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.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

The Finishing Has Begun!

First, I have a couple FOs to report:

 This is the younger, more attractive brother to the first blue silk hanky: 100% silk, upcycled from a skirt, with hand-rolled hems and hand embroidered sashiko style in circular Gallifreyan that reads "Bad Wolf." More about this little gem when I talk about this week's technique.

I believe my French knots turned out better on this one than on the first one and I like the outer circle rather better in the running stitch than in chain stitch. I have yet more of this fabric and I may do a little bag or something out of the scraps that are the wrong shape and size for hankies. How fancy would a little blue silk bag be?

These have been sitting around, waiting for me to learn about afterthought heels. I absolutely love how they look, but I'm not a hundred percent happy with the fit of this particular heel. I want to try some different ones before I give them up, but I have learned that this one isn't my favorite.

These are Maryvillian Blue Heelers in Studio Avenue Six Self Striping Yarn (discontinued), colorways Just for Jess (she dyed it for me!) and 2 Lt. Blue, 2 Dk. Blue. The pattern is a modified Chevron out of Sensational Knitted Socks by Charlene Schurch.

Other than the afterthought heel shenanigans, I loved this pattern and it was perfect for this yarn. It's really too bad that the yarn is discontinued because my other socks, OSU socks, have worn really well in the time I've had them with little to no felting in the heels and no fading through many washings.

I haven't picked up Ms. Summer's hanky this week, but I did make significant progress on my proto-neice's sweater. It needs sleeves, a button band, and a collar, which should all go pretty quickly, barring any knitting disasters. It's such a quick, satisfying knit. I love everything about it. I've started the sleeves, so it should be done by next week.

I've also been working on the privet dyeing experiment with the SoUP batts. They're out of the dye bath and currently drying in my bedroom. I'm not really convinced about the color, though. I'll have to see it in daylight when it's dry, but from what I can tell, the color is very subtle and in shades of blue to green to yellow.

They're still wet here and have since been washed. 
This has been a really good learning experience, if nothing else. Dyeing batts is a pain in the rear end and I'm still a little worried I've felted it, so I'm going to be dyeing either fiber still in locks or already spun into yarn. I've also learned that I could really use bigger pots and more than one pot. Stainless steel should be non-reactive and I should be able to pick a couple big ones up for not very much at a place like Big Lots. More plans for dyeing are in the works and it's going to be a lot of fun playing with colors. I was daydreaming about lichens and oak galls the other day and thinking about planting a dyer's garden.

Most of my other daydreams lately have been about garage doors, more gardening, and what life would be like if I lived on Sesame Street.

This week's Technique is:


The link will take you to a very good tutorial on how to do traditional sashiko. Because it is my way, I only sort of followed some of the instructions and ended up not really doing what you might call traditional sashiko on the silk hanky at the top of the page. It's sashiko-ish. Instead of the fat thread usually used, I used a single strand of regular embroidery cotton. Rather than a geometric all-over design, I did something in circular Gallifreyan. I did pay close attention to how the threads met at corners and sharp turns, however, because I wanted it to look tidy and professional. Over all, I'm very pleased with how the second hanky came out and I may do more sashiko in the future.

And in honor of February is for Finishing, the Airing of the WIPs (a few days late):

  1. Fork in the Garbage Disposal socks: One sock knit to just past the heel
  2. Baby Ruth's Classy Sweater: See above
  3. Louise, a seamless saddle shoulder pullover: Part of the body knit. Still love the Dickens out of it.
  4. Besties 4-eva: One link "done," but really needs a couple more repeats, at least. 
  5. Meditations on the Holy Mother: A "process" knit rather than a "product" knit. I'm not overly worried about finishing this one in February. 
  6. Mr. Rippley, my coffee friend: Actually pretty close to finishing this one. Maybe a couple stripes of each color to go.

I won't finish everything this February, but it's nice that all the projects are things I love working on and I'm sure I'll finish quite a bit before it's all said and done. Nothing got frogged or flung this year. It's a nice knitting place to be, but I think it might be nicer if I lived on Sesame Street.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

A lot of blue in this post, it seems.

I haven't been knitting all that much this past week because I'm still working more or less monogamously on Mr. Rippley, my coffee friend. Remarkably, when you keep working on something, it tends to get closer to done. I'm probably two and a half pattern repeats (Four rows each of three colors) from being done, though I suspect some of my yarn has gone missing because I'm not using it up evenly. The persimmon (brown), which resembles no persimmon I've ever seen, is being used up faster than its paprika (red) and peapod (green) brethren and it's entirely possible that I'm using more of that one
or that there's a little ball of it under the couch somewhere. I would not rule out the latter. There's no telling what's under there. I'm a little afraid to look, actually.

Leto got a little bit of attention while I was at the doctor's office and I worked on the Fork in the Garbage Disposal socks last Thursday night while both children were dancing. Little Miss Bu, who is no more than two, wanted to go into the room where Fluffalo dances. The clogging teacher said it was okay for her to stay and the whole time, she tried to do what the big girls were doing. She had fun and I got some bonus sock-knitting time. Everyone wins!

Now that I have my new progressive lenses, I've been starting back to embroidery and hand-sewing. Miss Summer's handkerchief got some love and I can see/remember more or less what I've done on the first wing, but I'm afraid it's not going to be as symmetrical as I'd rather. Doing the same thing I did the first time, only in reverse, is about as easy as it sounds.
Privet soup: To dye for.

I even dipped my toe into some natural dyeing, but I seem to have wandered off from it and left the privet berries soaking in the pot in the garage. The thing is, I have one pot. I need to transfer the dye bath to another container so that I can mordant the fiber and then do another switcheroo when the mordanting is done. I got so distracted by the crochet and the silk hankies that I... forgot that I'd already started the dye bath. A good soaking won't hurt anything and may make the color deeper, but I don't want to leave them so long that they go rancid on me. Bleah. Nobody wants that. With any luck and if I'm paying any attention, I'll move the dyeing forward this coming week.

I think I'm starting to get the hang of the hand-rolled hem, which is:

This week's technique:

It's a long-ish video, about fifteen minutes, but Ms. Simms' voice is really very soothing and she does a good job of showing you the technique. I'm still having a little trouble on the corners, but it's going fairly well on the two dainty little hankies I'm working on for Project Make. Naturally, the second hanky went better than the first and practice will make success.

First one done, and a little bit of snow.
Both hems done. No snow.
They've since had a brief date with the iron and look a little bit neater. I decided that, because these are what you might call TARDIS blue, I'd do something a little bit special. I have one FO for this week:

A Rose by any other name...
100% silk hanky with hand-rolled hems and hand-stitched embroidery in Circular Gallifreyan that reads "Rose." Upcycled from a thrifted silk skirt.

I've been working on:

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Happy Yarn Friends

This week has been pretty mild weather for a January and most of the handknits were shed around noon and put back on when the sun went down. Today, Wednesday the 21st, I'm wearing Durhamknits' Multnomah in a hipster scarf kind of way and it's been keeping the chill off my neck all day. I love the squashiness, the drape, everything about this shawl. I especially love that she was knitting it for me and sent it to me in a giant pile of woolly love from several of my far friends. It's just amazing to find such a pocket of kindness. Hooray for yarn friends!

The warm weather has also been great for getting some work done in the garage. My loom has lived there since we moved in and I've been itching to get her put back together and to have that space as a usable studio, of sorts. The lawnmower still has to live there, but the yard tools and I pretty much live in harmony. The big part is sorting through all the stuff that never quite got moved into the house, getting rid of what can be got rid of and putting away the rest of the things into their right places. I put up shelves and did some organization and it's so very close to being cleared out enough for my loom.

I made the shelves just high enough for me to reach and put things up and take them down again by myself. I need to replace the boards, but those are good enough for now. There's a ways yet to go and it won't be done until spring, but I did manage to find all of my fabric.

Some spinning got done, too, and I finished my very first gradient yarn as part of Project Make. I'd considered making the two skeins fraternal, but dear Bekah convinced me to spin them up the same. That's what friends are for, right?

I love this picture so much. It's the happiest thing and the colors are perfect for a winter-weary Jess. This is about 200yds of Z-spun, S-plied WTF?IDK batt with so much sparkle, that there is a German Sparkle Party somewhere that wants its yarn back. It's about 11wpi, or about a DK weight, though the yellowest parts may slide into fingering weight. It's Navajo plied, which isn't a new technique to me, but one that I haven't used very much. I like it for this kind of color gradation, but the WTF?IDK batt wasn't as evenly spun as other fiber preps, so sometimes the yarn got weird on me where the switchback was on the chain. I'm pretty sure nobody calls it a switchback, but I couldn't think what else to call the part of the chain that goes through the loop and back again. It's like a switchback road, Y? N?

Well, not much knitting has been done this week, though I did get past the heel in the Fork in the Garbage Disposal socks. I like the heel! Ding-ding-ding-a-dinga-ding-ding! But I may try to find a way to avoid the provisional cast-on in the middle. It did get a little fiddly. What I have been working on is the Ripple Afghan. I'm totally in love with it and I can't think of anything else right now. Though I'm cuddled up in its much older brother right now, Mr. Rippley has been my morning coffee friend, as has a far friend up Nort' who is a retired teacher and a delightful woman. We're stay-at-home bros.
So that's really about all that's been going on, though it's all been very intense. I did get my new glasses and I'm starting on a small sewing project, which I'll probably talk about next week. Until then, I'm going to peruse ideas for small projects to make with fabric scraps because some destashing has to happen there, too.

This week's technique:

  • A provisional cast-on a la Lucy Neatby. I needed this one for the Fork in the Road socks and just picked a provisional cast on out of the proverbial hat. This one served just fine, but was a little fiddly. It could be user error because it wasn't a technique I'm terribly used to and I wasn't accustomed to stopping in the middle of a sock to cast on and re-join. 

I've been working on:

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Yarn for Mama

This week started out colder than... a very cold thing and I was glad to have my Man Sweater and Nymphalidae to cuddle up in, among other things. I think I've worn the Honeycomb mitts that Bekah made for me more than I've worn anything else this week. Most of it is kind of a woolly blur, though. That, and the ripple afghan, which seems to be plugging along. I'm about halfway through the yarn I have for it, which should make it a goodly couch-sized blanket.

"This is a tag. It says, 'Yarn for Mama.'"
I'm already plotting other afghans (all the afghans) because the weather has just been that way. That and knee warmers and/or leg warmers, but there's some waffling about how I'd wear them: under the jeans or over the jeans? Both?

Color Affection has also been wafting in and out of my yarny fantasies. I already have the yarn and Bekah and Koren and I are going to do a little along using the same colors in several different yarns. I don't remember how that happened, exactly, because I bought the yarn some time ago before Color Affection was on my radar. It could be Fate or serendipity or... the Universe's odd sense of humor. IDK, man, I just work here. Anyway, I'm at the point where I want to finish some stuff up before I go casting on a bunch of things.

Movin' right along.
The EZ sweater is also plugging along, but unless you're interested in miles of stockinette, there's really not much to report there. I do love the color, though, and I don't mind having some knitting I don't have to think about.

It's also been rainy, which is pretty great for any dyeing shenanigans I may be getting up to. Rain water, while the slight acidity might affect the color, won't affect the color quite so much as our hard water. Certain minerals will sadden, or darken, the dye and I don't particularly want that. It's going to be an adventure since I only kind of know what I'm doing.

Between the many several books on dyeing with natural dyes and the internet, I think I can handle it. I am a scientist, after all, and we're trained for this sort of thing.

In Project Make news, I'm spinning the most fabulous of singles out of the most fabulous of happy warm colors (see above re: weather). I'd been saving it for when I needed a break from browns, blacks, and greys and the middle of a rainy January seemed like the exact right time to pull it out. I'd meant to do some fractal spinning, but I had a derp about how much fiber actually goes on my bobbins and ended up filling the whole bobbin entirely up. I don't have bigger ones, so I'll probably Navajo ply it to preserve the color gradation. I could do the second half of the fiber the same way or I could try something else with it. I'll likely end up doing it the same way so they can be yarn friends.

This Week's Technique:

  • Invisible braided join: I've been looking for joins for yarns that don't felt and came across this little gem. As far as I can tell, it really is invisible and I'm very pleased with how easy it is to do, requiring no spit at all, and it's very very strong. 

I've been working on: