Monday, October 2, 2017

Sewing 101

A friend and I are taking a six-week beginning sewing class at Crimson Tate. The first week we made a pin cushion (think square bean bag filled with crushed walnut shells). Last week we worked on a fancy pillowcase.

My mother-in-law is a delightful person, plus she provided half the genes for my very favorite person. For these reasons and others, she deserves fancy pillowcases for Christmas. I worked on hers this weekend. 

I wonder how many fancy pillowcases I need to make before it feels less stressful than disarming a bomb.

The answer is more than four.

Tomorrow there's a rumor we're going to work on zippers. Like Little Red Riding Hood, I'm excited and scared.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Stripy, Stripy, Stripy

I don't even quite remember how it happened. I think I saw this cowl somewhere (ravelry? pinterest?) and fell in love. Then Knit Picks was having a sale on some of their Chroma. Then I was talking with a friend and we were discussing possible colorways.

Anyhow, this happened.

Bad Blood Cowl (mine ravelled here),
and Knit Picks Chroma Fingering in Dear Diary

I used just over one skein of the Smoothie Sock and not quite two balls of the Chroma. The pattern suggests just knitting until you run out of the 100 gram skein of each, but I knit a bit more than that to get it the length I wanted.

It's an easy pattern. It starts with a provisional cast on of 107 stitches (which I can do only if I watch this video every single time I need to do the cast on), then has 2 rows of the first color and 2 rows of the second color for 10 repeats, then 3 rows of the first color and 3 rows of the second color for 10 repeats, then 4 rows and so on until you have 8 stripe rows.  Then you graft the two ends together to make a cowl.

If you are ready for this step at your lunch hour and realize you don't have another circular needle, you may be tempted to try various other bits from your knitting bag, such as stitch holders and shawl pins. These will not work. You should then remind yourself that it is July, and you do not need to be in a rush to finish a cowl on your lunch hour. Furthermore, remind yourself that you can't kitchner 107 stitches together in a lunch hour anyway.

I like the cowl a lot. It's long enough to loop twice around my neck.

I have the yarn picked out to make another one for a friend. This time, I'm going to avoid the tedium of progressively wider and wider stripes and start with the 8 stripe sequence and decrease down to 2. I know that it's exactly the same amount of knitting, but I'm betting it won't feel like it. Score one for brain trickery!

Thursday, July 27, 2017


Remember how I had that list of projects I wanted to do but had never done, like Grandma's knitting bag? Another project on that list was i-cord coasters.

I'd seen an article in Interweave Knits Summer 2015 magazine about a little doohickey that makes i-cord. I've knit my fair share of i-cord, and it's tedious, if by tedious you understand it makes me want to poke my own eyeballs out with a dpn. With the Embellish Knit doohicky, you feed the yarn through the top, do a bit of futzing at the beginning to get it either behind or in front of metal pegs that look like tiny latchhook hooks, weight the bottom of the yarn, turn the handle, and voila! I-cord. 

It takes 3 i-cords roughly 6' tall to make a coaster. Once the i-cords are made, you braid them together tightly, then sew the braid to itself in a spiral shape.

This means we now have another use for scrap sock yarn. Angels are singing, and they are singing about the joys of using up tiny balls of fingering weight yarn. The harmony is glorious.

I've made 6 of these. They tend to pucker, but soaking them and then blocking them under something really heavy makes a big difference. (That also could be solved with more practice. It has something to do with the way I sewed the braid to itself.) I made 2 for me and 4 to give as gifts. I don't have any desire to whip up more at the moment, but it's a nice trick to have for when the scraps begin to get me down.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Before speaking

"Before speaking, recognize what motivates your words." -Lama Surya Das

When I was in college, I worked on a project with another student and one of my Religious Studies professors on faith development. We did in-depth interviews with people to discuss their faith journey. James Fowler's Stages of Faith informed the project, and, honestly, the book was one that helped me accept my own spiritual journey as valid and beautiful even though it differed from what was expected of me by my family.

That's not what I'm thinking about today though.

I'm thinking about one of the meetings we had during that project. The professor said to me, "What do you think, Bonnie? I like the way your mind works." I don't remember what I said, but I know what I wish I would have said.

I wish I would have said, "That's because I only talk when I have something to say." 

I didn't. I felt pressured into speaking before I was ready, wanting to live up to some unexplained and possibly nonexistent expectation of one of my favorite professors. 

The truth is, as a very introverted person, there's a lot of thinking that happens before most of my speech. Many, many, many times I think of the right thing to say--the thing that feels right in my mind--and the conversation has already moved on to something else.  That's frustrating, but I think I'd rather have that than my life filled with inane chatter.

More than one person has suggested I become a counselor, typically after dumping their problems in a verbal avalanche. I think that sometimes people like to confide in me because I listen to them. It's not that I have some sort of powerful insight that puts all their problems in perspective; it's that I am able to be present in their presence and hear what they're saying without saying much at all back. I'm a sounding board, and that allows them to figure things out themselves.

In high school, when I would struggle with homework (usually math), Mom would sometimes tell me to explain it to her. I thought this was stupid. Obviously I couldn't explain it to her. I needed someone to explain it to me. But, often, it worked. In explaining it to someone else, in talking it out, the things I didn't understand became things I did. She wasn't able to help me with calculus, but she helped me with calculus.

I write this as a reminder to myself. It's okay to be quiet. It's best to listen and only speak when I have something to say. Consider my motivation and whether what I say will help, hurt, or just fill the world with distracting noise. Intention.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Grow What I Love

I make promises to myself at the end of every growing season.

Often it's the same promise I made the year before, such as, "I will not neglect to water the garden in July just because I want to sit on the couch in the air conditioning." I have a somewhat shaky relationship with the rain barrel in July, but I reaffirm my promise each year.

Last year, I promised something new: I promised to plant less vegetables and more flowers. Part of me felt that was really irresponsible. I told that part to shove it. Seeds are cheap. I overwinter dahlias in the garage, so those are free after the first year. A lot of my flowers are perennials.

Plus, buying plants is always better than a crack habit, so there.

Flowers bring me joy. Fresh flowers in the house always make me happy, and fresh flowers in the house that I've grown myself make me doubly so. 

Daisies, zinnia, bachelor button, dahlias

We feed birds, which means we also feed chipmunks, squirrels, and rabbits. Some of those little bastards have gotten into the raised beds this year.

Most of my pepper plants have been destroyed. I don't even care all that much.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

One Year

About a year and a half ago, I started seeing a personal trainer for the first time. She was very nice, but it was hard. It was early in the morning in the winter, so I drove there in the dark and the cold in order to feel weak for half an hour. I persisted for a few months, and then my trainer decided to quit training and become a nanny. (Oddly, nannies get more sleep than trainers.)

I didn't want to lose momentum, so I joined the JCC. It's within walking distance to work, so I decided I could work out right before or after work and thus avoid the siren song of the couch.

I talked to a coworker's partner who works at the J to get trainer recommendations. I called them and they promptly set me up with someone else. (The person recommended wasn't available.) I put on my mental armor and made an appointment.

He was physically intimidating. He looked like a stereotypical trainer. That was scary to me. It had been scary to go to the nice, female trainer who understood when I needed to sit down because things were going a little black around the edges of my vision. I wasn't sure I could work with someone who looked... like that.

But he was kind and encouraging at that first meeting, and as we worked together he continued to be. He is very careful of my back. I have scoliosis, so strengthening my core to avoid back injury is one of my primary goals.

We started out meeting twice a week, but that's not financially feasible for me long term. Now we meet once a week and he writes workouts for me two other times a week. He emails when I don't show on a day he expects to see me in the gym, and that means I rarely skip. I've found that I do really well with that accountability, and I'm grateful for it.

Tomorrow will mark one year since our first appointment. I gave him a thank you card this morning.

He made me do alternating walk up planks and deep lunges. I choose to believe that's his way of saying, "You're welcome."

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

HANDSOME: Yeah, You Are

Exciting news! Pamela Wynne's latest genius project, HANDSOME, is now available! As Pamela says, "Handsome: Man Sweaters for Every Body is an e-book collection of six menswear sweater patterns designed to fit every size, shape, and gender of adult human."

She's not screwing around. I did one of the test knits for this, and there are options. The specific sweater I knit has narrow/average shoulder option, A-line shaping option, and custom-length sleeves with the cute thumb hole. There are also custom calculators so you can make sure you knit yourself a sweater that actually fits well.* She wrote these patterns using real people for measurements, and the lucky devils who modeled are now the owners of sweaters knit specifically for their body.

I knit the pieces for the blue Kale pictured above, and Pamela did the finishing. That fabric was glorious, and it fits the model beautifully. I would wear one of those sweaters in a heartbeat.

Check out the lookbook here. She's running KALs for each sweater and has a Ravelry group for the patterns.

These aren't just for men. Men's knitwear is an underserved market certainly, but these sweaters are good shapes, well-designed, and easily customized so they can fit anyone. We all got lucky here.

I'm thinking gray, but I always think gray.... Wouldn't a gray Kale be lovely? In my head, I'm already curled up with a book in my new sweater.

*I'm going to work hard at not thinking about the sweaters I knit that I don't wear because I don't like how they fit. Spilled milk and all that.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Grandma's Bag

A couple weeks ago, I was feeling plagued by projects I had told myself I wanted to do but had never done. Let's pause a moment and recognize what a gift it is that I have a life that can be plagued by my hobbies instead of real problems.


So, I emailed some smart friends about it. Lynn asked if maybe I was just tired of making things and needed a break. I sat with that for awhile and decided that I just hadn't been in the mood to do new things. A tenth pair of diagonal rib socks? Yes. A project that I couldn't do while zoned out on the couch? No.

Mysteriously, that was what it took to get unstuck. 

I don't remember my grandma knitting, but she did it a lot before she had Parkinson's. Parkinson's is terrible. 

Grandma's old knitting bag had sat in a garage for years. It was badly, badly torn and frayed, held together in places with safety pins, was disgustingly dirty, and contained some dubious black things that made me shudder. I cut the material off the wooden frame and washed it. It was worth the risk of it falling completely apart in the wash. There was no way I was using it for a template as it was.

Once clean, it sat and stared at me judgmentally for months.

I was off yesterday, and I spent it at home working on one of the bag. It started with a list and some math.

I had already purchased and washed the material I wanted to use for the project, a canvas for the outside and a satin for the inside. In addition to the bottom of the bag, there's another flap that goes under the wooden frame to hold it in place. Since that and the long seams on both sides that go over the handles had to be done with the frame in place, there was a lot of handsewing. 

I tried to be Zen about it. I only sort of succeeded.

I measured my notion bag and made a pocket for it in the lining. It's possible that pocket is wrong side out, but I'm sticking to the story that it depends on your perspective. My perspective says it's fine.

Seven hours, a bobbin refill, a bent sewing machine needle, far more handsewing than I anticipated, only one shouted outburst of, "FOR FUCK'S SAKE," and it was finished.

I learned some things, certainly. I would have done the lining differently if I had it to do over, but thank God I don't have to do it over. No 4-H judges will ever look at it, and it doesn't matter that there are some wonky areas. I'm pleased with it, and I'm thrilled to be able to use something that was grandma's for a hobby we share.

Last night I loaded it with a mostly finished hat that just needs a pompom, a matching, long, worsted weight cowl in progress and the 6 balls of yarn the cowl requires. It all fit, which makes me think this might be related to Mary Poppins' carpet bag. 

Thanks, Grandma. I'll think of you whenever I use it, which will be a lot.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017


Some yarn is harder to work with than others. Most of the time, I can figure that out by looking at it and avoid it. Sometimes I can't.

Diagonal Rib Socks (mine ravelled here)
knit in Regia Hand-Dye Effect in 06552

This yarn is splitty, and got VERY thin in sections. I am not a fan, and I'm not sure how they'll wear. The socks look pretty, and the pattern, as always, is great. (I think this is my 10th pair of this pattern. Ann Budd knows what she is doing. I knit mine slightly differently than the pattern, but just because I'm odd and not because there's anything wrong with the pattern.) I'm just grateful to be finished and moving to a yarn that isn't so difficult to work with.

And I'm praying I didn't buy another ball of this, but I'm too scared to check the stash to find out for sure.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

All the Loopiness

Yesterday I took some pictures of the Loop. It's a lovely bit of knitting.

Loop (mine ravelled here),
knit in Madelinetosh 80/10/10 Fingering in Spectrum 

The Spectrum colorway is my very favorite. Each stitch has the possibility of an unexpected pop of color, but all the colors look lovely together and not at all like clown barf.

The edge is garter stitch.

Then an i-cord bindoff that is a Zen meditation. Breathe. Accept what you are doing. (Abandon hope of ever finishing, but that's where my Zen broke down.) It's beautiful when it's done.

I enjoyed myself so much that I knit another.

Knit in a mysterious sparkly gray from the stash
and Knitpicks Chroma Fingering in the Roller Skate colorway
(ravelled here)

I love this one just as much as the first one. I was worried about how the long gradient of Chroma would behave, but it's lovely. Chroma is unspun enough that I think this pattern is a great use for it. It won't get a lot of hard wear wrapped around my friend in a fetching manner.

Pretty, right?

For both of them, I did a modified garter stitch tab as suggested by a genius on Ravelry and also did a yo between the first two and last two sts on each right side row that I then dropped off on the wrong side. This kept the edge from being too tight. I'd love to take credit for both those ideas, but the truth is that I got both ideas from the Ravelry projects for this pattern.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

No Words

Well, I don't really know what to say.

I haven't been posting because it feels like shouting into the void. The political shambles of our country is immense and gut-wrenching and faith-shaking, and it somehow seems both imperative and disrespectful to talk about knitting when action after action being taken by the President and Congress takes us farther from respect, compassion, and justice and closer to intolerance, isolationism, and whatever the hell you call it when policies are made to benefit those who need it the least.

I am knitting. I am also listening to the news except when it becomes so overwhelming that I can't.

I'm reading fluffy fiction. I am also regularly donating to a local charity that works to relocate refugees in the area (here if you're interested).

I am working out, trying to take care of my body both for my physical health and also because working out is good for my emotional health. My trainer, by the way, is an immigrant married to an American. They are afraid to leave the country on vacation for fear he won't be allowed back in.


I think, in the face of our reality, of course I don't know what to say. There aren't adequate words, but we have to keep speaking anyway.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Loop, Backward and Forward

I was surfing Pinterest, like you do, when I fell upon a gorgeous photo of Loop by Casapinka. I was discussing it in depth via Messenger with a friend, like you do, when she casually told me she bought me the pattern and it was waiting in my library.

No, you can't have her. She's mine. 

I was not deeply committed to the laceweight sweater I'd just started (because, duh, laceweight), so I decided to cast on.

And then found myself completely flummoxed by choices.

After dithering longer than I care to admit, I chose Madelinetosh in Spectrum, my very favorite colorway in the entire universe, paired with Knitpicks Hawthorne Kettle Dyed in Blackbird. I began.

And promptly screwed up. Those two colorwork rows should be the same. The pattern clearly states that you hold the yarn in the back when you slip stitches. As you're working a wrong side row, the back is the front of the work. I was thinking about the wrong side as being the back, held the yarn in the wrong place, and, well, crap. I can't blame that on anyone but myself. Rip.

That fixed, I trundled ahead. I loved Spectrum. 

I did not love the pooling in the black.

In a move I'm incredibly proud of, I stopped and considered. I didn't like the pooling. Could I learn to like it? It probably needs better light. I went to bed.

The next day I took it to work, spread it on my desk, and glanced at it from time to time.


Yep, still pooling.

Sigh. Still pooling.

Besides the fact that my time is precious, because we all know I've knitted something I hated despite the truth to that, this colorway is too precious to use it in a project that screams, "I'M POOLING!" at me every time I see it. Rip.

I went back to the stash. One of the grays I had initially rejected was Good for Ewe's Sultry Steps. It's a great gray*, but it was fuzzy and monochrome and I wasn't sure I'd like it in this project.

I was wrong.

Loop (mine ravelled here),
knit in Good for You Sultry Steps in 98 Pewter 
and Madelinetosh 80/10/10 Fingering in Spectrum

Onward, again.

*For me, a great gray doesn't have brown undertones. Brown undertones make me sad.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A Spot for Sewing

I love Ikea. If it weren't for the combination of Ikea and Andrew's grandpa getting remarried shortly before our marriage (and thus combining two households), we would have had no furniture when we married. Seventeen years later, we still have a ton of Ikea things in our house. I feel perfectly fine that my nonexistent children will not inherit antique furniture. 

To say I sew sporadically is an understatement. I can go months between quilt blocks. I had set up the machine on our card table, and the weight of it over all those months was causing the table to warp. Turns out, sewing machines are heavier than cards. That meant the machine went back in its box, which made it even less likely I would sew.

I was talking about this with a friend, and she told me that she and a coworker had recently made an Ikea run to get furniture for their office. I spent a little time on their website, and...

Alex drawer unit in pieces

My order arrived a week ago Saturday. That night, after a nap to recover from  7-year-old niece's birthday party, I started assembly.

Besides the drawer unit, I bought a Linnmon table top and two Adils legs. Even with shipping (we don't have a local Ikea... yet), it was very reasonably priced.

Then I decided the drawers could be more fun. Since I am a whore for the rainbows, I already owned paint in the colors I needed (from this project), so this past weekend I unscrewed all the drawers and spent some time in the garage.

I love it.

The drawers really brighten things up. I put an Eiffel tower lamp on the desk that we've had since our wedding (the light in that room is crap), and a Spontan magnetic board with some inspirational things and some quilt-y directions on it.

This will make it easier for me to sew more frequently, and I'm hopeful that means I actually will sew more frequently. I sewed two squares last night, so now I have fifteen of the fifty-six squares of the gray quilt finished, and I already have my eye on the pattern for my next quilt.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Fabric Stash

This post is completely self-serving. Sorry about that.

I have been known, on occasion, to purchase fabric when I'm having a rough day. This weekend I took photos of the pieces I had. Documenting what I have will theoretically be a way to ensure I don't buy repeat fabric, and it could possibly keep me from impulse buying. (That might be asking too much.) This doesn't include bits left from the first quilt or the fabric I'm currently using for the gray quilt.

Buying fabric is much better and less expensive than a crack habit. I regret nothing.

Timeless Treasures Knitting Sheep Yarnball Sheep (1 yd.)

Greatest Adventure Clouds Multi (1 yd.)

Vintage Market Main White (1/2 yd.)

Wonderland Petal Flamingoes Love (1/2 yd.)

Wild & Free Luminous Field (1/2 yd.)

Millie Fleur Bees & Bits Spring (1/2 yd.)

Fleet & Flourish Wreathed Whiff (1/2 yd.)

Polka Dot Stitches Doily Gray (1/2 yd.)

Polka Dot Stitches (Green) (1/2 yd.)

Snapshots Main White (1/2 yd.)

Snapshots Home White (1/2 yd.)

Snapshots Multicolored Hearts (1/2 yd.)

Cherie Memorandum Cosmos (1/2 yd.)

Cottage Garden Wallpaper Gray (1/2 yd.)

Typewriters - Black & White by Cotton + Steel (1 yd.)

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Gradient Hat

I used some of the hand-dyed gradient yarn to make a hat.

Ombre (mine ravelled here),
knit in Ella Rae Classic Solids (hand-dyed)

I've had this hat pattern in my favorites for a long time. (Check out the pattern photos here.) I love the way this hat turned out, but you wouldn't think it was the same pattern. Changing the colors so they're a gradient makes dramatically different fabric than choosing lots of contrasting colors.

I imagine I'll knit another at some point, esp. since it's a good way to use up scraps. The only problem, and it's a big one, is that it's too small for me. I'll go up a needle size and perhaps even add more stitches the next time. I'm thinking about giving this one to my 7-year-old niece.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Gradient Raglan

Yep, I'm over the Not Knitting.
Gradient Striped Raglan (mine ravelled here),
knit in hand-dyed Ella Rae Classic 
and Plymouth Yarn Baby Alpaca Worsted in black

I mashed together the Adult Raglan instructions from Ann Budd's The Knitter's Handy Book of Sweater Patterns with some of the instructions from the Twisted Little Raglan from the same book. The neckline is a combination of the two patterns. The decorative yo at the raglan edges and the twisted ribbing down the sleeves and sides of the body are from the Twisted Little Raglan pattern, and the other math came from the adult raglan sweater.

When you ask a coworker to take photos of your new sweater,
be prepared to have to do at least one pose that makes you feel ridiculous.

I'd like the body striping to start higher, but I couldn't figure out a simple way of doing that without having the striping on the tops of the sleeves as well, which I wasn't thrilled about. I made the sleeve stripes near the wrist, reversed the color sequence, and made the stripes smaller (3 rows of color on the sleeves compared to 5 rows of color on the body).

I bought the black yarn when a yarn shop was going out of business without having an idea what I was going to use it for. I had 918 yards, and I had only a partial skein left when I was finished with the sweater, so I definitely needed to use it with other yarn. It's very soft and lovely, and it spit spliced like a boss.

I'm thrilled I found a good use for the gradient yarn I dyed as part of the class at Nomad Yarns. Shockingly, I even had enough yarn left to knit a hat (that I haven't taken a photo of yet). Sadly, it's too tight for my noggin, but I'll find a kid to give it to.

I've gone back to knitting the Persian Dreams blanket. I'm on block 6 of 24. I enjoy it, and it feels good to be back to it even though I have to be careful not to knit too long since it's tough on my hands. 

It feels good to be back to knitting!