Stripping!

No, not that kind of stripping.

I was doing my nails and set my little cup of acetone down on my desk without realizing some had overflowed and was on the bottom of the cup. By the time I realized what I’d done a few seconds later, it had very effectively stripped the finish off my desk in a ring.

2015 05-25 Desk 1I was upset at first, but then I realized that under the grungy finish, my desk had some really pretty wood.

This is what the desk top looked like:

2015 05-25 Desk 2You can see the acetone ring, and a lot of other scratches and marks.  The whole thing was just vaguely greyish and not very pretty.  I didn’t mind how it looked too much, since it was a nice, solid wood desk that I’d been given by relatives, but once I realized how much nicer it could be, I checked out some tutorials on refinishing wood furniture.  The process seemed like something I’d find fun, so I decided to go shopping.

2015 05-25 Desk 3Stripping the old finish was a pretty easy, though tedious, process.  First I applied the Citristrip and left it to do its business for half an hour to an hour, then scraped the resulting goop off.

2015 05-25 Desk 4It was just as gross in person as it is in the picture.  Once I’d gotten the majority of the old finish off, I wiped the desk down with acetone in order to take off any remaining bits of finish — it had worked very effectively before, and was just as effective this time.

Now my desk looks like this:

2015 05-25 Desk 52015 05-25 Desk 6I was pleasantly surprised how few of the scratches on the desk’s surface had actually damaged the wood.

Next, I’ll be sanding the surfaces and refinishing it.  I still haven’t made up my mind whether or not I’m going to use the red oak stain I got on it, or just leave it the natural color of the wood, but I’m leaning towards using the stain.

This project has taken up a bit more time than I had initially thought it would, and has disrupted some of my other crafting, as my desk is out of commission, but I’m really enjoying it and can’t wait to see the final version!

Oh, and here’s the manicure that started this whole thing, because I can’t resist showing it off:

2015 05-25 Nails

Blocking

If you’re already familiar with the concept of blocking your knitting, feel free to scroll down to the before and after photos.  If you’re not familiar with it, blocking is a way to get all the yarn you’ve just finished looping and twisting while knitting to relax and lie in whatever shape you want.  It is particularly important if your project is lace, as the lace will open up a lot more and be much prettier after it’s been blocked, but it’s helpful for any project, as it can make your stitches appear more even and help combat curling edges.

There are different ways to block your knitting, depending on the fiber content of the yarn and the desired end result.  Today I’m going to talk about how I wet blocked a 100% wool lace ear warmer I recently finished.  Wet blocking seems to be one of the more popular blocking methods and can produce very dramatic results with wool.

Here’s the ear warmer once I’d finished knitting and weaving in the ends:

2015 05-18 Earwarmer 1Doesn’t look like much, does it?

Since I knew I wanted the sides to be straight, I wanted to do some prep work before I got the yarn wet.  Ideally, I would have had blocking wires (special rust-proof wires made for blocking), but since I didn’t, I decided to experiment with running fishing line along the edges I needed to be straight.  It ended up working for me, but I was very careful as fishing line is sharp and wet wool is delicate.

Then I soaked the whole thing in some lukewarm soapy water in my sink for about half an hour (I’d meant to get it after about fifteen minutes, but I forgot about it!).

2015 05-18 Earwarmer 2After that, I rinsed it, rolled it up in a towel and squeezed as much of the water out as I could, then laid it out in the shape I want.  I use the back of my yoga mat for blocking, and I tend to put a towel under my work as I don’t want to take any chances of the color from my mat coming off onto my damp knitting.  Because I had already put the fishing line in place, I was able to just anchor the ends of the line (which I had already tied into loops) with pins and pin out the angles and corners of my knitting.  If I hadn’t had the fishing line, I would have had to put pins every couple of inches along the long sides of the piece, which would have taken longer and might have resulted in a slight scallop instead of the perfectly straight lines I got.

2015 05-18 Earwarmer 3Once the ear warmer had completely dried, I unpinned it, removed the fishing line, and sewed on two buttons to close it.  You can see in the picture below how it lies completely flat and you can see the lace much better than you could right when I finished it.  I could definitely have stretched it tighter for a more dramatic finish, but because I really wanted it to be warm, I didn’t want to make it too lacy!

2015 05-18 Earwarmer 4It buttons closed and works like a normal headband — I particularly like how it covers my ears but not my forehead (my ears get cold long before my forehead does).

2015 05-18 Earwarmer 6

Parking

I recently got the urge to work on my Morning Flight cross stitch again.  Then I quickly remembered why I’d stopped working on it.

Back when I started it, I had decided to do this project one color at a time, going from the background to the foreground.   In general I liked this process, but having to do a ton of one color gets a bit tiring.  When I put the piece down, I had been working on light blue.  You can barely distinguish it from the background fabric and it felt like I wasn’t making any progress.

2015 05-11 Parking 1It actually shows up better in that photo than in real life.

I decided that the one-color-at-a-time thing just wasn’t fun any more, and thought I’d give parking a try.  If you’re not familiar with parking, it basically means working on one small chunk of the piece at a time (I’ve seen a lot of people do 10 stitch by 10 stitch squares at a time) and when you no longer need a particular color of thread in that little chunk, you park it in the next chunk you’re going to work so that it’s waiting for you when you get to it.

I found the process a lot of fun and less confusing than it had looked at first.  I started in the bottom left corner as it had no work done there yet.  I opted to do a row of ten stitches at a time, instead of a ten stitch square, as part of the appeal of parking for me is that you can avoid having to work a stitch that is completely surrounded by stitches (it’s just harder to get your needle through the fabric in those cases).

2015 05-11 Parking 2

When I got to the sections where I had already done quite a bit of stitching, I ended up switching so that instead of working a row at a time, I’m working a 10×10 block at a time — I found it was easier to work around the preexisting stitches that way.

2015 05-11 Parking 3I got a whole column done (okay, it’s a half column, but the pattern is four pages, so it’s a whole column on one page).  I’m very happy with the progress and I’m looking forward to continuing parking on any larger pieces I do.  I do want to switch to working from the top down instead of the bottom up as I had done for this column, as I think it will be easier for my stitching style.