Giving In To Quirky

I’ve always liked the unusual. You might say I march to the beat of a different drum. I simply try not to take things too seriously. This has carried over into my decorating style.

It’s fun to have things that are a little different or unexpected. My brother and his family were over for dinner this summer when my neice picked up something off the table saying she was intrigued and asking what it was.

Why they’re cow hide coasters—doesn’t everyone have a set? We’d put them out on the table and hadn’t given them a second thought. They were a gift from the MR’s folks when they were visiting. MeeMee has worked for a friend at Cowboy Christmas in Las Vegas off and on and came across these in another booth.

With the holiday craft and bazaar season upon us, I want to encourage you to check out your local ones. You never know what you’ll find. People are amazingly creative, and it’s fun to support them.

At a little bazaar on the way to Chichen Itza, we picked up this black stone that shines like gold in the sunlight. I like decorative items that remind me of our travels.

Quirkiness helps keep our home from being too stuffy or predictable.

What inspires your decorating?

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Giving Back

Me and the MR have been traveling a bit. Earlier this month we moved Baby Girl into her townhouse down at school. We’re lucky that she’s only half a days drive from home but with 10 hours round trip, it still makes for a lot of driving.

Since the MR prefers to be behind the wheel, I try to make sure I have a project or two for our days on the road.This last trip to Oregon, I brought along purple yarn for baby hats.

Recently I’d heard about a program educating new parents about the fragile nature of infants. Click For Babies seeks to reduce shaken baby syndrome through awareness.

I love my girls, and I also know how hard it can be to deal with a crying baby when you’re sleep-deprived and haven’t had a minute to yourself in what seems like forever.

I made a hat, a sweater, and a blanket for the MR’s friend at work, and it gave me a great idea. The hat was super-simple to put together. I could take all the bits and pieces of purple yarn from home on our drive and still chit-chat with the MR over endless miles without missing a stitch.

By the time we got home (a short 606 miles back and forth), I had quite a collection going.

I do believe a few flowers are in order to spruce these up a bit. Then I need to figure out where to send them.

I’m finding ways to decrease my stash of yarn and maybe make the world a better place. Wish me luck.

What’s your favorite charity project (knitting or not)?

The Right Fit

Sometimes, you buy something, you have a plan, and it’s going to be amazing; till it’s not.

A few years ago, I was up in Bellingham on the Local Yarn Shop tour and was totally drawn to this sock yarn with beautiful torquoise, and brown, and carmel, and cream. I was going to make the best socks ever. Then as I was paying for my yarn, the man behind the counter proudly showed me his socks and told me this is how the yarn was going to knit up. Hopefully, I kept a smile on my face and didn’t look totally crest-fallen. His socks looked brown. I wanted cream, and carmel, and pops of color. How could it all go so wrong?

Perhaps that’s why the yarn sat in my stash for two, three, four years? I didn’t want to ruin the illusion. Then I heard people talk about the Sockhead Hat. This might be the answer to my problem. I could make a hat, and it would look totally different than that nice man’s socks. So I got to knitting.

While me and Baby Girl did have fun at Molbak’s last Christmas, my hat was still quite brown, and I’m not really the sloppy hat kind of person.

So what could I do? Stick to my plan and make socks? or go another way? I decided this yarn would be great for the Hexagon Sweater. So I forged on and made a motif. The color runs of yarn were just too short. All of the motifs would look totally the same. I needed to think some more.

That’s when my brand-new, amazing crochet stitch dictionary arrived with oodles of inspiration. OK, that could be a bit of an oversell, but Sarah Hazell has put together 200 stitch patterns that go from the ordinary to holy cow! (It’s available on Amazon in case you were wondering.)

Maybe I just needed to make something that would pool the yarn more, so that’s just what I did. I made a simple rectangular scarf using the Crosshatch stitch pattern (#169 if you’re counting), and finally have the effect I was looking for. By adding two buttons and matching buttonholes, my scarf works as a poncho/shawl/cowl/scarf. Four for the price of one—not bad.

I know I look crazy, but this is as good as it gets running back and forth, setting the timer, and taking pictures of myself. You get the idea of how the scarf works. Next time I’m going to put the MR to work.

And now for a side by side of the two applications. One skein was knit the other was crocheted, and yes this is the exact same yarn. I think knitting using the entrelac technique could create a similar effect as the crocheted project. (This is Sweet Georgia Yarns Tough Love Sock in Bourbon.)

So you may be wondering why in the world I’m going into all this—especially if you don’t knit or crochet. Don’t worry. This isn’t about yarn; it’s about having a vision and making it happen. Maybe your first attempt doesn’t work out; rethink, replan, retry. You’ve got this; I have faith in you and a new scarf.

Happy creating.

 

 

 

 

 

This Old Dog

We’ve all heard the saying:

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

But me and a friend of mine were chit-chatting the other day remembering just how good our little Cocoa-bean was for grumpy old Bogart. He’d never understood the pleasure of a good hello, ear rub, greeting. You could scratch his belly—sure—but he just wanted to play ball or frisbee. All this social stuff was beyond him, until that silly puppy came along and wanted to be petted all the time. In his old age, he decided a little attention could be nice.

All that is a long, round-about way of saying this old crafter can learn a thing or two. You see, I’ve been knitting and crocheting for close to 40 years or more. I’ve made sweaters and snowflakes, hats and mittens, socks and blankets. I’ve got this stuff down, right? But no, people are always coming up with new ideas, new designs, new stitches, new methods, and I don’t want to be left behind.

So I’ve been on a bit of a binge lately—a book buying binge, and I thought I’d share a few of my recent projects.

 

Let’s start with Blueprint Crochet Sweaters by Robyn Chachula. The book came out in 2013, so it’s not new, but I’d checked it out from the library on a whim and been blown away by the patterns. They were just so intriguing. At first glance, I had no idea how they were creating these stitches or how to replicate them.

To be honest, I’m not usually that keen on crochet for sweaters. They tend to be a bit bulkier than I like and just don’t have the drape of a knit garment. But these were very unusual. I loved the cranberry cardigan, and was surprised to learn a whole different type of stitch I’d never heard of. The linked double treble crochet is like the marriage of regular crochet and tunisian crochet. It creates a very nice band with beautiful texture. Coupled with open work crosses, I thought it would make a great summer cadigan for our chilly evenings.

I even had the yarn in my stash—or so I thought. I’d picked up some great bargains at Vogue Knitting Live in Seattle a few years back and lost the tag on some tencel/linen in a beautiful red. It was listed online as 1450 yards per skein, so I’d be set. Unfortunately, I somehow had purchased half a skein, so now I have the better part of the front and back of my cardigan done with no sleeves or button band and discontinued yarn.

I’ve been pouting/ I mean thinking about how to proceed, and so the partial sweater has sat on the dining room table for more than a week. We have company coming, so I’ll just have to rip it out. But next time I will weigh that random yarn from my stash to get a better idea of what I’m working with.

Key words, next time, sadly I had another stash issue all at the same time. The lovely cotton table runner I made up is about a foot too short to hang off the ends of the table. Queue more pouting and frustration. I came up with all sorts of ideas. I could buy contrasting yarn, rip out a yard, add a different color for interest, and then finish it off as planned. But my local shop didn’t have any that I thought would work in the right weight, and color, and twist, and material. I told the MR my woes, and he said just make it shorter.

I remember flying into a tizzy when we centered the guest bed under the windows and could no longer open the closet doors. I had visions of adding a panel to make it look like we have three windows over the bed, moving the wall sconces, and maybe adding a new window eventually. The MR suggested tilting the bed just a smidge away from the wall, so you can open the door. Sometimes he’s so smart, and the simple answer is the best.

Back around the holidays, I bought Knitting Fresh Brioche by Nancy Marchant. If you’re into two-color brioche and you love the idea of patterning with this technique, this is the book for you. Nancy Marchant is a master of this stitch, amazingly creative, and a great teacher. I knitted up a modified Ring of Fire cowl for the shop to show how marrying two very different colors can change the look of each. Using the stitch patterns, I’ve designed a sweater, and many of the people on my Christmas list received mug cozies. I’ll warn you, brioche can be addicting. This is another book that’s been out for awhile, but I think it’s great.

Now, I was surprised to find myself buying A Garden of Shawls by Karen Whooley. But I’d been listening to a podcast (The Yarniacs) and the host told how she’d used a shawl as a blanket when traveling on an airplane. The shawl fit into a sandwich bag and was at the ready in her purse in any situation. A had some laceweight yarn I’d been holding on to, and me and the MR are always on a plane somewhere. Then I listened to another great podcast (Yarn Thing with Marly Bird) interview with Karen Whooley about her new book. She was from the Seattle-area, maybe she’d want to come out to our shop, maybe her shawls were just what I needed.

This is not an amazing technique book; it’s not teaching you a slew of new stitches; it’s a collection of very pretty shawls. I made the Ecliptic in Juniper Moon Farms Findley Dapple (a yarn from my stash that actually had enough yardage). The directions are great and the chart was easy to follow. Now, on my travels, I have a lovely, lightweight shawl to throw on over my sundress to make me church appropriate.

There are at least two other patterns—Enchantment and Briar—that are totally calling my name. How many cathedrals are we going to visit this summer? I’ll need something to cover my shoulders during those starlight dinners.

The last book I’m going talk about today is Self-Striping Yarn Studio by Carol J. Sulcoski. This book is less about new stitches and more about using some of the amazing new yarns to their best advantage. Sulcoski talks about the different types of self-striping yarns and what they mean for you. She discusses common problems, how to solve them, and then offers an array of patterns to showcase these beautiful yarns. Thumbing through the book just now, I saw a sweet baby sweater that I need to make.

I’ve been working on the Hexagon Sweater off-and-on for a bit. I started with some yarn where the repeat was too short and I ended up with hexagons all looking a bit muddled and much the same. Then I moved on to a longer run yarn where the motifs where brown, brown, brown, red, green, green, green, blue… Let’s just say not that appealing.

So when I was visiting Baby Girl back in April, I picked up a skein of Cascade sock yarn at Cozy a new yarn shop in Eugene. This yarn is (like Goldilocks would say) just right. In a variety of colors, each motif is turning out a little different. I decided an allover pattern might be a little much, so I’m using Cedar House sock yarn in a lovely muted rust for the back and sleeves (from Quintessential Knits). Maybe I’ll have this done by the end of the month to show you. I just need to be a little more monogamous in my crafting.

While maybe you don’t have an incredible urge to buy a bunch of knitting or crochet books, I do hope you’ll try something new today. You can listen to a new podcast, read a new blog, try a new recipe, walk a new path, shake things up a little.

Tried anything new lately?

For the local yarn shop tour, I added something new to my resume and designed a shawlette. I was rather pleased with the results. The Shoulder Stripe Shawlette pattern is available on Ravelry or at Quintessential Knits here in little old Duvall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet Sedums & Violets

Most times, the girls are busy with midterms and projects and haven’t made it home for Mother’s Day. That’s OK; the MR fills in in a pinch, but this year we had them both home together.

We were looking at wedding venues on Saturday, but Sweet Miss gave me these sedums early before they overheated in her car.

She’d painted the jars at her preschool, and while her kids added footprints, mine were plain. Perhaps her feet were a bit too big for canning jars.

I think they’re delightful. Her plan was that they’d wind up on the front porch, but for now, I’m enjoying their colorful addition to the table.

 

 

And That Was April

Maybe I’ve lost my mojo. I just don’t seem to be blogging like I used to. Lately, not that much has been happening. We moved into this crazy house, fixed it up, bought a bunch of furniture, the end.

The MR received a bid the other day to fix the deck. Do we want to fix the problem bits? Do we want to fix the whole thing so it’s seamless? Do we want to pull out the hot tub that’s not working and make it into a sun deck? We still have a lot of work to do on the grounds I type as the MR is out on the John Deere mowing the fields for the first time this year.

Yesterday was a spectacularly sunny day in the midst of our rainy spring. Earlier this week, I was back down in the garden planting seedlings from the FFA sale. Cocoa didn’t seem as Carrot Crazy this time. Instead she rolled in onions. There’s a reason she’s not allowed in the garden.

They’ve filled in quite a bit in the last few weeks. I’ll have to take some garden update photos. The asparagus I was worried hadn’t survived last year’s move is recovering. But what do you do with one gargantuan piece of asparagus?

Maybe all the traveling is what throws off my schedule. One of my favorite trips this year was to The Other WA. It was a first-time for me, the MR, and his folks. And while politics may drive you crazy, the history and beauty of Washington, DC is so inspiring.

Another highlight of the month was spending time with my sweet girlies and getting some Book Love at Powell’s in Portland. I was reading about Amazon opening another brick-and-mortar store in Bellevue this fall, and the MR didn’t understand the draw for them as a company. There’s just something about a bookstore with authors speaking and stacks and stacks of books just calling you to read that promotes people’s loyalty. This could make them more relateable.

During my trip to Oregon, I was also able to meet lots of Baby Girl’s friends and tour Sweet Miss’ new apartment in the city.

BG is looking for summer travel clothes, so we did a lot of shopping mostly for her but a little for me. That worked out for the house,too, since I was into Making My Own Sunshine with some lovely fake flowers.

It’s May now; I know the real ones are coming. Blossoms cover the apple trees, and my garden is calling between rain squalls. At least when it’s raining, I don’t feel guilty staying inside and knitting or crocheting. I designed these flowers for Quintessential Knits here in town, and kits will be available soon in case you’re needing a dose of sunshine.

Hope your May Day was filled with peace and joy and flowers.

And the best news of all may not have made it into the blog.  Sweet Miss is marrying The Fella, and we’re pleased as punch. God is good. Life is good. Hug someone you love. 


 

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Following the Rules

When you start a game, you’re given a set of rules to follow. They help play go smoothly, so no one runs away screaming.

Knitting is a lot like a game with rules to keep, and if you don’t follow them, you’ll run away screaming.

I had one of those moments recently with the Brooklyn Bridge Cardigan I’m knitting from the book Metropolitan Knits. I’ve got the back done, the left side done, and am half-way through the right. Before I started increasing I laid them all out to see if my shaping matched up, and that’s when I saw it.

lot-matters

The shaping was great; it was the color that was off. The back is medium, the right front has a brownish tint, and the left is bright orange. How did this happen?

I bought a bag of yarn years ago. They’re all the same kind and color—Araucania Nuble. It’s a lovely wool-silk blend that makes up beautifully. Perhaps I never looked at the dye lots, perhaps I thought since they were hand dyed it didn’t matter. All but one of the hanks I’d rolled into balls for a project that didn’t materialize at the time, so I don’t have labels to check.

There are rules that I blithely ignored. Dye lot as you can see is greatly important. And when you are using hand dyes for a large project, you should knit two rows with one ball, and then two rows with another ball to help obfiscate any discrepancies in color. That sounds like a lot of work and bother, but it would save me a lot of work.

Ugg, now what? I’m going to look for the darkest balls of yarn and restart the left side. I’m hoping the disparity between the back and the front won’t be as apparent once I have the sleeves done and am wearing the silly thing.

Another good rule of thumb when you’re knitting: Don’t frog or “rippit” out late at night when you find a mistake. Wait till the next day when you’re not tired and frustrated. I’ve ripped out shoulder shaping, redone it, and gone back the next day only to realize I had it right in the first place. A tired mind can play tricks on you.

While I’m offering tidbits of advice, let’s go ahead and talk about gauge. It makes me cringe when someone says “I never swatch” or “I hate to block”. OK, that’s all well and good, but I guarantee swatching will save you from heartache and blocking will make your finished project look so much better. Believe it or not, while I enjoy the process of knitting, I also want to enjoy the end project. If my sweater is two sizes too large, or worse yet two sizes too small, I’m not going to be happy with it.

By swatching, you also get a sneak peek at the fabric you’re making. Is it going to drape nicely? Does the yarn have good stitch definition so you’ll be able to see those great cables? Does the yarn’s color pattern hide or enhance the design?

I’ve been trying to use up my stash recently; I have a lot of yarn that’s causing me guilt. So when I purchased Self-Striping Yarn Studio recently and saw the Hexagon Sweater, I had an a-ha moment. I have Sweet Georgia’s Tough Love Sock yarn just waiting to be used. It would be great for that sweater. Unfortunately, the yarn is more of a variegated rather than a self-striping. Thankfully, I had some other yarn that would work. But if I hadn’t swatched, I’d have been disappointed.

I’ve also been trying to find the perfect project for some chunky gray yarn and some cotton-bamboo in army green. While I was able to get the crocheted green to proper gauge, I didn’t like the density of the swatch. I’m not going to wear something that feels stiff and awkward. I tried the pattern in a lace-weight which has a much nicer feel, but is way too fine for the pattern.

The gray swatches are the same yarn, just different needle sizes. I’ve made guage and think I’ve found the perfect pattern. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

swatching

I know, I know, you just want to get started on your project. You don’t feel liking making some silly swatch and the idea of blocking it is ridiculous. If you want to be pleased with the end results, that bit of extra effort really makes a difference.

And now I have to carefully select the darkest balls of orangey-brown yarn, and hope for the best. Wish me luck, and happy knitting!

What are you making at your house during the rainy days of winter?