Monday, August 3, 2020

Salmon, Olive, and Lime

This project came to be because I needed to use up the Loops & Threads Meandering Serpentine yarn I got in my stocking for Christmas 2019. I used up some of it making a sweater and matching tam for my honorary niece Olivia's Christmas 2020 present, but I still had 460 grams left. And that was more than enough to make a sweater for me.

I'm not thrilled with the look of the salmon colour of the yarn on me, but I thought it would be wearable if combined with a couple of greens. I had a 100 gram skein of lime green worsted yarn in my stash (which was bought so long ago I no longer know what brand it is), and all I'd have to do was purchase a single skein of olive green worsted. I searched Ravelry for a suitable tri-colour pattern and found the Vintersol design, by Jennifer Steingass, pictured above. It's really lovely. And then I purchased a skein of Red Heart Soft in Dark Leaf. It's an Aran, which wasn't an ideal combination for a worsted, but greens are tricky to coordinate, and that was the only skein Michaels had that was the right tone.

And here's the finished project. I knitted it almost exactly as directed, and just changed the shaping a little bit. The pattern called for the sweater to be wider through the hip section than in the chest area, but since I'm actually smaller through the hips than I am through the chest and don't need that extra width, I made the hip area of the sweater the same width as the chest. I'm still not taken with that salmon yarn, but it won't be right next to my face, and it's certainly a passable-looking sweater that will be fine (and probably nearly indestructible) for around home wear. I had to put an olive twill skirt with the sweater in this photo as I didn't have a skirt that would go with this sweater, but for actual swear I will pair it with the olive khakis I often wear around home in winter. 

This project used up all of the 100 gram lime green I had on hand, all of the olive green skein I bought, and 270 grams of the salmon, so that's a stash decrease of 370 grams. I still have 190 grams of the salmon left to use up. Oh well, I'm sure I can come up with another project plan for that. It is, after all, what I am so prone to do.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

I Have Receipts

The plan for this receipt folder project was born when my effort to prepare my 2019 tax return led to a full-on clean out of the files in my filing cabinet and desk shelves. I'd been meaning to get to that file drawer for awhile, because it was jammed so full that taking anything in or out was a frustrating, muscular, file-abusing exercise. I must have gone through half the files, and I discarded an 8" stack of stuff. I replaced a number of battered large envelopes with properly labelled file folders. I threw out receipts for stores that no longer exist, or that were so faded they'd basically gone blank, warranty information for items I no longer own, credit card information for cards I no longer have, and other incredibly pertinent documents. My 2016 tax return and a box of long envelopes that had been stored in the drawer above it had fallen behind the drawer and gotten jammed, so I fished those out. And now all my files fit easily and tidily in the drawer and the drawer itself shuts properly and it's ridiculously satisfying.

As I cleaned the files out, I tried to put them in the kind of order that would be self-perpetuating. If I extract and dispose of my oldest tax return file every year when I insert the new one, I shall never need to clean out my income tax returns. If I put the most recent utility bill or credit card statement in chronological order with the others from this year, it will be easy for me to grab all of 2020's documents when I'm doing my 2020 taxes, and I won't need to clean out those folders either. When I got to the point of reorganizing my desk shelves and I was tidying out my current receipts folder, I figured out a strategy for keeping that in order too, but once that was done, it occurred to me that I'd been keeping my receipts in the pockets of a spiral ring notebook that was nearly full, and what was I going to do with my receipts once I wanted to dispose of the notebook? I could have used an envelope, of course, but I wanted something that both looked nicer than that and would keep my receipts in good order. I wanted a portfolio type folder, in which I could sort the recipts according to my system.

First I considered buying a portfolio folder, and then I thought perhaps I could make one out of supplies I had on hand, so I googled to see what kind of portfolio tutorials the internet had to offer. I found the fabric folder portfolio tutorial for the portfolios you see above quite promptly, on the blog Niesz Vintage Home... and fabric. Next I looked to see what fabrics I had on hand, and found that I had enough of a brown jacquard decor fabric that I'd used for lining a handbag, and also of some brown satin lining, to do the job. I had cardboard on hand in my art supply cupboard, so this project cost $0.

The finished portfolio, open and shut. I am very pleased with this project. The tutorial was well-written and the portfolio easy to make. I've bookmarked the link to keep it handy for use in future -- these handy portfolios could make excellent little gifts. I even have an idea for how to add a pen slot.

The spine of the portfolio. Those lines of stitching make it flexible.

The portfolio in action, with my receipts for the current month on the left side, and the receipts I will need for income tax purposes and/or possible returns on the right. While I can't say I enjoy paying the bills at month's end anymore than before, it is a pleasure to use this little folder. Staying organized is much more fun and rewarding when one can do it in style.

Monday, June 1, 2020

The Definitely, Most Certainly, Absolutely Not a Dress Birthday Outfit

My honorary niece Olivia has just turned four, and this momentous occasion called for a special outfit. Which mustn't be a dress, as Olivia absolutely will not wear dresses. I have made her two dresses previously before I knew she'd taken such a scunner to dresses after learning to talk, and I suspect she never wore either of them. Her mom and dad have at least gotten her to the point that she will wear a dress if they pair it with coordinating leggings and call it a shirt, but if they use the "d-word", it's game over. So this fourth birthday outfit would definitely not be a dress.

I searched for a suitable tunic and leggings pattern, and found one in Butterick 5877. I decided I'd make the top in view A with the cap sleeves of view B, and would make the leggings in the full length. It would be a totally cute outfit on any little girl, but I must say that redheaded child model has gone all out in selling it, with attitude to burn. I bought a pretty cotton print, thread, buttons, and jersey to coordinate with the print.

Of course, there was the matching purse to consider (Olivia does love her purses), which I would be making out of leftover fabric from the top. There was no need to buy a pattern for it as I have had this Vogue 9893 pattern with its five different evening bag options for what must be close to 20 years, and I have used it many times -- and not because I have an active night life. They're all small enough to make properly scaled purses for a little girl. Strangely, I had never before used option F, but I went with it this time because I had very little fabric left after I squeezed the cap sleeves into the fabric requirement for view A, and it used the least fabric. I will be using this purse pattern again in the future. It makes up so easily and looks good.

The completed outfit. The cotton print was so fresh and crisp and the pattern so cute that they proved a nice combination. The leggings made up very quickly, and so did the purse.

This fabric was a difficult colour match -- it's an odd shade of red. I did find buttons that went with it perfectly, though I have my reservations about how practical they were for the back of a dress. Olivia may find those round, shank buttons uncomfortable when leaning back against a seat.

The purse. There was no way I was going to be able to find trim for this purse, but I made a little rosette out of some grosgrain ribbon and a few beads that I had on hand, and it works well enough.

A few dollar store things I bought to go with the outfit, so that Olivia would have something to play with, something she appreciates more than clothes at this point: an activity book, a box of crayons, a book of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales, and a cupcake coin bank.

I wasn't able to make my usual two-day spring visit to the little town where my friend's family lives due to the COVID19 pandemic, and had to ship the gift. Olivia's mother suggested that I just hang onto the gift until I can visit, but I insisted on mailing it. As I hinted to her (in an effort to avoid saying what specifically was in the gift), children's clothing is time sensitive. Olivia only has this one season to wear a size four spring/summer outfit -- next fall will be too cold for it, and next spring it probably won't fit. And I wanted Olivia to have her birthday present reasonably on time. I ended up not sending the coin bank because it didn't fit in the box I had, and I also had reservations about whether it might get broken in transit. It can be part of Olivia's Christmas present, given that it will still fit her at that time.:D

The "12 Days of Christmas" Collection

Circa 2010, I realized I had several Christmas decorations that fit the "12 Days of Christmas" theme, and decided it would be a nice idea to collect Christmas ornaments on that theme. I've always liked the Christmas carol, as it's fun and secular (no, the song did not originate as a coded way for persecuted Christians to celebrate Christmas), and I thought it would be a fun challenge to translate the theme into beautiful Christmas decorations.

I mentioned this plan to my mother and sister, and they've been helping me out with this collection via their subsequent Christmas gifts to me, especially my sister, who has never really gotten past the beginner levels of needlework and crafting but is what I would call a creative shopper. And with this post I'm stepping a little outside the format for this blog so I can show off my collection -- though I will say that some of the items are handmade so the collection is still reasonably appropriate for a Modwardian post. The collection is incomplete as of this post's original post date with five items missing, but I will add the remaining items as I get them.

The photo above is a counted cross-stitch piece that I made from a kit I received from my sister-in-law for Christmas 2011. I stitched it the next year, setting myself the task of working certain areas each month for ten months, with November reserved for getting it professionally framed. Then when December 1st arrived, it was all ready to hang for Christmas 2012. It's probably one of my most treasured Christmas ornaments, and it's certainly the one that took the most work.

A "partridge in a pear tree" stocking. I bought the needlepoint kit from a thrift shop for $5 years ago, and once I'd worked the canvas, sewed the stocking together. The instructions didn't call for a lining, but I had some red satin lining on hand and lined it with that as I thought it made it look more finished.

Two turtledoves. My sister gave me these many years back. She painted them herself.

Three French hens. These were another gift from my sister. I've often thought that perhaps I ought to paint fleur-de-lis on their sides, to make them truly French.

Four calling birds. This one was also a gift from my sister. It's a Wedgwood ornament. Alas, I have never had a Christmas tree since I've been living on my own (it seems silly to get one given that there's just me here and I go home to my parents' place for Christmas), and every year when I'm unpacking the Christmas ornaments, I see it in its blue box, sigh over its exquisite beauty, and think that at some point I really must find a way to display it without a tree.

Seven swans a-swimming. This was a $5 thrift shop swan candelabra that sits on my piano all year, and in December it becomes a Christmas ornament. Of course there are only four swans on it, but I do have more than three swans elsewhere in the room, given that I collect swans too.

Nine ladies dancing. This photo was a gift from my sister too. She has definitely been persistent in her effort to help me complete my collection -- she's bought more of these items than I have.

My mother gave me a "12 drummers drumming" centrepiece that she had made for me some years back. It, uh, does not quite look the way it originally did when she made it and gave it to me, because I reworked it a little in 2020.

My sister gave me this lovely little book as a stocking stuffer for Christmas 2018. I bought the little wrought iron stand it sits in so that I would have a way to display the book during the Christmas season. I try to remember to turn a page each day during December.

I also got this Indian cotton "Twelve Days of Christmas" tea towel one Christmas -- can't remember if it was my mother or my sister who gave it to me. Seriously, what would they give me for Christmas if it weren't for this endeavour of mine?

How a Centrepiece Came Out of the Closet

Some years back my mother gave me a Christmas centrepiece that she had made for me. I hope I don't sound like an ingrate here, but as soon as I unwrapped it on that Christmas morning, I privately and silently decided that I would rework it at some point. That centrepiece sat in its box in the back of my hall closet for I don't know how long, waiting for me to get to it. Last fall when I was cleaning out the closet I decided the time had arrived to redo it.

Incidentally, this was the same closet clean out that led to my upcycling the canopies from three old umbrellas, and also moving my yoga mat from the back of the hall closet to the front corner by the door, where it would be much more accessible. I started doing yoga just a few weeks later. Cleaning out your closets can change your life, people.

This is how the nutcracker centrepiece looked when I received it. My mother had glued what I suspect were dollar store nutcracker tree ornaments, some plastic greenery, and an LED candle encased in plastic, to a plain, unfinished board from my father's woodworking shop. The idea was that it was supposed to be the "12 drummers drumming" decoration for my "12 Days of Christmas" decoration collection, but while I liked the concept of the centrepiece, and appreciated the thought and effort that had gone into it, I didn't like the execution.

I'm not normally indecisive, but occasionally I do have a very difficult time coming up with a project plan. This was one of those times. It took me a ridiculously protracted amount of time to figure out exactly what I was going to do with this centrepiece. I'd never made one before and I seemed to have a lot of trouble envisioning it. The candle and greenery were definitely going... somewhere else. I decided I would get a new base -- a round or oval one would work -- and paint it red using some red paint I'd bought to paint a little cupboard I was planning to put up in my kitchen. I found a new base promptly: it was a $4.52 round cheese board from the dollar store. I thought the nutcrackers could be ranged around the edge, and I could put something else in the middle, but what?

At this point I did what I do when I can't figure out what to do with some decorating or craft project -- I turned to my two closest friends: Christine and Lindsie. They both have excellent taste and good ideas, and I can't tell you how many times I've been in an agony of indecision while at some crafting or home furnishing store and wished I had them with me. I emailed Lindsie a picture of the original centrepiece and said I was trying to figure out what to do with it -- what should form the new centre of this centrepiece? Lindsie suggested a tree. I got a 12" tree from Michaels for $8.14, as well as a box of 10 spools of Christmas ribbons for $10.13, and I bought a $5 piece of red felt for the bottom.

Then I pried the nutcrackers off the old base -- they were glued so firmly in place that I had to use a hammer and chisel for some of them. (Very thorough woman, my mother.) I put together a mockup of the centrepiece, arranging the nutcrackers on the base around the tree, and emailed a photo of it to Christine, saying I wondered if I should decorate the tree with tiny ornaments, perhaps sewn to a ribbon wound around the tree. Christine advised against decorating the tree, but suggested I paint the base of the nutcrackers, which were blue, red, and green, in a single colour to make it look "less folksy". I did take her advice about the nutcracker bases, but I couldn't get past the feeling that the tree needed something, and experimented with decorating the tree with ribbons and a gold star from my beading supplies before I finally figured out exactly what I was going to do.

This is the finished centrepiece.

One side of the cheese board had "CHEESE" and the names of various kinds of cheeses inlaid upon it, and the other side was plain. I painted the plain side, the rim of the board, and the edge of the under side in red, and then put two coats of acrylic finish on top of that. I glued a piece of red felt to the bottom, then a length of tartan ribbon to the edge. Two of the little drummers have adorable little tartan drums, and I thought it made for a nice touch to echo that tartan with a similar tartan ribbon.

So much for the base. I painted the bases of the nutcrackers in cream craft paint, to match the base of the tree -- a finicky job requiring numerous coats and touch ups, but worth it. I also did a little re-gluing where needed -- some of the nutcrackers were losing their drumsticks, helmets, or even arms. I think my mother snipped what appears to have been gold thread hanging loops off some of their helmets, so I clipped the remaining gold thread as closely as I could, and then touched up the remaining nubs in black craft paint to make them less noticeable. (I tried prying out the nubs, but was unable to get them to budge.)

As for the tree, I decided on a simple ribbon bow decoration. I wanted to use the tartan ribbon I'd used on the base, but when it didn't stand out against the tree with the kind of definition the red satin ribbon had, I sewed the tartan and red ribbons together and then made the bows and stitched them in place. The resulting two-layer ribbon is quite stiff and holds its shape rather than drooping, which was an added bonus.

And, finally, I glued the tree and the nutcrackers in place. I spent more on this project than I had hoped to, but I still have lots of Christmas ribbon and red felt left that can be used for other things. While the end result doesn't have quite the professionally designed look I wanted it to have, I think it turned out pretty well, and am looking forward to seeing it on my kitchen table this coming December.

I just hope my mother doesn't remember giving me a handmade nutcracker centrepiece that vaguely resembled this one. She's 81 and her memory is getting a little iffy, which can sometimes be to my advantage. There's a certain made-in-Scotland MacBeth tartan scarf in my possession that is not the same scarf as the made-in-Scotland MacBeth tartan scarf she brought me back from Scotland when she and my father travelled there years ago, and that I subsequently lost, and she has never noticed the difference, even though the closest replica I was able to find online wasn't that close.

Also, she has never used the internet in her life and wouldn't read my blog if she did, so I think I'm at least safe from giving myself away via this blog post.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

A Smart Set

This project plan began when I was making my knitting list in late 2019 and decided to knit my honorary niece Olivia a sweater for her Christmas 2020 present. I'd picked out a really cute pattern that required DK yarn for it. Then I got 700 grams of the Loops & Threads Meandering Serpentine in dark salmon (pictured above) in my stocking on Christmas Day, 2019. (Santa has, um, large stockings to fill at my parents' place.) I decided I ought to use some of that yarn to make Olivia's sweater rather than buying new yarn -- it suits her colouring -- so I searched for a suitable worsted weight design for it.

I settled on the pattern depicted above, which is the Children's Celtic Braid Top-Down Sweater, designed by Vera Sanon. It's a nice classic piece, and I'm always an easy sell on Celtic-style cables.

Then, because I had loads of the Meandering Serpentine to work with, I selected a hat pattern. Little girls do like their clothes to have matching accessories such as hats and purses. I wasn't too picky about the hat design -- it just had to be a worsted weight tam pattern that was suitable for adapting to match the sweater. I decided on the Little Bird Hat, designed by Brew City Yarns.

And here's the finished sweater. The pattern was a straightforward one and reasonably clearly written, so the knitting proceeded quite smoothly. It's knitted in one piece out of a single yarn, so there was very little finishing to do.

Then I made the hat. Instead of making the band a plain rib as the pattern calls for, I used the twisted rib stitch from the neckband, cuffs, and hem of the sweater. I nixed the stitchwork used in the body of the hat in the design, and just knitted the hat in plain stockinette. Then, because the resulting hat looked a little too plain, I added a tassel to the top.

The sweater and cap together do make for a smart little set.

This project used 240 grams of what I'm going to count as stash yarn, given that I didn't buy it myself. I still have 460 grams of the Meandering Serpentine left, but never fear -- I have a plan to use that up too.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Olive and Jade

This project plan began when I decided I'd like a cotton sweater to go with with my summer weight olive khaki pants and shorts. I liked the idea of a classic Breton striped sweater in olive and a contrasting colour, so I thought I'd make one in that style.

I searched Ravelry for a suitable striped sweater pattern and settled on Nothing But Stripes!, designed by emteedee, which is an interesting contemporary take on the Breton stripe sweater and looked great in all the project photos I looked at. I visited Toronto's Romni Wools store to shop for suitable yarn, and was happy to find yarn that was just what I wanted at a bargain basement price in Romni's actual bargain basement: 200 grams of Schachenmayr Catania Solids in 253 Jade, and 200 grams in shade 414, which doesn't seem to be listed on either Ravelry or the Schachenmayr website, but is a deep olive.

And here's the result, paired with a light khaki skirt I made some years back. The olive khaki pants and shorts I have are darker in tone and will work better with the sweater, but I can't put them on my dressmaker's form.

A sweater that I should have been able to make in under three weeks ended up taking nine for reasons that were my own stupid fault. First I assumed that a size 38 German was equivalent to a size 38 in inches. It so wasn't, and I got as far as the chest before I realized it. I had to rip it all out and start again in a size 42. Then I realized as I was nearly done the body that the sweater was going to be far too long -- I should have done the math on the stripes. I had to rip back nearly to the beginning that time, and begin the stripe pattern with two rows of the olive instead of just one.

It was around this point that I also realized that I hadn't bought enough yarn to make the larger size. I went back to Romni Wools where I bought two extra 50 gram skeins of Olive and one extra 50 gram skein of Jade -- it was the last skein of the Jade that they had, and I could only hope I was going to have enough yarn.

Then when I was nearly done the first sleeve, I realized it was going to be too short, and I had to rip it out, calculate what the stripe pattern needed to be to make it the right length (I had to add *two* "8 rows of Jade/8 rows of Olive" stripes), and reknit it that way.

Then too, soon after I began work on the first sleeve, I realized I had made a mistake with the increases on the yoke. It had come out too short compared to the measurement on the diagram pattern, and I added an inch which proved to be a mistake, as that last inch was created by the stitches cast on when the body was connected under the armhole. That inch I had added made the yoke too long and the body too short, which in turn made for an awkward-looking fit. At first I couldn't face the idea of ripping out nearly the entire sweater yet again and I thought I could live with it, but after I finished the first sleeve and tried the sweater on, I realized I couldn't. I ripped out the sleeve, and ripped out the body back to the bottom of the yoke, and reknitted it yet again. This time I managed to get it right. You can imagine how many extra ends I had to deal with when it came time to finish the sweater, but I just got on with it and got it done.

I think I essentially knitted this sweater three times over. Fortunately, after all of that, I do quite like the sweater.

And I had just 40 grams of each colour of yarn left, so I had bought the right amount of yarn for my sweater too. As this project was made with new yarn, that's a stash increase of 80 grams.