Author Archives: seesawyer

About seesawyer

I have a personal crafting blog wherein I discuss sewing, crochet, knitting, and tatted lace

Journal: Back from hiatus edition

Hello, internet. It’s been a while. As promised, now that I’m mostly settled in from the big move, I’m back! Not too unexpectedly, I didn’t get too terribly much crafting done, what with most of my WIPs being in boxes and that whole full-time job thing. However, there were some long flights and a holiday in there, so I have some things to report.

So close!

So close!

Mostly I’ve been chugging along on my spinning, and I am getting so close to the end of the roving. I am pretty excited about that—spinning was a new adventure, and I regret nothing, but until/unless I get a fiber farm and a spinning wheel, it is not going into my set of regular hobbies. I’ve also picked up some gray yarn that I think will complement my hand-spun yarn, with the intent of making a gray shawl with a big color block in it. I’ll keep y’all posted as that progresses, for sure.

bracelets_jan15I’ve made a bunch of tatted bracelets, some as gifts and some simply as something to do on airplanes and such. I am kicking myself for not taking a picture of one of the gift ones, as I think it’s the most beautiful one I’ve made to date; I’m planning to make another like it for myself at some point, though, and I’ll be sure to get a picture then. The ones I’ve still got on hand are pictured at right.

Finally, I started in on another pair of honeycomb mitts, using the burgundy and white yarn left over from my shawl. I made a couple of edits: instead of the single inkline, I’ve made a column of six TSS stitches in each row, and I distributed the increases and decreases evenly on both sides of this column rather than all on one side of the inkline. I like how they are turning out so far, both in terms of color and pattern. Photos:

I also finished the grey and tan silk-bamboo scarf I’ve been working on in the background; I’ve got a pattern written up and will get around to finishing and publishing it soon. I finished the blouse that I was muttering about a couple entries ago, although I don’t have pictures for you today. My other WIPs—the lace scarf and cashmere mitts—are still in progress, but haven’t come out of the protective wrappings I put them in for moving yet.

blouse_fabricOne final crafting-related activity to do with the move is that I’ve had to check out all my local craft stores. So far I’ve just hit the local incarnations of the big chains; I intended to just case the joint and come back when I actually needed something, but on all three excursions I came out with new materials. Between two fabric stores, I came out with fabric for three new blouses (pictured at right) and a pair of slacks. If you’re paying attention, you may have noticed I haven’t yet finished the Great Five-Blouse Project; the plan is actually to put off the last of those for a bit and assembly-line these three on the machine just to put some more options in my closet ASAP.

green_cream_yarnI also bought some new yarn at one of the fabric stores. Some is some cheap baby-sport yarn which will become a low-mental-energy crochet project and then a why-did-I-move-to-a-place-with-real-seasons-in-the-middle-of-winter blanket. The other is something I just thought was pretty and unusual—it appears to be a mesh of white cotton/acrylic threads caging a core of colorful wool fibers. So both a somewhat unusual blend of fibers and interesting from a mechanical perspective. It’s Patons “denim-y”, if you’re interested. I think it will become another two-tone scarf.

multi_threadFinally, at a non-fabric craft store I got a couple more colors of tatting thread. The bracelet I mentioned above being so beautiful came from a variegated colorway, so I’m going to experiment more with that. I’ve got a purple/lavender/white and a navy/denim/white multi.

Journal: New drop spindle edition

Drop spindle and some gorgeously dyed wool

Drop spindle and some gorgeously dyed wool

I’ve got some other crafting things going on, but today I just want to quickly talk about my shiniest new toy: I went to my first-ever fiber festival last weekend, and while there picked up a drop spindle and some wool and learned to spin.

Such sad yarn!

Such sad yarn!

Fortunately the spindle came with an ounce of practice wool, so the worst of my learning mistakes happened in free, undyed wool that I didn’t care too much about. And boy, were there learning mistakes: my first batch of yarn has over-spun kinks, under-spun fluffy sections, and huge variation in thickness from point to point. I’m glad I saw the spinning demonstration before buying my spindle: the person spinning talked about how everyone’s first batch is what she jokingly calls “art yarn”, and said most people are doing much better within a half-hour of starting. I guess I am a bit behind the curve, as that first batch was all pretty bad and took rather more than a half-hour, but I’m okay with that. Anyway, as soon as I was done spinning I 2-plied the yarn and knit it up into a test swatch; photos:

Despite being only 2-ply I’d guess the yarn is somewhere around aran weight, albeit varying quite a bit. I used size 10 needles because the 8’s I started with were just not cutting it. Y’all may have noticed I’m a big fan of finer yarns, so knitting this up was somewhere between an interesting novelty and torture. All the same, I’m proud of myself.

Dyed wool roving. I've already spun up a section of gray

Dyed wool roving. I’ve already spun up a section of gray

While at the festival I also picked up some nice wool to motivate myself—a gorgeously multicolor blue-faced leicester wool by Dizzie Lizzies Handpaints. It’s spinning up a lot better, partly because my skill has improved and partly I think because the wool has less oil in it, or finer fibers, or something. I wasn’t really thinking clearly, so I only picked up one batch, so the plying process is going to be interesting, matching different colors together. In future I think I will stick to spinning single-color rovings, and likely doing more dyeing myself, but this roving certainly worked as intended to motivate me to get through the practice wool.

One thing that bears commenting on is the physicality of spinning, at least with a drop spindle, compared to my other crafts. I actually gave myself a blister the first time out (and chucked a bandaid on it and kept spinning anyway), but that appears to have been due to poor technique rather than anything else. Something that’s persisted is that after spinning for a while my arms get tired: with knitting, sewing, tatting, embroidering or crochet I can curl comfortably on the couch and keep my elbows down, but the drop spindle requires me to sit straight on the edge of a chair and keep both arms elevated for long periods. I’m definitely seeing the appeal of a spinning wheel, both for ergonomic and time-saving reasons, though I don’t have any plans to get one for the foreseeable future.

Journal: 7 November 2014

Today I should start with a bit of housekeeping—well, it’s pretty much the focal point of my life at the moment, but housekeeping to the blog: after more than a year of un/under-employment, I’ve accepted a full-time job offer. I’m super excited about it; the work is in my field, at the level I have trained to, the company is generous and the people seem kind. I’m a little less excited about relocating and all the logistical hassles involved, but such is life. The upshot for the blog is that for the next month or so my crafting and posting are going to take a hit, after which I should stabilize but at reduced levels. Wish me luck!

I'm told this is very disconcerting to see not attached to me

I’m told this is very disconcerting to see not attached to me

Also unrelated to crafting, but it amuses me: for various reasons I decided it was high time to reduce the length of my hair. I’ve mentioned incidentally here that it was quite long, at least when I was talking about making scrunchies; last night I got the flatmate to chop off well over a foot, which I plan to package and send off to an ACS-approved charity. I can no longer make a bun, or make more than a stitch or two of braid, but man do I feel free. Anyway, photo at right is the disconcerting disembodied ponytail waiting to be packaged up.

deliveryIn more crafting-related news, but still on the logistical side of things, I took delivery of a whole bunch of yarn and thread the other day. I’ve got a whole bunch of new tatting thread in many colors, the yarn to finish my gray&tan scarf, and some lace-weight merino for when I finish my current two fiddly lace-weight projects.

scarfThe gray&tan scarf is proceeding apace—it’s a good travel project, so I’ve kind of been saving it for all the flying I’ve got coming up, but I couldn’t resist working on it a bit as soon as the delivery came. I’m pleased with the yarn—I got the new stuff from a different store, and got the old almond-color skein long enough ago that matching dye lots would be hopeless anyway, but both colors match well enough that I can’t find the join just by looking at the scarf. So, good enough for me.

The Great Five Blouse Project is also making progress, albeit slowly. If I’m good I’ll get the buttonholes done before my sewing machine gets packed up to move, and if I get that done I can probably finish the shirt for my first week of work, but I’m going to forgive myself if neither happens.

So much yarn, you guys.

So much yarn, you guys.

Finally, the current project I’m most excited about is a new knit-lace scarf in one of the yarns I got for my last birthday. I was a little unprepared for just how much yarn came in this hank: it’s really, really fine yarn so a perfectly normal-looking, normal-heft hank comes in at nearly 1500 yards of yarn. I found this out the hard way when I was trying to ball it up, spent an hour or so winding the yarn and still was nowhere near done. So my yarn is half-balled, half still in the hank which I re-tied and -twisted, and I am getting good use out of my little crafting basket to keep everything together.

Scarf in progress, staked out to simulate blocking

Scarf in progress, staked out to simulate blocking

The pattern comes from the “eyelet diamonds 1” stitch pattern on knitting fool; many thanks to andresue’s blog for introducing me to that website. I’ve modified the pattern a bit, done four repeats width-wise and added a garter stitch border. I’m really happy with how it’s coming along, although it is such fine yarn that it’s going to take a long long time to get a respectable length scarf out of it.

I’ve named it the Pharaohs scarf on ravelry, and will probably publish a quick pattern under that name, because the triangular bits between the yarnovers look like faces and the straight stockinette bits look like either the beard or a headdress thing, at least to me (and I’m told, “can’t unsee it”). The flatmate calls it the spaceship pattern because of how the yarnover holes line up. Here’s some more photos of the project and of a test swatch in the remnants of some sock yarn; you decide:

I learned a couple of new things about knit-lace work during the inception of this project. First is yet another reason to always, always, always make a test swatch before starting the main project: in complicated lace patterns, you really want to make all your haven’t-learned-the-pattern-yet errors in a little bitty thing that you can rip out without too much remorse, not in the real project. I was really good with this project and even blocked my swatch, although since I used a different yarn and needles it won’t give me gauge: the pattern is in sections of stockinette and reverse-stockinette, so I wanted to see how it looked blocked flat instead of all bent at the boundaries between the two. The other thing I learned is that you can get a sense of how the project will look blocked before it even comes off the needles by staking it out, dry, with pins. Having done a bit of proper blocking before gave me a sense of how much I should stretch it in this process. This is how I got the reasonable photo above, even though unstaked it’s all crinkly and bumpy.

Pattern: Honeycomb mitts and hat

Tunisian honeycomb mitts and hat

Tunisian honeycomb mitts and hat

I promised y’all I’d write up a pattern for the Tunisian mitts and hat I’ve been talking about, and now I have.

Ravelry link: link

PDF pattern: Honeycomb mitts and hat

It’s probably an intermediate pattern at least, although I have no sense of these things. Tunisian in the round is a bit of an adventure, although once you get the hang of it it’s not bad at all. You do need a special hook—a double-ended one, which you can get a few basic sizes of at a lot of craft stores, failing which I’m sure you can get one online.

Tutorial: Tasseled tatted bookmark

Tatted bookmarks with tassels

Tatted bookmarks with tassels

I’ve made a bunch of tatted bracelets lately, and while I was working on one of those an idea struck me for another way to use all the edging patterns I’ve posted: fancy-schmancy bookmarks with a matching tassel on them. After all, tatting thread is pretty ideal for making tassels, so you can get perfect matching, and the actual fabrication of a tassel can’t be but so hard. And, unlike many of my “can’t be but so hard” moments, this one turned out well: tassels are really, really easy to make, especially if you have your tatting tools on hand.

Brown tassel with the frame I used to make it and a ruler for scale.

Brown tassel with the frame I used to make it and a ruler for scale.

You don’t need any special supplies if you’re a needle tatter; if you use shuttles, you’ll probably want a tapestry needle or similar just to tuck in the thread ends, or possibly a tiny crochet hook. You may also want some sort of tool to set the length of your tassels—a 6″ metal ruler, a pack of 5″ index cards, a pack of 4″ playing cards, etc. depending on the length you want—but you can also just use your hand, especially for shorter tassels. For the white tassel, I used my hand, and for the left I used a frame built out of Zometools, which are a modeling kit I have a lot of on hand.

Procedure:

  1. Ready for a tassel

    Ready for a tassel

    Choose a lace pattern and make about a 6″ strip, or whatever length you want the bookmark body to be. Shown are my Atlantis edging and garden path edging. Make sure you end with at least a foot of thread left on either the needle or ball thread, and at least 6″ (or longer for a longer tassel) on the other.

  2. Hold both threads  together and tie an overhand knot in them, snugged down close to the end of the work. Still holding them together, tie another overhand knot about an inch away—this creates the dead thread between the top of the tassel and the bookmark to go over the top of the book. This doesn’t have to be exact—mine are about exactly a half-inch and an inch-and-a-half.
  3. Making a tassel

    Making a tassel

    Set the work aside and start making your tassel. Using your same thread, wrap it around your hand or your length-setting tool 20-30 times, depending on how fat you want the tassel to be. Mine are 22 (brown) and 31 (white) wraps. Note: the width of the object, not the circumference, sets the length of the tassel, so your hand will give a 3-4″ tassel.

  4. Finish the wraps with a bit of overlap between the two ends (see photo) and cut. Work the next step on the far end of the loops from the overlapped area, as best you can judge, so the loose ends will both be at least the length of the finished tassel.
  5. Taking the tatted piece up again, tie the two loose threads around the bundle you’ve made, at one end. Make a good solid square knot or similar. Drop the shorter piece, holding it together with the bundled threads.
  6. Pinch the long thread against the bundle

    Pinch the long thread against the bundle

    Lay the longer piece along the bundle and use your thumbnail to pinch it against the other threads, about 3/4″ from the top of the tassel. See photo.

  7. Start wrapping the longer thread around the bundle, working back upwards towards the top of the tassel and catching the section that you were holding in place with the wraps. Wrap as tight as you can, and be careful to lay each new wrap alongside the previous without crossing or tangling the threads. 10-15 wraps is a good number, or whatever looks best to you—I would not go fewer than about 5 for durability reasons.
  8. Wraps made, ready to pass the thread down through the tassel

    Wraps made, ready to pass the thread down through the tassel

    Use your needle to tuck the last wrap you make under the second-to-last, pull tight, and then pass the needle down through the middle of the wrapped section of the bundle, pulling the thread through and tight.

  9. Cut the loops of the bundle at the bottom—a good way to do this is to hold onto the top, insert one blade of your scissors through the loops, and apply tension with both hands to make sure your scissors are right at the middle before cutting.
  10. Comb the separate strands of the tassel with your fingers to make them as aligned as possible, then trim the ends to make them all the same length. The sharper your scissors are the easier this will be.
  11. Finished! Stick it in a book or wrap it up for a fancy little gift.

bookmark_white bookmark_brown

Journal: 27 October 2014

It’s been a bit of a while since my last post, so I’ve got quite a lot of finished items to show you. The fabric I was excited about in my last journal entry is now an A-line knee-length skirt, the honeycomb mitts are finished along with a matching hat, and I’ve resumed the Great Five-Blouse Project. In the interstices of those projects I’ve also been making tatted bracelets, bringing my total up to five. The scarf I was working on in my last post is on hold—I finished off my yarn, but it is not yet a sufficient length, so on my next trip to the store I will need to get more.

Bracelets:

The crowns edging works very well for bracelets, although they are a bit wide, so I made a couple more in different colors, and I tried out the braid edging for a less ornate bracelet. I’m especially pleased with how the green one sits—it’s a larger thread than the other two, so I skipped one full pattern repeat and ended with a slightly snugger bracelet that sits happily at the narrowest part of my wrist.

Sewing:

Simple A-line skirt

Simple A-line skirt

The fabric I was talking about last time turned into a skirt in what I think is record time for me—I cut the fabric the afternoon/evening of my last journal post, and finished just at bedtime the following day. It’s entirely hand-stitched, too; having the nice sewing machine hasn’t spoiled me yet. It helps that it’s just about the simplest skirt you can imagine: a knee-length A-line skirt with no frills, although it does have a set-in-side zipper, an in-seam pocket on the other side, and a button and buttonhole tab on the waistband. I’m not entirely thrilled with it—I wasn’t paying enough attention to line up the pattern on the side seams, and the button/tab arrangement is a little hinky (I should probably move the button at some point)—but it will serve. I used the Simplicity 2758 D pattern, which I’ve used before (and more faithfully), but omitted the pleat and pockets and all.

Detail of button and tab

Detail of button and tab

I did find the perfect button for it—too bad I generally wear my shirts untucked, so the button will just about always be covered!

I don’t have any new photos of the Great Five-Blouse Project, but I’ve cut the pieces for the lavender blouse (#4) and started sewing the side seams. I’m planning to do the buttonholes at least by machine, and probably the hem and plackets as well, possibly in a decorative stitch. I started the seams by hand, though, because matching curved seams on the machine is hard and prone to puckers, so it’ll be an interesting hybrid of machine and hand sewing.

Mitts and hat

crossbones

Mitts and hat in Tunisian crochet

Well, I think I’ve gotten the Tunisian honeycomb bug out of my system at last. After finishing the mitts I had a fair bit of yarn left, so I decided to make a hat in the same style. I ended up a little short of the solid purple for a beanie, so it’s got a fairly wide shell edging in normal crochet. I’m not really a hats sort of person, so we’ll see how much I end up wearing it, but it’s quite comfy and promises to be warm. I’m planning to write up a proper pattern for both, so I’ll not say too much about the construction now, but here are a bunch of photos:

Journal: 15 October 2014

The back of my couch is starting to accumulate blankets...

The back of my couch is starting to accumulate blankets…

The main thing I’ve accomplished since my last post is to finish my quiltlet, about which I am very happy and proud, but I think I covered it pretty thoroughly in my pattern post, so today I’m going to talk about what else I’ve been up to.

Christmas-mix yarn dyed with Rit tangerine

Christmas-mix yarn dyed with Rit tangerine

I conducted a new yarn-dyeing experiment, using the same yarn as before but with proper, commercial made-for-cotton dye (Rit brand powder dye). I’m much happier with the results, which is not too surprising. I think I was successful in turning a Christmas mix yarn into more of a harvest colors mix. I was hoping the green would turn more brown and the red would get a bit darker/deeper, but overall I’m pretty happy. I brought the finished item to my local knitting/crochet group the other day, and nobody commented on the yarn or speculated it used to be Christmas colors, so although I can still see it I consider that a success.

basket

Simple basket in dyed yarn

I started pretty much immediately to turn the yarn into another little basket for holding works in progress; this one has a smaller footprint than the other and correspondingly (same total yardage) taller sides. I chained 28, worked back and forth in single crochet until I had a good shape of rectangle (23 rows), then started spiraling around the entire base to make the sides, putting a decrease at each corner of every second row for the first ten rows or so, and then working even until I ran out of yarn. Photos:

Mitts almost finished - I plan to stop close to the elbow

Mitts almost finished – I plan to stop close to the elbow

As you may be able to tell from the above photos, I’ve also been chugging along on my Tunisian honeycomb mitts, which are now probably 80% done. I love how the honeycomb stitch looks, but unlike TSS I can’t just sit down and crank it out forever; my wrists get tired, so these are going a little slower. Still happy with how they are turning out, and because of the thick, cushy back of Tunisian crochet, I expect to be very happy with them come colder months. The pattern is also working out very simple; I’ll post it when the mitts are done.

Neutral-color scarf

Neutral-color scarf

Detail of pattern

Detail of pattern

In order to have something to do that wasn’t honeycomb stitch and didn’t require the sewing machine, I started another new crochet project. I’ve had this one single ball of yarn, worsted-weight bamboo-silk blend in a light tan color, sitting around for literally years; I got it because I ran out in the middle of another project, but couldn’t find the right dye lot and it was noticeably off. Anyway, I picked up another skein of the same yarn, but in a grey/silver color, when I was at the store for dye and quilt batting, and have been working them together into a fairly plain neutral-color scarf. The pattern owes inspiration to this one, but is different enough that I plan on posting it once I finish the scarf, especially since the colorwork is entirely my own invention.

Blue fabric

Blue fabric

Finally, I want to mention a new project added to my queue: I picked up some absolutely lovely blue cotton fabric at the store, because even if my list includes bits and bobs for three or four very distinct projects, I can’t leave without an impulse buy or two. The plan is for this to be a knee-length, A-line skirt suitable for professional wear. The tape is for scale: the medallion designs are fairly large, so this would not be suitable for a shirt, but I think will do well in a skirt.