To New Adventures

IMG_5815Some news: I taught myself to embroider over winter break! Also, Pat and I got engaged! We spent the holidays apart, with our respective families, and during that time I secretly taught myself to embroider and made this pillow here as a Christmas present for Pat. He proposed shortly before we exchanged gifts, but he says that if he hadn’t been planning to propose anyway, this pillow would probably have done the trick.

Even if you’re not particularly familiar with Daniel Johnston, you’ve probably seen this frog-guy before, perhaps on Kurt Cobain’s t-shirt, or in Austin, TX. All the images here are from his artwork, and the words are lyrics from his song “Sweetheart.” I bought the pattern for the images from Sublime Stitching, though the arrangement of elements & colors are my own choices. Here’s a close-up of the frog:

IMG_5816I used split stitch on him, and satin stitch on the mouth. He was the first element I embroidered; later on I discovered vine stitch, which I used on the clouds, and I like it better than split stitch because it’s neater.

I got the idea for this whole project from knitting Totoro in December. I’d done incidental embroidery before in my knitting, but never considered myself very good at it until that project, where it was crucial that I make Totoro’s face look awesome or the whole thing would end up looking creepy. I was pleased with how well I did, and realized that embroidery is not actually very difficult — it’s basically just tracing plus patience. I’d already discovered Sublime Stitching through their french knot tutorial I used for my Zeldaphant, and in poking around again when I was working on Totoro I found the Daniel Johnston patterns, and that made the light bulb go off in my head since Pat is a big fan. Furthermore, I had a substantial collection of embroidery floss leftover from my summer-camp friendship-bracelet-making days. That’s right: with the exception of the dark green for the frog, 100% of this embroidery floss dates from the late ’80s and early ’90s.

IMG_5818The clouds here were made using vine stitch, which I ended up liking the look of better than split stitch. The sun’s rays are backstitch, and the sun itself is of course satin stitch.

One of the choices it turns out you have to make when you’re embroidering from a pattern is how to transfer that pattern to your work. I decided to buy an embroidery transfer pen (which washes out with cold water), and use my parents’ windows as a crude lightbox to trace my printed-out images onto the pillow cover (which is also from Sublime Stitching, by the way). Another choice I considered was iron-transfer pencils, but I don’t think that they wash out, which was a dealbreaker for me — I didn’t want to count on myself to make zero mistakes while tracing, not to mention zero mistakes while embroidering to cover over the lines I drew.

IMG_5822The eyeball monster here was also made using split stitch. I didn’t start experimenting with vine stitch until I made the clouds.

I now realize that I didn’t even necessarily need to buy a pattern, because a person could theoretically trace anything onto fabric and embroider it. That’s how I made the lettering at the bottom — I just found a font on my computer that I liked the look of, and printed out and traced the words I wanted to embroider. Here’s a shot of the whole design laid out flat, where it’s a little easier to see everything than when it’s on the pillow:

IMG_5810Yay! I’m sorry I’ve been gone so long — I’ve been knitting, but I also recently started a new job that’s eating up tons of my time. I hope to catch you up on some of my knitting soon!

This little bit in the corner I drew freehand, which is cool because it’s recognizably in my handwriting:

IMG_5821 So here’s to new adventures!

Water Music

IMG_0529The only “action shots” I have are iPhone pictures for now, but this is the chuppah that I knitted for my friend Amanda’s wedding. I was thrilled to be asked to do it, and immediately started scouring the internet for patterns.  I was only able to find one real chuppah pattern out there, and I wasn’t thrilled with it, so I initially planned to knit a cabled blanket pattern. I consulted with the bride about colors, and decided to knit it in Knit Picks Wool of the Andes in Fjord Heather. It was going to look lovely, but I was starting to have doubts because it was also going to be very heavy. Then this spring Kirsten Kapur released a square shawl pattern that I instantly knew would be perfect for a chuppah: Water Music. I loved the openwork, and thought it would be lovely in the sun — and it was! I love how you can see the dappled shadows on Amanda in this shot.

I hoped that just knitting this pattern in heavier yarn on larger needles would result in a large enough chuppah, but near the end I could tell that I’d need to add more rows, so I did another repeat or two of Chart 3 and I also added some more garter stitch to the border. I was aiming for 5′ x 5′, and after an aggressive blocking the finished product came out to just shy of that, which turned out to work fine. Here it is pinned out on my floor:

IMG_5627Isn’t this gorgeous? I was so happy with how it came out. But my apartment is small enough that this required furniture-moving! I cleverly finished this up right before Pat and I took a week-long trip to the east coast, so I pinned it out the night before we left and unpinned it when we got back — so we didn’t actually have to live with awkwardly-positioned furniture.

The ceremony was lovely, and I was so honored to be able to contribute to it! I also knit a sweater to wear to the wedding, but I’ll save that for a separate post. Until next time!

Vintage/Modern

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My parents are cleaning out their house in vague preparations to downsize and move sometime in the next year or two, and one of the things my mother unearthed was this great 1975 pattern book for Brunswick yarn, along with an unfinished crochet afghan she’d been making from this book in the 70s and a whole bunch of yarn that had been earmarked for the project. There are some great pictures in this thing! The top photo is my favorite; it’s from the back cover.

Here’s the front cover. I guess it’s the same model, but it’s not quite as amusing as her sassy cigarette pose:

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Upon reflection, though, very little about this picture makes sense. “Oh, it’s just little old me, in my glamorous makeup, wrapped up in this giant afghan, crouching on the ground outside.” Maybe she came over for a fancy barbecue (if that’s a thing) and drastically underdressed for the weather?

But the real prize for absurdity has to go to this shot:

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My mom calls this a “James Bond girl shot,” and I think she’s onto something. “Dahlink, vhy don’t you step into the kitchen for a drink and some snuggles?” The pattern for that dress is in this book, too, and interestingly the only sizes for the clothing in this booklet are 12, 14, and 16 (with bust measurements of this dress coming in at 41″, 43″, and 45″). They probably intend for some positive ease, but I think that speaks volumes about how size standards have changed over the years. (And about how knitting patterns have become more user friendly, presented in a wider array of sizes!)

Here’s one more gem for you:

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Oh yes, you can knit her all-yellow outfit if you choose!

I elected not to finish my mom’s crochet afghan, for several reasons. (1) I’m not much of a crocheter. Even though it was a simple shell pattern and would have been within my abilities, it would have been tough to work on in front of the TV, where is where I do 95% of my knitting. (2) She’d given up on it because her gauge had gotten wonky, so there would be some significant fixing I’d have to do. (3) There were eleventy billion ends to weave in already, and the thing wasn’t even half done. And (4) there was enough of her yarn leftover for me to just knit a blanket myself that would be both more fun for me to work on and more functional as an end product — shell stitch produces a fabric full of holes.

I decided to just freestyle a garter stitch blanket, in part because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to determine how much yarn I actually had, since the labels on this yarn list its weight in ounces but bizarrely not its yardage. After I’d embarked on this plan, though, I thought to look the yarn up on Ravelry and lo and behold, there it is despite its being long-discontinued: Brunswick Germantown. I have the older 4-ounce skeins, and I could have calculated my yardage and followed a pattern, but I’ve been having so darn much fun doing this that I see no reason to stop:

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I’m using the Mason-Dixon Moderne Baby Blanket as inspiration, but I’m not really following the pattern at all — just deciding for myself what colors will look best where. The main insight that pattern gave me was the idea of using intarsia to break up rows into multiple color blocks, which you can see that I’m doing on the top right now and already did on the right hand side. I’d never actually done intarsia before, but it turns out to be stupidly easy and basically exactly like fair-isle knitting except you don’t carry the strand along with you; you just knit in blocks and twist the strands at the color changes. I expect that the hardest things about it are following complicated patterns that call for it and keeping your tension even at the transition points, but here the “pattern” is dirt simple and the transitions are easily managed. I’m having so much fun with this thing that I’m finding it really tough to put down, despite the fact that it’s growing into a sizable wool blanket and it’s the middle of August! Of course, it’s also been a shockingly mild summer here in southern California, and the hottest months are probably ahead of us — September and October are usually the worst. So this blanket probably won’t be finished until the fall, but it’ll be a fun thing to pick up now and then until the cooler weather hits!

The Cruellest Month?

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I finished spinning this yarn recently, which I’m calling “Breeding Lilacs Out of the Dead Land,” of course from T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land. It’s 2 oz of a 50/50 merino silk blend from the lovely Sincere Sheep, and I succeeded at my plan of spinning it into a fine laceweight to stretch my yardage — I ended up with 440 yards, plenty for a nice lace shawl or scarf!

Here’s my next spinning venture underway:

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This picture is not really doing this fiber justice — it’s an undyed merino/yak/silk blend from A Verb for Keeping Warm and it’s positively luminous. It’s also one of the softest things I’ve ever felt — it’s such a treat to spin!

April was the month of my birthday, and here’s the spread of fiber-related things that I’m calling birthday gifts to myself — notice a theme?

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Yeah, I guess I’m feeling this color combo right now! The knitting on the bottom is an in-progress Creedence shawl knit out of Verdant Gryphon‘s Mondegreen yarn in a colorway called “Ooh! Ooh! Jade Weiner” — all the Mondegreen yarns are named after famously misheard song lyrics, and this is apparently how some people hear the chorus to “Dream Weaver” by REO Speedwagon. Corrina Ferguson designed this pattern specifically for this yarn back in October, and I knew immediately that this was one of those cases where it was worth it to buy the yarn called for. I’m sure this pattern would be lovely in other yarns, too — Tosh Vintage comes to mind — but I wanted an excuse to try out Mondegreen (a wool/silk/camel blend!). I finally caved and bought my two skeins in April when VG announced they were about to retire it for the season in order to make room for lighter, more summery yarns — and I cast on right away when it arrived! The Zen Yarn Garden skein is a laceweight yarn in a hilariously identical colorway, but I’m sure it’ll become a very different piece. I bought it at the Alamitos Bay Yarn Company during Yarn Crawl LA — ABYC is my local yarn store anyway, and I didn’t have time to hit up any faraway stores, but I went to take advantage of my birthday-month discount, enter the drawings, and see the Yarnover Truck (which is awesome, but was a little picked over by the time I got there — they don’t have much storage space in there!). And the sewing box is something I’ve needed for a long time — for years I’ve had a very small sewing box that I bought to hold knitting notions and the few leftover buttons and spools of thread that knitting projects can generate, but as the years have gone by that small collection of items got quite large and the box was overflowing! My new sewing box is so palatial by comparison that I actually have a separate compartment for my favorite stitch markers, so that I don’t have to dig through the lesser stitch markers to find them:

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Those are my favorites on the left at the back. They’re all from Hey Buttons on Etsy, and what I like so much about them is that the rings are welded shut so they can’t possibly catch on a strand of your yarn. They also all have lovely gemstones or glass beads on them! In fact, I like them so much that when I went to dig out that link for you I accidentally ordered some more for myself – ha!

In other knitting news, I’ve made a big change to my plans for my friend Amanda’s chuppah — but scrolling through this blog I realize I never told you about it in the first place! I was thrilled to be asked to knit the chuppah for Amanda’s wedding this summer, but it turns out that there’s only one pattern for a chuppah on Ravelry and I wasn’t thrilled with it. So I looked around for square lace shawls and blankets, and I initially settled on a lovely cabled blanket pattern called Serenity. I knit on this all through the eight-hours-each-way drive from LA to Tahoe for Amanda’s bachelorette party, as well as during downtime that weekend, but I had some doubts — all the cabling was beautiful, but it was going to result in a very heavy blanket which threatened to make a bulky, sagging chuppah. Then last month Kirsten Kapur released a beautiful, perfect square shawl pattern — Water Music — and my brain instantly went “CHUPPAH CHUPPAH CHUPPAH!” And so:

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It was a little sad to rip out so much work, but this is SO much better on so many levels. It’s moving along much more quickly, it has heart-shaped double-leaf motifs, and it’ll be a lovely canopy that will let light through during the ceremony — and afterwards, it will still serve as a cuddly blanket. I’m trying my best to get the knitting done during these last chilly weeks of spring before summer hits southern California in full force and I no longer want a huge wooly blanket in my lap as I’m knitting — wish me luck!

Linen-Stitch Cushions

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They’ve been a long time coming, but I finally finished these linen-stitch cushions! My friend Heather sent me this yarn last fall, and I’ve been working on these intermittently ever since. There’s no pattern; I just knit each of the two skeins of variegated yarn into a big square in linen stitch, using just about every inch of these two skeins. Then I switched to a smaller needle size (since linen stitch is really dense) and used some stash yarn in blue to knit identically-sized stockinette squares for the backs:

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Then I just sewed them together and stuffed them with polyfill! I initially had crazy plans to try to actually use these as covers for our existing tremendously-ugly pillows (not pictured), but I soon realized that would require more exactitude and pillow-experience than I actually had. Then I thought I might try to at least recycle the insides of those ugly pillows, but it turned out that those ugly pillows were all lumpy because they contained gross, lumpy stuffing. So those old pillows went into the trash (after I’d slashed them open to get at their insides, unfortunately rendering them unfit for donation), and now our couch is much more attractive!

I’m done with the button bands and collar for my Acer Cardigan, too! Now it’s just a matter of weaving in ends, blocking, and sewing on buttons. You’ll see that soon!

All this finishing, of course, means it’s time for some starting. Later today or tomorrow I’m going to cast on for a little two-person KAL I’m doing with my friend Lisa. Here’s the yarn, which is accidentally holiday-appropriate:

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It’s Cascade Heritage Sock in “Christmas Green.” Lisa and I are going to be knitting “Cusp” from Cookie A’s Knit. Sock. Love. book, and we decided to actually use the yarn that the pattern calls for since a 400-yard skein of it sells for only $11, and I like the idea of using a true solid to show off the lace pattern in the sock. Enjoy your St. Patty’s Day!

Hold This Thread As I Walk Away

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Once upon a time (last spring), I started knitting an Acer Cardigan in this lovely Tosh Vintage yarn. I knit the whole body and one of the sleeves:

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And it was a little bit too big for me. The sleeve (just pinned on in this pic) was WAY too big, but the body was okay — it’d be a little loose, but I was going to layer under it, right? By this point it was summer and Pat and I were leaving for Austin, so I decided to set it aside and redo the sleeves and other finishing work in the winter. Now it’s February, and I’m 20 pounds lighter than I was a year ago, and this sweater was WAY TOO GODDAMN BIG. And so:

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I’ve started alllll over again, knitting a smaller size. I’ll also probably just pick up stitches from the shoulder and knit the sleeves top-down to fit me, now that I’ve been burned once by the sleeves in this pattern. It’s a little frustrating, but why knit a sweater that won’t fit?

In other long-hibernating-project news, I am finally moving towards finishing my linen-stitch pillows. I tried three different seaming methods before I hit on one I liked:

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This is the stockinette back joined to the linen-stitch front of one of the pillows (unstuffed). I’m pretty pleased with how nice and neat this looks. My original plan was to just crochet the backs and fronts together, since I like crocheting much more than I like seaming, but this created an ugly bump in the stockinette section — I didn’t think to take a picture, but it was gross. Then I tried backstitching, but I eventually got spooked about not being able to see the seam (since the wrong sides were facing me), so now I’m doing a version of mattress stitch and it’s working well, if slowly.

I’ve also started a new mindless project for third-drink-of-the-night knitting:

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The pattern is Groovy by Annie Lee of JumperCablesKnitting. The yarn is Berroco Ultra Alpaca Fine, which I bought in Seattle about a year ago. I expect this will take me about six million years to knit, as it’s knit on US 2s and may take as much as 700 yards of yarn, though I definitely might quit before that. But what a lovely, simple concept for a shawl! I had to pin it to get the pleats to separate for you, but presumably blocking will make them lie reasonably flat.

That’s all I’ve got for now — enjoy your holiday if you’ve got one!

Thelonius

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My usual photographer managed to get stuck in rush hour traffic on his way home from running some errands today, so I decided to awkwardly photograph these socks on my own feet. Hooray! They are Thelonius Socks from Cookie A’s beautiful book Knit. Sock. Love., which I was lucky enough to buy from her and get signed at VogueKnitting LA last year. (Judging from the ridiculous prices on Amazon, I guess it’s out of print now! But you can still buy the e-book or individual patterns on Ravelry.) I’m a big fan of the traveling lace-panel in this sock, and will probably knit another pair of socks with this design feature sometime in the near future — Cookie has lots of great patterns that use them!

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The yarn is Sundara Sock in the Antilles colorway, which I received in a deep-discount grab-bag sale that they ran a few months ago, where the color of the yarn you were buying was a surprise. While I’m happy with this color and generally love turquoise, I have to admit that I was hoping for a skein of something that would push me out of my color-comfort-zone a little more. But the yarn was a good match for this pattern, which called for Koigu, and Sundara Sock is very Koigu-like in its weight and texture. As you can see in this photo, there’s quite a bit of color-pooling, but I don’t mind very much since I basically just wear my hand-knit socks as super-fly slippers around the house.

I started a new project recently, seen here:

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It’s not very photogenic right now, but this is the beginning of a chuppah which I am honored to have been asked to knit for my friend Amanda’s wedding this summer. There is all of one chuppah pattern readily available on the internet and I wasn’t a big fan of it, but I found a square blanket pattern which I liked much better: Serenity. The motif looks hilariously vaginal in this picture, but trust me: once it’s stretched and blocked, these will be beautiful, intertwining, only-slightly-vaginal cables.

I have also continued to work on my sparkly Summit scarf/wrap:

ImageIt grows very quickly because of all that negative space, but it’s also been neglected for awhile. I’d say it’s about halfway done at this point. The pattern was a little mind-bending at first, but I’ve made friends with it now and it’s actually quite easy to execute.

Soon — later this week, I hope! — I’ll have not one but two new finished objects to show you. Stay tuned!