Tuesday, December 29, 2015

iced in

The first week of our stay in Chicago was warm and green, with the grass and trees confused as to what they were supposed to be doing. Is it Spring already?? Now that Christmas is past it's a different story! Yesterday we had a whole day of tiny pellets of ice falling from the sky. Welcome back, Jack Frost. Everyone decided that skating down the roads in a car didn't seem like a very good winter sport, so we stayed in all day. It was awesome. I literally spent all day in my pajamas, knitting. Just what a vacation should be! Well, one day at least. Dave got me a set of Knit Picks rosewood interchangeable circular needles for Christmas - I was happy to get to test them out.

The Sunday after Christmas, my sister-in-law wanted to make a trip to Joann's to get some yarn for the girls to use with their new knitting looms, so I tagged along. Along with picking up some holiday fabrics for a new tree skirt (holiday prints half off!) and fun novelty prints to make a couple of travel laundry bags (couldn't resist the foxes) I also grabbed myself a skein of yarn to make myself some mittens. This neon purple is a Deborah Norville acrylic that is SO soft. I've mentioned before the improvement in the acrylic yarns I've been seeing recently, and I'll add this one to the list.

Give a Hoot is a free mitten pattern on Ravelry that I found in my favorites. The yarn is worsted/aran weight and suits the pattern perfectly. The only two changes I made were using needles one size smaller than the pattern called for and making the thumbs just a row longer before decreasing. They fit great (like a glove?!) and I really like the construction for the thumb gusset.

I've decided to name them 'Bubo' which is the genus of the great horned owl. Kind of a funny name for an animal with such gravitas, isn't it?
Pattern: Give a Hoot (my Ravelry project page)
Yarn: Deborah Norville Everyday Soft, Bright Violet
Needles: US 5 and US 7

Monday, December 28, 2015

Mission accomplished!

Well I said I'd do it, and I did - three quilts by Christmas! I keep joking that I need to set up a "satellite card table" at Mom's... I still have my first sewing machine here and it certainly rose to the occasion this year.

I managed to baste and quilt two of the three quilts before we hopped on our flight to Chicago. The Lonestar hexagon turned out to be too big for the backing I had planned for it, so I just folded up the quilt top and packed it in my suitcase. I think that was a good thing, because our suitcases would have been even more stuffed than they were with the other two.
I got some fabric for the backing at Joann's, and Mom also helped me pick out prints for binding all three. I spent the next few evenings stitching away at the dining room table and finished the last stitches on Christmas Eve. The new year will bring more details about each one, but for now I thought I'd share a pile of the finished projects. Whew!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

posie progress

Another project that filled up some November evenings was finishing up these EPP flowers. Recall, they are from a paper piecing bee a couple years back and are destined to adorn my youngest neice's quilt. Jasmine is a pretty girly girl so I think she will enjoy all the sweet prints and the rather central focus on pink.

Another part of my day long sewing extravaganza on Monday was figuring this quilt out. I somewhat amorphously had in my head that I'd put these flowers on a background of one of my favorite peachy pink prints and that would be that. Well, I don't have enough of that print, but it is big enough to serve as a foundational piece for a larger effort. I improvised the rest of the background with a strip from a coordinating Amy Butler print and a couple pieces of linen. I actually really like the way that little detail balances out the flowers, and that second flower with the pink petals was totally lost on the background print so the linen is a big improvement there. The best laid plans are often improved upon by sheer luck!

I'm still figuring out how I am going to attach the flowers. They are safety pinned into place for now while I consider my options. Most likely I'll fight with the sewing machine and all those little angles, though recently Mom suggested I fuse them then do my quilting which sounds quite appealing. I could put the machine into FMQ mode and get around the flowers relatively easily though likely with very uneven stitches as I'm not very good at that yet. We'll see!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

all. the. yarn.

People! I went to Knit Purl! In Portland!

Dave and I went up there for a long Thanksgiving weekend and stayed downtown at the Ace Hotel. It is across the street from a living room movie theater, a block from Powell's books, and a mere two blocks to Knit Purl. Perfectly situated in my humble opinion. 

Needless to say I came home with some yarn. All Madeline Tosh by coincidence, not design. But with those colors is anyone surprised? I was sorely tempted by a beautiful silvery silky skein of Bumblebirch, but managed to put it down before Dave's head started to spin.

These three skeins of Tosh Merino Light are destined to be a Sunwalker, a relatively recent asymmetrical shawl design by Melanie Berg that caught my eye on Ravelry this summer. The colorway, Shire, is a stunning mix of dark greens and aquas with few streaks of yellow in there. I can't wait to see how it works up. Though, you will notice the yarn is still in hanks. I purposefully left them unwound so I could work on a few other things before tackling this. Aren't I good? 

These two skeins of Tosh DK are going to be a hat for Dave, by special request. He picked out these colors himself, El Greco (above) and Court & Spark (below). I am going to try to do a reversible version of a relatively simple beanie design, Violet Waffles. I think the texture will be easy enough to do and more visually pleasing than the plain stockinette he initially asked for. There will be lots of yardage leftover for some hip looking mitts to go with it, too.

I've been really good about having a project in mind for yarn when I buy it, but of course there is an exception (or several) to every rule. Tosh Chunky in Cloud Dweller was just too pretty to leave behind. Light blues with a lavender blush may make some gloves or a hat. I actually found on this trip, and the subsequent closet scrounging after, that I could use a pair of gloves so that may be the most likely place this will end up. I haven't really committed to that though. The sky's the limit (ha!). Well, the yardage actually but that was just too punny to pass up. 

Like the first time, this trip to Knit Purl was a real treat. Despite how busy they were, the staff were extremely friendly and helpful in taking the time to find me another skein of Shire, winding Dave's yarns, and recommending different neighborhoods to check out. One of them even recognized my Fomhar stole, doing duty as a scarf that day, from their Ravelry finished object forum. I was surprised she remembered let alone thought to say something about it! It made me feel welcome, and certainly impressed the heck out of the husband. ("Honey! You're 'that girl from the internet'!")

I may have had to expand my suitcase on the way home to accommodate my purchase, but I'm totally legit now having received the official Knit Purl tote for buying so much yarn. It was an unexpected but happy surprise and will be a great project bag for my larger endeavors. So go forth! Support your favorite yarn shops! They are little havens of creativity in a busy busy world that should be given every opportunity to flourish. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

quilt top comin' right up

Yesterday was my last day off between jobs, and I took advantage of the moody fall weather to make. I managed to put in a whole day (!) at the sewing machine part of which was dedicated to finishing the top to my grandpa's quilt. A week and a half ago I had stacks of squares and a mild sense of 'hmm is this going to actually happen?'

Little by little the squares were crafted into half-square triangles and then into quarter blocks. Today I took those quarter blocks and played with different options for combining them into the final blocks. The written pattern has a scrappy multi-colored look, but I ended up using the light and dark prints in each color together in one block for a more pulled together look.

I went with linen for the sashing squares. I considered using orange or red, but really like the way the natural color and texture of the somewhat rough linen plays with the gray fabric. That little bird in the background of the picture above pretty much sums up my feeling about sashing though. Not being much of a pinner, I have a hard time keeping the long strips of fabric behaving and lining up properly as I go along, so the going gets slow. In the end it all worked out and I finished up the early afternoon with a lovely looking quilt top ready for basting. 

Next I need to figure out a back and check to see if I have enough of the prints left over to make a scrappy binding. This one is well on its way!

Monday, November 30, 2015

and now for something completely different

My latest shawl project has been progressing quite steadily this month. Somewhere along the way I've found myself in the midst of my third cake of yarn. How many stitches must that be? It boggles the mind to consider. One day I may calculate such a number on a work in progress, but for now I'll take the growing fabric as a sign that incremental progress, stitch by stitch, can add up to quite a significant whole given time. There's a life lesson in there somewhere.

In the long rows near the end of the body I did hit a point where the doldrums set in. Stitches went by without seeming to add to the whole, and gosh I was getting kind of tired of the wrong-side rows. Then the right-side rows. Then all at once, I was done. One of the things I read about this pattern before deciding to purchase it was that it was like knitting three projects in one, with each section so different from the last that it keeps the maker engaged. I'll second that. I'm now well into the second section, a long weighty cable that drapes across the edge of the center crescent, and I'm back to the thrill of a newly cast-on project, just like that.

Technically, of course, this new project happens to be attached to my last one.... in such an intriguing way. I wasn't quite sure how the whole thing would go, but the pattern is written so well, and the attachment and set up for the following section devised so cleverly that once I got through the first few rows I just had to laugh and think 'of course'. I really appreciate the ingenuity of the folks that take the time to design these lovely things! I'm looking forward to working up some more of this designer's patterns and having similar epiphany moments. But, there's the rest of this to finish first.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

hexagonally inclined

All that cutting at the beginning of the month meant that I've had plenty to keep me busy at the sewing machine. I worked on Samara's quilt in fits and starts, and I'm pretty pleased with where I am right now. I've a ways to go before it is ready to be under the tree, but worry not -- it shall be done! Kepler is totally helping. See his little paws there? He's trying his best. 

Mom and I made a few more blocks, but turns out I was wrong about the number needed to make this layout into a hexagon. As it stood, it was an oblong hexagon - fine, but not what I was going for. Still not sure how I made that mistake, but c'est la vie. I fiddled around a little bit and figured out that I could alternate hexagons and 'blank' spaces around the edge. Those blanks will be filled with diamonds of fabric in a solid, likely neutral linen making the whole a very large hexagonal piece. In the end I wouldn't have come up with this idea without thinking incorrectly first, so I'll call it serendipity. 

I spent the better part of an afternoon adding the interstitial triangles. I put everything out on the floor how it was meant to be and managed to figure out how to assemble everything with no y-seams by staring at it for a few minutes. I just have to add the solid diamond pieces to the last three hexagon blocks and sew those 'rows' onto the edges. 

Are my points perfect? No. I think I forgot to trim the new blocks down to size before I started assembling, otherwise I'm sure I'd have had them down pat. Do I mind? No. The quilt is 'crazy' enough that I'm not sure even I'll notice in the grand scheme of things when it's finished. Kepler at least seems ok with it. 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

an ode to my new rotary cutter

Another treat from my mom's visit in September -- this little guy has been hanging around in my desk unopened while I finished up a bunch of knitting. Tonight I cut a few things for my three quilts I'm aiming to finish soon, and I LOVE IT. It's an Ergo Control 45 mm from Fiskars. 

My original Fiskars rotary cutter has seen lots of action and just doesn't keep the blade out anymore. It pops back in at even the slightest pressure. This version has a new action to lock the blade out that seems like it's quite an improvement. The blade is super sharp and cuts through multiple layers like butter. It's even way better than having a replacement blade in the old one. Don't know why, but there it is. 

Tonight I cut filler triangles for Samara's quilt and all the pieces for my grandfather's quilt and my hand hasn't even thought about hurting. Thanks mom!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

bumpity bump

I've been working my way through the center section of a Kir Royale for the last couple of weeks and loving it. It was my companion during playoff baseball until I realized I was knitting VERY TIGHTLY because the poor Cubs were playing so poorly.   

Check out the texture on this! While it looks complicated, it's really just a clever use of slipped stitches and garter stitch. I'm enjoying not having to purl yet, though once I get to the cables it's all over. Still, that will be a while because this has been somewhat slow going as the rows continue to increase in size. As an aside, this is the first time I've done a garter tab cast on and while it seemed overly complex and silly at first compared to just casting on a number of stitches, I have to say the resulting straightness across the edge is worth the few extra steps.

This yarn is the lovely Madeline Tosh Merino DK I bought this summer at Fengari. The color is alizarin, such a nice mix of warm tones! I'm looking forward to seeing how it looks as progress continues.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Fomhar, finished

This stole got finished on the last day of October along with Samhainn. October is the end of Autumn and harvest (fomhar) in the Gaelic calendar so while unplanned, it was appropriate that I finished my Fomhar as well. I started this piece last November and worked on it occasionally over the course of the year aiming to have it finished by this fall. I completed the stitching in mid-September and finally found some time and space to sit down and block.

I'll be honest, I have no idea what the best way to block a lace shawl like this is. As usual, I looked up the finished measurements in the pattern and, once I determined that I used a similar amount of yarn, started from those numbers. While pinning I added some extra stretch where I had the give for it, which made my piece slightly wider. The thing that stumped me was how to deal with all the detail along the scalloped edges. I tried several ways of pinning out the chain loops and shells but in the end I did what I will dub 'the lazy man's block' and just spread the points out evenly along the wires. I'm sure there is a more correct approach of pinning out each of the motifs, but I didn't find a shape I liked.

I should have measured it before I blocked because for sure it grew. And as one might expect, the lace panels in the middle look totally different and super fancy with all the fans and clusters spread out. 

My favorite thing about this piece is the color. The coppers, golds, and greens swirl around and mix quite pleasantly. To be somewhat poetic, it reminds me of a forest floor in fall. I'm happy to have a bit of this yarn left for another project. 

I scratched several crafty itches with this project: do some crochet for a change, use yarn from the stash, and make a project out of one of my books/magazines (this was from an Interweave Crochet magazine). I really enjoyed the change of pace from knitting and, while I'm not very sure how one wears a stole with panache, I'm sure I'll figure something out. I just hope I can find something to show off the wonderful colors!

Pattern: Inspiration Stole by Lisa Naskrent (my Ravelry project page)
Yarn: Madeline Tosh Prairie in 'Filigree'
Hook: G (4 mm)
Dimensions: 64" x 20"

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Samhainn!

To celebrate in style I revisited my Samhainn shawl this afternoon. I set up the card table and my blocking boards for a quick steam block. Once I got the wires in and started pinning it was amazing to see how much wider the cable border got. After drying I have a nice heavy piece measuring about 56" wide by 22" deep. 

Dave and I took it outside for some glamour shots in the festive looking plum tree. 

And just for fun here are some pumpkins we carved with friends camping last weekend! Mine is the smiley bat all the way to the left, and Dave carved the scary guy right next to it.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

paper pieced posies

Well. Here's a project I haven't shared in quite some time. I intend to finish at least 3 quilts before Christmas. Typing it here it makes it kind of real and feels like I've committed a little more concretely to the idea. Take that, self. This is one of the three, for my youngest niece. I had a few blocks to finish the last time this appeared, and it turned out having a little EPP pouch of supplies and basted hexagons handy by the couch really helped with that. Any evening we were relaxing in front of the TV also involved stitching.

I started out thinking I'd add another round to these diamonds before stitching them together in rows to form a center panel, but after playing around with them for a while I decided that I could make a couple of flowers with them by combining them into groups of six. Mom, who was visiting at the time, agreed so I took that as a stamp of approval and started sewing. Once the flowers are done I'll take a big background pieced from linen and one of my favorite pink fabrics and artfully sew them down to finish the top. Avanti!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

seeing the forest for the trees

This blanket of mine is just flying off the needles! I've zipped my way through a few balls of yarn and quite a few inches. It has been following me around for whenever the itch to stitch strikes. I love the fact that I've had that bag since I was a kid and the horse crazy phase is still around. 

The first few rows of just knitting or purling all the way across took a bit of determination to get through, but once I hit the flowers and trees the pattern repeats kept it interesting and rows were ticked off in no time. Funny how that works isn't it? I have one section of flowers and one of trees finished, which is about 1/3 of the blanket body. There's a border though, so I'd say I'm about 25% of the way through overall. Not bad!

The tree branches are just a series of small 2x1 or 2x2 cables, made much easier from having worked a bunch of cabling on the project I just finished. The knit stitches that make up the trees pop off of a background of purls creating a 3D pattern.  

These flowers are quite interesting in construction with clustered stitches for the heads and overlaying a single knit stitch for the leaves. I had never seen anything like this before, it's neat! Took me a few tries to figure out what the instructions meant, but once I did it once it made perfect sense and remembering how hasn't been a problem. 

I've done a few crocheted blankets, I haven't ever knit one before. I'm looking forward to seeing how this one turns out. 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Samhainn, finished

Wow, this was such a fun project! As soon as I got my second skein of whiskey barrel wound up I finished this in a flash. The center garter stitch section only took me a couple evenings (and an hour in the lovely garden by Memorial Church on campus on lunch break) to whip up. Mom helped me pick out the color combination and I really like the way it turned out. Despite the fact that California doesn't have much of an autumn in my neck of the woods I'm starting to feel it looking at this! I've got some acorn earrings that will pair so nicely with this, too. 

The yarn, madeline tosh dk, is my new favorite. I have been using so much of her single ply fingering weight yarn because that's what I'd been able to find in my local yarn shops, but it looks like Nine Rubies will be carrying this multi-ply dk weight yarn now. It's dense and squishy and absolutely lovely to work with. In true madtosh form all of the colors are stunning. It also works up very quickly compared to lighter weight yarns. It took me no time at all to get all those inches of cables off the needles. 

Speaking of cables, I learned a lot on this one. Cable patterns have seemed like something I would never be great at being able to do without referring to the pattern every step, but a few inches into this one and something finally clicked and I can cross stitches pretty intuitively now. The other thing that was so handy, and which I think contributed to the aforementioned click, was learning how to cable without a cable needle. Being able to just rearrange the stitches and keep on knitting really sped things up and made it so much simpler. Of course it's best when there aren't many stitches involved, these are all 2x2 crosses. The blanket I'm working on has small cables, too, and since finishing this I've found myself able to work through those charts much better.

This will need some light blocking to even out some puckers in the middle, but even without it drapes nicely and is plenty 'neat' enough to wear right away. I *really* like the cable border -- the texture, the color, the pattern, everything. Also the way the border joins with the center section looks quite professional and a testament to the detail Ysolda puts into her patterns. It looks like a running chain all along the edge, but was accomplished with some simple slipped selvedges that flipped over like magic after picking up the center stitches. I'll update the dimensions once the blocking is done, but for now the specifics:

Pattern: Hediye by Ysolda Teague
Yarn: Madeline Tosh DK in 'Terra' and 'Whiskey Barrel'
Needle: Size 7
Dimensions: 56" x 22"