Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Holiday Knitting

If you have an eagle eye for fiber you may notice one of my sister's hooked wool rugs hanging on the wall. They are beautiful. She has bins of wool collected from thrift stores; some of it she has dyed herself. It was fun looking through her wool stash.

After Christmas dinner we gathered in the living room at her house to open a few gifts from my parents to the grandsons. I was binding off the picot edge on Ysolda's Scroll Lace Scarf. The picot edge is flipping over, which might not be a terrible thing. I think I would make the body of this scarf in garter stitch next time. The lace section is beautiful and easy to memorize. The scarf only took about 5 days from start to finish. I'll post photos here and on Ravelry as soon as I block it. (The guest beds are available now for blocking) In the photo I am wearing Damson, also by Ysolda. I will get some proper photos of this project up soon.

A few weeks ago I knitted felted trees from Mason-Dixon Knitting Outside the Lines. Sarah had made some as gifts and she said they were addictive. They were rather fun although I couldn't quite find other colors that I liked to go in the forest. I only made the small and medium size trees. This was one of the rare occasions that I actually used the wool called for in the pattern as my LYS Ewe-nique Yarns in Morton IL carried it. Berocco Ulra Alpaca felts like a dream. One time through my front loader and these babies were felted tight. Since they are stuffed with plastic bags (there is no bottom in the trees) they are easy to store as holiday decorations go.

This week between Christmas and New Year's is my favorite week of the year. I lose track of the days. It is quiet and there is time to relax, knit, and read. I haven't left the house (except to walk) in 3 days and I don't even care. I hope you are enjoying yourself as well.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

I do have knitting to post but it looks as if it will have to wait until we return from a 2 day visit to our family in southern Illinois. In the meanwhile, I have posted links to two delicious recipes on my other blog. Chewy Drizzle Cinnamon Chip Cookies and Easy Cinnamon Bread are now at the top of my holiday baking list!

Thanks for taking the time to read my writings this year. Have a very Merry Christmas and a blessed 2010! Wow. A whole new decade! It seems like yesterday that we were all worried about Y2K.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Knitting vs Quilting

This affair that I'm having with quilting is turning out to be somewhat serious. I actually went into a craft store last week and did not buy the Interweave Knits Holiday Issue or Interweave Accessories Issues. Nothing appealed to me, especially the price of $14.99. Am I the only one that thinks that is a bit steep for a periodical? After a quick browse and a shrug of the shoulders, I headed off to the fabric department. See what I mean? It is bad.

There are a few issues I have with quilting though. It takes up a lot of space. You need to have a place for a sewing machine and ironing board and leave them out. The photo shows the area I've staked out in our lower level. It is just too time-consuming to get the equipment out every time. You also need a work surface for cutting and placement of fabric. Then there is storage of the fabric, rotary cutter, scissors, cutting mat, marking pens, and a host of other tools. When starting on a project you need the various fabrics for the front of the quilt, thread, backing fabric, binding fabric, and batting. This makes the ol' head spin.

Then there is the problem of what to do with the finished product. While quilts are useful for keeping warm, other quilt projects are not so useful. Exhibit A is the table runner I just finished. It is pretty and I'm proud of it but how many table runners does a person need? They really serve no purpose. Quilted totes are useful, but again, how many does one need or want? You can't wear quilts. Some people wear quilted jackets. I am no fashion expert but suffice to say, it is a rare figure who can pull off one of those jackets. Perhaps .05% of the population. And I bet you feel like a snowman wearing one of them.

Knitting is so simple. To start a project you need two things: (1) the proper needles, which you quite probably have on hand if you have been knitting for a while, and (2)the yarn. A blunt needle for sewing up the ends can last for decades. I've had mine for eons and feel quite attached to it. A measuring tool can be handy. Your project only takes up the space of your knitting basket or bag. I've managed to keep my stash under control so it only occupies two large plastic bins and one or two cloth tote bags. Most of my stash consists of wool left over from completed projects. I have one UFO lurking in the closet (Fair Isle Vest). Note to self: do a stash busting project soon.

The usefulness of knitted items knows no bounds. In fact, most knitted items fall into the functional category. People generally look good in them, too, especially babies and children. I wonder what percentage of knitters actually started knitting when pregnant? I get great pleasure in seeing my loved ones in their sweaters I've knitted for them. My husband is still wearing sweaters I made 30 years ago.

A big bonus for knitting is the portability factor. Take it anywhere with the exception of important business meetings, church services, and funerals. My husband is having cataract surgery tomorrow. I don't even mind a wait at the hospital. That means knitting time for me! I've found that with televisions going in waiting rooms, it is best for me to take my iPod, loaded with some knitting podcasts, and my knitting. I'm surely the most content person in a waiting room.

So I'm trying to analyze why I've gone off on this quilting binge, against all odds and against all reasonable arguments. Firstly, the fabrics are like sirens to the fiber soul. I think there is some kind of a pheremone injected into the fabric that lures one toward them. The colors and prints are nostalgic and feed part of me that thinks I would have liked living about 1900. (Only a little part of me.) The biggest factor is that I love tackling something new. While I have done some machine quilting before (c 1981) the tools and methods have changed considerably. It is a whole new world of fibery goodness out there.
So I figure I'll make a quilt or two and this little itch will be scratched for good. I'm hoping!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Monkey Goes to California

Monkey is heading to California. My friend, Carol, and her husband are first-time grandparents! Yea! I'm so happy for them. Their little grandson came a bit early. There is a history of sock monkeys in their family so when I saw this pattern I knew I had to make it for their little fellow.

The pattern is from Susan Anderson's new book, "Itty-Bitty Toys". I made him from the sock yarn leftovers from Carmen Banana. I followed the pattern except that I added the scarf. His neck looked kind of naked. Even though he is heading to southern California, he is, after all, an Illinois native.

Monkey has his own bag to travel in. The fabric is from Moda. The sock monkeys on the fabric are in beach attire. They are hilarious!

Until I knitted the hair and then embroidered the face, he didn't have much personality. Suddenly, he had a lot of character. That curly hair is a pain to knit, but it was worth it.

Carol likes him and his traveling bag. She even put on a monkey hat for the photoshoot. She is going to stay for a whole month, cuddling her new little grandson and pampering his mom and dad. That is just fantastic!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Family Heirlooms

On Sunday afternoon our home was on a Christmas tour for our church. The event gave me cause to bring out the family heirlooms that are normally stored carefully away.

We call this room (which serves as my husband's study and guest bedroom) "The Finger Suite" because most of the furniture has a connection to my great-grandfather, Henry Finger, of Marissa IL. He made the walnut four-poster bed in 1928 and his name and the year are neatly carved in block letters on the back of the headboard . When I was a child I slept in this bed with my grandmother when I spent the night at their home. I remember waking in the middle of the night to her snoring and trying to get back to sleep. She always told me to give her a swift kick if she snored but I never wanted to do that.

The library table, the candlesticks, and a stool (not in this photo) were also made by Henry Finger. The teddy bear in the foreground was a Christmas gift to my grandmother, Helen Finger Emons, in 1904. Her family had visited the 1904 World's Fair where they saw the newly introduced teddy bears for the first time. She remembered this toy being the first and one of the few specific gifts she ever asked for.

The Dresden Plate quilt on the bed was made by my great-grandmother, Jane Anderson Finger, probably about 1920.

The three quilts hanging out of the quilt chest are older. The two larger ones were made by my great-grandmother when she was a girl, in the late 1870's.

The walnut quilt chest was purchased by Henry Finger at an auction for $1.00. I think he got a good deal, don't you?

The Friendship Quilt is dated 1890. It was made by my great-grandmother before she was married. My grandmother remembered most of the people who contributed pieces to this quilt. The stitching is amazing. The pieces are silk, taffeta, velvet, and even some upholstery fabric. Some of the silks are deteriorating but it is overall in excellent condition. It is quite large. You are seeing less than half of it in the photo, as it is folded in half and some is draped back over the chair.

Being the caretaker of these quilts is a big responsibility.

It was not uncommon for men to contribute to friendship quilts. Henry Finger managed to get his name on the quilt also. I think all the fancy stitching around his piece hints that he might have been a special beau at the time.
Thanks for bearing with my little family history tangent. I have finished several knitting projects that I will be sharing soon after I get some decent photographs.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Help! I am Out of Control with Fiber!

It is Anti-procrastination Month. I want to finish this cross-stitch map of Denmark that I began a long time ago. When you put a project aside, you don't expect it to be weeks, or months, or years until you pick it up again. You certainly do not expect it to be decades. In the meantime, eyesight isn't what it used to be and seeing the uneven threads on linen is more difficult than threading the needle. I can only work on it when the sun is shining into the sun porch. Even then, it gives me a headache.

The map is fairly large.

Can you see the date? That's right. It's been 18 years and that doesn't include the time I worked on it before that. It's quite an ambitious project and really all that is left is the border and marking a few towns. Why a map of Demark? The reason is that we were married there.

It seems I am totally out of control with fiber. I could fill my winter days with fiber arts, reading, and piping. This sewing tangent has a history.

It started with a simple yo-yo to finish off a child's hat.

Then the project bags that were in my last posting. One project bag has a top that is pieced together. Did that get it out of my system? No. It just added fuel to the fire.

Then I put together a little table runner from a tutorial called the Disappearing Nine-Patch by Rachel Griffith on P.S. I Quilt. Now I am going back to the School of You Tube to complete the quilting and binding. Not too shabby for a knitter, eh?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Bit of Craftiness in the Mix

I've been wanting to put a more permanent tag on the prayer shawls we give away from our church knitting group. First I just handwrote them with permanent ink on fabric. They are just ok and I could foresee myself getting tired of that for the long haul. I later tried printing fabric labels on my ink jet printer. They turned out great and are smaller. Though the fabric is a bit expensive, I can get 30 labels on a sheet so as long as I don't ruin a sheet, it is just pennies per label.

We are just whip stitching them to a corner of the shawl. They are about half the size of the handwritten one in the photo. The ladies in the group really liked the idea.

Another pumpkin hat went to a little baby boy born in October. So cute.

Then I sewed project bags that can go into the basket I carry with me. These keep the project pieces nice and tidy. I've turned into a triple project person all of a sudden. What in the world is going on?

Old buttons with large holes dress up the ribbons on the bags.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Giving Back...One Knitter at a Time

Make the world a better place: teach someone to knit. Emily finished her first project, a stripey woolly hat. It turned out a little large. She's sporting a new trend, The Slouch.
On the day after Thanksgiving some of the guys in our family go clay pidgeon shooting. Susan (my nephew's girlfriend) couldn't decide whether she should stick with the guys or stay back at the house with the non-shooters. I said, "Stay. I'll teach you to knit." She jumped on it.
I have to say she is one of the top 3 of the many I have taught over the years in getting the hang of it. We didn't even have the proper tools or yarn. It is hard to believe she hasn't done it before, but then, her ancestry is Swedish so it is probably in the genes. In a very short time we went through the knit stitch, purl stitch, casting on, decreasing, and a few other basics. Go, Susan!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Good for a Knitting Laugh

I found this video on the Ravelry Mason-Dixon Group board. Oh my goodness. It is so hilarious. Ann and Kay have written two books, Mason-Dixon Knitting and Mason-Dixon Knitting Outside the Lines. If these books are not in your knitting library then put them on your Christmas wish list. These have creative patterns and they are great to read for a good laugh. So without further ado, here are Ann and Kay.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Aestlight Shawl Takes Flight

I finally had a photoshoot with Aestlight Shawl after blocking. What a delightful pattern! I love the construction and the shape which revealed itself in the blocking process. It reminds me of a bird in flight. I definitely want to knit more of Gudrun Johnston's designs. In fact, I want to knit another Aestlight soon.

Knitting the bird's eye lace was a lot of fun. I used lifelines periodically because if I had dropped a stitch or two it might have been a disaster trying to get back on track. Fortunately all went well. I didn't need the lifelines but it was comforting to know they were there.

Carmen Banana is running around with fig leaves until I knit her some clothing. I can hardly wait to put that project to rest. What was I thinking? I must have been mad to knit a monkey and even crazier to be knitting an evening dress for her. Well, I am drawing the line at the poodle skirt and twin set...at least for now. I'm ready for another shawl.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

All I'm Going to Say is "Kool"

My latest project, the Aestlight Shawl, came to an abrupt standstill when I ran out of yarn about 4 inches from the end. I knit as fast as I could but it didn't help. ;) That's like driving as fast as you can to a gas station when your tank is low. So I quickly ordered not one, but TWO more skeins of the lovely Dream in Color Smooshy in Shiny Moss from Little Knits. My plan is that I will then have enough wool to knit another shawl when Aestlight is complete. Dye lot should not matter that much with the variation in color inherent in the skein, but we shall see. I might be in for a rude awakening.
In the meanwhile I had ordered a few things from Knit Picks. Carmen Banana is in the works. She is a female sock monkey with several outfits including a poodle skirt. What a fun, though fiddly, knit. I doubt that saucy Carmen will have a boyfriend anytime soon in this household, at least from the needles of this knitter, but who knows? I estimate that she is taking about as much time as a pair of socks, which is fine. The kit was $19.95 and that included quite a lot of wool. In fact, I'm sure you could get two sock monkeys out of one kit.
Among of the items I ordered from Knit Picks were some skeins of Bare, their undyed wool. What a bargain! Fingering Weight, 75% Superwash Merino Wool, 25% nylon, 462 yards for $6.29! (free shipping if order is over $50, which mine always is). It is actually quite lovely in its bare state. Given the "hobby gene" that runs in my family, it is incredible that I have never in my knitting or former spinning life, dyed even one little bit of wool. No, I was not going to GO THERE. It was another world of chemicals, pots, mordants, and a load of paraphernalia that I did not want to deal with. Then some time ago along came dyeing with Kool-Aid, to which I gave a cursory nod. Can you tell what I am leading up to?
First I read through quite a few tutorials online, all of which varied somewhat in approach. Since microwaves and I don't get along real well lately (I've ruined two), I chose the crock pot method. Armed with a dozen or so packets of unsweetened Kool-Aid, my largest crock pot, a few towels, and a skein of Bare, I delved into the world of color. It was easier than I thought it would be and the result wasn't too bad. I found that although I thought I had PLENTY of Kool_aid, the wool sucked it up pretty fast. Less than 10 min after putting the dye in the crock pot, the water was clear. So I mixed up more "dye" and poured it in. That got sucked up quickly too. Note that my first doses of dye were 3 packets of Black Cherry mixed in water for one end of the crock pot and the same in Cherry at the other end. Still there were areas where the strands are light pink. (It was not my intention to try to match the color of the crock pot.)Nonetheless, I will be excited to see how this fruity wool knits up. It is rather pretty, isn't it? It still smells like Kool-Aid but I think that will dissipate.

Has anyone overdyed something like this to tone it down a bit (just in case)? Is there a food related way? Back in the 80's we used tea to stain muslin for sewing projects. I'm wondering if that would work.
Now I'm taking a poll on how you feel about music on a blog site. I have mixed feelings. On the one hand I find it a little distracting and on the other hand I've found some music I really like through blogs. So what do you think? Of course, you can always click on the pause button...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


This is Ishbel in all it's loveliness. As for Lilith's wool, I couldn't have purchased anything in Scotland that would have pleased me more than this particular skein.

I've started on another project now so you won't be seeing another Ishbel...at least for a while.

Ishbel Bind Off Video

I enjoyed doing the bind off on Ishbel and was so pleased with the result. It made a very flexible edge for the shawl. While it is very simple and Ysolda's instructions are excellent, I soon found a streamlined way of doing it. I'm sure you would discover a shortcut also, but this tip might save a little time. To find my YouTube video click on the link below.

I'm not sure whether this bind off has a name but I plan on using it again.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Another Ishbel

It only took 6 days from start to finish on Ishbel in Old Maiden Aunt, Bracken (green).

I have laid the smaller red Ishbel on top of the larger one to show the size difference. The only difference is that I knit one more repeat of the charts A and B. As you can see there there is a considerable overall size difference with just this small change.

This is the amount of wool left after I bound off my second Ishbel. Whew! That was a close one. I was sweating it out on that last row. Needless to say, I can't run to Scotland for more wool. Or can I?

The lace detail is so pretty especially with this particular yarn. While it was on the guest bed in the blocking phase I kept going down there to admire it.
What I learned about Ishbel:

(1) Follow charts and ignore the written directions. On my first Ishbel I followed the charts but my stitch count was off so I tried to check it with the written directions. That only made things worse. The second time I stayed with the charts and had no problems.

(2) The pattern repeat is 8 stitches. Stitch markers don't work because the repeat shifts. At the center point, or before that point when the rows got very long, I counted the pattern repeats. The double decrease always lines up. That is important to note. Usually when I got off on the pattern it was because I forgot one of the YO's at the beginning and end of each row or forgot to psso on the double decrease.

(3) If you love garter stitch, as I do, it works fine to do the center portion in garter stitch. Make absolutely sure your stitch count is correct before starting on the lace.

(4) Pay particular attention to Chart C line 5. There is where you stop making the YO's in the center of the shawl.

(5) If you are accustomed to slipping the first stitch of each row, do not slip on Ishbel. The border is more flexible when this stitch is knitted loosely rather than slipped.
Proper photos will be coming shortly.

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Lovely Ishbel Shawl

Although Ishbel gave me fits for a while I believe it was due to my choice of yarn, or rather the color of the yarn. There is a strong contrast in the reds and purples which camouflaged the lace pattern. Araucania Sock isn't as soft as Malabrigo Sock but is still lovely and I do love the colorway. Since I bought two skeins of it back in June at A Sow's Ear in Verona WI, there is plenty left to make Damson or perhaps Aestlight by Gudrun Johnston. It is fantastic that designers are coming out with patterns for small shawls that can be knit with one skein of sock yarn. While I have knit my fair share of socks I do not consider myself a sock knitter. To me a Sock Knitter is one who always has a pair of socks on the needles and maybe even knits socks exclusively.

During these cool fall days a light wool scarf about one's shoulders takes off the chill, both indoors and out. We had our first frost last night. The woolens are coming out.

I enjoy wearing the shawl with the point on the side (top photo) or as Ysolda usually does, in the front.
To avoid a peasant or granny look (although I am old enough to be a granny), do your best to keep the point from aiming toward your backside. Since Ishbel has shaping to curve around the neck a shawl pin is not necessary to keep it in place.
I LOVE Ishbel and will soon post my tips for Ishbel along with photos of Ishbel #2 which is currently pinned on the guest bed.

Printer Friendly