Sunday, April 28, 2013

Needlepoint is forever

 

The Who Needs a Pattern, Anyway needlepoint project that I threw together in a half-second so as to hurry up and begin stitching is done.  It took forever.  ForEVER.  How do people get these things finished?  I mean, I spent months on this thing, and it’s only about eight inches across…well, I stand in awe of you needlepointers, is all I can say, and in even more awe than usual of Kaffe Fassett and his wondrous needpoint tapestries.   Any more needlepoint than this little doodad and I would’ve had to give up knitting (never!) just to make the time.  I’m not saying I didn’t love it, because I did, but it progressed at a pace so as to not be noticeable or measurable.  I’d work on it for an hour and it would look just the same as it had before.  I had to change colors every ten seconds, and cut yarn and weave in an end, and then start over in another spot.  Memo for next time:  larger blocks of color equals nice. 

So, it is very small, because the scrap of canvas I started with was small, and also because I couldn’t have gone any longer without screaming.  I made it into a pillow. 

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It’s one of those wee pillows that isn’t really good for anything except looking cute.  I really only like it up close.  I think the triangles could have been a lot bigger.  Next time!  There will be a next time, too.  I just found a giant roll of needlepoint canvas in the thrift store.  A tapestry-sized roll.  I have so many ideas.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Manly-looking quilt, in progress

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I’m trying to to make a manly-looking quilt.  Which is really hard for me, it turns out, since I want to put pink in everything.  This is an effort to stick to a strict color scheme (what?? What’s a color scheme?) even though I failed at that already, and an attempt to make the least “crafty-looking” quilt I can make.   But when a crafty person’s teenage son asks for a quilt he can take with him to college, a crafty person does her best to acquiesce, and to make something as non-flowery as possible.  I can do this.  My official position is that those are branches in the ochre squares.  Yup.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Crochet-edged Swing Jacket

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I had a huge cone of teeny yarn, manufactured (I think) for machine knitting.  It was a beautiful color, kind of a taupe, beige-ish gray.  Warm gray.  It seemed a little scratchy, but there was a lot of it, and I knew it would be just right for something, eventually.  It sat in my cupboard for, I’m not even kidding, around fifteen years, waiting for the perfect project to come along so it could become that thing.  We were patient together, me and the yarn.

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It finally wanted to be a sweater, so I cast on for this with the idea that it would have large crocheted lace panels at the fronts and big lacy cuffs.  I wanted it to be somewhat long, with a swingy hem.  I wanted to work on it forever, too, or at least I must have wanted that, because I decided to knit it on US size 2 needle; a virtual guarantee that the knitting of it would last a thousand years. 

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I cast on at the neck edge and began working from the top-down.  A top-down sweater kind of measures itself as you go, so there’s not much to do, you know?   Once you know how many stitches to cast on, and the routine of where to increase, you just keep doing that until the raglan seam is the right length for your actual self and the rest will probably fit.  You get a little burst of interest when you divide the body from the sleeves, and then a lot of plain knitting again, relieved only by the occasional consideration about body shaping and upcoming decisions about the hem.  So, knitting this got boring pretty quickly.  It lasted a thousand years.  Well, a couple months anyway.  I began to hate the yarn. 

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It was splitty, and kind of rough.  It looked terrible, too, in its pre-blocked state.  It looked like wet cardboard.  It looked like old mulch.  More than once, I almost threw it in the trash. 

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But there’s something about having most of a sweater all done that makes a person keep going, even when a dozen doubts overshadow her confidence, even when the knitting is a miserable slog.  The sleeves, knit in the round with no shaping on sock needles, went fairly fast, and then I settled on this edging for the fronts and cuffs, called Mermaid Scales, from this book.  That took awhile, and I really, really hated the yarn at that point.  The hook snagged in it continuously. I took more than the usual number of sanity breaks (granny squares, anyone?) and when I put the sweater on, to see how it was working for fit, it squeezed my upper arms like a blood pressure cuff.  I debated, again, throwing it away in a fit of rage.  It would have felt pretty good to do that.  I dug deep, though, and believed in the power of blocking to rescue me in the end.  I guess I don’t have to tell you that it did.  Blocking saved this sweater. 

Here it is in progress.  I had lightly steam-blocked the body, just to quiet my mind about the mess it was, and give myself the will to move on.  It was so tiny and wrinkly and scratchy and miserable until I did that, and I did not want to keep knitting it.  You can see where I had begun work on the right sleeve.  That’s what it looked like unblocked.  Stiff and bumpy and ugly. Yuck. 

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When it was finished, I soaked it in the sink and then spread it out flat on the rug to dry.  A measure of the circumference of my upper arm revealed I was going to have to get fancy here, if I wanted it to fit me comfortably, and using pins to block it hard, the way I would for lace, would have left a ton of little scallops around the edge—no good.  I wanted to give it a hard block, though, to really straighten out the stockinette stitch, soften the wool, and give it some drape, so I cut some pieces of cardboard to the correct measurements and stuck them down into the damp sleeves.

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Yes!  That’s it, the perfect shape and size.  It worked beautifully.

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So, you know, not to keep going on about blocking and everything, but…yeah.  Blocking is the only reason this is in my closet and not in the trash.  Worth it. 

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I was sewing on the buttons and trying to remember which side is the “girl’s side” which I can never remember—I decided, finally, to just alternate them, which might help it stay buttoned, we’ll see.  Those holes are pretty big. 

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This poor yarn is Jaggerspun Maine Line, 2/8 fingering weight, in the colorway “Arrowhead”.  It is probably perfect for machine knitting.  I like to believe it would be perfect for that.  Hoo!  Time to make something else. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

For its own sake

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I’ve been making big granny squares, just for the sake of crocheting something.  I guess I just can’t go very long without having a granny square project around somewhere.  I have a granny habit.  Must granny.

There’s also been this:

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Which is almost done, and which I can’t wait to show you, if only because that will mean it is, for crying out loud, finished.  That thing has been lurking in the project bag since dirt was invented, and the huge yarn cone from which it sprang has been clogging up the stash for a hundred years.  Get done, will you?  Sheesh. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Fluffy Flower Bag, finally

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Spring is so slow to come this year. So cold; sleet and freezing rain, and here’s me, still, at my (increasingly boring) cozy fireside, yarning away. I am getting so desperate to get out and plant something, anything, in the yard. I need a flower. At the moment, the only flowers are the crocheted ones.

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I made this bag many months ago, figuring it out as I went along, just kind of winging the shape, ripping back when it got weird, which was a lot. At the time, I added a pair of bamboo handles, which looked snazzy but just made it the wrong length for me—too short to go over my shoulder, too long to hold in my hand. So the other day I dragged it out from under a bunch of stuff and crocheted some yarn handles for it, which is totally what it needed in the first place. I managed to find a scrap of the lining fabric I’d used, so I sewed that on the underside of the straps. Deep sigh! Now, it’s just right.

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I used Paton’s Classic in a cream/taupe marl (leftover from this) holding a couple strands together to give the fabric firmness and body. The bottom is an oval, and as I began working up the sides of the bag, I increased at the oval ends over the first few rounds to give it some shape. Then it was straight single crochet all the way to the top. I added a few fluffy pink roses and some leaves, and stitched in a brown gingham lining. Done.

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The wind is howling outside right now, and rain is lashing against the windowpanes. So stormy and gray. So April-ish. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Lazy busy-ness

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Sewing.  Knitting.  Crocheting.  Painting something Tomato Red.  The table is piled high with projects.  Yesterday, I was lazy for awhile, draped over a lawn chair on the patio in the sun, with a cat in my lap, watching the grass grow, letting my coffee get cold.  The hens made such a big fuss over my being in the yard, bawking and flapping, hustling around after each other from one end of the yard to the other, worrying.  Looking for a snack.  I sat down and they tottered over, giving me a sideways look.  I said what they always say.  “Bup.  Bup.”  They tilted their heads at me, unruffled themselves, went back to pecking.  One jumped up on the arm of the chair, assessed things for a moment, then fluffed herself up and sat down.  The wind gently ruffled her.  She now and then made some quiet little chirp and I answered with, “Bupbup.”  I dozed there for a little bit, talking to a chicken, listening to the cat snore.  When a big cloud covered up the sun, I went in and cleaned the basement for a minute, did some laundry, worked on a sweater while bingeing on Netflix.  Walked the dog.  Ate wasabi peas for dinner.  Busy-lazy.  Getting stuff done, then doing nothing.  The best kind of day.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Funny Hat

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The scraps.  THE SCRAPS.  Nobody should have this many scraps.  I love my basket of scraps, but I can’t help wanting it to make something of itself, you know?  I don’t really want the scraps to go away; I don’t want to have No Scraps, but I look at them like a problem to solve.  I keep arranging them, saying “Hmm, and “Why do I have so much lilac?” The smaller balls of leftover bits have risen up and announced that they would like to be a whole bunch of striped hats, apparently with a vaguely naughty flavor about them, eep!  And so it went yesterday.  As I slouched horizontally on the furniture watching back-to-back episodes of Lidia’s Italy on PBS, I cranked out a couple striped hats, re-inventing the wheel for no good reason and making the pattern up as I went.  As if there aren’t enough hat patterns in the world already.  Anyway, I think it is adorable; the crazy colors all in random order, ending with that little nozzle at the top.  It kind of makes me giggle.  And also, a hat is fast.  Instant gratification.

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Miserably, this morning it snowed again.  Hold me.  I am so over it.  Anyway, Dean, who is totally game, saw me angling myself at the mirror, trying to see the hat on my own head from one awkward angle and another, and he said, “I’ll put it on.” 

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And out he went, into the yard.  Because, you know, the light was better. 

So there’s me, still in the kitchen, still in my jammies, hanging out the open window with the camera.  He’s out in the back yard, sidestepping the thawing chicken poo and trying to get into optimum position.  Giant fluffy flakes are starting to accumulate on my bare arms, and I’m art directing the photo shoot, saying, “Get closer.  Not that close.  Turn around, I can’t see the nozzle.  Do a 3/4 turn toward the chickens.  Other way.”  Snow was collecting on him, too.

He got tired of being serious, in a hurry.

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“Haha! That’s great!” I said, “now, do something funny.”

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“We’re done here.” 

Models.  So temperamental.

They tell me it will be warm tomorrow, but I’ll believe that when I see it. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Chevron Knit Skirt

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I work at resisting the urge to make some self-deprecating remark or other about my general sagginess, which I realize I do in self-defense, just in case somebody out there is thinking it.  I won’t do that this time.  *struggle*  Hey, look at the skirt I made! 

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I told my friends I was knitting a skirt.  Eyebrows shot up all around the room, and glances were exchanged.  I know they were imagining the worst.  Threats of a drooping backside loomed ominously.  Images of shuffling matrons in brown orthopedic lace-up shoes leapt to mind.  I tried my best to be optimistic.

“It will be striped,” I said.

“Gaaahh!” they said.

“In a zig-zag pattern,”  I said.

“Well, there’s always Halloween,” they said. 

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I tried (really!) to shorten this so my knees would show over the boots, and I left out a whole bunch of pattern rows, and measured repeatedly, both the knitting and my actual self, but apparently this is the length the skirt wants to be.  I think it’s a little too long. 

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I’m getting to be that age where I either have to commit to eating nothing but leaves and twigs, or else get comfortable with a little spreading out around the middle.  The second option means I can still have pie, so you can guess which one I’m choosing.  (Was that self-deprecating?  Yargh!)

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It’s a striped knit skirt, a little too long.  I like it.  I think. I’m ambivalent.  The pattern is here, and I made the XS (so hilarious; I am definitely not XS, but that’s Vogue’s sizing, so whatever), using worsted weight scraps, mostly Ella Rae Classic and Patons Classic, modified slightly by eliminating several pattern rows, and good thing too, or this thing would’ve been dragging on the floor.  I also made a twisted-cord tie for the waist, rather than using elastic. 

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I am not the least bit ambivalent about the snowdrops.  Lovely, delicate surprises, poking their cheerful heads through the dry, dead grass.  The landscape is so brown here.  It is mud season in New York, and things will be brown for awhile. 

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