Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Lace & Perfection

After blogging about the lace project I did six years ago that scared me away from lace, I thought I would dig it out.

I had a heck of a time with the project. The pattern itself is a beginner lace pattern of "Feather and Fans"- you can find it in all sorts of places. I believe it was a free pattern from Knit Picks from 6 years ago and I tried to locate it again to no avail. The finished piece is 5'x15".

I wore this lace only once as a wrap to my friend's wedding and when I returned home I packed it away. The project annoyed me so much and I was plagued by the mistakes; I thought they were so obvious. At my friend's wedding many of the Norwegian ladies came to look at my wrap and they complimented me on it...but all I thought about were the mistakes and I was sure they could see them.

Yesterday, I took the lace out and examined it carefully. I was able to find one mistake. It's a really pretty piece but over the years it morphed into some ugly piece of knitting in my head.

I used to think that my projects had to be perfect in order to be good or pretty. I've lightened up A LOT on that front; marriage and motherhood force you to chill on perfectionism. And, you would have thought that a Divinity Diva theologian would have learned that lesson years ago: only God is perfect.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Definitely not the lace I was looking for...

Last Friday I blogged about not having enough yarn to finish Skywalker, but I figured out a way to at least salvage the project. And, I barely eked it out; there was less than 24" of yarn left. It was very, very close. I was sure if I was going to run out of yarn it would be on the last repeat of the edging, but thankfully, God smiled on me. I present to you: Skywalker Scarf made from Pediboo.

Okay, it looks like "crap" - Laura Nelkin says that repeatedly in the Craftsy lesson which totally cracks me up.  Lace looks awful when you take it off the needles. Who would want something like this?  All it needs is some warm water, blocking wires, and pins.  It is definitely worth investing in a blocking kit; I use mine on almost every project.  Laura gave me a good idea about blocking though, it should be done with a glass of wine (or Cosmo, but no chocolate, it might get on the yarn).

Here it is blocking - not too bad. The edging has a slight ruffle effect because I (correction from original post) added an increase row after Plasma stitch that way I had the correct number of stitches based on the pattern to do the edging.  I also knitted a few rows before starting the edging which worked out well since it gave me somewhere to place the pins while blocking.

Completed Skywalker Scarf

Since moving South I rarely wear scarves, but my mom loves them. She got an early birthday present this morning - I wanted her to be able to wear it before the hot months hit the Mid-South! The ruffled edging is really sweet and gives the scarf a lovely feminine finish.

While I felt stupid about not buying enough yarn, the scarf turned out great and my mom is thrilled. It wasn't the lace I was looking for, at least it found a happy home. I'm starting the Skywalker Shawl today and I know I will have more than enough yarn to finish it!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Fashionista Duvet

Last week I was in Houston to deliver some Christmas presents. This is the Fashionista Duvet and Pillow set I made for my niece. She has been working on creating a Paris themed bedroom. We searched and searched for Paris fabrics, but then we found the Fashionista collection by SPX. She picked one fabric from the April in Paris collection to make it explicitly French.

Fabric: Fashionista by SPX (click here to see the collection)
            French Words Natural from April in Paris collection by Timeless Treasures

I used the "Surf's Up" pattern from Simple Style: Easy Weekend Quilts to run along the top and bottom of the central panel. I wanted a simple block pattern to show off the lovely fabrics. I forgot to take a picture of the other side of the duvet (whoops!); it's Eiffel Tower fabric (by Timeless Treasures) outlined with a 2" strip of leopard print.

Close up of a block pattern

Here are the pillowcases. I used the basic pattern from America Patchwork and Quilting 1 Million Pillowcase Challenge.

The big challenge for this project was being 600 miles away from my niece. We did the best we could by utilizing FaceTime, Skype, and Dropbox to share ideas and progress. Thankfully, my niece (and sister-in-law) were thrilled with the final results! Now my sis-in-law is talking about complimentary curtains, more duvets, pillowcases, and curtains...I think it's time she learned to sew.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Twisted Yarns

I had the great pleasure of going to Twisted Yarns in Spring, TX this morning. I'm in the Houston area this weekend for the express purpose of hand delivering Christmas presents to my nieces, so while here I thought I'd go check out this lovely yarn shop again.

A few months ago I had the chance to go to Twisted Yarns and found an utterly wonderful shop! The staff are amazingly friendly and helpful. It's a very welcoming shop and one of the owners, Shelley Green, told me that was the goal: a welcoming shop where people feel comfortable to drop in and knit. Several days of the week groups of knitters come to sit, chat, and knit. When Twisted Yarns opened nearly nine years ago, these knitting groups started with KALs (knit-alongs), friendships formed, the projects ended, and the groups continued to meet. When I was in the shop a few months ago, I said, "I'd move to Houston just for Twisted Yarns."

They have an incredible selection of yummy and delectable yarns - madelinetosh, Noro, Prism, Rowan, Bah! - just to name a few. When I asked what the staff likes to teach, I got a range of answers: fair-isle, socks, to new knitters.  

On my first trip to the shop I encountered a sample of Cloud Cowl. It was the perfect excuse to pick up a skein of Rowan Striped Kidsilk Haze and the finished project is so soft and cloud-like.  Today I needed a little bit of help...I ran out of yarn for the lace shawl I've been working on.  UGH! As I wrote the other day, I couldn't remember what yarn I bought. Shelley inspected my shawl, walked away, and came back with Pediboo...and it all came back to me.

I bought Pediboo at my LYS a few months ago and grabbed it when my son started to get a little crazy. All the other sock yarns I looked at had 440+ yards, but Pediboo only has 255 yards. doh! Important lesson learned: don't buy yarn without double checking yardage. Seems like a basic idea, but melting down three year olds can make you do silly things! The lovely ladies at Twisted Yarns helped me to find a new yarn for the Skywalker Shawl: Delicato by Prism and to figure out how to save my current shawl...which will be more like a scarf.

If you happen to be in or near Houston, then you've got to check out Twisted Yarns! 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

This is not the lace you're looking for...

I just celebrated my 15th anniversary of knitting! My best friend taught me to knit while I was visiting her in Trondheim, Norway in mid-January 1998. It was a beautiful introduction to knitting! Her girlfriends would come over in the evening and we would have coffee and eat ice cream. They worked on beautiful traditional Norwegian style sweaters and cardigans (which would be steeked later, eek!) and I struggled on a headband.

My friend picked out the pattern which required me to: 1.) knit in the round, 2.) follow a pattern chart (which was considerably easier than learning Norwegian in order to read said pattern), and 3.) it was traditional Norwegian colorwork (2 different color yarns). In the ensuing years I have come to find that colorwork, chart reading, and working in the round scares some people so much they won't even try it. I'm so glad I learned to knit with "hard techniques" because I haven't been afraid to try new things. If you're new to knitting (or contemplating joining our world), don't be afraid to try things. Frankly, the whole process of learning to knit can feel awkward because you're trying to get your hands to do things they're not used to doing.

For the longest time I didn't know how to answer the question: what's you're favorite thing to knit? "I don't really have a favorite, I just love to knit." I would say. But, about a year ago it dawned on me, what I like best is using new materials - knitting with a fiber I haven't worked with before - or learning new techniques. With all that said...I have avoided lace.

I made one lace shawl to accompany the dress to my best friend's wedding (same one who taught me to knit) almost 6 years ago. There were several things stacked against me and the lace shawl:
1.) I didn't know about "lifelines". A lifeline is a piece of thread you weave through a row of completed stitches so that if you drop a stitch or get things completely messed up, you only have to rip back a few rows instead of needing to start over...which happened to me several times.
2.) I used thread-weight yarn - 800+ yards of thread weight yarn. What the heck was I thinking? Oy! It was too fine a yarn to learn how to knit lace on.
3.) I had a deadline. In general, this is not a good idea when you're a newbie to something. I managed to get enough length on the shawl the day before we left, I soaked it, blocked it, and had to have fans on to help it dry in time. Double oy!
The whole process left me frustrated and I wasn't all that pleased with my work. Since then I have loved the look of lace, but have shied away from it...until now.

My last post was about how much I love Craftsy and this will be a continuation on that theme. I signed up for Laura Nelkin's Knit This: Mastering Lace Knitting. First, she plays with Star Wars themes, and I love that, but more importantly, her explanations are very clear. She breaks it down into sections and explains it along the way.  Also, she goes through each pattern line of the shawl.

I've read lace patterns and struggled to understand the construction, especially the starting point for half circle shawls.  Last night, a big lightbulb went on in my head. I started working on the Skywalker shawl yesterday and I'm loving lace! I can see why there are people out there who only knit lace.

I've misplaced the tag with the yarn info (and I will find it before I post the finished item), but I'm pretty sure it is a superwash merino sock yarn. It's a lovely raspberry color and while I would have loved to get some silk/merino/utterly gorgeous yarn for this, I wanted to learn on something simple. I'll splurge in the future.

If you have been longing to become a Jedi Master in Lace Knitting, then I highly recommend this class.  

Monday, January 7, 2013

I heart Craftsy!

I am in LOVE with Craftsy.com!

If you've never checked it out, then just click here! They've got a few free classes so that you can see what the learning platform is like. Craftsy has been key to helping improve my sewing. I've been knitting for about 15 years, but only learned to sew and quilt about a year and a half ago.

I took a couple sewing and quilting classes at a big box store, which were awesome since I was a newbie and had no idea what I was doing. It was nice to have a real person sit down beside me and say, "Oh, I see what the problem is."

The downside to the classes at the big box store was that I didn't feel confident tackling a pattern at home (sewing or quilting). For me the problem was the teachers taught too many "short cuts" when the focus should have been on the basics. It's hard to figure things out on your own when you don't understand the basics; sewing and quilting have their own language and an assumed base knowledge.

I figured I would need to mess around with a lot of patterns and waste a lot of money by experimenting to get a handle on the whole sewing/quilting thing. Then...Craftsy came along! The instructors on Craftsy are some of the best and once you pay for the class - you own it, forever!

 Ombre Ruffle Apron    

This apron is from Beginner Serging. I recently bought a serger and had absolutely no idea how to use it. I have wanted a silly, rufflely apron for several years. I've seen cute ones at Pier 1 and other stores, but the fabric was of poor quality. This class gave me the excuse to finally make a silly apron. I used quilt weight 100% cotton in Christmas prints and the fabric was 60% off when I got it. I think the total expense for the material was $5.00. 

                                                               Exposed Zipper Bag

The Exposed Zipper Bag is also from Beginning Serging and is one of the coolest things I have made so far. At one point you have two dimensional fabric and then a few inches of serging later you have a three dimensional object. It was so cool! I'm very proud of it and can't wait to make more. Fabric: pre-packaged quilt weight fat quarters and Pellon fusible fleece.  The total cost was about $5.00


This was my first project I made using knit fabric. I had heard that sewing with knits was horrible, but Meg McElwee's class Sewing with Knits takes away all the fear (and a walking foot for your machine works wonders, too!). Fabric: 2x2 Cotton Spandex Knit - and again, this was on sale - RED TAG SALE.  It was narrower than the suggested fabric width so I bought 4 yards for $10.00.  I have enough left to make a shirt for my son.

I'm working my way through other Craftsy classes and will post the results of my efforts. I've even signed up for a few knitting classes but I have to complete a few unfinished projects before I cast those on!