home, -ish

We moved! With no disasters. The cats were incredibly good.

IMG_4892.jpgOverlooking a La Quinta parking lot, I can’t remember which one.

We got here and had three snowstorms in March to welcome me back to true winter.IMG_5014

But eventually things have changed from looking like this:B7979491-54E9-4246-A373-96D0788D6052 (1)

To looking more like this:IMG_5164.jpg

And this:IMG_5200

And this:IMG_5190

This is what spring looked like when I was growing up. It’s very strange both to remember this landscape, because it was my default for so many years, and to find it completely unfamiliar, because it has been so removed from my reality for so many years.

In any case, we made it. And I have been knitting – as soon as we got here, I had to start making a hat, because it was really REALLY cold, and I had foolishly packed all my handknits to go on the moving truck, which took about a week to reach us. So I’ll show you those soon. Until then, have a birch tree.IMG_5118

Advertisements

a few changes

Although right now in real life I should either be packing, throwing things out, cleaning, or sleeping, I decided it was instead the right time to refurbish my long-neglected virtual home a little. Put plainly, I am no longer going to be a desert knitter – I’m moving to the deep dark woods, to the general area where I grew up; hence, return to the mothership. I know the locals where I’m going will identify themselves as absolutely different from the people where I grew up. But for me, being within a ~2 hour drive of where I began, in pretty much the same climate and the same kind of landscape, is a form of going home. It’s certainly much closer to my original home than I’ve been for 25-ish years, and also – hopefully – going to be my long-term home.

So excuse my long absence here, and I hope to find more time to post, and show you cold-weather clothes and accessories for a change.

img_4757Where I’m going

It’s almost starting to look like a bag

Sewing continues. Here’s a peek:

IMG_1475This is – or will be, if all goes well – the Super Tote by noodlehead (Anna Graham), in progress. I kind of wanted a lightweight bag for when I’m schlepping things that don’t fit in my purse, and I fell in love with this cat patterned canvas, so thought this would be a fun project to combine the two. (I say “if all goes well” to cover both my fledging skills, and general randomness, since I already had something of a tragic incident involving some of this bag’s pieces and a puking cat.)

Planning this made clear how difficult it is to match colors and patterns – that is, putting together fabric colors and patterns, and figuring out if they’ll work for the project itself. Here, I originally thought I might make the Metro Hipster, but once I got the fabric I realized the scale was too large and I’d be cutting apart all the charming black cats.  So the Super Tote it was.

So far, I’m fairly happy with my choices, but looking at the photo, I’m not sure if I love the cream topstitching. That said, the lighting was terrible – the background is actually a deep blue, rather than charcoal – so I probably shouldn’t rely on the photo. And the white line down the center is just chalk, which will go away eventually, which I think will make the topstitching look better? I felt like black topstitching would be a little severe, and red would be a little too matchy-matchy.

(The funny thing is that noodlehead just posted a picture of a new Super Tote she made recently, and it’s clear that she made the strap a little differently from the directions in the pattern. The pattern directs you to topstitch the strap at 1/4″ and 3/8″, but the one she just posted is clearly edgestitched and then topstitched. Kind of wish I’d realized that before doing mine, as I like the look of the edgestitching better. But I am way too lazy to redo it, as that would require not only unpicking the seams to remove the strap, but either unpicking all. that. topstitching, or cutting and sewing new straps. Oh well.)

So. My great hope is to finish by the end of the weekend. We will see! And then we’ll see if it turns out well enough to carry in public.

Oh dear

IMG_0879 I should probably begin by pointing out that my current career requires minimal math skills, and my previous career required minimal math skills. They’re both fields where when you do have to deal with numbers, you may well get it wrong the first time, and you may well then say something like “There’s a reason I went into field X, because I’m bad with numbers.”

Of course, knitting frequently requires at least minimal math skills. Like, it would be expected that you can look at the amount of yarn a pattern requires, and look at the amount of yarn in a single skein of the yarn you’re considering, and figure out how much of the latter you need for the former.

Or you could be me, and figure out halfway through your “baby” blanket that you have one skein left, you had originally bought five, each skein is 210 yards, and for some reason you thought that five skeins at 210 yards a skein would get you to the 1,950 yards the pattern requires.

Even though I knew I was knitting the largest size of this blanket (not “lovie,” not “stroller,” not “crib,” but “throw”), for some reason I was sure that five skeins would be enough and it would nonetheless end up a nice baby-sized thing.

In any case, late last night – after I had spent much of the day binge-watching Anthony Bourdain and speed-knitting – I finally, finally figured out my error. Since I’d had a baby-sized object in my head, and what I’d produced was pretty much that size, I had convinced myself I was nearly done (after all, I was using up the yarn!), and realizing I had basically a whole other baby blanket left to knit was…depressing.

I faced two choices: buy more yarn, keep knitting, and produce something very not baby-sized; or frog what I’d done, and start over with a more reasonable-sized project. It seemed really sad to consider frogging all. that. work, but I had pretty much the same amount of knitting in front of me either way. And buying more yarn was going to be expensive.

RIPPPPP.

IMG_0885

(Of course because I’d alternated skeins, ripping back got me into a huge tangle to begin with, so that was fun, too.)

I’ll admit, though, that I couldn’t face continuing on with the original pattern I’d chosen, the Harvest Moon Blanket. This has absolutely nothing to do with the pattern, which is perfectly clear (both in general and with regard to size and yarn requirements – apparently I just can’t read) and produces perfectly lovely results (I particularly liked the border texture). It’s more that after already knitting the equivalent of a whole baby blanket in that pattern, I couldn’t bear to do another one. (Not being a regular blanket knitter, I found those rows lonnng.)

So I’ve started over, with Tanis Lavallee’s Smooth Sailing. (Some day I am going to buy some of her gorgeous yarn, too.) The nice thing about this pattern is that the reverse side looks prettier than on the Harvest Moon Blanket, and I actually think that the stitch pattern works better for my yarn, which I’ve decided is a little too variegated for the Harvest Moon Blanket anyway. (So all that wasted work was for the best, right???)

IMG_0888It’s a good thing it won’t get cold here for – well, it doesn’t get truly cold here, but it won’t be chilly enough for a blanket for a while. Hopefully I can at least beat winter.

Why I am bad at lace

I don’t know, actually. I like to think I have some reasonable knitting skills by now, but I’m terrible at lace.

I’ve cast on the Talavera sweater from the summer 2015 Pom Pom Quarterly – see?

IMG_0515

The yarn is Malabrigo Silkpaca Lace, held double, in the Zarzamora colorway. Not really sure at all what gauge I’m getting because this is a spur-of-the-moment, “I’ve had this yarn for ages and haven’t done anything with it and let’s see what happens” project, not a “I have a serious plan and have bought yarn with a purpose and seriously intend to have finished product X that actually looks like finished product X AND looks good on me” project. Am just really curious about how this might turn out.

And it’s absolutely not hard lace. It’s got yarnovers and some slipping and knitting two together and whatnot, but it’s not complicated. There’s nothing about any of the stitches that is hard.

And yet I keep ending up short stitches at the end of the row.

Usually it seems to be a yarnover that I missed the row before. At least once I managed to drop down a row and add it back in, correctly. At least once I’ve dropped down a row and added something back in, not at all correctly. Twice I ended up short one knit stitch, and I just cast on one extra and called it good. (When I did that twice on the same row of the pattern, I started to wonder, just a little, if maybe the pattern was actually wrong…and then I tried to work out the math of YOs and added stitches, and then I realized that I can’t math and the pattern was completely fine and that I had screwed something up somewhere along the line.)

I think this is getting better – I’m on the fourth repeat of the pattern, and I’m starting to be able to read the lace. I have figured out for some rows that certain things are supposed to happen in certain places and if they don’t I need to go back and figure out what I did wrong STAT. I think my problem is with the YOs that outline all the pretty little stockinette triangles – they’re not all quite the same YO done at the same time and I can’t keep them straight yet.

But it’s humbling. A sad amount of time spent on this project so far has been spent tinking back – because, of course, I haven’t been using lifelines, because the lace isn’t hard! The pattern is super straightforward! ARGH. (But honestly, I hate lifelines. They’re super practical and functional, but I hate threading them and I hate poking the needles back into the lifeline’s tiny loops. I may have to start using them anyway.)

I think I have to face the fact that what I’m actually reasonably skilled at is not knitting, writ large, but just fixing mistakes in the acres of stockinette to which I usually devote myself.

And also that there will be some wonky bits in the bottom of this sweater. But they’ll block right out, right?

IMG_0519

Fruits of the weekend, the foxy part

My second project from this past weekend is a Lined Drawstring Bag from In Color Order.

More fat quarters from Jo-Ann’s (the husband picked out the foxes); I didn’t like the two fabrics next to each other enough to use them both on the exterior fabric, so instead of a main fabric and accent on the exterior, I used two pieces of the same fabric, and folded over and topstitched bias tape to hide the seam. I realize that without an accent I didn’t need to cut the main fabric in two pieces, but doing so made it easier to orient myself in the pattern, and also to cut the interfacing to fit.

I used bias tape to make the ties, too – kind of a waste of bias tape, I realize, but I had it to hand and didn’t have any ribbon or enough fabric to make other ties, and I wanted to finish the bag. My first choice would have been orange grosgrain (or orange and green striped!), but white was fine as a runner up.

The nice thing about this pattern is that the raw seams are hidden in the lining.

Stripey the friendly local semiferal wanted to see what I was doing. He was disappointed not to find anything exciting.

It’s a decent size for knitting projects – here it is holding my baby blanket project (in its current state, at least; I’m only about 1.5 skeins in), and I think it would be great for lightweight sweaters.I was pretty pleased with how this turned out – especially that my bias-tape-turned-ribbon meets exactly at each side seam, because I’d been careful with my measuring, and it was nice to know I did it right. If (when) I make this again, I think I would run the channel for the drawstring along the top of the bag, rather than 1.5″ down – I don’t love the frilliness of the top of the bag when cinched shut, and it would make the bag a little bigger. I might also use a lighter weight interfacing? But this is a great project bag pattern, if you want one that closes completely. And you could easily add a pocket to the lining, if you wanted something for notions.

So, this was a fun way to kill a weekend, and I’m hooked. Unfortunately for my wallet, that means I’ve already bought more fabric, and have aspirations of clothing…

IMG_0422This is the yellow canvas from my previous post, which also took up a chunk of Saturday; if it gets done/turns out, I’ll post more about it another time.

Fruits of the weekend, the pink part

So, the fabrics are completely different from the ones in my last post, but I spent my weekend making these:   For today, let me show you the pink box. It’s from a tutorial I found at Sew Like My Mom, and used a couple of fat quarters rescued from the remnants section at Jo-Ann’s. I didn’t laminate the lining, since I wanted it for knitting, not cosmetics, but I did use interfacing to give it some structure – the corduroy is very lightweight and floppy.

(excuse all the lint sticking to the corduroy)

I fudged the size a little, as the remnants section at Jo-Ann’s is not exactly a bastion of fine cutting, and neither piece was quite 21″ when squared. The zipper isn’t set exactly properly – it buckles a little – but it seems to work well enough. 

Lots of space for a shawl project! (Gudrun Johnston’s Mystery KAL.)

The one thing is that I had been looking at a gazillion lined cosmetic bag tutorials online, and I forgot until I was halfway finished that this one, while having some of the clearest instructions, has raw seams. I zigzag-stitched over the edges, but it’s not the prettiest thing in the world.

I also could not figure out where I was supposed to put the pulltab, so that didn’t turn out right and I had to fiddle with it it along the way, including adding a few stitches by hand. Super unattractive, I know, but for a first project I’m good with it.

IMG_0447

If I were to make another one of these, I’d use one of the patterns that hides the raw seams in the lining, but it’s a good size for non-sweater knitting projects, and for about $5 for the materials, I can’t complain.

The 3-D construction of this was interesting, because I have a terrible time visualizing how anything fits together (see: pulltab problems) until I actually have all the materials together in front of me. I can read a pattern a bunch of times, I can even have a photo tutorial walking me through the process, and it won’t make sense until I’m manipulating actual fabric – whether woven or knit. My hope in continuing to knit and sew is that I can learn to “see” these things better in the abstract, rather than having to have the physical object in front of me.

Next time I’ll show you the drawstring bag.