Friday, August 26, 2011

short and stout

More from A Rainbow of Stitches. Love.

14-count, DMC color 823.

ps: I erroneously referred to these little squares of aida as DMC short cuts...they are actually made by Charles Craft.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

a rainbow of stitches

As I've mentioned before, after a period of seriously practical knitting and sewing, I'm feeling pulled toward more whimsical projects. I would like to make some things that are art for art's sake, just fun and skill-enhancing without necessarily being strictly "useful."

I started with some lace shawls, which are kind of a hybrid of useful and beautiful (mainly because even though I'm not likely to actually wear one, the possibility exists so I can justify the time spent). I'm still working on the latest one - 3 charts to go - but I can only work on it when I am undistracted for a length of time.

In the meantime I've gone to some hand stitching. I used to do tons of embroidery and cross stitch. I even had a friend who liked it too, and we could be found in the embroidery supply aisle of Michael's at age 14, picking out samplers and DMC floss.

When I saw this book on a blog back in the spring, it knocked me right over:

I usually take craft books out from the library, but the choices for embroidery and cross stitch are...well, let's just say "dated" at best. We're talking Better Homes and Gardens compilations from 1992. Not exactly inspiring for the modern crafter. Unless you're into teddy bear bibs. Which frankly I am not.

But A Rainbow of Stitches is fresh and fun. I highly recommend it! I linked to amazon, but I actually found mine on ebay and bought it from a Goodwill seller. It still had the Barnes & Noble gift receipt stuck inside! Someone got it for Christmas 2009 and, it appears, never even opened it. Now it's mine!

I dug through my bin of hand-me-down embroidery supplies and found a pack of DMC short-cuts, which are 6X6 inch squares of aida cloth. Mine were 14-count in white and off-white. Perfect for stitching up a little nugget and getting back in practice. I chose a tomato-red skein of floss and I was off to the races:

Don't ask me what I'll do with it, but oh, was it satisfying! Cross stitch is just so orderly and well-behaved. Anyone can do it, it's inexpensive, and the results are pretty much guaranteed to be good if you follow the chart. I found this little apple to be so, so relaxing to stitch.

There are many, many designs in this book that are built around colors and themes, with about an equal split between cross stitch and embroidery. It is NOT a project book, which I guess really upset some people who reviewed it online, but it does not claim to be a book of directions. It's just motifs and charts with photos of project ideas.

We are attending a tropical destination wedding this winter, and I'm thinking of making Daughter a dress for the rehearsal. Look at these adorable water/beach/nautical designs:


cross stitch:

more embroidery:

And I know this one is hard to see, because it's printed in a light tan, but I'm thinking of a pale linen sundress with some of these shells embroidered around the hem:

So many things to little time!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

i am perhaps seasonally confused

Oh man, file this one under "I'm a bad mom." At the beginning of summer I cut out this dress for Daughter, and proceeded to ignore it for pretty much the entire season. Niiiiiiice. I could give a bazillion excuses, but it boils down to: it was hot, the air conditioner is in my bedroom, and I am lazy. Really pretty much zero sewing happens around here in the summer, it is just too uncomfortable. So if I don't get the summer dresses and shorts sewn up in the spring when it is still chilly, it doesn't happen at all.

Case in point:

I did finally put this together last week. The temps dipped down to the high 70s/low 80s with a breeze, so I could stand to sit at the machine and, more importantly, use the iron. I was still sweaty by the time I finished, but at least it got done!

Here's a (purposely) blurry shot of Daughter helping a little friend of ours off the slide over the weekend. I just wanted to show more of the dress without splashing our friends' kid across the internet.

I can't find a link to the pattern on line right now and I'm too lazy to go upstairs and find it...if anyone has a burning desire for the exact number I can look it up. But I did a quick look around at Simplicity and McCall's and both have similar dresses shown right now in their current pattern collection. It's a very simple pattern...self-lined bodice, shoulder straps, and choice of one-piece full skirt or 3-tier even fuller skirt. I used the size 5 bodice pattern and the size 6 skirt pieces for length (the width is the same no matter the size). *Note* if you make this pattern, you can just cut width-of-fabric pieces for the skirt tiers. The pattern calls for even wider pieces but that is a waste. If you have typical 40-44" wide calico, like I used here, just cutting the lower 2 tiers from selvage edge to selvage edge works fine.

Also note that if you do not like gathering you will not enjoy making this. I cut two of these out at the beginning of summer, made one, and was very frustrated by the huge amount of gathering. For some reason this is a sewing skill I struggle with, and likely another good reason why the second dress sat unfinished for so long.

Moving on: here is a random action shot of me wearing one of the skirts I made earlier this year:

And finally, the reason for the post title...while still sewing summer dresses, I'm also working on fall and winter woolens (of course).

Listen, I have to apologize for the following photo, because it's awful and hurts your eyes. But the color of this wool (Knitpicks WotA "winter night") refuses to show up in a photograph without displaying an otherworldly glow:

Gah! Awful! But the sweater will hopefully be sweet. It's a top-down raglan (boring but reliable) in a size 4(!) for my growing boy. It will likely be a little too big at first, but should serve him well all winter. The weirdness of the color explains why I had a terrible time finding buttons to match (or even coordinate). We went with the little cars from Favorite Findings (with coupon, at Joann's). With an unusual shade of yarn, I find it best to go with completely non-matching buttons so it doesn't look like I tried and failed.

I would like to go work on this sweater some more, but instead I must clean the mac-n-cheese explosion from our kitchen table area. Maybe if I go really fast I can squeeze some crafting into naptime.....

Monday, August 15, 2011

monday monday

Thank you for the kind words. The funeral was on the 15th, so I am still a tad melancholy, but I'm getting through it.

Other things that are more fun to talk about:

Hubs took me to see a production of FAME! on Saturday night. It was so awesome! I have an intense love of musical theater and will go see just about anything, so when these tickets were offered for free from his office (his company sponsored the show), Hubs knew I'd want to go. And, dude, it was FAME! Who doesn't love that? So the kids slept over at Grandma & Papa's house, and Hubs and I got to go on a date, with dinner and everything. The show was performed at Artpark, and if you're ever in the western NY area, I recommend you visit. It's a state park, open anytime, and you can walk right down to the edge of the Niagara River. It's really beautiful.

Also...I finished a sweater! Woohoo! I feel like I've barely finished anything this year, so I was really thrilled to block this baby:

This is Spring Time in Hollis and I really like it. I saw it on a blog last winter and in a rare move, I bought the pattern (through Ravelry, I believe). I liked that it was worsted weight, top-down construction and had just enough interest to keep me going. I'm getting bored after making a bazillion plain top-down raglan cardigans. This pattern is well-written and easy to follow, and I will surely make another sometime.

This is size 8 (!) for my big first grader, knitted from Knitpicks WotA in violet, a discontinued color that I got on sale years ago. I think I used about 6 balls, but I can't remember for sure, as I started this several months ago and only just now finished it. As per Daughter's request, I left out the eyelets and belt, and knit the sleeves somewhere between 3/4 and wrist length, so they "wouldn't get in her way." I'd like to get some fall fabric and make a matching dress for the school year...we'll see.

It feels good to get another languishing project finished. Time to go diving into the UFO basket to see what else I can clear out!

Friday, August 12, 2011

5 years

August 12th is here again. Sometimes it catches me by surprise. It always catches my husband, mostly because I have to tell him about it. He never remembers (though he is terrible with dates), but still I often think it must be nice to just sort of not remember. I have no choice. The memory lives in my body.

I look at Daughter sitting on the couch watching television and I see the spirit of another little girl sitting near her. A little girl who would be turning 5, heading off to kindergarten, with dark wavy hair and a little face so like her big sister's...and yet a bit different.

And then I look at my baby boy and wonder if he would even be here. Last night my husband said, if we had our daughter nothing in our lives would be as it is right now. Maybe so, maybe so.

Some years have been easier than others, but this year I am really sad. I miss my baby girl.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

vacation! (and some projects, too)

Oh man, it's August 9th already. We had such a cold, rainy, long spring and then got super baked for several weeks and I feel we've hardly had any "real" summer. I hope we get some nice days of high 70s with sun and a breeze before school starts.

School, wow, already?!? The time, it flies. Daughter will start first grade after labor day. It's coming up quickly...we've already purchased her supplies (except the markers, because I haven't seen them for $1 yet). I'm watching for juice box coupons and stocking up on snacks for the lunchbox. The light outside is shifting, just a bit, telling me that autumn is indeed on its way.

We were away last week, the kids and I, visiting my sister and her baby boy in the midwest. Her husband was out of town on business so we descended upon their home for a whole week. It saddens me that the cousins in our family will all grow up far away from each other, so it's nice to put them together and let them become acquainted. That way the holidays aren't a visit with people who feel like strangers. Also, holy cow did I need a change of scenery. It was amazing to get out of town for awhile and look at something other than our four walls! Even shopping at Target in a different place feels somehow fresh and new. We played, walked, swam, shopped, cooked, ate, baked, and played some more. My sister's house has central air - glorious! - and our moods were all greatly improved by the comfort we experienced.

I took along a bit of knitting but didn't get a whole lot done.

These socks were started in January. January! I cast them on to take to the hospital for AJ's surgery, which ended up postponed until mid-February anyway, and besides, I never actually knit in the surgical waiting room. Taking knitting along is just wishful thinking. So these rode around in the bottom of my purse until recently when I got sick of seeing them in there and I started working on them in earnest. One down, one started.

And before we left, when I was doing vacation pre-cleaning so we wouldn't come home to a gross house, I picked this quilt up off the dining room table and finished the stinking thing:

This is, I guess, broken dishes (?) but was supposed to be a pinwheel quilt separated by sashing. It went from a planned queen size to maybe a twin to a wallhanging as I got tired of making the blocks. Ha! Some quilter I am.

I based this on a quilt pattern in Nickel Quilts. Unfortunately somewhere between making the first batch of blocks years ago and finishing it up last winter, I accidentally changed the size of the individual components, so some of the blocks got chopped down in the final assembly. If you enlarge the photo you might be able to see where several of the pinwheels don't actually have points on them. Whoops!

Anyway, I don't care and I think it looks pretty good to hang on my living room wall! We need color desperately, and this roughly 56"X64" quilt will bring it.

I've been swayed lately by all the fresh fabric collections quilters are using in the online quilting world...lots of juicy oranges, pinks, lime greens, browns, bright blues...and I was even thinking I might splurge on some of the newer fabrics, despite my reservations that these colors might seem really dated in a few years (remember country blue and rose? how about peach and seafoam green? yeah), but then I finished this quilt and I realized where my heart lies. I love these tiny prints and semi-solids. I love traditional quilts.

And now that I've finished one, I can start another. Or maybe two. Those are the rules. Right?