Saturday, April 28, 2012

Fiber art therapy

This month, thanks to a very welcome abundance of work at my part-time job and my need for a new computer, I have been busting my ass. Working really hard. On top of that, my two-year-old has really been being a two-year-old lately and has been doing everything she's not supposed to. She's been making spectacular messes, accidentally and on purpose, she's been obsessed with climbing to dangerous heights anywhere and everywhere she can and she's also been enjoying taking her diaper off every time I turn around (hence some of the aforementioned messes). All this has meant that I've had less time to knit, crochet and sew, but I've been scratching out a few minutes here and there to provide myself with some much needed fiber art therapy.

I am having SO much fun with my Charlotte's Web shawl. It's about halfway done and already I'm thinking of making another. What a wonderful pattern and a wonderful way to play with color and experience Koigu's dye and color genius. The Landras are my heroines.


I've also been working on my Mother's Day gift for my mom. It's crochet, Misti Alpaca Lace and some lovely pink seed beads. It's the first time I've mixed beading and yarn, and I am hooked. Passionately, addictedly hooked.

This project is a secret since it's a gift, so all you can really see here is a diaphanous, soft, sparkly pink wad. I'll post a pic once it's in Mom's hands.


I have chosen what will be my second serious lace project. It will be Evelyn Clark's (a Seattle-area designer, I believe) Shetland Triangle Shawl. I'm going to use yarn that's been in my stash for years, Louet Gems Sportweight.


It's been in my stash for years because I don't love the color. I love pink, unapologetically, unabashedly LOVE pink... but not this pink. It's too peachy/orangey. So I fixed that yesterday and overdyed it with some pink Jacquard acid dye. I heated the yarn in a pot, then mixed a tablespoon of dye with some water and vinegar and poured it onto the yarn, followed by a big "glug" of vinegar.


NOW I'm into this yarn. That's what I'm talking about. I wanted something akin to Tina Newton's wonderful "shaded solids," and I got it.


I haven't done any sewing, unfortunately, though I might get to remedy that tonight. I have the batting for my Trashed Onesie Quilt and I also have to replace a zipper in my 4-year-old's favorite hoodie, so that provides me with a good excuse to get out the sewing machine.

I also just saw that the preview for Vogue Knitting's Crochet Special Collector's Issue is up and holy, holy, holy crap. I have a feeling that soon my Ravelry queue will exceed my life expectancy.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The UFO so old it needs anti-aging serum

Oh my God. They're here.


Last week, my mom sent me the granny squares she made 36 years ago while pregnant with me. She made them and didn't know how to join them, so she stuck them in her closet and there they remained until now. She's been talking about sending them to me since I started crocheting a couple years ago, and now they're finally here.

Along with the squares, Mom also kindly included some anti-aging serum for me that she knows I like but that I can't really afford. I laughed SO hard when I saw it in there with the squares. That illustrates just how long this UFO has been lying around... the baby mom was pregnant with while making the squares is now old enough to need anti-aging serum!

I think I have just the right yarn to use for joining them and I've chosen a joining technique. I think this UFO has spent quite enough time unfinished, and after traveling across the country from Ohio to Seattle, I don't want to make it wait any longer to become a useful, finished object. Sometime this week, these lovely squares will realize their purpose and become a finished afghan!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Beware, she's possessed to knit lace!

The needles and hooks have been a-flying! We had a mostly sunny, mostly dry week last week, and I got a lot of knitting and crocheting done while sitting on the deck, watching the kids play in the backyard. I knit a whole sweater and many socks that way last summer, and look forward to doing the same this summer.

Let's see, what have I been doing... Ah, yes, I finished my 4-year-old's new afghan, and she loves it. For some reason, she calls it her "blonde blankie." Not sure where the "blonde" comes in, but how adorable.


Before I cast on a sock for me in the yarn that I rescued from the Epic Fail Baby Surprise Jacket, I realized I had one sock nearly finished for my 4-year-old that just needed to have the toe grafted. I did that and cast on another, and finished it in about a day and a half.


The best thing about knitting socks for little kids is that they are crazy-fast projects because they're so tiny. I made these with what was left of a hank of Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks That Rock Mediumweight after making a pair of socks for me. That's the gorgeous Watermelon Tourmaline colorway.

So now I have a pair of socks going for outdoor and in-front-of-the-TV knitting, but I also wanted a meatier project, a bit of a challenge, a bit of an indulgence. Something just for me. The knitting equivalent of a bubble bath.

Koigu, take me away!!!


Aaaahhhhh.

Those are the five colors I'm using for my Charlotte's Web shawl, from left to right. Yum, yummitty yum. I'm about 1/3 of the way done now and I LOVE the way it's turning out.


The lace pattern is a simple 4-row repeat. Rows 3 and 4 are actually exactly the same, making it even simpler. It's addictive, it's fun, it's engaging... I adore it. I foresee making this pattern over and over again. It's so simple, I can knock out 2 rows while catching a Mommy Break and watching Long Island Medium or one of my other favorite shows.

This is my most ambitious lace project yet. I bought Knits from a Painter's Palette over 5 years ago and fell in love with this shawl immediately, but was too intimidated to knit it. I had been knitting for 2 years at that point and thought I'd never knit lace. Then about 2 years ago I decided to give lace a try, and I made the Wavy Lace Capelet:


It's made in Blue Moon Fiber Arts Icelandic, a wonderful, squooshy, chunky yarn. Using such a chunky yarn was a great way to get used to lace. Then I read Donna Druchunas's fantastic, fascinating Arctic Lace, which really demystified lace for me. The book actually suggests to try lace first in a chunky yarn, then gradually step down to laceweight. It's full of tips and tricks that are very helpful for understanding lace. I don't know if I'd be knitting lace if I hadn't read that book!

Koigu KPPPM is a fingering weight yarn, so I am getting there! I'll be ready for lace weight yarn after I finish Charlotte's Web. I have been adding lace shawls to my Ravelry queue like a madwoman. I'm so excited that I can do it and I love shawls so much, I'm really looking forward to this new lace-capable chapter in my knitting life!

Also, Mother's Day is coming up. As usual, I don't have money, but I do have yarn. So Mom is going to get something made from these two things:


I had better get going on that, Mother's Day is less than a month away! Gaaahh!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Custom Crocheted Sweaters

I've been a fan of Dora Ohrenstein's crochet designs and articles for a while now, so I was delighted to see that she has a new book out called Custom Crocheted Sweaters. There are a lot of great knitting books about sweater design, such as my favorites, Maggie Righetti's Sweater Design in Plain English and Barbara Walker's Knitting from the Top, but I hadn't ever seen an equivalent book about crochet. With Custom Crocheted Sweaters, crochet finally has a comprehensive book about how to make beautiful sweaters that fit well.

In this new book, Dora details everything you need to know about sweater construction, yarn choice, measuring your body, fiber choice, blocking and finishing. She takes you through the process from start to finish, beginning the book with simpler sweater designs and moving toward more complex designs at the end. Each pattern has instructions for alterations that you can do to make the sweater exactly the way you want it and to make it fit just right.

I have knitted many sweaters, but have never crocheted one. For the longest time, I have thought "knitting is good for tubes, crochet is good for flat stuff." Armed with what I've learned from this book, I am now ready to crochet a sweater. Several designs from the book are now in my Ravelry queue!

Added to my queue first is the first design in the book, the Floating Tee, which has a dropped-shoulder construction.


I have mostly avoided lace sweaters in the past, because keeping track of a lace pattern AND shaping is a bit much for me with a two-year-old and a four-year-old who never let me get a full night's sleep. This sweater consists of two T-shapes that are seamed together at the end, so there's no shaping. You only have to keep track of the lace pattern! That I can handle! It's so beautiful, too, and would go with just about anything.

Next added to my Ravelry queue is the lovely Double Trouble Shell:


I really love the motif... but I never wear shells. What I actually plan to do is make a Floating Tee with this motif, based on the versatile instructions that Dora gives in the Floating Tee pattern and in the earlier chapters about gauge and alteration. I think that would be so pretty!

Also to my queue goes the Eleganza Raglan, which I was immediately drawn to, because the raglan is my favorite sweater design.


The stitch pattern looks complicated, but it's actually not... it's a simple alternation of single crochet and double crochet stitches. It makes such a subtle, lovely texture.

Finally, into my queue and moved right to the top is my hands-down favorite design in the book, Uptown:


How beautiful is that? It would go with anything. And the design is something I hadn't realized exists in crochet... it's a top-down, in the round sweater! This is one that I'll definitely make using the yarn that's called for by the pattern, Lorna's Laces Honor. YUM. This will end up being my favorite sweater, I think!

The beautiful yet practical designs and the comprehensive information about sweater design and fit combine to teach how to crochet classic wardrobe pieces, favorite sweaters that will actually be worn over and over, instead of forever consigned to the bottom of your armoir (I know I have a few of those tragedies in mine... they laugh at me when I open the drawer).

I haven't started any of the designs from the book yet, but guess what I finished? The Spring Ripple Baby Throw! The best thing about working on something big, like a blanket, is that it will keep you warm while you work on it. Pics of the finished product next post!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Salvaged onesies

Last night while watching the season premiere of Mad Men (finally!), I sewed the front of the Trashed Onesie Quilt together.


Eeeeeee! I love it. In this pic, it has not been pressed, nor have the seam allowances been trimmed, so it looks a little wonky, but I love it. I think the finished product will be awesome. For the back, I have some pink, knit T-shirt type fabric that will be perfect. I hope to get the batting for it this week.

It's going to make a fun, cheerful, soft quilt for my daughters, with lots of bright colors and fun stuff to look at. The fact that it's made from sections of fabric that I rescued from onesies, T-shirts and pajamas that they had stained beyond all repair makes it special. The fabric and appliqu├ęs get used again instead of ending up in a landfill, and the memories of my girls wearing (and destroying) these clothes as babies are preserved in the form of a quilt. I'm so happy with it, I cut up some more old, stained baby clothes last night to rescue some more cute fabric:


Speaking of salvaging great stuff that deserves a second life, I've watched four more episodes of my new favorite show, The Bronson Pinchot Project. The way he takes materials salvaged from old structures and puts them together to create something beautiful and new is so inspiring! It's not just wood and bricks that he salvages, either, he also finds old fabric to repurpose, too. On one episode, he found a piece of 200 year old mattress ticking from France that had been hand darned by someone. He actually valued the fact that it had been darned, and had the fabric made into a beautiful, charming window treatment, prominently displaying the darning:


How gorgeous is that? And how awesome is it to see someone VALUE darning? Here I thought that sort of thing was only important to us sock knitters. :-)

Aside from being inspiring and interesting, it's also a really funny show, largely thanks to Bronson's propensity for spontaneous song and dance. My favorite song thus far has been the "paint-grade pre-primed pine" song. One day I'm going to see that in a home improvement store and start laughing uncontrollably, and it's going to take me 10 minutes to explain to anyone else why it's so funny.

I've gotten a lot of crocheting done while watching all this TV. Here's the afghan I'm making my 4-year-old, almost done:


There are two more episodes of the first season of The Bronson Pinchot Project left, and I hope to catch them this week during my much-needed "Mommy's Sanity Breaks." I can't wait to see what he does next. What he's doing with salvaged architectural materials reminds me a lot of what my favorite visual artist Nick Cave does with beautiful afghans and sweaters that he finds in thrift stores. They both take beautiful, cast-off objects and assemble them, turning them into something new and beautiful. What a refreshing way to escape all the stamped-out, mass-produced, disposable, personality-lacking crap that we're inundated with today.

Next post: A book review!