Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Break Time

This week I needed a break. I’ve been going full speed ahead for a while now; it was time to listen to my body and slow down a bit. I don’t stop making projects at times like this, but I change direction.

As simple as the entrelac scarf is to knit, it requires a little more brain power than I want to invest right now. As I’ve been packing, I’ve found a lot of small balls of cotton yarn. Knitting some cloths seemed like a great mindless activity that would also create some items to use in our new home.

Stack of Knit Cotton and Linen Washcloths or Dishcloths

I haven’t decided yet whether these will be washcloths or dishcloths. I think I’ll need to see the colors in the kitchen and bathrooms of the home we have yet to choose before I make that determination. In the meantime, I’m enjoying putting color combinations together as I use up scraps.

Of course, I can’t turn off my brain entirely. I’ve been knitting a basic washcloth pattern — its name is usually some variation on Granny’s Favorite. It’s a simple square pattern that is knit diagonally from corner to corner in garter stitch, with yarn overs a few stitches in from the edges to give a little more visual interest. As much as I like the simplicity of this pattern, I’ve never liked the way the corners stretch at the widest point. I started experimenting with adding short rows to the borders at that point in the cloth, and I like the results a lot better.

The photo below shows the first cloth I made with original pattern on the left, and the last cloth I made with the pattern adjustments on the right. Can you see how the corner on the right, with short rows added, looks a little more pronounced than the corner on the left?

Corners of Knit Cotton Washcloths or Dishcloths with and without Short Rows

You might also notice that the yarn weights in the cloth on the right aren’t exact matches. Since I’m working with scraps, I haven’t been a stickler for matching weights or other aspects of the yarn. There are two exceptions: one cloth is made from chunky weight cotton, and the other is made from linen instead of cotton. They’re pictured below.

Knit Washcloths or Dishcloths in Linen and Chunky Cotton

I still have quite a bit of scrap cotton, and plan to use a different simple pattern to knit some more cloths. This is just the break that I’ve needed!

What kinds of projects do you turn to when you need a mental break?

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Time for a Change

I’ve been spending the bulk of my days cleaning and decluttering for our impending move, not to mention working and running the household. For the sake of my sanity, it’s time to get back to making!

Last month, I posted about an entrlac scarf that I had started knitting to use up my stash of Plymouth Yarn Zino. I have knit my way through the first skein and the partial skein, and have begun knitting through the second full skein.

Knit Entrelac Scarf in Plymouth Yarns Zino

One advantage of all of this decluttering is that a rummage through my scrap basket turned up some small remnants of this yarn from previous projects. I found some of them in time to knit into the scarf before starting the second skein, but didn’t find others until later. I’ll try to knit them in at the end of the scarf if the colors match up.

Small Amounts of Plymouth Zino Yarn

One thing that I love about working with this yarn is watching the color changes. I’m pulling the yarn from the center of the skein, which makes it fun to try to guess the next color. Sometimes it keeps me knitting longer than planned because I want to see what the next color will be and where it will end up on the scarf.

It’s also fun to see how the colors blend as they go through the color changes. One would expect a simple mix of two colors in gradually changing amounts, but some lengths seem to be made up of a full rainbow of color. There’s so much beauty in those little details.

Close Up of Entrelac Scarf in Plymouth Yarns Zino

It’s still too soon to say for sure if the length of the scarf will warrant changing it into a cowl, and yet I suspect that will be the case. Time will tell if the color changes work out in such a way that the join will be close to invisible.

What are your favorite sanity-saver projects?

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Loving the Moment

I’m writing this week’s blog post from a hotel room. We’re on a whirlwind house-hunting trip as we prepare to move for my husband’s new job. And, yes, we found a few in our price range that we could consider home! We’re narrowing down our small list as we wait for an offer on our current home.

Palm Trees Outside a Building in Our New Home Town
Did I mention they have palm trees here?

The past week had been an exhausting mix of cleaning and de-cluttering. The upside to that has been the chance to revisit items in my stash. I’ve gone through the expected fabric for quilting and general sewing, yarn for knitting and crochet, and fiber for spinning. I’ve also rediscovered materials for drawing, painting, cross-stitch, bobbin lace, quilling, scrapbooking, and even a little jewelry making. I have drawers full of ribbons and sewing patterns, stacks of old jeans ready to be cut up, and a bookshelf stocked with books and magazines covering all of those projects and then some. Creating, for me, isn’t a single path from Point A to Point B but a meandering journey full of new wonders. There is always more to discover and rediscover.

While having a stash means that we have more “stuff“ to pack, it also serves as an inexpensive packing material — if we look at it from the standpoint of not spending any additional money. My husband thinks all of it should be carefully packed into separate boxes, but I think that it is meant to be used one way or another. The scraps are great for extra stuffing around odd-shaped items. Fat eighths protect very small items while also making them a little more visible. Fat quarters do the same thing for slightly bigger items. Fabric yardage and skeins of yarn can cushion almost anything.

Will the yarn and fabric show some wear after the move? Possibly. Any ill effects that don’t wash out will likely be minor, but they will each add one more little story to the final pieces that will one day be created. With each “flaw,” we’ll have one more occasion to pause to remember these crazy days that are going by so quickly.

As we’re living in the moment and thinking of how home is the place where we’re all together, I wish you all a happy Valentine’s Day!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Making a Move

This week has been a little crazy and it looks like the coming weeks will be just as crazy, if not more so. The main cause of the craziness: We’re moving across the country!

This move wasn’t even on our radar a few months ago, but we’re excited about the new direction that our lives are taking. It will mean a complete lifestyle change for the better, and who can complain about that?

Except that I’m spending more time packing projects than making them. And the few projects I have been working on have been personal projects for friends. I don’t feel comfortable sharing them here; they’re not really my projects to show.

That said, I do have a few things I can share. I mentioned before that during the holidays I was given a gift card to a local craft store. Of course, I couldn’t leave the area without using the card. I picked out five fat quarters.

Five Quilting Fat Quarters

The baseball fabric will be perfect for a certain eight-year-old. I already have an assortment of quilting fabrics with letters on them, which made the numbers fabric an easy choice. The other three struck me as nice basics; they stand out on their own, but could also work as accents or backgrounds with statement fabrics.

I used the rest of the money on the card to buy some materials for my daughter’s science project. Not the most exciting use of a gift card, but it kept me from buying too much extra stuff that would just end up being packed away as soon as I brought it home.

I also finished one simple project this week. A friend of mine introduced me to shelter pet beds. The idea is that you sew together two equal-sized pieces of scrap fabric on three sides to form a pillowcase shape. Or fold one large piece of fabric in half and sew along the edges on either side of the fold as I did; my cut of fabric was about 24 inches long. Then as you’re making other projects and generating scraps of fabric, batting, thread, and even yarn, you simply add those pieces to the pillowcase. When you think it is full enough, sew together the open edge for a simple, low-cost pet bed that can be donated to a shelter.

Toy Racoon Resting on a Shelter Pet Bed
I didn't have a pet handy to serve as a model, so Bandit had to step in.

As I’ve been packing up my sewing area, I was happy to discover that I had accumulated enough scraps to finish my pet bed. I’ll be helping our local shelter, and it’s one less project that needs to be packed! Plus, my children are excited for an excuse to visit the animals.

I have read online that some people are concerned pets will tear open the beds and get sick from eating the scraps inside. However, our local shelter is happy to receive the beds and checks them regularly for wear. If you’re thinking of making one, I would recommend you call your local shelter first to see if it’s something they will use.

What are your favorite ways to use those little “worthless” scraps?