Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Slouchy Hat of My Dreams


I’ve wanted a hat like this what seems like forever.  Not a hat to keep my ears warm in the winter (I have a million jillion of those) but a hat to cover up my hair.  You know what I’m talking about, a hat for when it’s Saturday and there are errands to run, or for when you are doing as I am doing and trying to let your short hair grow a little and it really starts to look pretty awful.  (Is that why I look so grumpy?)

There are “slouchy hat” patterns all over the place, but none of them were quite right, so I just went ahead and made this one up.  The yarn is KnitPicks Palette in Green Tea (leftover from the Summertime Cardigan) and I used one ball and a little bit of another.  I’m thinking you could maybe shorten the length by an inch or so and get away with one ball; then you could make this hat for $1.99.  There are a ton of color choices there, too.  Nice! 


I’m sorry my expression is so grievous—I was probably thinking about all the weeds in the yard and how I am no fan of gardening but it’s fixing to eat up my entire weekend.

Anyhoo, if you’d like to make this hat, here’s how:

Materials:  1 ball (maybe plus a little) KnitPicks Palette fingering weight yarn, 16” circular needle US size 3. 

Gauge: 6 stitches per inch

Cast on 120 stitches and join for working in the round.  Place a marker and knit two rounds.  Purl one round.  Switch back to knit and work around until piece measures 2” from cast on edge.  On the next round work an increase every 12 stitches.  Work even in stockinette stitch until piece measures 4” from cast on edge, and work increase round again.  Work even in stockinette stitch with no shaping until piece measures 12” from cast on edge (or until your yarn runs out—save enough to bind off.)  Close the top of the hat with a three-needle bind-off and break the yarn, leaving a longish tail.  Poke the needle through the work at the corner and bring it up on the inside.  Turn the hat inside out and sew the two pointy corners together on the inside.  Weave in the ends. 


If you don’t like that seam on the back, you can Kitchener the hat closed instead of the three-needle bind off.  Up to you!  It was so easy, ridiculously easy.  I want one in every color. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Cozy Nook


I have caved to the pressure.  I went out and got an e-reader.  Something sort of scares me about these things, and I’m not one of those old girls who will tell you they don’t want to make the leap because they just love the smell of paper and all that, but jeez, books are just so easy.  But you have to change with the times, right?  Plus, it’s a gadget, and I can stitch a cozy little cozy for a gadget.  Say no more!


It’s not really floating on water; that’s a glass-topped table.  Cool effect, though!

This is my own modified version of a pattern found here, changed to suit the different dimensions of my gadget; 6.5” x 6”.  It’s just a padded and lined envelope with a leather loop and vintage button closure.  The lining fabric matches the strip on the front, and the cover is a scrap of oatmeal linen I had leftover from something else. 

This was an on-the-fly project, so I think this is what I did:  I think I cut the lining, the batting, and the linen to 6.5” x I dunno, longer than it needed to be—maybe 18”?  Probably.  Then I sliced off one end of the linen and patched in that piece of contrast fabric, and then lined up the outside piece and the batting and quilted them together “in the ditch” along the contrast patch.  Then I folded each piece short-wise, seamed up the sides of both pieces, tucked one inside the other (pinning the leather loop in place—between the layers, loop side down, on the back side of the envelope) cut away the extra length at the top edge (maybe an inch?) and stitched around the top edge.  Then I clipped a small hole in the bottom edge of the lining fabric, turned it right side out through that hole, pressed everything, and stitched the hole shut on the right side.  Then I tucked the lining inside the bag, pressed it again, topstitched around the opening, and sewed on the button.  That’s it!


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Baroque Poet’s Cardigan


Are you a middle-aged librarian with a wardrobe full of age-inappropriate dresses from Forever 21 and super-long arms?  Or maybe you’re looking for just the layering piece to go with your high-necked Oscar Wilde ruffle blouse and colonial jodhpurs?  Either way, this is the sweater for you! 


I have long harbored the dream of doing a sweater from the sheep on down, and short of raising a sheep myself and learning to shear him (my friend Debbie did all that dirty work for me, and gave me this beautiful fleece) I have done it.  I made this sweater myself, in every way possible.

There was a lot of spinning;  the fleece never seemed to get any smaller, but I was getting a lot of yarn out of it.  Looking at the not-diminishing pile of fleece, Dean said, “Why does the world even need more than just the one sheep?”  Eventually, I started knitting--without knowing where I was really headed—a pattern I made up as I went, beginning with measuring myself and working a top-down cardigan with no front increases.  I originally knit the sleeves with a ruffled cuff and right away knew that was wrong, so I unraveled that and then finished the body of the sweater with no clear idea in mind about the edging.  But it had to be something good, something more than just ribbing or seed stitch.  It had to be something befitting all the hours Cody, Debbie, and I had put into the project.  Oh yeah, I love crochet!  That’s it!


I settled on an edging from this book, and crocheted it in rounds all the way around the sweater body, centering one of the points at the back neck and figuring out the front corners on the fly.   Then I did the cuffs too, knowing it would make them ridiculously long and not being one bit sorry.   I love love LOVE how it turned out!  This sweater is dressy and romantic.  It is more than just a cardigan. 


After it was all done and the ends were sewn in, I knew it needed blocking, and I was scared to death to put it in the water—Cody’s Lambswool wants to stick to itself so bad—but it survived a quick dunk in room temp water before laying flat to dry.  Blocking is key, people, don’t skimp on the blocking.  It’s the difference between handmade and homemade.  


Makes me want to go off and write a bunch of poetry or something. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hand-pieced Hexagon Pillow


I don’t know how many more porch-sitting days we’ll get this summer, but I never stop hoping for at least one more.  (Today isn’t one of those days, though.  It’s pretty gloomy out there this morning.  Maybe later, though, right?  I’m making some lemonade, just in case.)

I finished this pillow cover today, after what felt like a hundred million years of hand sewing, and believe me, I am not one to shy away from a long-term project, nor a lot of hand sewing, either.  I don’t know what it is about these hexagons that makes me love them—and also hate them—quite so much.  And I don’t know what can make them take so loooooong.  They are so much fun, but they’re so ennervating.  They’re enchanting, but frustrating.  They’re dear, but they are still there, after a week of sewing.  I don’t know what to make of it.

I’m also not sure what possessed me to make this pillow cover (yes I do) especially when I already had this:


…which I made two years ago, on a machine, in about an hour.  How different are they, really?


Wait, I see it.  Yes, the hexagon one is definitely great.  I get it!  Can you believe I didn’t get it until it was done, until I looked at the two of them together?  The whole time I was sewing, and love/hating the hexagons, I was thinking, “Why am I doing this?  I already have a pillow that looks just like this!”  I see now.  I do have a boundless love for anything patchworky, and this falls right into that category, so therefore I couldn’t help myself, and now I’m glad. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Road Trip Socks, With Cat


These socks have lingered unfinished long enough, and I finally got back around to them yesterday, three weeks after they were all done except the toe.  Who knows why that last toe is a stumbling block for me, but it is.  So close to being finished, but I stuffed them in a bag and went on with other things.  These are my usual plain stockinette socks which I usually start when I’m faced with a long road trip (hatehatehate) done on US 1 needles and 60 stitches.  The yarn is from my dwindling stash of Koigu KPPPM and the colorway is something lyrical like P865 or whatever—actually, it’s a number I can’t remember, because of course I’ve lost the ball band.  (I know.  I don’t know what to do with me, either.)  

The cat, who already knows his girl has left home and is feeling it deeply, would not leave me alone. 





Poor boy.  I know, I miss her, too. 


Since the color geniuses at Koigu refuse to be fanciful, I’ll name this one for them:  let’s call it “Withering Hydrangeas.” 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

If Loving Granny Squares is Wrong, I don’t Want To Be Right


It appears I just can’t get enough of granny squares.  I hatched another plan one day recently when I went to add another ball of leftover yarn to the scraps basket and couldn’t get the lid to go back on it.  It is time to really either put those little ends to some use or get rid of them entirely, and well, you know I can’t get rid of them.  Look how great they are together!  I decided to make 400 (I know!) three-round grannies, just whenever I get a moment, whenever the mood strikes me, with no other plan in mind.  I am really, truly going to try not to be all goal-oriented about this thing. (Although if I need 20 x 20 squares at 4 inches square to cover the bed and I can make one square in seven minutes, or about ten squares an hour, it will take me X number of hours to complete the top, minus the edging…all of a sudden I’m doing algebra, and since when did needlework get to be so much about math???)  What I really want is to have a lovely basket of yarn bits beside the chair, with a hook and a little pair of scissors right in there, and to just make a square or two here and there, whenever I feel like it, until there are suddenly 400 of them. 


Isn’t it great, just to look at them all together?  I get such a kick out of that, just that all by itself.  They are every color, too.  This is the Blanket Without a Color Scheme, because I am trying to use up everything in the basket.   There will be a unifying color at the end, which I will choose at the last minute, and then hook a last round on each square in that color, joining as I go, but for now, it is a motley mess of color, and that’s the way I love it.


Yesterday, we delivered the girl back to school for her third year at Hogwarts, and the boy, just sixteen, drove all the way home.  I rode in the backseat, trying not to be a nervous nellie, keeping my head down and my eyes on the hook, knowing Dean is a good and calm man and would not let the boy kill us all, and I managed 23 of these little lovelies before it got too dark to work on them anymore.  It was the best balm ever.  I do not think I could raise teenagers without the soothing work of yarn.   He’s got a lot more driving practice to do, and I have another 350 squares to go, thank goodness.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Towels from scratch


A few weeks ago, I found a white, terry-cloth shower curtain at the thrift store.  I had visions of a white-on-white bathroom, looking like a room at the spa, complete with natural sponges and all the shampoo decanted into matching, label-less bottles, you know, the whole thing just completely spotless (which would never ever happen in my house; a spotless bathroom?  Hahaha!) but I am of the opinion that a trip to the thrift store is the first and best solution to any problem, so I brought that shower curtain home (wait, don’t I have about ten shower curtains already?  Yes, I do.  I like a new one for each season!  And a couple to spare!  And I like to have choices!  And also I can’t resist anything that has a Shabby Chic label and costs five bucks) and I threw it in a hot-water wash.  You know, as you do.  Naturally, it shrank.  A lot, and in a weird way, a way that meant it could never be a shower curtain.  I was a little bit brokenhearted, but nothing goes to waste around here, not if I can help it.


I cut the curtain into a bunch of 14” x 27” pieces, based on the measurements of the hand towel that was hanging in the bathroom already.  Then I trimmed one piece with scraps from around the workroom, and paired it with another piece, putting wrong sides together and stitching around the edges, then turning, pressing, and topstitching all the way around again.  (The Bernina, newly home from its most recent trip to the hospital, made a terrible honking noise most of the way through this process, and I was on the verge of losing my patience with it altogether, when suddenly it stopped, so I am determined that machine is actually fixed.  I may be in denial.)  Then I made a bunch more towels. 


Actually, I don’t really want an all-white bathroom, anyway. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Little Stitchy-ness


Did you see this, from Anna Maria Horner?  Oh my goodness, now I have to repaint the kitchen again.  Is that a perfect room, or what?  Those striped curtains just made my heart pound.  I can’t even tell you how many times we’ve re-painted the rooms in this house.  I go from neutral to color, and back to neutral, and back to color, wallpaper once, back to neutral.  I think I just love everything, that’s what my problem is.  That, and the fact that I lovelovelove to decorate and make things.  Sometimes I think it would be great to walk into a finished room, have it be all perfect, looking like a magazine photo shoot—then I realize I’d probably sit down for five minutes and then hop up again to start crocheting a doily, and that doily has to go somewhere…I guess I’ll be living in a work-in-progress forever, and I might as well be okay with it.


Anna Maria designed this fantastic embroidery table thingy (you can find the free pattern here) and I stitched my own version of it last night while watching Edward Scissorhands (Johnny, why are you so awesome???) and everything was fine until:


I scissor-handed it.  Dang, those embroidery scissors are small, but they are pretty sharp.  Every once in awhile, I like to give myself these little reminders to pay attention and take care.  I need little reminders like that.  Well, it’s only needlework, so I didn’t freak out too much, and I’ve decided not to worry about it.  There will probably be a coffee ring on it before too long anyway.  That’s life around here.


I followed all of Anna’s directions except the one that said, “Press well.”  Nope, I can’t do that.  If it had said, “Press pretty well, leaving a bunch of wrinkles around the stitching” I would have been okay.  Honestly, I don’t know how anybody does that, presses something completely wrinkle-less.  I think you need one of those teeny ironing wands people use for applique, maybe. 

I used DMC Perle Cotton 5 in colors #977, #351, #309, #415, and #822, and some kind of stash fabric that might be a linen/cotton blend (who knows—it grew when I got it wet, aargh.)  The backing is something lovely by Valori Wells for Westminster fibers:


I think it’s called “Wren” and it’s a good thing I like it, because it kinda shows through to the front. 


My mom is going to see this and laugh her head off.  She’ll say, “Do you have to put something on every single surface?”  Yes.  Yes, I do.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Hexagons, Part Two


I just want to sit around all day making little hexagons.  Hand-stitching them all together is rather a different matter, but I do love these tidy bundles, tied up with cotton twine.  They are going to be a pillow cover, because I am purely unable to imagine sewing together enough of them to make any kind of quilt, and even a pillow cover means over a hundred of these, and umpteen teensy stitches.  It is strangely soothing work, given the puncture holes in my finger, but I find I really like to make more serious progress than this.  Which is why a girl has more than one project going at a time, right? 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Comfort Doily


Unpacking after a vacation is the pits, so I made this instead.  Don’t you do that too?  In times of stress, crochet a doily?  I do recommend it.  I saw the one Jacquie made, and then found my way to the pattern.  There is something so soothing about crocheting; I can recall referring to it as The Dark Art, and I can’t believe that now.  Crochet, you are lovely. 


Friday, August 12, 2011

Home Again


I’ve been on another trip.  No, that’s not Tuscany.  Here’s another, bigger hint:


That’s the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.  You can’t imagine how long I’ve dreamed about seeing this thing with my own eyes.  During my long-ago literary life as an English Lit undergrad, I read so much Kerouac and listened to so much Grateful Dead that I felt this was my homeland, though I am now 43 years old and have just now seen the Pacific Ocean for the first time.   In fact, I have now seen both edges of our continent in the same single day, a feat that did not fail to amaze, and to bring a few tears of human pride to my eyes—to think we have dreamed up a way to make that happen!  Strange things move me. 

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Inevitable


Last night, after dinner, I was sitting next to the open kitchen window, and I felt it, a quick little chill, a change in the air.  Of course, my natural response (yours too, I expect) is to grab some yarn and start knitting a warm sweater.  I’m not saying it isn’t 86 degrees here today, because it is, and the sun is blaring down as usual, and the grass is brown and dead and  the sky is white with hazy heat.  Well, I guess I can’t explain it. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

She’s a dabbler

100_8213a  Something about my last vacation made me want to paint something.  I probably should have just painted the kitchen, but instead I painted this.  It’s very teeny, only 3” x 5” and it’s just hanging on the wall with a loop of packing tape.  (Super-professional, I know.  I hope it doesn’t fall off and land in the dog’s water) 


Here’s another.  I’m kind of asking myself what’s the point of doing this when I have the actual photos, but all I can say is I just felt like painting.  I’m also kind of hoping you won’t look at them too closely; my limitations are so apparent.  There was no way for someone with my total lack of skills to capture the incredible color of the water in the Caribbean. 


This is the last (no, sorry, second to last) Beach Vacation 2011-related project to appear in these pages.  I promise.  Sorta.  

I did these little paintings in about twenty minutes flat, and only quit when I ran out of blank canvases.  Then there’s this:


I sort of feel like the paint palette is prettier than the art itself.  Do you all ever feel that way, too?