Monday, November 28, 2011

Clever Cardigan

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How clever do I feel today?  Pretty clever, indeed!  You may recall that I have a fabulous new dress that I want to wear, but alas, it is sleeveless, which, despite our freakishly warm temperatures lately doesn’t play at all in New York in November.  So I hunted through the closet, looking for a cardigan I could pair it with, but found none.  I did, however, find a cashmere (cashmere!) crewneck pullover scored from the thrift store several years ago (years!) and have never worn (not once!) because the neckline was way too high and I felt stupid in it.  It survived quite a few wardrobe purges, though, because, and did I mention this already, it is cashmere.  So I got out my scissors yesterday and made it into a cardigan.  Whaaat?  I know! 

As usual, I didn’t take any pictures of the process—it appears I usually get these brainstorms after dark and so the light was too dingy for a photo tutorial.  It was easy peasy, though, and here’s how you can do this to your own clothes:

1.  Fold the sweater in half from side to side to find the center.  (Alternatively, you could measure, but measuring is really not my style, what can I say.)  Make a small snip at the hem edge and carefully cut, following the column of knit stitches, up to the collar.  Be careful to cut only the front layer. 

2.  Turn the front edges toward the inside 1/4” and pin.  Using a matching thread, handstitch the hems down.  I used a small blanket stitch, which makes a tidy edge.  Just as with steeks, you don’t have to worry about it unraveling.  The stitches aren’t going anywhere; you just want the edge to look neat. 

3.  Choose some excellent buttons and the same number of snaps.  Decide where you want them to go, and sew them on; snaps first, then buttons on top.  They’re not functional, they’re just there to look pretty. 

That’s all there is to it.  It’s a bunch of handsewing, but you’re crafty!  You can do it.  No fine gauge pullover is safe from me now.  I’m looking at a lot of my clothes in a whole new way. 

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Deck the Halls

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I decked my halls today, which is one of those things I love/hate.  I am not a big fan of upheaval, and moving all the furniture around, thus exposing all the dust bunnies and spider webs that have lurked underneath chairs all year always triggers, along with a lot of sneezing, a big fit of cleaning.  Which takes a long time, time I’d rather be spending sitting with an eggnog, listening to Andy Williams.  (Isn’t that just the best song ever?  Andy, I love you.  And watch that one all the way to the end, too, it’s totally worth it.  If you’re doing outdoor lights, I say go big or go home.)  This is our first year with the new FAKE tree, and I can’t say it was a complete success, but it shows my collection of antique tree baubles to their absolute best advantage.  Doesn’t it look like something you might see in a fancy shop window in A Christmas Story?  Oh, love love love.  This is the tree I would never have dreamed I’d want—I have always been a Charlie Brown tree sort of girl.  I’m the girl who dragged her whole family across the giant expanses of howling tundra to the very edges of the christmas tree farms where the trees never got pruned and so looked scraggly and forlorn.  Then the kids would say, “Why can’t we get a pretty tree?”   So the love part happens when I’ve got all the dust swept away and even though this is a big white FAKE thing that only pretends to be a tree, just represents a tree, really, and I open the box with the ornaments—the antique ornaments that I scored in a yard sale a few years ago, after mice invaded our ornaments box and I had to toss most of it, don’t make me talk about it, it hurts too much—and the lovely old glass is hung, one plastic branch at a time, and the tree, yes, now it is a real Christmas Tree, don’t let anybody tell you differently, the tree just glitters.  It’s the most wonderful time of the year. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Circus Pillow, started

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I’m knitting a pillow cover that looks like a circus tent.  These have totally captivated me.  Jane Brocket, you seductress!  I’m supposed to have been baking pies and stuffing turkeys! 

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This was a lot more fun.  Wacky color striping, and then it’s useful at the end?  That’s everything I want in a project. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Stripey Cotton Dishcloths

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Some days, especially now that I’m knitting a giant taupe blanket that seems to reach out forever--not that I’m complaining, because I adore me an endless and simple project--some days, I just take a big breath and yell, “Give me some color!  Now!!!” 

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For times like these, I keep a medicinal stash of cotton yarn nearby, so I can crochet a dishcloth at a moment’s notice.  You know, stat.  As soon as the hot pink and chartreuse combo hits my bloodstream, I just feel goooood.  You all know what I mean.

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Yeah, that’s the good stuff.  I’m laughing a little at the extreme photo angles here, which we all know is the result of a feeble attempt to disguise the fact that the dishcloths are staged on a footstool in the living room.  Which is where the light was!  It was just dingy in the kitchen, what can I say.  How about this one:

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Haha!  No, don’t look at the rug, I haven’t vacuumed yet!  *crop*

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I don’t even know how this one happened.  I must have been clinging to the wall by the suction cups in my feet like Spider-man.  Well, they’re colorful and useful, and in these pre-Thanksgiving days of prep and frenzied cleaning, that’s all that matters right now.  Whoops, you can see the rug in this one.  Sorry about that.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Kiss Me Pillow

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It always surprises me how some people love a whole bunch of pillows and some people just hate them.  I live with some of those who hate them, and so I often find my pillows—which I painstakingly stitched by hand—flung disdainfully aside.  Well, okay, their backs are still young so they haven’t fully developed a need to prop themselves up with a bunch of lumbar support and all that, bless them.  Their day will come.  And when it does, I will be ready!  Me, I love a huge bunch of throw pillows.  I like to build a big pillow nest around myself and then recline there like Nefertiti, requesting peeled grapes.  I also haven’t forgotten the sage advice (source unknown) which instructed me to have at least four pillows of different colors and textures—the pressure!—on my sofa.  I’m always looking at my sofa, thinking about texture and whether there’s enough of it.  I lie awake nights, thinking about the texture levels of my pillows.  In my favor here is the fact that our sofa is roughly the size of an aircraft carrier and can therefore accommodate four pillows very easily, along with four people and a dog, too.  So I’m always making pillow covers and then begging the family not to fling them around into the dusty corners. 

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Here’s an actual transcript from a recent conversation:

Me:  Look what I made!

Him:  Nice.

Me:  Isn’t it cute?  It says “Kiss Me”! 

Him:  Mmmhmm.  Why do we have so many pillows? 

Me:  Because ever since the cat threw up on the one that said, “What’s Up, Pussycat?” there hasn’t been enough pillow texture on the sofa!

Him:  There’s no room to sit down!  Enough with the pillows, huh?100_8923a

I exaggerate.  Really, he just said, “That’s cute,” and went back to working on his dissertation.  Well, I think it’s cute, too.  I freehanded the letters out of a mix of scraps, then appliqued them to a piece of oatmeal cotton using fusible web--Wonder Under, I think?  I embroidered around the letters using a mix of stitches and colors, and added a 1” gathered ruffle around the edge.  That’s color and texture, all in one place!  Whew. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Cashmere Citron Scarf

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Behold the beautiful Citron, designed by Hillary Smith Callis.  This looks so much better on the dressmaker’s dummy than it does on me that here’s where it lives for right now.  Right there.  Oooh, aahh.

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I love those beautiful bands of simple ruching.  So clever, so perfect. 

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This yarn is 100% cashmere (I know, right?) by Jojoland in an ethereal color very poetically named “C255”.  (Why do yarn companies do that?  Don’t they know how persuaded people are by the awesome color names of things?)  Well, it’s light blue.  I doubt that’s any more interesting than “C255”,  come to think of it.  Let’s do the fun work for the designers at Jojoland and rename color C255.  How about “Summer Saturday”?  “Newman’s Iris?”  I can’t think of any others…

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This scarf is so beautiful, in every way, and the yarn is softer than baby bunnies.  It’s the little things, isn’t it? 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Martha’s Gingham Blanket, part 1

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It happened last week.  I was just innocently flipping through the November issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine, probably also watching an episode of Downton Abbey, probably still wearing jammies and a bathrobe, when I was suddenly, and without warning, inspired.  I saw that picture and everything just stopped.  You know that feeling? Before I even had time to finish my coffee, I was racing to the yarn shop to buy an armload of yarn to make another blanket.  Actually, more than an armload:

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Enough?  Too much?  It turns out I actually have no idea whatsoever how much yarn goes into making a blanket.  I’ve always just used scraps.  This seems like a pretty enormous amount of yarn.  In fact, it’s so much yarn that there’s absolutely nowhere but right there on the table to put it, which is why it was in a bunch of last week’s photos (you guys notice everything!)  It is all Patons Classic Merino (Erin, how did you ever spot that?  This girl knows her Patons) in three sock monkey colors, which made me laugh, wondering if the cashier thought I was planning on some kind of sock monkey bender.  That’s it, everyone I know is getting a handknit sock monkey for Christmas!  That would be kind of awesome.

There’s just these three colors, and that’s it.  Cream, taupe, and a marled cream/taupe mix.  A little subdued, no?  It may require a zen-like discipline I don’t currently possess to accomplish all that garter stitch in nothing but three very neutral hues, but it never hurts to grow a little, right?  I’ve already had to counteract it by crocheting a bunch of circus-colored granny squares and dishcloths, but I’ll tell you, this blanket is so amazingly comforting to work on.  There’s nothing I love more than an endless, mindless project.  Martha, you had me at hello.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Leather Wrap Bracelet

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Because I am a total slave to fashion (I hope you can detect the irony here) and because I wanted one of these leather wrap bracelets with a fierce and burning passion, I went ahead and made one.   Do you want one, too?  I think you do; you’re all very fashionable people, I can tell. 

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It was very easy, and required no special tools at all—the only thing you may find inconvenient is coming up with the long piece of leather.  I think you could do this with a thrifted bag or belt, if you could find one.  I already had a long enough scrap of leather lying around here, so this project was the work of an hour at most.  (I wonder if leather scraps could be got from a shop that makes shoes by hand, and I know of one in my vicinity, so there might be one in yours, too?)  I’ve had my little bag of scraps for a long time, bought for two bucks in a crafty thrift store sale mainly, at the time, for the purpose of making mini Santa Claus boots. 

Sorry, I ramble. 

Here’s what I did, and you can do this too, and there aren’t any pictures because this whole thing was finished before I even thought about it:  You’ll need two jump rings and a jewelry clasp of some kind, a likely piece of leather, and some serious glue—I used E6000.  Using your rotary cutter and acrylic ruler, cut two strips of leather the width you want (mine is 3/8” wide) and of a length sufficient to wrap three times around your wrist, with the amount of ease you want, minus about an inch.  Mine is about 14” long.  Cut 1” off the end of one strip.  You now have two long, skinny strips, one shorter than the other.  Spread a thin layer of glue on the suede side of the longer strip and stick the suede side of the shorter piece to it, leaving 1/2” at each end uncovered.  Quickly now, before the glue dries—no pressure—wrap each end through one of the jump rings and stick it down to itself, bringing the end of the long piece up against the end of the short piece you already glued down.  Dang, this needs a picture:

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See how the two ends sit next to each other?  You can probably sew that end down if you feel a need to do it—I’ve worn this several times already, and the glue is holding it down pretty well.  I’ll sew it if it starts to come apart, but so far, it hasn’t. 

Now add your clasp and wait for it to dry.  That’s the hardest part for me.  Then go ahead and wear with pride.  You made a leather wrap bracelet!  Woot!  Take that, world. 

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sleep Mask

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What a diva I am.  I can’t sleep unless it’s pitch-black in the room, and I’d also like it to be completely silent, as well, which is, of course, impossible.  And since there is a storage barn across the road with about twenty huge halogen lights which (seasonally, thank goodness) blare out their tremendous wattage directly at my face while I’m trying to sleep, I have had to cover the windows with some completely terrible blackout curtains—oh, they’re so ugly—and even then, I felt the need for even more darkness.  What’s a diva to do?  I can’t just lie there squinting all night, can I?  Well, make myself a sleep mask of course, dahling!  Preferably from a soft, awesome flannel by Anna Maria Horner, if possible, oh yes. 

All I did was draw and cut out sort of a bean-shaped shape from two pieces of flannel and three pieces of cotton batting, quilt them together, and attach a satin ribbon at the sides.  Very glamorous. 

Wearing this does make me feel a little bit like Eva Gabor, but, bless me, it’s dark at night.  Ahh. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Lillehammer Cardigan, all done, and some Deep Thoughts

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Naturally, the minute I start mooning about winter, the sun comes out and it turns as balmy as May outside.  Well, I wore this sweater anyway.  It will be winter soon enough, and I will be skiing around town wearing this and other woolies, with snowflakes staying on my nose and eyelashes, so I am not complaining about a nice day, not a bit. 

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The dressmaker’s dummy has much narrower shoulders than I do, although they are weirdly wide going front to back, which I don’t understand and can’t adjust, so she doesn’t show off the yoke to its best advantage.  She also lists to the side like a drunk, which makes me laugh a little every time.  But without her, you get this:

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(This is the latest in a photographic series featuring my chest, all part of an effort to immortalize my impeccable collarbones, which is, of course, the first thing one notices.  Right?) 

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When you are reduced to bragging about your collarbones, you know there’s not much left to brag about.  At least this one has my face in it, looking severe as a mean old auntie as usual, but it does not actually show you the sweater…

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This pattern is The Charlemont Cardigan [Ravelry link] by Elizabeth Parker from the Fall 2011 issue of Knitscene.  I don’t know what “charlemont” means, so I’ll probably call it something else.  This was a speedy knit, and the result is very cozy.

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I’m often asked how I manage to finish things so quickly, and I was as interested as you in knowing the answer, so I pondered it for awhile, and I think I’ve figured it out.  It was not always thus—back in the 1990’s when all I was knitting was men’s XXXL sweaters (for myself!  I know!) I hardly ever finished anything before I got bored and just gave up.  I once spent a whole year making a supremely hideous brown pullover that never even saw the light of day—the sleeves were something like two feet wide, and I just got so sick of working on it.  I don’t know what on earth moves a fashion trend toward something that insane, but it seemed at the time like you just couldn’t have a big enough sweater.  They seemed snuggly and cozy, and since wearing them was like walking around in a sleeping bag, they sure were cozy, you bet.  But not very practical, and also difficult to finish.  (I do sympathize with those of you out there who must knit for a very large husband.  My husband is nicely mid-sized, and he doesn’t actually want me to knit for him anyway, so that works out pretty well.)  Anyway, so part of the reason I get stuff done fast is that I almost always make the XS or Small size.  I like a sweater with very little ease, so there’s less knitting to do. 

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Also, I have learned to knit without looking.  This only works with plain stockinette or garter stitch, but there is often quite a lot of that in a sweater or scarf (or blanket or sock) and it is probably the cleverest trick in my arsenal.  It was well worth the effort, let me tell you.  I can work on a project and do other things, too, like read or pay attention to a movie with subtitles or look someone in the eye while we talk.  That helps me get a lot done. 

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The last reason, also the biggest, is that I am a very fast knitter.  I’ve been knitting for more than thirty years, and as I go, my hands are a blur.  That’s just me reaping the benefits of a LOT of practice, and the fact that I am always, always doing it.  (Hmmm, I also begin to wonder whether knitting has become a compulsive habit—must look into some therapy.)  Then there’s the fact that since I’ve made so many sweaters and socks and hats and stuff that I am pretty well acquainted at this point with how they go together, and so don’t have to spend too much time squinting at the pattern.  I just grab the needles and go.  It’s taken a lot of time spent with yarn to get to this point, but there you go.

So there’s that answered, and I’m glad you asked, since I wondered, too. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Lillehammer sweater, in progress

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Ever since the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, I have been pretty much besotted by winter.  I love the Winter Olympics, so much!  I love the strange and mostly old foreign places, the lovely little cobbled cities, the alpine scenery, the snug TV stage sets with fake crackling fireplaces and smushy leather chairs, and there’s me at home under a big pile of blankets, watching rosy-cheeked people from all over the world play in the snow.  It’s my favorite thing, the coziest thing ever.  According to the TV, it is customary in Lillehammer to get around town, running your errands and whatnot, on skis.  If you should have a baby along, you strap her into a pretty little wooden sleigh and push the sleigh along the ice like that, your little baby snuggled up in there like cozy a loaf of bread, and you ski along behind the sleigh, waving to your neighbors, or stopping for a bit of chitchat or a hot coffee, and then you ski home.  And the snow sprinkles down and your baby coos happily, her cheeks rosy, and you are pink-cheeked too, and you did not have to scrape the snow off your car or dig out the driveway or wait for the plow to go by just to get anywhere.  Seriously?  Just thinking about living that way makes my heart turn over.  We woke to frost the other day, and all I can do in the face of that is knit.  It’s all I want to do. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Knitted Rose Brooch

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There’s the way I want to dress, and then there’s the way I do dress.  The first is a mix of California gypsy bohemian with poet’s shirts and long patchwork dresses, and Edwardian tea party with fitted, high-necked blouses and pencil skirts.  The second, the way I really walk around, is jeans + t-shirt + cardigan.  So, I have a bunch of clothes in my closet that lean toward the first, but they mostly just hang there, looking pretty and waiting.  I guess I will eventually face the fact that I am a jeans and t-shirt sort of girl, and gauzy, white, off-the shoulder peasant blouses are mostly not going to suit me, but, for now, I am holding out the hope.

Anyway, along the lines of the first, I have made another knitted flower corsage, because I am, deep down, a little bit theatrical, and I want every day to be my birthday, and also, when I’m just wearing jeans and a t-shirt, sometimes a little dab of pink is just the thing.

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The pattern is from Debbie Bliss’s book The Knitter’s Year.  I love that book, the styling is so beautiful—if you’re on the fence about knitting, are thinking about maybe taking up a new craft, Debbie will seal the deal.