Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Wearable, Skill-Stretching, and Varied

I only knit.  I mean I've sewn a zipper into a knitted bag, I've lined a knitted purse,  I've put buttons on a knitted cardigan, but knitting is the only craft I've indulged in for a couple of years.  It's been a time of stress, the kind that just happens when children hit high school and college and people get sick.  So when I did have had time to make things, I fell back on my default craft: knitting.

But that doesn't mean I haven't wanted to try different things.  In the last couple of years, I've been collecting a good number of pins, bookmarks, and actual print books that would encourage my trying some sewing, or dyeing techniques.

This is where the Handmade Fashion Challenge 2015 comes in.  I read about it on both Canary Knits and Candy and Bagel.  So, when I saw Teresa's post about the Challenge on her blog, I thought maybe it is time to do some of that... after the wedding, that is.  I won't be making things that will coordinate together, but I will be challenging myself to make things I might normally buy and/or things that I can wear often.  Wearability  is always an issue for me with the knitting.  I like wool, but Texas doesn't.  So I'm focusing on either light weight yarn or different kinds of making altogether.

(top row: Morning Mist Tee, drilling stones:, solar dyeing:, Spring-tastic socks.  Bottom row: January Yarns and Industry Shawl via TrulyMyrtlePhotos,  Purl Bee City Gym Shorts, and Holla Knits project bag tutorial.)

First up, is my one allowed work-in progress, my Morning Mist tee.  It's linen and fingering weight- enough said.

With the jewelry, I'm hoping to use found objects from different hikes I've been on or trips to the shore.  I want to go beyond wire wrapping beach glass, so I've pinned some how-to's on drilling through natural items on my Pinterest.  I'm not sure exactly what I'll end up using or making, but you get the idea.

I'm not a seasoned sock knitter.  I don't have a personal sock recipe or a memorized heel technique, though it would be a pretty useful knit for me, as we have cold, hardwood floors.   I'm hoping to remedy that while experimenting with natural dyeing for my Springtastic Socks.  Again, I have no idea if I'll use onion skins, or black beans, or flowers yet.  There's going to be lots of spur-of-the-moment decision making here.

Most likely, embroidering over my Holla Knits project bag, using Allyson's tutorial, will be the easiest project I tackle.  But it's something I've never done before, and am anxious to try it out.

This brings me to the real challenge in my future: the Purl Bee City Gym Shorts.  This is why I decided to join the challenge in the first place.  If I can get a handle on sewing, I feel like I really could transition to a mostly handmade wardrobe, if I want to.  And these shorts have been killing me, popping up on blogs and instagram for months.  Seeing Teresa's pair was the final push I needed.  So, this will be my first "real" hand sewing project.  Bag linings don't count, to me.

And last, but not least, is my Industry Shawl I will be test knitting for Libby of Truly Myrtle.  I wouldn't say shawl knitting is a challenge for me, except when I flub on blocking them.  But I've found they will get more wear than sweaters around here.  Besides I'm using some January Yarns' Staple Sock in a favorite color.

So, there you have it, my late summer plans: wearable, skill-stretching, and varied.  We'll be using the #hmfc2015 tag for instagram and I guess other social media.  I don't really use any other media that accepts hashtags so... you'll find my updates here and on my instagram.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Settler Shawl

So this is how that beautiful woven-like border looks after blocking.  It's Libby Jonson's Settler Shawl pattern.  I think this border was one of the neatest things I've ever knit.

I don't have too much else to say about the knitting because it was just straight forward pattern-following with size 3 needles.  I knit the border a bit loose because I was worried about it being too tight, but that was unnecessary.  I may even play with blocking the garter section a bit wider.

This shawl could work with any fingering yarn, I think.  I might make another some day in a slightly "plumper" single merino, but this was the color I wanted for my first Settler.  I think Libby's sample influenced my decision.

The effect of that border is so stunning.  It looks way more intricate than it is.  I do think it's my new favorite technique.  And with a slightly varied color shade... so perfect.

I also enjoyed knitting this with the Truly Myrtle KAL.  If you're not watching the Truly Myrtle podcast, you should be.  Libby is very inspiring and conversational.

Thankfully, my daughter helped me out by wearing my shawl for these photos.  I did not feel like looking decent right then and it's so much quicker when I'm behind the lens.  These took maybe a minute and a half.

Can you tell she's helping me hide the two ends I have yet to weave in?  Yikes.

This Quaere Fibre merino silk/blend is so lovely.  I am a new fan.  Janel has so many colorways and seems to have mastered hand dyed tweeds.  That is something I don't often see when I look for indie yarns.  I think her tweed sock yarns would make a fabulous Featherweight, like Molly's, or a shawl, like Libby's next shawl that I've seen bits of on Instagram.

My next knit from Libby might be a test knit, or else her Reminisce Hat.  I have a beautiful skein of teal Copper Corgi that needs to be exactly that wooly hat.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Lowest of Low Tech

Today I noticed my iPad screen wasn't turning off automatically after a few moments anymore.  My daughter said, "You want me to fix it?" "No, I can do it...I think."

It has nothing to do with my age, I'm not old.  It's not even that I'm averse to anything technical.  I knit a Beatnik.  I knit two Beatniks!!  I can do tedious and technical.  I just don't feel a need to be the master every kind of technical.

Take my washing ritual:  regular old dish liquid

and my blocking apparatus as an example:

It's working for me.  If my Settler Shawl looks a little wonky tomorrow, that's okay by me.  I did try using blocking pins and a yoga mat for the Rattan shawl, but the mats weren't right, or the shawl got pulled out of shape, or I forgot to buy blocking wires, or something.  So my blocking system remains old school.  Libby is starting a series about blocking shawls, so you might check that out if you're a shawl novice, like me.

Then there's texting.  I'm an old school texter.  Which would read more like "I'd school texted" if I typed it on my phone because it doesn't get me and corrects everything wrong.  My middle finger one-letter-at-a-time texting gives my kids another reason to mock me, but I can actually type and if I use my thumbs, my phone can't keep up and all of a sudden Marty becomes "Nasty" and everything becomes "every thong" and ... you get the picture.

And I don't do emojis.  I feel really stupid having just typed the word emoji.  Once, my husband sent me a text from his brand new iPhone full of emojis.  I think I hurt his feelings when I informed him that emojis are lame.  Poor guy- he's sent plenty of emojis since then, but never to me.  The fact that I still smile with parenthesis and do back-slash sheepish grins is not lost on me.  :/

I wanted to send my son an emoji once, but I couldn't find it anywhere.  So I made a homemade emoji.  One that stood for "laughed 'til I cried blood."  I found that just drawing it on paper, clicking a photo of it, and then texting it is almost as fast as using an emoji tool.  Really.  And who wouldn't want to receive this in a text?

My son is a teenager.  Just saying, in case that seemed disturbing.  We also have a darkish sense of humor.

Sigh.  I will never use all of my phone's options.  Siri gets on my nerves, as do Garmin and Ford Sync.  I  will also probably never fully utilize all of the options on ravelry, bloglovin, kollabora, instagram, Disqus, aperture, or Photo Shop.  And I don't want to.

When I finally put social media icons in the sidebar of this blog, I googled around until I found free icons for most of my social media sites in a style I liked, but I couldn't find a matching one for Ravelry.  No prob, I thought, I'll just make one... by uploading a solid colored circle, then using my mac's paint program, which required a little reading up, to draw an "r" in the center with my mouse.  I won't say how many tries it took to produce a steady letter worthy of the ravelry symbol.  Do you understand me?  It's just one step above finger painting my own icon and uploading a photo of it.

A couple of years ago, I wanted my blog to have a clean, simple template.  Blogger wasn't offering anything like that then, so I set out to do a patchwork template of my own.  My understanding of what I was doing was kind of like my grandparents'  understanding of Star Wars when we tried explaining it to them, as kids.  Every change I made required an explanation that required another explanation and change,  which required another explanation and change, etc.  What you see today is so Frankensteinian that if I ever change anything except the header, I think I'll have to hire someone.  Even changing the header is a yearly - nope I didn't even do it this year- slog wherein I finally remember how to do it after spending a couple of hours trying something way too complicated, then I immediately forget what I just did, insuring the next year will be another facepalm session.

But the one technical thing I have to tackle this year is streamlining my photo editing workflow.  My current system is: take photo, leave it in camera for months, dump and forget.  Find it later, run it through Aperture, export it to a "safer file" than iPhoto library (I know iPhoto doesn't even exist anymore.  See what I mean?) since I'm not sure if I want to use my Aperture library for long term storage.  I also move a version into a file for appropriately sized blog photos.  Then, I forget about it, leaving all of these originals, and versions, of each photo to clog up my hard drive in record time.  I tell you it's a gift.

So getting a handle on both Aperture and Photo Shop would be great this year.  To be fair, the last few years have been about other things and I haven't had the mental energy to spend on learning anything I didn't already know.   Our family is entering a new phase, on a couple of fronts, and I am getting hormones for my fatigue/migraines that is working really well.  So, maybe I'll get a grip on this stuff in the upcoming year.  Besides, I am just happy to have continued taking some photographs and doing a few creative things these days.  I think I'll be trying quite a few new things in the upcoming months, but I'll never be going too geek on you.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Just Now Looking at My Spring Instagrams

This feels like forever ago.  My son has already changed rank in Boy Scouts again and is long out of the Geography class that he built the model for.  He also looks much older.  Our sleepyhead is almost married, and I'm ready to make our rollerama night a regular thing.  Oh, and there's a few of my son's doodles in there. Obviously, he's not too old to be caught drawing on offering envelopes in church. 

(on instagram and flickr)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A Vintage Wedding Gift

These aren't the greatest photos, but they were taken on a dark day, by my shaky hands, just before my daughter's wedding shower a couple of weeks ago.  I've mentioned how big events make me a bit nervous.  But there was no need.  It was the absolute sweetest bridal shower, hosted by the sweetest people ever.

They were throwing this party for my daughter, but there was no denying my mother's memory was ever present in all of the fun, with so many of the hostesses being friends of hers or relatives.  It was especially beautiful for this reason.  My grandmother enjoyed seeing her daughter's friends and meeting friends she hadn't known and my daughter was overwhelmed by the number of people who came to wish her well.   It made me so happy to see all of the goodwill being shown to this new couple.

I also had a killer gift for her.  I knew it was good because I almost coveted it.  Almost.

I only have two Pyrex primary colored bowls, and one is in used condition.  This, however, was the whole set... in mint condition.  It's also the version from the 1940s.   So cool.  I was nervous about ordering them online, but the Etsy seller packaged them incredibly well and insured them, so I was relieved to open the box and find them perfect.

I added a vintage-looking recipe tin from Rifle Paper Company that included a few of my daughter's, and her fiancé's, favorite dishes that I make: homemade tomato soup to go with roast beef and havarti cheese sandwiches, lentil and sausage soup, enchiladas with verde sauce, etc.

I had received several great knitted gift ideas from other members of the Very Shannon group during the TTTKAL earlier this spring.  But, in the end, I went with the most practical knitted wedding gift there is: dishcloths.

I recently bought the Knit Picks 52 Weeks of Dishcloths book on sale with a yarn order.  I realize the individual patterns were offered free on a monthly basis, but I really liked having them altogether and in print.

(image via my Pinterest)

Of all of the patterns I knit, Firefly was my favorite.  It was knit in old cotton I already had.  I'd tried to use colors that would match her dishes or look really graphic, but I think I prefer soft, bright colors for the kitchen.

Details on my dishcloth mods because I used different weight yarn on some:

Firefly- I held two strands of worsted cotton together to knit it up faster.  I only cast on 27 stitches.

Slant- For this one, I used worsted and worked up to 50 stitches in the first color before switching to the contrasting color.

Ridge- I used worsted weight and only cast on 66 stitches.

I didn't make any modifications for Starflower.  Isn't it cute?

If I doubled my yarn and went down a needle size, I could make a slightly larger one that might double as a pot holder.

(more on ravelry, kollabora, flickr, and instagram)

I rounded things out with the Nessie soup ladle, which may have pleased her most.  She is frighteningly like me at times.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Rattan Shawl

You must have seen this shawl on ravelry, right?  Isn't it the best?  As soon as I saw sneak peeks of the Rattan Shawl on Libby's instagram,  I knew I had to make it.  It did not disappoint.  This has got to be one of the most fun knits I've made and one of the best shawl designs I've seen.

  I think it would look so awesome in a jute- colored yarn with little tweedy nubs here and there.

I have come to love all sorts of shawls, but the yoga pants/ t-shirt wearing mom in me doesn't find many opportunities to wear them (Not to mention that I live in a warm climate.)  Yet, I can see this one being a winter staple.  Maybe it's the architectural look, with all of the lines criss-crossing, or maybe the "rattan" appearance that seems very earthy to me.  I'm not sure why, but it is a very feminine shawl that can still appeal to my very practical, tomboyish side.

In short, I loved it.  I suppose the fact that I cast off Rattan and cast on Settler Shawl in the same night is proof of my enjoyment.

Details:  I used size 3 needles and one skein of Madelinetosh Merino Light in the Mockingjay colorway.   The pattern was straightforward and easy to understand and Mockingjay is the best grey ever.

Libby gives a yarnover tip for the edges that I first learned from Veera Välimäki at Madtosh Crafts.  I really liked having the opportunity to finally employ that technique.  It allows the inside edge to stretch enough for proper blocking.

Since I started working on my Rattan shawl, Libby has released another shawl pattern: the Southern Shawl.  Her Truly Myrtle KAL will be going on for the rest of July, so I feel certain I will complete Settler before the end.  I think I'd love all of her other shawl patterns.  There's Darling Dotty, which makes me think of a spring, country picnic.  Then there's Mindful, which looks like the kind of knit that makes you feel like an accomplished knitter.  Southern doesn't seem like it would be quite as intense, yet it has some neat, quirky details- an asymmetrical shape and an added border.  But her Reminisce hat will probably be the next one I knit because I have some extra dk yarn around here.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Truly Myrtle Knitting Along

Since I've been waxing lyrical about podcasters I enjoy,  I must mention one of my favorites- Libby of Truly Myrtle.  This is her pattern, Settler Shawl, that I'm working on for the Truly Myrtle Knitalong.

I don't quite remember where I first met Libby.  Maybe it was on the Very Shannon forum.  I was immediately inspired by Libby's crafty take on life.  There is nothing she can't make!  Her instagram is sweet for it's knitting, but even more for her sweet little ones that she is often knitting for.  Really, my husband and I were at the movies, waiting for Mad Max (of all things) to start and we both "Aw!"-ed out loud as I scrolled past an instagram photo of her daughter in hand knits.  Libby exudes a love of family and home.

She was also the first person I noticed online who was creating a handmade wardrobe.  I was amazed at her skill.  It didn't stop with sewing and knitting; there was handmade jewelry too!

One of her shawls was my gateway drug into the world of shawls.  Her Rattan Shawl is now off of my needles, waiting for photo editing and Settler is my current tv knit.

After sacrificing some of my most precious skeins of hand dyed yarn for shawls, I now completely understand the addiction.  Shawl knitting may be the best way to enjoy a beautifully deep color.  It satisfies my need to create, but I also find that it meets my need to be surrounded by beautiful, natural (and sometimes unnatural) color.  This need for color and beauty exceeds my desire to make, at the moment.  Mine can be a grey world.  I would love for my need for color to be satiated by my natural surroundings, but that's not going to happen at this time in my life, so I'm afraid yarn, textiles, and art will have to do the trick.

So what do you think of this Quaere Fibre merino/ silk skein?  The colorway is Mr. Blue Sky.  I don't think these photos entirely capture how Caribbean this blue is, shifting to a lighter shade, then back again in a few stitches.  Every time I sit down with this project, I hear either Yaz's Mr. Blue, which is kind of a electro-pop downer, or Enya's Caribbean Blue.  That's probably a better fit for this shawl.  It's also a great link if you're day is lacking in color.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Pinecone Lace and Podcasts

Have I mentioned how much I enjoy the Little Bobbins Knits podcast?  I think so.  Dani has a quiet, friendly way about her that feels like I'm having coffee and knitting with a friend.  There's a loving vibe in her approach toward handcrafting, family, and friendships.  It makes a nice little space for other knitters online to visit.

I find Dani's projects very inspiring, too.  Sometimes they lead me to try things I wouldn't ordinarily.  For instance, her sock yarn blanket was among those that looked like such a comfy, sensible use for extras, the pragmatic side of my brain couldn't resist casting one on.

I also don't know if I would have ventured very far into shawl knitting without Dani.  Her Instagram feed is full of beautifully soft images of socks and shawls in various stages of creation.  That is where I first heard about her podcast, which I now watch every week.  Who would think I would be joining her and Bobbins, from their home in England, all the way from my patio in Texas every week for a little respite?

As you can imagine, the podcast only further enabled my knitting habit.  I have now knit my third or fourth shawl and I bought a couple of skeins of Hawthorne, on sale, just to make a Campside Shawl after seeing how hers turned out.  There will also be more socks, I'm sure.

All of this is to say that I am really enjoying plugging away at my Pomme de Pin with Dani, and the rest of the group, for the Purposeful Stash-along.

Believe it or not, I am a little worried I got my ribbing too tight.  That has never, ever happened.  You probably saw that coming when I said I was using size 0 needles on it.  Sigh.  I'm not turning back, but will employ every method of blocking magic I can to ease it up.  

And can I really talk about Dani and not mention Bobbin?  He is my little dog's alter ego, I think.  My favorite is when I realize that Dani has been talking to the camera for some time and his little ears have been in the foreground the whole while, looking at her and listening as if she were really just talking to him.  :)