Sunday, December 18, 2011

Holiday Knitting (cont.)

Another week, and I have another cowl done. This is the Diversify cowl. The main reasons I picked this pattern were that it was just right for the small skein I had of lettuce green yarn and it looked easy. Well, I was right about one of those. I was an inch into this project before I started feeling as though the pattern made any sense or I could actually see the pattern emerging from the tangle of yarn. Once I figured out what was going on, the pattern became easy, and I like the end result. Here's what it looks like unblocked (it's soaking right now).
Whew! The yarn is the same 50% silk/50% merino blend that I used for the Duet cowls. I LOVE this yarn. Once I get the gift knitting done, I've got a couple of skeins of this yarn in bright pink with which I'm going to knit the Burberry-inspired cowl for myself.

Here is the cute cat (or, gee, why am I not making more progress with my knitting this afternoon) picture of the week.
(He's got my right hand, and my left hand is holding the cellphone somewhat shakily.) What a sweet fellow!

I hope everyone out there has a nice holiday.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Hearing the Holiday Train Roaring Down the Track

This past week, I had to set aside the crafting and focus on getting ready for this week's book club meetings. Yes. On Tuesday evening, I have book club meetings 5:30-7 and 7-8:30. Of course, just to make things even more interesting, I'm leading the discussion in the second group. Fortunately, the members of the first book club were willing to meet in a restaurant just two blocks from where the second group is meeting.

The first club will be discussing Steven Johnson's The Ghost Map, about the 1854 cholera epidemic in London that helped establish the science of epidemiology. This is a really good 200-page book filled with sociology, biology, politics, geography, etc. Unfortunately, the book is buried inside a 250-page book. I recommend this book with the caveat that one be prepared to simply skip several pages at a time in a couple of places. I am looking forward to seeing what my fellow clubbers have to say about this book.

The second club will be discussing Dorothy Day's 1952 autobiography, The Long Loneliness. This is a woman who lived one of the richest lives of the 20th century. As a teenager, she was jailed as a hunger-striking suffragette during the final years of the women's suffrage movement. She worked as a journalist, getting published in an assortment of Socialist, labor, and Catholic magazines and newspapers. In her long life, she wrote books of reflections, novels, and plays. In her late 20s, upon the birth of her daughter, she left her common-law husband and became a Catholic. A few years later in the mid-1930s, in the depth of the Depression, she co-founded the Catholic Worker movement that, 30 years after her death, is still thriving with more than 230 houses of hospitality located across this country and in many others as well. I have long considered her a challenging voice in the Church and someone who makes me very uneasy. This book very much comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable. She sees the world very much as a place that can be fixed and must be fixed now. I read somewhere that someone said to her once, "Someday, you'll be canonized a saint." She is said to have snapped, "I wouldn't want to be dismissed so easily." I could hear that voice crackling through this book, and I am looking forward to reading more by her, I think.....

Having finished that book, I turned my attention back to the Christmas knitting, and this afternoon I finished #5, the Impressionist Cowl, using Malabrigo Rios yarn in the colorway Indiecita (yarn that I purchased at the Busy Hands shop in Ann Arbor). Here it is before blocking.
This morning at the coffee shop after church, I laid out all five of the cowls (this one was still on the needles), and the gals looking at them gasped at this one. "Oh, Liz! This is the one they'll fight over!" I just love the stitch pattern and how it plays with the variegated colors.

Finally, here is the cat picture of the week. Last evening, Hubby said, "Oh, look at the Big Guy!" and we both started taking pictures of our dog-like tomcat. He's 16-and-a-half years old. As far as I'm concerned, he can strike any pose he wants.
Time to go cast on cowl #6! Have a great week!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Fruit Salad Quilt and more

Part of my morning, easing-into-the-workday routine is reading Melody Johnson's blog, Fibermania. (Gee, I hope my boss looks at context here....) The big danger here is that she frequently has posts that make me crazy all day to just get home and DO something. One of those posts happened on Thursday where she reminded us about this tutorial for dyeing wool in the microwave. It so happened I had some Cascade 220 wool yarn I'd bought from Dharma Trading a few weeks ago. I was going to be home alone that evening, so after making sure I had food coloring in the kitchen,  I sent a text message to the sister (who has a fabulous new blog you really should check out) and asked her what color I should do. We agreed on a deep jewel-toned purple. The results that evening were not wonderful (sorry about the blurry photo):
On the way home from work on Friday, we stopped at the grocery store and picked up more food coloring, and I overdyed the yarn:
I did a quick hunt on Ravelry this afternoon and found the perfect pattern. It's elegant, practical, and will look FABulous in this deep color.

Earlier in the week, I finished the Scrunchable cowl.
I love it! I hope the recipient does, too. I then cast on the next cowl using some yarn I had spun. Lots of bright colors, and they're all muddying together, and I think I may just give up on it. Last evening, I cast on another cowl using the leftover dark teal yarn from the sweater I finished in the summer. I promise pictures next week.

This afternoon, I got a good start on the Fruit Salad quilt. Here are the fabrics cut so far:
I was really nervous about how these fabrics would play with each other - whether they were too close together in value, tone, etc. However, as I was selecting fabric, I really focused on the scale of the print and tried to get a range of values. As I look at this picture, I see some darks - the cherries in the strip and the jalapenos in the diamonds, some mediums - most of the rest, and some lights - the white fabric with the red and green splotches. Last week, I thought the leaf fabric in the picture below would be background fabric:
I decided against it because there just would not be enough contrast. I do think there'll be places for all five of these fabrics in this quilt, and I'm looking forward to finding those places as I go along. In case you haven't noticed, I dearly love fabrics with fruits and vegetables. I don't know why, but they make me smile. The top picture has peas in the pod, pineapples, cherries (times two!), citrus fruits, jalapeno peppers, and apples. Also, the selvedge on the edge of the white fabric informs us that name of the fabric is Peas and Carrots! I love it! (The orangey-red fabric in the first picture has turtles on it - not in the theme, but the color is SO right.)

Speaking of SO right, here are a couple of guy pictures. The first one has a ticked-off cat who has just been shoved off a lap (because he'd been biting!) and wanted assert his authority over the woman who had just jilted him.
The next picture is of someone showing excellent taste, lounging on one quilt and in front of another.
Have a good week, folks! Go forth and create!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Fruit Salad Quilt - Part 1

About a month ago, I introduced you to a jumper from 1984. I thought at first I was going to rework the entire garment into a new one, but when I started pulling it apart, I realized that the green fabric had faded and should be folded into the fabric stash. The pink skirt part had some possibilities. So, I cut a big hunk out of the middle of the front and used that fabric as the waistband.

I also cut up a muslin shirt (one of those projects that seemed like a really good idea at the time but ended up being a one-wearing outfit that then got wadded into the back of the stash). When I trimmed out the front, back, and sleeves, I had enough fabric to serve as a lining.
I figured that the lining didn't have to be as long as the skirt, and this lining is about knee-length. Last weekend, I put elastic in the back part of the waistband. (I have never done anything like this before; I've always put the elastic all around, but I had noticed that the ready-to-wear skirts I like best have the elastic just in the back.) I sewed the ends of the elastic to bits of muslin and pinned the ends into place at the side seams.
Then, I sewed the ends down with several lines of stitching, removed the pins, and folded over and sewed down the waistband all around. Sharp-eyed folks will notice that I didn't do a try-on after I had the elastic pinned into place. Shall we just say that the middle of the back of the waistband has been opened twice, the elastic cut and sewed together twice (because certain people don't learn very quickly....)? Since I didn't tamper with the hemming when I was disassembling the jumper, I could go straight to the buttonholes.

While most people in Washtenaw County were either huddled in front of their televisions or standing in Michigan Stadium living and dying play by play, I was in the sewing room cursing my sewing machine, my inability to read simple directions, the thread I was using, etc. Periodically, I'd dash downstairs to catch the score or watch a replay (because the radio in the sewing room is permanently tuned to the local public radio station, and it's too confusing to be changing stations, that's why) and then dive back into the buttonhole mess. Anyway, I ended up with 14 pretty well spaced buttonholes, and then I attached buttons I had scavenged from a shirt that I had torn up for rags earlier this month. Here's the finished product:
I like it, it fits nicely, and I have another versatile skirt for the spring and summer.

I have finished another cowl; this uses the Braided Vines pattern I found on Ravelry. It was pretty quick and easy (while I was working on this, I also made a Duet hat for a lady at church - no pix, sorry).
With this cowl done, I pulled the next yarn I wanted to work with, a wool/silk blend I got at the Fiber Expo two years ago and decided on the Scrunchable cowl pattern from Ravelry.  I was hanging out with friends all day on Friday, knitting my little heart out, and I got home to show my husband that I had made about an inch of cowl - I had trouble pulling enough yarn for the long-tail cast on (three tries with the first needles), then I didn't have the gauge right (which I discovered after knitting for two hours), which meant I had to start over, and it took three tries to get the right sized tail for the second set of needles. Then I realized that I still didn't have quite the right gauge, but I also didn't have the next size of needles. So, I did a few judicious decreases (which took me two hours to figure out - okay, dinner was mixed in there), and finally, I really got going, and here's the cowl about half done:
Isn't that gorgeous? Do you see why I stuck with this yarn and with this pattern? I could totally see myself making this pattern in another color way. There are some gorgeous single-colored cowls showing on Ravelry.

Do you know that I still think of myself as a quilter? This afternoon, I pulled out that pile of fabrics I had pulled a couple of weeks ago and then did something I very seldom do: Opened a book and looked for a quilt pattern. I like to design my own, but sometimes I just have to let someone else do that work. I opened Jan Krentz' Lone Star Quilts and Beyond, found a pattern that I really like - Remembrances - and started sorting fabrics. Here's what I ended up with:
The lighting isn't very good, but trust me, we have oranges, lemons, apples, cherries, pineapples, peas, and jalapeno peppers. More pictures next week, I promise.

Finally, a new cat has been seen in the fabric hutch:
I have not seen a conflict between Little Bit (whose domain this has been) and the Princess interloper, but I am curious about how the timing works. Is it that Little Bit (who doesn't stay in the hutch when I'm in the sewing room) simply cedes the space to Princess when I'm in the room? hmmm

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Eleanor Cowl - done!

Just a quick post here. I finished knitting the Eleanor cowl and blocked it.
Isn't that a beautiful lace pattern? I am so pleased with it, and I hope that the niece who gets it loves it, too. I didn't have much yarn left over, in fact, I actually didn't knit the last four rows of the pattern.
The little red threads on the yarn is where I was measuring half yards to see how much I had left. This morning at the coffee shop with friends after church, I mattress-stitched the sides together and realized in the middle of the process that the top row (the bind-off row) was tight. Ooops. I tried telling myself it didn't matter, but I knew that the tight top row would keep the piece from being comfortable to put on or wear.

When I got home, I poked through my knitting bag and found the Knitty article about the Interlock Bindoff that I had put aside for a day like this. The technique is well explained, beautifully illustrated, and easy to learn. The resulting top row is very stretchy and easy to wear. Here's the finished product:
In another part of my life, I attended a prayer vigil last Friday evening to help show support for a member of my parish who is facing deportation. I would ask anyone reading this to please look at this website and please consider signing the online petition and calling one of the numbers listed, asking that this mother of three American citizens be allowed to stay in this country. The bishop of the Catholic diocese of Lansing has written a letter to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency supporting Lourdes' petition. There are some terrible injustices going on in our society that are ruining the lives of some of our most vulnerable neighbors. Writing this paragraph is such a tiny thing to do, but if enough of us "ordinary" people speak up, maybe we can start fixing these problems.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Vines and Eleanor and Jumper and Duets, Oh My!

Hello, everyone! This week, I shipped off the Duet hats/cowls to my mother-in-law, but not before I took a picture:
Aren't they pretty? Yeah, I added little tassels to the ends of the I-cord on the pink hat. I thought it added a cute touch. With those done, I was able to turn to the Eleanor cowl and make some serious progress:

The yarn is so soft that I'm not minding the fact that I have to concentrate hard and count constantly - this is NOT company knitting. With that in mind, last evening, I cast on the Braided Vines cowl and was able to keep up my end of the conversation at the coffee shop this morning.
Yes, I am aware that my next yarn purchase should be on the green/yellow/orange side of the color wheel. I so hope that my nieces like these darling little neckwarmers!

This afternoon, as I was ripping apart the jumper that I showed last week, I realized that the skirt of the jumper was in pretty good shape and, with a lining and a waistband, would get me a nice spring/summer skirt. There was so much excess fabric in the skirt that I'll be able to have a button-front skirt and use the excess fabric for the waistband.
I was able to pull out some appropriate lining fabric from the stash, so I'll be working on the rehabbed skirt over the next couple of weeks.

In between the various projects, I have read a couple of books recently. This weekend I finished Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's All Wound Up, which I purchased at my local bookshop (at Stephanie's request on her blog). Just remember, if we don't support them, they'll go away. Back to the book: knitting humor is a pretty narrow part of the humor spectrum, but Stephanie mines it well. There is an incident in the book that had me standing outside Hubby's office (while waiting for him to finish for the day) and chuckling, chortling, giggling, etc. He looked askance when I announced that the drive home would include a dramatic reading. I was less than a page into the story when he let loose with the first chuckle. We were nearly home by the time I finished the story, and we were both laughing so hard that I think it may have counted as distracted driving.

The book I read before that was a book I happened to scoop up on my last dash through the dying Borders Book Store, The English is Coming by Leslie Dunton-Downer. This is an entertaining look at the history of the English language, the current state of it as a global language, and some speculation about its future directions. I find myself hearing the language differently and paying attention to how the folks around me (many of whom speak it as a second or third language) speak it.

Now, for the cute kitty pictures of the week. First, I decided to reorganize my bureau, and a certain Brat Cat got curious about an empty drawer.
In the afternoon, as I was knitting along, a flag floated by
and a few minutes later Baby Boy was looking for attention:
Tell me you would have kept on knitting and not have given some serious cuddles....

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Projects, Projects Everywhere!

Last Sunday, I tried working on the second Christmas cowl while engaged in a round of conversations. That evening, I had to tink (that's knit spelled backwards) the three rows I'd done that morning. So, I wisely started a new project that was suitable for the Tuesday evening book club meeting - the blue hat for my mother-in-law. Here's how far I got:
With all of the baseball later in the week, I got a lot done on the cowl, which is the Eleanor pattern. I even took some time on Saturday while listening to a couple of knitting podcasts (Sticks and String - he's back!! - and the Knitpicks podcast). Here's how far I got:
As I knit, I think. One of the things I think about is all of the things I'm not doing, that I've done, that I want to do soon. Some of that thinking led me to look hard at the top of the pink hat I'd made for MIL, and I had to admit that there is something wrong:
If she is losing her hair, her scalp is probably a bit tender, and that ribbon looks and feels quite rigid. So, last evening, I started knitting an I-cord to replace the ribbon. The story in the instructions I found was that the great Elizabeth Zimmerman said that it's so easy to make that the "I" should stand for "idiot." I worked on this cord for half of the USC-Stanford football game last night and only got this far:
For the sake of sanity, I think I have to turn this into car knitting (while Hubby is driving, of course). I think I have to make it twice as long as it is. I may lose my mind from boredom before this is done. On the other hand, it's going to make a much softer drawstring, and I do love my darling MIL.

Speaking of sports, there is a number that is dear to the hearts of many people in Michigan. That number is 35 and 5; that number conjures up the magical season of 1984 that the Detroit Tigers baseball team had and the win-loss number for the first 40 games of that season. I spent a couple of weeks that spring listening to ball games on the radio and working on a new dress:
Yeah. I actually wore this out in public and was quite proud of it. I have had it in the sewing room for several months with the idea of reworking it into another garment. This afternoon, I measured the green fabric to see just how much I have. Umm..... two-and-a-half yards. So, for a second week in a row, I am knocking another UFO off the list. The fabric has faded a bit, and I will do some seam ripping and reduce this dress to stash fabric.

Finally, I gave myself a real treat this afternoon. I live a few blocks from Highland Cemetery here in Ypsilanti, and local historian James Mann conducts walking tours of the cemetery a couple of times a year. This afternoon, I walked over and took the tour and learned all sorts of cool things about this town and the people who have inhabited it over the years. I did this instead of hanging out in the sewing room, and I consider it time well spent. Here is a view within the cemetery.
Finally, here is the cute kitty picture of the week. Little Bit was sitting up on the landing on Friday afternoon just looking darling (little knowing that a trip to the vet, complete with shots, would be part of her Saturday!).
If you are a new reader, thank you for stopping by. This blog isn't about anything much of importance. If you want politics, I mention the subject generally only in passing. Reading through past posts would probably tell you my basic stance. If you want religion, well, you'll probably be able to figure that out, too. I am who I am, but I don't expect anyone else to be me (one of me is more than enough). If you want intimate family information (including the real names of my cats or family members or friends), well, you won't find it here. This blog is about stuff I do in my spare time, and it's turned into a good record for me of projects I've done and started and mean to do some day. I like to point people toward resources that have worked well for me. Maybe they'll help you, too. Cheers!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

UFO Weekend

Let's start with a finished project. Here is the first hat for my mother in law (I'm going to make the same hat in a cobalt blue):
Now, for the UFOs (that's UnFinished Objects, folks). A year ago in the summer, I cut out the fabric for three blouses from the same pattern. For various reasons at the time, I only finished one of the blouses. Today, I pulled out the other two and made the following observations:
Hospital gown!! (Also known as new additions to the blue fabric shelf!)
Yep! That fabric is awfully sheer! (a.k.a. new additions to the yellow fabric shelf!)

Cool! In about 10 minutes, I cleared two long-term UFOs! With that done, I opened another box of UFOs, and pulled out some fabric and a skirt pattern. I had only half the amount of each fabric for the skirt pattern in question. On the other hand, I liked the way they looked together, so I laid them on the table and started pulling coordinating fabrics. I started with the bright green-leaved fabric and the white fabric with bright red and bright yellow splotches.
I don't know what this will be, but I really like these fabrics together. In looking at this photo, I will need to add in a really dark fabric, and when I return to the sewing room, I'll be looking through my reds. So, this is a brand-new UFO, but a fun one.

Speaking of new UFOs, I went to the Fiber Expo at the Washtenaw County fairgrounds on Saturday. I really debated with myself about whether or not to go. Quite frankly, I've got a pretty deep queue. It is now deeper. Let me show you.
This was my first purchase - please: pink and yellow - me resist? The people in the Via Verde Farm booth were really nice, and they answered my questions about how to spin this. Their advice led me to the Sistermaide booth where I got this tiny lightweight spindle.
That booth was right next to the Cormo24-7 booth where this batt just called my name:
 Way out in the farthest building of the expo, I wandered into the (RuLe OuT): fIBer AdDicTiOn, NOS booth where Emily was very charming and gave me some encouragement. Of course, she encouraged me into buying some of her luscious roving.
I have been really stuck in the spinning area for months because I've been trying to learn the spinning wheel by spinning the same uninteresting fiber over and over, and Emily said, "At some point, you'll realize that even if you get the fiber spun up, you won't like it, so why are you doing this." Hmmm.

Speaking of fiber I need to spin, I stopped in the booth run by my wool dyeing teacher from last January, feeling guilty because I haven't yet spun that fiber. So, I bought some yarn from her.

That skein has 435 yards, so we might be looking at a hat and mittens set. My goal is to turn all of these new purchases into projects before next year's Fiber Expo. We'll see.

No cute kitty photo this time, sorry.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Cone Nebula - Leftovers 2

After a comment from Diana about tumbling blocks and knowing that I did not want to go in that direction (sorry, Diana!), I did some rearranging and worked with the half-square triangles that were also leftover. I will confess that I cut a few more out of leftover fabric because I didn't want this to get too scrappy. Anyway, here was the end of the day:
This will be the headboard for the bed on which the Cone Nebula quilt will reside. This may get bigger.

I wanted to mention three movies that I saw this week, two of which I recommend wholeheartedly. The first was The Way with Martin Sheen. It's about the ancient pilgrimage route through the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela, and a handful of people who decide to walk it. This is a movie that could have devolved into sentimentality, stereotypes, and preaching. Instead, we get a movie full of well-rounded characters (people we meet for only a couple of scenes are richly characterized), gorgeous scenery, and a lot of important questions. Full disclosure: I saw this movie on a free pass, and at the end of the movie, Emilio Estevez, Martin Sheen, and the producer came out on stage and took questions. This was a totally cool evening, but Hubby and I fully intend to see the movie again in the theater. It is that good.

Next up is As it is in Heaven, a 2004 movie out of Sweden. I saw this subtitled movie on a rental from Netflix. It concerns a well-known conductor who falls ill and returns to his hometown, where he takes on directing a small choral group. Again, this is a richly drawn movie full of memorable characters trying to find their way to wholeness. When I finished watching the movie, I say, "Yeah, whatever." The next day, however, the various bits of the story started coming back, and I found myself drawn into the lives of the people and wanting to know more about them. In other words, this is a movie that got into my head. If you want to understand some of it, see the lyrics for the big song that the group sings.

The final movie I'm not sure I can recommend as unreservedly as I can the first two, but it's an interesting character study of a young man struggling with some big issues. The Ides of March concerns a political operative learning his trade. It asks a lot of interesting questions, and it answers them in uncomfortable ways. If you like political movies and movies that leave you feeling a bit unsettled, this would be worth seeing.

Now, to pivot again, I have been knitting. First off, Burning Embers is the first of the cowls I'm making for Christmas presents. The model is a bottle of cleaning liquid covered with an old shirt.
This knit up quickly, and I'm getting really good at reading charts. It's so much easier than worded directions.

When I finished this, I started Duet for my mother-in-law, who is dealing with cancer and losing her hair. I'll be running some ribbon through the top so that she can wear it as a hat.
This is also a well-written pattern with an easy-to-read chart.

Finally, the cute kitty shot is of the Guys, awakened from naps because of some crazy lady with a camera.
That's all for this week!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Cone Nebula - Leftovers

In the back of my mind, I have been wondering what to do with the leftovers from the Cone Nebula quilt. As you see, I have these triangles that I cut but didn't need:
On Friday, I got one of the periodic updates that Jan Krentz sends out, and as I was poking around in her blog, I saw this entry. Go look at that link. Do you see what I see? Well, what about this? Well, on Sunday, I tried this
and this
and this
and suddenly saw where I wanted to go. I sewed together the isoceles triangles at their bases, pressed them open, and sewed them together side to side.
and ended up with these:
Now, I'm thinking that if I flip these on their side:
(and switch one of the flowered pieces with one of the bright green pieces), I have the start for a headboard for the bed on which the Cone Nebula will lie. Thank you, Jan!!