When I went to my folks' place for a few days over the holidays, I elected not to take my Bumbleberry socks along, but to make a bit of progress on another project, instead. I had a few skeins of Kureyon lying around, so I took them with me, and made a few more blocks for my Lizard Ridge afghan. The colours are (for the most part) darker, earthier than the bright colourful ones I had in the first set of six. It will be interesting to see how all the colours come together when I have finally finished twenty-four. I have actually considered making an extra one or two, in case something doesn't fit in. But a part of me also wants to keep the random nature of the project, and just let the chips fall where they may. Ironically, when I blocked these four out and went to put them with the others, I found one more skein of Kureyon with them. Had I known, I could have taken it along and had one more block completed. Alas.
Also, slightly belatedly, I finished some personalized Christmas stockings, which I love love love. They are from a pattern in the book New Noel by Linda Lum DeBono, using fabric from the Merry & Bright line by Sandy Gervais. They were totally easy, and I love the pointy cuffs and the elflike toes. The only challenge was attaching the applique letters. The tension was all wonky when I tried to zig-zag stitch them with my machine, so I ended up blanket stitching them all on with embroidery thread. It took ages, and I nearly went blind, but it looks great in the finished product.
I've been quiet this week because I've been crafting away. I finished the top for my staff holiday party, the night before the actual party. It turned out really nice and I'm super happy with it. It was a bit low-cut (though not as low-cut as this photo makes it appear to be) and the slinky fabric I made it out of (some sort of polyester jacquard I bought years ago at Fabricland) was slippery enough that it fell open a little more than I wanted. If I had a nice camisole, it would have been no problem, but as it was (i.e. last minute, as I so often am) I just put a little pin in. There are darts in front and back for shaping (you can see them better on the pattern site) so it fits really well. Sorry no photo of me in it -- you'll just have to thow a party and I'll wear it for you. [Funny side note: when I did a google search to find the pattern site, I found another Rhonda who was recently working on this same pattern. Weird coincidence, eespecially since I've had the pattern & fabric sitting around for years and only just decided to throw it together.]
In other news, I'm plugging away on the knee-high socks. I started out using my favourite toe-up pattern, and then am using another pattern for the calf increases & decreases. Knitting math is fun. So far I haven't lost interest in them, partly because of the stripes (who doesn't love knitting stripes?) and partly because of the ever-changing stitch count as I shape the leg. The combination of colours reminds me of bumbleberry pie. Yum.
Lastly, did you see the Winter Knitty is up? There are a few cool things in there, one of which is this pattern for a hat. It's a pretty basic hat, admittedly, but the way she stitches the multicoloured yarn is the really interesting thing. Scroll down to check out the closeup. Of course, never being one to do things the easy way, I decided to use the stitch pattern to make a sweater instead. Also (never being one to do things the easy way) since I couldn't find any appropriate yarn, with a sparse enough second colour, I ordered some Cascade 220 and am going to just dye it myself to make it work. This could either be incredibly gorgeous and brilliant, or a huge soul-crushing disaster. Won't it be fun to see which?
Ah, that little hat we've seen so muchalready. Here it is, one final time. This time, I actually followed the pattern and used the berry stitch for the body of the hat. The berry stitch (which used smaller needles than I used for the moss stitch on the first two hats) has a tighter tension and hand than the previous hats did. I also knitted it to the length specified (since I had enough yarn this time) and it has a different sort of slouch and sort of reminds me of the Smurfs.
I still like it.
In the meantime, I have several other things I'm working on... I'm sewing a top for my staff holiday party this weekend, making a baby gift, working on swatches for (what, another?) hat, and for some reason I decided it was a good time to cast on some knee-high socks. Not to mention the ongoing birthday and holiday shopping...
Need a gift for the girl who has everything? How about a knitted diaphragm?* *Knitted diaphragm will not prevent pregnancy and has no practical use. It will cause snickering.
I am pretty confident with most types of complicated knitting. Lace, no problem. Stranded knitting and fair isle, old news. When it comes to intarsia, however, I am lost. I've tried it a handful of times, and always end up with something puckered and warped, with messy edges and me swearing late into the night. I will never, for example, make a true argyle sweater.
So when it came to making a pair of gloves requested by my HLM, with sparrows on them, I just made the gloves all black, and did the picture in duplicate stitch, after the fact. Lazy, but effective. And with less swearing.
They ended up matching pretty well, despite my lack of notes. The thumbs are a bit funky, but other than that, the gloves look great. I actually surprised myself a bit when they were finished: I saw one sitting around, before the sparrow was stitched on, and for a second didn't realize it was one I'd made. It looked just like a plain black store-bought glove that would be sitting around here. A compliment, in a weird way.
Now I'm looking around to see what's next on the list... *rubs hands together*
There comes a point in the knitting of a glove when the thing starts to look like a porcupine that got into a fight with a ball of yarn. Once you have the stitch holders tangling with the double-points and the yarn is squiggling around everything, you can get irritated to the point of wanting to toss the thing aside and go back to mittens. The secret is to try it on when you start to get annoyed. It feels like little wool hugs, all the way up and down your fingers. Then you smile and slide it off and keep knitting.
This pair is a special request by my HLM -- my own design, hence the scribbled notes on the back of an envelope. Not enough scribbled notes, mind you, to ensure that the second one will closely resemble the first.
Somehow, despite having finished my few holiday knitting projects well ahead of time, I still feel deadlines looming over me. The funny thing is, they are all self-imposed artificial deadlines. They're projects that I told myself I would have finished very quickly (or at least by Xmas) and I'm starting to worry that I won't, as the calendar pages fall steadily away. Of course, there's nothing wrong with finishing them later. Maybe I should make a resolution this year to give up deadlines.
Here is the second version of the little Drops hat I made previously. This one is for a coworker, who is petite (so it's smaller than the one for my gargantuan head) and vegan (so it's bamboo instead of alpaca/mohair.) The drape of the heavy bamboo is pretty amazing and makes me want to knit some kind of cardigan or camisole from it. I knit the ribbing on tighter needles (US5) since bamboo doesn't have the memory of wool, and the whole thing will be likely to stretch out with wearing. It won't be as warm as the alpaca/mohair, either, but hopefully she'll like it anyway. I think I'm getting a batch of vegan peanut butter cups out of this deal, so it's totally worth the time and effort.
So unless you're living in China or something (hi Brandi!) you probably know that my friend Raksha and her husband Pravesh had two additions to their family this past weekend, two handsome and healthy baby boys, to be exact. Because they are tiny little twins, it will be a while before they can use most of the gifts I made.
Here are two of Elizabeth Zimmermann's Baby Surprise Jackets, made from Blue Moon's Socks that Rock in Heavyweight. I love making the BSJ out of this yarn, since they end up so squishy and adorable. Since we knew ahead of time that she was having twin boys, I wanted them to be matching, but not matchy-matchy, ya know? The first one is more of a honey shade, and the second more of a caramel. (I realize it's hard to tell in these photos, so I included a couple of close-ups.)
I wanted to make something that was extra-special and personal, too, so I put a little intarsia Om symbol on the back of this jacket, which I based loosely on the Baby's First Tattoo cardigan out of Stitch 'n Bitch Nation.
Lastly, an heirloom blanket made from Koigu KPPPM (remember when I bought the yarn in Portland?) which you really have to hold to believe it. The hand on this thing is amazing, and it has such a drape. I don't normally make anything with the recommended yarn (cuz I'm a cheapskate, mostly) but this time I'm so glad I did. It is the Big Bad Baby Blanket from the first Stitch n' Bitch book.
It was hard to stop knitting when I did -- I love making baby things since they are so adorable and so quick!
I like having progress bars for my projects on the sidebar, because it is always a good feeling to nudge one up a few percent every once in a while, and see that I am actually getting somewhere with the big projects I am working on. Funny thing is that most of the time, I do loads of little projects that never make it to the sidebar, mostly because I'm too lazy to put them up there before they're done.
Case in point: a pair of leafy socks in a pretty spring green yarn (Louet Gems Fingering Weight in the colour Baby Willow, if you care.) This is another free pattern from Knitty that I am making in between the half-dozen hats that I've committed myself to in the last couple of weeks. More on that later. Anyway, these socks have a pattern like little leaves, which I realize you can't see very well in the photo. If I get a chance to model them on actual feet, it will be more apparent. If you're wondering why the sock looks so fabulously blocked, it's because I jury-rigged myself a sock blocker this afternoon out of some plastic & foam board that I had lying around here. (I have to say that, as much as I love those tv shows about tidying up one's space and getting rid of useless junk, it's so nice to have that same junk still lying around when you finally think of a use for it.) It will totally work until I can get myself something nicer, i.e. when I spend my money on sock blockers rather than on yarn and fabric. Could happen.
So I have the first sock finished and am about a quarter of the way through the second. Good thing I only do one at a time, or I'd have had to make two of the sock blockers.
Meantime, I made some decadent brownies last night, which are just about perfect. They have that little crispy layer on top, but are still moist -- or what the cookbook referred to as 'stodgy' which I love in this context -- in the center. Don't listen to my HLM when he tells you they're too sweet. They aren't. I even substituted some bittersweet chocolate for semisweet squares, when I ran out, so how could they be? Just because they have three kinds of sugar (including corn syrup, which I didn't have, so I actually spent half an hour concocting a substitute corn syrup before I could make the brownies, which only called for one tablespoon anyway. No, I'm not crazy.) They are awesome. And stodgy.
The recent first issue of Debbie Bliss' knitting magazine had in it a handful of really cute patterns using her new superchunky yarn Como, made of wool and cashmere. Unfortunately, I can't afford that. I picked up some bulky wool from Elann and cut the cost of making these adorable placemats to roughly a third of what it would have cost. (Pats self on back.)
They are totally great, squishy and fat and lovely, even just in pure wool. A slightly thicker yarn would probably have done a bit better job, but who's complaining. These things only take about a half hour apiece, so in no time flat, I have a lovely table setting for the holidays. My only concern is that they are slightly smaller than I would like. They measure about 23cm x 28cm (which are the dimensions given by the written pattern) but I would really prefer them to have another couple of cm in both directions. I tried to block them bigger, but they bounced back to their original dimensions. They are clearly as stubborn as I am. I gave in... this time.
They are a big change from what I've been working on, recently (and with no pun intended.) Here is an image of the needles I've been using. The bottom one is the needles for the socks I just made (US2); the center ones are from the grey Drops hat (US6); of course the top are for the placemats (US17) and were bought especially for them. I am not convinced I'll ever need them again. Unless I decide I want more cute placemats.
So if you came across a fabric like this, with cute little fishies that reminded you of koi and yin yang and sushi, obviously you couldn't resist buying some, either. Especially if the colours just happen to be almost the exact ones from the quilt you just made. And if you had a fabric like this, obviously you would make an apron with it. A cute little gathered smock-type of apron, with big roomy pockets and a tie in back.
And if you made an apron from this fabric, obviously you (and your HLM) would make a pizza. The pizza to end all pizzas. With homemade beer-batter dough and prosciutto and hungarian salami and two cheeses and lots of garlic and fresh mushrooms. It's in the oven now. Can you tell I'm hungry?
Okay so both the Vogue Knitting and Interweave Knits Holiday Gift issues were a bit lackluster, and there isn't a lot of great stuff in the upcoming Interweave Knits Winter issue, either... Where is a knitter to go for something inspiring, something spectacular?
So Knitty has this little pattern for fingerless gloves called Knucks, with the idea that those of us who aren't yet brave enough to get knuckle tattoos can emblazon them across the gloves, instead. There are some great ones on ravelry, though I am surprised by how many people make the gloves, but don't take the opportunity to put a cool message on them. Of course I only had one good idea for what to embroider...
So among the many Drops patterns I was enamored with in the fall pattern collection, I found this hat and scarf combo. I had a couple of balls of their Alpaca yarn left over from my Fabel cardi, so I got a little ball of mohair on the cheap from elann and, over the last couple of days, knitted up this little hat.
Okay, so the pattern was really more of a loose guideline -- after making a swatch, I decided that I didn't really like the look (or the fussiness) of the berry pattern, so I did the body of the hat in moss stitch instead. I also realized I was running out of yarn, about five centimetres before it was the length it should have been, so I did the decreases early. I don't mind, really; I think it still looks pretty good.
So last night I was in Starbucks and a perfect stranger told me "I very much like your hat" which, as my HLM commented, only emboldened me. That's right, I'm even considering trying another one in different yarn (and maybe a different type of berry stitch? or slightly shorter ribbing before the stitch pattern?) and making it to the proper dimensions.
So here we are, new stripey socks to make me smile. I actually finished them yesterday, and have knitted a whole hat since then. But one thing at a time, yes?
They are, as I said before, from the Universal Toe-Up Sock pattern on Knitty. I used a short-row toe and heel, and a very basic four row stripe in three colours. I did a very short and simple garter stitch cuff, since I didn't want ribbing, for some reason. What more can be said about them? They fit very well and are snuggly, thanks to the customized sizing of this pattern.
Before you know it, all those strips are sewn together and you have a quilt top done. I bet you didn't think it would end up looking like this, from those simple beginnings...
I don't know the name of this quilt design -- perhaps the more experienced among you know the name -- but I've seen this motif used in a few quilts that I've come across, and once I saw it, I immediately intuited how easy it would be to make it, using strip piecing. The ones I saw have the motif made with much larger blocks, and just as a central design for the quilt, with borders surrounding it. I thought it would look cool if the whole quilt was done this way, with no borders. When it is eventually finished, the binding fabric will be the same red fabric, and wait until you see the back....
So there you are, a few days work, and there is one bright and busy quilt. I wish my photos were less blurry, so you could appreciate the busy-ness of the whole thing, with those fabrics so wild and colourful.
So the first thing is to sew the strips in threes. I got a good start today (about a quarter of what I need to do) but have a long way to go before I get to Step Two. Unless I skip ahead, cuz it's my vacation and I can do whatever I want, so there. I'm pretty excited, since it looks just as eye-searingly bright as I hoped it would.
On the whole, I'm really having a great time so far, on my vacation -- I finished one library book last night (a pulpy mystery novel) and am about halfway through another (a pulpy fantasy novel.) I have even bought afewbooks by some of my favourite authors that I'm excited to read, too. I finished the first Stripey Sock, this morning, and have the toe completed on the second. Ah, it's nice to have all the time I want to Craft.
I'm past the heel on the first sock, but in more exciting news:
Here are 90 strips of fabric, ready to be reconstructed into something awesome! I'm not usually a huge fan of Kaffe Fassett fabrics (with apologies to Kaffe and his many fans) but for this project, I wanted something really dramatic, something that really caught the eye. Either of these fabrics would do that on their own, and as a combo, I think they really pop. Just wait until you see the design come together.
So I have a week off and am planning to stay home and fill that time with as many projects as I possibly can. A couple of days ago I decided to pick up a new knitting project, to try to get my mojo back. (I think my knitting mojo may have been somewhat drained by the Tweed Coat which has been on my sidebar for a while but otherwise has not yet been spoken of.) The project I chose was socks. Easy socks. With some yarn I just have sitting around.
So I present to you the beginning of my Simple Stripey Socks. The yarn is Jawoll Sock, which is very thin, so they have, like, 74 stitches around. That's like a sweater. I mean, if I was skinny.
Anyway, I think they are adorable. I know that two of the colours are a bit close in value, so they don't stand out from one another very well, but they are cute and cuddly (and free, sort of) and I think they will be much worn.
I also started cutting up some fabric for a new quilt top. Stay tuned.
Alas, I don't have a photo for you today, and I know how boring it is to read long posts without photos. I promise to get you a pic of my sweet Hallowe'en costume, asap, to make up for it, okay? Okay.
I have actually reached the one-quarter mark on making little tiny hexagons, which is great. I feel like I'm making some real progress on it. That leaves me with... let's see... just under 2000 to go. Hmm... I think I felt better before I'd calculated that.
I also sat down to start the handquilting on the Wiz quilt. I decided to do it freehand, which is a new experience for me. With the other quilts I've done, I've always followed some element of the design with the quilting (i.e. either outlining hexagons for the One Block Wonder quilts, or following around the berries for the whole cloth quilt.) With this one, I thought I would try some sort of freehand design, something that suggests storms and tornadoes. I have learned a few things from this: someone who doesn't consider herself an artist perhaps shouldn't freehand quilt an image without sketching it on first, somehow. Or at least not do it upside down. Also, I've learned that straight lines are a lot easier to freehand than smooth curves are. Luckily, I have learned long ago not to be a perfectionist.
I've been planning some upcoming projects that will use some skills I haven't practiced much. I figured that one good way to practice them would be to make some little mini quilts. Here are a couple that will help me with some machine-applique. So far these are only fused, not yet machine stitched -- everything will be much more defined when they're finished.
In the meantime, my HLM was out of town for a week, and just got home the other night... Talk about a guy who knows his way to my heart, he brought me home a bunch of gourmet peanut butter. Yum. There's Sumatra Cinnamon Raisin, European Cafe Mocha, and (believe it or not) Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. There will be some great midnight snacks around here, believe me.
My days off-work were once again very productive, but I don't have much to show you for it. I finished my Hallowe'en costume and I think it looks awesome, if I do say so myself. There's one more element that I may or may not add to it. It would make the costume better, but it would mean another trip to the fabric store, and lots more fabric... I still have a few days to decide.
I also made another handful of hexagons -- they are going fairly quickly for now, but once I start another project (and believe me, they're lining up to be next) they'll probably fall into the background again. That's sort of how I intended this project to be: something to putter away on whenever I feel like it. If I pushed myself to finish it in a hurry, I might go crazy with the magnitude, and besides, I like the portability of it at this stage. I can grab some paper hexagons and fabric squares and take them with me. It's a good way to people-watch in the coffee house, while nursing a mochaccino.
I also basted the layers of the Wiz together this afternoon, so once I have room to set up my quilting frame, I will start quilting it.
The only thing I have to show for my days off is this beautiful apple pie. That's crust from scratch, people, with McIntosh apples and demerara sugar inside. Yum. I had some for breakfast this morning. Mmm, nothing like having some healthy fruit for breakfast...
So last night I took a little break from making hexagons and made myself a little fabric box (from this tutorial) to store them in. I figured that I need something to hold them all until I sew them together, so it might as well be something pretty. I'm not sure it will hold them all, but it's pretty roomy (about eight inches square and eleven high) and the initial 360 fit in the bottom quite nicely. Over the next several months, I hope to fill it to the brim.
I also made a Pumpkin Orange loaf this morning. It's my favourite thing to make from leftover pumpkin, and I had lots left over from my Thanksgiving pie. It's very moist and orangey, largely because there is an entire orange in there, rind and all. All those fragrant volatile oils from the peel make it smell (and taste) just divine.
Well, the day after that last post, I got the Wiz quilt top put together. There were a few adjustments I had to make in the final moments -- the pattern has a couple of problems that I won't go into. In the end, it all worked out and looks good. Only took a couple of days, since it's much easier than it looks at first glance. My HLM seems happy with it. (That's him behind the quilt top, holding it up. Doesn't he look happy?) Once I get some batting, I will get this one on the frame and start quilting it. After that's finished, maybe I'll finally get around to quilting the Fresh Squeezed quilt.
I also made a pillowcase the other day, and the pants for my Hallowe'en costume... I spent some time trying to get little projects out of the way and to reorganize my craft space (read: kitchen table and most of the space around it.) I was finding that the disorganization of my many projects was frustrating me to the point that I didn't want to go over there for craftiness. I had to sort through the chaos and discard some things, and organize others. What I really need is a space of my own, a room to set up a table and ironing board with ample shelves and a design wall, etc etc. But then, what crafter doesn't dream of that?
Because I was avoiding my craft space, I had to find some way to be productive and crafty while on my sofa. Normally this would be knitting, but in the last few days I really found my groove with making these: They are little paper hexagons with fabric sewn onto them. It is a process known as English Paper Piecing, where interlocking shapes are made of paper and used as templates. Basically you just fold a seam allowance around the edge and tack the fabric in place with a simple basting stitch. Then you sew the pieces to each other by hand, one by one, and eventually remove the papers. Of course when I saw this technique, I didn't dream of doing something small, like a wall hanging. Immediately I had to make a full sized quilt. And while I didn't intend to choose hexagons quite this small (about an inch and a half across) somehow I didn't have the sense to choose something larger. I have made 360 of them so far (not all in the last couple of days, mind you -- this has been on my back burner for a while already.) That's like a tenth of what I will ultimately need.
You might say that I'm crazy. Perhaps it's all a plan: in conversation with my HLM the other day, I realized that life in a Mental Hospital is really ideal for me -- the free meals, time to watch tv and do puzzles, and all the crafting I want. Where do I find the men in white coats??
Things here are moving along at breakneck speed now... I finished the quilting on the little whole-cloth quilt, and added a border to it. When I chose that border fabric, I didn't really think about what the polka dots would do -- thankfully they behaved and lined up pretty nicely around the perimeter of the blankie. I also tried a rounded corner for the first time, and I really like it. You can even see some of the backing fabric in the photo -- a second berry fabric from the same fabric line.
Since I set that aside, I cut out a bunch of pieces for a Wizard of Oz quilt (using fabric made by a company called Quilting Treasures, if you care to find some.) The pattern is pretty simple, and free, if you search out there in the interwebs, but I actually bought it as a kit off ebay, since I'm lazy and didn't want to find a shop that still had yardage of all the fabrics I needed. What can I say, my HLM is a big fan of the film, and I aim to please. It isn't going to be large, but certainly big enough for a lap quilt. It will keep him warm and make him smile, two of my best jobs.
My creative urge is really strong lately -- I'm starting to think of work as a nuisance, since it takes me away from the things I am inspired to be doing. If only I could afford to do those things without the money I get from that nuisance, hm? Fortunately sewing gives quick gratification when I only have a few hours. In fact, those fabrics pictured above are almost completely sewn into a quilt top already. There has been a lack of knitting lately, partly because I have been so inspired to quilt, and partly, I think, because it gives slower progress than sewing does. In any case, I have been racking up projects that haven't even made it into my sidebar before they're finished. And I like that.
For those not familiar with the Yarn Harlot (aka Stephanie Pearl-McPhee)... she is brilliant and funny (and Canadian, which explains the first two, ha ha) and takes a lot of pictures during her travels. Some are photos of places, with her sock-in-progress cleverly in the foreground. Others are photos of people, invariably holding her sock-in-progress, and bearing looks somewhere along the spectrum of confusion to enjoyment.
So while I don't have anything new to say about my own misguided adventures, I had to tell you that you have to go to the Yarn Harlot's blog and read this (funny and great) and then subsequently this (ingenious and subversive.) You might even help someone.
Once again, a week has gone by without a post... and once again, I've been busy, but haven't had much to show for it. Having finished my entrelac blankie, I immediately picked up another one I've been meaning to get around to. This one is a whole-cloth quilt, which basically means that you use one whole piece of fabric for the top, rather than little pieces joined together to make a design. Some of them are all white, with the quilting making the design (see here) while others use a patterned fabric and just quilt around parts of the pattern (here is one using so-called Cheater cloth, which is designed to look like patchwork fabric.) For mine, I chose a berry fabric and am quilting around some of the motifs. I'm about three-quarters done already.
I also made my first little amigurumi toy, as a gift for someone special. It is a ninja, from the book Creepy Cute Crochet. He is hiding amongst the DVDs, here, ready to leap out at a moment's notice. I have a bad habit of liking adorable little things and making them, knowing that little knickknacks just gather dust around here. Perhaps if I make them to give away, I can get my fix without my apartment getting any more crowded!
Lastly, I made a trip to the fabric store yesterday, to get fabric for a really sweet Hallowe'en costume. I am pretty much designing it from photo references, so hopefully I can pull it off. More on that as I make progress...
Living life somewhere in the grey area between Liz Lemon and Nancy Botwin. I live with my beloved Heterosexual Life Mate (HLM), no kids, two beautiful feline ladies, and what I can only assume are self-replenishing stacks of fabric and yarn.
rstovin on ravelry