Thursday, March 23, 2017

WIP: Quilt Curtains

I have a number of projects in need of progress photos-- and maybe I'll take some in the next few days.  In the meantime, just to keep the old blog from going into hibernation, I'm here with a couple of photos from just one work in progress.

I believe I have mentioned before that I wanted to make a pieced curtain for our kitchen door's window-- and a matching/coordinating one for the window over the sink.  Well, as is my wont, I took for-ev-er working on it, but I'm finally, finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.  The scrappy binding is sewn together.  All I have to do now is press it in half and then apply the binding!  Everything else is done!!!

I originally thought of using only the front ("quilt top") and a backing (which in this case is part of a recycled cream-colored sheet), with no filling in the "sandwich"-- but when I held it up and looked at it, I wasn't sure I liked it being so thin.  Also, I wanted to quilt it (albeit simply) and thought batting would make the quilting stand out more.

In the end, I elected to use some batting left over from the string quilt (my first completed "real" quilt, if you recall).  It's 100% polyester, which I've since heard some really bad things about-- namely that it can eat through cotton fabric over time, essentially by scrubbing and wearing away at it as the blanket is used and washed through the years.  I may try to avoid 100% polyester in the future (once I use what I already have, which is one more roll, I think)-- but for something like a curtain, I think it won't be an issue.  (Besides, this isn't exactly an heirloom...)

I hope the batting won't make the finished object so thick that it looks weird to use as a curtain.  It would also be nice if it didn't block out all the light... That window is already fairly dark, because it's on the north side of the house, with a sizable area of shade cloth just beyond the door.  I like to keep the curtain pulled "shut" most of the time, for privacy, but I don't want my kitchen to feel like a cave.

If it's awful as a curtain, I can always just use it as a mini wall-hanging, instead.  ...But I'm making it clear right now that if this doesn't work out, I may never make a pieced curtain again.  This has been a long, drawn-out, and not-always-fun project.  I'm ready to work on a good old-fashioned blanket, again...

So, here's a photo of larger of the two, after pin-basting, but before quilting and trimming:

Quilt-Curtain (WIP)

As you can see, I used a bazillion pins.  I don't think you're "supposed" to use much fewer than this, though.  And though they are a real pain to put in (and I mean physical pain-- not just psychological!), they do make everything stay nice and flat and stable, when you're quilting.

I'll show you another photo taken at the same time, if you promise not to look too closely and notice all my mistakes...

Quilt-Curtain (WIP)

Let's just say that there's a lot of room for improvement in my piecing skills...  I'm not careful enough, I guess, but I'm not sure I have it in me to be careful enough to make a "practically perfect" quilt!  That's another reason I wanted the quilting to stand out on this project-- it seems to camouflage a lot of imperfections (in my ever-so-humble and inexperienced opinion).

Well, I guess that's about all I can find to say about this project for the time being.  Once I get the two "curtains" bound and washed, it will be the moment of truth-- time to hang them up (using curtain rings with clips attached) and see if they look alright.  If not, the larger of the two can be a small wall-hanging, as I mentioned before, and the smaller can be a small table-runner, I guess.  At least I have a plan B lined up... ;o)

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Three Little Doilies

Yikes, has it really been that long since my last "craft-blog" post?!  My excuse this time is that spring came really early, this year, and when I've blogged, it has been garden-related.  (I always blame the garden blog, don't I?)

I have been crafting, but a few projects have no photos, yet.  There's that doily that I ran out of thread on... (Still haven't looked for a match in the stores...)

Then I knitted a single hat pattern a couple of times... The first time, it came out smaller than I wanted, so I went ahead and knitted it a second time with bigger needles.  Both of those are still waiting for finishing work (weaving in ends) and photos.

Then I started crocheting some more doilies.  I'm on the last round of one (no photos of that), but there are pictures of a few "little doilies" that I not only finished, but blocked and gave as part of a birthday gift to my mother (along with the "Momentous Occasion" I crocheted last year).

These are all from Patricia Kristoffersen's book of 99 Little Doilies.

Small doilies are an excellent way to use up those remnants of partially-used-up balls of thread doily-makers accumulate over the years.  Because they're small, they work up pretty quickly, so they make good (relatively) last-minute gifts.  Bonus: They're cute and perfectly suited to spots where larger doilies just won't fit (narrow shelves, window sills, etc.).

First up, Little Doily #41:

A "Little Doily"

I was using up small balls of leftover thread.  I was running out of the sage/frosty green, so I switched over to golden yellow.  The two colors together have a vintage feeling, I think-- plus it has a floral vibe, this way.

A "Little Doily"

Next, Little Doily #99:

A "Little Doily"

I was running low on the blue by the next-to-last round, so I swapped to some pastel variegated thread.  I really like how it turned out!  (I need to use more of the small stash of variegated thread I've collected.)

A "Little Doily"

And last, Little Doily #49:

A "Little Doily"

This is the most boring-looking of the bunch, since I didn't make it multi-colored, but it's still a nice doily pattern.  The last round was fun to make.  I always enjoy it when a round/row of crochet goes up and down the scale of stitch heights-- sc, hdc, dc, tr, etc., and back down again.  For some reason, that's just very pleasant to crochet, I think, and I tend to like the scallops and points those kinds of patterns create.

A "Little Doily"

So, that's all I have to share, at the moment, until I get around to doing more finishing-work and photographing of FOs.

I've also been thinking a lot about other projects to come... I really want to get my current sewing WIP (two kitchen window-dressings) finished so I can start on my next quilting project, which I think will be a king-size quilt made from vintage sheets.  (I plan on machine-quilting the proposed king-size quilt on my standard-size domestic machine.  Is that insane?)

...And I want to learn to knit socks.  I ordered some pretty self-striping sock yarn from KnitPicks (Felici in "Jamboree" and "Dark Side")-- plus I have a few skeins of sock yarn already, from various sales/discount bins-- but I can't decide if I should start with sock yarn or make my first pair from worsted weight (as I've seen recommended).  The problem with starting with heavier weight yarn is that I'm not sure what I'd use... I have plenty of acrylic.  I guess I could use that and let them be "house socks".

It's perfect weather today for taking a project outside, so time to decide!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

A Little Bit of Everything

Been a while, huh?

I haven't yet washed and photographed the sampler afghan.  I just haven't felt motivated, for a number of reasons, but I do plan to do so before too much longer!

My main project, lately, has been making a pair of hedgehog mittens for my youngest sister.  The Christmas before last, I offered to make her something, and right around the 2016 holidays she made her request.  (She recently got a pet hedgehog, which inspired her choice.)  She knows the mittens might not be done in time to use this winter-- and honestly, this winter has been so warm in our area, aside from one or two cold spells, that there may be little need for mittens, anyway!

She shared some cute mitten photos she'd found online, and I tried to find a pattern that would match them as closely as possible.  Unfortunately, most of the patterns I liked were sized for children-- but the basic concept seem fairly straightforward:  Make a pair of mittens in the right size, using a plain mitten pattern that has a fairly pointy finger area (because that's the hedgehog's nose).  Make two rectangles in furry yarn.  Attach the furry rectangles to the mitten tops.  Embroider the eyes and noses.  Oh, and if you want ears, whip up a little something and attach those, too.

Of course, this would be a lot easier if I'd ever knitted mittens before.  ;o) So far, it's working out well enough.  I'm learning along the way, which is good, though if I'd known/remembered some of these things before, this pair of mittens would look somewhat nicer.  I think they'll turn out ok, if not perfect.  And really, nothing I've ever knit has been perfect.  That's part of the charm of hand-knit, right? (g)

In any case, I'm up to the point where I need to finish the thumbs, then I can move on to the furry yarn and the embroidery.  All of these parts intimidate me.  (g) And I'm not even 100% sure they'll fit, so I really ought to get her to try on the plain mittens before I dress them up.  If they don't fit, I'll have to start over or... I don't know... Is it worth it to rip back?  I'm not sure what I'll do, in that case.  Starting over would give me a chance to make some improvements, but it would also take more time, of course.

I'm glad that this project pushed me to try making mittens, at least, because now I can feel more confident trying some of the other patterns I've had my eye on for years, including fingerless mitts and socks.  I took the trouble of learning to make these mittens two-at-a-time with magic loop because I knew that would be my preferred method for making those other projects, down the road.  (Also, I worried that making the mittens separately would yield two differently sized mittens, if my tension changed too much from one to the other.  My knitting tension is far from rock-solid reliable.)

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Okay!  Enough of the "wall o' text".  (I do have a tendency to ramble...)

So, other projects.  I wanted some extremely simple projects "on the side", so I decided to use up some things that have been languishing in my stash.

There were some small remnants of kitchen cotton which turned into "color block"-style pot holders/trivets.  I used linked double crochet, which creates are more solid fabric than traditional double crochet.  Linked double crochet has a nice rhythm to it, too, and is fun to do.

Extremely Simple Pot Holders

You can't get much simpler than that...

Extremely Simple Pot Holders

They're not going to win any beauty contests-- the last one in particular, with its true "use it up" scrappy style-- but they'll serve a purpose in the kitchen.  ...And I like a little of that make-do aesthetic (especially in small things like this that can be hidden away from sight, if need be).

Extremely Simple Pot Holders

Next project!

I’ve had this next passed-along skein of vintage acrylic in my stash for a while, but because it is “Christmas-colored” and I have no wish to make a seasonal project with it, it’s just been languishing. Now I’ve decided to use it for some very practical dish-scrubbers. Sure, they’ll be Christmas-colored, but that doesn’t really matter to me. (I don’t typically leave my dish-scrubbers out on display, anyway!)

The yarn is named “Merry Pop’n Christmas Yarn”, in the “Old World Christmas Green” colorway, which is predominantly dark green, with a strand of dark red.

Boring Dish Scrubbers

These are also linked double crochet.  (It's an addictive stitch.)

These still need their ends woven in, and there's more of the skein left to crochet before the project's done, but I've set it aside for a bit.

Boring Dish Scrubbers

Still on the theme of using up some stash yarn, I decided to turn some nice, mercerized cottons into mesh bags.  They're commonly called market bags, but of course you can use them for toting anything that won't fall through the holes of the mesh.

Crochet Mesh Bags

The pattern is Haley Waxberg's "Grocery Bag".  I've used it a couple of times before.  There are a number of similar patterns for crochet (which this is) and knitting.  I made a slight change at the end of the bags.  It's nothing big, but I like to crochet another round along the top of the bag for increased sturdiness to the top edge of the bag and the two handles.

Crochet Mesh Bags

The yarn is some I found in a clearance bin years back.  Patons Grace in 'Spearmint' (pictured below) and 'Tangelo' (above).  I get one bag per skein, with a little bit left over.  Highly variegated yarn is rarely my cup of tea, but since these were the only colors in the clearance bin... They work fine for something as utilitarian as a mesh bag, but I do think less boldly variegated yarn looks nicer.

Crochet Mesh Bags

The final yarn project that I've been dipping into lately is what will probably be a "dribs and drabs" long-term project-- another granny square scrap-based afghan.

Scrappy Granny Squares

I just love making granny squares!  They're soothing-- they're fun-- they're carefree-- they're whatever you need them to be at the moment.  (Going overboard?  Well, only a little.)

They make me happy.  What more can you ask?

Scrappy Granny Squares

The current plan is to keep them small, three rounds each, then connect them using continuous join-as-you-go.  I think I'll probably try to calculate and buy enough yarn to use the same color to join the whole blanket-- probably a light/medium gray-- but there's also the option of joining them into four-patch or nine-patch blocks with a variety of colors for joining.  Either way would work.  The benefit of the latter method is that I could work from stash only.

Scrappy Granny Squares

For the time being, I'm just enjoying making my little three-round granny squares!

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And before I close this long blog post, here's a sneak peek at the machine piecing I was working on a week or so ago.  It will eventually be a curtain for the window in the kitchen door.  Just don't look too closely or you'll see all the imperfections.  (My sewing skills could use more practice!)

Piecing in Progress

Friday, December 23, 2016

Small Crochet Projects

One of our family Christmas gatherings was scheduled for last weekend, and I ended up wanting a couple of little "extras" to go in with a gift.  (Doesn't that always seem to happen?!)

First, here's my purple Dumpling Kitty:

"Dumpling Kitty"

Pattern:  "Dumpling Kitty", by Sarah Sloyer
(free pattern, available on Ravelry)

"Dumpling Kitty"

I always struggle with the embroidered faces... I do think those orange button eyes were a good choice, though!  I could only find two of them, so it worked out perfectly.

"Dumpling Kitty"

This pattern is not difficult, but small stuffed toys almost always have some fiddly bits, and this one's no different.  The color changes for the stripes on the back were a nice touch-- and the pattern explains how to change colors, so don't worry if you've never done it before.

"Dumpling Kitty"

And then there's this green cloche-style cap:

"Olivia's Butterfly"

Pattern:  "Olivia's Butterfly", by Valerie Whitten
(free pattern, available on Ravelry)

This pattern had been in my queue for a long time.  I like its 1920's vibe!

You could easily whip up several of these cute, simple hats in no time, if you needed quick, matching gifts for a few people.

The only tricky part is figuring out how big to make it...  Read through some project notes to see how others have changed the pattern to yield larger hats.  (I myself made a couple of small changes to the pattern, which you can see in the link above the photo.  The hat turned out about right-- though maybe it could've been a little bit larger.  I always have trouble looking at a hat and telling if it's the right size...)

I definitely recommend working this pattern in a continuous round (spiral), if possible.  If you're familiar with crocheting in a spiral (the way you crochet most amigurumi, for instance), this should be a simple change, and of course that eliminates the visible "seam" that you can sometimes end up with when joining with a slip stitch and chaining up every round.

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Though I took some time away from the sampler afghan, I have started joining the blocks.  I'm nearly on the last long seam, but I'm still not certain what the border will be...  There are several edgings bookmarked, though, so it's just a matter of making a decision!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Last Two Sampler Blocks!

I've woven in the ends on my last two spring-themed sampler afghan blocks!  Just have to find the perfect arrangement ;o) and the perfect join ;o) and then get them all attached!  Seriously though, I'm planning to not nit-pick this too much.  Though all the blocks have the same stitch-count, some are a bit bigger/smaller than the average, but I'm hopeful that it'll even out when they're joined.

Here are the two final blocks...

"Spiro Star of Spring":

"Spiro Star" Afghan Block

Pattern:  "Spiro Star", by Helen Shrimpton
(free pattern, available on Ravelry)

"Spiro Star" Afghan Block

Some of the project notes I read suggested that it was best to use the photo tutorial version of the pattern (avoiding errors), which I did through the twelfth round.  At that point, I followed a fellow Raveller's rewrite, which is meant to reduce rippling (see my project notes on Ravelry for the person's Ravelry handle).  Following this method, I think it turned out pretty well.  It seems to lie flat, at least.

To get my target size and stitch-count, I converted the last two rounds to single crochet.

I'm not sure how I feel about my color placement.  Maybe there's too much of a concentration of green in the center... It should be okay when mixed in with the other blocks, though, and the design itself is very pretty.  It is reminiscent of one of those "Spirograph" doodles.

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"Spring is Rebirth":

"Rebirth" Afghan Block

Pattern:  "Rebirth", by Magdalene Lee
(free pattern, available on Ravelry)

"Rebirth" Afghan Block

This is one that is actually on the official CAL list.  (Appropriate to finish with it, perhaps.)

I had such trouble getting started on this one!  It's not that the pattern is particularly difficult (well, if you don't mind puff stitches, at least).  I think I was just distracted.  In any case, I had to restart three times.  The third time was indeed the charm, but by then I was so sick of making puff stitches that I swapped the second round of them out for popcorn stitches.  (That's the round of pale green in the photos above.)

I think it looks fine with popcorn stitches instead of puffs-- just a little different; still nice-- but it did necessitate changing the next round slightly.  I also made a few other minor alterations.  (Details in my project notes on Ravelry.)

This is an interesting block with tons of texture and room for color-play.  The double zig-zag is very eye-catching!

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Here's the stack of afghan blocks...  All twenty-four of 'em.  Anyone want to volunteer to join them for me?  ;o)

Stack of Afghan Blocks

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I may have mentioned that I was planning to sew some quilt-style, pieced curtains for my kitchen windows.  I finally chose my prints and started, over the weekend.

The pattern I've decided on is made up of half-square triangles (HSTs), and because I'll need a lot of them, I decided to try making them 8-at-a-time.  (You might remember that I've made a quilt top-- yet to be made into a quilt sandwich-- that was constructed entirely of HSTs.  That time, I made them "only" 2-at-a-time.  I guess it's good to try new methods-- especially when you're still a beginner and there's so much that's new to you!)

I'm still on the "trimming down to size" step:

Pieced Curtains in the Making...

Once these units are finished, I don't think it should take too long to make, but it is getting close to Christmas, so it'll probably take longer than it otherwise would.  I'm just looking forward to pressing them open and starting to arrange them!  :o)

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Two Down, Two to Go!

There are two more blocks (for the spring-themed sampler) finished and photographed!

- - -

"Firenze in Spring":

"Firenze" Afghan Block

Pattern: "Firenze", by Julie Yeager
(paid pattern, available on Ravelry)

"Firenze" Afghan Block

This block is easy to crochet, with great graphic appeal.  It's another that can look very different depending on color choice and placement.

I changed the last round to sc to match the size of the blocks I've already made for the sampler, but otherwise, I think I stuck to the pattern.

My block is skewing/twisting a bit, but I think it'll straighten out once it's joined to the other blocks-- certainly well enough to suit me.

- - -

"Emmalynn in Spring":

"Emmalynn" Afghan Block

Pattern: "Emmalynn", by Carolyn Christmas
(free pattern, available on Ravelry)

"Emmalynn" Afghan Block

This is a pretty, floral pattern with an interesting construction.  Each corner (pale blue and lavender, in my version) is joined and worked separately; this leaves more ends to weave, the results are very nice.

I "doubled" Rnd 2 by working it twice in two different colors, in an attempt to fill in some of the gaps. It worked out ok, but it would’ve been easier to just "dc 2" in each stitch of Rnd 1, if I’d thought of doing that before cutting the yarn…

I changed up the last two rounds slightly. Instead of two rounds of dc, the first is hdc and the second is htr in back bump only.

I went back and added some single crochet "surface crochet" to the edge of the last "petal round"-- an effort to add some textural oompf.

- - -

The next block is actually already "off the hook" (ha ha), but the ends are still waving free and loose, so no photos of that yet.  I've selected the pattern for the final block, so it should only be a matter of days before the blocks are ready for joining.  (I hope!)

Monday, November 28, 2016

Two More Blocks

I've finished two more blocks for the spring-themed sampler afghan.  That brings the total of finished blocks to twenty, which was my goal-- but now that I've laid them all out together, I've decided to make four more, for a 4 x 6 layout instead of the 4 x 5 I was originally planning.  So I need to make four more blocks, on the double!

I've started the first of the Final Four, and I've also begun considering the joining and border. Since each block has its own border, I'll probably use a simple slip-stitch join.  As for the whole-blanket border, I've marked several possible options in Edie Eckman's Around the Corner Crochet Borders.  (These are affiliate links, by the way, as are the clickable book-cover photos.)

Side-ramble:  I love that book, by the way, and highly recommend it to anyone who crochets many afghans-- and you can use the patterns for edging any project, of course, not just blankets.

While looking up that link, I just saw that Edie Eckman has another book of edgings coming out early in 2017-- Every Which Way Crochet Borders.  (It's already available for pre-order, and there's a nice, juicy preview of the book on Amazon.)  There are some real lookers on the cover, and it's spiral-bound, which is great for books of crochet or knitting patterns.  Spiral-bound books stay open on their own much better than most other bindings, which is very helpful when you're using both hands for crocheting. ;o)

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Time for photos of the latest afghan blocks!

The Excellent Beauty of Spring:

"Excellence in Beauty" Afghan Block

Pattern:  "Beauty in Excellence", by Margaret MacInnis
(available to purchase on Ravelry)

"Excellence in Beauty" Afghan Block

This one was a bit trickier than I'd expected.  Maybe it was just me, but I had trouble understanding exactly how to make the "X stitch"-- where/how to place the stitches.  I think it worked out ok, though, and I do like the scallops and the trellis effect of the interconnecting X stitches.

I changed things up a few times-- mainly by crocheting in the "back bump" (as opposed to the back loop) for a couple of rounds.

Fantastic Spring:

"Fantastic" Afghan Block

Pattern:  "Fantastic!", by Julie Yeager
(pattern available for purchase on Ravelry, or free on the designer's blog)

"Fantastic" Afghan Block

This pattern reminds me of something I've crocheted before... Maybe these dish scrubbers?  Anyway, the central motif is a fairly straight-forward "fan and fpdc" starburst.  Quite pretty, with lots of room for variation, depending on which colors you choose and where/how you use them.  I decided to change colors just about every round.  More ends to weave, but it's worth some extra effort to get the look you want.

And here's a peek at the latest block, which is still a work in progress:

"FIrenze" Afghan Block (WIP)

It's nearly ready for the "Canada Geese" border, so it's not too soon to pick out the next pattern!