Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Indecision

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I am plagued by indecision.  Plan A was to tie this quilt, using crewel wool, because every time I have used embroidery floss, it all comes out in a few washes and I end up machine quilting the whole thing anyway. First, I tested all the various yarny-looking crewel fibers I have lying around to make sure they were wool.  I held a flame to the ends of the yarn to see if it would melt [don’t do this at home unless you are prepared to quickly and safely extinguish any accidental fires] and people?  It stank, a lot.  Burning hair.  Ugh.  The dog left the room.   I tested each unlabeled skein this way, and the acrylic ones melted, leaving a hard ball of black plastic at the end.  Wool will burn, but the blackened tip crumbles away into ash.  Anyway, once I had the actual wools all sorted out,  I started tying, and immediately I began to wonder if they looked like they were coming out already.

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I tied a few more, but the paranoia got to me, and I switched to Plan B, which was to hand quilt this monster (I know, right?) sashiko-style, using pearl cotton.

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This moved along very quickly, and I got almost a quarter of the way through the quilt in one evening, but then…I started second-guessing it. 

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Too wobbly.  Too close together.  Too…I don’t know, too quilty.  I don’t want this thing to look like an ill-constructed washboard.  I stitched a few more rows, further apart this time, to see if that made me like it any better, but then I began to worry about the wool batting and whether it would survive the laundry if I quilted too far apart.  So now, I’m thinking of going back to Plan A, and in the meantime, I’m just crocheting the striped blanket and watching Hatfields and McCoys [OMG, Bill Paxton, have you lost your mind?  Kevin Costner is trying to be nice!  And I doubt that was even your pig, so get over it.]

What to do?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Inspired by Gee’s Bend

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After I finished my last quilt, which was instantly claimed by the cat, I decided not to make any more bed-sized quilts.  The beds are already covered with quilts (I have dreamed of owning a huge country house with ten bedrooms, just for the purpose of having more beds to dress, but that’s neither here nor there) and nobody around here is particularly interested in more quilts.  Well, nobody except me.

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Apparently, I am endlessly interested in them, and in the making of more of them. 

I recently found a gorgeous book about the quilts of Gee’s Bend—if you don’t know about Gee’s Bend, I really do encourage you to have a google on the subject.  The whole thing fascinates me on an almost academic level, and the quilts themselves are so inspiring; they’re masterpieces, each one.  

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Anyway, so much for no more big quilts.  This one is so big I can’t even see it all yet. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Project Basket Liner

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I have a lot of projects going at any one time.  Too many, probably.  I don’t know, I just can’t work on only one thing, and I’ve decided not to worry about that.  I like to segregate each project into its own basket or bag, along with the pattern, scissors, sewing-up needle, and whatever else goes with it, so that if I want to take it with me, I just grab and go, and if I think there’s even the remotest possibility I’ll be sitting around somewhere with nothing to do, I bring a basket of knitting along.  I’ve spent a couple miserable highway traffic jams without a little yarn to ameliorate my impatience, and I am very monkey-minded, so I like to be prepared.  This basket is really lovely, but the inside is rough, and it finally snagged my project-in-progress for the last time.  So I made a liner.

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This is the most haphazard method in the world, but to get the approximate shape of the basket, I just rolled it over a big piece of paper and traced where it went.  Very estimate-y.  I left little cutouts where the handle goes, and added a couple ribbons to tie it there.  I traced the bottom of the basket the same way, and added 1/2” for seam allowances, and a few inches for it to hang over the lip at the top of the basket.  I cut two of each, sewed them together with wrong sides facing, and then turned it right side out to press.  It’s kind of a lined liner, if you know what I mean.  It sort of fits, mostly. 

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The yarn just looks so snuggly in there, all safe.  No more snags.  Knitting and crochet continues, but I took a wee break—we had a Big Day this weekend:

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This is my new favorite Doctor.  I love that medieval academic regalia so much.  You should have seen them all swooping around like magnificent giant bats, velvet sleeves heroically burgeoning.  He looks like he works at Oxford.  Or Hogwarts.  Congratulations, honey. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Magical Garden Lights

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Now that my back yard is fully amazing, with a fresh and tidy patio, baby chickens, and circus tent seat covers on my French-looking white furniture, I want to sit out there at night, too, so I wanted to add some lights.  I saw this idea here, and it is so fantastically thrifty!  All you need is a string or two of mini lights and a few opaque glass domes, and I don’t know about you, but I see these domes in the thrift stores every time I go.  Yet another lesson to me in thinking outside the box. 

I accumulated six glass domes, and sent an explorer into the sweltering attic to find the Christmas tree lights. He found them (a miracle) and I tucked them up into the glass domes, ran a green outdoor extension cord invisibly among the violets, and hooked them up to a timer so they magically begin glowing at dusk, and then click off again after I’ve gone to bed.  In the daytime, they look like ordinary garden sculptures:

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But at night, they look like something out of a Midsummer Night’s Dream, full of fairies and magic. 

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I have always felt that a string of fairy lights can make all the difference.  They can turn a dark tunnel into a wonderland.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Summer on the Patio

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We’re having the most spectacular May weather ever in my memory, and in a stroke of some beautiful luck, it is also festival weekend here in my little town, which means parades, fireworks, corndogs, glow necklaces, fire trucks, mounted police, antique tractors, convertibles and the County Dairy Princess, and I am wearing sandals and sunglasses for the first time in years.  (Sometimes, it sleets on our festival, which takes some of the fun out of things.  I have huddled through many a parade in my winter coat.) How blissful of the sky to be such an endless blue, just when I want to stroll amidst the mood ring craft booths and Bloomin’ Onion wagons.  How lucky I feel!  I can’t even tell you how much I love it.  Summer is here. 

In anticipation of this moment, I have spent the last three weekends toiling over this stone patio. 

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This patio has plagued me ever since we moved here—twenty years ago—as a weedy, creepy, dark corner of our yard.  No matter what cute furniture I put there; no matter how many pots of cheerful geraniums, it was dank and spooky and full of broken glass.  It was the ghetto of my yard.  Nobody ever sat there, and the weeds grew and grew and grew.  Finally, I decided to take charge, so I put on some gloves and, by myself, prised up each one of those huge heavy rocks—and some of them are two feet long and as thick as tombstones—removed the weed-filled layer of rocky dirt underneath, put down a weed barrier, and put all the rocks back.  Dean helped me fill in between them with gravel, and then I sagged into a hot bath and could barely move my arms for a week. 

The men knocked down a crumbling old homemade barbecue grill, and once those rocks were hauled away, this happened:

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Light!  It poured over this formerly woeful corner, and suddenly everything was in color. 

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I thrifted this wrought metal garden furniture, and this morning, I added new cushion covers, which I made by cutting off one of the old ones and using it as a pattern.  A yucky process—that old foam under there just seems like a filthy sponge—but worth it.

And, on top of all this, I solved my camera problem.  Saturation!  Yes, it’s been a great day.  I’ll be on the patio. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Jersey skirt, Alabama Chanin-style

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I love jersey knits.  They feel like pajamas, and it’s all I’d wear if I could get away with it.  I know you can sew knit fabrics on a regular machine, and I know my beautiful vintage Slant-O-Matic 600 (the gorgeous Miss Kastner) will handle double needles and I could probably—and might, eventually—figure out how to sew jersey fabrics neatly on a machine, but I always just figured I’d wait for a serger to land in my lap.  Then, like a bolt of lightning, there was this

This is all done by hand.  There are only four pieces.  I spent a couple lovely hours in my rocking chair with my needle and thread, and in an afternoon, I felt like I had solved all my own problems.  Hand sewn, felled seams.  Fold-over elastic (I got mine here) and I had a perfect skirt, comfy and cozy and stretchy and, it just skims me in that way I wish all my clothes would do.  I didn’t bother with a hem, who needs hems?  Jersey doesn’t need hemming! 

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It’s wrinkled because I wore it already.  And wore it and wore it and wore it.  It’s sweatpants you can wear outside the house.  I feel so brilliant!  Of course, it isn’t me who’s brilliant, it’s Natalie Chanin, and the how-to for this skirt is in this book

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Dear me, this mannequin has terrible posture, and no backside to speak of, either, poor thing, but you can see this is the simplest idea ever. There are no zips to worry about, no buttonholes, no channels, no gathers.  It is basic and beautiful.  The book comes with a pattern, but I just converted a simple skirt pattern I already had (because I’ve used it before and I knew it would fit me) by folding it in half and cutting out four pieces instead of two, and subtracting a couple inches at the waist to account for lack of gathering.  Assembly is kind of intuitive, and fold-over elastic is the best thing to come along since waistbands were invented.  If, like me, you’ve always wanted to go to work in your pajamas, make one of these.  Dreams can come true. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Scrappy Log Cabin Pincushions

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I am totally in the mood for log cabins.  I’d even like a real one, with a sagging porch overlooking the river, where I’d sit in a bent hickory rocking chair smoking peppermint in a corncob pipe or playing the spoons, getting up occasionally to sweep snake tracks out of the yard.  Really, I am just an old pair of boots and a floor-length pinafore away from a full-on Granny Clampett, but anyhoo. 

I guess I just felt like sitting down with my scraps basket and whipping up a few quilty things, so I started with these pincushions, and hoo!  It’s so easy to get going, I can see another log cabin quilt happening around here pretty soon. 

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Monday, May 14, 2012

Feast of Stripes

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As predicted, this project has me fully in its grip.  I started it, what, a week ago?  Already, it is huge and covers my entire lap as I knit.  It is the most perfect combination of a) quick color decision and b) knit mindlessly and happily without even looking; while winning playing Monopoly; while staying up until 1:30 in the morning, catching up with the girl, home from Hogwarts now for the summer, who brings so much light into my life.  Yesterday, she asked me if I would brush her hair.  I live for things like that.

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Pardon my exploration of the macro settings…I should really just read the manual…

The stripes are small enough to seem manageable, but big enough now to feel luxurious, offering long stretches of peaceful knitting.  Luxurious manageability. 

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Of course, I’m still working on the woven/twill/tweed/linen stitch crochet Stripes Of Love blanket, which continues to tantalize me.  This is such a feast of joyful color.  I am having the best time. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Yarn Everywhere

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I must be crazy, but I’ve started another blanket.  This one is Ann and Kay’s Log Cabin, and I resisted it as long as I could, but I guess I just missed having a project involving endless miles of garter stitch, so here it is.  This is pretty easy knitting, so if you’re not a knitter (yet) and are inclined to try it, this pattern would be a good place to start.  You can keep going as long as your yarn lasts, or make smaller blocks and sew them together—there are lots of possibilities.  The pattern can be found here.

I can’t even make noises about using up my scraps, because I recently realized that I’m not accumulating scraps anymore; I’m accumulating scrappy yarns.  On purpose.  For things like blankets.  Look:

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Those aren’t leftovers, those are what happens when I find a 40% off sale at my local yarn shop.  I go along the Wall of Every Color (oh, so tempting!) and pick out individual balls of whatever grabs me.  Just to add to my palette, you know.  Do you all do that too?  Looking at that photo, I can sure see what my palette is.  (Lime green with a hint of olive and mustard, anyone?) All this yarn doesn’t fit in the yarn cupboard, so there’s nothing left to be done except make blankets.  What can I do?  I gotta be me. 

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I’m still fighting with the settings of the amazing new camera.  Stuff is blurry.  Nothing is the right color.  Change is hard. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Chickens in the house

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We have six new baby chicks, and right now, they live in a cardboard box in the bathroom.  They are always scritching and scratching and cheeping and fluttering as they climb right over the tops of each other and land in the water dish, and the dog is having a total nervous breakdown.  She keeps dancing over to me, paws tippity-tapping, with a wild look in her eye, as if to say, “Something amazing is behind that door!!  Were you aware of this?  Because I just can’t even stand it!”  Poor thing, she’s completely losing her mind. 

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Their cuteness is completely devastating.  This one is a Buff Orpington, the only one of the six who isn’t frantic to escape me every time I put my hand down into the box.  She (I hope it’s a she, I’m having flashbacks now) wanders over to me, eyes up, neck outstretched, jumps into my hand, as the others are having a good panic and flapping like crazy.  She sits on my lap.  She helped me write this blog post, just now. 

My very favorite thing about living in the country is being able to have a few of these sweet creatures pottering around in my yard.  Chickens have kept my flowerbeds neat and my raspberries free of bugs.  They have clucked around in all weather, happy to scrounge around under the snow for the odd treat, impervious to rain.  When I step into the yard, they hustle right over to see whether I have a treat for them.  And the eggs are so beautiful.  Welcome, little girls.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Crochet-edged Vintage Pillowcases

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My birthday was last week, and since I have decided that after forty, the best hope for a good birthday is “don’t do anything that sucks” (advice from my daughter, and very good advice, too—I’m passing it along to you, and you don’t have to wait until you’re forty, either) I decided to spend the day watching Ramona and Beezus and crocheting a fancy edging onto these thrifted pillowcases.  I love that movie.  Result?  Best birthday ever.  See?  It works!  Try it. 

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Of course I had to run myself into the ground the day before, getting through all the day to day stuff that kind of sucks a little bit, so I wouldn’t have to do it on my Big Day.  Well worth it, I think. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Stripe-y Blanket, preview

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You know how when you get a new hammer, everything looks like a nail? 
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I got a new camera.  I do not know how to use it yet.  In the process of figuring out what all the buttons do and where all the settings are, I have taken twenty jillion bad pictures of everything.  And a couple good ones.  Here’s the new blanket I’m working on.  I am madly in love with that violet and peachy-orange combo.  Those two colors should get married right now, and be together forever. 
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I’m doing this blanket in woven stitch, also sometimes called “linen stitch”, which is just sc, ch1 across, and then on the next row, sc in the ch1 space, ch1.  It’s the easiest thing in the world, and I’m left with nothing at all to concentrate on except which color comes next.  I love that.

Edit to add:  Hi, whipup friends!  I know, there's not much info in this post.  For more specifics regarding woven stitch, I recommend a google search--there are lots of good tutorials out there. This is one of those things that, once you get it set up and get rolling, it's as easy as could be.  Here's the finished blanket, along with a link to the pattern, if you're interested.  Good luck!