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

Cards

While my recent posts have all been about cross stitch or knitting, I do other crafts as well.  Lately I’ve been in the mood to do some papercrafting, and have made three cards I wanted to show off.

First, the inspiration for this card came from buying a brown ink pad and having kraft cardstock, which lead me to wonder what I could do with tone-on-tone stamping:

2015 04-27 Happy

Then I needed a card for my grandmother, so I painted her a rose following this tutorial from the Frugal Crafter:

2015 04-27 RoseFinally, I love the look of heat embossing and decided to play with it and a stamp I have:

2015 04-27 TY

(The rose obviously went to my grandmother, but the other two are or will soon be in my Etsy shop if you want one of them.)

I’m back

Well, it ended up taking a lot longer than I’d anticipated to get back to blogging after my vacation. I’m pleased to report that I did finish knitting my brother’s gloves in time to give them to him for Christmas:

2015 01-19 B's gloves

He approves.

I also did some more work on my Morning Flight cross stitch over the break, and got as far as adding the first full crosses!
2015 01-19 Full crosses

This is what it looked like before I took it off the frame:

2015 01-19 Morning Flight

I took it off the frame to begin work on the Save the Stitches blackwork sampler (free pattern available at Blackwork Journey). It’s a sampler of 131 different blackwork stitches, with multiple variations of each stitch.  I plan on finishing it as a wall hanging, probably with a black fabric border. This is one and a half of the 24 blocks making up the pattern:

2015 Save the stitches
(Sorry for the slight fuzziness — it turns out to be quite a difficult pattern to photograph for me.)

Good news/Bad news

First the bad news.  The knitting needle I’d bought for my Ocean Currents Rug broke!  The tip just snapped off the cable while I was working with it.  It’s been sent off to the manufacturer for replacement, but until I get a new one, there’s not going to be any rug progress.

To make up for it, I’ve had a fair bit of knitting good news.  I have a couple of projects I want to complete in the next year or two that I didn’t have the yarn for, so I put in an order and got it the other day.

I got some Supersocke self-striping sock yarn in the Mali Color Golden Shades to use in a colorwork sock along with some black yarn I already had:

I’m not quite sure why I was so drawn to this yarn — it’s not a color I’d normally pick, but as soon as I saw it, I knew I wanted to use it in that pattern.

I also got some Cascade Heritage sock yarn in Como Blue for another colorwork sock with my black yarn:

All the pictures I’d seen of this yarn showed it as blue, but it’s a fairly green-leaning blue-green.  The picture here is the best I could get, but it’s not green enough.  I’m slightly disappointed it’s not the color I was envisioning, but it should work out okay.

I’ve been wanting some custom fit gloves out of a very fine yarn, so I got some Malabrigo Lace in the color Vaa, which is super soft:

And finally, I bought someFilatura Di Crosa Nirvana lace weight yarn in Dark Teal for a lace shawl I’ve been wanting to make:

It’s super squishy and the perfect color!

As if that package wasn’t good enough news, I also finished the bed I’ve been working on for Lily for the last five and a half months.  She likes it:

In fact, she likes it more than she likes sleeping on the couch next to me!

(Click on any picture for more information on Ravelry.)

Hardanger embroidery

Today’s post brought to you by the serendipitous discovery of both a hardanger tutorial on YouTube and hardanger cloth in my cross stitch fabric stash.

11-5-14 HardangerIt was my first time doing any sort of cut work embroidery, but I think it came out really well and it didn’t take very long.  I did adapt the tutorial slightly, as I wanted my piece a little bit larger than it would have come out, and I wanted to preserve a section of the cut and pulled threads show the texture.  I highly recommend the tutorial if you’re interested in giving hardanger a try!

Finishing Lily’s Sweater

I knit my dog, Lily, a sweater a little over a year ago, making up the pattern as I went along. It fit remarkably well (she’s wearing it in my avatar), except that the belly was a little bit too loose. It was nice that it went over her head and forelegs easily, but her back legs would sometimes get caught in the sweater.  I’ve been meaning to make her a belt ever since…

The belt itself is a narrow band of sideways herringbone stitch.

FinishedBelt

Then I picked up stitches for belt loops and knitted a narrow band just long enough to contain  the belt. I attached the ends to the sweater with something vaguely resembling kitchener stitch.

PickingUpBeltLoop

I marked the different parts of the final product in this picture because they blend together so well (which I’m quite happy about).

FinishedBeltLoop

Here’s Lily modeling the finished project!  She’s slightly less happy about it than I am, but that might have something to do with me putting her in a wool sweater on a warm spring day to check the fit…

FinishedSweater

Never-ending baby yarn…

I’ve been knitting for quite a while, and when I went back to visit my parents over winter break, I discovered I had WAY more yarn than I thought I did stuffed in the back of my closet.  Some of it is yarn I’d bought, and others were donated.  I knew I had some donated pastel variegated baby yarn hanging around, but I swear I kept. finding. more. skeins.  I’m still not sure I managed to round up all of it…

Anyway, I don’t have much use for baby yarn myself, so I’m planning on knitting it and donating the results.

So far I’ve made two hats:

Baby bows hatRuffle Baby Hat

A pair of baby booties (this picture is pre-wash — annoyingly, one grew about 25% after washing, so I think I’m going to have to rip it out and re-knit.  Two tips: if you’ve got yarn that may or may not have been knitted and ripped out, wash it before knitting so any kinks will loosen up BEFORE you work with it, and always note down what size needles you used in case you need to redo something later.):

Irish Moss Booties

And 1-1/3 baby socks (which are coming out very well for my first socks ever):

Baby socks

I still have almost two skeins.  I’m thinking of doing a sweater next….

Cross stitching with a presentable back!

A while back I made a couple of cross stitch bookmarks and a rather awesome discovery.  If you’re familiar with cross stitching, you’re probably also familiar with the mess of crisscrossing threads you get on the back (or else it’s just me and everyone else already knows this….it could happen).  With my first bookmark, I had to sew a muslin backing on to cover it up:

Back of dragon bookmarkWith my second one, I learned to do perfect backs, meaning that I didn’t need to cover it at all (in fact, it’s almost reversible):

Back of rose bookmarkHere’s how:

Perfect back cross stitch basicsNow, that’s great if you want a solid block of color.  However, if you want to actually make a pattern, you need to do a little planning.  Exactly how you approach it will depend on your pattern, so I’m just going to show a sample shape so you can get an idea of the process:

Complex perfect back cross stitch patternsHopefully I’m not the only one with messy cross stitch backs!  Let me know if anything needs clarification or more elaboration.

Both bookmarksBoth of these bookmarks are available for sale on my Etsy shop, if you’re interested. The bookwyrm is here and the Assisi rose is here.

Mr. Rex

In order to kick off this blog, I’m showing off a project I finally finished after working on it off and on for over two years.

My grandmother gave my family a number of craft kits years ago that I’ve been gradually working my way through.  This particular kit was for a 20 inch tall soft-sculpture Tyrannosaurus rex, designed by Michelle Lipson in 1976.  Slightly scary to think that the fabric is probably older than I am!

Printed fabricAs you can see, the pre-printed fabric that came in the kit was huge.  That’s a queen-sized bed it’s lying on!  This was back in June 2011.

 

Rex02

Part of the reason this project took me so long was that for a large part of it, I was hand sewing everything.  Once I decided to buy a sewing machine in January 2013, the rest started to come together much faster.

Rex04Mid stuffing.  It’s Einstein Rex!

Rex05Here he is!

Rex06All finished, in August 2013.

Rex07I think he came out pretty cool — I love the detailed print on his face.

Rex08His tiny arms are so cute!  (They were such a pain to turn and stuff, though!)

Rex09I think my favorite part is his back feet, though.  They came out amazingly well — I was really worried about being able to turn the claws, but they came out way better than I’d hoped.

I’m so glad I finally finished this project and I can’t believe it actually took me more than two years!  Of course, now I have to find a spot for a 20″ T. rex somewhere in my apartment….

Anyone else finish a crazy long project recently, or am I the only one who lets stuff drag on this long?