I'm Back! Back in the Blogging Groove

[If you don't get the title, here's the song for reference.]

When I started this blog, Ginny Sheller's Yarn Along was a weekly thing, and podcasting for me was a monthly thing. Ginny shut down the Yarn Along because she found it was more work than joy, the same reason I haven't written a blog post since March or recorded a podcast since last September.

Life is busy. Free time is scarce. When free time appears, I admit, I'd rather make than talk about making, read than talk about reading. 

So why write a blog post now? Completely by accident, I discovered that Ginny Sheller revived Yarn Along on a monthly basis. Genius! I loved discovering new crafty bloggers (and craft projects) through Yarn Along as well as cheering along project progress on blogs I regularly visited via her link exchange. I also admit I enjoyed sharing my current projects and reads with other like minded bloggers and missed that exchange.

[Insert happy dance here!]

In another coincidence, Kristen of the Yarngasm podcast recently started blogging (again if I understand her correctly). I watch her podcast on occasion; she records weekly, and her podcasts can become repetitive as she talks about the same projects. I recognize podcasting supports her business so understand the schedule, but that does mean I take breaks from her channel. However, her new blog is fresh fun, and a great way to follow her newest projects.

After squealing like a teenager when Kristin talked (and blogged) about Stephen West's Smock It! pattern then realizing I have the perfect yarn in stash to cast it on RIGHT NOW, I started think about my own small patch on the internet and how little love it's gotten lately.

INTERMISSION

Stephen West & I on my first visit to Rhinebeck in 2012

So here I am writing my first blog post in quite a while. It's summer vacation, so I've time for to make and talk about making, read and talk about reading. I also think a monthly schedule a low key approach to keeping up with the blog once I return to the classroom in September. Who knows, I might branch out and blog a bit about my teaching practice!

I'll close this post with a pic of the yarn I plan to use for Smock It!, skeins I gathered over the course of the year with a different patterns in mind but none I was thrilled to start until now:

From left to right, "Wick" from Yarnbrary, what I call
"Tea Cozy" from Amanda Makes Yarn, and
"Dahlia Garden" from WIP Yarns (all on Etsy).

Harmony Blanket KAL: The Shamrock & the Trinity

This week, I've teamed up with Marie from Underground Crafter, Pia from Stitches ‘N’ Scraps, Joanita from Creative Crochet Workshop, and 9 other knitting designers in the Harmony Blanket KAL. What's the Harmony Blanket KAL? Every Thursday from January through November 2018, we’ll share a free 6” square pattern for a total of 48 free patterns. Join them together to make your own Harmony Blanket or knit them separately to learn new stitches!

Lion Brand generously provided us with yarn for this KAL, so all of the patterns are knit with Lion Brand Vanna’s Choice, a medium (worsted, #4) weight 100% acrylic yarn. This is the first time I've knit with Vanna's Choice, and I found it a perfect yarn for this type of project. I chose Kelly Green because everyone's Irish on St. Patrick's Day!


My square uses the Trinity stitch. I chose this stitch in honor of St. Patrick who used the shamrock to explain the Trinity. Legend says that St. Patrick asked, "Is this one leaf or 3?" The answer: a shamrock is both one leaf and three just like God is both God and the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.


If you like this stitch, I use a version of it in my Aspen Winter Cowl pattern.

Note: To (K1, P1, K1) in one stitch, knit a stitch, purl the same stitch, then knit again through the back loop.

Harmony Blanket Square #11: The Trinity Stitch

Using Size 9 needles, cast on 32 stitches.

Border:

Row 1: Knit to the last stitch, P1
Rows 2 - 4: Slip 1 knitwise, K to last stitch, P1

Trinity Stitch Body

pm = place marker (I found this useful to keep track of the border stitches.)

Row 1: (WS) Slip 1 knitwise, K3, pm, P to end, pm, K3, P1
Row 2: (RS) Slip 1 knitwise, K3, (K1, P1, K1) all in the same stitch, P3tog, repeat trinity stitch pattern until the last 4 stitches, K3, P1
Row 3: Slip 1 knitwise, K3, P to end, K3, P1
Row 4: Slip 1 knitwise, K3, P3tog, (K1, P1, K1) all in the same stitch, repeat trinity stitch pattern until last 4 stitches, K3, P1

Repeat rows 1 - 4 seven times

Repeat row 1 once more

Border:

Repeat border Rows 1 - 4

Bind off

If you decide to knit my square, the other squares in the KAL, and/or the blanket, share your progress and post pictures of your finished projects! You can tag your projects and posts with #KALCorner on all social media. If you knit my square, please tag with #KRPHarmony. There's a ravelry thread for the KAL in the Underground Crafter group. The entire Harmony Blanket KAL schedule can be found here.

Stay tuned to my second contribution to this KAL in August!

Land of the Midnight Sun Shawl

I thought I'd give my knitting a little love this week! At the beginning of the year, Tanya (@bzmama on Instagram) released a new shawl pattern that really caught my eye called Land of the Midnight Sun. The navy blue against the cream tweed? Classic and gorgeous. I've knit a few of her shawl patterns so I knew this one would be a well written, interesting pattern that I could take with me and knit on the go.

What I didn't realize when I first saw that picture is that the cream tweed is Red Heart! I wrote an entire blog post about how surprised I was that she used it and how lovely it was to knit with once I got over my yarn prejudice. I paid $7 for two skeins with 260 yards each! For someone who has way to much yarn and is trying not to add to her stash (and deplete her bank account), these 2 skeins were a great option. I used some Plymouth wool tweed worsted yarn I had left over from another project for the blue and green stripes:


Seriously, even with the pattern purchase, this entire shawl cost me a little over $10 since I used accent yarn from stash!

I love this shawl on my "stitching chair"!
I did use a size 8 needle (the pattern calls for size 7) and added an additional repeat of the top section because I like a larger shawl. The main stripes are very easy to memorize and adding an additional repeat just takes some very simple math. A super customizable pattern!

My shawl also likes to chill on my old futon with my Basquiat pillow.
I knit this entire shawl in under two weeks in the evenings; it could probably be done in a few days if you live somewhere that gets big snow storms or you have a free weekend. If you are a "confident beginner", this shawl pattern (and many of Tanya's other patterns) are a perfect way to work on those skills. If you can knit, purl and yarn over, and are ready to try to make one left and right (you can do it), check out this pattern!

How to Dye Fabric with Coffee & Tea


There's a lot of buzz about fabric dying with coffee and tea on flosstube lately. I love flosstube; I've  learned some wonderful techniques and been introduced to some gorgeous patterns by the stitchers brave enough to post those videos. I even discovered Sampler & Antique Embroidery magazine on Nicole's Needlework and bought her copy on Stash Unload!

Yes, I've gone full in on the cross stitch.

A few weekends ago I had a free afternoon and the weather was terrible. I recently discovered Priscilla & Chelsea on flosstube and decided to follow their tutorial on dying with coffee and tea. (I've since come across Vonna's Baked and Basted tutorial - I think what I did is a combo of both.) I'd already purchased some cheap 14 point Aida from Walmart - not that I ever use fancy fabric, my eyes can barely do 18 count Aida, but since I had no idea how this experiment would work out, I thought I'd try it with little investment.

I saved some leftover coffee from the pots we brewed the day before (we drink a LOT of coffee in my house) and had some English Breakfast tea bags available. Here's my setup before dying in my very old kitchen:


I wet the cloth before I put it in the dye pot mainly because that's how you do when you dye yarn. I added 5 tea bags, about 3 cups of leftover coffee (with espresso which turned my fabric darker than expected so be forewarned if you, like me, love strong coffee), and 2 tablespoons of instant coffee. 

After 30 minutes, I took the fabric out and laid it on parchment on a cookie sheet all scrunched up. 


I put it in the oven for 30 minutes at 200F. I did check it a few times but didn't realize that the underside would get darker than the top.  After I took it out of the oven, I discovered I had some pooling of coffee that made some really dark spots that almost looked like burn marks.

So I dipped the fabric back in the bath (glad I saved it) which removed all the mottling and the spots although it did make the fabric darker. I then put the fabric back in the oven and left it in for 20 minutes.

Much better.


The fabric was slightly damp when it came out of the oven and very wrinkled. I decided to iron it before hanging it to completely dry. This didn't seem to affect the color, and I got the worst of the wrinkles out.

I'm using this fabric with Little House Needleworks First Corinthians and Classic Colorworks threads. This is my first experience with "fancy thread", and it looks great on this fabric! 



One bit of disappointment with that fancy floss: my Nutmeggie was NOT what is pictured on the pattern. The color is supposed to be a variegated plum, but this skein had a lot of peach in it. Here's what the Classic Colorworks thread looked like for me:


123Stitch was very nice about refunding my money for that color. Customer service even checked their other skeins and they were all like that. Nell from the Little Yellow House Crafts talked about this on her podcast recently, and now I'm hesitant to order any more fancy floss online. I have another LHN pattern that uses silks that I can only get online, so I'm not sure how I'm going to get that floss. If any readers have suggestions or have had a similar experience, please let me know in the comments!

In the picture above, I switched to DMC and now my door looks lovely.

I also completed this quick stitch from The Primitive Hare (it's free!) using DMC I had in stash on some 14 count Fiddler's Cloth Aida I dyed in the same way:


I've been working on the LHN design quite a bit this month, especially during the "Off the Grid Friday Party". If you aren't a part of that event, go over to Facebook and search for that group. Lots of great stitchers and flosstubers participate - f you join us, say high during the next Friday party!


Cross Stitch Crazy!

In my last post, I mentioned that I've neglected my knitting in favor of cross stitch. If you'd asked me back in October when I was floating on the post-Rhinebeck high if I'd ever put aside my knitting, I would've responded strongly and definitively.

No!

But then I went to the flea market.

Spring, summer, and fall find my family at flea markets and estate sales. My daughter has an etsy shop where she sells her finds after she cleans and fixes them up. It's been a nice bit of income for her since she is a perennial student now working on her Ph.D. The rest of us just like looking, and my ex's dog Tipton likes the attention. Here he is actively anticipating the fun of the flea:


We had a stretch of nice weather in early November, so the family set out to a local flea market. I made my daughter promise not to let me purchase anything Christmas; I have more than enough Christmas decor and am trying to scale back.

Needless to say, I broke my rule. I found a stamped cross stitch linen towel kit with poinsettias on them. I haven't done stamped cross stitch since I was a kid, and the last cross stitch project I attempted was just too much for my eyes and the q-snaps too heavy for my wrists. I still have some plastic hoops I used back in the 90s and figured I could try those with these towels. After all, the kit was $1!

I started these in mid-November and finished them Thanksgiving weekend. I don't like how you can see my threads on the back (I've never been particularly neat about anchoring my threads) so I bought some fabric to line them with. Of course, I have yet to do that; it's a good summer vacation project for this teacher!

Here's what they look like finished. That gold thread is torturous to stitch with - so glad it was just used for those accents!

Since completing those towels, I managed to stitch the Heart and Hand Santa from 2002 in December (love his flag) and The March Sisters by Primitive Hare in January:


I even attempted the "coffee tea dye" process that's all over flosstube these days. I'll share my experiences with cheap Aida and leftover espresso in my next blog post!

Do you cross stitch and knit? How do you balance your projects? Do you sometimes prefer one to the other? Let me know in the comments!


In Praise of Red Heart

I realize that I probably lost a significant number of readers with that title. If Red Heart was a high school girl, she'd be from the wrong side of the tracks (albeit she'd embrace who she is). Mean girls (i.e. members of certain Facebook groups) regularly shun her and fiber shame those who befriend her.

Confession: I'm a secret mean fiber girl.

By that I mean I've defended knitters for using Red Heart, but I've stayed far far away when choosing yarn for my own projects based on that rep. It never softens up, it squeaks on the needles, it's rough against the skin! No thanks.

Then Tanya (@bzmama on Instagram) released her Land of the Midnight Sun Shawl last month. The official photo is beautiful:


I've neglected my knitting for a few months now in favor of cross stitch, but this pattern brought me back. I love the cream tweed sections with the contrasting navy blue, so immediately checked out the pattern on Ravelry.

Red Heart? Really?

Yes, really. That cream yarn is Red Heart Fleck, 100% acrylic and a pleasure to knit with. I started the shawl yesterday and haven't looked at my cross stitch since. My progress as of lunch today:


This pattern knits up quickly, mostly stockinette with the contrasting rows knit with eyelets (yarnovers) then knit on the wrong side to create a ridge of purls. Just enough to mix it up a bit but not so much that you can't knit this while on cafeteria duty with 300 teenagers!

You can definitely use leftover yarn from another project for the contrasting color. I plan to use green yarn of the same brand (Plymouth Yarn Tweed Worsted) for the later rows since I don't have a lot of the blue. The pattern is that versatile and really easy to memorize!

I'll post my finished shawl when it's complete. Let me know in the comments if you give this pattern a try, and if you do, please use the Red Heart. Like me, you may change your mean fiber girl ways!