Friday, December 25, 2009

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

but i do loves the crochet

I used to joke that the best way for me to leave a project unfinished was to do it in crochet. For the longest I couldn't fully appreciate the form, though I've always liked the fabric it creates. My afghan endeavor has shown me the light I tell you. When Ellen put out a call for donations to the Orphan Foundation of America's Red Scarf Project a few weeks ago, I decided to answer, but my creative calendar is pretty full. I started knitting a scarf, using this pattern. In a full evening I got a little past what you see in the sample photo, and I realized knitting the scarf wouldn't do.

My favorite way to tie a scarf. Its slight ascot air makes even the poorest scarf look rich.

I needed to be able to complete the project in a day or two, and if granny squares have taught me anything, it's that crochet kicks knitting's ass when it comes to speed (another thing Ellen always told us). If you're looking for quick turnaround and don't want to use bulky yarn, there's no better way to go. I ripped out the knitting, found a simple crochet pattern, and worked it up lickety split. (I don't know if it was masochism or hedonism that made me plan to make two scarves, but the reality of finals week at work set in and I had to simmer down and settle for one.) The yarn is a more-than-decent acrylic, Hobby Lobby's "I Love This Yarn!" Beat that for a name. Under 3 bucks and I could've gotten two scarves out of it.

Here's what you see when you open my front door:

Sunday, December 13, 2009


It's nearly 3 a.m. Sunday and I'm up cooking turkey meatloaf, garlic mashed potatoes (heavy cream, heavy cream), steamed broccoli, and roasted zucchini squash. I'd planned to cook Saturday afternoon, but I swear sometimes I don't come to life until the middle of the night. I can't wait to see how the meatloaf comes out; I've never made it before, and as usual I combined a couple of recipes, didn't measure, and added a few flourishes. We'll see.

Thanks for the comments on the sweater blanket. I'm glad y'all appreciate it like I do. It defines cozy. The only bad thing about it is that it's hard to get up once you're snuggled underneath it. golden star asked a question about construction, and perhaps a few more curious souls might venture here someday. To that end, I'll say that since I don't yet have a zigzag foot for the machine I used, I straight stitched my blanket. It wasn't hard at all; in fact, what was born of necessity is now preference, as I would do it that way again. I think it's easier than fussing with the right zigzag width. It's cleaner and likely more durable too.

I tried to stick to a 1/4" seam allowance, maybe a little more, and where I went off I just trimmed down to that much. I basically sewed it like a regular quilt. To line it, I faced the right sides together and did the old sew-around-but-leave-a-hole trick. The hole was just big enough to pull the entire combobulation through. ("Combobulation" doesn't seem to be recognized as a word -- I am doing my best to change this -- but it's 3 a.m. and y'all know what I mean.) I closed the hole when I topstitched the blanket.

On the granny square front (is there any other place to be?), I'm now joining and edging my squares. I crocheted 168 of them, all approximately 6" x 6". I wanted my queen-sized bed to be well covered, and with edging and blocking, it will be.

Because Ellen does not play around when it comes to working in yarn ends while you crochet, neither do I. I don't have ends to weave in, only the last little tail on each square to crochet in as I'm edging and joining. This is a tremendous time and sanity saver. Another fabulous technique is the method I'm using to edge and join simultaneously. There are several tutorials on it, but the best one I found is here on YouTube. It's in two parts, and very easy to understand. You can read my gushing comment to the woman who posted the video, offering to have her sainted and telling her I'll send Schmin around to do her bidding. I've joined 18 squares so far, 150 to go.

I loved making the squares, but have to admit I'm relieved to be putting them all together. I wanted no two squares to be alike, and racking my brain to decently combine colors for the last 30 or so squares was borderline crazy making. Now it's white, ah, white. Actually a creamy color called Aran, but the point is I don't have to do any more thinking, which suits me fine.

ETA: 4:35 a.m. Shit this meatloaf is good.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

straw into gold

More like old sweaters and a sheet into a blanket, but six of one, half a dozen of the other.

I've been wanting to make a felted sweater blanket fo-evah, ever since I saw this one in Alterknits a few years back:

I don't know why I like this book so much. Some of the projects I wouldn't particularly make -- I mean, reference this guy:

How he got that girl while wearing that sweater, I'll never know. A moment of questionable taste aside, the book always inspires me. I think it's because it has soft, modern photography; a very open kind of creativity; quiet loveliness; and Portland as a backdrop.

The front took me roughly from roughly 7 p.m. until 1:30 a.m. I still get crazy to finish things and stay up all night sometimes, but I would've put this one down around midnight if it wasn't for the fact that I was having the absolute best conversation with my friend V while I was working on it. Between the making and the wonderful, wonderful talking, time flew by. At about 2:15 I lay on the couch to test the blanket out, and that was all she wrote until I woke up and got in bed at 6 a.m. I got up a couple hours later and cut and sewed the lining. I so didn't want to line it; I already miss the stretchy goodness of the sweaters flying solo, but it wasn't quite warm enough. I used a faux denim sheet, and now it's just right.

This was one of those projects that I wanted to make in an instant. I told Natalie that I didn't want it to become a thing. The granny square afghan is enough of a thing, among several other things, now that I think about it, and I was after a quick and dirty fix. Not to mention that it was in the 20s last night; so I needed a cozy couch blanket post-haste.

The process of making it was fun and liberating. I started a section without too much thought to anything but not cutting the sweaters into too many pieces (thus increasing my workload), and other sections evolved from there. I love it when something takes over and you just go with it. I like the end result a lot, even though it's on the masculine side. Left to me, there'd be orange and brown here, probably instead of the gray. But finding 100%-wool sweaters to felt is the hardest part of making these blankets, especially when you live in Texas or California. In the men's section at Value Village, I managed to sort through the acrylic Cosby sweaters and come away with a decent haul, and I got a couple more from The Salvation Army. I paid from 2.80 to 4.90 per sweater (would've been more, but The Salvation Army was having a half-price day). What I wanted was a fabulous selection at 5 bucks all-you-can-grab, but that didn't happen. I'm definitely going to make more of these, and if ever I find the perfect sweaters to suit my liking (orange, orange, and more orange), I'll pass this one on to Mister Stevens or some other dude.

You should make one of these. You can get all fancy pants, stay more true to the one in Alterknits, or patch to your heart's content. Anything goes. My best advice is to iron your sections as you make them. I wasn't, but had to Stitch Witchery a couple of holes and noticed how nice ironing was making the thing look; so I kept it up. When am I going to learn that the iron is a true blue friend to mankind?

Oh, yeah. I almost forgot. I made this blanket on my new-to-me sewing machine, Blanche II, a Kenmore 1781.

I had to give the original Blanche away because it was too heavy to ship from LA, being in a table and all. That about broke my heart, as that was then my main machine, and I truly enjoyed sewing on it. I've been using this one for the little sewing I've been doing, but it's more temperamental than I like. Enter Value Village, my new hot spot, once again. A week or so ago, Blanche II was there to be had for 26 dollars. For shame, I neither cleaned nor oiled the machine before I used it, but it sews something fierce. It didn't come with any attachments or feet, not even a zigzag foot (or a manual), but because it's in such good shape to be 30-years old I broke my declaration only to buy tricked-out machines and picked it up. So far, I'm in love, but Blanche II will have more company one of these days, I'm sure.

Mira, my non helper in the sewing room.

an open letter to snow

Well played, Snow, my arch-nemesis, well played. You had them running for cover here in Houston yesterday, dismissing school, closing businesses early, preempting Oprah with endless talk of no one but you. You even fooled them into calling you a storm when you were really just a light dusting.

But when it was all said and done, I won this match, because I know you well. Yesterday I met you having journeyed through the Blizzard of '77 (and '78, and '79, and ...) in Toledo, and the Blizzard of '96 in New York City (and several more winters that were damn close to blizzardy). Zero Visibility is my middle name. I knew you were only teasing yesterday. You didn't frost me into a panic, oh no. Instead you made way for me to have a lovely, leisurely day, browsing an otherwise empty bookstore and noshing in a quiet restaurant where the service was excellent because I was one of only three patrons. And so I say to you, dear Snow, Thank you. This time, that is. If you keep coming to town, I'll go back to Southern California, where you won't find me, and if ever you do, there's always the blue skies of the Caribbean, from there, the Horn of Africa.