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

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!