Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Very Special WIP Wednesday

qiviut yarn She knits in pearls

The WIP I have to share this week is a very special one.  So special that I am finding it hard to put in to words, but I will try.  I am making a smoke-ring for a very dear friend of mine who has been diagnosed with colon cancer.  When I first learned of her diagnosis, I had no idea what I could say or do to offer her my support and show her I care.  I was so dumbfounded for words I, I'm embarrassed to say, I said nothing at all and I'm still a bit ashamed of this.  What do you say?  What can you do?  I didn't know at all.  Until she let me know exactly what I could do and it just so happens to be one of the things I love to do.  I can knit for her.  Why this was not obvious, I'll never know.  It so happens that one of the many nasty side effects from chemo is a heightened sensitivity to cold so knitted goods will be of comfort to her mental and physically.  I was so happy that I could be of help. 

Of course, there's just one problem with my plan, she's allergic to wool.  OH MY GOODNESS!! That must be every knitters worse nightmare!  Why can't she be allergic to acrylic?  I could happily deal with that.  I'm not a huge fan of acrylic (although I admit there is some ok stuff out there these days) and I'm happy to steer clear of it.  Steering clear of wool is a whole different story.  Everything I touched that was in a colorway she enjoys (jewel tones) had some bit of wool in it, even if it was only 10%.  I did come to find out that she can do Qiviut which is the super soft underwool of the muskox.  Of course this is one of the most expensive fibers around.  Plus, most of the 100% Qiviut yarn is in boring (natural) browns.  I found a few beautiful Qiviut blends, but most of those were blended with merino wool.  DAMN!!!  I was very thankful to find out that she could tolerate the Artic Dream Qiviut, it is a Qiviut/Cashmere/Silk blend that is heavenly to the touch.  Hurray, I found the yarn.  But here comes another problem, the price.  This stuff isn't cheap at all.  I'm not working, so coming up with an extra $152 (especially when we just moved unexpectedly) was not a possibility.  But I'm clever and thanks to Facebook and other mutual friends, I was able to raise the money.  I'll leave the list of contributors anonymous for now.  They shall be revealed when the project is done and sent or to our dear friend.  I hope she knows how much her friends love her and have come together for this project.  She's a pretty smart gal, so I'm sure she knows.
Qiviut Cowl She Knits in Pearls

This pattern is free on Ravelry, it is the New New Shale Cowl  by Leila Raabe Designs.  No, that isn't a typo, it really is the New New Shale Cowl.  It's a simple ripple stitch that works well with a yarn that is so heavenly variegated.  I personally think that the more complex the yarn is, the simpler the stitch design needs to be.  A lovely lacey design would simple be lost among all the color changes.  It also means I'm not cursing my way through a project that is meant to be knit with love (not extreme profanities). 

The yarn is Arctic Dream and the colorway is Winter Storm.  It is a luxurious blend of 55% Qiviut, 30% Cashmere, 15% silk.  This delicate lace weight yarn comes in a hank with approximately 437 yards or 58 grams.  Who the hell comes up with these numbers?  Artic Qiviut is a based out of North Pole, Alaska and was purchased at Northern Threads.  I love being able to support local businesses.

As I said earlier, I'm embarrassed that I had no idea what to do or say when my friend was in crisis and my reaction was poor in that I said and did nothing.  I hope to never do this again.  What have you found helpful when you were in crisis, or how have you helped to show support and care to a friend or loved one?  Have you ever made something for that friend, if so what?   I haven't read the manual on friendship but am always willing to learn as much as I can.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Hot Steam and Cold Weather

Since the move I have been realizing more and more silver linings to our unexpected move.  This week I discovered just how absolutely amazing my new steam cleaner is.  Seriously amazing, I mean, how did I ever get through life without one before.
Steaming knits
I bought this magical instrument with the sole intention of killing little creepy crawlies that may be hiding in and around things that can't be either froze or cleaned in a washer and dryer and oh boy am I glad I did.  At first I was a bit miffed that I was spending about $50 on some tool that I probably wouldn't use (hoped I wouldn't have to use) again.  I couldn't have been more wrong.  I've happily used it almost every day since the move.
Originally I had planned to take all of my winter hand knits (cowls, scarves, gloves and such) to the dry cleaner to clean.  Usually, I hand wash them in the sink.  Unfortunately, I couldn't do this with any hopes of killing anything because I can't get the water hot enough.  Also, that would be extremely time consuming as my collection is in no way small.  After getting an estimate at the dry cleaners that made my heart stop dead and left me feeling dizzy and sick, I knew I needed to find another way.  So, this week I got out the steamer and went to town.
steam blocking knits
I can't believe how easy it was to steam clean all my knits, while at the same time, blocking (or reblocking) them.  Blocking your knit items serves a few purposes.  Blocking will make stubborn knits lay flat, evens out wonky stitches, can soften and relax the fabric, and create and hold the shape and size of a garment.  This is useful even if you aren't a knitter, its a great way to care for any items that others may have knitted for you.  For you vintage loving gals, this is great for any vintage hand knits you luckily find.
I hear that there are some yarns that shouldn't be steamed.  That makes since, it is over 200 degrees.  A few sources I found said not to steam acrylic, bamboo, or fine delicate yarns such as angora.  However, I found 10 times as many tutorials specifically for steaming acrylic and how it was so awesome.  Last week, I steam blocked a acrylic blend cowl and it turned out amazing.  I will say that it was very important to not hang it while steaming.  Acrylic and bamboo both will droop like crazy.  But lying it flat and smoothing and shaping it with my hands was awesome.  I didn't even have to pin it while it dried. 
My take away is to test it out on your gauge swatch.  Or knit up a little piece, it doesn't have to be big.  Just a bit to hit with the stream and see how it reacts.  Also, you are less likely to damage the yarn/garment if you hold the steamer about 1/2 inch away and always keep the wand moving slowly, never holding still in one place.  Basically,  all you do is lay your garment flat on a towel (or other blocking surface) and wave the steam wand over the garment, inundating it with steam, gently tug on the garment both width wise then length wise.  Turn it over and do the same.  Smooth it out with you hands an shape it into desired shape.  If you need to, pin it in place.  Leave it alone till it's completely dry.  For most of my knits I didn't even have to pin them into the shape that I wanted.
steam blocking knits
See the difference.  On the left is before, on the right, after.  I swear it's like magic.  I had another cowl that I wanted to block a little harder to really make the stitch pattern stand out.  So I pinned that one in place.
steam blocking knits
While I spent my day (really the whole day) going through all of my winter knitted garments (excluding sweaters) I thought a lot about my disdain for winter and the freezing temperatures.  As a knitter, I should be ashamed of how much I detest winter.  Especially because I've chosen to live my life in Alaska where we have some of the harshest and longest winters in America.  Steam cleaning all of these beautiful garments was a bit of a reality check.  All of these gorgeous pieces only get shown off in the winter.  These pieces of art so lovingly created for the harsh weather deserve the fullest appreciation.  Not only do they keep me warm, but they keep me looking great too.  In addition, the ones that were made for me are a constant reminder that I am loved an appreciated, especially when I am so far away from the person who knit them for me (thank you Mom!)  Always wanting a bit of style and glamour, I love choosing the perfect style, color, pattern to go with my daily dress.  Winter may be my least favorite season, I absolutely hate being cold.  However, as a knitter, a creator of things that are associated with keeping people warm, I really should be more at peace with these frigid months.  After all, I love to wear these beautiful works of art, like bangle bracelets, brooches, or earrings, they can complete an outfit.  I've been known to put outfits together with my winter accessories as the focal point.  So why am I hating on this dreaded season?  *steps outside to get another box to unpack, BRRRR* Oh yeah, that's why.  It's damn cold……. Well, I'm trying.
blocking knits
These are just a few of my collection laying out to dry (and Cupcake investigation).  I have no idea why I couldn't take a decent picture, the lighting in each one was just weird, but hey, you get the gist.
Back to the steam cleaner, not only is it a magic wand that I can wave over my knits to transform them, I've also used it on my dry clean only and vintage garments that I don't like to launder every time I wear them.  I really have no idea how I ever lived the life of a knitter and vintage lover without it.  It seams that this move to our new apartment really has been a blessing, I look forward to discovering what other silver linings I can find.
Until next time, look for the positives.  Although they may not be obvious, they are all around us.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Easy DIY Brooches

DIY Vintage Inspired Brooches

It's no secret that I've been in love with brooches lately.  I've mentioned my felt flower brooches on a few occasions.  I just love how a fabulous brooch can jazz up and pull together an outfit.  Being the crafty girl that I am, I enjoy making my own on occasion (well, many occasions). 

I found this great little floral tidbit at Jo-Ann's for so darn cheap I just couldn't pass it up.  I'm not much of a floral decorations person, I have no idea what or how to do what these types of things are meant for but there sure are a ton of them for all seasons.  With coupons and the great sales that seem to always be going on it only takes a few bucks to put together some great pins and you can make them all year long as their inventory is constantly changing.  I think I got both the little tidbits (I don't know the technical term, so they are tidbits) I show here for around a buck a piece.

She Knits in Pearls

Here's what you'll need:
A tidbit - some little flower's on a stem or feathers or.....
Pin/brooch back
E6000 glue
Tiny bit of yarn/string/twine in coordinating color

She Knits in Pearls
Start off by trimming down the stem to the length of the pin backing.  Then glue that stem to the pin back.
She Knits in Pearls

Yes, I know the cap to the glue is on.  You try taking a picture with one hand while holding an open glue tube in the other hand.  You end up with glue dripping all over and blurry pictures.  This may be the best craft glue I've found, but it tends to pour out of the tube rather quickly, so be careful.
She Knits in Pearls
Take your yarn and starting at the top (leaving a tail of about 2 inches) wrap the stem and pin back all the way down to the bottom then back up to the top. Covering them completely.
She Knits in Pearls
Now tie the ends in a knot.  Add a dab of glue to the knot and when that's dry, trim the ends.
She Knits in Pearls
 Now how hard was that?  Totally easy right?  And quick too.  So quick that you can whip up another one in no time.  You might as well since you already have the glue out.
She Knits in Pearls
I think this one will make a great brooch or a hat pin.
DIY brooch or hat pin
Oh yes, I think there are many possibilities with this one for sure.
I hope you enjoy this little tutorial and feel inspired to make a few of your own.  They really are simple and quick. The only problem I seem to have is how to store/display them.  As I've  just moved and am unpacking into a MUCH smaller apartment than I was in, I am looking for ways to organize and display my belongings, especially my accessories like hair flowers/bows/bandanas, bracelets, and my growing collection of brooches.  Any suggestions?  How do you keep things organized and visible?  I have to be able to see them, or I don't remember to wear them?  Leave any ideas or suggestions in the comments section.  I'd love to hear them.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Little Something To Get Me Started

My knitting and crafting (but mainly knitting) life had been put on hold, what with the infestation and subsequent move this last week.  Not only have I been far too busy to knit, but all of my knitting is stuck frozen in the freezer.  Everything I've read says that it should stay in the freezer for 1 week, but being the paranoid person that I am, it's gonna stay in time out for at least 2 weeks. 

I've wanted to just temporarily forget about those projects cast out into the frozen cubicle and move on to something new, but it hasn't been easy.  I spent many years casting on all the projects willy nilly and not worrying about finishing anything.  But you know what that got me?  No finished objects, knitting chaos and lots of time spent trying to remember where I was in 15 damn patterns. 

A few years ago I figured out how to manage the knitting chaos.  I only ever have 3 projects going on at any one time.  1) a major home project (usually a sweater).  2) a travel project, good for car rides and waiting rooms (usually socks or gloves).  And 3) some little project for that instant gratification that I need when the other projects are taking too long (usually a hat or my knit brooches).  Since I started my system, life (on the knitting front) has been so much simpler and rewarding.  I've gotten used to my system and have even gone so far as to rely on it.  I've trained my brain to work this way.  So, the idea of casting on something new before I have finished these projects has been hard.  I just haven't been able to get on board with the idea.  Until, last night, when I finally got over it. 

She Knits in Pearls
I started this little number.  Eventually it will be a hat, more of a grown up bonnet, really.  I have wanted to knit a bonnet for a while now, ever since I watched Disney's Frozen.  Cute movie, but I was more fixated on there cold weather wear.  Being from Alaska, I am always keeping my eyes open for anything that is cute and would be good for our winters. 

I think I could pull off wearing a bonnet, right?  Well, I'm going to try.  I found a free pattern called Pauline and it looks like it will do quite nicely.  This should be a quick little knit to get me back into the swing of things.

I'm so very sad that I've had to put my Marion Cardigan on frozen hiatus for a while and it looks as though I will not finish it before the deadline.  I don't plan in picking it back up for a while.  I have some other big projects that must get done in the coming month or two.  After I get this little project for me done, I'll be moving full steam ahead on new projects for a very dear friend of mine (more on that later). 

After all the stress of moving and severely downsizing my life, I'm happy to get back to my knitting and my blogging.  Thanks for reading guys, your words of wisdom and encouragement have been the sunshine in an otherwise very dreary day.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Dead Air and Silver Linings

I am so very sorry for the dead air here lately.  I had made the goal for myself awhile back to blog twice a week, on Wednesdays and Sundays and have been silent for over a week now.  Unfortunately, my world just got turned upside down and I am now in the middle of moving.  Before I get into the negative, here's the view from my new home.
She Knits in Pearls
I am now on the Chena River, with a steam wheeler boat docked out front.  How amazing is that?  The view from my last apartment was the parking lot of an abandoned K-mart building. 

Now on to a bit of the negative, but I'll try not to wallow or cry on the keyboard too much.  The reason for this move and it's urgency is that my last apartment complex became infested with bed bugs.  NOOOOOOOO!!!  I didn't even know that we had gotten them up here in Alaska (there are many little creatures that we don't have). 

This is a nightmare for anybody, but for a vintage loving, yarn obsessed knitter with borderline hoarding tendencies, it's down right devastating.  Every single entire thing in my home must be bleached, washed and dried (3X in dryer to get hot enough), steam cleaned, dry cleaned, or put in storage so that it will freeze this winter in order to kill them and not bring them into our new home. 

That's the moon in the sky as the sun is rising.  I'm so happy with the view.

It has been a week now since our creepy discovery (and a week since I've slept well), we are still cleaning, packing and moving.  It is a slow road because of how thoroughly we must clean everything before it can be moved.  I'm so sad to see the majority of my yarn stash go in to plastic bags to spend the winter outside.  Not to mention ALL of my hand knit sweaters and such that must either be dry-cleaned or sent outside till they reach cold enough temperatures for a long enough period of time.  Truly heartbreaking.  I would have loved to get it ALL dry cleaned, but that is just not financially feasible.  As it is, my laundry and dry cleaning bill is over $300 so far. 

On the bright side, looking for silver linings here, this is the first home Ian and I have moved into together.  It is not my place or his place, it is ours.  We are taking this opportunity to pick out bedding, bathroom, and kitchen stuff together.  It's starting to feel like our new place is really OUR place.

I'm sure there are other silver linings and I will be sharing them with you over the next month or so.  For now, I just wanted to check in and tell you all what is going on and why I'm not writing.  I'm not ready to get back to twice a week.  Heck, I don't have enough crafting time right now to warrant two posts a week.  However, I will do my best to do some writing at least once a week. 



Wednesday, October 1, 2014

WIP Wednesday and a glass of Wine

Vintage skirt She Knits in Pearls
This week I am working on a skirt to go along with my Marion Cardigan.  There is a reason that many of my update photos in previous posts have had this fabric as the back drop.  They were meant to go together.  I acquired this fabric from a friend who is moving out of state.  It was passed on to her by her mother but may have originally been her grandmothers.  I know very little about vintage fabric and am still too new to the game to know by the pattern what decade something was made in (if you have any guesses please let me know).  The fact that the fabric width is only 36 inches makes me think that it might be 1940's.  I've never come across fabric with that narrow of a width.  Fabric rations being what they were during WWII, it would make sense for widths of fabrics to be narrower than they are today.  Either way, I love it and new I wanted to make a skirt out of it. 
Being the knitter that I am, I immediately took the fabric to the yarn shop to find just the right color yarn for a sweater to go with it.  That is how the Marion cardigan project got started.  But I leave the cardigan, for other posts.
vintage sewing
I am not using a pattern, which I may or may not come to regret.  Using patterns is very hard for me not having adequate work space.  All that fiddling and fussing with HUGE pattern pages and cutting them all out while they are sprawled out on the floor is just impossible with my back issues.  As it is I could barely manage to get the 4 pieces of this skirt cut out before I took a 30 min heating pad break.  But hey, pattern or no pattern, I was able to get some pleats in the front and back fairly even and centered.  I'm considering that a win.  I was thinking that I would do a simple button closure, which is why there is extra waist band on one side.  Oh yeah, I also did a waist casing which I usually don't do.  Simplicity is key with me so the majority of my circle skirts have think elastic bands.  Since this isn't a circle skirt, just a simple pleated A-line, I wanted to try a casing.  Now, I'm not sure that a button is the right choice as that means there will be an open slit under it.  I'm contemplating doing a sort of afterthought zipper (is that possible?).  I guess we'll see.  I'm planning on going to Jo-Ann's tomorrow for a zipper, or maybe another way of closing it up.  After the closure puzzle is solved, I only have the hem left to go.  I would have loved to continue on with the hem but my back was not up for any more.  Aside from rest (which I did), what could be better for back pain than a glass of wine and an amazing dessert?
She Knits in Pearls
I was lucky enough to go have dessert and a glass of wine with a great gal at Wolf Run Restaurant.  They have amazing food, but for the money (it's not cheap and remember, I'm not working) I prefer to eat at home then go and enjoy a great glass of Malbec and one of there AMAZING desserts.  This was the Cherry Amaretto Pie and it was just a small piece of heaven in my mouth. 
40's style She knits in pearls
Fall to me is hat season.  I love vintage and vintage inspired hats.  The hat I'm wearing is one that I made myself and wrote about here.  It's from a pattern that I designed myself and is for sale in my Ravelry Shop, or you can click on the picture over on the right side bar.  If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.  It is first knit with 100% wool, then hand felted (I include a picture tutorial on the felting process in the pattern), from there you can decorate it however you like.  I've made a few and absolutely love each of them.  The decorating possibilities are endless.
vintage hat she knits in pearls

Do you ever work without a pattern, whether it be sewing, knitting or other crafts?  I've done it many times.  Some projects are great successes and others, well um, I don't show many of those.  Hopefully, this skirt will end up in the win column and you will get to see the final product.  If not, well, lets just forget all about this post.

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