Monday, June 10, 2019

Pointing Up Poppies

At some point last year I picked up a needlepoint kit at Value Village for $2.30. You can get needlework kits in thrift shops for very little sometimes. Usually they are decades old. This one had a date from 2000 written in ink on the package. I always wonder about the back story. Did someone intend to do it and never get around to it? Did they die with their needlework unfinished? This is a lesson to us all.

This kit was unusual in its technique, at least in my experience. Usually needlepoint involves a single diagonal stitch and fine mesh canvas. This one required a cross stitch technique and had a canvas that was more like a rug hooking canvas. The kit was easy enough to do and it certainly went fast: I finished in just a week.

The finished cushion. I made one change to the design, which was to replace the yarn provided for the floral designs you see in five places on the canvas: the two buds in the top right corner; the larger and smaller flower to the right of the poppies, and the flower at mid-left edge. The yarn provided for that was a hot pink. I gave it a chance, and worked all those areas in it, only to decide it was an abomination onto the eyesight. I bought a skein of tapestry yarn in a apricot or salmon shade to replace it, and though it was slightly smaller gauge than the yarn that came with the kit, it worked well enough.

This was an inexpensive project. When it came time to turn the canvas into a cushion, I found I had a suitable fabric remnant on hand (left over from making a handbag). I had a zipper of suitable size in my zipper box. I've used purchased pillow forms in the past when making a cushion, but this time after I priced pillow forms I decided making my own would be more cost-efficient, particularly given that I had some remnants of white linen on hand to use for ticking (left over from a jacket I had made). I did have to buy some stuffing for this project as I didn't have enough left in the bag of stuffing I had among my supplies, but then polyfil stuffing is one of those items I always keep in on hand.

The finished cushion in its natural habitat: the guest room. I considered putting it in the kitchen as it is to be poppy-themed, but a kitchen is not the best place for textiles.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Row on Row of Poppies

This project plan began to form when, in late 2018, I decided I wanted an afghan to go with my planned bedroom decoration, which is to have a poppy theme.

I searched Ravelry for an afghan pattern that would accord well with the poppy print linen fabric I'd bought for my new curtains and bedskirt, and eventually settled on Floret, by Norah Gaughan. Gaughan hasn't specified which species her floral motif is meant to resemble, but I think that even if it's not a poppy it bears a very passable resemblance to one. The pattern is for a lap-sized afghan, but of course given its paneled construction it would be dead easy to enlarge it to the size I wanted.

Next, I chose the worsted yarn. After much looking about, I decided on Cascade Yarns 220 Superwash, in Provence (shade 1975). I would have preferred a cotton yarn, or even a cotton blend, but there didn't seem to be a cotton worsted in the warm poppy red I wanted in existence. I also had some difficulty figuring out how much yarn I needed for my sized-up version of this pattern. I first bought 11 skeins, and then once I got some squares done and became alarmed by my calculations as to how much yarn I was going to go through, I went back to Romni Wools to get two more skeins. In the end I used just under 12 skeins (1200 grams), and will be returning the thirteenth skein I bought for store credit.

And here's the finished afghan. It went together pretty quickly as I was able to knit a square a day. As you can see, I did not use the garter stitch border Gaughan's design calls for, but instead went with a seed stitch and eyelet border. I got the idea as well as some very helpful instructions from this project page after I spied the Ravelry user's lovely mulberry-coloured version in the list of projects for this pattern. I quite agree with her comment that the seed stitch echoes the seeds in the middle of the floral design, and it certainly is a much prettier edging than the original flat garter stitch border. When I blocked the afghan (on my guest room bed mattress;)), I put a pin in the point of each scallop, allowing the edges in between to assume their natural curve.

My version has 12 floral squares in it, and since I made the border as wide as that twelfth skein would hold out for, the finished result is roughly 4' x 6', which is perfect. I make all my afghans 4' x 6' as, at that size, they are large enough to comfortably cover most adults and yet small enough not to be cumbersome.

I finished this project with just 10 grams of yarn to spare, which as this project involved new yarn bought specifically for this project, means a stash increase of 10 grams.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

'Mo Mohair

This project began when I decided to take apart a sweater I'd made years ago out of 125 grams of Debbie Bliss Angel and never worn.

The original sweater was this one, made from the Lace Cardigan in Eyelet Pattern, designed by Margaret Stuart. It's undeniably a beautiful piece, but I never once wore it. At first I didn't have any clothing that looked right with it, a problem that I sometimes ran into back in the day before I began making it a rule to plan how to style an item when planning to make the item itself. Eventually I bought a lace camisole-type top to wear underneath it, and made a few coordinating skirts and trousers that should have made the cardigan wearable. But I still didn't wear it because I didn't like the way it looked on me. No matter how I styled it, it looked frumpy. In 2018, I decided to bite the bullet and rip it down and get some good out of the yarn.

I searched Ravelry for a suitable laceweight pullover pattern, and came up with the Shirley sweater, designed by Snowden Becker. It has such an elegantly casual look.

And here's the result. This sweater took me something in the neighbourhood of eight months of on-and-off effort to make this, unusual for me because I normally finish knitting projects within a month, or two at the outside. This was partly due to the fact that laceweight lacy knits are slow going, and partly because I wasted some time in trying to figure out what to do with the neckline. You'll notice that my version of the Shirley sweater doesn't have a scarf tie. I lengthened the sleeves because the three-quarter length isn't flattering on me, and then I had less than half the yarn I needed to make the scarf tie, and given that the yarn was bought over ten years ago, it was impossible to get more to match it. So I had to settle for a basic ribbed neckband. Such a shame, because omitting the scarf tie turns a distinctive design into a much more ordinary one, but sometimes one must knit one's sweater to suit one's yarn. It is still a very decent-looking piece, and I am looking forward to finally getting to wear it with the camisole and other pieces I made that will go with it. It may not have a scarf tie on it, but it will look pretty with a certain peridot and gold necklace that I own.

The remaining reason this project took so long was that the pattern has a number of errors and lacks clarity in places. There were so many errors and my efforts to figure them out were so fraught that I didn't document them, but I can tell you that for one thing I lost hours of work in the repeated attempts I made to get the lace pattern to work out around the bottom of the sweater, and that I eventually resolved the problem by adjusting my total number of stitches in the round so that there were no extra stitches and I could just repeat the lace pattern non-stop. I left a comment on the Ravelry pattern page circa December 2018 asking if there was errata available for the pattern, and received no response. I see that other Ravelry members who have made this pattern have complained on their project pages about the errors and confusing directions in the pattern, so this designer has been informed of these mistakes, and yet they remain in the pattern.

Please note that I'm not blaming this designer for having errors in their work. Mistakes happen, even in Vogue Knitting, where the patterns are checked by professional proofreaders. What I do blame this designer for is their lack of good faith response to complaints about the errors. If a knitting designer receives complaints about errors in a pattern, they owe it to their customers to make a reasonable effort to fix them. Not doing so shows a lack of respect for the time and effort that their present and future customers, who have paid money for the pattern, will waste trying to figure out how to make the pattern work. Regrettably, I won't be buying any more of Snowden Becker's designs in future, or recommending them on my blogs.

This project used up 125 grams of what was effectively stash yarn. I had just a few scraps of yarn left when done.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Olivia's New Spring Ensemble

My honorary niece Olivia has a third birthday coming up, and I felt such a special occasion required a dress and matching purse.

For a patter, I chose McCalls M7769, in the version on the left. It's a cute, light, wearable summer dress. I liked the idea of mixing cotton prints for it, but in the end decided to go with a single cotton print in a dragonfly pattern, as that was less expensive and less wasteful. This would be a good pattern to use up small amounts of coordinating cotton prints if you happen to have any on hand, though.

And here's the completed dress made in size 3, with a little purse I whipped up to go with it. The dress went together quite easily and I am very pleased with it. I had a small amount of green cotton on hand, so I used that for the exterior of the purse, lined it in the dragonfly print, and then used some grosgrain ribbon that I had on hand to make the drawstring and the rosette. A small green bead from my beading supplies added a nice finishing touch.

I am defintely looking forward to seeing Olivia open this gift. Though I suspect she'll be much more focused on the gift bag that this gift is to go in, since she is cat-obsessed and it has a photo of kittens on it, and the dollar store activity books and crayons that will also be in the bag, as she is about her new spring ensemble. Three-year-olds have their own priorities.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Making My Mark

Back in 2013 I wrote a post about selected stitch markers for my knitting blog The Knitting Needle and the Damage Done, and I remember how looking at all those cute options felt like stitch marker porn. At that time I was using a set of commercially made plastic stitch markers myself. I never liked those stitch markers because I considered them very ugly, but I disliked their brittleness even more. They were shaped like tiny locks, but they broke so easily that I avoided locking and unlocking them, and I'd often find one had snapped from nothing more than the light pressure of my hand as it held the the needle the marker was on. I never lost any stitch markers, but one by one they cracked and split until I was down to the last eight or nine out of what had initially been two dozen or so. Then it was time to think about picking out some new ones -- and I can't say I was sorry to have the excuse to replace the old set. Finally I was going to get some pretty stitch markers!

When I revisited that old KNDD post for ideas on what stitch markers to buy, I was reminded by my own research that I could make my own stitch markers. I do some beading and had the tools and findings already, and it was just a matter of finding some suitable beads.

For this project, I looked for medium-sized, smooth beads that wouldn't snag or catch on whatever yarn I used. I tried to keep the cost to a minimum, and it is indeed quite possible to do this simple project for very little if you've got basic beading tools on hand. I also knew I wanted different colour stitch markers that I could colour code as I marked different things (i.e., a single distinct marker for the start of a row, or a matched set for the sleeve parts of a "top down" sweater project).

When I bought the beads for my grandniece's tenth birthday necklace and earring set in January, I got the string of orange Czech glass beads you see above as my "free string" in a "buy 1 string of beads, get one free" sale at Michaels. I found the two red beads and the two dyed jasper beads you see above in my box of beading supplies -- they were the only ones I had left of their kind. The remaining string of ivory beads in the photo was a necklace I bought for $2 at Value Village using a "$2 off" coupon I got from them for filling out an online survey. I was feeling quite pleased with myself for getting the beads for this project together at essentially no cost... until I actually tried making the stitch markers and it turned out that the holes in the ivory beads were too large for this project. Sigh. I bagged up those ivory beads and tucked them away in my beading box for some as yet unknown future use. Then I bought another thrift shop necklace for $2.25, and this time I checked the holes before I bought the necklace to be sure the beads were suitable.

To make your own stitch markers you need head pins, leverback earrings, and a few basic beading tools: cutters, round nose pliers, and flat pliers or crimpers (not shown). Put the bead on your head pin, add the lever-back earring, then twist the top of the pin around the needlenose pliers until it's in a small circle. Cut off the excess length of headpin with the cutters, clamp the circle you've created closed with the flat pliers or crimpers, and... you're done.

These are the finished stitch markers. Given that twenty is a plentiful supply of stitch markers for me (I seldom work on more than one knitting project at a time), they are unlikely to break, and I'm not one to lose things, they should last me for quite some time. If they look just like earrings to you, it's because they essentially are, though I would put a little more effort into earring design than I have into these stitch markers, which I wished to keep simple in order to give my yarn as little as possible to wind itself around.

I did hold back two of the orange Czech beads with the idea of possibly making them into earrings for me at some point... lest I be otherwise tempted to borrow two of my stitch markers for some special occasion involving an orange outfit.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The Ivory Cotton Pullover is Dead; Long Live the Ivory Cotton Pullover!

This project plan began when it became necessary to replace a wardrobe staple. Late last summer the v-necked ivory cotton Reitmans pullover I had owned since 2007, and worn countless times as it went with most of my summer skirts, trousers, shorts, and jeans, died a grisly death when it acquired some sort of stain on the front that I could not remove, try as I would. It was time for a new one.

I searched Ravelry for a suitable fingering-weight pullover pattern. I wanted something simple with a bit of interesting detail that would go with everything. In the end, I selected Elizabeth the First (shown above), designed by Alice Starmore, as published in her book, The Tudor Roses. I'd treated myself to a copy of that (gorgeous!) book for a birthday present several years back, so I had the pattern in my library. For yarn, I selected Premier Cotton Fair, a fingering weight cotton acrylic blend, in Cream, which I purchased at Michaels one skein at a time using their "40% to 50% off one item" coupons, so it was pretty cost effective. It seems to be a very decent quality yarn and was pleasant to work with. Ravelry has it listed as a sport weight, but I definitely consider it a fingering weight.

And here's the finished sweater. The lines of the sweater as designed are almost costumey -- understandably, given that it was a design inspired by a queen known for her incredibly elaborate attire. The pattern calls for a 10" decrease through the waist, and flared cuffs on the sleeves. I'm a big proponent of waist shaping in knitwear, but my body doesn't even have that much waist definition, and I can never tolerate extra fabric flapping around my wrists. I altered the pattern so that there was only 4" of waist shaping, knitted the sleeves in a standard tapered shape, and also raised the armholes by two inches. I kept the neckline, the yoke and hem detailing, and the curved hem exactly as they were, so the design does present very much as intended. I'm quite pleased with the result. And now I hope to get years of wear out of it, as I did out of its predecessor.

This project was supposed to take 400 grams, but I used a cotton instead of the wool called for, and cotton tends to run short because it's heavier. This sweater took 410 grams of yarn, leaving me with a 90 gram stash increase.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Clipping Along

This project plan began to evolve when I wanted to replace my functional but ugly fridge magnet clips and couldn't find any decent non-tacky, non-cheesy fridge magnets for sale anywhere. Then I happened to see some DIY glass marble magnets tutorials on Pinterest, but while I thought they were very pretty I've never found that the kind of fridge magnet that's intended to be placed over, or partially over, an item has much holding power; I wanted good strong clip magnets. But then I realized there was a way to combine the strength of the clips with the attractiveness of the marble magnets, and got so fired up with enthusiasm for my idea that I purchased nine new magnet clips with the idea that I would make a set not only for me but also two additional sets for my mother and sister as stocking stuffers for Christmas 2019.

These were the original four clips I've been using on my fridge for years. The metal had gone dark and spotted over the years and needed sprucing up. After a failed attempt to paint them with some metallic craft paint, I painted them with some "hammered bronze" Tremclad I had on hand. I bought a bag of dollar store marbles and stuck four of them on a scrap of rose print wrapping paper with Modge Podge, and once it had dried, cut away the excess paper. Then I glued the marble onto the magnet clip with all-purpose white glue. This is the set for my mother. She's an avid gardener so floral images were a good choice for her.

This is my sister's set. I left her clips unpainted as I thought the existing metal tone went better with the images I used, which were cut from an old calendar. Her kitchen has some blue and yellow in it, though it's mostly white, so these clips should go well with her decor.

This is my set. I've been using them for over a week as of this writing, and they seem perfectly functional. I was afraid the marbles wouldn't stay put, but I've got ten months to test their staying power before I give away the other two sets, and so far they've remained securely in place. I could have left these clips unpainted since they were new, but after some internal debate I decided the bronze tone was a better fit with the images I'd chosen and with my kitchen. The images in the marbles are cut from an old Mucha calendar I had on hand. This set of clips will go well with my planned poppy-themed kitchen reno. Can't wait until the entirety of my ugly old kitchen is on par with these clips!