Saturday, November 9, 2019

The Hexagon Project: Blocks 25 and 26

I didn’t make as much progress as I would’ve liked with my English paper piecing project this month, but I still made progress. Two more hand sewn hexagon flower blocks are done, bringing the total up to 26.

Angled view of two overlapping heaxagon flower quilt blocks, one in red and blue and the other in yellow and white, on a white background.

If I’m remembering correctly, even though I’m using all scrap fabric, the yellow block is the first EPP block to have a scrappy look. While the overall colors and values are similar, two of the hexies in the outer ring are a different print than the rest. There will be more blocks like this as I use up various fabrics.

YTopview of two overlapping heaxagon flower quilt blocks, one in red and blue and the other in yellow and white, on a white background.

I like that the red and blue block has an Americana look, in contrast to the 1930s reproduction look of the yellow block. I can’t wait to see all of the blocks come together — and, yes, I’m still planning to separate the flower blocks with pink sparkly hexies.

This Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt is going to be amazing!

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Ghost Doily

If you’ve been reading my blog recently, you know that I’ve been engrossed in crocheting Halloween-themed amigurumi.

For those just joining us, those posts are: The Three Amigurumi and More Halloween Amigurumi.

Anyhoo, I had one final Halloween project on my hook. The pattern is Boo! by Marsha Glassner.

Angled view of off-white crocheted cotton ghost-motif doily on a dark background.

I used undyed Aunt Lydia’s Classic Crochet (Size 10) and a 2.25 mm (B) hook. I had just as much fun with this table topper as I did with the amigurumi.

The pattern worked up quickly. The directions were a bit unclear to me in a few spots; that may reflect my level of crochet (in)expertise rather than how the pattern was written. In any event, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the ghosts emerge as I crocheted.

Top view of off-white crocheted cotton ghost-motif doily on a dark background.

I think I can now say that our home is well-decorated for Halloween. And we still have one more day to enjoy everything before we pack it all away for another year! I’m ready to get back to the other projects that have been languishing while I indulged in these whimsical decorations.

Oh, but I just saw that Marsha Glassner designed a Santa doily. Christmas will be here before we know it ...

Monday, October 28, 2019

More Halloween Amigurumi

Last week, I was having fun crocheting amigurumi Halloween decorations. I’m still at it!

Four amigurumi spiders lined up on a white background. Each has a different colored body - red, green, blue, purple - with black pipe cleaner legs and black crocheted web.

I started with the Sheep(ish) Spiders pattern by Allison Hoffman. For the bodies of the spiders, I used Lion Brand Bonbons from the colorway Crayons, held double, with a 3.5 mm (E) hook. For the web, I used some sport weight black yarn from my stash with a 5.0 mm (H) hook.

The web is a loosely crocheted chain; I attached a piece of black yarn to each spider then tied them onto the web. I left a long end where I connected the yarn onto the web, then wove and tied the yarn end at angles to make it more web-like.

Purple amigurumi spider with black pipe cleaner legs and loosely crocheted web on a white background.

I had a little trouble at first getting the pipe cleaner legs through the spider bodies. Maybe I stuffed them too firmly? What I found worked best was to poke the crochet hook through the spider, bend the end of the pipe cleaner over the tip of the hook, then pull the hook and pipe cleaner back through the spider.

As I was finishing up the spiders, my daughter requested a bat. She chose the Spooky Batty Bat pattern by Crafty Bunny Bun.

Amigurumi bat made from dark gray yarn with hints of metallic sparkle on a white background.

I used Red Heart Shimmer in Pewter, which has a hint of metallic sparkle, with a 2.75 mm (C) hook. And, oh, what a challenge! Between the subtle fuzziness of the yarn blurring the stitches and the dark gray seemingly absorbing all of the nearby light, I struggled to see the stitches.

While this was a simple pattern, it was the fussiest of the amigurumi patterns I crocheted because I had to make the ears and wings separately then sew them on. And totally worth it, based on my daughter’s reaction when it was done!

As I write this, there are a few days left until Halloween and I have one last spooky project on my crochet hook. Will it be finished in time? Stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The Three Amigurumi

Halloween is almost here, and we have a shortage of decorations. Over the years, pieces have been broken or lost. It’s time for a refresh!

I looked in a few stores, but none of the decorations spoke to me. Then I realized I was going about it all wrong — why buy decorations when I can make them?!

That’s how I found myself going down the rabbit hole of Halloween project ideas on Ravelry. Oh, so many ideas!

I started with two amigurumi patterns by Josephine Wu: Baby Ghost Ornaments for Halloween and Halloween Candy Corn Creatures.

Three Halloween amigurumi in a row on a white background: a candy corn, a ghost, and a green monster.

First up was the Baby Ghost pattern on a 3.75 mm (F) hook with Red Heart Super Saver white yarn. Even though I used an Aran weight yarn instead of worsted, the stitches are more open on the lower half of the ghost due to the nature of the crochet decreases. With white yarn on white stuffing, it’s not very noticeable — and if a little fluff pokes out, it gives the ghost a wispy look. But if I make this again, I’ll probably go down a hook size.

The ghost’s pink cheeks are from a touch of eye shadow rather than fabric paint. We’ll see how well it holds up.

Next, I crocheted a candy corn with the Candy Corn pattern and a 3.75 mm (F) hook. For the yellow and orange, I used DK weight acrylic Lion Brand Bonbons from the colorway Crayons. I have some white Caron yarn in my stash that’s the same weight, so I used that instead of the Red Heart for consistency. Each of the yarns was held double.

Finally, I used the same pattern to make a Frankenstein’s monster. Appropriate to the subject, this piece is made from an assortment of scraps. The green at the bottom is from the same Bonbons pack as the candy corn colors. However, I used a single strand of the yarn this time, which led me to choose a 3.5 mm (E) hook.

The dark green is an Aran weight yarn, leftover from a needlepoint project. For the top of the monster, I held a strand of black yarn with a strand of black and green eyelash yarn. I started with Aran weight black, leftover from the same needlepoint project, and when that ran out I used a DK weight black.

I added black stitches to one side of the monster’s forehead, but forgot to add bolts to the sides of his head. The more I look at him, the more I like him without the bolts.

I had so much fun making these little projects, each between 2.5 and 3.5 inches (6 to 9 cm) tall. I was briefly stymied by a lack of safety eyes; otherwise, they were all quick and easy. I want to make more! At the same time, I want to try some of the other patterns that I found.

Good thing there are almost two weeks left until Halloween!

Sunday, October 13, 2019

The Hexagon Project: Block 24

Such optimism! The last time I wrote about The Hexagon Project, I was excited to get back into a hand sewing routine with English paper piecing after a six-month lull.

At least the latest break was only ten weeks.

Angled view of an EPP hexie block in dark brown, orange, light purple and off-white on a white background.

This time, however, I think I really am getting into a new routine. I started a new job, which means I’m back to stitching on my lunch breaks — and that’s a good thing, because I’m too tired in the evenings to touch any of my other projects.

I’ve only made one new EPP hexagon flower block so far, but I’m confident that more will be coming soon.

Top view of an EPP hexagon flower block in dark brown, orange, light purple and off-white on a white background.

This color combination is one of my favorites. I made a queen-size quilt from these fabrics, but with soft gray accents instead of dark brown.

The bright cheeriness of this hexie block seems appropriate for my new wave of optimism!

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Calla Lily Bag

A while back, I’d guess five to ten years ago, I sewed a purse for myself using quilting cotton. I used the Phlipphlap Bag pattern by Nancy Mirman and Ellen Hauben with some size changes.

The handbag was a challenge to make, particularly because the pattern calls for many layers of fabric plus batting. Even after hammering seams, I struggled to fit the fabric under my machine’s presser foot.

But I have loved this bag! It’s the perfect combination of colors, shapes, and even some (purchased) handmade buttons. I can fit everything I need inside, and it suits almost every occasion. I receive compliments on it regularly, including once by both salespeople and customers in a Coach store!

I have so many photos I could share, but that purse isn’t the focus of this post.

Over time, the fabric has begun to show wear. I’ve made repairs, but it’s gotten to the point that I can’t keep up. It’s no longer just fraying edges; the fabric panels themselves are thinning.

Close-up of colorful fraying fabric purse on dark wood.

Because of my difficulties the first time around — and because I don’t think I could find such an ideal mix of colors and prints again — I didn’t want to make an updated version of the handbag.

My search for a new bag pattern led me to the Calla Lily Bag by Cat Bordhi, which is published in “The Knitter’s Book of Yarn” by Clara Parkes.

Swinging in the opposite direction of my colorful fabric bag, I bought five skeins of Patons North America Classic Wool Worsted in the colorway Dark Gray Mix. The yarn is a little lighter weight than what the pattern calls for, but it’s available locally and I knew it would felt. In order to achieve gauge, I had to use larger knitting needles than the pattern suggests: US-15 (10 mm).

Bottom of loosely knit dark gray wool handbag before fulling.

I acquainted myself with the pattern and its reviews beforehand, so I didn’t have any trouble understanding the construction. The knitting itself is almost entirely stockinette stitch.

I wanted the short side of my purse to be taller than the six inches (15 cm) specified in the pattern, so I knit to 18 inches (46 cm) before beginning the decreases. I also wanted a longer strap; I knit for 39 inches (99 cm) instead of 25 inches (64 cm). In every other respect, I followed the pattern.

Strap of loosely knit dark gray wool purse before felting.

The knitting at this point was so big that when I put the strap over my shoulder, the bag itself rested on the ground. You can find the before and after measurements listed together at the bottom of this post for easy comparison.

I have little experience with felting or fulling, which made that part of the instructions nerve-wracking. I had spent so much time knitting, and once I started to shrink the fabric there would be no turning back!

Bordhi says to set the machine for low, but doesn’t specify if she means the water level or the agitation. To stay on the safe side, I set my machine for a normal hot cycle with regular agitation. In retrospect, I should have used the high agitation setting because I had to run the purse through six cycles. It could possibly benefit from one more, but I’m afraid of making it too small.

Dark gray fulled wool purse with red handmade button and silver metal label on a dark wood background.

I liked the idea of adding buttons along with some sort of buttonhole flap. I would feel like the contents were more secure, and it would give me an opportunity to reuse the buttons from my old handbag.

After the bag was done and I knew the scale I was working with, I knit a rectangle to use as the buttonhole flap. Fulling that piece taught me that the center of the rectangle shrinks differently than the cast-on and cast-off edges, resulting in a sort of bowtie shape — I don’t know whether this is due to the nature of fulling or the way I weaved the ends. I tried again, making the ends narrower this time. That piece of fulled fabric came out as a rectangle, but it still wasn’t exactly what I envisioned. Both pieces have the look of homemade maxi pads gone awry; I’ll spare you the photos.

After giving it more thought, I looped together three dark gray ponytail holders. I love the simplicity of this solution! They look good, they’re stretchy, they’re inexpensive, and I didn’t have to fuss with closing the ends of the loops.

Close-up of dark gray fulled wool purse with yellow handmade button on a dark wood background.

As a final touch, I added a metal label that I found in my button box:

Silver metal label that says "possibility begins with imagination" sewn onto dark gray wool felt fabric.

Cheers to possibilities, imagination, and a new purse!

Measurements

 

Bottom

  • Before: 15.5 by 6.5 inches (39 x 16.5 cm)
  • After: 10 by 3.25 inches (25.5 x 8 cm)

Height on Short Side

  • Before: 18 inches (46 cm)
  • After: 9 inches (23 cm)

Height on Long Side

  • Before: 31 inches (79 cm)
  • After: 16.5 inches (42 cm)

Strap Width

  • Before: 2.75 inches (7 cm)
  • After: 1.5 inches (4 cm)

Strap Length

  • Before: 39 inches (99 cm)
  • After: 24 inches (61 cm)

Monday, September 9, 2019

Open Twisted Ribbing Socks

I think my tastes are changing. For years, socks have been my favorite knitting project. No matter what else I was working on, I always had a pair of socks on the needles. It might take me as little as two days or as much as two weeks to knit a pair of socks.

The pair I just completed took a month. And that required a lot of willpower.

Feet standing casually wearing socks knit in autumn colors on a white background.

It’s possible that the yarn wasn’t holding my interest. It’s Berroco Sox Metallic in colorway 1375, which is a self-striping wool and nylon blend in orange, green, brown, and purple with flecks of metallic gold.

The yarn itself is fine. In fact, I used it to knit a pair of socks for my children about ten years ago. The socks were outgrown long before they showed any signs of wearing out, so I had frogged them and set aside the yarn to reuse.

I think my original plan was to reuse the same stitch pattern — Little Shell Rib by Charlene Schurch in her book “Sensational Knitted Socks” — but somehow that idea didn’t make it to casting on. Instead, I chose the Open Twisted Ribbing pattern by Charlene Schurch in her book “More Sensational Knitted Socks.”

Feet wearing wool socks knit in autumn colors on a white background.

Working top down, the instructions for the heel turn came out noticeably off-center. I adjusted the stitches to center them, and then my stitch count on the sole was off by one stitch. I preferred the one-stitch difference, so I kept my adjustments to the heel turn.

When picking up the stitches along the side of the heel flap, I used the “Perfect Pick-Up” technique that I learned and shared last month. With that last pair of socks, knit stitches made up both edges of the heel flap and I found the technique to be easy and pretty. With this pair, the edges are garter stitch; it was more difficult for me to pick up the correct stitches, and it didn’t turn out quite so pretty on one sock.

Otherwise, the pattern was easy to memorize and to knit. I really like that the stitch pattern creates strong vertical lines in contrast to the horizontal stripes of color.

So why didn’t this project hold my interest? Maybe it was because I already made a pair of socks with this yarn. The colors are ideal for autumn, but maybe they don’t hold the same appeal ten years later. Or maybe — gasp! — I’m losing interest in knitting socks.

With more than 25 pairs of hand knit socks in my drawer, time is on my side until the desire to knit a pair of socks strikes again.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Teal T-Shirt Pillow

Over the summer, we’ve been slowly going through our youngest’s clothes to determine what still fits and what doesn’t. We have a 13-gallon (50 liter) trash bag full of items that are ready to be donated.

As the one who receives all of the hand-me downs, many of the items aren’t to our daughter’s taste; it’s almost a relief to have them no longer taking up drawer space. And, of course, there are some pieces with designs that are too childish for her now. But a few still hold some appeal, if only they were her size.

Detail of teal t-shirt throw pillow with sequins set in horizontal stripes on a white background.

I set aside a few tops to upcycle. Since my sewing background is mainly in quilting, you’d probably expect a memory quilt. While she likes the shirts, they’re not quite at the level of holding special memories.

They are, however, strong enough designs in their own right to become stand-alone projects.

T-Shirt to Pillow


First up was a long-sleeved T-shirt with sequins set in horizontal stripes across the front. It really wanted to become a throw pillow.

Teal t-shirt throw pillow with sequins set in horizontal stripes, on a white background.

I cut the shirt along the seams, then ironed 13-inch (33 cm) squares of non-woven fusible interfacing to the wrong sides of the front and back shirt pieces. After cutting the shirt pieces down to the size of the interfacing, I marked the corners to make them rounded.

With right sides together, I machine-sewed most of the perimeter with a 1/2-inch (1 cm) seam allowance. I left about 5 inches (13 cm) unsewn on one side, to turn the pillow right-side out and insert a 12-inch (30.5 cm) pillow form, then closed the opening with a hand-sewn ladder stitch.

The entire project took no more than two hours — most of that was spent steaming the interfacing onto the fabric. I’m looking forward to making similar projects from the other saved T-shirts.

What I'm not looking forward to is phase two in my daughter’s room: going through the old toys.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Live Oak Shawlette

Pivot.

A friend once told me that their team motto at work is simply the word pivot. They even had t-shirts made up with this verb that means to turn around a central point. They have one primary goal in their department, but they often find themselves taking that goal in different directions.

I was reminded of her story as I worked on my most recent project.

Details of wool hand knit lace shawl edge in gray with colorful flecks on dark wood.

In the spring, I bought a skein of Skinny Singles by Hedgehog Fibres in the colorway Juniper. I was so taken by the overall look — gray speckled with an assortment of bright colors — that I missed that little detail about the singles construction.

I was all set to cast on for a pair of socks when I realized my oversight. Singles yarns aren’t as durable as plied yarns, and therefore not ideal for the abuse that socks need to be able to withstand.

It was time to pivot.


After going through my pattern library, I decided to make the Live Oak Shawlette by Romi Hill. It seemed to have just the right balance of simplicity and detail to play well with my flecked yarn.

Details of wool hand knit lace shawlette edge in gray with colorful flecks on dark wood.

The cast-on was new to me, but overall the pattern is simple and straightforward. I thoroughly enjoyed knitting this shawlette, watching the colors come together as the center stockinette took the shape of a semicircle while the outer lace moved the design into straight lines and angles.

Although I’ve made plenty of scarves, I rarely make shawls. When I wear one, I feel like I may as well be wrapped in a blanket. But at about 40 inches across (102 cm) and 13 inches high (33 cm), this shawlette feels more like a playful scarf. (And the pattern includes instructions for a larger version, for those of you who prefer a full shawl.)

Wool hand knit lace scarf in gray with colorful flecks draped on a metal ladder in front of a blue wall.

This is one pivot that I’m glad I made.

How have your unexpected turns worked out recently?

Friday, August 16, 2019

M7092 Sleeveless Top

A while back, my husband needed new undershirts. Out of convenience, he looked for some while at a nearby supercenter and chose four in a new-to-him brand. That was a mistake.

Woman standing in front of a porch rail wearing oversized t-shirt with stretched out collar.

The fabric is soft and has good stretch, but that's the extent of its positive points. Did you notice how the collar sticks up? Who could wear that under another shirt?

The four shirts had already been washed, and the packaging and receipts thrown away when we noticed the poor fit. I suppose we still could have returned them, but it didn't feel right at that point.

I thought I might remove then resew the collars to get them to lie flat. I set the undershirts over the back of my sewing chair and they were forgotten after my husband purchased replacement undershirts from a familiar brand.

A few weeks ago, I walked by the pile of undershirts for the umpteenth time. I remembered that I have some Rit dye in the laundry room, and an idea bloomed.

I’d been wanting to attempt garment sewing again — maybe pajamas so beginner mistakes wouldn’t matter as much — but didn't want to spend money on fabric. Why not change the color of those undershirts and reuse the fabric?

I followed the instructions on my package of purple all-purpose Rit dye to color three of the four undershirts, hoping the cotton content labelled on the shirts was correct. I’ll admit, I would not have been surprised if the dye didn’t take because the shirts were made from a synthetic material.

Wonder of wonders, the fabric really is cotton! And a lovely purple now, too!

This is where things get a little silly. Any experienced clothing sewist will probably wonder why in the world I cut up four men's shirts to make one semi-fitted nightshirt. What was I thinking?

Well, I was thinking that I want to get better at sewing from patterns. Learning isn’t about efficiency — that comes later.

McCall’s M7092 sewing pattern was already in my pattern library. I chose to sew View A, which is a sleeveless top. The upper bodice crosses at the center front with accent fabric at the neckline and gathers near the bust line.

I learned a few things from this project:
  1. I need to learn a good way to improve my size choices because, once again, I used the wrong pattern size. Based on my measurements, I needed to make at least a size 18. My pattern only went up to size 16. Since sewing pattern sizing is often too large for me, I thought size 16 might be fine. Measuring the pattern pieces themselves seemed to confirm this. But the finished top ended up at least two sizes too big. I took in each side by probably 1.5-2 inches  (3.8-5 cm) at the underarm then graded it out to the waist. It’s still too large in the shoulders, but for a sleep shirt it will work just fine.
  2. Reusing fabric from another garment isn’t necessarily a practical choice. True, I didn’t spend any additional money. But in the photos, you can see that there’s some excess fabric below the underarms and along the lower size seams; those are areas where I had to cross an existing undershirt seam, including an armscye, when cutting my new pattern pieces. I wonder if that worsened my problem with choosing the wrong size. In retrospect, I should have cut and sewn a new seam in those places to be sure the fabric was on grain and flat.
  3. On the other hand, reusing fabric isn’t all bad. I lined up the lower bodice pattern pieces along the bottom hem of the undershirts, which saved me from having to sew that hem.
  4. Quality of materials matters! I knew this already, of course. But one of my original dislikes about the undershirts was their uneven seams. Working with the fabric, I learned how much this fabric shifts during sewing — the uneven seams were (and are!) due more to the fabric type than the workmanship. I’m sure this affected the collars as well.
The pattern itself is labeled as “easy” and I agree that it is. I didn’t expect there to be four layers of fabric at the bust; if I decide to make this again as a daytime shirt, I’ll be sure to choose a lightweight fabric to account for those layers. And I’d like to point out that the accent fabric is only attached to the main bust fabric at the shoulders and under the bust, which would make this a discreet nursing top.

The best part? The dye color happens to perfectly match the purple sheep in my favorite pair of pajama pants!

Friday, August 9, 2019

Purple Pointelle

If you’ve been a reader for a while, you know that knitting socks is one of my favorite types of projects. There’s something very relaxing to me about casting on for a pair of socks, and wearing them brightens my day.

What’s not to love?

An overstuffed sock drawer! I’ve gotten away from knitting socks for that reason. And because I have a lot of partial skeins of sock yarn that I need to work through before I have a clear enough conscience to buy more.

This spring while we were visiting family, we stopped into a local yarn shop. My sister, who doesn’t knit or crochet, was admiring some of the colors. I told her that if she bought the yarn, I would knit a pair of socks for her. Win-win!


She chose Sparkle Sock in the colorway Rainbow Connection V1.2 from ShirtsyCat Designs. The subtle color variations are amazing and the sliver stellina non-metal fiber adds just the right amount of sparkle.

Then my sister gave me free rein to choose the stitch pattern. I wanted something pretty, of course, but the stitch pattern also had to strike a balance between being intricate enough to minimize potential color pooling and simple enough not to compete with the color variations in the yarn.


I chose Pointelle from the book “Knit. Sock. Love.” by Cookie A. For as complicated as the socks look, the charts for each foot — yes, the motifs for right and left are mirrored — made the pattern surprisingly easy to knit. And the softness of the yarn made the experience that much more enjoyable. (I’m not affiliated with any of these, by the way.)

As usual before starting the pattern, I researched comments on Ravelry. I found a few that I thought might be helpful, but there was only one that I ended up using. Ibnik shared a pair of videos for “the perfect pick-up” of heel flap stitches. Here they are:



I really liked this technique and will use it going forward. It was a little more effort to pick up the stitches but, in the end, the heel flap looked just a bit more polished to me.

All in all, I had my sock-knitting fix, my sister has a new hand knit pair of socks, and my sock drawer still closes — barely.

Friday, August 2, 2019

The Hexagon Project: Blocks 22-23

After a six-month lull, I’m getting back into a routine of stitching together hexies for my English paper piecing hexagon flower quilt.

Angled view of green cutting mat covered with printed papers, a metal ruler, an X-ACTO knife, a hole punch, cut hexagon templates, and paper scraps.

First up was cutting more paper templates. This is one of those boring-but-necessary tasks, but now I should have enough to keep me going for a while. The current mix of whites and ivories adds a small amount of visual interest, at least.

I’ve been cutting my templates from card stock that’s too thick for our printer. This time, I also added some light press board; I won’t be doing that again as it’s a little too thick for the EPP blocks. It’s difficult to bend the press board templates while I stitch, and I can actually feel the difference in how the seams fold over the thicker surface.

Angled view of two hexagon flower blocks, one in bright primary colors and the other in purples, on a white background.

With more templates at hand, I as ready to get back to sewing. I finished the two blocks I had in progress, as I had hoped to, but Tour de Fleece distracted me from making more.

A lot of time has passed since I grouped color combinations of hexies for the flower blocks. I have them set aside in stacks, and it’s a fun little surprise now to see what I end up with each time I grab a stack to begin a new block.

Top view of two hexagon flower blocks, one in bright primary colors and the other in purples, on a white background.

I can’t wait to see the blocks I have done by next month!

Sunday, July 28, 2019

The End of Tour de Fleece 2019

Today is the last day of Tour de Fleece 2019. I’ll spin more fiber into yarn today, but for all intents and purposes I’ve reached my personal end of the race.

Three skeins of of light-colored handspun wool and alpaca yarn with stretches of bright color throughout, on a white background.

As I wrote last week, I didn’t set any goals beyond spinning each day of the tour. In particular, I planned to work on a fiber pairing that I started spinning earlier this year: eight ounces (227 g) of handpainted Targhee wool from Spunky Eclectic in the colorway Let Love In, and four ounces (113 g) of white alpaca roving.

Three skeins of various sizes of light-colored handspun wool and alpaca yarn with bright colors mixed in, lined up horizontally on a white background.

This year, I spun yarn on each day of the three-week tour. That alone is a huge accomplishment for me! Using a 0.7-ounce top-whorl spindle, I spun 1.6 ounces (45 g) of fiber into 266 yards (243 m) of two-ply yarn.

Of this fiber, including the handspun that I made before the Tour, I’ve spun a total of 3.9 ounces (110.5 g) into 638 yards (583 m) of two-ply yarn. With about eight ounces (267 g) to go, I should end up with about 1,900 yards (1,737 m) of yarn when I'm done. I'm browsing patterns already.

Six skeins of various sizes of light-colored handspun wool and alpaca yarn with bright colors mixed in, lined up vertically on a white background.

As usual, Tour de Fleece has renewed my interest in spinning. I want to keep it up, even if it’s only for five minutes a day. What did you get out of Tour de Fleece 2019?

Monday, July 15, 2019

Tour de Fleece

As I write this, Tour de Fleece 2019 is well underway.

What is Tour de Fleece?


It’s an online spin-along created by Star Athena that coincides with the Tour de France — the idea behind it being “they spin, we spin.” This is the event’s fourteenth year, and the goal is unchanged: Challenge yourself and have fun!

Handpainted top whorl spindle with skeins of handspun yarn in front and unspun white and rainbow fiber behind on a white background.

This year’s Tour de Fleece runs from July 6 through July 28 with rest days on July 16 and 22, and challenge days on July 18 and 26.

A lot of participants join teams, which can be based on just about anything that might bring a group together. Goals will be set and spinners will post online about their daily progress. On some teams, prizes are awarded for different achievements.

I’ve joined teams in the past, but for those Tours my biggest challenge seemed to be keeping up with what was going on in the groups! For the last few years, I’ve loosely followed hashtags online while keeping to my own pace. It works for me.

My Progress


We’re almost halfway through this Tour, and at this point I’ve spun on my spindle every day. I don’t have a set goal this year, except that I’m spinning more of the fiber that I started earlier this year: eight ounces (227 g) of handpainted Targhee wool from Spunky Eclectic in the colorway Let Love In, and four ounces (113 g) of white alpaca roving.

Progress for Tour de Fleece 2019 with skeins of colorful yarn on the left, a top whorl spindle with loose fiber ready to be spun in the center, and loose balls of fiber on the right, all on a white background.

I have one 95-yard (87 m) skein of two-ply yarn (0.55 oz/15.6 g) to show for my efforts — but a third of that had already been spun before the Tour began. I also have a singles yarn waiting on my nostepinne as I prepare to spin what will become the second ply in a skein that should end up about twice as long as the first.

Since I began spinning this fiber in February, I’ve finished about 467 yards (427 m) of two-ply yarn spun at a relatively consistent weight and color mixture. I still have about two-thirds of the fiber to spin.

Are you participating in Tour de Fleece this year?

Friday, July 5, 2019

Lace Hem Top

We have a keeper!

My skeins of Plymouth Yarn Reserve Sport have been through two previous projects — Diamond Pullover and Elphaba — but neither was quite right. Both require a certain amount of structure from the fabric that this yarn doesn’t provide.

It wants to drape. Mari Tobita’s #02 Lace Hem Top from Vogue Knitting, Spring/Summer 2018, allows it to do that.

Front view of a woman standing in front of a white rail and green trees wearing a lavender colored sleeveless hand knit top with a lace motif toward the lower hem.

The pattern is relatively easy to follow. The cast-on is fussy, but it creates a nice base at the shoulders from which the shirt is knit seamlessly downward. Another minor quibble is that the instructions for the I-cord could have been clearer. But most of the knitting for this pullover is simply stockinette stitch and lace charts.

I usually add length to tops. I didn’t do that this time because I expected the yarn to grow as it had in the previous projects. For the same reason, I made the armholes a little shorter than directed by the pattern. Overall, these decisions worked out well.

I had forgotten that the finishing included adding I-cord to the neckline and armholes, which would help them hold their shape. I added the I-cord on one armhole, but it almost became too tight and wasn’t visible due to how the fabric curls under. In the end, I kept the I-cord on the neckline but removed it from the armholes. I reinforced the bottom edge of the armholes with duplicate stitch.

Back view of a woman standing in front of a white rail and green trees wearing a lavender colored sleeveless hand knit top with a lace motif toward the lower hem.

Some of the shaping is created by increasing the needle size as the piece progresses. I started with US-7 (4.5 mm) needles in order to achieve gauge, then moved to US-8 (5.0 mm) and US-9 (5.5 mm). With the Mauve Mix colorway of this yarn, the needle changes are evident in how the colors pool. I can’t say I love the pooling, but it doesn’t bother me either.

I’m happy with this top and happy to have found another pattern that I would like to knit again. I think it has a classic shape that can be dressed up or down, and it’s comfortable in our hot climate. With some variation in yarn choice and lace motifs, this pattern is a versatile wardrobe addition.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

The Hexagon Project: Block 21

The last time I wrote about The Hexagon Project, I ended with how exciting it would be to see my progress on this English paper piecing project in six months. It’s been almost exactly six months and the results aren’t exciting after all. My dear reader, I’ve completed one additional EPP hexagon flower block in that time.

Angled view of a hand sewn EPP hexagon flower block in blue, off-white and dark brown on a white background.

To say I fell out of my routine is an understatement. The routine is nowhere to be found!

And just as I was starting to get back into basting hexies, I noticed that I only have enough templates to stitch two more blocks. I’m trying to be both economical and environmentally-conscious by cutting the templates from card stock that I already have, but the temptation to buy a few packs on templates is strong.

Precut hexies next to basted hexies placed as hexagon flower blocks on a white background.

My plan is to report back in a month. My hope is that I’ll have additional templates cut and these two blocks — perhaps more — hand sewn. Wish me luck!

How do you get back on track with unfinished projects?

Monday, June 17, 2019

Fractal

I’ve been on a roll with crochet recently. Two months ago, I was overly optimistic with my project plans for a five-day road trip. Being settled in at home didn’t stop me from wanting to finish each of those projects.

Almost a full view of an off-white Fractal doily on a dark background.

The last of my travel projects is Fractal by Essi Varis. It’s a modern twist — no pun intended — on the classic crocheted lace doily or table runner. I love the way the simple geometry of the crochet blends a contemporary look with a vintage feel.

Detail of Fractal Table Runner highlighting the center circle and the back vane.

The design is made up of two vanes building off of a center circle in an easy-to-follow pattern. I was able to crochet the greater part of the vanes from memory, which made it ideal for on-the-go. I suppose it still ended up being a travel project!

The pattern calls for a 2.0 mm crochet hook, but I opted for a B-hook (2.25 mm) in part because I tend to crochet tightly and in part because I don’t happen to own a 2.0 mm hook. I used Aunt Lydia’s Classic Crochet Size 10 undyed thread, which surprised me with its silky feel. As expected with the change in hook size, my version of Fractal is a little larger than described in the pattern; it measures about 26.5 inches (67 cm) across at the tips of the vanes.

Detail of Fractal Table Topper highlighting the stitches on the center circle and part of one vane.

While the natural color adds to the old-fashioned spirit of the table topper, my attention span doesn’t do well when working with a single color — especially one as bland as light beige. This was likely made worse by the fact that my last few projects have been one-color pieces, or nearly so. Clearly, I need to branch out more when planning.

And the repetitive style of the design probably hurt my attention span as much as it helped me memorize the stitches. Even so, the table runner worked up relatively quickly at three weeks from start to finish.

Detail of Fractal Table Runner highlighting the front vane and the center circle.

I definitely want to make at least one more version of Fractal as a gift, but I need to “cleanse my palate” with something a little more colorful and intricate before I cast on again. Maybe I’ll set this pattern aside for our next road trip — and plan for a more attention-grabbing color!

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Almost Fractal

Isn’t it fun when a project becomes more than you planned? Sometimes that can be something greater than you expected. In this case, I mean when the components of a piece lend themselves to their own smaller projects.

Angled View of the Center Circle in the Fractal Crochet Table Runner Pattern in Size 3 Ecru Thread

I’ve been eyeing Fractal by Essi Varis for a long time, but it’s not a free pattern — plus it’s in a different currency. Such silly excuses not to buy a unique pattern that costs very little!

I finally downloaded the pattern, and bought a ball of Size 10 crochet thread. But I had some Size 3 thread leftover from a different project and thought there might be enough to crochet this table topper. Why not make two version in different sizes?

I picked up my 2.75 mm C-hook and set to work with the Size 3 thread. The pattern is easy to follow and works up quickly. But partway through the first vane, I realized there was no way I would have enough thread to finish the entire table runner.

Top View of the Center Circle in the Fractal Crochet Table Runner Pattern in Size 3 Ecru Thread

No matter — the center circle has a pretty simplicity of its own. I ripped back to the end of the center circle and finished it off as a doily.

And then I started another. I definitely had enough thread to make another circle, so why not have a set of doilies? The second circle used up almost all of my Size 3 thread.

Top View of 2 Center Circles in the Fractal Crochet Table Runner Pattern in Size 3 Ecru Thread

I’ve moved on to crocheting the full pattern in Size 10 thread, and am still enjoying the process. But that’s a story for another day.

What projects have surprised you by becoming more than you first intended?

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Verena Sleeveless Knit Shell

Summer is here in full force with temperatures topping 100 F (38 C) already. That’s far above normal for this time of year. I thought I’d be a little ahead of schedule with the summer tops in my project queue by starting in May. Not quite!

Front view of woman wearing blue hand knit sleeveless shirt with lace detail at the lower edge.

My first tank top for the season is #09 Sleeveless Shell by the Verena Design Team in the Summer 2008 issue of Verena Knitting. I used Plymouth Yarn Hannah in the color way 5 Navy. The yarn is 65% cotton and 35% rayon from bamboo. It’s a dense yarn made up of six 2-ply strands and it’s amazingly soft, although prone to splitting.

After my last sweater debacle, I didn’t want to take any chances with fit this time. I bought enough yarn for the largest size to ensure I wouldn’t come up short. And I swatched, and swatched, and swatched again.

I know cotton and rayon have little elasticity, so while the drape is lovely the fabric may not hold its shape; it can grow with wear. But I also know that those same fibers can shrink with washing and drying. I tested different gauges along with different washing and drying combinations, and felt I had a good handle on how the yarn would act as a fabric.

Ultimately, I saw a little growth in the swatches — enough that, with a bust size between two pattern sizes, I felt comfortable making the smaller of them. I debated lengthening the body of the shell, but decided against it. I was worried that the weight of the finished piece might make the shirt hang more than what I was seeing in my swatches.

Back view of woman wearing blue hand knit sleeveless shirt with lace detail at the lower edge.

The pattern is relatively straightforward. The transition from the body into the straps was unclear, but with close examination of the photos I was able to work it out.

I thought the lace chart was odd; it showed the pattern for 25 stitches plus selvedge, but the instructions were to only work the center 12 stitches plus two stitches at the beginning and three stitches at the end of each row. I never used the rest of the chart. In addition, decreases were to be made while working the lace but the decreases weren't accounted for in the chart; I had to count stitches to make sure everything was aligned once I began decreasing.

I’m happy with the shell. So far, the fit is good and the fabric doesn’t show signs of changing shape. But there are a few items I would address if I were to make it again. I would adjust the stitch pattern in the straps because they want to curl. And, while I’m happy with the overall length of this tank top, I would feel more comfortable if the lace started lower on the body; it reaches above my belly button right now.

If this heat wave continues, maybe I’ll find that I prefer the lace placement as is. A little extra “air conditioning” might be just the thing!

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Two Kinds of Cloths

I never know whether to call them washcloths or dishcloths. The same cloth could be used for either purpose. But today, the two kinds of cloths I’m writing about are different patterns.

Two crocheted cotton orange washcloths or dishcloths stacked on top of a white cloth on a white background.

Alex Cloth


Last week, I wrote about crocheting the Alex Bath Mat by Busted Hook Patterns. I used a cone of Lily Sugar’n Cream Solids in White for the main color, and two balls of Lily Sugar’n Cream Ombre in the colorway Summer Prints for the accent color.

I crocheted until I couldn’t make another full repeat of the pattern, and ended up with 0.3 oz (8.5 g) of White and 1.35 oz (38 g) of Summer Prints left over. Why not make a coordinating cloth with the main and accent colors switched?

Two bright orange crocheted cotton Diagonal Dishcloths on an Alex Bath Mat with another cloth made from the Alex pattern

Once again, I used an I-hook (5.25 mm instead of the standard 5.5 mm). I started with a 32-stitch chain for a cloth that measures 9.5 inches (24 cm) square. I ran out of both colors toward the end, but was able to crochet the last few rows as an accent stripe with some extra white cotton yarn from another project.

Diagonal Dishcloth


With a 3-ounce (85 g) ball of Lily Sugar’n Cream Ombre in the colorway Soleil Ombre and the Diagonal Dishcloth pattern by Ananda Judkins, I was ready to make more cloths.

This is another easy pattern. Crocheted as written, except once again using my I-hook instead of the recommended H-hook, I was able to make two 9.5-inch square cloths with a little yarn left over. After a trip through the washer and dryer, these cloths are 7.5 inches (19 cm) square. They worked up very quickly and have a nice springiness to them — both in feel and in brightness.

Two bright orange crocheted cotton Diagonal Dishcloths on an Alex Bath Mat with another cloth made from the Alex pattern

All of these are going to be used as washcloths, although our dishcloths are looking a little worse for wear. Maybe it’s time to plan — and shop — for making dishcloths!