Saturday, March 29, 2014

Return of the Festive Fish (Creatures from the Black Lagoon)

The fish have been hibernating for months.  They got so relaxed at the spa, when they were getting their acupuncture (a.k.a., blocking), they went into a deep, meditative state and haven't been interested in participating in Life on the Earthly Plane.

They have not been nibbling at my toes, sending out subsonic squeaks, flash mobbing my yarn stash, or otherwise causing havoc in their usual way.  Even when I watched Stargate for the 50th time, they didn't wake up!

But it is Maryvale season now, and the potential need for a comforting blanket for a deserving Someone has roused the Bodhisattva Fish nature.

They pushed their fishbowl-like plastic project bag off the shelf and spilled themselves onto the floor in the living room in perfect order!

I am now sewing them together.  I may need to make at least five more in order to make a decent teenager-sized lap blanket.  Reminder: do not use sport weight yarn for fish, or else be prepared to knit fish forever.

Borders of some kind will be required.  Fat borders.

Sewing them together once they are blocked is much easier, fyi, for those of you who are thinking of knitting the fish.

I don't have all the colors I want; I was kind of wishing for a rainbow concept, but this will do.  I've decided it evokes sunlight through water.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

Friday, March 28, 2014

A Class Act

As some of you know, I've been teaching a couple of drop-in help classes for knit and crochet at the LYS/LQS.  One of my faithful students, Betty, had the Cedar Leaf Shawlette in her stash of works-in-progress.  She'd had it for awhile and sort of given up on it, I guess, or maybe just got distracted by shiny new patterns.  Happens to me all the time.

Anyway, we worked on it for weeks together, as it presented quite a learning curve for her.  Much frogging occurred.  We finally agreed it was best to just work on it in class, so I could be there to administer urgent knitting care as needed, and whenever I was busy with another student, she patiently crocheted away on her Project Linus blankets.  (Three cheers for Betty, for her charity work!)

Despite the steep learning curve, she persisted like a champ, and she came in yesterday, triumphantly wearing the finished shawl!

I wish the pictures were less fuzzy, but her smile is clear!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Mission: Maryvale

Not Mission Impossible, I hope!

Maryvale has eight graduates this year!  You can read all about my involvement with giving new, handmade blankets as graduation gifts to the girls here, here, here, and here.

I swore that this year I would have at least two blankets finished by this time, but one of them was going to be a quilt, which I actually started over a year ago, and though I have the excuse of having many other projects in the works, I am still possibly the slowest quilter in the West.

Quilt sandwich
I did finally get the quilt sandwich pinned with the help of pal Elisa.  I think that was in November.  And so it came to pass that in January or February, I actually got it out to start quilting!

Then I did something that was meant to be responsible and smart.  I obeyed the manual, which stated that one should clean certain areas of the sewing machine once a month, take out the bobbin case, for example, and do a bit of dusting with the tiny brush provided.  So I did that.  And I followed all the directions, really, I did.

The manual is actually not as obtuse as most manuals these days.  It is quite thorough.  In fact, in the section that shows drawings of all the parts and accessories, and lists the names of said parts, it actually lists "instruction book" and there's a little picture to show what the instruction book looks like!  (Inside the instruction book!)  Hilarious!  (I mean, because, if you hadn't found the instruction book and opened it up, you would not have found that picture.  Right?  Are you with me?)  Ha ha ha it is to die laughing.

Anyway, I put everything back together as per the instruction book, and my sewing machine began misbehaving.  The bobbin thread was making an unholy mess on the backside of the quilt.  Thank heaven for that wonderful seam ripper Elisa encouraged me to buy, the kind with the razor sharp flat blade that can slide under even the tightest tiny stitch.  Best three dollars and change I ever spent.

I tried changing the bobbin, re-threading the needle, changing the thread--everything I could think of, and nothing worked.

Our wonderful local repairperson, who makes house calls and is in much demand, was finally able to get over here, and he began pointing out how things work (as in, gee, I didn't know that threading the machine is easier with the foot up, and threading the needle is easier with the foot down; did you know that?!).  He was here for a couple of hours, oiling this and that, unscrewing and opening and adjusting and re-adjusting and resealing this and that, and along the way, he showed me that I simply had the free-motion foot adjusted too high, and therefore it could not be close enough to the fabric to allow the needle to catch the bobbin thread, so really there was nothing wrong with the machine, just the operator!

No big surprise there, huh?

But both my machines were due for service anyway, so it worked out fine.

Blanket-wise, however, my main partner-in-crime, Susan, who is also point person this year for contacting Maryvale, suggested that we might want to relax our stringently high standards and perhaps make slightly smaller blankets, since we have so many to make.

She suggested traditional granny squares as well, since they are a "fast crochet" for most of us.  The quilt I am making, however, is larger and less traditional, and I thought, I wouldn't want it to become a source of envy among the girls if it were a lot bigger, and then I knew I was trying to control things that are beyond my control.  Back to quilting, and if I get it done in time, fine, and if not, there's always next year.

Luckily, I had decided a couple of months ago to make another of my River's Edge Ripple blankets.  I wanted better pictures for the pattern, and I had this yarn lying around, waiting for its turn at the hook.  Dark browns and blues generally are earmarked for boys, but in this case, I think it will work fine for Maryvale, especially since IT'S FINISHED!

Right now, it's at the LYS as a shop sample, to help sell some copies of the pattern there, but I have promised it to Maryvale, so I may just have to whip out another for the shop.

It's crochet, I can do it in my sleep.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

New Pattern: Li'l Surfer Board

It all started months ago when I was asked to make a shop sample of Purl the Little Knit Girl, from a pattern book by the same name by CiD Hanscom.  The book is filled with adorable patterns, charming and inventive, but inwardly, I was cringing.  I generally don't like to knit fussy little toys and dolls, or fiddly little stuffed objects of any kind, no matter how darn cute the finished object is.

My first foray into the field of stuffed knitted objects was a number of years ago for the Mother Bear Project.  I think Sonja was the instigator that time.  I didn't realize that there was already a crochet pattern available, so I kinda modified the knit pattern and made up my own crochet version, and the bear was HUGE.  We called him Frankenbear.  (Read more about other Franken-objects I have made here and here.)

Off he went to Africa, to scare--I mean, comfort--a needy child.  (No, really, he was still cute.  He was just a bigger, taller bear than any of the others and was probably perfect for some child somewhere who needed extra comfort and protection.)

But back to Purl:  I felt I needed to make whatever the boss said I needed to make, despite my misgivings, so I agreed, full of false cheer, and she threw a skein of DK weight HiKoo Simplicity yarn at me, and off I went.

To my surprise, I actually found myself enjoying knitting this little doll.  I started out grumbling, but the pattern is so clever, and it works!  You just do what it says to do, and those little fingers and toes and belly button and nose just appear!  And the eyes are not sew on or glue on, which would have really annoyed me, but snap on!

I had some fiberfill lying around that Meg at Haus of Yarn had given me ages ago, and I told myself I would probably never make anything fiddly again, so I used most of it up for this doll, stuffing the little legs and belly and arms as I went, as per instructions.

Once I attached the hair, the directions said to tie it up with a bit of ribbon or yarn, but I loved the way it hung down in disarray.  I thought my Purl the Little Knit Girl looked more like a Li'l Surfer Dude.  Perfect for a shop in a little beach town!

Obviously, he had to have a surfboard!

I searched for a pattern, but didn't see any I liked, so I grabbed some scraps of DK weight yarn and came up with my own.

My pattern is adaptable to any size yarn (or board) that you desire.  I call it the Li'l Surfer Board.  And it is now free on my blog!  (Remember, this pattern is for the board only, not the doll.  To make the doll, go to Purl the Little Knit Girl.)

Sign up to follow my blog and be the first to know when I post a new free pattern!

Anyway, I hope my adventures encourage you to try something new, something you would normally scorn or shudder to make.  It just might surprise you.  It could be fun!  It could turn out great!  Or it could be a Franken-object, but that's okay too.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Free Pattern: Equinox Scarf

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This scarf is so-named because I made it with Nashua Equinox yarn--actually, I made two of them, with different colorways.   I figure it's a good pattern for March, since the Spring Equinox is coming.  This version of the scarf works up quickly with super bulky yarn, for our friends in parts of the world who are still having something called "winter."

(We had winter, too; it rained briefly.)

Combining thick yarn with a lacy stitch creates a casual but classy look that would work for a woman or a man.

I think this would look great with lighter weight yarn too; just cast on more stitches.  I am tempted to try this with some ribbon yarn I have lying around, just in time for spring.  If I get to it, I will post pics!

Finished size: 84" by 4"
Gauge: 2.5 sts per inch

2 balls Nashua Equinox (132 yds. superchunky yarn)
#15 needles

k = knit
p = purl
skp = wyib, sl 1 as if to p, k1, pass sl st over k st
sl = slip
wyib = with yarn in back
yo = yarn over

CO 10 sts (or any multiple of 2 for wider scarf or thinner yarn)

Row 1:  k1, *yo, skp*, rep from * to * to last st, k1

Repeat this row until you almost run out of yarn.

Bind off, weave in ends, block if necessary--it's a very non-curly stitch, so you may not have to block it.

Happy Spring--I know it's coming!

This pattern also appeared in the Knitting Calendar 2013.

© 2010, 2013 Reyna Thera Lorele
Ravelry: captainhook

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Mystery of the Cedar Leaf Shawlette

Awhile back, I made this as a shop sample for the LYS.  Loved the yarn, loved the pattern, lots of fun.

Then one day, I noticed it was not hanging in its usual spot.  Everyone was asking everyone else what happened to it.  No one had a clue.  Apparently the scarf sprouted legs and walked off in the midst of the holiday crush.

These things happen more often than you'd think.  Maybe in a big box store, it's less surprising, or if someone were starving and stole a loaf of bread, Les Misérables-like, it would be understandable, but a scarf?  It isn't even cold in Southern California!

Everyone around here was and is amazed that someone would go into a small, independently owned shop and lift something, never knowing or caring that they are stealing someone's livelihood, and in this case, something that represents not only a lot of money in yarn, but hours and hours of time and effort, especially for something handmade.

I try to have compassion and not be filled with rage (especially since the shop sample was eventually going to be my pay for having made it.)  Someone has to be pretty hard up, or pretty screwed up, or both, to do something like that, so, there but for the grace of God go I, right?  I'd rather have my life than theirs.  Sure, I loved the yarn (it's Anzula For Better or Worsted), but, well, if I need a skein, I can buy one.  So my life is definitely better than theirs.

Well, guess what sprouted little legs and walked right back into the shop a few weeks later?

Suddenly the shawl was hanging on its peg as usual.  No one saw it come in.  It was just There.

But on closer inspection, I didn't think that it could possibly be the one I had made.  It was pretty and all, but it looked like it had been dry cleaned or washed, and blocked somewhat severely.  The stitches look looser and sort of worn, and it looked like two different dye lots were used.  Which I know is not the case, because I kept the yarn labels and I checked.

At first, no one had any idea who brought it back, and so we made up stories:

Maybe some kid stole it as a Christmas gift for his/her mother, she found out it was stolen, washed it and brought it back?

Or:  a lady nabbed it, wore it to an event, spilled something on it, washed it, brought it back....


Fill in the blank!  The Mystery of the Cedar Leaf Shawlette!

But then I asked the boss, and found out that it is indeed NOT the shawl I made, but another made by another knitter at the shop, who used a different though similarly colored yarn, and who has a slightly different knitting gauge than I do, perhaps, and she clearly had worn and possibly washed it at some point.  I mean, it's still pretty, but it's just not the same.  I'm glad they have another shop sample, but sorry there isn't a more interesting ending to this mystery.

Such as: the thief, having come to his or her senses, secretly returns the shawl, with much inner repentance, never to steal again.  Perhaps vowing to spend his/her life donating yarn and shawls to the needy.

Or how about this: the shawl, having been snatched and worn by a garden gnome on a whirlwind European tour, is returned somewhat the worse for wear to its original peg, and if only shawls could talk!  Or garden gnomes.

Yes, that is a much better story!

Or wait, this is even better:  the shawl I made is swept into a time-and-space-warping vortex that causes it to be molecularly exchanged in an alternate universe with another shawl almost exactly like it from another time-space-continuum, and there is another shop over there (or in there or out there, wherever it is) almost exactly like this one, only not quite as bright and cheerful, that now holds the sparkling gem of a shawl that I made, and we have it's echoing-in-time-and-space sister.

Or wait--the person who stole it is not actually a PERSON, per se, but a creature from another planet, and he, she, or it was on a scouting mission, and took this soft and beautiful shawl back to its home planet as an arty artifact to show his, her, or its advanced race that we humans are worthy and they should not destroy us!!!!

In fact, the more I think about it, the more I think that is the only plausible explanation for a theft of this magnitude.

So, if my shawlette saved the planet, I guess it was worth the sacrifice.  You can thank me later.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Home Sweet Quilt

I finally finished my Quilting 102 project!

I started this sampler to learn various techniques in a class in the fall of 2012.  I did all the sewing and quilting on my home machines--I even dove in and tried free-motion quilting, just winging it and having fun.  I mostly didn't even draw designs;  I didn't want to take the time.

I did use a pattern paper for the outer, green border, however; it's that stuff that comes on a roll, and has some sticky stuff on the back, so you put the paper down and quilt over the dotted lines, and then pull the paper off and you look like a genius.

Actually, since the inner part is quilted so free-form and playfully, I almost find the outer border too structured.  But then, that's the whole point of a sampler, right?  Different styles and techniques.

The finish date, enshrined on the label on the back, is February 28, 2014.

Before quilting

Since I have made many things, designed many patterns, worked many days, and so on, between the start and finish of this project, I don't think it's surprising, let alone deplorable, that it took so long.

So many of us have scads of UFOs (unfinished objects), and some of us are incapable of completely accepting that.  We feel guilt.  We feel pressure or embarrassment, we feel we have to apologize, as if we are lazy or somehow dreadful people because we are drawn to beautiful fabrics and yarns and we buy more supplies and start more projects than Some People think we should.

How many times have I heard a fellow fiber fanatic say, with varying degrees of lamentation, "I have more fabric than I can sew in a lifetime!  I have more yarn than I can knit in a lifetime!" and so on.  As if it's a bad thing!  I've often felt that way myself.

Before quilting
I was chatting recently about this topic with a lady at a local quilting guild, and she said, "So, if I were able to finish sewing all the fabric I have, what would I do?  Just sit there until I drop dead?!  I've already told my daughter, she's going to inherit a lot of fabric."

I love that attitude and have adopted it as my own.  So be nice to me, I might put you in my will!

Can you find the kitty?

Anyway, back to the newly finished work of art, which I am calling "Home Sweet Home."  Not very original, I grant you, but it suits.  I love the Spanish style of architecture, with red tile roofs, and was thinking of that as I chose fabric and sewed.

I was envisioning my dream home, and although I don't have exactly what I had hoped, it's pretty darn close!  My apartment is in a complex with red tile roofs, and there are archways and red tiles in the entryway to my own corner of it.

Some of you may remember, I wasn't going to quilt at all.  I had tried doing it by hand, and had given up in despair and loathing.  Then I moved to a place that had a great quilt shop nearby with great classes, Quilt Ventura, and I thought I would give it a try.

Well, those great teachers got me hooked.

The pattern was meant to be a wall-hanging, but I added some extra borders in case I wanted to donate it to charity as a baby blanket.  At this point, though, I love it so much and have put so much work into it, I plan to hang it on the wall in my apartment for awhile at least.

I was hoping to take a few more charming photos, possibly posed with teddy bears, but it has been so cloudy and rainy here--thank heaven!--that will have to wait.