Saturday, December 31, 2011

Good-bye, 2011!

I am going to do a quick and easy year end summary this year...a slide show:

I hope you enjoy.

If you want any more detailed information about any of these projects, look for the list of 2011 completed projects in the sidebar on the right.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

One More Christmas Gift

Here's your warning--if you think you may get a gift from me and haven't yet, this post may be a spoiler for you. Consider yourself duly warned
Now, for the rest of you, I would like to share my Honey Gloves. I made them to match a Honey Cowl that I made last year. I based them on a basic glove pattern from Ravelry but started them above the cuff with a provisional cast on.
Once the gloves were finished to the tips of all the fingers, I took what yarn was left and knit the cuffs down from the cast on. To stretch the yarn a little further (because I was going to run short), I did a two-colour version by alternating each row.

The yarn used on the slip stitch row dominates so I used the main colour. For the alternate rows, I used a purple silk with sequins that I had left over from my Sahara. The effect is pretty subtle but it's a nice extra touch.

I think the gloves turned out pretty well. They are short, which makes them ideal for the long winter coat sleeves with no room for bulky gloves half way up to your elbow. They are also thin enough to not make your hands useless while warm enough to make a difference. What I think of as ideal driving gloves. I hope they work for the recipient!!

Project Stats
: 7 Sep 11
Finished: 26 Sep 11
Pattern: Basic Glove Pattern by Harry Wells (free)
Materials: Berroco Ultra Alpaca Light (Prune Mix), 1.2 skeins ($6.30)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

The big day has arrived. I'm glad when Christmas falls on a Sunday because I grew up going to church on Christmas morning and my current church doesn't have services on Christmas morning...except when it's a Sunday. It doesn't feel like Christmas if I don't go to church first thing.

You may recall that I made a cover for our communion table to be used throughout advent.

When we last saw it, it looked something like this:

Each week of advent, another piece was added.

This morning, not only was the final center piece added, but they were all turned around to reveal an appliqued star:

I had to work to make it big enough to make an impact from the front of the sanctuary, but I think it came out ok.

For those of you who want the details, I applied the star with Steam-a-Seam double-sided fusible adhesive and then zig zagged the edges with a variegated rayon thread. (I used purple in the bobbin so the sewing isn't very obvious from the plain side.)
I didn't want to "outline" the edges of the strips so I left them raw. I thought zig zagging there would be too distracting as it goes up the middle of a ray. If the edges start to ravel, I can always zig zag them later.
Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I hope you have a good day.

Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Slippers

Still need a Christmas gift? Well, if you have a little car trip ahead of you (where someone else is driving) you may still have time to finish these slippers:
I finished the second one in less than a day, and I don't mean a day where all I did was knit. My best guess would be less than three hours. The socks have a lot going for them as far as speed is concerned: they're worsted weight and short with a fairly simple construction.
I didn't even bother to convert them to toe-up; I just followed the directions. The pattern is a little dense (written in more of a paragraph form than line-by-line), but if you have any experience with socks you shouldn't have any problems.
I made these slippers as a gift and they are a little big on me. I hope the recipient likes them! (I know she likes wearing slippers so it's not a big risk!)

Project Stats
: 8 Dec '11
Finished: 18 Dec '11
Pattern: DROPS 125-15 by DROPS Design (free)
Materials: leftovers of Red Heart Super Saver (66 g)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Boxing Day (the other kind)

Ooooo, clothespins...they are so handy for everything. I love them in that way you love totally simple and basic things.

But what am I using them for here? Well, let me tell you...

Some time ago I read someone's blog wherein she described making boxes out of cardstock to organize things in her drawers, etc. I'm sorry I don't have a link. I thought it was in my bookmarks but it's not and I have already spent more time than you would believe looking for it, with no success. :(

Anyway, reading her post planted the idea in my mind. In case you haven't heard, I am in the middle of a kitchen remodel. (By remodel I mean new foundation, new floor, new walls, new layout, new plumbing, new wiring, new cabinets, new lighting, new get the idea.) Anyway, we are getting very close to the point of putting things into the new kitchen and I will want to keep stuff organized. And I am unhappy with the "one size fits none" sort of options you get for drawer organizers in stores.

So I decided to give her idea a try. I figured it was a pretty low-risk option--easily replaced if it doesn't work out; easily completed if it does.

First things first: evaluate what you need to organize. Here is my old silverware container, which has been sitting on an open shelf in a closet for the last year:
It's ok but too wide for my drawer and doesn't really give enough slots.

I took the new drawer and tried different arrangements with the loose silverware:
From that, I took some measurements and laid out a plan:
The first time I just drew in the boxes, but I would recommend writing in what's going in the box. I don't know how many times I make a plan, don't write it down and then can't remember the plan by the time I get to the end. Maybe you are better than me, but my current policy is to write it all down. (In case you're wondering, "loseables" was the term I made up on the spot for the cutlery that Troy is permitted to take out of the house when he has to eat breakfast on the run. This will hopefully cut down on the number of pieces lost from my set.)

Second, gather up some cardstock:
I started with a number of pudding packages and added bean and peach boxes before I was done. Cereal boxes would be great too. (The pudding box was great because it was the exact width I needed for most of the boxes!)

I cut out very simple boxes like so:
(Cut on the black lines, fold on orange lines, and glue flaps marked with green "x"s.)

I originally had the sides go up the full height of the drawer, but that was way too tall. 1.5" seem to work pretty well.
You can see I used the clothespins to clamp the glue joints while they dried. As I made boxes, I fit them into place. I learned that you need to make the boxes slightly smaller than the exact measurements or they won't all fit.

By the end of the day, I had the drawer filled with divided storage:
The drawers are all full-extend, so we should have no problem reaching the items in the very back.

Here it is filled and put to service:
Only time will tell how the boxes hold up to use. If we really like the layout, Troy could make a more permanent divider out of thin plywood. If we don't like it, it's fairly easy to change at this point.

I know the bright packaging in the boxes may seem distracting or even tacky to some, but I kind of like the straight forward honesty of it. We'll see if the opinion lasts.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Socktoberfest isn't over until the socks are done. (Put down your beer; they're done.)

I have to admit--favourite sock pic yet! :)
Ready for some pictures?

I didn't finish my Soctoberfest socks in October, but that didn't mean I gave up on them. As I recall, I got the first sock done in the month, but then the project sat for a while.

As other projects wrapped up, I set to the second sock and got it done in "no time." Then it took almost as long to get pictures done!

Tip of the day: if you're taking pictures of socks you are wearing and are using a tripod, set up the picture with a spare set of shoes. Then replace them one at a time by the shoe on your foot. I happen to have a 2-sec delay option on my camera and it works great for these situations.

Back to the may recall that I converted them to toe-up with a short-row toe. The original pattern had a purl ridge on the top where the toe meets the foot because of the way the sock was cast off. I liked the look of it, so I kept it in even though it was completely unnecessary.
I ended with just a couple rows of 1x1 ribbing and an "invisible" cast off:
I would normally do more ribbing, but I wanted to finish the pattern repeat and then I was running out of yarn. And I haven't forgotten that I promised a video on the invisible cast on. I think I'm really close to getting it done. (My poor Hourglass socks...they have been waiting since early June to be finished because I'm going to use them in the video!)
I think the mock cable pattern showed up fine through the colour changes:
I was worried the changing colours would distract (and detract) too much from the pattern. But I think because they were relatively long colour runs, it worked out fine.

You can see that the colour runs did not work out to make matching socks:
but I'm ok with that. (They're termed "fraternal" in the sock world.)
Yes, when I wore these socks for the first time, I wore them with these heels. (But I chickened out by wearing them with long wide pants.) Project Stats
: 1 Oct '11
Finished: 26 Nov '11
Pattern: Nutkin by Beth LaPensee (free)
Materials: Lang Yarns Jawoll Magic (colour 84.0063), 1 skein ($20.14)
I know there is a strong tradition of wearing your hand knit socks with heels (especially mules), but I have never felt comfortable with it. But close to finishing these socks it occurred to me that they would look good with these brown heels and then I had to try it.

Mock me if you want; I don't care!! :)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Little Christmas Pieces

It's certainly "that time of year." Time to worry about all the little Christmas gifts you need for the people in your life. I'm not talking about your kids or your parents...they're kind of a given. But where to you draw the line? Co-workers? Friends? Friends' kids? Mailman? Teller at the bank that always gets your deposit wrong but he's so nice about it you're not supposed to hold it against him?

I usually draw a pretty tight circle. Partly because most people I know have so much (more than they need) that worrying about giving more seems almost improper. Not that I won't pick something up if I think a certain person will like it, but I don't worry about it. Except for work...

I know we are having a Christmas party at the end of December. I know that my coworkers will be giving gifts around (based on last year's precedent). And I will feel bad if I have nothing to give in return. A little resentful that we are playing this game, but bad nonetheless. Last year you may recall that I made mini knitted stockings. This year, I have just finished little mini quilts (about 6"x8") that can be hung or used as a "mug rug." (Think coaster, but a little bigger so it can hold a drink and a snack.)

I have to admit I think they are pretty cute. Maybe I will even have to make one for myself.

Before I show them all to you, I will give you advance notice that I will be asking you to vote for which one you think should grace the front of my Christmas card this year.

And so, without any further comments, here they are:


Ok, here's the poll. Please vote on which mug rug you would like to see on my Christmas card. You may vote for more than one, if you'd like.

You have until December 10 if you want your vote to count.

Returning to the quilts themselves, the backs of the quilts are all single pieces of fabric.
I quilted them all the same. I think you can see it here pretty well:
It's a basic outline of the tree and the box around it. (The inside edge of the border.) And then of course, I stitched around the appliqued star as you can see in the very first picture. I used my "light neutral" piecing thread for all of the quilting on all the quilts, regardless of fabric. And I used my shiny gold "lame" thread for zig zagging around the star.

The design itself was paper pieced and you can get a copy of the pattern for yourself here. (You're welcome!)

You may have noticed that even though I said the mug rugs could be hung if desired, I didn't add any pockets (like these) or loops to hang it with. I didn't want any hardware on the back which would unbalance a glass and decided a simpler, less permanent solution would work:
A safety pin! The quilts are small enough that they will hang from the pin--all you need to do is get it reasonably centered. Here's proof:
There it is merrily hanging on a wall from a safety pin. And if you don't want to hang it, just take the pin off.

And now's the part where I give you a little tip. It's something I picked up from my sister when we were having a quilting bee. We had four of us set up on four sides of a quilt we were binding so we could all work on the same quilt at once. I couldn't help but notice that my sister really was just whizzing along. Finally she showed me her secret, and now I'll show you:
I love simple tricks.So obvious once you're told.

I think I have gone on long enough now. I hope you've voted. I hope you are able to use my tip one day while binding. I hope you have a merry advent season, giving with a cheerful heart! (Set me a good example.)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Happy Advent

Today is the first day of advent. I'm starting to get into it. (It's not quite the Christmas spirit, but it leads into it.)

What helped this year is that I was asked (just last Sunday, I will add) to make an advent cloth for our church. The communion table is generally "dressed" with a liturgical cloth suitable for the current season and we didn't really have an advent cloth.

Although purple has been traditional for advent, blue is becoming more accepted as purple is used for lent. It is also widely accepted to use pink for "Mary's Sunday." I think we found a lovely sort of compromise in this batik fabric which contains lavenders and blues. (The lighter lines of flowers are more blue in person.)

I was also pleased to note that some of the flowers are calla lilies since white lilies are a symbol of Mary. No, I don't go to a Catholic church and I don't venerate Mary, but you can hardly celebrate Christmas (you know, Christmas that still has Christ in it) without realizing that she played a pretty big role in the whole saga.

Anyway, I think the fabric is pretty ideal for the table covering. Plus the batik is so pretty and complex, I didn't need to do anything more than hem the ends and throw it over the table.

But since I can't seem to keep things simple, I decided to make several strips to hang down the front:
There was only one up today because it's only the first Sunday of advent. I'll add one more each week until it will be completed on Christmas. I'm working on a "surprise" to be revealed on Christmas day, but it's not ready yet so I'm not going to tell you about it. (Plus, advent being a time of waiting, it seems appropriate to make you wait to see the whole picture. Sorry if that drives you nuts. ;)

What I can give you today is a little tutorial on the blind hem I used. It's very simple, but it can be tricky to get your head around how it works. But it's well worth the "mind bending" even if it's a little painful because the result is so professional and effective.

First, you fold over the hem to the wrong side at the final depth that you want and press:
Then you fold under the raw edge, trying to make the exposed part of the hem even:
and press it down again: (I love to iron.)
Now you need to do a little flip to get it ready for sewing. It would be hard to describe so I made this short video:
See how simple that is? You don't turn the fabric over (the wrong side still faces you), but just give the hem a little flip, making sure to keep a little bit exposed as shown.

Pin as you go:
Now you'll need to head to the sewing machine. Most machines will have a blind hem option. It's a straight stitch on one side with an occasional zig zag. It looks like this on my machine:
You can see that my machine has the option to do a blind hem to the right or the left. Your machine may only have one option.

You may also have a special foot for your machine, but you don't need to have it. If you do, it will have an uneven bottom--one side will be higher than the other. You put the fabric under the foot so that the ridge of the foot lines up with the fold, as seen here:
As you sew, the seam will be straight along the right side (the upper fold of the hem) and then take an occasional "bite" of the left fold, which is the body of the garment (or tablecloth). You can see in this picture that the machine has just finished taking a bite.

Once it's sewn, you can unfold them hem (and press again). Watching this may help you know what to expect:
Here's the seam as it comes off the machine:
And after unfolding and turning to the right side:
From a little further away, you hardly notice the stitches on the right side.
This is one of the flattest, well hanging hems I know. Try it out!

May I suggest?

I Say! or at least I did once...