Monday, April 30, 2012

Harvest Moon, v 2.0

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This is my second Harvest Moon, finished just in time for a last bit of freezing weather, and for planting time, rather than harvest time.  Maybe it will work like bringing an umbrella to the ballgame, and having a new wool sweater will keep the cold weather from coming back?  I think I’m done with sweaters for awhile anyway; I’m tired of winter.  I don’t want to snuggle up, I want to spread out in the sunshine.  Yesterday was cold but beautiful, and we spent the hours digging and tilling and hauling.  Now my hands really are terrible.  Crouching under a thorn bush with a pair of secateurs seems like a great way to spend a Sunday, but the branches kept snagging my sleeves and swiping my hat, and jabbing all my exposed flesh.  I look like I’ve been in a fight with a cat.  I took a break on the patio with a beer and watched my husband and son use a sledgehammer to pound old cement off rocks, which was way more satisfying.

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Getting this sweater off the needles proved to be a little bit of a pain.  Mainly, I think, because I had already made one just like it, and the thrill was gone.  Well, it fits beautifully (I knew it would) and while the yarn (Patons Classic Merino, of course--must branch out) is more or less the color of dried blood (it’s a lovely, heathery, currant wine color up close, I swear!) it flatters me somehow.  I don’t know what to make of that. 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

What to do with a plain background

 

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Sometimes, I just start crocheting squares, and decide later what they’re going to be.  Is it a bag?  Is it a pillow cover?  Do I love them enough to make four hundred so it can be a blanket?  These started out that way, just a combination of colors from my yarn basket that got piled together at random and looked kind of inspiring together. 

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The gingham blanket begs for some color.  It is such a blank canvas, a fresh and empty backdrop, waiting for paint.  [Wow, I really do miss knitting that blanket.  So soon, that happened…I just now thought about starting another one just like it.  Beware, gingham blanket-makers.  This project has mojo.]

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I can’t resist that gingham backing, too.  I just have such a need to put a little pioneer-girl on everything, and I guess this threatened to be too, I don’t know, vivid?   A lot of yin, needs a little yang.  Balance. 

Edit:  the pattern source for the squares is the book Little Crochet by Linda Permann—here she is. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sumptuous Tea Cozy

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I don’t even like tea, but Leah makes the most gorgeous, flower-covered teapot cozies, and I have coveted them like mad.  And actually, I have a lot of teapots, because I keep thinking one day I will learn to love tea and then I’ll be ready.  So when lovely Leah blogged about how she makes her tea cozies, with a whole excellent photo tutorial and everything, I dropped everything and made one, too, and then I bought some tea.  I am determined.  I will learn to love tea, just for this. 

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I mean, really.  Isn’t that the most sumptuous thing ever?  Don’t you just feel like having a wee cuppa right now?  I know I do.  And maybe a little jam bun to go with it, and it’ll be a little damp outside, probably raining, and there will be a cozy fire in the grate, and a good friend across the table, and lots of warm chitchat and knitting.  All this can be found here!  Leah, thank you for sharing your pattern.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Gingham Blanket, finished

 

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How easily a blanket like this gets started. How cavalier I am about these things. A moment of inspiration--oh, gee, here’s a good idea, I think I’ll make a blanket--a few minutes in the yarn shop, and then…seventy gazillion-million identical stitches later, here it is.

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Actually, I figured how how many stitches there really are in this blanket.  Two hundred-forty thousand, two hundred and forty.  It is 104” x 88”. Whew.

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I began it on a whim last fall, and it has been my continuous companion ever since, keeping my hands busy while my mind was occupied with other things; while I rode in the car, looking out the window, watching the world go by.  When I just wanted to be knitting something, without having time or patience to peer at a pattern, I worked on it.  When I couldn’t settle on a different project, I worked on it.  When I found a good book I couldn’t put down, I worked on it.  This blanket was there for me.

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It was a lesson in patience.  I loved it, and also hated it.  It bored me, but comforted me.  It was meditative and also mind-numbing.  Quieting, stultifying.  It began, after awhile, after the first five or six identical rows of squares, to feel like anti-knitting, like I was knitting in a vacuum, like I was moving my hands and the needles were clicking, but the yarn was not making anything.  It felt like swimming backwards.  Push on, push on.  A marathon of knitting.  It was knitting, boiled down, a concentrate.  The simplest form—garter stitch scarf, no counting, no thought required, no focus necessary, but requiring focus of a different kind, something not like counting, but deeper.  I had to focus on it with my heart. 

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Making this blanket made me dig deep.  Now, on the other side, the last end woven in, I really like that.  It feels like I went on a long journey, and am home now. 

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If you’re ready for your own knitting vision quest, here are my notes: 

1. To get this gingham effect, you need cream, taupe, and a marled yarn that is a mix of the cream and the taupe.  Happily, Patons Classic Merino comes in these three colors.  I started with eight balls of taupe, eight balls of cream, and sixteen balls of marled taupe/cream, and I ended up with a few extra balls of cream and marled, but had to buy two more balls of taupe. 

2.  You will make long strips—essentially, garter stitch scarves—of blocks of alternating color, and then sew them together.

3.  With taupe yarn and US 6 needles, cast on 30, and work 28 garter ridges, or 56 rows.  Change to the marled yarn and work another 56 rows.  Change back to taupe, work 56 rows.  Continue in this manner until you’ve made 13 squares, ending with taupe.  Break yarn and set it aside.  Make five more just like it. 

4.  With the marled yarn, cast on 30 and work as above.  After 56 rows, change to cream…and so on.  Make five of these. 

5.  You have six long scarves of taupe and marled yarn squares, and five long scarves of marled yarn and cream squares.  Sew them together, alternating strips from each pile.  This takes a lot longer than you think it will.  Get all zen about it.  I whipstiched them together, which results in a nice flat finish, and no obvious “wrong” side to the finished piece.  Because a square of marled yarn is on either one side or the other of the seam, use that yarn to sew the seams—it’s almost invisible. 

6.  When all the strips have been sewn together, add a simple border, as follows:  join cream yarn to the edge, chain one.  Sc two more times in the same space, then skip 2 “spaces” and 3 sc in the next “space”.  Take care to observe a pattern in where you stick in the hook, and if the border appears to pull in, leave more spaces between sc clusters; if it appears to ruffle, leave fewer spaces.  Work one row all the way around, and join with a sl stitch to the first ch 1.  Weave in all your ends. 

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Because this project was all about the process, I used a beautiful pair of antique knitting needles and kept the strip-in-progress in a lovely little basket with a handle.  I took it with me everywhere.  It was an agony of bliss.  That’s all I can say. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Shrub

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If this looks frosty and fizzy and fruity and delicious, that’s because it totally is.  I just have to share this with you, and maybe you’ve already heard about it (in which case, where was I while this was being discussed?  Hmmm?) but if you haven’t heard about it yet, here you go, and I know you’ll thank me for this.  You’re welcome. 

This is Shrub.  I don’t know why.  When you buy this in bottles, it is what we here in New York call “soda” and what they in my hometown in Michigan call “pop” and what the people in between call “soda-pop.”  And you make it yourself, from whatever fresh fruit is lying around your freezer or overflowing your garden, a little sugar, and vinegar.  I know!  Stay with me, it’s worth it. 

There are recipes in abundance, all over the internet, and you can track one down in a jiffy, so I won’t bore you with that here.  Take it from me; all you need to do is dump two cups of fresh/frozen fruit, slightly mushed up, and two cups of sugar into a bowl, and let them sit for anywhere from a few hours to a few days.  Believe me, it doesn’t matter. When it has turned all juicy, strain out the fruit and mix in 1-2 cups best quality apple cider vinegar.  This is important!  Don’t just use the stuff you clean your pool with, it has to be really good vinegar.  Try Bragg, which is the one I’ve used, and which is also the one mostly mentioned in the recipes I found.  (If you’ve got a better apple cider vinegar than Bragg, I want to know about it.)  Stir the syrup and the vinegar together and store it indefinitely in the refrigerator it in a glass jar with a plastic lid.  Yes, I said indefinitely!  I know! 

You might have to be kind of a fan of vinegar to really love this concoction.  I am a huge fan of vinegar, which goes everywhere around my house, from the bathtub to the soup pot.  Vinegar is a magical substance, second only in wondrousness to baking soda—I don’t even know what I’d do without baking soda—and I think it’s delicious.  If you’re skeptical, go with the 1 cup measure and see how you feel about it.  It’s supposed to be a little bit tangy; you’re supposed to notice the vinegar, but also the fruit.  Not too fruity, not too sweet, not too vinegary.  Something happens to this combination when they are blended together, and it becomes sublime, I don’t know how else to describe it. 

Okay, so you’ve got your Shrub—now, to serve it, you fill up a big glass with ice, pour in about two ounces of Shrub (or about 1/4 of the glass) and then fill it all the rest of the way up with sparkling water, club soda, whatever you call it where you are.  Bubbly water.  Give it a quick stir, and add a straw. 

100_0364-001a You won’t believe how good it is.  So easy.  So fizzy!  This one is blueberry, and I did a peach one, too, but that didn’t last long enough to photograph.  You can use any fruit you want.  Somebody suggested a watermelon/basil combo, which is totally happening here, as soon as I get my hands on a watermelon.  Oh, summer on the patio, wearing a big floppy hat and flip-flops, I am so ready. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Apple Blossom Crochet Handbag

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Thanks to our very weird non-winter, the fruit trees are all in bloom already, a month early.  I can’t help worrying that the bees will not have got the message that it is go-time, and won’t come to do the pollinating, and all the blossoms will wither, unfulfilled.   Do bees know about these things?  Actually, I think they do.  Bees are pretty awesome. Maybe it will be okay.

We had a jam-packed weekend, with no time leftover for anything except what I could bring with me in the car [the ongoing, never-ending, giant knitted blanket] and thirteen of these little lily-pad hexagons [most excellent free pattern here.]100_0346a

Oh my goodness, these are so cute!  I keep underestimating how long a crochet project will take—I see this and think, I have an extremely busy weekend coming up.  I think I’ll just throw this together today and it’ll be done in time.  And then I’m wrong, but it doesn’t matter because these are really fun.

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I finally finished the lining this morning—here, look at the lining:

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This bag is small, a little sweet something to tuck over your arm when you’re going out.  When you’re not bringing your appointment book and your knitting [wait, what?] and your e-reader and a sandwich for later.  Just room enough for the essentials [hang on, knitting is essential…]

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I think I could fit a small project in there. 

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I have an Important Event coming up in a few weeks, and I have a brown and white polka-dot dress to wear, and now I have this bag to go with it.  You can find the lovely tutorial here.  Fingers crossed for the bees.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Carnaby Coat

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You might remember the Elton Coat, which I made last fall, and which, while turning out amazing and fabulous, is a tad too small for me.  Oh, I wear the Elton Coat, you’d better believe it, because a coat made from shiny gold upholstery fabric screams that I have got style.  The only thing is, when I wear it, all I can do is sort of lean against the wall with my arms straight down, concentrating on trying to get blood to circulate to my fingers…I exaggerate, it’s not that bad.  But, I do want a coat that fits me, and I already have the pattern.

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I decided it was time to try again.  I had a few yards of upholstery canvas in a print reminiscent of the vinyl glider cushions in my grandma’s breezeway, so of course I thought it would make an awesome coat.  Right?  You don’t do that, too?  Hmm.

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My machine, Miss Kastner, and I are still getting to know one another, and it’s mostly been two straws in the milkshake.  We had our first argument today, though, over the buttonholer attachment, and except for the fact that we couldn’t agree on a thread tension, we talked it out and got those babies buttonholed.  I had to dig deep in the Youtube archives to find anybody who wanted to talk about the Singer Professional Buttonholer for Slant Needle Machines, whew.  I am super intimidated by buttonholes anyway, and this attachment comes with four hundred individual pieces and its own instruction manual, and is the size of a handheld mixer.  Not surprisingly, it took me six full hours to figure out how to attach and use it.  But Miss K and I persevered together. 

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The buttons are self-covered, in the lining fabric.  I knew that if I had a prayer of keeping this coat from looking like the bathroom wallpaper, I was going to have to get it right with the buttons.  I think the gingham adds just enough cheek to the whole thing, don’t you?

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I’m in love with the fashions of 1960’s Carnaby Street.  I want a striped suit.  I want a white ruffled blouse with deep lace cuffs.   I want a tunic-length scrappy granny square vest and white go-go boots.  Yeah, baby!  

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The pattern is McCalls 5525, minus all the tabs and flaps and gadgets.  I think I’ll wear this with skinny dark wash jeans and knee boots, and a big helping of irony.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Bead and wire rings

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If I hadn’t run out of wire, I would’ve made more than just these two rings.  They’re so easy!  The hardest part was trying to photograph myself wearing them and not having my fingers look like sausages.

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Or wrinkled and claw-like.

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Well, never mind my crone’s hands, can you see the rings?  Aren’t they sweet?  I followed this tutorial, and there’s nothing required but a bead, some wire, and a few tools.  Fabulous! 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Crochet-edged Heartwarmer

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As part of my continuing series, titled “Neutrals + Lime: an Exploration of My Yarn Leftovers”, I present this Heartwarmer.  I love that it’s called a Heartwarmer.  That warms my heart, actually. 

The weather here in New York is being very typical right now, and we’re having a stretch of those deceptive days where it looks like summer so I wear a thin layer and head outdoors and then the fact that its only 47 degrees F slaps me in the face.  Enter the Heartwarmer. 

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The beauty of the Heartwarmer is that it ties in the back, underneath the point, so you don’t have those long ends flapping around, dipping themselves in the soup, or coming unfurled all the time.  You shawl wearers know what I mean.  [Side note:  behold the power of Lucky Brand jeans, making me look chic in a knitted shawl!  I know, right?] 

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See there?  Brilliant!  Some woman, somewhere, was dealing with the ends of her shawl dragging into the cook fire and got sick and tired of it, so she tied it around the back of her waist and got on with dinner, and to that, I say Yes!  Thank you.

I found the knitted corners themselves a little bulky to tie, so I attached a couple twisted cord ties, which do the trick very nicely, if you don’t mind having them hanging down the back like a fringed rat’s tail.  Here’s how I did it:

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I measured three lengths of yarn equal to my wingspan—both arms outstretched—and then looped them through the one corner of the edging.  Then I began twisting one half in a clockwise direction, until it was good and twisted and started trying to double back on itself.

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Then I twisted the other half in the same direction—clockwise—and without letting go of the ends of the first half, until it was also good and twisted.  Then I tied the ends of both halves together and let it go, letting them twist together. 

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Do the same on the other corner of the edging, and trim the ends to make little tassels. 

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I used Kay Meador’s Tess pattern, found here and then, because I can’t help it lately, I added a lime green edging by working 6dc clusters every inch or so, all the way around it.  I found the finished shawl a little small, so I pin-blocked it, which definitely results in a different fit than intended.  One of the characteristics of garter stitch is its elasticity, which in this case makes the finished Heartwarmer kind of hug you, while giving your arms room to move around.  Pin-blocking it will give it a lot more drape, but you’ll lose that elastic quality.  So mine doesn’t hug me.  Instead, it feels kind of flowy, which isn’t a bad thing, but If I’d had more yarn, I could have worked a few more rows before binding off and would probably not have had to block it.  Such is life when you’re using up your leftovers. 

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I love this thing.  Why didn’t I think of it sooner?  Many thanks to the always fabulous Alicia for the idea. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Waffle knit cotton dishtowel, a love affair

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I am disproportionately fond of this dishtowel.  Maybe it’s the fact that I finally finished something, or maybe it’s waffled, creamy white, cottony goodness is enough.  Actually, I’m pretty sure it has a lot to do with the lime green edging.

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As you can see, I’m having a bit of a crush on lime green.

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It’s really more of a yellowish olive with undertones of mustard…

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Anyway, this color turns up a lot in my life.

I love this dishtowel so much.  So much!  It’s ridiculous.  I took fifty-two pictures of it.  I know, I’m going to go get a life in a minute.

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If you, too, would like to have an absurd love affair with a dishtowel, here’s how to make one: 

You’ll need about 350 yards of cotton worsted yarn (I used Lily Sugar ‘n Creme in Ecru)  and US 7 needles.  The edging is fingering weight cotton (I used Tahki Cotton Classic Lite in some kind of yellowish-olive with undertones of mustard) and a US E crochet hook.

Cast on a multiple of 8 stitches (I cast on 72) and work K4, P4 ribbing for four rows.  Then change to P4, K4 for four rows.  And so on, until it’s long enough, and looks like a towel.  Then work the edging as follows:  join yarn with a sl st, ch 2.  Work 2 sc in the same space.  *Skip 2 ch, work 3 sc in next ch.  Repeat from *, working 3 sc in each corner, until you get back where you started and can join with a sl st to the top of the first ch 2.  Notice that since you are working crochet edging on a knitted object, you aren’t really strictly looking for “chains” to work into.  Just observe that there is a pattern and if you stick the hook in at regular intervals, it’ll work out fine. 

I have to go do the dishes now.  I can’t wait! 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Knitting this blanket

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This thing has become epic.  Magnificently enormous, monumentally tedious.  The yarn equivalent of a song comprised of one note that plays over and over and over again.  Lalalalalalalalalala.  The only way I can keep going is to do something else at the same time, so I read while I knit this blanket, but the gross boredom of this, these millions of garter stitches in taupe and more taupe has become so great that I am now wishing for a third activity I can do while I read and also knit this blanket.  Maybe I could jog in place?  Jog in place while reading and knitting this blanket?  I think that’s do-able…