It seems that knitting is so often inspired by Mother Nature, be it leaves, or flowers, and even birds.  Which being someone that likes to feed the birds and plant flowers.. this appeals to me. And so when I saw the Dreambird pattern, I knew just the person I wanted to make it for, and just the colors I wanted to make it in.  The pattern design is a bit bold, just like the impossible to miss Northern Cardinal.

Female Cardinals are one of the few singing Lady Songbirds.

Female Cardinals are one of the few singing Lady Songbirds.

However, I felt this would be a good chance to continue in my “Lady Birds” shawls I started with my Gamayun Evening Grosbeak Shawl.  I did need to bit of looking to find the right yarn colorations as I wanted some tonal changes, like the change in feathers.  Truthfully, we don’t get Northern Cardinals in Washington State, but they are very memorable as one of the birds I first learned about when I started birdwatching.

My "bird" perched on the heather and rockwork in my front yard.

My “bird” perched on the heather and rockwork in my front yard.

This pattern is rather different, its shaped entirely with the use of short rows and was a great lesson in the German Short Row technique.  It does use binding off and casting on at various places, so that the overall point of view is the wing of a bird, pinyons outstretched as it takes to flight. Since its mostly garter stitch, this is actually a pattern that difficulty-wise would be fine for a beginner; however, there is one caveat to that opinion.  The author of the pattern probably gives too much information in the full directions.  The intent is that you get the idea behind the design concept as you knit along.  The full directions are certainly worth reading, to get the technique if its new to you, and to pick up the pro-tips like how many stitches to carry your yarn along the backside when you change, but after the first feather or two, there is a simpler single page row by row count directions you will probably use most of the time.

Climbing Hydrangeas - the bird perch-able shawl model.

Climbing Hydrangeas – the bird perch-able shawl model.

Remember when I was talking about Yarn Swapping previously?  Well my received yarn included some simply amazing 100% Bamboo yarn.

Its like they went out on an autumn drive, waves the yarn in the air and voila!

Its like they went out on an autumn drive, waved the yarn in the air and voila!

So this got me and a few of my friends curious as to how exactly one makes Bamboo yarn.   Consider if you will that Bamboo is indeed very woody in nature, even though it technically is a grass.  How exactly do you get silky softness from that?

Bamboo, staple of panda edibles and amazing wire work ninja fighting in the movies... and yarn.

Bamboo, staple of panda edibles and amazing wire work ninja fighting in the movies… and yarn.

Well after some digging around… there are two ways to make bamboo yarn.  One method is shared with making linen(flax), hemp and ramie plant based yarns.With that method, the fibrous material is soaked typically in water sometimes with added microbial help, to break down the outer hard layer and soften the under-layer of the stem, called the bast fibers.  This is called retting.   The long fibrous strands are then dried, and spun into yarn.

Another method is used to make what gets classified as more of a semi-synthetic fiber, such as rayon(wood), modal(wood), viscose rayon (wood), Lyocell/Tencel (also wood), etc – apparently we wear a lot of trees.

Wood you like to see my future yarn stash?

Wood you like to see my future yarn stash?

In this method, chips of wood/chunks of bamboo/bits o’ cotton (didn’t see that non-wood one coming did you?) are treated to a chemical bath to break apart the cellulose fibers that make up the plant and dissolve them into a pulp.  They can then be treated with other chemicals to add flame retardation or other desirable qualities if so desired.  And then finally… the pulp is then extruded through spinnerets into an acid base that hardens the fiber strands to prepare them for spinning.

Now… lest one of you points out that thus far I’ve only briefly mentioned the most famous of plant fibers… cotton yarn is not made using either of these methods.  Cotton has natural cellulose chains.  Whereas all the prior wood  was only about 40-50% cellulose, cotton is 90%.  Which means that you can comb/card and spin those fibers directly into yarn.

Oh plants... so helpful in giving us yarns for our friends allergic to the animal fibers.

Oh plants… so helpful in giving us yarns for our friends allergic to the animal fibers.

To be clear I do not know which method was used to make my yarn.. and honestly it doesn’t really matter… its a beautiful gift and I can’t wait to knit with it!  If I were to describe it… I’d say its like cotton and silk got together and had a love child.

Just in case I am not the only beginner in the room… I thought I’d take a moment to talk about lining up your seams.  Now there are people that are quilting perfectionists that can be rather passionate about seams and be a little bit more judgmental about such things; I am not even going to get into that.  I will say if you are starting out and you have one of those moments where you just aren’t feeling very perfect, I’ve been there.  You will get better.

So here’s a tip about how to lineup your seams that works well for me.  Its called “Nesting your seams.”  When you are ready to join two seamed pieces, you will want to iron one section so the seams lay facing one direction, and the other piece where you want the seams to match up so they are going in the other direction.  So that as you line up your pieces, and give them a little finger wiggle, the seams but right up next to each other in a bit of an X formation.

Like so:

I'm holding the seam a bit open here so you can see how they come together.

I’m holding the seam a bit open here so you can see how they come together.

And here's what it looks like when its closed, as it would be for seaming.

And here’s what it looks like when its closed, as it would be going into your machine.

Now for me, the best results come from having the seam that is folded away from your body to be on top as you feed it into the machine, and the seam on the bottom is folded towards you.  This way you can guide that top layer under the foot and your machine feed is going in the direction of the fabric.  It doesn’t always work out that way, but if you have the option when you are ironing and pinning, aim for that on the more difficult seams you have on your project.

I do tend to pin across my seams.  I am a pin person.  I see videos of people that do not use pins and they amaze me... but I am not one of those people, and I'm ok with that.

I do tend to pin across my seams. I am a pin person. I see videos of people that do not use pins and they amaze me… but I am not one of those people, and I’m ok with that.

Now when you unpin and unfold your seams they should match up pretty well.

TA-DA!

TA-DA!

Now, since I have teased you with a title and reference photos, it seems only fair that I share a photo of the latest Star Trek quilt top!  This one is a lap/crib size quilt done in a very large disappearing 9-patch style.

I waste no time in using up some of my Shop Hop fabrics!

I waste no time in using up some of my Shop Hop fabrics!

Originally this was to be a commissioned quilt piece, but its not looking like that will be the case at this point.  So once I pick out backing and quilt it… it will probably go up in the shop.

I got myself out to the Western Washington Quilt Shop Hop the past few days.  Its actually my first year participating, although I became aware of it a couple years ago when the now defunct local shop was participating (which sadly I was not in town for that time).  I’d posted a reminder on Reddit for the other locals of the group and Jean asked me if I was taking the bus…. which was the first I’d heard of it, and with some encouragement, I decided to go for it.. and I am ever so glad I did.  There were just shy of 30 of us on the bus for the North bound trip, and we visited 12 shops that day. It was organized by the ladies at Gathering Fabric in Woodinville, who not only planned the route, but handled the majority of the passport stamping and picking up your free quilt block pieces, so all you had to do was enjoy the ride, discover new quilt shops and shop.

And did we ever shop….

Its a Busload of fabric!

I actually didn’t go too much overboard, and most of my fabrics were for specific quilts I have in mind.

But there was also some things I just couldn’t leave at the store.

I did find a new gift/project, and while normally I don’t post such things to my blog pre-gifted… since this one involves so much work I think I can get away with it and it will still turn out to be a surprise when its done.

So much embroidery..... so very very much.

So much embroidery….. so very very much.

I also picked up some beads and buttons for my knitting, and stopped at 6 shops on Thursday and Friday… and all before I had to pick up Ben at the airport.

It was a great time, and I met some amazing people and I’d do it all again in a heartbeat!

Crafting can at times be very social, and yet very independent work too.  Its the range from knitting/sewing circles to just me at home with my machine/needles.  It can be very easy to skew to one end or the other and at times I feel a distinct need to correct the trajectory.  So this year I’m engaging a bit more with the people side of things.

I started with a couple of yarn swaps.  Yarn swaps are pretty simple to explain, everyone buys yarn for someone, and so everyone gets something they hopefully like.  I have 3 swaps so far, two completed, and one still on-going.  (I’ve sent mine, but still quite some time until shipping deadlines)

For which I have gained some great yarn from my first two swaps.

After the first couple swaps I joined in on an Assassiknitting group project. Assassiknitting is where everyone works the same project, with the goal of completing yours and mailing it out to “kill” whom you are knitting for.  At which point you take on their project and try to eliminate their target…. all before you get eliminated yourself.  Our project was to knit up a Grumpasaurus.  I knit for someone in Pennsylvannia, and managed to get my Grumpy guy knit all in the first day and out the door faster than I could take a photo with his feet attached.

Curse his sudden yet inevitable betrayal!

Curse his sudden yet inevitable betrayal!

However… my assassin was also a speedy knitter and completed and shipped her grump the first day.  She also lived in the same state, so I was sadly… eliminated.  Here’s the culprit:

Which brings us to the third, yet on-going yarn swap.  I have already mailed mine, and I know that there are a few people who have commented about the Nyan Cowl and my thoughts of writing up a pattern.  One of those people was the person I was to gift to.  So I finished up assembling my bits of notes into something resembling a pattern and sent it on its way.

Since my giftee has now received  her package of loot, I am happy to now offer the Nyan Cowl Pattern to everyone!

And YOU get a Nyan, and YOU get a Nyan, And YOU, and YOU, and YOU....

And YOU get a Nyan, and YOU get a Nyan, And YOU, and YOU, and YOU….

 

Nyan Cowl (PDF)

Please note that this pattern has had very limited test knitting.  Please notify me if you find any errors or mistakes, or just if       something isn’t 100% clear.   Unfortunately I do not have yardage requirements, but I can say that I used less than a single skein of each color, and you can use my first project which I have updated to include specific yarns I used.

Happy Nyaning!

 

 

 

PS – While I was anxiously waiting to post the Nyan Cowl pattern, I found I’d written up most of my market bag pattern at one point… so I finished writing that up too.  I’m calling it Misscarlotta Goes to Market and would love to have some people try it out.

 

May has been one of those months where you feel like you are getting everything and nothing done all at the same time.   I have completed a lovely shawl I am saving for a later update, worked a bit on another shawl that is a gift (no update yet), started yet another pair of socks, and even did a wee bit of gardening, such as adding my flagstones to my side yard path.

My porch is just to the left.  I've spent a wee bit of time out there enjoying the flowers while knitting a bit this month too.

My porch is just to the left. I’ve spent a wee bit of time out there enjoying the flowers while knitting a bit this month too.

And so yesterday I finally got around to working on my Quilt-Along Mario Block… so I doubled down and did two.  (Also because when reviewing my plans at the end of last month I realized I might actually want to do more than 12 blocks. I finally got around to Mario.

Itsa me! Mario!

Itsa me! Mario!

My Mario was actually done in two pieces because the 820 Quilter’s Grid is wide enough that you can get one and a half blocks per section.  Since I only bought 10 yards at the start, I decided it was time to see how difficult it will be to work out the extra squares or if I would need to buy more interfacing.  And it looks like it came out ok.

I also tackled a Piranha Plant!

Nom Nom Nom

Nom Nom Nom

This is a version from the QAL group and replaces the bare warp pipe in the original Quilt design set. btw, both of the blues in the above squares are the same, its just a matter of lighting and cell phone photos.

I don’t know about anyone else, but for me, sometimes I get lots of things all going at the same time and when I take just a second to breathe its all a bit overwhelming.  When I’m focused in on a single project then its easy to just keep right on going, like some puzzle where you just put in one more piece… “just one more block” so you can finally realize the big picture.

So on the one hand, when you have multiple projects going, doing a Quilt-A-Long(QAL) is a bit helpful, since you can focus on just one block and then you know that the object is to just do one a month so you’d best stop. Leaving the next block for next month is what you are supposed to do, and not just sitting there taunting you.

So first up… my QAL block for April is Luigi.

Issa' Luigi!

Issa’ Luigi!

I personally like Luigi better than Mario.  I don’t know why… maybe its second child/second player related… but if you make me choose, I want Luigi.  So my quilt means… Luigi gets completed first.  I did assemble him facing left, whereas the original pattern has him facing right.  But I like the variety of not having all my characters facing one direction.

I have also managed to push out more star blocks, and am now up to 33 stars.

This does mean I’ve managed to complete one of every different fabric type.  I’ve started to make them a bit more assembly line style, which does help with feeling productive and actually getting them done.  I tend to make from four to six all at the same time.  Hopefully I can keep on track and get all my stars complete this year.

Lastly…. I made a small test block for someone online, and they gifted me with a charm pack of beautiful autumn colored batiks.  (A Charm pack is 40 5 inch by 5 inch squares)  When I saw it my first thought was autumn leaves, so I set out to find a quilt block.  I finally settled on a Tree of Life Block with each of my batiks as leaves on my trees.  So I fiddled about with my paper and pen until I arrived at what I think is a solution.  Then the next time I was out, I bought some background and Tree trunks to go with my leaves and now I have it all ready and waiting for the first cut.

Spring Sunshine on an Autumn Quilt.

Spring Sunshine on an Autumn Quilt.

Not shown here today is my movie strip quilt that is hibernating awaiting more photos, my Christmas Cathedral Window I want to use up Christmas Fabric Scraps on, the Kandinsky Art Quilt I’m still working on plotting circles for, or the Star Trek Disappearing (Space) Nine Patch that I need to buy the solids to go with my prints.

Ah well… they will all get finished eventually, right?

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