Don’t Panic! (Its supposed to look that way)

So I decided to refresh the site a bit as I head into year five.  (Can’t believe I’ve been at this for so long.)  So I hope everyone likes the blue, and if not then you can look forward to the next update in say… 4.75 years or so.

Nearly finished photo.

Nearly finished photo.

In other news, when I visited my Grandmother this year she tried to explain how its hard to find a cute winter hat, perhaps one with flowers.  So as a knitter…. I got right to work.  The first one is a slouchy hat with a flower on the side, and I thought being kind of festive I’d use up some more blingy fluff and sparkle style yarn from my stash.

While I did take a actual finished photo, with the skies getting pretty dark by 4PM the lighting on this one is a bit better.  Unfortunately at this point I decided it probably wasn’t really my grandmother’s style.   Thankfully, a friend was visiting about the time this photo was taken and proclaimed she really liked it, so guess who got a totally not a surprise, but I wrapped it anyway gift?  [HINT:  This amazing person right here!]

Fresh off the needles, one hat with flowers

Fresh off the needles, one hat with flowers

So back to square one on the hat front, but I am one of these people that seems to collect patterns around an idea, so naturally I didn’t have just ONE hat with flower(s) to choose from.  So I picked another and some yarn and forged ahead.  This pattern was super fast to knit and simple, yet a nice design.

Hopefully its the hat with flowers type that she will enjoy and wear.

In other knitted gifts, I made a colorwork shawl for another friend.  The pattern is called Unalakleet.

The actual drape is a bit of a capelet, and it is a real test of tension work as its done as stranded knit and purl.  Which makes the backside appear to somewhat mirror the front, but is all done with loops of yarn carried across.

There is just one more gift on my list I’m finishing up, but you and that giftee will just have to wait and see!

Smitten with Mittens and Cables

Last week I spent an extra day in Grand Rapids, MI during their record setting November snowfall. Thankfully by the second day, I’d finished my first Mystery Knit-A-Long project, some Marie Curie Mittens.

 

Polonium and Radium as portrayed in yarn and beads

Polonium and Radium as portrayed in yarn and beads.  The picot edge does lay flatter after blocking.

This was my first Mystery KAL, which I tend to be a little worried that the mystery will turn out to be something I don’t particularly like.. but with cables, beads and science… they certainly had things going for them.

The inside of the thumbs have my initials and are dated.

The inside of the thumbs have my initials and are dated.

These were done in Cascade Heritage Sock, and Tipsy Sheep Socktails. Tipsy Sheep has cocktail inspired colorways, and is a local dyer that runs a monthly yarn club.  I am 3/4ths the way through this 4 month club cycle and have already signed up for the next round.

 

I also managed to get through not just one, but BOTH socks of a worsted weight sock pair on this trip.  (Though to be perfectly fair, the last sock was finished during the “snow day” at the airport hotel.)

Cable Twist Socks

Cable Twist Socks

Which means that while my first pair of socks took nearly forever… I’ve somehow managed to get 3 pair done this year. Apparently the key to overcoming second sock syndrome is interesting yarn and pattern.  And magic loop method where its all one big circular needle does help.  The simple cable here is actually done without using a cable needle, and because its worsted weight these knit up so much faster.

But wait!  There’s more!

I didn’t just make one pair of mittens…. I made two!

Sunshine yellow and brick  red flowers, to combat the winter greys and whites.

Sunshine yellow and brick red flowers, to combat the winter greys and whites.

These were a bit more difficult though, because to scale the pattern to fit, I ended up using my size 0 double pointed needles.  Which at times makes you feel like you are wrestling a porcupine. It certainly didn’t help that between the first and second mitt the chair ate one of the 5 needles, so I ended up making the second mitten with just 4 needles.  Still haven’t found that needle…

This is how it looks when you are working with your double points....

This is how it looks when you are working with your double points….

Working these two pair of mittens has inspired me to possibly attempt to make some geeky mitts next year. (Think similar to stockings, but with mittens instead) but I think I will want to pick up a magic loop size circular in these smaller sizes before I start making my own.  Needle wrestling isn’t really my thing.

And because I know its always a bit interesting to wonder how the inside of stranded color work looks like…. here’s an inside out mitten shot.  (Technically these are a Christmas gift, but since I went to see the recipient early, you get the early Christmas update!)  One amazing thing about this pattern was that unlike prior mitts, this pattern had one chart for the body of the mitten, with the thumb in the middle area.  You got the left or right mitten based on which direction you read the chart!

Mirrored coloration.  Overtime these loops will felt together a bit.

Mirrored coloration; loops instead of stitches making the pattern. Overtime these loops will felt together.

Also, for my “guilty I haven’t updated in awhile” pile is one celtic cabled cowl, that was finished in time for Halloween decorations.

The first time through the cable pattern is slow and full of stumbles and learning, but once you get to the repeating it all starts to come together.

Now if only I can get the rest of my planned projects for this year finished….

Experienced Level, Beads and Knitting with Novelty

Apparently September was just one of those months where you are doing just so many things that finding time to photograph your knitting and update your blog just wasn’t going to happen.  If you really must know.. there was spaghetti sauce being made, and rooms being painted, and the buying and selling of cars happening… and yes, through it all there was knitting.

So first up… let’s chat about novelty yarn.  Its one of those things that seems to change over time and finds itself marketed to a new knitter or learning to knit knitter, and then as you learn and grow your skill you don’t need fur and ruffles to hide your stitches and suddenly its the bane of your yarn stash.  So in my latest round of stash assessment, I was a bit taken aback by the quantity of fur and other bits that “seemed like a good idea at the time” and went on a quest to find something to make with it.  And I’m happy to report that the Suzy the Cuddlebunny pattern, is a pretty quick  and simple knit that turns out rather well.

Looking for somebunny to snuggle.

Looking for somebunny to snuggle.

I made mine with a flecked fur and an acrylic held double for all the body parts, and just a plain acrylic for the inner ear. The body was deemed “so soft and snuggly” but the test snuggler, so I think, FuzzyWuzzy here will find a good home this holiday season.

Which brings me to the experienced portion of this post.  At some point in the learning of a skill you may find yourself confronted with determining your skill level.  Are you still a beginner?  Comfortable calling yourself Intermediate? What do you feel about “experienced”?  Its kind of intimidating, but here’s the deal with knitting… if you can’t figure it out, or you screw it up beyond all hope… you can just frog it back to your source material.

For me, this bit of bravery involved a pair of socks labeled as experienced level.  Someone else had posted their finished pair and they were marvelous…. so even though it was only my third pair of feet wearable socks… let’s go for it!

Socks of Grand Experience

Socks of Grand Experience

This pattern relies on twisted stitches, where you knit into the back loops of the stitches instead of the front of the loop at points. The bottom of the feet is flat stockinette, but the pattern then picks up from the base of the foot and wraps around the heel and up the leg.

Second Sock Syndrome.... it was hard but I managed to overcome it!

Second Sock Syndrome…. it was hard but I managed to overcome it!

So… what’s an “experienced” knitter to do, but finally tackle using beads.  So here’s a vary patriotic themed Fabergé shawl for one of my aunts.

Thankfully the autumn rains gave me a photo op break.

Thankfully the autumn rains gave me a photo op break.

I really like how the eyelet section is worked to make the stitches look mirrored from the center spine.

I especially like how the top eyelet section is worked to make the stitches look mirrored from the center spine.  Beading is surprisingly less complicated then you would think.

 

So there you have it… the month of September.    Now onto all the holiday knitting… which should include a new pattern revolving around gifting canned goods, some mittens both as gifts and as my first mystery knit-a-long. (yep, I’m finally giving up the “but what if I don’t like it?!” worry on this one.) And more quilting… because I’m falling way behind on my Super Mario QAL project.

 PS – I am totally wearing those socks right now!

Colorworkin’ it! (And some Berries to Dye for)

Ok so the KAL challenge this month was colorwork, and to make it more interesting it was a dueling KAL of a cowl or some fingerless mittens.  I couldn’t decide which project I wanted to commit to, so another member told me I was joining the mitts team.  (Sometimes its rather caring to be bossed around and out of your indecision.)

Well here’s the thing… I was born in a state where you get snow; as in build snow forts and snow men, make snow angels, and generally freeze yourself in the cold, but its all ok because there is cocoa.  The concept of an item of hand wear that doesn’t cover ones fingers just does not fit into my brain on a very logical level.  However, I do have a friend that has expressed an interest in such a silly (to me) item of clothing, AND even in the subject matter upon which the pattern was based (See: Agents of SHIELD, sub catagory: villians – Hydra) and so…

Right in your super-powered keester!

Right in your super-powered keester!

These are made using what is called stranded colorwork.  You carry the non-working color along in loops called floats on the wrong side of your work.

But…. in my fit of indecision and due to the size of the yarn in my stash… I decided to also tackle the cowl, because it had interesting looking stitches. the cowl is knit as one piece with three different stitch patterns, all of which use the knit into the stitch below technique.

Cowling on a rock

Cowling on a rock

There were some amazing color choices from the group, and a few people adapted their cowl stitches to work for hats and scarves.  I went with a color group that I’m hoping will match a pair of mittens I want to knit up for a holiday gift… we shall see.

And now onto the berries portion.  I considered making this a separate post, but I didn’t want to pester anyone who actually is being notified of updates with multiple notifications.

Around these here parts (the Pacific Northwest) we have wild plants called salal (Gaultheria shallon). And about this time of year, they grow dark berries, which I had heard in my quest to first identify the plant were edible.  So this year, surrounded by the myriad of berries, I decided to try them out.

Now, first disclaimer here… Salal berries are not true berries, but is actually from the sepal of the flower, and thus is considered an accessory fruit.  (apples, pears and pineapples are also considered accessory fruit) So what I discovered when I was boiling out the juice was that the berry remains were actually very much still a dark coloration, and still giving off an enormous amount of dark liquid.  So… in the spirit of “this main stain” as a yarn person and not as the laundry lady, I decided to see how it would come out in yarn.

First up, I tried it out on some plain white 100% cotton:

And then because it didn’t turn out like a car wreck… with wool:

So there is my first go at dying something… using the most free ingredients, hand picked from around the yard.  (Is Free Range Dye a thing?).  Not sure it is a vibrant enough dye job to make people jump for joy and throw money at it, but it was something to try and now I do have plans for at least some of this yarn already… so stay tuned!

And one more thing…. my giftee finished her Nyan Cowl, and made some amazing mods to the pattern!

And the Trees are striped Bare, of all they wear…

You may recall a few posts back I mentioned getting some amazing 100% bamboo yarn in my last exchange.  Well my yarn Santa sent me not only the two skeins of bamboo, but a great hank of Hazle Knits sock yarn in Song Sparrow, AND a stunning pattern for a maple leaf shawl from my patterns wishlist.  Which btw… I should mention that my Santa this swap was actually my rematch giftee from an earlier yarn swap!  (If you are reading this then…. Thank you a billion times!)

So naturally I got out my birthday gift from Ben… which was a fabulous set of interchangeable needles. and got right to work on making my Maple Leaf.

This leaf fell a bit earlier in the year.

This leaf fell a bit earlier in the year.

I absolutely loved the pattern and color combination, but I will say I was a bit worried because of how drapey the project was knitting up that it wouldn’t hold its shape so well during blocking.  But I am very happy to report that a simple wet block and laid out flat was just right.  It has quite a bit of drape to it, but it holds the leaf shape very well.

Now the one thing I can say about this pattern to be aware of, is that it has a large number of ends to weave in. Now that being a somewhat subjective determination, I did count and can give you a comparison.  For your average knit item its 2 ends per skein per separate piece.  So for a single skein shawl, such as this one… 2 ends would be typical.  I counted my ends as I weaved them in this morning… and came up with a total of 50!  You have roughly 2 ends per point on your leaf.  So this would not be a great travel project where you may find yourself without aide of yarn cutting implements.  *cough*TSA*cough*

But overall I loved the project… AND! I still have a whole skein left of this great Bamboo and another skein of sock yarn in Song Sparrow by Hazle Knits from this exchange!  Woohoo!

Since it was a great day… I couldn’t resist taking a beauty shot of my maple leaf out on the maple tree…. so I’ll leave you all with that.

PS - The title is from October by U2

PS – The title is from October by U2

Pillow Fight! (And Mario QAL updates too!)

So, Jean, who invited me on the Quilt Shop Hop Bus introduced herself as a “Beginner Quilter” in that she begins all her quilts.  This was a minor consolation when I was organizing my fabric space and discovered my Sewing Works in Progress was overflowing a 14 gallon tote.

Now, to be perfectly fair, the first photo makes the tote look rather unorganized, but in reality under the bag of eventual Christmas Cathedral Window Quilt and the loose future Mario QAL blocks its all sorted out by project.  But in my organizing I did find a few items that have languished in unfinished land for far too long.  Primarily there was a set of three needlepoint pillows where all the needlepoint work was done, but the actual making into pillows part was never done.  (One of which I posted about in July 2011, the other two were from even prior to that!)

So in an effort to finish some of the things… I forged ahead and finally finished making them into pillows.

The sunflower pillow I had actually bought material specifically for finishing.  (Though I bought way more, because at the time it made perfect sense that I would make several sort of matching pillows and want to finish them the same.)  The other two, I completed with stash fabric I’d originally bought for other uses.

So between the pillows and the two Mario QAL Blocks I made, it looks like I can at least close the lid of the WIP bin. (Until I need to get into it for the next project anyway!)

As I mentioned at the End of May in my last Super Mario Quilt-A-Long update, I am looking to do more than just 12 blocks in my quilt.  Mario’s princess will be in this castle quilt.  So I’m doubling up the next couple months to be sure I get all my blocks done for year end finishing.  This time I tackled two from the sky.

This cloud so happy, you'd think Bob Ross painted it.

This cloud is so happy, you’d think Bob Ross painted it.

IMG_20140721_154831

Ben said I should say this was an “8-bit” quality photo. (Instead of  admitting I took it with my cellphone in the later evening.)

Future blocks include, Peach, Green Mushroom, Coin, Fire Flower, and a few more!  I am aiming now for a 16 (4×4) block quilt.

Birdwatching Shawl: The Lady Cardinal

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.

Know Your Fiber: Grow Your Own Yarn Edition

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.

The Seams of the Many, outweigh the Seams of the Few

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.

Shop Hopping for Fabric and Fun

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!