Thursday, March 26, 2015

In the Spirit of Excellence

That right there, ladies and gents, is my brand new actually functional garage door. I'm really very pleased with the outcome, especially the part where I can open and close it without assistance and the part where it's insulated and has windows. The real test of the insulation is going to be in the middle of the summer, but I can go in there now and see pretty well during the day. We still have a lighting issue in there, but at least now we have the sun. 

I bring this up because in the second picture, just behind and to the left of sweet Miss Bu, is my floor loom. It's a 36" Leclerc Mira 4-shaft 4-harness that I got for far less than she was worth to me. After a little repair and cleaning up, I got her working and managed some rudimentary fabric, but I really hadn't learned to weave as such. My learning style tends to be to jump in with both feet and see what I can figure out before going back and actually asking someone how to do it or seeking out classes. 
One of the more involved parts of Project Make has been that I'm determined to learn how to weave. That's why I'm getting the garage in shape and, if I were to tell the absolute truth, why we got a house with a garage in the first place.

Like Bekah, I don't really talk about my religion much here, though I may have done in the past when I wasn't really sure what I wanted this blog to be. Generally, I now blog about religion elsewhere and like to keep this space primarily for crafting. And then there's when those two things are actually the same thing.

My experience with my Gods has been that They expect excellence from me. If I'm doing well, They push me to be better. I sort of figured out how to weave, now I need to learn how to weave. I may think I know how to sew, but now I need to see if I can't do some more complicated things and hone those basic skills. I can spin, but I can learn more about spinning and make better yarn. 

It's not just about making a better product, either. This is about making a better me. The most useful techniques I'm learning are things like:

  • Slowing down
  • Letting go of pride
  • Concentration
  • Silence and stillness
  • Equanimity
In the spirit of excellence, I don't have any FOs to show you this week. What I do have needs to be pressed and photographed in good lighting. I'm plugging away at Leto, I'm still on a quilting jag, and I'll have some spinning, sewing, and Summer's hanky to show next week. Right very now, the SoUP* is steeping in the pot and I'm going to leave it there for as long as I can stand in the hopes of more or deeper color. Lots of crafting is happening and I've got spring fever something bad. 

*Sheep of Unknown Provenance, not actual soup. Do not eat the privet berry soup.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Marching on

Between the rain and the sudden appearance of flowers, I'm tentatively declaring Spring to have arrived. We've already got one of the cars stuck in the mud and then subsequently un-stuck, thanks to our very helpful and very nice neighbors. Yellow House Guy and Retired Guy were both awesome and are deserving of good things. Needless to say, we'll be parking in the driveway until we can get the secondary driveway sorted out with some gravel and a hoe and rake.

The Garage Project is about to move forward quite a bit and, if the gods favor us, we should have a brand new green door by the end of the day. I'm super excited about being able to open and close it by myself, but the windows and insulation will also be a plus. I'm strongly considering a celebratory leaf mulcher. (So many leaves. So. Many.)

We've also had sun and warm days. I may have spent the majority of those outside and I may have gotten a little pink from sun. I've had a vitamin D deficiency all winter and I'm half convinced that I actually run on solar power. Thanks to those sunny days, I finally got the embroidery done on Miss Summer's hanky.

While there are things I know I could have done better on this one, I'm generally pleased with the work as a whole. It just needs a hem, a wash, and a good pressing and it'll be completely finished. 

There's this crazy idea that if you work on something, it gets finished faster. Bekah is convinced this is but myth and rumor, but I'm currently testing the theory by actually working on my eldest's quilt. It worked on Summer's hanky and it's too early to tell, but I might be able to finish before she goes to college.

...which was funny when she was in grade school.

I'm also thinking about learning to quilt after I finish this one. Because I jump in and do before I learn something, I tend to miss things like "Heeey, you can make the corners match up!" or "Did you know that you could plan a quilt? Who does that?" For now, I want to just do what I can before the weather gets too hot. It's just straight lines, but I can't be crawling under that in June.

And hey! A Finished Object!
These are Fork in the Garbage Disposal from Fork in the Road Socks by Lara Neel, done up in Andey Originals Sock yarn in the Holy Crap! Bubbo's on Fire! colorway.

I. Love. This. Heel. I have never had a heel fit so well, much less an afterthought heel. Offering Fork in the Road for free is about the cleverest thing because now I really do want Sock Architecture. The only thing I changed about the pattern was doing a rip cord/zip line thingamy instead of the provisional cast on in the middle of the sock. That worked a treat and I wish I were clever enough to have figured it out myself, but Bekah was the one that helped me wrap my brain around it. 

And that's this week's technique:
  • Rip Cord/Zip Line for afterthought heels
So, when you get to where you want to put a heel, whether you're going toe up or top down, grab a piece of scrap yarn, drop the working yarn, and use the scrap yarn as your working yarn. Knit across however many stitches are going to become your heel (usually half), drop the scrap yarn, go back to where you dropped the working yarn, and work across those same stitches again. Keep on keepin' on until you get to whichever end of the sock you were trying to get to. 

There should be a tidy little line right across half of the sock where your heel is going to go, as you can see in the sock on the left. 

For the next part, there are probably several ways you can do this, but the following is what I did: 

First, I picked up the stitches on either side of the rip cord.

You can see the brown scrap yarn between the needles here. Once I made sure that my count was right and nothing was going to be twisted, I picked out the scrap yarn. The first few stitches were a little challenging, but it got easier once I could open it up a little. 

When that was done, it looked like this:

I joined the yarn, crossed the stitches at the corners to reduce the dreaded corner gap, and proceeded with the heel. This worked much better for me than trying to fiddle with a provisional cast on and seemed much quicker and more intuitive. 

I'm also working on:

And I made a rainbow pizza for Ultimate Pi Day:

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Spring Forward

This last week has been full of dance things. Miss Fluffalo's dance school did a performance of Sleeping Beauty and, because I generally try to be supportive of her artistic pursuits, I made sure she got to all the practices and to the performance on time and with all necessary accoutrements. She did very well and I can tell that she's grown a lot as a dancer. I am told that she'll be on pointe by next year.

She has other dance practices this week and, because I am a supportive mom, I will make sure she gets to those as well. There are times when we both wish she could drive, but neither of us are truly ready for that quite yet. I feel unprepared to have a kid who is almost in high school and I really wish we could send her to private school instead of our questionable public school. I have concerns and freshman orientation did not fill me with confidence.

She will do well whatever the circumstances, but I worry. I'm her mom. It's in my job description.

One thing that dance practice has been good for is focusing on the Fork in the Garbage Disposal socks. I haven't done any spinning or embroidery this week, but dang if I didn't get some sock knitted. That's about all I've done. Since this picture was taken, I've knit a good seven inches on the second sock since this picture was taken and that while stopping to graft many several places where the dermestids had got into my yarn. This is old damage and I've since managed the problem, but it's still frustrating. Dermestids are the bane of my existence both professionally and privately. Now all the yarn is in plastic. Even some of the stuff that's in plastic is in plastic.
Ugh! We hates them, precious. We hates them and their yarn-eating habits, we do. Nassssty little carpet beetles.
They don't taste very good, do they?

Actually, I don't know how they taste, but they're not on the list of bugs I'd eat.

The March cast-on-a-thon, which is way more fun than startitis/startosis because it sounds more "make a pledge to cast on some things!" than pathogenic, continues with the casting on of a pair of legwarmers for me. My legs and knees get terribly cold in the winter and I'm hoping these will help with that. I'm considering a pair for the eldest child for dance, but the jury is still out.

These are the Easy Ribbed Legwarmers by Carol Wells and they are indeed both easy and ribbed. I'll let you know how the legwarmers part works out. They're an easy knit, but are taking a nap in the WIP basket until I finish my socks.

Meanwhile, it is raining. Rain is not an entirely bad thing, but this solar-powered lady needs some fresh air, sunshine, and flowers.

So. Close.

I hear the spring peepers, it's nearly the middle of March, and I am ready for flowers.

Pin curls!
This week's technique doesn't have anything to do with wool and does have quite a bit to do with watching several episodes of Agent Carter in a row. I taught myself how to put the longer parts of my hair in pin curls and, remarkably, it's really cute. The back is super short, but I like how it looks and it stays all day without anything in it. I just wet it and put it up again at night and I'm fabulous again in the morning.

This tutorial really helped. For my hair, I wet it, curl it by hand, pin it, sleep in it with a wide elastic headband over it, unpin in the morning, and brush, following up with a light finger-combing. The more I do it, the faster it goes and I think I can get the whole shebang down to about fifteen minutes, total.
My haircut is supposed to be more like the picture to the right, but then there were pin curls.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

March is for Making Lots of Things

February is for Finishing was a resounding success. The month ended with just four projects still on the needles and four freshly off the needles/hook. Predictably, this means I felt the need to cast on a bunch of new things. This week, I've cast on a pair of wee socks for Miss Bu, using the Knitmore Girls' Genevieve's Tube Sock pattern and some ancient Maizy from stash. I'm nearly two inches in now and they seem to go pretty quickly when I'm not watching Sesame Street. I try not to knit things where I need to count stitches when Sesame Street is on.

Which, brings me to Brickless. There's more counting in this one than is safe for Sesame Street knitting, but I've been wanting to make it in my Alisha Goes Around: Tracks of Bison for some time. I'm one repeat in after two false starts and wrestling with the yarn to get it wound into a cake. There were several breaks in the yarn from previous insect damage and there were crosses and tangles in the yarn. All of this is my fault, of course, and if I'd taken proper care of the yarn, none of this would have happened. But it's going to be beautiful and match half of everything in my wardrobe. I'm already in love.
An alarming amount of spinning has been getting done, too, and I can see the end of the SoUP batts from here. 


Became singles...

Became yarn.
All that happened in the space of a couple of days and I can definitely see myself finishing this one up either next week or the week after. 

It's a space helmet.
I've been very productive this week, so far as knitting goes, and I'm starting to feel much more like my normal, healthy self. I've made a commitment to try to get my step count every day this week and I've done so every day since Sunday. The checklist has helped considerably and I'm hoping the warm weather will help take care of the cabin fever.

I've got it bad this year. I'm ready to frolic in the flowers and run around outside in my garden. Tomorrow is another OMGWTF, WEATHER?! day, so the biggest kiddo is out of school and I'm theees close to spending the day in my room like Achilles in his tent or Janeway in her ready room. I want the kids to be able to play outside, but I also really want me to play outside. I'm tired of cold, rain, snow, and cold.

Did I say cold? Because that can go now. I'm so done with cold. My most sincere sympathies to those farther north than we.

This week's FO is Mr. Rippley, my coffee friend, because I wasn't quite done with him last week before blogging time. He's 2,487 yards of Brava Worsted. That's nearly 12 skeins and as much yardage as I have knit and/or crocheted on average each year since 2007. He's cuddly, warm, and matches my couch. All these are good qualities in an afghan and finishing him puts me in a mind to do more crocheted afghans for all the beds in the house. This is the delightful Neat Ripple Pattern by Lucy of Attic 24

So much love in this handsome fellow.
No technique this week, but quite a bit of knitting love. 
I'm also working on:

  • Fork in the Road socks in Andey Originals sock yarn - I'm at the cuff of sock #2. Guess who's WIP picture is featured on the Ravelry pattern page! This made my whole week. 
  • Leto in Knit Picks' Shadow and Misti Alpaca Lace

The Garage Project is still underway. Our new door has to be special-ordered and it's going to cost us a wee more than anticipated, which is fine because we have the budget for it, but my fabric stash and various supplies are buried for the time being. Turns out you're not supposed to attach a garage door to drywall. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015


Most of this week has continued to be covered in ice and snow, but at least the kids are back in school. We were all craving some normalcy after last week's icy shenanigans. It's snowing now, but snow isn't nearly as much of a problem as the ice. Snow is fine. Ice is treacherous. 
Bekah took some really great pictures of ice at her place. Her picture with the bell pretty much says it all. The one to the left was taken from my bedroom window and you can see that our street is clear, but our driveway was a solid sheet of ice. 
I've spent the greater majority of this week under blankets with hot beverages and my step count shows it. The past two weeks have not been good for my exercise and dietary habits, but I know I'll get back in the saddle pretty soon. I've got a treadmill and I know how to use it. 
On the bright side, I'm a stripe and a row away from being done with Mr. Rippley, my coffee friend. A little bit of weaving in ends after that and he'll be ready to adorn the couch in all his crocheted glory. I can be done by the end of the month. I'm hooking like I've never hooked before.

I also took a break from my current WIPs to do something a little bit goofy with some ancient novelty and acrylic stash. I rather like it and enjoyed knitting it, even though these days, I most likely wouldn't go out and buy yarn like this on purpose. It's cute, much like a really ugly, but very sweet dog. 

This is twenty some-odd stitches alternating in garter stitch and (RS) k1, sl1 (WS) P across, with a 4-stitch garter stitch border. Cast-on and cast-off ends are seamed together to make a little cowl that befits a toddler if she decides it's not too fuzzy or an adult who is a little bit bold about color choices.

I also have a sewing FO and some learning happened here.

 This is a DPN roll, which has since been washed and pressed, so it's nice and classy looking and without its markings showing. The fabrics are a combination of a vintage 1970's? cotton print and some scraps from garments long past. A bit of red 3/4" grosgrain ribbon ties it all together in a neat little roll that's tall enough for 8" long needles.
All in all, it was a great project and I love these fabrics together, but I could have done a better job on the pocket. When I can get to my fabrics again, I'm going to try this again, but with a little refinement in my technique. As a prototype, it's not bad. I think I have enough of these fabrics to do a matching project bag, but some definite fudging is going to happen to make that work.

I also finished spinning first half of the SoUP batts, but pictures will have to wait.

This week's technique:

  • Ripping a seam. No video today, but here's a picture.
    I don't ever remember being taught how to rip a seam. It seems self-evident. Pick up the stitch with the pokey bit, cut it with the curvy cutty part, repeat ad infinitum. Mom might know whether anyone actually taught me how to rip a seam or if it seemed obvious enough that actual teaching wasn't necessary. I was very young when I started sewing. (Mom, if you're reading, let me know in the comments, willya?)
    Upon reading The Dressmaker's Technique Bible, rather than skimming through the little bit on seam rippers, I actually read it. The author suggests cutting every third stitch on one side of the fabric and zoop! pulling out the thread on the other side.
    This is far more efficient than cutting every single stitch and the zoop! is very satisfying. You can even do this pretty quickly with a good pair of embroidery scissors.
    Learning this was a lot more about letting go of certainty than acquiring skill. Project Make is teaching me not to be so prideful about what I think I know so that growth and progress can take place. Also zoop! is fun to say.
I haven't been working on anything else, aside from a checklist of things to do when I'm feeling off-kilter. It's got crazy things on it like "Drink Water" and "Exercise." Other shenanigans include "Spend Time Outside" and "Fluff the Stash." The list is intended to help me put my own little red wagon back on track by doing things that are healthy and good for me. I'll let you know how that goes. One of the things on the list is "Practice good sleep hygiene," so I'd better hop on off to bed before it gets too late. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Love is: Pictures of knitwear in the snow

Looks like Elsa had a vendetta.
I am in a blanket fort right now. My dear friends up Nort' could make actual castle-sized snow castles from all the snow they have up yonder and even their normal unflappability when it comes to snow is currently being flapped. Our winter weather is by no means a comparison to being actually buried under snow, but still: My subtropical bones are cold.

We are effectively down to one car for the time being, since just the one has any sort of defrosting capabilities. That one, pictured here, was de-iced yesterday so Husband could go to work, which is fine, because I'm not going anywhere any time soon. School has been out all week and dance classes have been cancelled.

You don't know nothin'
And I am rediscombobulated. I was starting to feel well and truly combobulated again, but my routine and momentum are pretty much shot. I want to hunker down and eat everything. Tuesday was spent playing video games when I could have been doing pretty much anything else, but I did eventually manage some tidying and a bit of finishing and I've baked both muffins and cookies this week. Because cookies.

It's really very pretty outside, but I am (and have been) ready for Spring. I can tell that my plants are waiting to just bust out and be fabulous. So am I.

Summer's hanky got some attention this week and even though I've been having a little anxiousness about how it's not symmetrical, Summer was all awesome and beautiful about it and it's apparently fine. I've learned some very good lessons about symmetry, though, and how I'd do a similar project differently.

The biggest lesson I've learned is that the double herringbone stitch makes my eyes cross. The section I'm working on now is the biggest chunk of double herringbone and I can only really do it in very good lighting. Alas for old lady eyes.

I've also worked on the SoUP batts and midway through plying, the end of the bobbin was... longer attached.
You can imagine my dismay.

Somehow, by the grace of blessed Athene, I managed to glue it back on without disturbing the yarn, assemble everything back again, and continue plying as though nothing had happened.

I like what the fractal plying is doing and I'm certain I can do something with an overdye that will improve the color, but I kind of want some warmer weather before that happens. I've got two ounces to go for this batch and then I'm on to the other half of the fleece.

In spite of this
This happened. 

I also finished the first link of the BFF cowl for Bekah and we're both now at the same place. I'd started the 2nd link, but it ended up being a false start. The pattern we'd chosen for link #2 was far too wide and I'm not a hundred percent certain I can fiddle with it so that it works out right. We may end up picking a different pattern altogether.

It's the color of love.

After vacillating about buttons for three days, I finally finished Baby Ruth's Classy Sweater.

Come visit, Roo's mama! 
There is nothing I don't love about this project. It was fast, fun, colorful, and for a little person I haven't met yet, but already love. This was an entirely self-indulgent knit, even though it's a gift for my proto-niece.

The pattern is Baby Sophisticate and it was knit in Plymouth Yarn's Fantasy Naturale Multi in the aptly named "Blue Purple Green" colorway. I didn't change a thing about the pattern, but I did contemplate pockets. Babies totally need pockets.

Since Roo is a summer baby, I worked the 6-12 mos size, so I'm hoping she'll get a lot of wear out of it.
This week's technique:

  • The double herringbone stitch (embroidery). In the video below, Ms. Corbet does a fine job of showing how to make a beautiful double herringbone in a sensibly-sized yarn. I learned it from the Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Needlework and I'm using thread a quarter that size and stitches that are much, much smaller. I've always done small stitches because that's how I learned, but if I were to use this stitch again, I'd likely try to do it bigger than what's in Ms. Summer's hanky, just so I could see what I was doing.

I'm also working on:
  • Fork in the Road socks in Andey Originals sock yarn - I'm at the toe of sock #1
  • Paisley Fabulous DPN case - I have measurements and a plan, I need to iron the fabric and get to cutting
And I'm down to 5 WIPs. I'm sensing a great casting on of things come March.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

My name is Jess, and I suffer from DaVinci Disorder.

You see where I'm going with this?
I sorted my fabrics this week into keep boxes and a large give away box for the as yet to be determined craft swap. There was a point at which I'd contemplated tossing the whole lot of it and starting from scratch, but that... didn't happen. The second I started sifting through the stash, I started having fond memories of things I'd made and plans for things to make or colors and patterns that went well together. I did end up tossing some stuff I don't love and reduced the stash by a rather large box. I also said "Eff it, I'm not going to finish." to some of the WIPs, but that is a far cry from tossing everything. It really isn't a large fabric stash, but now it will be an even smaller one. The next step, of course, is actually using the fabric.

The hardest part is going to be turning plans and ideas into actual projects that get finished. Right now I have a post for another blog at 90% done, plans for bottoms for Little Miss Bu, a Spring Formal dress for Fluffalo in the barest stages of planning, project bags and other accessories I want to do, possibly satin throw pillows, and several quilt squares I found that I still like and want to finish. Then there's the garden to plan and I want more raised beds, a leaf mulcher, another composter, an edible front yard garden, creeping thyme in the East garden, terracing on the South slope or else some sort of cover. My brain will not shut up with the ideas and it's interfering with the stuff I already have going.

I also made crayons
And a picture from crayons I made.
This is the plight of those who suffer from DaVinci Disorder*. At least we lead very, very productive lives.

Plus, I have had a week. Things are just not running as smoothly as I would like and right very now, there's a giant pile of laundry on my bed that needs to be folded. My children have needed extra parenting this week (nothing bad, really, they each just needed a reasonable amount of extra help) and I just found out today that one of my former thesis advisors died from a sudden heart attack and my science bro friend is on dialysis (but also graduating in May, so congrats, Eric!). None of those things are about me, of course, but they are just kind of being there in my general vicinity and I'm distracted by them.

I may have barricaded myself in and stress cleaned the kitchen.
At least the floors got mopped.

I had great plans for this week that involved spinning the rest of the SoUP batts and doing some deliberate planning for sewing projects, all while I merrily knit away at WIPs and possibly even finish a baby sweater while all the laundry gets done and the house gets tidied and the children have wonderful days.

The best laid plans: the gods laugh at them.

So, I don't have a technique for this week and I feel a bit like I've been dragged through a hedge backwards, as my dear Bekah might say. I look it, too, though showers have been known to cure many ills. At any rate, I'm discombobulated and awry.

If I were to write a fic about the character of me, a Mary Sue version, if you will, she would wake up tomorrow, having found both her bootstraps and big girl panties (props to my dear Koren for this idea). A to do list would happen, she would have already showered before heading to bed the night before, and the coffee pot would be ready to go. Laundry would get folded and crafts would be started because she'd have a mother-loving plan.

The great thing about a Mary Sue You is that tonight, I can clear the laundry to be folded tomorrow, set up the coffee so it will be ready at the push of a button, and shower before I go to bed. Even if I had super fireball powers, it wouldn't help, but I do have a coffee pot and some vitamin D, which is good enough.

*Not a real disorder. My sister and I made it up. We'd write a book about it, but we have so many other projects going on that it probably won't get finished.