Thursday, September 16, 2021

Fall Is Here!

I love fall, or as it's also called more formally perhaps, autumn. I say a big yes to sweater weather!!  Yes to cool nights and warm afternoons.  Sleeping with the bedroom windows open.  Trees changing colors and dropping leaves.  The crisp crunch of those leaves after they've fallen and you step on them.  Fresh vegetable stands with piles of apples and pumpkins!!  Bring it!

And squash! There is nothing like a butternut.  It's got a big fat bulb that's thick when you cut it so you can scoop out seeds without losing all the flesh, but the best part is the skinny bit up to the stem.  

Summer squash is good but autumn squash is awesome.  By now I'm tired of zucchini and ready for a nice orange acorn squash.

And did I mention sweater weather?  I'm not a fan of the turtleneck, but a nice big slouchy cowl style to keep you warm when the wind blows is just about the best thing in late fall.

... and nothing ever beats the Argyle!  I don't care if it's a golf vest or a cardigan or a nice pullover, they're so classic.

Fall in Wisconsin is great.  Spring is wonderful too but fall is just so special.  I guess it's because we're anticipating the long winters that start with the first snowfall (usually not 'measurable' until after Thanksgiving) and ends with the last frost in April or May.  <sigh>

Fall also means tons of apples.  The Elegant Farmer orchard is a couple of miles from where I live, so I see the trees as I drive by.  I see the people there on weekends, picking their own apples.  And apple pies are a real fall treat.  The bounty of nature in green and red, with a nice piecrust thrown in for good measure.


Today I'm sitting in the kitchen with the windows open, listening to birds chirp and loving the afternoon sunshine.  Miss Kitty is sunning herself on her padded cat condo.  Pretty soon I'll have to put the soup on the stove and make some rolls, but for now I'm just soaking up the pretty afternoon.

Life is good!


Saturday, September 11, 2021

Monogamous or Polygamous Knitting?

    Which are you?  Which am I?  Funny, the only place I'm monogamous is in my spousal relationship!  Otherwise, not so much... let me explain.

One husband.  Fifty years this September 25.  Sometimes it's fun, sometimes not so much but I've never seriously contemplated anything else.  

But in my crafting life?  Totally poly!  

One project at a time is deadly boring.  I have posted in the past about Process vs Project people in sewing and quilting.  I'm talking about where a person is either dedicated to finishing one project before they start another or is just in love with a portion of the process and wants to do it over and over again.  Plan, sew, repeat.  I am a Process person, and getting a project done is a bonus but not vital to my being.  My sister, on the other hand, appears to be a project person, finishing one before she begins the next.  Her philosophy:  Buy what you need and get it done.  Mine:  Stash!!  You might want to start something when the stores are closed!!  What will you do then??  LOL!


There's a YouTube channel by two sisters called Frugal & Frivolous and on a recent video they were discussing the fact that one of them is monogamous and the other is not.  The mono sister was kind of lamenting her decision to do a year of monogamous knitting, because she likes to knit big projects and they can take a while.  This results in weeks if not months of endless stockinette stitch on the body of a sweater or a shawl in garter that goes on for miles.

Not. Me.


Other knitters talk about the 'bus sock' or the 'car shawl' or which project bag holds what current WIP (work in progress).  Yes!  I am that person!  We don't do much traveling these days, and since I never really spent time on a bus commuting to work, I didn't have that project.  But I did knit in the lunchroom at my job (eons ago!) and I sometimes carry small projects along to the dentist's office or the doctor's, in case there's a wait.  Those projects are generally small items that have patterns that don't require huge amounts of concentration, so you may carry on a conversation while you're knitting.

When I was making the Harry Styles sweater for my oldest grand, I carried it around with the pattern folded up in a project bag.  It was relatively easy to do on the go.  Bulky yarn, size 8 needles, cast on the same number of stitches for every row, knit until you have a square, change color and stitch, on you go.  All the greens are the same stitch, all the orange are another, etc.  Kind of a no-brainer.  This one you can knit and visit simultaneously.  But it's large, so therefore you must have a companion project to break up the boredom!

Enter the baby sweater.  I had a specific baby in mind for this one, but that's not always necessary.  You find out a friend is expecting or has just acquired a new grandbaby and you want to respond right away with a small token of congratulations, not wait until said grand is walking.  I learned this from my aunt Clara.  She knit fabulous layettes in various colors and stacked them in boxes in her closet.  Someone having a baby?  I have just the thing!  And out popped a box of blue or pink or green or yellow.  Her gifts were the hit of any baby shower.  

Besides, the knitting of a small item with no deadline becomes an exercise in pure pleasure for me.  And a 'palate cleanser' when you're getting bored with endless garter stitch or looking at that same yarn for days!

So yes, I am a polygamous.  I will not apologize for having six sets of size 2.25mm dpn sock needles so I can have several going at the same time.  I may need to knit a man's sock in some boring dark color but I can occasionally sneak a short date with a ball or even two of self-striping sock yarn to keep the magic alive.

Knit on...

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Knitting Needles - It's Personal!

Ask any random five knitters which needles are the best and you'll get five or more different answers.

For the non-knitters, needles come in a couple of styles, with different uses for various projects.  The style people are most often introduced to first are straight needles.  They come in various lengths and materials.  The first needles I ever had were a gift from my Aunty June.  They were metal and about 14 inches long.   They were silver, shiny and slippery.  

In my 50's I developed arthritis in my hands.  It got bad enough that I did some research to see what I could do to prevent the constant ache I got from doing various things.  One thing I had noticed was that holding metal needles hurt, not because they were bad needles but they felt cool to the touch all the time.  The fact that they were slippery made me grip things tighter, which caused aching later in the day.  So bye-bye metal needles.  Now I have bamboo straight needles, and a few sets of plastic needles.

Next come double pointed needles, or DPNs.  These are great for knitting things in the round, like socks or sometimes sweater sleeves.  They'll be in sets of four or five or six, and anywhere from four to seven inches long.  The fancy type has a metal tip with a plastic or wooden barrel.  I knit my socks on dpns,
although I have flirted with other methods.  Like magic loop, or two circs.  But more on that later.

Sets of four plastic needles in various sizes.
Knit Picks Wood Needles in colors that change by size.  Fun!

The last type of needle in my collection is the circular needle, also known as the curly needles by my grands.  They are needles connected by cables, and come in lengths from nine inches to 40 inches, and can either be fixed or interchangeable.  Fixed is as you would expect permanently connected.

Interchangeable have ends that come off, and various cable lengths that can make any of a gazillion combinations of needle size.  This shows what normally come with an interchangeable set:  Ends, cord, caps and pins. 

The pins are little wires to tighten the ends of these interchangeables.  That prevents the disaster of lost stitches when the end comes off because it was too loose!  And the black circular items are caps that  make the configuration of one end and one cord into the equivalent of a straight needle.  They prevent lost stitches.

Interchangeable needles are expensive when you buy the whole set, but probably cheaper than the total price of the equivalent number of fixed needles you'd have to buy to make everything you can make from the set.

I have two interchangeable sets.  One is bamboo from Clover.  I like them and use them a lot.  The one drawback as I see it is that they don't lock so the size five ends tend to unscrew and I have to tighten them periodically.  Why only the fives is a mystery.  I also have a set of Knit Picks wood needles with a longer end piece.  Their longer length makes them reach out past the heel of my hands when I knit. This is more comfortable for me. They lock and stay secure.  I love them and use them for nearly every sweater project I start.

That is my dissertation on knitting needles!  There are reasons to use each type for various projects, and every knitter has his or her preference.  Some day I may tell this blog about my sock knitting adventures, but you can learn more from the experts than I could tell you.  My advice?  Take a little trip to your local yarn shop and stand in front of the needle display.  Start a conversation with anyone who comes to visit you there.  Listen, learn, absorb.  Then try some!

Knit on...

Friday, August 27, 2021

Blame It On the Yarn Harlot...

 Ha ha!  Not really, but maybe...

So if you're reading this you know that I have all of the fiber addictions.  Fabric.  Yarn.  Thread.  Beads and buttons and patterns and rulers and all things crafty.  Paper too.  Cards and stationery dating back to when people used to write actual letters and send actual cards.  

But as far as my yarn went, I shopped at the chain stores and bought the most inexpensive yarn I could find.  My mother and I were Red Heart fans.  NOT that there's anything wrong with that! It comes in lots of great colors, it feels nice in your hands, and it's readily available in all sorts of quantities.

But when in my sewing life I came across American Sewing Guild and was introduced to the concept of using the best materials you can afford, and saw what a difference it made in the things I was making, well, that sort of life-altering concept can transform you.

I researched and found a local yarn shop or two in my area.  A couple of them have since closed but my favorite one, Cream City Yarn, is still in business.  It's a tiny little shop with lots of personality.  It's also where I learned to knit socks the right way(s) and where I learned to do colorwork.

I cannot remember exactly how or when I stumbled across a blog called on the web.  Probably more than a decade ago... but who's counting?  Anyway, she is Stephanie McPhee, a Canadian knitter of famous proportions, who excels at explaining things to people in clear and concise language which in turn makes them better knitters.  You can tell I'm a fan, right? 

After discovering the blog, I also discovered she's a writer, and I bought and devoured many of her books.  AND she teaches knitting!!  I'll bet you could see that coming.

She has taught (before Covid) at knitting conferences, some of which she runs with friends in Canada. I narrowly missed getting into a class before I retired (not quick enough to react before they were full...)  And now, she teachings via the Web on a site called Patreon, to which you can subscribe during this not-getting-together-too-much time.  I subscribed.  After all, what else was there to do besides watch bad TV and YouTube on any subject known to man and some unknown (and should remain so!)

Also about this same time I discovered Roxanne Richardson, who is a Master Knitter and very knowledgeable and who has a YouTube Channel and a Ravelry thread called Rox Rocks.  Which led me to Clara Parkes and Suzanne Bryant and Barbara Knits and, well, you can see where this is going.

ANYWAY, back to blaming.  These knitters have one thing in common.  They know a LOT about yarn.  Especially Stephanie and Clara.  Clara may be the and I mean capital THE yarn expert.  She now has a place called the Wool Channel.  A. Maze. Ing.

Watching Patreon after reading the yarnharlot blog for years changed my yarn shopping a bit.  I started buying better quality natural fiber yarn, and most of that yarn comes in hanks.  This is a different sort of configuration than they have at the chains.  You need EQUIPMENT!  

You can see that this nicely wound hank of Malabrigo yarn is lovely, but if you tried to knit directly from it, Tangle City.  Take my word for it and don't even try.

You can untwist the hank and hang it over the back of a chair if you want.  In the 'olden days', a child or spouse might be convinced to hold the skein while you wound the up to 500 yards of it into balls for knitting.  Therefore, a yarn winder is required.  Well, not required, but it speeds up the process.  The winder creates what's called a cake (see the top of the picture, the blob in red) which can be used from the outside or from the inside.  A cake tends not to roll away from you or attract your cat.

Using the winder from yarn slung over the back of a chair was somewhat challenging, although I did that for a while.  I graduated to winding from chair to ball by hand, and then winding from ball to cake. (You put the ball in a box or a bowl to keep it from escaping.)  That then, led to finding an alternative to the back of a chair, since my spouse/children/grandchildren were not available for the holding.  My aunt had a yarn swift, made for her by my uncle, who was also unavailable for holding the yarn.  

I searched sites for something manageable both in size and in price.  I found this type.  *It should be noted here that my local yarn shop will wind anything that I purchase there at no additional cost, and so will some on-line dealers although some have a winding fee and many do not choose to do that.

My swift is easy to assemble, use and disassemble, and stores in a flat box in my closet.

The next thing I wanted was a yarn bowl.  It holds a ball or a cake, and the yarn goes from the slit on the side to your needles.  Control is gained, and cats are discouraged.   I had my eye on this shape below for so long... and finally one Christmas my son bought me one.  Until then, I'd used a number of things, including a plain old bowl, a flower pot and an orange juice carton with the side cut out.

The bowl is nicer.  But sometimes you're knitting more than one project.  (What?  You're a monogamous knitter?  OK... skip this part.)  So I became a collector of nice yarn bowls, and I now have, ummm, more than two.

So in my yarn collection I now have yarn, a winder (or two), alpaca yarn, one swift, a couple of bowls, wool yarn, many different types of needles (which might be a future post), also a million knitting markers of different types, cashmere yarn, knitting gauge tools, cotton yarn,, needles gauge tools, mohair yarn, patterns, a Ravelry account where I keep a stash list more or less current, and crochet hooks.  I subscribe to several favorite YouTube channels and a have couple of Patreons I follow.  

My youngest grand has taken a lot of my chain store yarn and is learning to crochet.  She's doing great and her great-grandma would be very proud, as am I.

I also at some point bought a hand-made yarn spindle.  It works fine for cakes but not for balls.  As you knit from the outside of the cake, the spindle turns and viola! No yarn tangles!

If Stephanie McPhee hadn't explained to me the various types of things in her stash, and why to choose one fiber over another, would I have all of this stuff?  Well, probably yes, but it would not have the quality or the value to my knitting that it does if I had not learned the whys and the wherefores.  

So, Steph and Rox and Clara and all the rest, I'm not so much blaming you as showing you homage as I knit on wool and blends and yes, sometimes even my beloved Red Heart.

Knit on...


Wednesday, August 4, 2021

I Quilt By Checkbook

 I always say that I quilt by checkbook.  Yes, I mean I pay someone else to do it most of the time!

It does mean that I can't finish as many quilts as I'd like to finish, but it also means that the ones I do get finished are VERY well done!

My quilter lives in the next town over, in Waukesha County WI.  She's good and fast and makes great decisions if you tell her to just do whatever she feels like doing.  

I took two quilts over to her in July.  I posted about them in June... I'm hardly ever in a rush, and I try to space them out so I an afford to pay for them without jeopardizing my lunch money.

These two were finished this week, and I picked them up on Tuesday.  They are wonderful!  

The first one was really old, as far as when it was started.  But it was finished in 2021 so that's what will be going on the label.  It's a Judy Hasheider design called Quodlibet.  I love how it turned out!


She sent me the first picture from her machine as she was starting it to let me know it was in the works.  The picture does not do it justice.  Here's a closeup of one of  the flying geese.  

Next is the Mystery Quilt from the February retreat.  The designer called it Penny's Star.  Penny is his sister and she owns the Quilt-Agious shop in Mukwonago WI where I used to work part time.  


The quilting on this one is also amazing... now to get to trimming and binding.

I appear to have a thing for blue quilts!

Sew on...

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Sunday Snoozy

It's 3:30 p.m. on Sunday afternoon and all I've managed to do today is make a sandwich for lunch.  Well, I did get up, take a shower and go to church.  I suppose that's why I'm feeling like I'd really like to take a nap!

We're experiencing some bad air quality because of the wildfires in Canada, according to the weather girls.  I guess the smoke from the California fires are stopped by the Rocky Mountains, but the ones in Canada are sending their smoke on the winds generated by high pressure/low pressure systems and the air is murky up high.  Well, at least it's blocking the hottest rays of the sun and keeping the temperatures in the 70s.  

There is some yarn sitting in a box on my table, airing out.  It's some 100% wool yarn I bought to make a sweater but it smells!  When I opened the box it was in a plastic bag, and when I opened the bag, whew!!  It smelled pretty strong, kind of like petroleum.  I left it out in the kitchen for a week, and every time I walked into the room I smelled it.  Hubster didn't, even when he held it to his nose!

I wrote a note to customer service where I bought it, and they immediately answered  with some suggestions for airing it out.  They also offered a replacement or a refund at my pleasure. I laid it in the sun for a day but that really did nothing.  I'm taking a refund.  I don't have to send the yarn back, but really I'd like to just get it out of the kitchen!  Is this what sheep smell like??  LOL!  

I knit a swatch with it and washed it to see if that helped.  The wet swatch smelled Hor.I.Ble!  Nope, washing isn't the solution.  And knitting it made my hands smell slightly.

Hubster still cannot smell it.  I'm not saying where I got it because the vendor has never disappointed me before and I'm sure they told me the truth when they said they never had this problem before.  It's either a bad batch or I'm too sensitive to smells.

Speaking of knitting, I'm making a sweater for my middle granddaughter.  It's on small needles and in DK weight yarn so it's taking some time.  Wednesday night I discovered a booboo and had to tink (knit backwards) about 8 rows, which took me up before the point where you split for the sleeves.  It was over 2,100 stitches!  I was crying the blues... literally!

See those places in the center where the Vee pattern appears?  I missed a couple and since it's the center front, it would have stuck out like a sore thumb.  So rippit, rippit!  Sad, it's so sad when that happens!

Quilting is going well for the most part.  I'm working on two things, one is the bonus half square triangles left over from the mystery quilt from February.  They're finally being made into flying geese for a second quilt.

These are the bonus half-square triangles... navy and white.  I pressed the seams to the dark side, now I'm re-pressing them open, because they go better at the goose points that way.  I wish I'd decided which bonus quilt to do earlier, and pressed them open originally!  

I think my points look pretty good, in spite of the extra pressing!  Four hsts make two geese, which when sewn togehter make a 6 1/2 inch block.  I need 32 blocks.  For you math wizards, that's 128 hst units!   

This could take a while.

The other project I'm working on is Pat Sloan's Traffic Jam.  You take all of your 2 1/2 inch scraps and make this block:

I auditioned two different greens for the background.  I'm kind of liking this second selection, and I have enough to do green cornerstones with black sashing. This is also a long term project.

Hubby decided he was bored looking at my Escher quilt hanging on the stairs, so we 'redecorated'... I hung Twisted Bargello, a wall quilt I made 8 or 10 years ago.  The making of this quilt was a pain.  I called it the Bargello From Hell.  The pattern had you making sections and taking some out, reversing the order, all sorts of foolishness, to make this twist in the center.  The family quilt group did it at a retreat.  I may have been the second to last person in the group to finish.  

I think it looks pretty good on the wall!  With a distance of 10 years from the construction process, I can like it again.  It goes really well with my living room!

Sew on...

Saturday, July 24, 2021


 I used to love-love-love Saturdays!  For the 40something years of raising a family and working full time I loved it that for one day I didn't have to leap out of bed, drag other butts out too, get kids off to wherever or get in my car and head for rush hour traffic.

But Saturday was sewing day.  A whole day of no job-related work, especially after the kids grew up and left the house.

So now that I'm retired from all of my paying jobs, it's just another 'not Sunday' day... kind of a bummer!  I wake up when I'm done sleeping (usually around 7 a.m.) and sometimes I stay in bed and read for a while.  Sometimes I get up and get dressed right away, and make the bed and toss a load into the washing machine and come downstairs to make a cup of tea.

Since March of 2020 I've spent a lot of time in my sewing room.  I've organized the bins and shelves, books and magazines.  There were a couple of quilts that I finished, two of which are at the long armer right now.  Two more are waiting for me to find backs for them so they also can be long-arm quilted.  One is in pieces in a project bin, and several are waiting for me to cut the pieces of fabric.

THEN I got into a garment sewing kick... well, after handling all of the non-quilting fabric I own, it seemed almost criminal not to sew something useful with the yardage.

In the stash are a number of well designed patterns for tops.  One is Vogue 1733, and while I did find many fabrics that were appropriate, none of the cuts I would have chosen were large enough for the asymmetrical hem unless they were pieced.  It's a Marcy Tilton design.  Wow, I'd forgotten I had actually met some of the Vogue designers when I was a member of American Sewing Guild!  It's like going home.

Sooooo -- fabric shopping happened.  I've always been attracted to stripes, and stripe with flowers strewn on them are a bonus.  So top number one happened.

Here's me in the closet mirror trying to capture the whole top!  Actually at my height I could have trimmed off a few inches at the hem.  I guess that's why they put those 'lengthen-shorten' lines on the pattern.  😉😉  This one turned out so well, I made a second one with a red cotton knit, but the hem is a rounded shirt tail style.  I also made two with woven fabrics, and found that I had to size up on those because when I sit down, the midriff area feels a little snug.  

Next I tried a Sewing Workshop pattern.  They're designed by Linda Lee.  She names all of her patterns, as a lot of independent designers do... after friends maybe?  Some a puns.  There are a few with numbers.  I digress.

I tried the Eureka top.  It says 'loose fitting'.  That does not go anywhere near describing this top accurately.  It should say 'swimmingly huge' or something.

I had some rayon batik in a color that I love - turquoise with splashes of blue.  I made it in an XL because those were the body measurements in their sizing on other patterns I've used.  Big mistake!  And when I say big, I mean BIG!  

First, it's too big.  OK I can fix that.  Secondly, those bands on the sleeves are double layered, so they stood out like cardboard.  Thirdly, the fabric got stiff as I ironed it, so it had very little drape.  I made it smaller, and hopefully it will soften up when I re-wash it this week.  I didn't take a picture of me in it.  Disappointing...  but I had already cut out a second top with a different fabric.

This time I used a blue floral print, a denim-colored background with navy flowers, what they're now calling 'painterly'.  The fabric has lots of drape and a krinkly texture.  I had some navy solid that I used for the sleeves and to bind the neck edge.  That one turned out better, but I don't like the way the wide sleeve bands cut across my arms.  Maybe if I were taller?  So when I wore this one, I folded the bands up so they're only an inch wide.  I like that better.  I'll have to trim them down, though, because folded they're four layers thick.  Sorry, again, no picture.  I had cut this one in a size L.  For a woven, it's OK but it could have probably been a bit smaller.

I tried a third time in a knit.  Again I cut a size L.  I used a contrast trim on the neck edge using a variation on a bias binding.  I think it's called French trim.  This is from the web site Sewing Review:

  •  "You apply the binding to the wrong side. Then fold over to the right side. (I recommend pressing at that point.) Then topstitch down on the front. Now why can't they just say that!"
  • You sew the binding into a circle... divide the binding and neckline into quarters, pin or wonder tape in place, then apply, as explained above.
  • The length of the binding should be about 2/3 to 3/4 the neckline circumference, plus seam allowances.  
  • I first read about French Binding in High Fashion Sewing Secrets from the World's Best Designers by Claire Schaeffer, p 45 - 48.  But CS has you apply the binding to the RIGHT side first, wrap around to the back, then topstitch on the right side.  

That worked out fine, I also used Claire Schaeffer's method of sewing it on the right side and rolling it to the back.   Since I was using a knit, I used a single layer instead of folding in half.  I like the look, but I have decided that this neckline needs to be a bit deeper for me.  It's almost crew-neck style, and for my face shape it's a bit high.

No picture.  It's too big again, I don't know what size I cut, but it's drowning big.  It's back on the table for alteration.

<Sigh>  So instead of spending today (Saturday) making something new, I'll be re-doing two tops I've already made.  

Some people say this is why they quilt!


Sew on!