Thursday, August 27, 2015

Season of Cake

Last week was my birthday and, of course, there had to be cake. Cake season has officially begun at our house. Between late August and early November, there's a pretty good chance there's going to be cake in the house of some kind or another. I spend a lot of time trying new recipes or decorating so that each person gets a really special cake. This year, I made Hershey's especially dark chocolate cake and some jam-based frosting as follows:

Jess's Jam-based Frosting

1 stick of butter (4 oz), at room temperature
1 brick cream cheese (8oz), at room temperature
1 lb. confectioner's sugar
1/3 cup jam 

Combine all ingredients and mix with a hand mixer or stand mixer on medium speed until thoroughly combined. Try not to eat it out of the bowl. 

Have a taste anyway. 

Frost when cake is cool. Share cake with friends and family.

This year, mom gave me a jar of black raspberry jam that she made out of berries from her garden and it made amazing frosting. The pink is strawberry from my own stash. I think this counts as this week's technique. I'm gonna count it. 

I also finished a couple of those dish towels and used up some kitchen cotton stash. This is Lemon, Tan, and Green, which includes the Ballband Dishcloth by Peaches and Cream via Mason Dixon Knitting and a simple towel of my own design. All that is is linen stitch with a moss stitch border, which I didn't have to think about too much.

I've also been working on Leto, which looks about the same as it did last week, but with a little bit more brown on it.

Amazingly, I've even been spinning! I think the back to school blahs are about done. This is a 100% silk top dyed by Rain's Obsessive Stitchery in a beautiful coppery color. I'm spinning woolen, which makes for a smooth, shiny single and I'm very excited to see how it turns out. 

It's a shame I don't get to keep this one.
And here's a little something in Crayola crayon based on a pysanka design that I did this week. It's a little wobbly and squeewonked in places, but I wasn't aiming for precision. Crayon is a highly under-appreciated medium, I feel. Just because we've been using them since Kindergarten doesn't mean it's an inferior medium at all. This guy "paints" with plastic bags and his work is amazing. 

And here's a picture for mom. Here, Bu is coloring with a little friend at dance school while she waits on Big Sister to finish her class. Bu started her first class this week and loves it so far. I keep trying to get pictures of Iris, but she's about as easy to photograph as Bigfoot. I'll keep trying.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Knitting helps

It's all dishcloths all the time right now.
 With school and dance starting up again, I don't have the brains for much else.
 Well, not all the time. I did finish one end of Leto and picked up the other end. It's not as long as I'd hoped it would be, but I think it'll be alright.
 My schedule is kicking my butt, you guys, seriously.
But at least I'm knitting.

Knitting helps.
I've done two ballband dishcloths from Mason Dixon knitting and I'm on a third one that's more towel-like than scrubbie-like in linen stitch with a moss stitch border. 

And that's all she wrote this week. Tomorrow is my birthday and I plan to make a cake. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Another DaVinci Disorder* flare.

I'm happy to report a finished object this week. That's 356 yards (326m) of Cascade 220 in a lovely coral with the compelling color name 7830. This is a variation on the BFF cowl by Ysolda Teague and tiny owl knits. I did the first link as written, but the second link is one of my own devising. There's a tight cable braid up the middle, flanked by... I forget what the stitch is called. It's a 1x1 rib that shifts over one stitch every two rows.  The border is the same as in the first link, three stitches of ribbing: purl, knit, purl on the right side, followed by three stitches of stockinette that curls over for a nice rounded edge. It's already been delivered to the BFF in question and I'm just waiting on my link to really finish the whole shebang. That would be a not-so-subtle hint if said BFF hadn't been working on a sweater for her darling and delightful youngest child, but now that it's finished (it's really awesome work, BTW)...

Where my link at, woman?

I will wait patiently. No rush. When you get to it, you know.

I also finished a stack of small project bags. They're about sock-sized, I think, and I'm rather pleased with them. All they need is a little bit of ribbon to close them up and they'll be completely finished.

I love that the plaids are matched on the side, but my favorite part is the liner and the shirt pocket inside.

I'm not sure why that tickles me so, but it does.

These were made for Project Make as a companion piece to the plaid shirt that I made for the Outfit-a-long, where I learned to match plaids and when not to bother (such as with the shirt pockets).

I also finished plying some merino? from a sheep named Sophia that was dyed for me many moons ago. It's about 145 yards of two ply about fingering weight or so, Z-spun and S-plied, as is my custom.  So that's three FOs from three different crafts this week. Golly. Unless some miracle occurs in the next day, I've got a little over a thousand meters to go in Stash Dash to reach 3k. I'm not going to "win," but I'm pleased with the finishing I've done anyway.

It's been a busy week of crafting. I even started to cut my t-shirt, but then realized I wanted to do some alterations and needed a little help.

I've started and nearly finished a ballband dishrag out of Mason Dixon Knitting. This one is the inverse of the one I did before, which has now faded so that the colors are about indistinguishable.

One end of the Leto is about done and it's been getting some love as my travel project. These two have been my most active projects and were the ones I took to the Yarnspinner's Bee at our local library. I regret not getting a picture because these ladies were pretty great. Other than the announcement on the library's website, there's no actual presence on the web. They're not on Ravelry at all, which is a darn shame, because I think they'd get a kick out of all the free patterns available there. Ms. Nancy made some adorable pirate-themed stuffies from fleece, Ms. Vera does some amazing beadwork, Ms. Lorna who directs Children's Literature there is content to make simple scarves, and Ms. Cara is the quiet one. They all had about forty years on me, but I don't think I've laughed so hard in a month. I'll be going again, for sure.

And here you go, Mom. Phoebe hugging my elbow:

*DaVinci Disorder is not a real disease. My sister and I made it up to describe our crafting polygamy. 

Thursday, August 06, 2015

The beginning is understanding

Knitting is not all that exciting this week. I'm plugging away at the BFF cowl and Leto gets some attention while I'm out, but other than that, there's nothing to write home about. The BFF should be done by next week, if I continue at this pace, so that'll be another 400 or so yards toward Stash Amble.

I've made a little bit of progress on the sewing queue, having moved the project bags on a little bit, but I haven't got all the way to cutting out my t-shirt yet. It's harder to find time to sew than anything else because the sewing machine is in the room where the Husband sleeps before going to his job in the afternoon and a certain toddler person likes to hug my elbows and will sometimes refuse a nap.

 And Iris got her pointe shoes. This is my favorite picture because there's Iris en pointe like a brand new fawn trying out her legs and there's her teacher holding her arm and the lady from the store holding her foot and leg all together in a way that expresses the idea of "support" both literally and figuratively. The knee brace is for a kind of tendonitis common in young athletes (it's a minor thing she'll probably grow out of) and shows another, more behind-the-scenes kind of support.

Little Bit got new dance shoes, too. She starts in just a couple of weeks, though she's been informally joining other kids' classes and practicing with her big sister for a year already. She knew the dance they did at Disney as well as some of the kids that were in the show because she'd practiced with them almost every time.

In other creative news, I did a short series of drawings with quotes from Captain America, Spiderman, and Thor using Paper by 53. I think I could be a little more precise if I had a stylus or pencil, but it's not bad for what amounts to digital fingerpainting.

I'm also spinning a few minutes before bedtime and even ::gasp:: reading fiction books (aside from comics). It turns out that a romance story appeals to me more when the protagonists are two ladies in the South who also happen to be biologists. One is an entomologist who studied moths. This is not a book I deliberately looked for. I just picked it up at our very tiny library and it happened to have a lady entomologist in it. Coincidence? I think not. I've been writing some, too, and working on theological ideas.

Between all of those things, I'm still studying on Khan Academy for the GRE on Sunday. I was going to sit here and complain about how I didn't finish all my July goals, but really I'm doing quite a lot. I've just not finished anything this week, which is fine. Some weeks are like that.

For August, I'd like to:

  1. Post a new technique here on the blog
  2. Make that t-shirt! Really!
  3. Move the spinning queue
  4. Do the carrot dye test
  5. Start an embroidery project
So far, my Project Make goals seem to be all over the map. I don't really have a schedule or even an understanding of what creative projects I tend to work on when. It's partly seasonal, mostly because quilting in July is just not going to happen, but things like Tour de Fleece and the Outfit-a-long are contributing factors, too. One thing that regular blogging has taught me is that there is an ebb and flow to my creative projects, even though I'm not certain of what its whole shape of it is. Perhaps next year, I'll have a better understanding of it so that I can use that to my advantage. 

For of all virtue, I say, and I repeat it, the beginning is understanding and the fulfillment is courage; by the one it is judged what ought to be done and by the other this is carried to success
-Demosthenes, Funeral Speech 60.17

Thursday, July 30, 2015

En Pointe

I made those feet. She made them be awesome.
Iris gets her pointe shoes this Saturday. This is a big deal for a dancer, like getting your wand before you go to your first year at Hogwarts. The shoes and the dancer's feet have  to be just exactly right for each other or disaster follows. She could be injured or worse-- expelled!*  At any rate, I'm proud of how hard she's worked to get to the place where she has the opportunity to work even harder. Here are some Australian dancers explaining this a little better than I can:

The best way I know how to express my joy for her is with knitwear, so a pair of rainbow socks seemed like just the thing. The socks pictured above are called Beautiful Feet and it's Lara Neel's Fork in the Road socks, toe up version of my own devising, in Knit Picks Felici: Rainbow and Studio Avenue Six Self Striping sock yarn: 2 light blue, 2 dark blue (discontinued).

I made some headway on the second link to the BFF cowl as well and I seem to be hitting my stride. The first part of the cabling is a little wonky and I'm going to leave it because I'm a little wonky and my BFF knows it.

Leto, on the other hand is stuck in the black hole of being made out of lace weight and longer than is strictly necessary, but I love the drape of a finely knit fabric and, frankly, kind of want to have a big wide chunk of that border pattern. It's a process knit, anyway, and not a product knit. Its lesson is patience and persistence.

 The black alpaca got a little bit of attention this week, too, and finally got carded and spun a little. Tour de Fleece wasn't going to happen this year, but I'm glad to move the fiber queue up a little.

In ballet, to be en pointe is representative of skill, persistence, dedication, and strength. Taking point in the military means to be up front (where the danger is). Being on point in other contexts could mean to be at the forefront of an issue or to be someone who exhibits competence and style.

Sometimes I feel like I'm running to stand still, but I've had a good week. I feel on point/en pointe myself, and you can take any of those meanings you like except for the one where I'm literally standing on my toes.

Because that's really Iris' thing.

I only do it to reach things on tall shelves.

Which, frankly, is kind of often.

This is this year's Colors of Fall Outfit-a-long all finished. One plaid casual men's shirt from stash flannel and one Trillian by Martina Behm in Silky B Cashmere in a navy sparkle, bringing my Stash Dash total meterage up to 1,462, about halfway to the 3k line. I deviated from the official OAL patterns, but I'm going to get a lot of wear out of both of these, so that's a definite win. I feel competent, in front of things, skillful, and maybe even a little stylish.

Iris is definitely all of those things and more. I'm proud of her. Good job, kiddo.**

*no one is getting expelled. Chill, Hermione.
** I also realize that the only picture of Iris in this post is the one of her feet. She's elusive and difficult to photograph, like Bigfoot, but more graceful and with better eyeshadow. She's certainly less hairy. I'm also very proud of Bu, who is full of so much potential energy and deserves much more than a footnote.

Thursday, July 23, 2015


Toddler for scale.
In ancient times, people would make a pilgrimage to Athens right around June or July for the Panathenaia. Back then, one of the things they did was to dress the statue in new clothes, which, considering that it was 42' high, was kind of a big deal. Fortunately for me, "pilgrimage" really only means about a half an hour drive. Why go all the way to Athens when we've got a perfectly good Parthenon just up the road?

So every year, right around June or July, we head up to the Parthenon and have our own festival. For us, this means a picnic and some time to be quiet and present in the temple cleverly disguised as a tourist attraction. I'll bring an offering of wool, leave a prayer, and knit or spin while I listen to what Athene has to say. Most of my prayers are for my kids, but not all. We had a picnic after and this year was particularly nice because we had the opportunity to stop by the SSK marketplace afterward. I brought home a skein of Miss Babs' Yowza in the colorway Joan of Arc and Iris brought home a little something for herself with which she might make a hat. Bekah summed up the visit pretty well, actually.
This is Sam's brother, Frank.

The fiber arts mean a lot to me, if you haven't noticed. They've shaped who I am at least as much as any single event or even my academic pursuits (also the purview of Athene). Especially when I'm sewing, there's a connection to the people who taught me or inspired me. Mom taught me to use a sewing machine and Mamaw (her mom) gave me a sewing kit that I gave to Iris. I'm not that far removed from those who had to sew from necessity and though I don't really have to, there are lessons I've learned from sewing and later quilting, knitting, spinning, and weaving, that have been invaluable. I won't go naked if I don't sew or knit, but I still need to for other reasons.

On a completely physical level, I would not have the dexterity or spatial reasoning I do now if I hadn't learned to sew at a very young age. Understanding the connections between fiber arts skills and academics is, to me, like saying that spoons are great for both soup and ice cream. ...I'm not entirely sure that makes much sense, but here is a goddess who presides over two very important parts of my life that often overlap in unexpected ways. I can't not seek excellence in both, not only because She expects that of me, but also because there is so much joy to be had when the socks fit or when your paper is well-researched and clever. No small part of that joy is gratitude toward the ones who taught me and who continue to teach me.
It's not so much that I'm learning particular skills, but really that I'm continuing to learn, period. Focus, patience, and perseverance are each part of what it takes to become skilled in a craft and you have to practice those so that you can practice the things like cabling, buttonholes, afterthought heels, spreading butterflies, writing papers, making distribution maps. By extension, Project Make isn't about making things, as such, but really about making a better me through practice. That's where the wisdom is.

I'm rambling today. I hope you'll forgive me for it.

I don't do posts like this often, but knitting is happening, too. I've got one heel done on these.

And the BFF cowl is back on active needles. 34 sts, as it turns out, was the magic number. 

And I froze some corn this week, which isn't really related.

And this happened. There was a laundry basket, so she climbed in it. You might remember the shirt from earlier.

I'll try to be back next week with a more regular post with a little less incoherent philosophical rambling and a little more actual fiber arts content.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Busy times

It's actually too warm for flannel shirt shenanigan, but I'll be ready when it finally cools down. I ended up using a men's/boy's shirt pattern and initially cut it much too large. Thanks to my experience with the boys' dance shirts, though, I was able to cut it down to a more sensible size. Miss Lladybird's tutorial helped me match the plaids and last week's buttonhole video helped me make neater, more even buttonholes. The next shirt will fit a little better, but for kicking around in cool weather, this one is just right. Successfully matching plaids is pretty darn satisfying and I can totally see me doing up another one in the future.

Pattern, fabric, buttons, and thread came from stash, so all I had to buy was interfacing for this one. If I were to do it again, I'd get a woven plaid instead of a print, but the whole project only cost a couple of bucks (and a ridiculous amount of labor).

So that's one half of the Colors of Fall Outfit-a-long all done and ready to wear. The knitting on Trillian is done, but it still needs a wash and a block. I'll try to get some shots of both together next week. It's done enough for Stash Dash, though, so that puts me at 1245m and still moseying along.

I'm doing up some project bags in this same fabric, which will go into the Project Make bin as representative of the aforementioned plaid-matching shenanigans. The next bit of sewing after that will be a t-shirt for me out of some discount jersey. I'm picking through my neglected projects and I've worked on Leto a little bit this week, but I think the next thing will be the BFF cowl. Aside from the purse socks, I'm pretty sure that's the closest project to done, so far as yardage goes. That means I've checked off three of this month's goals:

  1. Finish the plaid shirt
  2. Finish Trillian
  3. Find a neglected project and begin working on it before month's end
  4. Sew a t-shirt for myself
  5. Card the rest of the black alpaca and finish spinning it

I'm also studying for the GRE again and getting Miss Fluffalo ready to start high school, so it's busy times at the House.