Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Snow Day

Snow day, snow day!  I don't care that we only got an inch...we were out enjoying it as soon as it was light enough to see.  I love walking around the property and seeing how the snow changes everything. 

After about 8 hours, the sun came out...

...and so did the cats.

They LOVE the snow.  Well, any excuse to get outside, really! 

We saw lots of wildlife, too.  Wild turkeys, picking their way around on the hill across the pond...

Deer, feeding on some fallen vines...

And so many birds! 

But a day later...no more snow.  :(  Oh, well!  Winter isn't over yet!  Maybe we'll get a little more before spring.

Have a great week!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Look for red, instead

We're deep into January now!  Ice in the bird bath.

Camellias, wilted by the cold.

All the japonica are drooping.

A brief flourish of Carolina Jessamine before the freeze.

But there's still a lot of life and color if you know where to look.  Bright red berries on various bushes around the property.

Beautiful red leaves.

And the promise of future life:  snowdrop bulbs are starting to send up stalks.

Hyacinths, too.

The camellias will be back.  They have amazing regenerative powers!  The bushes will be heavy with blossoms within a week of warmer weather.  Here are some I picked right before the temperature drop:

I just have to focus on the color we've got instead of the general brown of winter.

I've been working on indoor projects. Several years ago, I bought a 36" x 12" canvas painting of tall birch trees at Target.  It was an awkward size and just didn't fit anywhere.  I put it away but have always kept it in the back of my mind.  Could I repurpose it somehow?

This weekend I selected a 12" quilt square pattern and made 3 squares.  I sewed white fabric around the edge and stretched it over the wood frame of the painting canvas.  I was really pleased with the final result and have it hanging in a dim corner of the living room.

It provides a nice pop of color and I am now inspired to make a full-size quilt with the same pattern.  I can see how the spiky side strips will come together to make stars.  Love!  And also love getting some use out of that old frame!  I've been really inspired by various textiles lately, like the herringbone pattern and deep maroon color of the big cowl I recently knitted.

We also recently acquired some vintage embroidery items from Todd's grandpa.  There are several table runners, a giant tablecloth, some pillow cases, and lots of napkins with varying degrees of staining.

I no longer want to fold up my projects/textiles I love and put them away and am going to look for new ways to display them around the house. 

In other news, I started a new pair of socks.  I chose a variegated yarn for the colorwork and I'm afraid that it obscures the pattern too much.

I also decided that I don't enjoy patterns with long 'floats' - that is, patterns where you have to carry yarn A for more than 8 stitches of yarn B before knitting a yarn A stitch.  See the chart below and all the white squares on either side of the bird?  I was carrying long floats (catching them in the middle so they didn't sag or snag) on either side of it for quite a while before deciding to quit.  Just didn't enjoy it.  I'm now happily working on a different project with no long floats and hope to have a finished pair before too long.

Have a great week! 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Color Impaired

A cold snap has hit South Carolina!  And coincidentally, I hurt both my leg (at the gym) and my back (slept in a funny position and twisted a muscle), so I haven't been outside much in the past week.  I've been keeping busy inside, though, both with work and craft projects.

I finished these knitting projects a while back but forgot to photograph them.  First, and my favorite, is this aviator-style hat with a really cute ribbed brim and earflaps.  The pattern is Amelia E. on Ravelry.com. 

Next, I finished that slouchy pink hat knitted in seed stitch with a side cable.  This picture isn't exactly representative of the final project, but it looks really nice on!  I'll have to have Todd take a photo later.

I finished a pair of gloves that have been languishing in my knitting basket for about six months.  I have a matching hat so I'm pleased to get this project completed.  You'll notice that one is slightly larger than the other.  That's what happens when you let so much time go between mittens and forget what size needle you used!  They basically fit, though, so that's what counts. 

I gave up on the socks I was knitting in a very lackluster way this week.  I always knit socks with size 2 needles, even fair isle socks, but I used size 1 for this pair (per the instructions).  The leg was just too small.  I wasn't pleased with the colors, either.  I definitely don't have an eye for color and can't seem to predict what a finished design will look like, even when I scribble a sample sketch with my colored pencils.  And, ahem, sometimes I am too impatient to even take that step.  My mistake here is easy for me to see and hopefully learn from, though.

I used scraps from leftover balls, so I was somewhat limited in my color choices, but see how I picked colors that didn't "pop" together?  Yellow/white and green/blue were the worst culprits.  The grey is a little too dark with the red, and the overall color choices are not cohesive and completely obscure the star that the pattern makes. 

In a way, I did the same thing with the quilt I'm working on.  I have about 12 different fabrics that I'm working with, and my only plan was to try not to have two octagons with the same fabric side by side. I think the blue fabric is a little too dark and doesn't blend well with the cooler colors of the surrounding octagons.  The white stars between the octagons don't really "pop," either.  I gave it a good critical look earlier this week and considered stopping after this current row.  I could still quilt it and then make it into a pretty bit of fabric to hang over the back of one of the couches.  I'm enjoying it quite a bit, though, and have decided to go ahead and finish it.  It's good practice and I've got a lot of fabric.  It will go on a full-size bed.  To get an idea of the size here, each octagon is 8" across.  I try do do one square of two wedges per day.  It's really coming along! 

Otherwise, some smaller projects completed...I made a couple of trips to thrift stores this week in search of picture frames for some art prints I've had laying around here for several months.  I was able to frame all 3 pictures perfectly for about $5.  Score!

I cleaned out my office closet, which was almost dangerous to open before.  I got rid of almost everything and I'm so pleased to have some new space.

Finally, Todd and I started working on our first piece of furniture for the mouse house.  It's a tiny dresser with real removable drawers, done at 1/12" scale!  First we measured the drawings...

...and made the cuts!

I was somewhat hampered by my sore back (sawing is not as easy as it looks!), but we have almost all the pieces cut out.  Then it's just a matter of gluing everything together.  Todd is really excited too and it seems that we get a FedEx shipment of this special wood almost every day! 

Hopefully I'll be able to get outside later this week and try out my new fancy lens that magnifies images x5.  Have a great week! 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

A Stitch In Time...

It's ironic that I've been having this big creative streak during the period when I have the least amount of free time.  It was a real challenge in the weeks before Christmas to hand-make gifts; however, I had determined to make as many of them as I could. 

For Todd, I found a fun vintage map coloring book on etsy.com and ordered the Oregon page (his place of birth).  I used a light box and a water-soluble pen to transfer as much of the image to cotton as I could, but it was really difficult because the images were so tiny, even though the entire image was 8 1/2" x 11". 

I barely made it!  Sorry, purists, I inserted a mountain where Crater Lake is supposed to be...I ran out of space and time...but the rest of the map should be accurate!

I also knitted him a pair of socks for work.  NEVER AGAIN will I knit men's socks on size 0 needles, which are basically the size of toothpicks.  My wrist was so sore after finishing these socks that I had to take a 3-week knitting break.

For a friend, I embroidered a meadow scene:

I sewed on a piece of plaid and made it into one of those envelope pillows:

Unfortunately, I didn't pin it together first to see how it would look, and I think the embroidered part would look better closer to the seam edge.  Oh, well, she really liked it!

I made some little hedgehog pincushions:

I embroidered the design and made a little pocket with fabric bits.  It wasn't an actual design, but it worked!

I also made some lavender drawer sachets with embroidered initials. 

Again, I just embroidered the image on cotton fabric and used squares of printed fabric to make tiny pillows filled with dried lavender.

For another friend, I embroidered cloth napkins.  One had squirrels and nuts around the edges and the other had cats and mice.  I'm addicted to cloth napkins now and love the idea of adding some whimsical animals and insects!

Right before our Portland trip, I cast on for a big bulky cowl with a lovely deep maroon Malabrigo yarn.  The pattern utilizes a "herringbone stitch," which involves knitting one row as K2tog, drop the last stitch, and the second row as K2TBL, drop the last stitch.  The best part?  Using size 13 needles.  I finished the cowl after just two weeks and it's nice to have big, soft, fluffy fabric to wrap a few times around my neck, especially now that winter has come to South Carolina!

I just cast on for a pair of fair isle socks, too:

Knit Picks had their end-of-year sale recently, and I stocked up on sweater-quantity yarn.  The first sweater will be grey with a yoke of white and various shades of purple:

The second sweater will be a long-ish cardigan with an offset button band and button-up or lay-flat cowl neck in a beautiful brick red color:

The third sweater...well, I just can't resist a good deal.  This plain tan yarn was just $10 for the whole group.  I'll find a sweater pattern when it's time to knit it!

Mainly, though, I've been snatching minutes here and there to work on quilting.  Over the long New Year's weekend, I locked myself in my office and diagrammed out the shapes and color schemes for my next project.

It's not very intuitive since your wedges are backwards and in reverse order, but I slowly fell into a rhythm and now it's become quite easy.  This quilt is paper-pieced and I'm not sure I'll be able to go back to the old way!

I'm still not very good at color selection, just like with knitting - I just don't have the eye for it.  But I'll keep working at it and hopefully I'll learn more as I go. 

Next up is a fairly large cross stitch project!   

Have a great week!