Wednesday, May 30
You see, in my admittedly biased opinion, my mother was a remarkable woman. She taught us kids that math was a challenge to be met head on. She could learn how to play any musical instrument she picked up in about a week. By the time a plane could get her to a foreign country, she would have learned enough of the local language to get around. She was also the woman who introduced me to crafts.
My earliest crafting memory of my mother, she was sitting at her sewing machine, making a little jumper dress for one of us girls. Most of my youth, she sewed or quilted. My mother always enjoyed sharing her knowledge and love for creative outlets. She taught a quilting class at the local fabric shop and taught me how to crochet.
This foundation, knowing that crafting was a good outlet for your creativity, spurred me to learn how to knit once I got to college. I even poked around until I figured out that the little shuttle in my grandmother's sewing box was for tatting and learned how to use it. Though only knitting translated back to my mother when I went home on vacation.
I knew that she liked to learn new skills, but I didn't fully appreciate the full spectrum of her dabbling until my sister and I helped organize her craft room for her. She had books on basket weaving and paper making. She had leather scraps and stamps for leather working. She had boxes of beads and ended up with a wall full of yarn. She had upholstery fabric and embossing powder. I'm not sure even now we know all of the crafts she tried. I do know that she loved to create and never felt restrained to just the crafts she knew at the time.
When did you first become interested in your craft? Have you tried more than just what you started with?
Monday, May 14
Part of getting ready for Stitches South was to prepare homework and collect supplies before the class so you would be ready for the lesson the teacher had prepared. For example, I had to crochet a granny square to prepare for the combination knit and crochet class so I had a piece of crochet to practice the variety of connection options while in class. One of the classes dictated that you bring wool specifically because of some of the forgiving properties of wool that make it easier to work with when learning a new technique. Some classes also called for yarn of more than one color, hopefully the same yarn weight and fiber mix because a change in size would change your gage, or the size of you stitches. Well, I had a lot of natural wool lying around as a gift/destash from a lady I helped finish an afghan. So, rather than haul 5 different kinds of yarn to Atlanta with me, I decided I would use the Fisherman's Wool for all the classes and dye some of it for my secondary color.
I had never dyed wool before, so I thought I'd look it up. No one seemed to agree on everything. So I followed some of the most common recommendations. First safety rule for anyone thinking of doing this at home. NOTHING that you use for dying can be used to prepare food EVER again. Commercial dyes are BAD for internal consumption. Now that we've gotten the PSA out of the way, here's how I did it.
Wednesday, September 21
I guess I'll start with the prep steps for blocking. You see, I have never had to block anything before. For those of you who are reading this because I'm writing it rather than because you are actually interested in these crafts, blocking is the process of pinning a piece of fabric, either wet or damp, so that it dries in the desired size and shape. Since I have mostly done scarves and socks, I have never even gotten a blocking board. With the afghan I am working on, I wanted to make sure all the blocks were square and the same size, hence the need for blocking. I didn't really like the current blocking boards available, so I decided to make my own. I know, how weird do you have to be, right?
Well, there were a few characteristics that I really wanted that were not commercially available. I wanted a board that would not adsorb water that might warp it or would have to evaporate back through the fabric. It had to be soft enough to use straight pins, firm enough to hold its shape against the tension of the fabric, and light enough to move about easily. My final requirement was that it possess a one-inch grid so that I did not have to get out a ruler and square every time I wanted to block something. With these thoughts in mind, I went shopping. I found children's foam playmats very inexpensively online. They fit the majority of my requirements. The only thing lacking was the grid, but I figured I could do that myself.
These tools made it possible: a large square, a straight edge, ultra fine point permanent marker. I tried to use just the pens and the lines that are naturally on the mat. Let me tell you, the lines are not straight. So, the first block has a few slightly curved lines. I still don't know what I'm going to do about that one. So I grabbed a meter stick for straight lines and a square to make sure I made squares rather than parallelograms (crooked squares for those who took geometry as long ago as I did) and a few hours produced this.
So, now I had a grid. Exactly 1" squares all over. Then came the less labor intensive, but more time consuming process of actually blocking. I could fit 4, 7" squares on each of my new blocking boards. Since I was doing wet blocking, I would set each square in water before pinning it to the board. Some of them took more work than others to make fit the 7" ideal, but I did eventually get all of them blocked. I blocked them in batches letting each set dry roughly 12 hours. Some of them took longer. If I touched one and it wasn't dry, I left them to dry until I checked them another 12 hours later.
My next post should include joining the squares and maybe I'll be able to report progress on my socks.
Saturday, September 10
So much has been happening this last week. Blocking, winding, knitting, cooking, where to start?
Lets start with the blocking. This was my first time blocking. I wound up making my own blocking boards, which I will cover in more detail in a later post. Since I am blocking wool, I decided to do wet blocking. For those who are reading this because I write it rather than because you are actually interested in all this craft stuff, blocking is when you pin a damp or wet piece of fabric so that it dries to a specific shape and size. It took about one week for me to block all 52 squares once I finished the blocking boards. The next step is to lay the blocks out to decide how to arrange them in the final afghan.
Since blocking is not very labor intensive (set and walk away), I found time to finish the first ball of yarn for my socks and wind the second ball for each. The winding process being greatly facilitated by my mother's willingness to act as a human swift. For some perspective, this is what 618 yards of yarn look like a balls (309 each).
This is what 618 yards of yarn looks like as socks.
I am very glad I decided to invest in a yarn ball winder. This making 3 balls of yarn I've wound on it, each yard cost roughly $0.02 at this point. Having wound more than a few by hand before I got it, I think it was worth every penny. A simple yarn swift may be one of my next investments.
Our garden has also been busy producing lots of fresh vegetables. I must admit, a good number of those veggies don't even make it into the house. A cherry tomato still warm from the sun and fabulously sweet is one of my favorite things about having a garden. This year, we are growing pumpkins for the first time. So, it is our first time trying make pumpkin pie from an actual pumpkin or roasted pumpkin seeds. The pie was my sister's domain, the seeds were mine. The pies came out delicious. The seeds took a little more trial and error. For example, if you are doing seeds in the oven, a little oil goes a long way.
I guess that does it for this week. Until next time!
Saturday, August 27
Other news I am happy to report is the first floral display from my mother's african violet since moving into my office's window sill. The flowers are daintier than the ones on my african violet that has yet to bloom since I moved. Maybe it would be happier in my office, too.
We are also dealing with all the excitement Mother Nature decided to deal the north eastern coast recently. The earthquake shattered my nerves, but no permanent damage to either my home or office. Now we are battening down the hatches for Irene's visit this weekend. I'll post again next week with my hurricane progress on the socks.
Sunday, July 10
Friday, July 1
Some of you may have noticed Udvar sunning himself in the background. This is in part because he loves lying in the sun and in part because he is all wet. You see he had his first bath today. I wa not the only one involved in this process. My sister gave me her old dog shampoo, my younger brother helped with judicious application of bacon and my folks contributed the VERY deep sink. Helpful since Udvar doesn't like getting wet. However, quality time in the sun has dried him off sufficiently for me to consider puppy cuddle time while I try to make progress on my socks. Until next time!