As I said, it’s been a pretty busy and hectic few months, during which a bizarre urge to play with yarn took hold of me. You might recall, dimly, that this used to be a primarily yarn-based blog, way back when, and you might even know that I still have knitting patterns for sale. I wasn’t especially good at coming up with designs though, and it’s a crazy-flooded market – and I just gradually lost all yarn-related mojo.
I haven’t really knit for, I dunno, a couple of years, maybe? I wasn’t even sure if I could remember what to do with this weird fuzzy, fat thread. Do you wrap it around those pointed sticks in some way??!
I have no idea where the urge to knit came from, except that I do always crave a good wooly project in times of stress. When my Dad was in the hospital for a few weeks, years ago now, I knit about five cowls. It’s something my hands know how to do without any coaching or guidance.
And, of course, what else would you do when you can’t keep up with your to-do list or your heaving stack of half-finished projects? The only sensible solution is to cast on for a new cardigan (pictured) and a pair of socks and return to a long-lost laceweight crochet shawl and revive an abandoned pair of mitts and buy some new yarn for a project unknown. Yup, that’s just about the only thing you can do.
I don’t have too much luck with knitting sweaters – I mean, they come out nice and they fit and all, but they rarely end up being something I really, really want to wear – but I’m desperately hoping this Calligraphy cardigan (pattern by Hannah Fettig) will be the perfect everyday throw-it-on sweater that I really need. Fingers (or maybe knitting needles) crossed for me, please!
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:
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:
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:
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.
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!
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:
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:
And then work another half-stitch to cover the pin:
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:
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!
So, as mentioned yesterday, I took last week off – pretty much just for funsies. When you’re part of the unemployed hoard and trying to make a go of the crafty thing, at least as much as you can in the meantime, there’s an icky guilt that comes with any time ‘off’, so you kind of stop taking any. But even so, progress is still so much slower than I’d like, which makes me even less likely to take any.
But your brains do still need some rest from time to time. So I spent the week doing, well, crafty stuff. But crafty stuff that was just for fun, not really useful in any way, and did things as I felt like it. Very relaxing! I hurt my arm / hand somehow, so there wasn’t as much knitting as I might have done otherwise – but even injured, I ain’t no slouch. I finished the Terra shawl and pinned it out for blocking:
And, sadly, frogged the Umaro lap blanket and started over with fewer stitches. I’m not sure it’s going to be big enough to bother with at this size, but it’s awfully fun to knit, so I’ll just keep on for a little while and see how it goes. I really love knitting this one, there’s something so deeply satisfying about the pattern:
And then I started some plain stockinette Noro socks. Pretty much just to watch the amazing colors emerge from the skein:
Yum, I can’t wait for that red section to come out and play!
About 10 minutes after I sent off my last post, I started to feel completely overwhelmed by the ridiculous amount of WIPs I had going. I didn’t even tell you about the lace stole at the bottom of my knitting basket (the one I only knit a few inches at a time every 6 months or so), or the socks I’m not sure I want to continue. Um, or the quilts and rag rug I’ve got started and not finished. Enough is enough. Every once in a while, I do this crazy thing to myself where I start a million projects for fun and then am almost immediately overwhelmed and bummed out by them. Fellow crafters, why do we do this to ourselves? Why?!
So I decided I better take back control of at least the knitting. I’ve started to work on new designs and the last thing I need is guilt from my knitting basket slowing me down. My usual method is to put aside the larger projects for the moment, and intensely focus on the things I can finish quickly and get out of the pile. So I haven’t knitted anything on Terra all week (though did luckily bump into someone destashing the exact yarn I’m using for that one, so now I should have plenty to make a nicely large shawl), or Umaro (which, unfortunately, hasn’t been so lucky – the long-since discontinued Debbie Bliss Merino Chunky is absolutely impossible to come by now, so it looks like I’m going to have to start over with fewer stitches to get a suitable lap blanket length), or my brother’s cardigan.
Instead, I focused my attention on my Primavera Socks, started back in my Christmas knitting binge. As is often the case, the second sock was less exciting than the first, and they’d been lingering too long. I took them to my knitting-at-the-pub group last night and announced that I wasn’t allowed to go to bed until the pair was finished. One repeat later, I really wanted to switch over to a new project. But The Knitters encouraged me to finish and so I did – before bedtime, even!
And so glad I can finally just wear them already. I’m totally madly in love with these socks – the pattern’s genius, easy to work but oh-so-pretty to look at, the yarn (Trekking XXL) is so warm and bright, and they fit absolutely perfectly. And even better, this was stash yarn, waiting for a use since 2007. Oy! I’m not officially stashbusting or anything, but I am trying to knit from it as much as I can right now. No particular reason, just trying to find the perfect uses for those yarns I loved enough to stash in the first place. It’s very satisfying when you finally find just the right project.
Also from the stash is the Big Herringbone Cowl I mentioned the other day. This Noro Cash Iroha was also stashed in 2007, bought during one of those awesome John Lewis yarn sales. I bought all they had, 3 skeins, which turned out to be a really odd amount. Not quite enough for most shawls, too much for most cowls. This project was finally the exact perfect one – it won’t be quite as huge as the original (I cast on 10 fewer stitches and I’m estimating it’ll be about 11″ wide in the end) but is a dreamy match for the pattern.
I’m concentrating on this one next, because I only started it Sunday and I’ve already started my last skein of yarn. I knitted the first two up in about one evening each, a little longer. It’s such a fun pattern, it just flies by once you get the hang of the herringbone stitch. So I’m not sure it’s totally possible, but I’m going to set a can’t-go-to-bed-until-it’s-done goal on this one today and see how far I get. Think I can do it?