdue here… I'm pretty sure I've had this kit since high school. Yikes. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

blocking block

I've had a little lace shawl off the needles since the end of May, and it's just been hanging out waiting to be blocked. I've also got a baby blanket I just cast off that's been added to the pile. This step always stymies me. It's my least favorite part of knitting besides the first row post-cast on but really does make a HUGE difference in the finished piece. Especially with a lacy project, blocking is essential.

Part of my issue is that I don't have a great place I'm willing to lay out a big project. The kitty would tear at anything on the bed or on the floor (or more likely, sit on it). As a result I end up blocking in stages on my ironing board. Second issue, I hate pinning. Seriously hate it. I get really caught up in trying to stretch a piece to the max but also not have those annoying little points from where the pins are anchoring the edge. Add to that the staged blocking and trying to pin to match up sizes and shapes along a whole piece and it's enough to drive anyone batty.

So I splurged on myself a little and bought a set of blocking mats and blocking wires! I've been thinking about buying these for quite some time, so at least it isn't an impulse splurge. The mats can be rearranged to suit whatever size/shape project I may have in line to give me plenty of room to lay everything out just so. And the wires should take care of at least some of my pinning problems (I'm looking at you, straight lines and smooth curves!).

(mats from Knitpicks)

I have lots of projects in the queue, and I'm excited for these new gadgets to come so I can try them out and hopefully wave my blocking woes a fond farewell.

As an aside: After researching blocking mats and wires, I have come to have a suspicion that my wool-based projects might benefit much more from wet blocking than steam blocking. A couple shawls of mine ended up disappointingly small and it has only just occurred to me that perhaps it was the blocking. I have a great handheld steamer so usually steam block everything. It works wonders with acrylics, but I wonder if I could get my woolies to stretch a bit more if they were soaked. I always see the fiber relax as I steam and it will hold shape after drying, but it appears soaked wool will stretch more than dry so a piece may start out already larger at the pinning stage. Hm… I may have just created a problem where none exists, but it's worth a shot on my Pacific shawl(ette) at least, as the fiber seems to have relaxed and shrunk back down over time. Thoughts?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

chugging along

Sat down tonight to work on this 'little project' for a bit. I finished the hand quilting in the entire pieced section! All that I have left to do is quilt the border o' blue, which requires my marking pen and more hard flat space than I have here in the Sac studio to mark out. Before I do that, though I want to trim and bind the whole thing so I don't end up with weird puckers at the back if my edges flap around a bit. I'll have to cut strips for binding down in Palo Alto since all my fabric from this resides down there in the office. I should also take the quilt down to trim it. Sounds like I have plans for the 4th!

I'll need to bring it back up to sew on the binding since my machine is up here - the traveling quilt! It's worth it for this one, it's been a while coming. Logistics aside, this is sooo close to being done. I hope the dogwood quilting in the borders goes quickly.