Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Cock-in-Blue

(That should be read sort of like cock-a-doodle-doo.)

I briefly mentioned starting this project at the beginning of last month.

Work on it was delayed for a bit when I couldn't find the hook. There are various places I could have set it in the living room where I work, but I didn't see it in any of those.

Then it occurred to me while in the shower or falling asleep or while driving where it must be...in the drawer of the coffee table where I keep pens, remotes, spare spindles and other little objects that should remain handy but out of sight.

So the next time I had some time to work on it, I pulled out the bag of supplies, got settled in, opened the drawer to pull out the hook and...nothing. It wasn't there. Then I was truly puzzled, because I was so sure it was going to be there!

A few days (or more) later, getting frustrated because I still hadn't found it and it still hadn't just appeared and being positive it hadn't left the room, I looked a little more thoroughly. And where did I find it? In the ziplock bag with the rest of the supplies! I didn't find it earlier because I had put it in the smaller bag with all of the wool strips instead of the main bag with the canvas and it got lost in the wool. A happy ending but it felt like a pretty needless delay.

In any case, I kept good track of the tool after that and made steady progress on my hooked rug:
The piece is small (9.25"x7.5") and I am happy with it. I considered adding a coloured border because I have more wool strips from the kit that I could use, but I think I will leave it alone.

I also am considering giving it a soak and "blocking" it. (I.e. laying it flat to dry.) I'm pretty sure I put the loops too close together when I started (in the chicken body) and the piece wants to buckle because of it. I've never blocked a rug hook before but it's seems that anything made from wool would probably benefit from it. And I don't think it can hurt.

When I first opened the kit, I didn't like that there were different blue fabrics included. I thought it was a sign of a cheap kit or shoddy work by the store. But of course, the various blues are exactly what you need to liven up the background and keep it from being completely flat. I sometimes controlled what blue I was going to use next, but most of it was pretty random. Now I wish there had been some variety of browns for the rooster body! :)

Here is the back.
You can see some white space in the blue background but nothing in the rooster. I think the white space is there when you don't overcrowd the canvas. You can also see more clearly that I did one border row all the way around to even out the line of the edges and give it a nice finish.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it. It's common to sew them into pillows but it's pretty small and how much space do I have for more pillows? I'm also considering framing it somehow (but how much space do I have on my walls!?) I'll keep pondering it.

While I ponder what my next rug hook may be...I enjoyed the process and am dreaming of larger projects that could actually serve as rugs.
Shake a tail feather!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Mind your Ps and Cs (Peas and Carrots, that is)

My sister and I are up to block 14 of our quilts this week....the Peas and Carrots block.
I was delighted to work with these fabrics in this block. The colours are washed out somewhat in the picture, but the orange is bright and deep at the same time. The green has a lot of pop as well and then the background fabric is a perfect mix of green lines and orange berries (flowers?) to go with it.

You had to keep your wits about you (and the pattern close) to make sure all the half square triangles got put in the right place and in the right direction. The block is made up of four of these units:
 rotated around the centre.

Here is the back:
 There were a lot of seams to work out how to best press them.

And here are all the blocks so far:
 My quilt is getting bigger! :)
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And here is Kim's block, also sporting a delightful orange.
Hers has a subtle plaid print that I really like in the "carrots". And her green is a lot more true-to-life than mine!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Hats for Little Heads

I mentioned about a month ago that I started a hat for my "take along" knitting.

I did indeed take it with me wherever I went. I didn't always work on it, though.

One time I pulled it out and realized I had decreased enough stitches that I had to switch to using double-pointed needles. I didn't have them with me.

The next time Troy was driving, I pulled it out again...and the same thing happened. I still didn't have the dpns with me!

But eventually, it all came together and I had a finished hat.

But as soon as I had that finished hat, I knew I had to fix it. You may recall that I had cast on with a provisional cast on and started with a (version of?) Turkish cast on. Or maybe I didn't tell you that? Anyway that's what I did because I didn't want a tough non-stretchy edge. But it was too loose. It's pretty easy for it to be loose. At least in my experience.

But it's all one continuous piece of string, so you can pull on it and adjust the tension and that's what I did. I hope you can see in the picture below that on the left side of the bottom edge, the stitches are smaller, do not spread out as much, and are more even.
I'm at the same point in the process in the next picture, but I wanted to let you see how  much yarn I had pulled out already. At this point I had made it half way around the hat, and that was how much extra length there was in the cast on.
The brim edge is still stretchy, but not nearly so sloppy.

Here is a shot of the swirling decreases:
The hat is a little small for my head. (Not surprising since I made the child's size.)
I would say the colour is the most
accurate in this picture.
Project Stats
Started
: 19 Feb '16 / Finished: 10 Mar '16
Pattern: Barley by tincanknits (size: Child = 19")
Materials: 65 grams vintage Brown Sheep Co. (85/15 wool/mohair), colour 160



But wait! There's more!

When I finished this hat, I had 56 grams of wool left, so I thought I could make another hat. I would just go down a size and should have enough yarn.

But since I wasn't sure how far the yarn would go, I started at the top and knit the hat from the top down, reversing the pattern directions.
I picked the wrong increase to use. My favourite is to knit into the stitch in the row below. But if you do that every row (like you need to in the beginning of this pattern), then you are always knitting into the very same stitch every time you do that. So all of the beginning increases come out of the same stitch on the second row. That is why it is all "bunchy" at the top of the hat...except in the garter section. That is smooth because I used a kfb (knit into the front and back of the stitch) for that increase, and that has no unintended consequences when you do it every row.

I decided it was ok to leave it and just made the hat a little longer than I would have otherwise. Maybe I should have gone a little longer. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
When it was time to add the brim, I decided not to do ribbing all the way around again. I did ribbing under the garter section and did garter under the stockingnette section. Nice little turn-about there, right?

Since garter has a shorter row gauge (it takes more rows to make up the same length compared to the ribbing), I added two extra rows at the end on just the garter stitches. (I just turned the work as if I was doing short rows, which basically is what I was doing.)
Then I bound off with Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off. (Although we're not so surprised anymore, are we?)

Now I have 13 grams of yarn left. I won't be starting another hat, but maybe it will be part of a hat one day when I have yarn that will work well with it.
Project Stats
Started
: 13 Mar '16 / Finished: 18 Mar '16
Pattern: Barley by tincanknits (size: Toddler = 17")
Materials: 42 grams vintage Brown Sheep Co. (85/15 wool/mohair), colour 160



Both hats will go into the pile to be mailed to Wool-Aid.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Crossroads and Crops

I finished the next block in my Farm Girl Vintage quilt at least a week ago. I think I even started it early because it was one I was looking forward to. Why? I'm not sure, but I like the block.
The designer calls it Country Crossroads. I think the crossroads is pretty obvious. I don't know if the four octagons are fields, but they remind me of fields watered with circle irrigation.

Now when I hand sew the seams, I don't stitch through the seam allowances, meaning when I have to stitch across a previous seam, I hold the seam allowance out of the way and stitch only through the two layers of fabric that are being sewn together.

This has a couple of advantages. First, it means I'm only ever sewing through two thicknesses of fabric. This is physically easier than sewing through four at a time and it makes it easier to keep the stitches small and even. The second advantage is that I can iron the seam allowances either way when I'm done the block.
How does this help? Well in the block above, I would have pressed the seam allowances toward the long thin crossroads pieces. They have no internal seams and it is easier to press the seam allowances of the octagon pieces toward the plain rectangle than the other way. But, when I got to the end of the block, I realized that in order to furl the seams (see the four intersections in the centre), I would have to press some of the seams the other way. (The vertical ones in the picture above.)

You may think I'm particularly obsessed or pre-occupied with seams and the backs of my blocks, but it makes a difference. When you press to one side, the piece on that side sticks up a little bit. So when you have a choice, you need to think about what you want to emphasize. In the block above, if I had pressed all the seams towards the crossroad pieces, those grey stripes would stand up a little more than the rest of the block.

I think you can see in the first picture that the vertical grey stripes look like they're sunken a little and the horizontal ones don't. Ok, it's subtle, but it does make a difference.

Of course, each block requires you to balance all those things to decide which way to go: furling seams, what pieces are going to "stand out", whether the seam allowance will show to the front side through a light fabric and even more things. It doesn't make you dizzy only because you start to recognize the patterns and have favourite ways of dealing with them. And you have to remember there's rarely (never?) one right and perfect way. It's all about choices that you want to make. (Or don't make and leave it to chance, if that's what you want to do.)

Well, I'm sure that's enough quilting "theory" for you. Here is a collage of all the blocks so far:
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And I waited so long to post this that I have pictures of Kim's block to post as well:
Oh wait! What's this? Yes, Kim did two blocks this week!
She told me she knew she already chose and cut fabric for this block but without taking it out, she decided she didn't like the combination. So she chose and cut a new set. Then when she brought out the original set, she liked it. So she sewed both. We know we'll need a few more blocks that the 44 we're making from the book so the extra will not go to waste!

Oh, but wait again! I have a second block as well. Being convinced Kim was going to get ahead of me (and not knowing yet that she was doing two crossroads blocks), I started the block for the next week (which is now this week).

It is the Crops block:
My choices for leaf colours were somewhat limited because I needed a light(er) and dark(er) of whatever colour I chose that would work well together. When I was laying out the pieces of the block to see where each should go I noticed that I ended up with the same colours that the designer had (yellow, green, blue and orange). Once I saw that, I just put them in the same place that the designer did and called it good.

Here is the back:
Since the squares were made with "flippy corners", the seams were pressed toward the outside. But you can see that the outer seams were pressed toward the plain border strips. And the green stem up the middle has the two seam allowances pressed toward it and meeting together nicely in the center. This causes it to stand out and emphasizes the strong vertical line in the block.

And here are all of the blocks done so far:
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And here is Kim's Crops block:
I love all of her fabrics! (But especially the orange dragonflies!)

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Needling

I have been making good progress on my "Hyacinth" socks. This is the second sock and I am on the last strip.
As I knit back and forth across those purple/pink stitches, I attach the strip to both the left and right sides, closing up the gap. It's a very satisfying process (even if it's a bit finicky).

The pattern strongly recommends using a long circular needle as you have a lot of stitches going at once. Since I started with a provisional cast on and have those stitches waiting on spare string instead of on the needle, I am able to get by with straight needles quite happily.

For a lot of the sock, I only have three needles going, but by the end I'm using all five as marked below:
Needles 1 and 2 are holding stitches picked up from the edge of the strip knit just before the current one. I have to use two because one needle isn't long enough to hold all of the stitches.

Needle 3 is holding stitches picked up along the edge of the strip on the other side. I knit those up as I make progress on the current strip. Since the needle isn't long enough to pick up all of them at once, I just pick up a section and then pick up more as I go.

And needles 4 and 5 are what I'm using to knit the current strip.

Once I finish this strip, I'll only have the cuffs to do. I'm thinking about doing them two at a time with a circular needle. It'll be a 1x1 rib.

I'm still really enjoying working with this yarn. I'll miss working on these socks when they're done.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Block 11: Canning Season

This is actually next week's block, but when I saw my sister's comment on Facebook on Wednesday that she was starting the block, I felt some pressure to get started as well!

That evening, I pulled out the book and the baggie with all the parts (many little parts in this case) and got started.

Reading ahead, I saw that I was going to have to do this block with machine sewing. At one step, the designer has you sew some long strips together, like so:
(Although the pattern called for three 8" strips, it worked out
better for me to cut shorter strips of the white. So you can see
how I used the smaller strips to get the equivalent "raw
material" to cut out the pieces needed.)
and then cut them apart.
It's more efficient than cutting lots of little squares and rectangles and sewing them together. But of course this won't work with hand sewing because once you cut the strip apart, the sewing wouldn't hold.

While I was working on the machine, I sewed all the squares onto the larger rectangles.
Shown here are the four stages of finishing after they're sewn:
Top left: sewn and pressed to set the seam.
Top right: folded back so the point meets the point and pressed with my wooden iron. It's very helpful to do this before you cut away the waste fabric so that you can be sure the triangle is folded back square with the block.
Bottom left: pressed with a hot iron.
Bottom right: The excess has been cut away. It doesn't look very different from the previous step in the picture, but in person you can really tell the block is less bulky and it lies flatter.

Then I laid out all the pieces:
followed by sewing the "lids" to the "jars" and then the jars to each other. I decided I could do that part by hand. For me, it's much easier to match up all those seams and junctions and easier to fix if they're off. A couple of them I re-sewed a few times and they didn't come out perfect, but pretty good. (As I've said before, pulling out a few hand stitches is much easier than ripping a machine seam and it doesn't damage the fabric either.)

That evening, I had the block assembled except for the last two seams.

I tackled them Friday morning (I had the day off work) and finished the block. With the many seam intersections, I decided to follow the designer's advice and press the seams open.
It was tricky work. I started them in the right direction with the wooden iron and then worked on little pieces at a time with the hot iron. When it was all set, I hit it with some fabric starch and ironed it all again. (I finally gave in and bought fabric starch being convinced that the regular stuff made from corn or other edible products is too attractive to bugs.)

Here is the finished raw block:
Part of why it still looks a little wonky is that the 1/4" seam is still showing on the outside edges. It makes the jars look more than a little uneven!

Except for the lids, this block turned out to be lower contrast than I expected. The little blue dots on the background are "heftier" than I thought they would be.

The block is traditionally done with fabrics of things that would actually be in canning jars (think fruits and vegetables, or fireflies and other bugs.) I did include two cherry fabrics and some oranges, but the others are less literal. (Ducks and bunnies, maybe, but elephants, puppies and kitties? No way.)

Here is the virtual mock-up with all the blocks done so far:
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And here is Kim's block:
Lovely, isn't it.

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