Sunday, April 24, 2016

Highland Knits

I recently received a copy of Highland Knits: Knitwear Inspired by the Outlander Series and immediately fell for the natural simplicity of the designs.

Highland Knits

I was particularly taken with the Rent Collection Shawl pattern. Its simple triangular shape and garter stitch fabric belie its interesting construction.

Rent Collection Shawl

At first glance, one might think this shawl begins at the top center and is worked outward with increases at the edges and middle and with basic stripes at the end. However, upon closer inspection, you'll see the garter stitch ridges are actually perpendicular to that. With the shawl worked from tip to tip, the intarsia method is employed to create the colorful stripes along the edge. And short-rows at the half-way point cause the shawl to "bend" in the middle and develop its triangular shape.

Rent Collection Shawl

I was able to use up some stash yarn for this project - an ongoing goal of mine. The majority is a soft, luscious camel yarn of unknown brand, which was given to me by a friend. The navy stripe, with subtle hints of purple and aqua in the right light, is Berroco Peruvia, given to me by a different friend. And the lime green is Patons Classic Wool I picked up at Michaels years ago. Sadly, it's already far too warm this spring to wear such a shawl outdoors. For now, it will keep me cozy at my desk and await its public debut when autumn arrives.

Rent Collection Shawl

If you're interested in obtaining your own copy of this book, you can get 20% off through the end of April by purchasing it through the Interweave Store using the code OUTLANDER20. You can also download the Sassenach Cowl pattern absolutely FREE from Amazon right now.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Mixed Media Weekend

On Thursday, I whipped up another awesome cross-stitch. This tiny fox - only about an inch and a half tall - is about the cutest little F-bomb I've ever seen. Don't you think?

For Fox Sake Cross-Stitch

On Saturday, my yarn crew and I basked in the glory of DFW Fiber Fest 2016. I picked up some sock yarn, like I do.

Hedgehog Fibres Sock
Hedgehog Fibres Sock in Coral

Panorama Fiber Arts Socky Bombs
Panorama Fiber Arts Socky Bombs in Grayscale

Alisha Goes Around Bevy of Swan Fingering
Alisha Goes Around Bevy of Swans Fingering in teal/black

I also brought home an array of hand-made stitch markers from the other Fiber Fest attendees who participated in the stitch marker swap. The shrinky dink kind seemed to be a popular choice among the vendors, for obvious reasons. There were also lots of critters, a few flowers, and all manner of beaded markers. Aren't they lovely?

Stitch Markers

For the first time ever, I saw one of my knitting patterns in the wild!
As this couple walked past us, I pointed to the guy's hat/scarf and said, "Hey, that's the HeelHead Scarf!"
"You know the pattern?" she asked.
"Know it? I designed it!"
There was much squeeing (from me), and they were kind enough to take a photo with me. It was super exciting!

DFW Fiber Fest 2016

Saturday, March 26, 2016

DIY Stitch Markers

With the 11th annual DFW Fiber Fest less than a week away, it was time to prepare for this year's stitch marker swap! I participated in the swap at the inaugural Stitches Texas market back in September and am only too eager to do so again next weekend. The collection of stitch markers I brought home last summer is such a fantastic souvenir of the event, aside from the obvious yarn-binging of course. I love being able to dive into my notions tin and come up with at least one marker that matches my current project perfectly.

Six months ago, I showed you how to make your own stitch markers using fishing line and crimp beads. This time, I'm changing it up a bit with metal jewelry findings.

DIY Knitting Stitch Markers

Supplies:
Decorative beads
10mm jump rings
4mm jump rings
Head pins
Wire cutters
Round-nose pliers
Flat-nose pliers

I found these purple glass beads on the clearance rack for just $0.99 per package (28 beads per package). The larger jump rings will be able to accommodate needles up to a US size 11 (8mm). The head pins I had on-hand were 2 inches long, but I snipped them down to about 3/4 inch, so if you can find shorter ones, go right ahead.

DIY Knitting Stitch Markers

First, I placed a bead on a head pin and made sure the head of the pin was larger than the hole in the bead. If not, you can use a smaller bead on the bottom as a stopper of sorts. Then, I snipped off the excess length of head pin with my wire cutters, leaving about 1/2 inch above the top of the bead. I used my round-nose pliers to make a loop at the top. And finally, I used my flat-nose pliers to open up one of the smaller jump rings and connect the head pin loop to a larger jump ring.

DIY Knitting Stitch Markers

And that's all there is to it! Rinse and repeat until you have a few markers for your own use or 75-100 for a swap, depending on the event and how many participants are expected. Since I was making so many, I set up a little assembly line. I would snip a bunch of head pins down the size, then add beads and make loops until my hand hurt, then add jump rings until my hand hurt in a different way, and so on and so forth until I had them all completed.

DIY Knitting Stitch Markers

While in the jewelry making section of Michaels, I also found them bracelet blanks, two to a pack. I think they'll be the perfect solution to carrying these stitch markers around the vendor area, with my handmade markers on one bracelet and another ready to receive all the glorious stitch markers from the other swappers. I can't wait to see what everyone comes up with!

DIY Knitting Stitch Markers

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Done, Done, and Done

I don't know about you, but my weekend was crammed full of crafty goodness! I knitted. I sewed. I cross-stitched. I made a shawl, a dress, a future family heirloom.

For my first trick, I started with this deep blue maxi skirt, which I previously refashioned from a huge maxi dress. It's been over two years, and I could probably count on one hand the number of times I've worn this skirt. No matter how comfy they seem, I just don't wear maxi skirts. It's just not my thing. But a knee-length jersey dress is perfect for working from home, running to the grocery store, or accessorizing for a night out with The Dude.

Cobalt Blue Maxi Skirt - Before & After

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Twinkle Twinkle Little Shawl

Shawl light, Shawl bright
Stitches knit and purled just right
I wish I may, I wish I might
Wrap you 'round my neck tonight

Twinkle Twinkle Little Shawl

As winter turns to spring and the weather begins to warm, so too should our knitted accessories. My newest knitting pattern - Twinkle Twinkle Little Shawl - is the perfect thing to brighten your day and warm your nights. It's a quick knit using less than one skein of sock yarn, with the instructions primarily in chart form.

Twinkle Twinkle Little Shawl

FINISHED MEASUREMENTS
Span: 48 inches
Height at center: 10 inches

MATERIALS
Spud & Chloe Fine [80% wool, 20% silk; 227m/248yd per 65g skein]; color: 7811; 1 skein
US #5/3.75mm needles
Tapestry needle

GAUGE
18 sts/40 rows = 4 inches in garter stitch

BUY IT NOW!

Twinkle Twinkle Little Shawl

Sunday, March 13, 2016

New Adventures in Cross-Stitching

After additional research, I can confidently say that, yes, I do in fact love cross-stitch. I've now completed my third project and have thoroughly enjoyed each of them. I finally made it to the thrift store yesterday and picked up some cheap (but cute!) frames for them. My very first project from a few weeks ago, the Hearts in a Heart pattern from Leah Lintz's book Cross-Stitch to Calm, found its way into a little ceramic frame of white scroll work.

My First Cross-Stitch Project

My First Cross-Stitch Project

My second completed project was a new wreath-esque decoration for our front door. The ruffled winter wreath was still hanging in hopes that winter was not truly over yet, but alas, I have given up waiting for snow. It's just not going to happen this year. Time to enjoy the lovely spring weather before the inevitable summer heat descends upon us. And what better way to greet our guests than with a friendly gnome on the door?

Gnome Door Decor

I found the gnome here (but it's apparently from the Frosted Pumpkin originally), and I tweaked it a little. I bought a bit of burlap from the fabric store and used scraps of worsted weight yarn from my stash and a big darning needle. I left it in the embroidery hoop for that round wreath-ish-ness. Like our No Soliciting sign? Me too! I got it on Etsy.

Gnome Door DecorGnome Door Decor

And finally, the pièce de résistance... The project I teased at the end of my earlier post... My proudest cross-stitching accomplishment to date! (Not that that's saying much I suppose) Behold, this ridiculously awesome birth announcement (2.5 years late) for our dogther, with her full title and birthdate! That's pronounced "LI-kuh li-NAY-uh" in case you're wondering.

Laika's Birth Announcement

I charted this up using some free alpha-numeric cross-stitch fonts I found online, with the help of my knitting design software, which, as it turns out, works quite well for cross-stitch too. I even worked in a new skill: back-stitching! The frame is a really cool black one with silver filigree around the edges.

Laika's Birth Announcement

If you look very closely, you can actually see her questioning my sanity.

Laika's Birth Announcement

The thrift shop provided lots more frames, too, for future projects. I can't wait to fill them all with handmade goodness and make a crazy, mis-matched collage on my wall!

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Cotton Candy Zickzacks

We've been enjoying some gorgeous spring weather lately (albeit far too early in the year, in my opinion). All that sunshine means yard work, grilling, hiking, and a plethora of other outdoor activities that drag me away from my sewing machine. I haven't sewn a stitch in over two weeks. It's insane. But I also know I should enjoy the weather while I can because it'll be ridiculously hot before we know it.

Cotton Candy Zickzacks

Something I can do while hanging on the patio with friends, however, is knit. I finished up these beautiful socks recently, and I just adore them! The pattern is the Smokey Zickzacks from New Directions in Sock Knitting, the same book that contains a couple of my own designs. I can't take credit for this particular pattern though; that honor belongs to Natalia Vasilieva.

Cotton Candy Zickzacks

I used an old, discontinued sock yarn that's been in my stash forever - S.R.Kertzer On Your Toes in color #KOF.3825. I picked it because its self-striping pattern produced stripes of a similar width to the yarn used in the sample socks in the book. I think a variegated or hand-painted yarn would look good too, but might not accentuate the chevrons as nicely. Ditto for a gradient yarn. A self-striping yarn, I think, would do this pattern the most justice.

Cotton Candy Zickzacks

I had some issues with fit along the way, the largest size being too big around and the next size down being too short for my freakishly long, narrow feet. But after I'd knitted one full ill-fitting sock, I understood the construction much better, and with advice from Natalia herself, I was able to modify the second-to-largest size to lengthen the foot by simply adding a few stitches to either side of the double increase nearest the toe. I did have to sacrifice some leg length though, to make sure I would have enough yarn for a second sock. I just omitted a pair of increases and decreases between the cuff and the heel. But I actually like a shorter leg anyway, so that was fine.

Cotton Candy Zickzacks

The original pattern has the zigzags spaced out a little differently on the second sock than on the first, but you know me - symmetry is crucial. So in addition to my sizing modifications, I also shifted the increases and decreases on the second sock so the zigzags would match up.

Cotton Candy Zickzacks

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this pattern (enough to knit three full socks, after all!) and have already added several more of Natalia's designs to my knitting queue. This one is not for the faint of heart though. A very long provisional cast-on, as well as a mid-row provisional cast for the heel, and the grafting of over a hundred stitches to finish each sock, make this pattern more suitable for an experienced knitter. But those with the chutzpah to try it will not regret it!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Refined Knits

I received another book for review a couple weeks ago - Refined Knits by Jennifer Wood - and it has some truly lovely designs. It's chock full of beautiful patterns,ranging in difficulty from simply elegant accessories to expertly cabled sweaters.

Refined Knits

Estee CowlEstee Cowl

I wrestled with which her designs to knit first and eventually settled on the Estee Light Cowl, with its airy pattern of eyelet lace alternating with four-stitch cables. I pulled a ball of yarn from my stash that had been languishing there for six years. It's Fiesta Yarns Boomerang in a subtle mix of cream and khaki - enough variation to add a bit more interest to the fabric without taking away from the stitch pattern. In fact, the differing gauges of the lace and cables did a wonderful job of breaking up the colors in the yarn to prevent any awkward pooling. The pattern and chart were well-written and easy to follow. The only modification I made was to do an extra half-repeat of the chart because I wanted a slightly wider cowl, and because I had enough yarn to do so.

Estee Cowl

Estee CowlEstee Cowl

I am typically a fairly monogamous knitter, but have recently indulged in a few... diversions. Now I really must be getting back to my current design project. I imagine though, this book will be staying on my coffee table a bit longer, within easy reach to be flipped through again between those seemingly endless bouts of ripping and re-knitting that go hand-in-hand with the designing process.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Polka Dot Refashion Number 347

I snatched up this lovely polka dot number on Yerdle a couple months ago when I had a free shipping credit, meaning I got it for a whopping $0! It fit fairly well, except that the sleeves were a bit tight. The length was also a little dowdy.

Brown Polka Dot Dress - Before

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Cross-Stitch to Calm

You guys, I think I've discovered a new obsession - cross-stitch! Just think about it - tiny little perfect x's all in a row. How could I not love this craft? I was recently given this book to review, Cross-Stitch to Calm by Leah Lintz. It has 40 easy patterns, ideal for a beginner such as myself. There's even a section at the front of the book that explains some of the basics. And isn't that little bird on the cover just the cutest?

Cross-Stitch to Calm

Inspired to try something new, I ventured out to the craft store last weekend to procure the necessary supplies. Embroidery hoop - check. Needles - check. Embroidery floss - check. Cross-stitch fabric? Nah, I have oodles of fabric at home. There's gotta be something in my stash that will do. Mistake #1. Anything I'm likely to sew with will almost certainly be too fine a weave for cross-stitch. Unless you have perfect vision and the sun is always shining in your living room. I should have read the book's section on choosing the right fabric before I left the house. But I didn't. So I muddled through this first project, squinting all the way, and vowed to acquire something more suitable for next time.

My First Cross-Stitch Project

In addition to the need for proper fabric, I learned a few more lessons along the way. For instance, it's better to cut shorter lengths of thread than longer ones. As a knitter, my desire to use the scissors as little as possible actually came back to bite me. A thread too long increases the likelihood of knots and tangles, slowing down the entire process each time you have to pick one of those apart. Furthermore, pulling the same piece of thread through the fabric over and over again can damage the individual fibers and eventually lead to breakage. After some trial and error, I found about 12 inches to be a decent length of floss to work with.

My First Cross-Stitch Project

According to Ms. Lintz, you should always start in the center of your design. So I began with the dark pink hearts, and you can see I had lots of knots and ickiness there. The red hearts are a little better, but still not great. Then I moved on to the medium pink, and finally the palest pink is looking pretty darn good. By that time, I had also learned the best way to secure my ends under the nearby stitches on the back side and the fact that tension plays an important role in many needlecrafts, not just knitting. It turns out pulling your thread too tightly can make your hearts shorter, fatter than you might like.

My First Cross-Stitch Project

Another thing I learned: pay attention! I got so caught up making adorable little hearts that I lost track of my pattern and made a whole heart where there should have only been half of a heart. See that dark pink half-heart right in front there? Yeah, I had to pick out the other half after I realized what I'd done, but the fabric underneath was left distorted from the stitches. The "pay attention" lesson can also be applied to where one places one's needle at the end of a stitch session, especially if one has a dog (or cat or kid or any other critters) with a history of eating dangerous objects. At least twice I had to get down on my hands and knees and search the carpet for the blasted thing so Laika didn't find it first.

My First Cross-Stitch Project

Though there were plenty of mistakes and lots of lessons learned, I thoroughly enjoyed the entire process and will definitely stitch up some more of the designs in this book. Like that cute little bird on the cover maybe. For now, I just need to figure out how and where I want to display my heart of hearts.

My First Cross-Stitch Project

In the meantime, I've already charted up a few ideas of my own and have started stitching one of them. Details to come!

Super Secret Project