Showing posts with label knitting/crochet. Show all posts
Showing posts with label knitting/crochet. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

And now, to teach!

(I've had this post on my mind for a week. I usually look back at the last post I wrote just to refresh my memory and to try not to repeat myself. Somehow it's amusing to me that my last entry was all about restless energy, and now I'm here to say that I've DONE something with it! Several somethings actually, but I'll get into that later.)

First, a brief history. I was scrolling through Instagram last week, and I saw a post from the new local yarn store (LYS, for the knitters) where the owner mentioned that she also teaches at some local colleges. I made a comment, as I'm making an effort to comment TO people and not just as part of the one sided conversation in my mind, something like wow, you keep busy! Then I thought it myself....maybe she IS busy! Maybe she needs help at the shop! Wouldn't that be fun, to sit around and knit and pet the yarn and help people with their projects? So, completely on a whim, I sent her a message to that effect. And then, to my surprise, she responded saying that she was thinking of bringing shop help on in the future, but in the meantime was looking for someone to teach a Knitting 101 class, and would I be interested in that? My heart sort of leaped, and I knew that I was interested, so I leaped too! (Just as a note, while I didn't necessarily know the owner, Kate, very well, I'd been into the shop a few times and we have at least one mutual contact. I love this knitting community!)

So now that it is officially up there on the website, I'd like to announce that I'm teaching the Wednesday, April 13 session of Knitting 101 from 6-8pm at Wild Haven Fiber Co in Milwaukee, WI! (There are also some weekend classes offered - I just happen to be teaching the weeknight session.)

(Photos above are credited to

Details about the class:
This class is a 2 hour session, and is limited to 5 people in order to provide plenty of one on one instruction. I will be reviewing a few basic cast on's, how to knit and purl, a few basic cast off's, definitions of basic terms you'll come across like garter stitch and stockinette, as well as a review of yarn weights and common materials that beginning knitters should be familiar with.

To demonstrate these skills and give students a chance to practice AND get a functional object, we will be working on a cowl like this:

It is knit in the round on size 8 needles in worsted weight, and could easily work for an adult or child depending on how long the student chooses to knit it.

The cost of the class is $40, and includes needles and yarn in your choice of color.
If you are interested, give Kate a call at 414-744-0009 or stop into the shop!

(There's nothing scheduled at the moment, but there is also a 2 session knitting 102 class offered at the shop which builds on these introductory skills, resulting in a cute basic beanie style hat!)

I'm so excited to teach this class! If it all goes well, I may end up teaching this class monthly, and potentially developing new ones. Beyond that, I'm really excited to get involved with this new shop. I'm lucky in that there are a couple of pretty good yarn shops within 20 or 30 minutes drive from me, but this one is both SUPER close to me as well as exactly the aesthetic I love in a shop.

It's located in a very cute part of the city, and just has such a fresh and welcoming vibe. It's small, but the yarn selection is really great in my opinion. There's a really good balance between the fancy, luxury yarns as well as more standard, workhorse wools for mittens and socks. It probably helps that Kate's color palette and design sense are right in line with mine - a lot of natural or rich colors, simple shapes, interesting textures, beautiful but useful objects. I'm so looking forward to making Wild Haven my knit night home now that she has opened her shop up for open knitting a few times a week, and to work with her on who knows what in the future! I'm also so grateful to her for giving me a chance to stretch my skills at just the right moment when I was looking for a new opportunity! Thanks Kate!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Knitting FO Review

Peeking back at my last knit summary entry, I did indeed frog that Rocky Coast Cardigan. I think it's going to grow up to become a Sprig pullover by Alana Dakos. I've never knit a pullover for myself, so I think it will be an interesting addition to my wardrobe. I cast it on December 9, and took a break knitting it so that I could whip out a 900 yard laceweight shawl in just over 2 weeks (more on that later), but am now back to it. It's worked top down, so I'm past the armholes now and am about halfway through the waist decreases. I should really stop to try it on to see if I like the fit, but I don't. Usually I have some hooded sweatshirt or something on now that it's so freezing cold - winter finally arrived after a pretty balmy start - and I'm just too cold and lazy to take off that layer and go see how this is looking. Plus, I tell myself that due to the asymmetrical neckline which will later have a leaf motif picked up and knitted up, the fit will be bizarre anyway. Funny, that it feels less lazy to knit an entire sweater and be surprised whether or not it fits than to just get up and check before putting in all that effort. Perception, I suppose.

Also, I'm apparently knitting my cat directly into this sweater. She wouldn't move, so I just put the neck opening around her and kept going.

(Update, I did get nervous enough to try the sweater on myself, and not just the cat. I think it fits just right!)

Speaking of that lace shawl. I've wanted some kind of wrap that I can wear to dressy events for some time. For those things where a cardigan just doesn't feel appropriate, I've taken to carrying an old black scarf that passes as a wrap. My knitted shawl just didn't feel dressy enough. I guess the weight, either sport or DK, just seemed too casual to wrap over a formal dress. So I got it in my head that a simple, light, lace wrap would be just perfect for the wedding I was standing up in. On New Year's Eve. I decided this officially on December 16. The woman at the yarn store sort of laughed at me when I mentioned my intention. I stubbornly thought, whatever, I can totally do this, work full(ish) time AND get ready for Christmas. Sure I can. I went home that day, found a pattern on Ravelry that suited what I was going for, and recklessly cast on. I did the math, and figured that if I knit 3.5" per day, I could do it. And I did. I knit during all available free time - in the car, in the "wellness" room, at a bar, in the movies, getting a pedicure. I blocked that baby at 1:30 am the morning of the wedding, and wore it for about an hour. I knew that would be the case, that I wouldn't be wearing it all night, and this whole effort was probably silly. It was still good though. While this won't be something I wear on the daily, it's nice to know I have it now, for the next event.

I also knit a 2 color triangular shawl. I think I like it, but I'm not sure. I bought the unlabeled yarn from a sale bin at stitches in 2013, and intended for it to go together in a shawl, but didn't actively notice that it's not the softest thing. It's not bad, but this was before I had a malabrigo shawl, which is positively delightful, so maybe it's not a fair comparison. I started knitting the dream stripes shawl, which has you work both colors in 2 row stripes. This means that both colors are carried up the same side, which, in my work, made one side much, much tighter than the other and the whole thing was really wonky. So I ripped it out. I started again, with one color being carried up each side, and the whole endeavor was much more successful. I would knit across with one color and purl back, then I would slide all the stitches on my circular needle back to the other end and purl across with the second color. From there I would turn the work and knit with the second color, and perform the stitch slide back to the beginning and knit with the first color and so on and so forth. I knit up until I had about 1/4 of the gray ball left, as I intended to do the lace edging in that color. I found the lace chart was either not correct, or my knitting was not correct, because I kept having an incorrect number of stitches when I would come to the last repeat. I decided that I was too sick of this project to figure out the problem, and that no one would ever notice anyway, especially since the first and last repeat are different than those in the center, and I just fudged it. In the end, it looks pretty nice and is a good addition to my collection of 3 shawls (the others are the Quaker Ridge by Susan B Anderson and the aforementioned laceweight wrap), though the edging could use a little more steam to control the curling.

I jumped on board the Wee Envelope by Ysolda Teague bandwagon, and tore through it in less than a week. I made the 6-12 mo size, but wish I'd gone up a size as it seems pretty narrow. I think I added a little length on the body, but I can't remember. I got the pretty pink yarn at Wisconsin Sheep and Wool this summer, and it was lovely to knit with. Like everyone, I did mess up the envelope neckline and had to knit the part where it attaches on each side twice, but it really is very clever when you figure it out. I did make the buttonholes, but never did end up adding the buttons. It stays closed nicely without them, and they are just one more thing to fiddle with.

I finished 2 more pairs of socks for myself, bringing my #operationsockdrawer total to 6. I've been loving it, and wearing a pair almost every day. I'm disappointed when I don't have any clean ones! One pair was plain vanilla in a self striping Opal, and the other was a sport weight in a solid color opal, knit in the Adjoin pattern from Sock Architecture.

As seen in that photo, I've also been working on my sock yarn blanket. I'm up to a 6x6 square now, and I like how it looks. Other than all the ends I have yet to weave in. That will be my next step before I move on to a new row, now that it's a nice clean square.

As for socks, now that I've been wearing them frequently, I think I'm knitting them a bit too large. I went down to 56 stitches on size 2 needles for my sport weight pair, and that's fitting pretty well. I also made them a bit shorter in the foot than was my instinct, and I'm liking that as well. My other socks mostly fit well right off the needles, but are a touch loose after a day of wear. I think I'll go down to 60 stitches from 64 on size 1 for my next fingering weight pair and see how that goes. I have a pair of kids tube socks on my size 1's right now, in specially requested "sparkly yarn." I'm just past where the heel would be if I was knitting one, so I'm going to start doing the 3x1 rib all the way around now instead of just on the top of the foot. I did a round toe on these and quite like it, though I wonder if it comes to too narrow of a point. I opted for round so that it wouldn't matter if it was put on slightly crooked, so that benefit may be worth it. I'd like to finish in another week or so. I feel so slow when I hear some podcasters say they've knit FORTY pair of socks in 2015. And this isn't an exclusive sock knitter, and she does have a full time job. I know she doesn't have kids, but still. That's a huge amount.

Finally, I think the only other thing I made is a little pair of thumbless mittens for a certain baby who doesn't like her hands covered! I held some leftover Knitpicks self striping sock yarn doubled and it worked out really well. We've only used them a couple of times, but I was definitely glad that I had them those few times. They only took 2 days, and it was time well spent in my opinion!

Just for fun, my finished knitting (and crochet) round up for 2015 is as follows:
6 hats
2 pairs of gloves/mittens
3 shawls
1 blanket
3 pairs of socks
3 sweaters
1 cowl

As a rough estimate, since I wasn't great about entering exact yardage for each project, this means that I went through 7,380 yards of yarn last year! That's just over 4 miles. Whoa!

Monday, October 5, 2015

What I crafted on my summer vacation

A summer break from the blog wasn't something I'd planned to do, but I did and there you have it. Early summer had me feeling tired and uncomfortable and just not really in the mood to chat or share. Mid summer saw some incredibly high highs, and some very confusing and unexpected lows. The good news is that we've all survived and daresay are even thriving. We still have some fallout to deal with, but I'm hopeful that it will be resolved in short order and someday we can look back on that particular chapter as a funny NOT FUNNY moment in an otherwise good story. Finally, late summer and the beginning of fall have been full of adjustments, with a few more upcoming. I've been wanting to get a post up for a little while, just to catalog the projects I've finished recently. (And not so recently!)

The rest of these are in no particular order, and most will probably not have much detail, but I'm starting with the big one. Also, glamour shots of finished objects have really not been high on my priority list.

The quilt. The hand pieced twin sized quilt is FINISHED! I was so thrilled to finish it in time for an August birthday gift, and more thrilled that the birthday girl loved it. You can't really expect much of a reaction when giving anything to a three year old, and you should really lower those expectations that much more when you're giving something both handmade and utilitarian, so it was really nice to see her face light up for her "pink blanket." I'll not take offense that the favorite and most notable feature is the plain ol backing fabric! In honor of that, I've filed all of those quilt posts under "pink blanket," and that little exercise showed me that I first posted about that project on August 26, 2014, which is actually kind of cool as I gifted it on August 19, 2015. And that's why I do this. :)

All ready to make the quilt sandwich:

The surgery and patchworking required when discovering that no, in fact your backing fabric was NOT cut to the lengths you requested:

Pinning, and happily discovering that your table is the same width as the quilt. I still ended up with a ton of puckering despite my best efforts. Perhaps next time I'll try spray basting as well as pinning.

I embroidered a little message on one corner, which turned out ok. I just traced over my handwriting in disappearing ink. It's not perfect, but I think will be nice to remember in years to come.

Pretty much the best reaction one could hope for:

 Where the quilt lives now:

A collection of friends I found in the bed before I made it. I love how you can see some of the same fabrics in their clothes used in the blanket as well!

Back in May, I had three projects on the go, and they are all done now!

Finished toddler tube socks:

The ribbing makes them look so skinny just laid out, but they do actually fit feet. I think that they could stand to be maybe 4 stitches bigger around. If they actually see some wear, I'll do that next time.

 Here are the textured gray socks from Lara Neal's Sock Architecture: (affiliate link)

I was concerned that they were extremely tight the first time I put them on back when I finished them this summer. However I've washed and worn them since (yay fall weather!) and they were great. I think it was a combination of swollen ankles and humidity, so note to self, don't try on wool socks in the summer!

I also finished my Brooklyn Bridge cardigan. Everyone said I was crazy for knitting a black sweater, but it turned out ok in the end. One thing I didn't foresee was exactly how terribly my skeins matched. (This is softball merino wool (I think) purchased from Newton's Yarn Country at Stitches in 2014) I tried alternating skeins, but honestly that just left me with stripes. I can see how that technique works when there is variation in the yarn, but it just wasn't a go with a solid color. So I just kept knitting and planned to dye the entire cardigan black in the end.

I stupidly didn't get a clear full shot of the sweater (I tried, they were blurry and I didn't notice until I downloaded and I'm too lazy to set it up again). I won't say my efforts were 100% successful. I can still see the lines, but you can sort of see that the sleeve matches the rest of the sweater a little better in the shot above. I still have half a bottle of the Rit dye I used, so maybe I'll try it again someday. We actually had some photos taken yesterday and I wore this sweater because it was way colder out than I'd originally planned, so maybe there will be a better full shot in those that I will try to put up. Looks notwithstanding, this sweater was WARM! It's just fingering weight, but it's a wool angora blend, and I was so comfortable. The only alteration I made to the pattern was to omit the hood. I wish I'd decreased the tops of the side panels a bit more gradually to meet up with the back, but overall I'm pretty happy with my adjustment!

While on a fingering weight yarn phase, I knit up Baby and Kiddy Vertebrae sweaters. The idea is that by basically just knitting sleeves and a back, kids who tend to overheat may be more comfortable, and it may be the right amount of warmth for a baby when you wear them in the carrier as their fronts are facing your skin and already pretty warm. I will say that I think these are cute on the kids, but I'm not sure how I feel about making more non-closing cardigans in the future. (This is foreshadowing) The yarns I used are Araucania Huasco / Botany Lace for the blue and Manos del Uruguay Alegría for the pink. The Manos was a pleasure to knit and SO soft to wear. The Araucania....well it bled all over my hands as I knit, and despite washing many times AND trying the citric acid soak that the Knitmore Girls have had good luck using, the water still runs blue. Sigh.

I had a request for a kitty Halloween costume, so I worked up a pretty little hat in an effort to use up some of my Knitpicks Chroma. I also crocheted an owl hat a few years ago that is much loved and way too small now, so I knitted Hootie Hat the second. I enjoyed the top down earflap pattern from Jane Richmond, though I wish I'd used a looser castoff on the brim. I also wish I'd placed the eyes while the hat was worn - knitting stretches a lot more than crochet, so the final product is a bit more wide-eyed than planned while on the head!

Continuing my Chroma stash busting, I decided to whip up a kindergartener cowl. I just don't love the idea of scarves for kids, which is why I wrote my Howard Hoodie pattern with the attached neckwarmer last year. I just feel like it's a recipe for the loose ends getting pulled and choking the wearer! The Howard will still be in our rotation for sure, but I thought I'd give a cowl a shot. It's nothing fancy, just a simple stockinette tube.

I couldn't decide whether to use the blue green ball (which matches the hootie hat) or the pink purple ball (definitely the more favorite colors) so I used both! I just striped them and switched colors sort of randomly. I carried the yarns up, but almost wish I'd cut them and woven in ends as you can see the carried yarns due to the rolling stockinette if the "seam" isn't in the back. As for length....I just kept going! I know it will roll, so I wanted it to be long enough to cover the neck when all scrunched up.

 If you're still with me (I know this is long!), I've got one last project to share. I've been wanting to make the Rocky Coast Cardigan by Hannah Fettig for several years, and late this summer I just got a yen to cast it on and knit knit knit. Seriously, I knit it in less than a month.

The yarn (discontinued Mirasol Qina) was really nice to work with, and will be really warm in an 80/20 alpaca bamboo blend. But it won't be in this sweater. Yep, this baby is getting frogged. (Unraveled, for those non-knitters.) You see, while I like a long cardigan, the loose gauge of this knit just stretched way too far for my liking. And this other point isn't really the fault of the pattern, but more a combination of my not reading or realizing that it's not just an open front cardigan....but that there actually isn't enough fabric for it to ever close. I don't tend to button my cardigans, but I DO like to be able to at least pull the front panels together. This doesn't come close across the bust, and comes way less close across the bum, and I will never wear it. So it hasn't happened yet, but this will be pulled apart and grow up to be something else. I don't consider it time wasted though. It was a learning experience, both for what I like in a sweater, and with all those cables, I learned to cable without a cable needle so that's good. And it passed the time, which is a lot of what I was asking from it. You win some, you lose some!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Newbie knitting chart mistake

As it turns out, you can't just knit a chart from top to bottom instead of bottom to top as written.

I think I mentioned before, but I'm new to charts, and suddenly find myself knitting two patterns with charts at the same time. I'm working on the Uncommon Dragon socks from Lara Neel's Sock Architecture (affiliate link). The pattern is one of the few in the book written top down only, as the pattern flows right into the gusset, which I'm guessing isn't possible / as easily possible when working toe up.

In hindsight, I'm not really sure why I insisted on doing these toe up. My inclination is to use up as much yarn as possible and make the socks as tall as possible, which is why toe up appeals to me. As this is only my.....fourth pair of adult sized socks, I'm still getting used to exactly how much yarn is a good sock for me. However, I do know that it definitely fits into less than 100 grams, so it's not like I would run out doing these cuff down. In any case, I'm over halfway through the foot, so I'm not going to rip out now!

Again, in hindsight, I'm not even sure why this matters, but I foggily decided that I'd like the pattern to be oriented the same way as the original, even though I was knitting it "backward." In my head, I could just knit the rows in the opposite order than what was written, and that would work out. I kept waiting for the pattern to just didn't. Yes, some kind of texture was showing, but it didn't look like anything specific. I thought that perhaps it was just a poor pairing of yarn and pattern.

I thought about it more though, as I was working the chart on my other charted project, and I really started paying attention to the directionality of my decreases, and it hit me that THAT is probably my problem. For kicks, I decided to do a couple of repeats in the correct order to see if the pattern would look better. I marked the row where I made this switch, and sure enough, this pattern DOES actually show up in this tweedy yarn if you knit it as written!

An interesting experiment, which I'm sure has been done by someone before, would be to see if you also knit the pattern upside down AND left to right if it would actually show up as its reverse like I originally intended. Now that the pattern is showing up nicely at the top of the foot, I'm not sure that
I want to frankenstein this particular pair of socks any more than I already have. On the other hand....they're just socks, and I'm sure no one but me or other perceptive knitters would even notice! (and another knitter would totally get it if I explained) Maybe I'll throw in a lifeline and knit a repeat upside down and mirrored....I can always rip it back if I don't like it or if it totally doesn't work out!

Update: I tried it. It didn't really work. The pattern immediately disappeared, and actually was really frustrating to knit. Not surprisingly....everything felt backward! I threaded in a lifeline intending to rip it back....but ultimately I just left it alone and switched back to the normal stitch pattern and now these guys are ready for their heels! Oh well, they're just socks.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Works in Progress

Ah spring. Tis the season for spring cleaning, yes? However, since I don't feel like PHYSICALLY tidying anything, I've focused on getting my lists cleaned up. Let's pretend that's a thing. I've updated my goodreads page and my ravelry projects, as well as the projects page here on my website. Funny, how even though it's just cataloging things I've already done (and even the list of things I just INTEND to do), it makes me feel so much more accomplished.

With that, here's a little status update of what I've got going on currently.

I'm working on some stretchy ribbed tube socks, brightly colored in hopes they will actually be worn. If not....I might be done making kid socks. I'm using the toddler tube sock recipe by the Knitmore Girls, with the change of working them toe up. I think I'll run through the color sequence one more time so that bubble gum pink lands on top. The yarn is Knitpicks Felici, snapped up the last time it was available.

Not to be outshone by a toddler, I'm also working on socks for me. As I'm starting to amass a bit of a stockpile of sock yarn, I decided that self striping yarns would be a simple stockinette pattern, while solid colors should be knit into a pattern for a little interest. This tweedy sock yarn, also from Knitpicks, may have caused me to stumble a bit though. I'm working the Uncommon Dragon chart from Lara Neel's Sock Architecture (affiliate link), again, modified to work toe up. (I think I'll just do a different kind of heel than written. This is one of the few patterns from this book written ONLY for top down, due to the pattern flowing right into the heel. I don't know if I have the brainpower to make that work upside down - working the chart upside down is enough of a head trip, especially since charts are new territory for me!) In the end, the socks will still be wonderful to have, and learning to read charts is great for developing my skills, but the pattern gets a bit lost with the texture of the yarn. I think it stands out a bit more in person, but honestly not that much. Oh well - I'm still enjoying it!

Speaking of being new to charts, well of course I would go ahead and cast on not one, but TWO charted projects! I did eventually cast on the sweater that I couldn't quite face a few months back. What, you can't tell that's a sweater? If you need a better visual, it's the Brooklyn Bridge Cardigan by Melissa Wehrle from her fantastic book Metropolitan Knits. (affiliate link) This one is definitely going to take a while. I've been tending to knit on it only at knitting group once a week, so it's only growing about 4 rows at a time thanks to my decision to knit it all in one piece. It's also black, in fingering weight yarn, which seems to horrify everyone....but it's something that I KNOW will get a lot of use in my wardrobe. That's the kind of knitter I am. I like to knit for the process, but I also like having the finished object and knowing it's something that will fit into my lifestyle. I try not to be seduced by pretty yarns in the skein if I can't honestly see them being something I would love to wear as much as look at. The sweater so far is pretty basic, mostly stockinette with a lace panel up the fronts. That rolled edge at the bottom (this is worked bottom up) will eventually be sewn down as a nice tidy hem, and the front has an i-cord edging that is worked as you go. Ideally it's worked starting right above the hem, but some knitters forget to read the directions fully when trying to mash together the chart, the i-cord, the two fronts and the back and may or may not have started it a few rows late, and decided that it definitely wasn't worth the trouble to rip it back after having cast the darn thing on three times. I'm not naming names, but I think you can guess who I'm talking about.

Last I've been meaning to pick away at giving the studio both some organization and some actual decorating. Way back in September, I saw a burlap covered pinboard and knew I must have one.

Another thing I apparently also must have is a stronger pair of shears. 

I feel like I've heard of a million different people using homosote for an economical way to DIY huge pinboards. Can I tell you what a pain it was to find this stuff? I looked it up on Home Depot's website, and since it autocompleted and showed me a picture of something that looked right, I assumed they had it. Yes? NO. What actually popped up in the search was MDF, but I wasn't reading carefully. There is no way I'm going to push a pushpin through MDF, so that was definitely not going to work. I was on limited shopping time and was feeling too impatient to go somewhere else, so I punted. I thought, well I could use some insulation board as the substrate, and put some of that cork roll on it to better hold the pins, and then I can just wrap the whole thing in burlap and no one will be the wiser. Who knows, this may have actually worked, but the guy at Home Depot that I grabbed a 4'x8' sheet of insulation, and asked if he could cut it into 2' strips so that I could get it into my car. So he whips out a blade and just starts slicing! I asked, well....are you going to measure that? He said, no, there are marks here that are 2'. He hands me a terribly crookedly sliced piece of foam that is definitely NOT 2' wide, which I pointed out to him with actual measuring. He shrugged and kept cutting. I said, look, I am ACTUALLY looking for 2x4 pieces, so can we just start with a new piece? He grumbled but did actually go to get a new piece, which he measured and cut....I could see that it was still a bit crooked but I tried to convince myself that it would be ok. I paid and went to put it in the car....and these pieces. They were just. Wow, so bad. I sat down and sighed and I feel like dealing with this later? The answer was no, so I just grabbed the foam and the cork and walked back inside to return them. Later on, I searched out other home improvement stores and found exactly what I was originally looking for at Menards. I'd like to say I've learned a lesson about not being impatient and just making do, but I can't be certain that is not a lie.

Speaking of being impatient, I did straighten out that fabric on the right so it's not quite as crooked. It's still a little crooked, but it's better. I need another pair of hands to help me out hanging these, so they are just leaning on the still unfinished bench for now. I think I might paint and mount a strip of pegboard between them for things like rulers and such. It's a quick turn around from the cutting table, so I think that will be handy.

Last but not least for now, I'm still chipping at that quilt. I'm getting closer! I laid out the batting again, and need about one more row of blocks on one of the short sides and one of the long sides. I've also started figuring out how I'm going to square off the edges. Not pictured yet, but I think it will work. Now my trick is to lay out the last of the flowers without getting similar patterns too close together! I think I'll have to cut a little more fabric to make that happen. I'll probably use some of the already cut scraps to piece a little bit of the backing. Next quilt.....will DEFINITELY be machine pieced!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Highly Irregular

For a moment, I'm between large knitting projects. I've recently finished my Bleecker Street cardigan and my Prairie Ridge Shawlette (SCARF). In the time since I've last posted I whipped up a bath puff with some cotton scraps and a simple baby blanket to use up one of those pound of love skeins that was taking up space in my stash. (And yes, I DO think that the light gray bits look like brains!)

I've swatched (to check for gauge) for a new sweater, and even washed my swatch, but I haven't gotten around to measuring it yet to cast on. It's a fingering weight cardigan and I just don't know if I have the mojo to start that at the moment. I've matched up my other sweater quantities of yarn with projects they'd like to grow up to be, but the light cardigan is the only one I currently own the pattern for, so it jumped to the top of the list. Use what you've got, right?

So in the meantime, I decided to pick away at that hex quilt I started many moons ago. Oh, this project feels a bit troubled to me! Several months ago, my parents were over and my dad knocked a full glass of red wine over......right into the bag holding my paper templates, finished block or two, and pre-cut fabric. I was a bit in a "throw the baby out with the bathwater" mood already when that happened, but my husband kept a level head and washed all the fabric in an oxyclean soak and laid it out flat to dry. In the end it was all saved, but I was annoyed by the whole thing, not to mention my behavior.

The other kind of irregular thing about it so far is that the hex template I had printed out from a Craftsy tutorial just never seemed quite....symmetrical. I could sometimes find a better fit between pieces by rotating them, which, as sort of a geometry professional, I knew was not right. On my last trip to the fabric store, I was enticed by a sale and picked up one of those fancy rulers shaped like a hexagon. I thought, I'll just cut out some new 5" paper templates and keep going. Sure, the first 3 blocks will not be QUITE the same, but it's ok and it will make the rest of the assembly much more smooth. It seemed like a valid plan.

I cut out a small stack of perfect 5" hexagons and set one in the negative space next to a completed block. In no way were the blocks I already had 5". At best, 4.5". While yes, I'm not exactly far along in this project, I HAVE already cut up a bunch of fabric for more blocks based on that original template. If I went up to a true 5" block, I'd have to really start over and that seemed like a waste. Instead, I painstakingly trimmed a bit at a time until I came up with an ALMOST perfectly symmetrical template the same size as my "5" lying wonky templates that I could use going forward.

It was really annoying.

However, I did manage to piece together the three irregular blocks I had already completed (note the wrinkliness from the wine bath, and further wrinkliness from not being perfect hexagons) - the front three in the photo above. I also took a few deep breaths and put together a fourth block (the orange one in the back), which happily took only about an hour. (For the orange block....not the rest of my whining.) As you can see, even though the fabric itself suffered the same wash as everything else, symmetrical hexagons make the whole thing lay much more nicely. I think I'll make the wonky flowers (that's what I'm calling them) the center of the quilt, and surround them by my now even new blocks.

Here is the whole thing draped over a chair in the dim February morning light for scale:

Slowly but surely, it's growing. Slow yes, but still faster than a fingering weight cardigan. For now I might focus my knitting energy on socks - I have a new two at a time pair going and I've turned the heels, so I'm in the home stretch!

Finally for today, I have to put a brag here. I don't talk a lot about my personal life, and if you are friends with me on facebook, you already know, but I am so damn proud I want to shout it from the rooftops. WE HAVE PAID OFF OUR STUDENT LOANS!!!! We graduated with two bachelor and two masters degrees between us in Dec 2006 and May 2007. We got married in October of 2007, so the majority of that total amount has been paid as a joint effort. Which, just for kicks and for the record, was an original loan amount of, drumroll and scary dun-dun-DUUUUUN music please, was $125,500. One hundred and twenty five thousand dollars. That's a modest house here in the midwest. Luckily we are both gainfully employed in our fields, so these degrees and that money isn't just in the wind, but, ouch.

I'm not entirely sure my husband felt the weight of it the way I did. I'm the money and budgeting half of our relationship. Before me, he had a little credit card debt. When we got engaged, I took away his card and added him as an authorized user on mine so that we could focus on paying his off. I am allergic to having a lot of expenses I can't just write a check to cover. Yes, I do sometimes make payments on 0 or 1% interest plans. I calculate it out to make sure I pay the whole thing off at least a month before that interest kicks in. I'm frugal, sometimes to a fault. If I'd had complete control over paying off our debt, I'd have been so crazy about it that it would have been gone a few years sooner, but likely so would my husband! He's more the type to buy the bar a round, where I'd be sipping water or nursing a single glass of wine to stretch my pennies. Needless to say, we compromised.

I can write more about how we pulled this off if people are interested. We aren't rich, far from it. We started out with pretty modest incomes despite advanced degrees - it's the nature of our field. We've grown over the past 7, almost 8, years of debt repayment to a fairly comfortable income, but still nothing terribly impressive when you put it up against pharmacists or most business majors (I'd guess). As I said, we took on the full load in 2007, but I got really serious about paying this off in 2010. I haven't always been able to stick to my plan exactly - life changes, job loss - but the basic timeline has come out much the way I'd hoped. I'm not sure what we'll do now. Paying bills next month will probably feel like we've gotten a huge raise! I have a couple of ideas, sadly none of which will likely involve a spur of the moment trip to Tahiti. We've got more changes coming up this year that will shake up the budget picture, but I am honestly so happy and so relieved that this burden has been lifted.

To celebrate I bought my knitting group a round of cookies last night. I haven't completely turned over a new leaf though - I waited until after 6 when they were half price!