Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Just Start

When doing something new, it is almost always helpful to do some research before you begin. But there is such a thing as too much research.

That's where I find myself with reference to quilting. I've had a home ec. class and maybe some sewing in mini 4-H, but that's about it. It's enough that I can thread the sewing machine in the required Rube Goldberg way  if I look at the manual for reassurance. It's enough that I understand the importance of backstitching at the beginning and end of each row. It's not enough to understand how to read a pattern. It's certainly not enough to understand what all the buttons on the machine do.

I reasoned that since I bought fabric I really loved and I was going to put all this time into a quilt, I'd better know what I was doing. So I checked out library books.

This was perhaps a mistake.

Partway through The Quilter's Bible I began to freak out. There is so much I don't know. I don't know that I'm going to be quilting enough to justify buying this book, but there's no way that I'll be ready for the binding instructions before it's due back at the library. I began worrying that I had made a mistake, that I was not prepared for this sort of gigantic project, that I should give up and stick to knitting.

I stopped reading and went back to knitting. After about 15 minutes, a voice in my head said, "Do you see what you're doing with your hands?" I looked. I was doing stranded knitting--knitting with two colors, one held in each hand. It's impressive. (If you disagree because you find stranded knitting super easy, please don't tell me.) "When you started knitting six years ago, did you think you'd be able to make something this complicated?"

Well, no.

What's the difference? The difference is that I started with a beginning knitting book. I started with Stitch 'n' Bitch, a book that has cartoon drawings of the knit stitch and holds your hand through a plethora of new skills. I started small, making washcloths with holes in them and dropped stitches. When I made a washcloth that came out somewhat square, I went on to something else.

I put down The Quilter's Bible and went on to another library book, Quilting 101. When I became overwhelmed with that, I closed the book and walked away.

I have learned enough for now.
  • I need to wash, dry, and iron my fabric before cutting.
  • I need to make all the seams .25". 
  • I probably want a polyester/cotton blend for the batting.
I'll start with that.

It's not a big leap to apply this idea to the rest of my life. I need to learn what I can, but I also need to be willing to move forward even though I don't know all the answers. I have to just start. Sometimes I don't know anything more than how to do the first step of something, and that's okay. Just start. Figure out the rest as you come to it, one piece at a time.

Just start.

So say we all.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Paint Chip Art

I recently came across an artist on etsy whose work I love. I especially love her flowers, like this one. Then I saw someone who made art out of paint chips.

This weekend I made my own paint chip art. Here's how to do it in case you want to make your own.

1. Get paint chip samples in colors you love. Buy inexpensive frame. Borrow various circle hole punches. My mother-in-law is into rubber stamping in a big way, and she let me borrow SEVEN different circle hole punches. I had them all the way up to 1.75".

2. Organize your paint chips by color.*

3. Cut long strips of yellow and green paint chips from strips that have several shades in the same family. These will be used as stems and rays from the sun.

Made for my sister

4. Cut circles of different sizes and colors to use as the flowers. I used three different sized circles layered on top of one another for each flower.

5. Punch various-sized circles of yellows and whites to use as sun and cloud. Stick everything to the paper with double-sided tape.

Made for me
6. Put paper back in frame.

7. Look at often and tell yourself how awesome you are.

*Why? Because that's how God intended things to be, that's why.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Blackrose Socks

The Blackrose socks are completed, and I'm much happier with the yarn in this pattern than I was with Inlay.

Blackrose socks (mine ravelled here) knit in Berocco Comfort 

They were really simple. The lace chart was 8 rows and 4 of them were plain, and you only worked the lace on 17 stitches in each round and the rest is just knit knit knit knit. I love that the left and right are mirror images of one another. I think it's a detail that makes all the difference.

Don't worry, though. Inlay will have its day in the sun fluorescent office light. I'm planning to knit in once I figure out the proper yarn. I think the key is a ROUND yarn, so I'm thinking Blue Moon's Socks that Rock.

Just to give you fair warning, I'm doing gift knitting right now, so I can't post about it. It's pretty, and hopefully I'll remember to chat about it once I give it away... in September. If you want to see it and you're on Ravelry, click here.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

You Don't Always Get What You Want

I'm hopeful that the quilt I'm going to make will feel like it is full of things I love. I think I've picked fabrics that will make me happy every time I see them.

I received some of my fabric yesterday. Instead of the city fabric I had ordered, I was sent this:

Timeless Treasures Mini-C7710 (pink)

Very funny, universe. Very funny.

Note: Yes, the seller is sending me the correct fabric. For the record, I don't hate this fabric. I might even use it in the quilt. It's just that the universe is yanking my chain by sending me fabric that shows the crafty tools I've had to work to accept as a good part of my life. "Oh, you're trying to be okay with being a crafty, sewing and knitting person in the same camp as the goose clothiers? Why don't we see how serious you are about this. Are you comfortable with fabric sporting sewing machines?"

Monday, May 21, 2012

If It Looks Like a Goose...

I've been thinking a lot lately about what it means that I'm someone who spends her free time in the ways I do. I have the same hobbies as Miss Marple.

When I am feeling down, I find that looking at flowers or yarn or fabric makes it better. Most people probably think this is weird.

I've been struggling with the labels I've associated with doing crafty things. (I'm not sure I can make this make sense, so let me apologize now for any incoherence.) I never expected to be a person who enjoyed creating things. I always thought it took too much time and that there was too little return for the effort. Why would anyone spend hours and hours knitting something that is usually covered up by your trousers? Why make a quilt when you can buy a bed in a bag in a very pretty color?

Part of the answer, for me at least, is that I have the time to do these things. Kids take up all the time their parents have. I don't have kids, and that means that time is my own to use as I want. I mean, I still work full-time, but there are evenings and weekends and lunch hours that I don't spend changing diapers and worrying about the music I play in the car while my toddler is there.*

Part of the answer is that when I create things, I get to have control over them. (Mmmm, I do love control.)  There are a finite number of commercially-available bedspreads, but I can choose to make a quilt with fabric sporting elephants, cartoon cities, and flowers. I can pick precisely what I love, and I can do with it whatever I want.
Timeless Treasures Tiny Town Pink

I struggle with the stereotypes I have about people who choose to spend their time making things. I picture them home schooling their children and making clothes to put on a goose statue by their front door.** I don't find those activities compelling, and I unfairly judge those who do.

As I shopped for fabric last week for my first quilt, I kept saying to myself, "My quilt is going to be cool. It's going to be modern and whimsical." In my head, it was somehow different than the "normal" quilts that people make.

Except it's not.  Not really. Anyone who makes something makes what they feel is beautiful. They pick fabric or yarn or whatever supplies make them happiest. There are many people who would look at the things I make and think they are horribly ugly.

The truth in all this is that it doesn't matter what anyone thinks. People may hate what I do, but that shouldn't change how I feel about it. People may think the way I spend my time is ridiculous, and it doesn't matter. I have to be confident enough in who I am and what I love to acknowledge their opinion and then let it go.

Here's an example: I asked my mother-in-law if I could borrow circular punches. We had a bunch of Andrew's family up for a cookout to celebrate Andrew's birthday on Saturday, and she brought them to me then. I pulled up this link to show her and Andrew's aunt what I planned to make.  Andrew's aunt said, "Well, that's interesting." She didn't get it. And it's okay. The only people who need to love it are Andrew and me. It's our house. The fact that someone doesn't understand it doesn't make it any less beautiful.

This post is a reminder and an affirmation to myself. I am someone who knits and maybe quilts and gardens and makes art out of paint chips. I have something in common with those who make clothes for their goose statue, and yet I am unique.

I love what I make, and someone else loves the goose clothes she makes. We're both right, and we're both spending our time in valuable ways.

Do what makes you happy. I'll try to do the same.

*Seriously, how do parents do this? Do you listen to VeggieTales all the time, or do you continue to listen to Nicki Minaj? Recently I had to endure a baseball game sitting in front of a kid who kept singing, "I'm sexy and I know it." I feel pretty confident that kid shouldn't be listening to LMFAO, but I didn't blame the parents for needing to listen to adult music.

**Who did I just offend? Sorry. I'm not trying to be a jerk.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Rabbit Hole

A friend and I decided we wanted to make quilts.

Not boring, expected, log cabin-type quilts. We wanted to make AWESOME quilts.

Awesome tutorial. Check.

Awesome sewing machine (inexpensive, but good reviews). Check.

Awesome fabric.


I've fallen down a rabbit hole. I would tell you how much time I've spent on the Internet scrutinizing thumbnail images of fabric, but I try to keep the crazy just a teeny-tiny bit under wraps over here.

Let's just say there were discussions with various friends, .jpgs onto Publisher, Publisher into .pdf, .pdf files e-mailed, etsy conversations....

I've ordered fabric from two different places. Now I cannot allow myself to look at any more.

But you can.

You're welcome, and I'm sorry.

Monday, May 14, 2012


Blackrose socks (mine ravelled here) knit in Berrocco Comfort

Friday, May 11, 2012

Right and Wrong

Andrew and I visited my sister and her family in Philadelphia recently. It's a twelve-hour car ride. That's a lot of knitting time. I spent lots of time working on the scarf and a little time working on a new pair of socks.

Inlay socks knit in Berrocco Comfort

The socks take attention. They're not difficult per se, but there are a ton of two-stitch twists and a typical row has me chanting, "LEFT, right, right. LEFT, right, right."

I assumed I wasn't making much progress on them because the pattern required me to pay attention, and that was part of it. However, I haven't knit in two days. That's weird. Really weird. 

I've decided it's because I don't think the pattern shows up well enough on these socks to justify the attention required. It's a great pattern. It's just not great in this yarn. It's time to frog it.

I'm thinking Blackrose. I wish all of life's mistakes were this easy to identify and correct.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Rest in Peace, Murray

When I was little, my dad started keeping aquarium tropical fish as a hobby. I have lots of memories of going to the fish specialty shop which felt a million miles away. Now that I think back on it, it was probably a forty-five minute drive, but it seemed like a long way away when I was little. While Dad went to look at the half of the store that housed the tropical fish, I went to the corner with the goldfish.

Dad had a forty-five gallon tank that housed the usual angelfish, mollies, gouramis, neon tetras, and so forth. Andrew and I had that same tank in our house for years. Within the past few months, it sprang a leak, leading to a fun-filled night of towels, hurriedly transferring fish to a smaller aquarium we set up in our kitchen, and wet carpet. (It was a very slow leak, and Andrew noticed it quickly. It could have been much, much, much worse.) We have since bought a new tank, but it was hard for me to throw away the old one. It was Dad's.

I got my love of fish from him. I wanted to be different than him, so I always bought goldfish. I always had a bowl or a tank in my bedroom. When I went to college, I had a small tank. I had a tank on my desk when I worked at the UU church, and I've had a tank at home for years and years.

My first goldfish at the church was named Freeman after James Freeman, the father of Unitarianism in America. When he passed away after a couple years, I bought Murray, named after John Murray, the father of Universalism in America.

Murray came home to live in a tank with Koina when I came back to work at the synagogue in 2006. When Koina passed away, I was afraid to put another fish in with Murray. He was already quite old for a goldfish, and I didn't want to introduce some new disease that might do him in.

Last night Murray looked sick. The scales on the top of his head had come off, and he wouldn't eat. This morning he was gone. He will have a water burial tonight. I know that he lived a very long time for a goldfish, but it was still sad to see him go.

Having fish is a connection to my dad, a guy who made it difficult to connect. My appreciation for the beauty of fish is an appreciation he had as well. There are lots of traits of Dad's that I'm grateful aren't mirrored in my life, but I'm glad we shared this.

I think I'll go buy another goldfish. Rest in Peace, Murray. Thanks for the memories.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Douglas Adams Wanders into Claude Monet's Garden

In the summer of 2010, my mom and I took a class on dyeing yarn. I made this.

I have about 900 yards of Baby Ull wound into 2 balls. I've been admiring the yarn ever since, but then I found a scarf that I thought would work with the myriad of colors.

 Coral Leaves Scarf (mine ravelled here
knit in hand-dyed Dall of Norway Baby Ull yarn

The colors I tried to capture were ones that reminded me of a Claude Monet waterlily painting. It's a stretch for me. It has a lot more yellow than I am usually comfortable with, but I love the colors.

I used somewhere in the neighborhood of 550-600 yards, so I still have the majority of a ball left to do something else with. I'm thinking fingerless gloves. The pattern is written to be a scarf approximately 12" wide. I wanted something a bit more shawl-like, so I did a third repeat of the leaf panel and blocked it to 18" wide. I wanted it a bit longer, too. It calls for 35 repeats off the leaf chart, and when I decided to make it longer it seemed that 42 repeats would be perfect. 

After all, 42 is the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything. That's got to be a good omen.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Pound of Love Goes a Long Way

A friend of mine asked me to knit a baby blanket for her to give to a friend. Apparently I didn't take a picture of it when it was finished, but you can easily extrapolate the rest of the border in your mind.

Baby Tree of Life Throw (mine ravelled here)
knit in Lion Brand's Pound of Love in Antique White

It called for acrylic yarn, and that's what I used. I know that the parents are going to want to throw it in the washer and dryer, and I know that the baby will do all sorts of unspeakable things to this blanket, but it was still hard for me to knit in something I knew I wouldn't be able to block. I have gotten used to being able to force knitwear to submit to my will.

Still, it's a beautiful pattern, and I really like the way it turned out. My only complaint is a mistake I made myself: I didn't knit the same number of leaves along each side. The left side pulls a bit at the top corner, and it wouldn't pull if I had knit more leaves on that side. I keep reminding myself that it will be pooped on. The baby won't care.

I had plenty of yarn left over and a car trip planned, so this happened:

 Lillie Baby Cardigan (mine ravelled here
knit in Lion Brand's Pound of Love in Antique White

How cute is that sweater? I'm mentally tagging this pattern as my go-to baby sweater. It was quick and easy to knit, and I think the end result is adorable. The pattern is written for long sleeves, but the baby is due in June and will probably get more use out of a short-sleeved version. 

I used buttons I had left over from the Talamh.

Besides being able to knit for someone who really does appreciate it, do you know what the best part is?

My friend is going to pay me in yarn.