Thursday, May 31, 2007

No crochet today - I promise

Head stuffed up want to tear my poor sore itchy nose off.

Stupid cold.

Dragged my sorry butt to work even tho' I felt like poo.

Skipped Yoga class.
Suplice halfway done.

Sneak preview:


Pit shot:

Sorry for pale washed out pics. They look how I feel.

I. just. want. to. BREATHE!

New rule: No knitting on Nyquil.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

I did it my way

I was looking at my Larger Than Life blocks today and noticed something a little off. In the magazine photographs, the 4th row corners look pointier than mine. Now, I won't pretend that this particular row was easy for me. I never claimed to be an expert at crochet, but I've done a fair share of it in the past, so I thought I knew how to read a pattern. For the life of me, I could not match the written instructions to the chart. Having finally figured out how to read a crochet chart (it was one of those "AHA!" moments), I was puzzled as to why the diagram didn't seem to match the instructions.

Forgive me while I obsess on this in more detail. Perhaps some of you advanced hookers can solve this for me.

Round 4 of the pattern begins as follows: "Ch 1, sc in sl , *ch 5, sl st in 5th ch from hook, sk 2 dc, sc in next dc .... " and so on.

My reading of this gobbley gook is: Chain 1, single crochet in the slip stitch from the end of round 3, (begin repeat with) chain 5, slip stitch in the 5th chain from the hook, skip 2 double crochet from round 3, single crochet in the next double crochet from round 3 ...

This is what the chart looks like for this part:
The chart appears to say this: chain one, single crochet (in the slip stitch from row 3), chain 5, skip 2 double crochet from row 3, single crochet in the 3rd double crochet from round 3...

I couldn't figure out if I was supposed to close up that 5 chain loop, or just skip 2 dc and keep it open. In the chart it appears to be open. How to slip stitch in the chain? Through the back? Through one side? No matter how I did it, it looked wonky. Since it was easier to keep it open, and it appeared to follow the chart, I decided that the pattern must be wrong and did it my way.

This is how it looks as I've interpreted the chart:
Tonight I decided to try again without looking at the chart. After 3 attempts at those corners, I think that this is how it's supposed to look, if I follow the written instructions:I checked the Interweave Crochet website for pattern corrections and didn't find any for this bag. I also looked at finished blocks made by members of the CAL and no one else seemed to have this interpretation issue. The only obvious conclusion is that I'm not reading the chart correctly. Maybe I'm taking it too literally. The bottom line is that my version is MUCH easier and I've already finished 3 blocks. Someone once said that if you make the same "mistake" 3 times you've created a pattern. I may just make a few more using the designer's pattern to mix it up a little (it took too long to make that version and I don't have the heart to frog it).

Compare and contrast:

Pattern as written
My block
I do like the pointy corners in the pattern version, but mine seems more airy. Yeah. Airy!
It's my block party and I'll dance any way I want to!

Just to rile you up a little, I was watching passively listening to N.C.I.S (it's a Mark Harmon thing) tonight while obsessing over crochet, and heard a character define a blog this way: "Something losers put online so everyone can read."

HUMPH! Who's the loser?

Monday, May 28, 2007

Say it with Flowers!

I hope everyone had a lovely long weekend. The weather here was perfect: warm and sunny. What a relief after a cold, dreary spring. Mr. S and I went to the greenhouse today to buy flowers for our window box. Actually, we went to 2 places because I was in search of these:
I can't tell you what they are because the tag is in the garage, but the color is so beautiful that they make my heart sing whenever I look at them. It doesn't show so well in the photo, but the purple centers just vibrate against the orange sherbet colored petals. Mmmmm. Happy little flowers.

I spent Friday through Sunday with my mom. We shopped (as usual) and ate bad food (as usual). Honestly, it would not bother me one bit if I didn't eat batter fried clams or onion rings for a long, long time. Bluh. While I wasn't committing sins of consumption, I worked on Surplice, and can finally say that I am almost done.
So naturally I started a new project. It's not my fault! I have been tempted by others into picking up my hook (you know who you are). Actually, Cara is the worst offender, what with her larger than life photos.

Yes, you've all conspired to wear me down; I started the Larger Than Life Bag last night. I was only going to make one block, just to test the waters. Now I have 3 finished blocks, and one more on the way. The last time I hooked, this is what happened:
Sorry. I know. It hurts the eyes. Despite Cara's success with the acryl-ick, I couldn't bear to touch the stuff again. Conveniently, I had plenty of Mission Falls 1824 Wool leftover from my Funky Chicken Pillow (Interweave Fall 2004, see photo with #5 under "10 Knittery Things" in this post).

I'm having so much fun combining colors that I can't seem to stop. Fortunately, or not, it's pretty painful for me to crochet very much at once (poor old hands), so the Surplice top is still at the top of the list.

Speaking of the list, I'm guilty of a little stash acquisition this weekend. In my defense, I've been sewing as fast as I can buy fabric, and it was on sale (you know). I found this embroidered cotton at Jo-Ann's in Brunswick (50% off!). It's exactly like the fabric I saw on a blouse in the Old Port last week. I was wondering where I could get that kind of fabric and it just fell in my lap.
In case you can't see the embroidery, here's how it looks against the light.

I also found the orange linen-like fabric below (a "Super Value" priced at $3.99 a yard!), which I am going to use in some combination with the brown or neutral in a skirt, as well as the coordinating ribbons. I have plans for several different ways to embellish simple skirts, with contrasting bands, applique, hand embroidery, and ribbons, and just need a good stretch of time to sit down and sew! Hopefully next Saturday. In case you are interested, I actually do wear what I sew, which you can see here and here.
As proof that I haven't given up on knitting, I managed to score some yarn for Sahara. I couldn't pass it up at $3.25 a skein, even though Yarn Tour is coming up (oh, you'll be hearing lots about that in the future). I bought 10 skeins which is WAY more than enough for the short sleeve version. What to do with 500 yds of worsted weight cotton blend yarn?
For those rare moments when I can't knit, or crochet, or sew, I'm reading Stephanie's new book, which I finally found at Barnes and Noble. Right now, it's in the bathroom. That says volumes about my down time.

Until we meet again, here's a little pretty to brighten your day.
Happy Week!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Stitch and kvetch

Why am I obsessed with sewing these days?
Does it have anything to do with the fact that it took me 2 evenings to make this top...
and after 3 weeks, I am still unable to finish knitting the Surplice Lace Top?
I love the portability of knitting and the fact that there are endless opportunities for "do overs", but it does take time; however, if I cut out fabric using the wrong pattern size, I can't just frog it and start over. Thankfully, this top came out exactly the way I wanted it to. Phew! Even if it hadn't, it would only have cost me about $20 and 5 hours.

After owning my sewing machine for 3 years , I finally read the manual and learned to use some of the specialty feet that it came with to create a more polished look - what a concept!

This funny looking foot keeps zig zag stitches flat, resulting in a finished edge that looks just like it had been done by a serger.Have you ever seen one of those tiny rolled hems and wondered how it's done? There's a foot for it!
Suplice. Plbbbb. That's another story. When are they going to invent a row and stitch counter that beeps when you make a mistake? It wouldn't be all that different from a pedometer! Just clip it to your needle and off you go! Forget to decrease and it will BEEEEP! Bound off too few stitches? BEEEEP! I need one of these! I have frogged and knit and frogged and knit and frogged and knit. I can't even say that beer was involved this time. Could it be that I have angered the knitting spirits with all this sewing? Am I being taught a lesson?
If so, I guess I'm destined to frog because I found the cutest little sewing pattern for a surplice front top...

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Gimme just a little more time

There are simply not enough hours in the day to do everything I want. From here on out, I am going to give up sleeping because it's just a waste of time.

Just kidding.

There were so many things that I thought I could do this weekend, but here it is, 11:00 pm on Sunday and I still need to paint my toenails, put the laundry away and make a dish for a potluck dinner tomorrow. At least I managed to get a few things accomplished...

I recovered from my Surplice tragedy and decided to rip out the back to the lace section and omit the extra lace repeat. This will only shorten the length by an inch, which will be fine considering that it's already 15 inches, which is a little long for me. Last night I did a bad bad thing. I whipped up the right front and got all the way to the shoulder bind off before I realized that I'd forgotten to increase 60 rows back and was missing a stitch. Need I say that beer was involved. What's the saying? "Friends don't let friends knit drunk"? What can I say - Mr. Strange is out of town and I was all by my lonesome with some cold brew and a pile of yarn.

Before that little mishap, I managed to whip up this little number.
This fabric is so cute that I couldn't resist. The pattern is McCall's #2129 (view D), and the fabric is Moda's Urban Chiks Summer in the City. I hadn't made this pattern in quite a while and had forgotten that it's a pretty fitted high waist design, so it didn't come out how I had anticipated, but I still like it.

I added a little bit of fun at the hem: some itsy bitsy fringe.

I much prefer this skirt that I finished today. The pattern is New Look #6345 (View A) and the fabric is from the Amy Butler Belle Collection for Rowan. I am so in love with this fabric.

For this skirt I added some ric rac to the hem,

and used a contrasting fabric for the waist band facing. I would have modeled these, but a) my photographer is out of town; and b) you don't want to see my veiny white legs. NOTE to self: apply self tanner.

I even had enough fabric left over to make another belt.

Belts belts belts! I can't get enough of them! If you haven't tried the pattern, you shouldn't be intimidated. My friend Lori made her first one this weekend, and said it was really easy (see, I told ya!).

I might have accomplished more today if I hadn't gone to JoAnn Fabrics (less than a mile from my house), for 2 little things. Yeah. $20 later I had the ric rac (above) and lace trim (for below), some ribbon, a zipper, a new skirt (a-line, low waist) and a new magazine. After that there was that annoying food thing to take care of. It's a good thing that we have a Whole Foods store in Portland now. When Mr. Strange is out of town, I just can't be bothered. Unfortunately, I was hungry when I went in and lost a good chunk of time sampling hand lotions (no, I didn't buy or eat any). At least I left with something healthy to eat and my hands smelled good.

After losing nearly 2 hours for what was supposed to be a quick trip, I made it home in time to get a little more sewing in. Here's a sneak preview of a WIP (It's So Easy, it's so easy, yeah yeah yeah...)

I would have finished the top, but I had something else to do this evening:

Yes, I've posted the pattern! Sew happy!

The laundry isn't going anywhere soon, and it's too rainy to show my toes anyway. Do you think cheese and crackers are a lame contribution to a potluck?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Bad things happen to speedy knitters

They say that necessity is the mother of invention. Bosh! I say laziness is the mother of invention, at least in my house.

I've been working hard on the Surplice Lace Top every evening this week. Because I am lazy enjoy living on the edge, I decided to make some modifications to this pattern. First, I substituted a sport weight yarn for the so-called worsted weight yarn called for in the pattern, without buying extra yardage. Second, I went down a needle size. Despite this, I got perfect near gauge. Next, I decided that it was a silly waste of time to seam the bodice top to the bodice bottom, so I knit it in one piece. This worked great for the back, and look how great it's working for the front:

I worked the right front first, putting the first 35 of the 55 stitches needed for the left front on waste yarn. After finishing the right front, I joined new yarn and picked up the remaining 20 stitches behind the right front and continued on to work the left front.

So neat! So clever! I even took these pictures to brag about my ingenuity. I even thought that I would have (barely) enough yarn to finish. Well hardy har har. The joke is on me. As I compared the front and back tonight, I noticed something that made my head hurt. Oh No! No no no no no!

The front is shorter than the back! Count the lace rows. I omitted an entire lace repeat! F*BOMB! Kapow!

Now I know that I WILL run out of yarn! Cheese and Crackers!

I'll need to call the Patternworks and order one more skein. Hmmm. They carry Wildflower DK...that yarn would be perfect for The Josephine Top....hmmmm.

In total disgust, I focused my energy tonight on making this simple square bottom tote bag with the intention of posting the directions.
Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Object of My Desire

Do you remember when we first met? I was in the coffee shop and you had just arrived and were sitting on a small shelf. As usual, I was waiting in line to order my afternoon cup of overpriced and absurdly complicated to describe beverage, when I happened to notice you out of the corner of my eye. So new! So pretty! So fresh!

They had tagged you as a "Garden Bag", a Mother's Day promotional item, but I could see that you were meant for much greater things. Stuffed with a box of tea (a caffeine-less waste of water) and a pretty little pink water bottle, you were so perky and full of hope that someone would buy you. But alas, you were too expensive.

Every day, for weeks, I would visit you, admiring all of the details that endeared you to me. The delicate flower on your front.

Your lacy trim and eyelet loops.

Your little pockets, lined with coordinating stripes, waiting to be filled. Oh, how I yearned for you! I knew that one day we would be together, when the time was right. Soon, Mother's Day would pass and you would be marked down to a price that I could afford.

Finally, the day came.

Today, I walked by the coffee shop and looked in the window. You weren't there! I told myself not to panic, that you were probably hiding in a new spot: the discount bin. A few hours later, I came for you, but you were nowhere to be found. My heart sank. I had waited too long. It was not meant to be. I was so sad. On a lark, I asked the clerk where you were. She disappeared for a few minutes, and I was sure that she would come back and tell me that you were gone forever. With a heavy heart, I waited for the bad news. But she came back with you in hand. You were on sale: 50% off! Joy! Mine mine mine, all mine. As I walked out of the store with you in a large paper bag, I smiled and giggled like a schoolgirl.

My beautiful little bag.

You are home at last. See what purpose you have given me?

Good things do happen at Starbucks.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Brain Candy

My friend Aimee recently scolded me for my lack of posts. I wish I could offer up some fantastic reason, like a sudden week long vacation in an exotic location, but in reality, I've been dog tired and suffering from lack of ambition. All of that gym going and sewing and running around caught up to me and I crashed, unable to get out of my own way for several days. So I gestated on the couch for a while and finally got up the gumption to do something other than work out and surf for fabric online.

The last time I posted, I had started the Surplice Lace Top from Nashua Handknits Designer Collection No. 4. Well, I frogged my first attempt, went down a needle size, and so far so good. The back is done!

I just love this yarn (Dale of Norway Svale)! It drapes beautifully and the color is one of my current favorites. I am mildly concerned about running out of yarn, but I am getting gauge (even with the smaller needles) and I have about 20 yards more than the pattern calls for. I've made a slight modification to the pattern, opting to knit the back in one piece rather than bind off the bottom and seam the bodice afterwards. We'll see how well it works when I knit the front the same way. I can visualize how to do it, so cross your fingers! It had been so long since I'd knit anything that I forgot how much work it is. After the first evening, I couldn't believe how tired my forearms were! Who says that knitting isn't exercise?

On Saturday, after returning 990 soda bottles and cans to the redemption store (how the hell did we drink that much soda?), I finally took the time to play with fabric and made a new belt with a buckle that recently arrived in the mail, courtesy of jcaroline creative. Doesn't it look like sherbet ice cream? These belts are fast becoming the scarves of my summer wardrobe: I know that I don't really need another one, but I just can't help myself.

Last weekend I went shopping with my mother and found the cutest little quilted travel case for jewelry. It was offered as a "free" promotional gift by Vera Bradley - as in free if you spend $60. I figured that it would be silly to spend that much just so I could get the gift, so I studied it for a while (after seriously considering a new duffel bag for the gym) and viola! My version:

I call it the "Jewelry Taco".

I always take off my jewelry before I work out and frequently shove it in the pocket of whatever bag I am carrying, later panicking because I can't remember where I put it. This is my first try, and I can already see some things that I would do differently, but I used it tonight and found it really handy.

I may not have been crafting very much lately, but I sure have been thinking about it. I let my subscription to Interweave Knits lapse, and then had to run out and buy the new issue so I could knit the Josephine Top. I even have stash yarn: Ambrosia by Knit One Crochet Too or Elsebeth Lavold's Hempathy. So far, I'm leaning towards the Ambrosia because I love the color, but I'm not sure that it's a summer weight yarn (alpaca, silk and cashmere). On the other hand, it's already freezing in my office and it's not even summer. Today I thought that it was time I knit myself a summer cotton cardigan. Maybe with some of the Lion Brand Cotton comes in so many pretty colors. I'm really glad they brought that yarn back. If you've never tried it, you should. It's really nice to knit with. I think they carry it at Michaels. Gosh, I'm nattering. This is how my brain works all the time. No wonder I can't get anything done!

While thinking about sewing, I managed to buy some fabric online - amazing how that happens. I think about it and it just arrives on my doorstep (I wish).

The Fat Quarter Shop is one of my new favorite sites to visit and drool over fabric. I finally procured some half yard cuts of the new Anna Maria Horner collection, Chocolate Lollipop. Don't you just love the packaging? Inside that vellum envelope (love love love vellum), are 29 5 inch charms squares - the entire collection. Ahhhh. Thinking about these keeps me up at night.

Speaking of things to think about all night, Aimee, Lori, Porsche and I are planning our Yarn Tour 2007! Last year we went to the Classic Elite Mill store in Lowell and then several other shops on in Lexington and Cambridge. This year, we are going back to Lowell and then off to the great mother ship of discount yarn: Webs in Northampton. Since it's a 4 hour drive from here, we are spending the night in Holyoke (for some bizarre reason, every room in every hotel in Northampton is booked for the weekend of June 23rd. What's up with that?).

Yep, lots of things are going on. I'm going to go think about it now.