Saturday, March 30, 2013

Spring Wreath

The past few years I've hung a wreath with two scarecrows on my door in October, they've stayed up until December when they've been replaced with snowmen which stay up until spring and then the door remains bare until October. I decided I wanted to do something for spring this year and after much internet searching I found this wreath.

I ran to Wal-mart to pick-up supplies only to find that they don't have green fun fur yarn. This weekend I was able to get to Ben Franklin's (think Hobby Lobby only smaller.) Sadly they didn't have any green fun fur yarn either. Since I didn't feel like driving an hour to visit the next closest craft store so I made do with what Ben Franklin's had.

Ben Franklin's has a rather large wall of yarn. Sadly most of it is Red Heart which I'm not a fan of, but for this project I figured it didn't matter too much.  I chose a skein of Light and Lofty in Green Gables. I used some applique pins at the start and finish to hold the yarn in place. After an hour of wrapping my wreath looked like this:

I really loved the ribbon flowers in the inspiration wreath, but the closest I came was a lace trim of butterflies. I found some purple silk flowers that would have worked well until I saw that they were 17.99 each! I like my door, but not that much. I settled for the cheap 99 cent bunches of flowers. After the frustrations of not finding what I wanted it was somewhat therapeutic to rip off all of those flower heads. I wasn't able to find pearl headed pins (I my not have been in the clearest state of mind by that point in time so I could easily have over looked them.) The head of the applique pins fit through the center of the flowers so I just pinned off center a bit. I struggled to let go of my perfection tendencies until I realized no one was going to get close enough to this wreath to notice.

To finish the wreath off I hot glued on some butterflies and hung it with some white ribbon I had on hand. (Word of caution: hot glue melts acrylic yarn so use it sparingly. I put the glue on the back of the butterflies so any melted yarn would be covered by their wings.) I may swap the ribbon out with something wider and colored, but for now this works. 

If you're wondering about the tissue paper, our apartment building has a walkway to the mailboxes directly in front of our door. We don't like people being able to look into our living room so we keep our windows covered. The first few years we used boring printer paper until I got the idea to cover them in seasonal tissue paper. It lets in a bit of light, looks cute and fun, but no one can see into our home.

Linking up here:

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

One down one to go

I've been focusing on getting quilts done so my knitting has been suffering. I probably should have finished this sleeve a week ago, but progress is still progress. I'm not sure why, but I absolutely hate making sleeves. It was a struggle to force myself to cast on the second sleeve instead of turn to something new. What stopped me is the "new" thing is returning to the purple sweater and doing...the sleeves. Anyway, the second sleeve of the green sweater is on the needles, but since there's only two rows done I'll just share the finished sleeve.

I'm linking up to Ginny's Yarn Along where she asks whats on our needles and what we're reading. I have a long drive to work so I fill that time listening to books on tape. Currently I'm listening to Plain Paradise by Beth Wiseman. It's about a young woman, Lilian, who's mother was Amish, but left for the English world. Lilian and her mother don't have an easy time in the outside world. When Lilian is 27 she escapes a bad relationship and goes to live with her Amish grandparents. She finds the peace she has been missing in the Amish world and the relationship she learns to have with God. 

Linking up here:

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Penguin and Fish eyes

I'm not sure why this step gave me so many problems. Okay that's a lie. This step gave me lots of problems because I've never done applique and for my first time doing it I decided to do pieces the size of buttons on the cuffs of dress shirts. I had originally planned to do a satin stitch around the edge of the eyes, but I discovered that of the many stitches my new sewing machine does a plain ordinary satin stitch is not one of them. Then I tried using a blanket stitch, but it didn't work with those stupid tiny pieces with my limited experience. Finally while watching Fons and Porter they did an episode with applique using a darning foot and a simple straight stitch.

After a month trying to figure out how to do the eyes it took about an hour to do the stitching on all of my eyes. I prefer working with smaller pieces so I added the eyes before assembling the blocks. It takes a little more attention when completing the blocks, but only one fish was mutated in the process.

 It is optional to do the eyes before or after assembling the blocks. The penguin beaks however are pieced and need to be added prior to sewing up the penguin blocks. I cut small squares, drew a line down the middle, and  sewed to the shallow side of the line. I struggled to get my beaks to line up when folded so I nudged the edge a bit over the side of the penguin blocks and then trimmed the excess.

I've known all along that my drunkard's path blocks would produce penguins and fish, but there's a certain level of excitement that comes from seeing the finished blocks and knowing that my plan actually worked.

Some of the ladies in my quilt guild are encouraging me to write up this pattern. I think once the quilt is finished I'll work to create a pattern for a baby quilt. It probably won't be ready in time for the May quilt show, but when I have it finished I'll be sure to share it here.

Linking up here:

WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Christmas Sweater Finish

It occurred to me recently that I did an excellent job of showing the progress of the Northshore Cardigan and then never revealed the finished sweater. (Part of it is that I was feeling miserable the night of my family's Christmas party, part of it is not visiting my family very often, and most of it is just poor planning.) My dad absolutely loves this sweater. It's similar to one that he wore past the point of rattiness so he's thrilled to have a nice, comfy, warm sweater. He's also started hinting at what I can do for next year, as has my husband, so it looks like July will be another good month for sweater knitting.

The button band doesn't lie as flat as I wish it would, but at least both sides are now the same length.

I had a lot of fun knitting this sweater. It was my first attempt at cables and I think it went pretty well. Since it's been a while since I've posted on the sweater the pattern is Northshore Cardigan and it's knit in Lion Brand Wool-ease in natural heather.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Knitting it Together

*I apologize for the sadness of this post. It's been a very rough weekend, but I feel I owe it to my puppy to share her story.

Six years ago I was attending school in Iowa City. I had a class in the morning and worked in the afternoon. Iowa City has a large area called the Pedmall and frequently I would go eat there. I saw this small, terrified little dog running around and began praying for her. That fall I moved into a house that let me have a pet and went to the animal shelter where I found Niedlich. A few days after she came home I had a dream about the Pedmall Puppy and woke up to realize she was laying beside me. I've always believed God answered prayers, but was amazed at the answer he gave to my prayer for that little dog. I was hoping for a home for her, not realizing that I would be the one to give her that home.

The shelter estimated she was three when I adopted her. As she opened up it became evident that her first three years of life had been filled with abuse and fear. Thankfully the schedule of a student meant that I was home a lot and she didn't have to be alone very often. After finishing school I moved home with my parents (two pastors with flexible schedules who also made sure she was frequently able to be with people.) When I got married my husband and I searched for a place that would let us have a pet, but rentals are scarce in Northwest Iowa and no one would take Niedlich. My parents offered to keep her for us and my dear sweet puppy continued to have a home where she felt safe and was loved.

Unfortunately the demons from her past never completely left her. She was always afraid of strangers, especially men with sticks, and no training could remove that fear. Friday one of my parents' neighbors, a man with a cane, was visiting, and the fear overwhelmed Niedlich. The man is okay, but the injury required stitches. On Saturday we took Niedlich to the vet who helped her pass quietly, without pain and surrounded by love.

I knew that my cabled sweater was going to be far too difficult to work on this weekend so I dug in my stash and cast on a sock. This sock has helped me keep it together; knit it together really. When the emotions have overwhelmed me I have been able to focus on the needle going in, the yarn wrapping around, and the stitch coming out. This sock helped me stay calm during my final hours with Niedlich so that she too remained calm. It is at times like this that I am reminded what a gift the simple act of knitting is.

Linking up to: Ginny

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Sleeve update

My sweater is progressing fairly nicely. I'd guess my sleeve is about two thirds finished. Normally sleeves are my least favorite thing to do, but I've been liking this sleeve so much that I may just do the second sleeve right away. It's lovely to have something green in my life. I thought the world was getting close to going green when we got hit with another line of snowstorms yesterday. I love snow because it teaches us to appreciate the green of spring. I think I've had enough snow to appreciate the green though.

Part of the Yarn Along I'm joining up with asks what I'm reading. I have a 25 minutes drive each way to work so I listen to a lot of books on tape. Currently I'm listening to "The Longing" the third book in the Courtship of Nellie Fisher by Beverly Lewis. I don't like the reader as much as the one who did the first two books, but the story is interesting enough to keep me listening.

Linking up to Ginny.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

My Knitting Bag

I'm struggling with sewing the eyes on my Penguin Quilt. I probably should have chose something easier to try applique with than little circles the size of buttons. (Once again I'm questioning my decision to put 52 fish on this quilt instead of just doing 13 big ones.) Since there's nothing new to show you with that quilt I've decided to show you my new knitting bag.

One of my co-workers was throwing a Thirty-One party and I got this nice tote bag. (It doesn't show up very well but the middle panel says "Got Yarn?") I love all of the pockets on this bag. The back has three more pockets and there are two mesh pockets on the side. It's so nice to have all of my stitch markers, tape measures, scissors, etc. in the outside pockets rather than buried at the bottom of my bag.

They also carried this set of drawstring bags. The fabric is a little flimsy so I'm a slightly worried about my DPNs poking holes, but I figured they'd be a good way to try using project bags and see if I liked it. I'm really enjoying having things contained inside of the bag. It's also really handy to just grab the big bag when I want to work on my sweater and not having to go digging through my whole knitting bag for the cable needle that slipped out again. 

I've gotten a lot of great comments on my green sweater, and wanted to talk about my chart keeper. I'm not sure I could do this sweater without it. (Probably I'd find a way because I really love the  look of cables, but I'm glad I don't have to.)

Knitting charts look complicated, but this keeper makes it easy to take things one line at a time. I prefer to put my magnet above the line I'm working on. For me it's much easier to see where I've been instead of where I'm going. (This pattern will occasionally switch when a stitch is knit or purled and it's nice to know if the pattern is making a change or if I'm reading further ahead in the line than I actually am.) 

One of the comments talked about the magnets getting moved which has happened when I close the chart. I have a row counter on my ipod (Knit Counter) that I'm using to keep track of where I am in the pattern. This pattern has increases for the sleeve at the logical increments of 6 and 13. Math has never been my strong suit and I didn't want to think about what the multiples of six and thirteen are. Knit Counter lets me have more than one counter going at once and I can even link counters so I only have to advance the row counter and the second counter that's keeping track of where I am in the increase sequence also moves forward. Since I have trouble remembering how many increases I've done I have a third counter doing that, and because three counters just isn't enough I've got a fourth counter keeping track of the number of times I've repeated the chart. (I tend to only have one project going at a time so I don't use this feature very often, but Knit Counter also lets you have multiple projects going at the same time, each with as many counters as you want.)

I've just re-read this post and it sounds like I should be making a ton of money with all of the advertising I'm doing. Sadly for my yarn budget that's not the case. I really love these products and are finding them very helpful in pursuing my love of knitting.