Wednesday, February 28, 2007

WIP: Odessa hat II

Here's my second Odessa hat, after 1 lunch break and 3 episodes of the Gilmore Girls. Thanks to some errors in row-counting it's proceeding even slower than the last one. :/ I started using a row counter, hopefully that will help.


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Sock knitting resources

I got a query on the last post about sock knitting resources for beginners. If you know how to knit in the round, you can knit socks. If you don't know how to knit in the round I suggest starting with a hat, then moving on to socks. I learned to knit socks from the Lion brand magic stripes basic sock pattern, a basic top-down pattern. It's a really great pattern to start with. It explains kitchener stitch (how you bind off and finish the toe) really well, and it gives good, clear instructions for both the toe and heel. I just recently switched to using the Knitty universal sock pattern, a basic toe-up pattern that does a good job of explaining short-row heels and toes and an excellent job of explaining knitting math. I am by no means a sock-knitting expert, although I do have a few tips I can share:

  • Make a gauge swatch. It's better to waste one hour making a gauge swatch and doing some knitting math than wasting 20 hours making a sock that will not fit you. Also check your gauge as you are knitting the sock. It's better to catch a mistake sooner rather than later.

  • Try on the socks as you go. This is really akward to do, especially when using dpn (double pointed needles) but at least you'll be able to tell if your sock is the right size.

  • Start with a sock pattern that uses size US 3 needles - you'll get quicker results, which is nice for your first pair of socks.

  • Read the directions. Google or ask a knitting mentor about anything you are not sure about. Make sure you understand the whole pattern before you start.

  • Get some stitch markers and a row counter. Record the row number that you start the heel and toe on so that you can make the second sock *exactly* the same.

  • There are a bajillion different ways to knit the toe and heel - if you don't like the one specified in the pattern just use google to find a different one.

Happy sock knitting!

Monday, February 26, 2007

WIP: Anastasia sock

I completed the first Anastasia sock this weekend, complete with picot edge! The picot edge flares out a bit so I may re-do the bind off differently, but that can wait until the second sock is finished. The sock is a bit snug over the arch of my foot and a bit loose everywhere else... I think it could've used a few more rows between the toe and heel. I'm not too fond of the way the color pooled into spirals. I have enough to make one more pair of socks with this yarn, I hope that I can find a suitable pattern and gauge so that the yarn won't pool.


Saturday, February 17, 2007

Optimus Prime!

I made my husband this paper Optimus Prime for VDay. It took an incredibly long time to make - I'm a little embarassed to say that it took me almost 4 hours. And I even neglected to attach his thighs, two wheels and smokestacks. And I just realized that his torso is upside down. The way he's sitting makes me think he needs a little paper lazy-boy to recline in (or maybe a lawn chair!) and a beer can. I think that's just part of his charm.

He's supposed to actually be able to transform, but I am too afraid to try. I think I tied his limbs together too tightly to transform him into a semi without crushing him. If you want to make him, I would suggest using a blunt sewing needle (like one used for plastic canvas crafts or to weave in ends on a knitting project) to score the back of the cardstock for the folds. I have a bone folder, but it's not very accurate. Tiny projects like this call for something more precise. I used three strands of embroidery floss and a teeny tiny sewing needle to attach his limbs.


Here you can see just how tiny he is - only about 5 inches tall! And totally defenseless against kitties...


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

WIP: quilt layout (continued)

Here's the quilt layout (now with all pieces included!). I'm *so proud* of myself for not losing any of the pieces. I'm really pleased with the quilt so far, I can't wait to start stitching the blocks together!! I looked on the Benartex website today, hoping to find more quilt kits like this one, but sadly most of the curved-piece quilt kits have been discontinued :*(


Sunday, February 11, 2007

WIP: quilt layout

After much deliberation, this is the layout I've decided on for the Wheel of Mystery quilt:

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I'm not a big fan of those two lonely red pieces, or any of the red pieces for that matter - they are just so different from all the other colors in the quilt. Oh well. It didn't take as long as I thought to lay out the pieces. Some lessons I learned were:
  1. When sorting batik fabrics into "light" and "dark" you need to sort the individual pieces. There is so much variation in the fabric that two pieces cut from the same fabric could be totally different colors.
  2. Use a black and white photograph to help distinguish between "light" and "dark" pieces. (This idea was inspired by Penny's comment. Thanks, Penny!!)
I still have quite a ways to go before the quilt is completely pieced. I only have the "A" and "B" pieces paired up, I still need to join them into blocks using the "C" pieces.


As mentioned in a previous post, I purchased an orchid last weekend. A Doritaenopsis, to be precise. I've been meaning to take a picture of it since then, because I know it will probably never bloom again. Its flowers are already starting to wilt a bit and the unopened buds have fallen off. I suspect this is partly because it had to endure the trip home in -10 degree weather with only a plastic bag to protect it from the elements. I'm sure my being a horrible orchid care-taker has something to do with it as well. I have my fingers crossed that I've learned a few things from my mistakes in the past, and that this orchid will survive. Time will tell.


Wednesday, February 7, 2007

WIP: Wheel of mystery quilt

I don't know if it's like this for everyone, but quilting is a long, doubt-filled process for me. (Warning: this is going to be a long, rambly post.) I have never, ever been good at matching colors. Or patterns. Or anything, really. To make things worse, I'm a big fan of avacado green and mustard yellow, and things that are just the right degree of ugly to make them cool. These are probably not good qualities in a quilter.

I am so, SO bad at matching fabrics that it takes me hours to select fabrics for a quilt. I know the employees at the quilting stores I shop at cringe when I hold one bolt of fabric up to another to see if they match. Sometimes, out of the corner of my eye, I see them snickering at me. I'm paranoid that the woman at the checkout feels sorry for the receiver of whatever I am making.

Inevitably, at some point in the quilting process (usually many points) I think "Geez, this is kinda ugly." Sometimes this happens when I get the fabrics into daylight and realize they probably don't match. Other times it's when I start cutting itty bitty pieces out of fabric with gigantic flowers and I realize the flowers are now reduced to abstract art. Usually about halfway through piecing a quilt I have a moment of panic, maybe shed a few tears, afraid that the quilt is probably not going to live up to the overly-optimistic artistic vision I had at the beginning of the project. I just take a few minutes to grieve, dry my eyes, and then I power through those doubts. I always tell myself that the quilt will look good when it's all pieced together. Even if it's not so hot when it's pieced, I have spent so much time with it and am so emotionally invested in it that I can no longer view it objectively. I can't tell if its ugly or not.

I've been searching for ways to eliminate the matching and doubting parts of quilting and just breeze through to the end where I have a (non-ugly) finished product I'm proud of. I purchased the Wheel of Mystery quilt kit from Benartex fabrics thinking that it would solve a lot of my issues. The kit includes all of the die-cut pieces needed, so there would be no fabric selection -or- cutting. Awesome. Or is it...

First I tried to lay out all of the pieces before sewing any of them together. I felt a little uneasy when I realized that not all of the batik fabrics match, and that the most challenging part of the whole project was going to be the laying-out of the pieces. Damn. After many hours of laying out the pieces I scrapped that idea and read the directions. Apparently you can get a "more random look" by piecing any old light colored piece A to any dark colored pieces B and C. Huh. Random sounds good, but light colored... dark colored... how on earth do you sort out light colored and dark colored batiks? Grey scale? Color intensity? Here was my try:


In case you're wondering, and I'm sure you are, the top row is the "light" and the bottom row is the "dark". I'm sure that you now feel sorry for the receiver of this quilt. Don't wory, I'm not gifting this, it's going to be a wall hanging for my living room. After strugging with the concepts of "light" and "dark" I got a bit nervous about this project, so the pieces got stuffed in a bag in the back of the closet for almost a year. Now they are nice and wrinkly... great. I can barely contain my enthusiasm for this project. The only thing that keeps me going is the hope that the end product will look great in my living room.

My next step was to randomly sew the light colored A pieces to dark colored B pieces and vice versa. I'm about half done with this. I started laying out the quilt:


As you can see, the piecing was not so random. Lots of pieces are inverses of each other, like the adjacent blue-yellow and yellow-green pieces. This was an accident. You're looking at try 9 of the layout. I'm now at the "this is kinda ugly" phase. I'm a little bit ashamed right now about my total misunderstanding of color theory. I really am not happy with the pieces, and I have no idea how to proceed. I'm thinking sew more random pieces together, trying harder to make them "random". Followed my many, many more hours of block layout and doubt, otherwise known as the "that piece would look good over here, and this one should move there..." phase. It's like a horrible, never-ending game of 15 puzzle. That phase will be followed by the "it'll look totally different (and hopefully better) once all the pieces are sewn together, so just finish it already" phase. I'm glad I've got a plan :/

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Completed project: chemo caps

I just finished knitting 4 chemo caps and they are packaged up and ready to send to Boston. It's such a good feeling to knit something for charity, especially something for kids. I'm glad I participated in this effort! The hats aren't due until Feb 28th, so there is still time to sign up if you're interested.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

WIP: chemo caps

Not a very exciting picture, but it fits in with the Project Spectrum theme for this month so I'll post it. It's my third of 4 chemo caps that will soon be mailed to Boston.


Saturday, February 3, 2007


This is the thermometer on the side of my house. Yes, it's reading -9 degrees (F). This was taken from inside our sunroom, which has super crappy windows from 1960 that insulate only slightly better than seran wrap. The frost on the INSIDE of the windows makes the whole picture a nice blurry white, perfect for this month's Procject Spectrum. I have no idea what the actual temp is inside the sunroom, but I'm guessing around 50 degrees (F). Too. Cold.