Sunday, December 30, 2012

Bigger is Better (At Times)

Troy and I have had this dining table since we were married. I found it in a local antique mall and liked its general design, size, and the fact that the rounded ends fold down.

It came with three leaves (not shown in picture at left) and would seat six, but barely.

We lived with it for six years in South Bend, and not until we moved to the current house did something make me wonder just how far this table would expand.

Here's the table at its smallest--small enough to push against
a wall as a side table (which is how it might end up in the
final room layout when we have a permanent table in the
kitchen). I can't get over how versatile it is.
As I recall, I asked Isaac to grab the other side, and we pulled...and pulled...and pulled. The table stretched from one side of our dining room to the other (literally wall to wall). It was 10 feet long!! Well, that got me thinking...

Since we got it, we have known it has needed to be refinished. Whatever they put on the top isn't really hard and reacts badly to hot and/or wet things being put on it. So I had the idea that I could hire someone to refinish the top and build some new leaves so I could have a really big table when I needed (and replace the one really annoying warped leaf).

Time passes...

I still haven't looked into getting someone to do this for me and it occurs to me that I'm not looking for a restoration of the table, I just want a big table. And I figure anytime I'm using it full length, I will have it covered with a table cloth anyway. So I ask Troy if we could make some wide plywood leaves to use instead of trying to get a matching wood. He says, "Of course." So that is what we did.

Troy made two wide leaves with the holes and dowel pins needed to lock them in place. Here we are testing one of them:
We weren't going to be really fussy about the project and thought we could have just used them like that, but decided with just a little more work we could do better.

So, taking over Troy's workbench in the shop, I put on a couple of coats of stain:
and then added two coats of polyurethane. Can I say again for anyone that is listening that stain and varnish do not agree with me? What a chore. Not my thing. But anyway, it's done. (Troy reassured me that wood workers probably have a similar creed as quilters with their "it's not bad if you can't see it from a galloping horse" criteria. Let's hope so.)

Here are the finished leaves in place:
You can see they're a little different than the original wood, but they blend pretty well I think.

Here's the table at its full length:
And here it is fully dressed:
We had 11 for dinner last night and it worked wonderfully.

I had to get new tablecloths for the new length, of course! A few weeks ago, I happened to be at Joann's when the decorator fabric was 1/2 off, and I took advantage. The 54" width is perfect for the width of the table, and I purchased 4 yards of a blue brocade and a shimmery gold cotton. I looked for fabric that had a nice enough looking selvage that I didn't have to hem up the long edges. (Galloping horse criteria, remember?) Then all I had to do was straighten the end and hem it with my favourite blind hem stitch. In the set up above, I just folded the gold tablecloth twice lengthwise and laid it on top of the blue. It makes a lovely runner.

Now I need to make one (or two) for the next size down...

Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Good Day

A couple weeks ago I read somewhere that a knit designer I admire (I admire her designs, anyway; I don't really know her) was going to be appearing at a yarn shop nearby close enough. She would be hanging out to sign books, discuss her designs and show off the actual prototypes and samples from the books.

I realized (with some glee) that this was all happening on a day I had scheduled off to use up some of my accumulated comp time. I had no other plans, so I decided to go. Why not?

The day dawned with some snow, but it was supposed to taper off throughout the day, so off I went to Country Needleworks. I drove the hour and a half to get there, and got to meet Ann Weaver, designer extraordinaire, and she kindly signed my new book.
I had to admit that I hadn't actually knit any of her designs, but I had started to notice that I could pick out her patterns when I saw new stuff I liked. She is the designer of the Oranje sweater that I went on and on about here. (Still plan to make it, by the way. Maybe this year--I need a pullover to enter in the fair!)

Another one I have my eye on is this large circle shawl:
I am fascinated by circle shawls and don't know why I haven't made one yet. This one's in the book I bought, so maybe this will be the first.

While I was at the store, I took a look around. They not only have quite a large yarn selection, they also have supplies for beading, embroidery, scrap booking, etc. I, however, stuck mostly with yarn and picked up a few new skeins...

They stock Mini Mochi, and I grabbed this colourway, "Blueberry Pancakes":
My Circle socks that I made from Mini Mochi are the best feeling socks I have, and so of course I want some more.

I finally broke down and decided I may need to knit Troy a pair of socks. This Ultra Alpaca
was a suitable colour, suitably soft, and hopefully suitably hard-wearing since it contains a lot of nylon content. And also, suitably priced since I had to buy two skeins to make sure I could make them big enough and long enough.

And the best find of the day was these buttons:
They are quite large (about 2") and very lovely, and I bought all they had. Thank you, people who gave me cash for Christmas! (Splurge time!) No, I don't know what they will be used for, but I love them very much.

Then I sat down for a while and knit, listening to the conversation of the group. What was I working on?
I started an easy take-along project--a new bias triangle shawl like this one I had to give away. I found a very similar colourway in a wool-silk blend and knew right away that I would use it to make a shawl for myself. I made pretty good progress while I was there. Like the first one I made, I am holding the yarn double, working from both ends of the same ball. I have a little more yardage than I used in the first one, so it should end up about the same size. (This is a pattern you can work until you run out of yarn.)

Then while I was sitting there, I noticed that they had some old cross stitch samples for sale in a back corner. Not only on sale, but on clearance.
I really liked this subtly Christmas-themed sampler on red linen. For $15, I thought it was a steal.

Here's a detail of a darling little bunny:
and the deer and snowflakes that run across the bottom:
It was fun sitting in a shop in the Grand Rapids area. For one thing being blond is normal instead of the exception. They were talking about seeing Cokie Roberts at the January series at Calvin College (my alma mater). And in the clearance bins of cross stitched samplers, I found one with the words of Lord's Day One of the Heidelberg Catechism. Only in Grand Rapids. (Well, I'm sure people in Pella say, "Only in Pella.") It's fun sometimes to be among "your people."

And then the fun did not end. I met up with a friend who moved out of the area a few years ago, and we had a great time talking over an early dinner and then seeing a movie. And since you can never have enough of this hunka-hunka-burning-awesome, I will even include a picture:
Yup, we saw Skyfall and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Out of Season Gift

Project Stats
: 11 Dec '12
Finished: 18 Dec '12
Pattern: The SkullKerchief by Knitty Or Nice (free)
Materials: 40 g each of Caron Simply Soft in white and black ($6.58)
I didn't make many gifts this year, but I have one I can show you today. The person it's for isn't really a blog reader, so I think I'm pretty safe in revealing it even through it hasn't been given yet.

I saw this pattern for a SkullKerchief and couldn't resist! What's a SkullKerchief, you ask? Well, when worn down, it looks like a generic black and while scarf:
 But when you pull it up over your nose, look what you get:
Isn't that great!! One person on Ravelery went so far as to make a matching hat with the top of the skull on it, and I was really tempted (like really, really tempted), but I have resisted (so far).

I double knit the project so (like the Skull hat) it would be warmer and have no long floats on the back.

I knit it from the bottom (point) up, and finished with a Kitchener cast off (above). Since the pattern changes colour, I had to switch colours a couple times in the bind off to match. I pulled harder than usual on the tension to make sure the top wasn't too loose, but I think it still may benefit from an elastic through the top. We'll see how it fits the recipient.

The pattern calls for you to knit in some button holes and then to sew buttons on the other side to fasten it. But I think doing up buttons behind your head is a pain in the butt, so I sewed the seam shut at the back.
And since I can't resist, I have to show you the same thing on the other side too:
I made it out of acrylic, in part because it's a gift and many people can't wear wool (especially around their neck and face) and also because it's hard to get a true white and true black in wool. I wanted a lot of contrast on this one. I have plenty left over, so maybe the hat will come next year...

Monday, December 24, 2012

Santa Squam Yarn Watch

I keep hearing about the NORAD Santa watch today, but I've been doing the Squam Yarn Watch:

It left the origination point on Saturday and started what should be the last leg of the journey today.

With any luck, it will arrive on December 26 when mail resumes...woo hoo!!

PS: Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Squam Planning Begins

First big project of the new year? The lace coat from the Vogue Knitting Early Fall 2012 issue:
I've wanted to do it since the issue came out, but knew it had to wait until I was done the commissioned sweater. And then there's the busyness of Christmas, so I figured it would wait until the new year. But it's getting to be that time, and now I've decided this is going to be my big Squam project. Like when people knit their "Rhinebeck" sweater every year. (That would be a nice impressive bit of knitting to wear at the hugely popular Sheep and Wool Festival held in Rhinebeck, NY.) But I'm not going to Rhinebeck, I'm going to Sqaum.

First up was to chose the yarn. I wanted to stick with the alpaca/silk blend of the original yarn, but in what colour? The pink is nice, but not really what I wanted. The same brand (that's Classic Elite Silky Alpaca Lace) also came in a neutral beige/tan called Blithe that I considered:
I also looked at Knit Pick's Shimmer Lace in Buttercream:
It has a little more variation in the colour, but I thought it wouldn't clash too badly with the lace pattern. There are only two projects on Ravelry that use this colourway, but one of them was a large lace shawl that showed very well what it looked like knit up. (What did I do before Ravelry??)

I considered Malabrigo's Silkpaca in Sunset:
but decided it was a bit much. (I looked hard at Malabrigo because I know and like their yarns and can get it at my LYS, but their colours were all either too dark or too cool. All the beiges and light colours are very washed out. Not what I was going for.)

What I settled on was Drops' Lace in Light Camel:
I'm hoping it will be a warm neutral, not too dark but not so light as to disappear on my pale, pale skin. All the prices were pretty similar so that didn't influence the choice significantly, but this yarn also happened to be on sale, which is nice.

It's being shipped from California whenever the shop is next open and I will be waiting for it eagerly! I don't think I've ever spent so much time looking for yarn for a project. I think I tend to do projects based on what yarn and pattern come together serendipitously. I don't remember having to search so hard for the right yarn. Or maybe I usually settle for what's easily available.

I will also add that three skeins of the yarn probably would have been enough, but I bought four. (And they are huge, so that is going to be a lot of extra yarn.) But one thing there won't be with this project is Fear Of Running Out Of Yarn. Not going there with this one!

Update: I got an email that they shipped it the same day. Apparently they weren't closed for Christmas yet. Woo hoo!

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Cupboard Facelift

When I designed the kitchen, I put in a couple of open shelves for a break from the monotony of all. those. cupboards. And I thought it would be nice if I could find a way to decorate them so they weren't part of the sea of brown we've got going on. Something like when people wallpaper the inside of their wardrobes or closets with a bright or fun wallpaper.

I even picked up a roll or two of nice wallpapers when I saw them. But I didn't want to commit (or put in the work) of actually wallpapering the back of the cupboards. It's so permanent. And hard to undo. (Because everything, at some point, needs to be undone.)

Then I thought of an idea. Troy came home with about a dozen sheets of some type of plastic covered foam board from work one day. They were ad boards that were supposed to go up in the store, but they were sent all the wrong sizes for their frames! You've seen them on the blog when I've used them as blocking boards.

I decided I would cut one to size:
and cover it with paper. I narrowed it down to two choices:
and decided to go with the strawberries. A little softer, less busy, and too cute to resist.

I wrapped it tight around the foam board and taped it down:
Then I just had to empty the shelves, remove them, and slip the covered foam board into the back of the opening. The shelves are narrower than the frame and there was plenty of room behind them for the thickness of the foam board.

So the upper shelf went from this:
to this:
It has the added benefit of covering up the mounting screws that were visible (you can see them plainly in the "before" picture above):
For the open shelves in the island, one roll of wallpaper wasn't wide enough so I had to make a seam. Since I was using painters' tape, I just taped it in a few places on the front, making sure to match the pattern, and then ran a length of tape along the seam on the back side. Then I removed the tape from the front, et voila:
you can hardly see it even if you do look close.

So the island shelves went from this:

to this:
And from the right angle, you can see both shelves with their cheery backgrounds.
Total time: about an hour. And so re-doable and un-doable it's not funny. It would be a great trick in cupboards with doors too. A nice surprise inside. (Especially if the inside condition isn't that great.) I'm sure a good sturdy cardboard would work as well as the foam board. It's not like there's a lot of stress on it.

Meanwhile I am enjoying my little project, finished and off the "do it someday" list.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Double Knit Skull Cap

It was a bit of a forced march at the end, but I got the skull hat done this week. After all the adjustments made for size (both circumference and height), it's the right size to fit Troy so I'm assuming that's good enough!

There was more finishing work to this hat than most because of the double knitting, but it was all easily handled one step at a time.

When I got to the end of the pattern, I knit a couple rows in the main colour (on each side, so to speak) and then was ready to cast off.
Of course, you can't just cast off like normal--each stitch slipped over the next stitch--because you've got stitches from two different layers. So I separated the layers, putting the inside layer (light stitches) on one cable and the outside layer (dark stitches) on another
You can see the two layers curling away from each other
once they are put onto separate needles.
While I had the opportunity to hide the yarn between the layers, I ran the light yarn end through the back of the stitches. I made a couple zigs and zags (changing direction helps to keep the end from working out) and then left a longish tail between the layers.
I couldn't do the same with the dark yarn end because I was going to use that to cast off. I cut the yarn to a length about 4.5 times around the circle, put it on a blunt needle and started to Kitchener the inside stitches to the outside:
It took a while, but the final finish is definitely worth it. (And let's be honest, it takes a while to do a regular cast off as well.) If you are really opposed to Kitchenering, you could do a three needle bind off. Just make sure it's stretchy enough.

Then I put the dark yarn end onto a sharp needle and worked it into the back of the stitches between the layers as best I could. You don't have a lot of room, but you can still pull the layers apart even if they don't open up like when I worked in the light yarn end.

Then I had to go back to the top of the hat and take care of the slit from when I was working flat. I used the long tail from the cast on and mattress stitched just the dark layer. Also, instead of sewing one stitch in from the edge, I went half a stitch in. Since I didn't decrease a selvage stitch when I started working in the round, I didn't want to pull it in too much on the upper part.
Once the dark layer was done, I did the same thing to the light layer:
I'm working the yarn end in by switching to a sharp needle
and pulling it through the back of the stitches. I zigged
and zagged a couple times and then left a long end between
the layers. If you do it right you won't see it from the
outside at all.
And presto, you have a hat that you can way either way:
Project Stats
: 11 Nov '12 / Finished: 9 Dec '12
Pattern: Skull Hat by Gina Doherty
Materials: half ball of each color, Patons Classic Wool Merino (Dark Grey Mix and Natural Mix)

May I suggest?

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