Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Waves and Piers Socks

Christmas has come and gone, which means I can write about the socks I made as a gift. My sister always has handmade socks on her list; between myself and a couple other knitters in the family, I think she receives a pair more years than not. This was one of those years.

It was after Thanksgiving when I knew I’d have time to knit a pair of socks, but that means I no longer had much time for yarn shopping. In my stash, I found two balls of Plymouth Yarn Dancing Toes that I had dyed with Kool-Aid for previous projects. One has speckles of color while the other features long stripes. The colors aren’t an exact match, but they could potentially work well together.

Knitting Socks with Kool-Aid Dyed Wool Yarn

I knitted with both yarn balls at once, alternating every two rows, making bright and playful stripes accented by slipped stitches in the Whirlpool Socks pattern by Laura Nelkin. The downside was that this yarn felts easily, forcing me to make the socks a bit larger than I usually would. I was just rounding the heel on the first sock when I came to conclusion that I wouldn’t have enough yarn to finish.

Back to square one with the Christmas deadline coming up quickly, I pulled together some other coordinating yarns in purples, grays and blacks. I switched to a chevron pattern: Waves and Piers Socks by Charlene Schurch and Beth Parrott.

Wearing Socks Knit with Purple Chevron Stripes

I had small quantities of at least six yarns — there was no way I was going to run out of yarn with this combination! By splitting each color into two roughly equal balls, I was able to follow the same basic color pattern on each sock. Once again, I alternated colors every two rows to create stripes.

The pattern incorporates a forethought heel, which I had attempted once before and disliked because of the many needles and yarn ends involved. I made it through the process on both socks this time. It will never be my go-to heel technique but, like so many other things in life, it gets easier with practice.

Wearing Socks Knit in Chevron Pattern with Purple Yarn

I haven’t spoken with my sister yet as I write this, but I hope she’s as happy with the socks as I am. And I hope she doesn't mind seeing photographic evidence that I tried them on before giving them to her!

I’m still thinking about the brighter color combination. Who knows what that might become by this time next year?

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

This is awkward.

I spent the week furiously making a Christmas gift, but I can’t write about it yet in case the recipient happens to read this blog.

I will say this: My husband liked it so much that he was trying to convince me to keep it for myself. I held firm; it’s wrapped and on its way to the intended recipient. I promise to write about that project in a future post.

Now what? Well, to backtrack a bit, some family came to visit with us during the week of Thanksgiving. Before my aunt’s arrival, she mentioned that she’s going to start a quilt — I believe it’s her first — and she wanted my input to help her choose colors to coordinate with her existing room colors.

There’s a local sewing store nearby that hosts the area quilt guild meetings. I haven’t made it to a meeting yet, but thought the store might be a good place to start. I knew they sold sewing machines, and was pretty sure they sold fabric as well. If not, they would know where to send us.

Sure enough, they sell two brands of sewing machines plus an assortment of quilting fabric and supplies. I think I even saw some vacuum cleaners. I’m extra excited to have found this store since I’ve already determined that there aren’t any local yarn stores. Ordering supplies online is convenient, but when it comes to fabric and yarn it’s so much nicer to shop in person; I like to touch the fiber and really see the colors.

My aunt was able to find everything she needed for her quilt top, right down to the thread. I found a couple of fabrics I liked, too:


I picked up a yard (almost a meter) of the piggy fabric on the left. It’s from the Harmony Farm line by Shawn Wallace for Riley Blake Designs in the color Harmony Hog Wash Brown. The playful little pigs make me smile.

I also bought three yards (about 2.75 meters) of the sheep fabric on the right. The line is All’s Wool That Ends Wool by Maria Kalinowski for Kanvas in association with Benartex, LLC, in the color Sheep Thrills Cream/Multi. Each round wooly body is about 2 1/4 inches (5.7 cm) in diameter, so this will either end up as a statement fabric cut into large blocks or as a quilt backing.

I haven’t quilted in a long time, and these fabrics make me want to get back to it. But not yet. We have holidays to celebrate first!

I wish you and yours a wonderful holiday season.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Furniture: Refurbished

Last year, my husband inherited his grandfather’s office desk and chair. They’re not valuable antiques, but they bring with them happy memories of days when my husband helped his grandfather on the family farm. This fall, we were able to bring the set home.

Writing Desk Before RenovationChair for Writing Desk Before Renovation

The desk and chair had sat mostly unused in an outer room for about five years, so the first step was a thorough cleaning and waxing. I didn’t know that so many spider eggs could be found on the bottoms of furniture! Checking the undersides of furniture will definitely become part of my cleaning routine.

The next step was to spruce up the desk and chair. The general construction of the desk was sound, complete with dovetail joints, but some details were less so.

Exterior Knobs on Writing Desk Before Renovation

The exterior of the desk had two knobs on the drawers and a yellow plastic hook in place of a third knob on the cabinet door. We found some brushed bronze knobs with a subtle University of Alabama logo and a simple handle. A lot of the old hardware had darkened over time, but the locks still held some shine. A light brush of flat black paint over the locks brought the hardware colors together.

Exterior Knobs on Writing Desk After Renovation

The original knobs had thick shanks that set into the wood, leaving a lot of wiggle room for the screws that came with the new knobs. Flat washers stabilized the heads of the screws inside the drawers, while finish washers supported the ends of the screws and the knobs themselves by nesting into the holes from the outside.

Large Hole in Drawer from Old Knob ShankFinish Washer Filling Hole in Drawer Left by Old Knob Shank

On the interior of the desk, two drawers had newer wooden knobs that looked out of place against the old wood and two basic L hooks were inside one cubby. Simple brushed bronze knobs replaced the wooden ones, and safety cup hooks seemed like a more secure way to hang important items such as keys.

Interior Knob and Hooks on Writing Desk Before Renovation

Interior Knob and Hooks on Writing Desk After Renovation

The faux leather writing surface, which covered the lock and hinges, was cracked and peeling. We replaced it with a piece of black vinyl — still going for the look of leather without the price tag — but cut around the hardware to avoid stretching the vinyl out of shape.

Writing Surface on Desk Before Renovation

Writing Surface on Desk After Renovation

With the desk complete, it was time to move on to the chair. We knew that the seat was in need of refreshed padding and upholstery. When we removed the seat, we found that the plywood base was delaminating, causing layers the wood to peel apart. After cutting and sanding new plywood, we stapled a lining over two inches (5 cm) of padding then stapled the upholstery fabric in place and reassembled the chair.

Top View of Writing Chair Before Renovation

Top View of Writing Chair After Renovation

We didn’t set out to choose a yellow upholstery fabric. Between the vintage look of the print and the one flower that almost matches the carving in the chair back, we knew this fabric was the right choice.

Closed Desk with Chair After Renovation

Open Desk with Chair After Renovation

We made it through with only a few cuts and blisters, and are looking forward to using the updated desk and chair. The pieces have been made more valuable by the extra layer of good memories we shared in working together on this project. We're looking forward to using the desk and chair for years to come.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Hats and Ornaments

To begin with, I made some more hats for the Little Hats, Big Hearts program that I wrote about last week. I returned to the Creative Preemie Hat pattern by Laura Reavis, but with Lion Brand Heartland Thick & Quick in colorway 113 Redwood. It’s a Super Bulky acrylic yarn in a two-tone red. The combination of the preemie pattern with the thicker yarn resulted in hats that are a standard newborn size of about 14 inches (35.5 cm) in circumference. I have ten hats complete now, in a variety of baby sizes and soft, red acrylic yarns.

Red Knit and Crochet Baby Hats for Little Hats, Big Hearts

Going back a couple more weeks on the blog, I wrote about rediscovering a drawer full of forgotten kits. Did I mention that a good number of them are Christmas kits? I suppose that’s part of the reason I’ve been holding on to them for so long. For me, the window of interest for working on Christmas projects is small — and extra time is already in short supply during the holiday season.

Nevertheless, I worked my way through another Christmas-themed plastic canvas needlework kit from the Canvas Capers line by Leisure Arts. This time it was a set of ornaments, #462 Teddy Bear Ornaments, with a copyright date of 1985.

Teddy Bear Ornaments Plastic Canvas Needlework Kit

I have to be honest; although the ornaments are adorable, this kit was not fun for me. There were a lot of small pieces, some less than a half inch (1 cm), and one ornament in particular required quite a bit of work with transparent nylon thread. Tiny pieces and invisible stitches do not make me happy; I was actually caught cursing at the little teddy bear angel.

Plastic Canvas Teddy Bear Angel and Candy Cane Christmas Ornaments

Teddy Bear Plastic Canvas Christmas Wagon and Stocking Ornaments

The kit was a set of eight, two each of four different designs. Normally, I don’t mind making two of the same thing — mittens, socks, etc. — but it was daunting to revisit each of these fussy little guys. Finishing the kit was an act of pure stubbornness.

Set of Eight Plastic Canvas Teddy Bear Christmas Ornaments from a Kit
Proof that I really made all eight ornaments!

Each ornament measures about three to four inches (7.5 to 10 cm) in each direction. Little pieces were attached to a larger main piece to add depth and to cover the backs of the ornaments for a neater finish.

Teddy Bear in a Stocking Plastic Canvas Christmas Ornament on a Tree

With Christmas less than three weeks away, my window for holiday projects is quickly closing and I don’t expect to make more of the Christmas kits this year. I think the break will do me good — particularly because I have (gasp!) a duplicate of this kit.