Friday, December 31, 2010

Starting as I Mean to Go On

I'm greeting the year having finished two UFOs.  It's a good thing to bring some projects to a conclusion, even as I'm continually thinking about projects yet to come.  I quilted and bound my Bee Quilt, which features hand embroidered blocks from vintage patterns.  I blogged about the finished top back in June.

This is the unquilted top
 I quilted straight lines around the blocks, and I did some random free motion quilting over the embroidered motifs. 

 It's not perfect, but it's done, which is just as good these days.

 I had this cheerful floral backing fabric in my stash, and I was happy to put it to use.

Several months ago Debra quilted Big Scrappy for me and it's been waiting patiently for me to put on the binding.  Debra used a fleece blanket for the batting, and it's wonderfully warm and cozy.  Here's a shot of the unquilted top and here's the original post.

This is a time of beginnings and of endings.  It's good to wrap up loose threads, and prepare ourselves for what's to come.  I hope your New Year celebrations are joyful.  Many blessings to you and yours in 2011.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

All is Calm, All is Bright


This is the season of calm and bright, but the swirl of daily life continues nonetheless.  I'm almost done grading finals, and grades are due in a couple of days.  In the meantime, I thought I'd share the wall quilt I'm making in fits and starts.  In the outer border you can see some of the scraps of Debra's 12 original yards of Hawaiian fabric that has gone into so many quilts, but is still not quite used up.  Debra also posted some scrap blocks yesterday that feature some of this won't-die fabric.

The beautiful focal point of this quilt is a fabric print by Flor Larios, who sells  her lovely folkloric prints, including prints on fabric and other goods, in her etsy shop.  If I sat down for a couple of hours I could finish this piece.  Maybe it'll happen in a few days.

Here's the calm and bright scene in front of my stove.  All the cats decided to call a truce to share the warmth of the fire.  The black cat, Wee, is visiting from the kids' apartment.  When they both work on the weekend, she gets lonely, and likes to come to "kitty daycare" at my house.  We've had Wee for 15 years, and she was our original cat.  The others are, in her view, interlopers.  She's happy to visit the old homestead, and knows the routines at my house, then Allie picks her up and takes her home after work.

A favorite place by the fire is this cat bed I crocheted using triple strands of old acrylic yarn.  I used this free pattern for a crocheted bag as a reference for the increases and decreases.

Fun fur trimming make this kitty bed extra elegant. 

Happy holidays to everyone.  I hope your corner of the world is calm and bright.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Fair Isle Vest and a Baby Quilt--Finished!

I finally finished the Faire Isle vest I was knitting for my mom.  I began it early this year, intending to give it to her for her birthday, but it didn't go as fast as I'd hoped, and then I fell and needed four months of hand therapy to recover the use of my left hand.  Finishing the vest, I'm convinced, has helped me to recover the complete use of the injured hand.

This vest was a kit from Knit Picks, the on-line yarn company.  The kit is discontinued, but it was an excellent first major Faire Isle project for me.  I sent it off to mom, and she assured me that although she hadn't tried it on yet, she would wear it to church.  Arg!  I told her wear it often, because it's warm, but I should've realized she would likely save it for special occasions. 

 Here's the inside of the vest where you can see how the stranded yarn looks on the back.  Yes, I am showing off.

The vest is knit in a big tube with decreases for the neck and arm holes.  Then I sewed the steeks up on my sewing machine to secure everything, and cut the holes open with a scissors.  The little yarn ends felted nicely against each other, so I didn't feel the need to cover them with hem tape or ribbon.

I'm on a roll, so I quilted this top for Michael's new granddaughter Solis, who was born in November.  I had the top already made, and I like this toile fabric with a big brother and little sister, and the baby's mom said she was re-using the brown and blue bedding from baby #1, so this seemed a good choice.  It felt good to quilt again, so I basted another project and began quilting that one too.  

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Back in the Saddle Again

 The other day I just sat down in front of the machine and sewed.  It felt good to pick up a project and work on it again, and I finally finished piecing this still-unnamed quilt that I'm making with Debra.  She pieced the center medallion and the pinwheel blocks, mostly in western themed fabrics.  I added two side panels and borders.  You should be able to click on it to see the details.

I was taken with the western theme of the center medallion, and then my friend Leslie gave me a large piece of this old Alexander Henry fabric "Sweetheart of the Rodeo," which is a riff on the old Byrds album cover of the same name.  I've been obsessed with this image for a few years: I have a picture of it hanging above my sewing machine, so when Leslie gave me this fabric, it was double serendipity.

My only qualm with the fabric was that all the cowgirls were white.  In the service of historical accuracy, I took out my gel pens and inserted some racial diversity into the mix.

 This one got some silver "highlights."  There's no reason cowgirls all have to be young.

I love the pose of these cowgirls.  They remind me of angels.  I thought they'd be a good guardians for a western themed Virgin of Guadalupe.  I'll be sending this off to Debra soon.  We'll see what she adds.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Basic Fingerless Mitts and Other Adornments for the Hand

My job is keeping me pretty busy these days.  I try to carve out recreational time, but I still end up working long hours during the week and part of the weekend, so I don't have much creative time.   There's not much sewing going on here, but I do knit.  Sewing seems to take more energy than knitting, while knitting seems to quiet and center me.  I can also more easily pick up projects for short bursts of time.  Doing a row or two in odd moments doesn't require the time commitment it seems to take to quilt.

I made this great free fingerless mitt pattern in a dk weight wool I picked up at Tuesday Morning, of all places.  The yarn, Hacho, is a soft and colorful Peruvian wool, and I needed less than one skein (about 130 yards) for the pair.  Tuesday Morning is a discount place that gets home decor stuff, linens, gardening supplies, dishes, toys, and some craft supplies.  You never know what they might have in the yarn department, and they never have more than a few balls of each color, but it's generally high quality yarn for a discount price, and just the thing for small projects.

And here's another small hand adornment, but sign of a bigger project in the making.  Michael and I are planning to get married.  Of course the way we're doing it hardly counts as wedding planning.  When you're our age, marriage is about the logistics of sharing our households and families.  So we're working on it, and when we figure out all the details, we'll tie the knot, no big rush, no deadline. 

This is a lot different from when I got married in my late 20s, but wonderful in its own way.  Michael and I have been a couple for several years, and have been very happy together.  We've liked not being married and having separate houses.  But looking toward the future, this is the direction we've decided to take.  I feel very lucky both to have such a great partner --he really is one of the most wonderful people I've ever known-- and another shot at marriage. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sewing a Knitting Needle Case

I was in Jo Ann Fabrics with my 40% off coupon burning a hole in my purse when I saw this packet of 5 sets of sock needles.  I bought it to have spares, since I feel a major sock knitting jag coming on, plus 5 sets of needles for $10 (less 40%) is a great deal.

When I got home I decided to make a knitting needle case to keep track of these skinny needles.  I found a 10" orphan block left over from an old project, and I cut a piece of scrap flannel to the same size.

For the inner pockets, I cut another 10" square of fabric, then folded it in half with the pretty side out, and marked some lines for stitching the pockets.

For the top flap, I cut a 6 x 9.5"  inch piece of fabric, folded it so the right sides were together, stitched up the short sides, and then turned the right side out.  The top flap isn't sewn into pockets, but is left loose.

After adding a quilt-style binding and a tie, I marked the needle sizes on the pockets with marker and sorted through my collection of new and old needles. 

Not bad for a little impromptu project.  Plus I found my way back to the sewing machine, where I spent some time on the Madonna quilt I'm making with Debra.

Sometimes I guess I have to just put a toe in the water and see if I'm ready to take a dip. 

Sunday, October 03, 2010

More Knitting

I guess I've been doing more knitting than sewing these days.  It's not that I don't want to sew, but after a long day at work, it's about all I can do to sit upright on the sofa and knit a few rows.  This is what my coffee table looks like these days.  I'm trying to finish the Faire Isle vest for my mom that I started in the Spring.  I have a few technical problems to solve, and then I think I can do the shoulder shaping, cut the steeks, and do the ribbing.  I want to get it to her in the next few weeks to that she can wear it this winter.

You can see my copy of the John Sayles film Lone Star there too.  It's a wonderful complex narrative on life along the Texas-Mexico border, a great film you need to see multiple times in order to see the interconnections between the various story lines.  The film is organized like a patchwork.  There are lots of pieces, but you have to stand in the distance to appreciate some of the ways they're linked together.

I finished a few small projects in recent weeks.  Sometimes I need to make something easy and quick just to deep my momentum going.  I made this Multi-directional Diagonal Scarf from a free pattern.  Judy at Stitch Along with Me had made it I think, and I loved the way it looked.  I made mine wide like a shawl.  The pattern is dead easy, but looks complicated.  I used Lion brand Amazing yarn, which is 50% wool and 50% acrylic and has long beautiful color repeats.  I think I'll use this a lot this winter.

I  finally finished this pair plain ribbed socks in Kroy sock yarn.  The yarn is great: I love these colors, and it doesn't bag after wearing like some other sock yarns.  It probably took me a year to finish these socks, and they feel so good on my feet I wonder why I don't make more.

I also made a baby sweater in acrylic DK weight yarn for Michael's grandchild #2, who is expected in December.  Nothing is as satisfying to knit as a baby sweater, and since this will be a winter baby, I wanted to make the sweater in a small size so that she'll wear it right away.  Paxton Preemie and Newborn Jacket is a free pattern on Ravelry with sizes for preemies and for small and regular newborn sizes.

When you're done with the sweater, you get to pick buttons, which is almost as much fun as the knitting.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Sweater Knit from Kool-Aid Dyed Yarn Part 2

The sweater knit from Kool-Aid dyed yarn is a big success. I used the pattern Whisk Cardigan, from the Fall 2010 Knitscene magazine. It's a basic A-line cardigan. The only change I made was to add 2 inches seed stitch hems all around.

When I knit the pieces, I alternated skeins every 2 rows so that lighter and darker parts of the yarn blended pretty well.

That was Cleo's opinion anyway. This worked well with the fronts, but when I knit the sleeves, the color difference between skeins was more dramatic.

I got a definitely stripe pattern going on one sleeve. If I hadn't injected extra dye into the centers of the balls, the color absorption would have probably been more uniform.

My solution was to over dye the sweater pieces after I'd knit them. I dyed the back, the fronts, and the sleeves in separate batches in the turkey roaster with the same amounts of diluted kool-aid. Here you can see that I also over dyed some extra yarn to knit up the collar, and that I made myself some eggs while I was working.

This is the nicest softest sweater, and I like the color gradations. The over dying evened some of the striping out, and I finally used up that yarn.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Kool-Aid Dyeing a Sweater's Worth of Wool Pt. 1

When I was a newbie knitter in the early 90s, I bought a bag full of this yarn through a catalogue. I intended to make a specific sweater I'd seen in Vogue Knitting, but once the yarn arrived I realized that it wasn't going to work for that sweater. I never did make the sweater, and the yarn has followed me from one end of California to another in the intervening years.

It's 100% wool and worsted weight, but it's slubby and has a big halo. The color is also one I never wear.
And did I mention that I bought a lot of this yarn?

On Ravelry, there's a group devoted to dyeing yarn with kool-aid and with other food colorings called What a Kool Way to Dye. After perusing their forum and their pages of helpful links, I decided to see if I could change the color of this yarn into something I'd want to use.

I also decided to see if I could dye this yarn without re-skeining it. Usually to kool-aid dye yarn, you skein it and tie it in several places so that the dye will reach all the fiber. I decided to dye my yarn in its original balls. Since this yarn had already been sitting around for almost 20 years, I figured I didn't have much to lose.

I soaked all the yarn I was going to dye in water for a couple of hours so that it was well saturated. Then, using the smallest amount of water possible, I put it on the stove in my turkey roaster. Since these are food colorings, it's fine to use your regular pots and dishes.

I dissolved 20 packets of black cherry kool-aid in water to dye my 10 balls of yarn. I added this mixture to the soaking yarn, and on the stove, gradually raised the temperature to just under boiling.

Lots of kool-aid dyed yarn is done in multi-colors for socks and other small projects. It's also possible to over dye yarn to alter the color.

Um, wear gloves when you do this.

When the yarn approaches boiling, it will have absorbed all the dye.

It's miraculous, but the water will be clear or nearly clear once the yarn has taken up the dye.

Contrary to what you might think, subjecting wool to hot water will not make it felt. The combination of agitation and rapid temperature change are what make wool felt.

When your yarn is dyed, turn off the fire, let the water come back to room temperature, and then rinse the yarn well. I put mine on the back porch to dry.

This is what I got: ten skeins of kettle dyed wool. Parts of the balls were darker than the rest. You can play with adding the dye to the water before you put in the yarn to see if your results are more even. I used a turkey baster to place dye in the center of the balls, but this made dark splotches wherever the dye hit first, and didn't necessarily darken the yarn at the center of the balls. Exposing the yarn to hot water made it bloom: it was softer and fluffier that it was in the original state. This yarn is color-fast, though if you were to expose it to lots of sunlight, it would likely fade.

Next: Part 2: The Sweater I Knit from Kool-Aid Dyed Yarn

Sweater Genesis

  A few years ago I learned to harvest yarn from old wool sweaters.  I don't do it so much anymore, with the exception of if I find...