Monday, June 27, 2011

Sewing dischord

When I saw this adorable sun hat pattern in the July 2011 issue of Martha Stewart Living, I immediately went and printed out the pattern because earlier that day, I decided that my kids need new sun hats. The ones they had last year fit, but just barely and I have the perfect fabric for this project.

Today I cut out the pattern pieces and while putting them together, I got very confused. The first source of confusion is that the .pdf of the side piece of the child's hat contains two copies of the pattern pieces. You only need one. I figured that out fairly quickly. Then came the real confusion. The pattern pieces for the brim of the child's hat look like this after you cut them out:


Um... how exactly the bleep does that turn into the brim of a hat? I looked up the comments for this pattern on marthastewart.com and discovered that I was not the only one who was confused, so I decided to blog about it. Here's how the pieces go together. The key is that they OVERLAP. I figured this out after much turning them every which way and swearing. First, put these two big pieces together:



Then things start to make sense and you can start overlapping more pieces, lining up the lines:


Here it is all put together:


Et voila, the hat pieces all together, as shown in the article and in the pattern overview:


I hope this saves someone some time, confusion, frustration and swearing. Some of the pieces for the brim are just superfluous and you don't need to tape them on. You'll see what I mean when you start taping them together. Pinning 3-layers of printer paper to fabric is not going to be any fun, but the pattern is cute, free and looks simple to sew. In fact, I expect the sewing to be a hell of a lot easier than assembling the pattern, which needs some QA. The second side piece should be removed from the child's hat side .pdf and the brim could be simplified into a lot fewer pieces.

What have I been doing aside from putting together sewing pattern puzzles? I finished my husband's scarf:


It's single crochet, two manly colors of Cascade 220 Superwash. He loves it. Hooray!

I've also been spinning, and in the last week, my spinning skills have greatly improved. I still have to tear the roving into thin strips and then draft and spin from there, but the singles I'm spinning are now getting to be consistent, and the weight that I want. A key thing for me to remember has been that fine fiber (like the pile of merino roving I have) wants to be spun fine. Spinning about fingering-weight singles has been easy. Now to ply it and dye it! Pics when it's plied.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The sock that nearly bored me to death

You might remember that at the beginning of this year, I planned to do a self-imposed sock-of-the-month club, like Yarn Harlot. Well, this has been a bit of an epic fail. I have knitted only three pairs of socks so far this year instead of the six that I should have by now. In large part, I blame this yarn:


It's Knit Picks Simple Stripes, a long-discontinued yarn that I bought on clearance about 6 years ago for $1.99 per ball. I can see why Knit Picks discontinued it. It was a little too simple for me.

I love knitting socks. I always knit plain stockinette socks, always on DPNs. They are my zen, my meditation. Apparently I love knitting socks with hand-painted yarn, but with self-striping yarn, not so much. This was my first pair with self-striping yarn. I wanted to knit this yarn to get it out of my stash. I only have one other ball of self-striping sock yarn and it may be in my stash for a few years, because I'm not ready to be that bored again. This pair of socks bored me so much, it took me 3 months to knit them. I worked on them only in the car (with my husband driving) for a long time. When I finally finished the first, I decided to quickly smash through the second so I could get them OVERWITH. I did, and they are a perfectly lovely pair of socks, but man, that was a slog.

I guess the message is "Knitter, Know Thyself." I know I need the fun, gasp-worthy beauty and excitement (hey, quit laughing) of hand-painted sock yarn. I won't be buying any more self-striping or self-patterning yarn, because I know I don't like it.

Aside from the self-striping pattern, I also just didn't like the base yarn, which was a big part of the problem. It has 4 not particularly tight plies that were rather splitty, and it's not the softest yarn, either. This is going to sound like blasphemy, but as much as I love their stunning colorways, I don't like the base yarn for Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock, either. I found it to be splitty and not very soft, either. Maybe it's the nylon content of these two yarns that makes me not like their texture.

My favorite sock yarn, the Cadillac, no, the Mercedes-Benz of sock yarn, is Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks That Rock. Mediumweight, specifically, though I love Lightweight, too. The base yarn is wonderful, round and bouncey. Downright sproingy. It's 100% superwash wool and it's just so squishy and kushy and the colorways, omigod, the colorways. Tina Newton is a goddess and a genius. I love the colorways she comes up with! Knitting them makes me so happy. Here's some happiness in sock form that I'm knitting right now:


So soft, so pretty, such a lovely sheen, and the hand-dyed color changes keep me happily entertained as I knit.

I have been up in the air about doing the Rockin' Sock Club next year, and I've decided not to. Instead, I'm going to order 5 or 6 hanks of Blue Moon Fiber Arts' colorways that I'm totally in love with and make my own sock-of-the-month club again. For this year, I have three or four more hanks to get through!

Along with knitting socks, I've also been crocheting on that way, way late scarf for my husband's birthday (almost done!) and Saturday night, I spent some time spinning. I spun some merino roving and was reminded just how difficult merino is to spin, due to its short staple length. Makes me wish I had more Blue-Faced Leicester. I really want to get better at spinning and be able to spin more than just rustic-looking thick-and-thin yarn, so I've joined a local spinning guild that meets twice a month. Hopefully I can learn a lot there and get some help! I want to be able to spin my own sock yarn and one day attend Sock Summit and participate in the Fleece to Foot Challenge that Yarn Harlot discussed today. Holy crap, does that sound like a dream, or what?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Breaking yarn

Sometimes, things just don't work out with a knitting project and you have to break up with it. Things started off so well with my Rose Lace Stole, but quickly we realized we just aren't right for each other.

Rose Lace Stole, it's not you, it's me. I started out with you on a circular needle, which was a terrible decision because you can fit on a straight needle and knitting you on a circular, well... it was just clumsy and time consuming. I spent more time shoving and cramming the stitches around the needle than I did knitting. And we can't have that.

I started out with the best of intentions, but along the way, I made some mistakes. Some glaring ones. As much as it rips my heart out to do this, I had to send you to the frog pond. My heart broke with every row ripped out.

I don't have commitment issues, really, but I realized about 30 rows in that I just did not want to knit 100 more rows alternating the same two rows. I need spice and spontaneity in my knitting, and that just sounded like a slow death.

I'm sorry, Rose Lace Stole. I had to replace you with a younger model. Or rather, an older one. I deleted you from my Ravelry queue and replaced you with Donna Druchunas' beautiful Arctic Diamonds Stole from Interweave Knits Winter 2006. Out of respect for what we had, I won't start knitting it until this weekend.

Aside from breaking up with works-in-progress, I'm still working on a crocheted scarf for my husband's birthday and a sock, both of which will hopefully be done soon so I can, once again, move on to something new!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

EntreKnits and Colorways, two new eMags from Interweave!

Until now, I was not that enthusiastic about digital magazines. I gave Zinio a try a few months ago, downloading an issue of a knitting magazine that shall remain nameless. I found the experience to be awful. Here's how it went: Scroll, scroll, zoom in, zoom in, scroll, zoom out, scroll. It was cumbersome, and I thought, not ready for prime time.

Earlier this week, I saw in Knitting Daily that Interweave was releasing a new eMag called EntreKnits. I am a bit of an Interweave fangirl, because they just seem to get everything right, so despite my previous experience with eMags, I decided to check it out. I was very glad that I did!

Interweave's eMags do not use Zinio, but instead use Adobe Air, which is a free download. Installing Adobe Air and downloading and installing EntreKnits were extremely simple to do. When I finished downloading it and launched it, I was very impressed. Since I'm a former software tester, I'll start with the user interface.

In total contrast to Zinio, the user interface is very user-friendly and intuitive. It's a rich, interactive multimedia experience. For example, to learn more about a yarn, you can just click on a picture of a swatch. And there are videos embedded in the articles! As you read, you can find a how-to video or informational video right there in the article. I love having instant access to all the information I need.

Just like the printed editions of Interweave's magazines, the presentation is very polished, the photos are excellent and it's a delight to look at. Also like the printed editions, the information inside is high quality and on the cutting edge.

EntreKnits focuses on modular knitting, domino knitting, mitered squares, entrelac and other geometric knitting techniques. It's definitely not for the total beginner, but seems to be geared more toward an advanced beginner and beyond. It's for a knitter who knows the basics and is ready for a challenge, ready to learn a new technique or two. There are articles by Annie Modesitt (about knitting and math), Meg Swansen (about entrelac) and other top designers. There are six beautiful, inspiring patterns to knit that look like fun challenges... there's a blanket, a bracelet, a shrug, a cowl and others.

There are hardly any ads, and the few that are there are tasteful and subtle. The last couple pages consist of resources (where to buy yarn, designer's and article author's websites, etc.) and an inspiring last page, which consists of photos of geometric objects designed to get the reader thinking about where they can find inspiration in their own surroundings. Already last night I photographed some stepping stones in my garden that now scream "Fair Isle!" at me, while I hadn't noticed them before.

When I downloaded EntreKnits, I also downloaded another new Interweave eMag, Colorways. Since I just got back to spinning and dyeing fiber and yarn after a 4-year break, I could not resist this one.

It shares the same sleek, user-friendly interface as EntreKnits and the photos are so inspiring and pretty. Colorways takes you around the world of natural dyeing and this topic is of huge interest to me, so this eMag fell into my lap at just the right time. I have two small children, so I am not going to be dyeing fiber with a kettle full of toxic chemical dyes in my kitchen. So far, I've used the jar dyeing technique since it's free of mess and fumes, but I want to do more with dye than that.

Colorways is exactly what I needed, because it illustrates a variety of natural dyeing techniques from around the world. It's a fascinating, very beautiful trip! The photos of artisans in Oaxaca, Mexico and Africa are beautiful and inspiring, as are the video interviews with the artisans that once again are embedded right into the articles. I found out how to dye with natural substances such as chamomile, marigolds and even ONION SKINS! I'm really intrigued by that and am planning to save all the onion skins from my cooking to use for dyeing fiber. The effects produced are so subtle and pretty.

I also learned that once again, Seattle is a great place to be a fiber artist. Colorways contains articles about Earthues, a natural dye company in Seattle and Fabric of Life in nearby Edmonds, WA, a fair-trade store that sells fabric dyed by women in Mali, West Africa. The story reminded me a lot of the Oomingmak Co-op in Alaska that I talked about a couple posts back... another wonderful story of women being empowered by becoming skilled in fiber arts and using those skills to make money. I am very intrigued and inspired and have GOT to get to both of those stores!

I did not expect to like eMags, but I am very impressed with these two and already can't wait for the next issues of each. I am going to re-read these many times, just like I do with Interweave's printed magazines. The only bummer about the eMag format is that I can't put them in a stack next to my bed!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Wacky week and Interweave Crochet Summer 2011!

What a crazy week this has been. I got slaughtered in a literary contest but then a few days later, I found out that one of my paintings made it into the juried show at the Maple Valley Arts Festival! The week very quickly turned from despair to elation.

The piece that made it into the juried show is one I've posted here before, which combines my admiration for Northwest Native art and my adoration for Edgar Allan Poe:


It's titled "Quoth the Raven." I'm so honored and excited to be part of the juried show. I can't wait to see how it does!

I've been crocheting this week, but not nearly as much as I've wanted to. I need to get cracking in order to finish a gift that needs to be done Sunday morning. Pics of that will be posted when it's done.

Speaking of crochet, though, the Summer 2011 issue of Interweave Crochet is awesome. I'm very interested in the history of needlework and needlework traditions in other cultures, so this is very much the issue for me. There's a fascinating article about a type of lace made in Clones, Ireland, an equally fascinating one about crocheted doilies past and present and my favorite article of all, one about a Ukrainian crochet designer named Antonina Kuznetsova and the amazing, beautiful designs she and other Ukrainian designers create based on Irish crochet. I love it when different cultures mix like that and create something awesome.

After that article there's a related one about a Ukrainian crochet magazine called "Duplet." I have got to get my hands on an issue or two of this. The magazine does not have a website, but you can find some issues on Etsy. It's just amazing what these Ukrainian designers are doing.

Along with really great articles, this issue has two designs that went into my Ravelry queue:

First is "Zipline," a pretty, versatile shell:


Second is the "Trillium Tunic:"


I don't know which I love more, the motif band at the bottom, or the pretty meshy stitch that makes up the body of the garment.

I've got much more blogging to do the next couple days. I've found a couple really cool new eMags to talk about!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Organically grown

I love it when I organically stumble across great things. It seems like I always stumble across the exact book that I need, right when I need it.

You know I've been kind of obsessed with lace lately. The second Jimmy Beans Wool catalog landed in my mailbox a couple weeks ago, and on the cover of it is the beautiful Cold Mountain pattern from Knitty. I immediately wanted to knit it, so I looked it up and in the first paragraph of the pattern description, the designer talks about how much Donna Druchunas' wonderful book Arctic Lace inspired him and helped him to design lace patterns of his own.

I got Arctic Lace out of the library and not only does it detail the history of the amazingly cool Oomingmak Musk-Ox Producers' Cooperative, it has lots of wonderful, Alaskan Native-inspired lace patterns to knit, tips on making lace-knitting easier and at the end, a section on how to design your own lace patterns!

I recently submitted a pattern to a magazine that contains a lace pattern from a stitch dictionary. For one of my next designs, I need to design my own lace pattern and lo and behold, Arctic Lace magically comes my way, giving me the knowledge I need to do it. It's so fun when this happens, when you want to do something new and the universe provides a way.

Alas, no pics today, I've been working on a sock and a top-secret project for my husband's birthday. After that, I need to make two father's day gifts and then another birthday gift for someone who might be reading this at the end of the month. June has so many birthdays and holidays, it's the December of summer! Hopefully I'll have some pics ready the next time I post in a few days!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Spin till you dye

Sorry about that title. I really try to avoid the ubiquitous and nauseating "ewe" and "dye" puns, but sometimes I can't resist.

I dyed my handspun Blue-faced Leicester yesterday, using the aforementioned Jar Dyeing method as planned, and oh... my... God. The results exceeded my expectations.

Here it is, plied and wound onto the niddy-noddy:


It's a lovely cream color, but I fell in love with the deep, scarlet, vampire-blood red of my Japanese maple over the weekend, and I wanted something close to it.


I had some Jacquard Acid Dye in the Vermillion color that looked like it ought to do the job. I got it at Knit Picks probably 5 years ago, along with 5 other colors. I made a pretty strong dye solution because I wanted it pretty dark. I got what I wanted!



Gaahhh. It's deliciously uneven. Some places it's pink, some places it's nearly black. Overall, it's the lovely, deep red I wanted.

Now I get to decide what to make with it. There are about 3.5 ounces here. I was thinking about a scarf or cowl, but now I'm thinking of mittens... It's next-to-skin soft, so there are a lot of options.

I have an obscene stash of spinning fiber, as I've mentioned, which I have not touched in nearly 4 years. It's all been stored with Yardley of London Lavender soap, so it's stayed moth-free and smells wonderful. Now my bathroom smells like wet wool, vinegar and lavendar Eucalan, which is just the loveliest smell. Maybe I'll bottle that scent and create a wool-lover's air freshener!

Even though I already have all that fiber, I was looking at Knit Picks' fiber offerings and oh, my. They sell fiber for prices as reasonable as their yarn! Like the undyed Gloss roving (70% merino, 30% silk!) for $6.19 for 3.53 oz. That is an awesome price! I'll definitely be acquiring some of that when I burn through some of my stash.

Also, while looking for spinning groups in my area, I found this sheep and angora goat farm right in my 'hood of Maple Valley! Wow. This is dangerous. An old, dormant passion has been reawakened, and I've got enablers very close by.