Saturday, February 29, 2020

leap day loveliness

Today is Leap Day! That also means it's the end of National Embroidery Month, so I've got an afternoon of stitching planned to get my trees and clouds finished on this little piece of awesome.  

I'm not certain how the clouds will turn out, but I did find a set of yarn leftovers in my stash that I think will combine nicely to make the illusion of a sunset. I'm loving the colonial knot work so far and I think at least my first yarn choice is spot on. I decided not to do the stump work because when I saw it on the videos I thought it stuck out weirdly and looked a little out of place. The knots themselves are enough without the extra poofiness. My goal is to be done with everything but the braids tonight so I can soak off the magic paper. Stitch on!

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

stitchery progress

I enjoyed a bit of California February today and took my al fresco lunch outside. Nothing says "winter" like avocado and tomatoes, right??? Ha. Lucky me the sun was shining and the birds were singing, no joke. I'm only a little bit behind on my embroidery project for National Embroidery Month, so I'll catch up in the next couple of days and get it finished, I'm 100% sure. 

What was keeping me the last couple days was actually the fact that I did not have the thread to do the mountains. The pattern calls for pearl cotton number 8 in a series of grays. I of course could use a series of any color in any thread, but I don't actually have a nice set I like in my floss, so I ventured out to the local thread store. Yes, I now have a local yarn shop AND a local thread store. The place was amazing and welcoming and well stocked. I'm very excited to explore some more, but this time I left with just the four colors I needed. I ended up with pearl cotton number 5 instead of 8, but I like the thicker thread anyway. 

Mountains, trees, clouds - that's all that is left! I'm going to leave the braids for last after I soak the whole piece to get the Magic Paper off. It doesn't make sense to me to soak the braids unnecessarily. Just keep stitching, just keep stitching...

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

border progress

To be honest, I've gotten a little bored with knitting these leaves. They are the only thing standing between me and a beautiful blanket, so onward we go. To break up the repetition a bit and to help me see just how many more leaves I need to complete I decided to start attaching the border to the blanket.

There are more than a few options to attach knitted borders including whip stitch, knitting on as you go, and crochet. I want this to be relatively sturdy but also stretchy so I went with the crochet option. Essentially all I'm doing is lining things up as best I can and doing a single crochet stitch through both layers. 

I'm not sure I'll have enough gray to finish the leaves and attach the border so I went into my stash and found a pretty variegated purple to use instead. I imagined that I would just get a punchy purple line of crochet v's along the back edge, but I didn't also realize that I would see it on the front a bit. I actually quite like the effect, it just means I have to make sure I try to space out my stitches as evenly as I can as I go along. I just have 15 more leaves to go!

Monday, February 24, 2020

Scrappy Happy quilt, finished

Well that didn't take long at all! Even given that it sat around basted for a while, I got this quilted in just one day and put the last stitch in the binding the day after. A+ for me, it is done WELL BEFORE the baby arrives. I knitted a blanket for Cindy's last baby and got a cute picture back, so I'm hoping she likes this quilted blanket for baby #2 and also sends me a cute picture again. 

I was going to use my new quilting gadget that Dave got me to free motion quilt better, but I forgot that it doesn't actually require, in fact will not allow for, a basted quilt sandwich. Using that means I roll the three layers separately and quilt that way. Ooooops. Well I just decided to free motion quilt anyway. After all, many years ago I did a whole quilt in dogwood flowers that way, so why not give it another shot? Instead of a regular pattern I wanted to do loops. To make it easy on myself I did rows of loops across each row of squares in the quilt top, with two rows of loops to cover the flying geese that go horizontally. 

The nice, and unexpected, thing is that when you look at the overall quilt it just looks like it's got a lot of texture and loops everywhere. It doesn't look ordered into rows at all, which is super great because - ahem - it's not quite as regular as I'd envisioned it being. Between having the foot installed wonky the first time (or two) to bumping the rolled up quilt into the window sill behind the machine, there are more than a few hiccups in the stitching but you'd never tell if you weren't looking closely. I'm sure baby won't mind. 

I found this great polka dot fabric in my stash and used up what I had to make binding that I machine sewed to the front and then hand sewed to the back. Normally I zigzag stitch by machine to tack binding down, but I've been on a hand stitching kick lately with the embroidery project I've been working on and hand stitching the binding seemed like it would be fun. It was, and the polka dots are much more visible than they would have been with white zigzags overlaying them. 

The quilt is a 41" square which is a nice size for a kid to toddle around with or to lay down on the floor for a play mat. It was also a good size to work with in the machine. I'm particularly proud of the patchwork panel on the back that used up every. single. scrap. of the fabrics I used in the front. It started out as a bit of play, actually. I wasn't sure what it would turn into but just kept sewing bits and pieces together until this came out. When it was done, I decided it would be a nice addition to the back. This whole quilt, with the exception of the batting layer, was made from scraps and small bits of yardage I had in my stash. There were no large cuts involved and it was really satisfying to end up with basically no leftovers. It's the perfect scrap buster project. Isn't it gratifying to find out what the little pieces in your scrap jars will turn into?

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Cocoa with the Frasers, finished

Ta daaaa! I blocked my Baubles shawl last night with a quick soak and stretch with my blocking wires on the floor of the studio. The only color that bled much was the brown, but I'm happy to report that it didn't catch at all on the light yellow to dull it at all. I did not block aggressively because of the brioche sections. I just did enough to get the lace panels stretched a bit. 

This was a really fun pattern to work up that started simple and increased in complexity as it moved along. The simple stripes were a nice way to work into the project followed by the fun brioche columns that switch color dominance halfway through. As I worked through that switch I started to understand better how the brioche stitch is actually structured, and learning that was pretty gratifying. I was even able to fix a dropped stitch or two along the way which is pretty impressive if you ask me!

The yarn color choices were not mine, though I wish they were. I would not have thought of this combination and they are not my usual suspects at all, but I think the vibrant turquoise and orange Jamie Fraser yarn with the lighter and (dare I say it) daintier Sassenach yellow is just gorgeous. It's an appropriate combination from a character perspective, yes, but also they manage to work well together sharing some of the silver and orange hues. The variegations especially make the striped sections look incredibly dynamic. The Hot Chocolate brown is a subdued shade somewhat like the Grand Street Ink that I used for my Waiting for Rain. I prefer the latter, but this brown is also very soft and pleasant and provides a great neutral for the variegated yarns to play on. In my mind this has been my "Baubles shawl" as I've worked on it but now that I write this paragraph, I think I'll go with the cheeky name Cocoa with the Frasers in a nod to the colors and the book/TV series I love so much. 

The whole effort of pattern matching with colors was accomplished by the lovely lady who dyed the yarns and runs Honey Girl Farms. Last February I attended Stitches West here and purchased entirely too much yarn... if that's a thing. This kit was one of the items that came home with me. Look at me! I finished the project before a year passed! Let's not talk about the other yarn... this was the first dip I allowed myself into that stash so far. And I also joined her Outlander yarn club, so there's that. Suffice to say I'm looking forward to finding creative uses for all of her lovely colors in the coming months (years). 

The pattern itself is very well put together and written clearly. There is a written version (my preference) as well as a charted version of each section. What I liked the most about it was the detailed instructions for each stitch, no matter how simple, and specific recommended cast on and bind off techniques. So many options are available that sometimes it's difficult to know what the best choice is for a given edge. It's so common for patterns to just say "cast on" and "bind off"/"bind off loosely" and then despite your best efforts you still end up with a less than satisfying edge. The designer also included great notes for each section to explain unusual things or to clarify. There were a lot of crazy increases and decreases in the brioche sections but the notes and instructions made them very easy to accomplish.

I was pretty wowed when I got to the last section and started shaping in brioche. Whaaaaat??? It turned out looking amazing. There is definitely at least one spot where I messed up the decreases and fudged a row or two (see above comment about really learning how brioche works...) but no one will know besides me and nobody's perfect. When I blocked this edge I just put a few T-pins around each outside curve to avoid pointy-ness and let the inner ones settle in by themselves. After unpinning it looks great. This pattern is definitely a "need to pay attention while working" pattern, at least while not working the striped sections. It was a really enjoyable knit where I learned a lot and I am going to love wearing this thing. 

Pattern: Baubles, by Andrea Mowry (my Ravelry page)
Yarn: Honey Girl Farms Silky Sock in "Jamie Fraser", "Sassenach", and "Hot Chocolate"
Needle: US 4 (3.5 mm)
Size: 100"across, 30" deep

Sunday, February 9, 2020


Apparently February is National Embroidery Month. I didn't know this until I got an email from DMC telling me so, but there you go. To celebrate the month they have a stitch along going that I think I'm going to try to keep up with. The finished project looks so lovely, and a little bit of stitching every day should get me there. Of course, I have lots of thread and lots of other things I could be doing with it, but I really liked the design and it will stretch my skills.

I was a few days behind in getting my hoop set up and started, but it just took me an evening to get about halfway caught up. The big UFO looking circle in the middle was an "oops" in printing on the transfer paper, but it's no big deal to just ignore it and stitch on the correct lines. My one complaint about the pattern is that there isn't really any indication of what stitches or colors go where, so I have to wait for each day's stitch along video to be posted. That's not a big deal, and I'm sure done on purpose, but it would be nice to have an annotated pattern to work off of. 

Tonight I'm totally caught up with the posted videos and I think my poppies turned out looking quite nice. I'm also getting to use my nifty bumble bee needle minder and all the accouterments of hand stitching I've got squirreled away. There are a couple of new-to-me stitches so far and I am really looking forward to learning more and adding bit by bit to this each evening. Detailed embroidery like this is something I've never really done before, and so far - super fun.