Category Archives: journal

Journal: 16 March 2015

Things I have been up to lately

Things I have been up to lately

Since my last post, I: finished the mitts with my Christmas-present yarn, made a few new tatted bracelets, finished plying my hand-spun yarn, started knitting a shawl(ette) with it, chugged away on my Sierpinski blanket and my big green scarf, dyed some things, and did a bunch of mending that really needed to be done but ate into my creative crafting time.

The mitts are pictured above; not much to say on the topic. I’m pretty pleased with how they came out, mostly because of how warm and soft/smooth the yarn is.

Bracelets:

Two of them are this pattern, and the one in the middle is a pattern I’ve yet to post. I’ve been playing with color a bit; I’m really pleased with how the blue/yellow one turned out but less pleased with the blue/black one.

I finished plying my handmade yarn, and am pleased to report that the three-plying method using long crochet-like chains worked really well. I almost immediately cast on a knitting project with the yarn: a top-down triangular shawl based on this (knitting fool link) lace stitch. I’m hoping that I’ll have enough for a reasonable shawl/shawlette; I was too excited about casting on to bother with details like measuring out my yardage. I’m working from the outside (gray) in (towards purple), despite winding the yarn in a center-unwinding ball. Partly this is because of the colors and partly because my spinning gauge was still totally inconsistent, meaning the purple end is considerably thinner than the gray. I’m hoping it’ll look nice and like the shawl is fading prettily away, and not get all warped and sad and look like I am bad at spinning. We’ll see; wish me luck! Photos:

tea_dye

Dyed tatting, with reference pieces

I conducted a dyeing experiment using tea on some tatted things; shown at right are the tatted bit I dyed purple a few weeks ago, three bits I stained with tea, and bracelets made of the same thread and undyed to serve as a color reference. The tan one, of course, started out white. Not much happened; the tan of the formerly white one is reasonably lovely, the rainbow is a little less intense, and the “ocean” colorway thread just turned muddy. My verdict is I may do this to white pieces but should probably stop overdyeing things that already have color to them.

Sad re-dyed shirt

Sad re-dyed shirt

Speaking of which, after my rather successful re-dyeing of a shirt discussed in my last post, I was pretty confident and ready to dye my blue patchwork shirt that also got pink-splotched in the same wash load. I’m heartily disappointed in the results, shown at right; I think it’s obvious that it was amateurishly dyed over, it’s terribly splotchy right in the center front, and it just doesn’t look very good. I haven’t even had the heart to try it on and preen in front of a mirror yet, which is a bad old sign. I’m going to at least try it on, and depending how I’m feeling may pick up some black dye and see what happens, but as like as not will just throw it out (or leave it in my dresser to slowly migrate to the bottom of a drawer in shame). Ah well; fortunately I picked up some nice blue fabric at the store to make a new patchwork shirt, once I get through my backlog of sewing.

In more happy news, my Sierpinski blanket is coming along well and is over half-finished; photo:

Sierpinski blanket in progress

Sierpinski blanket in progress

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Journal: 22 February 2015

Homemade yarn

Homemade yarn, just beginning the plying process

It’s been a bit of a while since I posted—I blame my busy social calendar and regret nothing—so I’ve got a fair bit to share with y’all today.

Yesterday I had a really good crafting day: I successfully re-dyed a shirt that had gotten pinked in an Unfortunate Laundry Incident, as well as playing with dyeing tatted pieces. I worked a little bit on the blouses I’m assembly-line-ing, and had good luck with my serger. I also had good luck with plying my home-spun wool; I came up with a way to make the colors work out and it’s looking like real yarn now.

I’ve also done a fair bit of tatting in the past month, started and nearly finished a pair of mitts out of my Christmas present yarn, and chugged away on the blanket and scarf I talked about in my last journal post. The blanket is now about halfway done, hooray hooray, and I’ve picked up enough yarn to finish the scarf.

In tatting news, I did a bit of design, both yesterday’s pattern and a modification of this pattern that I like rather better but is fiddlier to do (I intend to post a pattern for it in a bit). I’ve been playing with variegated thread, reproducing the beautiful bracelet that I made as a gift and failed to take pictures of, among others. I also made a butterfly bracelet with beading, which worked well. Photos:

Stripey mitts

Stripey mitts

The mitts are pretty straightforward double-crochet spiral things. I am striping them in the two yarn colors, with the interface between stripes being alternating stitches of the different colors. I’m pretty pleased with the starting row—I chained along the length of my hand, then chained back putting a treble crochet every third stitch to make four separate finger holes. The yarn is bamboo/wool, so very soft and warm, and it’s thicker gauge than I usually work with so the mitts are going quite fast and coming out bulky and lovely. I made the two mitts have opposite colors—red on top vs. gray on top—on purpose, in case you’re wondering.

Opposite colors

Opposite colors

I did intend to learn broomstick lace crochet with this yarn, and I tried to make a pair of mitts that way, with the first row of lace holes being the finger holes. Suffice to say broomstick lace in the round is tricky and not for beginners with improvised tools. So I ripped that out and started again with ordinary crochet. I do want to do broomstick lace at some point—probably the next time I have yarn that’s begging to be a scarf. I did learn that the packaging for a zipper makes a pretty decent flexible “broomstick”, for whatever that’s worth.

Sewing table with serger

Sewing table with serger

In sewing news, I picked up some fabric a while ago and it has been patiently waiting to be turned into blouses. I finally cut it this week—stacking all three pieces of folded fabric and cutting together, so let’s hope I don’t find any wrinkles—and hauled out the serger yesterday. I was, let’s say, pleasantly stunned to find that this old beast was still in good working order, threaded (!) in the correct color for two of the blouses (!!) and had good tension settings for the fabric (!!!). I was expecting to chew through quite a bit of scrap fabric getting it into that state, as the last time I recall having the machine out it was not doing so well on any of those counts. Evidently I either a) have completely forgotten the last time I used it, or b) have an infestation of wonderful. wonderful sewing-machine-mending gnomes in my house. At this point I can’t even think of any project I’ve made that would’ve used the serger and blue thread, so I’m leaning towards explanation b.

Lovely serged seam

Lovely serged seam

At any rate I am pleased with how the serger is doing. I tend to think of it as for knits only, but I’ve been irritated with the thick seams on the other blouses I’ve made, so I decided to give it a go. I’m a little nervous about a few things—the measurement of the seam allowance on curves, for one, since the knife and needles are fairly far apart and the guideline is at the location of the knife; I’m also worried about fitting the very different curves on the front princess seams, since I have to take the pins out at the knife point and hope the fabric stays in place until the needle. I guess that’s what the foot is for and I should just trust it. Wish me luck!

In dyeing news, I had an Unfortunate Laundry Incident a while ago where a non-colorsafe red thing pink-blotched two of my favorite shirts (the patchwork ones), plus a shirt I didn’t care about as much, a bathroom rug, my nice gray sweatpants, and so on. Two of the affected shirts were blue, so I decided to pick up some purple RIT dye and see if I could remediate them that way. I’m pleased to say it worked on the one I cared less about, and used only half the dye, so next time I have a good chunk of free time I think I will try it on the blue patchwork one. Not sure what to do about the brown shirt, unfortunately. Plus, while I had the dye out, I dyed a test bit of tatting just to see how it would do. The results are lovely, meaning I suddenly have a lot of options for all this white thread I have around. Photos:

The color is a little blotchy/uneven, but it looks a lot more deliberate than the single pink splotch it had before. I’m hoping it’ll be even less noticeable on the patchwork shirt, which is made of patterned fabric and is lighter-weight than this one, making it easier to dye evenly in my little basin. I’m particularly pleased with how similar the coloring is between the shirt and the lace bits, considering they’re made out of different fibers and all; I was prepared to have to snip the lace off if it didn’t work well. I did learn one interesting thing: slight deodorant stains make the fabric pick up more (purple, RIT-brand) dye than it would otherwise; hopefully not by a noticeable amount when it’s worn.

3-plying setup with crochet hook.

3-plying setup with crochet hook.

Last but far from least, I am thrilled to report that plying the homespun wool is going well. I had been planning on 2-plying it, matching end to end and working towards the center, making the yarn be multicolor at every point. I tried that. It looked terrible. So I laboriously un-plied the few yards I had done and tucked the thread away for a while to think about what it had done. Eventually I came up with a brilliant idea: 3-ply the sucker, working in crochet-like chains, making each section of yarn be all one color. It’s going really well: I love the colors of the yarn, and 3-ply brings me a lot closer to the sock-weight store-bought yarn I’d like to use it with. I’ll report again once I get more of it plied, but am really pleased so far.

Journal: 1 February 2015

spinning_doneToday my big news is that I finally finished my spinning! I still have to ply it (or decide not to), but I am so glad to be done with the spinning. I think I’ve already said all I really want to about this project: I am glad to have done it, but glad to be done and not planning to do any more.
presentI received a slightly-delayed holiday present that I’m quite excited about: two skeins of lovely soft wool-bamboo blend in muted gray-green and burgundy or dark fuchsia, and a short skein of purple and gray, 100% silk that is so soft you guys, oh my goodness. I already have plans for all of it, although nothing cast on: I’m going to learn broomstick lace and make some chunky arm warmers with both colors of the wool blend, and learn hairpin lace and make either jewelry or a summer scarf with the silk.

scarf_progressI’ve cast on and made progress with the weird yarn two-tone scarf. Other than using it as a travel/waiting in line project, I have been letting it languish a bit because I think it will need more yarn, so I want to get back to the store and see if I can match dye lots before getting too invested. The scarf is working up wonderfully thick; I should probably make it a priority to get back to the store and finish it before the cold weather goes away.

clutch_faceI’ve been doing a bit of utilitarian sewing that I may get a pattern up for eventually: I wanted a little zippered bag to keep in my desk at work and put band-aids, ibuprofen, and so on in. I’ve been wanting to try a quilting pattern I saw on somebody’s blog a while ago, of sewing short strips together into a braid or brickwork pattern. So I combined these two desires, and made the little clutch shown at right. It uses four each of three colors of strips, 2.5″ by 4.5″, sewn into a loop in the zig-zag pattern with quarter-inch seams. The top I sewed straight across, then set a zipper; for the bottom I pressed under the seam allowances all around, matched up the loose corners, and whip-stitched them together. I should’ve lined it, but got lazy, and now it is at work serving its purpose and will probably never get lined. Ah well. I also made a little coin jar using more or less the same technique: I made a loop of two strips of each color, sewed the bottom closed, and turn in the loose edges on the top and sewed around the rim. The bottom closure was a little tricky: I had three right-triangles loose at the bottom edge, so I sewed these together along the normal seam lines. This made the bottom a pyramid, which is not really ideal, so I just gathered the middle bit until it more or less sat flat. Photos of both projects:

blanket_progressFinally, I’ve got a mindless crochet project that I meant to only work on when I’m too braindead to work on anything else; perhaps predictably it’s progressing a lot faster than anything else. It’s a fractal blanket patterned on the Sierpinski carpet; I’ve done a Sierpinski blanket as a gift before (pre-blog), and liked it so much that I decided to make myself one. This one is in Bernat baby sport yarn; I’m expecting to use two pound-skeins of the stuff in the taupe colorway. I’m using filet crochet, with (ch1 dc) for the open pixels and (yo, insert hook in next st and pull up a loop, yo and pull through two loops, yo, insert hook in same stitch and pull up a loop, yo and pull through two, yo and pull through three; dc) for the closed pixels to give a little darker of a fill than normal (dc, dc) filled pixels. There’s a one row/2dc border all the way around. The 81-pixel, fourth-order fractal pattern made a good blanket width, and I’m planning to do two repeats to get a good length. I’ll probably write up a more explicit pattern and post it here once the blanket’s done and I can get good measurements off it. Right now it is definitely a little off of square, which I’m hoping some aggressive blocking (even though it’s acrylic yarn) will fix; it’s not the end of the world for me if it stays off-square though.

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.

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: