Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happiness is

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This is my idea of a good time; plain knitting in lovely yarn, reading a book while it rains.  I love that sound the cars make on the road outside, shooooosh, that’s one of the coziest sounds in the world.  Laundry tumbles in the dryer.  I brew coffee, wear my slippers, plan to make a pie but don’t actually make one.  The middle of the morning is dim as twilight, so I turn on one lamp, and the rest of the world is shrouded in gloom, but I am curled up in the circle of lamplight, knitting and knitting. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Trick

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Ever since making this quilt helped me finally start figuring out all those modern patchwork shortcuts that everyone else has known about forever, I feel a whole world of possibilities opening up.  The last time I made a quilt with triangles in it, I did math and figured out hypotenuses and stuff, and drew triangle templates, and cut out all the triangles individually and then pieced them together, and though I loved the results, it was as you can surely imagine, pretty time-consuming.  At the time, I knew there was undoubtedly a better way, but I guess I felt it would just be easier to go with what I knew.  And then I resolved never to work with triangles again.

But I want to make all kinds of quilts, so I got down to brass tacks and figured out a trick.  This came to my on its own, though it’s so easy and obvious that it is most assuredly already out there in print and online resources.  Anyway, here’s what I did:

Cut two squares (mine are 6 1/2”) and pin them together with right sides facing.  Draw a line between two opposing corners.

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Stitch on either side of the drawn line using the edge of your presser foot as a guide, which should yield a seam just shy of 1/4”.  I think you can also get a 1/4” presser foot, made specifically, for patchwork, but anyhoo. 

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Cut on the drawn line. 

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Open and press. 

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When pieced into a quilt using the same seams throughout (which is what I do, I just use the width of my presser foot—I’m lazy) the finished size of the square is roughly 5 1/2”.  As long as I use the same size seam throughout the quilt, the corners will all line up and my grandma would be really proud. Home free!  [edit to add:  Karen knows about the actual math here—scroll down the comments to learn even more]. 

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I love learning new things.  This almost-quilt is already the brightest thing in the room.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Crazy Quilt, the start

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I’m not making an actual crazy quilt.  For that I’d need, I don’t know, piecing skills and patience.  The crazy here is all in the fabric.  These fabrics have nothing to do with anything.  They are loud.  So loud.  They make me wonder how it is that I have them.  The collection of gently faded autumnal shades I was looking at last week has been shunted off to the side, and a circus tent has begun to form.  I’ve pulled all the hard-to-use fabrics out of the stash, piled them together, and started another quilt.   Here’s something interesting:  I notice that the more I have an actual need for something around here--say all the napkins are getting ratty, and I have a cute napkin idea and a perfect thrifted linen tablecloth ready to cut up and all I have to do is spend two hours hemming and I won’t have to wipe my mouth on my sleeve anymore—that project isn’t as interesting as finding out what the heck all these hot florals and 80’s bathroom wallpaper fish prints are going to look like when this quilt is done.

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I already know the end of the napkin story.  But this quilt?  Not yet.  Fascinating. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Starting Stuff

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I have got startitis, got it bad.  I must somehow imagine that I can make three quilts at one time, and that starting a second sweater and an eighth scarf is a good way to get anything done.  But there are so many good ideas out there!  The only thing standing between me and that new dress is the lack of a 20” zipper and the distracting clamor of all the other fun things I could be working on.  There’s this, which I want to start right this minute, and which I just found, just now, while I was looking for the link for something else.  Note to self:  finish some stuff. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Big Slouch

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I just got the best boots.  They seem to have been made by a bulldozer company, which kills me, and also somehow makes them even more fabulous.  I had given up--the search for the perfect boots is almost as hopeless as the search for the perfect jeans.  So many tried on, so many returned in dejection. As soon as I stopped looking, these boots found me, and so it is Destiny.  Being found by the perfect boots is making me want to rebuild my whole wardrobe.  I’ll start with a hat.

Now here’s a hat.  Simple, soft, garter stitch.  I told you, garter stitch and I are having a torrid affair, and I am not ashamed.  Garter stitch is so smooshy, and it has a cool, rustic texture, and it drapes like a dream.  I also think it gives this pseudo-hipster slouch hat an inside-out vibe, like I don’t even care, I’m too busy listening to the Sex Pistols, but I look good anyway

If a pair of perfect boots find you too, and if putting them on makes you feel like you could easily drop-kick all your problems to the curb and strut confidently into the nearest coffee shop where Jake Gyllenhaal will look up as you come in, give you the smile he’s been saving just for this moment, and you see he’s wearing a slouchy gray hat just so, just so casually awesome looking…here’s my pattern: 

Materials

2 skeins Katia Peru (40% wool, 40% acrylic, 20% alpaca; 116 yds/106 m; 3 1/2oz./100g) in Grey/color 12, or other chunky yarn of similar weight

US 8/ 5mm 16”/40cm circular needle

US 9/ 5.5mm 16”/40cm circular needle

US 9/ 5.5mm dpns, set of five

If 16”/40cm needles are not available, dpns can be used throughout.

Tapestry needle

Gauge

15 sts = 4”/10cm in garter stitch

Size

One size fits all.

Note: to work garter stitch in the round, you knit one round, then purl one round, repeat.

Abbreviations

k = knit

k1fb = knit into the front and back of stitch (increase made)

k2tog = knit two stitches together (decrease made)

Instructions

On smaller needle, CO 70 sts and join for working in the round. Place a marker for beginning of round, and work 8 rounds in garter stitch.

Change to larger circular needle and work an increase round, as follows: *k9, k1fb; repeat from * around. (80 sts)

Work one round even.

Work increase round: *k10, k1fb; repeat from * around. (90 sts)

Work even in garter stitch until hat measures 8”/20cm from CO edge, ending with a purl round.

On next round, work a decrease round, as follows: *k10, k2tog; repeat from * around. (80 sts)

Work one round even.

Work decrease round: *k9, k2tog; repeat from * around. (70 sts)

Work one round even.

Switching to the dpns when it becomes necessary, continue in this manner, with each decrease round working one less stitch before the k2tog, and alternating decrease rounds and even rounds until there are 21 stitches left, ending with a decrease round.

On the next round, work a decrease round again (eliminating the plain round. 14 sts)

Next round: *k2tog, repeat from * around. (7 sts)

Break yarn and weave end through remaining sts. Weave in ends.

I’ve made you an easily downloadable PDF, too, if you’d rather—here it is: Big Slouch.

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Aside from my fevered dreams of having coffee with Jake Gyllenhaal, and in addition to the beautiful girl you are and also the other ones in your life, I think this hat is so multi-purpose that it will do for virtually anyone on your holiday list. 

Call this one The Rembrandt:

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The Cabbie:

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Count Vronksy:

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Suspicious Elf:

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The Goofy Grandad:

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The Jeeves:

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And (this one is a very advanced maneuver, don’t try it without a spotter) The Triple Stack:

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The yarn to make this hat was sent to me by the lovely Lesley from Black Sheep Wools, thank you so much, Lesley!  You can get this yarn here, or other chunky yarns that will do just as well here.  As for the boots, you’ll just have to be patient. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Rumply ruffled pillow covers

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In the thrift store, I found a bolt of delicious grayish-taupe linen.  It’s that color I think they call French Grey, and it is gorgeous and perfect, so of course I bought the entire thing without even thinking about it, and actually I probably ran so fast to buy it that there were little cartoon zing! clouds of dust in my wake.   I brought it home and was all set to make some ruffle-edged pillow covers when Miss K came down with a bad case of being broken, and the project got squirreled away.  The change of seasons, though, has made me start putting summer blankets away and getting wooly blankets out, and cleaning and everything, kind of battening down the hatches and getting ready for the cozy season, so I brought the bolt out again, washed the whole length of fabric, and made them.

It was a little bit of a pain, because my original plan was to just cut out some rectangles (one big one for the front and two smaller ones for the back) and then fold a long strip in half lengthwise, gather the raw edges with a long machine stitch, and then pin it all together and sew.  It would have been great if it had been that easy, but it wasn’t, and I had to baste the long strip by hand, which turned an hour-long project into something that took a whole evening, but aw, dang, they’re just right, aren’t they?

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Rumpled prairie-style; the best thing about linen is how wrinkled it gets, how even when it’s new, it looks like something from your granny’s cottage.  And thrifty—the whole bolt of fabric cost just three dollars.  I’m so happy to see my gingham blanket again, too.  Cozy weather is here.  

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Monday, October 7, 2013

Monday

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Thank you all for your wonderfully kind comments about my sweater coat.  That thing was such a labor of love.  You can just immerse yourself in a creative process with something like that, which is such a nice place to be.  Of course, as always after the end of a big project, It’s been all starts and stops around here.  I feel full of great ideas, and then some work out and some don’t.  I began a monochromatic knitted log cabin blanket in two colors of teal which looked just wonderful in my head, but 3/64ths of the way in, it was boring and I scrapped it.  I might revisit that idea in something more neutral, but meanwhile something else came along and I’ll do that one first.  More garter stitch.  I don’t know what it is with me and garter stitch lately.  We’re having such a love affair. 

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I also started a new cardigan, in brown wool.  The first sleeve is done.  Do I knit a brown wool cardigan every single autumn?  I think I do.  If there’s anything more lovely than a brown knit cardigan in autumn, I’m not sure what it is.  Well, a gray knit cardigan is up there.  And quilts with wool batting.  Mittens.  Naps.  Homemade soup.  But brown is pretty great. 

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It’s been so warm that we hear the peepers at night; they’ve been fooled into thinking it’s spring.  But still, it feels like fall.  The outdoor furniture is layered with spent leaves.  The hens are taking apart what’s left of the garden, and laying a million eggs.  Our town smells like apples.  A gigantic spider is living right beside the back door.  His web is so strong that Dean bumped into it yesterday, and it stretched, but did not break, which both amazes me and freaks me completely out.  I keep thinking how good it was that the spider was not at home.  The windows are open, and it rains a little.  Things in the yard turn gold.  I love these transitions from one season to another.  Start, stop.