Wednesday, July 29, 2015

granny squares a-multiplyin'

I put these away for a while in preference for knitting, which is more portable. Hard to take a sewing machine on vacation, it turns out. I also ended up starting and finishing another quilt top with brighter, prettier fabrics that distracted me last week. But last night I had a hankering to keep piecing rather than deal with backing and basting so I found my tote bag full of granny squares-to-be.

I was happy with past self for neatly organizing all of the strip sets into the groups for blocks rather than just shoving them all out of sight. That meant I could easily lay everything out and start stacking pieces for - you guessed it - chain piecing! I had already finished the task of sewing the individual strips together and slicing them crosswise. That's quite a bit of the work, actually, so all I need to do now is match and sew these into the final granny square blocks. Here's one I tested out before the hiatus:

The contrast between rounds isn't as much as I'd like in this one, but I'm confident the others will do nicely. This one will be a quieter block surrounded by its rowdy cousins. As for the rowdy cousins, I got through about half of the blocks with another eight to go.

I really enjoy patterns that take simple shapes and turn them into more complicated blocks in creative ways. These all started out just from long strips of fabric; I didn't have to sew all those little squares together! Sadly, there is no way to shortcut trimming and squaring up blocks. There will be a lot of that to do once I get the rest of these blocks done. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

knitting the hours away

The wonderful thing about having a relatively simple project to work on is being able to pick it up anytime, anywhere. 

This garter stitch shawl is great because I only need to remember to count after a wrap and turn and to add single increases at the end of each row. Easy! On a plane? Sure. In a tent? Piece of cake. Watching Outlander/Wayward Pines/Dave play Arkham Knight? Sure thing. On the porch with some cold brew? Don't mind if I do. 

I'm loving the color combo and the ridge-ity bumpy garter stitch texture. A discerning eye will notice that the lines from the color changes are visible on both sides of the piece. That's because somebody can't read directions. I noticed about halfway in that I hadn't doubled back in the appropriate places to ensure the color changes would all land on the same side (i.e. the eventual "back"). It doesn't bother me though. I kind of like the extra little sparkle of that one row of mixed color and to be honest I wasn't going to rip back that far to fix something that wasn't going to totally ruin the thing. 

It grows and grows! Time to look for an appropriately stretchy bind off. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

cutting is my least favorite part

But how can you complain when you've got such good company? Obviously Kepler is mistaken as to what the card table is actually for. He sat there pretty much the whole time while I worked. Helping? Perhaps. You can see Newton rolling around on the floor just off to the side trying to get him to play in cat world instead. Not interested.

Everyone has their favorite part of any craft. In quilting, mine is piecing. I really like putting the puzzle pieces together. Making the puzzle pieces on the other hand, not my favorite. I don't know if it's because I agonize over every 1/8" and straight line or because my back always ends up sore after leaning over to hold my ruler firmly in place. Likely it's a combination of the two with a plethora of other little niggling things. Are those squares really square? Do I need a new rotary cutter blade *again*? How do I deal with cutting a big long piece of sashing accurately? Etc, etc. 

I do, however, like when I can cut a bunch of pieces and have them ready for chain piecing at the machine. The quick and steady progress of piecing collated stacks of fabric makes the effort in quality prep work worthwhile.

Still, look at what a mess it makes!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Prairie Blossom quilt

There's been a theme around here lately: vacations are really productive. This is the third installment of the accidental "what I did on my summer vacation" series. I finished my cousin's baby quilt! It's a little later than I hoped, the baby was born in June and this was early July, but it's big enough that the little munchkin will be able to use it well into her toddler years if she wants. It's roughly 40" x 80" if memory serves.

I decided to call it Prairie Blossom. We spent time camping out on the Indiana prairie on this trip, and during the summertime I'm reminded of how close the Illinois prairie actually is to my parents house! The central block of the medallion is a Squash Blossom block. So, concatenate the two and you've got Prairie Blossom. 

This piece is special not just because of the little one it is intended for, but because it represents to me a stretching of my quilting abilities. Beyond roughly following a tutorial for the squash blossom, I improvised my way through the rest of the quilt top and ended up with a design I'm quite proud of! I'm glad I took copious notes, because I don't think I could make it again from memory.

I used a single piece of navy and white polka dot fabric as backing and quilted nested V's in each of the compass directions (more about that in a previous post). I hadn't finished binding the thing by the time this vacation rolled around, so I figured what the heck I'll just pack the trimmed quilt in my suitcase and recruit Mom's sewing machine to help me finish it. We went to Joann's in search of some binding fabric and in the end I decided that I didn't want to spend a bunch of time cutting and pressing my own binding. We found a pretty lemony yellow pre-made binding and decided that it would look very nice to contrast with the backing and to finish off but not compete with the front. 

I had the binding sewn on in no time and triumphantly went outside to photograph the quilt in Mom's garden. I left it behind with for her to get to my cousin, who lives in the area. I hope she likes it!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Cambria, finished

Cambria's finished, and I love it. 

It was fitting that I finally put the final touches on this project on our recent vacation because I was working on this the last time I visited my parents and completed the knitting sitting on that same couch. I had been avoiding blocking because there were about a million and one ends to weave in and I don't have a big enough blocking board to pin out something this big. Turns out if you do things like weave in ends on a plane while hopped up on Dramamine, not so bad. It was the very first thing I got out of the way after takeoff. Clever girl.

Mom has a big foam play mat set that is just what I've been wanting to get myself to serve as a blocking board. Sadly, it did not come back with me in my suitcase however tempting it was. Still, not wanting to waste an opportunity, I took advantage of the floor space, that gargantuan set of mats, and the lack of mischievous cats and set to pinning and blocking my shawl. I'll admit this was quite possibly the easiest blocking job I've ever done. I don't know if Mom is my lucky charm or what, but I managed to pin quite a straight line across the top and the curves along the bottom edge basically set themselves gracefully into place with minimal pinning. Magic! 

I am so happy with how it turned out. The piece really grew with blocking and the stockinette opened up into a breezy lightweight fabric. After wearing it once, I can say that even the lower edge is behaving nicely and not curling. Since I started knitting again I'd always had in mind a piece of this scale but ended up a little disappointed with my first projects because I simply didn't have enough experience to realize they wouldn't turn out that big. Plus, I may knit a little on the tight side. This one is perfect. It's cozy and big enough to wrap up in. 

Maybe triangle shawls are my thing -- I'd always thought they were a little more old-fashioned compared to other shapes but this is truly my favorite piece I've knitted so far. Dave thinks so, too. When it was drying after the steam block he said "I think this is the nicest thing you've made." I originally wanted to make this in neutrals, but that seems impossible given my love for saturated colors. On a trip to Cambria to see Hearst Castle last February, we ended up in a little yarn shop. I had the brown in my hands and Dave waltzed up with a skein of variegated yarn so pretty I couldn't say no. I like to think of this combination as the sunset over dark sands and bright surf, a slant rhyme to light and airy beachy neutrals. Whatever it is, it's a great memento of a wonderful trip and a piece I shall love for a long time!

Pattern: Litchfield Shawl (by Laura Aylor)
Yarn: Manos del Uruguay Alegria in 'malvin', Anzula Squishy in 'sexy', and Baah La Jolla in 'maldives', about 950 yards total
Needles: Size 6 to cast on and size 8 to knit the body
Dimensions: 76" across the top and 38" from top to point 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

vacation knitting

I've got a couple of projects on the needles/hook but wanted to start something simple to take with me on our recent vacation to the prairies of the Midwest. Somehow sitting on the plane navigating complex crochet charts or a bulky sweater pattern wasn't appealing to me. Are you surprised? 

Sticking to my stash and my Ravelry queue, I popped two skeins of Tosh Merino Light into a project bag and started a few rows of a Pendulum the night before our flight. Because really, who likes to concentrate enough to start a project while in the airport. Not this girl. I think Dave might be used to the added bullet point on the list of things to do pre-vacation. Do laundry, clean house, pack, start a knitting project...

After the lacy brain drain of my last project, garter stitch with the added interest of short rows was just what I needed. Here's my progress early on in the vacation -- displayed in the lovely confines of our tent in Prophetstown State Park in Indiana where it survived the attentions of two shih tzus and nightly deluges of rain while we camped with Dave's folks.

The picture below is a few days later -- that goes to show you how fast this works up! One of the reasons I wanted to take this particular project with me on this vacation is that last year for Mom's birthday I sent her the Pendulum pattern with a couple skeins of yarn and the appropriate set of needles. I thought it would be fun to work on the same project together. Turns out she'd started and ripped back a few times, so I got to help her figure out the increases and away we went on our tandem knitting adventure. Nice to know I can teach a thing or two to someone who's taught me so much!

Dave took this picture of the two of us with our Pendula on July 4th. Mom is just getting started, and I'm zipping along the long rows in the middle somewhere. Nothing like hanging out in the living room with your mom, crafting away. It was an awesome vacation.