Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Bad Pictures of a Table Runner with Good Quilting

Remember way back when we thought the days were so long? I miss those days. Not summer, but youth, I suppose, when even the short stretch between after-school and dinner seemed like a very long time. Now I feel as though a calendar serves me better than a clock as time truly flies and the latter doesn't seem up to the task of keeping up with it. That's all just a very fancy way of saying "Can you believe it's February already?"

January has flown by, and I am still working on the same dishcloths and sock yarn hat--no matter how quickly I knit, I feel like there's an impish little gremlin who unknits my stitches when I take a sip of tea. Our snow is already gone, it's going to be sixty degrees tomorrow (!!!) and there are only four episodes of Downton Abbey left forever and ever. I'm not dealing well with any of this.

Anyway, last week I whipped up a quick table runner for the dining room. My stash is quite low right now and would lend itself fabulously to a decent scrappy quilt (so I could then buy more fabric without any guilt), but I did have a few pieces that were just the right size for this. It's just a wholecloth quilt, nothing fancy at all. Sorry for the picture quality--I don't think I'll ever take good pictures in low light.

I'm kind of overly pleased with myself as I eyeballed all of that quilting. I used the little dotty centers as my reference (they were only an inch apart, but that's plenty of room to go crooked--trust me, haha), and everything came out straighter than the lines I tried indenting with my hera marker. Go figure.

When I started this, all I could see were the little green ovals that made up the mini cathedral windows. When I quilted it, all I could then see were the white centers, and it looked very tufted. I thought it might have something to do with the straight line quilting having an illusory effect on the curves. I thought "Wow, I can't wait to take a picture of this!" and then when I did the effect was gone, and now all I can see are the green ovals again (and I don't mean in the photos, I mean in real life, as I'm looking at it right now as I type).

I made this for the dining room table, and as it's an oval shape I wanted to mimic that. I ended up having to go with a rounded rectangle, as geometry is not my strong suit and disaster was on the horizon. The curves do look much better than the harsh rectangular corners I usually do. It also saved a bit of time as I didn't have to stop and miter anything--it all went on so nice and smooth and stayed that way. I definitely want to try this on other quilts.

I didn't have enough batting, so I used a piece of sew-in fleece. It worked fine, but I'll just have to remember not to put this in the dryer. I used linen for the binding, and wanted to use one of my fancy stitches for it. I saw one that I thought went well with the fabric, but it came out looking like the above. At least it's consistent, so it doesn't look wrong, just like a weird stitch. Here's what it was supposed to look like (but not in red):

Wouldn't that have looked cute? I had a terrible feeling something was wrong with my machine and that I would have to lug that monster to the repair shop and pay heaven knows what to have it fixed. But apparently what I should have done is use the suggested presser foot. I used my walking foot, and I believe that combined with the slight roughness of linen made everything go a little haywire. When I used the recommended foot it came out just as it was supposed to. Lesson learned. At least I didn't have to pick out all of those stitches as it does look like I meant to do it.

I am just super happy with my quilting. The stitch length was right, I didn't sew cross-eyed, and gridded quilting always gives this amazing texture that I love.

So that's it. Nothing much. It's been mostly spaghetti knitting (you know, the more you do the more you feel like you have to do, like eating a bowl of spaghetti) and my new time-sucker (it's not quite an obsession yet). When I can grab a few minutes of decent light I'll show you some pictures of my feeble attempts at this new interest.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

So THAT'S Why! - Google Changes Something Else

Over the past few weeks I've noticed my followers dropping. Now that just includes my GFC followers, as I don't really know who follows in various feeds that don't get counted by Google--I don't think I'm savvy enough to figure that number out. I'm used to a follower or two here and there deciding they don't want to read my drivel anymore--fair enough. But a drop of about fifty in the past month left me thinking "What did I say?" I know my blogging has been sporadic and sparse (something I want to rectify), but I didn't think it was bad enough to lose so many followers, either.

I'd still be in the metaphorical dark if I hadn't read a post this morning by Daryl at Patchouli Moon Studio. I'm not the best at keeping up with Blogger 'news' and I know that if Google were to email each blogger individually they'd crash their own server as the number is immense, so I'm grateful that others have a watchful eye on things.

Anyway, Google has made some changes to their GFC (Google Friend Connect) service. Previously, emails-other-than-gmail were able to follow via GFC. And THAT's what changed. If you don't have a Google account and previously followed via GFC you'll need to sign up for one and RE-follow my blog. This irks the business out of me, because it forces people to have another email account, just to read blogs as they have done with no trouble for years and years. Not cool, Google. I fear those who have been dropped due to this change may not see this post, and therefore might not be aware of these changes.

This also brings up something else--I believe it has affected blog comments. I used to get an email every time someone left a comment. This made it very easy to respond in a timely fashion. That doesn't happen anymore unless commenters have a google account. I have to remember to go to my blog post and check the comments there. This makes me feel quite rude in my lack of response as I have to develop the habit to go to each post and check for comments, something I've never had to do before.

So, to sum up, if you want to follow via Google and don't have an account there, you'll need to sign up for one and re-follow. Alternatively, in my sidebar I have a 'follow by email' button that might suit you better. Of course, if you use a separate reader service (like Feedly or Bloglovin') then you don't need to do anything. And apologies on my part if any of you think I ignore your comments--I didn't realize until recently that I simply wasn't seeing them.

Hopefully this picture of Charlie staring at me while I eat a cookie-that-I-didn't-share will convince you to still be my friend.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Old Man Winter Doesn't Like to Be Called Old (it makes him angry)

I'm not sure how widespread the weather coverage was over the weekend, but you may (or may not?) know that a blizzard came to visit over the weekend. My personal feeling is that they played pretty fast and loose with the term blizzard (Laura Ingalls Wilder was laughing from the beyond, I'm sure, as to what we modern-day folks call a blizzard), but that's not to say there wasn't a lot of snow (22 inches in Philadelphia) and that it wasn't windy. There was, and it was, but I didn't find it to be so much worse than any other storm we've had recently (and we've had several). ANYway, it snowed a lot on Saturday. And I had a perfectly good snow day--I drank lots of tea, I knitted, I took a class on Craftsy and started another on Creativebug (I'll share more soon, I promise).

This year, or I guess last, we made an executive decision to buy my dad a collective Christmas present of a snow blower. He has balked for years, but let's be realistic--nobody wants to know that person that keeled over while shoveling or be involved in that situation. And although the general attitude was "Yeah, it saves some work" he was secretly overjoyed to have it. When you have a lot of property to dig out, even with help it's a major chore. I almost ran to Home Depot to get another one, haha.

We thought we bought the biggest model we'd ever need, but it seemed really small amidst all that snow. However, he was determined to get almost every flake. My sister, my mother, and I were all standing there with shovels ready to help, but he got angry if we tried to dig as he was hell-bent on getting the most out of his new toy. So my sister went to help a neighbor, and then I went to help, too, so I could feel useful. I was counting on shoveling being a nice chunk of exercise this weekend, but I guess not (not really complaining, though).

The dog was a bit confused. Some of the yard was bare to the grass due to the blowing and drifting, and other sections were so deep he needed a boost. He was happy to go back inside where all surfaces are stable and warm.

The snow had that deceiving crust that felt firm, and then after about two seconds you'd sink straight down to your knees. Impossible to look elegant (not that I'm exactly known for that).

I bought those boots at Target a few years ago for twenty dollars. And they're awesome. I love them. They're warm, and ridiculously comfortable. A few years ago we got snow (in varying amounts) almost every day. I practically lived in these, and felt sad when I had to put on real shoes.

The sky was such a brilliant shade of blue, and the sun so warm, it was hard to believe snow had fallen for twenty-four hours (although I'm quite sure the plow operators could believe it--some of them probably just went to bed this morning).

It always amazes me that people are always saying "I can't believe this!" And I just think "You live in Philadelphia, and it's January. It snows." But maybe I'm biased. I'll take snowy days any time over those hundred degree heat waves we're prone to on the flip side of the solstice coin.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016


Januarying. It's not a word but it should be. How else do you describe what you do the month after Christmas, when the bustle dies down, the decorations are stored away, and people are back to their grumbly selves and good will to man (or woman) be damned for another eleven months?

Some people wish it was spring already, but I love winter. The weather finally turned cold, but some recent snow just missed us by thiiiiiiiiis much. Curses. It's the month of pottering about, keeping warm, drinking copious amounts of hot beverages, and using the indoor time (if you're me, anyway) to snuggle up and knit (or just to snuggle up, wink-wink).

I know people dislike the early darkness, but I love it, and I feel it quite noticeably creeps away not so long after the solstice. Just before Christmas, leaving work, the sky was back. Tonight, leaving work, those lovely colors of winter sunsets started to make their appearance. I will always and forever stop and gaze skyward when those pink clouds are out and about.

See that weeeeeeee bit of the moon? By the time I made it home, it was truly dark. I ran inside for my camera, and directed it towards that smiley little sliver trying to warm up an icy night sky (if I wasn't a city dweller I'd have tried for the stars as well, because they were out in full force).

I mean....don't you just love the moon? Do you wish on the full moon? I do. I honestly think it works. I'm a finger crosser, and a first-star-I-see-tonight sort of wisher (that's all kind of a secret, so hush-hush if you don't mind), but the moon seems to work best.

It's been a quiet couple of weeks around here. I had intentions for sock-making, but didn't like the feel of the yarn for socks, so I've decided to make a hat. After miles of stitches I've almost got the brim finished (it looks small but it's streeeeeeetchy):

I'm using Knit Picks Hawthorn yarn in Arbor Lodge, and I'm quite interested in how that pink zig-zag is going to turn out. The pattern is Sockhead, and can be found on Ravelry. It's very easy, but I'd suggest binge-watching something as you go as sock yarn is skinny and the needles are small, and it's an adult-sized hat.

Of course I was almost at the easy peasy stockinette section when I remembered someone asked me for a dozen dishcloths, so I hauled out the cotton stash and will be working on those.

And finally, I was having a rough few days last week. One of my best friends (whom I also happen to work with) dropped a present off at my desk because she knows that little things make me happy.

Ain't it grand when people just...know you?

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Slouchy Cap, Fingerless Mitts, and a Wee Pattern

I had so many things I wanted to get done during my week off from work. And I didn't really do any of them. I decided I absolutely without-a-doubt I had to knit up one last project, which led to one other project and a game of yarn chicken from which I just barely emerged the victor. But you know what? I can do all that other stuff on any other day. Holidays are made for whatever you want. And I wanted to knit.

The yarn is Chroma by Knit Picks, worsted weight, in the Vermont colorway. I had received this ball of yarn free with a purchase of such-and-such-a-total that I don't remember. It seemed like it had a kind of loose twist, so I didn't jump to knit with it. But let me tell you, this stuff is gorgeous. I did a very light steam block, but it barely needed it. 

The colors are a little more muted in real life as these are evening photos in not-great lighting, but they're not far off. I found the pattern (free!) on Ravelry and followed it exactly as written. The only change I would make is minor--there is one round with increases, and it's a kfb increase, which is visible. I would use a make-one increase, as it's pretty invisible. However, the increases are evenly spaced so I'm not twitching over it. 

This is my new favorite kind of ribbing--the mock rib. It's just as stretchy as regular ribbing, but I really like the look of it much more.

The gathers formed by the decreases of this modestly slouchy hat make a really pretty effect on the top of the hat, especially when combined with the soft stripes. I started off on sixteen-inch circulars, and then transferred to double-pointeds for the decreases. 

It took me two evenings to finish the hat, but it was a pretty relaxing pace. I had enough left over that I thought I should be able to get something out of it, so I weighed the remainder (I used a digital kitchen scale, this one to be precise), figured out how many grams per yard, crossed my fingers, and then uncrossed them because you can't knit that way and went for it with a pair of wrist warmers/fingerless mitts.

The pattern is actually quite simple, and I've written it out here (they end up about nine inches long, maybe?) and fit my hand nicely at just under four inches across.

Using size 8 US dpns, cast on 30 stitches, and divide these across three needles in multiples of three (I did nine, nine, and twelve).

Rounds 1-14: k3 p3 rib all the way around
Rounds 15-35: knit 
The thumb-holes are knit back and forth, starting with a wrong side row. So for this section:
Row 1: sl 1 purlwise, purl across
Row 2: sl 1 purlwise, knit across
Repeat these two rows five times for a total of ten rows. 
Now we're back to knitting in the round.
Rounds 45-49: knit
Rounds 50-55: k3 p3 rib around. 
Bind off in the ribbing pattern, or with this stretchy bind off (which I wish I had done, actually). 

Not bad for a free 100g of yarn, eh? The hat used 56g, which left me with 44g (or 22g for each wrist warmer). I wasted not a single inch of this stuff, and am oh so pleased with my new duds. Now if it would just get cold I could wear them.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

When the Bells All Ring, and the Horns All Blow

Hello. Or should it be goodbye? The past week has slipped by without me noticing, and what seemed like an endless expanse of days has now wound down to those dreaded last few days before back to work and life and routine. It's been tea-filled and cozy, as well as rainy and chilly and not at all seasonable.

But the year is tired, unlike this guy who's supposed to be napping right now (after a little nephew sleepover last night)--

--and the tree has had enough--

The decorations know they're about to go on another eleven-month vacation.

And the poinsettia leaves are curly and drooping.

Even this project, in a huge game of yarn chicken (where you see if you'll finish the project or a wee little yarn end will have the last laugh) came with that sudden poignancy of the last project of the year.

While people generally don't understand why I feel this is the saddest day of the year, I don't understand celebrating the passage of time. However, this year, I'm trying something new. I'm changing my mindset and hopefully changing myself. I'm going to bust a hole in my long-standing shell, and make a sincere effort to be a little more open, to share a little more of myself, and to banish the nerves that hold me back at times. There, I said it. It's on the internet, so you know it's true or will have to be true because that's the way it works.

But just in case I get cold feet (literally), I'm wearing these babies out tonight.

Yes, out. I'm starting those resolutions early--I'm breaking my long-standing rule of not venturing forth on New Year's Eve (but doing so with some trepidation as all the crazies will be about as well). I don't want to say what's the worst that could happen (believe me, I know and it's why I stay in), so I'll flip it and say what's the best? I know that, too, actually--I'll be missing what they market as Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve, which is nowhere near how nice it used to be. See? Time passing is sad.

Anyway, on with the day and on with the new year. It's got no mistakes in it yet, and 366 days to fill with whatever you want. Happy new year!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

This Is My Wish

Every year I tell you how much I love Christmas. And I do. I love the lights, the glitz, the aromas associated with this time of year, the cold weather (which has been absent this year--rainy and warm all December long), the good cheer, the hearty wishes for a merry day, the church when it's all lit up, the movies, the giving spirit that prevails--every last bit of it, both secular and sacred. Top to bottom, all around, and back again.

I do have a confession, though. I often find myself low on Christmas spirit. Gasp! I know. How? I'm in the running for chief elf, I get very Bob Cratchity with my "But it's Christmas!" urgings, I'm a charitable being, and so on and so forth. But I find myself mentally lamenting (a la Santa Claus via Ed Asner in Elf) "There's just no Christmas spirit anymore!"

And then, this year, I realized my mistake. I was looking somewhere else for it, as though songs on the radio or just the right candle scent hold the key to holiday happiness. That's not how it works, apparently. It comes from within you. It's a teeny bit of light that grows brighter and warmer the more that you let others in, until you're consumed by yuletide cheer. I've been looking for it all month, and I found it today.

My Christmas wish for you: may your candle burn bright.

Love and hugs, you glorious beings!


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