Sunday, May 31, 2020

Braided Gem Socks

Once again, I have a project to share but not much to say.

Casually posed feet wearing hand knit wool socks in shades of gray with spots of purple against a white background.

The yarn is new to me: Wonderland Yarns & Frabjous Fibers Mary Ann in colorway 299 Moonbeams. It’s a soft yarn with a little bit of fuzziness that I hope won’t pill. The hand-dyed colors are gorgeous splashes of purples, blues and pinks against shades of gray. I had absolutely no problems with pooling.

Toes of feet wearing hand knit wool socks in shades of gray with spots of purple against a white background.

The pattern is Braided Gem Socks by Elizabeth Ravenwood, from the book “Knitting Socks with Handpainted Yarn” by Carol Sulcoski. It’s easy to understand and I memorized the pattern repeat early on, but I had a few issues with the stitch count when I reached the toes. I’m not sure whether the fault lies with me or the pattern, but I was able to make it work without much effort so it wouldn’t prevent me from knitting the pattern again.

Temperatures here are now consistently high enough that my toenails are painted and my sandals are seeing regular use. But there’s still so much going on in the world right now that I’m continuing to use sock knitting as a form of therapeutic stress relief. At this rate, I’ll have a lot of happy surprises when I revisit my sock drawer in the fall.

Take care out there.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Baby Cable Rib Socks

I don’t have much to say right now except that knitting socks really soothes my nerves.

Feet in a casual pose against a white background, wearing hand knit multi-colored socks with a subtle cable rib pattern.

With a skein of Dream in Color Smooshy in the colorway 901 Cabaret, I knit the Baby Cable Rib pattern by Charlene Schurch in her book “Sensational Knitted Socks.”

Close-up of the cuffs and legs on a pair of hand knit multi-colored socks with a subtle cable rib pattern against a white background.

The stitch pattern was easy to remember. I’ve worked with Smooshy before and still love that the texture is true to the name. It was fun to see how the hand-dyed colors played out in the knitting.

Close-up of the toes and feet on a pair of hand knit multi-colored socks with a subtle cable rib pattern against a white background.

I have plans for at least two more pairs of socks in the near future. It’s not the most practical project choice considering we’ve already had temperatures in the 90s F (30s C), but they’ll get plenty of wear in time.

For now, they’re excellent therapy.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Springtime Table Runner

It’s been a long couple of months, hasn’t it?

With our lives in such a strange state of upheaval and sameness, my mental energy seems to be constantly changing. I move from one thing to another as my attention span and brain power allow.

I had been wanting to do some sewing, but I just wanted to sew. I pulled out a set of five quilt block kits from a long-ago quilt shop hop. I think I was supposed to end up with enough blocks to make a full quilt; clearly, I didn’t do quite enough hopping.

A neatly folded quilted table runner made from pastel floral cotton fabrics, resting dark wood.

Each kit included instructions and enough fabric to make a twelve-inch finished block. The fabrics were all from the same line and were pre-cut into strips. I was disappointed to learn that some of the strips were short or crooked, which left me with some pieces that were a little shy of the sizes they needed to be.

Four of the patterns were straightforward. The fifth, however, spanned multiple pages and required cutting out templates that were printed onto the backs of the instructions — at the time, I'm sure that shop would have been more than happy to sell me a set of templates to simplify the process.

I sewed the first four blocks together, and decided the fabric for the fifth block would be better used elsewhere. Because the fabric pieces weren’t cut precisely, the blocks ended up a little wavy and uneven.

After running through a few different ideas for what to make with the blocks, I decided on a table runner. In my stash, I found an off-white for the sashing and border, and a delicate flower bud print for the backing. There was just enough fabric from that fifth block to make a scrappy binding.

Loosely folded quilted table runner made from pastel floral cotton fabrics, resting on dark wood.

As far as the quilting, I wanted to stay in my comfort zone with simple straight lines but three of the blocks were made on a 6x6 grid while the fourth was made on an 8x8 grid. I could sew around the edges of the blocks or through their middles, but beyond that I wouldn’t be able to keep the quilting lines evenly spaced while also aligning with the block patterns.

I devised a pattern of diagonals that worked with the 6x6 grids and overlapped onto the 8x8 grid. Some areas have diagonals going in the same direction, some areas have diagonals crossing in opposite directions, and one section on the 8x8 grid ended up with no quilting. I quilted a series of horizontal lines (or vertical lines, depending on how you look at it) in that area. I like the result; it’s a sort of irregular regularity that works well with my current state of mind!

As is every quilter’s dream, the waves in the blocks have quilted out. The table runner a nice spot of brightness and cheer in these days that somewhat run together. Now that learn-from-home is done for this school year, I’m looking forward to this table runner replacing notebooks and computers on the dining room table.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Four Years!

Wow, it snuck up on me that today is The Art of Making Blog’s fourth blogiversary. Thank you for choosing to spend some of your time with me!

My main goal for this past year was to focus less on posting on a schedule and more on posting when I have something to share. In the past year, I’ve made only 32 posts instead of a weekly 52. By removing those weekly deadlines, I’m enjoying the blog more — and I hope you are as well.

The five most visited posts from the past year are:

Five photos in a row representing the most-read posts from the past 12 months: a doily, a quilt block, an amigurumi, a knit top, and another doily.

With the exception of the Lace Hem Top, these projects are all items for the home. Although the page views I’m looking at are for the past 12 months, it seems fitting right now that our focus would be on pieces that improve our surroundings.

However, three of the posts are from consecutive weeks in the summer and two are from a series of Halloween posts in the fall. More realistically than some prescient affinity for home, something about how I was sharing posts during those times caught your eyes. It likely comes back to marketing rather than the content itself, go figure.

Ah, well, I’m going to keep making and sharing posts that I enjoy — and I hope that somewhere along the line you like what you see. Cheers to the beginning of year five!

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Color Block Pullover

I hope you’re all staying safe and well. Despite our state opening up, we’re still sheltering-in-place as much as we can. I’ve returned to working from home, which is surprisingly exhausting — I worked from home for years, but these circumstances are very different.

I would like to be someone who shares a post about my mask-making efforts during this time at home, but I can’t do it. I donated quite a bit of fabric to other makers, then settled in to two days of mask production. I barely made enough masks for our household and the effort left me emotionally drained. It took me more than two days to get out of the funk that I fell into. My making time is a time for escaping from reality for a little while; this kept my mind focused on the virus and its effects. Even though I know that homemade masks have serious limitations, I felt so much responsibility to get them right. If I were to send someone out in a mask that I made and they caught COVID-19, it would gut me. I wholeheartedly applaud those of you who are throwing yourselves into making masks.

My attention span has been short, so I’ve been bouncing around between different activities. As far as knitting, machine sewing, and hand sewing, I think I have four projects in progress right now. I’ve also been exercising, learning French and CSS code, reading romance novels and books related to my work, and doing crossword puzzles. And let’s not forget combing through various websites trying to find essentials in stock, meal planning like we’re in an episode of Chopped, and the usual cooking and cleaning. But I actually managed to finish something!

Front view of a woman standing outside wearing a hand knit short sleeve top in shades of pink.

With summer coming soon, I wanted to knit another warm-weather top. I decided on the #22 Color Block Pullover by Mari Lynn Patrick in the Late Winter 2019 issue of Vogue Knitting. The yarn I chose is Lana Grossa Linea Pura Solo Lino in the colorways 3 Rose, 35 Dark Rose, and 39 Lilac. I know, Lilac is a bit of an oddball choice with the rose colors but it looked more pink on my computer screen when I was placing my order.

This t-shirt is supposed to be oversized, but the pattern doesn’t mention how much positive ease to include when choosing a size. I made a Small to give me four inches (10.2 cm) of positive ease, anticipating that the linen could make the garment grow with wearing. After blocking and wearing, it’s still measuring true to size and I like the look and feel as it is. While it is not close-fitting, I think I could have gone up one size for more of an oversized look — but I worry that then the armholes would be too large. Maybe armhole length wouldn’t be an issue with the sleeves hanging further down my arms.

Back view of a woman standing outside wearing a hand knit short sleeve top in shades of pink.

The pattern was easy to follow. My biggest frustration was due to the fact that the only knitting needles I have in the size I needed are aluminum. It was a constant effort to prevent the stitches from slipping off.

The yarn is wonderful. It felt nice in my hands while I was knitting, and feels even better while wearing. It gives the shirt a nice drape and swing that feels pleasantly heavy and airy at the same time.

As far as the colors, as I mentioned they’re not exactly what I was expecting but I like them well enough. Looking at the website even now, I don’t know if I could pick a better combination if I ordered again. Maybe next time, it will be worth the time to screenshot all of the colors so I can mix and match to see them side by side. If anyone knows of a yarn store that incorporates a "compare these colors" type of feature on their site, please let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Garter Rib Socks

This is a strange time. We're isolating due to COVID-19, and with that comes a certain amount of stress and worry, both for ourselves and on behalf of loved ones. But at the same time, there isn’t much we can actively do to help the situation — staying put at home is about the best of it.

For me, that means a lot of nervous energy. I need to keep my hands busy under normal circumstances. That need is stronger now, yet my attention is being pulled in multiple directions.

So I cast on a pair of socks.

Casually posed feet wearing striped multi-colored hand knit wool socks on a white background.

I chose the Garter Rib pattern by Charlene Schurch. It’s only a bit more involved than a basic knit-two-purl-two rib, which is nice and easy for my mind to handle right now.

And I used eight different yarns, leftover from previous socks projects. The yarns have slightly different weights and therefore different gauges. I decided that US-1 (2.25 mm) was a safe needle size with a 72-stitch cast-on.

I split the balls of yarn roughly in half then knit with two at a time, alternating them with each row. As I came to the end of one yarn, I brought in the next. The yarns are:
  • Berroco Sox Metallic in colorway 1375
  • Regia Blitz Color in colorway 02527
  • Misti Alpaca Hand Paint Sock in colorway 06
  • Noro Kureyon Sock in colorway S233
  • Plymouth Yarn Rockin' Sox in colorway 3 Multi
  • Plymouth Yarn Dancing Toes in colorway 99 White, which I had dyed with Kool-Aid flavors lemon-lime, ice blue raspberry lemonade, changin’ cherry, berry blue, and fruit punch
  • Cascade Yarns Heritage Solids in 5618 Snow, which I had dyed with Kool-Aid flavors strawberry, grape and berry blue
  • And unidentified sock yarn that my Mom sent to me; I believe it may be Lion Brand Sock-Ease Prints

The only place where I was unable to alternate yarns after each row was at the heel turn. Happily, that’s an area that can always use reinforcement. I held the yarn double through the heel turn then picking up the stitches around the heel flap. As I began the gusset decrease, I was able to return to alternating the yarns.

Although I used the yarns in the same order, the yardage wasn't the same in each ball. The color repeats also began and ended in different places or, for longer repeats, were different sets of colors entirely. It makes me smile that, despite all of that, somehow the socks have almost identical dark red strips at the base of the toes.

Tops of feet wearing colorfully striped hand knit wool socks on a white background, showcasing a prominent dark red stripe in the same place on each sock despite differencs throughout the rest of the colors.

Not only do I have a colorful new pair of socks, but I also made my sock yarn stash a bit smaller. Of the yarns listed above, I used up all of it except the Misti Alpaca and the Dancing Toes.

I want to make another pair, this time with a different group of colors and working from the toe upward. But first, my latest yarn order was delivered so I want to knit with the new yarns!

Stay safe, dear readers.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

The Hexagon Project: Blocks 33-37

I’ve had a productive month with my English paper piecing. In five weeks, I’ve hand sewn five hexagon flower blocks, bringing my total up to 37.

Five multi-coloted overlapping hexagon flower blocks in a row on a white background.

The last time I wrote about The Hexagon Project, I had just cut the last of my card stock into paper hexie templates and ordered a pack of 600 pre-cut templates online from Nancy’s Notions. It was my first order with them; the product description didn’t mention the weight of the paper and there weren’t any reviews, so I was anxiously awaiting my delivery.

Well, they arrived on time and I’m so happy! The paper weight is a little lighter than what I’ve been using, but still thick enough to be called card stock — remember, I was originally using card stock that was too thick to fit into a home printer. I want to punch holes in the centers of the hexies, and that will be simple enough.

An open package of paper hexagon templates with some templates spilling out in an arc, next to a machine sewing needle on a white background.

Plus, the store included a free 80/12 universal sewing machine needle in my package. I’m more excited by this surprise than I probably should be — sometimes the little things make a big difference!

At some point in the past few months, I thought that I had passed the halfway point as far as the number of flower blocks needed for a queen size Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt. I set out all of the blocks this morning, then crunched some numbers. More realistically, I think I might be a third of the way there. Oof.

How do you stay excited about long-term projects?

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Darn It All

Hello, readers! I've seen an increase in visitors in the past week or so. With so many of us staying at home due to COVID-19 concerns, I imagine a lot of you are passing the time by catching up on reading blogs. Welcome!

I’m working from home until at least mid-April. Although I’d love to ease some stress by immersing myself in making, that’s not an option for me right now. I did place an order for some yarn more than a week ago, but delivery is understandably slow.

While I wait for my new yarn to arrive, I’m focusing on the practical by darning my old hand-knit socks.

A foot wearing a darned green hand-knit sock on a white background.

Can you see the repairs? While I was making the duplicate stitches, I thought the difference between the new yarn and the slightly-faded-and-pilling original yarn was glaringly obvious. But looking at the photo now, I struggle to make out where I made the repairs on the sole at the heel, toe and ball of the foot.

Detail of hand-knit green socks with darned toes and ball of the foot on a white background.

Detail of hand-knit green socks with darned heels on a white background.

This is only the first pair of socks, and the most solid color. The others are self-striping or have short color changes which will be almost impossible to match. I suppose they would have made more interesting photos.

I think this stitch work is helping to relieve my stress. When I have a lot on my mind, I tend to dream about my worries on repeat in a way that isn’t the least bit restful. After an evening of sock darning, however, I dreamed over and over about making more duplicate stitches — and woke up feeling more refreshed than I have in the past few weeks.

What projects are easing your mind?

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Cabled Headband

It is often acknowledged that constraints are what make creation fun. Being able to do absolutely anything can, in fact, be daunting to the point of creative paralysis — fortunately, this is rarely a problem. Life often presents us with constraints such as time, money, and accessibility.

Why not meet them halfway?

Light green hand-knit cabled headband resting flat on a white background.

I work with a lot of scraps. I can’t always afford to buy more materials, and I dislike being wasteful. Every time I work with scraps, I have an automatic set of constraints in the amount and type of material, the color, and whether I have other materials that will work well with it.

After I finished knitting my sweater last month, I had leftover Cascade Yarns Sierra in the colorway 48 Apple Green. It’s an 80/20 wool/cotton blend, which isn’t a type of yarn that I use often. Rather than put it away and possibly never touch it again, I wanted to knit it into something right away.

I decided on the Cabled Headband by Jennifer Hagan. The pattern is published in “The Knitter’s Book of Yarn” by Clara Parkes.

The pattern is easy to follow, and works up as quickly as one would expect for a headband. For myself, I found the recommended 17 repeats to be a little large, although 16 repeats were a little small. I went with 17 repeats then ran the headband through the washer and dryer, which shrunk the cotton and wool to just the right size.

Girl turned away from camera in front of a blue background, wearing a light green hand-knit cabled headband.

To be honest, I haven’t worn headbands in years. My hair is thick and fights against that sort of constraint — there’s that word again! This headband, however, is wide enough that it seems to be able to hold its own against my hair. I like that I can pull it over my ears for extra warmth, or pull it lower over my forehead to catch perspiration when I’m being active, or simply use it as a decorative way to keep my hair out of my face.

I have a bit more of the yarn remaining in an assortment of shorter lengths. I’m trying to think of a way to work it into one more project. I may need to revisit my supply of 100% cotton worsted weight yarn to see if I have any coordinating colors that spark ideas.

What constraints do you find yourself working within most often?

Sunday, February 23, 2020

The Hexagon Project: Blocks 30-32

I haven’t shared an update on The Hexagon Project in a few months. My hand sewing progress slowed for a number of reasons:
  • Life got busy. I typically work on my English paper piecing blocks during my lunch breaks, but I was using that time to run errands or complete other tasks.
  • Just about everyone in our home caught the flu, myself included. Sewing quickly dropped to the bottom of the priority list for the few weeks during our recoveries.
  • As I mentioned in the last update, I was running out of templates again. I found myself sewing slowly in an effort to put off the inevitable cutting of new templates.
Somehow, through all of that, I not only managed to stitch three more EPP hexagon flower blocks, but I also settled in to cut the next batch of 100 card stock hexie templates. It feels like a win!

Three overlapping hand sewn hexagon flower blocks in blues, browns, and purples, on a white background.

I had begun to notice that some blocks weren’t staying flat after pressing. I’ve been more mindful of where I take the stitches and, while my blocks still aren’t completely flat, they’re flatter than they were.

I think the unevenness of my hand-cut card stock templates are also a factor. Sometimes I see gaps or overlaps between the hexies as I prepare the assemble the flower blocks. Such is the nature of a handmade project!

Three overlapping hand sewn hexagon flower blocks lined up horizontally in purples, browns, and blues, on a white background.

With this cutting, I’ve reached the end of my supply of card stock. I spent some time hunting around online and found a set of 600 pre-cut paper hexagon templates that didn’t break the bank. They should be delivered sometime this week — I’m anxious to see how heavy the paper is. If the weight is good, these templates should see me through the rest of my Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt, with the added bonus of consistency to the shapes that will help the blocks stay flat.

And with the chore of cutting templates out of the way, I’ll have one less obstacle to sewing the remainder of the blocks.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Not Your Boyfriend's Sweater

As daunting as it may seem, sometimes the best course of action is to scrap everything and start over. I learn this lesson repeatedly in my creative process.

The backstory of my latest project is in my last post, so I won’t rehash it here. Let’s move forward!

Woman standing in front of a white porch rail wearing a hand-knit spring green lace sweater, with leafless trees and brown grass in the background.

For the past month, I’ve been slowly knitting the pattern “Not Your Boyfriend’s Sweater” by Vera Sanon.

The slowness, I might add, was entirely on my end as the pattern is clearly written and works up quickly and easily from the top down with raglan sleeves. I didn’t even have trouble picking up the correct number of stitches for the neckband, which may be a first for me.

For the yarn, I re-used some Cascade Yarns Sierra in the colorway 48 Apple Green. It’s a blend of 80% cotton and 20% merino wool that I think is a good fit for a spring sweater. Happily, the light green color and open leaf-shaped lace stitches also work well for the season.

I’m enjoying the loose, comfortable fit of this pullover. I made the three-quarter length sleeves just the right length that I don’t feel like I need to push them up at all. I can see the potential for making other versions of this sweater by simply changing the lace pattern and the lengths of the sleeves.

Close-up of woman standing in front of a white porch rail wearing a hand-knit spring green lace sweater, with leafless trees in the background.

Although it seems that the previous two patterns I knit with this yarn were a waste of time, they brought me here. I learn a little more with each project that I make (or re-make), in terms of technical skills as well as understanding how I like my clothes to fit on my ever-changing body.

As much as I’d like to be one of those people who just makes a little tweak at the end and everything comes out perfectly, that’s clearly not who I am as a maker. I need to remember this next time I hesitate.

Yes, it’s important to think through various options to make the best choice. But it’s also important to remember that sometimes the best choice is starting over.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Cable Collar Top, or Knowing When to Quit

There are a number of decisions that go into every creation.

In the beginning, those decisions revolve around one’s vision for the project and how to make it happen. In the end, it often becomes a matter of knowing when to stop and declare the project finished.

But the decisions in the middle can be the trickiest, in part because they typically go unacknowledged. Like a “choose your own adventure” book — and like life itself — each decision impacts what will happen next in ways that are often unforeseen.

And sometimes one project flows into the next, seemingly turning the process into one long middle with no beginning or end.

About ten years ago, I bought six skeins of Cascade Yarns Sierra in colorway 48 Apple Green. I knit the Bed Jacket pattern from Joan McGowan-Michael. I wore it occasionally over the years, but it never quite fit as well as I’d hoped. As my weight has changed, it reached the point of not fitting at all.

This summer I took apart the bed jacket; in late September, I used the yarn to start knitting the Cable Collar Top by Norah Gaughan. Progress was slow but steady until last week.

I had knit the back, taking notes along the way. I knit the front, which uses the same set of directions except for changes to the neckline. I knit the short sleeves, then seamed the shoulders.

And it became very clear that the armholes for the front are much shorter than the armholes for the back. If I align the bottoms of the armholes, the shoulder seams shift forward.

Knitting in progress of green Cable Collar Top with shifted shoulder seams on a white background

How did this happen? I have the same number of rows for the front and back armholes, and the gauge is measuring the same. Right now the overall armhole size is just right, so I would need to adjust both the front and the back. If one piece is hanging differently than the other, however, will it realign itself with time or blocking — creating more problems if I try to make corrections?

I’ve been in a holding pattern as I try to look ahead to the course of action that will yield the results I want. And because I can’t fully figure out what is throwing off the armholes, I can’t fully figure out how to correct them.

I’ve decided to start over. I have a different pattern in mind and new vision of what I want to achieve. But, at the moment, this feels like one long middle with no end in sight.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Welcome to 2020

This year went by so quickly, but I kept making throughout the whirlwind:

Sewing
  • 9 hand-stitched flower blocks for The Hexagon Project
  • 1 top
  • 1 throw pillow

Knitting
  • 5 tops
  • 3 pairs of socks
  • 1 shawlette
  • 1 purse, knit and fulled
  • 12 sets of four chair socks

Crochet
  • 8 amigurumi
  • 5 doilies
  • 3 wash cloths
  • 1 bath mat

Spinning
  • 638 yards of two-ply alpaca/wool yarn

A grid of the nine most-liked photos from my Instagram feed in 2019.
My Instagram 2019 Top Nine features way too much pollen, followed by a mix of fiber projects.

I read eight art-related books, and knit more blocks onto my scrap blankets. I made-then-remade far too many knit tops, although I kept learning along the way and managed to come out ahead.

I gave myself permission to post less frequently than weekly if I didn’t have a worthwhile topic at the ready; play-by-plays of slow progress don’t make the most riveting reading.

And I started a new job, which is kicking my butt. I’m so mentally drained when I get home that slow progress is becoming downright snail-paced. I’ve been enjoying my shift toward knitting more complicated wearables — despite the frustration of the associated learning curve — but need to choose the moments when I tackle them.

The silver lining to my new routine is that I’m working on my English paper piecing blocks more regularly during my lunch breaks.

While I know I’ll be posting less frequently with fewer finished projects, my goal for 2020 is to focus on how I write about those projects. I want to better highlight the creative process, and share more technical tips.

I’m also considering writing some posts featuring projects from the past. Everything I make is built upon what I’ve made before. Why not include more of that journey?

The trick will be whether I’m able to wrangle enough brain cells to pull off that kind of writing change. I hope to keep you interested while I figure this out.

Best wishes to you and yours in 2020!