Monday, April 20, 2015

Custom Fabric Lampshades


I have learned a new trick, and it's the cleverest thing in a long time. Maybe you recall this mess, in which I got glue everywhere and invented some new words? A mighty struggle, that project, and I decided I couldn't cover lampshades. Well, behold: it is a lampshade, covered in new fabric, and it is good.

This idea came to me from the wonderfully creative mind of my friend Michelle. She did all her lampshades in plaid last winter, which was stunning, and which made her pretty little house look like a baronial hunting lodge. She also (as ever) made it look easy, and this time it really was easy. You measure a little (hardly at all), cut a little, glue a little, and that's all. You need paper, scissors, fabric, white craft glue, spray adhesive, a pencil, a ruler, and a lampshade you want to cover. These are all over the place in the thrift store, go look. Okay, here's what she told me to do:

Make a panel template. (This process works with those paneled silk lampshades that have individual sides--we'll get to the drum-style shades in a minute.) She used graph paper and accuracy for her plaid masterpieces, but you know me. I just put a piece of paper over one of the sections and traced it.

Cut out as many pieces of fabric as your lampshade has sections. I used a thrifted piece of men's shirting--ravelly, flimsy, hideous to sew. Lovely to glue.

Put a big piece of paper or other protective layer over your work surface. Open a window if you can, because the next step is stinky. Apply spray adhesive (I used Krylon Easy-Tack) to the back of one panel and stick it on the lampshade. It might look like it won't stick for a minute, but be patient. Smooth out any wrinkles or bubbles. Repeat for the other panels. Keep smoothing as you go, and don't panic if it looks like it isn't sticking. It will.

Make some bias edging. Don't cheat, it really must be cut on the bias. There's no need to measure, just cut some lengths--you can trim it later. My bias edging is cut at 1 1/2", then folded in thirds and pressed. Spray the adhesive onto the back of the first piece and stick it to one of the lampshade ribs, between the panels. Trim off any extra. Repeat for the other ribs, and then do the top and bottom edges, just matching one folded edge of the bias tape with the edge of the lampshade. Don't try to turn it to the inside, that's a recipe for tears. Fold the last raw edge under and stick it down with a dab of white craft glue. Let it dry. That's all there is to it. You may need to do a tiny bit of sewing to make a long enough piece of bias edging for the bottom edge of the lampshade, but that's the work of a moment, and you can do it by hand.

We hung it upside down on purpose, because we are quirky that way. Also, it wouldn't fit the fixture the right way up. Why not, right?

You know how it is, once you get going and you've already got glue all over your hands and everything? When you have a new hammer, everything looks like a nail?

We delved into the fabric stash and gave this lamp a new shade, too. I'm sorry there are no process photos of this one, because I was on a roll and also it was getting dark--the method here is a little bit different, but just as easy. [Scrub the glue off your worktable and] spread out a big piece of paper. Roll the lampshade over the paper, using a pencil to trace at the edges. Accuracy is useful here, but if you're going to err, go bigger. Too big can be trimmed. Leave enough allowance at the end for it to overlap. Once you have a paper pattern, use it to cut out your fabric. Now run a line of white craft glue down the seam in the lampshade's existing cover and stick the wrong side of your new fabric to it. Let the glue dry a bit--you want to be able to tug on the fabric a little as you cover the shade to help it lie flat. A couple clothespins are useful here. When the glue is somewhat set, apply a little white glue at the top and bottom edges of the shade a few inches at a time, and stick the fabric to it. You're not gluing the whole fabric, just at the top and bottom edge. It may wrinkle a little, so take the time to smooth it out--when it's smooth, move the clothespins, apply a few more inches of glue and keep going, all the way around. When you get to the end, fold over the last edge and glue it down, overlapping the first edge. You might be able to skip the folding over part, if your cut edge is neat enough, or if, like me, you are too covered in glue to care anymore and are willing to turn that seam toward the wall. Carefully trim off any fabric or fraying threads that stick out above the edges. Now, as before, make some bias binding and use spray adhesive to stick it to the top and bottom edges. Fold over the last edge and glue it down with white glue. That's it, you're done.

Seriously, that's great. Custom fabric lampshades! I feel like a genius. Michelle, thank you.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Seed Stitch. Laceweight yarn.

This thing is taking forever. I've been working on it (I confess, not very often) for so long I can hardly remember my knitting life without it. Seed stitch. Laceweight yarn. I am making my peace with the fact that I will be knitting this Endless Seed Stitch Wrap for the rest of my natural life. There are at least four more colors to go, and I'm doing that thing where you knit until the yarn is gone and then join another, repeat. There is no thinking at all, but I can't take my attention off it, because seed stitch. Laceweight yarn. Urgh. It looks like an ice cream, though, doesn't it? I can't help liking that. I might as well like it, because we are in it for the long haul.


Friday, April 10, 2015

Napping quilt for springtime





Springtime. It's still so gloomy and gray, but somehow it bothers me so much less. The sky is like iron, the ground is murky and soft. There are no flowers yet, but the daffodils have poked out of the ground--a sure sign that we have made it through. And rain, every day, which makes a nap seem like it would be so nice. The new pup really likes to sleep--she gets up late, does a few lazy stretches, goes reluctantly out into the weather for a minute or two, eats a good breakfast, and goes back to bed. Wanders back out in a few hours, maybe chews on a bone, takes another nap. We walk in the orchard where the mud is ankle deep, come home for a bath, curl up in front of the fire. This is a dog I can live with.

The quilt is done, and it is so satisfyingly rumply and soft. Improving weather makes the quilts happen. They seem so perfect for warm days spent lying sprawled in a sunbeam. There is so much rain I feel like I'm living underwater, but if a sunbeam should appear, I will be ready.

It's impossible not to nap.

The backing is a beautiful piece of vintage cotton lawn that's been lingering in my fabric stash while I entertained ultimately futile thoughts of making some kind of shirt-dress/tunic thing, but in the end this is the best place for it. I realized that although I might like to imagine myself wearing some kind of floaty, romantic frock made from a delicate green sprigged batiste most likely meant for baby clothes, it is probably pretty unlikely to happen. I could just envision the entire hopeful day spent cutting up this perfectly soft fabric, then pinning, stitching, pressing and finishing a whole beautiful dress, probably with some kind of contrast peter pan collar and little cuffs, and then looking at myself in the mirror wearing it, and having that sinking feeling, that realization that I didn't look at all like Tess of the D'Urbervilles, but more like a delusional old granny. So I saved myself the aggravation and put it on the back of my napping quilt, and I am pretty happy about it.


This quilt is 60" x 72", with wool batting (oh, do try this. It is dreamy!) and quilted with big, utility quilting stitches and #5 perle cotton. Git 'er done! There are 30 log cabin blocks, with 3" center squares and 2" log strips. I used scraps and leftovers. I still have so many scraps and leftovers. More quilts to come.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Fever Dream


And then we both got the flu, so that's two weeks I won't get back, which were mostly spent sneezing and complaining and feeling each other's foreheads and trying to think of other things to talk about instead of constantly whining about how miserable we were, but failing at that. I got jealous of my nighttime self, all full of antihistimines and decongestants and sleeping the sleep of the just, drooling mouth open and snoring like a bull, oblivious. Days were nothing but coughing and blowing my nose. I wore the perfect swing not-a-bathrobe cardigan as a bathrobe because it matches my jammies and also because it made me feel like I was halfway dressed.
I did spend a few minutes untangling this, which is destined for the log cabin quilt. Dogs like string.
I did a lot of sitting around. Gave myself a pedi.
I started watching The Great British Sewing Bee on Youtube (ohmygoodnessIlovethatshow) and got inspired to sew a skirt out of a piece of thrifted (itchy! Unravelly!) upholstery fabric. I used a pencil skirt pattern I had already, and which was cut a size too small, and sort of freehanded it into an approximation of an A-line skirt, and it would have been fine actually if not for my failed zipper installation. I really want to learn to draft patterns, install invisible zippers, make facings and evenly-hanging hems. Is there a Craftsy class on that, maybe? Must look. And where do people get good apparel fabric? I don't even know. Help?
I went on a mostly hopeless quest to find a book where some woman doesn't DIE in the first chapter. What are you reading? I need a suggestion, preferably something with a minimum of death in it. I read Mental Floss instead. I knit plain socks, boring and dark gray, because I need them. I wrap scarves around my chapped face and walk the dog in the orchard, where she explores the fallen apples, sticks, rocks, deer tracks. She stops to sniff every. Single. Leaf. She stares off at nothing for long minutes, and I wonder if she can smell the coyotes. Later, I put her in the tub for a bath, and she licks the water, the faucet, my face.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Perfect Swing Not-Bathrobe Cardigan

This is why I keep knitting garments. I have accidentally knit the exact cardigan I have always wanted. This is one of those life-altering pieces of clothing; do you have those too? I once had a (fake) fur trimmed suede jacket, covered in embroidery for which I paid more than I could really afford at the time, and which wearing made me feel exactly like the saucy and stylish girl I totally felt like I was inside. The kids called it my "wookie-fur coat" which brought things back down to earth a little bit, but adding a pair of boots with a stacked heel to that jacket was like lighting a dessert covered in brandy. I just felt like all was as it should be, with a lot of pizzazz on top. It feels good to know yourself, and to know what you want, and then to know how to make it happen. Friends, I made this cardigan like a boss.

I always begin with high hopes for every project, and there is almost always a lot of doubt in the middle of things. These sleeves look too big! This color doesn't go with anything! The classic: I'm going to run out of yarn! (They aren't. It does. I didn't.) I wanted a long cardigan with a relaxed fit and wide sleeves, but that didn't fit like a bathrobe. Usually this means I end up with a bathrobe. Not this time--score!

This is the yarn I bought in Saratoga last fall, an indeterminate amount of fingering-weight 100% merino from Adirondack Fiber Company in "clay". I realized as I wound it that this yarn had probably already been knit into something else, unraveled, re-skeined, and then sold to me as new, because one huge skein (tied with Silky Wool, you can't fool me) was intact, and the other came off the winder in eight different pieces, and also the label was handwritten in ballpoint pen, all of which might have been actionable had it not been on sale. I was a little mad, but not mad enough. Anyway, it was still lovely, even if I had no damn idea how much yarn was really there and so many more ends to weave in at the end than the four I was expecting. 

This color matches my pajamas, and also the pink velvet chairs I thrifted last fall. It is one of my personal colors, dusky and nebulous, gray/pink/brown. Mushroomy. 

Also, once again, I have to testify to the almighty power of blocking. On the needles, this thing was stumpy and dumb. The hem landed just below my waist and swung there like an inner tube, and the sleeves were just about 3/4 length, but wide and baggy. It was sad and weird, and it took months to get through the sleeves, because it was really hard to have faith, but I love blocking and I believe in it. Blocking transforms. 

I wore this yesterday, and never once did I tug on any part of it that didn't fit quite right, because every single thing on it is absolutely perfect, I think it's one of the best things I've ever made. 

Here's what I did, and what you can do too:

1. I measured around my neck at the place where I wanted a relaxed neckline to be, underneath the ribbing. (Call this number A)

2. I chose my needle (US 4 circular) and my yarn (fingering weight) and made a swatch. You cannot avoid this step, I'm so sorry. I know swatching is nothing but misery, but it's your only hope. Wash and block it if you can bear the agony. 

3. I accurately measured the number of stitches per inch in my swatch (call this B) and multiplied A x B to get C=the number of stitches to cast on at the neckline. (I would love to share with you that exact number but I started this in September and I forgot.)

4. Use your favorite formula (here's the one I use) to figure out where your raglan seams should be. Mark them and start working stockinette stitch back and forth, increasing twice at each raglan seam on every right side row, and also at the front edge every inch or inch and a half.  Do this for a long time. At some point, take a break and measure your own self again, this time from the front end of your collarbone to the middle of your armpit on the same side--that is, where your raglan seam is going to be. This magic number is your "raglan length", and it is what determines whether your garment will be tight, neat-fitting, relaxed, or bathrobe-ish. Imagine the garment is on you as you measure, or measure a garment you already have that fits the way you'd like this to fit. 

5. Knit until your raglan seam is the length you want it. It'll take awhile. Use this time to learn Swahili, or get caught up on Breaking Bad. When you get there, put all the stitches for the sleeves on waste yarn, cast on two or four stitches at each armpit and keep going. Be thinking as you work about where you might want to add some increases at the sides. This depends on your own shape--I am pear-shaped, so I know I'm going to need more stitches in the body of this thing as I creep toward the derrierre. You can probably try it on as you proceed. Keep checking your gauge, and counting stitches, and doing the math to make sure you're on track. Remember about blocking, too--at the gauge I got, on the needles and yarn I used, blocking was going to add significant length, and I was counting on it. Remember that the looser your gauge, the more it's going to grow when you get it wet. 

6. Keep knitting down the body, increasing if you need to at the sides to accommodate your body type, and increasing at the front edges every eight to ten rows, or every inch, or every inch and half, whatever you feel like. This gave the cardigan fronts a nice swinginess, and also ensured that it would wrap all the way around me with some overlap. 

7. Continue increasing every inch or inch and a half or whatever at the sides and at both front edges all the way to the bottom. Then add an edging--I used a non-pulling ribbed edge of my own devising--I worked *6 rows of k2, p2 ribbing, then four rows of garter stitch, repeated from * two times more, then bound off. 

8. I picked up umpty-zillion stitches around the whole front edge and worked the same rib pattern for four repeats, and then bound off. This took forever. I probably went a little nuts. 

9. I put the held stitches of one sleeve on some dpns, picked up and knit the cast on stitches at the armpit, and continued merrily in stockinette stitch, going around and around for a lot of old movies on Netflix. I threw in three decrease rounds (k1, k2tog, k to last three sts, ssk, k1) spaced out along the length of the sleeve, only because I was beginning to worry about the width, not that decreasing by six stitches made much difference. When the sleeve was somewhere between my elbow and wrist, I switched to the rib pattern and worked five repeats. (Remember, this is where all your data about your gauge will help you. It's how to know when your sleeve is long enough. How many rows do I get per inch? How many inches is this sleeve already?) Try it on as you go. Remember about blocking--it will grow in length. After five rib repeats, I bound off, then made the other sleeve the same way. 

10. Soak the finished garment in tepid water. Roll the garment in a big towel to remove a bunch of water. Spread it out flat and shape it to your measurements. Get these measurements by measuring yourself. Wait patiently for it to dry. That's hard. You can do it. 

See? Easy. Try it. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Quilt top and dog

Scrap quilts never fail me. I get such a kick out of so many things about them--the economy of using the smallest pieces of fabric I can, and the way the colors blend together as you step back, then reassert themselves as you peer closely. The re-appearance of leftover scraps from earlier projects; hey, I remember that skirt/those curtains/that dress. This is the finished top, still un-sandwiched and unquilted, and hanging in the kitchen doorway with the light glowing through it. It pleases me so much, how that looks. There are a million two-inch strips leftover, too, so another quilt is probably hot on the heels of this one, maybe one with even less of a plan than this. Alicia has begun work on one that inspires. I'm in search now of a wool batting and a good, soft backing fabric. The backing never used to be a big deal--I think I just used the cheapest available muslin on my first twenty or so quilts (even if the top was mainly dark, which gives me the yarghs now) because, you know, it's the back. Who's going to see it, right? Well, I am. So now the search for the back fabric is a thing, and it has to be soft, too, I suppose because I'm getting to be a princess and everything has to be just so. Anyway, the back of a quilt is a huge canvas, just like the front, so it deserves some attention. Sometimes I piece the back a little bit, too, just to make things interesting, but it has to be sooooft. I have so many demands. I can't wait to start quilting this, using my usual huge utility stitches. Maybe sitting outside, with my little dog beside my chair, sleeping in the grass. This dog, honestly. She is so great, I can't even believe it. She's walking me half to death, which I obviously need after a long miserable winter of sitting on the couch feeling sorry for myself, and she naps and plays and works and cocks one ear at me. She took two squeaky toys completely apart in twenty minutes yesterday. She sneaks onto the furniture ve-e-e-r-r-y slo-o-o-wly, just in case that will work. She gave the Sad Eyes treatment to the barista at Starbucks on Saturday and earned herself a free cup of whipped cream. We're all in love.
Look at those lips. Kisskisskiss.

Friday, March 20, 2015

My Marilyn

This all began when Marilyn went to the dentist. I resolve not to bore you with any more of my frustrations. This innocent little project has been such an undeserving magnet for them, and my whining bubbles right to the surface with every roadblock I encounter--and I'm still encountering them, even though this pullover has been finished for a week, and worn with much success and approbation. There is a photo of me wearing it, but I can't...there's a Ravelry page for this project, but it won't...this is my version of my good friend Deb's reverse-engineered Marilyn's Cabled Pullover. The short version of the story is this: Marilyn, a tiny little lady with a lot of style wore a practically child-size pullover like this to her dental appointment, where Deb, the dental assistant, went into swoons of admiration over the detailed cable and eyelet stitch pattern that criss-crossed the whole entire store-bought thing. Marilyn later loaned Deb the garment, and Deb went over it with the thorough coverage of a forensic scientist, photographing it from every angle and making copious notes. She swatched until her fingers fell off. She measured. She tried a bunch of different yarns, figured out how to make a chart (or nine) and then carried the project back and forth with her everywhere, working on it in public and in our weekly needlework group meeting (where I work on things like garter stitch blanket squares and plain socks and lately also the eternal seed stitch wrap, which makes no discernible headway whatsoever) and meanwhile, Deb was there with her millions of charts and papers and markers spread around her, and she still managed to keep up her end of the conversation, all the while knitting and ripping back and re-knitting and by god figuring it out. She spent six months doing that, and then she strolled in one day, wearing the dang thing. I am in awe of the skills it takes to look at an object this intricate and decode it, and then not only to do that but to write it all down coherently enough for a dolt like me to follow it. I did my best. Hers is way better. You should look it up in Ravelry--she's DKattheCove. I wish I could link that for you, but it won't...
You might like to know that the yarn we both used is Lion Brand Wool-Ease--mine is Blush Heather. The color of that is pretty much perfect.