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

Sunday, February 14, 2016

My Refashioned Romance

Instead of a bright red or pink outfit, I decided to go for a more feminine, romantic look for Valentine's Day this year. As luck would have it, a friend had given me this lovely floral dress a few months ago. It had a nice hemline that came up higher on one leg, but I wasn't keen on the two different floral prints together.

Valentine's Dress - BeforeValentine's Dress - Before

I thought a little lace might go a long way here, so I pulled out a pale pink piece of lingerie from my heavier days. It seemed appropriate to incorporate this into a Valentine's Day refashion.

Valentine's Dress - Before

Monday, February 01, 2016

New Directions in Sock Knitting

It thrills me to no end to announce that today, February 1, in bookstores everywhere, you can pick up this fantastic new sock knitting book, chock full of marvelous designs "knitted from every which way"!

New Directions in Sock Knitting - Cover
Photo courtesy of Interweave publishing

Inside its pages, you'll find such wonders as Crystalline - a cuff-down sock designed with biased stitching and interesting angles to mimic the faceted growth patterns of rock crystals. And who designed it, you may ask? Why, it was me! That's right! A for-realsies, paper book with my name in it!

Crystalline SocksCrystalline Socks
Photos courtesy of Interweave publishing

But wait, there's more! A second pattern by yours truly in the very same book! Meet Cumulus - a modular, toe-up design that brings to mind billowy clouds and plays ever so well with semi-solid, tonal colorways.

Cumulus SocksCumulus Socks
Photos courtesy of Interweave publishing

So what are you waiting for? Hop on down to your local bookstore, or order your copy on Amazon now!

Disclaimer: I have already been paid for my designs and will receive no royalties from the sales of this book. I just really think you'll like it. :)