Thursday, November 20, 2008

Before and After

This post is about the miracle of "before" and "after." Here we see my "Meret" (Mystery Beret from Woolywormhead's Ravelry KAL) finished but before blocking.
Now we see the Meret blocked and beautiful.
A second type of before and after depends on your angle of view. I'm teaching an Illusion Knitting class at the Guild in January, so I thought I'd better make a sample so people will see what they're signing up for. We're going to make knitted dishcloths with illusion designs. They'll be able to choose between a heart (pictured here) or a snowflake. If you look at the cloth straight on, you see nothing but lines of red and white. At an angle, however, the heart picture pops miraculously out at you.
Last, we just have an after. Here is a picture of the first small skein of pure angora from Genevieve. I expect her wool will get a little lighter as she grows older -- she's just turned 6 mos. old. The wool we harvested from her was definitely her junior wool.

Friday, November 7, 2008

MORE Finished Objects ... I'm on a roll!

Yes, that's right: MORE finished objects! I've been stagnating for so long that it's unbelievable.

I'm having lunch with Lynne today and I decided that I absolutely HAVE to finish her birthday present (which was supposed to be done in April). I have no good excuse ... It's been 95% complete since we went to Wool Fest in April. Somehow, it just didn't get done. It's a felted knitting bag for her.

I bought a lovely fair isle wool sweater at Goodwill and felted it to make a firm fabric. Then I cut it into a rectangle and sewed it up to make a pillowcase sort of shape. I bought some satiny lining for the inside, made a little pocket with another piece of the satin, sewed it into a pillowcase shape and then put it inside and sewed it around the top. I doubled the ribbed top over and hem-stitched it to the inside to make it more sturdy. Then I felted a burgundy I-cord to make the closure/handle. I just poked holes in the felt to run the I-cord through. It wasn't a difficult project -- except that I'm sewing retarded.

Another completed project that had been languishing is the refinishing of my great great grandfather's bed. We have an amazing bedroom suite that has been handed down in my family for years that was handmade by my great great grandfather. It's walnut and both simple and elegant. You can tell it was handmade, for one, because each of the little decorative spindles is different. You can also see the mark of the old saw on the walnut when the planks were cut. It also has two mysterious burn marks on the underside of the railings. An oil lamp that got too close? A house fire the bed was saved from? I don't guess we'll ever know.

In addition to the bed, there's a large dresser with four huge drawers that matches the bed. (It's in my daughter's room -- pardon the mess.) I haven't refinished it yet. What's cool about the dresser, though, is that on the top there's a large round burn mark where the old oil lamp used to sit.

I started stripping the bed last summer (not 2008 ... 2007) and got maybe 70% of the job done and then got distracted. Finally, a couple of months ago, I took it down to Mom and Dad's house so my sister Kathryn could see it. She's a really good furniture refinisher and we planned to have a refinishing "party" with it. I got it almost completely stripped at the "party" and brought it home almost ready for staining. The weather has been good this fall so I was able to finish the stripping, do the staining and apply two coats of tung oil before cold weather hit. Now all I need to do is set it up in the guest room and buy a mattress for it. A mattress will have to be custom made for it, because it isn't a standard size, but the Original Mattress Co. has assured me that it's no big deal.

Last, but not least, as featured in a previous blog entry, I finished Kate's Civil War era dress that has been in the works for more than a year. I definitely want that mentioned among my finished objects. Here's a picture of her in the dress. She sank gracefully to the floor and Sam, of course, couldn't resist curling up on the skirt.

For the next post, look for my UNfinished objects.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Finished Objects

Hurray for daylight savings time! I was just getting ready to roust the kids upstairs to get ready for church and they reminded me that I have an extra hour. That means I finally have time to blog a little.

This blog entry is about FOs -- Finished Objects. I'm not as prolific as, say, Wendy Johnson (who must knit in her sleep -- it's the only explanation), but I've finished a few things this year.

First off, I finally finished the Sample Stitch Kimono (SSK) knitalong that I did under the guidance of Gwen Bortner. This was a really fun knitalong where each month you learn new knitting stitches. Gwen designed a kimono shaped cardigan sweater that is made up of strips of knitting sewn together. There were 12 strips, one for each month, and each month Gwen would send us a new instruction sheet with a skill to learn. To learn the skill -- cabling, drop stitches, bobbles, etc. -- we could choose from 2 or 3 patterns that use that skill to make that month's strip. At the end of 12 months, we sewed the strips together into a kimono. Everyone chose different wool, different colors, different patterns within each skill, and sewed them together in different order -- so everyone ended up with a different sweater.

Mine is made of grey Knitpicks Merino Style. I ended up with sleeves that are way too long, so Gwen suggested I remove a panel from each side. I also crocheted an edging around the neck and front opening to give it a more finished look.

The end result is a piece of fabric that I LOVE. It's texture is amazing and it feels great. However, Gwen is about 10 feet tall and slim and can carry a sweater of that bulk. At my height and weight, it seems bulky and not altogether attractive (although I've received a lot of compliments on it). There's a tremendous amount of material in the kimono sleeves that wants to just bunch around my waist in an unappealing way. Still, the girls wear it to keep warm (it swallows them) and I wear it around the house. Mostly though, I just drape it over things and admire it.

I've also finished the two hats Kate asked me to make for her friends, Payton and Elena. Her friends admired a hat she was wearing that she mistakenly thought I had made. Actually, it was a fair isle tam made of acrylic that Jeff's Mother gave me for Christmas years ago. Anyway, Kate and her big mouth told the girls, "I bet my Mom would make you guys one!" They all three wanted to wear hats alike. Knowing nothing about making fair isle tams, I bought Mary Rowe's book "Knitted Tams" and with a few missteps and several visits to the frog pond, was able to produce two passable fair isle knitted tams for the girls.

They LOVED the hats. Payton, especially, was thrilled with hers. Unfortunately, when she got it home that night she put it on the bannister of the stairs and her dog grabbed it and chewed three big holes in it. She was devastated and called Kate up all upset. What could Kate do but promise that I would fix it? EEEk! I revisited the course notes I took last summer with Lucy Neatby on fixing knitting problems and reknitted the bottom 2 inches of the hat (the entire ribbing and a little more). Then I fixed the two holes in the body as well as I could. It's not perfect, but Kate was pleased and said she couldn't see the damage any more. She's taking it back to Payton on Monday.

Another recent completion has been the Jean Greenhowe nativity. There are a lot of characters available to knit in this set, but I'm just starting with the holy family this year. It's fiddley work but I'm pleased with the results. I'd like to add shepherds and sheep next year and then the wise men. I'm using some of my vast amounts of Knitpicks Wool of the Andes to make these guys. It's a great way to use up small amounts of yarn.

Early in the year I experimented with dying sock yarn so that it would be self-striping. I actually taught a class at the Guild on it. My first efforts were finally knit into a pair of socks that I gave to my niece at Amherst -- where she NEEDS wool socks. They're a little gaudy, but she seemed to like them.

In the spring I made another little gift: this apple hat, a free pattern on Ravelry. I made it for a my friend Jenny, who had just delivered her seventh child (and first girl). Her oldest child is in first grade and Jenny deserves a whole lot more than a silly hat.

Also in the spring, as Wool Fest in Greencastle, IN, I took a class in needle felting and made this hat. It's made of alpaca fiber and I was very proud of it and wore it all over the festival and received many compliments on it.
When I got home and showed it to my family they howled with laughter and said it looked just like a pimp hat. Needless to say, I haven't worn it since. They sort of had a point ...

Over the summer, while we were practicing our community theatre production of "Oliver Twist," I knitted this shawl from the free Voyager lace stole pattern on Ravelry. I made it from a hank of 100% alpaca from Peru that I had gotten from Barb Gallagher at Weaver's Loft. It's very soft and I like the pattern, but the yarn was difficult to work with. It was only two ply and very soft wool and kept breaking, especially at the beginning. However, I persevered and it turned out nicely. It may be a Christmas gift for someone.

Depending on how you define "finished," these are also finished objects: two skeins of yarn from the "Fondle This" club at Susan's Spinning Bunny. After you join the club, Susan sends you some gorgeous hand dyed fiber each month along with suggestions for spinning it and a pattern for something that can be knitted out of the spun fiber. We've had llama, silk, bluefaced leicester, camel, yak and so on. So far I've only gotten around to spinning two of this year's offerings, but it's not because I didn't want to!
The blue and green one on the left is llama and the dusty rose on the right is tussah (wild) silk. I'm going to make a beaded silk scarf out of the dusty rose in the near future (in fact, I may cast on tonight).
So, I haven't been entirely idle this year. It's fun to see what I've accomplished. My next blog will cover those dreaded UFOs. I've got several and I've vowed to either finish or frog them!