Monday, March 30, 2020

week two

The second week of quarantine, and the knit along with Arne & Carlos, has come and gone. I find myself getting a lot of little chores done at home. It seems there are no excuses anymore! Not to say that it's all been productive and full of accomplishments; there have been a fair share of hours sitting on the couch with the cats trying to stop reading the increasingly worrisome news online and plenty of time on the phone with friends and family. The higher frequency of phone calls especially seems to be a nice side effect of the strange times. 

Most days I get my patch done, sometimes I don't and then I catch up with a couple the next day. The ones in the photo above are steam blocked, which worked really well instead of wet blocking (the colors didn't run at all) and had the wonderful effect of evening out some of the wonkier stitches. A couple of the ones I wasn't super happy with because the contrast with the variegated yarns wasn't great improved a bit upon being tamed with the steam. They still aren't perfect, but I like them all. 

It turns out we will be making a cushion! I mean, folks are making whatever they want at this point, but A&C have set out with a cushion in mind and I'm curious to know how they will approach the construction, so a cushion these will be. This green and gray vine patch is the last of the nine for side number one. They have decided to continue the knit along for two more weeks beyond their required two weeks of quarantine, so there will be nine more patches for the second side. Mine are small because I'm using fingering weight yarn so I will have to see if they make a decent pillow size or if I should make more patches for each side. Not sure what I'll do yet. 

I could of course just use all 18 patches on one side, but there's this. In a clever nod to the isolation protocol, the "Love" patch is intended for one side and this "Hug Me Later" patch is meant for the other. So when we're all done with this mess, we can all love each other and stop forgoing hugs! I enjoy the tongue in cheek nature of that design feature very much. 

Monday, March 23, 2020

week one

Week one of quarantine is officially over. Mom had sent me a pattern via Pinterest for a crocheted square that looks like it has little tulips in it. I wanted a quick non-knitted thing to do today between loads of laundry, so here it is.

I do agree it looks like tulips. The coral and turquoise colors reminded me of the trip we took to Arizona a few springs ago. How I miss those desert colors!

quarantine knit along

After traveling during the ramp up of the COVID-19 epidemic, Arne and Carlos, wonderful people that they are, have started a mystery knit along while they are quarantined at home. Their daily podcasts are a nice diversion (as their videos always are) and they have generously shared a pattern each day for color work patches. The intent is for this to go on for two weeks, the length of their quarantine, and I just finished the last patch from week 1 last night. They suggest using dk weight yarn, but I've got way more fingering weight scraps so my patches are turning out as miniatures. This is a fun no-rules creative exercise in an otherwise trying time.

Our county's shelter-in-place order took effect on St. Patrick's Day, so that's when I started my first patch, choosing festive greens. Similar to the embroidery hoop I just finished, this is a really nice skill building exercise. I'm learning how to do flat color work, which seems to me much harder than working in the round even though it shouldn't be. Maybe it's all the purling, who knows. It is getting easier though. I'm enjoying these small squares so much think I might even start swatching for projects! Hah. Maybe not. Let's not go overboard.

I'm also getting to practice more color combination skills. Each patch takes just a couple of hours and then it's on to the next, so getting to pick out new pairs comes much faster than it would if these were larger color work projects like shawls or sweaters. I'm learning what works and what doesn't in terms of value and variegated skeins for charted patterns, that's for sure. Sometimes these speckled and variegated yarns work up in surprising ways! The green and pink yarns above seemed to be a great pair while sitting next to each other but are maybe a little too close in value to provide the contrast needed to make the pattern pop. The one next to it worked out much better. I like them all, to be sure, but it's nice to note. Arne had a wonderful point - pick a couple of colors from your stash and you will probably love them in combination because you loved each color and bought the yarn in the first place - and I find that to be true.

The last block of the week, Love, was very fun. I took a couple of ocean inspired colors and worked it up last night. I'm very pleased. Looking forward to the next week of patches, though I wish the reason for the KAL did not exist. Everyone is taking things one day at a time so far and thankfully I get to include these fun little knits as part of my day. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

garden visitor

We are approaching the first day of spring here in California and also celebrating St. Patrick's Day. I have the perfect photo! This is an aeonium I've had since it was a tiny little thing in 2013 and now it is multiple feet high and getting ready to bloom. It's a gorgeous color of green right now; it has been thriving in its new environment down here.

I've got a bit of gray heather yarn to work with after finishing off the blanket recently, so I thought I'd try my hand at making one of these bunnies. There are quite a few patterns I've saved on my Pinterest and Ravelry favorites page that require just a little bit of yarn. This little guy took just a couple of days and turned out so well I wonder if the garden is fooled!

Instead of the suggested legs I took a cue from some of the other folks that made the pattern and made I-cord legs. I also added a pompom tail because, well obviously. It may be a little too big but I'm sticking with it! Attaching everything was not nearly as cumbersome as I feared and in no time I had this little guy ready to check out the kale and carrots in the raised bed. I give you Patrick the bunny.

Pattern: Henry's Bunny by Sarah Elizabeth Kellner, free on Ravelry (my Ravelry page)
Yarn: Lion Brand Wool-Ease Solids, Heathers, & Twists in 'gray heather'
Needle: US 4 (3.5 mm)

Sunday, March 15, 2020

pineapples in spring

Since finishing the last stitch on my Forest Fog knitted blanket I've been spending a lot of time in the studio cutting strips of fabric for my next quilt. So many strips! I am enjoying the counter height cabinet to work on for cutting; it's much easier on the back and shoulders than the card table. I also enjoy that I can clear off the top to work with large pieces of fabric so it isn't as difficult to maneuver yardage and cut width-of-fabric strips. Many of these were cut from fat quarters, but that linen on the side there was from a big cut of yardage. 

I am making a pineapple block quilt, my first. Mom got me a set of templates and a pattern book for Christmas, and I've picked out a pattern for a quilt to throw across our living room couch. I'm sure like all the quilts it will end up all over the house but the initial color choices were inspired by our living room. 

The template is pretty great as it takes what would be an otherwise very rigorous process of trimming and squaring up and making it super easy. This block is on round 4 of my pineapple, pre-trimming. 

All I have to do is line up the center square with the appropriate square on the template and trim all four sides and I'm all set to do the next round of strips. It's simple and easy to keep edges squared and the pineapple growing without getting skewed. I am very happy. 

I'm also using my cone thread holder for the first time. I've been quilting so much that I'm going through thread quickly. I've had a couple of larger cones in my cabinet for a while and was always meaning to try the coffee cup or travel cup thread holder, but never got around to it with a project I thought was big enough to try. In the meantime I treated myself to a relatively inexpensive actual thread holder, so I set it up in the new space. I wound 3 bobbins before I started this quilt, so I'm hoping I'll be able to sew for a while before needing to do anything with thread. I did increase the tension from "AUTO" to "+1" on the machine after sewing a few test lines to get the stitches looking good, but other than that I've had no issues switching to this set up so far. 

There is a lot of traffic between the sewing machine and iron/cutting area in making the pineapple block, but I'm going to try to figure out a way to chain piece at least a few at a time to make that a little less of an issue. Love how this first block came out - just 23 more to go!

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

a milestone in fog

Oh my goodness it's done. Today! I thought it would never end, but here it is in all it's draped glory. I had to run out and get one last skein of gray to finish this off (which makes 2 extra over the 10 that came with the kit) and then I put in on my calendar. That means business, folks. The concreteness of having "finish Forest Fog blanket" actually on my to do list on an actual day with a tangible checkbox next to it made it happen. 

So very many leaves! In a little act of karma because I've been complaining about them so much, the border for which I had carefully determined how many leaves I would require actually needed just ONE more after I got everything tacked down and attached. How appropriate that was. Looking forward to figuring out how to block this beauty. I think the leaves will once again be a source of consternation :). Much pinning in my future, methinks, but for now I'm off to start cutting for a quilt project I've been waiting to start...

Monday, March 9, 2020

stitches managed

I am so very proud of this embroidery hoop. I think an apt name would be "Portrait of the Artist in her 20s" because this reminds me of all the time I spent hiking in the woods and wilderness in California and Utah during the time shortly after I moved out to California. I was an adventurer and a daydreamer, just like this picture suggests. 

The DMC National Embroidery Month celebratory blog/video series was so fun to do. It proved, as I suspected, that a little bit each day on an unfamiliar project with totally new skills would lead to something manageable. I'm feeling accomplished with the amount I learned in a short time and also that I managed to translate it all into this project with no practice. For having taken the plunge, this looks like a skilled stitcher made it! That's really a tribute to the bite sized videos and instruction; there was no way I would have taken the blank pattern and done anything like this without the visual lessons. Thanks, DMC!

Straight stitch, stem stitch, whipped backstitch, satin stitch, French knot, pistil stitch for the poppies; 
encroaching satin stitch for the meadows

I did not end up purchasing the stitchable cork that was suggested for the ground, opting instead for this pretty gray-brown-green felt already in my stash. I am however intrigued by the cork, so maybe that will come in a later adventure. I also didn't buy all of the suggested threads, using what I could find in my stash to augment some actual purchases I made. The sparkly etoile thread was definitely worth getting, and I like the pearl cotton for the mountains. 

Basketweave stitch, star stitch for the hat; smyrna cross for the sweater; 
cable stitch for the jeans; braided turkey work hair

I am very pleased with the smyrna cross sweater in particular. These two colors were yarns I've had wound up in my embroidery box for a very long time. I'm sure they are leftovers from an old project in my tweens. It turns out that they gave me a sweater that matches a blanket we bought in San Antonio when the 'Cats went to the Alamo Bowl. Northwestern wildcat pride! That, combined with the deep dark brown braids, really makes this person seem like me.

Raised satin stitch for the sun; long and short stitch for the mountains

The fringe stitch trees were the most difficult part. I had challenges getting coverage to the extent that I was happy with and also trimming everything evenly. I think maybe sharper scissors may have helped, but I'm not entirely sure. Regardless, the trees definitely make the most impact on the whole piece because they are visually dimensional and texturally interesting. It is hard to resist petting the trees, I'll be honest. 

Fringe stitch (turkey work) and fly stitch for the trees

Second to the sweater, I am very tickled with how the clouds turned out. I just picked a few random scraps from my stash to play with and the colors are perfect. In fact, driving home the other night I saw clouds of nearly identical color to these as the sun set. It was a lovely confirmation that sometimes our imaginations are really grounded in the real. 

Colonial knot clouds

I was not very happy with how the magic paper came off of the fabric. It seemed like the ink stuck to some of my colors and dulled them, especially the sun, and you can see the 'coffee stain' from drying around the edges of the project. That's a bummer, but the paper was so handy that I'm not certain it would keep me from doing it again. Luckily the hoop hides the stain so you can't even tell. Maybe next time I should use warmer water and agitate more?

I just did a quick trim of the edges and a running stitch around the back to finish up. The stitching on the back looks quite neat, so I may not put a back on it. I do have to remember to put a label though because this is something I'm going to want to remember making long after I'll recall the year I did it!