Thursday, September 29, 2011

Instant Gratification (Birthday) Crafts

Yesterday was my birthday, and in celebration, I had lunch the other day with a friend. We have been making a ritual of birthday lunches for several years. I couldn't decide what I wanted to do after lunch, except that I felt like doing something craft-y and fabric-y and colorful.

My first idea was to make a fabric bunting or garland. I've been taking a look at Offbeat Bride (I think of it as Martha Stewart for a new, sometimes tattoed, always stylish generation) occasionally and love the happiness and crafted-ness and color that brides are using these days for weddings that look fun. I also like to get a fix of color and beautiful craft at Purl Bee (the sister shop to Purl Soho, the knitting store in New York City. Aren't these happy? And then, I lurked around and found these amazing vintage book garlands.

We bought some Kaffee Fassett fabric at the quilt store after lunch. But then we came home, and in less than fifteen minutes, my friend, who didn't feel like sitting at the machine while we sewed many small pieces of fabric end-to-end, had cut the fabric for pillows that I've been meaning to work on for the last three months. She sewed them up on the machine, then I stuffed the down-feather pillows in, whipstitched the end close, and eh voila, instant, happy birthday craft.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Tuesdays with Dorrie

I love the idea of baking my way through a cookbook, and sharing it with other bakers.

I discovered Tuesdays with Dorrie too late. But maybe I'll make myself an ad hoc member, and bake away with them, anyway? Starting with World Peace Cookies. And if anyone knows of something similar, can you let me know?

I can tell that the season of Needing Chocolate and Light is upon me. I'm home from the Cape, and already missing the water and the sun and the beach.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Blue and a New Use for an Old Phone Booth

A repurposed phone booth at the local market: ATM instead of rotary telephone.

What I'm reading:
I'm a big fan of this series, which fuses optimism and pessimism onto every page. The books, set in Quebec in a town that is a fairytale kind of place, looks at the dark and light in all situations, have a lot of nuances in the characterization, and a ton of characters who are artists: poets, painters, cooks, lovers of horses. And I am always intrigued by the author's forewords, which seem to suggest some sadness and struggle, despite the amazing mysteries that she writes.

The Komi mitten that I am knitting; seems to be a blue theme going on.
This is Mitten 18 from Charlene Schurch's Mostly Mittens. The yarn is Cascade 220 Sport. You get a ton of yardage (175 yds) for about $4, and it is reminiscent of Jamieson's DK-weight Shetland yarn. In the skein, it feels smooth, but once you start working with it, it takes on a slightly more wooly, crunchy feel.

Here's how I'm keeping track of pattern rows.
Gauge? No idea. I'm trying to commit to knitting a pair, with no modifications from the directions for Adult's medium, and then seeing where I end up. I do know that my tension has changed a great deal from beginning of the colorwork to where I am now, with the knitting getting tighter and more even. Below, a view of the variations in tension from very loose to more regular:
I'm feeling some pressure to put this aside and try to crank out some mittens in Malabrigo for a show that I'll be in come November. On the other hand, my fall resolution is to try to finish something before starting something else....
And more blue: Parker surveying his kingdom. The best time of day at the beach is between 4 and 6 pm.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Cape Cod

The boardwalk from the dunes to our beach. And below, a view from the walk down onto the beach: my husband, the dog, and my nephew, who came to stay overnight with his fiancee. It felt a bit quieter than August at the Jersey shore, where we had 12 of us around the table, but still very nice. We're thinking that September at Cape Cod should become Beach Tradition #2 of the year.
Parker. This is his first time at the beach, and he loves the ocean and the piles of seaweed along the dunes and galloping into the waves for a stick and swimming back to shore with it in his jaws. And especially, the seagulls. I quickly learned yesterday that there is no calling him back when he is running a gigantic loop after some birds.
Stones on the beach. Very different from what you see at the shore in New Jersey. Lots of this white stone - is it quartz? And smooth, small river-rock kinds of pebbles. Not many sea shells. And a few claw shells from crabs, though no critters sighted.
 Another view of Parker, after a swim.
And another difference from New Jersey: many more bird sounds, and frogs and crickets last night (including a very loud one inside the house), and a beautiful night sky that had a bit of what seemed like Northern Lights to me -- there were wide swaths of lighter-colored sky, and a very full moon, and a distinctly-moving light that my husband thinks may have been a view of the space station.

Friday, September 09, 2011

gauge monsters

We're driving to the Cape. Tonight we're in Massachusetts. Yesterday in Brookville, Pennsylvania (a very nice historic downtown).

No significant problems with Hurricane Lee, though any place that there is a body of water, from the Meander Reservoir in Ohio to the Hudson River in New York (my most favorite landscape - I never fail to be amazed at how beautiful the Hudson River Valley is), the water level is very high.

We have the dog with us. He's behaving pretty well, but we believe that he can recognize the blue highway signs for the rest stops, because he starts fussing whenever we pass one. We have compromised by stopping every second or third stop, which has worked out fine, as we get out, all stretch our legs, make appropriate rest stops, and then get going for the next bout of driving.

The only problem has been the continuing frustration of mitten-knitting, strange gauge problems, and a lot of unproductive work. In the last two weeks, I've knit Bella Mittens too small. Bella Mittens too large. Komi Mittens too large. Basic Mitten Pattern from Ann Budd's book too big, The last, I'm dead-on with gauge and knitting my size - 7 1/2 - and the first mitten fits my husband's hand. If I strung together all of this knitting in stitches and time, I probably have at least a sweater's worth of work.

Tomorrow, we should make it to Cape Cod. And maybe I'll have a mitten to show off.

Monday, September 05, 2011

My (First) Free Pattern: Gee's Bend Baby Blanket

Introducing the Gee's Bend Baby Blanket.

Can I have an Oscar moment? I have posted my first free pattern on Ravelry! And I am listed as a designer. How crazy and wonderful is that?

And I do love this pattern. I love the colors. I love the yarn: Be Sweet Bambino and Bambino Taffy. I love the odd meetings of colors and shapes, and the way that it is both asymmetrical and balanced at the same time - just like the incredible quilts of Gee's Bend.

The goal was to design a blanket that was quick to knit but not boring; machine-washable; and provided color interest without the effort of stranding or intarsia. The excitement comes from working two squares from the outside of the self-striping colorway of Bambino Taffy and two squares from the inside, so that the pinks and greens and yellows echo, but don't match up shape for shape.

Another Oscar moment (who knows when or if I'll have another pattern on Ravelry? Though I have an idea for a project that will incorporate words embroidered onto a knitted object): thank you to not only the Gee's Bend artists, but also Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne of Mason-Dixon Knitting. Queens of the mitered square, inspiration for all knitters and admirers of beauty in the everyday world.

The pattern provides line-by-line directions for the mitered squares. And in the Notes, I have deciphered two rules for making mitered squares, for those of you who like a sense of the architecture within the mitered-sqaure decrease.