Thursday, March 31, 2011

More Lambswool

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Thank you for all your well wishes yesterday. I am not a good patient. The minute the sniffles hit me, I turn into a huge baby and start expecting everyone around me to realize I am siiiiiiiiiiick (whinewhine) and bring tea and hot soup and do all the dishes and just generally treat me like a princess. Which they don’t do, and why should they, but it bums me out every time. Everyone but me is Very Busy around here, so I have had to fend for myself and get my own orange juice. Poor thing.

Not much got done yesterday since I mostly just lay on the couch under a pile of magazines and blankets, reeking of Vicks VapoRub, but I have made some progress on the Cody sweater project—more spinning has happened, and after a quick lesson in plying from Debbie (no, you don’t have to keep your hand on the brake the whole time…duh) I managed a couple more skeins of what looks like somewhere between fingering and DK weight yarn. These photos represent its awesome, pre-washed, pre-felted state, where it looks fantastic and it almost seems like I’m the kind of girl who can take animal hair and make yarn.

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I like how it’s heart-shaped in that one. Cody’s lambswool, I loooove you! But you can maybe also see there that the yarn looks a little bit like…string? Can you see that? I don’t know if you can tell, but it really just needs a little bath. It’s just gotta be washed, that’s all there is to it. And when this fiber hits the water, craaazy things start happening. So into the sink it went, and it came out a little bit felted again, as expected, and since that’s what happened to the first two skeins, as desired, too.

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But it’s knitting up into a dream. This sweater-in-progress is softer than baby pajamas. I am so lucky to be spinning it, plying it, washing it, felting it (a little), knitting with it, and learning from it. It’s the most beautiful thing ever.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Icky









The story of the day is that I have a very un-cozy head cold and have set up on the sofa with books, magazines, coffee, juice, tissues, antihistamines, and my phone, all there so I don’t have to move from this spot all day. The dog is very attentive, and keeps coming along with her cold nose, very concerned that I am not taking her for a walk, which she thinks is what we should be doing at all times.

Very fortunately, there is an abundant supply of cozy blankets around here, and a lovely warm fire, and suddenly my excellent ice cream shop roller shades have come in handy; now the odd passerby doesn’t have to look in the windows and see me napping here in the middle of the day.

I want to thank Renee and Gill for my lovely blogger awards, which I gratefully accept, even though I am very awful about following up and passing them along to the next lovely bloggers. In lieu of actually following the rules, I will instead suggest you should all go visit them, and see what they’re making—great stuff, both of them.

And now I will take my damp tissues and my stuffed-up sinuses and be off, and will leave you with this lesson I had to learn the hard way: when a sensible person tells you he’s got a cold, don’t drink from his water glass. I’m just saying.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

And so it begins: Doilies, part 1

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I have forayed into the land of crocheted doilies!  My dear old granny would be so proud of me.  She’d probably carefully inspect my picots and then tell me it was a “real pretty thing.”  And then she’d make me a lemon cake with lemon icing, because that’s my favorite. 

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This is a pretty big doily, maybe 18 inches in diameter, crocheted in cotton worsted on a US F hook.  I used a rug pattern (I know!  Isn’t that great?  You could crochet a rug!) which I am pretty sure came from this book by Erika Knight, but which has now been returned to the library and the cover in the photo from the link doesn’t match the cover on the book I had, so I don’t know.  But I think that’s the one; it for sure was Erika, anyway.   And if you make an actual rug using crochet, I really would truly LOVE to see a picture.   Gosh, the possibilities keep getting more endless all the time. 

This was scarily fun to make.  Everyone in my house is now worried that the next time they turn around, there will be a doily on every surface, and I just can’t guarantee that won’t happen. 

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Wow, that tablecloth is in every photo lately.  Must be I love it.  Hey, that’s right, I do!  It’s terry cloth, gingham, and lime green, all in one.  What the heck’s not to love about that? 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Granny Mandala Potholder, rainbow version

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On Saturday night, I found myself with a quiet, empty house, so I took advantage of the boy-free environment and hooked this Granny Mandala Potholder while watching the always fantastic Waking Ned Devine. That skinny old guy naked on the motorcycle makes me laugh until it aches. I love that movie so much, and I love how spending two hours listening to the brogue in their speech will let it leak into my own for awhile, and I’ll sound Irish, too. Now I want to go and get The Full Monty and re-watch that while making another potholder.

Are potholders the new blanket around here? Will I crochet potholders until my potholder drawer is bulging and unwieldy and ridiculous? Will I gift my family and friends with a hundred potholders until they beg me to stop? I think maybe, yes. Dear Alice, you inspire me.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Crocheted leaves

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Still, it is so cold here; bitingly, bitterly, intensely cold.  I am desperate for some flowers, and since the ones in the garden are smart enough to hide under the blown leaves for now, I had to go out and make my own. 

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All the sticks in our yard are still buried under three inches of ice, so I ran out with my secateurs and clipped this off the only branch I could reach on our big maple.  I went out without a coat (because I insist that it is spring, and the sun is shining, and it really can’t still be as cold as all that, right?  Wrong) so was in a bit of a hurry. 

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It reminds me of some kind of granny chic, folk art, weird ikebana.  It is both homemade and a little bit fancy, in a strange sculptural way. 

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I’m not even going to mention my usual thing about using up your scraps, because these are so small and take so little yarn that they don’t use up anything.  You can make about fifty of them in ten minutes.  Bundling up and hunting down your secateurs and going out into the wind and choosing a good branch and then finding a vase to put it in will take way longer. 

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Until I get some real color in my garden, these will do nicely.  The lovely little pattern is here

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Feeling the Granny Square Love

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I have got the Granny Square love, got it bad. I have even contemplated making a granny square halter top. For myself. I am forty-two years old. I’m sure someone around here will stop me before that happens, at least I hope they will…

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I think they’re so beautiful.

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There are 20 squares here, and I’m aiming for 48, unless the yarn runs out. Then I will work one more round on each, in blue, joining as I go. It kind of feels like it’s going too quickly, and before I know it, this blanket will be done and then I won’t be working on granny squares anymore, which would be wrong and terrible.

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Oh Granny, I love love love you.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Mom J’s Comfort Knitting

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On Wednesday, my mother-in-law shocked everybody by announcing she was going in the next day to have her hip replaced. That pretty much sums up this sweet lady, who has never once in her whole life complained about anything; who would never want anybody to worry about her. Since we live about 400 miles away, I can’t go over and make a pot of soup (though I had such an enormous need to do this that I made a pot of soup anyway, and it’s simmering on the stove right now) so I made her a little Comfort Knitting Kit. It is one big ball of ecru cotton yarn, a pair of US size 6 needles and a little pair of scissors, along with a pattern that says, “Cast on 45 stitches. Knit until it’s a square. Bind off. Repeat as needed.” It all goes into a drawstring bag.

Knitting always comforts me, and if I had to spend the next six weeks either hobbling around with shooting pains going up my leg or sitting in a recliner, resting up from having just been hobbling around with shooting pains going up my leg, I’d want to have some completely plain knitting to fill my hands and my head, to soothe me.

All this is projecting, a little, because though she does know how to knit, she is very far from being the sort of girl who (like me) will spend an entire day making one sleeve and consider it time well spent. My mother in law likes to be on the move, which is why I think this little spell of recovery and rest might be particularly hard on her, and why I think she could use something productive to do while she waits it out.

Then again, if you knew her, you might not be surprised if she’s up and on the treadmill tomorrow, and snow-blowing the driveway on Saturday.

Get well soon, Mom.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Big Plans

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I have big plans. Inspired by this and this, but mainly this, I have been doodling and drawing design plans for a redo of my workroom, which, at the moment consists of big heaps of projects in progress, loose pieces of paper with patterns and design ideas all over the place, and a big messy jumble of yarn, fabric, floss, needles and hooks and thread and elastic and snaps and buttons in jars—it is everywhere. It is total chaos, and this room is Right in the Middle of the House. The front door opens into it! If you want to get anywhere at all, you’ll have to go through this room first, and you’ll have to step around a basket of wool to do it. It’s a mess, and I can’t stand it.

My friend Amy, who is a professional designer, came over with her fancy rulers and we measured everything, all the doorways and furniture, and I kept confounding her excellent scale drawings with the awesome architectural handwriting by saying, “But I love that sofa!” and “what about my great-grandmother’s marble-topped table?” and “will that big yellow chair fit over here? I can just walk around it!” Because she is patient and magical, we figured out how to make it all work.

Now all I need is a can of paint, these shelves, and about four hundred hours of free time to make it happen! Stay tuned.

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More vintage needlework. If I tell you I love thrifting, will you be surprised? No? I knew it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

String Bowls, cont.

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These fabric-wrapped string bowls are completely captivating me.  I just adore them.  They are everything I want in a project—colorful, easy, and thrifty, and they deliver such a blast of interest against a simple background—I want to fill my house with them. 

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I really wanted to fill this with oranges and then just sit here in front of it thinking, for some reason, of Picasso, but I have no oranges and it’s raining outside, and it’s easier to stay in, put on some wool socks, and start a set of coasters or something.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Raj and Lady Gaga

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Raj: “I don’t want no funny business.”

Gaga” “What’s going on out there, Boss, huh? Somebody taking pictures or something? Huh? Whatcha doing, huh? What are we gonna do, Boss, huh? Huh?”

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Then and Now quilt

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Here’s a new quilt, all finished.  I gotta tell you, I’m glad to have this one in the out basket.  I’ve been working on it for quite awhile.  How long?  Here’s a hint:

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Yuznil, indeed!  Yes, that is some pretty embarrassing Y2K fabric.  Some of those other blue checked thingies were in the stash before that, even. 

Back in Yuznil, er, 2000, I decided that my five-year old son needed to have a blue and white quilt, what with sleeping in a big boy bed and everything, so I went to the stash and just pulled out everything that was blue and not too flowery.  Feeling clever, I added the Y2K fabric because it said 2000 on it, and would therefore remember forever what year I had made the Boy’s Quilt. 

I haphazardly chopped the fabric into squares ranging in size anywhere between 3 1/4” to 3 3/4”.  (I wish I could say this was before I had a rotary cutter, but it was not.)  I arranged them in piles of lights and darks, and then pieced them in little blocks of four squares.  I didn’t even count them. 

When it looked like there were enough, or a lot, or whatever, I pressed them all, stacked them up, and let them sit there for eleven years.  At some point, they got shuffled into a box and forgotten.

A few weeks ago, I was out in the bins, hunting for something, and excavated them.  I thought, “Ooh, I should just sew those together.  It wouldn’t take very long.”  I showed them to A (that’s the Boy, who of course is now almost 16) and he said,

“Nah.  I don’t want a quilt.” 

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Well, I already had all those blocks!  I know, you’re thinking I should’ve just donated them to the thrifty craft store and walked away happy, but I didn’t think of that, okay? 

So I pieced the blocks together, and it was blue and white-ish, and that’s all.  Which, of course, I can’t stand.  It was also pretty small, so I pressed it, folded it up, and let it sit there again, putting it in grave danger of finding its way back to the bins.  Truthfully, I didn’t like it.  Y2K fabric!  Yargh.  All blue and white!   Ugh.

Luckily, I’m in a Finishing Stuff kind of mood, so I kept thinking about it, trying to find a way to make a quilt out of it that somebody around here would like.  Finally, it hit me, and I stitched on a border of pretty, flowery pinks, peaches, and oranges.  A sherbet border.  Whew.

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It took another age and a half to get around to quilting it, which, once I sat down and did it was the work of two hours at most. 

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Of course, now I’m looking at these photos, I can see that another outer border of blue would’ve been just the ticket, but I am not, repeat NOT, going back in and working on this thing any more.  It is done! 

So I said to the Boy, “Here’s a quilt!” 

He said, “Mmhmm.”

I said, “What do you think?” 

He said, “It’s nice.”

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I guess it is pretty nice. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Mandala Potholder

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A potholder is, somehow, a pretty satisfying thing to make. It only takes a couple hours, it uses up (again with this?) your scraps, and then it gives you a big thrill when you see it, all colorful and fancy-looking, sitting there on your table. It also keeps you from getting burned, which is a nice bonus.

This is, of course, the fabled Mandala Potholder by Crochet with Raymond, and which incorporates the African Flower Pattern devised by Lounette Fourie and Anita Rossouw. If you haven’t made one of these yet, and I’m sure you have because I think I’m the last one on the boat here, you should do so, immediately. They’re pretty fun, and it only took two episodes of The Middle and one episode of Modern Family to get it done.

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I realize it’s going to get wrecked as soon as someone uses it, but that isn’t bugging me this time, I don’t know why—maybe because that would be my excuse to sit down and make another? Yeah, I think that’s it!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Why Vera gets the Big Bucks

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I’m that girl who stands there drooling in front of giant displays of Vera Bradley and covets it, all of it, and who (annoyingly) thinks to herself, “I can make that myself!” I’m also that girl who is occasionally wrong, and this innocent-looking zip bag drove that point home with painful accuracy. I won’t even show you Sunglasses Zip Bag v.1, but I will tell you that it looked like some kind of mobius sculpture, and that the bottom piece was operating on two different planes. I have no idea what happened.

Anyway, v.2 is not much better. For one thing, I sewed the zipper on upside down—that pink fabric is supposed to be the lining. I also painted myself into a corner at the open end of the zipper and couldn’t figure out how to get the ends tucked in and stitched down, not for love nor money. I sat there bending and folding and turning and flipping the thing around like it was a Rubik’s Cube, and was truly clueless. It’s so confusing! There’s lining fabric on the outside! Which part was the bottom? Wait, If I sew this now, I won’t be able to turn it right side out…is it right side out already? I don’t know! At the very least, I might have considered using a pattern. Memo for next time!

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Monday, March 14, 2011

Patchwork String Bowl

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My friend Michelle came over on Saturday, and we had the best time making these fantastic patchwork string bowls. They’re easy, but time-consuming—we had to take a pizza break halfway through, just to keep up our strength—but they’re sturdy, they use up your scraps (that’s getting to be a theme around here) and when they’re done, they look like something you brought home as a souvenir from your trip to Belize.

You need a long piece of new clothesline (which seems to come in 100 ft. lengths; you can get it at the dollar store) and a bunch of fabric strips cut to around 3/4” to 1” in width. There’s no need to measure as you cut, since precision is not important here. You also need a few straight pins and a sewing machine that will sew a zigzag stitch. A metal binder clip also comes in handy.

The quick rundown is that you wrap the fabric strips around and around the clothesline cord, pinning in places where you join strips together, and then stitch them into a coil using the zigzag stitch on your sewing machine. Then you angle the coil as you go, making the sides slant upward. The more often you switch colors, the patchworkier it all looks in the end. You’ll want to get better details than this if you want to try it yourself—Michelle and I used the book It’s a Wrap by Susan Breier.

I couldn’t believe how well this turned out—I was really expecting I wouldn’t be able to pull this off, at least not on the first try. But I did, it was easy! Hers turned out great, too—I wish I could show you, but it was dark when she took hers home, and I couldn’t photograph it.

You could make placemats, coasters, rugs, buckets, baskets, bowls…oh gosh, I can’t wait.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Disaster averted

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Here is the first ball of yarn made from Cody’s Lambswool. I think it’s going to be okay, whew! After I had plied my singles, I had two beautiful, perfect skeins of fingering weight yarn, creamy and gently fuzzy, like lambswool should be. I put them in a sink full of room temperature water—which I always, always do; you have to get it wet to set the twist, and also, you know, this is really just hair that’s been hanging around for awhile getting dusty, not to mention handled a lot, so it needs a little bath. I swished it around in the water—gently! Really! But when I pulled it out of the sink, it looked like ramen noodles. Stuck together in some spots. It was—dare I say it?—a little bit matted.

I did scream a little bit. This is Cody’s one and only lambswool! Not to mention two weeks’ worth of the most careful spinning. Aargh. it took all day to dry, and I had to keep coming back in to check on it, looking at it to see whether it was as bad as I thought, trying to resist the urge to start picking the strands apart while it was still wet. So hard to resist that, I’ll tell you. I was absolutely compelled to mess with it.

Once it was dry, I put the first skein back on the swift and wound it into a ball. And yes, there were places where it had kind of stuck to itself and I had to gently unstick them, but it mostly wound okay and now I think it looks lovely again, all fuzzy and creamy and lamb-y.

The only problem now is that, if I want to make a sweater from the yarn (I do) and I want all the yarn in the sweater to look the same (I do) then I have to slightly felt all the rest of it, too—and the margin for error on this is zero. Ten more seconds of swishing that wool in the sink, and it would’ve been too late. Oh dear. Stay tuned.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Crocheted Stash Basket

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This is the Crocheted Stash Basket from The Purl Bee (pattern here.) Yet another one of those times when I had other plans but had my head turned by temptation. Sara blogged about it yesterday, and when I saw that photo, I was a goner. Those lovely ladies at Purl really know what they’re doing!

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At first, I thought, Stash basket? Yeah right—have you seen my stash? But you can see there. That’s a lot of yarn. it is hardly the whole stash, but it is quite a bit.

The quest for containers to hold all the clutter is an ongoing one around here, and if I can turn some of the clutter into a container, so much the better! That’s a win/win, right there. Purl Bee suggests a rustic silk yarn, which will make the end result look like a basket, but I used two big balls of ecru dishcloth cotton, which looks baskety enough for me.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Give a hoot

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Reusable grocery bags make me happy. I have a bunch of those yucky webbing ones with the store logos on them—something about that webby fabric kind of negates all the happiness I get out of saving a tree, I just hate the feel of it, ugh—so I made my own.

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All four of these are made from one sheet I got at the thrift store. (I think it originally came from Target.) It is 100% cotton, and while I can’t imagine wanting to put it on my bed, it was perfect for this project.

I used the Jane Market Bag pattern from Alicia Paulson, modified a little to eliminate the pocket and contrasting fabrics. It’s an adorable pattern, full of little details that make your bags so much more awesome than those icky store ones. These are fully lined in the same fabric—this sheet was pretty big, full-size, and I probably could’ve squeaked another bag out of it, but four seemed like plenty—and are therefore reversible as well as washable. Yeah!

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I’m just happy I remembered to make sure the lettering was right side up. It wouldn’t have been the first time I’d made a mistake like that. Anyway, I can’t wait to go grocery shopping now. Actually, I should do that, to take my mind off this:

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That’s the first skein of Cody’s lambswool. It got a little felted. Panic, panic, panic…

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That isn’t so bad, right? Reassure me. I can’t touch it until it’s dry, since messing with it while it was wet is how it got this way in the first place. I’m trying not to start freaking out and sucking my thumb…

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Cozy Day

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Briefly, the sun peeked out. In between malicious blasts of sleet and howling winds, it did, and it was so spectacular out the kitchen window. Look at those shadows…oh, I wish I were a painter.

The wind is rattling the window panes now, though, and I can close my eyes and imagine I am a girl living in a lighthouse, with my cheek pressed against the cold glass and the light sweeping across the iron gray waves bashing against the rocks below, and then my mother comes in with soup on a tray. Simple soup, made with pantry ingredients, and steaming hot, creamy and soothing. If I were a girl living in a lighthouse, with stormy seas raging against the walls outside, this is the soup I would want:

Creamy Potato, Leek, and Celery Soup

3 tablespoons olive oil

Two large leeks, cleaned and sliced

Five stalks celery with leaves still on, chopped

2 teaspoons salt

Six or seven good size potatoes, peeled and chopped

Five cups water or vegetable broth

1/2 cup whole milk

grated Parmesan

coarse ground pepper

Heat the oil in a big pot, and add the leeks, celery and salt, and gently saute until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the broth/water and potatoes and simmer until the potatoes are soft, about 30 minutes. Whip up the soup with an immersion blender (or just use a potato masher) and continue simmering another 15-20 minutes, to deepen the flavors. Remove from heat and stir in milk. Serve immediately, topped with a drizzle of olive oil, parmesan, and coarse ground pepper.

Simple, easy, and delicious. Summer is coming, and then I will go on all rhapsodic about my iced coffee, but until then, it’s all about the wind outside, the cat on my lap, and the hot soup.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Soft Denim Cardigan

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Just in time for spring, I have finished another wool sweater. Actually, since it is only about 20 degrees today, I don’t have much hope for an early spring, so I think this cardigan will get some play before the weather changes.

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Nothing fancy here, just plain, densely knit stockinette stitch in a nice, soft wool (Patons Classic Wool). I designed this myself, to fit me.

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There’s no waist shaping, a choice I rarely make, but for this, I really wanted a warm, workhorse cardigan that would fit over another layer; I wanted extra-long sleeves, a long hem, and thick warm knitting. Actually, I guess I made this sweater because I’m cold. Take that, winter!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

For the love of crochet

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The promise of this is almost my favorite part. Possibly it’s a direct result of my inherent impatience, my tendency to want to start something Right Now, but I just love going into the scraps basket and pulling together enough leftovers, enough stray bits, to put together a new blanket. I know it probably means I have way too much yarn (I can hear my husband snickering, because he’s thinking, Well, YES, obviously! Too much yarn, indeed!) and of course, I bought it all originally (on sale! Some of this was two bucks a ball! Excuses…) so it’s not as if I’m getting anything for free, but really, much of what you see up there is leftover from something else. A lot of it is also thrifted, at twenty-five or fifty cents a ball, somebody else’s leftovers.

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So it feels pretty good to turn what is essentially a pile of nothing into these. Truly, what can be more satisfying? This is what I love about quilts, too, more on that another day.

My mother taught me to crochet when I was a girl in the 1970’s. She’s very crafty, my mom, and has made her share of macrame belts and plant hangers and needlepoint pillow covers, and I just soaked all that in back then, just watched her hook or needle flying, turning a ball of garden twine into something you could wear and look like Laurie Partridge, and I just thought, Man, that’s me. She had this kit to crochet a huge blanket that had openwork squares alternating with solid panels that she then had to cross stitch with some orange and yellow and brown flowers, and I looked at all that yarn, and was so jealous. It took her forever to finish it, but she did. A Big Project is one of the best things ever in this crafting life. We had that blanket our whole lives. She may have it still.

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Lately I have thought of myself as a knitter who also sews and makes other things too, and I did go through the thing where I thought of crochet as knitting’s red-headed stepchild, but picking up a hook and turning string into granny squares is me, the real me. There is just something about it that feels like home. My mother didn’t knit, my grandmother didn’t knit—I came to knitting on my own, later. Crochet is built in.