Monday, July 27, 2015

"Billowy Delight" Finished (and Current WIPs)

In an effort to continue whittling down my WIP list, I began knitting on the Billowy Clouds of Alpaca scarf again.  In a relatively short time, it was done!

The pattern is Billowy Delight by Aimee Alexander.
The yarn is Knit Picks Alpaca Cloud in "Wonderland Heather".

I love the look of the finished pattern-- and even my own humble version, with its uneven tension, is pretty and romantic and "billowy" and puts me in mind of sea breezes and the beach in general.

It's not a difficult pattern, either, from a technical standpoint.  However, worked in laceweight, it sometimes seems to go on for-ev-er (or at least it did for me).  It's simple and repetitive enough to make it a good candidate for a TV project-- however, the few times that I made a mistake, it was a pain to fix them!  (Probably wouldn't have made them if I hadn't been watching/listening to something else at the same time, but mental distraction was a sanity-preservation necessity.)  There weren't too many mistakes, but considering how long it took to fix some of them, there were enough!

This scarf would be faster and easier to make in a heavier weight yarn-- but a big part of what makes the scarf beautiful seems to be its airiness and light-as-a-feather look.  If you scale up the yarn too much, you'll lose that breezy feeling.  It might still be lovely, but in a different way.

I'd recommend the pattern and I might even make it again, myself.  Someday.  Not. Now.  (Those rows of purling get tiring after a while.)

Here are a few photos.  I haven't blocked it (yet), though that would probably help even out a few spots.  There's a particularly messy row or two where the needle was during those long months of inactivity.  Still, all caveats aside, I like the result.

"Billowy Delight" Scarf

"Billowy Delight" Scarf

"Billowy Delight" Scarf

"Billowy Delight" Scarf

- - - - - - -

I've resisted the temptation to join one of the MCALs.

Then I resisted the temptation to start another sampler afghan.  I think I will make another samplerghan in the not-too-distant future, but for now, there are just too many other projects I should finish, first.

So here's another item from the UFO list.  This one's from way back in the beginning of 2012-- the year of the Mayan apocalypse, you remember. ;o)

This is an Elizabeth Hiddleson pattern by the name of "Pretty Baby".  

"Pretty Baby" Doily in Progress

I'm about to start round 23 of 32, so there's still a way to go.  The last couple of rounds haven't been bad, though, which is a relief.  I had the impression that this pattern was in some way tricky or difficult to understand, which was part of the reason I'd been reluctant to bring it out of hibernation.

I'm not crazy about the thread.  It's Circulo Clea in white.  It's not bad, but it's not as smooth as a lot of the mercerized cotton thread I've used.  I prefer the higher sheen of other threads for doily-making.  On the bright side, I recall that the price per yard was good, and the yardage per ball is great (1000 meters or 1094 yards).  I just wouldn't use it for a once-in-a-lifetime heirloom-quality doily-- just in case.  I may be mistaken, but it doesn't look like it would hold up as well as some of the shinier, higher-plied threads. 

- - - - - - -

Luna kept showing a little too much interest in those string blocks I had arranged on the craft room floor, so it was time to go ahead and sew them together and get them up out of reach.  That has gone much more smoothly than I expected.  (I'm still a little intimidated about joining blocks.)

String Quilt in Progress

I've joined the blocks into strips and am in the process of pressing the seams open.

Pressing seams open is a part of quilting that I find boring, and if I think I can get away with it, I prefer to just press them to one side or the other.  It's especially annoying when you go to the trouble of opening the seams, only for them to accidentally end up skewed to one side, anyway, when you sew the next step.  I've just been shrugging and leaving them that way, when that happens.  I imagine a True Quilter would unpick the stitches and fix that kind of thing. ;o)  Nope.  "Not I!" said the lazy quilter.  If it adds bulk, I'm ok with that.  Bulk it on up, I say.  (g)  That adds space for trapped air, rendering my quilt even warmer.  (Right?)  Bulky is better-- so on and so forth.

So the quilt is slowly progressing-- but because I have to be back in the craft room to work on it, it's still a back-burner project.  The regular evening project is the doily.  

It's good to have a crochet project on the go, again.  I feel at loose ends without some sort of yarn project to fiddle with in the evenings.  And though I enjoy knitting, too (when it's going well and I'm not repairing a mistake), I generally find crochet more soothing.  The repetition.  The rhythm.  The flow of yarn (or thread) winding its way through fingers...

Ahhhh.... Serenity now! ;o)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Three FOs

I have photos of three recently finished objects to share!

First, here are some photos of the finished "Rustic Shawl"

Pattern: "Isis" by Anastasia Roberts (not currently available)
Yarn:  linen/cotton blend (reclaimed from a thrift store sweater)

Rustic Shawl

I haven't blocked it and don't know that I intend to do so right away... 

Rustic Shawl

Honestly, I'm not even sure I'll ever wear it, but if I do, I think it looks fine as it is.  

Rustic Shawl

I added some rows to make it larger, and by the time I decided it was long enough, it didn't seem to need a fancy border/edging.  I didn't really want it any longer.  (And maybe I just wanted a fast edging, so I could scratch it off the list).  I put simple 3-chain picots evenly spaced (every five stitches, I think) across the bottom of the shawl. 

Rustic Shawl

For the front/top edge, I ended up with three rows of single crochet.  The pattern calls for two, I think, but I felt that one more wouldn't hurt, to even things out a bit more. 

Rustic Shawl

Though I'm not sure I'll wear it much, I'd recommend it to those who do wear shawls.  It was an easy pattern with a nice result.  Unfortunately, as I mentioned in an earlier blog post, it's not currently available, unless you added it to your Ravelry library before the designer took down the pattern.  Maybe she'll put it back up sometime in the future...

- - - - - - -

Second FO-- Ruby Cardiff Cowl 

Pattern: "Cardiff Cowl" by Lion Brand Yarn (free pattern)
Yarn:  100% merino wool (reclaimed from thrift store sweater)

Cardiff Cowl

I borrowed an idea from another Raveler's project page and made this an infinity cowl.  I also widened it by 14 stitches.  If I were to make it again, I think I might leave it the original size... I'm not sure.  I haven't been able to give it much of a test drive, yet, because it's July. ;o)  Fortunately, cowls "work" at almost any length/width, so I'm sure it'll be fine. 

Cardiff Cowl

Oh!  And another idea I borrowed was to turn the work, every round.  Because it's crocheted in the round, technically I could've just crocheted around and around without ever needing to turn the work.  However, the fact that it's an infinity loop would mean that the "wrong" side might end up showing, at times... To avoid that, you just turn and work in the opposite direction every time you get to the start of the round.  VoilĂ !  Reversible!

Cardiff Cowl

It's not easy to get a good photo of an infinity cowl without modeling it-- and maybe not even then. ;o)

Cardiff Cowl

I enjoyed crocheting this pattern, and the yarn is wonderfully squishy and soft-- should be very nice to wear.

The infinity aspect added to this project's interest.  It's oddly amusing to start in one spot and go around both edges of the cowl before coming back to where you began.  (Some of us are easily amused.)

- - - - - - -

 The most recent FO is the Cozy Cottage Popcorn Pillow.

Pattern: Cozy Cottage Crochet Popcorn Pillow (free pattern)
Yarn:  supposedly 100% cotton, but there's a certain slight acrylic sheen to it, so I wonder if its a mislabeled blend... (reclaimed from a thrift store sweater)

Crochet Pillow Cover

This one was... fine.  Not the most exciting thing I've ever made, but a perfectly good pattern.  You could jazz it up with some color changes, if solid colors are too boring.

Here's the back.  I did follow the pattern, because it turned out to be a plain square.  It's written so that the back and front match perfectly in stitch count.  (As all pillow patterns should, imho.)  

Crochet Pillow Cover

I think I may have overstuffed the pillow insert, but I like firm pillows, and it'll flatten somewhat with time and use. 

Crochet Pillow Cover

- - - - - - -

That's it!  

And so we come back to the eternal question:  Now what?!

I have several more hibernating WIPs I could pick up again...

Three afghans... (But it's so hot!  I don't want to have a heap of fabric on my lap until it cools again.)

A couple of doilies (including one that's barely even begun)...

A knitted scarf that has feet to go, yet...

A wreath I was going to cover in crochet flowers... (Only I've lost all interest in that and may mark it as "frogged", even though I won't bother frogging the flowers I've already made.)

Those miniature amigurumi cacti I was crocheting... (Meh.)

The "Granny's Step-Daughter" pillow project... (That one's more interesting, but I'd have to relearn/reverse engineer how I worked the first half, if I wanted the two sides to match.  I've forgotten the precise details of the joining method!)

...And two other projects so boring that I'd forgotten all about them until Ravelry reminded me.

I'm not sure what the next project will be, but I'll probably try to keep working through the old UFOs.  It feels good to scratch things off that list!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Working Through Some UFOs

I've been making an effort to work through some of the backlog of UFOs (unfinished objects, to the uninitiated).

I finished the "Rustic Shawl" and even weaved in the tails, though I've yet to photograph it.  (I haven't blocked it, either, but I'm not sure I'll bother... It's definitely a casual-- one might even say "rustic" ;o)-- shawl, and if/when I ever wear it, I think it looks fine as-is.)  I'll try to take photos soon. 

Then I picked up a project that has been in hibernation since the summer of 2013-- the "Ruby Cardiff Cowl".  I'd crocheted it on the plane ride across the Atlantic.  When I got home, I put it away, and though I've thought about it from time to time, I didn't want to get it back out, because the next thing to do was to decide how big it should be and whether to cut the yarn or keep going.  In the end, I added a few more rounds, but I'm still not sure it's the ideal length.  In any case, it'll be wearable.  There are ends to weave in, then it'll be ready to photograph, too. 

The most recent UFO to come out of hibernation is the "Cozy Cottage Popcorn Pillow".

I'm getting close to finishing the front, and I think the back is just a plain square.  There are instructions for the back in the pattern, but if they're not for a plain square, I might just not follow that part of the pattern!

Cozy Cottage Popcorn Pillow

The popcorn stitches are fun to make, and I enjoy the texture they add to crochet.

The yarn is a very soft cotton reclaimed from a ($1) thrift store sweater.  Beige is kind of boring to work with, but it's a perfectly serviceable color-- particularly for a cushion cover. 

- - - - - - -

Luna was posing prettily when I got the camera out to take that quick snapshot of the pillow cover, so of course she had to have her picture taken, too.  (They're a bit grainy, because we're keeping the curtains and blinds mostly closed against the crazy-hot sunny days of mid-July.)

Serious Luna:

Little Luna

Smiling Luna:

Little Luna

- - - - - - -

I've been keeping an eye on a couple of summer mystery crochet-alongs (MCALs) for afghans.  I'm feeling tempted, but there are already three hibernating afghans on my list of on-going projects.  (They are the scrappy granny square afghan, the "Simply Soft" hexagon afghan, and the blues-and-greens sampler afghan.)  Technically, I should probably just work on one of those until the mood passes.  And yet-- for some reason-- I've jotted down the yarn requirements for one of them and have been thinking through the contents of my acrylic stash... There's plenty of yarn there.  Just a matter of taking the plunge...

If anyone else is interested, here are links to the two crochet-alongs in question:

Julie Yeager's (or JulieAnny's) "Summer Mosaic" Mystery'Ghan 2015
Go to her group on Ravelry for more info, or here's a link directly to the pattern page
If you act fast, you can join this MCAL and get the pattern (with updates) for free!

I participated in her past two MCALs and had a lot of fun with them.  This year's pattern is written for a bulky-weight yarn, which is something new.  It sounds like quite a few people will be using worsted weight, though.  The resultant blanket will be smaller, of course, but most afghans can be increased in size by adding motifs and/or wide borders.

The teaser photo is gorgeous.  I love the scrumptious yarn she's using, but if I were to participate this year, I'd stick to stashed yarns.  (Too much stash and too many other things I'd rather buy with that money...)

Melinda Miller's "Mrs. Ghan" MCAL
Go to her group on Ravelry for more info, or here's a link directly to the pattern page.
Again, if you "purchase" (free with coupon) the first clue early enough, you'll get the subsequent clues for free, too.

This one's described as a "full-sized feminine afghan", which sounds very interesting... (I love feminine afghans!)

I've crocheted at least a couple of this designer's blocks in the past and enjoyed them-- and if you're not familiar with her work, you can browse her designs on Ravelry to get a feel for her style.  (Actually, if you're not worried about seeing spoilers, you can sneak a peek at MCAL participants' results from following the first clue, since the CAL has already started.  Just go to her group's forum and find the thread that's labeled for spoilers.)

Well, back to the pillow cover!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Finished Pillow Cover

The latest crocheted pillow cover is done!

Here it is with another pillow made (years ago) using the same pattern:

Crocheted "Petals" Pillow

Front: Pretty Petals Potholder #9378
This pattern always seems to ripple when I make it-- too many increases, I guess.  I have to fuss with it to get it flat, and it doesn't want to stay that way.  However, if you're using it for a pillow cover, that doesn't matter as much, because the pillow front won't be perfectly flat, anyway.

Back: Plain flat round shape in double crochet.
Start with 12 dc in first round.  Increase evenly by 12 each round.  For the 13th and subsequent rounds, add another increase between the 12 you've already been making.  (See this video for a demo.)

Lion Brand Pound of Love, "Antique White"
I used quite a bit of the skein.  There's a good amount left over for the scrap basket, but I think it took at least 3/4 of the skein to crochet the front and back. (It's a pretty big pillow... About 18 inches in diameter.  You can make it bigger or smaller, depending on what you want/need or the size of your pillow insert.)


Crocheted "Petals" Pillow

I made my own pillow insert because I had the "fiberfil" stuff already on hand.  Pillow inserts can be pricey!  If you're going to be making many pillow covers-- and if you have a sewing machine-- I think it's worth the little extra effort of making your own.  (But to each her own way, of course!)

I used a piece of a cheap ($1) cream thrift store sheet-- leftovers from lining some curtains.  Because I was in no mood for attention to detail, I just doubled my fabric, eyeballed the circle (which I drew on in plain old ballpoint pen ink ~gasp~), pinned it, sewed it, stuffed it, and closed the stuffing hole by hand.  My pillow insert is far from perfect, but once it's covered in crochet, it really doesn't matter.  (Whew!)

Confession time?
I'm really not great at making things to a specified size.  Sewing a pillow to an exact finished size?  Um, no thanks.  (I can try, but I make no guarantees.)  I'm much happier making the pillow first, then adjusting the crocheted cover to fit it.  So that's what I did.  

I added another couple of rounds to bring the two halves of the cover up to the right size, then joined the two circles, slipped in the insert, and finished stitching them together.  (This pillow cover will not be removable, by the way.  It shouldn't get very dirty, where it's headed, but when needed, I'll either hand wash or just throw the whole thing into the washing machine.) 

To slightly cinch the pillow in the middle, I wanted two large buttons, so I pulled out the polymer clay supplies and made them myself.  If you've never made polymer clay buttons before, you might want to check it out.  It's fun, and the possibilities are endless.  Size, shape, color, "style"-- all up to you.

(And there's no reason to limit yourself to buttons, either.  Polymer clay can make nice, comfortable handles for crochet hooks and beads/baubles for decorative stitch markers-- and apart from craft-related objects, it's great for making so many other things, including jewelry, vessels/boxes, figures, dollhouse miniatures, and more.) 

Crocheted "Petals" Pillow

I used three colors of clay for my buttons-- translucent and a mixture of white pearl and ecru.  Then I whipped up a simple cane with a translucent core wrapped in a sheet of "ecru pearl", which was in turn wrapped in another sheet of translucent.  After reducing the cane (squishing and rolling it to make it thinner), I chopped it into a bunch of pieces (of relatively the same size), then stuck them together in two groups-- one per button.  After flattening them out, I made the button holes and cured (baked) them.  A little sanding and buffing on a piece of denim gave them a nice finish-- and they were ready for the pillow.

(I didn't get any really great close-up photos of the buttons, but I hope the basic idea comes across.  I was happy with how they turned out.  Kind of an organic-feeling result from an easy, fun clay session.)

Crocheted "Petals" Pillow

Crocheted "Petals" Pillow

Crocheted "Petals" Pillow

- - - - - - -

With the pillow finished, I decided to bring a project out of hibernation. 

This shawl went into snooze mode back in 2012.  It's high time the thing was finished!

"Isis", designed by Anastasia Roberts
(Unfortunately, the Ravelry page says it's "temporarily unavailable"... Actually, it looks like all of her patterns are unavailable at the moment-- with most saying "no longer available", which sounds forbiddingly final.  There's a note somewhere about reworking/improving some patterns, but based on comments on "Isis", that note may have been up for a while.  No telling when or if these patterns will ever be put back up on Ravelry-- or elsewhere...)

I'm using "reclaimed" yarn from a thrift store sweater.  It's a linen/cotton blend with a rustic feel-- which is why I'm calling this my "Rustic Shawl".  Very creative, right?  ;o)

Rustic Shawl

Rustic Shawl

I'm adding a repeat (or is it multiple repeats? don't remember...) to increase the size of the shawl, because it was working out to be too small for my liking.

I am determined to finish the shawl, this time, so there should be photos up, sooner or later.  :o)

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Top o' the Quilt to Ye ;o)

All that remained to do to finish the quilt top for the Scrap-Happy Herringbone quilt was to pin together and sew one more long seam.  So of course it took me a couple of months (or more?) to get around to doing it.  But hey!  It's done now!

Next up is figuring out the backing.

A while back, I actually bought some fabric to make a pieced backing for this quilt, only to get home, look at those pretty-pretty fabrics, and think, "No.  You are too good for a quilt back."  ...So now they're in line to become another quilt top, at some point in the future.  The backing will probably be a vintage sheet.  I'm still pondering the options.  (And to be honest, I'm nervous about taking the next step... This will be my first quilt sandwich.)

Here are some photos of the newly finished quilt top, stretched out on our bed.  It's not meant to go on the bed, by the way, so it's not nearly big enough for that.  For scale, it's a king size bed.

(Here is where I put in some disclaimer about how I'm still learning and my cutting isn't always exact and my seams aren't perfectly straight, and I'm just hoping it all holds together for a while before coming apart.  ...Ok, now for photos.)

Scrap-Happy Herringbone Quilt (Top)

Scrap-Happy Herringbone Quilt (Top)

Scrap-Happy Herringbone Quilt (Top)

Scrap-Happy Herringbone Quilt (Top)

Scrap-Happy Herringbone Quilt (Top)

Scrap-Happy Herringbone Quilt (Top)

Still on the subject of quilting, I've started playing around with the layout for the string block quilt.  I could probably spend hours rearranging these blocks and still find something to nitpick.  ("Oh, but those two adjacent blocks both feature that really distinctive fabric..."  "And now there's too much pink right there and not enough in the rest of the quilt!")

It's probably best if I just let it be semi-random.  (Not that there's much of a choice, with such random, scrappy blocks!)

String Quilt Blocks

I really like the look of string quilts-- and making the blocks was a lot of fun, too.  I'm very interested in making more string blocks at some point in the future.  (I've even made a Pinterest board for string quilts...)

String Quilt Blocks

The only downside to string quilting that I can see is that to get a really scrappy look (which is my favorite), you need to collect scraps from quite a lot of fabrics.  Of course, if you're an avid quilter, this is probably not a problem-- and there's always the option of buying smaller cuts of a lot of fabrics (particularly when there are good sales).  If you're not worried about cost, jellyrolls are an easy way to amass lots of strips-- but I'm too cheap thrifty to go that route.  ;o)

- - - - - - -

The next blog post should be about the latest crocheted pillow, and there ought to be photos.

Finished Doily and Tackling UFOs

(This post has been languishing in "draft" mode for months.  I forgot it existed-- but since I don't believe I've addressed these topics in more recent posts, here it is, now.  And because I finally got around to blocking the doily, I can add a few photos, too!)

I finished the Vintage Roses doily!

Vintage Roses Doily

That pattern generates so many loose ends, and I left them all until the end.  I really and truly hate weaving thread ends.  If there are only a few, that's fine, but fiddling with that tiny needle hurts my hands, so I was dreading the tidying up phase of this doily. 

Amazingly, though, it turned out to be not so bad, after all.  It still took some time, and I'm glad it's done, but most of the ends were right near very roomy, convenient hiding places, and that makes all the difference in the world.

Then it was time for blocking.
Some doilies are a breeze to block.  Others are an absolute nightmare.  This one fell somewhere in between, but closer to the "ugh, please go away" end of the scale.  I'm not thrilled with my blocking job, but it's satisfactory.  

Vintage Roses Doily

Vintage Roses Doily

Vintage Roses Doily

Plop that puppy under a bowl or something and no-one will ever think twice about sub-par blocking.  ;o)

- - - - - - -

After snipping the last thread, I was on a "finished object high", so I went looking for something else I could do for another quick shot of accomplishment...

There was that straw hat with the chin-tie ribbons I'd been meaning to sew into the hat-band for... never mind how long.  (My current straw hat is wearing out after more than a decade of gardening use.)  A few minutes with needle and thread, and now that's done, too.

In the process of finding the hat, I came across a basket full of crochet and knitting projects waiting for blocking.  Many things look so much better with blocking, but it's so hard to make myself do it!

Then there was the Rhubarb Scarf Wannabe.  When I came to the point where I needed to join the two ends to make it into a cowl, I set it aside.  I think I was feeling indecisive (who, me? but that's so out of character!!) about whether or not to make it a cowl, and if so, whether or not to add a twist to make it an infinity cowl.  Clearly, this was a major decision requiring the weighing of pros and cons-- and probably hours of painstaking research.  So of course all these months later I just cavalierly picked it up, twisted it once (to infinity and beyond!), and slip-stitched it without a second thought.  (Why couldn't I just have done that, back then?)

The join is visible, and I'm trying to decide whether to leave it as is or add flowers to cover the join.  The flowers would surely attract even more attention to that part of the cowl, but since they'd be a design element, I guess that would be ok.  I could add flowers to one or two other places around the cowl... I'm still considering it. 

I weaved in the handful of loose ends and added the border.  I think it's so neat that when you add a border to an infinity cowl/scarf/loop, you just keep going around and around until you meet up with your starting stitch.  Both edges (or what looks like two edges) get a border, just like that.  It feels like a magic trick. 

No photos of the cowl yet.  Sometime soon!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

All Quiet on the Crafting Front?

There hasn't been much to say about crafting, because I haven't been doing much of it, lately.  (Most of the creative/spare-time energy has gone toward gardening, I guess.  That and reading a few novels/listening to audio versions of short stories.)

Not that there's been no crafting. 

I sewed Luna a new chew pillow toy.  That took 5 to 10 minutes from start to finish.  I used a couple of scraps of polar fleece fabric to make a tube stuffed with acrylic fiber.  Since the fleece doesn't fray, I left the seam allowances exposed.  This is her third such pillow (though each has been a slightly different shape), and she enjoys playing with them-- fetch, gentle tug-of-war, chewing.  They're not as cute as a stuffed animal toy, but on the other hand, there are no plastic eyes or noses-- and no fascinating, flimsy appendages-- for her to focus in on and try to chew off.

- - - - - -

I'm also slowly crocheting a new pillow cover.  It will be a lot like this one I made in 2012, but maybe somewhat larger.  The pattern was originally intended to make a pot holder (from thread), but it works fairly well as a round pillow front covered in "petals".  (The back, I kept plain last time, and I think I'll do the same again.  Saves a lot of yarn-- not to mention time.) 

I'm using easy-care acrylic-- Pound of Love in "Antique White", which is their version of cream.  Together with one of my favorite hooks-- the 4.0mm size Tulip Etimo Rose-- this is working out to be a very pleasant (if repetitive) project.  I love the repetition, honestly.  It's ideal for "don't make me think" crocheting.  When it's done, I think this will go on the bed, where the other round petal pillow resides. 

Photos next time, I hope.