Keep Busy and Keep Going

Sometimes the best you can do is to just keep moving in the general direction of where you want to end up.  Then the next thing you notice you are already well on your way to a pile of stuff that somehow managed to get done.

I attempted to start my latest finished shawl on our holiday road trip.  And while its well written its spread across a few charts and as someone that sometimes has eyes wander in a chart, it was put on hold.  But I’m happy to say my first project with Stellina (aka sparkles) is complete.

The pattern is called Weirwood Tree. I suppose a more dedicated knitter than I would have knit it up in white and then hand dye-painted each leaf that burgundy/magenta of its namesake.

Also on the knitting front, its approaching Sock Madness time, and yet I managed to plan out extra socks to make, and even finished a pair for Ben, who has since decided he actually likes hand knit socks.  And I churned out a brioche cowl for a KAL this month too.

And last but not least I said I wanted to make 5 quilts this year… so I managed to put together another quilt top (I have the backing and binding fabric for this already)

Yes, it is a Christmas Throw Quilt.  No, I don’t have plans for it other than to make it. The design is called a Four Patch Lattice and goes together rather quickly.

Next Up: Expect a bunch more socks, Maybe a sweater, and I should probably get around to quilting one of these quilts…..

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And to top it off…

Its not even the official middle of January and I’ve already got my first top together!  Believe it or not, the majority of the fabric was purchased back in June of 2015 specifically for this quilt idea and then it only took about a week to actually assemble.

Guest Quilt Top

The idea was hatched from a quilt someone posted from I believe Quiltcon 2014, but the bookmarked link I had is now defunct and I can’t seem to find it again.   So if you think it was you and would like the credit you deserve (or just to tell me how unoriginal I am) then drop me a line!

On the knitting front I’ve put together a couple new variations on my market bags, one with a seamless handle design and one a mosaic style to use up some partial cotton balls from the stash.

And then I frogged and restarted a new lace shawl based on the Weirwood Tree pattern. I first started this on the holiday road trip but its a less simplistic lace design which needs a bit more attention.  After getting home with a proper knit companion, its been progressing along. I’m throwing in a few photos I took from the trip (I wasn’t driving at the time) too.

Hope your new year is also producing some good progress too!

The January 1000

Believe it or not… I knit 1000 yards in January.  (Yeah I know, I hardly believed it myself)  The whole month I was in “I’m never going to finish all the things I want to get done this year” for a mindset which may have helped but then again was a bit stressful at times.

So let’s see… first we made socks that I’m putting firmly in the category of “will wear for benefit of the TSA.”  This is a silly idea of mine that since we have to take off shoes most often to travel, and since the TSA officers then get to see a myriad of socks, I shall wear socks as if it were a sock contest.  Previously this was novelty holiday socks, but now I have these beauties checking in for the first 200+ yards:

No officer, a clown did not puke on my feet.

No officer, a clown did not puke on my feet.

 

That pattern probably would look a bit better in a less variegated color, but it was a nice simple repeat suitable for taking in the car or when concentration isn’t as needed.  Which means it offset my lace and beads shawl project.

The pattern itself was only available for a very short time called Dance With Dragons.  I used about half of my Secret Santa yarn, so I shall need to find another project for the remainder, but overall I am loving how it came out.

Next up… it was the January Cold Sheep challenge… find the oldest yarn in your stash and knit it up.  Technically I’ve other yarn that was in my stash for longer, but due to the time of year and the plans for it, I went with actually probably the oldest yarn.  A vintage Dazzleaire from the era of when it was “new” that may even predate my own existence.

Dazzling Yellow Dazzleaire

Dazzling Yellow Dazzleaire

This yarn joined my stash from another knitters stash.  The idea of what to do with it went through several considerations and I really do like the colorway.  But when pressed for an idea… I decided to make my very own design Neck Cat.

This kitty loves to travel.

This dazzling kitty loves to travel.

The essential design idea is a cat themed neck/travel pillow, and I’d say that while its comfortable, and obviously a cat, this fella needs a second go through the design phase.  The next iteration I plan to aim for a more curved and less square body shape, with feet that are a part of the main pillow.

Now at this point I was just shy of both February and 1000 yards. I wasn’t yet ready to start another beaded shawl.  Another person shared some mosaic knit dish/wash cloths, and I am sitting on a stash of quite a bit of cotton so….I churned out a pair of cloths myself.

Coral and Peach Partners

Coral and Peach Partners

Technically the photo above is at the one and a half cloth stage, but I thought it was a nice showcase of how you can just swap the two colors around and get a mismatched yet still matched pair.  It successfully made two skeins of cotton exit the stash and so now I’m starting another mosaic pattern for another pair.

Mosaic knitting is where you slip one color while working the other color across the design.  When you get back to the start of the design, you swap and work the other color while slipping the first color.

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!

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.

The Good, The Bad and the Brioche!

The Good

Thus far this month, I’ve tackled a few smaller quilting projects.  One of which started out as a simple conversion of a bedskirt into a set of valances for Dale (of the Sunflower Dresden quilt fame).  But then I had fabric left, and if you do any kind of scrappy quilting that you can’t let so much as a perfectly good 2 inches of fabric go to waste, let alone any amount larger than that!

So I made a normal pillow case, trimmed in “valance plaid” and then I had more fabric so I made a few quilt block decorative pillows too.

Three pillowcase fronts.

Three pillowcase fronts.

The blue and yellow floral is new, but the dark blue and yellow are scraps from her sunflower quilt, the light blue from my first quilt.  Both smaller pillows are backed in her “valance plaid” to help tie the whole ensemble together. The inside pillow forms were made from some of the plain white that was a part of the bedskirt.  So all told I bought a yard of fabric, and ended up with 3 pillows, 3 valances and I still have a smidgen left.

Smaller pillow features my first ever button holes on my sewing machine too!

Smaller pillow features my first ever button holes on my sewing machine too!

The Bad

First off, I decided to join in a Quilt Along (QAL) with an online group.  (Details here) Now the joining wasn’t the bad part; its probably more of the good part since I don’t belong to a quilting guild or tend to get very social with my knitting and quilting.  But… the shop was out of the recommended interfacing, and the line was forming behind me at the cutting counter so in the words of the third knight in the Temple at the Canyon of the Crescent Moon, I chose poorly.  I chose a non-fusible/non-sticky kind, and its too narrow to do a whole block at a time.  I am attempting to forge ahead with some spray adhesive to see if I can make it work.  Thus far I’ve laid out the first block:

Here's a photo while I was waiting for the adhesive to dry.  You can see where I will need to seam the two sections together.

Here’s a photo while I was waiting for the adhesive to dry. You can see where I will need to seam the two sections together.

Like most of my quilt projects, I tend to take several cell phone photos of it as a work in progress and post them in an album.  Which you can check out here.  Wish me luck!  I might just need it.

In other mixed good/bad news, I did forge ahead with three more stars on my giant star quilt.  I am not super thrilled with how some of the points came out, and was feeling kinda crummy about it.  I do think the later pillow project actually helped, as it has similar cuts and came together very well.

A Green and two blues

A Green and two blues

The Brioche!

A while back I fell in love with a certain pattern for a shawl on Ravelry that uses Brioche stitch.  So this year I told myself I was going to learn.  And with the help of some left over Seahawk Action Green, I started with a nice beginner brioche scarf.

Brioche doesn't look like it has a wrong side.  Just a side of a different color.

Brioche doesn’t look like it has a wrong side. Just a side of a different color.

And so just before the Seahawks finished up with the 49ers, I finished up with my Brioche Scarf!

The tails are done in single color.

The tails are done in single color.

Now I just need to find the yarn I want for the shawl project and I’m all set.  I’m looking for a spring green  for one color and autumn spice for the other.

A Sunflower State Retirement Frame of Mind

I have been holding onto this post for over a week… and all the in progress photos too… because I am a secret agent quilter spy!  (Or at least that’s what I tell myself.)  For my 7th finished quilt, I wanted to celebrate an amazing woman, Ben’s mom, Dale.  (For bonus geek points, she is named after Dale Arden, Flash Gordon’s girlfriend.)

Dale has been working for the past 28.7 years with the Kansas State Department of Education.  And so round about mid-August I found a great tutorial on making Dresden Plate Quilts online that made me feel full of confidence that a Sunflower State retiree could actually have a sunflower Dresden quilt.  So off I went to get a Dresden ruler and my fabric palette.

I actually had the brown fabrics already.

I actually had the brown fabrics already.

And for the front of the quilt I made up 9 sunflower blocks.  Mine were 17 inch blocks, which sounds like a weird number, but actually with the borders came out to a nice 60 inch square lap quilt.

And here the front is.. in all its sunny glory!

And here the front is.. in all its sunny glory!

Now here’s why the spy parts come in…. I decided that this should be a secret project, but I wanted to tie in her work with the quilt… so I called her boss (ok I got the assistant to her boss) who patched me through to another co-worker that became my agent on the inside.  She hooked me up with a fine selection of photos, which I added to the back of the quilt.

This is also a good view to see how I did my quilting lines!

This is also a good view to see how I did my quilting lines!

The picture rail on the back brought the yellows and the blue from the front to the back.. and then a small pip on the front, brought some of the backing yellow forward.

I did get a bit lucky in places where I quilted through the picture rail.

I did get a bit lucky in places where I quilted through the picture rail.

I used the same basic method for making the center circles that is illustrated in the tutorial I linked above, to make the leaves on my itty bitty Dresden Quilt tag on the back:

With some creative folding presentation, front of a single square, and the tag got a highlight too!

With some creative folding presentation, front of a single square, and the tag got a highlight too!

I really do need to thank my agent on the inside.  The quilt was mailed on Monday, with expectation of arriving Friday in time for the party they were having.  For whatever reason on Monday I was thinking was an after work thing, and after a few more conversations… realized it was more after lunch in timing.  So the two of us were eyeballing that online tracking like it was overtime of the Super Bowl.  And then… it ticked over from “Out for Delivery” to “The Receiver’s location was closed on the 1st delivery attempt. A 2nd delivery attempt will be made.”  But my Agent on the inside (name withheld because she’s a secret agent… duh!) went above and beyond to drive out and meet the truck and take delivery.  I shall formally file a commendation in her agent personnel file.

Flower Power!

Flower Power!

And now for some technical specs, because as a newer quilter (this is number 7) I find them helpful.  I used up nearly all of my 1/4 yard of each of the yellow petals fabrics, of which I picked out seven different variations.  True 1/4 yards, not fat quarters there.  I also used up 1/2 yard of the dark green in just the lattice work on the front, not including the border. I had originally thought I would do 18-20 inch squares, so I had some blue left over of the 2.5 yards I bought.

Additional Photos in the progress gallery here.

Heading into Charted Waters with my Evening Grosbeak Gamayun Shawl

So a few posts ago, I was talking about my troubles with my Gamayun Bird Shawl and even before that I was posting about the planning of it to have a colorway similar to the Evening Grosbeak female birds we get here, because I find their grey and yellow to be rather lovely.

I am ready to say that I finally finished my shawl!

Normally I post inside, but today was just too nice of a day to not get my bird in the sun!

Normally I post inside pictures, but today was just too nice of a day to not get my bird in the sun!

This was the first charted lace knit project I’ve ever tried.  And so I made one kind of major mistake… I read the chart left to right, as I would read a book or a cross stitch chart.  But in actuality, knit charts are supposed to be knit right to left, the opposite way.    Now I was fortunate in that this is a fairly symmetrical pattern so when I discovered my error as I was about to forge onto chart three… I was able to read stitches and adjust my pattern to turn out and not frog back for the bazzillionth time.

Here’s a bit of an indoor close up:

Mirror, Mirror Gamayun on the Wall

Mirror, Mirror Gamayun on the Wall

So technically speaking this is a mirror version of the pattern, but I have this rule that if you can look at it with the eyes of someone that didn’t knit it and it and the issue is not noticeable, then you should just chalk it up to the field of “one of a kind” and not a mistake of epic proportions.

This pattern did give me a good opportunity to use life lines (which are a separate contrast yarn you thread through your rows every so often in case you have to frog back some so you don’t drop any of those stitches) which I am certain I will use when I take on the task of fixing the Luscious sweater.  (No, its not fixed yet.  Be patient… its my second sweater ever and I’m spending quite a bit of time figuring out the best way to fix it with my limited skill.)

Taking Flight: Knitting for the birds and airplanes

So let’s say you find yourself in the enviable position of taking a vacation to foreign lands, and you find yourself facing a 5 hour flight followed by an 8 hour flight.  And somewhere down the line of trip planning you decide that a fair portion of that 13+ transit hours could be spent knitting… and then you wonder about if they even allow knitting needles on flights.

Well first let me say that if you live in the US, the TSA has given the knitting needle OK; however, cutting implements are a whole other matter.  But when one is planning an international trip, one has to consider the other countries… and that’s where it becomes a little more of a “maybe” situation.  You can send your project off in a self addressed envelope if they turn your needles away, but if you’ve just spent a month knitting up half a sweater the idea you might find yourself waiting for the postman for the other half just doesn’t sound like a good time.*

So while I had high hopes when I started of actually wearing my Luscious Sweater on this trip, its time to admit that the project will need to wait until I return.

I did finish up the main drape section!

I did finish up the main drape section!

So now its time to pull out some back up plans.  A project that won’t be too big so it only takes a couple balls… yet big enough to keep you occupied for several hours on a plane and during vacation down time.  My solution… a shawl or two!

 ~ And thus we come to the bird portion of our knitting blog. ~

Not that long ago I was thinking to myself that it would be pretty amazing to have some bird colored yarn.  The Stellar’s Jay Vibrant Blue and Black, the Kingfisher’s Teal and Rust… or the Female Evening Grosbeak:

Evening Grosbeaks are primarily monogamous, so Fellas if you like it you better put a chirp on it.

Evening Grosbeaks are primarily monogamous, so Fellas if you like it you better put a chirp on it.

I am hoping that this Rock Candy Colorway by Sockease will do the trick.

Oh oh Oh!

Oh oh Oh!

And my plan is to make it into a shawl called Gamayun Bird out of it.   Since I’m a bit of an optimist in my knitting (hence the unfinished aforementioned sweater) I also bought some other lace yarn for another potential project… but you will have to wait until I cast that on for an update.

The Grosbeak males are a much more vivid yellow.

The Grosbeak males are a much more vivid yellow.

 

*All that stuff about the Postman… well let’s be honest, earlier this month we received an envelope with no stamp, no return address, and the wrong zipcode.  The vast majority of the time they certainly get it right!

To Boldly Go…into Star Trek Quilts

While I could bore you with the details of how Ben suggested we do the Star Trek Reddit gift exchange, and how I am extremely nervous about gifting strangers handmade gifts because I’m afraid they will be seen as the golden macaroni pencil cup.. I think instead I will just post the silly little Captain’s Log Story I sent with my giftee’s quilt (and of course photos!).

Disappearing 4 patch in Trek, Command Gold, Science Blue and Red Shirt

Disappearing 4 patch in Trek, Command Gold, Science Blue and Red Shirt

B Captain’s LogB

Stardate 2264.2

While on our way to check on one of the outlying colonies, Mr. Spock noted the presence of several indicators of intelligent life in an adjoining star system and I’ve decided to check it out.

Stardate 2264.3

The Enterprise has been stopped at the 4th planet in the System. Mr. Scott assures me that the engines are all online but that “She just won’t go!”

Meanwhile, we have been hailed by a being who says her name is Materialanna, representing the Textilian Homeworld. They are claiming we have caused a rent in their space-time fabric and demanding we sew up a suitable patch.

Spock is concerned about the inconsistency of a species that seems to view space-time as a fabric, and yet has the ability to stop a starship.

I have decided at this point to go along with their quilt patch plan, and if nothing else, that will hopefully give Mr. Scott the time he needs to figure out how to get the Enterprise moving again.

Stardate 2264.6

I assigned Dr. McCoy to the seaming of our patch fabric. He mentioned something about “Doctor Not a Seamstress” and “Hospital Not a Sewing Circle!” but after reminding him he had the most stitching experience of anyone, he agreed to take up the task in one of the storage bays.

Quilt #5 is alive!

Quilt #5 is alive!

Stardate 2266.8

The quilt patch is complete! The Textilians have accepted our patch piece and assure us that it will be sent to the proper place and time. Mr. Scott is reporting full function of the Enterprise. Inexplicably, Mr. Spock has noted that all signs of life in this system have ceased to register on his scope.

a

And I made one for Ben's giftee too.  He helped with the layout, and even ironed once!

And I made one for Ben’s giftee too. He helped with the layout, and even ironed once!

Star Trek Into Darkness!  KHAAAAANNNNNNNNN!!!!

6th Quilt…… KHAAAAANNNNNNNNN!!!!

These two babies are already wrapped up and in the mail.  Normally I wouldn’t post gift items until they were received, but in this case the giftees do not have any idea who is gifting them so it is all still a mystery.  These two are backed with a classic trek fleece which was a first for me and I think they turned out pretty well.  I will update with a link here if they post about getting them.

UPDATE:  Ben’s Giftee posted about getting her items.

UPDATE #2: After no tracking updates since Tuesday… my giftee got his gift!