Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Quilt Night: It's Not a Sock

I met my last big deadline of the summer, hurrah! And even better for you, I will have the chance to work on projects other than a single sock.

This week, I was able to go to Quilt Night again. I’ve missed the last few get-togethers due to travel and then a sick husband. It felt so good to be back.

About six months ago, I arrived at quilt night and couldn’t find my quilting stencil. I searched for weeks and ended up ordering a new one. Happily, I must have accidentally picked a popular pattern all those years ago because I was able to find it at Quilting Creations International after a quick online search.

White translucent plastic hand quilting stencil on a white background.

Fast-forward to this past week; J— was doing a deep clean of the room we work in, right down to moving out all of the furniture. As she was cleaning the empty room, her shoulder brushed against something on the white design wall: the stencil. The strange thing is that I never work on that side of the room. Even stranger is that the place where the stencil was hanging has been blocked for years by a tall cabinet; it would’ve been next to impossible for someone to reach back there to hang it up. I guess we’ll never know how it got there, but I’m happy to have it back!

Quilt with Bride's Bouquet blocks in a round hand quilting frame with design drawn on in blue pencil.

More good news is that I rounded the last corner on my hand quilting. I started from the center and worked my way outward, so for a while now I’ve been down to the blocks on the outer edges plus the outer borders. I only have five blocks to go now. I can do a block in about four hours straight of hand quilting, which leaves about 20 hours on the blocks and perhaps another ten on the borders. Then all that’s left is the binding.

Unfortunately, at the pace I hand quilt, it could be another year or so before the quilt is done. But it’s the final year!

Leaf Vines quilting cotton from Michael Miller Fabrics on a white background.

I also bought a little fabric, something I haven’t done in ages. A couple of my favorite fabric and yarn shops that are on my usual route closed earlier this year; even if I had time to pop in to a shop, I haven’t had time to drive out of my way to find new favorites. I picked up two yards of Leaf Vines quilting cotton from Michael Miller Fabrics LLC. I like that it’s busy and subdued at the same time.

On a different note, I’m getting ready to do another charity project. It will go into an auction, so I need to make something that will inspire someone to spend a lot of money on it. I knit some scarves over the last couple years, and I’m ready for something new but I’m not sure what. I think I might like to sew something this year. If you have any suggestions, please comment below.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Put a Foot in It

The first red sock is still in progress. I finished the gusset decreases so the amount of stitches on the instep and the sole are close to equal now, and I’ve moved on to the foot.

The leg, heel and part of the foot of a hand knit sock on metal double point needles next to a ball of yarn on a white background.

At this stage, there aren’t any changes in stitch count; it’s simply a matter of continuing in pattern until the foot of the sock is long enough to fit my foot. I used to be very careful to measure my foot and knit the length of the sock to match — minus the length for the toe of the sock, which is about 1.75-2 inches for me with a US-8.5/9 shoe size. Now, unless I’m knitting in public, I simply try on the sock from time to time.

One tip: If you want to measure the length of the foot by trying on the sock, be sure to move your foot and ankle around a bit so the sock shifts to the position it wants to be in rather than the position you put it in. I’ve learned over the years that if I don’t do that, the socks tend to end up a bit short lengthwise. I’ll spare you before and after photos of my toes peeking out of a half-knit sock, but I’ve measured the difference to be as much as a half-inch!

I know I should slip the stitches onto waste yarn before trying on the sock, but I usually keep the knitting needles in place. At best, I slip half of the instep stitches onto an additional needle for a total of four double-point needles around the sock. As long as I don’t get too crazy wiggling my foot with knitting needles pointing every which way, it works for me.

Red hand knit wool sock in progress on meatl double point knitting needles next to a ball of yarn and an open unlined book with project notes on a white background.

As I knit the first sock, I always keep a tally of the number of rows knit as well as where I am in the pattern repeat. When I get to the second sock, I’ll make sure the row counts and pattern repeats for the two socks match. I know some people prefer to eye it up, and with feet not always being the same size there is a good argument for that method, but I prefer to make sure the socks are the same. Maybe that makes up for my relaxed measuring methods?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Turn a Corner, Turn a Heel

I met one of my major deadlines this week, and I think I felt my blood pressure drop by a few points. Whew!

I also made more progress on the red sock I’ve been knitting. I finished the heel flap, which is an eye-of-partridge stitch with a garter stitch edge. I turned the heel, and started the gusset decrease.

The leg and turned heel on a red hand knit wool sock on metal double point knitting needles next to a ball of yarn on a white background.

In the midst of all of the reading I’ve had to do lately, I’ve begun either walking on the treadmill or knitting while I read. Yes, it slows me down a little as far as each of those activities, but I feel better physically afterward. Every little bit helps! (And, no, I don’t attempt to walk, knit, and read together. I have my limits.)

Some people are surprised when they hear about those of us who do things like read while we knit. I should clarify that I only do other things while I’m making simpler knitting projects. The portion of the sock that I’m knitting now is stockinette stitch across the sole, which is about two-thirds of the stitches in a round. I can knit those stitches by feel. The remaining one-third of the stitches across the instep are repeats of either [K1, P1] or [K3, P1]. Those patterns are simple enough that I can fall into a rhythm rather than concentrate on counting. As I said, I knit more slowly but it’s still progress. I like to keep my hands busy even if I’m reading, so it’s a sanity-saver!

On a different note, our family took a break together over the weekend to visit an old friend who was in town competing in an outdoor sporting event. There was a railroad track next to the venue, and while we were there a train rolled through. It stopped after it was partway past, with this train car closest to us:

Graffiti in the shape of the words "Escape Reality" spray painted on the side of a train car with grassy weeds in the foreground and white clouds streaking across the blue sky.

How did it know we were escaping reality at that moment? Sometimes we find artistic beauty, and sometimes it finds us.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Time to Unwind

No pun intended.

This week has been busy, as I expect the next few weeks to be as well, but I’m starting to feel like the end is in sight. Three more weeks and my stress level should drop considerably. New stressors will come into play around week two, but they’ll be different so I should still feel some measure of relief. My mind keeps wandering to all of projects I want to work on at that point!

Creating relaxes me, so it’s been difficult for me to have so little time to do it. When life gets crazy is exactly when I need to find little pockets of time to make something. This past week, I found some time.

A 2-ply skein of yarn hand spun with rainbow-dyed wool on a white background.

First, I spun up a bit of my Mystery Wool as I wanted to toward the end of Tour de Fleece. I had mentioned wanting to spin a thicker yarn with chunks of color, as opposed to a thinner yarn with blending colors. The advantage of spinning thicker yarn is that a given amount of fiber is spun more quickly! I spun the colors in rainbow order; they align in some places but not in others.

Hand knit red wool socks in progress on metal double point knitting needles next to a ball of yarn on a white background.

I also returned to the red socks that I had started knitting at the end of June. I finished the leg of the first sock and started the heel flap.

And, as I’ve been thinking about upcoming projects, I thought some more about some fabric I have that I’d like to sew into a dress. With a vision in mind, I found a pattern to order. It’s the second pattern I’ve ordered for this fabric, but I think it’s a better fit for the look I’m envisioning. I hope to blog about it next month.

With as little time as I’ve had to myself, I’m very happy with those accomplishments for this week! Slow progress is still progress.

What kind of projects do you like to work on when you’re short on time?

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

When Life Gives You Scraps...

… Make a blanket — or two!

A few years ago, I was browsing Ravelry and came across the Sock Yarn Blanket by Shelly Kang. It’s gorgeous, and such a great way to use up scraps. I knit a lot of socks, so I have plenty of extra sock yarn taking up space. And as I looked through my yarn stash I realized I have a lot of extra worsted weight yarn as well. So why not make one of each size? I started both blankets in late 2011–early 2012.

Two folded and stacked hand knit blankets in progress using scrap yarn in a mitered square pattern in sock yarn weight and worsted weight, on a white background.

The catch, of course, is that scrap blankets should look, well, scrappy. I made a block of every type of extra yarn in my stash, then a second or maybe third block here and there if I could space it out from the last use of that yarn. I quickly came to the point where I needed to generate more scraps before I could do more work on the blankets.

Then last fall as I was doing some holiday shopping, I came across the Jimmy Beans Wool Beanie Bags subscription. What a great way to try some new yarns and continue my blankets at the same time! My husband gifted me with a full year subscription for my birthday. It’s so exciting to get fluffy mail every month, and to make regular progress on the blankets.

Six mini-hanks of yarn, a sample packet of Soak wool wash, and knitting needle point protectors on a white background.

The July samples were six mini-hanks of Blue Sky Fibers Woolstok Worsted. The samples aren’t always from the same yarn line or maker, but the colors usually coordinate. Most of the time they’re wool or wool blends, but June was all cottons and cotton blends. Each Beanie Bag comes in a zippered fabric bag along with some Soak, some sort of notion — needle point protectors this month — and a pattern that will work with the samples in both knit and crochet. (I’m not affiliated with any of these companies, by the way.)

Hand knit sock yarn blanket in progress using scrap yarn in a mitered square pattern, on a white background.

And so my blankets have begun to grow again! The sock yarn blanket is about 60 inches wide and six inches long, or about four staggered rows of blocks.

Hand knit worsted weight blanket in progress using scrap yarn in a mitered square pattern, on a white background.

The worsted weight blanket is about 80 inches wide and 16 inches long, or about six staggered rows of blocks.

I know I’m still years away from completing these blankets, but I’m really enjoying the process. And isn’t that half the point?

I’ll leave you this week with a quote I recently read in “Code: Version 2.0” by Lawrence Lessig: “…keep the elements simple, and the compounds will astound.”