Friday, June 24, 2011

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

On my needles: Vacation knitting

Today marks the middle of our three weeks' vacation "down the shore."  I brought a ton of fiber with me, along with my entire collection of knitting needles and my spinning wheel!  Last year I wound up having to buy yarn and needles to work with, but I wasn't going to make that mistake twice.
I spent the first week swatching with Atacama yarn by Arucania, a discontinued DK weight alpaca that looked kind of skanky in hank form, but knit up into a lofty confection of a fabric with the big needles the Neck-Down Wrap Cardigan called for.

Yes, it took me a week to get gauge.  I knit three funky-sized swatches (which, incidentally, I did not wash because the ball band indicated that dry cleaning would be most appropriate -- I suppose I should have steamed them, but what's done is done) and alternated the boring swatch-knitting with some hippy-dippy crocheting.

The Rickrack Kerchief, in Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino, is right up my alley.  It's the right level of challenging, which means that I can watch TV or daydream while I work on it, and it's the right type of finished product, meaning that I will totally wear it when it's done.  And it has a ribbon woven Right Into The Headband.  I am completely mesmerized by ribbon these days -- buying it, saving it, making it, using it.  The Christmas packages are going to be so much fun this year!

So finally I finished the swatches and started on the wrap cardigan.  I had thought that I could not do another row of stockinette-with-raglan-increases when this number showed up.  There is something about this pink-cotton-candy knitted fabric that makes it such a pleasure to work with that I don't care if the knitting itself is uninteresting.  The yarn is fascinating and I cannot wait to see what it will do next.  The thought of making a little more of the fluffiness in my hands is enough inspiration to keep me going, and I hope this will  be a project where the process and the product are equally important -- I want to wear this loveliness.

I have also been reading a lot about knitting this vacation, and have many big ideas concerning fair isle, ganseys, log cabin knitting, organic cotton washcloths and multi-media knitting, but that's for another post.  What's on your needles this summer?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Emergency Quilting: Stacked Coins

A little over a week ago, I needed a teacher gift.  Like, now.  For K's other teachers, I had made small quilts, but I hadn't started one for Mrs. First Grade.  What could I do?

I got out Last Minute Patchwork and Quilting.  There, under "8 to 12 Hour Gifts", was a wonkily cut Stacked Coins quilt.  Surely I could complete it in, say, 24 hours tops?  I hightailed it to the quilt store because I did not have time to diddle around with scraps.  Fat quarter bundles, baby.  Yeah.

I cut the wonky coin strips and tossed them like a salad before I realized you were supposed to leave them in piles and sew them in "random" order by choosing them deliberately.  Also, I cut half the fat quarter bundle into the wrong size coin strips so had to put them away for another project and was left with only orange and yellow fabrics for this quilt.  But it all worked out okay.

The finished panels:

Cut into strips and arranged into rows:

The sewn quilt top, basted (I used over 1,500 pins on this small quilt top -- I am slow, but I am learning to be thorough!) and ready to be marked.  I used a Clover chaco liner, which was great except that the chalk would rub off and I would have to re-apply it right before I quilted an area.  If I were doing it again I would use my Hera marker.

Three things I learned about quilting from this project:
  1. Buy the very best batting you can afford.  It really does make a difference.  Really thin cotton batting is a dream to work with, and it was perfect for this quilt.
  2. The tension on the machine needs to be adjusted up, not down, at least in the case of my Kenmore.  Adjusting it down leads to loosey-goosey stitches on the back.
  3. I only ever want to machine-quilt with my Kenmore, unless I am using a longarm.  That machine is a real workhorse!

The finished quilt -- washed and dried, it crinkled so beautifully that the imperfections in my quilting melted away and it looked really gorgeous.  I am totally making one of these for myself!