Saturday, December 20, 2014

Chit-Chat

I haven't taken the photo(s) mentioned at the end of the last blog entry.  The day was dreary and dark-- not ideal photography weather.  Besides, I was too lazy to clear the table and snap some photos.  Sad, isn't it?  ;o)

This morning, I weaved in the ends of my latest crochet project, but since it's a Christmas gift, I'll save the details. Having that done (all but the blocking) means I'm free to return to work on one of the WIPs.  The Catherine Wheel scarf, maybe. 

However, even if the Christmas crocheting is done, that doesn't mean there aren't other crafty distractions of a holiday nature.  I have a small decoupage project at the top of the list, along with plans for a tiny dalliance with polymer clay.  (It's been a while since I've done much with clay.)  Then there's a very small possible hemming project (for something to go along with a Christmas gift)...

I'm excited about all of those small projects-- and yet what I really want to do is sew something scrappy.  More crumb squares.  But those require crumbs.  I need more crumbs.  I don't have more crumbs.  But... I could make them.  I could certainly make them... If I made a cover for the new sewing machine, that might generate a few scraps-- legitimate, natural crumbs, unlike the fake, manufactured ones I'm contemplating.  (g) 

Well.
I guess I'll stick with the need-to-finish projects until they're done, then see what course of action feels right.  ...And meanwhile continue to daydream about tasty fabric crumbs...

Friday, December 19, 2014

Latest Doilies (with Photos!)

This year, we had our Christmas get-together with my maternal grandparents (and assorted aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.) earlier than usual, which means I can post photos of the doilies I crocheted for Granny L.

After initially planning to make a large oval or runner, I found myself at the end of November with limited time and an even more limited desire to crochet something complicated.  So I went simple this year.  Tried and true patterns that I've made before (but not for the intended recipient).

First up was Denise Augostine Owens' "Summer Splendor"

This was my third time crocheting from this pattern, and I've enjoyed it every time.  (~whisper~ I may even be working on version number four right now...~)  It's a simple pattern with nothing more complicated than 3-dc clusters.  Now, there are a lot of the clusters, but they're not bad.  You may even find yourself loving them.  For such an uncomplicated pattern, the resultant doily makes a strong impression, I think.

Summer Splendor

Summer Splendor

To go along with it, I made another (again my third) version of "Octoberfest", by the same designer.

It's a small doily and works up very quickly.  I like the pinwheel center, but that part-- while very intuitive to crochet-- made my hands cramp a bit, this time. Also, it has picots in the last round.  Picots are sometimes essential for a certain look, and once you get into the groove of making them, they can be alright (even enjoyable, in a perverse sort of way), but they take time.  If you can't get them to look "right", they're particularly frustrating.  These were fine-- but I do find the last round of the pattern very confusing to decipher.  I have better luck just looking at the finished project photos on Ravelry to see what goes where.

Octoberfest

If anyone's interested in thread details, this color is "American Beauty" in America's Best size 10 cotton thread, but the line was discontinued years ago.  I made both using my new(ish) Clover 1.75mm hook with the beautiful pistachio elastomer handle.  (I my new hooks!)

And that's all I have to share for now.

...Actually, I just thought of something else.  But it's something that requires photos, and I haven't taken them yet.  It'll give me something to write about next time, whenever that is.  ;o)


Friday, December 12, 2014

Oh, Brother!

Sometime during the Black Friday/Cyber Monday jumble of sales, I bought a new sewing machine! 

My old machine is a super simple Singer model bought at Target on Black Friday 2006, I believe.  It still works-- better now than at some times in the past, since I've gotten a little more comfortable with sewing-- but it has some rough miles (of stitching) on it, and at its best it's an extremely bare bones machine, so I've been thinking about getting a nicer one "someday".  Then Donald saw this new machine on sale... and someday came sooner than expected. 

(I'll keep the old Singer, too, for now.  As long as it works, I'll use it for messy projects like rag quilting, to save the new machine from that wear and tear and flannel fluff.  It wouldn't be worth much second-hand, and I don't know anyone who is in desperate need of it, or I might have passed it along.  Fortunately, there's plenty of storage space in the craft room's double-closet.)

Big Brother

When the new machine-- a Brother DZ2400-- arrived in the mail, I couldn't wait to get it out and set it up.  Then I waited a couple of days before daring to turn it on!  (There was an instructional DVD and a fairly thick manual to go through.)  My first experience with a digital sewing machine!  I was intimidated, and it took a while to get down to sewing that first test run.  The first line of stitching wasn't perfect, but I immediately diagnosed the problem (needed to re-thread the top with the needle in the correct position), and after that it was smooth sailing. 

Obviously there are still a lot of features I haven't even tried, yet.  For instance, any stitch other than a straight stitch.  There are all these fancy stitch options (not to mention the other feet), and I haven't tried even one of them!  (I got sidetracked...)

I love the adjustable speed settings!  I love the needle up/needle down setting!  I love the needle threader!  I love the fact that the clear plastic over the bobbin case lets you see at a glance how much thread is left on the bobbin!  It's a joy to sew with, and I think this new machine (along with the string quilt project) may be my gateway into yet another crafty obsession.  Yes, I think I'm ready to take the plunge into quilting.  (Or if not a total plunge into quilting mania, at least a nice, waist-deep wade in between periods of luxurious sun-bathing with yarny crafts.)

Once I knew it was stitching correctly, I picked up the sewing project already in progress-- making string blocks.  I think I'm all done with those, now.  I have 35 squares, which I'll probably put into a 5x7 arrangement.  I could squeeze out one more square, which could make it a 6x6 quilt, but I'm thinking that might be less useful.  (I like to be able to stretch out underneath a blanket.)  The thought of sewing the squares into strips makes me nervous, so I'm putting it off for a while.

String Quilt Blocks

I want to make a cover for the sewing machine, but I'm still mulling that over.  So, what else could I sew?  Something unimportant... Something using the tiny scraps from the string quilt squares, maybe?  And that's when I saw crumb blocks on Pinterest.  Perfect.

Well, my crumb blocks aren't perfect, but I like the idea of crumb quilting.  It's a good way to practice sewing, and I love the scrappy "use it up" aesthetic.  They're one of those things that look so much better in quantity than individually.  ("The whole is greater than the sum of its parts"?)

Here are the four I've complete so far.  Five-and-a-half-inch squares.  Lots and lots more to go before there will be enough of them to really make anything, but that's fine.  I'll put them away, a few at a time, until they accumulate sufficiently.  :o)

Crumb Blocks

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New Sewing Machine

New Sewing Machine

Vroom-Vroom!


I realized after posting last time that I actually had finished something "photographable" recently.  It was a silly little impromptu crochet stuffie that I started, oh, two years ago.

(*unfocused saucer-eyes*  If there's one thing I hate most about projects that go into hibernation mode, it's the way they highlight the relentless passage of time.  Good grief, Charlie Brown!  Two years.  Gone.  Just like that.  *starts humming "If I Could Save Time in a Bottle*...)

Anyway, as I was saying, I decided on the spur of the moment (two years ago) to make a little stuffie in the shape of  a piece of Åhlgrens bilar for Donald, to give him on his birthday.

(Åhlgrens bilar is a brand of Swedish candy-- my husband's favorite candy ever.  They traditionally come in three colors-- pale pink, pale green, and white-- and are in the shape of cars.  "Bilar" means "cars" in Swedish, by the way. The singular "car" is "bil".)

When I saw the pattern, I thought he'd get a kick out of it, so I decided to make him one.  But then I ran out of time and couldn't finish before his birthday, so I set it aside to finish another time.  This year's birthday was that other time, apparently.

Crocheted Bilar

It looks kind of weird and not like anything at all, really, unless you are familiar with that candy.  And even then, I'm not sure the average Swede would recognize it for what it is, but fortunately Donald did, at least.

Here's the pattern, if anyone else is interested (though unless you're Swedish or have a Swedish friend who loves bilar candy, that's doubtful): Åhlgrens Bil.  It's in Swedish, but you can find Swedish-English crochet and knitting terms translation charts online.  (I think I found the chart I used on the DROPS website.)

Monday, December 1, 2014

Keeping the Cobwebs Away...

Just posting to stay in the habit and keep the cobwebs from getting out of hand.  ;o)

No photos today, I'm afraid. 

I still haven't blocked anything, and the only project I've made any progress on, lately, is a gift item, so I'm trying to avoid spoiling the surprise with photos here, there, and everywhere. 

I'm really, really trying to keep my gift-making to a minimum this Christmas, but there are at least two people who'll get handmade gifts. 

...And every now and then I start thinking about making a small amigurumi animal for each of the two little kids in my family (my niece and a first-cousin's son, whatever the technical name for that relationship might be... "first cousin once removed", I think...).  Not that they need more stuffed animals, I'm sure.  And not that I love the process of sewing together stuffed toys and embroidering the faces.  But the finished amigurumi animals are so cute!  And handmade toys are unique...  I don't know.  Maybe.  Something small and simple so it won't take too much time to make or room to store in already-crowded toy boxes.  If the mood is still with me after I've finished the other two gifts. 

Also, even though the Christmas tree isn't up, nor the first seasonal decoration out of storage, I find myself tempted to knit a pretty lace Advent Calendar Scarf.  It would be my first KAL and my first time trying anything but the simplest lace.  I'd probably fall behind, but that'd be ok, I guess.  Not sure I'm willing to commit to such a scary project right now, but it's tempting...

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Scrappy String Quilt Progress Post

It's an honest-to-goodness sewing-themed blog post.  It's almost as though this blog is aptly named!!  ;o)

I've been sewing the scrappy string quilt from the kit Mom gave me-- and I'm really enjoying it!

A few progress photos?

Scrappy String Quilt

This is probably how I'll lay them out, with the white central lines forming diamonds.

Scrappy String Quilt

In the photo above, you can see some of the currently "in progress" blocks, draped over the sewing machine. 

Scrappy String Quilt

And here's a peek at the twenty blocks I've completed so far!

There are another ten "in progress".  I'm not sure how many I need... I'm running low on the (very subtly-patterned) white fabric that goes down the center (or somewhere in that vicinity) of each block, so if I want to stick with one fabric for that (and it's probably best that I do), that'll determine how many more blocks I can squeeze out.  If the blanket needs more size, I might make a more elaborate (wider) border.  You can also put sashing (if that's the right term) between string blocks, but I'm not sure I'm up to that, yet. 

- - - - - - -

With the string quilt holding sway, the Catherine Wheel scarf has been put on the back burner--  but it has the benefit of being a good "couch project" for those nights spent in front of the TV or computer.  (Both quilt and scarf have to compete with Luna, who is still enough of a puppy that she requires extra attention.)  The scarf is moving along very slowly, but at least it's still on the radar.  However, with Thanksgiving next week, time to work on a couple of Christmas gifts is tick-tick-ticking away, and the scarf will have to go back into hibernation.

(Reminder to self:  Do not give in to those insane whims to start a bazillion last-minute gift projects!  Just don't.  The potential recipients will never know or care that you didn't get around to making fill in the blank this year, and the holiday season will be so much nicer if you aren't needlessly stressing.  At least make an effort to scale back.)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Crocheting & Quilting

The doily has been done for several days, but remains unblocked.  I think it may need a bigger surface than the foam insulation board I normally use for blocking.  (Another largish doily has also been hanging around the house for over two years, waiting.)  There's a new system I want to try for blocking larger items, but since it's new, there's a tendency to stall... Maybe sometime this week...

- - - - - - -

After finishing the doily, I picked up the Catherine Wheel scarf again.  It was slow going at first.  That yarn (Premier Serenity Sock Weight) can be splitty.  It's giving me less trouble now, but I'm not sure whether that first bit was different from the rest or I've just gotten better at dealing with it.

I had to refamiliarize myself with the pattern.  I skipped right to the chart, missing some notes jotted on an earlier page of the print-out-- notes in which I described some slight alterations to the pattern.  The changes were important enough that I had to rip back a hard-won row or two.  But things seem to be on the right track, now!  Smooth sailing.  

I knew before I started that it wasn't going to be a real duplicate of Moonstitches' Rhubarb Scarf, but looking at it now, I see that the colors are really completely different from those in the "inspiration scarf".  Also, it looks like the original yarn had shorter color repeats than I made-- and much more subtle transitions and variations in color...

If I wanted to try again for a closer copy, I'd keep one colorway much more pastel or neutral than the other.  One would be a cooler color palette with soft blues and greens and creamy beige, the other all warm shades of scarlet, rust, and brown.  The palette in my own yarn is all over the place and brings to mind a bowl of Froot Loops... or Willy Wonka's Bottle Caps candy (g) more than an earthy bundle of rhubarb!  Ah, well, I'm sure it'll still be warm and cozy, even if the colors are ca-razy.  ;o)

Crochet Scarf

I'm about halfway through the yarn dyed for this project.  (I'll need to dye one more ball for the edging, I think. It doesn't have to match perfectly, and I'm thinking of just choosing one color-- maybe pink or purple.) 

I've started thinking of making this into a cowl instead of a scarf.  Technically, it's long enough to be a cowl right now.  I could make a second cowl from the other two balls of yarn.  The problem is that I'm not sure who I'd give it to... Would anyone (that I know) other than myself want such a kooky, colorful cowl?  Nah, I think it'll work better as either a scarf or a looong cowl.  The cowl vs. scarf decision can wait until later.

- - - - - - -


Last entry, there was a crochet book in one of the photos. While looking through that book for a good rose pattern (for the doily), I was reminded of some of this particular book's shortcomings:

Very Useful Key...

Oops.  Someone forgot to replace the placeholder text with real definitions for the symbols!  Fortunately there's also a written pattern, so unless that's also messed up, it should be possible to crochet the pattern.  Still, it's not very professional.  (I guess I never got around to "reviewing" that book... Maybe sometime soon.)

- - - - - - -

Quilt Kit (from Mom)

I've started working on the string quilt kit Mom put together for me!

There are no photos of the progress, but I'm in the middle of sewing a handful of string blocks.  I'm sure my sewing could be better, but it's a scrappy-style quilt, so it doesn't have to be perfect-- and I'm enjoying it!  Admiring all the different prints and colors... The soothing process of pinning, sewing, and pressing... (Well, sewing isn't always soothing, because I tend to have a lead foot!  Need to work on slowing down and getting my lines straighter.)  Watching the blocks come together... It's fun!

I don't see any elaborate quilts in my immediate future, but down the road, you never know...  When I first started crocheting, I never realized how absorbing it could be, either. 

- - - - - - - 

Quilting and working on the scarf/cowl should keep me busy for a while, but there's also a secret project on the horizon... Maybe a few of them.  I'm trying to keep my holiday crafting to a minimum this year, but there always seems to be something that you feel you need to make or do. 

Then there's the yard.  All summer, I excused myself from dealing with most yard work in the heat and humidity by making lists of the things I would do when the cooler weather arrived.  Now it's pleasant outside again, which means it's time to start making good on my promises.  *GULP*

First up is pulling the last round of summer weeds (mainly gripeweed, my mortal enemy) and planting the pots and pots of daylilies we started from seed earlier in the year.  Also, it's time to move some things into the garage in advance of freezing lows.  We placed a shelving unit in front of the south-facing garage window, where I hope the tender plants will get enough sunlight to stay happy. 

The colder weather is expected here by Thursday night, so it's time to get crackin'!