Sunday, May 29, 2011

Samplers, samplers, samplers

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I am having such a fascination with embroidery lately.  This is the second alphabet sampler I have in progress.  How many alphabet samplers does one person need, anyway?  Well, at least these two, and probably I won’t stop there, you know how I am. 

This one actually sprang into my imagination as a result of the other one—I bought this thread to use for the more traditional one I’ve been working on:

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The hand-painted orange color turned out to be a little loud for the more subdued palette I’ve been using here, so I was going to just stash it until another idea came along.  But another idea came along immediately!  

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Don’t you love it when that happens?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Catherine? Harlequin?

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More progress!  Wow, I love working on this.  I get the whole thing all spread out on the couch, all my current colors lined up and the pattern (which I still need, since I can’t seem to remember which rows start with ch 3 and which ones start with ch 4 and which ones start with ch 1) and it takes up the whole room, me and my blanket.  It needs so much space!  Especially now that it’s long enough to start looking blanket-ish—that’s such a great moment, isn’t it?  I also love the point at which it becomes longer than it is wide—I still have that to look forward to.  It’s the little things.
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The stitch pattern I’m using is called Harlequin, which looks like it must be some variation of Catherine Wheel—there are probably a ton of variations in these stitch patterns. This is slightly different than the Catherine Wheel pattern I used before.  I think what makes these square is the addition of one chain at the top of each cluster.  They look like patchwork—I love that!  Here is a pattern tutorial, if you’re interested in the technique, although I can’t find any internet source for the exact variation I’m using, which came from this book.  I am charting my own course, stripe sequence-wise. 
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It’s going to be 89 degrees here this weekend.  That’s wool weather, for sure.  Right? 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Harlequin Stripe, progress

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I’ve been suffering a bad case of start-itis, and the result is that I have too many Big Projects happening all at once.  Which, as you know, I think is marvelous, but it’s hard to see progress, you know?  I hook away until my fingers ache, but it doesn’t ever get bigger.  Besides which, there are three sweaters, three pairs of socks, one very ambitious embroidery project, the spinning (which is apparently endless, really) and that’s not even all of it.  I do like to have a lot of different things going at once.100_7676a

Here’s the Harlequin Stripe blanket, still in a very early state—so early, in fact, that the full extent of the plan is not yet apparent.  Here’s a hint:  green is next!  I do love working on this thing.  I’ll post pattern details as I get a little further along. 

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The weather has been so perfect lately—I had kind of begun to despair, but it is only May, after all.   I think I’m going to take up professional porch-sitting.  This is my new office, that chair right there.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Vintage sheet duvet cover

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This is how I do cozy during the warm weather months:  a down comforter (thrifted and washed in hot water) and a handily crafted duvet cover made with two matching vintage sheets (also thrifted).  A patch of grass, some dappled sunlight, an absorbing thriller, and a long empty afternoon. 

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Essentially, this is nothing but a big pillowcase, with short lengths of twill tape sewn at intervals along the open edge, and tied shut to keep the comforter inside. 

This will probably get some grass stains on it, and it will probably fade when I forget and leave it out in the weather for a few days, and it will probably get bird poo on it, or get rained on, or compromised in some other way, but who cares?  Back in the wash it goes, and out again as lovely as ever.

A few years ago, we were guests in a bed and breakfast, and when we mentioned to the owner that we were heading out for a picnic lunch, she said, “Why don’t you take one of the quilts off the bed, to sit on?”  That blew my mind.  Really?  Right off the bed?  Won’t it get, er, dirty?  Well, yeah it will.  But that’s okay!  I think about that all the time, when I’m worrying that something I made will get wrecked because someone used it.  What, do I want a big pile of stuff that’s only good for looking at? 

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Mmm, nope. 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Perfect Day

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I have finally learned to love all four seasons, but I look forward to summer the most.  I love the way the sunlight pours in the windows, early in the morning, making me glad to get out of bed.  I love the long, blue sky days, sitting outside on the patio, watching the hens dig around under the raspberry canes.  I put on a big hat and my gigantic Jackie Onassis sunglasses and spread out all my necessities—book, knitting, tall, creamy iced coffee with bendy straw—and just camp there for hours, maybe the entire day.  I might take a quick minute to hang some laundry.   I doze in my chair, lazy, listening to my neighbor mow his lawn, the bees vibrating in the crabapple tree, the cars going by with music bumping out their open windows. 

Eventually, it is mid-afternoon and I am warm and sleepy and it’s time to think about dinner.  The New York Yankees are on the radio, and they’re winning.  There is nowhere to be but here.  I make an easy soup of fresh asparagus and cream, bread and butter, and eat it slowly.

After dinner, I light the citronella candles and sit on the porch, my feet still bare and up on the rail.  Cars still go bumping by, in the dark now, and it’s still warm.  There’s wine, and quiet, and the blossoms that grow all around are so vividly fragrant in the dark.  Summer, I love you.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Fun Fur Hedgehog: an Epic Tale

How can you tell when somebody is one of your very favorite people?  You make them one of these.

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First off, he is so desperately cute that it’s hard to imagine giving him away.  Oh my goodness, look at his little feeeeeet!!!

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Also, there is no way in the world I will ever make another one.  Honestly, I don’t know how anybody can work with that fur yarn.  You can’t see what you’re doing! You follow the very clever pattern, single crocheting in all the single crochets from the previous row, but there is absolutely no telling where the previous row is, let alone where the single crochets are.  It is a bird’s nest of hair.  I ended up just kind of stabbing the hook in at what seemed like regular intervals, and wherever there was some give, I made a stitch. 

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To summarize:  step one—bite the bullet and buy some eyelash yarn.  This might go against all your personal yarn-loving principles, but remember who the end result is for, steel yourself, and go down that aisle of the yarn store.   Fun Fur looks just like hedgehog needles, so you know you need it.  Actually, this pattern is the best use of Fun Fur ever.

Step Two—assemble your materials:  yarn, hook, scissors.  Find the pattern you bookmarked a long time ago (wow, lots of bookmarks.  Scroll, scroll, scroll…)  This might take awhile. 

Step Three—work the first two rows of the pattern. Get up to go find a stitch marker, which you forgot in step two. 

Step Four—work the next three rows of the pattern.  Get up to go find a ponytail elastic, which you failed to notice was something you needed in step two.  Scrounge fruitlessly in every corner of both bathrooms.  Look under daughter’s bed, find nothing.  Stop to have dinner.

Step Five—forget hair elastic idea, dig around in newly sorted storage cubbies for a small piece of elastic cord.  You know it’s there, you remember putting it…somewhere.  This might also take a long time.  Eventually, find it in the very last (and also most obvious) place it could possibly be.

Step Six—Easily finish the face, hands, feet (the feeeet!) and body of the hedgehog.  Die a little at how cute he is, how his little arms and legs cuddle in.  Say, “Oh my goodness, this thing is the cutest!” approximately fifty times.

Steps Seven and cont.—Attach the fur yarn and begin stitching blindly, saying, “Whaaaat?” and “Are you kidding me?”  and “I can’t even see what’s going on!”  Painstakingly pick out each piece of trapped fur with a yarn needle.  Lie down for awhile to recover.

Prologue—sew cute little beady nose and eyes.  Trim fur so hedgie face and body can be seen.  Die a little more at how cuuuuute he is!  Wrap quickly for shipping so it’s at all possible to part with him.  Be amazed at the cleverness of your fellow crafty bloggers.  Great pattern, Kat

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Final Score—Cozy Things 1, Fun Fur 0.  His name is Maurice.

Awwwww!  Love you, sis.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Patchwork Crochet, Part One

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I have yarn.  I have so much yarn that if you were here and I opened the yarn cupboard, you’d get to have a nice long belly laugh as you watched it all explode from the cabinet and slither out onto my head.   This picture represents such a tiny fraction of my stash, such a laughably small portion of my monstrous yarn collection that when I pulled it all from the cupboard—and I swear this is true—no dent in the yarn was made.  There appears to be just as much yarn in the cupboard as there was before I took all this away. 

What are you gonna do, right?  Hey, I know exactly what to do, and so do you!

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Yup, it’s another blanket.  I am so excited about this pattern that I could hardly sleep at all last night!  I just wanted to tiptoe to the workroom and get cracking.  In fact, I’m itching to work on it right now…see ya later!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Fabric covered journal

 

Well, it appears some of your sweet comments from a few days ago are all the way gone, boo.  Luckily, I remember them all.  Anyway, it’s been a whole year with Blogger, and that was the first problem, so I am not complaining.  Onward!

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While Blogger was ruminating on all its problems, I was busily crafting away, and I made this cute little notebook. 

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I like to carry a little journal around with me in case I should get a brilliant idea (could happen someday) or if I need to write down my dentist appointment, which is really what they get used for, but anyhoo. 

At first, I wanted to make this one completely of felt, with cute little felt shapes stitched to the front, but since I don’t seem to have any local sources for that lovely wool felt everyone talks about and am stuck with using horrendous acrylic sheets in lurid colors, I don’t have much felt in the stash.  So my solution came by way of an anonymous source (okay, it was my engineer husband who can solve just about any problem, even felt-related problems) who said, “Why don’t you use regular fabric for the outside, and then just pink the edges?” 

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So I did.  Great idea!  Actually, here’s the whole thing, in a nutshell:

1.  Cut one piece of 9 1/4” x 6” piece of fabric for the outside cover, one piece of felt the same size for the inside cover.  Fuse some interfacing to the wrong side of the fabric. 

2.  Decorate the front of the cover however you like—I used WonderUnder to fuse fabric scraps to it and then did some decorative stitching around the flowers. 

3.  When the decorating is done, pin the felt to the wrong side and use your pinking shears to trim all the way around the piece.  Now use a long running stitch and all six strands of a length of embroidery floss to sew them together. 

4.  To make the paper pages, stack six or eight sheets of paper together and eyeball it to cut to the right size.  I used lined paper, but you can use whatever you want.  Using a big needle and six strands of floss, sew it to the inside of the cover.  I poked just two holes in mine, and tied the floss loop in a knot on the inside. 

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The best part is that when these pages are full, I can just cut the floss loop and take them out, and put fresh new pages in. 

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This little amigurumi mouse wanted to be in the photos so bad, I just couldn’t tell him no.  He’s been around so long, I don’t remember where he came from.   He hasn’t got a name, and I think he needs one, don’t you?

I really want to thank Jane and MeMe Rose for the lovely Blogger awards.  You all are too kind!  I invite you all to go visit them; they are both making some beautiful things!   Please go see.  :) 

Friday, May 13, 2011

Embroidered Monogram

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I don’t know if it’s because I’m all immersed in Little House on the Prairie right now, or whether it’s because it’s spring and a girl feels like sprucing up her house, or what it is, but I am falling hard down a lovely embroidery rabbit hole and don’t want to come out any time soon.  This is delicate work, embroidery is; and it’s careful and tiny.  It isn’t functional by itself, unlike knitting or sewing or quilting—it’s just there to be beautiful.  You can put it on something functional, and that thing will be transformed from the mundane to the splendid.  I really love that. 

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This monogram design is from Alicia Paulson’s book Embroidery Companion; a gorgeous book full of tempting projects.  I sat up late last night, listening as Ma and Pa and Mary and Laura and Baby Carrie loaded up their wagon and left the little log house on the prairie, heading out of Indian Country and into a new unknown, and I stitched this little “J” and thought about what that would’ve been like, and I realized I can never know.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

You can never go wrong with flowers

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How about a little eye candy today—oooh, aaahhh.  Aren’t those colors together just delicious? 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

In Which I Slipcover Myself

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I can’t even believe this.  I have made myself some pants.  These cost one dollar, and they fit me.  Whaaaat? 

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The pattern came from this book, which I borrowed from the library, and the denim fabric was a lucky thrift store find.  The zipper and button I already had.

A word about the pattern:  first, I had to spend an hour tracing the pattern pieces onto my own paper since you can’t cut up parts of library books.  After that, it was a couple hours and done!  I made one small goof on the fly, easily fixed.  I will say that while Wendy’s book is fantastic and made sewing these actually very easy, it is not (I don’t think) a book for beginners.  I was, a few times along the way, left to figure things out on my own.  If you’re prepared to do that, get yourself a couple yards of fabric and get started!  You can make your own pants! 

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I have, er, a problematic figure.  There is, let’s say, a sizable differential between my hip and waist measurements.  Which is why I have finally resorted to trying to make my own pants, and when I told all my friends, even the ones who sew, about my plan to slipcover myself, the reaction was openmouthed incredulity. 

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Guess what?  I can make my own pants, and so can you!  These ended up being kind of dressy somehow, so I added this engineer belt to offset the Grandpa’s Trousers effect.  This was, again, supposed to have been the test run, which is why there are no front pockets nor back pocket detailing, but since they turned out great the first time (I’m going to get a complex, I think) I guess I can live with it.  Next time, I’ll try a dark wash with slimmer legs and some contrast stitching. 

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I was so happy, I danced a little jig!  I feel like this unlocks all kinds of secret doors—I never have to spend five frustrating hours at the mall again, feeling fat and horrible and, ultimately, disappointed in the end.  I can make all my own now, with different fabrics, adding pockets and stitching and contrast fabrics at the waistband, and tapering the legs if I want…wow.  Just, wow.  It’s a new world today, friends.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Being as industrious as Ma Ingalls

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It turns out, I am pretty sure, that I never actually read any of the Little House on the Prairie books.  I’ll pause for a moment, to give that a chance to sink in. 

So I’m reading them now, and they are so good, as good as sugar snow with maple syrup on it!  Ma and Pa are just so industrious; Ma is busily ironing the clean clothes on the wagon’s buckboard while Pa is out hunting bears, and I just have to keep getting up to clean something or churn butter or whatever.   I’m working on this sampler now, an ambitious project that will take forever, which is my favorite thing in the world. 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Frodo Baggins, a love story

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As I’ve gone on and on about before, I started making things when I was a girl, and that’s all down to my wonderful mother, who made things too, and who taught me by example that it’s a pretty great way to pass the time.  Naturally, when I had a daughter of my own, I had visions of us sitting on the sofa and working on our needlepoint together, or something like that.  I sewed her rag dolls and made baby size quilts and handcrafted all her Halloween costumes.  I made her clothes.  Eventually, I helped her make a skirt to fulfill one of her Girl Scout patch requirements.  I was a crafty example mom.

Then, she became a teenager, and that was it.  Until Frodo Baggins came into our lives. 

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She made this Frodo—and he is life sized (well, hobbit size)—entirely on her own, with almost no help from me at all.  She figured out how to make his little body pieces by studying other dolls and their shapes, she crafted his little clothes herself by deconstructing thrift store finds, and made him a One Ring by taking apart an ugly yard sale necklace.  She sewed on his hair (and his foot hair) one strand at a time, and then made it curly with water and twist ties.  And she embroidered his face to make him look like Elijah Wood, too, which is the hugest feat ever accomplished by anybody in this house with a needle and thread. 

Frodo lives with her in her college dorm room.  He has his own Facebook page. He goes trick-or-treating:

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I love him so much.  My daughter made him.  Success!  Happy Mother’s Day to me, and to all of you, too. 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A kittycat blanket story

 

This big orange tomcat is called Elvis.

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He lies around most of the day, shedding on the furniture and making everyone sneeze.  He also loves to sit on whatever project I’m working on.  I mean, he really, really loves to do that.  He will go to great lengths to sit on my project.  It’s his mission in life.

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I had a little pile of upholstery remnants in my stash, so I decided to sew them together and make Big E his own blanket. I’ll put it on the couch, I thought, and he’ll lie on it because, well, it is a project, and he can shed on it instead of directly on the furniture, and then I can just throw it in the washer.  Ta-Da!  So brilliant. 

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Hey, check it out, Big E!  It’s a project on the couch!  It’s all soft and rumply, too, just the way you like it.  Mmmmmhmmm, come on, man, come see.

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This is for me?  My own blanket?  And it’s all done, you’re not going to make me scoot over so you can see what you’re doing? 

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Well, okay, I’ll try it.  Seems soft enough.  And it is rumply, I do like rumply things…

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I don’t know, I just feel like you’re going to tell me to move any minute now.  Besides, you’re not working on this one anymore; that takes some of the fun out of it.

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Maybe I should sit over here and think about it for awhile.

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I’ve got time for a quick bath…

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Yeah.  I like it.  Zzzzzzzz.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Lavender sachets

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Don’t these little lavender sachets look like candies? 

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Or fancy tea bags?

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Or wedding favors, or possibly those little bags of birdseed you’re supposed to toss at the happy couple?  (Do they still do that?)

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Well, this is what they’re for.  They’re just little calico packets filled with lavender flowers—man, was that ever a relaxing project!  The lovely aromatherapy effects of that giant bag of weed flowers was actually really soothing.  Maybe I should put one of these sachets under my pillow, and one in each of my dresser drawers, tucked amongst my dainty things.  Mmm, so old fashioned!  Next I’ll be wearing bloomers and little white gloves that button at the wrist.  Watch out, it could happen. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Needlework kits, remembered

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When I was a girl, I had two fantastic old fashioned aunts.  They were my grandma’s sisters—one was a retired schoolteacher, and the other was a farmer’s wife.  They did their laundry on wash day with a wringer and a clothesline; they knew how to tat; they knew how to make cookies without a recipe.  They wore hairnets and brown lace up shoes and had the most incredible old-school dentures, which they would take out and show you. 

They gave me wonderful gifts—fancy rose-scented soaps in a box, pearl jewelry, first-hand knowledge of home canning, my first copy of Anne of Green Gables, and lots and lots of embroidery and needlepoint kits. 

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It was probably an easy thing to give a girl, but to a girl like me, it was the most perfect thing in the world.  The pattern was already printed on the fabric, the thread was all there, and it usually came with a needle, too.  You could just shove the wrapping paper to one side and start stitching.  Sadly, I have none of these sweet little artifacts anymore.  I am a haphazard saver of things, and sometimes am not sentimental enough, so I probably saw them at some point, with their grubby, messy beginner little girl stitches and threw them away. 

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This kit was in the bins at the thrifty craft store last week.  It was all there, including the needle.  It was dated 1982, but it has a total 70’s feel, so reminiscent of my Peter Frampton-based girlhood.  I had so much fun working on it, thinking of the old-fashioned aunts.  The most perfect gift for a girl like me.

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It’s vintage embroidery, but I made it myself.  How much better can it get?