Thursday, July 02, 2015

Rainbow-themed Jubilance

This week has been a pretty darn productive one and, looking back on June, I'd have to say I'm pretty happy with the way things are going. 

Thematically appropriate mug choice for this week.
I just want to knit and sew rainbows all over the place, but I have a shirt and a shawl to make for OAL shenanigans and will not be distracted from my goal. You will be mine, plaid flannel shirt, Oh yes, you will be mine.

Cutting continues at a slow pace and, wouldn't you know it, I didn't have enough interfacing. It's always the interfacing. I think I have some, but "some" always turns out to be maybe a quarter of a yard if you were to line up all the scraggly little pieces into a sort of rectangular shape, between which no actual pattern pieces will fit. 

It's fine. I bought more. 

I also came home with three new patterns because McCall's were on sale: 6613 is to replace the one I'm currently cutting, 6964 is for... because t-shirts, and 7141 is for my sweet otaku Fluffalo. 

I do still have some rainbow socks on the needles for the aforementioned Fluffalo, though, and that satisfies my need for rainbow-themed jubilance pretty well. They're my purse knitting, though, so aren't seeing much action. 

What is seeing a lot of action, though, is Trillian by Martina Behm. It's the second half of the OAL and my morning knitting. I'm well into the 2nd of three balls of yarn now and knitting with laser focus. I want to be done and I'd like to step up the pace on the Stash Amble/Mosey (aka Stash Dash for those doing more finishing than I). 

I did finish Die grĂ¼nen, Easy Ribbed Legwarmers by  Carol Wells:

And those ended up being over 300 yards of old stash. I really love them, even though they're about the simplest thing you could knit, and I'm hoping to get quite a bit of wear out of them in the cold months. 

Then there was jam:

The observant among you will notice that my floors are really clean. Generally, while I wait for the jars to cool, I use the water from the canner to mop the floors. Most of these jams will be retained for us to have through the year, but some will end up given away at some point. There's still jelly to be made in the fall, so I'm sure there will be plenty to share. I'm toying with the idea of selling a few jars, but I haven't decided. What I may do is offer a few jars at the end of 2015 as part of the culmination of Project Make, but at this point I'm just thinking out loud.
This week's technique is processing jars of jam for safe storage. The best resource is the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning and I'm a big fan of federally funded science that results in the common good, but I'll also outline my method here as simply as possible. 
  • Before you start, sanitize your jars on "Heat Dry" in the dishwasher or in boiling water for about five minutes
  • Make the jam or jelly, put the jam in the jars with about 1/4" head space (the gap of air between the jam and the lid).
  • Heat lids in warm water, not boiling, five to ten minutes, until the plastic seal is soft. Use new lids. They're a couple bucks for a dozen, which is a bargain for food safety.
  • Carefully wipe the rim of the jar clean as clean can be
  • Place a lid on each jar and secure with a metal ring
    • The metal ring should be secure so that the lid stays on and in place
    • But not so tight that air cannot escape
  • Submerge jars in boiling water that covers at least an inch to two inches of the jar for seven minutes
  • Remove from the boiling water, you'll want a jar-grabber thingy, and let them cool until you hear a POP! from every jar. 
    • The jars that don't POP! can be re-processed in boiling water or refrigerated and eaten right away. 
Looking back, I like what I'm seeing. I feel good about the things I'm making and because I want to continue this trend, I'm going to be bold and set some goals for this month:
  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
Those are completely doable goals, I think. It's okay if I don't get all of that done before the month's out, but I'm so focused on the few things I am doing that I think I can get much of this short list done.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Because of magic

So, that happened. 

Last week we went to Cocoa Beach for a couple days and then to Disney for another four days mainly for dance-related shenanigans. Do you see that smile on my face? That's the real deal and I'm smiling like this in all of the photos I'm in because I am genuinely having a blast. Frankly, I'd forgotten what it felt like to be relaxed and have a nice time. Even when we did the Showcase of Bathrooms with the little bit, we were having a good time. Aside from a few unfortunate potty-training-related difficulties, it was one of our best vacations. 

The best part? Everyone was super nice and not only because it was their job. I saw buckets and buckets of genuine compassion, playfulness, kindness, joy, and general awesomeness. Even guests were uncommonly kind to one another because... of... magic. That's all I can come up with.

I also left my tablet at home for the entire trip, which means my brain got a rest, too, but it also means that I'm short on pictures this week, so here's a gratuitous photo of the Fluffalo hoarding kale chips.

I actually got quite a bit of knitting done this past week, though almost no knitting happened during our four days at Disney. Much of what happened was during the 12+ hour drive. I got about 1 1/4 of Fluffalo's socks done, minus heels, on the way down and I managed about 2 1/2 feet of Trillian on the way back. I'm almost done with the legwarmers, too. It's amazing what you can accomplish if you spend hours doing nothing but sitting and knitting. It's like magic. 

Now that I've started Trillian, the Outfit-a-Long is gaining momentum. I'm focusing this week on getting my shirt cut out and working on my shirt-making skills, including matching plaids. I'm mostly reading and watching videos about matching plaids right now because the fabric is still in the wash, but Miss Lladybird's tutorial looks like it hits the OCD/lazybutt balance just right. So that's this week's technique. (Woo!) I'll let you know how it goes. Right this second, though, I have to go put the fabric in the dryer.

Ummm... because mint

And speaking of being thorough, I just skimmed through my monograph on little (mostly) brown South American butterflies and remembered just how flippin' thorough I can be. I've spent some time away from it while Professor worked on the edits to send it to a journal and I wanted to look through it one more time before sending it out in the world. I'm proud of my work and I hope it will serve to help other scientists learn about these beauties for a very long time. Even as long as it is and as thorough as I was, it's not complete and never will be. It's taken nearly two hundred years to understand even as much as I do about this group and I know I'm only scratching the surface. Anyway, I'll let you know how that goes, too. I'm not sure what the timeline is for publication for this particular journal is, but it shouldn't be too long. 

So, did you miss me? How has your June been going? Did you have a Happy Solstice?

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Not bad for having mucous for brains all week.

In spite of a pretty bad cold, or possibly because of it, I've had a pretty productive week. I've been working to keep the house tidier so it's not a huge mess or stressful to clean before we leave for our trip and a ten minute tidy at night combined with the eldest's help in the kitchen has been quite effective. I finished both of Miss Bu's Florida shirts (the second of which has yet to be modeled in its finished state), made a little progress on my legwarmers, and figured out where I was on Louise-- the sleeves, in case you were wondering.

And I've started a sock for the Eldest, too. This will be more or less a plain sock with a stripe of 1x1 ribbing up the leg, toe up so I can use all the yarn, and using Lara Neel's Thumb joint hat top heel from the Fork in the Road pattern. It only took a little bit of turning my brain sideways to make it work and I think she's going to love them.

In other news, I kind of tossed "gardening" into the Project Make excellence salad, not really knowing a hundred percent what I'd do with it, but I did prune some of the trees today so that we could get under them to mow a little easier, so I'll throw in some tree-pruning in for this week's technique. The trees I pruned are quite large and I only worried about what I could reach today, so this is a little more information than I really needed, but might be handy again when the cherry and peach trees get to be a little more mature. I probably should be worrying more about this in the fall, but I hardly took down any branches at all, so today's pruning likely won't cause any harm.

Of course now I have a pile of perfectly good oak branches that could be turned into something, but no time to really do anything with them before we leave the state.

By this time next week, I'll be in Florida, chilling on the beach, but I do plan on posting from there so that the fun here at Lace Maze won't stop. And I'm alonging with Bekah, who has summed up better than I what I'm up to. I kinda feel like I'm Stash Ambling instead of Stash Dash-ing, but I'm sure this is just a lull in the finishing. Once I card and spin the rest of the black alpaca (spinning from the locks was a no-go today), I've got some gradient batts waiting in the wings and will be jumping into the gradient-along, too. In the mean time, I've got some serious planning to do.

And I plan to focus the awesomeness into a laser beam of awesome.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Oh dear.

Dance shenanigans took up the majority of last weekend and while there are still practices to go before our trip to Florida and Nutcracker practice after, recital week is done. The boys looked great in their shirts and, while I did get a great picture of them, I didn't ask their moms if I could put them on the blog. I'm sure it would be fine, but I'd rather be on the side of respectfulness. Anywho, I helped watch littles for the first half of the show, did the Mother Daughter dance with Iris, and pretty much chilled out backstage and knit for the second half. That resulted in Brickless being finished last week, but it has yet to be blocked, so no picture today.

I also did some more Project Make-related mapping, this one outlining the kinds of clothes I normally wear every day, arranged by season. The back of the page has fabric manipulation techniques (seams, zippers, pleats, etc.) that I want to learn. Even if I don't use everything I've written down as something I want to learn, each one will be another tool in my toolbox.

When sewing attacks! wouldn't think flamingos were so aggressive.
The map was helpful when putting the elastic around the neck and arms of this little shirt, pointing me toward a new way of doing it that even used a stitch on my sewing machine that I've never used before. Unfortunately, the stiff linen prevented the elastic from drawing up as much as I wanted it to, so that was not the right method for this fabric, but I'm pretty sure that I could now put elastic into a pair of underwear without much trouble. While there's some disappointment about this shirt not fitting properly, I did learn something from it, at least. I'll rip the seam in the morning and try again. I like the simple construction of this shirt, but I think I'm going to like it better if I can get the neckline to work like it should.

And because the DaVinci Disorder won't let me really finish a project before planning the next six, I dove into the very modest fabric stash for some shirt fabric. I'm thinking "Fall Colors Outfit-a-long" using this year's Pantone Fall Colors as inspiration for something that I'm actually going to wear. Just when I thought I wasn't going to find anything, I came across a few yards of the above flannel. My two favorite comfy cotton button-ups are wearing out and this plaid looks to be a suitable replacement. I would wear the heck out of a shirt like that and I think I'm going to pair it with the Silky B Cashmere that I got at Stitches because what goes better with a plaid flannel shirt than a silk/cashmere shawl? I ask you.

I haven't had my act together about posting new techniques for you lately, for which I apologize. I'll get back to it, but it might not be until we get back from Florida.

Oh dear...
What am I going to knit in Florida?

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Wise Friendship, plus tiny socks

I finished a wee little pair of socks this week, Bu's Short Socks in some leftover Crystal Palace Maizy Print. They were only a wee squidge over a hundred yards and it's likely she'll grow out of them before the month is out, but she loves them in other capacities as well. Here she demonstrates that they make superb mittens, but they might also serve as a hat for a monkey. She's a happy customer and really, that's about all I can hope for.

Nothing sweeter than a little hugging a sock
I've shifted from sewing back to knitting, mostly because it's recital week and my afternoons are occupied with hauling kids around and practices and whatnot. That leaves precious little sewing time, but I'm hoping I can pick it up again when the recital is done. 
The Apollo test is still underway, but I have discovered that I'd been knitting a ruffle instead of a neat dodecagon. The increases were too rapid. I suppose it would help if I'd ever knit a circular shawl before, but I'm going to put the learning in my pocket to use later and then move along to the next stage of design: rip the darn thing and start over. It wasn't very big to start with and I already have more, new, better ideas about how to shape it, so it's not really a loss at all. It's part of the process.

I am not sorry about any of this
I've been spinning, too, and I've finished half the black alpaca singles, which is a good thing because the Middle TN Fiber festival was last weekend and I may have come home with a pound of polworth that I intend to dye and a couple other things as well. The best part, though, was hanging with my friends from near and far and discovering that they are awesomer in person than they are online. The whole weekend was delightful and I really wish the far friends weren't so far.

After the black alpaca gets spun up and plied, my next two spinning projects are this:
And this:

The first one is 100% silk from Rain's Obsessive Stitchery, which I've never spun before, but it's a gorgeous coppery color that doesn't quite come through in pictures. The batt is a lovely gradient from Lunabud Knits and I have two similar in purple, turquoise, and black. The above two beauties aren't even mine (honest!), but I am afforded the joy of spinning them for my very dear Koren, who won a "spin some fiber for me" prize during our last round of stashdown. She picked out the fiber this weekend and it came home with me and my polworth (&etc.). 

This is what it looks like when I run
I've also been running and I'm stuck on week 5 of couch to 5k, but I'm hoping to conquer it this week. It's only a matter of time. I shall wear week 5 down with persistence and determination and then proceed to give week 6 the hairy eyeball. I'm comin' for you, week 6. You're next.
I do love a good flow chart
I decided to make a skill tree so that I can figure out some specific things to do toward my Project Make goals, namely "Produce excellence" and "Become skilled." Those goals are pretty vague, but learning to warp a loom is a specific skill I can acquire and/or improve. I've since added to this particular chart and will probably need separate charts for each craft, but this has been a good exercise in turning vague goals into specific actions. I can't remember why I wrote "wise friendship," but I feel like I've had a lot of that going on this week and that it's not irrelevant to achieving my Project Make goals, so it's timely and appropriate. Good friends are certainly supportive of your crazy ideas in ways that help you be better. 

No techniques this week. There's been a lot of switching back and forth between current projects, which I hope results in some more FOs during Stash Dash. I'm participating in a completely unofficial capacity, but there's a spreadsheet nonetheless. Dress rehearsal is today (Thursday) and the recitals are Friday and Saturday, so I'm hoping I can get some FOs by blogtime next week when things have calmed down a bit. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

So (Sew), Strawberries.

I love these. Five bags out of fabric stash in colors that remind me of my garden in springtime when the phlox are in full bloom. The strawberry one is my favorite, hands down, and while that's the last of that fabric, this bag was the perfect thing for it to be. There's a grosgrain ribbon attach me! loop on the side of each one and though they're pretty simple, they're sturdy and well-constructed. I did my best here to pay attention to the details, even though they're "just" project bags. This is the part of Project Make where it's about doing my best work.

I'm considering stash-diving for summer fabrics for a similar collection of project bags and I'm almost certain there are colors in my fabric stash that will speak to me of summer flowers and sunshine. My more immediate sewing concern will be two more shirts for Bu, but I need to be getting on with that pretty soon if I'm to finish before our trip to Florida (which still doesn't seem real and won't until we're there). The pink and blue fabric to the right is going to be something, but I haven't figured out what just yet. It's vintage silk sent to me from a far friend as an act of kindness and I can't even with how beautiful it is.

And then there's these.
Twenty-four hours ago, these little beauties were hanging out on a vine down the road a ways and now? Now they are jam. Jam season has officially begun.

Everyone helps at our house.
Strawberries don't last long, but I sure enjoy the heck out of them while they're around. The great thing, though, is that just when they're gone, there's something else new and exciting coming into being. The boysenberries and raspberries won't be far behind them, I've planted grapes, and the blackberries are growing stronger. The tomatoes will bloom and fruit, and with some luck, I'll also have peppers and basil and other things from the garden.

Dat cuff, tho'
In non-strawberry news, I finished the alterations for the four boys' dance shirts, the last of which will soon be delivered and paid for (hooray!). I sort of wanted to spend a little more time to make them perfect, but perfect was not the end game for this particular project. Expedient and good enough for two shows and a rehearsal was the goal and I think I got there.

I wouldn't want to do this sort of work for a living, but it was a good side project and some good learning happened, too. I feel a lot more comfortable with knit fabrics now and that opens up possibilities for garments like swimsuits or t-shirts. The possibilities are endless!

There is knitting happening, too, and there may or may not be a spreadsheet stolen, copied, totally plagiarized, inspired by Bekah for purposes of Stash Dash. As it turns out, if I were to finish everything currently on the needles, I'd be about 183 meters short of 3k. Fortunately for me, spinning totally counts. I may also be starting a sock if the yarn would like to kindly tell me what sock it will to be.

Recital week is next week, so I hope that means a little knitting time when I'm not actually dancing. (You guys, I'm dancing in the thing!)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

I just work here. (Fear is the mind-killer)

I like to post pictures of flowers from my garden, even when they really don't have anything to do with the rest of the post, but I don't really have a whole lot to show for this week except a pile of shirts to sew and a pile of mostly finished project bags that lack a few seams. I'm trying an assembly line approach with them and I'm about four or so hours into five bags, which works out to about $10/bag so far, if I were to use the average wage of a seamstress. There's all kinds of interesting data behind that link and it could be a rabbit-hole for a number nerd like me. It's useful, though, because those numbers can help you see what sort of value the market puts on your sewing time. In the grand scheme of things, it's not a lot. Ordinary sewists have, historically, never been valued very highly in a monetary sense, but it's a good starting point so that you don't undervalue yourself if you want to sell your services.
This year wasn't going to be focused on peddling my wares and I didn't really want to do any commission work, but the dance school was in a bind and I'm kind of okay with being paid to help them out. Apparently, they said "We'd like some shirts for little boys." and the vendor heard, "Please send circus tents under which they might perform." and were terribly rude about having been in the wrong about what size a young boy might wear. I tried on the "teen" size, which is meant to be larger than the child sizes, but smaller than adult sizes, so right about where I'm at on the size chart for boys' clothes. It was huge. Whoever did the size chart for these shirts should probably set aside the illicit substances from now on. Lord 'a' mercy.
This looks excitin'
Anyway, I've still got a lot of shirts to sew back up and not a lot of time before the recital. I'm not hugely confident with knit fabrics at the sewing machine, but Project Make doesn't care if I'm timid. Project Make decides that this week, I'm learning about knit fabrics, so I obey. Project Make is my beneficent overlord that requires nothing more than total devotion to learning. My biggest fear is that I'm going to screw them up beyond all repair, but fear is just an activity of the mind.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Where the fear has gone, only my seams will remain.

This week's technique is a two-fer as far as videos go and this week, I actually watched the video before trying the technique instead of my usual M.O. where I just do the thing and then watch a video about it.
Sewing with knit fabrics

Part One is an overview of knit fabrics and how they behave:

Part Two is the knitty-gritty on how to sew it (see what I did there?):

So, of course I really want a walking foot now, but I can make do with what I've got for this particular job and it won't look awful. 

In other stitching news, I don't really have that much to report. Legwarmers and Leto are continuing apace, but my focus has shifted mainly to sewing. I don't know if it's the weather or what, but that's where I'm at right now. I'd already decided on a couple more little shirts for Bu as next up in the queue, but now one of them will be red with white polka dots in honor of our trip to Disney this summer.