Tensho-in-progress, and the Finger Lakes Fiber Festival

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I didn’t manage to turn as much yarn into sweaters as I’d hoped to this summer, mostly because it was just SO hot, and without air-conditioning in our new house, knitting with wool was a bad idea. But we’ve had a couple brief bursts of cooler weather, and I’ve been able to make some good progress on my next sweater: a cardiganized Tensho sweater.

I’m making a cardiganized Tensho out of some long-stashed Cascade 220. Finished the body and started the first sleeve at Knitting Guild last night!

I’m using yarns leftover from the sweater I made for my husband nearly a decade ago, back before I had a good sense of how much yardage husband-sized sweaters actually needed. When I saw the Tensho pattern, I immediately had the idea to use these yarns. The inspiration was this mug:

The mug that inspired my color choices for my Tensho cardigan.

I bought that from a local Fair Trade shop where I’d been performing Bach as part of a fundraiser for my daughter’s school a few years ago…I just fell in love with the colors and the design. So I’m looking forward to having a sweater that matches it!

I went back and forth about whether to knit Tensho as a pullover (like the pattern says to do) or to cardiganize it, but ended up deciding that a cardigan would probably be more useful to me, especially if I ever get serious about learning to sew, because I want to make a bunch of dresses and cardigans definitely work better with dresses than pullovers do.

Making progress on Tensho sleeve number one.

I’m now getting close to finishing the first sleeve, thanks to some knitting time at the first Rochester Knitting Guild meeting of the year, and more of it in the car on the way to the Finger Lakes Fiber festival:

Knitting a sleeve on the way to the Finger Lakes Fiber Festival! (With a super-classy paperclip stitch marker, ha!) We can’t go to Rhinebeck this year, so this is our local substitute. We’ll stay through lunch and then head home - much easier when it’s on

We haven’t been to the Finger Lakes Fiber Festival since Fall of 2011, when I was pregnant with my daughter! All of the years since then, we’ve gone to Rhinebeck instead, but we just can’t make that happen this year. It’s much, much easier to do a 35 minute drive than a 5+ hour one!

At the festival, we got to say hi to the alpacas:

Alpaca says hi.

And my daughter fell madly in love with an angora bunny:

Maddy LOVED this angora bunny. She pet it for like, 15 minutes straight.

She pet that bunny for a good 15 minutes straight! I didn’t end up buying anything at the festival…between the current over-full state of my stash, and being too frazzled by the heat and managing my daughter’s impulse-control challenges to make any decisions, purchasing yarn just wasn’t in the cards. It was lovely, though, to get to touch and explore yarns that I previously only knew from the internet, especially Jill Draper’s yarns. We did end up making a couple of small purchases for my daughter, though…

Showing off her haul (a peacock feather and a bunny toy to commentate her encounter with the angora bunny). I actually didn’t purchase anything - my stash is out of control. But it was lovely to get to pet yarns I’d only seen on the Internet.

A peacock feather, and a bunny toy, to commemorate her encounter with the angora bunny. Her bunny, which she named “Bunbun”, joins Ellie the Llama and Baba the Sheep in her collection of fiber-animal toys purchased as fiber festivals.

We’re having what I hope is one last blast of heat, and by the end of the week, we should be in more knitting-friendly temperatures. Thank goodness!

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things I make for Maddy: a weighted kitty

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So, I didn’t intend to go quite so long without posting, but with the beginning of the semester, and a string of unpleasant illnesses for me, I just haven’t been able to DO very much lately. But look what I made this weekend!

Happy kiddo with her weighted kitty.

So, as background, we’re big believers in Collaborative Problem Solving, and one persistent problem we have with our dear impulsive sensory-seeker is that she LOVES to pet our cats and try to pick them up and put them on her lap, and, well, our cats are less than enthused about all of that. So, during one problem-solving session where we were discussing this issue, a proposal emerged: I would try to create a weighted kitty toy that she could carry and hold in her lap, and it needed to be soft like kitty fur, so I’d make it out of minky.

This was our sketch:

A sketch of the weighted cat-pillow that M wants me to make for her out of red minky fabric with embroidery. She thinks it would help her bother our cats less if she had a heavy, soft cat pillow she could pet on her lap whenever she wants. And she has a v

As you can probably tell, the end result was a bit, um, wonkier than the original sketch, but let’s just say I would be very, very happy to NEVER SEW WITH MINKY EVER AGAIN, OMG. I was a bit crazy to commit to this project knowing that my sewing machine is currently non-functional – this is 100% hand-sewn, including the inner pockets containing the weighted beads. I probably stabbed myself at least 100 times in the process.

Closeup of “Sweetie Heart’s” kinda wonky face. Embroidering minky is...not fun! The nose and eyes are from minky swatches, and the embroidery was done with couching (the only way to make it show up!); I couched down a double-thick line of Lett-Lopi (grey

Here’s a closeup of the kitty’s face. I used scraps of minky for the eyes and nose, and couching to do all of the rest of the embroidery, because it was the only way I could figure out to make the embroidery actually stand out on a minky background. I couched down a double-thick line of Lett-Lopi (in grey for the whiskers, and red for the mouth and other features) using embroidery floss (white for the whiskers, and hot pink for the mouth and other features). This was incredibly hard to do because of how slippery the minky was. Hence the wonkiness. But hey, it’s kind of charming, and the recipient?

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She could not possibly be more delighted with her new weighted kitty, who she has named “Sweetie Heart”, and she says she wants to throw me a “thank you party” for making it for her. That’s pretty darned gratifying! (I still would like a LONG moratorium on minky-based sewing projects.)

In the end, Sweetie Heart weighs about 5 pounds, and is stuffed with a combination of poly pellets (which are inside pouches that are also made from the red minky) and regular poly filling, and I have to say, it feels pretty darned amazing on my lap, too:

I finished the weighted kitty for M! It’s nowhere near as cute as my sketch, but handstitching with minky is...let’s just say there were a lot of curse words, and also I stabbed myself about 100 times. But it’s so soft and it weighs about 5lbs and it feel

When this kitty is on my lap, I feel this incredible sense of calm and peace in my body. I don’t think M got her sensory processing disorder from nowhere – I’m definitely an SPD person, too. And feeling the incredible difference it made to have this in my lap makes me wonder if I should get myself a weighted lap pad to use while I’m working. I’d also love to have a weighted blanket for sleeping, too. I think I’ll let someone else make those, though!

a sweater made of holes!

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Well, I definitely don’t enjoy seaming, like, AT ALL, but I’m stubborn, and as a result, I have a finished sweater!

Perfin!

Ravelry Project Page
Pattern: Perfin, from pompom magazine’s Issue 24
Yarn: Knitpicks Telemark in “Tidepool Heather”, from deep stash
Needles: Size 6
Time to knit: A little over 2 months

Perfin, buttoned up!

So yeah, seaming. Not a fan. I definitely remember now why it’s been over a decade since I knit a sweater in pieces. I’ve read all of the arguments for why seams are great, and I’m sure that there are situations where a seamed garment is preferable, but for the kinds of sweaters I prefer to wear, and the gauges I tend to prefer, etc etc…I really don’t think there’s any benefit, and if anything, I prefer the feel of a sweater that doesn’t have a tough, bulky ridge on the inside seams (yes, even mattress stitch results in a ridge on the inside that I kind of can’t stand). I am very much a pro-seamless person. Seaming this puppy together took me part of yesterday and all of this morning! I think it turned out ok, though even after reading up on seaming yesterday, I still kinda felt like I didn’t know what I was doing. I was also cursing my lengthy arms yet another time over – I had to add 2 inches to the length of the sleeves from what the pattern said to do to get the right length for my orangutan-arms, and those extra two inches felt like two feet when I was doing the sleeve seams.

Perfin, unbuttoned

But I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out. It’s definitely a style that suits me, and of course, a color that suits me, too!

sweater made of holes!

It kinda gives me a kick to think about the fact that my sweater is essentially made out of holes, but those double yarnovers do give it a really neat texture.

pleated back (not quite in focus, alas)

It is (unsurprisingly) difficult to get an in-focus photo of your own upper back using a self-timer and a camera perched in such a way that you have to crouch/squat to be in the frame, so the above photo is the best I could get of that cute pleat at the upper back. Just trust me, it looks neat.

Perfin!

So, now I’m one sweater down towards my goal of turning my ridiculously big yarn stash into sweaters. Perfin represents ~1400 yards of yarn out of my stash. I think in a bit I’ll cast on for my next sweater, which is going to be Tensho, except I’m going to make it a cardigan using steeks. Hooray for knitting something seamless in the round! (I’m probably a crazy person for thinking that steeking is less stressful than seaming, but it’s definitely true for me!)

everything but the seams

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I was able to spend a bit of time knitting on the Perfin sleeves during my all-day advisor training session on Tuesday, and was able to finish them up yesterday, and block them this morning, so as of right now, I’m done with everything on Perfin except for the seams!

everything but the seams

I love having a deck where I can pin things out to dry…of course, it only works that way in the summer, and only if it’s not raining, but I was able to take advantage of a warm sunny morning to pin out the sleeves before I left for a meeting, so that they could dry while I was away!

Pinning out the sleeves for Perfin. Please, no rain until I get back from my meeting!!

And look, our tomatoes have ripened up, too! They’ll be going on our pizza this weekend for sure.

Ripe tomatoes and finished sweater pieces.

And now…the seaming. I’m a bit apprehensive about this, because I’ve not knit a sweater in pieces in at least a decade, and I really don’t know what I’m doing. So as soon as I finish this post, I’m going to do a little bit of research, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll have a truly finished sweater by the end of the week.

Perfin pieces

Wish me luck?

Taking stock

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Well, summer is almost over. I mean, I know it’s only mid-August, but that’s when I start needing to be back on campus just about every day; tomorrow I’ve got an all-day advisor training thing to do, and I have meetings coming up for the new instructor mentoring stuff that I do, and plenty of prep-work to do for the coming semester, so the days of being at home and able to make both music and things all throughout the day are coming to an end.

But to be honest, a lot of that actually ended the last few weeks, when my daughter didn’t have any camp, and it was just the two of us home together, all day. Some of that time was lovely, and some of it was…not. And I definitely didn’t cope well with having my days dictated by the whims of a very creative, hyperactive child who has no impulse control or frustration tolerance. It turned out that she really enjoyed listening to me practice my Bach Sonatas and Partitas, and my ukulele, so music kept going throughout that time, but the making of things? Not so much.

It’s not all because I was home with a kid, though…it’s also the heat. I severely overestimated how much knitting I’d be able to do this summer, because I severely underestimated just how unappealing knitting would become in a house without air-conditioning, especially given the unusually hot and humid summer we’ve had. When it’s 85 degrees and 88% humidity inside your house, trust me, you don’t want to be handling wool – that’s a recipe for felt!

Embroidery was more doable on the hot days, and I could occasionally sneak in some time for stitching while my daughter played games on her tablet, so I did manage to finish my Dropcloth Sampler. I’m pretty tickled with how it turned out!

Finished Sampler!

I haven’t decided yet whether I want to do something with the hoop in the middle – I might cover the lines with couching? I just can’t decide. I also don’t know what to do with this now that I’m done. Do I want to frame it? Do I want to somehow turn it into something like a bag or a pillow? No clue. Here are some closeups on some of the new stitches I learned towards the end:

I <3 couching.

I absolutely adore the way couching looks, especially with the contrast between the wooliness of the Lett Lopi and the shininess of the perle cotton.

This was fun to do!

Battlement Filling was really fun to learn! I notice now that I left out the vertical green in the rightmost row…oh well! It still looks cool!

I love the way the basket filling looks.

And I really love the way the Basket Filling turned out, too. Really, the whole thing turned out very cool, and I learned so much. So that was a huge win for the summer.

But on the knitting front? Gosh, I didn’t come anywhere close to accomplishing what I’d hoped to. I mean, for one thing, I thought I might write up patterns for some of my backlogged designs, and I’ve made absolutely zero progress on that. (That’s definitely not a thing my brain can do when I’m being interrupted every 30 seconds by my kiddo!) And I’d also hoped to knit several sweaters, and, well…

Still knitting Perfin.

…I’m still working on Perfin. I’ve finished and blocked the body pieces, at least!

Decided to go ahead and block the body pieces of Perfin while I work on finishing the sleeves.

And I’m knitting both sleeves at the same time, mostly to reduce the chance that I put increases in different places on them or count wrong somehow, but also because I *know* I’d be struggling with Second Sleeve Syndrome if I didn’t. But I’m kind of struggling with Sleeve Island regardless. I just want to finish this sweater and move on to something else! I have so many ideas for my own designs, and also so many patterns I’d like to knit, and I’m kind of frustrated that I wasn’t able to get to them this summer. But they aren’t going anywhere, I suppose. Everything just takes a bit longer than I think it will.

Sleeve progress.

Isn’t that the classic “Academic in the Summer” lament? We all seriously overestimate what’s possible to do in the couple of months when we’re not teaching. And this year, add in all of the emotional upheaval, both relating to my former department and to M’s schooling needs which resulted in us moving, and, well, is it any surprise that I’m feeling kind of exhausted and burnt out? We’re still not fully moved into our new house! I’ve never been very good at slowing down and resting, and the circumstances of this year have made it so that resting wasn’t even really an option at all and, well, the result hasn’t been very pretty. This year has just been a lot. (And yes, I’m such an academic that to me a “year” goes from September-August.)

Here’s hoping that in the coming year, I can keep learning and making all through the year, even if it’s at a slower pace than I wish. And then maybe I won’t feel so much like I need to cram 8 million things into the couple of months I’m not teaching in the summer. Why am I even in such a rush, anyway? I think it’s because, much like my daughter, I am full of ideas and get frustrated when I can’t make all of them real right away. I’m just slightly better at managing that frustration. Creativity is a gift and a bit of a curse, too.

So this is my reminder to myself that there is no rush, that if an idea is important to me it will keep. I’ve been dreaming up embroidery designs of neurons and synapses for a full decade, and I only just this summer actually learned how to embroider, and those ideas haven’t gone away…now I just have a better sense of how I can realize them. I mean, heck, I still have a violin-cello duet banging around in my brain that I first started composing in high school. I haven’t forgotten it, it’s just kind of developed more. It plays in my mind every now and then just to remind me that it’s still there, and one of these days, maybe I’ll find a way to write it down. I’ll get to my knitwear design ideas eventually – after all, the designs I favor tend to be pretty “classic” but sometimes with a playful twist, and that’s probably never going to go out of style. There is time.

Yet another “thing to do with string”

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I’m learning to embroider!

I'm learning to embroider!

I’ve been wanting to seriously learn about embroidery for over a decade, and when I saw the Dropcloth Samplers and the class that Rebecca Ringquist is doing on Creativebug, I decided that this would be the summer.

Blue perle cotton

I’m using perle cotton, which I learned about from the Creativebug class – I found a set of rainbow colors on Amazon and decided to start with my favorite, the blues.

Stitching away!

I’m pretty unreasonably delighted with my little stitches – of course running stitch is basically the easiest thing ever, but hey, I did it!

In progress, in the round window. I’m doing Rebecca Ringquist’s class on Creativebug with one of her samplers and it’s fun!
I just liked how it looked in our round window!

So far, on my first day, I’ve learned the running stitch and the backstitch. I’m looking forwarding to learning about couching and plain chain stitch tomorrow!

Day 1 progress - running stitch and back stitch

My real goal, in the end, is to learn enough about embroidery that I can start making my own designs. Ever since I was a baby cognitive scientist, I’ve wanted to embroider synapse diagrams, and neurons, and cells in general…I just find them so beautiful, and to me the diagrams that were in my textbooks already kind of look like embroidery charts. I want rainbow-colored synapses to hang on my wall! But first…more learning!

something else you can make with string(s)

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I don’t just make sweaters and hats and cowls out of string(s)…I also make MUSIC! I’ve been playing violin for 25 years now (I started age 10, in 4th grade, in my public school), but as of 9 days ago, I’ve also been learning to play UKULELE!

So excited about learning to play uke!

It’s so much fun to be so utterly new at something. I mean, my violin training obviously gives me a little bit of a leg up, but not as much as you’d think. Despite all of the Bach I play, which is FULL of chords, I’m utterly unused to thinking about them AS chords – as I put it, I’ve got a melody + harmony brain, not a chord-brain! But I’m learning…I’ve got 4 whole chords now (C, F, G, and Am) so can already play the chords for quite a few songs (but only if they’re in C!).

Playing a G chord
it’s a G chord!

I’m taking an intro to ukulele class that’s taught by the music director of my UU church (and I’m borrowing my uke from church, too), and I’m trying to be a good little student, listening to his advice to always practice singing along while I play so that I learn how to coordinate everything from the very beginning. (I think this is great advice – despite having played violin quite well for 25 years, if you ask me to sing along, even on something as simple as “Twinkle Twinkle”, I kind of fall apart!)

Strumming is definitely not coming to me naturally the way bowing does on violin, and when I’m trying to strum AND sing AND play the right chords, it’s usually the strum pattern that goes out the window, if it’s anything besides a simple “down up down up”. But I’m a stubborn person, so I was determined to get my brain to manage a slightly more complicated strum pattern while singing. And look, I did it!

Twinkle Twinkle!
(You’ll have to click the image to see the video on Flickr; excuse my childish singing voice, it’s the best I can do!

It’s such a fun brain challenge! I swear I can *feel* new connections forming. Yay, learning! Yay, music!

I’ve not forgotten about my violin, though – I’m still practicing that, too! (And yesterday it was cool enough to have the windows open all day, so my neighbors got to hear BOTH instruments! You’re welcome, and/or sorry, neighbors!)

Playing my violin

I’m currently working on maintaining/developing my skills with the Bach solo Sonatas & Partitas that I already know, and also working to learn some new ones. My current focus is the Fuga from Sonata No. 1 – I already play the opening Adagio from that Sonata really well (and I *love* playing it!) so I figured I’d work towards mastering the rest of the Sonata. It’s a little slow going, since these days I’m my own teacher, and also the at-home Suzuki parent for my daughter, but I’m definitely making some progress. Maybe I’ll share a video sometime, now that I’m learning how to use my Olympus PEN camera for those and not just my iPhone!

I’m going to get more of a chance to play my violin in a few weeks, when I’ll be taking part in a grown-up “orchestra camp” at my daughter’s music school. I’ve missed playing with other people SO much; my last orchestra concert was when I was 8 months pregnant with M, so it’s been a good long time. Trying to fit it into my schedule, and coordinate the logistics given that we’re a 1-car household, is kind of a mess, but I think it’s going to be fun!

Happy music-making me.

Hooray for strings of all kinds!