Wednesday, February 27, 2019

another beginning

I was inspired by my trip to Stitches West this past weekend to start more of the things. I just got myself a bunch of very pretty yarn that I really want to use! Before that though, I have a lot of pretty yarn already in the stash that I've got plans for. I should at least start on some of those projects before diving in to something totally brand new (I am itching to start that sweater...).

This lovely ball of yarn is one of those that got wound earlier this month when I needed the last hank of my Shetland shawl yarn wound. Turns out it was great to have this ready to go when inspiration struck, I literally had to cast on just 8 stitches and away I went on a new knitting adventure. This is one of my purchases from the King's Mountain Art Fair. I remember it was one of those skeins I couldn't put down - the color combination is unusual with orange, yellow, and purpley blue. 

I found a pattern that looks like it plays well with irregularly variegated yarns like this one. It's got garter stitch stripes alternated with some open dropped stitch and simple yarn over bands. It's pretty mindless knitting, mindless meant in the most positive of ways, and I've already made a lot of progress in just a couple evenings of working on it. The rest of my knitting projects require quite a bit of attention, so it's nice to have something simpler to just breeze through some days. Maybe I won't be so happy in a few months when none of these are finished yet, but that's just borrowing trouble and  for now I'm happy to be digging into the stash and getting a few more things started. 

Monday, February 25, 2019

Crossroads throw

I love these poofs. I attached gold pom poms to the edge of my mosaic throw and it was just what the project needed. The extra pop of color sets off the mosaic nicely and their texture and floppiness give it a whimsical finish. Because it is a crochet fabric it can tend to be a little bit stiff, but the weight of the pom poms on the edges help to get it to drape.

I ended up taking the eight pom poms and splitting them evenly down two sides of my mosaic square.  The diamond pattern gave me a handy guide to help with spacing, and I just tied them on with yarn pulled through the center of each ball. This evening I made some more pom poms in peach and a slightly smaller size (2.5") to consider adding in between the gold ones, but after attaching one side with some temporary knots I decided against it. I really like just the gold, and it was *gasp* just too much pom pom. 

Overall I enjoyed making it and learning this new crochet technique. The finished fabric looks super impressive and this was a perfect use of a self striping Caron cake. I like the slant rhyme to primary colors that I ended up with after adding the gold, and I think the navy was a great choice for a background color to contrast with all the peaches, pinks, and browns in the cake. 

I really like Dave's suggestion to use this as a lap throw. It isn't really a blanket but it covers my legs down to my ankles on the couch which is just enough to keep me cozy. I can't help but think that this would totally look cute thrown over the back of a llama. Maybe it's all the llama prints I've been seeing around lately... no llamas here, so I'll be keeping it for myself. 

Pattern: Southwestern Mosaic Cross Throw, free on Ravelry (my Ravelry page)
Yarn: Caron Cakes in 'Cinnamon Swirl', Loops and Threads Impeccable in 'Navy' and 'Gold'
Hook: US J (6 mm)
Size: about 36" square

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Stitches West 2019

Wow, that was fun! Yesterday I spent a couple of hours walking around a convention center hall full of yarn. It was fiber paradise! Stitches West comes to town every year, and I've never gone. This year I looked through some of the classes and thought about signing up, but decided instead to just go to the Market portion of it. I may have bought a few things... 

It was so fun to walk around and meet the folks that spin, dye, and make for a living. There were vendors from all over the US. That cute llama print on the left is a project bag I bought from a pair of sisters that were in town from Chicago. Obviously we chatted about how great the weather is out here. It's cold right now for Californians, but we forget how cold February is everywhere else! I was really happy to meet some more shop owners from around my local area as well. They are further afield than my usual haunts, but I'm excited to go visit their brick and mortar stores and discover new places. I can probably get Dave to go if I sell it as new restaurant and coffee shop discovery, too. 

On to the yarn. The greens on the left are going to turn into a sweater. For SURE the best thing vendors can do is have projects made up with their yarns. Kits are a close second. This particular vendor had a very pretty striped sweater on display that looked doable for me. It's an a-line stye with an interesting hem and raglan sleeves, so it doesn't look overly complicated to make and I think it will be a forgiving style on my frame. I didn't love my last sweater attempt (also my first...) so this is kind of a risk to take with such nice yarn (it's got yak in it!) but I am looking at it as treating myself and getting over this fear of making garments.  

In the middle are some mini skeins that I was happy to find. I recently bought myself a colorwork mitten pattern book and these are destined to become Latvian mittens. Two of them are just 25g and the bright peach is 50g, which should be the perfect amount. I would have liked to see more vendors with mini skeins like these; there were just a couple. 

On the right, continuing in the peach theme, are a couple of skeins that I just really liked when I saw them. It was hard not to buy even MORE yarn from each of those two vendors, but I limited myself to just one each given that I don't know what I'll use them for. My view is that I should take advantage of the supply when it presents itself! There are some really creative dyers out there. I'm not sure why peach was grabbing me so much, but I definitely kept gravitating to it at nearly every stall. Maybe it's the gray days we've been having?

Speaking of creative dyers, THIS lady. Wow. I loved all of her yarns and so many came home with me, both these four and the two below. The silky feel of her fingering weight base also got me. She was from Missouri, so there is no way I would have just happened upon her without going to this market. Lucky me! The four yarns above are a somewhat unusual color combination, but they are a kit she had made up for a shawl that looks like so much fun to make. I was intrigued. Two of the colorways may also be named for characters in Outlander... That was something fun about this vendor - most of her yarns are in collections that are named for characters in movies or shows. Think like Harry Potter, Outlander, Doctor Who... I don't know why it is so much more appealing to buy something named "Jamie Fraser" than "variegated turquoise" but it is. A very clever idea on her part, and likely an endless source of inspiration for colorways. 

I know there are a lot of places to get yarn online, but I really enjoyed the opportunity to walk around and touch the yarns. Apparently I like some nylon and/or cashmere blended in with the wool. There's something I wouldn't have known without seeing like a zillion different yarns. It was also really fun to meet some of the folks behind all the fibers. I'll remember them and their yarns later on when I want to buy more. In like, 5 years. Because this is a lot. So much for a dwindling stash! I'm a lucky lady.

Friday, February 22, 2019

baste, quilt, repeat

Ooooof. That's pretty much how I've felt about basting this quilt. Wrestling all that fabric into alignment was a royal pain! I cut it a little close on the width of the backing which made it harder, but it is DONE. In the end it didn't take me too long to get the pins in once the layers were on the table. I got the center pinned up first and then it was easy to just kind of slide it around to each quadrant and work. It was good to have made the little chicken quilt in between to remind me that this step really isn't as bad as I always think it is. I mean, it's bad. Just that not that bad. So happy to get these last stages going on this one.

Because I really don't think I could wrestle this very well in my little sewing machine to quilt it I am hand quilting. My last hand quilting sojourn turned out really nice and didn't take super long, so I'm going to ride that wave right on over to this one. It may seem crazy to be hand quilting such a big quilt but I think it will turn out looking better and I'll have more fun too. I've got some pretty variegated turquoise, some navy, and some bright coral pearl cotton that will coordinate nicely. 

After just one evening of work I've got quite a bit done and I'm totally sure I made the right choice. It's looking good! Kepler thinks he could do a better job, but I really doubt the quality of the stitches he could get without thumbs. I think it's best he sticks to advising on where to put my lines rather than trying his own. He remains unconvinced. Maybe he can help with making binding?

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

pom pom progress

My pom pom makers finally came in the mail, and I spent an evening watching tennis matches and winding many yards of yarn. I thought about other ways of making pom poms like forks or cardboard, but when I went looking for these guys they aren't that expensive and seem like they make it easier. It takes a little bit of thinking to get the first one down given all the movable bits and pieces, but I got the hang of it in no time. I used hand quilting thread to tie them together, I'm hoping that will be strong enough to hold once they are attached. Quilting thread should be strong, right??

Turns out if you make big pom poms, you need more yarn! Of course that's true, but I didn't realize just how much yarn these 3 3/8" poms would eat up. From one ball of 277 yards I got 8 very satisfyingly poofy poms with some (not much) leftover yardage for attaching. I was hoping for 14 for 7 on each of two sides, but I'm going to start with these and see how I feel about it. I can always go get more gold yarn, or I have some peach I used in the last row of the mosaic that I could use for more. We shall see!

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Sunwalker at last

I have had this project in my Ravelry queue since November 2015! If memory serves me right, I queued it once I bought the yarn for it. I've finished quite a few other things since then... I'm not sure why I didn't want to start it. It's a piece I really want to have and I LOVE the color of this yarn, so it's weird, but regardless I finally dove in and cast on the evening of the day I finished the baby quilt. That seemed like a good way to celebrate a finish!

It should be a relatively relaxing pattern since it's just moss stitch forever at the beginning, but for some reason it isn't yet. There is a 12 row repeat of increases for the shaping and I think that's what tripping me up. I haven't got them memorized, so I have to refer to the pattern quite a bit. The nice thing is that I've figured out a way to move around a stitch marker at the end of the row to let me know which row of the repeat I'm on. That way I don't have to think TOO hard to track rows, I just check the pattern to remind me what the beginning couple of stitches are to get the increases right. 

The green of this yarn is gorgeous, and there are little speckles of yellows and oranges mixed throughout that make it interesting. I love it! Looking forward to slow and steady progress this year. It took me this long to start, why rush the finish!

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Poulet, finished

 Ta da! The chicken quilt literally just came off the sewing machine with its binding, and it is still so stinkin' cute.

Despite the incredibly rainy weather we've been having, the universe gave me a few minutes of sunshine and no wind to hop outside and snap pictures just as I finished up. I am tickled. This quilt came 100% out of my stash of fabric, and even used up some orphan patchwork blocks I had leftover from another project. I pieced the back using up some big leftover pieces of the chicken fabrics and a print I had in the cabinet that Dave and I found so amusing when we were pulling fabrics. It's from a Scandinavian designer and I don't think it's meant to be chickens, but doesn't it look like little blue chickens all lined up in rows? Quite appropriate. 

The only thing I didn't have already were appropriate colors of pearl cotton for quilting. I totally got way more than I needed, but I guess better too much than too little! When I used it to quilt my Modern Medallion quilt I learned how much I liked the look of the finished hand quilting. I love the slight wonkiness of the handwork and I had a lot of fun free-handing those egg-shaped loops. I was thinking I would also do a line of chicken footprints in red, but in the end I decided the red would probably command more attention than I wanted it to. So there are just a couple of lines of egg loops in gold and then all of the blocks are outlined with the blue. 

I trimmed it up and bound it this afternoon using the black and white ikat print that matches the chicken in the top left corner. I like the geometric pattern and sharp contrast of the black and white to accentuate the modern (given the rather traditional quilting choice) and also that it's still a neutral that works with the off-white backing rather than using a color to stand out.

The finished quilt is 35" x 42" and will be on its way to London soon!

Monday, February 11, 2019

oldie but goodie

This last week I dug into my yarn stash, spent some time browsing Ravelry, and organized myself a new project queue. I have seven things ready to go! That meant winding a bunch of yarn and squirreling away the cakes into a variety of project bags I have hanging around (literally) in my craft closet, which was very satisfying. In the process of course, one takes stock of what is currently ongoing and already hanging up. Two big knitting projects linger on, my shetland shawl and a gray blanket I cast on in 2015. 

I'm not planning on finishing either before starting something new, but I did decide to grab the blanket and make some progress. Actually after such a long time this feels new again! The knitting goes pretty quickly with worsted weight yarn, and the pattern is interesting yet easy enough to do something else while knitting (i.e. watch tennis), and I'm getting a lot of practice on cabling without a cable needle. You can actually see the line where I started knitting again, basically near the top of the tree trunks. Looks like I've gotten quite a few extra inches done! I'm about 2/3 of the way through the center panel, and then of course there's a border to do, so I suppose a little over halfway done. 5 of the 7 upcoming projects are with fingering weight yarn or lighter, so I'm going to enjoy knitting with some "big" yarn for a few more days before casting on.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

let the good times roll

I have been on a crocheting roll lately! Tuesday I decided to keep the good times rolling by working up a bunch of new dishcloths for my kitchen. I've had these three balls of cotton in the stash for exactly this purpose, so I spent all afternoon stitching away. 

After clearing up the holiday decorations and returning our home to it's "normal" state of being (except for a very few festive Valentine's Day items), I got to looking at my kitchen drawer where the towels and dishcloths live. Some of the dishcloths have seen better days. There were some that were fraying, super faded, or just don't smell right anymore (eew!). So I tossed a few of them telling myself replacing them would be fun. 

I have a few of these daisy wheels around the house - I don't actually wash with these, they are more like trivets or decoration. I do love them, especially the ones my mom has made me. I think they look best when at least one of the colors is a variegated yarn like the one here. I think I've made a few in the past with just solids, but the variegated ones from mom just look the best.

I ended up using a variety of patterns that I found free on the web (a search of the term "granny square dishcloth" brings up quite a lot of great options), and stuck with these two color combinations. The light blue did double duty, so I ended up with some extra red and made a couple all red ones (one not pictured, just a small hdc stitch rectangle). 

The funny part is that I've been bugging my mom for the pattern for the ruffled granny square... and I found it on accident! One of my favorites to use for dishes is a turquoise and green version I got from her. I was pretty tickled when I went to put these away and realized that this is the same pattern she must have used. Serendipity! I did one round fewer of the center color, so they are just a smidge smaller than the original. It is going to be my go-to pattern for making new ones in the future. They look good in two colors especially with the ruffled edge, but I found a single solid also works great. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

mosaic musings

I'm not sure why the colors are so difficult to photograph, but my mosaic crochet project is nearly complete. I basically went until I didn't have any of the Caron cake left, which unsurprisingly did not get me through the whole pattern. The original pattern has a border motif, so when I got to the end I just had to figure out how to gracefully finish up the pattern so it looked ok at the edge. I ended up using a little bit of some stash yarns to get the last rounds finished, a peach for the pattern rows and a dark brown for the background. It's noticeable if you're looking for it but overall not a bad solution.

It's too big to be a pillow cover and not big enough to call a blanket at just about 35" square unblocked, but Dave made the point to me that it is actually a nice size for a small lap throw so I'm going with that. The plan is to make some pom poms to accessorize it. I got this pretty gold yarn for that, and I'm just trying to decide on what my pom pom strategy is going to be. Four corners? Two edges? Hilariously huge? Just big enough? Not sure yet, but I think once I make a few and audition some options it will become clear.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019


The last of my Caron Cakes is now a finished project. I must say, they are a fun way to do colorful things with a minimum amount of ends... just two!

Mom sent me this chevron cowl pattern when I mentioned I was looking for fun things to make with these yarns. It's a neat combination of modern geometric pattern with traditional granny square stitching. Having made actual granny squares before, it was a really simple pattern to memorize and work in the evenings. In fact I found myself wanting to sit down and pick this up every night once I started it - quite addicting. Progress was fast and the colors are punchy. I love it. 

The color way name is Plum Crisp but I am partial to pansies and I thought of them as I was crocheting so I'm calling it Pansy. The color changes weren't completely perfect so there's a noticeable skinny stripe where I started but that's ok with me. I guess I could have started with the yellow instead but there'd be a yellow-gray-yellow-gray repeat anyway. 

I used the whole skein of yarn and this would comfortably wrap twice around or could be draped long just once. I like the way the border ends up scalloped and the fabric sturdy enough to stand up a little. It didn't need a block at all, it's ready to wear!

Pattern: Granny Golightly, free on Ravelry (my Ravelry page)
Yarn: Caron Cakes in 'Plum Crisp'
Needle: US I (5.5 mm)
Size: 10.5" x 50"

Monday, February 4, 2019

the last ball...

I'm starting on my last ball of yarn for the Shetland shawl! How exciting. I have finished one side plus a corner of the final border, just three more sides to go. 

I took advantage of the fact that I had to wind this last ball of yarn today to wind 5 other skeins for other things I've got planned. They are all tucked away in project bags now waiting for casting on. I don't think I'm going to make myself finish this before I start something new, but I do think I'll sit and make some focused progress this afternoon. The weather is rather Scottish outside today, so it feels appropriate.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

multi tasking

I had a "three quilt day" the other day. That's not to say that I finished three quilts, but I did make progress on each of them. The primary thing I wanted to accomplish was piecing backs and basting the two finished quilt tops. I had already cut batting to size and figured out the pieces for the backing, they have just been sitting waiting patiently for me to get to it. While I pieced both backs, I only basted one quilt, my little chickens that are going to London this month. 

Once I set up the sewing machine and ironing board and made the few lines I needed to get the backings pieced, I also brought out my french braid quilt from hibernation and made a little bit of progress on that. That was more appealing than putting everything away and clearing out a bunch of space to baste the large medallion quilt. I'll get to it. :) The braids were fun to start again and I can tell I'm going to enjoy playing with designing more of that quilt top as the year progresses. 

I spent a day or so looking for inspiration to get me going on quilting the chickens. I thought I wanted to do it on the machine but nothing was really striking my fancy that was simple enough. I've done some free motion quilting on small things to test it, but I'm not confident enough yet to risk it on a large project like this where I'd be really sad if it didn't look good. Straight lines were not inspiring me either, so I decided to hand quilt! I popped out to the store yesterday to grab a few colors of pearl cotton and got going last night.

It seems crazy, but this piece is not nearly as large as the (first and) last one I hand quilted so I'm hopeful it will go fast. Indeed, last night I outlined half of the blocks while watching an hour or so of tennis and I've already gotten another done this morning. I've got some plans for the sashing involving eggs and bird footprints. This is already so stinkin' cute, I can't wait to see how it looks when I'm done.