Thursday, April 30, 2020

strange times

I wrapped up April 2020 with an afternoon in the studio. I got a lot of progress done on the next set of pineapple quilt blocks, but first I made some face masks for Dave and I. Strange times indeed. I have resisted this for a while, perhaps out of a little bit of stubbornness and hope. At this point we have had our shelter in place extended through the end of May and it seems that while health authorities are mostly recommending masks rather than requiring them, a lot of businesses will be requiring patrons to wear masks. That's fine, we'll do it. We even have N95 masks from fire season last year that we've already been wearing when we go out. I have found it difficult to breathe with my N95 plus seasonal allergies, so today I decided to make myself an alternative. The other thing I like about these masks is that I can throw them in the wash frequently. If we have to wear them often and over the long term, that's a good thing. 

Mom sent me a couple of patterns, this being one of them. It wasn't at all difficult and was pretty fun to pair up fabrics for both me and Dave. I picked a cheery peace-love-owls print and Dave chose a blue ikat. I settled on this orange flannel bike print for the lining. It should be nice to have the flannel against our faces and there's the practical point that orange won't show rubbed off makeup quite as much... The ties got weird but I think they'll work. I know having elastic on my ears would end up in all kinds of rubs and sores, so I don't even want to go there. Instead I found some random scraps of bias tape in my stash, sewed it together at the open edge, and threaded the pieces through the channels meant for the elastic on this design. We just have to pull tight enough to tie our strings so the masks don't bulge out funny on the sides, but the way I see it pulling I believe the elastic would have made it do the same thing. 

If we have to go out in masks, why not have some cheerful prints on our faces? It may seem incongruous given the (understandable) general stress that seems to have descended over the folks that are out and about, but maybe that's just the point. 

Stan seems to have no problem with this whole situation, though I'm not certain he is wearing the masks in an effective configuration. May we all have his sense of confidence and unflappable calm in the weeks to come. 

Monday, April 27, 2020

week six

The sweater, she grows! It's not looking that impressive at the moment, but how does one take a good picture of a partially finished sweater? I am pretty impressed with how quickly progress has been coming along. I don't work on it every day, but when I do find myself knitting away I spend a lot of time with it. I'm pleased to have gotten past the short row hem shaping - no more purls, yay! - and onto the simpler stockinette in the round. 

I've also reached the point of adding in the second color. It's sneaking in right now, just a row here and a row there. I've come up with a clever way to track the decrease rows and the color changes at the same time. For decreases I move a second stitch marker one stitch away from the beginning of row marker for each row between decreases. Once I get to the decrease row I start over at one stitch, then I mark another tally down in the pattern to keep track of how many repeats I've done. For the colors, I just have the number of rows of dark/medium/light written down in a list that I mark off as I go. It's easy enough to count five, eight, thirteen, rows of a stripe so I just knit until I think I'm getting close to the right thickness then count. It requires a bit of thinking as I go along but not too much, so I still get to watch TV or listen to music while working. 

I'm curious to see how I tackle the sleeves. I guess one at a time, but wouldn't it be nice to be able to do two at once?? I think it's possible. Must do some reading. 

Thursday, April 23, 2020

pineapple play

I felt inspired to work a bit more on this quilt today. It's strange that I haven't wanted to spend much time in the studio since we've been told to stay at home. You'd think I'd be stuck in there, but aside from the couple of bags I sewed for gifts I've really felt more like curling up with some knitting on the couch - maybe a self comforting sort of thing? Today was a beautiful sunny day to open up the window, air out the house, and make some progress on my pineapple blocks. And it was so satisfying.

I've got grand plans to have this one done for draping on the couch sometime this summer - we will see! The blocks are fun to make and pretty easy with my handy dandy template ruler gadget. I have all of my pieces organized into piles in a storage box so it's pretty satisfying to sit at the machine and pick out strips as I go. I've figured out a good rhythm chain piecing and ironing that got me seven blocks today. They are looking so cool put together up on the wall. It's a little bit like one of those magic eye pictures! Eight down, sixteen to go. 

Monday, April 20, 2020

week five

And just like that there's the close of the fifth week of staying at home. I've been knitting away at my sweater, though I don't have any pictures to show of it. I'll take a few eventually as it's nice to have a visual catalog of progress to look back on. The other big thing we did this week was yesterday. We painted our master bedroom.

Kepler was pretty interested in the whole process so we decided to close the kitties out of the room, but I did snap a cute shot of him and Dave stirring paint. We hadn't planned on painting this soon, though admittedly as I type that I realize that eight months to the day have flown by since we've moved in. Regardless of how long it's been, we always thought we'd do the wood floor upstairs first but we didn't settle on what we wanted before it started to become obvious in early March that we might not want to be going out quite as much. I remember we had a "let's go to Floor and Decor on the peninsula" planned for the weekend right before our shelter in place order officially started that we thought better of as the news started to turn. So we figured we'd get other things done around the house as we could. 

Painting has actually turned out to be a great way to feel like we are making progress on getting this to feel like "our" house. It feels like home for sure, but it's fun to get going on really making it ours. I suppose it's a small silver lining of having more time at home to ponder the walls and spend time on Pinterest looking at interior design boards. We managed to couple a trip for water softener pellets with a paint purchase for a few things including this lovely pale green for our bedroom. I'm so happy to see that yellow go! It looks great downstairs in the living room, but I'm over it upstairs. It took us the better half of a day to get two coats up on the walls and I'm loving the instant gratification, but my shoulders and arms are protesting the fact that I did most of the second coat myself! It's an out of the box color choice for me, but I LOVE it. 

As we put the room back together, we took the opportunity to shuffle our furniture around. Switching the bed and dresser has consolidated the open space into one area rather than three, and I'm looking at a great space for a comfy chair over in that corner. Depending on the light the color looks greener or bluer, but either way I am enjoying how much brighter the room is and how much bigger it feels. We are looking forward to putting the finishing touches in as soon as we decide what we want. Until then I'll enjoy the fact that it accidentally matches the pretty dusty foliage of one of my favorite plants outside. Serendipity.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

forest fog, finished

Ta da! My second largest project to date folds up nicely into a cute little pile. Amazing to think it took me so long to complete it. Ha!

It does in fact roll out to quite a nice sized blanket. This is based on a pattern, but with a twist. I totally read the pattern incorrectly when I started and began with a field of flowers instead of the trees. There are supposed to be three panels of trees and two panels of flowers. Instead I found myself well into the first set of flowers before realizing my mistake. What I did to avoid ripping everything out was split the second panel of flowers in half so each pairs with the top and bottom tree panels and made sure that the dividing row patterns were modified enough that I still had the same number of rows in the blanket overall. I've worked a pattern by this designer before and don't recall having any problems, but it was a much differently constructed piece of crochet flowers, so I'm sure it was written quite differently, too.

Regardless, I like the way it looks with that modification. Each set of trees is sitting in a field this way! Yet another example of how an oops can turn into a nice design feature. After a good soak in the bath tub it was quite heavy but rolling it up in a big beach towel and walking on it fixed that. I wire blocked the center panel to 54x64, making the total dimensions approximately 60x70 including the border. It basically coopted the entire floor of my studio and nearly all of my blocking boards for a good several days while it dried.

Instead of pinning all the leaves I just stretched them out to lay flat and let them dry as they will. They turned out fine. I finished up weaving in the ends from the border on Monday. Many knitters decided to skip the border altogether and I was tempted. It seemed like a pain to sew a border on such a large edge, but I am very glad I did. It gives the piece a little more whimsy than straight edges would. Like it takes itself less seriously. 

I'm enjoying the pop of purples on the back from where I crocheted on the border. It's not very noticeable on the front but goes nicely with the gray anyway. I do love the particular shade of this gray. It's cool like the coastal fog in the redwoods. The coast and the fog is further away today than when I started, but the cool coastal winds still come over the mountain behind our house to say hello. Those winds definitely necessitate a cozy blanket to wrap up in, waiting patiently on the quilt ladder in the corner.

Pattern: Tree of Life Afghan by Nicky Epstein (my Ravelry page)
Yarn: Lion Brand Wool-Ease Solids, Heathers, & Twists in 'gray heather'
Needle: US 8
Size: approx 5' x 6'

Monday, April 13, 2020

week four

Week four of sheltering in place is in the books. We had a video Easter dinner with some friends of ours up the peninsula, so that was nice. It's amazing what a difference the video chatting makes vs talking on the phone! It's also a way for whole groups of people to feel like our rooms are somewhat connected. In the meantime, I finished up my last three patches of Arne & Carlos's knit along last night, steamed them this morning. 

I love the way the pink and navy lily came out, the contrast is perfect. And the vine block in the middle with the two greens actually looks pretty good from this distance. Annoyingly despite being very different colors in balls next to each other they started to feel blended in as I knit, especially with this pixelated design. The teddy bear is not my favorite block, but he turned out pretty cute in gray. I guess he's more of a polar bear. Below is my collection of patches from the last month, the first four weeks of these strange times of social distancing and face masks. I used a part of every single partial skein/scrap of fingering yarn I had in my stash except two. One of those was not enough to do anything with and the other was very like another green I'd already used. 

It's been fun to have these to distract this last little while but I'm ready to move on and focus on my sweater for a bit. I'm looking forward to seeing their directions on how to sew these up and make them into a pillow, because I'm not sure I "get" it yet. In my mind I'm seeing stretchy seams and stuffing coming out the knitting, but I know I must be wrong! In the meantime I suppose I'll tackle weaving in all those ends. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

time for a sweater

I'm super proud of myself for finishing all of my knitting WIPs this year, even some of the longstanding ones like my great big gray blanket. I've snuck in some fun small projects in the past few weeks, too, but I've also got a great start on my next big project - a sweater! It was honestly next in line in my arbitrary list of crafty things to do, but also what better thing to do during a statewide stay at home period than see how far you can get on a sweater? Well, so many better things, but what better knitting thing. Let's keep some perspective here. 

I cast on not long after our county issued the first shelter in place order in mid March, and I've got a good start on the hem short row shaping. I did have to cast on multiple times which made me extremely unhappy, especially the time I KNEW I checked for twisting before I joined and ended up stitching a mobius strip anyway. Argh. I'm enjoying how soft this yarn is in my hands, Henry and Rum are hanging out on my cable keeping me oriented, and I'm having fun doing something that is just simple stockinette in between all the color work that's been going on. 

It's slow going for now because the hem shaping isn't in the round and purling always slows me down. But here's where I remind myself that it isn't a race and that I'm supposed to enjoy the process. Here's to my quarantine sweater!

Monday, April 6, 2020

week three

The third week of our sheltering in place and the third week of the knit along are both in the books. Here are my five patches from this week. I tried again to use a variegated yarn and failed royally, but the subtle star is still kind of fun. The rest of the week's color combinations went a little smoother. I really like the blue and green combo in the butterfly block, but I definitely lost at yarn chicken. Serendipitously it was near a decent part of the top wing for a color change so I stuck with it and just did the rest of it in yellow. We'll call it a design feature! I love them all. 

It's a little strange to think that we as a county are approaching what would have been the end of our original shelter in place order tomorrow. Three weeks ago it seemed unthinkable that we'd be out of commission for almost a month. Now we are looking at more of the same through the beginning of May and it's amazing how quickly we've adapted our thinking. Now instead of unthinkable it seems like "oh that's a good idea". The rhythm of life is actually starting to take shape into something I am rather enjoying. To be clear, not the reason nor the requirement, and it's not all sunshine and roses, but some of the unintended consequences on our lives can be perceived positively - the slower mornings and lack of a sunrise commute; having Dave working from home; leaving behind what felt like a rat race most days. Nowadays the rats are strolling rather than racing. What is most worrisome to me, aside from the obvious hope that everyone maintain their health, is that this whole event will definitely have a global impact in many ways both predictable and not. We still have our health and the ability to work from home, even if it's less work than usual, so for now I will count ourselves lucky and hope very hard for minimized impacts and speedy recovery for those less lucky. 

I have been ruminating on these and many other thoughts while working on this kaleidoscope of patches the last three weeks. This knit along, while it may seem frivolous, has given me a good space to think on what is going on while allowing me to put it down for the rest of the hours of the day. I'm inclined to be a worrier, and it is nice to have a tool to help put a box around the amount of time I can spend thinking over things I cannot control. That said, I have also been enjoying the color play and creative process. Looking over the photo of all the patches I am enjoying the way they all look together while also 100% knowing that I wouldn't have ever thought to throw this many different colors into one project. Just three more patches to go before pillow assembly.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

birthday bags

When the nieces were visiting for the holidays I had good intentions of making them bags like I made with Mom back in September. Alas, as is always the case we ran out of time to do all the things we wanted to do. Instead I asked them to raid my fabric stash and pick out two coordinating fabrics that I could make into bags later. 

These are a really nice afternoon project. The most difficult step is the cutting, which is only hard insofar as your surfaces in your craft room are messy with things that get in the way. After that, it really isn't that much sewing until you have a cute bag (or two) ready to go. I used the thicker Pellon interfacing I had since these were not heavier fabrics and I think that was a good idea. The interfacing stuck less well to the gray fabric because it's some sort of suiting remnant I had. I think I bought it a long time ago when I was going to be making embroidered bags? Regardless, it's stuck on there for now and I believe the sewing lines across the top and handle area should keep it in place even if it should pry loose over time.

It's fun to see their different personalities in the fabrics they chose. The kitten print hiding out in the plain gray is trying to be subtle but admitting to an inner wild side and the blue and white medallion prints are pretty extroverted and sparkly. Sounds like them!

Wednesday, April 1, 2020


Chunky yarn is great. Hats are great. Hat's made with chunky yarn? A knitter's addiction. The last couple evenings I took a break from tiny yarn and tiny color work patches to try out yet another Arne & Carlos pattern, this Norwegian color work hat. It's from their New Nordic collection with Rowan, and I have to say it was so fun I did it twice!

I jest. Actually, when Dave and I went to Monterey one of the last couple times we visited a yarn store and he bought me this pretty chunky yarn with the request "can you make me one of those hats Arne makes?" (he may have watched more than a few YouTube videos with me...) How can a girl say no? His second request was that I make one in inverse colors so we could match. I married a good one! 

I'm pretty proud of my tension on these, the floats on the back also look superb. If I had to do it over again I'd probably go up a needle size. I must knit somewhat tightly? They fit, but I did try to wet block Dave's to get it to relax a little bit more. That worked but it's taking forever to dry! Also, the red yarn bled a LOT. I didn't want my white one to get red stains on it, so I decided not to block. I'm sure it will grow over time like the other hats I've made. Dave also made that point ("well, they don't get any smaller with wear, dear") 

It's not exactly winter here. In fact, Spring is in full swing in our garden with flowers and leaves popping out everywhere. We've had several salads and meals of kale from our veggie garden, too. But! These hats were too cute and too fun to wait until winter again. You never know, maybe we will have another cold snap and then we can be "that couple" when we go out. Even with social distancing folks will know we are a pair.