Friday, July 31, 2009

Inaugural project: a felted poncho

This design comes from Betz White's Warm Fuzzies, a book devoted to projects made from felted recycled sweaters. K has been begging for a poncho ever since she opened the volume, and this one seemed to suit her need for bright color, warmth and softness -- the solid bits are made from sweaters with a hefty portion of angora to them, which I hadn't been aware would felt but which in fact worked themselves into a heavenly, fuzzy material that was a delight to work with. I made a size 7/8, which is a little big for K right now, but the way she's growing it will be perfect for the spring.

Welcome to my studio

Here's a shot of my newly-realigned shelves, with my quilting fabric arranged on them just so.  I'm amazed that the cats have not attempted to nest in there, but they seem content to laze on the woolen carpet or loll on the shelves I haven't quite finished filling.  More photos to come as the moving-in and decorating progress.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Short entry

Alas, I am having to start my sweater over because of some careless unraveling.

In better news, I am almost entirely moved into my studio and it is a dream come true.  Pictures as soon as I relocate my camera.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Mishmash: Topsy Turvy House Edition

The house has been turned upside-down for a week and a half now, as we did the painting, put up the shelves (which have a definite list to them and need to be re-leveled) and shampooed the rug in the studio.  I learned how to use a roller and a socket wrench and the carpet steamer.  I discovered how incredibly grimy the rest of the house is.  I bought a carpet and thought about lighting and tried not to make any new messes.

In the process I have been working on my sweater.  I bought the Addi Turbo knitting needles and fell in love.  They are just as good as Aunt Mary's teflon needles, if not better.  I finished the body and started work on the armholes.  Found that knitting back and forth on circular needles is not an intuitively obvious process.  Ripped out stitches, started again, figured it out.  This will very clearly be a "learning" sweater (to say nothing of the stretchiness of the alpaca, which is going to render the thing virtually shapeless) but that's okay.  It's designed to be a "Saturday" sweater anyway, and it will be well loved.  I can't wait to wear it.  (But I'll have to, because it's going to be a mighty cold day before it'll be chilly enough to be comfortable in all that wooly warmth.)

I love knitting!  I love painting!  I love socket wrenches!

Friday, July 17, 2009

My Hero

The amazing K-Cat takes time out from her busy schedule saving the world to pose for some photos:

Her cape is made from pink taffeta and yellow cotton (her choices) and her super power is the ability to claw through the heart of any villain. Her sidekick (not shown here) is Wonder Dog Deebo, who can howl so loudly that no villain can stand to be within earshot of him.

Things I learned from this project:
  • How to sew with shiny, slippery fabric
  • That I can really, truly do applique
  • How to sew on velcro
  • How NOT to sew on velcro
  • That it is REALLY important to read ALL THE WORDS in the instructions BEFORE starting to sew
Seriously, it was Dress Like a Superhero Day at camp today and K wanted to make up her own superhero, so we had some fun with it. She's been feeling sort of apprehensive about going to camp, but she had no trouble letting me leave her there today after the ooh's and ahh's over her fancy-schmancy outfit. I hope she's having a fantastic day!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

We painted the studio!

This week my mother-in-law very generously donated her time to help me move everything out of my studio and paint it a beautiful bright clean white. I'm so pleased with it! Now I have my work cut out for me. I need to:
  • Consider putting in a carpet remnant to protect the beige carpeting that's already in there
  • Wash the windows
  • Purchase and put together shelving for the closet
  • Determine which furniture I want to put back in the room and where I want to put it
  • Do a final clearing out of craft supplies I don't want to use.
On top of which, K needs a superhero costume for camp TOMORROW and I haven't even started on it. I'm using this tutorial to make her a cape, which I think is adorable and I hope she will too. I need to go pick her up soon and take her to the fabric store so she can pick out the stuff she wants it made from. Should be a fun, if somewhat rushed, job to do.

Monday, July 13, 2009


Here's the progress I've made on my sweater so far:

I'm about halfway done the body.  I'm still worried that it won't fit, but I'm soldiering on.

I definitely do not like these bamboo circular needles.  It is very hard to get the stitches to slide around on them evenly to get any kind of speed -- I have to keep stopping to coax the stitches along.  I am going to try out some Addi Turbo knitting needles and see if I like them better.  I've heard good things about them from more than one person.

Of course, I'm poring over knitting patterns galore and I've found an adorable pattern for angora booties that I want to try for my niece-to-be.  I think I could make them this week before I drive up to (hopefully!) greet her next weekend, if I worked hard.  As D and K would say, "Just keep knitting, just keep knitting!"

Friday, July 10, 2009

Giving it a go

I spent most of the week practice-knitting with my wool-cotton on Aunt Mary's size-6 teflon-coated knitting needles, and I am now totally spoiled for them.  Such lovely slipperiness!  But I was not particularly enthralled by the project and wanted badly to get on to my sweater.

I ran out to Minocqua on Tuesday to the Knitting Nook where a lovely woman helped me choose some chunky baby alpaca yarn (believe it or not, the cheapest of all the yarns we looked at) and worked up some gauge swatches that evening.  I had picked up Debbie Stoller's Stitch and Bitch on Sarah's recommendation and spent some time looking at it to figure out what tools I would need to buy and what techniques I would need to use to work the sweater, and I asked Mary some questions too.

D, K and I set out for home on Wednesday morning.  Around lunchtime we drove into Escanaba, MI, and found a little shop called the Yarn Barn where I bought my size 13 circular needles, double-pointed needles, stitch holders and other doodads, along with some quilting material, vintage fabric and eyelet curtains.  The lady there (who runs an antique shop side by side with the yarn store) had a magnificent rocking horse that was big enough for big five-year-old K to ride!  I'm glad she didn't notice it.  I tore myself away from the store and started casting on.  And I knit.

Forty minutes later I realized that little twist in the fabric wasn't going to "work itself out."  I ripped out, cast on, ripped out again.  Got really good at casting on.  I think it took me four or five tries before I got the stitches cast on and knit the first round without twisting them.  Then the alpaca fur started flying thick and fast. I guess I've knitted up about six inches worth of sweater by now, which seems like a lot to me.  The stitches aren't perfectly even, but there aren't any dropped ones, either.  I think it will be a nice first project.  (Okay, second.  The first was an orange garter stitch scarf in Homespun yarn that I like a lot but that sheds all over my black pea coat.)

I only hope the darn thing fits.  I measured myself, I checked the gauge, I checked it again, I bought yarn accordingly, I'm hoping for the best.

I've been looking at the sites you folks have recommended and there's so much to see!  Thank you for all of your helpful suggestions!  Now I have one other question for you:

Other than teflon needles (oh my heavens, they're wonderful!), what are your favorite tricks/techniques that help you knit a little faster?

Monday, July 6, 2009


So I'm learning how to knit.  I was looking for something to do on the plane trip out here to Rhinelander (we're visiting D's relatives) and the obvious answer was to finish one of the umpty-million crochet projects I have started but never finished.  But I have changed so much since I started those projects.

For one thing, they are all afghans.  I do not care if I never see another afghan as long as I live.  I have made enough of them.  I need to move on to more interesting and challenging projects.  I suppose I could take on more complicated afghan patterns, but none of them cry out, "Commit to me for the next three months of your life!"  I really just need something different to do.

For another thing, they are all made with acrylic yarn.  All of them.  And I am so not into man-made fibers these days.  Give me cotton, wool, alpaca, angora.  Something that feels soft, has a nice hand, a good drape.  If I'm going to be working with a material for a long time, if I'm going to wear it or sleep under it or give it away, I need to love to touch it.

So it's time to give away the old projects to someone who will enjoy finishing them, or who will unravel the yarn and put it to good use.  I'm taking up knitting!

I have in mind a particular project, the Berkshire Pullover from Weekend Knitting by Melanie Falick.  It's a big sweater made simply from chunky wool in stockinette stitch, and I've read the directions through and think that if I take my time I can do it.  I'm working on a practice piece right now, a scarf made from two strands of Rowan's wool cotton, and it's slow going but I think it will turn out nicely.

If you knit, I'd love to know what your favorite knitting sites are.

Wish me luck!