Archive for June, 2006

Nancy’s birthday present

Sunday, June 25th, 2006

Yay! I got Nancy’s thank-you card yesterday, which means that she’s seen this, which means that I can now post about it. Here’s my birthday present for Nancy, a wall hanging made from the block “Nancy’s Nosegay,” which appears on Nancy’s birthday on the Quilt-Block-A-Day perpetual calendar!

Quilt for Nancy

This was my first project that involved quilting that wasn’t in the ditch, so that opened up a whole new world of finding, modifying, and marking quilting patterns. Here’s a detail of the quilting in the setting triangles:

Detail of the quilting in the setting triangles

Now, I’m not known for getting holiday presents of any sort out in a timely manner, but this one was a real winner: I originally intended it for Nancy’s birthday last year, but by early May had only completed the top. So, I sent her the top, along with a postage-paid return envelope. She sent it back to me, and I finished it for her birthday this year – still not getting it done in time, mind you, but close enough. Hence the explanation on the label I sewed onto the back:

Let it never be said that I didn’t document my failings!

Knitting Needle Holder

Sunday, June 11th, 2006

Here’s another recent project – a hanging circular knitting needle holder. This is modeled after one which is available commercially, but which cost more than I wanted to pay (the cheapest price I found was $16 plus shipping). In making my own version, my requirements were that it be cheap and fast to make (otherwise, I might as well just buy it). I considered a few options – I could use a canvas fabric, but then I’d have to hem the sides – cheap, but not fast. Another option was to use regular cotton fabric and fuse it onto some interfacing to stiffen it and avoid hemming – fast, but the interfacing isn’t cheap. I ended up in the upholstery department at JoAnn’s, and bought jute webbing – stiff, cheap, and about the right width (yoikes – that’s going to show up on someone’s search for things-that-definitely-aren’t-crafty!). Then I got some narrower cotton webbing and a marker for writing the needle sizes, and some rings to use for hanging it on the wall. Total materials cost: less than $5, if you don’t count the marker which can be used for other projects. I sewed the cotton webbing onto one half of the jute webbing, then folded the jute webbing in half. I then sewed across to make “tunnels” – one for each standard size of knitting needle, and an extra at the bottom. I wrote on the sizes – both American and millimeter (the 2.5 mm doesn’t have an American equivalent). Note that I have some more needles than you see – I’ve been doing a bunch of swatching this weekend, so some needles are in my living room, and I’m also in the middle of making a hat. It was interesting to see what sizes I don’t own – I don’t have any size 9 – though I think I’ve got multiple pairs of old aluminum size 9 straight needles. And for some reason I have size 4 double-pointed needles, but not circular – I think I did mittens with them in college. I think I’m going to have to get size 4 at some point, along with some more of the smaller sizes. The really huge needles are used for things which will be felted.

Knitting Needle Holder

Overdue update

Sunday, June 11th, 2006

This is slightly old news, but I figured I’d mention what I’ve been up to lately. My crackpottiest recent project was a sweater. After the Nordic mittens I decided that I wanted a more mindless knitting project, and a sweater to wear at home during the winter sounded like a good plan. I’d made the Ribby Cardi from chicknits once before, and wasn’t happy with how the size turned out, but I knew the pattern had potential. I had used the recommended yarn, but even though the rest of the world seemed to like it at 19 st/4″, I thought it was a little loose. (Now, had I been more discerning about evaluating my original gauge swatch, I would’ve figured that out before knitting the sweater). Lesson learned: it’s not enough to get gauge – I also have to like the resulting fabric, or I’m not going to be satisfied with the sweater. With that in mind, I chose a thicker yarn – Cascade Eco Wool, which I really loved working with. I knitted it tighter than the recommended gauge, and am happy with the resulting fabric.

So, I knitted the sweater -which was quite a smooth process – and after blocking the pieces, found that they had shrunk in length. I think the “warm” water in my washing machine was significantly warmer than what I’d used in the sink when blocking my swatch. Lesson learned: don’t block wool that loves to felt in the washing machine unless I’m ok with shrinkage. (Note: I didn’t actually “wash” it – I just used the “soak” cycle).

And that’s when the project got crackpotty. I knew that I’d need to lengthen the sweater, and because it was ribbed, I couldn’t just pick up stitches at the bottom of each piece and knit downwards – the knitting downwards is 1/2 stitch off from the knitting upwards, and the ribbing wouldn’t match. What I ended up doing was knitting extension pieces for the back and fronts of the body, then grafting them on to the original pieces a couple rows up from the original cast-on row. Then I removed the cast-on row and got a virtually invisible length extension. (I can give the gory details if anyone is interested). For the sleeves, I did pick up and knit downwards, changing from the K2P2 rib of the sleeves to a K1P1 rib so the lack of matching wouldn’t show. I knit enough to make turned back cuffs.

and here’s a photo of the finished sweater:


Ribby Cardi from Chicknits. I knitted the same size as the first time, but did the all-over ribbed version, which made the sweater more fitted, as I desired. I did change the collar a bit, using a variation I found on the Ribby Cardi Knitalong blog so the collar is a double layer of fabric. I also made the zipper facing one row wider than in the pattern, and added an inner facing so the raw edges of the zipper tape are enclosed.

Cascade Eco Wool, dark brown. Note: this is knitted at a gauge smaller than the yarn’s recommended gauge, and I had to go down to size 3 needles to hit 19 st/4″. I love the yarn and resulting fabric. There is some pilling, but the pills are loose and easy to remove. I’m hoping that the pilling will stop once the first pilliness is done.

Despite the headaches in finishing, I love the sweater. Plus, knitting and grafting on the extensions was very educational. The one downside of knitting yarn at a tighter-than-recommended gauge is that this sweater is extremely warm. On the plus side, I might be able to turn my thermostat down a bit while wearing it.

Can quilting be “hip”?

Saturday, June 3rd, 2006

I saw an ad for this website: in the latest issue of Quiltmaker. Curious, I checked it out, and “Make It You” appears to be a joint effort by a number of fabric/quilting companies (Pfaff, RJR Fabrics, Viking, etc.) to jump on the “knitting is hip” bandwagon by introducing sewing and quilting to a younger audience.

As far as the web site goes, I’m not terribly impressed – it’s well done, but there isn’t much material there, though the quilt pattern they show (see below) is quite attractive. The line of fabrics that they’ve created is cool, but nothing to write home about, and I think certain aspects of the quilt suffer for having to be limited to just the fabrics in that line. (I think the Log Cabin blocks could have better gradations of color and shading if they used different fabrics.)

But anyway, this got me to thinking: Can quilting achieve the kind of broad appeal that knitting has recently? My hypothesis is “no,” and for one simple reason: it’s not terribly portable. Yes, yes, I know about applique and yo-yo quilts and piecing over papers, but the vast majority of quilting really can’t be taken with you in any practical sense. The idea of people piecing and/or quilting on the bus, at the coffee shop, etc. really doesn’t work.

Of course, I hope I’m wrong – I hope it does take off, because I think it would be a good thing if more people (oh, let’s be honest here – more women) quilted. And there’s also the counter-example of scrapbooking, which is, if anything, even less portable than quilting, and we all know how that has taken off.

What do other Crackpots think? Will quilting be the new knitting?