Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Flannel Nightgown

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If I had to choose one thing to wear every day for the rest of my natural life, it would be this nightgown.  I don’t know how it went so right, but it did and I’m glad, and now I have the pattern forever and ever.

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Critical Element 1:  This little gathered bit at the front, below the [Critical Element 2] yoke.   That seemingly insignificant detail makes things just roomy enough at the front.  Too many more gathers than this and you have billowy, and billowy is not my friend. 

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More stuff that worked:  this hand-sewn bias edging (it has to be on the bias, see the  fabric grain?  That’s what makes it go around the curves) made a neat finish, and no rough seams.

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The depth of the armholes is just right, the amount of positive ease (that’s the measure of the difference between the actual size of the garment and the actual size of myself) is perfect, and the calico-printed brushed flannel is soft and snuggly.  I want to live in this!  Couldn’t I just add a little scarf and a pair of Audrey Hepburn flats and see if it would pass for a dress?  No? 

To make it, I simply traced my old favorite nightgown onto some big paper, drawing the yoke piece separately and marking where I should gather the fabric.  I cut everything out, sewed the yoke to the front, sewed the back to the front at the shoulders and sides, made a long strip of 1 1/4” bias edging and attached it at the neck and arm openings, and then hemmed the bottom edge.  Really, so easy.  So cozy.  It’s my new uniform.

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I’m sending love to all those who were in Sandy’s path, and thanks to all who did the same for me and mine—we were spared all but some rain and gusty winds, thank goodness.  She was a terrible beast. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Memento

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When I was a girl, we took a trip to Whitefish Point on Lake Superior, where the water was achingly cold, even in August.  We watched our ankles turn white, then purple as we tried to wade in the waves.  Whitefish Point is, famously, the safe haven never reached by the Edmund FitzgeraldThis was one of my dad’s favorite songs.  His heartstrings were easily tugged, and I am a girl like that, too.  Things move me.  The beach that day was made up of a million flat white stones, and my dad picked one up, one just like all the others, and said, “Here.  This is your souvenir.  Keep it in your pocket.”  Nothing flowery or sentimental, though he and I both were the flowery, sentimental type, and I tucked the stone—an agate, I think—into my pocket.  I thought I would probably keep it forever, and I did, for a long time.  I knew exactly where that stone was for such a long time, and it is only recently that I’m not sure where it is.  It is somewhere, though, the stone he chose for me out of the millions that were just like it. 

If I could find it today, I might crochet a little jacket for it, like this one, and wear it.  Like the pebble I used here, it was nothing special, just a rock, just like all the others on the beach.  There is something about the choosing, isn’t there? 

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I didn’t use any pattern; I just found some crochet cotton and a teeny hook and hooked up something that looked good.  What you do is you make the front of it, some kind of medallion or motif that’s mostly the same size as the stone, then you do a round or two of decreases to cinch it up at the back a little, stick the stone inside, and cinch it up some more.  Fasten it off, make a loop, weave in the ends.  That’s all.  I sort of think this looks like a turtle. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Rainy Tuesday with Grannies

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I had a bunch of plans for today, but it’s raining now.  It looks like a cozy day by the fire with a pot of coffee and a basket of yarn.  Poor me. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Quilted Pillow Cover

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I never thought I’d say this, but I love hand-quilting. My very first attempt at quiltmaking came years ago, when inspiration struck me, as usual, in the middle of the night, and I took up a pair of kitchen scissors and cut up all the shirts in my closet into 6” squares.  I just cut out as many squares as I could, ignoring pockets and seams, just cutting and cutting.  When there were enough, I dumped them into a grocery bag and then spent the entire summer piecing them all together by hand, I guess while wearing either pajamas or my bathing suit, until I had a very motley and patchworky quilt top big enough to fit on my bed.  Then I started asking around about how to go about quilting it, and jeepers, the rules!  I went to my grandma’s for the weekend so she could teach me the ropes, and goodness me, her quilting needles were so microscopic, and you had to have a thimble and a hoop and there were marking pencils and stencils and Grandma (she of the perfect triangle points) practically measured my stitches with a ruler, and it all looked so homey and nice, this learning from grandma, but it was also kind of daunting.  Her quilts were so completely perfect, and mine was made of shirts.  Of course I never finished it, or any of the next dozen or so quilts I started, hand-quilted halfway, and then gave up on, discouraged.  (There was one anomaly, the Extremely Hideous Peach and Teal Mover’s Blanket of 1987, quilted by me with a huge needle, through three layers of polyester batting—so ugly.  Just so, so ugly.)  I just hated the hoop and the stencils and the rules.  I’m a seat-of-the-pants kind of girl. 

Anyway,  I got kind of down on hand-quilting.  Until now. 

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With inspiration from Jane Brocket and Anna Maria, I have come back to hand-quilting, and this time I’m making my own rules, and I’m using perle cotton and embroidery needles and no hoops and as many stitches per inch as I want. 

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I turned this piece of fabric—still Loulouthi—into a quilted pillow cover (enough with the pillows, right?  I can hear the kids now...why do we have so many pillows? What is wrong with you?) which is why you can see all the knots in the picture of the back; I didn’t bother to hide them, and I backed it with a piece of salmon-pink corduroy from the stash. 

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The little blue and white one is new, too, made in two minutes from an upholstery book sample and a piece of denim blue linen.  Here’s the full effect:

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There’s really nowhere to sit anymore, but it looks pretty.  Right, enough with the pillows. 

I am a quilting fiend now.  I feel invincible! 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Getting Ready

 

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I have this idea about winter.  There’s me walking along a snowy path as the flakes come drifting down, great big quarter-sized snowflakes that stick to my red hat and mittens, and the streetlamps cast golden circles.  I leave a trail of footprints.  I am probably on my way home from the library.  It’s almost dark, and there is hot soup at home, and cocoa, and the fireside.  I want to knit a wooly brown sweater coat to go with the imagined red mittens and pompom hat, and this is the beginning of it.  There will be (what else?) garter stitch and silver buttons and big military-style cuffs.  Last year it didn’t snow at all, and I wore ballet flats with no socks straight through January—in New York!  I know!—and I don’t want a repeat of that.  I want snow. 

You can see my entire design process in that photo up there.  A spiral-bound notebook, one page with a scribbled drawing (eek, don’t judge my drawing skillz) and some hasty notes, and another page with an actual attempt at a schematic, and real-life measurements and some math.  Once I know what I’m aiming for, I swatch the yarn I plan to use with the needle I’m hoping will work, do a little elementary multiplication, and start knitting.  Very often, I start knitting one end of the sweater before I’ve even decided what the other end will look like.  Once I get a design figured out, and a yarn chosen, and gauge sorted out, I really can’t wait to get started with the knitting.  I’m impatient like that. 

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Loulouthi-edged Blanket

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This gray wool/cotton blanket needed a little something.  It was originally manufactured in a hurry, I think, because the cut ends were not square, and it was “bound” with sloppy serging, which ruffled up like crazy.  It couldn’t be folded neatly.  There was a sewn-on tag that said “Washing Instructions” and that’s all.  There were no washing instructions on it!  I sort of loved that.  Might be the rest of it faded away. 

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I squared up the ends and then cut 2 1/2” wide pieces of what remains of my beloved stash of Anna Maria’s Loulouthi, stitching them into a long enough strip and then sewing them over the newly cut ends.  I tacked a piece of cotton lace underneath the edge.  I am so in love with Anna’s design sensibility right now.  So much gorgeous color.  Check this out.  Doesn’t that just make you want to get cracking?  My mama always used to say that, “Come on, let’s get cracking!”  It means, hurry up, get on with it.  Better get on with it, then.  See ya!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Come thrifting with me

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My pal (blogless) Michelle and I went on a huge, all-day, bring-the-truck thrifting run last weekend.  Friends, if you don’t have the perfect thrifting buddy, you should go and get one right away, because it’s the very best.  Michelle likes almost, almost the same stuff I do, but not quite, and she has perfect taste, so she spots all the good stuff, but we never fight over who gets to buy it.  If I hold up a woven plastic curtain printed with turquoise and gold flowers, she’ll say, “I actually think that could be great.”  

Here’s how we do this:  she picks me up early on a Saturday, and then we methodically visit every thrift shop in two counties.  We are immediately tempted by something huge in the first shop—usually, it’s me who’s tempted, and it’s usually a chair.  She tells me the chair is great, with this subtext: I will totally respect you if you buy this chair no it is not too gross yes I think you could paint the legs I will help you carry it to the car.  I don’t actually need any more chairs, so we manage to resist. (It was amazing!  Perfect!) We keep moving, like sharks, lunging past the slower, more meandery thrifters who are obviously not aware that we mean business, and I fill my arms with more than I can carry, while she chooses one perfect vintage pin.  We will talk about the tempting chair the whole rest of the day.  We agree that the shell-encrusted animals we see literally everywhere are a bit much, but that the owl one is cute.  It is absolutely guaranteed that I will spend twice as much as she does, in every shop, and also in total.  I haul up a ridiculous lamp and four shower curtains and ten stray bags of other people’s leftover yarn and forty-two baskets and a chipped china teacup and a fishbowl, lugging it all in two carts, and meanwhile she’s over there curating a lovely and manageable collection of five awesome things.  Plus, she drives.  Seriously, people, get yourself a good thrift buddy.

All the way home, stuffed and sleepy from lunch at Panera, we kept talking about how we couldn’t wait to get home and start making stuff, and about how lousy it would be if we ever ran out of ideas, and how do people who don’t have ideas for stuff to make get through the day?  We lamented the sad people who have no ideas. 

After she dropped me at home (along with my insane pile of thrifty purchases, which weren’t even as many as last time, but I still made three trips to get it all in the house, which means I have to fill that many bags with outgoing stuff now, so as to not end up on Hoarders) I cleared the table and made this pillow cover.  I didn’t really need it, so much as I needed to make it.  You know what I mean? 

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Fabric=thrifted.  Feather pillow insert=thrifted (and washed in hot water, three times).  Bobbly fringe=thrifted.  Crocheted cabbage roses, leftover from something else.  See, that’s pretty satisfying. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Next Day

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Blanket Recovery, Phase Two:  it’s taken a few days to get up any gumption.  I think I just sat and stared at the TV and did hardly anything else.   Well, and I’m reading this.  Thank you all, so much, for your lovely comments. I’m so glad to have you visiting here with me, and your kind support of my little endeavors is such a blessing.  I wish I could make you each a picnic lunch and a homemade thank you card.  Hugs all around. 

That big blanket caused a lot of leftovers, which is a situation I rather enjoy, as it turns out, because it is perfect for when I get a sudden wild midnight craving to make something like this.   Mind blowing, that sweater.   It’s got grannies, but is so much more.  And here I go. 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Log Cabin Blanket, a marathon

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There’s a particular reaction that comes with finishing a project this big, this all-consuming.  There’s a huge sigh of relief, accompanied by an always-unexpected sort of internal collapse.  In fact, I’m typing this missive with one finger as I lie facedown on the floor in front of the fireplace drinking chamomile tea through a bendy straw. 

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So big, so heavy, it consumed a gajillion hours of my life and so many thousands of yards of yarn [sudden realization: the stash is free!  I can make other things!] and sometimes made me feel so despairing of its completion, and when I ran out of any kind of light value yarns, well.  Let’s just say there were tears.  And then the lightness of the moment when that little snafu got solved was equally sweet.  You get kind of involved in something this big, and its hard to prepare for that moment when you finally.  Knit.  The.  Last.  Stitch. 

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I spent so many episodes of Arrested Development with this blanket on my lap.  The entire Olympics.  Most of Anna Karenina.  We have had a deep connection, even, I daresay, a relationship.  And now it’s over?  Now it’s just going to lie there on someone’s bed?  After all we’ve been through together? 

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There’s the first big sigh of exultation, followed—instantly—by something like “Wait, no, come back!  I love youuuuuu!”  and crazy new thoughts of the next blanket are already forming.  Because, honestly?  There is just nothing like them.  Look at that!  It is perfect. 

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Well, one must move on.  A blanket must fulfill its true purpose, which is to comfort and cozify, and the knitter must find a new project over which to obsess.  I’ll miss you, sweet Log Cabin Blanket.  Your ten thousand miles of garter stitch in every color in my cupboard was a special thrill.  Remember that time I found the dropped stitch after I’d already bound off the edge?  We had a laugh about that, didn’t we?  And don’t forget the time I knit a whole extra stripe because I got distracted by the tv and forgot I was even knitting and had to rip out two hours’ worth of work.  Haha!  That was so great.  

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This blanket is even more beautiful than I suspected it would be.  All through the long (long!) months of knitting it, I kept worrying there was too much red, not enough red, too many mid-values, too many darks, what if it didn’t lie flat, what sort of edging should I use and goodness me, now that I’d thought about it, whatever color should I use for the edging?  As the panels were finished, I stacked them together and wow, the doubts were so persistent.  Not enough neutral?  Too much?  There are just too many hours in a project this size, and too many materials being used up to avoid these big worries.  What if it isn’t worth it????  But the knitting was just so, so, so lovely. 

And then I whipstitched the panels together, added an attached i-cord edging and sort of felt a burst of adrenaline.  Yeah!  It looks good!  No, wait…it looks great. 

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This pattern was originally published in this book, but the basic instructions for How to Log Cabin can be found here.  I made four panels of eight courses of stripes surrounding a 20-stitch x 20-row center square.  I used almost every worsted weight yarn I had in the cupboard, supplemented enormously by the now-mythical Great 70% Off Sale of 2012.  My strategy for something like this is to buy yarns in colors I like, and then use them as my whims dictate, as a painter chooses colors.  I try to make sure there is a balance of warm and cool colors in my palette, and to ensure a proper balance of lights, darks, and mid-values.  As always, I stick to my personal rules about primary colors and pink/blue, and then I just try to knit what looks good.  These yarns are, let’s see…there’s a LOT of Ella Rae Classic and Amity, and a fair amount of Berroco Vintage, because that’s mostly what I have in the cupboard.  There is a bit of Dalegarn Heilo, a bit of Patons Classic Wool, a bit of KnitPicks Wool of the Andes—I do not have color names to share, I’m sorry.  There is also a fair amount of thrifted yarns that are other people’s leftovers without labels, chosen for weight and color, and I don’t know what they are.  I used a US 7 29” circular needle for the panels and two US 7 dpns for the edging.  There is an untold amount of yardage in this thing, but the edging, more measurable, used an entire skein of Ella Rae Amity, about 220 yards, in color 23, which is a kind of grayed-out navy blue. 

You can read more details about finishing a blanket like this here

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Long-distance runners know what this moment at the finish line is like.  They tremble, laugh, throw up, cry, collapse, pray, howl, exult.  It’s bittersweet.  It’s done. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

More Driftwood

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So I had a little bit of cream yarn (Patons Classic Wool, leftover from this) and a little bit of gray yarn (Ella Rae Classic, stashed during the fabled Great 70% Off Sale of 2012), not enough of either to make anything, really, which is frustrating, except…stripes.  Bingo.  This is my second Driftwood, and I hardly ever make two of the same sweater—well, I thought I hardly ever did that, but it looks like I do that a lot—all I can say is this design is just mighty excellent.   (I don’t know why it looks like I’m doing a backbend in that photo.  Probably I thought it would make me look more model-y or something.)  I went down a needle size, to a US 7, and the resulting fabric is lovely, the exact right combination of body and drape.  Goodness, it’s so important to pay attention to the relationship between the yarn and the needles.  It’s fine to “get gauge” but the resulting fabric still has to work.   This yarn wanted a US 7. 

Now I think a multi-colored Driftwood might be kind of fantastic.  Or maybe different shades of one color, for an ombre effect?  Can I stand to make three of these in a row?  I think so.  This sweater just fits me.