Thursday, January 15, 2015

so this happened

This folks, is a bound Modern Medallion quilt. It's been sitting around waiting to be trimmed and bound so I can start the final round of hand quilting. Apparently the small sewing project on Tuesday night got me rummaging around in my sewing stuff enough to want to work on some more. 

I had intended all along to make a scrappy binding. Part of the reason this took me so long to do was that I wasn't in love with that idea. With the last round of fabrics I thought the quilt all of a sudden got "too orange" and the thought of adding even more warm colors in the binding wasn't doing it for me. I settled on the solid blue linen and made about 7 yards of 2.5" binding. After ironing it in half, I sewed it on the front with about a 3/8" allowance, give or take. 

Instead of folding over and zig-zag stitching it down on the machine like I usually do, I sat down on the couch, kitty at my feet, and hand sewed the binding to the back using a quilter's between and hand quilting thread just like Dave's mom taught me. It took the better part of two evenings to do but I'm glad I did. As Dave pointed out, it goes along with the hand quilting nicely.

I want to finish this soon so we can use it on our bed come spring. I just need to get some suitable colors of pearl cotton thread to tackle that last border. Woo! The end is in sight.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

inspiration strikes

Last night I had a thought. That thought turned into action and in no time I had the little card table out and about again after a long hiatus. Hello there, iron! Long time. 

It went like this: as I was icing various bits and pieces with a frozen Gatorade bottle, I sat and wondered how I would be able to more easily ice my neck. That thought led me to remembering the wonderful little wraps the ladies at the nail salon put around everyone's necks while they work. They are lovely tubes of fabric all warm and cozy. Light bulb -- I've heard of those being used cold, too. Bingo. 

I had some time left to wait for some things to dry in the dryer, so I decided to putter around with the sewing machine and make one. I started out looking at my stash of cottons, but got to wondering if flannel would be a nice alternative. After sifting through my scrap bucket I came up with this lovely piece left over from Dave's laptop case. It was about 18" square, which seemed long enough to use. I cut the piece down to 18" x 9" and ironed it before folding it lengthwise. 

Starting on a short side at the fold I sewed along a full short side, the long side, and about an inch of the second short side using a straight stitch. After that, I followed it up with a zig zag stitch in the seam allowance to stabilize it a bit more given that there will be bits of rice pushing their way along the seams. I used a 1/2" seam on the long side and the edge of the presser foot, maybe 3/8", as the guide on the short sides just to try to make it as long as possible. 

Once my tube was turned inside out and pressed again I wandered into the kitchen to find some rice. We have one of those big 20 lb bags hanging around so it was easy to just grab a funnel and start pouring. 

And pouring. And pouring. I actually filled it up a bit too much at first so ended up dumping some back out. You want enough rice in there to wrap around your neck without all the rice ending up at the ends and none in the middle, but not so much that the tube isn't flexible and wrapping becomes difficult. I used about 1.5 lb of rice when all was said and done. 

All nice and filled, I took the tube back to the sewing machine and stitched the end closed with the same two lines of stitching as the other sides only this time I did the zig zag centered on the straight stitching because after folding in, it seemed like I had very little fabric to work with. Just doing whatever works. 

When I took the fabric and threw it in the microwave, Dave sat up and wondered "what ARE you doing, wife?" So I grinned and threw the wrap around his neck when it came out and told him "well this one's for you!" He proceeded to walk around sporting his new neck wrap and a happy grin, understanding that this contraption gave free, warm neck hugs. 

Of course this meant I had to make one more. I found some gray polka dot flannel and did the same thing over, except this time my fabric was about 21" long. (This would be a great use for a set of fat quarters.) So after a short bout of sewing, I've got a happy little pair!

To warm them, I just put them in the microwave for 1 minute on "express cook" which I imagine is "high". I haven't tried it cold yet, but I think you can just stick them in the freezer for a bit to cool them down. I'll be trying that in the next few days. 

I'll close with today's chuckle, an outtake that every cat owner will nod at and understand: 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Split Rotation

I showed my friend Cindy how to knit a while back because she wanted to make leg warmers to match the fingerless gloves I made her, and she's been having fun ever since. We laugh when I agree with her when she says "I knit like I read… once I start I have a hard time putting it down!" She came over the other night with a shawl she knit while traveling for the holidays. The mission that evening was "show me what blocking means" (ah! the next step along the knitterly path!) so we sat down to block her shawl.  

Having the paraphernalia out helped me along the way to blocking my cardigan. Which I did, grateful that I treated myself to a set of blocking wires last year. The wires made easy work of lining everything up and making sure tension was even along the various directions. I measured myself for the dimensions of the rectangle of stockinette stripes, but fudged the top part into looking proportional because I wasn't sure what the most useful dimension was to focus on. 

In the end, after a thorough steam blocking (remember, it's acrylic) it turned out all right! I wore it out the other day and was pretty comfortable. I really like the length it ended up and am even 95% happy with how it lays in the front. The button bands have a bad habit of flipping out near the bottom and I think will benefit from stabilization with some grosgrain ribbon, which I bought yesterday. I've decided against putting buttons and buttonholes in. Maybe I'll change my mind and do a couple right at the top but I like it as an open cardigan. I swear I'm not just being lazy! If it fit looser I'd probably do the buttons all the way down. I've read that you can use a sewing machine just like normal if you're careful about stretching and there is ribbon or some other stabilizer on the back, so we'll see. My guess is that even though I blocked it out a little bigger than me, the spring in the yarn still won out and it came back some. Still, not bad for a freshman effort. 

I'm really glad I chose to do the color changes as written in the arm band ribbing, which I was considering making just solid navy, and also happy with the choice to do the bottom and button bands in solid navy. For the button bands I picked up about 100 stitches along the front edges, 2 for every 3 rows. Actually 99 and 104, but I can't tell the difference and wasn't going to rip out the second one to make it the same. Still don't know how that happened. I added a single crochet row along the top and bottom edges of each button band with the tail from binding off. The ribbing was pulling in a little bit and this helped even it out to meet the other ribbing edges neatly.

There are a few things I'm not wild about. For example, the increases in the body shaping show *really well* in the persimmon color. Also a couple places where I joined yarn are pretty obvious to me, again in the persimmon and not the navy. If I made this again I'd do like some other folks and add some sleeves, maybe 3/4 length since these short caps do little to flatter my arms. There are so many other great patterns to try though, that I doubt that will come to pass.

I do like the texture of the reverse stockinette, the interest of the yoke, and how mixing in the navy helps me wear this pretty coral color without looking red in the face. Also, the knit rows at the color changes between the purl stripes are super nifty. I have to say there were plenty of times along the way when I was skeptical about how this would turn out, regretting my decision to go off pattern and make it a cardigan, or just wondering if that yoke ribbing was really not going to be super saggy when all was said and done, but I'm glad I perservered. The rest of the details are on my Ravelry page, but here's the basics:

Pattern: Rotation (by ANKESTRiCK, free on Ravelry)
Needle: size 6 and size 7 circulars
Yarn: Caron Simply Soft Solids in Dark Country Blue and Persimmon

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

the forest moon

I'm making Dave some flip-top mittens. I've had the yarn and the pattern picked out for over a year (two?), but the activation barrier to actually wind the yarn was simply too much. I know, le sigh. Also, my having never actually finished a pair of gloves before was kind of standing in the way. Now that I've got those stranded mitts under my belt, I'm feeling pretty confident about these guys. 

Like the last mitts, I'm using magic loop on a size 8 needle, single ply wool yarn that has a thick-and-thin tendency, and there's a generous garter stitch cuff. Unlike those mitts, these are worked from cuff to tip and there is no provision for fingers. Reading through the pattern and some of the comments, I knew I was going to at least figure out how to lengthen the section that goes inside the flip top so there would be no gaping at the palm. I asked Dave if he would rather have fingers or one big tube and he chose fingers. Of course. But to be honest, I think I'd prefer it that way too. It's just going to be harder given that I've never knit fingers bottom up before. It would have been too easy to just look up some patterns and adapt the instructions, so of course silly me I improvised. I fought with these last night, grumbled and groaned, but I think I managed to pull out something that will turn out decent. I even remembered to write down notes so I can repeat it for the left hand. The pattern would be nice and easy peasy without modifications, but we just have to be fancy and complicated here.

I'm going to weave in all those tentacle-y ends before picking up stitches for the mitten top to be sure the holes between fingers close to my liking before proceeding. Anyone have good ways to avoid those gaps? Are they unavoidable? 

Setting all process annoyances aside, now that I'm looking at these in the daylight I'm loving the colors! Dave thinks it looks like a sunset at the beach (he seems to think this a lot…) but I'm going with Endor, the forest moon. Look out for Ewoks, folks. 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

I'm finally done reupholstering a chair!

Well this is a blast from the past, indeed. If you recall Dave and I lovingly (stubbornly?) began reupholstering a chair and the end of LAST January to use in my Sacramento digs. Here's where we left off:

Looks great, no? I thought so, too and so kept putting off actually attaching the last pieces to cover the back and finish the bottom. After all, it was in a corner and I could sit on it. It wouldn't really look any different to the casual observer. *grin* I'm not gonna lie, it was well used in just this state. 

Fast forward to today and I've moved back down to Palo Alto with the chair in tow. Dave and I really ended up liking it, so we didn't sell it with the rest of my furniture from up there like we thought we might. Turns out, we don't have a great place for it at home, but Dave thinks it will be perfect in his office at work. But…. about that back…. it's been hanging out in our office here waiting to be finished. Ta da! It happened today. Funny, I remarked when we began this that I didn't want to be finishing it a year later. I guess I win on a technicality of a few weeks. How well do I know us?

In a fit of unprecedented productivity this weekend (I'm not really joking, we even organized our coat closet) Dave and I found ourselves back to wielding the staple gun and verbally cajoling fabric into place. Literally all we needed to do was cut one last panel of fabric for the back and figure out how to get the edges wrapped around the pointy strips of metal that hammer into the sides of the frame. Thankfully I still had the "pattern" pieces after all this time. The creases gave us hints as to how and where to get the fabric wrapped on the nail strips as well as made it easy to cut an appropriately sized and shaped piece.

We are definitely not professionals, or anything close to proficient, but considering this is our first upholstery job I think it looks ok. There are a few places near the bottom where I wish the fabric wasn't quite so loose but those nail strips were really a bear to try to deal with. I think we did the best we could. I'm still glad it's the back! 

Where the original had covered cording all the way around the bottom, we stapled the bottom black sheet back on and omitted the cord. To cover where the edges of fabric meet the legs I improvised little tabs of fabric. I just took a rectangle and folded the edges in so they would mimic the hotel corners on the front and hot glued them into place. They look like little tailored tabs and are a simple solution to cover up the messy bits. 

We are quite tickled with the result, and Dave is excited to get it to the office. I'm pretty impressed with our team work on this. It certainly isn't a project I could have accomplished on my own, and I think Dave even managed to have a bit of fun. After today's effort it looks much the same as the picture up above but now it's completely finished! And Kepler-approved. 

Friday, January 2, 2015


Haha Dave is barely into his new Dragon Age game and I'm already done with a project! Guilty pleasure: I like to sit and watch some of the games because really in a way they are almost as good as movies. Such great graphics! Though I'm hoping the story becomes more compelling soon. Anyhow.

"Lando" was a nice quick one-skein-of-bulky-yarn project that I finished in a couple evenings. I've had it in my Ravelry queue for a while and the yarn was left over from another cowl I made for a friend. Even though I knew it would be quick, I've been trying not to cast on too many things at once. I've finished off a few big projects recently and decided to treat myself to something small and satisfying for the new year.

While generally out shopping this fall/winter, I found myself picking up bulky textured cowls time and again. Most were very simple single stitch all over pieces that showcased yarn and stitch effectively. Some were lined with really soft furry fabric. I always thought "hm, I could make one" and so, ta da!, I did. The pattern is just basically garter stitch in the round with some slipped stitches thrown in for interest.  I just love the fluffy single ply yarn and the slight variations in the dye. The stitches really pop. 

I may line it, I'm not sure yet. I'm leaning heavily towards yes and I have some great horsey fleece I could use OR I could hold out and try to get some of that fluffy furry fabric somewhere. The fleece would make it ever so appropriate for barn wear. Fitting, since it is named after a horse. Sounds like I have a plan! Until then it's great to wear unlined, too. 

Pattern: Cupido Cowl (free on Ravelry)
Needle: size 11, circular
Yarn: Malabrigo Mecha in Prussia Blue

Thursday, January 1, 2015

sweater triumph

I am so excited! I cast on the first stitches of this sweater in December 2012. And today it's finally bound off! After many fits and starts, my first adult-sized sweater. I still have to block it and weave in those last ends, but I wanted to snap a quick shot of it and ring in the new year with this little celebration. 

Last night while waiting for midnight I finished up the arm band ribbing and picked up the first of the button bands. Tonight while spending some quality time with my in-laws at their campsite by the beach in Half Moon Bay the button bands were done and I shared the moment of truth (aka finally trying it on) with them. Not too bad! It definitely needs some blocking to help it lay correctly and relax the springy fabric a bit but all in all I'm pretty happy with it. I am really glad I decided to weave in all my ends before starting the button bands so now I have just four to deal with, should be wearable in no time!