Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sexy Gloves. It's a Sign. (And other clever distractions.)

I could be a tad obsessive. I'd rather think of it as "extremely focused". I LOVE these gloves. They're the Joan Crawford Gloves pattern on Ravelry by Miriam Felton. I love, love, love them. They are sexy gloves. Yes, you read me right. SEXY gloves. That extra large keyhole detail showing a tiny bit of palm cleavage... Yeah. I feel a tiny bit dirty just from the way I feel about these gloves. I can't wait to knit them and wear them. I'll feel so classy. It's amazing what covering something up can do to make it sexy. That's a lesson for all you youngsters out there. (Of which I fully realize I am still one, BUT I have never been able to dress in any kind of provocative way. Ever. Never been thin enough. I'm not some moral paragon, people. If I could flaunt it, I probably would. But I like to think I'd do it with some class.)

Anyway, this is what I'm spinning to make those gloves. I can't wait. I hope I get the weight of the yarn right. If not, I might have to go BUY some yarn to make the gloves. They seem too sexy for normal yarn, though.

Now, back to our regular programming... Distractions. Yes, distractions, my precious. I am making this sign for Tempe Yarn and Fiber:

It's double sided. I cut those letters on my Cricut after fitting them perfectly into the width they needed to be. I cut four of each letter and glued them in a stack so that they would be more like chip board. I love how people think a Cricut makes everything super fast and easy. I mean, comparatively speaking, I suppose it does. But because it cuts everything faster than you can do with scissors, you find yourself cutting far more than you'd ever cut yourself and giving yourself hours of work even though you have a Cricut. At least this is my experience with the thing. I love it to distraction. But, yeah. I feel a little righteous indignation stirring in me every time I show a project I made with my Cricut and people think it's so quick and easy. And I'm thinking, "No. It's quicker than it would have been, but it still took about thirty seconds less than forever." Like, the Cricut just makes it POSSIBLE for you to put your inner vision into production. It's a tool. It's certainly not magical.

Anyway, the stupid curls on the wire took forever, too. (I'm in a bit of a crabby mood today. I watched Eat, Pray, Love yesterday and I pretty much hated every second of it. I thought it was so dumb. But I won't get into that right now.) I learned from my Silver Threads book that to make truly lovely curls in wire, you need to make them look more like the curl in a snail's shell, rather than just a straight spiral. And that's actually pretty easy if you're working with wire that has any kind of spring. Aluminum just doesn't. I had to physically curl every millimeter of that wire to make it look like that, and then I hammered and connected and blah, blah, blah... that was a process, too.

And I'm saying all of this because the sign looks so simple. Doesn't it? Doesn't it look like virtually no work went into it whatsoever? But here I am with hours and hours of my life into the thing and I don't know what to do. I don't know if this is acceptable. I had wrapped tons of beads around the wire, too. But when I went to hang the thing up, the top wire started bending too much from the weight of the beads, so I had to take the beads off. I'm wondering at this point if I need to take the whole thing apart and rethink it all, or just take it in. Adam says I'm over thinking it. No. Remember? Extremely focused. I don't think I can obsess too much about this thing which isn't just supposed to be a lovely pointer to their machine washable yarn section, but also is supposed to be a huge advertisement for the work that I sell in the shop. I was in last time and Aaron asked me about the sign. This is the nice way of saying, "Can you please finish it up already?" And I don't know what to do!

Well, Elliott saw me taking pics of the sign and insisted that I take a picture of him. So here he is. Man, I love him. He's too cute. And he's pretty much the main reason that the sign isn't finished yet. This is my excuse right here.

Maybe this, too.... I have two skeins of this lovely yarn made now. I love it. Everyone loves it. They say it's soft and can't believe it was spun with just plain Merino. I feel like finishing up twenty skeins of it and mailing it all off to Stephanie Pearl-McPhee because it was reading her archives and learning about long draw that is making all of this spinning possible. I love her. I love how she shares everything she knows so freely. And I love all of her "useless" books about knitting. (Although Knitting Rules wasn't useless. It was so funny and so useful.) And, just so you know, I'm not being mean. She jokes about writing "knitting humor". And how she has to clarify when people try to clarify that she must write patterns, that she doesn't write patterns, she isn't a designer, and she writes "useless books about knitting". I love it.

Here are the tags I made and attached to my yarns. I can post a tutorial about these later. I couldn't believe how many people have commented on the tags. I did it, not because I'm some super amazing and extremely focused person, but because I can't stand to put some plain thing labeling yardage and whatnot on my HANDSPUN yarn. And the only reason I've labeled these is because they have a very specific and different stripe sequence. There are two sets of a five color stripe sequence in these. I did this to try and prevent pooling and whatnot in my knitted object. Stripe sequences A and B, if you like... and the first skein is A, B, A. The second skein is B, A, B. The third will be A, B, A... Yeah. Don't look at me like that. Extremely focused.

Here are pretty pens I made yesterday while I was avoiding the sign staring at me from my wall. I love the skinner blend. I will sand and buff them today as I bake the dice I made for a new Farkle set for my purse. Yes. I'm doing polymer clay to avoid the sign. This is all turning rather ugly.

I can't believe how excited I was at first when they asked me to make the sign. I'm still excited, actually. I've never been "commissioned" for something like this before, even though I know it's not really that big of a deal. The potential of it all drives me crazy. It's so public. For forever now, all of my friends in TYF will see this sign and know that I made it and if it sucks, it will be forever that people will look up and think, "Ugh... I'm skipping Kathy's display because clearly she has no discernible talent." And the discomfort of never buying my stuff again will seep into our relationships until eventually I sit at the table and people barely say hi to me and I disappear into a corner and then Terry and Fred ask me to get my worthless junk out of their shop and my sign gets accidentally run over by a car and they bring in someone better who will dazzle and wow everyone and they will forget that I exist.

And then I'd be forced to shop for my fiber stuff at the local-shop-which-shall-not-be-named. A fate worse than death. I can't do it. I couldn't do it. The sign has to be perfect.

But I have to make more dice first. Maybe spin... and dream of sexy gloves. You know. To take the edge off.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Favorite necklace ever and other not-as-cool-but-still-really-cool stuff

I've decided to try a new thing to actually get new pieces listed on my Etsy page. I'm going to alternate production and finishing/posting days. So yesterday I had a lot of fun pulling out some of my bead stuff and wire and making 8 new pieces: seven pairs of earrings and one necklace.

When I got up this morning, this is what I saw in my dining room:

I couldn't believe how beautiful I thought those flower petals from my arrangement there looked lying on the piano like that. It was just one of those random happy things that I had to thank God for. He's always arranging little moments like this that just take my breath away.

It inspired me to take all of my photos in this area of my house. Here are some of the things I made:

Here is my favorite necklace ever. Period. Even more than the huge filigree piece that took me forever forever. Even more than anything. These are my ultra treasure vintage glass beads that I have been stashing for so long that I thought I would NEVER use them.

I absolutely love the asymmetrical drape of this necklace. I think I managed to balance it all very well.

And now, some of the earrings, which are very pretty, but still not as cool as the necklace. But don't tell them I said that.

(I LOVE the way the pearl ones turned out with the extra blue pearl dangling so far below the frames and the clusters of those beads. They look so cool!)

And there we go... All of this stuff is now on my Etsy page. Now that all of my stuff is posted, I will go ahead and make more. This is the best way to do it, I think. Hopefully I'll actually get some of it sold instead of keeping it all in my super uber secret stash of pretties that only I ever get to wear.

I'm thinking that my sons are going to need to grow up (a LOT... like for at least 20 more years) and give me a bunch of granddaughters so that they can enjoy my huge jewelry stash just like I enjoyed MY grandma's huge jewelry stash when I was little. I'll let them play with all of it, too, just like she let me play with hers.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Always a bridesmaid...

I'm going back and catching up on some photos I never blogged, so here we go:

I finished a really cool shawl pin earlier this month. After I did, I found myself staring at it, kind of not believing how cool it was and how neat it looked. The phrase, "Always a bridesmaid, never a bride," came to my mind because I seem to be capable of making very clever shawl pins, but not shawls.

It inspired me to start a lace shawl, which I'm currently working on at a snail's pace. I'm not very good with finicky knitting. I find that I actually seem to prefer kind of plain knitting... Garter stitch. Give me garter stitch and knitting in the round, and I'm a happy camper. It's something to keep my hands occupied without making me actually pay attention too much.

Here is my work space while I'm creating these shawl pins:

I like throwing out random old bits that I have lying around and turning them into cool stuff. I went through some of my much older stuff, and I pulled out these three polymer clay beads:

Aren't they beautimous? It's from back when I used to sand everything up to 2000 grit and buff it. Yeah, they're clay. There's no lacquer or varnish on them. That's just the result of sanding and buffing. It's so pretty, but it hurts my hands too much now. I find myself missing doing work like this. I have no idea how I'll use these beads. Maybe I should donate them to Beads of Courage or something. I just don't know.

Another short post today. I still have a sign to finish. It's taking forever. But that's really typical for me, so I'm used to it. The key is sticking to it until it's done so that annoying stuff like real life doesn't distract me too much and make me forget about it.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Egg and Yarn

I've been pretty busy over the last bit. But here are a couple of things I've been doing:

Vinegar etched brown eggs for Easter:

I can post instructions on how to do this later.

Newest handspun yarn:

I put the colors together for a self striping yarn. Hopefully it looks this pretty when I knit it up.

And that's all from me for today! I'm going to ply another skein of this stuff. I'm also working right now on a sign for Tempe Yarn and Fiber. I love them. If you ever go in there in the next few weeks and you see a glorious "Machine Washable" sign, that was me.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Cowl for Japan

This is the pattern for the Japan Cowl, including some hints for picking up stitches if you'd like to do the version seen in the pictures.

Yarn: DK weight yarn in two colors. Final project used about 209 yards. I believe the color usage is pretty much equal.
Main Color (darker color): Naturally Caron Spa in Dark Driftwood
Accent Color (lighter color): Naturally Caron Spa in Misty Taupe

Needles: US size 6 (4.0mm) 16" circular needles

Gauge: 6 stitches per inch and 7-8 rows per inch.

Final measurements: 21" circumference, with plenty of stretch, and about 8" tall.

Notes: There are two versions of the pattern presented here. I call them the "Easy Version" and the "Hard and Stupid Version". The Easy Version is what you'd do if you don't feel like doing a whole bunch of extra and mostly pointless work. The Hard and Stupid version is what you'll do if you want a cowl exactly like the one pictured, with an extra edging and a cute rolled edge. This all happened because this was my first Fair Isle project and I thought the rolling would stop at the colorwork and it didn't, so I had to pick up stitches at the end to fix it. I have an unnatural obsession with rolled edges. I just love them. So I wanted to keep it. If you don't care that much about rolled edges, then feel free to just do the Easy Version.

Please remember that if you choose the Hard and Stupid version, you can't leave nasty notes on Ravelry saying that the pattern finishing was stupid and hard and ridiculously long and why didn't she just do it this way, etc. I've warned you beforehand.

For a taste.... Here is a picture of the cowl in the middle of its saving surgery, part of the Hard and Stupid option.

Also, I made no effort to hide the weird step thing that happens in the colorwork at the beginning of each round. It made so little difference in the finished cowl that I don't regret this decision at all. If you're that kind of knitter, you will want to take whatever steps you take to make the little step in the pattern that happens at the beginning of the round disappear.

And now, for the actual pattern:

Easy Version:
Cast on 126 stitches in whichever color you want on your edges. (Cast on extra inches in multiples of 6 if you'd like a larger cowl... The colorwork is a 6 stitch repeat and is easy to size up or down.) Join for working in the round, being careful not to twist. Place marker for beginning of round.

Rows 1 and 2: K1, P1
Rows 3 and 4: P1, K1

Beginning chart: if you used darker color for your edging and you want the look I achieved by having my accent color be the lighter color, then begin chart by working a row in the lighter color for the first row. If you chose the lighter color, then the first and last rows of your chart is in the same color.

Work until the end of the chart. It's very easy... every single row except for the first and last rows are just alternating four and two stitches. The stitch pattern repeats over and over again across the row.

After completing the chart, work rows 1-4 again. Bind off loosely.

Finishing: weave in ends.

Hard and Stupid Version:
Cast on 126 stitches in the main color.

Work four rows of knit stitch in main color.

Work chart, making sure that the first and last rows are in your accent color.

Work four more rows of knit stitch. Bind off LOOSELY (or your edge won't roll and all of this will have been for naught!).

If you don't need more help, just pick up and knit 126 stitches from the accent row in the back of the knitting. (You will possibly need to pick up one extra stitch at the very end between the little jog in colors to get your 126.) Do yourself a favor and place a marker after every 20 stitches or so. Knit the first four rows of the Easy Version. Bind off loosely. Repeat on the other side.

If that made your brain hurt, I'll do my best to explain this here. Keep your knitting right side out and just roll the edge down a bit (the plain stockinette edging makes this very easy) until you see the bumps of the accent color row of the first chart.

Find the place where your first row made a little jog. I have it pointed out here in this picture. See the little step? You'll start picking up stitches at the first stitch that is a step down from the other one, in the stitch that my needle is pointing to in this picture.

Enter the stitch from the top and yarn over and knit the stitch through the one you just picked up. This is called "pick up and knit".

You can see here that I've picked up and knit four stitches and I'm getting ready to do the fifth one. I did this so that you can see the angle of the needle, and what it all looks like in the middle of the process.

In this photo you can see that there are three more bumps of accent color between my already picked up stitches and my thumb. This is what you're looking for, and why I insisted that your first row be a different color. You're picking up one stitch for each bump.

Here is the cowl with all of the stitches picked up. After you've gone all around the circle and picked up a stitch in the last accent color bump, you may find that you are one stitch short. Just pick up another stitch out of a bump from the main color, right in between the first and last accent color bumps, and you'll be fine.

I love this project and I think all of this was worth it. I hope you enjoy it!