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:

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

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

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

  • 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!