Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Merry Christmas!

four finished birds!

Well, here we are at Christmas and I finished a grand total of 6 birds! Only 4 are pictured up there - but right now they're my personal favorites...

front and back

Wishing you all, and whatever you do this day, a very merry and wonderful Christmas!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Stitching Saturday: a little embroidering

crafting birds

Heavens, yes, I know it's been forever. I've been crafting, mostly under the radar, just for pleasure or for FS reviews. I've also been adding to my log cabin knitted blanket, which has grown quite large. And it's cold in our pre-central-heating house, which means my hands ache after a day of crafting.

Nevertheless, I found this Snowy Bird Pattern by Larissa Holland a few days ago, and instantly had it purchased, downloaded, and ready to craft. I finished my first bird after about 5 hours of stitching, which included a hunt in my house for sequins. All I found was an iridescent green sequin ribbon which I've been patiently detaching the sequins from, bit by bit.

I liked my first bird, though it was far from perfect. Against Larissa's sage advice, I used the cheap acrylic felt I owned, because I prefer to use what I have, and because I'm too darn impatient to wait for felt. Also, it would likely be Christmas before it arrived at my house. :) I'm an old hand at crafting with cheap acrylic felt - I kne exactly what would be frustrating, and have formed my own workarounds over the years, so it went fine.

I've never, ever crafted with sequins before, and had you asked me my preference, I would have previously classed them in the same taste category as bedazzlers and puffy paint - not exactly my cup of tea. But there's something about the way Larissa incorporates them into her design that is so elegant. And they're so sparkly and dazzling.

birds to make more birds to make
and still more birds to make

In no time, I had the makings of 10 more birds all cut out and ready to stitch. I admit, I went a bit bonkers, but there is something so addicting about this pattern, I can truly say that almost every color combination I put together looked great. Also, there's something a little Charley Harper about the geometric unstitched bird shapes... these would look great as papercuts, too.

getting started with the sequins

I've been using every day at lunchtime to sit down with needle, thread, sequins, and beads. When I first stitched these with a drink at Starbucks, one of the baristas came up to look at them at chat with me. I have to say this is one of my favorite things about crafting - the delicious inner calm and perfect silence you experience, only when creating, drawing, stitching, whatever. And the innate curiosity just about every human being has about crafting - I like how it breaks down walls and can bring the shyest of people together for a conversation.

bird in progress

I tried to snap a picture of each step in the embellishment process so I could come back and see what I might change around and improve on in my choice of materials...

getting started with the sequins

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Stitching Saturday: Owl pillow frenzy

Last week I received the super-adorable Sew and Stitch Embroidery by Alyssa Thomas of Penguin and Fish to review. I received it on a Thursday and had to have my review done by Saturday, so time was very tight.

In spite of all logical time considerations, this little owl pillow called out a siren song to me:


I wasn't about to trying sewing a pillow, but I might have enough time to do the embroidery, if I hurried... I went to the mall that night and picked up a pre-made pillow that looked stitchable and two hemstitched linen napkins, in case the premade pillow was a bust.

The premade pillow was a bust.

first try

I did everything wrong - my problems started with the transfer process. I had to enlarge the pattern (easy enough, my printer does that) and trace it onto my fabric. I didn't have tracing paper, so I tried an elaborate system of poking holes and marking every so often and connecting the dots with a charcoal pencil. But as I stitched, the faint lines disappeared - argh! The material seemed soft, but it had an almost impenetrable backside - getting a needle through it was worse than stitching through jeans. I was also silly enough to try to stitch it while stuffed. I finally unstuffed it and had better luck stitching, but not much better. The fabric was also a little stretchy, so all my satin stitch and long and short stitch areas buckled. I was beyond frustrated.

I reached despair and acceptance and tried the linen napkin instead. I'd never tried long and short stitch successfully before, and I was afraid it would be even harder with yarn - but yarn and linen were a perfect match!
face detail

I really love the soft texture it made on the face:
owl teaser...

Instead of that terrible charcoal pencil, I tried one of my Prismacolor pencils and it showed up perfectly. If you use one, I'd be careful - I'm not sure they wash off, and the blue color transferred a bit to my white yarn, but I was so happy that I was past caring.

Everything just worked better on linen - these are the yarns I used:
yarns I used
From left to right: Caron Simply Soft, white; Caron Simply Soft Light, Capri; Caron Simply Soft Light, Heavy Cream; Caron Simply Soft Light, Black; Patons Beehive Baby Sport, Delicate Green; Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Worsted, Orange

Here's my finished owl, ready to be stitched into a pillow:
my pillow

I really love the subtle simplicity of this owl on linen - just a gorgeous project. If you love cute, simple designs, I recommend the book, for sure.
even more owl detail

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Stitching Saturday: still with the knitting


Yes, I know, August is over, and so is September. I spent a nice few days organizing all my projects and plans... somewhat. Up above is a color scheme I was thinking of for a future Log Cabin knit quilt.

I've already started on this quilt, as I mentioned previously, it's already a perfect size to warm my lap in the cool South Texas winter. Yes cool, it's never really cold here. :)
Log Cabin quilt

Here's the back - I like the bumpy look - I'm hoping my toes won't catch on the edges, though:

Here's a project I finished ages ago, but didn't photograph (this is becoming a bit common for me, sigh):

It's a combination of two Katie Kutthroat patterns I love: "That's what she said" and the border from "You're a Hooker"

Aside from that, I've been doing the normal: reading voraciously, teaching people to knit, buying too much yarn, and wishing I had time to stitch everything. Hope all are well! :)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Wildlife Wednesday

spider and bee

Here's a huge bee-size garden spider I encountered last month, in the middle of rolling up a honeybee. Awesomely creepy.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Three Things Thursday

Satin Stitch Bird on Do Small Things With Love
Embroidered Name on Do Small Things With Love
Whiskers Baby Quilt on Six White Horses

Three lovely things found online: 
1. Satin Stitch Bird on Do Small Things With Love
2. Embroidered Name on Do Small Things With Love
3. Whiskers Baby Quilt on Six White Horses

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Knitting inspiration - quest for a blanket

I haven't been writing, but I have been knitting A LOT this past month. I went through many successive phases in my quest for a new knitting project, truth be told.

After washing my acrylic Vanna's Choice Dr. Who scarf, it became so dreamy soft that the whole unpleasant process was washed away in my mind. Knitting up a whole new scarf in wools just because I hated the acrylic seemed silly, and I just felt done with my Dr. Who knitting phase. :)

My new quest: Use my favorite cheap yarn - Love This Yarn - in a soft, squishy blanket. I vowed (sort of) I would not buy new yarn (if I could help it). :)

1. Chevron Blanket
First I fell in love with chevron blankets, like this gorgeous one by Purl Soho:

Two Purl Bee Classics, Now is Super Soft Merino!
Purl Soho blanket pattern

But when I used Love This Yarn in this pattern I didn't love it so much. It wasn't very soft and fluffy in this texture. Thinking I'd done something wrong, I knit it up on larger needles, which helped somewhat, but the texture was still not as bouncy and fluffy as Garter stitch...

2. Missoni Inspired Chevron Blanket

Next, I found this gorgeous blanket pattern by Tangled Yarns:

Missoni Inspired Chevron Blanket pattern

I LOVED the gorgeous color variations and bold changes. I loved that it was striped. I loved that it was chevron. The crazy part of me loved that it was huge, and more complex than any knitting pattern I'd ever tried.

And I loved the beautiful variations on Ravelry like this version by POF:

POF's Missoni inspired chevron blanket on Ravelry

These colors make my heart sing. I love what she did with them. And of course the little girl is adorable, too.

The original pattern calls for the following colors, in Biggan Yarn:

I decided to try my own version in Love This Yarn - my colors would not be exact, but close. Using size 8 needles I cast on 241 stitches. 241 stitches! I quickly realized this pattern was too ambitious for my short-attention-span knitting. I practiced again and again - at one point I messed up my increases so my blanket began to hilariously shrink on one side. :) Also, it is stockinette, which means purling 241 stitches. Eek. But it was good practice purling, and I found a way to cope with it, although I started out with very sore hands.

Finally, I found peace with the whole process and knit my way up the first 3 color changes. And realized it was again, not as soft as I was questing for. Love This Yarn didn't feel or look very soft in Stockinette - and Stockinette brings out its Acrylic-y sheen. SO, another blanket experiment was unceremoniously unraveled. Sigh. No fault of the pattern, which is gorgeous!

3. Honeycomb Stroller Blanket

Next, I fell in love with a Honeycomb blanket. The original free pattern is rather plain, but people have done gorgeous things with it on Ravelry.

One of my favorites is this version by Duschinka:

Duschinka's Honeycomb Stroller Blanket on Ravelry

Best of all, this pattern is EASY. Like, incredibly easy. So I cast on 164 stitches and got to work with Love This Yarn. But guess what? The finished texture, and combination of Garter and Stockinette? Not the softness I crave. But I'm gonna finish the dang thing, anyway. And it's pretty - I'll have pictures soon. :)

4. Log Cabin Knitted Blanket

Last in my quest for a blanket pattern I found Log Cabin knitting. There are so many great tutorials out there, but the one that helped me most was this free pattern by Staci Perry. The pattern has links to video tutorials, and she walks you through every step in very clear and detailed way.

I fell in love with this Log Cabin blanket on Cozy Things:

The color placement may seem random, but my gut tells me that she has a very artistic way of creating color harmony -her sense of color is just wonderful. I'm aiming for something maybe half this size. I started up with the remainder of Love This Yarn in my stash, and it is finally, just as soft and squishy and happy as I hoped for. All of this research has made me promise myself to only knit Love This Yarn in garter stitch, ever. Pictures soon!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Stitching Saturday: Dr. Who Scarf, part 2

Finished Dr. Who scarf!

Well, guys, I finished it! It was with much relief that I finished my last 20 rows and bound off - this is the longest scarf I've ever completed, and to be done in under a month was quite a feat for my easily-distracted self. Now I just have about a billion loose ends to weave in.

Here are the yarns after finishing the scarf:

Yarns after finishing the Dr. Who Scarf

I started off with 1 skein each of Vanna's Choice in the colors recommended in this pattern. You can see the off-white shade got the most use, but I didn't need 2 skeins, as the pattern recommended. My only substitution was a darker purple - I used eggplant instead.

And, because I'm a nut, I already purchased wools to make another scarf!

Knit Picks Wool for Dr. Who Scarf #2

I was never quite happy with the colors in Vanna's Choice, and the roughness of the acrylic yarn under my fingers. Wool is scratchy, but it still feels better as I knit.

At a reader's suggestion, I'm trying this pattern in Knit Picks Worsted yarn.

Here are the red, green, mustard, and gray - Vanna's Choice on top, Knit Picks bottom. These are almost exactly the same - the olive green is a tad lighter and a truer olive green. Gold is a bit more muted, which I like. For the gray, I chose Cobblestone Heather instead of Bramble Heather, which is a warmer gray - I might change my mind on that:
Red, olive green, mustard, and gray

The purple and brown are the most different - because I used Eggplant in the first pattern, and I because I chose a different brown for the second pattern - Brown Sugar instead of Amber Heather:
Purple and brown

I've found the off-white shade to be the trickiest decision - the patterns on Witty Little Knitter use a lighter shade - examples 1 and 2. The Dr Who Scarf site calls for a darker shade - example 3:

1. Knit Picks - Oyster Heather, 2. Vanna's Choice - Beige, 3. Knit Picks - Almond

I've decided to just try out the Almond shade - so far I find it a bit dark, but I might like it when paired up with the rest of the colors... Can you tell yet that I'm kind of obsessive about color matching? It can be exhausting! :)

I purchased 2 reds suggested on the Dr. Who Scarf site, for comparison:

1. Love This Wool - Terra Cotta, 2. Vanna's Choice - Brick, 3. Knit Picks - Firecracker Heather

They are all pretty similar. The Knit Picks is a cooler red, with a heather pattern that is more visible in real life than in the photo. From a distance, it's pretty interchangeable with the Love This Wool, so I'll probably just use all Knit Picks yarn for this round.

I'll be using size 7 needles, and knitting furiously. Let's see if I get this one done in a month as well!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Three things thursday: vivid bright

Three lovely photos from the following Flickr users:
1. Vintage Crewel - Stitch & Yarn, 2. Home Tweet Home - bakercourt, 3. Party Squid - xsilverdaisyx

Lately, I've been loving super-bright colors - I've even put a bit of neon in my closet. These 3 photos show a few of the shades I am currently loving.

In other news, I'm almost finished with my Dr. Who scarf! Like, 20 rows away!!!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Wildlife Wednesday: swallowtails


I've committed myself to taking more photos of moving objects in an attempt to get better.

This is the first swallowtail I've noticed with an all-yellow body. I believe it's a Giant Swallowtail. It's really lovely in flight.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Wildlife Wednesday

green bug



You know, ever since I canceled my Facebook and Netflix accounts, I've been going outside for walks a lot more. There's something about the intense summer heat that I actually enjoy - and the nicest part is discovering wildlife I've never seen, or as I've never seen it before...

I hope to post pics like this more often. :)

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Stitching Saturday: Dr. Who scarf

Dr Who scarf progress

The minute I saw this pattern, I was utterly powerless to resist its lure. I don't know why, but I love stitching things that appear in films or tv shows - it's like making my own little piece of memorabilia. I hadn't even seen the Tom Baker episodes that this scarf came from, but I caught up with them while stitching. I love how blessedly wonky and ugly the actual prop scarf is - it looks like someone messily joined 3 large scarves together - and you can clearly see little hangy bits from ends not fully woven in, etc. So it's a perfect scarf to teach yourself to knit with, if need be - because it's supposed to be rather ugly and thrown-together to be authentic. :)

I found an awesome blog, Witty Little Knitter that helped me choose my colors and yarn - the person that put this together is amazing. She provides patterns for Season 12, 12.5, 13, 14, 15, 16 & 17 and 18 - she even gives you the color names for stitching them in up to 6 different brands of yarn!

That said, I'm not entirely happy with my choice - I used the cheapest option possible - Vanna's Choice, and it feels rough under my fingertips - so much so that I got some painful hangnails after knitting for a few days. I know from previous experience that it will soften up with washing, as my Watson scarf did - I just don't know if I'm patient enough to wait that long.

Part of me wants to just splurge and buy all the wools in KnitPicks Swish - my favorite soft wool yarn - but I'm having a hard time color-matching. Another part thinks I should just bear down and finish it as is...

Well, that about covers my weekend stitching plans for awhile - how about you? :)

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Stitching Saturday: One year later


I finally finished the narhwal embroidery - actually I finished it eons ago - last year, but never had the energy to snap a picture and update it.


It's really lovely - not sure what to do with it - perhaps I'll just clothespin it in my computer room as inspiration.

Here's another tardy update on a piece - these Siamese twins. I'm not altogether happy with the way I stitched them, and I guess that's why I've let this drag on so long:

Maybe I'll make them into a pillow? A really wrinkly, creepy pillow? :)