Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Outside of the Box

Soooo there's a chance I might be a bit of an impulse shopper. Liiiiiike if something is in a really cute package but I'll never use the actual product? I'll probably buy it. If I get really excited about the idea of something but don't get much further than that? I'll throw money at it. Cute shoes that might not be comfortable? They're actually in my 'donate' bag right now. It's never anything overly extravagant as far as price is concerned, but as someone who feels angsty and overwhelmed amid too much stuff, having the stuff unused is worse than losing the money I spent on it (which, again, usually isn't much).

Case in point. Last year I signed up for a yarn subscription service (which didn't last long once I realized the error of my ways). They sent me a nice 'hello' gift, and then my first box.

The gift was a small skein of yarn, a measuring tape that hooks onto itself that you can use to take your own measurements, a few patterns, and a fun little zippy pouch.

My first box was a couple of patterns and some yarn and beads. I actually gave this away a few months ago as the yarn is beautiful, but I knew I'd never get to it.

As time is wont to do, it flew by, and even though I signed up for every other month that time came too quickly, as did my second box.

Along with some patterns and cute yarn-themed goodies, the project was for a produce bag in a nice cotton-alpaca blend. I used the cord for something else, the notebook is used for grocery lists, and the yarn is...somewhere. I didn't care for it as it has no memory, and I'll never use it as a produce bag. So I'm doing really good, right? Gave one away, and dispersed the contents of the other to 'somewhere.'

So I cancelled that subscription once I took hold of my senses. But then I got a tug on the heartstrings. Many of you may have heard of Amanda Bloom's Little Box of Crochet. It's a monthly subscription service that Amanda started with her teenage daughter Jenny. Way unfortunately, her daughter Jenny has been battling cancer for several years and is nearing the end of her fight. I didn't come across this until January, when Lucy of Attic24 announced she was the designer for February's box. So of course I signed up because if Lucy chose it you know it'll be full of color, and because from far away from the UK it felt like helping somehow. The box did not disappoint.

In addition to an adorable box and pattern booklet, there was a crochet hook, buttons, stickers, a stitch marker, a Russian doll pin, and a rainbow of yarn.

The suggested project was a mug cozy. I don't know that that's something I'd use. I have a fabulous knack for dripping coffee down the side of my mug before I've even taken a sip, and I didn't want to make something so cute just to gross it up. I had no ideas on what to make, so I asked A-train. He's so imaginative I thought he'd see something I couldn't right away. He told me I should make a blanket for "baby Henry" (my cousins' son). When I explained there wasn't enough yarn for a blanket he said "Just make a small one, then." So I am still undecided on this, although all I see is something to do with flowers.

I did get the second box, and then cancelled my subscription as I could sense that feeling of "Why do I keep buying these things when I already have too much yarn and too many projects?" 

This one had some beautiful mercerized cotton and some other goodies.

The pattern for this box was supposed to be a crocheted lace scarf. I tried. I really did. I don't think I started fewer than ten times, but this just did not want to work. I do love the colors together, so I will definitely have to find a project for these.

So, that's that. Yep. Not another thing to report.....OK, I'm lying, one more. I KNOW! What is WRONG with me? This one was not a subscription, but for a crochet-along for a beautiful Scandinavian-inspired shawl. The Scheepjes yarn company hosts a CAL every year (I've used their yarns a few times now, and they are beautiful!), and while my primary instinct was to not take part, they introduced a new colorway that I gasped over, and bought right away. I don't have a picture of it in the box as I've pulled it all apart already, but here's an image from the info page:

OK? Tell me that's not gorgeous! 

Again, I tried. I gauge swatched and finally got going. Then I realized...I kind of wasn't liking it for me. It's beautiful in pictures, and I can immerse myself for a while in the Instagram photos, but guys? I have a lot of shawls that I don't wear as much as I should considering the time invested, and if I wasn't loving the feel of this one it didn't make sense to continue. So the small colored skeins (that make up the heart above) have been squirreled away for a floral project simmering in my brain. And the pink of the background is currently on my knitting needles as a warm-weather cardigan (it's cotton yarn). I had to very carefully search for a pattern, and I think I'll be able to squeak this one out. Eventually. Because the section I'm working on now feels like it will never end. It honestly feels like there's a gremlin unravelling as I stitch like the dickens because how can I not be further along yet?

However, I do not lack for shows to binge watch so I think I'll survive it. OH! Speaking of shows. First--I don't know how you all have waited for an entire week to pass by to watch Call the Midwife. I've only recently caught up to what's airing now, and it's torture to wait for Sunday night! BUT if you like shows with strong, smart women you might like The Bletchley Circle on Netflix. It seems to have only had a brief run, but the premise is interesting--a group of WWII code-breakers decide to put their skills to use to solve murders. I've enjoyed what little there is of it, so if you're not wanting something that lasts too long you might enjoy this.

OK, must trot. Because in addition to too much yarn, and always too much fabric (which I swear I'll be cutting and stitching again soon), I also have too many books, so I'm going to go make a dent in that pile. 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Hello! And Happy Easter!

I cannot believe it's been two whole weeks since I last visited with you here. It's been a...varied two weeks. Every early spring, I get hit by a few weeks of feeling low (a little sad, a little anxious, a little lethargic, all rolled into a bundle of fun for those around me). And just as I was feeling on the uptick, we received word of the untimely passing of my uncle. That, and a few other personal things, have caused the past two weeks to be a bit of a blur. And when I logged on today, I thought "Two weeks!!! Oh dear!!"

The weather has been varied--we've had cold days with rain, gray days with some unseasonable humidity, and a good healthy dose of blue skies and sunshine. Today was warm, and windy, and sunny. And Easter. The flowers are popping their heads out of the earth to see what's new, a certain little boy was searching for eggs (and called the Easter Bunny 'a clever guy'), and more carbohydrate-laden calories were ingested today than for the whole year thus far.

I don't remember what these are called, but they must have sprung up overnight as they were certainly not there yesterday. They look like mini pansies.

We hid some plastic eggs in the yard because Little Schmoo loves a good seek and find. Sometimes he would be practically nose-to-nose with it (if eggs had noses) and would say "Tell me if I'm hot or cold!" Of course, a few were easier than others.

I caught this picture of that herald of spring, Mr. Robin Redbreast.

He responded as one of my sisters does when she sees a camera--he posed and seemed to say "Hey, take one of me!"

I've actually got several similar shots, but I won't bore you.

My father spent a significant amount of time this week giving the yard its first makeover of the season--edging, trimming, mowing, raking, and so on. It sits in stark contrast with our neighbor's yard (as it does most of the year), which is generally covered in weeds and overgrowth and a general atmosphere of Amazonia. However, if you look at just the right moment (and possibly tilt your head and squint), you see that it looks like a field of sunshine.

I wholeheartedly agree with Sister Monica Joan (of Call the Midwife) when she says "Weeds are flowers that are simply growing in the wrong place" (and then promptly transplants the pulled weeds into her garden). Which, speaking of that show, my mom and I are completely caught up (except for tonight's episode, which I recorded). I am so madly in love with this show. But if you've made it this far in this post I do have a question--seasons two through five opened with a Christmas special. I know there is one for this season wherein they all go to South Africa, but from what I can tell that episode has not aired here in the States. Does anyone have any insight to this? It's driving me bonkers to be missing this episode (and will drive me further so waiting for it to pop up on Netflix).

I haven't got much else for you, just a bit of a personal whirlwind for the last two weeks. Speaking to that, when my mind is...occupied, I find that I need to busy myself. I've cleaned and dusted and gone through my closet and drawers to bag up donations. I spent yesterday making Finnish pulla bread (yummy, though I might leave out the cardamom next time), and started a summer cardigan today. I went shopping, had lunch with my mom, polished my nails, went to church, and did the Easter thing with the family. This may very well be the three most productive days of my entire life.

Work is going to be a welcome relief tomorrow (for about fifteen minutes).

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Trowbridge Sweater

Just in time for spring and warmer weather I finished the sweater I was working on. A better planner would have laid off knitting socks through the winter and made the sweater then, as they would have realized they already had plenty of socks. But I am not that better planner, so here we are.

I do so love to knit a top-down raglan. I have a long torso, so knitting from the top to the hem lets me make the sweater as long as I like. The pattern I used for this one was the 'Trowbridge' pattern by Alicia Plummer. I liked the fit, and the simple details that kicked it up just the right size notch.

It's quite a simple pullover, but it does have some lovely waist and hip shaping.

I'm not entirely in love with the fact that the increases and decreases aren't really invisible, but at least everything is neat and symmetrical, and runs down the sides of the sweater, instead of somewhere more noticeable like the front.

There are a couple simple details that elevate the design of the Trowbridge. Each sleeve has a sewn-on band at the wrist, accented with buttons.

The ribbed collar has a garter stitch section that adds a fun little detail to an otherwise pretty vanilla design.

The yarn I used is GGH Maxima in the color ozeanblau. It looked a little more vibrant on my computer than in real life, but it's still a nice, deep, almost military blue. The yarn is nice and soft, but sturdy. It doesn't split when being knit, and washed up very nice (it's a superwash wool). 

I did the math oh so carefully, but ended up with a lot of extra yarn. Even if I had made the next size up I still would have had a lot extra. So here I am wearing it--it's a little bit snugger than I thought it would be, but the next size up would have been too big.

I'm definitely quite...um...buxom looking in this, but the body and the sleeves are nice and long. I'm standing in that classic pregnancy pose (I'm not, by the way) just so you can see the wrist detail. 

While the pattern was well-written and easy to follow, I don't know that I'd make it again, but mostly because I don't like making the same things again and again when they take weeks to do. I'd like to redo it in the next size up and compare, but I feel like I could drop a few pounds in the same time frame and just wear the one I already made. I'm also going to try and steam it out just a touch wider in the body and see if that helps as the fabric has a decent amount of give to it.

This, however, is generally why I enjoy cardigans much more. Not so many fit worries, and I love feeling like I'm wrapping myself in a cozy blanket when I pull it close around me.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Little Things

When I leave work, there is a gentleman who sits along my route out of the building who makes it a point to say "Good night! Have a pleasant evening!" every single day. I'm not sure if his intent was Pavlovian in nature, but I find myself turning to the left when I get off the elevator (before I turn right) to make sure I wish him a nice night as well. Today, he said "Have a good one!" And I said "You too!" Then he waved me over, and said "No, have a good one. I'm retiring tomorrow, and I'll be gone before you come by. I'm going to spoil my brand new granddaughter!" While excited for him (and jealous--baby snuggles???!!!) I felt a little sad. I've come to look forward to that little interaction, those few seconds, every afternoon.

So this got me thinking of other little things that make me happy, those fleeting moments that make up our days.

 One of my co-workers just returned from Thailand. He met a woman there who sews for wealthy clients around the world, and sources materials from all over. He told her "I know someone who loves to sew and I always want to get her something but have no idea. What would you recommend?" She took him to (I think it was) her studio, and told him a sure thing was this beautiful silk blend. He chose red because my "nails are always some shade of red." I have two yards of this, and am carefully pondering what it might want to be when it grows up.

My sister was over her friend's parents' home last week. I don't know how it came to be a topic of discussion, but her friend's father LOVES candy. Her mother said "Do you like candy hearts? We have bags of them!" To which my sister responded "I don't. But they're my sister's favorite." I am still working my way through these. I'm certainly surprised they're still around--I find them quite addictive. Every time I eat one I mentally yell at myself something along the lines of "Stop! What are you doing?"

As long as I can remember, I have always loved the patterns the sunshine will make when coming through the windows.

With the clocks jumping forward and spring truly here, I'm glad that the golden hour happens when I'm not sitting at my desk at work, missing it.

I bought one of those yarn subscription boxes recently, and in it was a sheet of yarny stickers. I didn't know what I was going to do with that, but they make great labels for the tabs in the recipe book I'm making. They don't really make sense in there, but they look cute.

And finally, the start of a wee doodle. I haven't drawn a single thing in a very long time, and I miss the repetitiveness of  drawing patterns. I thought I might get a little bored with a full circle mandala, so I'm doing a quarter circle.

So that's that. Just a smattering of little things that have been bringing me pleasure. I am going to miss that guy, though. Funny thing is--I speak to him every day, and we don't even know each other's names. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Spring, Socks, Sweaters, and a Show

Well, it's official. It's spring. Allegedly. Today was quite warm, tomorrow will be cold. Then it will get warm again. Then probably cold. I don't see how this is any different from the winter we've had, but I'm eager for flowers so I'll take it (as though I have a choice).

I have one pair of socks that I have yet to show you, so I'll squeeze that in now, because wouldn't it be silly to show you wool socks when it's hot outside?

Again, fraternal twinsies because that's how I like them. The same, but different, just like people. This is Knit Picks Felici yarn in the Time Traveler colorway.

I still haven't ventured away from a very vanilla sock pattern yet--toe up, heel flap and gusset, no special stitches. But that's because I don't want the stitches hidden in the stripes. I still have a few skeins of striped sock yarn to use, but then I think I'll take a plunge on solids (very brave, I know) so that I can try something fancier where the stitches shine and the yarn recedes a little bit.

My only concern is that now that I've perfected my needle size/stitch count I'll throw all that research out the window by mixing it up with cables or eyelets and they won't fit.

I took myself off of my yarn-buying ban and bought some yarn for a sweater. I got stuck in a time-suck on Ravelry for reasons I don't remember, but when I emerged I felt a desperate need to make a sweater. I did think it would be coming along more quickly, but really I have one and a half sleeves left and a neckband so I guess it's not too bad. I thought I might not get to wear it until months and months from now, but with the way our weather has been I could be wearing it comfortably in July.

However, this has been a delightful Netflix-bingeing project with it's rows upon rows of stockinette. I've recently started watching Call the Midwife. Have you seen this show? OH! I think it's one of my all-time favorite shows, and I've only watched the first two seasons. In case you haven't heard of it--it's about several young nurse/midwives who live and work with the religious sisters of Nonnatus House in the East End of London in the 1950s. It depicts their day-to-day lives and those of the people in their neighborhood (called Poplar), along with socially and medically relevant (for the era) issues (such as new medical procedures, the post-war baby boom, contraception, and so on). It's all dealt with so tastefully it's almost classic in its scope (which, as an English professor once told me, means "appeals to all people in all times"--which might be spot on since women have been having babies since the beginning of time). There are funny moments, sad ones, and bits that will simply charm you to pieces. I hope whomever coordinated the soundtrack to this show is able to retire comfortably on the bonuses alone. It's served very well to cement in my mind the notion that I was born entirely in the wrong decade.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Vintage Inspired Sunnies Case

Last week a co-worker asked me if I'd make her a sunglasses case. She had one that I made a few years ago, but she couldn't find it. As I've got an abundance of these frames (and I'm not lacking in fabric) I told her just to give me an idea of what she wanted. She sent me a picture of some fabric where she liked the colors, and told me that she had loved the case for two reasons: one, it fit her glasses perfectly, and two--the old-fashioned look of the fabrics I had used reminded her of her mother.

On Tuesday, we had a Nor'easter-blizzard sort of thing that wasn't all that, but still earned me a snow day off of work (thank goodness it wasn't more--the bit we got was so heavy it felt like I was shoveling concrete). It was a fabulous day for a quick and satisfying sewing project.

I bought this fabric several years ago down on Fabric Row, and still have a decent bit of it left. I love the vintage folk art look of it, and I had some scrappy pieces perfectly sized for this.

That there is always my favorite view of a frame purse--it makes me think of a giant (albeit oddly-shaped) fish mouth. I was conflicted over if I wanted to use the bronze frame I used, or if it should have been silver. My instinct was silver, but I was soundly outvoted (and thank goodness for that--the bronze is just right).

This was also, without a shadow of a doubt, the most perfect gluing job I have ever done. I don't think I had a speck of ooze anywhere, and I didn't have to use any of the vast supply of bad words I know to coax the purse neatly into the frame channel. I dropped this off to its recipient today, and she absolutely loved it (which always makes me feel good).

On a geeky side note--do you know how difficult it is to find a recipe book? I've been acquiring some recipes lately that have been working out quite well, and I want to organize them beyond the pile of printouts I have (or scribbled notes). Everything I found was either not cute enough, didn't have what I had predetermined to be enough room on the page, or was bound in a style that would not lay flat for easy viewing while cooking. But in one of my favorite places (Target's stationery aisles) I found a mini 3-ring binder, some paper, and some inserts. So I'll just make my own. I am stupid excited to sit down with colored pens and transcribe my recipes into this cute binder. Although I'm thinking I should have also bought the plastic sheet protectors because I'm a bit messy...

In case anyone is wondering, I used to get ridiculously excited for new school supplies, too. To be perfectly honest, I still would. Not my fault--they shouldn't make things so stinkin' cute.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Wallet Frames

I had a comment or two on my last post about the frame I used to make my Accordi-anna wallet.

So I thought I'd take some super close-ups of the frame to give you an idea.

They come in two separate pieces--a female and a male side. The male side is the one with the little flippy lock bit in the background. When assembling the wallet in its final stages, you need to cut a bit of a hole so the wallet can close, but it's critical not to cut it too low or else it will be exposed below the edge of the frame.

To the left you can see that the tippy-top edge of the wallet is enclosed on all sides by the frame. Precision is annoyingly key, as if your work is too large, it won't fit, and if it's too small you'll have a bit of frame that extends too far (and it just won't look nice).

You can see there's a decent channel to the frame, as well as the screw holes. The pattern I used calls for you to glue in the frame as well as using the hardware. The channel is nice and deep so there's hardly any glue ooze.

And here are the teeny tiny screws--four per each side of the frame. They're squat little things, and don't look like they'll screw into anything without first poking holes in the fabric (especially with all of the interfacing), but they go right in, smooth as butter.

This frame was interesting to work with, and I love my new wallet. Here are two recently-released patterns that use just such a frame if you're interested:

  • This pattern is the wallet I made
  • This pattern is just as lovely and would probably be easier if the thought of a wallet gusset makes you queasy
Happy sewing!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Accordi-anna Wallet

YEARS ago (and I do mean that in all caps) I was reading a post on one of my favorite blogs. It was for an accordion wallet with a fancy frame and everything. No pattern was available then, much to my chagrin. When I was out Christmas shopping for donation gifts for the church Christmas tree (one of the tags I pulled from the tree said 'ladies' wallet') I figured I'd kill two birds with one stone. I bought an extremely similar wallet so I could take notes and measurements and figure out how to make my own. I even ordered some frames (three, to be exact) because I always have high hopes for fast work and successful projects.

Obviously, as you've never seen me post anything of the sort, the notes are somewhere, and the frames have been wrapped in tissue paper, and I've been using this wristlet I made as my wallet. But a few weeks ago the pattern was released. And now I have a fun new wallet.

It irks me that I didn't center the diamonds with the little flip-lock part. My sister gave me this pink fabric several years ago for my birthday. I've been hoarding it ever since, just waiting for the perfect project. Something that wasn't going to end up being overly pink and foofy, but that would still be pink and fun.

I used an interfacing called decovil for this. It is definitely strange but awesome. It's stiff, and holds its shape, but at the same time is supple while being firm. It's a bit of an interfacing paradox. It's squishy but not really, but is. Whatever it is, it gets fused to the exterior fabric and is what gives the wallet it's body and structure.

I love how there's a lot going on in there but it folds up to this nice, slim little thing that isn't bulky at all.

I was hoping for a polka dot lining, but I had none stashed, and Joann's had none either, so I went with this black and white gingham. I'm really glad there were no polka dots. I love this. It's not perfectly straight, but that's perfectly fine. It's my wallet and I like it that way. I just realized I meant to switch out for pink thread but obviously forgot--oh well.

There were two options for the guts--a four pocket and a three pocket. I went for the three pocket version as too many pocket options leads to me being less organized.

The frame is glued on to the bag, but then also screwed on. Oddly, screwing in those bits was my favorite part of the whole thing.

One thing I was proud of myself for doing is checking my frame. The pattern calls for a 7 1/2 inch frame. Normally I'd have made this without considering measurements (and cursed a blue streak after the fact), but something told me I'd better check. Good thing, because my frame is 8 inches wide. I simply added that half inch difference to the cutting measurements and everything was pretty much fine (I wasn't as careful as I should have been towards the end, which made this the teeeeeeniest bit off, and also led to me having to hand sew the bias tape instead of machine sewing it).

Other than adjusting the size I made one other modification. Even though my wallet felt sturdy it didn't feel sturdy enough--I wanted something a little bit more rigid. So I cut two small pieces of plastic canvas and slid them in between the layers before I glued the frame on. Now it feels just right. And I feel kind of fancy using it. Like a real grown-up, with card pockets and everything.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

A Non-Medical Diagnosis

For the past month I've been on a sock-knitting kick (two pairs of socks translates to 'on a kick' only in knitting where they take a bit of time to make, especially when one does not develop second sock syndrome. Three pairs is a spree, FYI). I took some photos of them today to share, and realized something that some people might characterize as psychopathy.

Let's start with one of the pairs I recently finished.

The yarn is a very basic toe-up pattern that I found on the Knit Picks website. I've used it several times on size zero needles, and they always fit just how I like them--a wee bit snug, but not tight.

When I first started making socks, I really tried to get them to come out exactly the same. But then I thought that if I wanted identical socks I could buy them; but fraternal twins? I could make those. They're the same, but different. Just like people.

Oddly, this is the first pair of socks that I made once. Without fail, every single pair of socks I have made has been started at least three times. I either twist the cuff, or muck up the toes somehow, dropping stitches, forgetting wraps and turns, whatever. But this pair was smooth sailing. It probably will never happen again.

The yarn I used is Knit Picks Felici sock yarn in the 'Rainbow' colorway. They haven't been washed or blocked yet, so they still look a little bit homespun. But this yarn washes up soft and beautiful.

Lucky for me I love things in rainbow colors, because these socks will not be alone for friends in my sock drawer.

These super thick ones (that I can't even get my jeans over) are absolutely necessary as I wear these when we decorate the Christmas tree. It's vital that I wear these to obtain a well-decorated tree.

And these toe socks (that freak people out a little) are essential because in this one episode of Sex and the City Carrie Bradshaw was wearing a pair of these on one of her girls-nights-in with the ladies. And since they're not making that show anymore, these are kind of a collectible. So I need these.

It's not psychosis, it's sockosis, and a lot of people probably have it and don't know it. You should get yourself checked in case you have it, too.


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