Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A New Project: Mesa

I'm working on a new project! With all the time I had on my recent vacation, I got a lot done:
"What the what is that?" right? I know. It's a strange one.

Let me break it down.
Well, the top looks like it might be the
Here we have a sleeve-hole.
And I guess this is the other sleeve-hole.
Well, that looks like a sweater, right?

Here I am trying it on:
It's not as loose as I was hoping, but I'm going with it.
The pattern is written in one-size only. You up- and down-size it by changing your gauge. I did one gauge swatch and then went up a needle size when I started the project. Not the most thorough way to do things, but I figured this whole thing was crapshoot anyway. (With the bias shaping, it's not quite as simple as (gauge)x(number of stitches)=(inches around).)

I saw this sweater pattern on Ravelry and was instantly intrigued. You should be able to see more examples by clicking here: Enchanted Mesa by Stephen West. It's by the same designer who brought you "swants." I didn't buy it right away but when later on I saw another design of his that I liked and realized they were available in the same e-book, I went ahead and bought it.

Although I believe West is American, he lives in Amsterdam. When my mom and I started to make plans to go to the Netherlands this June, I thought it was the perfect excuse to go ahead and make the project! (It doesn't take much to start a project you want to do!) I think it will be about the right weight for the weather and fun to see in all of the photos I'll be looking at after the trip.

Most people used multiple colours on the top wedge sections and made the rest of the sweater neutral. Since I wanted to use the colour-changing yarn I had, I decided to make the wedges more neutral. I used the coloured yarn between the wedges, using a different colour for each insert. This meant I had to wind the ball to the right colour, cut it, use what I needed from the ball and then cut it off. Then I rejoined the two ends of the ball. The colour changing still works, but there was just a little less of each colour. (I also got to show my mom the magic of spit splicing. She was suitably amazed.)

I started below the collar with a provisional cast on so I could decide later what kind of neck I want (and what yarn to use). I'm not sure I want the cowl. A few people have done just a ribbed collar--like a wide crew neck. We'll see.

I've got a couple more inches to do to make it longer and then I start a short-row section so the hem ends up straight across. Then I will move on to the sleeves. It would be nice if I could get the one sleeve (the left one as I'm wearing it above) to sort of match the stripes in the body, but I don't think that's going to work out.

I really like the colour-changing yarns, but they are challenging to work with if you really like to plan things out. West really encourages using left-overs and whatever you have for this sweater, so we'll see if I can get into the improvisational swing of things.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Seeing Red: AIDS Walk 2014 (and Announcing a Winner!!)

The AIDS Walk was today. They asked us to dress in red to celebrate 25 years of helping the community and that was not a problem!
I recently said I would never wear my leather pants with my new leather jacket, but it was windy and cold out there!
Yes, I was knitting even though at first I thought it would be too cold to move my fingers. That turned out to be a slight overreaction.

Other than the wind, it was a great day for a walk. We enjoyed a beautiful route along the river.
And saw parts of the AIDS Quilt.
Thanks to all of my sponsors! Two weeks ago I wondered if we would be able to top last year's total of $1,918. Last week I thought we would be close. But today when I added up everything including the last minute amounts, we smashed the record with a total of $2,130!! Thank you to all who donated.

And, now who won the item I was knitting?
Here's a close up before the walk. I couldn't find a pattern
I liked so I am making up a big, thick, (brioch stitch) cowl
from cashmere raveled from an Old Navy sweater.
Random number generator said it was Clair from church, a first time donor!! Thanks, Clair, and when I get this finished, I will get it to you promptly!!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

"Jumbled Library" Quilt

I have a finished quilt to show you. And I was keeping it secret, so you haven't seen any part of it before! Even more amazing is that I started and finished it in about a month!! A far cry from my usual 3 to 5 year (or more) time frame.

In early March I contacted my cousin because I was hoping to visit with her in April. In passing, she mentioned that it was about the time that she would (finally) finish the diploma she's been working on for years (while working and raising her kids). Well, that is a big deal! So I decided to make a quilt for her, and I had the perfect design in mind.

I love Wanda's quilts over at Exuberant Color. I especially liked a design she did that she called "Jumbled Library 2" (the link goes to a picture of the quilt--well worth a look). It's a quilt made with strips, and someone commented to her that it looked like shelves of jumbled books. Although Wanda's uses different sized blocks that she has to fit together, I thought I could get a similar look with 12" blocks. Easier to do (I was on a bit of a time crunch after all), but just as much punch.

So one afternoon, I headed to my MIL's to use her cutting table with a box of leftovers and fat quarters. I tried to keep the colours in the brown family because I knew my cousin used a lot of neutrals in her house, but I couldn't keep out a few blues, greens, purples, and of course, red. (It was me making the quilt after all.) I also purchased two fabrics which had lines of text on them, just to emphasize the book theme.

I cut and cut and cut. I wasn't sure where to stop or when I would have enough. I varied the widths from 1.5" to 3" so I would have a variety. In the end, I think I cut enough for at least two quilts, but it was good to have the variety to chose from.

I know some people would throw the strips in a bag and piece them randomly, (I considered it) but I couldn't do it. I didn't do a lot of planning, but I definitely thought about what colours and patterns were going next to each other as I was sewing.

I cut muslin squares that were at least 13" on each side and sewed the strips to them. I didn't fuss a lot with keeping everything square and straight. This was a jumbled library, after all!

I made 24 of the squares. Then I chose the ones that I liked the best, trimmed them to 12.5" and put them aside (about 12 of them). I had drawn out a basic design for where I wanted vertical lines and where I wanted horizontal lines, so I started cutting up the rest of squares so I could get what I drew.

I cut some of the squares in half parallel to the stripes and I cut some of them in half against the stripes, 12.5" by 6.5" in each case. And some of the squares got cut into quarters, 6.5"x6.5". This gave me a bunch of "modular" pieces that I could play around with.

And I had fun making a couple different squares just to shake things up a little, like this diagonal square,
and this crazy quilt square:
First I laid them on the spare bed in the pattern that I sketched. Then I played around a lot. And I took photos to get a different perspective. And I even took some in black and white to see the light/dark balance. (That was pretty hopeless because the colours are just too scrappy.)
In the end I decided there was enough stuff going on in this quilt that I should keep it really simple. I ended up laying almost all the pieces so that the stripes went up and down, with just a few spots of horizontal stripes to break it up.

And then I sewed the smaller parts into 12.5" squares. And then I sewed squares together to make rows. And then I sewed rows together to make a quilt top. Basic stuff.
I found a nice book print for the back of the quilt, but it wasn't quite wide enough. So I used some leftover bits and sewed some more to make up a striped strip on the side:
I love the current trend of piecing the back of a quilt and/or using leftover blocks. (I can't quite say I wouldn't have been happy to find backing fabric that was wide enough, but I'm glad it worked out this way in the end.)

Then I layered it for quilting. I used spray adhesive for the first time since I hear it's much fast than pinning. It worked ok, but I definitely had some fabric shifting. That may have been "operator error" though, so I can't say I'll never try it again. It also wasn't the best choice for this project because all the squares were backed with muslin. The muslin adhered to the batting, but the wider strips would shift despite being sewn down. Using my walking foot helped a lot. I went with a thin batting because the quilt was feeling heavy enough with the extra muslin layer.

I quilted stripes about a zipper foot apart (a small 1/2", I'd estimate), following the direction of the strips. I really liked the feel and look of all that stitching, but it did take some time!! But all worth it. Here are a couple close up shots where you may be able to see the stitching:

I was lucky enough to find a long strip of leftover binding, I think from the crossed canoes quilt I gave to Isaac. It was about 50" short but I found an extra piece of the same fabric while cutting the strips and was smart enough to put it aside in case I needed it. So I cut some bias strips from it and added them to the binding I already had.
The binding fabric is a batik, which there isn't a lot of in the quilt, but I thought the subtle blues and greens were a good match. I stitched it onto the front of the quilt and then hand stitched it down on the back.

And instead of using a sewn-on label, I just used a fabric pen to write the information on one of the "book spines" on the back of the quilt:
And even though I wrote everything out on paper first to get it right, I later realized I forgot the name of the quilt!! So I added that to a "book" a little further down:
Here is the final quilt (45"x69"):
And here I am visiting with my cousin when I got to give it to her.
It was very well received! :) (I believe she said something about bringing it to the library and making all her coworkers jealous...)

This was a completely fun project all the way around. Easy but creative. The excitement of a looming deadline probably heightened the experience as well!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Warning: Cute Overload

Back in January I finished something I didn't bother to show you because I wanted to wait until you could see its true purpose.

With a new niece on the way, I made a baby bowl (or baby bag or "cocoon")--a prop that's become popular for pictures.
And now I may as well stop typing because you're not reading anyway.
All the cute receptors in your brain have taken over and made you incapable of reacting in any way but to say "Ahhhhh."
That's alright. She is very cute.

Her mother and I had some fun staging photo ops and snapping pics. The baby was young and slept through most of it, but we got a couple with her eyes open too.

I was wondering what to do with the prop now that the pictures are done, and then I realized I could just ravel it and use the cashmere for something else. Well! The way my sister and mother reacted, you would have thought I suggested something outrageous. They made me promise to at least contact a photographer I know to see if she wants it.

I made it with worsted-weight cashmere raveled from a sweater. (The same stuff I used for this hat and cowl set.) After studying other baby bowls made from this pattern, I wanted to make sure the yarn was plenty thick so I used it triple stranded. It used a stitch I had never done before (twisted drop stitch) so that was fun. It reminds me of the post stitch in crochet but looks better, in my opinion. It's not as obvious on my bowl, but the material is mesh-like so it has lots of stretch to fit different babies. I added the ribbon to introduce pink into the pictures, but it would work to snug in the top if needed as well.

Project Stats
: 31 Jan '14
Finished: 31 Jan '14
Pattern: Baby Bowl by HMS Bluebird (free)
Materials: Recycled worsted-weight cashmere (100 grams) (~$1)

Saturday, April 19, 2014

What? Did You Say Peek-a-Boo?

Nope, that would be Pokeball.
Yes, I made one.

Apparently a little friend of mine was telling his mom what he wanted for his birthday and when she asked about the Pokeball, he said very confidently, "Oh, Christina can make it!"

Ha, ha. Well he was right, and I did. I had never heard of these things, but Ravelry didn't let me down and had 44 patterns to chose from!

I chose this one, a basic crocheted ball. It was supposed to be done in two halves and then sewn together, but I just worked the second half directly after the first, doing decreases instead of increases. (You know how I love to get rid of a seam if possible.) I just had to make sure to stuff it before I got to the end! And what did I use to stuff it? Cashmere!! Yes, I used leftovers from my recent sweater ravels. This makes it probably the most luxurious Pokeball ever!
Happy Birthday, J. Hope you enjoy it!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Bib Set

Ready for more bibs? I have completed another set:
The one on the right was shown in this post with the pattern.

The middle on is a repeat of the blue and white one I made recently.
It's double knit in the center section so the colours on each side are reversed.
This time I angled the straps toward the center by increasing on the neck edge and decreasing on the outside edge, one stitch on each edge on every other row.

The third one is another chevron variation:
The zig zags are created by increasing and decreasing in pairs with three stitches in between.
I did it in garter stitch to keep it thick and absorbent.
These straps I knit straight up. I made the first one 4" like on the other bibs. But then it seemed too short, so I made the second one longer and added two buttonholes so there would be options to make it fit.

I found two matching buttons in gold and a third one that matched close enough.
I just love this gold and red colour combination.

I think that's all the bibs for now. I like them for quick, easy projects but it will be nice to move on to other knitting projects whose siren call I have been trying to resist...

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Goodwill Treasure Chest!

I had a good trip to Goodwill the other day. Although I expected sweater season to be over, and my luck hadn't been good lately, I made several good finds. On top of that...it was 50 percent off day!

I found this Ralph Lauren cashmere:
I can't be sure, but I think the neck was seamed without cutting so I can harvest all of that yarn. The light blue colour will be very suitable for dyeing.

I was a little dubious about this Old Navy cashmere:
I'm a little dubious about Old Navy in general and this sweater was knit at a very loose gauge (which screamed cheap to me) and was made in China (also not a good sign) but it was a delicious red and you know I have a weakness for red! It also still had the security tag in it and looked like it was never worn which meant there was no felting or wear on the fabric.

Well, this turned out to be the first one I tackled and it came apart like a dream. The seams "unzipped" more easily than anything else I've done and the cashmere, though thin, was strong enough to be undone with my skein winder. I ended up winding a skein of double strands from the sleeves and a skein from the front and back.
A total of 116 grams. Yum.

Another sweater that found its way into my cart was this blend of 40% merino, 30% viscose, 20% angora, and 10% cashmere from Express.
With the viscose content I am hoping it will be strong enough for socks. The angora and cashmere should make them super soft. It's a really nice pink so I may not dye it. On the other hand, I may not be able to resist (just for the fun of it!).

I found this great J Crew 100% wool sweater in the men's department (always a good place to look if you want more wool for your money):
It's really plush and fuzzy in a good way. It would be a nice sweater for Troy to wear for a while except that it is way too short. I found out about a charity that knits for cold kids. They only want wool products so I am feeling like that is my kind of organization! I haven't started anything yet, but I thought building up a stash of thicker wool yarns to use would be a good start! ;)

That leads to this poor GAP sweater:
Also 100% wool and with a good feel to it. Unfortunately it does have some damage. You can see the big hole in front and it has two on a sleeve. I actually had seen this sweater the last time I was at the store but put it back because they were asking $7 for it. This time, for half off, I decided I would get it. When I got to the counter, I asked about a reduction because of the hole (yes, I am learning which cashiers to go to, who will work with me) and they ended up giving it to me for $2...plus the half off! For a dollar, totally worth it.

And rest assured, I cooked it for a while to kill any remaining larvae or bugs before I washed it. That should prevent any more damage and the bugs from spreading.

Finally, I'll show you the results of my latest raveling:
143 grams of cashmere from a J Crew sweater I had been wearing mostly around the house. (It wasn't a great colour on me and didn't fit well. But kept me warm this winter!) I thought I had a "before" picture, but apparently not. I am sure this will be dyed. But I'm not sure if I will wait until I have a project for it and let the project decide what colour it should be or if I will just dye whatever colour I want when the mood strikes. I think it will just depend on what comes first.

But honestly, the best find of the day was this red leather jacket:
It's Liz Claiborne and not a mark on it. It was priced at only $9 and I can't figure out why. There were lots of other leather jackets at $20. But I did not question it. And I did not refuse the half-off price! It's a much-needed replacement for my black leather jacket which has been looking rather well-worn for a while now. Excuse me as a raise my hands and squeal "SCORE!"

May I suggest?

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