Monday, October 27, 2014

Progress Report

Ok!  Doily progress report!

Doily in Progress

I'm in the middle of adding the "afterthought" white picot trim to the previous band of turquoise.  It's going pretty smoothly.  As long as this doesn't somehow mess up the blocking by making that round too tight, that should be fine.

The next step is choosing pretty rose and leaf patterns.  I have a few options bookmarked in this book (Harmony Guides Crochet Stitch Motifs).  Now for the difficult process of actually making a decision!

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Afghan in Progress

I added a few hexagons to the stash-buster last night.  Those little hexagons are fun to make! 

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I'm feeling the urge to start a(nother) knitting project, but maybe I'll resist and pull out one of the crochet WIPs instead.  The Catherine Wheel ("Rhubarb wanna-be") scarf was just barely started when I put it away, but I think that one has real potential... It should be fun to watch the colors change, but I have to, you know, crochet until I come to those color changes in order to be able to enjoy them.  ;o)

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Doily Progress (???)

I did run out of the light aqua thread for the current doily-in-progress.  It was so close, but there simply wasn't enough yardage, so I ripped out that round and started again with a different thread-- Aunt Lydia's in "Aqua".

The two aquas are not quite the same, but they're not glaringly different, either.  If only I'd known I wouldn't have enough of the first aqua, I could've introduced the second aqua earlier in the doily.  There are two repetitions of those meshy, loopy bands in the doily, and crocheting with the darker aqua for just one round, earlier in the pattern, would've made the use of two shades look entirely intentional.  But I was unwilling to rip back to that point-- and it's fine as it is!  Most likely, when it's in use, there will be something on top of the doily, covering enough of it that you won't even think about it. 

When I came to the final round, with all the picots, I decided to use white.  I hadn't used white in the rest of the doily, but my other options were the first/main aqua (wasn't sure I had enough), the turquoise (didn't think I'd like the look), or the second aqua (plenty left, but seemed like using it for the final round would make it even more obvious that I'd run out of the first aqua). 

I'm thinking of going back and adding a modified, simpler picot round to the edge of turquoise earlier in the pattern.  It might make the white feel more a part of the doily as a whole-- like a lace trim.

Also, I was debating whether or not to add a rose to the center.  Roses in the center look pretty, but the way I tend to use doilies, 3-D embellishments can sometimes be completely hidden-- or even get in the way.  But now I'm thinking a rose is a must.  The petals will be turquoise-- maybe with some of the darker aqua in the center-- with white leaves. 

This doily has turned out to be a lot more work than I expected!  It's larger than expected, too, and I don't even want to think about all those ends that will need to be woven in...

I'd hoped to finish the doily this weekend, but if I don't feel up to all this improvisation (just yet), it may have to wait while I turn to the comfortable repetition of the hexagon stash-buster...

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Mysteryghan Finished!

The 2014 Mysteryghan/Deco'Ghan is all done.  Ends woven in-- washed-- dried.
Photos, anyone?

It's not my favorite afghan I've ever crocheted (the colors...), but it's not hideous, either (imho). Of course since it was a mystery crochet-along-- and I was trying to stash-bust-- some of my color choices/placements could have been better, but I don't think it looks bad.  Even the dreaded harvest gold is alright in this context, I think.   (To tell the truth, the longer I look at it, the better I like it...)

Although this is not a huge afghan, it's still been on the WIP list for months and months, so I'm happy to have it completely done. :o)

2014 Mysteryghan

The pattern (Deco'Ghan) has plenty of variation to keep things interesting.  ...Well, there are several of some of the motifs... Twenty of one type of square, I think-- but that's nothing compared to making an entire adult-sized afghan from one type of square.  Lots of fpdc, though.  If you hate them, I think the designer included another option for the center medallion.  I don't hate them, myself, but they do make that center square very thick, compared to the rest of the afghan. 

The downside of this kind of afghan is putting those different-size, different-shape pieces together.  Making sure everything matches up and is in the right place.  All that slip stitching.  All that fudging.  I managed to mess up one of the joins (put it together the wrong way)-- bad enough of a mistake that I "had" to rip it out and re-do it.  Joining is a fair amount of work, all told.  (That's why I insisted on join-as-you-go for the current hexagon motif afghan.)

2014 Mysteryghan

The squares in the four corners are a complete departure from the pattern, by the way.  I just didn't like the look of those squares.  Not my style... I'm not sure that my substitution (something I made up, attempting to keep the stitch count/size right) is really my style, either.  It's okay. 

2014 Mysteryghan

That rope cable border is interesting.  I doubt I'll ever use it on an afghan again-- possibly on a pillow.  It's time-consuming, but the results are attractive-- impressive.  It looks more difficult than it is. 

2014 Mysteryghan

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One last photo! Here's the promised progress photo of the Simply Soft hexagon-motif stash-buster:

Hexagon Scrapbuster Afghan

Ahhhh.  Soothing colors.

It turns out I had more shades of green and fewer varieties of blue than I thought.  That's fine.  Blues.  Greens. Whatever.  ;o)

Another Hobby?

I've been playing around with paints-- acrylic and watercolor-- off and on (mostly "off"), for the past several months.  Just for the fun of it, mind you!  No formal training, as they say.  I used to love drawing and coloring with crayons, markers, and color pencils, as a child.  I still like doodling, on occasion.  However, while I was fairly good at drawing-- for my age-- as a child, I'm afraid that my artistic skill stopped developing, at some point.  Sadly, I can no longer say I'm a decent artist for my age.  ;o)

Well, if I can make something I'm not ashamed to hang in our own home, that'll be satisfaction enough.  I can only improve with practice, right?  And it's a very engrossing pastime... Pleasant, too, until you realize you've just messed something up royally and will have to try to fix it, somehow.   

Donald has painted/drawn pictures as gifts for members of his family, before, but he's yet to make anything for us to keep.  I've asked before, but he has other hobbies he enjoys more, I guess.  Maybe if I nag with enough persistence... Or if I hang twenty or thirty of my own "masterpieces" throughout the house, perhaps he'll be inspired to contribute to the gallery.  (g)

I would ask for kindness, gentleness, etc.-- but I've long since turned off comments (because I'm shy)-- so there's no need.  ;o)

Until today, I hadn't photographed the first "dabbling" with acrylics on canvass, because it was such a copy-cat project.  I took the idea from something on Pinterest.  It turned out okay, but I think I probably went a little overboard with too many little dots of color (and not enough nuance).  The original is much nicer, but at least this was still fun to make (and looks better from a distance, I think):

Pinterest Copy-Cat

For the second canvass, I went off in my own direction, and it looks... :o/  Like something you'd find hanging in the room of a 7-year-old who loves pink glitter and purple ribbons and asks Santa to bring her a unicorn for Christmas?  (g) 

Pink Sky wtih Cartoon Clouds

See that weird purple moon?  That's what happens when you try to paint the silhouette of a bird in flight-- something better than the old "M" birds we all know so well-- are horrified with the results, gripe and stomp for a while, then settle down to figuring out what in the heck you can do to salvage the mess.  Hm... Purple moon it is, then!

After the incident of the horrifying bird, I thought that maybe it was time to take a break from the acrylics and try my hand at watercolors.  Donald had bought some watercolor supplies back before we met.  I'd tried them once before, but I was a bit too "sketch something in detail and then stay inside the lines" with that attempt.  This time, I found an example of a somewhat looser style and let that be my inspiration. 

I was actually happily surprised by that attempt:

Watercolor Dabbling

Sure, there's plenty of room for improvement, but it's not too far off the mark of what I intended.

I tried another little watercolor that same day...

Watercolor Dabbling

The trees are more than lacking, but I liked the clouds...  And it was fun

After that, there was a pretty long break from painting of any kind...
Then some floral doodling colored in with watercolors...

Watercolor Dabbling

Also fun, and a good way to learn a little more about how the watercolors behave under different circumstances. 

Here's the latest effort in watercolor:

Watercolor Clouds

This was my own idea, even.  (Oooh, aaaah... ;o)) 

The current WIP is a pair of abstract acrylics-- another Pinterest inspiration.  I'll be sure to share a photo and a link when they're done. 

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From now on, there may be the occasional painting project post, in addition to the typical crochet and knitting.  I'd really like to start sewing blocks from that string quilt kit my mother put together, too, so maybe there'll be sewing-themed blog entries soon.  (Actually, I know there will be sewing blog posts, because I sewed a curtain a month ago and have yet to photograph it-- and there's another curtain cut out but not yet sewn together...)

Monday, October 20, 2014

No FOs!

I still don't have any finished objects to show!

1.  Donald was sick with a cold most of the week before last.  It always throws things a little out of kilter when one of us is sick.

2.  Now that the cool weather is finally here (after cruelly teasing us, then deserting us again), we've been trying to get a few things done outdoors.  I've been pulling weeds.  (SO MANY WEEDS.  Piles and piles of them.  How did they grow so quickly?!)  Then over the weekend, we took out a rotted fence post and put down a new one, which involved clearing some overgrown grass and pulling/attaching the fencing material.  Also, we started work on the round "stone bed" over the septic tank.  Took out the stones (as many as possible), put down old asphalt shingles to serve as a barrier, and put the stones back on top.  (Lesson: Stones work their way into soil with alarming speed, without some type of barrier in place.  Or at least these did.)  We still need more stones to finish the job, but it's much better already.

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A brief summary of WIPs:
--  The two-color doily.  There's been real progress on that one.  I'm nearing the second band of the accent color.  The only trouble is that I'm not positive that I have enough of the main color.  Thread always seems to last longer than you think it will, though.  If not, I'll probably add in a third color-- white-- and just make the most of the situation.

--  The Simply Soft hexagon scrap-buster.  Fun to crochet, less fun to weave the ends, but I'm caught up, now.  A photo next time?

--  The 2014 Mysteryghan.   I've actually finished that one-- all but the end-weaving.  I should be able to do that tonight, though, so maybe there'll be a photo session tomorrow.  It's not a breath-taking beauty, unfortunately, but at this point, I'm just happy that it's almost done. 

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For a while, I was also pondering the possibility of casting on a pair of fingerless mitts.  I've never knitted mitts, gloves, or mittens before, but I've been meaning to give it a try.  I was comparing patterns for hours, dithering among three or four "finalists".  Then I decided which one to use-- and some distraction promptly appeared-- right on schedule-- so I haven't given it another thought since.  Maybe once I finish the Mysteryghan and the two-tone doily it'll be a good time to start something new.

I wonder if I'm up to the "two-at-a-time" technique..

Thursday, October 2, 2014

This and That Crochet

The doily is going along very sloooowly.  I think it'll be pretty when it's done, though.  :o)

Doily Progress Shot

Should I admit that I've already made a mistake?  There are some rounds with long chains and lots of single crochet into those chains, and though I went to the trouble of counting and marking up my chart, I referred to the wrong number on one round, which made it impossible to work part of the next round into the very center of those many single crochets (because there was no exact center).  Eh, it'll be fine.

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A long while ago, I sorted through my stash of yarn and pulled out all the Caron Simply Soft and similar yarns.  (I've decided not to buy more of it, because I don't love it, and Simply Soft's skinny version of so-called worsted weight doesn't work well-- imho-- with other, chubbier worsted weight yarns.)

A lot of it seemed to fall together into a decent color scheme (or so I tell myself).  There are blues-- white-- grey-- and a little green/blue-green.  I thought they'd make a nice afghan.  I was envisioning a tiled effect of single-color motifs-- probably hexagons-- and Ravelry's pattern search came up with just the thing:

Moody Blues 'Ghan

The pattern is Elizabeth Trantham's "Easy Hexagon"-- free on her blog.

Though I love the way they looked stitched together as described in the pattern, I do not love the process of sewing pieces together, so I'm opting for JAYGo. 

Also, I'll probably be making the rest of the hexagons with 2-chain corners instead of three, because it works out better for JAYGo.  (I'm hopeful that the switch from 3-chain corners won't be visible... I don't think it will be, in the finished project.)

Making the little hexagons is fun.  Seeing the blanket grow piece by piece is fun (and pleasantly reminiscent of a tile-laying game).  Weaving in those ends... not so fun.  Must keep up with end-weaving!

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The other day, I was reminded of some steel crochet hooks I bought in a thrift store on our last trip to Sweden (summer 2013).  I'd completely forgotten them.  I wasn't going to bother, because they're so tiny that I doubted I'd use them, but Donald insisted, and they cost next to nothing, so home they came!   

Old Crochet Hooks

Two of them are plain old "Boye" brand.  Size 10 (1mm) and size 11 (0.8mm).  The size 11 is marked on the other side of the thumb-rest with the price-- 15¢-- which is kind of charming, I think.  (I'm pretty sure the favored, clay-covered, 1.65 Boye hook I've used for most doilies was also marked with a price.)

The Milward hook is size 14, marked "Made in England".  I have no idea what size 14 is in millimeters, but it's definitely not the 2mm that the first Milward chart would suggest.  (It's the leftmost hook in the photo below.  See how tiny?!) 

In U.S. sizes, a 14 would be 0.6mm...

Ah, here's someone saying that Milward hook sizes 13, 14, 15, and 16 are used for tatting threads-- #60 and #80.  Phew.  Um, maybe not.  I'll just give this hook a nice place to live, for the time being.  Maybe someday it'll find a new home with someone who doesn't shudder at the thought of crocheting with tatting thread. 

Old Crochet Hooks

The last of the four hooks-- the one marked with a "W" on the thumb-rest-- has "NORICA" engraved near the bottom of the handle:

Old Crochet Hooks

That one's a bit of a mystery.  I'm having no luck at all finding anything about crochet hooks marked with a "W" (inside a symbol of the sun... or the compass...) or "NORICA".  There's also no size marking, but I'm less interested in that than in just learning what company made the hook.  I'll keep looking...

Frosting Cowl Finished!

Last week, I decided to call the Frosting Cowl finished.
(And now I'm going to blather on about it for paragraphs.  Apologies.)

"Frosting" Cowl

I weighed my leftovers (from two balls, because there was a knot near the end of one, so I went ahead and joined the next ball early), and it turns out I used less than I expected-- 2.62 skeins (531 yards).  I could've kept knitting on it, but it was time to stop, and I think it's plenty big enough. 

I mentioned in an earlier blog entry that this was my first time using a provisional cast-on.  Are there multiple methods of provisional cast-on?  I imagine so.  Anyway, I used one that starts with a crocheted chain of scrap yarn.  (You'll find a link in my Ravelry project notes-- see link above.)  It wasn't exactly difficult, but getting the knitting needle into the chain wasn't the smoothest thing I've ever done, either.  Undoing the chain and "reclaiming" the loops seemed much easier.  The whole process wasn't bad at all, though, so there's no reason to avoid patterns that call for a provisional cast-on.  (Another technique in the bag of tricks!) 

The lady in the video I used for picking up the stitches again (see Ravelry project notes) had a tip for avoiding the fluff that gets in your project if you use yarn for the provisional chain.  Simply make the crochet chain from something other than yarn!  She recommended using a thin ribbon or cord-- something smooth.  Because it comes off neatly in one piece, you can use it again and again, too.  (Of course, I didn't have that much trouble with fluff from the scrap yarn.  There was a little, but not much, so I'm not sure I'll bother, if I even remember this tip for next time...)

There were two more firsts in this project-- fake moebius and Kitchener stitch.

Though the pattern mentions the possibility of flipping one side 180° before grafting, I hesitated, because the “right side/wrong side” thing confused me. How would that work?  Wouldn't the wrong side of the cables show?  But then I read somewhere on the forums that the moebius is meant to counteract the effect of twist that naturally happens when you wrap the cowl around your neck twice. That’s how I plan to wear this, so I gave the moebius a try.  (It's not cold enough to wear, yet, but it'll be interesting to see how that works out under "real life" conditions.)

As for the Kitchener stitch, it wasn’t nearly as complicated as I'd expected!  I did have to undo/redo a bit of it, though, because I got distracted and messed up something.  Distraction is likely, because it’s a little mind-numbing-- but still complicated enough (for a newbie, at least) that it requires attention.  It also made my hand go a bit numb with the unaccustomed motions, so I wouldn’t want to do tons of it at one time. Repeating the mantra (knit off, purl on; purl off, knit on) aloud as I performed each step was helpful. …So it's probably best to not do the Kitchener stitch in front of strangers.  ;o)

"Frosting" Cowl

I’m not sure how well I did it, because since I did turn this cowl into a “fake moebius”, I was grafting right side to wrong side.  As such, it would be perfectly clear where the join happens, no matter how skillfully the two ends were grafted together-- but I think it looks pretty nice, and I’m happy to have Kitchener stitch under my belt for future projects!  It's certainly nothing to be afraid of.  I just need to remember to focus on what I'm doing, not let my mind wander, and keep repeating the mantra (aloud, if necessary). 

"Frosting" Cowl

I suppose I'll wash it, next, but I'll skip blocking-- just flatten it out to dry-- because this yarn has a reputation for growing like crazy, and I'd rather this cowl didn't stretch.  (If anything, I'd have preferred tighter stitching.  Yeah, I know; I should've swatched. ;oP)

After that, it'll be stowed away in the appropriate drawer to await the first serious cool snap.  It shouldn't be too long, now.  Some local forecasts predict lows in the upper 40s on Sunday morning!!