Thursday, April 23, 2015

Late Winter Part 3: The sheep bag

You know I love my sheep.  As wool is my muse, sheep are my special patron saints of sorts.  When I saw this fabric by Ellen Luckett Baker for Kokka (see her great blog here), I knew I had to find a project to use it.  I purchased my yardage on Etsy and bought some of the mustard sheep plus some of the charcoal and mustard scallop coordinating trim fabric.

This bag is the happy result.

The pattern is my own, modified from the size of a bag I dearly love plus some details found on Pinterest.  The strap is actually a recycled belt just threaded through the loops.

The outside of the bag is the linen/cotton blend fabric with fusible fleece attached.  I love the slightly rough texture of the fabric -- not super cotton smooth like regular quilter's cotton.  The fleece adds some heft and stability.  This bag definitely stands on it's own and is not floppy at all.
 I used the trim fabric in a couple of ways.  First, I made the belt loops on the outside using the charcoal scallop fabric plus midweight fusible interfacing.  On the inside, I used the mustard scallops (interfaced) with charcoal pockets.  I always put 2 pockets in my bags.  One for my phone and one for my reading glasses.  Everything else goes down in the bottom of the bag.  Magnetic snap closure keeps everything tidy.
I'm pretty excited about the belt-as-strap concept.  This belt is one of my own and I modified the bag sizing slightly to accommodate the belt.  The original idea was to run strap channels all the way around the bag except where the handle grabs would be.  But, with a buckle to deal with, I changed the idea to belt loops.  This way I could position the buckle on one end so you could actually see it was once a belt.  Very cute.  The black is the perfect accent and keeps the handles from looking dirty.

I am just starting to carry the bag.  The handles might be a little short and I may have to find a larger belt to strand through but that shouldn't be too hard to change.  Another advantage of the design is that to wash the bag I need only remove the belt and I have a leather-free regular bag to throw in the wash.

I still have a fair amount of the fabric and may make some zipper bags or some other little accessory.  Happy Spring!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Late winter, Part 2. Sewing group project: Tibetan prayer flag.

Kathy is my closest friend in sewing group.  We met when her middle daughter and my oldest son were in Kindergarten together.  We also sang together in the Community Chorus in our town.  I've known her about 15 years.  At one point we had a business together called "Sacks & the City."  Kathy made fabric bags and I made felted wool bags.  We both tired of that and stopped selling together.  And, we're still friends.

Kathy's oldest daughter graduates college this spring.  So, she presented an idea to the sewing group for each person to make a modified Tibetan prayer flag for Annie.  She plans to put them together in a garland for her graduation.  Annie is a fantastic girl.  A true leader for good.  Always rises to the top of any situation.  I wanted something to represent her strength.  So, I started a Pinterest board with ideas from the Internet and there was one flag titled "Luminous" and was a beautiful embroidered piece with a moon and layers of fabric.   Gorgeous.  I would link to it here but I can't seem to find the exact picture.  Apologies.
 Anyway, taking "luminous" as a starting point, I tried to find a shorter word because I'm not so hot at embroidery and especially weak at precise things like words.  That's when I landed on "glow" and decided that "You Glow, Girl" would be both tongue-in-cheek and appropriate.

The piece is knit, naturally.  1 strand of thin Merino wool in ivory run together with 1 thread of metallic silver and 1 thread of matte silver.  Size 4 needles.  The pattern is just simple lace faggoting -- Row 1:  K2tog, YO, repeat.  Row 2 and 4: Purl.  Row 3:  YO, K2tog, repeat.  Edge stitches are consistent K and P.  You're actually seeing the knitting at a 90 degree angle to the direction it was knit.  At the end, I dropped the first 8-10 stitches and then bound off the rest.  Unraveling the dropped stitches creates the hanging looped fringe.  I also strung a crystal bead at the start of every right side row so each loop of fringe has a small bead on it.  Hard to see unless you look closely.
The disks were a pain.  I found the blanks on Etsy and bought 20, needing only 11 but figuring I'd make some mistakes.  Boy, did I ever!  I had a stamp set from an old Cub Scout project.  Lots of trial and error.  I took the best of each letter and just hoped they wouldn't look too messy.  I filled in each letter with black Sharpie and wiped away the excess to help define the impression.

The whole piece is mounted on some interfaced silk that Kathy provided to help define the color scheme.  I chose a neutral green, of course.

All in all, I'm happy with the result.  I told Kathy to feel free to trim the fringe or remove the "you" and "girl" to just have the single word "Glow" on the piece.  Whatever she wants.  Annie definitely glows.  I'm excited to see what happens in the next chapter of her life.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Late Winter Projects, part 1

I have been in finishing mode these last few weeks of winter.  Thanks to baseball, we had a "staycation" for Spring Break which gave me lots of time to finish up some loose ends.  First up:  my stair risers are finished and installed.  I talked about these 2 risers in this post.  The stairway has been a work-in-progress for about 10 years, since we've lived in this great old house.  Techniques include knitting (of course), crochet, rug hooking, and wool appliqué.  Now I only have 1 more to do.  I'm thinking of doing a wool crazy quilt design.  Nothing too elaborate since the stair is on the very bottom and won't be seen in great detail or great light.

Here is the whole set.  Bottom to top they are:
Street scape of Hudson, OH
Orange tree as an homage to my hometown of Redlands, CA
Crochet hexagons
Proddy and rug hooking
Penny rug
Needle-felt and embroidery
Rug hooking picture of an old farm house
Knitted lace
Rug hooked log cabin design
Wool appliqué sheep parade
Wool appliqué and embroidery Fraktur-inspired tulips

All are my own design start to finish.  My favorites are usually the most recent ones to be installed but I am partial to the knit lace and the sheep parade.  And, of course, I'm already plotting to modify the log cabin one.  It's a little floppy and may need to be re-constructed.  The hooked rug panels present a challenge because they are heavier.  They tend to sag a bit.

 Here's one of the new panels installed at the very top.  I love the blue in contrast with the orange of the panel below.  And, there's a bit of orange in the tulip itself so they tie together very well.

Below is the street scape completed.  Our beloved clock tower has a spot of honor.  To be honest, the little store fronts got a little boring.  I was trying to duplicate the actual colors of the real buildings.  All those little rectangles...oy.

 Close up of the clock tower.  The 2 buildings behind the tower are also red brick so I used 3 different red wools to delineate.

The background is a great black and white houndstooth from a skirt.  I love finding big pleated skirts at the thrift store.  So much yardage once you cut the pleats free!

I'm very proud of the set.  I think it represents me and all my little hobbies and loves.  I hope you enjoy.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Birthday trinket for Helen

My dear friend, Helen, had a little get-together last night to celebrate her birthday.  Helen is fabulous -- volunteers at her children's schools, works part time in an amazing needlepoint shop, serves on many charitable boards in our area, and does all of this with a graciousness that I envy and admire.  What on earth does someone get Helen for a birthday present?!

Well, I made something.  This is a pattern I've used before.  My Grey Colt Christmas Stocking for 2013 was modeled on this little Matroyshka doll.  I've also made them for my group of dear friends here in Hudson.  And, my dog Ella's Christmas stocking has one.  For Helen, I started with a beautiful wool plaid and pulled out the spruce blue/green as the background.  Obviously, she had to have brown wavy hair like Helen does.  Then, I pulled out the raspberry, the gold, and more blue to do the embellishing.  Some of the stitches come from my Sue Spargo book that I'm using as my muse this year.

I think she came out great but, most importantly, I know Helen will love receiving something handmade.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Brooklyn Tweed obsession

I've been knitting for 30 years and have never tired of it.  I love the rhythm and the pace.  One time I tried out a knitting machine and HATED it.  Production is not the goal.

About 2 years ago, I started working with a group of friends to teach them to knit.  It re-kindled my own passion for the craft and, in the past 2 years, I have knit A LOT.  About that time, I discovered the design house of Brooklyn Tweed.  The founder, Jared Flood, is an alum of my college -- The University of Puget Sound in Washington, although much younger than me for sure.

Brooklyn Tweed is American wool start to finish.  The colors are vivid yet neutral and the flecks in the tweed make for a garment with depth of texture.  Sure winner -- and I'm addicted.

The first BT sweater I made did not use their yarn but it is their pattern.  This is Runa but knit in luscious cashmere.  I made a cashmere sweater years ago that just kept getting bigger and bigger.  I had used 2 strands of 100% cashmere and knit it on a size 9 needle.  I knew someday I would rip it out and knit something else (I've done this several times with cashmere.  Too precious to waste).  Pulling out both strands was a total nightmare but I did it and had plenty of yarn for this hooded cardigan, 2 cowls, and some gloves.  I love the hood on this sweater and it was the perfect sweater to use a natural horn button my mom had given me many years ago.

Now I set out to knit a BT design with BT yarn.  This is Tilda knit in their heavier gauge yarn, Shelter.  This is a very neutral shade called Foothills.  The edging is in Artifact.  I followed the pattern pretty closely but found I needed WAY less yarn than called for.  I still have 3 skeins left and the sweater is a little big on me.  My gauge is markedly different from what the pattern says so I had to convert stitches and rows.  No big deal.  I used horn buttons on this one also.  BT patterns have lots of little details.  Tilda has a nice eyelet detail running parallel to the raglan sleeve and also has a beautiful cable panel up the front.  I especially like the rolled edge on the button placket and the way the buttons create a little wave up the front.  Nice.

The thinner BT yarn is called Loft and I have used that exclusively for the last few sweaters.  I knit it on a size 4.  First was Hitch.  Yarns are Blanket Fort, Faded Quilt, and Almanac.  The pattern only calls for 1 color but I needed some thing to hold my interest for that wide garter panel at the bottom.  My gauge variation caused problems on this one.  The pattern is a dolman sleeve with a panel of 5 cables up the front.  My gauge was so much bigger that I had to re-do the entire front of the sweater and only use 3 panels.  5 panels was too wide for the neck given my gauge.  Total pain to rip all that out.  I also did not like the dolman shape on my body.  So, when I ripped out to re-do the cables, I re-did the pattern and made it a standard drop shoulder.  DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME.  Lots of effort and re-knitting.  But, the sweater now looks great and is flattering and I wear it a lot.

Lots of extra mauve yarn leftover after this one so I decided to do a little cardigan with some color work at the bottom to use things up.  The main color is Postcard which is a pale pink.  The bottom is a panel of linen stitch using the various colors.  I wish I'd made this one about 2 inches longer as it is a little cropped with the current state of my winter body.  But, with these spring colors and some winter workouts maybe I'll be less self-conscious in a few months!

Again, I ended up with tons of extra yarn even though I consciously ordered less than the pattern called for.  So, now I needed to use up some mauve, light blue, and dark blue.  Here is the current project on my needles.  It's my own pattern and design and uses a stitch pattern called Welting Fantastic.  I believe it's in Barbara Walker's First Treasury of Knitting Patterns, one of my most-used source books.  I've used this pattern on baby hats, scarves, and countless projects.  It makes it easy to add color or even novelty yarn to create interest.  I added 3 colors to the mix:  Snowbound (very pale grey), Button Jar (green), and Plume (purple).  I'm using the stitch pattern throughout the front and back.  I haven't figured out what I'm going to do for the sleeves.  I also made the bottom 5 inches a little wider by adding 2 stitches to each repeat of the pattern.  Then I decreased those stitches so the bottom flares just slightly.  This will be a pullover with rounded neck.

The yarns are beautifully spun and gorgeous.  I highly recommend the patterns as well.  Tons of detail and a modern twist on classic stitch patterns.  I really love the thinner Loft yarn.  Today's obsession with arm knitting and super chunky accessories appeals to me not at all.  I love a detailed cable or intricate lace done on needles so thin the develop a bend in the bamboo.  It might take longer, but I do believe I will wear these sweaters far longer than some crazy cowl that feels like a neck brace.  But that's just me, maybe.

Monday, January 5, 2015

January projects

I grew up in Southern California and there really wasn't any time of year when you couldn't be outside.  Living here in northeastern Ohio, there are days in January and February (and last November!) when it is simply too cold to do much outside except bundle up and walk the dogs as quickly as you can.  Lucky for me I have lots of indoor hobbies.  Here are a few of the projects I currently have going.

First up is an homage to Sophie Digard.  Her scarves and bags and work in general are a major inspiration for me.  I simply can't imagine doing crochet on such a tiny scale.  This past fall, after the Ladies Night at my boys' school (where I sold a TON of gloves and scarves) I splurged on this scarf.  This is classic Sophie Digard.  Tiny, tiny granny squares embellished with bits of velvet.  Stunning, isn't it?  I love it and it matches about 85% of my wardrobe, no joke.

So, in my lame attempt to flatter by imitation, I am crocheting a scarf.  Y'all know I'm a knitter.  Any crochet expert would cringe at my work on this but I'm persevering.  The yarn is Purl Soho line weight merino wool in a beautiful grey/blue.  Very thin.  If I was on knitting needles, I'd be on a size 4 probably.  The plan is to complete the scarf and then appliqué circles of velvet on top at each end.  I bought some velvet swatches on line which should get me plenty of circles for the appliqué.
 The work is pretty slow going because I'm just not as comfortable with crochet so I stop every row to count and make sure I've still got the right number of squares in the pattern.  I've had to rip a bit out when I got off pattern.  (sigh)

The velvets are pumpkin, eggplant, green, and ivory.  I think it will be great once complete.

 The next couple of projects are my attempt to use the techniques championed by Sue Spargo.  I came across her work by chance when searching for inspiration for my fabulous beret hat detailed here.  Sue Spargo did the leaves that are pictured in that post.  Amazing work.  This book is going to be my muse this year.  I've even signed up to take Sue's online class on  Check it out.

You may remember I've been working on stair risers for a long time.  Years.  I complete a new riser whenever I have a good idea which is, apparently, not often!  The previous efforts are detailed here.  I love my stairs and visitors to my house are always very impressed.

So, I finally came up with ideas for two of the remaining risers.  The first is inspired by Fraktur designs and I used a tulip pattern directly from Susan Feller's Design in a Box.  (Available here)  I bought this great product at a rug hooking retreat.  It has Fraktur patterns on card stock so I was able to scan the tulip and then print it out multiple times to make all my patterns.  The entire riser is about 36" wide and there is a tulip at each end with long curving stems crossing in the middle.  A heart seemed to be the perfect motif for the center.

You can see each little bit of the tulip is a different wool.  The inspiration wool was the main one on the heart and the base of the tulip.  All other wools were chosen based on their relationship with that wool.  Thus the orange and deep red and the fabulous green.  I embellished some of the portions using stitches from Sue Spargo's book.  

I'm also working on a stair riser that's dedicated to our town, Hudson, Ohio.  This is a bit of a "duh" moment since I can't believe I haven't done this one before.  As a refresher, Hudson was founded in 1799, 4 years before Ohio became a state.  We are fiercely proud of our history and our architecture.  Here's a shot of our main street:
I didn't think I had the artistic ability to pull off the row of stores from an angle like this so I am doing mine from head on.  No perspective required.  Obviously, a work in progress but here is some of the completed work.
 Each store front is a little different.  I am trying to duplicate color scheme as closely as possible.  This section of Main Street is almost entirely brick, either left red or painted.  It was once wood but there was a major fire in 1792 and this block was lost.  So they rebuilt in brick.  One block north is still all wood.  Part of the charm of this fantastic place.  My little post-it notes detail the trim and window colors so when I'm working in front of the TV I don't have to pull up a picture on my phone and try to determine which floss I should be using.

The beautiful clock tower will be added last.  It will sit in front of the two buildings on the far right.  The clock tower is brick and those 2 buildings are brick so I used 3 different red wools to delineate between the buildings.

Once these two risers are complete, I only have 1 more to do.  And, the final riser is very near the bottom so I probably won't do much detail since no one is going to want to squat down to look.  Something colorful and coordinating.  That shouldn't take too long to come up with an idea, should it?

So this is what's on the docket for January.  Oh, I almost forgot!  Of course, I have a knitting project on the needles.  I've been using Brooklyn Tweed wool almost exclusively for about 18 months and I'm knitting a pullover using a beautiful pale grey plus colorwork with all my leftover wools and a couple of additions.  I'll take some shots of that soon.  I finished about 1/2 of it over holiday break but I've put it aside while I'll working on the stair risers.  It'll keep.

What are you working on this winter?

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Cashmere scraps ornaments. Making gold out of straw.

As promised, here is another of the ornaments that were part of my ornament-making party held in early December.  I've been working with recycled sweaters for more than 10 years.  My standard for saving a bit of sweater is definitely different if I'm cutting cashmere rather than wool.  I've thrown out very little of the cashmere bits and, consequently, I have bags and bags of small bits.  Over the years I've come up with a few projects that use small bits of soft cashmere.  Here's one of the posts here about some beautiful heart pillows.  And my Hedgehog cuffs are featured here.  Even with these successful products, I still have a LOT of cashmere.

So, then I found a box of pearl-head pins.  A whole box that I bought for a wreath project but the pins were too short.  Then I found a styrofoam ball.  And some wire.  Magic.

This is the result of all that serendipity.  I took the wire all the way through the ball and made a small loop at the top to allow for a hanger.  At the bottom I cut the wire to about 1 inch beyond the bottom of the ball.  Then, I threaded on a small bell (or you could use a bead), bent the wire back toward the ball in a "U" shape, and pushed the bell up against the ball.  The bell helps to keep the wire from pulling back through the styrofoam.

Now to the cutting.  I grabbed random pieces of red cashmere from my stash.  You don't need much for these because you're only cutting squares about 1/2 inch big.  I counted out the pins into groups of 20.  Because I was going to do this with a group, I needed to know how many pins to buy.  I ended up needing about 120 pins for 1 ornament.

It was so relaxing to sit and watch TV while putting pins into the ornament one by one.  Why is repetition so calming?  Why do we love knitting and crochet and even sweeping and raking?  I think it's the rhythm of it all.  Doesn't matter, though.  I thoroughly enjoyed making the ornament.

A few nights before the party, I got worried that guests would think they had to only use a monochromatic scheme.  So, I set out to make another ornament using a range of colors.  This one has absolutely nothing in common with my normal Christmas palette, but I still love it.  Ice blue, turquoise, hot pink, orange, yellow, apple green, and ivory.  It's like a party!

You can see the bell at the bottom of this one.

I do believe this was the favorite ornament of the party.  Several guests took spare supplies home to make another one.  Given that I bought 2000 pins, I had some to spare!  And to think it all started with stuff I already had.  That's my favorite kind of project, hands down.

Happy New Year everyone!  I've already started on a couple of projects for my house and am looking forward to my knitting group starting up again next week.