Finish-along with &Stitches

If you are an &Stitches reader (and I hope you are!), you’ll know that we’re starting 2014 off with a finish-along. A good way to start a new year, I think – tidying up the project basket and getting things done!

My finish-along goal might be a little different than others, because I don’t have one project to focus on, I have a pile:

Embroidery to Finish-along with &Stitches!

This pile is my official entry to the &Stitches Finish-along, because it’s all embroidery. It might seem a bit excessive, but this whole post (embroidery and otherwise) is full of projects that are nearly all at least 80% finished — and I don’t honestly expect that I’ll finish them all. So pictured above:

  • French Knot sampler, with only one partial section left to complete.
  • Orangework Sampler, not quite half done, but this is a fairly small and quick project.
  • Eels lyrics embroidery! Oh, how I love this project so, and am so sad that it got so deeply buried at the bottom of the basket. There’s not much left to do really, but I was stumped by the best way to stitch those teeeeensy flowers and it was put on pause.
  • The cross-stitch pictured is from a kit bought at the Bronte House about 12 years ago. It’s a reproduction of a sampler Charlotte Bronte stitched as a little girl. She must’ve had amazing eyesight, because this has lingered for so long simply because it is so tiny I can barely see it. But there’s only one line left to stitch!
  • And lastly, those blue-gray blobby flowers? Those are updated from a pattern book from 1915 and are something I started a very, very long time ago. I honestly doubt I’ll get to this one in time, but I can give it a sporting try, right? Those flowers are all done in satin stitch, and there’s leaves too, and it’s a slow project – but I do enjoy it a lot.

Although not officially tied to the &Stitches finish-along because it’s not embroidery, I’d also love to see this pile finished:

Knitting Projects to Finish-along

Again, all projects nearly done, it’s just silly that they’re still lingering. The magenta is my Henslowe shawl, which only needs blocking. The white is a secret thing that may possibly become a pattern – with very little knitting left to do. The camel alpaca project is a new shawl for my now-home-from-the-hospital mother. To be fair, this has only been on the needles for about a week, but I’m already on the edging and I don’t want it to linger, so I’ve included it. And the mustard colored project is a sock for my brother (the second of the pair) which is perfect for train travel and my upcoming visit to Amsterdam.

EPP project to finish-along

And lastly, this set of English Paper Pieced pillow covers, a gift for my mother now over a year late. Yikes. EPP is slow going, which is why I like it, but it is admittedly very unlikely to be finished quickly. However, one top is already finished and the other is about halfway, so it’s worth mentioning it here and hoping for the best.

These are, sadly, not all of my UFOs, but they are the UFOs that I: a.) definitely want to finish. There are one or two I’m not convinced about continuing, so they aren’t taking part in the finish-along, and b.) are far enough along that quick completion isn’t a pipe dream. Long-term UFOs like my Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt don’t count, those are meant to be ongoing. I tend to only get frustrated by projects that linger unnecessarily, and that brings me to my one and only crafty resolution for 2014:

Less projects, more often.

Because I start too many projects at once, they all take for-ev-ar to finish, which means I’m totally sick of the sight of them by the time I get near the end, which means I let them pile up to this point I’m at now but I really don’t want to work on them anymore! This year, I want to have fewer WIPs going at once, so that I finish them and move on to new things faster. Shortening the cycle, as it were.

And the best place to start? Clearing out the basket. Let’s go!

New Knitting Pattern: Besotted

In all the Christmas / New Year’s / hospital / family-visiting-from-the-States kerfuffle, I haven’t yet posted about my new knitting pattern! I just managed to get it out a few weeks ago and it’s available on Ravelry, at the bottom of this post and via the sidebar to the right (you do not need a Ravelry account to purchase!).

The pattern is called Besotted, because really, what else could I call a colorwork cowl covered in big, squishy hearts?! I suppose I’m a little bit biased, but it would be a perfect project to cast on right away and wear in the lead-up to Valentine’s Day next month – am I right or am I right?

Besotted is a deliciously luxurious slouchy cowl; from the very beginning, I planned this project with Shilasdair Luxury DK in mind because it really is the most gorgeous yarn on earth. It’s wonderful for colorwork because it has a lovely rustic quality and makes knitting even colorwork easy-peasy – but the angora and cashmere content make it an incredibly soft, lofty and drapey yarn. The best of both worlds!

If you are unable to get some of Shilasdair’s DK yarn (which Ravelry said is now discontinued, but the website doesn’t? I’m not sure what’s going on there, but I desperately hope not), try to chose a DK yarn that has some combination of wool (for the colorwork) and a luxury fiber like cashmere, alpaca, or silk (for the deliciousness). Of course you can use a pure wool yarn as well, but if you choose well, your Besotted cowl will puddle around your neck in lovely soft folds and be a joy to snuggle.


Shilasdair Luxury DK
100g / 300m (330 yd) per skein, one skein each of main color (MC) and contrast color (CC)
Example shown in Hawthorne (red – MC) and Fleece Cloud (natural – CC)

US #4 / 3.5 mm circular needles, 24” / 60 cm in length

2 hearts (19 sts in stranded colorwork) = 3” / 7.5cm wide and 1.5” / 3.75 cm tall
26 sts / 30 rows = 4” / 10 cm in stranded colorwork, blocked.

Finished Size:
28” / 71 cm in circumference
10.5” / 27 cm in height

(Thank you to the ever-talented Carina of Carina’s Craftblog and Polka & Bloom embroidery patterns fame, who was kind enough to take these beautiful photos for me!)

Tools & Toys Tuesday: Fibre-East Loots!

Fibre-East 2013 Loots

I don’t know if any of you readers are UK fiber*-lovers and might have visited Fibre-East this year, but myself and a couple of friends from my knitting group did and found some lovely treats to take home with us! I have a considerable yarn stash that I will never, ever finish knitting, so I was allowed just one thing, yarn-wise. And it had to be for one of two projects I had written down that I had no suitable stash for. I was a good girl, and it was surprisingly fun to hunt the one perfect skein to come home with me.

My one skein is pure silk, laceweight, from Luxury Yarns, in a color as close to the dress Marilyn Monroe wears in “How To Marry A Millionaire” as I think I’m ever going to find. I’ve been trying for a yarn in that Marilyn color for a long time – I even tried to dye it myself, twice! This yarn is intended for Cloud Illusions by Boo Knits, which I’ll be knit-along-ing with Karen sometime soon!

Also pictured are my two embroidery treats: hand-dyed cotton floss by Oliver Twists, who make the most beautiful colors there ever were. I wanted these flosses last year, and waited a whole year to have another chance at them! The crewel wool is from The Mulberry Dyer, all hand-dyed with natural plant dyes. They have such a gorgeous depth of color! These little bundles are meant for future lyric embroideries, after I finish the Eels lyrics.

So, a big success, I would say! Did you go to Fibre-East this year? What did you think of the new venue? I have to admit, I was disappointed – with stands scattered all over the school like that, it didn’t have the same cohesive feel, as an event, as it did in previous years. We had a lovely time though – there’s nothing like a building full of wool fumes to make a pack of knitters jolly!

* Yes, I am American and I spell it ‘fiber’. But ‘Fibre-East’ is a proper noun and it feels wrong to spell it differently. Such is the confusingly-spelled life of an expat, sigh!

Waiting room crafts

So. It’s been quite a … week? Two? I’ve lost track. I think it was about two weeks ago now that my mother went in for a pretty serious surgery. It was planned and all, not an emergency, and I had prepared a week of blog posts ahead of time, knowing that the week would be busy elsewhere. Of course my family did not know that the surgery itself would be complicated, and then followed by more complications. It was a pretty rough time.

But everything’s good now! Mom’s recovery will be long and probably a pain in her ass, but now she’s right on track and doing great. Phew. And I have to say, I have been so well looked after by my friends (both my in-person and internet-based friends), it honestly brings tears to my eyes to think about. Thank you, my lovely peeps, you are all seriously The Best.

I’ll be helping Mom out when she needs it, so I might not be back to regular posting just yet, but I’m trying to start getting back to normal. Of course, right now all I want to do is watch Buffy all day and nap but whaddya gonna do?

Fa Fa Fa Socks FO

While in the hospital – waiting, visiting, chatting, worrying, waiting, waiting, waiting – I did a lot of waiting-room-crafting. You know: the kind you don’t need much attention for, no real table space, can be scooped up in an instant. In this case, my Fa Fa Fa Socks and a stack of hexagons for my Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt.

I’ll show you the GFG progress later in the week if I’m able, but I actually managed to finish the Fa Fa Fa Socks (pattern by Lois Leong on Ravelry) completely. It was a good hospital project, because the cables are only worked every 4 rounds or so and they became really mindless really quickly, but I can’t say this was an entirely successful project. For one thing, the sizing is a bit funky on me – the cables pull in so tightly that the smaller size couldn’t even go over my heel, and I feel that this larger size is a little loose. I suspect that, even so heavily cabled, they will sag after some wear. I guess I could’ve messed around with needle size too, but life is too damn short to start socks over more than once when there’s a million other socks that need knitting, right?!

Fa Fa Fa Socks FO

The other problem was entirely mine – apparently I didn’t keep track of the first sock properly in my pattern notes and, being a little preoccupied in the hospital, I didn’t think to double-check them against the actual sock. As a result, my second sock has a different repeat count in the leg and is, erm, a whomping inch shorter.

Fa Fa Fa Socks FO

Oopsy. Oh well, onwards and upwards and whatnot, right?

Bobbin Lace Walkthrough, Part One

I’m still inching along on my Venus Shawl and Fa Fa Fa Socks, but there’s nothing much to see yet. In the meantime, I’ve been intensely enjoying my lacework for the first time since I started taking lessons. Let me clarify: I’ve always enjoyed *learning* how to make lace, but it was work to learn. I worked at it like practicing the piano when you’re a kid – practicing just feels like homework while you plod away at the simple stuff. Until a point where something clicks and it suddenly feels natural.

About a week ago, lacemaking became fun. Something finally settled into place. I came home from last weekend’s lesson and put my lace pillow and tools away as always, but found myself craving it a few days later.

I’ve been working at it constantly since then, and took about a zillion photos as I worked – it occurred to me that I’d blogged about my lessons and projects, but never talked about how bobbin lace is actually made. Perhaps I was still learning too hard. I’ve split this into three posts because it will be very photo heavy. I’ll keep it simple and keep the jargon to a minimum; even if the details are confusing, hopefully you’ll still leave with some vague notion of how bobbin lace works. And of course, feel free to ask any questions and I’ll do my beginner’s best to answer clearly! (Click through to see any photos bigger on Flickr.)

First let’s look at my project – here’s a reminder of my sampler pattern – those diamonds each contain a ‘spider’, each one is different. The piece will eventually include a wide border sampling different ‘ground’ (or background) patterns, but I’m still working on the spiders for now. I will walk you through one full section repeat, as it were, of ground + spider. Here’s what my pillow looked like when I sat down to work:

Bobbin Lace - Part 1

As you can see, most of my project is covered up with cloth – this is to protect the finished lace, and keep my bobbin threads from catching on the pins. (Although I only have about 1-2 inches of area fully covered by pins, the entire piece is still secured by pins pushed down here and there.) I would normally have even more covered, but I wanted you to see the work in context.

Hopefully you can see that the section I’ve just sat down to will be the ground (the simple background) pattern. My pattern is on the paper beneath my work (the ‘pricking’), so I can follow the lines and marked pinholes as I go. I will work my ground pattern up until a new spider begins (the exciting diamond-shaped area coming up ahead).

My ground pattern is worked in half-stitch, so I make one half-stitch – stitches consist of passing pairs of bobbins over each other in a particular order. (Bobbins are always worked together in pairs, two on the right working with two on the left.) Then I put up a pin at the little dot where the pricking tells me to:

Bobbin Lace - Part 1

And then work another half-stitch to cover the pin:

Bobbin Lace - Part 1

Now I continue doing exactly that, taking one pair of threads / bobbins from either side of each pinhole, and work down the diagonal row, making stitches and putting up pins:

Bobbin Lace - Part 1

Now I’ve finished one row. I will continue in this way down the remaining three diagonal rows until I get to the area where the spider will begin. Then this section of ground will be finished, and I will be all ready to set up the spider – in part two!

Bobbin Lace - Part 1

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