Saturday, January 27, 2018

My Sister's Shawl - Clue 4

Clue 4 of the My Sister's Shawl mystery knit-along (by Cozy Up with the Stitchin Sisters) was released this week.

Now that the shawl has largely taken shape, it's wasn't too surprising that we continued mirroring the first side with colours and stitch patterns.

The description of how Clue 4 came about was cute. Each clue has been credited to one of the sisters who designed it. Clue 4 was Katie's and the story is that she wanted it to be the same as her twin's (Clue 2) so that is why we are doing the same colours and stitches. A good story. :)

Here is a look at the whole shawl (or what could fit in the camera's field of view):
It's still looking a little straggly but I'll have to wait for blocking to see it in nice shape.

Here I've zoomed in on just the Clue 4 area, the eyelets and lace sections:
It was a little less knitting, especially compared to Clue 3, and it was nice to have an "easy" week. Some people are having a hard time with the diamond lace as well so this gives them more time to tackle it.
Clue 5 is officially out on Monday, but probably will be released on Sunday (as the rest were). That is the last one so whatever shape it takes, the shawl will be done next week.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Scrappy HST (Half Square Triangles)

I am working on a quilt based on the Missouri Star Quilt Company tutorial for the Pecking Order quilt. When I saw her make it with a white background, I immediately wondered what it would look like with a black background.

And what do you know...soon after that, I came into a lot of black scraps. (Seriously, we bought 300 yards at work to make some hoods, and I got all the cut offs. Lots of rectangles about 15" x 8".) So I figured I would give the quilt a try. (I talked about starting it in this post.)

I cut lots of squares from bright fabrics and sewed them to the corners of 5" black squares. At the right you can see a bit of the layout - I had to test that the layout in my head worked in real life and that it would be conducive to assembling the whole top. (And, check!)

I decided to take the quilt one step further and do a pieced border of stars as well. Finished size 5". (So lots of little pieces.)

These small border stars will be made with hundreds of HST (half square triangles).
I had a few done (above), but pulled it out the other day to work on some more. I needed the final piece to be 1.75". I make HSTs by sewing on both sides of the diagonal and getting two blocks out of two squares. (This means you never have to cut out triangles-thank goodness.)

Usually you cut two squares of different fabrics to place together and sew, but once I had the black squares cut, I realized I didn't have to cut the contrasting fabric to size. As long as I sewed along the line marked on the black square, it would come out right. I was going to be trimming all of the blocks after they were sewn anyway so why cut them twice?

The black squares were cut at 2.25" (because you're sewing on both sides of centre, it has to be bigger than the final size you want (1.75" in this case)). I had some 2.5" scrap squares and just put them together with the black ones.
But I also had weird scrap shapes and I just put the black squares on top of them too. As long as the scrap was the same size or bigger than the black square, it was good to go. (See top row, third from left; bottom row, first and third from left.)

At one point I had a fabric I wanted to use, but it didn't cover the entire black square. No problem...just line up a straight edge with the diagonal line and sew that side.
"Top side" when sewing. The centre diagonal line is marked
with a ceramic pencil. The other two lines are stitching lines.
For the other side, just grab another small scrap and line up a straight edge with the diagonal on the other side.
"Bottom side" of the same square. It will be cut apart
where the two fabrics meet anyway.
Maybe everyone everywhere has been doing this already, but I haven't seen it. I found it so freeing to just grab scraps to match with a black square and still get good results.

Once they're all cut in half, it was time to press them. Look, I'm using my new travel iron:
It's so cute! The small size is nice for working on the smaller pieces. (It may also be nice for larger pieces so that it doesn't mess up seam allowances in areas I'm not trying to iron, but I haven't tried it yet.)

Final step is the trimming. This is why some people don't like this method. The idea is that you make them slightly oversized and cut them to the correct size. It's a "cheater" way to get an accurate piece. (And by "cheater", I mean clever.)

Trimming scraps is no harder than if you had sewn two squares together.

1. Lay the HST so that the diagonal line is parallel to the 45 degree line on your ruler.
2. Line up the ruler so that the 45 degree line is on the seam and the full measurement of your final square (1.75") is on fabric.
3. Trim the right side and top:
4. Rotate the piece 180 degrees so the cut sides are now on the bottom and left side:
5. Line up your ruler so the 45 degree line is on the seam and the lines of your final measurement line up with the bottom and left side.
6. Trim the right side and top:
And you have a 1.75" HST ready for the next step.

And then repeat 255 more times.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

My Sister's Shawl - Clue 3

Clue 3 of the My Sister's Shawl mystery knit-along by Cozy Up Knits was released on Sunday. It felt like there was more knitting in this clue, but since a lot of the rows were getting shorter, there may actually have been fewer stitches knit.

First up was to finish the one side we were already working on. After Clue 2, we had finished the grey lace section and the grey and white stripes afterward. Clue 3 topped these with a garter eyelet section, more stripes and then mesh lace and broken seed stitch stripes to mirror what had already been done.
Only this time, all of the rows were getting shorter on the one side. This came to a point, and I assume this side of the shawl is done. (But who knows!)

The pattern has you decrease the last 10 stitches quickly in the last row while binding off with a regular stitch-over-stitch bind off.
We had all that pretty I-cord edging and I didn't want to interrupt it. So once I reached the final 10 stitches, I bound off the centre four stitches with an I-cord bind off using the first I-cord. This brought the right I-cord around the corner. I finished by stitching the right I-cord to the left so the stitches run continuously. (Basically, Kitchener stitch. It was very fiddly.)

Then we did a complete about-face and the rest of the clue had us working from the beginning, but in the opposite direction. I had used the crochet provisional cast on so I only had to unzip the crochet stitches to reveal the live stitches.
As each crochet stitch came out, I slipped the red stitch onto a needle:
I used a much smaller circular needle because the stitches from a provisional cast on are often very tight if you use the needle size that you're knitting with. Since the size of the stitches are only determined by the needle that's making the new stitches, I can use a much smaller needle to hold the stitches waiting to be knit without any effect. (Besides the intended effect of being able to get my needle in them to knit them.)

Here's the entire new live edge on the needle:
The provisional cast on is right in the middle of a lace section. Assuming this is the middle of the shawl (it may not be since I don't know what the entire shawl looks like), it is natural to put the cast on there. But there would have been less risk of mistakes and the join would have been less apt to be noticed if it had been between one of the lace mesh and the seed stitch sections.

In any case, the way I did the cast on put the YOs (yarn overs) on the needle. I think the cast on given in the pattern adds an extra knit row. (You're making stitches on two needles instead of just one.) So the pattern continued straight into the lace rows with the YOs. I had to insert a row of knitting first to make up for the row that wasn't included in the cast on. This was not a big deal, but when you start doing things "off pattern", you have to be prepared to be adjusting for that in the rest of the pattern.

Here is the second part of Clue 3:
We finished the lace mesh in the center, added a seed stitch section and then some more lace mesh. Looking at the actual shawl, I am not able to see where the provisional cast on. Here in the picture, I notice there is a slight line. (You can see it in the middle of the middle lace section.) I think this is a result of the change in direction of the stitches. But if I had been given this shawl blindly and told to figure out the construction, there's no way I would see the cast on.

Here is the entire shawl after Clue 3:
I've only got a couple yards of the red left and I'm going to need more. (I didn't notice when I purchased the yarn, but all of the balls have less yardage than recommended by the pattern so I knew there was a chance I would have to buy more.)

I was hoping to go yesterday and then today, picking up another ball when I picked up my new special order needle set. But the needles haven't arrived yet. (I keep getting "Tomorrow" "Tomorrow". Well, ok, two times.) Hopefully they still have the same dye lot in stock...

In the picture above, I think the shawl looks pretty short. When you hold it up and the weight of the shawl does it's thing, it's up to my shoulder -- getting pretty long!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Bright Diamonds Quilt Top Assembled

When you last saw this quilt (in 2015), it was scattered over the floor after it fell off my flannel sheet design board. I thought the cotton just didn't stick to the flannel, but I later realized the window was open and the breeze would get behind the flannel and flick it against the wall, effectively tossing off all of the blocks.
I got busy with work or whatever and put these blocks in a box and didn't take them out again until last week.

It being winter (and freakishly cold), I didn't think an open window would be a problem if I used the design wall. I laid out the blocks again, moved them around a little bit and ended with this:
The diamonds have to be sewn together in diagonal rows. It's not any harder really, but it does take a little more thought to make sure you don't mix things up. I took the blocks off the wall from top to bottom in the rows from upper right to lower left. I pinned a number on them to indicate which row they were and then managed to sew them together. (I only put one row on upside down and caught it soon enough that I didn't do any more seam ripping than necessary.)

I put the completed top back on the wall and decided it was too narrow. I'm aiming for a single (I think that's the same as a "twin") and it was less than 60" wide. I decided to add half blocks to fill in the spaces on the right and left sides. This meant putting together more blocks.

I pulled out the fabrics and put together five more diamonds. I cut them in half to use one half on each side and cut two of the halves in half again for the four corners.
The quilt police would say that you can never make a block and cut in half to use like this because it doesn't allow for a 1/4" seam allowance. So you're supposed to make a partial block just a little bigger than a half block. With this pattern, I just don't have to be that fussy. The points of the main diamonds (the inner ones of each block) won't be cut off and no one will care that the border is cut off 1/4". Now that I've proven to the quilt police I know what they know, we can move on.

On the first side, I tried to "insert" the half diamonds with Y seams and without taking out any of the existing seams. I got it done, but it's not very pretty. On the other side, I did the extra step of undoing a couple inches of the existing seam before adding the new half block. It did take a little more time but it was less fiddly.

I thought about ironing all the seams between the blocks open so that they would be nice and flat and no block would be more dominant than another, but I ended up pressing to one side and furling the seams.
You can see the intersection circled in white. Sorry to keep showing it, but I still love the effect of this method! And since each block ends up with two seams pressed in and two pressed out, none of them dominate.

While I was inserting the blocks, I discovered that one of my border strips had a little cut in it. The fabric was cut just about to the seam.
This is probably an "overcut" from cutting a previous piece that I missed when cutting this strip. I decided to mend it instead of replace it, and just stitched it to the other piece of fabric in the seam allowance. Now there won't be any pressure on the cut and it shouldn't tear any further. The seam allowance will be slightly thicker but it won't be noticeable.

Once the top was together, I trimmed the points from the edges and sewed a line of stay stitching around the outside.
This helps prevent the quilt from stretching at the edges, helps to lock any seams that weren't backstitched to prevent them from popping open, and keeps seam allowances in place as you layer the quilt.

And then I could call the quilt top done:
I think I know how I would quilt this and (unfortunately) it isn't really suited to using a longarm machine, so that means quilting it on my home machine. But I am also considering having it done by a professional longarmer with a computerized machine. I have an idea how I would like that done as well so I'm going to get a quote.

So how long does it take to make a quilt? I bought the fabric over a couple days in 2014. I cut and made the blocks in a week in 2015. And I pieced the quilt in a week in 2018. So that's four years for a quilt top, right? :)

While I was adding the half blocks on the sides, I stitched some scraps together in between each seam. (This saves you from pulling out a few inches of thread at the end of every seam and saves you from cutting those ends at the beginning of each seam.)
I ended up with a 10" block and some units that can be used in a future block or other project. Slab blocks like this are so much fun. Sticking with one colour at a time makes them surprisingly versatile, but I have no particular plans for this one.

Friday, January 12, 2018

My Sister's Shawl - Clue 2

Sunday, the second clue for the mystery knit-along was released. I got out my shawl and realized right away something was wrong. My needles felt funny, the texture was wrong and they even felt too big.

What I decided was that they got wet when I spilled water upstairs that dripped down to the living room. I thought the shawl was spared (the balls of yarn that could have gotten wet were thankfully in ziplock bags) but I think the wooden needles got wet causing them to swell up and the grain to rise.

My favourite bamboo needles didn't feel as good, but I continued on. The first part was a diamond lace pattern. I made it through the first repeat and decided I didn't like one part of the lace pattern. I put it aside because I didn't want to decide whether to rip it out and figure out what to change or just follow the designer's directions.

The next day I got a notice that there was an omission in the pattern when it was released and Clue 2 should have started with two knitted rows before starting the lace. That made my decision easier...I ripped out all of Clue 2.

Regrettably, I didn't take a picture before I ripped it out so I can't show you what I changed, but here is the final lace:
Of course it will look better after blocking, but you should be able to see that the holes outline diamonds which are half stocking stitch (bottoms) and half reverse stocking stitch (tops). What I didn't like about the original is that the decreases made a knit border in the purl triangles. If you want purl texture against knit texture, then I felt the triangles should be solid knit or purl.

My solution was to change the decreases so they were done in purl instead of knit. (K2tog becomes ssp and ssk (skp in the pattern) becomes P2tog.) A different way you could get the same effect is to simply change the knits in the pattern to purls and the purls to knits, keeping in mind that this would change whether the knit halves were on the top or bottom of the diamonds.

Here is the back of the lace:
Doing the decreases in purls on the front moves the decrease lines to the back. You can now see them along the top edges of each knit triangle. Those are the lines I didn't want on my purl triangles on the front.

Once I got that figured out, I made it smoothly through the rest of the clue.
We've had our first shaping - you can see the width was decreased in the last couple inches on the right side. Who knows where this will lead!

Here is the entire shawl so far:
And I happened to be* in a yarn shop this week so I picked up some new needles in this size. Nice tinted ones from Knitter's Pride.
Only after I got home did I remember that I prefer the 14" length over 10" (the only option available which is probably why I didn't think of it in the store). I decided I could make do. I am enjoying their fresh new polished surface!

* If by "happened to be" you understand that I left the house expressly to drive to the yarn store. But I went for something else and they just "happened to" carry bamboo needles.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

New Year Cast On: My Sister Shawl MKAL

I'm doing something I've never done before - a mystery knit-along (MKAL).

Recently, I've started following a knitting podcast hosted by three sisters (and sometimes the fourth sister joins them), Cozy Up with the Stitchin Sisters. They live in northern Alberta (like five hours north of Edmonton - that is way up there) and podcast weekly about their knitting life.

I find them very entertaining and one of them very much reminds me of one of my sisters. (I'll let you try to figure out which sister reminds me of which of my sisters. :)

When they announced they were hosting their first mystery knit-along, I decided I would like to play along. I generally avoid mystery -alongs because I like to know what the finished product is going to be (and how I can change it to make it into what I want it to be). But I decided to put that aside and go along for the ride.

The first "clue" was going to be released New Year's Day (a "clue" being the instructions for that week) and in late December, I still didn't know what yarn I was going to use. I thought I could use some raveled cashmere from my stash but it turned out I didn't have enough or suitable colours.

I had just heard of a new yarn store so I went to check it out one afternoon. There are so many pretty yarns in so many pretty colours, but they're not all wearable with a wardrobe. Some people seem to be able to put on any shawl with any outfit and look great, but I never feel good when I try it. So I decided to look for colours that I could wear with my wardrobe. Like red and black and white (or natural).

They had quite a selection and I had a lot to look through. The pattern told you to get two solids and a speckled yarn. I debated trying three solids or some other combination because I don't really like speckled yarns, but then decided to just go with it and do what the pattern said.

I looked all through the store and narrowed it down to two options. Neither was black and red, but they were pretty colours. When shopping for yarn (or fabric), you usually have to drop whatever idea you had going in and go with what's available. I've come to expect that.

So I settled on one of the options and as I was putting away the skeins I wasn't going to use (I am a considerate shopper), there on the other side of those skeins was the very thing I had in mind!
This is why I wander slowly and keep looking - it's so easy to miss something the first time past. So I was very happy with the yarn I was able to get. They're all wool/silk blends (the red and black have some bamboo as well).

And since the Stitchin Sisters are "can't-wait" sort of people, they released the first clue on December 31 and I got to stitching!

The pattern started with the red and a provisional cast on. I chose to use the crochet cast on so it would be easy to pick up the stitches when they're needed.
You can see there's some lace mesh, then the broken seed stitch for some texture and then more lace mesh.

Then there's a lot of garter stitch as more colours are brought in and a few eyelets.
And here is the entire Clue 1:
The weird shape is because the lace mesh is a very biased fabric and skews on the diagonal. Hopefully that will block out, but even if it doesn't it will be unlikely to affect the look while the shawl's being worn.
So far there is far too much garter stitch for me (although it is a great chance to practise knitting continental style). I much prefer stocking stitch, but I am still along for the ride. Clue 2 comes out on Monday so we'll see where that takes us!

May I suggest?

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