Monday, April 28, 2014

What a bunch of squares

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The house is full of squares.

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The hand-pieced nine-patch squares are done, and I miss them already.  There is still a whole bunch of hand-piecing to do, but first I have to make a decision or two about the rest of the quilt top (pick a color) and do some cutting.  There are 200 of these blocks, which went together so effortlessly that I have begun to think maybe this is the way I will do things from now on.  Also, look at that accuracy!  I am telling you right now, I cannot get that kind of accuracy on a machine, I just can’t.  I love working this way, with just a needle, a spool of thread, a couple of pins.  I’m not in a hurry. 

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I feel like I am really noticing each fabric scrap as it passes through my hands; I think, Aw, hey there, I remember you.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Sunshine Skirt, revisited

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I’ve gone back into battle with the Sunshine Skirt, this time in fingering weight yarn—a sock yarn blend of wool, nylon, and alpaca.  It’s the color of burlap, which has been giving me some pause (“Will I wear this?  Do I like it?  Does it look as much like garden twine as I think it does?”) but the bigger problem so far has been the shaping decreases.  You make two identical panels and then crochet them together up the sides, and the panels are supposed to gently taper toward the waistband—see the schematic there?—but that isn’t what happens.  Mine is a mess, and I am forced to conclude that either this pattern is full of problems or else I am a total fail at shaping in crochet.  (I’m betting it’s me.)  Also, I’m not sure that in the end it will wrap around my entire self.  Measure the piece, measure me.  Measure again.  Triple check.  Hope for a blocking miracle.  Working on this thing did entertain me so well yesterday that I lost myself in the hooking and sat in the sun too long and now look like a boiled lobster (I know, Mom.  I know.)  My daughter said, “You got sunburned already?  It’s only April.  Settle down!”  I will put aloe on it.  I will wear sunblock.  I will persevere.  This skirt will not defeat me twice. 

I made a bunch more squares, and a bunch more squares.  I painted a painting.  I cleaned up the yard, mopped stuff, washed clothes.  I went to two parties and successfully resisted dessert at both, which feels impossibly virtuous.  I am gobbling up Ann Patchett’s new collection of essays.  Did you know Ann is a knitter?  It always comes back to the yarn. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Blanket Squares

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While I am working on other things (the hand-pieced nine patch squares are still calling to me, and piling up very satisfactorily) I keep coming back to this. Sock yarn seems to come in two options—sedate and neutral colors, beige and charcoal and so on, the colors of ordinary men’s socks; and vivid hand-painted skeins in gorgeous colorways that sometimes verge on the lurid, and sometimes leap headfirst directly into the lurid.  I have a whole bunch of both, because sometimes a person needs an ordinary pair of regular-looking socks, and sometimes you want to let your yarn-loving flag fly.  And those hand-painted skeins are so beautiful, like watercolor paintings.  They cannot be resisted!  I know you know what I mean.

A lot of my sock yarn remnants are the leftovers of socks that have already worn out and are gone.  I made them so long ago, wore them for years, darned up the holes in them at least twice, and then threw them away, and still I have this little ball of the yarn left.  It’s too pretty not to save, which means that in the dozen or so years I have been knitting socks, it has accumulated.

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As you know, I am ever in search of ways to use up my leftovers, and also in search of a Big Project—this one is firmly both.  I am making a blanket out of sock yarn, and while I may have to supplement the pile of leftovers with more neutrals or more light value colors or whatever (poor me, sock yarn shopping!) I really think there’s no way this won’t use up the leftovers.  I can already tell there’s no way it won’t be a Big Project.  Big might not be the right word, actually.  Enormous Project?  Gargantuan? 

I choose two different yarns that look nice together.  I cast on 35 stitches on a US 4 needle, and work 35 garter ridges.  I throw in stripes as dictated by my whims.  I read a book, look out the window, look people in the eye, knitting all the while, and when there are 35 garter ridges, I bind off and start another. The pile of squares is growing, but the basket of yarn has not gotten any smaller yet.  It has to, eventually, start getting smaller.  It has to!  Right? 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Windy

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A grim-looking morning, fiercely windy, gave way by noon to something like summer.  Miraculous, hot, windows open, lemonade.  I slouched on a patio chair in the filtered sun as the hens puttered around digging their dustbaths and scratching through the debris left behind by months of snow.  Some of the hens are getting broody, spring-feverish, I guess.  I found three of them all trying to sit on the same single egg, piled on top of each other in the nest box, panting.  PIcking them up, plopping them in the garden—it’s a nice day, get outside and play!—they sighed, bupped at me a little, conceded the egg.  I read The Goldfinch, which  kept making me want to paint something golden and glowing.  I put laundry on the clothesline, which whipped dry in about four minutes, and I made this quilt for the little girl next door who is having a baby now, unbelievable, she was pedaling around in a plastic car shaped like a turtle when they moved in over there, a long time ago.  She’s six feet tall now, and married.  A gorgeous, red-haired girl.  Time is flying. 

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This is 36” x 48”, a crib-sized, blankie-sized, quilt.  The squares are 4”, finished.  I machine-quilted it, and a few rows in I remembered how much I don’t like machine quilting, and wished I had done it by hand.  All four mitered corners are, dare I admit this, perfect!  First time ever.  I am learning!  I washed it, and tumbled it in the dryer, to give it a rumply, comfy softness.  There is so much satisfaction in a little quilt like this, done in a day, made of scraps.  I hope the baby loves it to pieces.  I hope he drags it around behind him, sucking on one ratty corner, until they finally one day have to take it away from him because it’s gotten too disgusting.  The quilter’s wish.  Let it get loved all the way up.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Santa Fe Tunic

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Speaking of wearable, I give you this simple granny square tunic.  I’m sure this has been done since the dawn of crochet, but nobody is more surprised than I that it worked.  As it dried, it had all the flair and shape of a child’s t-shirt, and I couldn’t imagine it would fit me, though I measured everything repeatedly.  The numbers didn’t lie.  It fits. 

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Maybe it helps if, like me, you are getting to be a Woman of a Certain Age.  I have noticed a kind of, er, shift in the structure of things, if you will.  Tunics!  Yes, bring on the tunics. 

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Of course. a bit of je ne sais quoi is also required if you want to walk down the street wearing a sweater made out of granny squares.  You need self-possession.  Little kids have it, and it’s also a nice side-benefit of aging.  This tunic, my daughter said, is something Mrs. Weasley would wear—very high praise, indeed. 

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Inspired in construction by the Abiquiu tunic—knitted counterpane squares, joined together—from the Spring 2014 Interweave Knits, I measured myself at the widest point, divided that number by four, and worked sixteen granny squares to that dimension, joining as I went, and then added a picot edge to the cuffs, hem, and neckline.  There’s no sewing-up at the finish—just weave in your ends and clip them off.  I blocked it—of course—to maximize drape.  Right up until it was dry (and it took a long time to dry) and I could put it on, I did not believe it would work.  But it did. 

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This would be great, even more Mrs. Weasely-ish, in scrappy grannies, but I was feeling more subdued than that when I made mine, so all sixteen squares are the same.  Still bohemian, I think.  I like the undulating ombre effect of the (mostly) related colors.  Desert, sunset, sky.

There are eight different colors here, all worsted weights:  Cleckheaton something or other in burnt orange, leftover Hayfield DK in pale pink (oops, that’s not worsted weight—well, it worked out fine) Berocco Vintage in orange heather, Berocco Vintage in pale blue, Patons Classic Wool, dyed by me with red onion skins—it’s a warm, almost pinkish brown, Araucania something or other, dyed by me with turmeric, and Berocco Vintage in gold and gold heather.  All but the last two are single skeins and scraps.  I used a 4.00 mm hook. 

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Crazy, crazy, crazy.  Crazy that it worked.  I love it. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Rainy day project

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It is raining and blowing so hard today, a bashing rain, slamming against the windows, giving me that feeling of being at sea.  Howling outside.  I admit I like it a little bit.  I had to take down the glass lanterns on the porch because they were banging against each other.  It is a right blustery one.  Any minute now, Piglet might go sailing by in a bucket.  A beautiful, perfect day to stay indoors and have coffee, and listen to the dryer tumble the clean clothes, and knit. 

These are my sock scraps.  You might remember this and this and this, and still there are so many, and at some point a decision has to be made:  I’m either saving them for something or I’m not. 

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Okay, I am.  It’s another Big Project.  There’s nothing better!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Of a Tuesday

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Something new awaits its moment in the sun.  It is taking a long time to dry.  I think it might be fabulous, but there is no way to tell yet, other than to keep measuring it, and measuring myself, and hoping the two numbers are still compatible.  Or it might be ridiculous, but in the best way.  Anyway, I wait.  In the meantime, the yard filled up with these the other day:

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A whole flock of them settled in that crabapple tree, early in the morning, and they sat there all day, nibbling at the (probably fermented by now, which may explain their lengthy visit) raisiny fruit and muttering to each other.  Oblivious to the marauding Grackles and Robins.  I thought their stoicism seemed kind of heroic, but that may be the result of too many cabin-bound days, making anything at all happening outside look like a National Geographic documentary.   They sat there.  They ate.  I was fascinated.  

Something made them all do this at once:

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Stre-e-e-e-tch!  Then relax again.  Bird yoga. 

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I think they’re Cedar Waxwings, which are somewhat transient here in my neighborhood.  We only see them as they pass through, so they seem quite exotic characters to me.  They were unmoved by my opening the kitchen window and hanging out it as far as I could, camera lens (such as it is) zoomed out as far as it would go, clicking away. 

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My garden is mostly a habitat for the perching birds of the dull and brown variety, so a guy like this, in his yellow trousers and sexy superhero mask, looks like quite a movie star.