At the End

I’ve been a knitter for about 14 years now.  One thing I have noticed over those years is how whatever project I am knitting somehow gets associated with whatever is going on with my life at the time.  In other words, each project has memories attached to it that come to mind whenever I see or wear that knitted item.  For example, there’s a pair of socks that I remember knitting one year at the beach.  Every time I wear those socks, I remember back to those happy moments knitting contentedly while on vacation.  There’s also a sweater that I worked on while the husband was in the hospital following a serious car accident.  When I wear that sweater, I am reminded of those anxious times and feel grateful that things turned out ok.  We knitters spend a lot of time with our projects and sometimes those projects become part of our lives during that time.

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Two years ago, I started a sweater.  Two years ago, we were also deep into house hunting for our move.  Somehow, I was never able to really get into the groove of knitting that sweater.  I think now that it was perhaps a reflection of how I was feeling at the time.  Moving is stressful and as much as I knew it was the right thing to do at that time, it was also something I very much did not want to do.  And, just as I struggled with adjusting to all the changes that the move brought to us, I really struggled with being motivated to knit that sweater.

Occasionally, I would pick it and work on it.  A few times, I even managed to finish a piece of it.

This was the state of things at the beginning of May.  All the pieces were finished except for the sleeves.

Sleeves don’t usually take too long for me, but I was not feeling particularly motivated to finish these.  So, I did something that sometimes helps me to make some progress on a stalled project.  I took it with me on a road trip and did not take any other knitting that I could do in the car.

It worked.  At least, it worked for that first sleeve.  The second sat around waiting for a bit until  I decided that enough was enough and I cast on on that second sleeve.

A few days of dedicated knitting was all it took to get the second sleeve finished.  All that was left was the sewing up.

Instead of diving into that, I found myself distracted by other things again.  But, on the eve of going to the MA Fiber Festival last weekend, I wondered if I might be able to finish the sweater to wear the next day at the festival.  Nothing gets a knitter motivated to finish something than the prospect of being able to wear it around a bunch of other knitters!  I did not end up finishing the sweater in time, but it got me started and I did manage to finish by the end of the weekend.

It just needed a bath and rest after that.  Now, two years later after I started the sweater, it is finally finished.

The sweater is really comfortable and I like it a lot.  The pattern was great.  It must be because every time I came back to it, I had to figure where I was and what I was supposed to be doing.   And that’s sort of how I have felt on and off over the past two years.  Where am I and what am I supposed to be doing?  I would ask myself this often as I adjusted to our new normal here.  I can’t really explain why I was so unmotivated with the sweater except that maybe it was somehow a reflection of how unsettled I have felt this past two years in this new place.

And now that it is finished, I think it is also a reflection of how I am feeling these days here; more comfortable, more settled, more at home.  This is not to say that I am totally at home here because I still don’t feel like I really “belong” here.  To be honest, I’ve never felt like I “belonged” anywhere but that’s a topic for some other time.  I think there is always a part of us that lives in the places we leave behind, but those places also go with us and live in us.

There’s nothing magical or mystical about this sweater, but I do think it will always remind me of these last two years when my world was shifting and changing and I was struggling to figure out how to live in it.  Thankfully, the sweater, just as this life, fits pretty well, looks pretty, and is really quite comfortable.

 

Scrappy Improv Heart Blocks

A couple of nights ago, I woke up in the middle of the night, and, in that semi slumber state when I was letting my mind wander while trying to go back to sleep, I thought of a solution to a puzzle that had been nagging me for a couple of weeks.  I love it when things like this happen.  It proves what I tell my kids all the time when they are working on something and having trouble with it: Go away and do something else.  Your brain will keep working on it even when you don’t think you are thinking about it.  This is especially true for creative endeavors like writing, but can also be true for more quantitative puzzles.  Our brains are amazing.

Now, the result of my midnight ponderings is this block for the June quilt of my do. good stitches group, aspire circle.  I wanted something really scrappy because my scrap bins have been filling up lately, but I did not just want to dig through my scraps for pieces that would “fit” in a pattern.  What I really wanted to do was use up were those little odd shaped triangle scraps and other little odd shaped scraps that are hard to fit anywhere else.  However, I didn’t want it to turn out to crazy looking, which is often what happens when you just throw a lot of scraps together.  I had been playing around with an idea to make heart blocks and, in the middle of the night, I hit upon an idea to marry the two ideas together.

The heart portion of the block is pieced using an improvisational piecing method that I read about here.  I started off by piecing together a bunch of little odd shaped blocks.

Generally speaking, I just tried to pick two pieces that had one side that were approximately the same length and then sewed those sides together.  Sometimes, I chose a few at a time like below, and sometimes I started with one piece and dug through my scrap bin until I found one that matched nicely.

Once you have a bunch of little pieced blocks, it’s important to trim them a little before going on to add more.  You want to cut off those little tails and just straighten up the edges to make it easier to keep piecing.  I tried not to add pieces that would make it look too regular because I was going for a more random look.

Generally speaking, I tried to have mostly straight edges with obtuse angles.  Once your pieces start to get bigger, this becomes more important.   You don’t want all those inside angles because it is hard to add pieces at those spots.

The goal was to get a piece that I could trim to 6.5 by 12.5 inches for each half of a heart.  When my pieces started getting bigger, I started to try to match them up a little to make rectangular-ish shapes.

For each pair of hearts, you will need two of these pieces, with some extra for the middle of the smaller heart.  The final pieces before trimming looked quite crazy!

However, once trimmed down, it looked much neater.  If your trims a big, save them.  You might need them for the smaller heart.

Once you have two rectangles each measuring 6.5 by 12.5 inches, you will need cut your background pieces.  I used just plain white.  You will need:

two 6.5 inch squares in white

four 3.5 inch squares in white

Draw a diagonal line on the wrong side of each background square.

Here are the pieces you need for the big heart.

 

Right sides together, match a large background square to one end of a scrappy block and sew on the line.  Then, sew another line 1/2 inch away from the diagonal line on the corner side.

Now, do the same with the 3.5 inch blocks in the top corners of the scrappy block.  Here’s what you will have after this step for each half heart.

Now, cut in between the sewn lines.

Do this again to the second scrappy block, making sure that the diagonal line is mirrored for the bottom of the heart.  In the picture below, you can see how I made sure I was mirroring the pieces before I got too far in my sewing.

Iron the pieces and then add the other corner block in the same way.  You will end up with two halves of a heart.

Sew the two halves together to make a big 12.5 inch square scrappy improv heart block.

Now, we will use up those odd half square triangles to make the smaller scrappy heart.  You should have 4 small and 2 large half square triangles.

You will need to trim the half square triangles (HST)  down to make an 8.5 inch square heart.

Each small HST should be trimmed to 2.5 inch squares.

Each large HST should be trimmed to 4.5 inch squares.

You will also need:

One 2.5 by 8.5 inch scrappy rectangle.

For this, I sewed some trimmings together to make a piece big enough to trim down.  How’s that for using up scraps!

For the background, you will need to cut

two 2.5 by 8.5 inch strips in white

two 2.5 by 12.5 inch strips in white

Altogether, you should have this:

Sew all the pieces together, beginning with the heart and then adding the background sashing pieces to make a 12.5 inch square block.

My favorite thing about making this is that you essentially can make two blocks for not much more effort than making one.  I must admit to feeling a little proud of these blocks and they were such fun to make.   I still have a lot of scraps, so more of these might be in my future.

For now, I am really looking forward to seeing what my friends from the aspire circle will make with this method.  It should be a fun and cheerful quilt!

Knit with Love

A few months ago when I was working on the Through the Loops Mystery Sock, I became quite enamored with the mosaic knitting method.

If you’re not familiar with this method, it’s pretty fun.  You only knit with one color every row, passing stitches from a second color by so that you get this cool connected effect like you see above in the two color section.  I really wanted to revisit this method again and found another pattern to do it with.  Pucker by General Hogbuffer looked super cool and just what I wanted!  It took me a few months to get to them, but was happy to finally cast on a few weeks ago.

All was sort of well for the first few inches.  And then the troubles started.  Firstly, the yarn I was using was beginning to annoy me.  It was splitty and I was having to fix a lot of stitches, which was slowing me down and preventing me from getting a good rhythm.  Then, the colors in the multi colored yarn started changing in such a way that I was having a hard time distinguishing between the two.  I thought I could overlook these things once I got to the heel, though.  Surely, if I just persevered, things would fall into place and it would all be ok.  Somehow, I would become ok with the splittiness and the colors would pass by and look better.  (I can see all you veteran knitters shaking your heads here:)

I think we all know where this was heading.  Oh, I did get to the heel.  In fact, I even knit the heel.

Twice.

The first time, I got all the way through the gusset pickups when I noticed that I had not got the last 6 rows of the color patterning right on the leg.  I would have let it pass if it were not for the fact that those wrong stitches would be front and center of the design and I could not continue and make it look like it was supposed to.

It took me a whole evening to rip it out, pick up all the stitches and knit the color pattern correctly.  Then, last night, I knit the heel again.  Only, when I got to the part where I needed to turn the heel (my favorite part), I discovered that I had knit the wrong number of heel stitches.  Again, I could not let it go because then the pattern would not be nicely continuous.  Sigh.

I ripped it out again and cried uncle.  Honestly, I love the pattern, but I was really hating the yarn.  I could not bear the thought of picking up those stitches and knitting the heel again.  And you know what?  I am always telling people that life is too short to knit with yarn or patterns that we don’t love.  I want to knit with love, not anger or frustration.

I pulled out the yarn that I bought last week at the MD sheep and wool festival that I bought for Helical socks and decided they would also be perfect for this pattern.  So far, I only have a couple of rows, but I am loving the yarn combination so much more already.  We’ll see how it goes.

The lesson here?  Knit what you love.

Greener

It would be quite impossible to catch you up on everything that has been going on here in the past month.  I’m continually astonished at how fast time goes by and I have so much to tell you that I don’t even know where to begin!  But, we are friends, right?  Have you ever noticed how true friends can go long periods of time without talking and then just pick up where they left off, just catching up on the highlights since they last talked?  That’s kind of what I’m going to do today because we just don’t have time for me to tell you every little detail.  Ok, I’m just going to dive in now.

Firstly, I have been doing a lot of baking.  Some of my very favorite bakes of late include:

Boston Cream Pie from the Canal House Cookbook.

The sponge cake part of this recipe is the real gem here.  My plan is to talk about this more at a later date, but that means I need to make it again, which I will do soon.  Promise.

We also loved this Tuscan Sourdough Cake, which is more like a bread.

It’s an excellent and tasty way to use up some of that sourdough starter that you need to discard every feeding time.

Recently, I also made chocolate babka using this recipe.

I have been loosely following King Arthur Flour’s Bakealong recipes.  If you hadn’t noticed, I am a sort of sucker for a bakelong, knitalong, or sewalong.  I haven’t made every recipe since they started back in September, but I have made a few.  They have all been good.

This babka, though. Yum.  I’ve made several other babka recipes in the years I have been baking, and I think this one is my favorite so far.  Other babkas have been too sweet or too sticky or have huge gaps between the layers after cooling.  This one has none of those problems.  Plus, it was relatively easy.

I’ve also recently joined the Food52 Cookbook Bakealong (see, it’s true that I am a sucker for a bakealong).  This month, we are baking from Breaking Breads by Uri Scheft.

These are marzipan challah loaves using the recipe from his book.  My favorite thing about this book is that the recipes make a lot.  Why go to all that trouble to make just one loaf of bread?  My philosophy has always been to make more now and save time later.  The freezer is your best friend here.  We easily ate half a loaf in one sitting with our growing boys, so these four loaves will not last long.

I also have a new favorite cookbook for dinner (see I don’t always bake!).

Melissa Clark’s Dinner, Changing the Game is full of fairly easy and tasty dinners.  In the first week, I made three recipes and they were all delicious.  I don’t know about you, but making dinner gets to be boring sometimes and this book does a great job of bringing some new ideas to the table.  Highly recommend.

Ok, on to sewing.  During March and April, I was busy making a new quilt for a friend who is expecting.

Each square has fabric picked out by a different person in out little group of friends to be a virtual blanket of hugs and kisses for this little one to come.  It was a fun quilt to make.

I love how quilts can be a tangible gift of love.

I’ve also been working on my collection of 12.5 inch blocks from the Cookbook Quiltalong book.

I was trying to keep up, but got behind when I had to finish the baby quilt.  That’s ok.

My plan is to keep making these and combine them with other quilt along blocks I have done in the past to make one big scrappy quilt.

So far, I have 27 blocks and I think I will only need 36 for a queen sized quilt if you factor in sashing.  I considered not sashing, but I don’t think that will look right.

In my knitting life, I was able to finish a pair of socks a couple of weeks ago.

These are Vincennes by my friend Kim and were really fun to knit!  You can seem more details on my ravelry page.

I’ve also picked up my Triticum sweater again, but am afraid I am on sleeve island with this one.

I have one sleeve left to knit and can’t get up the gumption to even cast on.  It’s probably because I just recently got back from the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, and I have new yarn for new projects I want to start immediately!

My Brambling Shawl from A Year of Techniques is done, though!  I finished this a couple of weeks ago.  It looked a bit like a snake sweater at first:)

But, it blocked out nicely.  It was very long and skinny, though.

It was hard to get it all in the picture!  It was fun practicing intarsia.

This month’s project is an adorable knitted mouse, but I think I am going to skip that one because there are a lot of parts to put together.  It’s a bit too much for me right now.

Also, I am taking part in The Starting Point Mystery Shawl Knitalong by Joji Locatelli.  I had a few days last month when I totally went through every ball and skein of fingering weight and lace weight yarn in my stash.  I eventually settled on using up a bit of my laceweight by holding it double.

Phew!  You are a true friend if you have followed along during this whole post so far!   I think we are mostly caught up now.  I’m hoping to blog a little more often from here on out, but perhaps make the posts quite a bit shorter to make them fit better in my routine.  You can also find me on Instagram as @crafteamama.

One more thing: the boys and I are closing our etsy shop on Tuesday, May 16.  We have a sale going on now.  25% off your entire order with coupon code CLOSING2017.  Tell your friends!  Here’s a link: 1514Homemade.  We are so grateful to everyone who has supported us the last several years.  It was fun while it lasted!

Tell me what you’ve been working on lately!  Thanks for coming by!

Breaking for Spring

This week we’re on spring break and, fortuitously, we are also having some springlike weather, finally!  On Saturday, opening day at our local ice cream place, it was still a bit chilly, but we went anyway because we love their ice cream!

Thankfully, the next day was much warmer and it has been a little warmer each day since.  As per usual, I finished up a very warm and woolly sweater last week just as winter was gasping its last breath.

This is my new favorite sweater!  It’s warm and cozy, but also light and breathable.  I used Brooklyn Tweed’s Shelter yarn in the sweatshirt colorway.  I love this yarn so much that I am already plotting to make more sweaters with it.  Maybe one for the husband next?

He is impressed with how light it is for its size and I agree!  It’s much lighter than most yarns, holds its shape wonderfully, and does not pill at all.  It’s a great yarn.

I also finished up my hyacinthus armwarmers from the A Year of Techniques series of patterns.  These were super fun to knit and I will definitely be using the helical stripe technique again, maybe in socks next time.  In the meantime, the year has moved on to intarsia.

This is not my first time doing intarsia, but I have not always been happy with how my intarsia projects turn out.  My edges always seem a bit wonky.  This one is giving me lots of practice in the technique, so that is good, though I am not sure how well it will translate to other, more complicated patterns.  This project is a gentle introduction to intarsia, but one that is proving just as interesting to knit as the helical mitts.  It’s not a traveling project, though.  With multiple balls of yarn going at the same time on every row, it takes quite a bit of vigilance to not end up with a tangle.

And for those moments when I want a bit more mindless knitting, I’ve started a Find Your Fade shawl.  This pattern caught my eye several months ago as a good one to use up odd bits of leftovers.  It’s a really popular pattern at the moment and I can see why.  It’s one of those compelling knits because it is not complicated, but at the same time, it’s kind of a mystery how your colors will all look together.  So you just keep knitting one more row to see what it looks like or to get to the next section.

I’ve got a whole bunch of leftover fingering weight yarns plus one full skein of a lovely indigo blue that I am using up and it is such an awesome feeling to do that!  Some of my yarn balls are smaller than the pattern writer calls for, but the pattern is easy to adapt to account for that.  There have been a couple of close calls where I almost ran out of one color before I got to the end of a row.  I wonder if it would matter if I changed colors in the middle of a row?

The finished size of this shawl is quite big–over 100 inches!  Soon, it will be hard to take a picture of the whole thing.  I’m just hoping it all comes together and looks good.   So far, I think it is blending fairly well, though I am not sure about those streaks of green.  There was a little more pooling happening there than I would have liked.  It’s just a little bit, so hopefully it won’t stick out like a sore thumb later.

I’ve also been doing a bit of baking, but I think I better save that for next time!