Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Neutral Knitting

In early 2008 or thereabouts, I purchased two small skeins of Regia 4-f├Ądig Patch Antik Color sock yarn in the colorway 5753 Beige. This self-striping yarn alternates between three shades of beige and three shades of gray, with a little bit of ivory thrown in.

Hand Knit Wool Socks in Beige and Gray Self-Striping Yarn

To me, this yarn is the workhorse of neutral color ways. The socks I knit from it coordinate with warm or cool colors, lights or darks, without drawing too much attention.

Now, don’t get me wrong; I love my bright and colorful hand-knit socks. But some days require an understated look, and that's when I reach for my beige-and-gray socks.

By 2011, the colorway was still in stock at my local yarn shop. Knowing that good neutrals can be difficult to find, I bought enough to make another pair of socks. Then I promptly put that yarn away to move on to more colorful knitting.

Stansfield #11 Socks
There aren’t any local yarn shops in the vicinity of our new home. As frustrating as that fact may be, it has provided me with an opportunity to work through my yarn stash. I’ve come to my last full skeins of sock yarn: the Regia yarn I purchased in 2011.

For the first pair of beige-and-gray socks, I wanted to use a pattern that would highlight the colorway’s horizontal stripes. Back then, I knit Stansfield #10 from the book Sensational Knitted Socks by Charlene Schurch. For my second pair, I decided to stay with that theme and chose Schurch’s Stansfield #11 from the same book.

Relaxed Pose for Hand Knit Wool Socks in Beige and Gray Self-Striping Yarn

I’ve knit enough socks from Schurch’s patterns that the knitting itself was straightforward. I cast on 78 stitches and used four US-1 (2.25 mm) double-point needles for a gauge of nine stitches per inch.

When I started the second sock in the pair, I simply began knitting from the end of the skein. I thought it wouldn’t matter if the stripes on the two socks didn’t align because the colors and pattern are the same. About two inches (2.5 cm) in, I had to stop. I couldn’t continue with the colors so blatantly uneven. I unraveled the knitting and restarted at a point where the colors matched the first sock.

Top View of Hand Knit Wool Socks in Beige and Gray Self-Striping Yarn

While that misalignment bothered me, I consciously chose to knit a flapped heel rather than an afterthought or short row heel. The latter techniques would have kept the stripes consistent on the front of the sock, but I prefer the flapped heel process. The changes in the stripes aren’t glaringly obvious, plus they’re the same across both socks. Likewise, it doesn’t concern me that the stripes don’t line up at the toes. I see this as part of the handmade nature of knitting.

As much as I love this colorway, I’m glad I used up what I had. I’m ready to find a new favorite neutral. And with my sock drawer full, it’s time to explore new projects as well.

What are your go-to colors?

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Introducing: The Hexagon Project

It all started because my scrap container for quilting cottons, one of those large plastic tubs, was filled to overflowing. In the back of my mind, I kept trying to think of how I could use those scraps.

A Stack of Cotton Fabric Hexagons for English Paper Piecing

I began to notice English paper piecing projects featuring hexagons. Amanda Jean from Crazy Mom Quilts acquired an old hexagon quilt and has been sewing a replica of it. In my Instagram feed, hexagon blocks and quilts have been featured in recent posts from The National Quilt Museum, All People Quilt, Aurifil Thread, Christine, and Vivian.

Although I’ve done hand quilting, I’ve never tried hand piecing. I spent some time reading about English paper piecing, and it seems like something I could enjoy doing. With a block-based design, I could easily keep one or two blocks’ worth of hexagons at the ready as an on-the-go project.

Back in 2000, I made a baby “I Spy” quilt using a set of Marti Michell templates. In addition to the two-inch hexagon that I used for that quilt, Template Set G includes a template for a one-inch hexagon. That happens to be the finished size I had in mind for this project idea that was slowly taking shape.

With the fabric template all set, I looked online at pre-cut hexagons to serve as the “paper” aspect of my paper piecing. Frugality won out; I have some card stock that is too thick for my printer and I found a free hexagon template download at Geta’s Quilting Studio.

And So It Begins...
I printed a template onto standard paper and set that on top of five sheets of card stock to cut out the paper hexagons. The process was fussier than I would have liked, but within a relatively short time I had 100 sturdy paper hexagons. I punched a hole in the center of each piece, through which I’ll be able to pin the fabric to the paper.

Cutting Hexagon Templates from Heavy Card Stock for English Paper Piecing

While sorting through the fabric in the plastic tub, I set aside all of the pieces that were at least 2 1/4 inches (5.7 cm) wide but no more than double that width. My goal is to cut all of these smaller scraps first, then choose larger scraps after I assess how many more hexagons I need and which colors are lacking.

Colorful Cotton Fabric Hexagons for English Paper Piecing

At the halfway point of cutting that first set of scraps, I have about 400 hexagons. I’ve been putting them up on my design wall to get a better idea of the range of colors but I’m running out of room! I have a few directions in mind for the design but want to see where the colors take me. And the design will likely dictate the size.

I can’t wait to see what I make!

What are your thoughts on English paper piecing?

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Managing Projects with Trello

Are you familiar with the Trello website and app? Trello is a tool for project management and organization. I keep reading about it and, since individual accounts are free, I decided to try it. (No affiliation.)

While most of my sewing adventures lean toward quilting, I’ve made a lot of Halloween costumes as well as a few basic garments. I’d like to sew more pieces for my wardrobe but I’m still a beginner in that arena. If I come across a fabric that I love, I never know how much to buy or whether I already have a pattern that will work well with it.

How I’m Using Trello
This is where Trello comes in handy for me. I can make Boards for general categories. Within each Board, I can create specific Lists. And within each List, I can create individual Cards.

I’ve set up Boards for different types of sewing patterns, such as Pants Patterns. I also have Boards for woven and stretch fabrics. In the future, I plan to start a Projects Board.

Each Board holds a number of Lists. In Pants Patterns, as shown in the photo below, I have Lists for Pants, Shorts, and Leggings. My fabric Boards have Lists based on the type of fabric, such as Cottons, Silks, and Knits.

Trello Board for Pants Sewing Patterns

The Lists hold Cards with information about individual items. For each sewing pattern that I own, I made a Card that includes photos of the pattern envelope, any notable pattern details, and a Checklist for yardage and notions. For each fabric, the Card includes a photo of the fabric, details about the material, and yardage.

Trello Card for New Look S0184 Sewing Pattern

Each Board can have its own set of color-coded Labels. I set up identical Labels across all of my Boards for woven, stretch, and ranges of yardage. If I have a pattern I’d like to make, for example, I can search the yardage Label in one of my fabric Boards to quickly find appropriate fabrics that I already own.

The Boards, Lists, and Cards can be edited, duplicated and/or moved. For example, after I entered all of the information for New Look S0184 in the Leggings List shown above, I duplicated that Card then moved the new Card onto the Tunics List on my Shirt Patterns Board.

When I’m ready to make a pattern, I can move a duplicate copy of the pattern Card onto my Projects Board. From there, I’ll be able to edit the fabric and notions Checklist for the specific item that I’ll be making, then check off the supplies as I acquire them. I can link the fabric Card to the project Card, make notes for myself, and give the project a deadline. And those are only the features I’ve use so far.

While it was daunting to itemize everything, the site is intuitive to use. Now that the set-up is done, I think Trello will help me use my garment patterns and fabrics more efficiently. And because the tool is cloud-based, I’ll be able to reference those patterns and fabrics while I’m at the store for better planning. Going through everything to take photos and measurements has already improved the organization of the physical sewing space!

What tools do you use to manage your projects and stay organized?

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Two Years!

As of this week, it’s been two years since I started sharing “The Art of Making Blog.” Happy blogiversary to me!

During the past year, the blog has had about 23,000 page views from more than 7,300 visitors. Thank you for choosing to spend some of your time reading about my creations!

The top five posts from this year — and, as it happens, from the entirety of the blog’s brief history — encompass a variety of topics:

Projects of my Top Five Blog Posts from the Past Year

The common thread (no pun intended) between the topics appears to be new experiences, whether they’re in the form of new techniques or the result of major life changes. I’m open to continuing with more new techniques but can’t help hoping that we’re done with major life changes for a while!

We moved across the country almost a year ago, which means that the bulk of the time that I’ve spent blogging has been with most of my supplies either packed away or in some state of partially unpacked disarray. Unpacking has been a slow process as I rediscover items that in some cases were packed almost as soon as they entered our old house. There are so many things I want to make! You can expect the topics to start branching out more from knitting and quilting, although fiber arts of some sort will continue to be the main focus.

I tend to have multiple projects in various stages of completion at any given time. I work on some of them regularly, while I only pick up others occasionally. I’m still working out how much to share about the in-progress projects. I don’t want to bore you with post after post about the almost-imperceptible changes in a slow-moving project. I also don’t want to share a partial project that I won’t revisit for six months or more. Finding a good balance is my top writing goal for the blog.

I hope you’ll continue on this journey with me. Cheers to another year!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Twin Rib Socks

One of the most difficult questions for me to answer about my projects is this:

“How long did that take you?”

I may have a general idea of hours, days, weeks, or months — but I don’t track the details. How long did an idea percolate in the back of my mind before I began to act on it? Did I spend time researching patterns or techniques? Was I able to quickly grab materials I already had on-hand, or did I need to take time to go shopping and search for something specific?

Then there is the making itself. Some projects are made through a series of little moments, while others are the result of an uninterrupted block of time. Some projects require my total attention, particularly if they involve a new or difficult technique, while others are made almost on autopilot.

Hand Knit Wool Socks in Twin Rib Pattern on Feet

Three Weeks
From cast-on to weaving the ends, I spent the past three weeks knitting a pair of socks from the Twin Rib pattern by Charlene Schurch. I used Serenity 20 from Zen Yarn Garden, which is a gorgeous fingering weight blend of 70% superwash merino, 20% cashmere, and 10% nylon. The skein, in the vibrant one-of-a-kind colorway Notebook, was a gift from my mother. Thanks, mom!

Hand Knit Wool Socks in Twin Rib Pattern

Three weeks sounds like a long time, but of course it wasn’t all of my waking hours for a solid three weeks. This pattern consists of a simple two-row repeat, and socks are a portable project. In addition to my usual late evening knitting in front of the television, these socks were knit at baseball games, during school informational meetings, and while waiting for my children after events. The pattern is straightforward enough that I was even able to read a light novel while I knit.

I don’t want to be flippant and devalue the process by saying it took almost no time to knit a lovely and comfortable pair of socks that coordinates with every color in my wardrobe. But for the most part, I was knitting during those moments that are easily considered wasted — if they’re considered at all.

On the other hand, one could say that everything I’ve ever done has led to this moment. In which case, to borrow from the anecdote about Picasso, this pair of socks has taken my entire life.

Top View of Hand Knit Wool Socks in Twin Rib Pattern

Maybe I should stick with the short answer of “three weeks.”

How do you tally the time you take to make your projects?