Wednesday, January 13, 2016

After all the pre-Christmas knitting / and the post-holiday knitting, I was burned-out and ready for a break.  I managed to finish most of the projects I'd planned -

This shrug for one of Bill's daughters - she found a pattern we both liked, but it wasn't for the yarn we liked, so I ended up making it entirely to fit her (notice the thumb holes at the end of the sleeve?  That innovation combines the shrug with being a hand-warmer too!) and a large t-shirt quilt for Bill, which couldn't be photographed because Bill leaves it upside down on the couch, and the cat really likes the corderoy backing!  Bill's red Christmas socks...  better not to talk about those.  They're still in progress.  Sort of.

Then there was this large afghan, knitted by four people, for a raffle to benefit the library.  Being one of the four and the organizer for this enterprise, I supplied the yarn and knitted the widest part and put most of it together; then finished the edge.  Raffle tickets anyone?  We'll probably pull the winner on Valentine's Day! 

And this project, a handspun shawl I started spinning in October, didn't finish the spinning and plying until after Christmas (and after I'd actually begun the knitting).  The knitting took longer than expected.  I was trying to knit at least a couple of hours every day, and my hands hurt every night.  I was putting the finishing stitches in last Friday night, in advance of a Roc Day show, where I entered it in the competition there.  (I won). 
Meanwhile, I was also working on workshop projects I'm teaching this winter, including
 this "Ocean Waves" coaster
and the "Best Friends Sampler Coaster"

Ocean Waves will be taught at the Sunshine State Tatters Gathering, Best Friends for the Lost Art Lacers in New Jersey.  
Then there was the first Tatting Times issue for the 25th anniversary year.  That's ready to go to the printers tomorrow.  Or Friday, if it snows.
Time to relax, I thought.  I found this pattern online, and I really liked it.  It's from Georgia Seitz's site, a reprint from Needlecraft Magazine, February 1925. 

I wanted a simple sort of pattern to relax with, maybe even update a little, where it might lend itself to that.  Time, I thought, to use up even just a little of my stockpiled cordonnet, so I wound two shuttles CTM with size 50 in a soft sage green.  But my first try, the example to the left, clearly wasn't going to work.  The problem

is apparently the lock chain, which was just a hair too long.  So I started over - that's the one on the right - and that one looks like it WILL work just fine.  The difference between the two is less than 1/8 inch.  Small changes really do matter.  Stay tuned - more on this later!

Monday, December 21, 2015

The "Twelve gifts of Christmas" project begun on the shops Facebook page officially comes to an end with this post.  The fingers have been busy with a multitude of projects...  Like this rug.

I think I might have posted about the rug process before.  You'll need about 21 ounces of super-bulky wool and a size N crochet hook.  Begin by chaining 12 stitches or thereabouts, crochet twice into the second chain from hook, once into each of the rest of the chains, then twice more into the first chain (three stitches total in the end chain).  Then continue back along the other side of the chain, with one stitch between each of the stitches on the other side, ending with a third stitch tucked in where the first two appeared. 

Then keep crocheting around and around in an oval version of a spiral, adding  two stitches at the corners of each side (but offsetting these increases so they occur at a different place in each round).

Change colors every round or two for variety, make fewer increases as the rug gets larger, if it looks a little wavery on the floor.  And you'll know this, because each time you put it down, you'll smooth it onto a flat surface like the floor to check.  Keep going until it's large enough.  If you noted the crochet hook tucked into the work in the top photo, you'll see that one is not quite large enough for me.  When it's done, before it goes to its permanent place, it will have to be gently washed - more of a soak-and-spin process in my top-loading machine so it doesn't felt.  When still damp, it's blocked by being patted flat on a floor to dry.  That's the only kind of "dry flat" instruction that really works with a rug.

Some of the rest of the multitude was inspired by the wish to give a small, practical present to each member of the exercise class I teach locally every Tuesday.  I made some melt-and-pour soap, then thought about presentation.  By crocheting a cotton soap-bag, I created a container for the soap that could also be used as a personal scrubby or washcloth, then re-used later with other soaps.
 I used a knitting-worsted-weight cotton (I think this one was one of the "twists" which is a variation on a single color theme - in this case, pink)  and a size G crochet hook.  Begin by chaining 6, join last chain to first, and tighten.  Chain 3. Crochet 11 treble stitches, which counting that first chain (where you'll join to the top stitch) effectively looks like 12 stitches in the ring.  Chain 3 again, then one more.  Treble in the same space.  Treble, chain, treble into each space between two stitches - and when you get to the end, crochet a treble, chain, treble over the first chain instead of ending the row.  This enables you to continue crocheting in a spiral for the length you need - about 5 to 6 rounds high, working this "v" combination of two trebles with a chain stitch between them into the Chain 1 space of the round below.  There it is in progress, on my lap.

When it's long enough, crochet a double, chain and another double in place of the next treble v stitch, then a half-double chain and half double into the next chain space; then a single crochet into the following one.  Finish the bag by continuing around with a single crochet, followed by two chains  into each space between two stitches.  Cut the yarn, fasten off and use a yarn needle to pull the end in.  Chain 65 stitches, cut the yarn leaving a long tail, and pull this chain through the chain spaces left between the single crochets of the previous round.  Knot the two ends together - I added more strands for tassels.

I've got enough now - with some others I made earlier -  to give out one to each person in my class.  The soap came in that color, the shape comes from being poured into a silicone brownie mold. 

Still on my family present agenda is a t-shirt quilt, a shrug and a pair of red knitted socks.  There are officially three more days, counting Christmas eve, to get them done.  Wish me luck!


Monday, December 14, 2015

This week's post (last week's post?) got delayed because I was here

Knitting socks like these, only in red.  (The sunny, 70 degree weather did not inspire anyone to want to buy warm woolly things, which means I now have an oversupply of warm hats, mittens, silk scarves and felted bags.  People patted them as they walked by, commented, "Warm" and went off to look at pottery and jewelry. )  This means you are going to need to knit your own warm woolly things...  or come talk to me.  Let's assume you're the sock knitter.  Using bulky-ish yarn, in this case intended for size 10 needles, you'll need two skeins plus four size six double pointed needles.

Using a long-tail cast on, with a very long tail, put on 12 stitches on the first needle, 12 on the second, and 13 on the third.

 Move that 13th stitch to the first needle, knit that last stitch and the first stitch together, and then, holding the tail together with the yarn from the ball, continue around in a K2, Purl 2 rib.  For about 8 inches.

At which point you'll re-distribute your stitches for the heel.

 You'll notice that I was indeed knitting at the crafts sale, and had to photograph the sock-in-progress on a nest of silk scarves.  You want 18 stitches on one needle, the rest distributed on the other two.  You're going to knit a heel flap on the 18 stitches on that one needle, as follows
 Row 1 (wrong side, meaning the inside of the heel) slip 1, (slip 1, purl 1) across, ending with a purl stitch.
Row 2 (right side) slip the first stitch, knit across
Row 3 (again, the inside of the heel) slip 1, (purl 1, slip 1) across, ending with a purl stitch.
Row 4 (right side) slip the first stitch, knit across

Repeat that until you've got a flap about 3 inches high, 2 1/2 or 3 repetitions of the above sequence.
This is called "Eye of the Peacock" stitch or something equally fanciful, but those slipped stitches on the inside surface help the heel last longer.

Turn the heel :
 Knit (or purl) until you're 5 stitches from the end of the row, Knit 2 together (or purl 2 together) turn.
     do this twice.
 Knit (or purl) until you're 4 stitches from the end of the row, Knit 2 together (or purl 2 together) turn.
     do this twice.
 Knit (or purl) until you're 3 stitches from the end of the row, Knit 2 together (or purl 2 together) turn.
     do this twice.  Knit (or purl) until you're 2 stitches from the end of the row, Knit 2 together (or purl 2 together) turn.
     do this twice.
Your heel is now turned, but your sock looks funny.  Your next task is picking up stitches from the side of the heel flap.  12-13 per side should do it.  However, your needles are - temporarily - very crowded.
At each side of the heel, on each round, you're going to decrease one stitch, choosing the decrease method that slants your decreased stitches toward the floor when the sock is being worn.

Eventually you'll be back to 36 stitches, re-distributed to be 12 on each needle.  And you'll be so pleased to see your knitting look much like at least part of a foot held in the air.  Remember though, these socks are bulky, and will probably be worn in the house on slightly slippery floors.  So you'll do a  k 1 purl 1 moss stitch on the 12 stitches at the sole of the foot (take another look at those gold socks) while keeping the upper part of the foot continuing in the k 2 purl 2 ribbing.  I left a few stitches of buffer zone plain stockinette between the sole and the ribbing.

Keep going until the sock is long enough.  How do you know?  I hold it against my own foot.  Is the intended foot bigger, smaller or similar to mine?  If it's the last, I'm ready to start the toe.  If it's smaller, I guessed it was long enough sooner; if it's a larger foot, I keep going.

For the toe, divide the sock into upper and lower halves, and put the stitches on two needles.
Sock toe decreases: round 1 - on each needle, K 1, slip, knit, pass slipped stitch over, knit to within 3 stitches of end, K 2 together, K 1.
                                round 2 - on each needle, knit each stitch.

This is the underside of the sock with those moss stitches showing.  Keep up the good work until there are 8 stitches on each needle.  Then watch this video on kitchener stitching (grafting) the stitches left on each needle together.  The trick is to start the second sock IMMEDIATELY so you won't suffer from "second sock syndrome" and not finish both to match.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Elves on over-drive!  Someone mentioned a dearth of tatting showing up here.  But my shuttles have not been sitting quietly.  I made myself a promise at the beginning of the year that I'd spread more tatting around than previously - and I have.  Today the first of the "bookmark brigade"

made its way to their intended recipients.  Here are most of the ones I made for this group of people.  At a Wednesday Afternoon Club meeting, I offered each person a bookmark for a holiday present.   Each person had brought a contribution to the local food pantry plus gifts for mental health day-patients.  No one expected to actually receive a present themselves, which made it even more fun.  "But who am I supposed to send this to?" one person asked, confused, hardly believing it was a present for her.  Everyone seemed really impressed.  That these are all tatted made them more special.  "I'm putting mine straight in my Bible," said another.

For today's second act, I finished the binding on

this twin-sized quilt for someone I only know as Christmas adoption  "number 23" - an older person without funds and alone at Christmas who had very little on her wish-list other than bedding for a twin-sized bed.  The quilt was pleasant to work on, the pattern was quick, and I had it professionally quilted so I only needed to trim it and bind the edges.

It feels particularly, wonderfully, holiday-spirited to know people are getting good surprises they didn't expect...  But the elves are not done yet!

Monday, December 7, 2015

The bluebird of happiness is hand-made.  And because those who rejoice in doing hand-work have a lot of cross-over skills, it's possible to get from here

to here

and have a lot of enjoyment doing it!  You'll notice I saved the bluebirds for last...  Here they are in their "raw" state, pieces of felt cut out in a bird shape...

To this, you add every embroidery stitch you'd like to play with.  Feather stitch is good, of course.  So are running stitches, lazy-daisy, chains, appliquing other shapes as I did in the earlier ornaments.  You'll see in the bird in the lower right photo

that I'm also partial to the bullion embroidery stitch used in Brazilian embroidery and crazy quilting to create dimensional roses.  Sequins, if you've got any, are easy to sew on with beads, though I've found you need the larger (size 6 ) beads if you want to sew through them.  Other potential "additives" are bits of lace (think tatting throwaways), rick-rack, more beads, buttons, commercial trims.  Finally, you'll put two pieces of the same shape felt together, sew them with a running stitch or a chain stitch or even cross stitches, stuff with a little bit of stuffing before you're done.  Early on in the sewing together part, you'll need about a 12" length of thin ribbon,  Fold it in half and knot it, then sew through that knot when you're sewing together the top part of an ornament.

And then you're done.  You can see two done with running stitches (one was through the chain, with a contrasting thread) and one chain stitched. 

For next week, I'll show you easy socks to wear indoors - find some good chunky yarn - not super-bulky, but something that will have a nice consistency on size 8 double-pointed needles.  Get some of those, too...


Saturday, November 28, 2015

Thanks to everyone who came out for small business Saturday and open studio Friday.    Among them was a lovely young man who's a tv reporter, who interviewed me here -

And now I've got an answer to how many child-sized hats I can make out of scraps of yarn in two days and one evening...

And the answer is....   15.  Plus one scarf that was an afghan panel partly started - came with the scrap yarn.  When that's finished and packed, I'm done with crochet for a while to let my hands recover!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Today is Thanksgiving, and for the past few days I've been preparing for an open studio sale in my shop.  (look at the Graceful Arts Fiber Studio Facebook page to see a photo of that).  But in thinking about all the gifts we want to give, I was thinking once again about the ones that go to people we don't know, because we can offer a gift of warmth to someone who really needs it.  If you've read the blog for a while, you know I crochet a lot of warm hats.  My gift to you today is to detail how I do it - and I hope at least some people will be inspired to share their gifts with others, as time and opportunity and resources permit.

Many of us stockpile and stash bits of yarn that cross our paths, no matter how large or small those piles are...  and I have not only my own stash but it's often augmented by other peoples' as well.  For this weekend I'll spend in the shop, I put together two baskets of the smallest balls of yarn, the ones too little on their own to make a hat or a pair of mittens.

First thing I do is sort through them for inspiration.  I like to use at least two strands together for warmth.  Sometimes, if one or two of the strands is a bit finer than knitting worsted, I'll use three together, though the colors need to be somewhat related.  These are children's hats, and many children are surprisingly conservative about what they'll wear!  So on the left in the photo above, a fingering yarn - the close observer will see it was already knitted into part of something else before being abandoned - picks up at least one of the colors of a multi-colored yarn and on the right, various shades of green with a blue and a lavender.  The ball of thread at the lower end of the right side was part of what must have been a 50 gram ball of dk acrylic.

Taking up my trusty size L hook, my standard beginning is to leave a 4-inch tail and make a very loose slip knot and one ordinary CH.  (This is called a magic something-or-other beginning, but I had been doing it for decades before I knew it was called anything at all.)  Then crochet about 8 sc into that first loose CH and tighten it so there's no visible central hole.  Give it another yank, and then as you continue around in a spiral, work that end in so it's anchored (by making at least part of one stitch with that end, then crocheting over the tail).  You'll make two sc into every sc of the center, then continuing around and around, adding a stitch now and then until it looks about big enough.  By the time I added the blue yarn on the left, the hat looked large enough for a child.  If you make the crown too small, you'll have to increase later and the hat might look stocking-hattish or simply pointy - and honesty compels us all to admit this is not currently in style.  Make it too large and you'll need decreases down the road and the hat will be slouchy-looking, which DOES seem to be in style.  How much yarn you've got is one deciding factor.  Around and around you crochet.  Variegated yarns offer the dim entertainment of looking for the next change of color; working with small amounts of yarn offers the equally dim excitement of wondering when you'll be forced to change colors next.  It takes me about an hour to make one hat.  Tonight I spent two hours and made two.

I like to add something special to each one.  The bottom one got some sideways crocheting at the brim and a button.  The upper one got a stitch variation to make the blue stripe, which would go over the ears, just a little thicker.  Reverse single crochet is a good finish.   The church where I teach an exercise class (and also sing) put out a call for warm gloves, hats and mittens to put on the tree going up this Sunday, so I'm challenging myself to see how many I can make, and how many scrappy balls can be used up in the process before the end of Saturday. 

Most communities collect hats and mittens, and sometimes scarves and other warm attire.  These are given out to food pantry patrons, head-start students, to the school nurse, to the Red Cross, to the homeless, to battered-women's shelters, to anyone in need.

May I invite you to give yourself the gift of giving things away to people who can never say thank you?