October 27, 2014
I finished the Elegant Italian scarf, and I’ll post a picture when I block it. In the meantime, I have been spinning the most beautiful fiber that a Dear Friend brought me last weekend. It has all sorts of greens and blues and orange in it, and is some blend of silk and wool, probably BFL from my guess of the staple length. I’ve got a tiny ball of it spun up, with more on the spindle. I’m using my favorite Golding spindle and a chain ply to get the most lovely thin smooth yarn you ever saw. I’m really appreciating how fine and smooth the yarn is turning out; I like yarn with a decent amount of twist in it, and this fiber is taking all the twist I have to give and then some! Because I finally bought a scale, I can tell you that it’s approximately 100 grams of fiber, with less than 20 of it spun so far.
I’m especially happy about the new scale. It’s not like I haven’t had ample opportunity to buy a scale. In the U.K., they cook by weight, so that instead of a recipe asking for a stick of butter or a cup of flour, it would say 200 grams of whatever. Kitchen scales are in every shop, cheap and prevalent. I just waited so long because I wasn’t sure if I needed a fancy one or if the cheap ones would suffice. It turns out, this cheapest of digital scales (which measures down to single grams) is all I need, and much more useful than years of no scale at all!
We we also went to a “working yarn museum” today. It is a mill originally from the late 1800s, which still produces yarns that you can buy in their little shop today. It’s more of a museum than a commercial mill, these days, though. Today was the day of the semiannual “steam up”, where they actually stoke the giant boiler and fire up the huge mill steam engines that volunteers have restored. It was pretty cool to see steam engines running. The air was pungent with the smell of grease, and the steam seemed to leak from every corner. Inside the mill, we also saw the spinning machines demonstrated. The one pictured here is the oldest of them all, over 100 years old, and draws the wool fibers over rollers and into a thinner, but not yet spun, yarn. They had many machines which drew fibers thinner and thinner, adding just enough twist so that they wouldn’t fall apart, until finally spinning and plying and winding it with the final three machines. It was really cool, though they didn’t shy away from admitting that the mill had once hired child labor. They were in fact proud that they didn’t hire six-year-olds, but waited until children were at least eight. I also learned that no one cared if you maimed an orphan, and in the Second World War, there were gas masks for babies, two surprising lessons from a spinning mill.
September 30, 2014
I visited Rome a year ago and came across a yarn shop just around the corner from our hotel, so of course I had to buy a couple of skeins of a super elegant laceweight merino in a very elegant camel colorway. I have been knitting (off and on) on this elegant scarf for several months now, and I thought you might want to see the progress I’ve made so far. We took another trip to Italy last month (where I managed to not buy any yarn), but did get the hankering to knit on this scarf some more. Although at first it was too complicated a pattern for mindless knitting, I have grown used to the lace repeat and can now knit while watching telly without any problem. I really really like the way it is turning out. The bonus is that it looks like a single skein will suffice for this pattern, so I could make a second one, equally elegant, for a gift. (It’s not a quick knit, though.) I hope to be able to show you the finished scarf before I go to Italy a third time!
September 29, 2014
My three new quilt kits arrived in the mail today, and I can hardly wait to start on them, but first I need to finish piecing the Harvest House quilt. I finished the subblocks for the ten large stars, and will work on sewing them into the blocks tonight. In addition to quilting this weekend, I also did some long-overdue tidying in my crafting and writing rooms, motivated by the fact I couldn’t find my chalk pencil when I needed it to mark sewing lines yesterday. My crafting room looks normal for the first time in months, and the writing room isn’t filled with yarn and fabric any more, though it is not yet tidy. If I devote fifteen minutes a night, maybe I can get it in shape this week.
As for the new kits, I’m really excited about the one on the left, Flowers for My Wedding. I plan to make it without the appliquéd flowers (not because I dislike them, but because I know I’ll never finish it if I include them). It’s a pretty complicated quilt even without appliqué, and I am nowhere near psyched up enough to start that one yet. The one in the middle is a small bed or table runner from Jinny Beyer. Although the blocks are complicated, there are only five of them, so it’s a nice bite sized quilt to learn foundation piecing before tackling the wedding ring quilt. My kit is the lovely blue green color. Finally, the Penny Points quilt on the right is a simple flannel quilt. I haven’t quilted with flannel yet, so this will also be something new, though the cutting and piecing are pretty easy. The fabric is so soft that I’m really looking forward to piecing it soon. With so many beautiful quilts to choose from, which should I do first?
September 27, 2014
I’m a bit behind on blogging, both reading and writing. But I’m so excited about this quilt kit I just started that I can’t help but post about it. It is the Harvest House quilt by the Buggy Barn, a pattern for which can be found at www.henryglassfabrics.com. I cut out the blocks last weekend, and starting sewing them together just now. The construction is pretty simple, just half square triangles, four patches, and flying geese. The result is really nice. I’m especially glad I got it in a kit, as I don’t really enjoy picking out two dozen matching fabrics, but these all came from the same fabric line, so they matched by default. If I do a quilt like this again, I will try to find a single line of matching fabrics like this. Or More likely, I’ll buy a kit. In fact, the reason I started this quilt is because I ordered a couple of quilt kits which were on sale from Keepsake Quilting. It’s a dangerous website for me. It is so easy to find beautiful quilt kits, and they generally turn out so well, and shipping is reasonable, and they have these sales and email me about them. I’m tempted to unsubscribe, but I’d rather just buy and make beautiful quilts.
I already have had a couple of issues with this pattern/kit. It asked me to cut out twice as many rectangles of one size (80 instead of 40) and when I didn’t have enough fabric for what they instructed, I panicked before consulting the diagram and counting for myself. I also didn’t have enough cream background prints to cut all the things they wanted from them, but I had some extra of another light fabric, so I made do with that. Finally, the instructions say things like “cut 20 total squares”, when really you want to cut 6 from two fabrics and 4 from the other two so that you have a single fabric used within a block. (I think it just looks nicer, like the quilt in the picture.) Anyway, I think I have cut everything out successfully, and the piecing seems to be just as stated in the instructions.
April 20, 2014
Yesterday, I went to a lovely day-long Introduction to Hand Piecing workshop with a friend and her friend in a neighboring village. Why would I take a class in hand piecing when I’m fairly competent at it already? Well, first, I thought it was going to be a machine quilting class, and I feel less confident in my machine skills. And second, it would be a nice day out with the ladies, including an introduction to a crafty friend-of-a-friend. It turned out that I already knew as much as we were going to learn in class. I offered up a few tips that my original hand quilting instructor had offered, which probably made me seem like a bit of a know it all. :( My original instructor was rather strict about the rules of quilting. This instructor was very nice and the class was relaxed, laid-back, and fun. I think it was a good introduction to hand piecing, but she rushed through the demo of rotary cutting, machine piecing, and quilting. I don’t think I would enjoy her longer class on quilting, because I thought her sampler was a bit messily done in places. Of course, my own are messily done in places, but I don’t claim to be a quilting instructor.
The four students in the class were completely different in style, though we all made the same Friendship Star block. My friend prefers a pale blue and rose palette, her friend liked a modern/retro grey and yellow print, the other student had a spring mixture of fresh greens and yellows, and I boldly went where none of them dared to go. When I chose my bright red, grey, and space print, I could see in their faces that it would not have been anything they would have selected ever. Full stop. But it was perfect for me! Below are my friend’s block, her friend’s block, and my first knitmystash self portrait!
They all turned out so lovely! The others plan to make cushions or mats with theirs. I already cut a second block, and I’m making a tote bag. The best thing the class did for me was to remind me that I do enjoy hand piecing. I hadn’t done any in a while because I was working on hand quilting the quilt for Mom, but I might take some time to do a bit more of it on rainy days like this one.
Happy Easter, everyone!
April 5, 2014
April is the month for Camp NaNoWriMo, the event where many people worldwide attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in a single month. I was tempted to do NaNoWriMo this month, but decided that my other hobbies needed more attention. I do like the idea of a goal and time pressure, though, so I decided to declare this National Wool Spinning Month, and to attempt to spin a pound of fiber in 30 days. That is 453.6 grams, or 15.12 grams per day. On a good day, I can spin maybe 7 grams in an hour. That makes my goal, like writing a novel, obtainable with considerable effort. I decided that the pound of yarn I would spin are my 400 grams of purple Tops woolyknit wool and my roughly 56 grams of Bullen’s Wullens green wool/silk blend.
I am already behind. I missed the first day, not devising this plan until the second. Then I’ve been both busy and under the weather this week. I’ve done some good spinning today, though. I should be at 75 grams tonight, but I’m around 35 grams, mostly in the last two days. I am enjoying spinning so far! I think both yarns are really beautiful! It has made me think a lot about investing in a spinning wheel, though. Pictured below is my current state, with the green in unfinished, single, and plied states, and the purple just starting to be spun/plied. For the purple, I’m doing the ply-as-you-go chain ply technique, which I kind of like a lot, even if it is slightly less efficient.
March 25, 2014
I went to town a bit with tatted bookmarks while visiting my family. Here are the results. The first was a cross bookmark with large, rainbow colored cotton thread. I like how cheerful it ended up. I can tell I am getting a little better, though there are still inconsistencies and tiny mistakes on occasion.
The second bookmark was the simple linear version of the same pattern, from white thread. It isn’t quite finished here, but you get the idea.
It was really great to see my family and to give them lovely bookmarks!
March 2, 2014
I have completed my second tatting project! I now have two lovely tatted bookmarks! Woohoo! The first, a cross done in some teensy tiny cotton thread, was really difficult. I think I need to be a better tatter before I tackle teeny tiny thread for a while. The cross bookmark pattern is available here. There are some definite mistakes. I have more than one place where I managed to twist it while joining. The picots are every size, and the rings don’t snug up in the corners like they should. But I’m awfully proud of it nevertheless! In the pattern, you are meant to run a ribbon through it. I probably will eventually, which will help the mistakes be less noticeable, I hope!
The second bookmark was in (comparatively) giant cotton thread, and was clearly what a beginner should start with. I still made a few mistakes, and not all my stitches are perfect and even, and my picots are all kinds of crazy sizes, but it gave me some valuable practice and looks pretty good, if I do say so myself. It was a little wavy on the edges, but blocking it seems to have helped that a lot. I can’t find this bookmark pattern. I found it, started the bookmark, and then completely lost the web page it was on. I’ve searched for it, but I couldn’t find it anywhere, so I just made the second half look like the first half. I’ve also completely finished it… Weaving the ends back through the stitches and everything! Woohoo! I knew if I didn’t just do it immediately, I never would. Yay, bookmark!
February 22, 2014
Four years ago, I won hatlympics gold by knitting eighteen hats over the course of the Games. This year, I managed a single hat. It is lovely, all mossy with a bright stripe. I certainly don’t need another hat, but it is just so lovely and form fitting that I’m tempted to keep it for myself. It makes me want to hit the slopes! Though with the complete lack of snow here this winter, I’d end up hitting the mud. yay.
It is green and orange Yorkshire wool I bought on a trip to York, in a store called Ramshambles on the famous “Shambles” alley in that city. Based on Maze’s hat as seen during the Olympic coverage, it has just a few rows of ribbing, and then is moss-stitch throughout. I had a hard time decreasing for the top; I ripped it out twice before I got something that I found acceptable. I decided to do four double-decreases around every-other-row instead of eight single decreases every-other-row like I normally do. This allowed the moss stitch pattern to continue with less interruption. I’m still not so fond of the way it ended up, but it looks much better than the earlier alternatives. You basically have the choice of trying to make it look as invisible as possible (which I tried to do) or emphasize the lines of the decreases (which I was having trouble lining up correctly in the moss stitch). Either way, it turned out lovely! Yay!
February 20, 2014
You might recall my last post, in which I explain that even though I usually knit hats during the Olympics, this time would be different! I was going to quilt up a storm! Well, I am knitting a hat. It is a beautiful moss-stitch hat inspired by the one worn by the (double!) gold medallist Maze of Slovenia. It is lovely and wonderful in a mossy green and dark orange. Normally, I’d be finished with five hats by now, but I have just been taking my time, enjoying the Olympics, and not rushing through this hat. No more wilty quilties for me this Olympics; I am firmly in the Yarny Army!