January 6, 2019

Yarn Along {January}

In case anyone wondered, the rules are roughly
 these: on your own blog, post this "button,"
seen here. Tell everyone what you
are reading and what you
 are working on right now. 

Hello, all! I haven't posted in the Yarn Along for the blog Small Things in a while, so here is my January post!

Right now, as part of my to-do list for my 50th year, I am working on list item #3: make birthday gifts for my two youngest daughters by the end of February (their birthdays are the 21st and the 25th). Amy Rose, turning 10 this year, will receive the Professor Meow sweater, designed by Claire Slade and seen on the Knit Picks website. I originally got this pattern (and bought the Wonderfluff yarn for it; a lovely mix of baby alpaca, merino and nylon fibers)  at Vogue Knitting Live in Bellevue, Washington in 2017, and in true procrastination fashion, I have been sitting on it until now.

Amy's sweater is my first real try at Intarsia and I have watched Sally Melville explain how to execute this technique on Craftsy (now becoming Bluprint) about 50 times. After a while, you just have to give it a go and stop living vicariously through someone else who can neither hear, nor see, nor really interact with you. I have learned that intarsia isn't insanely easy, but it also isn't insanely hard. You must be willing to blindly do as you are told, go very slowly, and it works out okay. Even so, I can tell that Professor Meow will do better with a bit of blocking once we are through!

Annie, turning 19 this year and living on her own for the first time, will receive a cowl that is taking an e-t-e-r-n-i-t-y to knit, with 400 stitches in the round (Okay, that number was my choice. The cast-on stitches were fewer, but not by much. I just started out with too much yarn tail, and there's no way I was going to remove 320 stitches just to start over with a smaller tail!). Those 400 stitches work together in a squishy slip-stitch pattern, and boy do those little guys love each other! They insist on hugging together in a pebbly, cushy way, so that after hours of knitting you feel like no progress has even been made. Have I already complained about that? Sorry. I can't hear you above my self-pity.

The cowl pattern is free (Is it? Really? Or is it an eternal sentence in hell?) and it called Array by Shibui Knits. I am using Lion Brand Wool Ease for Annie's and I plan to continue the eternal slip-stitch pattern for another couple of inches and then go off the rails a bit (for even more excitement) and switch out for stripes for a few extra inches, and then finally sew aaaaallllllll those stitches together for a totally closed cowl. Annie had better wear this thing.  Or else.

My reading is varied these days between audio and hard-copy books. My audio book right now is The Stand by Stephen King. I have never read one of his books and I've always wanted to read this one. I do so love microbes, and the mayhem they can cause is incredible. They are amazing and terrifying little buggers! For those times when children are in the room and I cannot play the audio book due to not-so-kid-friendly-language-subjects-otherstuff, I can quietly read my paper copy of Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. Thanks to Annie, my almost 19-year-old daughter for that one! I loved American Gods and I am so into this book.

Yes, I know. I know. You can see I am fascinated by apocalyptic storylines and the more supernatural the themes, the better for me. In fact, you as you get to know me on the blog here (or if you already know me in real life -- you know who you are), you will find I have a dark streak (humor, mostly...) that sometimes even freaks out my adult kids. But I like to think of it all as good, clean, end-of-humanity-as-we-know-it fun. After all, if we explore our fears, don't we totally control our worlds? No? Oh, well. "What if...." is still a good game, if you ask me.

Next up on the blog: I have no idea. First, let's make sure we make it to next week. ;)
P.S. This blog will soon be moving to a new address! If you would like to follow by email, please do it over at https://freckledgirlknits.blogspot.com/ ! I would love to stay in touch!!

January 1, 2019

2019: The Year of the Bucket -- er, To-Do List

Here's a recent photo of me. Ready for a new year
with a new stain on my shirt. 
This year, I have what I am calling the very exciting experience of turning 50. I truly am excited and for several reasons. First, if The Death Clock website is to be believed, I will live to be 99 years old, which puts me smack dab in the middle of my life, having another 49 years to live. That's plenty of time to get into the right kinds of trouble, and to accomplish a few things. More important, these remaining years will be much better than the previous ones -- at least 20 of those were spent knowing nothing about life, and at least another 10 were spent knowing only marginally about life, but believing I knew everything about it. Now, I can wisely spend my remaining years knowing that I -- and all of us -- truly know very little about life at all. And that there are rarely any true absolutes. This sets me free; I now can be exceedingly inquisitive, seeking experiences and new wisdoms that can be found absolutely anywhere.

Another reason to be excited about turning 50 is that it is a good time to create a list of things I'd like to do. I love listing. It is a favorite pastime of mine. Big picture-wise, I will likely create a master "bucket list" for the rest of my 49 years as people often do, but I think that for practical purposes, breaking that list down into manageable parts might be best. So this year, I'd like to create a smaller list. More of a "to-do" list than a bucket one. That is what I want to share with you all here on the blog over the course of 2019.

The final reason that turning 50 will be an exciting time for me is Molly Shannon. Yes. I can stretch and kick and stretch … and I'm 50 (or I will be ...)!!!! My name may not be Sally O'Malley, but this brings up another to-do list item: On my birthday, June 11, I plan to drive everyone crazy all day long (and maybe for the rest of the year, for that matter) acting out that character. At work. At home. At church (what's that you say? June 11, 2019, is a Tuesday and there is no church? I'll find a way). At the mall. All locations are fair game. Is a Rockette audition in my future? Maybe not. But I can sure act it out at random.

Although 2019 has not quite started, I am chomping at the bit to go, so here goes the first to-do list item: I want to leave the old blog and "rebrand" myself a bit. Just a very tiny bit. And here I am, with a new blog name and a slightly new look to the blog page. I never liked the name of the old blog much anyway. In fact, I have been wanting to change it for a long time, and I don't even know why I've waited; it's not like thousands of readers will lose me. It's more like I will be telling people, "Hey, my blog has moved," and they will be like, "What blog?"

Here are some of my plans as they stand right now: 

1. Work (for real) on The Master Knitter's Program through TKGA. Good grief! This one's been lolling around my life for two years or more! Okay, more. But who's been counting? Not me and that's why it isn't done.

2. Finish the precursory correspondence course to The Master Knitter's Program, "Basics, Basics, Basics." That sounds like a good theme for 2019 as I organize a future! It's been so long since I sent in a lesson that Arenda Holladay surely has forgotten me ... if she ever knew me in the first place. I don't think that first lesson of mine was such a doozy.

3. Make my daughters' birthday gifts by hand for once, for crying out loud! The oldest two are turning 31 and 19!! The 9-year-old needs one too, but probably has not been as damaged yet by broken promises from her mom and handmade birthday gifts.

4. Make my husband something -- anything -- and actually deliver it. This is not unlike list item #3. He did get three handmade items for Christmas, which was a good start, but I feel certain that I am still behind. 15 years behind.

5. Write!!! Yes, write. Here on the blog and elsewhere! Journaling, novel writing, all of it!

6. Continue to read and read and read. In 2018, audiobooks changed my reading life. Back in October of 2017, I committed to reading more often. Audiobooks to the rescue! Although I did read some paper novels, like American Gods and Paulo Coelho's The Devil and Miss Prym, among others, I took off with Heather Ordover and CraftLit! Now I have Audible and the library, too! Wowie Zowie you can listen to bazillions of books while you knit and sew!!! This year, I've read 13 books to date, a record for my whole adult life. (I, like so many others, fell off the reading novels wagon post-college and never went back to my old beloved pastime of childhood. Mine is made worse by admitting that I graduated from college in 2008 at 38 years old! Other excuses include children.)

7. Go back to college -- risky, I know, for my newly found reading habit. I'll have to work that out. I want to finish that Bachelor's in Dental Hygiene! Working on entering EWU's online program, probably at the end of summer.

8. Take a cool trip for my 50th birthday -- in the works!!

9. Act like a giddy idiot on my birthday. Done. Always done.

10. Open ended -- I am a gemini, after all. God knows what I may do.

There are many, many other ideas that could potentially enter my to-do list, and as they rumble around in my brain, shifting and trading places with one another, I will share them with you.

Let's do this -- or at least try to. (See how I didn't say "or die trying"? That would be stupid. I have 49 years left. Dying while trying would be a total waste of resources.)

Here are a couple pics showing how I'm getting started:

Amy Rose's birthday sweater -- this is the back. The front will be much harder.
One word: Intarsia. This skill is on my lifetime knitting list, therefore this project
will kill two birds with one stone, so to speak!

Annie's birthday cowl. This is an example of a Christmas gift
becoming a birthday one.I have been working on this thing for 3 months.
With 400 stitches in the round, it never seems to end.
It needs to end by February 21, 2019.

*** Please keep in mind this blog will soon be permanently 
moving to https://freckledgirlknits.blogspot.com/ ***

December 30, 2018

Crafting My Face Off: A Good End to 2018

This year was a year to plan ahead. It has been a more optimistic year, as I am feeling better than I have a long time, getting back into better shape, eating right -- getting out of the pre-diabetic zone... all that stuff "they" tell you to do, but you take forever to get around to it.

So I made a bunch of stuff. Well, mostly for Christmas, but it was more than I usually make! The planning started out in September with this idea that I would make something for everyone. At first, my brain went straight to knitting, but then I remembered how that went in years past. The thought was lovely, but hand knitting slippers for 15+ people was -- at the least -- daunting. Especially since I didn't usually start the work until December due to a very long string of excuses to procrastinate. "It's not even Halloween yet!" "It's not even Thanksgiving yet!" "The day after Thanksgiving is a much better start date!" "The weekend after the day after Thanksgiving is a better start date. Then I can get up the tree!"


While I pondered these things, I was partaking in another favorite procrastination pastime of mine: looking at other people's crafting ideas online. I came across a blog called "It's Always Autumn." Well, Autumn, the blogger, has a fabulous post on polar fleece blanket making, which you can find here.  I thought this would be a great way to make everyone in my family something and not epically fail, for once, at total Christmas making! Autumn's blankets were not the usual edge-tied type, and I was intrigued by how finished they looked, not to mention that the edge-tied way always seems to diminish the useful part of the blanket.

To make Autumn's sewn blankets, I of course used a zillion Joann's coupons and did a lot of shopping (online -- duh! Okay, I am cheap and didn't pay for shipping. I picked the orders up in-store to cut costs) and cutting and planning, but the blankets truly did not take more than 2.5 hours each to complete. I made 11 blankets that way, using jumbo rick rack or bias tape.

Then, I decided to go off on my own a bit. Instead of using a trim of some ilk on a single fabric, I tried sewing two pieces (planned and cut with the same rounded corners as the originals) of fleece together most of the way, flipped them right side out and top stitched them together, holding the open area of fabric together, closing the hole I left to do the flipping. This actually created a very nice blanket, double thick! And I didn't do any quilt-style tying; the polar fleece fabric sticks to itself pretty well and they worked just great as they were. This style of polar fleece blanket took a little longer, like 3 hours, but they are worth it! I made four of these.

Here are mine:

A couple of thoughts if you decide to try this: 

1. When using two pieces of fabric for a blanket, it gets a little tricky closing the hole while topstitching. Be very careful to fold the pieces in together to match the seam allowance you created when sewing them together in the first place. But also remember that polar fleece is a bit stretchy and as such, is forgiving; you can pull a little and stretch it in place as needed to make it work for you.

2. I didn't get super picky about my two pieces matching. I did my best, laying them out on the floor together  and using quilter's safety pins to hold them together for the initial sewing, starting my pinning from the center and working out. But I didn't freak out if during the sewing the edges sort of went a little askew. Life's too short and they looked fine -- better than fine!

3. When using bias tape on a single fabric: As Autumn the blogger tells you, the single piece blankets do take up to 3 packages of double fold bias tape, depending on how big you make it, but your mileage may vary. My large blankets took about 2.5 packages a piece, using 2 yards each of 59" wide Luxe Fleece.

I ironed my bias tape to get the kinks out of it, you know, where it bends around the cardboard in its little package? That annoys the crap out of me. Ironing it super hot with steam worked really well. And, after getting the hang of how it goes with sewing and connecting the new pieces of bias tape I even pre-folded the successive pieces and ironed the new-piece fold to save time.To make the new piece less bulky, I also cut the new piece into a point before folding it.

4. When using Rick Rack: BE CAREFUL IRONING IT!! I tried to treat it like the bias tape, not testing it, not thinking ... it melted to my iron. Maybe try washing it and laying it flat to dry. Or read the package for care -- I sure didn't.

5. Finally, I used a stretchy fabric needle in my matching and I had to lower the tension to handle the blankets with double thicknesses.

Let's circle back the the slipper in the first pic. I made 6 of them for Christmas when all was said and done (When I took this photo, one was still on the needles!). The pattern I used is "Duffers Revisited" by Mindie Tallack. I am in love with this pattern as it uses less yarn, and is thus less time-consuming than the lovely (and also slightly more expensive to make) "Felted Clogs" by Bev Galeskas. Other differences include, a slightly less complex construction and "finished" feel to the Duffers finished product, including a single instead of double sole as in the Felted Clogs pattern. There is also no rolled top on the Duffers, but if you are seeking a simple and solid, predictable pattern and need to make several, Duffers may be for you!

I used Fisherman's Wool and Cascade 220 wool for my Duffers and would consider trying Lamb's Pride or Ella Rae too. I do suspect I will need to remember that Lamb's Pride doesn't felt quite as far as the others. Things to keep in mind!

I also made my 9-year-old daughter Amy Rose a pair of fat socks using Red Heart's new Hygge yarn!! What a treat! It is a bit hairy, but not too much so like some other eyelash yarns, and while it has the potential to split, my Size 9 Clover Bamboo dpn's worked out just fine. I haven't washed them yet -- I'll keep you posted.

Next Post: New Year's Stuff ***please note I am moving to https://freckledgirlknits.blogspot.com/ *** After the next few posts, that's my permanent home!! :) See you there!!

May 9, 2018

Yarn Along {May}

Well, here it is already. Another month has passed and we are into Yarn Along for May! Time to share what we are all reading and knitting. If you would like to participate or find out more about this, here is the link to do so! Let's go!

As for my own reading, I am still slowly working through The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte, and, on the recommendation of a friend, I also am listening to Mink River by Brian Doyle -- through the magic of public library digital check-out -- and to The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton through the CraftLit podcast library, presented by the always-lovely Heather Ordover. I read The House of Mirth in college, but never got around to The Age of Innocence. And since I haven't seen the Daniel Day Lewis movie of the same name, either, I figured it best to read the book first.

My 9-year-old Amy Rose and I are listening to Anne of Green Gables on the weekly schedule through CraftLit (this is Heather's current book) as well, and we are up to the third audio book in the A Wrinkle in Time series, A Swiftly Tilting Planet. An aside: here is how old I am. I own the boxed set of THREE Wrinkle in Time Books, purchased in the 1970's from a grade school Scholastic book fair. Now there apparently are FIVE books in the series, the last two of which were published in 1986 and 1989. I was 17 and 20, respectively in those years and by then was no longer thinking much of those books, except as a nice grade school/awkward junior high girl memory. Looks like I am in for two books, new to me!

I know my book list sounds like reading overload -- but the books each serve their purposes. You know, one for driving alone to work, another for crafting, and the paper ones to hold in your hands when you can actually do so. The kid ones for Amy Rose's bedtime, etc. They are like knitting projects: A project to work on watching TV; another for work meeting or continuing education classes; another when you have time to really concentrate on those tough and complicated patterns (ha-ha -- like that ever happens!). Which brings me to knitting...

My current knitting: I finished one sock each of two different patterns. One from Toe-Up Socks by Wendy Johnson called "Rosebud," and I have been working on that one for a while (what was that about a more complex pattern?) and one from Nancy Bush's Knitting Vintage Socks. The first one has a nice lace pattern and the second has a ribbing named "Oak Rib," and has a french heel (very fun to make as I have not branched out much from short row and flap heels!) and a round toe. That one makes me feel warm and cozy, as it is adapted from Weldon's Practical Needlework. I love feeling connected to the knitters of the past, never mind that the pattern is simple. We, present and past, are of one mind.

Here are some pics:

I am loving this self-striping  Jawoll yarn! It is a bit rough but seems very durable.
And I love the colors. The other yarn is by Dream in Color, Smooshy, colorway"Strange Harvest."

I am hoping to finish these two by next month as I want to make a bigger project for me!

April 23, 2018

My Kitchen has Been an Intermittent Mess (and my family room, dining room and pantry...)

We have been plodding away at redecorating our kitchen. And when I say plodding, I mean weeks and weeks of painting, thinking, cleaning, painting again ... and this is after months and years of contemplating, thinking, planning, scratching the plans, contemplating, thinking and planning again ... we move slower than almost anyone I know. Slower to act only than those who actually never do act.

Let's lighten it up! And, if you are a "pictures-only, please," sort of reader, scroll to the bottom of the post to see our messy, colorful redecoration.

Last summer (yes the summer of 2017), my husband had a wild idea one sunny, Sunday afternoon. "Hey!" he said, "Let's go to Fabric Depot today! I'll bet you can find some kitchen curtain fabric there!" I looked at him and his three heads. A husband saying this? I really did think it sounded fun to drive down to Fabric Depot. And I had been talking about -- at the least -- putting some curtains up on the kitchen windows, even if we did no other fresh decorating in the 13-year-old kitchen. I wanted to try sewing some roman shades.. But I hesitated as my husband stood there, waiting for an answer; what was he up to? I had to admit that it was a nice day for a longish drive. And there would be fabric at Fabric Depot. Loads of it, all smelling all fabric-y and stuff. Mmmmm.... (Yes, I know the smells are probably dangerous chemicals. Don't ruin this for me...)

If there was an ulterior motive in my husband's idea, I decided I didn't care. The smells were enough for me. I put aside any suspicions. "Let's do it!" I said cheerfully.

A yarn bomb appeared on our truck as we shopped! 
Fabric Depot did not just deliver on smells, it delivered the fabric, after all. In fact, we both loved the new fabric so much that we planned to use it as our color palette and style guide. The cotton print was made to look old, whitish with faux tea/time stains and a richly hued farm-esque print with apples, vegetables, old scales and brown baskets. (Plus, while shopping, we got a random yarn bomb on our truck out of the deal -- see photo. I know, crazy!)

Once we got home, I promptly sat on the fabric from July 2017 until February, 2018. All those months later, we got it out, and looked it over again. We had both been thinking about it and decided to use spring break to paint (well, I am the painter -- I would paint after hubby had cleaned out all the cobwebs) not only the kitchen but also the butler's pantry and the family room. Why not? It needed it. Badly.

We used Home Depot's Behr paint, the semi-gloss in the "better" variety for our paint. I used a candied apple red for our butler's pantry, a hallway off the kitchen that leads to the formal dining room. We use the little room for coffee making and storing my huge collection of old dishes (well, part of my collection -- I also have a hutch and a sideboard filled with them. I have a problem). This room took 2 days and three coats. Bright red is tough to get totally smooth!

I painted the kitchen buttery yellow, and it was pretty tricky on the ladder, reaching way over the deep cabinets to get to the wall. It took three days and three coats in there (the builder's paint was a dead red-brown flat color -- one of my coats acted as pure primer over that dark color.)

And finally, I painted the family room deep brown. It was also very plain -- the builder called the color "Sawyer's Fence --" we'd call it "The-bottom-of-your-socks-after-a-long-walk-on-an-unswept-for-five-days-kitchen-floor." And once you got up close to the Sawyer's Fence walls, you could also see it was very scuffed, aged and dirty. I confess: clean as we did, I still knowingly painted a bit of dirt right into the walls -- more than once. Or twice. I'm thinking of those spots as time capsules. This room -- and I think I was sick of painting and not feeling as careful and leisurely about the activity at that point, plus spring break was over and this was the following weekend -- took me 10 hours. Granted, no high, deep cabinets in here. Just the fireplace.

Then it got crazy!

We had planned to re-tile the whole kitchen backsplash, which I was really no longer wanting to do. I said to hub, "Hey, can we paint the tile?" He got so excited it frightened me. "Yes!! We can! Why didn't we think of that? We could save so much money and time!!" We immediately set out reading up on how to do paint kitchen tiles, and it turns out it is no big deal.

To begin, I used an old dental instrument to clean out all the old caulking under the existing tile. Then, we vacuumed the questionable crumbs, and whatever else we found, from the now-revealed crevice (Whoa! the house really settled!), and cleaned the stone tiles. They were icky grey and looked really dull against the new, vibrant yellow paint. We only sanded the tops where there was grimey grease that didn't want to wash off. This was one of the only places I used tape in the whole project (painter's tape and I have a dubious past) as I knew it would work for me around the tiles; I put it on the counters and just on the wall for a nice sharp line above the tiles.

I used 2 coats of Gliddon Gripper Primer on the tiles, followed by 2 coats of Behr untinted interior semi-gloss paint. I did not wait the recommended times to put each subsequent coat on; I just did each coat as the paint was dry to the touch. I will wait the 30 days recommended to replace the caulk so the acrylic paint can totally cure.

Then I got another idea: we were thinking of replacing the backsplash over our stove. It's a wall hanging, really, from Broan. But it was stone tile/resin. And 13 years old. Why not paint that, too? So I did. I used the same wall paint in our color palette ( I also had some green I had bought, just in case) and some cheap artists brushes. I painted the whole thing white to start (avoiding the grout in some areas to make it rustic), then added color to the center. Once that was dry, I painted the white over the color again and wiped much of it off with paper towels, dabbing or wiping depending on the texture I wanted.  I think I like how it turned out! And it was cheaper than buying a new one, for sure. I finished the backsplash over the stove with 2 coats of glossy acrylic sealer.

I am now 95% of the way done with the next part, actually making the curtains for the kitchen windows. I did not make the roman shades I had planned on. Instead, I found some cute, kitschy ideas for gluing fabric onto roller/pull-down shades. Blog posts I used are here and here. They are drying and hopefully will work well! If they do, I may just do them again for the sliding door.

Through all of this, I finished listening to audiobooks The Golem and the Jinni and Jane Eyre (the last one through the Craftlit podcast, which I adore! I highly recommend it when your hands are busy!). I also knitted some while waiting for various coats of paint to dry.

There are a few more redecorating items still to address, like the fabric covers on the dining chairs, and installing a new, white sink with farm/country style faucets. But this is what I have so far:


Candied apple red butler's pantry. More to come in this special little room!! Stay tuned.

13-year-old, dry builder's paint. 

Yellow on red. Tough!

Much brighter. We all feel happier in here now!

Before: white yucky paint.

A small purdy brush really helps where tape cannot.

Warm and toasty TV/fireplace room. 

The paint does NOT look this severely yellow! I will try to get softer tones when I take real "after" photos, once
the whole thing is done.

The original.

One coat of white.

The finished wall hanging.

The windows waiting for covers. 

The famous Fabric Depot fabric. Farm motif and all!

If you do this project, you will make friends with a lot of adhesives.

I dried mine for two days plus. The spray adhesive stayed tacky for a while where I oversprayed a few spots.

Waiting to be hung!! 
More to come!