Saturday, August 31, 2013

Slow Socks, a Step Back, but Progress Still

Projects are limited right now as I'm putting in a lot of hours at work. And everything is considered crucial this time of year and the pressure is really on so I come home with "zombie head." I have done some simple knitting and crocheting, and this week helped Troy with canning his peaches. (All done now, thank goodness!) But lots of evenings, I'm not even up for that.

Ok, so I know the sock looks ridiculously long,
but it really loses a lot of length as it stretches
widthwise. Really.
I have, however, been making some progress on Troy's socks. With long days, I try to take time to take a half hour break and sit and knit while listening to my newly-discovered NFL podcasts.

The first sock was stalled at some point when I had to put the stitches on a thread and have Troy try them on. I was worried about their being long enough and fitting his calf. By the time he tried them on they were very nearly knee socks. I had in my head that they should be longer, but Troy's voice of reason reminded me that they were already plenty long and in fact longer than any other socks he owned. Ok, so off to the finishing cuff...

I decided to work an elastic thread in with the top 1x1 rib:
It is a big pain in the butt, but I hope it will help keep the socks from slouching. The cuff ended up being about 1.75" deep.

Then it was off to the second sock. I was hoping it would move faster since I didn't have to figure things out or have Troy try them on anymore. I think the time not figuring things out is spent in making sure it matches the first sock, but I am definitely saving time by skipping the fittings.

I was making good progress and yesterday was looking at finishing the heel. I worked the heel flap with a knit 1, slip 1 pattern which reinforces the back of the heel. (Unfortunately it also reduces the stretch, and I think that is part of why Troy has difficulty pulling the socks over his heel. Unanticipated consequences.)

On the second sock, the stitches got very tight. I wasn't aware of it, but I was pulling the yarn past the "slip 1" too tight and drawing everything in. As I finished the heel flap yesterday, I stopped to take a look and realized it was not going to work. I compared it to the first sock and confirmed that the second one was a lot tighter. Rip, rip, rip went the heel as I sat in my car (aka "private 3-season room") at lunch.

I got the stitches all back onto their various needles and began again with the conscious thought of not pulling on the yarn. It is working much better.
This morning I am dangerously close to finishing the second heel. (And I've used up all the yarn from the frogging. Any time I rip something out, I am driven to knit up all the progress I had to tear out in that same session. Yes, this can lead to some late nights. But when lunch break is over, you kind of have to get back to work so I'm glad to have hit that milestone and my compulsive brain can stop worrying over it!)

Once the heel is done, it's 2x2 ribbing with increases up the leg. This is when I'll be asking myself, "Why oh why did I make them so long??" Ok, honestly I was kind of asking myself that on the first sock already.

Meanwhile back to knitting. I still have a hope of finishing these by our anniversary on September 9. Since I started these on our 12.5 anniversary trip, I feel like this would be a fitting completion date.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Do We Know What We're Getting Ourselves Into?

About two months ago, I saw a link on Vogue Knitting's Facebook page to this article about a Cabbage Patch Doll hat. It's a hat that looks like CPD hair. (It's worth a click to the link; the kid is stinking cute.) I shared it on Facebook and wondered in writing where the nearest chubby-cheeked baby was.

I was reminded that my two great-nieces would be perfect candidates and before I knew it, my sister and I had committed to making hats for them. My sister got hers done well before me. Seeing her pics on Facebook put me in the frame of mind to finish mine.

It didn't take long. It starts at the top with a tight circle
and increases out until you have the right diameter. Then you work even until it's long enough. Then add a few rows of loopy stitches in the front and you are done.
Oh, wait. Not quite done because you have to add the pony-tails!
I decided to tie mine twice.
In two evenings I had a pretty cute hat! By the time I was done, my sister had already delivered hers:
She looks pretty stinking adorable, doesn't she!!

Of course, when I finished mine, I couldn't resist trying it on. Since I don't mind looking silly, I'll show you:
Little did I know that this was prescient on my part...

When my niece posted pictures of her daughter on Facebook, it started an extended comment conversation between me and three of my sisters. By the end of it, my sister and I had agreed to make hats for all of us to wear when they come to visit this fall and we head to the Haunted House for an evening.

The really funny part is that the fifth sister has no idea. (The price to be paid for not having internet at home.) But she will find out soon enough...like when we hand her a hat-wig and tell her to wear it!!

Rest assured, pictures will be taken and shared....

Friday, August 16, 2013

Bag Lady

I've been itching for a weaving project but was held back by things like not knowing what to make (first) and not having supplies to make it. Do I buy more cotton, or silk, or wool? Where do I get it? I finally decided just to start and get on with it already. That was when I was in front of the crochet cotton at Joann's and they had some nice reds, black and white. (Well, I already had the white.)

I thought, those are some colours I can live with. So I bought one of each: black, "victory" red, and a darker red. Then I remembered my Red Purl bag was getting shabby and it could use some new handles. It was a white bag (now a little more dingy from much loving use) with a black and red design. I can match that.

And this Saturday (tomorrow) is another "Bag Lady" event. A deadline!!

First, what's a bag lady? It's Amy's affectionate nickname for the customers who have purchased a Red Purl bag and then are privileged with monthly discounts and the occasional special event. Not the sort of thing I usually pony up for, but this was a club I wanted in on (all the prestige, you know). I bought one of the bags the first year she did it. And you can kind of tell.

There's no washing it back to like-new condition any more, but the worn handles were something I could do something about!

Through the tablet weaving group on Ravelry, I discovered an incredible collection of patterns that are available from someone named Babette on a website. No matter that it's in German; one can figure it out. (Thanks to the hints posted on Ravelry, I did.)

I am fascinated by the warp threads
coming off of the weaving as if they
are streaming away...but in a very
orderly fashion.
I chose a pattern, threaded the cards, and tried it out. After about an inch, I could tell it was about half as wide as I needed. So I printed a second copy of the pattern, cut and pasted it next to the first copy so that they were mirror images, and threaded some more cards. I put them together and started weaving the pattern.

The first strap was a little rough with quite a bit of unweaving from not following the pattern closely enough. But I learned a lot. One night when I did make progress despite spending more time unweaving than weaving, I learned a couple of things repeatedly. I guess I'm a slow learner.

But ever I got better, and the second band went a lot smoother. I think I was also a little more diligent about keeping my place in the chart by moving the post-it note! :)

Once woven, I gave the bands a good soak and then pressed them with a hot iron. The second band came off the loom a little longer than the first, even though they had the same number of pattern repeats. I made sure to stretch them out to the same length while ironing, and then also pinned them in place as they dried:
Once dry, they were the same length. I cut the ends even with my rotary cutters. (I'll have to remember scissors really don't work well enough for it. Or if I don't, I'll learn that lesson again too!)

Then I cut off the original straps and sewed these ones in their place:
Just a simple outline of a square to hold everything in place.

When I initially measured the length I thought I was going to sew the woven band over the old strap so I didn't allow for the overlap with the bag. After being sewn on, they feel just a little short to wear over my shoulder:
They could use an inch or two more in length. But I don't look like I mind, do I!

Project Stats
Started
: 11 Aug '13
Finished: 15 Aug '13
Pattern: Muster von Lira nur verk├╝rzt (doubled--24 cards)
Materials: Aunt Lydia's Classic Crochet 10--white, black, victory red
Tomorrow's event at Red Purl is the pre-sale of what she calls her Green Sale--The sale of "second hand" craft items (wool and other knitting tools/books, and this year she added fabric and quilting tools/books). You can hit the sale this Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. I'll be there at 8:30 tomorrow morning for the "Bag Lady" only pre-sale.
Hey, I just realized it's Friday, and this is like a "fix it" so we're going to file this under Fix It Friday and pretend I intended that all along!

Enjoy your weekend, all. And if I find any great stuff tomorrow, you know I'll tell you about it!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Quick Project: Light Blanket

You remember the fabric I bought at Squam?
It was a piece that would fit the top of our bed, but I knew I would need something to make it a little bigger so it would hang over the edge some. Soon after Squam, I went to Joann's to see what they had in knits. Knits that look like knits; not just jersey knits.

They didn't have a lot, but I was open to almost anything. The fabric was pretty wild so it could carry off "quirky" pretty well. I ended up with this bold pattern:
Last Saturday I finally took the time to go to my mother-in-law's to use her serger. I could maybe get this done on a sewing machine, but there was no sense if she had a serger I could use. It's the exact tool needed for working with knits.

She had it all set up for me when I got there so I could dive right in! I don't remember the details, but I didn't have a lot of choice about how much fabric I got at Joann's. I guess I must of finished the bolt. I don't think it was quite as long as what I wanted, but I decided I would make do.

I started by laying it out on the carpet and folding it in fourths the long way (see above). I cut on all the folds and that gave me four strips to work with. Whatever width border I got, I got!

Next I sewed strips to opposite side of the blanket center:
I knew the strips were longer than the center piece, so I didn't pin or anything.

When I went to put on the last two strips, you can see that I didn't quite have enough to take advantage of the full width:
The piece that's "upside right" is where I started and the
edges are even. The "wrong side up" piece is where
I ended the seam and I definitely didn't have enough length.
On the first one (above) I didn't pin and one side matched and it was short on the end. For the second one, I thought I'd better pin to make sure I wasn't too short on the end, and it all worked out (...in the end. Ba-dum-bump.)
There's nothing like a serger to make you really feel like a professional:
After that, I cut off any extra bits so the edges were all straight and set up a rolled hem:
That took the most fussing of the whole project but I got it looking pretty good. It probably would have been better with a stretchy nylon yarn, but we didn't have any and I wasn't going to worry about it. Fussy knitter--maybe. Fussy serger? Apparently not. (Should that be sergerer?)

After miles and miles of rolled hem,
I had a finished blanket:

Here it is on my bed:
Not a bad fit, although I wouldn't have complained if the borders were longer on the sides.

Project Stats
Time
: about 2 hours
Materials: knit fabrics, about $25 total
I finished it in time for a couple of warmer nights when i was glad to have our summer quilt off the bed, but I think tonight will be cold enough I will have to add another blanket again. This has been the summer of blanket musical chairs.
All in all, a very satisfying project.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

In Which I Realize It IS Me (and the Construction of a Quilt Block)

I mentioned that I bought a kit for the 2014 county fair raffle block. (By the way, they got their raffle license on Thursday of the fair and were able to sell some tickets. I didn't know and didn't have a chance to win, but at least we know the blocks will be made up into a quilt. I found out on Sunday when I went to pick up my things.)

Anyway, back to the quilt block. I bought the kit on the Saturday when I was helping with the check in and judging. The theme is the underground railroad and the entries are limited to the 15 blocks listed and pictured in the kit. All piecing (no applique)...yay!! In case you're not familiar with the story, these blocks were touted as a code for helping slaves to escape along the underground railroad. It's complete bunk but people love the story so the tradition has continued. (Read here for a thorough debunking.)

Over the weekend I studied the blocks because I was determined to not have a last minute entry next year. Plus I was interested in the blocks. My personal choice was quickly narrowed down to two of them, the Carpenter's Wheel and the North Star. I started googling how to do the Carpenter's Wheel because there were several possibilities that came to mind.

A Google Image search shows lots and lots of blocks that look like this:
Source
Which was not the way it looked in the kit. I liked the ones on the web better and started to wonder if the blocks had to look exactly like in the kit's picture, or if it was a block with the same name but an alternate design would that be ok. I debated about asking about it, and in the end, when I saw the superintendent on Monday night at the fair, I asked her.

I showed her the picture above and explained that that was the most common way the block was done according to my web search. No, she said, it has to be exactly like the kit. We talked for a few more minutes but I basically got the same response to anything I said: It has to be exactly like the kit. "Even if the kit is wrong," I thought.

Anyway, I quickly dropped it and debated whether to do the block I liked better the "wrong" way or my second choice. Then I did a search for the underground railroad quilt and got this result. It shows the Carpenter's Wheel just like it was in the kit. That made me feel better that the fair didn't have it wrong, but I think it's funny that not only is the story behind the quilt complete bunk, but they can't even get the blocks right.

Then I took a big breath, decided I wasn't going to create problems that don't need to exist and started my own Carpenter's Wheel block in the design prescribed by the kit. It's the most complicated piecing of all the choices and I plan to do it the "purist" way.

The picture above shows the block done in all half-square triangles. All the seams are straight and you can assemble it in a grid. But all the sections that are made of one fabric are chopped up into little triangles. So if you have a print, there will be no continuity. I decided that was not for me. I will make a pattern with as big of pieces as possible, even if it meant tonnes of inset seams. Bring it on!!

As always, first step was to make a plan:
I drew out the pattern (over a grid so I could easily see measurements), and listed out the pieces I would need to cut. The finished block needs to be 12", so each square on the grid will finish at 1.5". That's small, but not tiny.

Then I pulled out the quilt scrap box and started pulling out some options.
(Because there was no way I was going to make my first attempt on the kit fabric!)

I got the pieces cut and sorted:
and even "dry fit" the center star to make sure it was going to fit together the way I thought it would:
(Plus it's just kind of pretty.) I was very proud of myself for noticing that these pieces were mirror images of each other (by colour group) before I cut out the first set. Yay, me!

That was Tuesday evening.

Next was the plan of assembly, what parts had to be attached to other parts, and then how it would go together:
I would start in the center with the star. A lot of inset seams here. The most important thing to do is to mark all your 1/4" seam allowances. Do not let yourself think you can eyeball it! Especially on these angled pieces.

Lay two together,
and start sewing toward the corner. Start at a distance that you'll do 3-4 stitches before you get to the corner:
Then stop the needle right at the corner with the needle in the down position:
If you can see your next stitch is going to take you past the corner marking, then turn your stitch length down. (I did these seams at "2", but often switched to "1" at the end to make sure the needle hit in the right spot.)

Then pivot the piece and sew the length of the seam:
When you get to the other end, once again put the needle down right at the intersection, pivot the piece and sew 3-4 stitches the other way to anchor it.

Normally I would anchor the end of the seam by going back and forth, but machines are a little unpredictable at when they start changing direction after you push the button. Often they take one more stitch than you expect and that will be death to your inset seams. This pivoting method may seem like more work, but it doesn't take much and it's very reliable.

I continued around the star, adding pieces and here you can see it finished with the side pieces being dry fit:
That was Wednesday morning.

Next step was to fit in the side pieces in the same manner. Line up one edge, sew it from intersection to intersection, then sew the next edge. I soon had all the side pieces done and was looking at adding the corner pieces:
Apparently I didn't photograph the corner pieces being
assembled but I did them as two squares plus a rectangle.
One less seam than doing a 4-patch.
That is where I ran into a problem. The corner pieces didn't fit onto the star--the star was too narrow.
That stopped me in my tracks. I looked at the plan and thought about it some more but I just couldn't see it. It was obvious what was wrong, but if I didn't see where it came from then it was going to be hard to fix it.

Not ready to quit, however, I started doing the outside "border" strips. First thing was to assemble the flying geese units. My favourite method so far is to use squares to add triangles to the base rectangle. So you start with a rectangle the size of your finished piece. You add a square that matches the length of the shorter side. Lay the square on the rectangle so three sides line up and sew along the diagonal, point to point.
Yes you need to mark the diagonal. If you think you can eyeball it you are a proud fool destined to fail. (Ask me how I know!)

Once the seam is sewn, cut off the excess (the part toward the corner of the rectangle, not the  middle).
Usually I do use a rotary cutter, but I didn't have mine handy so I used my scissors. Not quite as accurate or straight, but since the seam is already sewn, it doesn't really matter now does it.

Then you flip the triangle-that-was-a-square and press it with your wooden "iron." You can also use your fingernail, but the wooden tool works great, it's pretty and cheap. So why not.
Then put a square of the same dimensions on the other side and sew across the diagonal:
Note that the seams have to come to a point in the middle. Sewing across the other diagonal would not make a flying geese unit.

Cut off the excess:
Press over with the wooden iron and you have a flying geese unit:
I chain stitched these (meaning I did the same seam on all eight pieces before moving to the next step) so it was quick to get them done. (It would have been quicker if I hadn't put four of the blocks on the wrong side of the rectangle the first time, but that is what a seam ripper is for.)

Then I lined up the flying geese units with some solid squares and rectangles in the appropriate order and got the border strips done:
That was Wednesday night.

The whole evening while I was sewing I was also pondering my error in the star measurements. By the next morning, I thought I had it figured out. First step in any case was to remove the side pieces from the star, and so my seam ripper got another work out:
Pieces separated.

Then I worked on my new pattern. I thought my problem was the bottom edge (as seen in the following picture) of the star piece. It was supposed to finish at 1.5" and so I cut it at 2". With 1/4" seam allowances that should work.
But I started to think that it only works when the seam is perpendicular to the cut. In the star piece those seams are at a 45^ angle and so just adding 1/4" on each side wasn't going to work. What was?

Well, I decided to do this a more empirical way instead of a theoretical way. I drew the finished piece I wanted on the paper above. Then I went around and added the 1/4" seam allowances. Then I measured the length of the bottom edge. Sure enough, it was closer to 2.25" than 2". I was ready to start again. Except that I had to go to work.

That was Thursday morning.

When I first cut the star pieces, I was able to measure the 2" on the bottom edge on my cutting mat's grid. But it doesn't have 1/4" markings. What to do?

I laid my ruler on the mat so that its markings matched up with the mat's. Then I laid the strip I was cutting against the edge of the ruler so that the point was at 1/4" mark.
Then I could count back 2 1" blocks back on the mat and cut my other edge:
Worked like a charm.

Then I marked the seam allowances again
When I cut the pieces out from the other fabric, I was having trouble figuring out the angles and directions to cut them in a mirror image to the first. Then I realized I could follow the exact procedure as long as I laid the fabric wrong side up.
Again, worked like a charm, and I once again took the time for a dry fit:
I switched two of the purple pieces in the final layout
as I wanted the two with the most purple to be opposite
each other. I know it's only a practice piece, but
you still have to care!
Then I started sewing the star. I certainly did not sew the whole thing before I checked if I had fixed the problem. As soon as I had two pieces together, I added a side piece:
Add one more star piece and I could check the "troublesome" corner pieces:
Looks like a perfect fit...yay!!

I continued around and got the center portion done:
I finished at 10:58, and seeing as it wasn't quite bedtime, I continued on. I added the border strips and here it is, fresh off the machine:
Although it was now 11:17 and I really should go to bed, there was no way I was going to be able to sleep without pressing it!!

I took my time and got all the seams going in the right order.
(I had been pressing them with the wooden iron as I went so I knew they had all worked out--meaning they alternated directions in all the right places.) But boy, it was nice to get them flat!!

I even managed a nice little pinwheel in the center of the star where the eight seams meet:
And voila! a Carpenter's Wheel block:

That was Friday evening.

What a lot of work for one block!! I took measurements and it is 12.5" on one side (the correct measurement to finish at 12"), but the other side is only 12.25". That might get me disqualified. I also noticed the star is a little puffy and I had to ease it into the seams that were too short before. So now when I cut into the kit fabric, I will know to back off the size a little bit on those pieces. (This is why we practice!)

I also may make the border pieces a little too wide so that I can trim them back down if necessary. Cheating a little, I know, but that's what will get the job done.

Although I'm raring to get this done and put it in the can for next summer, a few other things around the house are calling for my attention. Will I be able to wait?? Tune in next time to find out! :)

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