Monday, January 28, 2013

Check check almost check!

I have dedicated quarter 1 of this year to finishing old projects.  So far I think I'm doing pretty well. So since the last post, I finished the pink Frankencardi and have even gotten to wear it twice!  I love it.  The sleeves are a bit big but whatever- I was not the most advanced knitter when I made it.  I'm still not, but I'm getting there.  Here are some of my favorite pictures of it.
*I don't normally wear pink tutus around the house.  I made the tutu on Saturday for my Princess Run- which is less than a month away! Yikes!  I may be exhausted and wheezing and crawling to the finish line, but I have pretty awesome tutu.
This button band to 6 years to make.  Okay, 6 years to actually get around to it, 2 days to make.  And I love the buttons!  I had 5 of them in the button box and managed to find some more- sheer luck!
And moving on....finished another project! I finally finished my mittens that I started in October 2011 after a breakup.  I really liked working on them, but they were very cabled (not my forte) and very charted (which means it wasn't social knitting).  So they took a long time, but they're worth it.  They're also fraternal twins- there were a few little oopsies that I didn't care enough to rip back and fix.
I have been making really great progress on my super secret Outlander Swap gift.  But I can't show you until my person confirms that she's gotten it in March.  I'm really hoping to finish it tonight during my dork show and my murder mystery show.  Here's some pretty flowers that Rob got me instead! 
And...the Mermaid.  I am really ready for this project to be over with, and I have been that way for a long time.  The beading is taking forever, and there's just so many little fixes that also take forever.  They all make a noticeable difference, but I keep thinking "oh, that will only take 10 minutes!" and an hour and a half later, I'm wondering why I thought the tail needed an applied I-cord.  It does look much better though.  Here's some of the progress... (The applied I-cord is on the right side, I think it looks a little more polished than where I switched yarns and added a whole lot of increases in the same row- which is easier to see on the left side.  It took about 2 hours, but it looks a little better)
She got stuffed before I split her tail in two and started working the two bottoms separately.  I've got one of them done and grafted together on the bottom.  For some reason I thought the very bottom needed to be extra sparkly so it's taking an extra long time to put all those beads on.  I think she's got about 3 POUNDS of beads in her tail so far. (My mom wasn't sure about adding pearl beads.  I argued that she is a sea creature and might as well have pearly scales.  Plus I'm making it and she's not.)

I ran out of blue yarn for her tail so I had to order some to finish it.  Meanwhile, I started her starfish boob holders.  Pasties if you will.  The yarn used here is Good For Ewe Sultry Steps in Pumpkin.  I tacked those on so she wasn't swimming around topless anymore. So as of this morning we had a slutty bald mermaid with a chunk of tail missing.  Hot. 

I decided that the hair wouldn't take that long so I'd just do it today while the power was out since I couldn't really do any work on the computer or anything like that.  So after 2 balls of stashed Crystal Palace Squiggle, she's looking a little better.  I think....
Unfortunately, the back of her head looks like this.  Apparently 200 yards of hair is not enough. More on the way thanks to someone who is also destashing on eBay.
And very lastly...some handspun that I've been playing with since Christmas! Rob's mom got me this llama batt and a couple llama rovings.  Here it is in singles and in the bath setting the twist.  2.5 ounces, 72 yards- worsted-ish weight.  Love it, haven't a clue what to make with it.  Will show it off again when it's dried and hanked up.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The long and the steek of it

Yesterday I learned to steek.  It was probably the most terrifying thing I've ever done in knitting and I have to say, not that bad.  I did have my fairy knitting Godmother there telling me what to do and it was a little scary but just fine in the end.

So I started with a pullover (see last post for more details).  First things first: find the very center (or where you'd like to cut) and run a length of yarn up and down so you don't lose your place.  I used some multi colored dishcloth cotton because I happened to have some in my purse at the time.
Once I made my line, I took out the sewing machine and did loose but small stitches a stitch and a half away from the cotton line in plain old sewing thread.  Do this on both sides.  It's easiest to do this in a different color so you don't lose it in the yarn.  See it? (Picture of the wrong side)
Now you're ready to cut!  *Tip* You might want to stick something between the bottom of the sweater and the bit you're cutting.  Peg had made that mistake before and was kind enough to have me stick a quilting ruler in there before I started snipping.
That's the scary part.  It goes against everything I've ever known about how to treat handmade things.  The whole time I was telling myself that I've reinforced the stitches, and knitting unravels up and down, not side to side.  After I caught my breath, I picked up for the button bands.  I lucked out and still had most of a hank of the original dye lot from 2008.
Each side took about an hour to put the button band on, and on the inside it looks like this (the raw edges aren't very obvious in the picture but trust me, there are some serious raw edges that are still making me a little nervous).
So to hide the raw edges I'm knitting (in a different color because I'm a  hipster like that) a little shield for the raw edges.  I just picked up the other side of the button band in a smaller yarn (it's bulky enough, you don't want to add more than necessary by adding another layer of worsted weight wool).  I have one of the sides knitted up and I need to tack it down and move on to the other side.  This goes by pretty quickly.  The green yarn is Good For Ewe Sultry Steps in my favorite color, Juniper.
And when it's good and tacked down, it will look like this!  See- no more raw edges! And I think the little pop of color is super cute.  I bound off in pink so it will be less obvious when I do the tacking in pink since I don't want the Juniper showing up through the front side.  (My blog thinks this picture is centered and I can't seem to convince it otherwise)
And that's my progress so far!  I still need to knit the little shield for the other side, block it and sew the buttons on.  But hopefully I'll be wearing it in a few days!  And before I go...I have one more picture I want to share...
It's Emery Claire and her new quilt!  Isn't she adorable?!  It always amazes me how tiny humans are when we're 3 days old.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Facing Fears

When you have an anxiety disorder, little things stress you out.  I know they're little things and I know it's ridiculous to be stressed out over it...but I am.  For example, a washcloth.

I had a ball of dishcloth cotton that was super cute.  A little on the small side to be a full dishcloth, but I could totally squeeze one out anyway.  Who cares if it's a few rows short, right?  It turns out, I do.  I worked on the dishcloth for a few days (not that diligently) and then set it on the couch so it could pester me until I finished it.  It was supposed to be for my web designer, part of a fun little set.  It still could be for that matter.

But for the three days that it sat there untouched, I started getting worried about it.  What if it's not enough yarn?  What am I going to do with it?  It's going to sit there, unfinished for years and years because I won't be able to find that color cotton again!  And since I know that this is ridiculous to worry about, I thought I can (a) find more yarn and finish it and probably make another in that color (b) frog it, and crochet it into the scrap rug like I probably should have in the first place or (c) make a short washcloth and use it anyway.

Since I was going to Joann Fabrics anyway for buttons, I decided to check out the yarn.  They didn't have it, and I'm not making a special trip to Michael's or Walmart for it.  So I'm going to make a short washcloth.  I was working away on it on the treadmill (treadmills get pretty boring when you're speedwalking/jogging for 6 miles) and I realized that I only had enough yarn for another inch or two, and it was just way too short.  I'd never use a washcloth this short.  And I'm too far in to frog it which means...I need to rethink this.  I ran for a bit.  It hit me that I could make a little sachet and stick some lavender in it- problem solved.  Except for I didn't have any lavender.  Crap.  Run a bit more.  I could stick some fancy sheep milk soap from the farmers market in it- I have 2 little bars upstairs!  Done! Slowed the treadmill down a bit, knitted a row of eyelet holes and then a few more rows of farrow rib until I was about out of yarn, then bound off.  It looked like this...
And after I crocheted the sides up and did a little white crochet chain it looked like this...
And after I stuck in those two fancy soaps from the farmers market and tied it shut, it looked like this!
Okay, not the washcloth I had in mind but I think it's still totally cute. And that's one more monkey off my back. Now I just need to decide what to do with it!

I faced another fear this week- I went to the dentist for the first time in 2 years.  I know I shouldn't be afraid of the dentist, but I am.  From the day I make the appointment to the day of appointment I have nightmares that look something like those Saw movies.  I'm also terribly afraid of needles (of the non-knitting variety) and the dentist uses some that look and feel like medieval torture devices.  I mean seriously- is there any need for a needle that big?  I was sweating a lot and trying really hard not to barf (it's my anxiety at it's peak) and they told me how nice my gums looked, and how little tartar I have, and all that good stuff....and I have a cavity that's between my teeth in a super crowded area and it's going to be a very big and painful filling next week.  There's going to be lots of shots and drilling.  And people can't figure out why I hate the dentist.  Oh- and one of Rob's best friends is a dentist. It takes everything I have to not punch him in the face when I see him. Hate the dentist.  Moving on!

I have a new project that I LOVE! It's super addictive, the yarn is lovely and it's the third one I've made of these and I love it as much as the first two.  It's also for my swap partner in the Outlander Swap, so I can't show you what it is in the event that my swap recipient gets a little snoopy (which I've totally stalked the person making my gift for clues so no judgement here).  But here's a little spoiler- it's some of my English stash- a hand dyed sock yarn from Lucy that has been waiting for the perfect project and I think this is it!  My recipient has a lot of fiber allergies so that means that 80% of my stash was not applicable to go in to this project.  Fortunately, this merino and tencel blend is- so I'm excited to finally have a reason to start a new sock yarn project!
I still have 2 more Lucy yarns in the stash...but I'm keeping those for me.

And I'm facing one more fear tomorrow (this is a fun and exciting thing though, not a painful one)- I'm learning to steek! I will do learning on a bright pink Malabrigo sweater that I made in college.  It was my first top down sweater and I learned a lot from it, like not to twist the stitches when you're picking up the arm stitches, waist shaping is my friend, and that necks that go straight across feel like I'm getting clotheslined by a very weak person all day long. It's also short- it barely goes past my belly button (I have a super long torso).  In short, it would be a great cardigan, as long as the sleeves aren't examined too closely!  I even have a little yarn leftover from the sweater so I know it will be a perfect dye lot match!  I also grabbed some buttons (had a few in the stash but found more like it at Joanns) so I'm ready to go...tomorrow. Madeline, still upset about me taking away her quilt, will probably be devastated again at the loss of her pink snuggy.
So that's it for today.  Still chugging along on a dishcloth for the swap, might have to make 1 more for my webby girl,  I can't show you my main project right  now and tomorrow I'll be cutting up an old sweater to make it fabulous and something I'll actually wear.  Have a great weekend! 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

One finished, one halfway

Friday evening I finished up the quilt that dominated the 6 days that it took.  I'm really pleased with it despite the temperamental purple fabric and I'm a little sad to see it go.  I think Madeline might have spent more time on the quilt than I did...or under it.  (She loves to cover herself up- I think it's adorable)
She game me the saddest look when I took away "her" quilt and stuck it in the wash.  I don't know what she loves about quilts so much- she absolutely loves to wrap herself up on my big Swoon when I'm working on the binding.  The fabric crinkled up nicely in the wash and it gave the quilt that instant-retro look.  The top two pictures are before the washing, and the third is after.  You might not be able to see much of a difference, but the batik fabric faded quite a bit and it really softened up.  Plus I have the peace of mind that it's not going to fall apart the first time it's washed or bleed all over the pale purple. 
I did the actual quilting bit on my super retro sewing machine.  I'm not thrilled with it, but it would have taken weeks to get in to see my lady who lets me use her long-arm, and months if I had done it by hand.  I'm not sure I'll ever do it again on my machine- it's a LOT of work!  I did the binding on the machine as well this time by leaving the backing fabric several inches longer than the quilt top and then pulling it forward and sewing it down.  The backing is also a batik but more tie-dye than painted. I think it looks nice with the quilt top. And that's that.  Baby quilt done, monkey off my back. 

I also went to go see Les Mis this weekend with a friend and it dawned on me the night before that I didn't have any good movie knitting- that is a project that I don't have to actually see to work on.  When this sort of thing happens I normally start a new sock or baby blanket to keep my hands busy for a couple hours.  It then occurred to me that I started a sock last April and was somewhere in the middle of the heel flap.  Listened to my audiobook for a bit, finished the heel flap, turned the heel, and was nearly all the way through the gusset when I had to go.  I only had 3 more decreases to do when the movie started, and luckily I was able to keep count during the brightly lit scenes and within 20 minutes it was smooth sailing and plain knitting.  By the time the movie ended, I was here. 
And after Once Upon A Time and Downton Abbey tonight, I had a finished sock!  I really like it!  Let's hope the second sock doesn't take 11 months too.  Yarn is Regia Design Line- Erica Knight colors.  I bought 4 balls (2 of 2 different colors) at Mass Ave a few years ago and am just getting around to working on them.  I know Regia isn't the softest but I enjoy the colors that some people consider "tacky" (it's for socks.  Who cares if they're bright and don't really go with anything?) and the yarn wears like iron.  
Upcoming projects for this week are...a doily (shock!) and 2 warshcloths.  My web designer is getting 2 that were meant to be a Christmas present- oops! And I'm doing a swap with my knitting group and we're including a warshcloth.  Plus I'm loving the addition of new colors to my freeform crochet bath mat, but more on that later.  Have a great week! 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Progress and Obsession and the line between them

So I'm trying to make progress on 2 things outside of my work (which is already going much better than the entire month of December did- whew!). Those two things are running (more specifically getting back to where I was before the Cold Of Doom hit) and the baby quilt.  The end is in sight on one of these things.  Since I can't run more than a mile with getting dizzy and nearly passing out, it must be the quilt.

I wish this quilt were going as well as my other Swoon quilt.  I have narrowed down the reason to the crappy purple fabric.  The bolt of fabric claimed that it was 100% cotton, which doesn't explain why it stretches in some places and burns while crinkling in other places.  The Batik fabric (the bright painted fabric) is lovely and I will certainly be working in Batiks again.  Delightful, cuts well, keeps its shape while being pinned into submission.  And then there is the purple fabric that does this when you iron the seams flat....
That was a straight line of fabric before I ironed it.  And so when one fabric shrinks randomly and the other fabric holds true, it makes it very hard to have crisp corners in your quilt.  So after quite a bit of swearing, seam ripping, cutting more purple fabric and etc I decided that it's for a baby.  Who isn't going to care if the corners are perfectly matched up.  And if the baby isn't going to care about it, I perhaps shouldn't care so much either.

Which is a good thing, because when I got all of the squares done and tried to combine them, it got even worse.  It because very obvious why the crinkles were happening at an angle.  This isn't a balanced fabric.  The warp is stronger in some places, the weft is stronger in the some places, there's no two consistent inches.  So I'd cut a straight line and pick it up to find it crescent-shaped and not very good at all.  Wasted a lot of purple fabric recutting trying to make it work, ended up having to do very small borders to avoid buying more awful purple fabric.

Lesson learned?  Don't buy quilting fabric at JoAnn Fabrics.  There's lots of reason, but crap fabric that warps your project is one of them.  I even had to fight a Mennonite lady for that bolt! I got what I deserved and she was saved from making a crap dress.

Over 2 nights I got it assembled and the quilt top done- yay!  So I sewed my backing together real fast and dug out my super exciting fusible batting- BRILLIANT! Anyhoo, got my top all fused to the batting and picked it up to move it over to the backing and the batting falls off like I hadn't just spent 45 minutes fusing it on.  ARGH!  So don't spend the extra few bucks to get fusible batting- it's crap.  So now my quilt top is pinned to the back while sandwiching the batting which isn't as big as I thought it would be...and I decided to call it a night before I torched the whole quilt.
This is not the quick and easy baby quilt I thought it would be.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Resolutions and such

Happy New Year!  I feel like I've been running around since my New York trip the week before Christmas- got back from New York in time for Christmas, went up to Rochester Indiana to spend Christmas evening with Rob's family, drove back through a snow storm to get home, packed my bag again and headed to sunny Sarasota Florida for New Years!  Inevitably, when there's holidays, over indulging, traveling and lots of things to do I come down with something of the sniffly variety. So the first thing I did when I got to Florida was go to the Dr to get rid of the smoker's cough because I'm not a smoker and I shouldn't cough like one.  So I started the New Year off with an upper respiratory infection and an ear infection, nasty antibiotics and inhalers and an extra 5 pounds hanging around (New Year's Resolution- cut back on the potato chips and fruity candy)- I haven't had a decent run since Thanksgiving from this series of colds I've had.  I'm getting back on track though- I have to.  I'm running a half-marathon on February 24th.

And then there's the knitting...

I've made a couple hats.  One was intended for me, made from my handspun and it's absolutely huge on me.  So I gave it to Meghann, who ends up with most of my hats.  She's very appreciative so I am always happy to hand them over- I know they'll be loved and hand-washed with care.
The other hat was for Rob.  I'm still holding it hostage in my purse and he's not allowed to have it until I get a decent picture of it on his head.  It started out with a cabled knot pattern but I'm kind of over the cables (see next project) and ended this.  I think it's quite cool.  Yarn is Chord from Good For Ewe, color is Timberwolf, 2 balls. It's my favorite yarn for hats and garments that you don't want to be overly toasty, and since Rob is always a little on the warm side I figured he wouldn't want a hairy wool hat.
When I went to Florida for the week, I took with me my cabled mittens that I swore I'd finish before I went to New York.  So then I swore I'd finish them in Sarasota.  I took the mittens, the magazine, all the bells and whistles to finish them properly...and didn't knit a stitch.  But Rob got a hat so all is good. I worked on them at knitting today and made quite a bit of progress. I had no idea, but it turns out that just carrying your projects around doesn't accomplish anything- it's the knitting part that does!  So I'm really close to having a pair of mittens.  But at the rate I'm going I'll start the second thumb and put it away for 4 years.  (New Year's Resolution- stop putting projects in hibernation when they are only a couple hours from completion)
When I was in Florida I did do a little stashing-  but just a tiny bit. I was really good last year. And I was in these shops promoting Good For Ewe so these totally count as business expenses, right?  The one on the bottom is a light worsted wool- it's mill ends spun together and no two skeins are alike.  I think it's awesome.  Hat perhaps?  I wanted to get a few and make a little sweater but more than 1 was out of my budget.  The top skien is a self-striping hand painted sock yarn from Quebec.  The ladies at the shop said it's all the rage right now, so I'm going to give it a try... eventually.
I have another doily on the hook (boring) and I made a cute crochet pair of boot cuffs as a last minute Christmas gift and I'm working on a couple warshcloths for my web designer's last Christmas gift, but I didn't get pictures of those yet. Not the most exhilarating knitting.

But there is a project that I really really love right now.  It's a baby quilt for one of my friends who is due on January 20th and is having a little girl!  Since quilting is new and fun and exciting I wanted to make a girl quilt but not necessarily a baby quilt. I dug through tons of quilt patterns but I didn't find anything I could make (still very much a beginner quilter) that I liked any better than the Swoon quilt I started in May.  So I figured I'd make it 2x2 instead of 3x3.  That's a huge child's quilt, but it should be fun.  It's made with bright but girly colors and I hope she can use it for years, like have tea parties and picnics on it and you know- quilty stuff. I have the 1st square of 4 done and the second in progress.  Instead of a white background, it's a pale lavender. I'm very pleased.  If I make a square a day, spend a day putting the top together, a day quilting and a day binding, (mind you- a "day" is a couple hours, not a 9-5 thing) then I should be done Friday which would be great because I highly doubt this fetus is waiting until the due date. I'm also terribly pleased with this quilt because it's giving me a chance to play with my new quilting goodies that I got for Christmas.
So that's it for now.  I'm going to finish up this second square and go for a little run before Downton Abbey!  Have a fantastic day!