Saturday, April 30, 2011

Jersey Sundress

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I’ve been thinking of summer a lot lately.  The weather has been so weird that I’ve started to wonder if it will ever be warm, but I guess I just have to believe.  And I’m so sick of my winter clothes.  I’ve been wearing the same four pairs of pants since October, and I’m ready for something different.  Something flow-y and fluttery and soft and girly.  I’m ready for a sundress.  I’m ready for the summer breeze to blow through the jasmine in my mind.
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Soon it will be July, and it will be hot.  Probably sweltering, and I’ll complain bitterly about the humidity, but let’s not dwell on that now.  And when it is hot, I’ll put on this light jersey sundress and drape myself in a shady hammock and sip iced tea through a straw. 
The pattern is Simplicity 2587, designed by Cynthia Rowley.  I made some lazy girl modifications (I left out the interfacing and some of the fancier details) but it fits like a glove.  Vavoom!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Crochet Flower Pin

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Sometimes, you just need a corsage.  Yesterday was my birthday, and since I am one of those princesses who needs everyone’s full and complete attention on my birthday (also, when I’m sick) I decided to crochet myself a little posy.  So I’d look, you know, special.  This was a quick and easy project (pattern here.)


I really want to thank my husband for taking this very flattering photo of my rapidly aging neck which, somehow, looks fetching and youthful here.  Don’t I look as though I have just dropped my handkerchief and am waiting for Mr. Darcy to notice?

I also want to show you the Birthday Girl—I wrote about this last year, and my mom saw my post and sent her to me.  She came from Lieberman’s in Lansing Michigan, and was made in Japan.  She is still packed in her original box, lined with excelsior, and I’m so happy to have her.  She makes my birthday seem real. 
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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Knitted Lace Pillow Cover

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I read a recent issue of House Beautiful magazine, which, I am surprised to say, is growing on me.  I never thought I’d say that.  I still find it a little sterile and pretty much completely inaccessible for someone like me, but now and then I get inspired.  Anyway, according to a fancy designer whose name I don’t remember and actually I doubt I ever knew, two pillows on the couch are not enough.  You need, he says, (whoever he is, because, again, I have no idea) at least four pillows on a full-size sofa, and they have to be a mix of colors and textures.

Well, say no more.  Not that I care if my sofa pillows are lonely, and as a matter of fact, there are those living in my house who will actually refuse to use a throw pillow anyway and will just chuck them on the floor—my aching back cannot understand that kind of thing for even one second—but if you’re telling me I have to make a few more pillows for my couch, let’s just say I’m there. 
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I got your texture, right here.   (Pattern from the book Warm Weather Knits by Deborah Newton.  It’s written as a pattern for a bag, but just leave off the strap and stuff a pillow inside, what’s the difference, right?  That’s right, I’m going off-trail!)  Since I like to not have to worry about which side of the pillow is the “real” side, there are two of these squares.  They took two days to knit (which is about a day and a half longer than I actually felt like knitting lace with worsted-weight cotton yarn) but making them into a pillow took about five minutes, and now I’m hoping my sofa will pass its annual pillow count inspection.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Embroidered French Pillowcase—Free Pattern!

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I love fancy old pillowcases.  A lot.  I have a huge collection of them, and still keep coming back for more.  They’re so beautiful with crocheted cotton lace edging and teeny embroidery, and the incredibly soft vintage cotton is unlike anything you can buy new. 
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The key to a fabulous pillowcase is that it has to be luxurious—always, always 100% cotton.  I never ever skimp on this, no matter how incredible the thrifty vintage sheets (A beautiful vintage pillowcase that isn’t 100% cotton can still live on your bed—just use it to cover an extra feather pillow and toss it on the floor when you go to sleep.) You can buy fantastic vintage white 100% cotton sheets at the thrift store and make your own pillowcases, which is what I did here; these are so thick and creamy white—which made me imagine they’d come from an old European hotel.  
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Wouldn’t you love to stay in a hotel that had these on the bed?  I would.  But I can’t, so I made my own instead—I embroidered the lovely French script in blue, pressed the heck out of the very fine cotton, misted them lightly with eau de lavender, and am prepared to dream in French tonight. 
This pattern is available free, right here.  I hope you like it.  Thank you all for visiting my blog!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Curtains

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And now there are curtains, too.  I love how these look, which is sort of amazing, since I normally don’t even want curtains—they make the windows feel cluttered--but since this room faces the main road, I guess I kind of need them.


My first thought was to have as little on the windows as possible, as if I could hang curtains without having to have any curtains.  I was afraid covering the windows would smother the light, so (while there was still plastic everywhere) I made some narrow panels out of very cheap thin white muslin, and hung them.   Then I shrieked and tore them down again, because they were emphatically stupid.

I decided I wanted bright pink flowers on a light background, and would hang them cafe-style, over the lower half of the window, and that the window would just have to get over it. 
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Mmmhmm, that’s pretty.  Don’t you love it when things work out?

Friday, April 22, 2011

It’s done!

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The workroom is done, and ready for company.  Come on in!  I have wanted a room like this for so long.  My whole life, I think. Years ago, I read A Room of One’s Own and I so clearly remember thinking, Yes.  I mentally furnished it with an old wooden desk and swiveling chair, a drippy beeswax candle in a brass holder, and a grim little fire in a tiny grate, probably burning the crumpled pages of my rejected manuscript…well, that’s how your mind works when you’re an undergrad in English Literature.  Anyway, even when I was reading in English Lit and writing long weepy poems about abolishing apartheid, I was staying up late into  the night with my needle and thread, making (super ugly) quilts and ruffle-edged pillows and denim bookbags with rope handles and anarchy symbols on them.  I crept down to the basement at midnight and sewed patchwork (I cut out thousands of individual one-inch squares with scissors and then pieced them into nine-patch blocks, one at a time; it took months) under a bare bulb and surrounded by spiders.  I really, really loved crafting.  I didn’t really realize that making things is my real and true work until much later, but I knew I wanted a quiet and dedicated place to be creative.  
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Our little house is very cozy, and it never seemed like there was a good place to semi-permanently set up a sewing machine, but eventually, it dawned on us that our “dining room” was really not much more than a wide hallway with a big table in it.  You have to go through it to get anywhere else in the house, and the front door opens into it, which is a little bit odd, but nobody ever uses that door anyway.  (Aside—I wish we used the front door.)  Anyway, two years ago, I decided to take the room over, and salvaged a wire shelf and some fabric bins from the garage storage and made do, happily.  It was so lovely to have a place to spread out.  So fantastic to not have to clear everything away when we needed the kitchen table for something else.  I can’t say enough about that, and I’m so grateful.
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Then I got some big ideas.  These things are what come from repainting your kitchen, and I know you all know what I mean.  The minute one room looks good, the room next to it suddenly looks as dingy as an old shoe, am I right?  Well, the old dining room is attached to pretty much every single other room in the house, so when I painted those rooms too, it just got worse and worse and worse looking, and of course I continued to work in there, and to accumulate stuff, create stash, and finally, I knew it was time.  It was my turn!  I was going to get my room.  Really, after I saw this, it was a done deal, at least somewhere in the back of my mind.  I saw it and knew.  I went back and looked at that blog post a dozen times, just kept studying it, trying to figure out what about it was shouting at me so hard, loving the way everything had its own tidy place and there was space to move around, to walk all the way around a project, not having to rearrange the furniture to finish something.  Oh, lovely!  I also knew I was going to IKEA, even though it was hours away.  Worth it, people!  
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Oh, mercyme, I did truly adore IKEA.  I couldn’t believe how much of the stuff in that store I wanted.  From IKEA, we bought the Expedit shelves (one 4 x 4 unit and one 2 x 4 unit), five white door inserts, and five Branas baskets.  Honestly, the Expedit shelves are the key to this whole shebang—I really had so many little plastic tubs of teeny little things just stacked up on top of each other, and having these individual baskets and cubbies to sort it all into was just heaven.  My fifteen-year old son put them together by himself, and wouldn’t let anybody help him.  He said, “It’s like Legos for adults!”  I got the humongous Martha Stewart farmhouse table at a church rummage sale (I know, right?) and it’s so big and huge that I had to have them deliver it.  It’s got a shallow drawer in the side which is just barely too small for my self-healing mat—the only thing that hasn’t worked out perfectly.   To get an idea of the size of the table, the mat up there in that photo is 18” x 24”—the size of a fat quarter of fabric.  Yikes, that’s a huge table! 
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This antique cupboard holds my fabric stash.  It’s not new to me, and in fact it’s still in the same spot it was when we started the redo.  To the right, you can see my comfy chair, which I really lobbied hard to keep.  That chair is a cozy cottage chair.
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I also was not ready to get rid of my great-granny’s marble-topped table, nor my grandma’s oil painting of me, done from my fifth-grade school picture.  So this is the real furniture side of the room.  With a basket full of lambswool spilling out behind it.  I’m still spinning like crazy…
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That big cupboard holds all my yarn.  Dean built it when we first moved here, almost twenty years ago.  He won’t let me paint it white, and I can’t say I blame him. 
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I went out this morning to get some fabric to make some curtains—my first project in the new studio.  I’m so excited, it feels like Christmas Eve. Thanks for visiting! 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Knowing when to say when

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I’m in a git ‘er done kind of mood right now, so yesterday afternoon, I got this out to work on it.  It’s been lurking in the work basket for almost a year, kind of in limbo, because I don’t love it, and as I realized when I looked at it again yesterday, have never loved it.  All the time, I kept thinking that if I just added another color—the right color this time—then it could be saved and I would start to see what it was I liked about all these colors together when I started.  (It didn’t help that I’d raided the basket for yarn to make this blanket and this one, taking all the nice brights and really good colors away and leaving nothing but navy blue, a couple reds, and mustard brown.)  I tried to imagine where this blanket would end up if I powered through and finished it, and I saw it in my closet, in a box underneath the winter coats.  That’s a huge waste of this beautiful yarn. 

Nope, even though it was halfway done and I liked working on it (because, hey, crocheting is fun!) this blanket was over.  So I spent an hour turning it into this:

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Friends, it felt good. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Pincushion of Happiness

There’s a pile of buckets and trowels in the middle of my house.  There is a plastic tarp over my sewing machine.  It snowed yesterday.  So I did what anybody would have done, and I crocheted a pincushion.

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You know, as one does.  I crawled underneath a tarp and rummaged in a plastic box until I found a hook, and went into a different room, away from the massive mess.  I really can’t even look in there right now.  I just want to whimper and suck my thumb, and make it go awaaaaay. 

I have such a hard time with this stuff, this repainting and re-doing.  I always know it’s going to be rough, but it’s always rougher than I thought it would be.  I really love order, and this is the opposite of order.  This is all my stuff—my stuff, my yarn and fabric and needles and embroidery hoops and everything—shoved off into the corner under a bunch of plastic.  This is paint chips all over my new furniture.  This is me not being able to find the iron.  This is waiting around while stuff dries.  And a continuous mess.  Dean (that’s the husband) likes to work until he’s panting and half dead, then just put down the scraper and walk away, but I really, really feel a need to clean everything up in between, so I’m down on my knees mopping up drywall globs at 11:00 pm because I know that if I come downstairs in the morning and that’s what I see, I will not be able to have a good day.  I also really, really need to have these projects done ASAP, but he has a rather more liberal expectation, timeframe-wise.  He’s happy with “it’s starting to look better.” 

Since I want it to look good when it’s finally over, I’m taking deep breaths and being as patient as possible, and, since I know where the hooks are, I am crocheting stuff. 

100_7417a The lighting in these photos is a little strange.  Everything is strange around here.  Serenity now!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Dishevelment

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I can tell I’m going to love this room.  But allowing the recommended 24 hour drying time for the joint compound is the WORST.  We’re all fired up, ready to get this thing done, but instead, a perfectly good Sunday full of hours is spent sitting around amongst my piles of yarn and boxes of thread, watching paint dry.  Total buzzkill.

What’s taking so long is the ceiling, which was a last-minute addition to the project, but which I looked up at one day last week and just went UGH!  I had kind of stopped looking up there, you know?  Just kind of forgot the ceiling was up there, and whoa, it had gotten pretty ugly.  I figured we were already making a mess, so I gently asked my general contractor husband if we could fix it.  “Sure,” he said.  (Just waiting for me to ask, I guess.)  “I’ll do it Sunday.”  This morning, he got out the scraper and started poking at the peely wallpaper up there (yeah, I know!) with the stucco coating (can you believe that?) to see if much of it was loose.  A whole lot of it turned out to be loose, and the resulting mess was pretty spectacular.  But even with big brown patches of discoloration peeking through the first coat of drywall compound, it already looks better.  Yes, I do love progress.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Pilgrimage

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Thirteen hours and two tanks of gas later, I have been to Nirvana!  It was everything I wished for, and more.  Disneyland has got nothing on IKEA.  It is a magical wonderland where dreams come true.  Pittsburgh, you lucky bums.  (How do you ever get anywhere, with all that road construction?)

Radio silence means I am up to my knees in cardboard packaging and swooning on paint fumes, and that a studio reveal is coming soon.  Very soon.  As in, I will not rest until this room is put back to rights.  The chaos is incredible.    Wish me luck!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Summer Shoulder Bag

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I love this summer bag.  It is big enough to load up with a towel and a hat and sunblock and a paperback and a little box of strawberries and head to the beach for the day, but since the top folds over, it doesn’t look weird if all you have in there is your wallet and keys.  Not that I would ever manage to get out of the house with nothing but a wallet and keys, oh no.  Any time I go anywhere, I have so much stuff it looks like I’m running away from home.  So I need a big bag, and this one is perfect. 

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There are two outside pockets and one inside pocket, and that’s about it for fancy design elements.  As always, the strap took me twice as long to make as the whole rest of the thing put together, but that’s just me, and I’m sure you’ll have better luck.  I can’t seem to measure two long, skinny pieces of fabric and then stitch them together without a problem, not to mention trying to turn it right side out.  This bag has a nice wide strap, so you guys should all be fine, don’t mind me.  I should really measure three times, cut once.  That should be my new motto. 

The lovely free pattern is here, found at whipup.  If you decide to make one, and you should--it’s quick and easy and stashbusting, my three favorite things—my only note to you is that if you want to flip down the corners of the outside pocket piece so that the pocket lining shows (on mine, that bit is red) you’ll have to figure that part out as you go, because it’s not written into the pattern.  Just work it in during Step 2, before you do the vertical topstitching at the sides.  This bag is cute, customizable, and kind of inspiring.  I can see a whole bunch more of them happening at my house.  Summer, come on in!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Granny’s Log Cabin Quilt, done

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I had forgotten how much I love Log Cabin quilts. I have had some fun with them in the past, especially when Denyse Schmidt first got into my head about ten years ago and I made a whole bunch of log cabins, all completely improvised and once, memorably, out of batik fabrics. (That quilt lived on my bed for a long time, and served me well, but let’s just say I have Moved On.) Around that time, I also made one that was—it’s hard to believe this—almost entirely black, with the occasional teeny bright square punctuating the big bleak expanses. Very moderne, no? Eventually, that quilt became the dog’s bed.

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I really enjoy this style of working, where you just throw a pile of fabric strips on the worktable and start sewing them together, just cutting off the too-long ends. Cutting away the parts that aren’t the quilt block.

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This time, I measured (gasp) the strips to 2 1/2” wide, and the center squares to 3 1/2”. I also made an attempt to alternate a dark round with a light one, but I’ll admit, I didn’t always stick to that.

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You can arrange the value contrasts in a log cabin quilt about a hundred different ways, and since I know next to nothing about actual quilting, I don’t know if this piecing arrangement has a name or not. It looks like a bull’s eye to me, so that’s what I kept calling it, and my quilter friends didn’t tell me to shut up, so maybe that’s what it’s called.

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I have plumb run out of rustic locations for quilt photo shoots, so this is just pinned to the chicken coop. The hens were clucking around very nervously on the other side, wondering what the heck was happening, and trying to find a way around so they could see what I was up to.

I used all stash fabric, except for the sashing strips—I loved this quilt, and I thought Alicia’s use of that gorgeous tan solid for her sashing was brilliantly inspired. I wouldn’t have ever thought of that, but it was, of course, just right. The color I chose is what Michelle would call “greige.”

I recently remembered something, a tiny little something that has had a proportionally huge influence on me: I saw the phrase “a huge stack of floppy quilts” in a Martha Stewart Living magazine article about Denyse. A huge stack of floppy quilts. I want the kind of life where I have a huge stack of floppy quilts, soft and comforting and beautiful, well-designed or not; quilts that can go in the wash, can be dragged outside to sit on while we watch the fireworks, can be made into forts or tents, cuddled under, wrapped up in. I love that a huge stack is not too many, that it’s okay for me to keep making them as long as I want, to just pile them on the beds, the couches, the backseat of the car. I love quilts.

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Monday, April 11, 2011

Crocheted dischloths

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This is my idea of a productive day.  I crocheted four dishcloths, didn’t get another thing accomplished, and found the dishcloths were enough. 
I don’t know what it is about these little useful things that make me so happy, but there definitely is something.  There’s a certain sense of pioneer lady about stitching up something I need; a potholder, a dishcloth, a whole entire quilt.  It just makes me feel so great, and (except for the quilt) it only takes a few minutes.  That’s a lot of bang for the buck!
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I probably would have made more than four, but I ran out of cotton yarn color choices.  I know!  I ran out of yarn!  Must remedy this situation immediately.   I added another main color round just before the edging, because they were turning out a little small.  And check out that gorgeous handpainted bowl up there—my mom brought that back for me from Portugal.  Ooooooh!  Lovely. 
Well, as part of my ongoing personal quest to use the pretty things in my life, I am off now to do the dishes, even that scrambled egg frying pan.

7/16/12: It looks like this pattern has been taken down, and I don't have it  to share--sorry 'bout that!  Please check the comments for some great alternative patterns.  Thanks for your help!


Friday, April 8, 2011

Granny’s Cabin Quilt Preview

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Here’s a preview of my next project. I have spent the last fourteen hours straight working on this quilt; it has kept me completely entertained, and I love it when that happens. I did pause to have a sandwich (egg on rosemary garlic bread with baby lettuce and dijon mustard, mmmmmm) but then got right back down to it. These are the kinds of things that keep me up at night.

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And the house is an utter shambles. Does this happen to you? I don’t know why my sitting in one chair and focusing on something will cause the mess to multiply in every other room of the house. I’d like to get some kind of study on that. Does the dog shed more because I’m busy? Do the dishes un-wash themselves? I don’t get it. I, myself, am also a complete mess, with bits of thread stuck all over my sweater and still wearing the same socks from yesterday. The guy came to the door to read the meter, and I hid so he wouldn’t see me.

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It is not lost on me that these log cabin blocks look kinda (a lot) like granny squares.

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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Mitered Squares Blanket

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The sun is shining today, finally.  It feels like spring might be at my doorstep, words which I might take back if I step outside and find it’s only about 30 degrees F like it was yesterday, but at least right now, I am hopeful. 

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So I changed the blankets on my bed, and now I can show you my Mitered Squares Blanket. 

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A few years ago, this blanket pattern hit the bookstores and then the internet and as soon as I saw Cara’s at January One, I was done for.  She started making these miters and they just grabbed ahold of her and wouldn’t let go.  (And, as it happens, Cara is working on sewing hers up now, and she’s starting another something lovely, so go over and see.) Well, I just love that kind of project like you can’t believe, so I ordered a big box of KnitPicks Wool of the Andes (that yarn is wonderfully affordable and it comes in a huge array of colors) and I think I just bought one or two of every color they had, except for the grays and neutrals.  This blanket has little or no neutral in it, unless you get real generous with your definition.

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I started making miters, and, well, it grabbed ahold of me, too, and I made this blanket, from cast on to sewing the last seam, in one month.  Yeah, I know, that’s a form of craziness.  But I tell you, it was completely absorbing, and I’d almost do another one now. 

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This isn’t a scraps blanket, at least I don’t think it is, because I can’t imagine anyone having this many different scraps.  If so, they should have started making some potholders a long time ago.  I made my blanket in wool because this is New York and my feet are cold eleven months of the year, which means this blanket weighs half a ton, but is warm as toast. 

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The pattern is from Ann and Kay’s book Mason Dixon Knitting, the inspiration and design rules I used came from Cara at January One, and the insanity to finish it in a month is all me.  If you love this and want one, don’t be daunted by the scope of the thing, just make one miter at a time.  I found I could make one miter (that’s one of the small squares within the larger square) in just under an hour.  There are four miters per block and 25 blocks total.  That’s do-able, especially if it grabs ahold of you, which, and you have been warned, it has been known to do.  You can easily learn the pattern, carry one little miter at a time in your purse to work on while you wait in line at the DMV, and before you know it, the thing will be done. 

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Worth it, right?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Emily Bronte’s Favorite Cardigan

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The rain is lashing the bare branches outside and the yard looks like the set from Wuthering Heights, so I think I have a cozy new sweater at just the right time. I don’t know when spring will really get here, but I’m beginning to think maybe never, so the wool sweater factory is still cranking at full throttle.

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This dressmaker’s form has some pretty ridiculous linebacker shoulders that I can’t seem to adjust, but you can get the idea. I started with Debbie O’Neill’s Paperboy Cardigan from the winter/spring 2011 issue of Knitscene, and except for changing the seed stitch sections to stockinette, I made the back and fronts according to her pattern. The sleeves, though, are written as semi-drop shouldered, which don’t flatter anybody me, and that necessitated a remodel, so I started from scratch and made up my own sleeves. The yarn is Patons Classic Merino, recycled from a failure sweater I knit last spring.

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I love gray cabled cardigans. This one makes four. Gray cabled cardigans I’ve knitted. For myself. Might be time to branch out a little.

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It’s already missing a button. I can’t wait to wear this.