Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Big Flower


I doubt anyone will ever accuse me of being a quilter, and my appliqué stitches are kind of huge, but making this was really pretty fun. This is Big Flower, another design from Denyse Schmidt, found in this book. So many things to make in there, hoo. I can't wait to try them all! Now that I know how to do appliqué, I kind of feel like there is no limit. Circles, I am coming for you.

I spent two weeks working on it, and about twelve days of that time was spent on the hand quilting, which I attempted to do in the proper way with a little needle and quilting thread, and, you guys, that takes a long time. It takes me a long time, anyway. I don't know how anybody ever finishes a whole quilt that way, I really don't. Respect. Anyway, somebody asked to see the teeny iron:

This kind of thing is apparently intended for something to do with melting plastic pieces onto model airplanes, and the guy at the store was kind of bemused when I told him what I was going to do with it instead, but it worked really well and I am actually madly in love with it. I love teeny things that work.

In other news, winter is coming, and Catdog has begun to press her face against the heater again, and make cozy nests out of all the couch pillows. I come home to find just her nose sticking out from underneath it all. More than a little inspired by this, another dog sweater has appeared on my needles.


It occurred to me for a second that possibly this beautiful hand-dyed worsted wool might be too pretty for a dog sweater, but then, I remembered. Catdog. Worth it.



Saturday, September 24, 2016

Hand-dyeing, continued: Madder


Fall is here. My thoughts turn, as usual, to gray cardigans, but also to yarn and wool in general, and color! This beautiful, burnt, and burnished armful of wooly wonderfulness was all hand-dyed by me right in my kitchen with madder.

I am a complete hand-dyeing novice, but my findings here are that madder is one of the perfect colors. This ancient dye is the source of Alizarin Crimson, the color of Persian rugs, and British Royal Navy uniforms. It gives all sorts of warm pink and red, ranging anywhere from pale peach to deep cherry crimson. Seriously, this color is so lush, I can't even. This is the pink I search for, coral and kind of complicated.

My yarns here are all 100% wool, mordanted with alum and cream of tartar, and then simmered for one hour in my dyepot with madder extract (I used this, because I am a total beginner, and it was sort of foolproof). On the left is 100 grams of wool + 1/2 tsp madder in 12 cups water, and on the right is 100 grams of wool + 1 tsp madder in 16 cups of water.

These are two skeins of single-ply sport weight, slightly different: on the left is 100g of wool + 2 tsp madder in 8 cups of water, and on the right is 100g of wool + 1 tsp madder in 12 cups of water.

I am just kind of experimenting. Everything that comes out of the pot is so pretty. I don't know what to make with any of this yet, but just looking at it is enough for now. (I just imagined a gray pullover with a madderful yoke and cuffs, swoon!) I am mad for madder!

Black Walnut hulls are next, and if that results in nothing but beige, it will be okay, because you know what? There is madder.

Friday, September 16, 2016

All The Colors





There is so much color on my worktable right now. There are lots of gray things, and other neutral things, too, to be sure, but they aren't as interesting to me at the moment. I'm taking a class in appliqué at my local quilt shop--this is big for me, because I am very proudly self-taught in almost all the needle-ish arts, but there are eighty jillion different appliqué methods, and it is so confusing to me, so I signed up. Man, it's fun! As you know, I really love handwork--the workbasket beside the comfy chair, stocked with all the small, lovely tools needed, and a long-term project in there, on the go all the time, something to keep a lady entertained until who knows when. I honestly love that, so much. This class is teaching the technique where you iron the freezer paper templates to the wrong side of the fabric, trim to 1/8" seam allowance (ohmygoodness, that's so small) and then press the extremely small seam allowance using liquid starch and a teensy specialty iron. Well, I love tools. I could not wait to go pick out a lovely teeny iron with a turned wood handle, and Doc helped me craft an equally teeny tabletop ironing board with a chunk of wood, ironing board cover fabric (that's what it's called, I asked...) and a piece of gingham. No hopping up every three seconds to iron something, and no burning my fingertips with the huge standard iron. Oh, I love my Doc. My little liquid starch pot came home with me from Amsterdam, where I bought it directly from the potter himself, who made it to match a paint pot used by Rembrandt. Stuff like that. Stuff like that will make me go bonkers for a project. Also, the fabrics! Some Denyse Schmidt, some Anna Maria Horner, some thrifted. Scraps. Yes, this is keeping me very entertained. And of course I am also knitting, a wild pair of striped socks using yarns gifted to me by my dear Hilde, because I have to have something to do after dark, and because colorful stripes are endlessly interesting. I am having so much fun. And tomorrow is the Fiber Fair! I feel like it's Christmas Eve.

Friday, September 9, 2016




This photo, clockwise, from top: Patons "Lemongrass"; Patons, dyed with goldenrod; Patons dyed with Queen Anne's Lace


Socks: even though the possibility of ever being able to wear wool socks again feels a long way off (ohmygoodnessitisboiling) (itisnottoohotforcoffeeareyoucrazy) I am knitting them as fast as I can, and planning three pairs ahead. I'll probably run out of steam before too much longer, but I've been digging through the sock yarn stash and doodling on graph paper with a lot of unbridled enthusiasm. Right now, on the needles, a riff on Pia Kammeborn's Longing for Gotland socks--I'm using her basic design, with a change of motif in the cuff panel. I love those stripes. That lovely pattern really set my wheels a-turning.

Dyeing: the goldenrod results were very good--I got a great, acid-y, citrine from it, very reminiscent of my old friend Patons "Lemongrass"--I dare say the goldenrod yielded something even closer than Lemongrass to what it is I'm really looking for in a citrus-y yellow/green. I carefully mordanted two skeins of the ubiquitous Patons Classic Wool, "Winter White" with alum and cream of tartar and boiled a big kettle of goldenrod flower heads, with some leaves still attached, for about an hour. I put the wet yarn in the pot and simmered it carefully for about 30 minutes, then rinsed and dried it on the fence. I think a little bit of iron would make goldenrod dye even greener, but I didn't actually want green, I wanted something in between. Future experiments will tell, and there is a rusty shovel head soaking in vinegar at this very moment.

Unraveling: It is time to admit that my beautiful Levenwick cardigan is too big. This cardigan is knit in Brooklyn Tweed's Shelter, which, in case you've never used it, is the wooliest, sheepiest, tweediest yarn ever, and thus it remained committed to Levenwick, even as I attempted to unzip it. The bind-offs were completely permanent, apparently, and I had to cut them off with scissors, but eventually, the yarn was harvested and rewound, and I will knit another Levenwick, just as soon as I finish all these socks.

Planning: more colorwork--I'm so ready to cast on a "Jenny at the Fair" by Mary Jane Mucklestone. Yarn auditions are happening today. Also, planning to visit the Finger Lakes Fiber Festival next weekend--say hello if you see me! It will probably be too hot for any handknits, but Doc will be wearing a kilt. Rawr!

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Pickle Quilt


My dyepot simmers as I type this. I am boiling up a reeking vat of early-season goldenrod, hoping to achieve this color, or as close as I can get to it. Seriously, this color. I am helpless before it.

It occured to me awhile ago that while I have a metric ton of finished patchwork quilts, all lovely, in every possible size, with both wool batting and cotton batting, piled up all around the place, I didn't really have one that I wanted living on the bed. The every-night quilt wasn't among my quilts. The every-night quilt has to be a quilt that is not only delectable for sleeping under (wool batting, please, in all seasons. I am right about this.) and big enough for Doc and me to share (he totally steals the covers) but it also has to look just right, too, because I walk past the door all day long and I can see the bed, and I want it to look smashing. I like to look in there as I go by, and think, "Ah, dang. That looks great." It also has to be interesting for me to sew, and also finishable, if you know what I mean. If the pattern is too ambitious, I will probably make seven blocks and then abandon it.

So I turned to my quilt guru (and possibly yours, too) Denyse Schmidt, and in her beautiful and inspiring book "Modern Quilts, Traditional Inspirations" I found this design, called "Shoeman's Puzzle." I know, triangles. But I loved the graphic slam-dunk of the two contrasting colors, and the dizzying way the pattern moves around as you look at it--the triangles together, sewn into squares, making larger circles--I loved it. I decided to use Kona Cotton, and after being temporarily paralyzed into indecision by the glut of color choices, picked out two: "Pickle" (not quite green, or yellow, or chartreuse either, exactly...) and "Limestone" (a greenish taupe). This color, pickle, is The Color. I went in looking for something a lot more subdued and ordinary, but Pickle wanted to be the one, and I was ready to accept Pickle into my daily and nightly life. Pickle, come on home to me, darling. I'm hoping that the cauldron of weeds stinking up my kitchen right now will yield a color close to Pickle. Goals.

I made about half of the individual blocks by hand, slow-crafting while watching television and all that, and it was fine, but then I realized that what I wanted was not a project, but a blanket. I already have enough big projects lurking in my work baskets and also in my imagination to keep me going indefinitely, and this didn't need to be one of them, so I finished the rest on the machine, and then started quilting it by hand.

I quilt by hand because dragging a queen-size quilt through the ordinary-sized arm hole in my sewing machine is excruciatingly frustrating, and it is probably how I have ruined several fancy sewing machines. [RIP, Bernina]. Also, I think hand-quilting looks fantastic. I am not, however, committed to spending the rest of my days painstakingly executing 12-stitches to the inch [sorry, Grandma, you did try...] I love the look and, frankly, the speed of utility quilting; big, clumsy, uneven stitches on done in #8 (or sometimes #5) perle cotton, with a big needle, right on the worktable, which is by now completely scratched and beat from hand quilting (tip: if you want to preserve the surface of your table, put your cutting mat down between the table and the quilt, and then go ahead and go to town. It's too late for me, but you can still save yourself.) I used a ceramic marking pen like this one to mark the top, tracing around cups and plates from the kitchen cupboard, and then just put The Monkees on repeat and started stitching. It took me about a week, what with also knitting and, you know, making dinner and stuff. I think I could've done it all in a day if I'd had a whole day, which I hardly ever do. Anyway, there wasn't any rush, other than the fact that every time I walked past the table, where it was draped and in-progress, I'd just kind of clutch my pearls and go all dreamy-eyed, breathily whispering Oh, Pickle. How I adore thee.

It was so pretty there, and I loved it already, even before it was finished. How great is it when that happens?