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February 2016

One Day in May

Ed_4421.JPGI'm not talking about six months ago ~ I'm talking about six years and six months ago, when I met Natalie Chanin in 2009. Why did I not blog about the encounter then? Who the heck knows? I've certainly spent countless hours poring over her books since, but it wasn't until the publication of the fourth volume, Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns, that I finally threaded my needle, "loved my thread," and took the plunge.  

I started with my "practice" skirt, made from an assembly of thrifted Ts. Some even had printing on them, so I kept the Bloomers stencil motif below anywhere I'd cut and reveal. Applied craft-store fabric paint with a brush (as this was before I watched Natalie's Craftsy video that suggests using a makeup sponge). Used too skinny fold-over elastic I bought to make hair ties for my girls. Navy thread. Outside knots. I was so hooked – and proud – that I bought shoes to match! 


That was in late spring this year. Over the next few months, I attacked the stack of Threadless Ts I'd konmari'd from my towering collection, and started giving them the Frankenshirt treatment. This gave me a chance to try different stretchy binding stitches, piping, and a fitting adjustment between the two. Both are shorter than the fitted-top pattern suggests, but I had to work with what my recycled materials offered. 


Finally it was time to try out one of the new patterns from the book, conveniently available on a CD I took to the FedEx for large format printing – not that I couldn't have pieced together four rectangles that comprise the wrap skirt, but I went for the Magdalena stencil, too. With a design plan in mind, I cut my own stencil of just a portion of the large design. Have X-acto, will travel (especially since I have a few quilter's cutting mats, too). Still working with recycled Ts (these were three for a dollar, all from some family reunion), the wrap skirt provided my lesson in negative reverse appliqué, the technique where, rather than cutting away a portion that's been stitched around, you cut away everything except what's been stenciled and stitched. This time I applied the paint with a spray bottle, having mixed brown and white to achieve some kind of beige.


Now, here's the thing about Alabama Chanin sizing and my body: my hip measurement falls solidly in the Medium camp, while my waist edges toward what they call Large in a range from XS to XXL. No worries with the stretchy swing skirt, but I cut the wrap with a grading between the two. And when I tried on my masterpiece, the thing was too darn big. Lucky for my friend Deb, who's about eight inches taller than I am, and proportionally larger!


Back to the drawing board – er, cutting table – I went. As I didn't want Deb to be my twin, I used straight brown paint, and finally daubed it on with a sponge. I had to go back to my last scraps of reunion Ts, so the hidden flap reveals some of the original screen printing. I cut this one a couple inches shorter, too. I love how the outside knots on both skirts feel botanical. After a pair of these, though, I doubt another is in my future any time soon!


OK: that's three skirts and two tanks, not to mention the "boa" that happened while I was working on the first skirt. I was quite ready for a softer hand after those scratchy blue Gildan Ts, and there were still some Threadless Ts to work with; they're a better quality of cotton to begin with, as well as having been loved for several years. So I made another swing skirt, slightly shorter (again accommodating the T-shirt length), using their existing designs for a few reverse-appliqué elements on two panels and stenciling one Bloomer repeat on each of the others. Four shirts total, one of them also used for binding a tank. I love the results and tend to wear it with two seams in front & back rather than at the sides – I choose which design to feature depending on mood or top.


After all of these practice garments, I decided I was ready for some real AC organic cotton. Next post!   


Welcome Back, Knitter - year 2

This is the second installment of a two-year catch-up on the knitting side of what I've been up to while absent from this blog ~ 

Mess o'Mitts

This time last year I was in the throes of knitting a series of fingerless mittens for friends. I finished each of three pairs in about three weeks, coincidentally using US3s. The first two pairs used the same pattern and the same yarn: Nalu Mitts by Leila Raabe [Rav link] and Rowan Tapestry – a discontinued wool-soy single. The splitty factor of that yarn led me to modify the pattern on the second pair, keeping the twisted-rib faux-cable columns moving in a straight line rather than waves. 


The third pair I knit in a silk-alpaca yarn as a valentine for a BFF who loves hearts. She was in the midst of some marital heartbreak, so I knitted her some handy love. I used the Semplice Mitts pattern, free from KnitPicks, and added the purled heart motif using a chart I found on Craft Passion. After I completed the first/left mitt, I decided to put two hearts on the right hand.



That's a Wrap

A funny thing happened when my fave LYS The Yarn Lounge closed its doors. My friend Frances and I stopped by to grab some last skeins and encountered a Californian who was visiting her son and daughter-in-law. Not only was she a most lovely woman, she was wearing an incredible cashmere wrap of ingenious short-row construction, which she kindly spread on the table for us to examine. She couldn't instantly recall the pattern source, but she thought it was free and listed on Ravelry, and she offered to email us the deets upon her return to the West Coast. A few weeks later she kept her word and sent the link to Misti Alpaca's Ruffle Cape in Garter


I cast on 84 stitches instead of 72 to make it a little longer overall, and the Muench Bergamo knitted-ribbon yarn turned out to be perfect for this project. Keeping the ends from unraveling was a bit tricky, and I had to stitch some of them down in the finishing, but it's kept me super cozy on recent fall mornings in a chilly old house. I'm glad I never knitted that Salt Peanuts cardi from Spring 2004 Interweave Knits



I made one more wrap last winter: Deborah Frank's Swerve, also featuring short rows. Brooks Farm Acero (left over from this cardigan) and Fleece Artist Suri Blue. I donated it to our middle-school auction, where it was purchased by a good friend. 

And I reckon this cashmere cowl counts as a wrap. It's the Infinitude Scarf by Jeni Chase, made in two skeins of the Jade Sapphire cashmere the pattern calls for. Yet again I used Revelry to find the perfect pattern for my yarn. 



My Favorite Pattern

If favorites are measured by repetition, memorization, variation – well, the Stay-On Baby Booties from Melanie Falick and Kristin Nicholas's Knitting for Baby must be mine. According to my Ravelry project page, I've knit at least 30 pairs. Definitely have that thing memorized! And I'm pretty sure my earliest recipients are teenagers now. During Wee C's 2013-14 school year, three of her teachers delivered their first-borns, followed closely by the librarian in fall of 2014 – that's four sets right there, and a friend of Little B got a second brother in that same stretch. In August my cousin and his wife began their family with boy-girl twins; I left this pair o'pairs in Florida when we visited them for spring break. 



Still to come: KALs, WIPs, and Alabama Chanin – and other non-stitching topics! 


Welcome Back, Knitter – year 1

Taking a cue from my friends Ann & Kay over at Mason-Dixon Knitting, I'm returning from blog hiatus. Honestly, I don't really know what happened. Life, I guess. I've got no better excuse for a two-year lapse, but I know I want to resume regular posting, have a blogmo instead of a NaNoWriMo. To begin, let's return to our roots as a knitting blog. Plenty of FOs to report from the last 24 months, so I'm going to divide them into two posts. 

Lots of gift knitting over this stretch; about half of the projects went to others. Nice to look back and see that. First, Wee C needed a birthday gift for a pal whose party she'd missed due to illness – giving me a flexible knitting window. We picked Gina House's Amanda hat for Isis, knit in Malabrigo, and then I made one for C as well in blue Manos (along with a pair of mitts).



For her Christmas gift I completed this Stephen West Spectra for my goddaughter, in a BMFA Socks That Rock colorway from their first sock club, paired with some Kitchen Sink Dyeworks semi-solid. I became a WestKnits fan after my the mystery KAL that gave me my Rockefeller shawl, one of my most interesting knits. And I'm pretty sure that I will begin his latest this month. 



Next I knit some basic socks at Little B's request; a year later I ripped out the toes and made them longer. Another winter request came from my friend Kim, for whom I knit some fingerless mitts with more leftover Manos that had languished in my stash. Their free pattern came from Blue Sky Alpacas.



And there were blankets, another thing to credit (or blame) those Mason-Dixon gals for – not that the classic Round or Pinwheel Baby Blanket is their doing, but once I had the yarn from first the (c.2006) Mitered Squares and then the Buncha Squares, what else would I knit for baby Ty, son of Little B's Mandarin teacher? This was my third baby pinwheel, and I highly recommend it for using up leftovers. I knit it in less than a month – meanwhile, the log-cabin blanket for C took me six summers! Kay called her Courthouse Steps version “Blue, Orange, Green, Green, Green, White, White, White, White”; mine is Red, Green, Green, Blue, Blue, Green, Green, White, White.” Only the last pairs of greens (sage) and whites (natural) are the same across all the squares. My squares are about 12”; I made 16 of them, joined with three-needle bind-off, and finished with a red i-cord "binding." 

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Finally, I finished the cardigan of 2014 about a year after I began. I rarely manage to complete a sweater in a season, but I never mind having one done in spring and ready to wear in fall. And obviously I am not a monogamous knitter! I wrote this post when I started what came to be known as Top Secret Jack, from the name of the Miss Babs color way. Pockets! I don't think I'd ever knit them before, nor attached i-cord that functions as a buttonhole band. After a bit of searching I realized that the four ceramic buttons I had bought at Maryland Sheep & Wool to match the yarn (when I though it would become a different sweater) were made by KokoNoelle. I found them on Etsy, but with no additional stock available. Determined to make the buttons work, I started their placement at the fullest point and spaced down to waist ribbing. I rarely button any cardigan, but this functions fine when I do. Really proud of this one. I also became determined to use every inch of the luscious Yowza, so I knit a slouchy Wurm hat to match – not that I wear them together. The last 30 yards became a cup cozy, pictured with the remnant strand on top!  

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