Saturday, October 25, 2014

Smooth Beginning on Rocky Coast

I've been making some Christmas presents, and I think I'm in a pretty good spot (famous last words). I decided to celebrate fall and start a sweater for myself.



Rocky Coast Cardigan (mine raveled here)
knit in Cascade 220, colorway 2409 Palm 

It's worsted weight yarn knit on big needles, and I'm loving it so far. I can tell where the cables go, so I'm not tied to the chart, and there's no waist shaping so I can knit on autopilot now that I'm past the raglan shaping at the top.

I feel quite optimistic about this. Bring it, Winter. I have wool.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Well, HUH.

You know how sometimes you pop your head up from your life, look around, and think, "Well, HUH. How the heck did that happen?" I had one of those moments on Friday.

I was at Andrew's grandpa's house, and he had a stuffed bear wearing a Get Well Soon sweater. It was being aggressively loved by a great-grandchild, and one of the adults realized unraveling was happening.

They asked me if I could fix it. I could, but I didn't have a yarn needle, so I took it home with me for repair.

I was sitting at my dining room table, repairing this crappy stuffed bear sweater, and I had a moment.

How the heck did I become the person who knows how to fix sweaters? 


How did I become the mender, the maker, the knitter, the creator?

It's mostly knitting, but not exclusively. Case in point: In the background of that photo, you can see wax paper. That's because I was making Christmas ornaments earlier in the day. I spend a startling amount of time making things. This is surprising since I spent the first 25 years of my life living almost entirely inside my head, devouring books and thriving in academia.

Life is surprising and weird, folks. Huh.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Don't Should On Yourself

I have gotten bogged down by the shoulds:

  • I  should eat that butternut squash my cousin gave me. She grew it! It's horrible to let it go to waste.
  • I should cook more.
  • I should figure out what to do with the strainer full of tomatoes from the garden that are getting old in my fridge.
  • I should eat the mushrooms I got in the bin. Organic produce is a luxury, and I should not be wasting it.
  • I should read more books, especially the ones people have given me.
  • I should do more yoga.
  • I should be tracking my food on Weight Watchers more faithfully.
  • I should be making more Christmas presents.
  • I should be making something other than Christmas presents so I could blog about them.
It's gotten overwhelming, this litany in my head. How to combat it? I should meditate more.

Sigh.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Easy Is

I just finished a test knit (my first--so exciting!!) and have moved back into the world of gift knitting. Christmas is coming, y'all, and there's a lot less knitting time after Thanksgiving than I would like. All those family functions and shopping and cooking and wrapping take precious knitting time.

Although I've never felt the urge to knit two socks at once, I really like some of the patterns in Melissa Morgan-Oakes' 2-at-a-Time Socks book. I decided to try the Sailor's Delight pattern, partly because it looks pretty and partly because the name makes me laugh. What is Sailor's Delight, and does it end with the sailor in need of a prescription for a topical ointment?

I started with the women's medium size, but it looked too big. The person I'm knitting for likes patterns with a lot of rib so they don't slip, so I thought I would just alter the stitch pattern to throw in some ribbing.


After three or four false starts, a few attempts at charting, and some foul language, I decided this yarn really wants to become a plain, old 2x2 broken rib pair of socks. I'm throwing in a right twist a couple of times in every fourth round just for fun, but so far they're not very visible.

Easy is not to be despised.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Pillow of Saint Francis

I've been holding on this post for a long time. I gave the pillow to the birthday girl yesterday, so I can show you today!

One of my resolutions for this year was to make a pillow for myself. There were lots of knit pillows I like, I reasoned, and therefore I should just pick one and make it. It could live any number of places, and if it amused me half as much as embroidered pillowcases (and even here), it was an excellent use of time and materials.


The first step is to look at patterns. I quickly found one I knew I wanted to make, but not for me. It was the Pillow of Sei Shonagon, and it was fantastic.


To make it, first you knit the front of the pillow. This is pretty boring. Plow through.


The pattern called for 3.25 mm needles and sportweight yarn. The yarnovers were supposed to yield 1/2" holes. I do not understand how this could possibly work, but clearly it has worked for lots of people (or Ravelry is filled with liars, a thought too terrible to entertain). It didn't work for me, so I used 4 mm needles and dk weight yarn.



The front gets blocked. Then you cut two pieces of muslin and iron fusible interfacing on each one. One piece becomes the back of the pillow, and one is cut into strips with writing on them.





The pattern indicates you should write on the strips before cutting them. Listen to the pattern. Also, remember that you want all your words to be in between your light pencil marks. Do not, like some people, forget this on a couple of strips and start writing as if the lines were notebook lines that you could cross with the lower part of the letter g. If you do forget this, luckily you'll have enough fabric for some extra strips.



I used a fine tip fabric marker, and it worked just fine. I was okay with the fact that it wasn't going to look perfect. I do not have pretty handwriting. I have small, functional handwriting. My handwriting is the nerdy girl at the Spelling Bee; she knows the power is in the words rather than in the appearance of the words.*





I highly recommend you use a rotary cutter and mat to cut the strips. I borrowed my mom's.... awhile ago.... and still have it. I really should give it back to her and buy my own.**



I experimented with the width of the strips of muslin. I found that for my fabric, the 1/2" were too wide and 1/4" were too small. I split the difference and cut the strips at 3/8".

I threaded the strips through using a safety pin stuck through the end of each strip. I tried various other ways, and the safety pin was easiest. 




You can thread the strips through the yarnovers randomly. You will not be shocked to hear that I wasn't excited about random. Instead, I tried to get as much of each word to show. It ended up looking random-ish, and you can read it better.








The prayer of St. Francis is an important prayer to one of my best friends, and I love that this pattern showcases it in such a special way. I tried to write the negative words as small as I could and the positive words in large, spread out capitals. I wanted those positive words to be the ones that jumped out at you from the pillow.




Once the strips were woven in, I stitched the ends to the wrong side just to make sure they weren't going to slide or pop out. 






To connect the pillow front to the muslin/interfacing back, I used the overcast stitch from these instructions. I stitched around three sides, inserted the 12" x 16" pillow form, and then sewed the fourth side closed. I'm sure there's a name for the stitch I used for that, but I don't know what it is. It reminded me of the mattress stitch, if that makes any sense with one side being muslin fabric instead of knit. I'm waving my hands around helpfully illustrating it right now. You're welcome.





I love it. I'm thrilled with the way it came out. I'm thinking about making one for me with some Buddhist texts.


*At least, that's what I tell myself.
**Since I wrote this post months ago, I now am the proud owner of my own set. However, I still have my mom's at my house. Baby steps.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Ombre Chest of Drawers

A friend of mine works the occasional auction. This has the potential to be both gloriously bad and tremendously good for me, sometimes simultaneously.

Case in point:



It not only wasn't very pretty, but it also smelled funny. Andrew and I moved it into the house, plunked it in the middle of the living room so I could ponder its fate, and then within an hour moved it back out of the house until I could attack it with Pine-Sol. I cleaned it and then set about transforming it into Awesome.

To do this, I visited Giant Home Improvement Store and had them mix up six different sample-size paint colors. The employee handed them to me, saying, "I'm not going to lie. I don't know which of these is which."

"Oh, I'm sure it's fine. They're labeled, right?"

"Well, these colors weren't in our system..."

Optimistically, I reminded myself that the drawers were all the same size, so I'd be fine.

Over the next several evenings, I started painting. And I found this:

One of these things is just like the other...

Dude mixed two samples of the same &$()%_) color. Back to the paint store. 

Nine days after it came home to live with us, it was finished, and lo, it was glorious.


I put it in the yarn guest room. It's going to be the home for random supplies--fabric in one drawer, sheets of felt and needle felting stuff in another, embroidery in another, etc. There's a herd of Felici* on top to make it feel at home.

*I own an obscene amount of Felici. If you're a yarn hoarder knitter, you might not think I own too much just by looking at the above photo. However, the Felici is stacked three deep. It's a sickness. It's probably for the best that the line has been discontinued. Self-striping sock yarn is the crack of the knitting world.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Dither Mittens

Back in April, I wrote about retiring my swirly mittens. I set about replacing them last week.

I used yarn left from two other projects. I was worried I wouldn't have enough yarn, so I weighed one of my old mittens:


It was 27 grams. I weighed the new mitten:


The new one was 34 grams. It's amazing how using better yarn impacts the weight. The structure of the two mittens is very similar.

Then I weighed what yarn I had left:



Oy--17 of the darker and 16 of the lighter. The use of the light and dark yarn was pretty even in this pattern with the exception of the inside of the cuff. I knit that in the lighter gray, then folded it inside and knit the cuff together with the outside of the mitten. The cuff was 24 rounds, so I was definitely going to run out of the light yarn.

I decided to alternate the light gray with some leftover Sock that Rock Lightweight in a similar color (Deep Unrelenting Grey, leftover from these) on the second mitten so I wouldn't (hopefully) run out of yarn before I finished the thumb.


I can tell the difference, but it's not very noticeable... and it's the inside of mitten cuffs, so who cares? I barely had any light gray yarn left at the end of the second mitten (and not a ton of the dark), so it was a good decision.


The Dither pattern is a chart and some instructions for making socks, so I had to cobble together a mitten pattern. Details are on the Ravelry page if you're interested. I added a Latvian braid at the edge of the cuff because my love for them is pure. I made the braids to mirror one another, which amuses me.

Dither mitten (mine ravelled here),
knit in Indigodragonfly Merino Sock, Angst for the Memories 
and Townhouse Yarns Grafton 4ply, Menace

I love that I was able to use the remainder of two really great yarns to make these. They're extremely soft, and perhaps they'll hold up even better than the Swirly Mittens since they're made with nicer yarn.