Finish-along Update!

How are you guys coming with your Finish-along projects?! Mine are actually coming along pretty well!

If you remember, I had quite a list of things I wanted to get done, only some were embroidery. I’ve been trying to go through them based on what can be finished most quickly. So I did finish and block the shawl for my mother (forgot photos though, d’oh!) and also finally blocked my Henslowe shawl, which was a knit-along with the lovely Karen from Henrys Shed.

Finish-along update

Aak! Taking a photo of a shawl on your own is hard, especially if you have no useful place to lay it out nicely. Nevermind – just trust me on this one, it came out lovely and it’s a fantastic design. (It really is a shawlette though, not a snuggly sort of size. Keep that in mind if you knit it!)

I also finished my Orangework sampler:

Finish-along update
Finish-along update

– so now I’m almost caught up on my samplers!

And I’ve finally figured out a way to stitch those little flowers in my Eels lyrics embroidery:

Finish-along update

One strand of silk floss, chain stitched in a teeeeensy spiral. These flowers are only about 1/4″ across (shown here larger than actual size), which makes me ridiculously happy. But because I made them so small, I couldn’t find a way to stitch them all Mackintosh-style as they were in the vintage pattern I used, so I just went for a nice round flower instead.

I’ve started doing them in white with very, very pale blue stem stitched stems, but I’m not sure if that will make the whole thing too colorless. I was originally going to use pale pink for the flowers, but that seemed a bit typical. Now I wonder if typical would be actually be quite nice in this context, since the lyrics themselves are not. So I may end up pulling those few flowers out and re-doing them in another color, but that’s ok. Working out how to stitch them was the hard part!

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!

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

FOs (knitted)

Magrathea Shawl FO
Magrathea, finished

This doofy photo was, sadly, the best of the bunch, and it doesn’t even show the glittering sparkle in this lovely yarn from iKnit! Dammit. I love the shawl though, so so so much. Possibly my favorite knit ever.

Ranger Cardigan FO
Ranger, finished

This is my brother. He’s a dork. The cardigan came out pretty well though – other than sleeves that are too long (he’s cuffed them here) – even if I missed finishing it during the Ravellenic Games by about a hundred years.

Noro Scarf FO
Noro Scarf FO
Noro scarf, finished

Noro Sekku (laceweight) scarf also done, ready to give away as a Christmas present – but I really enjoyed this pattern in the end as well, and I’ll be making myself a version in one of the Noro sock yarns. I’m not likely to wear a cotton decorative scarf like this one, but I love how this pattern handles the Noro colors, so I’ll do a wooly version for winter.

On top of all this stuff finally getting finished, a dear friend also helped me work out a problem with a new pattern I’ve been working on, which means it’s basically finished! I just have to get the pattern together and get it tested, woohoo! More on that soon though. For now, I think I’ve learned my lesson and will keep the number of WIPs down to a reasonable few. It’s clear that having so many WIPs doesn’t work for me – I get frustrated because I feel like nothing gets finished, and because things take sooo long to finish, I get bored on top of it. I doubt I’ll ever be a monogomous crafter – what’s the fun in that?! – but I think this last string of never-ending WIPs will keep me in check … for a while, anyway. How about you? Are you a serial starter or a faithful crafter?

Huzzah, I haz returned!

My blog vacation, in photos

1. Pretties from the States!, 2. Sigh. Liberty., 3. Liberty purchases, 4. At The Globe., 5. Ranger cardigan, blocking, 6. Magrathea, finished, waiting to be blocked, 7. Noro Sekku scarf, WIP, 8. First piece of lace, framed., 9. Stitchy iPhone case!, 10. Mirror of Erised, respun and plied, 11. Oscar sunbathing on the kitchen counter, 12. Making lots of scrappy wreaths!, 13. 1940s day, 14. Vintage buttons, 15. Vintage buttons, 16. Oh my.

Well, my little blog staycation was a little bit longer than I meant it to be – it’s been a chaotic couple of weeks. Mostly nice, but busy! I got most of my blog nitpicking done (except for one layout problem that is Making. Me. Crazy. and I can’t figure out how to fix it. If you happen to be a WordPress whiz kid and want to help me out, please shout in the comments. I’ll be forever in your debt!) and had a really nice time doing some cool non-internet-y stuff. The mosaic above is basically my last few weeks in photos. I’ll narrate for you:

First, my family had some really special visitors from the States, who brought me a lovely stack of beautiful fabric as well as embroidery floss. I’ve already started playing with them a bit! While they were here, we all went to Liberty, patted all the beautiful things, and may have brought some home. We also went to see As You Like It as The Globe theater (one of my very favorite places in all the world, it’s magical!) and just had a lovely visit all-around. I got the Worst Cold In The Universe, which knocked me down for ages and is still kind of lingering in annoying ways, but managed to finish the Ranger cardigan for my brother as well as the Magrathea shawl. The cardigan is blocked and waiting for buttons, the shawl will be blocked soon. Over the last few days, I’ve been working on the Noro lace scarf, which I’d avoided for at least a year for being too boring and not really my style, though pretty enough not to frog. Turns out it must be exactly the project I’m craving at the moment, because I’ve doubled its length in about 3 days and am now feeling a bit sad that it’s almost finished. In fact, if you’re at my real blog (as opposed to a feed reader) and you peek over at my WIP list of shame, you’ll notice that I’ve pretty much kicked its ass lately! Well, the knitting section anyway – ahem, pay no attention to those other categories.

Anyway, so I’ve been wrapping up projects and it’s made me feel so much more organized and less like my thoughts are swimming all over the place. I’ve even framed my first piece of finished bobbin lace and I’m so so proud of how it came out! I cross-stitched an iPhone case, because why the hell wouldn’t you?, and respun some yarn that I’d originally spun too loosely. Oscar took a nap in the sunny spot smack in the middle of the kitchen counter (because, again, why the hell wouldn’t you?) and I got a wee start on some Christmas projects. I realized last year that, although I love making gifts for people, that last-few-weeks panic and stress just ruins Christmas for me. I pretty much hate it by the time it finally comes around. I’m working hard to avoid that this year, getting smaller things done early so I don’t have to think about them anymore. Last weekend, I visited the 1940s in a little wartime village event nearby with a dear friend, found some ridiculously cute vintage buttons to add to my collection, and gave Oscar some much-deserved head scratches.

(We’ve also been working on *two* new sets of embroidery patterns in the Little Dorrit & Co. office – I’m super-crazy about them all, I seriously Can’t Wait to get them out in the world!)

And now you’re all caught up! I’ve missed you guys!

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