Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Holiday at the Circus Socks

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These went so quickly I didn’t even have time to worry that I was adding another project to the queue.  They were born purely out of the desperation of needing something to do while spending twenty hours riding in the car, but not being able to work on anything requiring peering at the pattern too much.  Wow, do I hate road trips.  They always seem like they’re going to be so great, all that Route 66 nostalgia is such a wonderful thing.  I imagine going down little country roads and finding some hidden gem, like a diner with foot-tall pie, or some beat-up fisherman’s shack with huge and amazing fresh-caught shrimp.  That does happen sometimes, and when it does, it’s gorgeous.  Really, though, you’re mostly just blasting down the highway at top speed, trying to get there as fast as possible, and I just find that exhausting. 

So I cast on the first sock at home, and by the time we arrived at my mom’s house, I had finished it.  I cast on the second sock before we left, and since there was only one road-construction-related traffic jam (you have to have at least one, or it’s not a proper road trip) I didn’t have time to finish it until yesterday, but knitting them saved me from the crushing ennui of sitting in one spot for an entire day, and now I have an excellent pair of cozy socks that look like a circus tent to show for my time.  That’s a win-win!  This yarn is Claudia Hand-Painted Yarns in the colorway Freesia.  I love how it came out striped, and only pooled a little, when it had to, when I worked around the gusset.

If you’ve never knitted socks before, but would like to try, here’s how I do it:  Cast on 60 stitches (or 64 if you like a little more room) on some US #1 double pointed needles.  Knitting in the round, work some kind of ribbing, whatever you like, for about 1 1/2”.  Then change to stockinette stitch and just knit around and around until the sock is…a good length…I use one of the needles to measure this, just knitting until the piece is as long as the needle is.  Now make a heel flap:  working on half the stitches, work back and forth, slipping the first stitch and every other stitch on the right side rows and slipping the first stitch and then purling across the wrong side rows.  Do that until your heel flap is a square (you’ll have about 17 slipped stitches on each side of the flap.)  Now turn the heel, which is just working a bunch of short rows (there’s a good tutorial here) and pick up your slipped stitches for the gussets.  Working in the round again, decrease at each side of the instep every other round until you’re back at 60 (or 64) stitches, and work even until you’ve reached the length of your foot.  I always try it on, and when my pinky toe is covered by the sock, it’s time for the toe.  Decrease twice at each side on every other round until you have 24 stitches remaining, and then Kitchener the end closed.  Weave in your ends and you’re done. 

I really encourage you to try it—break the construction of the sock down into it’s components:  cuff, leg, heel flap, turn heel, gusset, foot, toe.  Once you start seeing them that way, rather than just reading the instructions for a pattern, you will be free to knit happily on a long car trip, whiling away the hours and looking out the window at cows in the pasture and not even caring if you’re stuck in traffic.  I’m serious, it’s the best thing in the world. 

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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sunday afternoon

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I’m sorry to have been away.  I spent the weekend in Michigan for my 25-year high school class reunion—I laughed so hard I think I pulled a muscle in my face, and every single one of my old boyfriends is completely bald—and I knitted almost an entire pair of socks in the car on the way there and back.  I am one toe away from being able to show them to you.  Meanwhile, it’s back down to brass tacks around here, and I’m getting ready to start another quilt.  I’m so inspired by this one! (scroll down)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Is that antennae? Not cozy!

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There’s been a bit of a crafting slowdown lately—my son turned sixteen this week, and that somehow takes up a lot of time, I don’t know how, but anyhoo.  So what do you feed a sixteen-year-old boy?  Whatever he wants!  Look at the size of that thing, hanging off the plate.  It was a three-hour expedition to get it, too, and he was licking his chops the whole way home in the car, and saying, “Uh oh, where did it go?” and then pinching me on the neck while I was driving.  Luckily, I don’t fall for that bag of tricks.  Anymore.  That’s about three pounds of lobster, I think, and he ate it all, and was actually full, for the first time ever.  Next week, he learns to drive, and that’s how you know your kids aren’t little anymore.  Oh my. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Cath’s Holly Hobbie Bag

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The Lesson of the Day is about hasty fabric choices, and how such can result in a bag that looks like it was made from a c.1979 Christmas tree skirt.   I made this as inspired by the pattern photo (from the book Sew! by Cath Kidston) but I wish now I’d gone with my gut and used a larger assortment of fabrics.  I do really love motley patchwork, and this is a little too organized for my taste.   It looks like it could be one of those pre-printed fake patchwork fabrics, but I--and the puncture holes in my finger where a thimble really should go--can assure you that I did spend most of four days hand-stitching this little beauty. 

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I also think the handles are a little bit small and silly, but they’re what I had.  I do believe this thing could benefit from a little irony, but it has none whatsoever, and it looks like something you might consider spending a dollar for at a yard sale.  But I can say I have learned to paper-piece hexagons!  That’s something, right?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Tinkerbell’s Socks

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I am having camera frustration.  No matter what I try, I can’t seem to make the fact that this yarn has the tiniest and most tastefully delicate little bits of silver thread running through it show up in the photos.  I guess you’ll have to trust me; it sparkles like a vampire in the sunlight.  That sparkly-ness is a little out of character for me, but it was the whole reason I bought this yarn—at least two years ago, at a fiber festival, and when I started them those long years ago, I did not think there was any reason to save the label, so I didn’t.  Somewhere out there in the Mid-Atlantic region of the US, there is a hand-dyer making this lovely yarn, and the fact that I have no idea who it could be kind of makes this one seem like a discovered buried treasure.  That it sparkles only helps. 

It’s taken that long to get these socks done, and I can’t think why, since I made the second one in about a week.   I went against my grain and followed someone else’s pattern, and the result is that these socks are too big for me, but they are comfy and that is the entire point of handknitted socks, right?  The stitches look like cables, but they aren’t.  It’s a cable fakeout.

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These are the poetically-named “Diagonal Cross-Rib Socks” by Ann Budd, from this book.  If Ann had been using the yarn I used, she would have called them something else, something like “Tinkerbell’s Orange Crush Cable Fakeout Socks.”  I like that a lot better, so that’s what I’m calling them. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Paper Pieced Hexagons

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I spent all day piecing hexagon rosettes by hand—very, very addictive, I warn you.  Give this one minute and before you know it, you’ll be headfirst in your scraps bag, rootling around for different color combinations and ignoring the dinner dishes. 

I‘m having a blast, but I’ve learned a couple things:  first, I think I’ve taken the whole scrap-saving thing to a new level of crazy.  If the piece is such a teeny shred that I can’t make one hexagon from it, then it’s too small, and even if I do want it for something small later, I’ll never be able to find it again.  What good are all these little postage-stamp-sized bits if I don’t know where they are?  (Memo to self—must go through and catalog wee scraps so as not to have to ditch anything…)  Also, I am in dire need of a crash course in geometry, because, it turns out I can’t make a cardboard hexagon with six sides that are actually equal to each other, no matter how many scientific instruments I use.  

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But, oh, these things are bliss.  This is exactly the kind of thing I love.  Picture it:  you make some coffee, get all comfy in your chair just as Casablanca is starting, and you’ve got your tidy little workbasket there, with needle, thread, scissors, cute velvet pincushion shaped like a strawberry, and a whole mess of fabric scraps.  Then you just while away the hours, making tiny little stitches just the way granny did them, and you don’t think about how far away you are from being anywhere near a whole quilt top, no, you don’t think about that at all because such thinking will make you look at your wee pile of hexagons and get a little panicky.  Which is not where we want to be, come on, keep stitching, watch the movie…

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Cut, baste, stitch.  Cut, baste, stitch.  Keep going.  This could take a year or ten.  Lovely!  If you’re interested in this technique, let me direct you to Hilde Klatt’s gorgeous blog.  Especially this.  That gives me some serious quilt envy!

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Oh, happy sigh.  This is the coziest thing yet. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Paper Patchwork Tumbling Blocks

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This little quilt is made of paper.   

If you want to make your own, here’s what to do:  First, find a copy of the pattern in a quilt book (I found mine at the library) or you can use this one.  Print or photocopy the pattern pieces and then resize them on a copier—I did mine at 65%.  Glue the paper pieces to a sturdy piece of cardstock and then carefully cut them out with sharp craft scissors.  These are your templates. 

Figure out how many you need of each shape in each value, and trace the templates on the backs of an assortment of acid-free papers.  Cut out the shapes—accuracy is important here, so go slowly.  Listen to some chill music as you go—I went with Debussy.

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Sort the shapes into piles of lights, mediums, and darks.  Be sure you get these values right or you won’t get the 3D effect, which is what makes Tumbling Blocks so exciting!  Squint at them to help you see the values.  Start laying the pieces out to see how they go together—don’t do this right on your final backing, or you’ll have to move them all in a minute.   When you have your design all set, find and mark the center of your backing board (I used a piece of clayboard) and glue on the pieces at the center.  Work out from the middle, fitting the shapes like a puzzle, until you’ve glued them all on.  Give it a few minutes to dry, then coat the whole thing with a couple layers of Mod Podge. 

Here’s my favorite Mod Podge tip: use an old magazine as a gluing surface, and turn the pages as they get gooey.  This way, you’ll have a clean surface for each shape, and no glue gets on the front of the paper.  When you’re done, just toss the whole thing out.  I know, right?  I can’t remember where I heard that, but it’s the cleverest thing in the world.

Tuck your finished collage into a thrifted frame, and hang it up! 

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The day after I made this, a gorgeous book arrived in the mail from Hilde, and now I am up all night thinking creative thoughts and getting ready to learn to paper piece for real.   Another Big Project is coming, and I can’t wait!  Hilde, you are an angel. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Prairie Pillowcases

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I don’t know if I’ll ever get tired of pillowcases.   Ma Ingalls probably had only two sets; one for on the bed and one for in the wash, and possibly another for “best,” but I have dozens, and I love them all.   I love getting the bed dressed, figuring out which quilt to use and which pillowcases will match my mood.  
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I made these yesterday, from two yards of vintage fabric, and then I crocheted the lace edging and sewed it on while watching a M*A*S*H marathon on TV.  (Goodness, that’s such a good show, I’d forgotten.)
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The lace pattern came from this book, which is a great resource.  I feel like I’ve been searching for a book like this all my life, and now I can make petticoats and chemises, and trim them with cotton lace edging, and wear them every day.  (Now if only I could find a book full of embroidered alphabets, I’d be all set.) 
I decided enough was enough and I made myself learn how to read the pattern chart, knowing it would make my life so much happier, and finally, I got the hang of it.  Now all those Japanese pattern books I have my eye on will be more than just eye candy! 
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It’s so hard not to go right on in there and take a nap, right now. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

She makes socks

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Looks like I have my sock freak back on, just in time for the hot weather.  This sock has been hanging around in the workbasket for such a long time.  Git ‘er done! 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Socks, finally

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This is the first pair of socks I’ve finished in well over a year.  That’s hard for me to imagine, given that some years I’ve made twenty-five pairs.  I guess I ran out of steam for making socks when they wouldn’t all fit in the drawer, but now they’re all starting to wear out at once, so I determined to finish these.  I’m not sure what to wear with this color, but that’s not really the point, right?   The label from this yarn has been lost so long it might have been written in Aramaic, but I’m pretty sure it’s Harmony sock yarn from the Woolen Rabbit in the colorway “Iris”.  That color is no longer available, but a whole tempting lot of other new colorways are, so I don’t dare linger there.

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I love having a brand new pair of socks—there’s nothing like that feeling when you come indoors, chilled through on a rainy day, and put on your warm, clean socks.  That’s the best feeling ever, so cozy.  Handknit socks are the very coziest, in any season.

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I have sock knitting pretty well figured out by now, so I don’t use a pattern anymore.  I just choose a needle size based on what the yarn seems to require, cast on 60 stitches (almost always, although if the yarn is on the thick side, I might use 56) work an inch or two of some kind of ribbing, work rounds of stockinette until it seems long enough, make a heel flap, turn the heel, decrease for the gusset until I’m back to 60 stitches, work rounds of stockinette until it fits my foot (and I’m not shy about trying it on, no matter where I am, to see if it fits) then work the toe, kitchener the remaining 24 stitches, weave in the ends. 

Knowing all this about making socks without having to follow a pattern means I can go off and do whatever I want, stitch pattern-wise (compensating for stitches that stretch or pull in) and I’ll still get something that looks like a sock in the end.   But I almost never do that—I like plain socks the best.  Those plain rounds of stockinette are so comfortable to knit, mmmm.  I love it. 

It feels good to get that done.  Onward!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Conundrum

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I worked on this for three hours this morning, and have one row to show for it, because as soon as I started adding pink, I suddenly didn’t like it and had to rip out a whole bunch of rows.  Now I’m not sure what to do next, and none of the colors look good together—ugh!  Very un-cozy.  It does look pretty, just like that.  Too bad it won’t even reach my knees yet, so I must wait for inspiration to strike me.  The pink has to go in there for the brown to work…think, think, think…

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I picked these weeds wildflowers yesterday, from the front yard of an abandoned house.  Somebody comes along about twice a year and shears off the grass in that yard, going in a big hurry, leaving big seedy stems in between the rows and the clipped grass looking like heaps of hay.  I don’t think anybody cares about that house but me—something about it is wonderful and lonely, and I can imagine the robin’s egg blue kitchen and rose-printed wallpaper, and myself in an apron in the doorway.   The roof sags and tree seedlings are coming up in the gutters, and I know it won’t be very long before the ivy covers it completely and it disappears into the woods, but the lilacs still bloom in it’s dooryard, and lilies come up beside the overgrown hedge.

All of which is to distract myself from the problem at hand:

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What to do?  Think, think.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Lazy dinner, with crochet

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When May turns to June and the sky is blue and the wind is warm, I can hardly stand to be indoors.  The biggest decision I might make is which sunhat to wear.  After a whole day of basking in the heat, sipping iced coffee and crocheting, I have to think about dinner, so here’s what we had:

Fish Tacos

1 pre-cooked piece of fish, whatever kind you like and seasoned however you like it.  (I went ahead and bought this already done, because it’s summer and the heat makes me lazy.)  If I had to recommend something, I think cajun-style or chipotle would be best, but don’t limit yourself, people. 

1 cup (or so) shredded cabbage

1 tomato, chopped

1 cup mayo

1 fresh lime, juiced

1/2 tsp. powdered chili pepper

6 corn tortilla shells

Put the fish in the oven to thaw/bake/get crispy or whatever it needs.  Put the tortilla shells in there too, on a baking sheet.   Give the fish about 12-14 minutes, and the shells about 6 minutes.   Meanwhile, combine the mayo, lime juice, and chili powder in a bowl.  When the fish is done, take it out of the oven and tear it into little pieces with two forks.  Divide it between the six shells.  Top each taco with tomato, shredded cabbage, and a few spoonfuls of the mayo sauce.  Devour with an ice cold beer. 

If you had this for dinner every night all summer, I wouldn’t blame you at all. 

Friday, June 3, 2011

Something Pretty Potholder

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I had to take a break from the uneventful homogeneity of all the huge projects I have in progress.  I think this is a clue as to why I keep starting new things; if only I could remember to start small things once in awhile, it wouldn’t pile up so much.  

This potholder is the result of the combined efforts of at least four people.  The basic pattern came from Mille, and can be found here.  Tif saw it and figured out how to make the two petal rounds keep on going forever, and then I noticed it was making such a nice plump fabric that was crying out to be a potholder, so I made Lucy’s flat circle in the same size as the front and then crocheted them together.  Come to think of it, I probably got the edging from Alice at Crochet with Raymond, so actually, counting me, that adds up to five people.  Whew! 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A tale of three sleeves

I am surrounded by unfinished projects.  There are so many, too many to even list here.  You’d shake your head at me if you could see them all.  Three pairs of socks.  Four scarves.  Two blankets.  Embroidery.  Pants.  Shift dress (yeah, I’m a little bit excited about that one!) And mostly right now, three sweaters, all knit in fingering weight yarn.  That’s sock yarn, friends, on tiny needles. 

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These three sweaters are all nearing completion, and I am diligently knitting away at them, trying to make some progress, trying to have something to show for my hours of work and swollen knuckles.   Why, you may ask, would a person feel the need to start so many things at once? 

No, I know better than that—you all know how it is.  Inspiration strikes, and you are off and running, right?  Yeah, I know too, and while it is pleasant to always have something a little different to work on; when I get sick of knitting sleeves (wow, am I sick of knitting sleeves) I can crochet for awhile  (Granny squares?  Harlequin?  What’ll it be today?) or embroider (mod or traditional?) or of course any one of about hundred other things.  But this is a lot, even for me.

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Sleeves!  I’m begging you, please be finished soon!  I want to be done with these three sweaters!  I want to put away the size 3 needles!   I don’t even want to wear them right now, because it is eighty degrees (and I am not complaining about that, no ma’am) and can’t stand the thought of a sweater.  Thus the shift dress, and the ruffle-edged wrap skirt, and heck, the graphic pillow cover done in linen with plummy pinks and oranges…whoops, thinking out loud, sorry.

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Of course, we all know what will happen when they’re all finished (which will probably happen all within the same week, knowing me.)  Yes, I will be overwhelmed by the need to cast on for three more sweaters.  I have a few picked out…