Saturday, October 25, 2014

Stitching Saturday: Knitting Retreat

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I had the honor to take part in a Contemplative Knitting Retreat last weekend, and it was such an amazing experience. I have a few crafty friends in real life, and when my friend Linda lived nearby I would go over to her house from time to time to knit together, but aside from that, I've never knit in a group with anyone else.


I have to say that what struck me most about this time spent with other knitters is that I realized... knitters are freaking awesome. Like, all of us. :)

Sometimes I have these moments when I go to the symphony or listen to live music and I just feel so moved by what I'm seeing, and I look around and realize no one else is feeling it at all (or at least they don't look like they are).

But in this group, I looked around and to my surprise and delight, so many people had the same look of awe and wonder on their face when they heard music, talked about the beautiful nature all around us, listened to poetry, etc. I kind of felt I'd found a home. :)

gorgeous Texas

The country was gorgeous - at night I could see so many stars, and the air just smelled right. It felt like a camping trip with air conditioning, good healthy food and lots of amenities, like really soft bed sheets and hot showers. :)




It was a nice mix of women from different faiths, so the contemplative aspect was very inclusive - there were spiritual readings, a Eucharist service on Sunday, and also reading from poetry and novels, while we all knitted. We could either join in a discussion or just listen. There was a talented violinist who played music each day, and that was a special treat - to be sitting just 2 feet away from such beautiful music.




It was a gorgeous experience, and I can't wait for the next one!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Stitching Saturday: Do What You Can Do

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starting out

I'm in love with this free pattern by Mollie Johanson. Lately, Do What You Can Do has become my informal mantra - the busier my life becomes, between blogging, real work, family, and volunteering - the more I realize that life will always be decisions as to what's important, what needs doing first, and what is a priority.


Recently, I was sent these beautiful Merino wool threads by Mountain Meadow Wool, so I did a test-drive and review on Feeling Stitchy.

It was a lot of fun, and challenging, as I was juggling a couple of other projects simultaneously, someone in my family was sick, and I was doing a lot of volunteering for the animal shelter and my church.


I struggle with my perfectionist side, that wants to create this amazing, perfectly designed experience which I just don't have the time to create. So, Do What You Can Do takes over.

I hung this on my wall so that it's the first thing I see when I wake up in the morning, and its reassurance has helped immensely when I feel stressed at all.


But ultimately, I think I'm going to gift this to my sister, as she is famous for wanting to do it all, too. :) How about you guys? Is your crafting and life gearing up to an all-time busy high as well? May I suggest sitting down with this pattern, and taking a little time for yourself? :)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Three things thursday: End of Summer projects

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End of Summer
family tree in progress

1. Farewell to summer, and farewell to my favorite swimsuit for now!
2. Colour Complements test-drive I did, with a free pattern on Feeling Stitchy.
3. A family tree project in progress.

It's been a busy month, hence the limited blogging, but I'm happy to say I feel like I accomplished a fair bit this summer!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

New Knit Stitch a Week: Pinterest Stitch

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Pinterest Stitch

Well, I found this stitch on Pinterest, so that's what I'm calling it. :) I know I said I was taking a break from these posts, but I've gotten so busy lately with other projects, that I knit up a quick swatch as a stress-buster. :)

I cast on 16 stitches on size 9 needles, in a teal yarn from my stash. I really love the blocky, basket-y texture.

Knit from this pattern, found on Pinterest:

Here's the wrong side:

Pinterest stitch, wrong side

Does anyone have a name for this kind of stitch? :)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Knitting on Wednesday: Sweater Quest

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So I was thinking I'd pause with the new knit stitch a week posts while I catch up on some new and old knitting projects. And I don't have a catchy phrase that rhymes with any day of the week, so I'm going instead with "Knitting on Wednesday." :)

I went on a sweater quest recently, not unlike last year's quest for a blanket. My Log cabin blanket, by the way, has grown quite nicely, and I'm almost finished with it... pictures soon. My sweater quest was long and arduous because, quite simply there's A LOT of ugly sweaters in the world. No really, not misunderstood or naturally beautiful - ugly, ugly sweaters. When it doesn't even look good on the nice-looking model, I have to think twice about it. :)

My inspiration was this beautiful sweater, from Late Summer:

I don't know a ton about sweaters, but this looks to me like a simple crewneck (?) sweater with an open, lacy knit pattern. Since this is my first sweater, I considered only beginner patterns I could easily keep track of...

1. Cropped Sweater by Andi Satterlund

I love this style of sweater and the scoop neck, but I think I'll save it for a later project with a tighter weave...

2. 3/4 Sleeve Classic Pullover

I like the 3/4 sleeves, since I always push the sleeves up my arms, anyway, and it looks like a looser fit. I just wasn't sure I could adapt it to suit a more open knit...

3. Alcina Sweater
This sweater already has a lacy, open look and I love the neckline - I just wasn't sure if I could figure out how to knit it without the ruching at the waistline (total beginner, I know).

4. My First Raglan Pullover

In the end, I decided to take the My First Sweater class on Craftsy, and work along with their free pattern, above. I'm intimidated by complicated knitting directions, so it's comforting to have a visual to follow along with. I don't love that rolled neckline, but I'm thinking I may be able to modify it if I don't get too lost. Also, I'm not sure about that eyelet design on the raglan sleeves, but I'll give it a chance, or modify it.

I started with a sport-weight yarn on size 9 needles, which would make for an open look, but not quite as open as the movie version:

Knitting my first sweater... first start.

The color match was fairly close, but all in all it didn't inspire me...  then I dropped some stitches at the beach, and had to totally unravel it.  Bummer. :(

Then I found this magical yarn:

working on my first sweater...

I'm knitting on size 11 needles for a more open look and I love the way the striping pattern works its way over the fabric, kind of a rainbow-y, tie-dye effect. I did a swatch test and worked out the math (I think) to make it work. And no, it's not the smallest sweater on earth (though the finished sweater might be fairly small) - it's very stretchy! :)

Here's a closeup of the yarn, the color name is Stained Glass, and it is quite gorgeous in person:

pretty yarn
pretty yarn

So what do you guys think? Have any of you knitted a sweater before? Any knitting tips for me would be appreciated! :)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Stitching Saturday: Hungry, hungry hippo

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Finished Hippo

Well, Hungry Hippo is what I'm calling her, because she ate up fiberfill stuffing like nobody's business. I thought a full 12 oz bag would work, but I had to make an emergency trip to the craft store to buy some more to fill out her curves. :)

Indeed, sew cute.

I'd say she's about toaster-sized, if a toaster sported an adorable head on it. :) I crafted her for the Sew Cute To Cuddle blog hop which is stopping off at Feeling Stitchy today - stop by for a chance to win a copy of the book!

I sewed her completely by hand, which ate up at least two full nights of sewing. The book is so well-laid out that even impatient, easily distracted novice sewers like myself can follow along.

I used a pretty fabric I'd been saving for a pillow back for some time now, and a couple of tiny turquoise scraps I dug out of my mom's fabric stash. I still had oodles of safety eyes from my knitted monkey and monster making days, and they worked out well.


The funny thing about sewing, for me, is how hard a time my brain has of visualizing what's happening, until I'm finished. Then, everything snaps into place and I have a forehead-smack moment. All in all, it was a fun sew, and a fun book.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Feline Friday: Pics and template tweaks

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I really loved this little guy last week - so cute and so photogenic. :)


I've been playing with the photo template I use for the shelter cat photos:


Previously, I would just put the shelter logo and ID number anywhere I could fit them.

I decided to use one standard size and orientation because their system stretches out any other orientation. And I added a sidebar to keep all the information in a consistent spot.


Someone adopted this charmingly cross-eyed kitty and named him Dobby. Perfect, right? :)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Three Things Thursday: Knitting in Japanese

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Setsuko Hara knitting Mariko Okada in Late Autumn Hand Quilting on Cozy Pumpkin
1. Setsuko Hara knitting; 2. Mariko Okada in Late Autumn; 3. Beautiful hand quilting threads on Cozy Pumpkin

Lately I'm on a big Yasujiro Ozu kick - he's a Japanese filmmaker who worked in the 1930's, 40's, 50's and 60's. My love of Ozu began years back, when I tearfully watched Tokyo Story, then Late Spring and Early Summer.

Recently I got Hulu Plus, and saw that almost ALL of Ozu's films are available there, so I've been working my way through them methodically, ever since. That knitting image of Setsuko Hara is fitting, since I typically knit through them - of course they're not embroidery friendly because I don't speak Japanese. :)

There's something so elementally simple and profound about his films. He's one of those filmmakers who feel like a kindred spirit to me - I mean, probably I'm overstepping my bounds, and if we had ever met in real life we'd have nothing to actually say to each other, but what I mean is - the world he presents through light and color and emotion in his films makes sense to me. A world where family is central, home is essential, and we all spend our lives either missing or making connections with each other. Our lives are filled with humor, silliness, anger, tedium, responsibility, joy, and regret.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

New Knit Stitch a Week: Ridge stitch

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Ridge stitch

I really liked this stitch. Just my style - very easy to remember, easy to stitch, and hard to mess up. :)

I cast on 16 stitches on size 9 needles, in Vannas's Choice (left) and a blue worsted weight yarn from my stash (right)

Row 1: knit
Row 2: *K2 tog all across the row*
Row 3: K in front and back of each st
Row 4: purl

The backside is also pretty lovely:

Ridge stitch, wrong side

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Stitching Saturday: Finished embroidery

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Finished embroidery

Well, I am finally finished with the embroidery on this soon-to-be-pillow.

Actually, I've been finished for weeks, but I was dreading the photography portion of my finish. Instead, I started on about 3 new projects. Just like a crafter, right? ;)

Finished: details

For whatever reason, it was so difficult to capture the colors and texture on this largish square piece.

Zoomed out, flat photos look so, well, flat. I switched back and forth between my HTC One phone camera and my fancy camera, but my fancy camera got the best shots.

Finished: details

Either way, I'm quite happy with all the colors and textures I was able to put into this piece. Adding crewel wool was really what brought it all together and made it possible for me to finish.

Finished: details

I love all the raised textures on the leaves. Though far from perfect, they're a wonderful pop of color. I like that I used 3 different shades of green (1 dark green pearl cotton, 1 lime green embroidery floss, and 1 lime green crewel wool). I would never have thought it until I tried it, but they combine well with each other.

I'll admit it, there were so many moments when I thought I'd chosen a terrible color and panicked. But for the most part, I rarely picked out mistake colors and just kept stitching. By plowing ahead, I was able to create relationships between colors I would have never imagined before...

Finished: details

This remains my favorite corner - stitched in pinks and red and yellows, in mostly in 6 strand embroidery floss - it's quite shiny and bright.

But it's tied for my affections with this corner flower motif-
Finished: details

I really went nuts with it in color and texture - it's about half 6 strand embroidery floss, and half crewel wool. My favorite part is that satin stitched jade greenish area near the center, with a teal crewel wool strand couched on top with 1 strand of orange crewel wool. I would have never put those 3 colors together ordinarily, but I just went with it and loved the result.

There are so many little details that bring me such joy in this piece, and it just feels satisfying to know that I stitched them all. I won't bore you with every bit, but suffice to say, I really love this piece, and it's one of my all time favorites.