Sunday, December 23, 2018

The Hexagon Project: Blocks 18-20

I can hardly believe that it’s been four weeks since my last update on The Hexagon Project. This month, I hand stitched three more English paper piecing hexagon flower blocks for my Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt, bringing my total up to 20. I feel good about how far this project has come over the course of the past six months or so.

Three multi-colored EPP hexagon flower blocks overlapping in a horizontal row

I’ve started laying out the blocks to get an idea of how I might want them in the final quilt. The colors are working well together, and I’ll likely use the pink sparkly fabric between the flower blocks as I originally planned.

Eight multi-colored EPP hexagon flower blocks with a dark middle ring and light outer ring arranged in two horizontal rows
Eight blocks with a dark middle ring and light outer ring.

Last I checked, I had an equal number of blocks with a light middle ring/dark outer ring, and a dark middle ring/light outer ring. At this point, there are definitely more blocks with a dark outer ring.

Twelve multi-colored EPP hexagon flower blocks with a light middle ring and dark outer ring arranged in two horizontal rows
Twelve blocks with a light middle ring and dark outer ring.

While the quantities were even, I had been thinking of arranging the light and dark blocks in alternating rows to create stripes. Now I’m considering other options — maybe a pattern of light blocks surrounded by dark blocks, or maybe a random mix. Of course, with so many blocks yet to be sewn, the balance could still change considerably.

Stack of 20 multi-colored EPP hexagon flower blocks on a white background

Yes, I could look ahead at the hexies I’ve already grouped together to become blocks and create whatever light/dark balance I want. But where would the adventure be in that? Part of the fun for me in working on a scrap project is seeing where those scraps take me. It will be exciting to see where this project stands after the next six months.

What long-term projects, or partial projects, are you feeling good about?

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Keeping Busy

Oh, my goodness, is this holiday season getting away from anyone else? It’s been nonstop here.

On the bright side, between school holiday programs and waiting rooms for checkups I’ve been able to get quite a bit of knitting done despite our busy schedules. On the not-so-bright side — literally — the short days and rainy weather seem to be conspiring against me taking any progress photos.

I’m still knitting away on my Diamond Pullover. The front and back pieces are done, leaving me with about a sleeve and a half to knit before I can sew the sweater together. I still hope to have it ready in time for Christmas. Or maybe New Year’s Eve.

The projects that I knit as gifts earlier in the year — a Dingle Hat, two Scandinavian Hats, and a pair of Meida’s Mittens — have been wrapped and mailed. I can’t wait to hear whether the recipients like them.

Our home is decorated for Christmas, and we’ve begun food preparations. I spent so much time kneading a troublesome batch of dough for chruścik, a sweet crisp Polish pastry, that my activity tracker registered it as a cardio workout and said I hit my step goal.

Chruscik or Chrusciki dusted with powdered sugar
Dusted with powdered sugar, chruścik are also known as “angel wings.

This week will likely be just as busy, with end-of-semester projects and exams followed by wrapping gifts and baking cookies. It’s still making, just a different kind: making merry and making memories.

I wish you the best in all that you’re making as 2018 draws to a close.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Jingle Tree Ornament

'Tis the season — for kits!

I always seem to end up digging through my stash of project kits this time of year. Many of the kits are Christmas-themed, so on that level the timing makes sense. However, they’re rarely as quick and giftable as I want them to be. This week’s kit is an exception.

A few years ago, I was given a beginner’s Jingle Tree Ornament Kit from Penny Marble Quilt Designs, complete with all of the necessary materials except glue. Although it’s made with fabric, this is a no-sew project.

Contents of the Jingle Tree Ornament Kit

I don’t want to give away they entire process, but I will say that the most difficult part of making the tree ornament was punching the holes into the fabric-covered paper strips. I actually broke a sweat!

Note to self: A hole punch can be sharpened by punching through aluminum foil. I wish I had looked that up earlier.

Colorful Strips of Fabric Covered Paper

The entire project took only about an hour to make, which is great for quick holiday gifts. I used quick-dry craft glue, and the most time-consuming step was still holding the pieces together as I waited for the glue to set.

Colorful 3D Tree Ornament Pieces Made from Fabric Covered Paper

To construct the ornament, the three fabric pieces are strung onto a piece of ribbon along with a star for the top, two large beads to serve as the tree trunk, and a small bell at the bottom. Yes, it really does jingle!

Finished Jingle Tree Ornament Hanging on a Christmas Tree

I wouldn’t recommend this kit for young children because it requires the use of an iron, plus the patience to hold the pieces together as the glue dries. But it would be a fun holiday activity for older children with supervision, teens, and adults alike. I’m definitely going to come back to this pattern again.

What are your favorite quick and easy projects for holiday gift-giving?

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

In Progress: Knit Diamond Pullover

In the United States, we celebrated Thanksgiving last week with family, food, and football. Our family hosted guests for two nights, then visited out of town family for two more nights.

While our guests were with us, I didn’t have much time for any of my usual making; I was too busy cooking, cleaning, and visiting. But I spent about 10 hours as a passenger on our way to and from another town, which allowed me to make up for lost time.

Skeins and Balls of Sport Weight Purple Yarn with Knit Sweater Ribbing in Progress

A few weeks ago, we travelled out of state to attend a wedding. Since we don’t have any local yarn shops near us, I took the opportunity to splurge on a skein of Dream in Color Smooshy in colorway 43 Boot Camp and four skeins of Plymouth Yarn Reserve Sport in colorway 306 Mauve Mix. I’ve purchased both brands in the past and could have easily ordered them online, but it makes such a difference to me to be able to touch the yarns and see them in person when I can.

The Reserve Sport is a soft blend of 45% wool, 35% silk, and 20% rayon from bamboo. The colors range from light to medium lavender, with touches of ivory and beige. I thought it would be perfect for a top, and chose the #07 Diamond Peplum Pullover pattern by Jill Wright from the Holiday 2012 issue of Vogue Knitting. I love the classic look of the sweater.

In order to match the gauge, I’m knitting on US-3 (3.25 mm) and US-6 (4.0 mm) needles rather than the needles specified in the pattern. So far, the pattern is straightforward and works up quickly.

Close Up View of Ribbing Knit in Purple Sport Weight Yarn

I had the ribbing for the back finished before we set out. During the drive, I was able to finish the back and knit almost half of the ribbing for the front. I’ve added an inch (2.5 cm) to the length. As much as I love the diamond pattern, I don’t plan to include the peplum in my version of this pullover. I also have some adjustments in mind for the sleeves.

If all goes well, I’ll be wearing this sweater by our next family gathering in a month’s time. What are your making goals during this busy holiday season?

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The Hexagon Project: Blocks 15-17

Isn’t it nice when things work out as planned? It doesn’t seem to happen nearly as often as it should, but this month it did.

Three Overlapping EPP Hexagon Flower Blocks at a Angle

Last month, I only managed to make one block for The Hexagon Project. My plan for improving that rate was to sew during my lunch breaks. And I’m happy to report that I sewed three English paper piecing hexagon flower blocks this month, for a total of 17 blocks to date.

EPP Hexagon Flower Block 15 with Yellow Pattern and Colorful Letters on Brown

Seventeen blocks are enough for a baby quilt! It feels like such an accomplishment to lay out the blocks and start to envision them coming together.

EPP Hexagon Flower Block 16 with Dark Fireworks and Bright Orange Batik

I like to have some color combinations ready to go so I can easily add them to my project bag. My supply was getting low, so this week I planned ahead for another 30 or so blocks.

EPP Hexagon Flower Block 17 with Blue Print and Colorful Letters on White

If you’ve been reading about this project from the beginning, you know that I originally cut hexagons from my smallest pieces of scrap fabric. As a result, I have a lot of certain fabrics but very little of others. As I use up these pre-cut pieces, it’s a challenge to group the colors and prints of the remaining hexies.

Three Overlapping EPP Hexagon Flower Blocks Straight On

As much as I don’t want to make this project more monumental than it already is, I think cutting more fabric pieces is in my future — but with more than 30 blocks ready to go, not in my near future.

For now, I’m going to stick with the plan: I’ll keep sewing through my lunch breaks and believing that it will all work out.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Another Knit Basket Liner

I’ve said this before and I’m sure I’ll say it again: Sometimes making a project once just isn’t enough. The reasons vary; some are practical — can you ever have enough washcloths? — and some are less so, like the joy of working with a favorite material.

This week I knit another basket liner from the Ripple and Lace Leaf Linen Basket Liners pattern in “The Knitter’s Book of Yarn” by Amy King.

Hand Knit Cotton Basket Liner with Lace Leaf Detail in Corners

As I was finishing up my basket liner last week, I came across two partial skeins of Plymouth Yarn Sockotta. Both were purchased in my early sock-knitting days, before I learned how much dislike hand-knit cotton socks. The first is colorway 6056, which is a self-striping yarn in the palest yellow, pink, gray, and ivory. The second, colorway 13, is a bolder self-striping yarn in off-white, light blue, and light and medium grays. I still had a small quantity of Plymouth Yarn Nettle Grove, and the colors seemed to work well together.

With this almost-practical though process — it would use up extra yarn, after all — why not knit another basket liner?

The pattern is knit from the center outward. After establishing the initial rounds, I alternated between two of the yarns every two rows.

As I finished out the blue-gray Sockotta, I began the Lace Leaf motif using only the pastel Sockotta. I had knit the design into the last liner, then removed it, and wanted to give it another chance. I’m glad I held off until I was done with the blue-gray yarn because the subtler color changes in the pastel yarn don’t compete with the lace stitches.

Partially Folded Hand Knit Cotton Basket Liner with Lace Leaf Detail in Corners

But waiting brought on a new problem; with a few rounds still to knit, I was almost out of yarn. I dug out my first attempts at handspun cotton, and discovered the yarn was the right weight and color to finish the Lace Leaf motif.

I still had to cast off, and once again I was out of yarn. I pulled out some ivory-colored Tahki Stacy Charles Classic Cotton. It’s thicker than the other yarns, but it’s made from five plies. I pulled apart a length of yarn and was able to cast off using three then two plies.

This basket liner is a little larger than the last one, measuring about 17 inches (43 cm) square. I didn’t have enough yarn to add purl rows after the Lace Leaf motifs, but I cast off purlwise in hopes of taking a little curl out of the liner’s edges. The laws of physics aren’t so easily fooled.

Hand Knit Cotton Basket Liner with Lace Leaf Detail in Corners and Curling Edges

As I look at the liner, I wonder how the blue-gray yarn might have pooled differently if I hadn’t alternated yarns, or if I had alternated a different number of rows. And I still think it might be quite pretty to extend the liner past the Lace Leaf design.

So it seems that some times making a pattern twice isn’t enough either. How many times have you revisited the same pattern?

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Knit Basket Liner

Around this time every year, the days and weeks seem to pass quickly. Some of that, I suppose, is due to how short the days are becoming in the Northern Hemisphere. I’m not sure if the relief that comes is January is because we’re past the busy holidays and their many preparations, or because the days are beginning to grow a bit longer by then. Maybe it’s a little of both.

With the arrival of November, finishing even the smallest of personal projects feels like a major accomplishment. My most recent project is a knit basket liner. I’m envisioning it as a piece for the Thanksgiving dinner table, to keep breads fresh and warm.

The idea originated with the Plymouth Yarn Nettle Grove I had left over after knitting Calendula. With just over a skein of yarn available, I remembered the Ripple and Lace Leaf Linen Basket Liners pattern in “The Knitter’s Book of Yarn” by Amy King.

My first choice was to knit the Ripple pattern. However, that version finishes at 12 inches (30.5 cm) square and when it came time to begin the ripple stitches, the liner seemed too small. Knitting additional rows would mean determining if I had the right number of stitches for extra pattern repeats before starting the ripples. In turn, reaching a certain number of stitches along each side of the liner could require me to knit more rows than my limited yarn supply would allow.

For the sake of simplicity, I decided to make the Lace Leaf version instead. Although this pattern as written finishes at 13 inches (33 cm) square, the motif is worked at the corners. I could knit additional rows before starting the leaf pattern without worrying how many stitches were along each side of the liner.

I knit some additional rounds, then worked the Lace Leaf pattern. It turned out nicely, except that the liner was still too small for my taste and the edges wanted to curl due to the stockinette stitch sides. I ripped back to just before the Lace Leaf stitches — and then realized I could have knit extra rows after the leaves, including some purl rows to limit curling. That probably would have been quite pretty.

Instead, I simply knit more stockinette stitch. When I was nearing the end of my yarn, I knit a few rows of garter stitch, then a few in stockinette, and still a few more in reverse stockinette.

The resulting liner, at approximately 15.75 inches(40 cm) square, is simple and understated yet still pretty — albeit without a ripple or lace leaf in sight. It doesn’t curl much, and the amount that it does looks intentional.

I used up almost all of my Nettle Grove yarn. I have a pretty and useful addition for our Thanksgiving table — or any meal, really. And the knitting time passed almost as quickly as an autumn day.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Halloween: M7493 as Eliza Hamilton

Halloween has come and gone, so I’m now allowed to share my most recent project. In my last post, I wrote a bit about the time that was going into planning my 14-year-old daughter’s costume. The schedule was tight, but the costume was ready with a couple of days to spare.

From McCall’s M7493 pattern, View C, we were able to fashion a dress like one of Eliza Hamilton’s in “Hamilton: An American Musical.” Worn during the song “Burn,” it’s a white (or pale blue?) short-sleeved dress with a light blue ribbon tied at an empire waist.

Front Full Length View of M7493 Inspired by Eliza Hamilton's Burn Dress

The pattern was a challenge for my level of garment-sewing skills, although it wasn’t a difficult pattern. I kept making mistakes in how I read the instructions. While you wouldn’t think there would be much wiggle room in step-by-step instructions, I managed to find every wiggle that was there. For the most part they were silly mistakes that wasted time and materials, but were easy enough to correct.

The bodice lining was a lot of extra work for a costume. Ultimately, though, I’m glad I stuck it out with the lining because it makes such a difference in the comfort level of the dress. All of the bodice seam allowances are enclosed in the lining, minimizing itching and random threads.

The biggest blunder that I made was in choosing a pattern size based on my daughter’s bust size. I had made an unlined muslin of the bodice — really, I did! — and it seemed to fit fine. But it no longer fit well when the entire dress came together.

I’ve never paid close attention to full bust adjustments because — ahem — that’s not an adjustment I need to worry about when sewing clothes for myself. I should have realized my daughter would need one, but it didn’t click in my brain until the dress was almost done and I was struggling to understand why the bodice back was so large relative to the front.

I finished construction of the dress late at night, right before going out of town for a couple of days. My daughter wasn’t available for a fitting (because she was sleeping, like a sensible person) so I left the hem, buttons, and buttonholes undone. I would complete those final details when I had my daughter available to try on the dress, and when I was fully awake.

Over those few days that we were away, my mother-in-law offered to finish the dress. She was the one to discover the sizing issue. Then, from a distance, we had to figure out the best way to correct the fit without undoing (or re-doing) both the bodice and its lining. She ended up making two darts in the bodice back.

Back Detail of M7493 Inspired by Eliza Hamilton's Burn Dress

Once I was home again, I attached the ribbon. My daughter wanted to be able to tie and untie the ribbon, but didn’t want it to droop. I sewed on the ribbon in two parts, so the dress can still be unbuttoned in the back, with a small gap toward the front where she can tie a bow.

Front Detail of M7493 Inspired by Eliza Hamilton's Burn Dress

I also hemmed the dress one more time. My daughter wanted the dress to be long, so my mother-in-law had left the dress floor-length. That wouldn’t be practical for walking through our hilly neighborhood; I convinced my daughter to let me bring it up another inch (2.5 cm).

While the fit isn’t perfect, my daughter absolutely loves the dress and would probably wear it every day if she could. She’s talked my mother-in-law into making the short jacket from View A, and intends to wear it regularly. It’s going to be fun to see how her personal style evolves!

As for me, I think I need to take a step back and stick with “Easy” or “Beginner” garment patterns for a while longer. What have you learned from your recent projects?

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Hexagon Project: Block 14

It was bound to happen. This past month, I didn’t maintain my pace of four English paper piecing blocks in four weeks. In fact, I only managed to sew one hexagon flower block. It’s my fourteenth so far.

English Paper Piecing Hexagon Flower Block at an Angle

What happened?

My work hours have increased, which means I spend a lot more time in front of a computer. By the time I get home, I want to rest my eyes; hand sewing ends up toward the bottom of my project priority list.

Halloween is right around the corner. My 14-year-old planned an overall look based on a pattern and asked me to work on a costume with her. When we went to the fabric store, however, we struggled to find materials that would accomplish what she envisioned. Rather than trying to force something that really wasn’t coming together, we decided to go home and regroup.

Over the following days, she came up with some possible new directions for her costume and we narrowed them down together. We wanted to be armed with a few solid plans for our next trip to the store. The second trip was a successful; a partial muslin has been fitted, and final pattern pieces are cut and ready to be sewn. The timing is going to be tight, but we should be able to finish the costume in time for Halloween.

English Paper Piecing Hexagon Flower Block

The costume will take up a lot of my free time this week, but then I’ll be able to settle back into a normal routine. As part of my new normal, I’ve started bringing my supplies with me to the office and sewing during my lunch hour. In addition to getting something accomplished in good light while my eyes are still fresh, it relaxes me to do that little bit of sewing in the middle of my work day.

I don’t know if I’ll get back to a pace of one EPP hexie flower per week, but I expect to have more than one block completed by my next update in four weeks — and a happy costume update even sooner!

What sort of adjustments do you have to make to fit your projects into your schedule?

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

MN2402 Acacia Underwear

It feels weird to write this for the purpose of sharing it online, but:

I made underwear!

Red, orange and black Acacia panties from MN2402

Now that the most awkward part of this post is out in the open, we can get on with things.

Most of my sewing experience is with quilting cottons. I can hold my own with other woven materials, even silky fabrics thanks to assorted princess costumes, but I’ve done very little sewing with stretch or knit fabrics — which is ironic, when you think about all of the knitting I do. About two years ago I sewed a beginner-level shirt; beyond that, my attempts have been limited to altering a few old t-shirts.

With my recent foray into making clothing, I wanted to expand my knit garment sewing skills. It seemed best to start small — literally.

Folded red, orange and black Acacia underwear from MN2402

I still have some red-orange fabric leftover from making that shirt in 2016. I have black one-inch (2.5 cm) fold over elastic. And I have the Acacia low-rise bikini underwear pattern, MN2402, by Megan Nielsen.

According to the pattern, my measurements call for making a size Medium. If you’ve never made underwear before, let me warn you that the flat pattern pieces look enormous! I pulled out a few pairs of my ready-to-wear panties to confirm the size; a quick check of the waistband and rise, with seam allowances in mind, proved that those giant pieces were correct.

The pattern instructions were clear and simple. I zigzagged my way through the project — no serger here — and was excited to try on the underwear.

The briefs were too ... brief! I checked my measurements again, then pulled out my ready-to-wear underwear and found the culprit. Acacia has fuller coverage than the pairs I originally checked the pattern against. Although they’re all labeled as the same size, my fuller coverage ready-to-wear panties are larger than the other styles. And I don’t mean they simply use more fabric, as one would expect from the definition of “more coverage.” The openings for the waist and legs are also larger with the fuller cut. As big as I thought those pattern pieces were, they were about to get bigger!

I made the next pair as size Large. They fit perfectly and, yes, this pair is the same size as my ready-to-wear fuller coverage bikini underwear.

Unfolded red, orange and black Acacia panties from MN2402

One thing I really like about the Acacia pattern is that there are instructions for using regular elastic, lingerie elastic, and fold over elastic. As a beginner, it’s nice to have those options spelled out because I don’t have a preference yet and don’t know the best way to attach any of them.

I made both of these pairs with fold over elastic. I like it at the waistband but, as expected, it’s a bit bulky at the legs. With the next pair, I plan to use regular 1/4-inch (0.6 cm) elastic for the legs. I just picked up a narrower fold over elastic and I’m on the lookout for lingerie elastic at my local shops for future sewing experiments.

I can hardly believe I wrote about underwear once, and I’m already planning to do it again!

If you have any tips for sewing with stretch or knit fabrics, I would love to read about them in the comments.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Scandinavian Hat #3

I’ve never been big on rereading books. I can watch movies more than once, but only if it’s been a while since the last time I saw them. For me, part of the entertainment value is in the surprise that goes along with not knowing what’s next. Familiarity ruins the surprise.

When it comes to making, a certain amount of repetition can be a good thing. For example, when I’m learning a new technique, going through it more than once can improve my skills.

Scandinavian Hat pattern knit in three colorways.

Many times, the surprise of how my vision of a certain material will come together with a given pattern keeps me trying new things. A simple change in materials or tweak of the instructions can get me through multiple versions of the same design without a bit of boredom.

This doesn’t happen with every pattern. Once is more than enough for some projects — I think we’ve all been there — but the #03 Scandinavian Hat by Deborah Newton has held my interest through three versions so far.

3 Versions of Scandinvavian Hat Pattern in Different Colorways Side-by-Side
The red hat was knit with larger needles and I skipped a pattern repeat on the purple hat, resulting in a range of sizes.

My latest version of this slouchy beanie was by request. My daughter searched through my stash of leftover sock yarn and chose an assortment of cool grays and blues, to be set against a black background as follows:
  • Fingering weight handspun Louet Northern Lights Wool Top in 28 Icy Winter (I call the resulting yarn Stormy Skies)
  • Two different variegated gray sock yarns that no longer have labels
  • Cascade Yarns® Cascade 220® Fingering in 9620 Castor Gray
  • Cascade Yarns Heritage in 5601 Black

For a while now, I’ve been thinking that I may need to order a few skeins of basic solid fingering weight wool yarns to help use up my leftover multicolored sock yarns. Since I wasn’t confident that I had enough black yarn to complete the hat, I ordered a skein of Dale Garn Daletta in 3695 Black (plus a skein each of Jagger Spun Heather in Edelweiss and Valley Yarns Huntington in 10 Natural to get me through future projects). I alternated knitting with the two black yarns as I worked through the various stitch motifs.

Gray and Black Slouchy Knit Scandinavian Hat Worn with Pompom Hanging Down Back

The knitting went along smoothly, as it did the previous times I made this pattern. I used US-2 (2.75 mm) and US-3 (3.25 mm) knitting needles once again, but made a larger pompom by request. The Castor Gray and two variegated gray yarns are all used up, and I am now a firm believer that making pompoms is the ultimate stash-buster!

Gray and Black Knit Slouchy Scandinavian Hat Worn with Pompom Brought Up and Forward

I enjoyed making the Scandinavian Hat one more time, and seeing how the chosen colors changed the look of the design. My daughter loves her new hat, and I love seeing her so happy! That’s something worth repeating.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

M7093 Tunic

It’s said that the only constant is change. I had a couple of big changes this week.

The first change is an increase in my work hours. In anticipation of that change, I went into a sort of nesting mode — deep cleaning the house, stocking up the pantry, trying to get ahead on errands, and sewing some clothing.

Yes, you read that correctly!

My other change is that I made clothing; the last time I added to my self-sewn wardrobe was in September 2016. I wanted to spruce up my office wardrobe, and what better way than by making a few custom items? Never mind that my garment sewing has been mostly limited to children’s Halloween costumes.

I had enough fabric leftover from that last wardrobe addition to make a blouse or top of some sort. I pulled McCall’s M7093 from my small pattern collection with the tunic in View D on my mind. According to my measurements and those on the pattern, I needed a size 16 or 18. Since the version that I have only goes up to a size 14, I decided to take my chances with it.

For the most part, the pattern was simple and straightforward. There are only five pattern pieces for View D, and no tricky techniques. The one quirk was that the fold lines for the center front and center back pattern pieces each have a convex curve, which is something I’ve never seen before.

My first thought was to check the grainline on the pattern, but it happens to be missing from only these two pieces. After testing different angles, I decided to align the top of each piece with the fold; I thought this would keep the neckline at its intended size so the collar band would still fit correctly. As a result, the lower halves of those pattern pieces swing out wider than I believe was intended, making the tunic look more like a short dress than a long shirt.

The bias-folded collar band ended up a little too long after all. It’s not enough of a difference that I noticed while sewing, but the finished collar sticks up just a bit. In this case, I think there’s a good chance that the difference is user error rather than another quirk in the pattern.

The fit is good, but I need to think a bit more on how I want to pull together a full look. With the right styling, I might still wear this me-made tunic to work.

Speaking of work, I know my increased hours will decrease the time I have for making. What I don’t know yet is how much that will impact what I have to share on this blog. But I’ll continue making as much as I can, because it’s simply what I do and that will never change.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Hexagon Project: Blocks 10-13

It’s time for my monthly update on my English paper piecing hexagon flower blocks. I'm still maintaining a pace of one block per week.

4 Hand Sewn EPP Hexagon Blocks Arranged Together at an Angle

I’ve learned that it takes me about 45 minutes to baste each of the 19 hexies, then 75 minutes to stitch them together into a block. Let’s not forget the time it takes to choose the colors, and to decide the orientation of each piece within the block. I’m easily spending more than two hours on each block at this stage.

Hand Sewn EPP Hexagon Flower Block 10

On a different note, I initially cut out 200 paper templates. For EPP, the templates are supposed to remain in place until all sides of a piece have been sewn to neighboring pieces, which means that each of my hexagon flower blocks is retaining 12 templates at this point.

Hand Sewn EPP Hexagon Flower Block 11

Based on the number of templates left in my sewing bag, it looks like I’ll run out of them during the coming month. The math bears this out; I should be able to get 16 complete blocks from 200 templates if I remove 12 from circulation with each block.

Hand Sewn EPP Hexagon Flower Block 12

I’m also noticing wear on the card stock templates that have been used more than once. The needle pokes the surface of each template as I baste. When I sew the blocks together, the edges of the templates are also poked by the needle, and the inner hexies for each flower block develop creases as I fold them to align the outer pieces for stitching. It’s only a matter of time until some of the templates lose their shape or stability and need to be replaced.

Regardless of the reason, it's time to cut more card stock hexagon templates. Starting with this new batch, I think I’ll mark the templates as I use them to get an idea of how many times I can reuse each one.

Hand Sewn EPP Hexagon Flower Block 13

All of the blocks have a dark center with, relatively speaking, either a light middle ring and a dark outer ring, or a dark middle ring and a light outer ring. Although I’ve been randomly selecting each pre-grouped set of hexies, to date I’ve made six with a dark outer ring and seven with a light outer ring — right on track for an even balance between lights and darks.

4 Hand Sewn EPP Hexagon Blocks Arranged Together Straight On

I now have 13 completed blocks and, even though I still have quite a way to go, I’m starting to give more thought to how I’m going to bring them all together. Look for another update on The Hexagon Project in about four weeks.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Nontraditional Meida’s Mittens

I’m still working through my leftover wool sock yarn, knitting winter accessories that I’ll give as gifts this holiday season. This time, I decided to knit a pair of mittens.

To be honest, I really wanted to knit a pair of gloves. I’ve only ever knit one pair and would like to try my hand at it again — pun intended, ha! — but giving gloves as a gift can be a challenge because they’re fitted and hand sizes can vary widely. Guessing on the size for a pair of mittens is about as far as I want to go.

A Pair of Meida's Mittens Knit with Nontraditional Colors

The pattern I chose is Meida’s Mittens from the book “Folk Knitting in Estonia” by Nancy Bush. I based the size on my own hands.

While the book shows some lovely examples of brightly colored mittens, the yarn colors I chose are not traditional. Typically, the colored motifs are created by knitting two or more high-contrast solid or semisolid colors of yarn into detailed stranded colorwork patterns. I changed things up by using solid and semisolid colors alongside variegated and self-striping yarns with fluctuating levels of contrast, as follows:
  • Dream in Color Smooshy in the green colorway Happy Forest
  • Shibui Knits Sock in the pink colorway 1765
  • Cascade Yarns® Cascade 220® Fingering in 7827 Goldenrod
  • Cascade Yarns Heritage in 5618 White, dyed with Strawberry and Orange Kool-Aid
  • Plymouth Yarn Happy Feet in #4 Red
  • Plymouth Yarn Dancing Toes in the undid colorway 99, which I dyed with Kool-Aid in a self-striping pattern of seven colors/flavors

A Pair of Meida's Mittens Knit with Nontraditional Colors Viewed from the Cuff to the Tip

The pattern knit up smoothly and quickly. The stranded colorwork is all at the cuff, leaving most of the mitten as straight stockinette stitch.

I learned that the height difference of my fingers forms a sharper angle than the pattern decreases at the tip of the mittens, which meant I had to rip back and reknit a couple of times to get the size just right. Instead of beginning my decreases at the tip of my pinky, I needed to hold off on decreasing until I had knit a little past that point. This wasn’t strictly necessary since the yet-to-be-determined recipient could have an entirely different hand shape, but knowing the mittens fit at least one person well makes me feel better about them.

The Cuffs of a Pair of Meida's Mittens Knit with Bright Nontraditional Colors

The way the colors came together in the cuff reminds me of a spring garden in full bloom, and I can’t imagine a more cheerful reminder that warmer days are coming. I like how the colorwork motifs aren’t fully visible at first glance, but become apparent upon further inspection — just as a path in a garden might be hidden from the sight of a casual passerby but known to a frequent visitor.

I used up the self-striping Dancing Toes yarn in the stockinette portion of the mittens, but didn’t make much of a dent in the other fingering weight yarns. That leaves me with options for a coordinating piece of some sort. Let the planning begin again!

How do you feel about making traditional patterns in nontraditional colors?

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Oliver Bear

Fall is here! And for me that means Allergy Season 2. Moving to a new climate has brought out seasonal allergies I never knew I had. In between sneezing and coughing, I needed a little comfort project this week.

Hand Knit Wool Teddy Bear Resting Against the Side of a Basket

In my basket of extra sock yarn, I have a ball of light gray wool that lost its label long ago. It’s super soft and a little fuzzy. But it’s a little too thick to play well with fingering weight yarn, and a little too thin to play well with sport weights. I needed a small project to use this yarn by itself.

I started looking through my copy of The Knitted Teddy Bear by Sandra Polley, and couldn’t resist Oliver. The pattern calls for fingering weight yarn and US-2 (2.75 mm) knitting needles; I used my slightly thicker yarn with US-1 (2.25 mm) needles for a denser fabric.

The knitting was quick and easy — but the finishing! Sewing those tiny pieces took a lot of focus, although I admit I’ve had little to spare this week. I broke up the hand sewing into small blocks of time so I could get each element just right, particularly his face and ears.

Detail of Hand Knit Light Gray Wool Teddy Wearing a Red Sweater

I didn’t have any stuffing on hand, so I cut thin strips of cotton quilt batting to use for stuffing. It’s the first time I’ve stuffed a toy with cotton, and I like how Oliver is holding his shape so far. He’s still squeezable, and he doesn’t have any wisps of polyester filling creeping past his seams as my plushies usually do.

The pattern also includes instructions for a wee sweater to fit Oliver. I used US-1 needles again with Ella Rae Lace Merino in colorway 209, which is red blended with deep browns and grays. I like the way the color and texture of the sweater complement the fuzzy light gray teddy bear.

Hand Knit Light Gray Wool Teddy Bear in a Red Sweater on a White Background

Oliver has round black buttons for eyes. His nose and mouth are embroidered with black yarn. I just noticed I never stitched claws onto the ends of his paws, but he doesn’t seem to mind. To secure his sweater, I added a little black star bead that shimmers like hematite.

Because I used a smaller needle size, my teddy bear is a little smaller than in the pattern; this Oliver is five inches (12.7 cm) tall when standing. He’s been great company as I’ve been curled up sipping tea in between doses of medicine, when he's not frolicking amongst the fabric scraps.

Hand Knit Wool Teddy Bear Resting in a Basket Full of Cotton Fabric Scraps

What types of projects do you like to make when you’re feeling under the weather?