Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Howdy, Rick. Do you like my Tea Leaves cardigan?

Before I show you all my Tea Leaves cardigan complete and modeled I want to digress for a moment.

I don't know how many of you happened to listen to NPR's Morning Edition this morning and hear the story about the contested Republican nomination for governor here in Texas. The segment began with an clip of a speech that current governor, Republican Rick Perry gave to a crowd of supporters. He was discussing the state of the economy in Texas and, though I don't remember exactly what he said, I do recall that he used the non-existent contraction mightn't in place of the words might not. My guess is that his word choice was an attempt to sound folksy. Well, I'm here to dispel any notion you all or y'all might have that folks in Texas talk like that. Even Rick Perry doesn't really talk like that.

OK. Back to the cardigan.

Ain't it purty? It mightn't be my last crack at this pattern.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Green, Tea Leaves

I'm happy to announce that my Tea Leaves Cardigan, at one point so close to the discard bin, is now finished and blocking.

I did end up with 3/4 length sleeves but found that I preferred them, so all is well. For those of you not familiar with this pattern, the Tea Leaves Cardigan was designed by Melissa LaBarre for Madelinetosh yarns. It's simple and fun to knit and, best of all, knit from the top down.
This is not the first time I've knit one of Melissa's patterns. Last summer I made her Leaf Tee...twice.

The green version I wrote about here, but the blue one which I knit in the exact same yarn, I never mentioned. Not because I didn't love it. I did. I've worn both versions numerous times. I didn't talk about Leaf Tee, version 2.0 because I made it right after the first one. I was so enamored of the pattern that when I finished the first tee, I immediately wanted to make another one. As this was summer in Texas, having a second cotton/bamboo short sleeved tee was very useful, but taking and posting pictures of the same top only a few weeks after the first seemed silly.
It is, however, not quite as silly as what I'm planning to do post my current Melissa knit.

I'm going to knit another one. I will have to delay the start by a few weeks as I've already promised and purchased yarn for a summer tank for my youngest, but I'm still planning a second Tea Leaves. This is a testament to how much I love this pattern and the process of knitting it. Both because I'm prepared to repeat something I've just done and because this is Texas and by the first of March I'll be hard pressed to find many days where the temperature will be conducive to wearing wool cardigans. If all goes according to my plan, I'll be knitting my Green Tea Leaves while mopping sweat off my brow. Good times, huh?
While I wait for my first Tea Leaves version to dry, I'm auditioning buttons for the cardigan.

Maybe I'll save the Frank Sinatra buttons for my Green Tea Leaves.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Front to Back

When I was studying printmaking there was a much emphasized concept I never quite understood, the clean hands person. This person's sole function was to ensure that the back side of a print remained pristine and, according to my instructors, was essential to the printmaking process. Printing with ink can be messy and part of the craftsmanship of that process was not having fingerprints or smudges on the back of the paper. I remember being baffled by why there was such concern about the appearance of the back of a print. After all, no one was ever going to see the back.
The back of a pillow is not quite as unseen, but I've always put more though into the front. My usual approach to backing a pillow is to use a coordinating solid or commercial print. I don't think I've ever patterned and dyed fabric with the intent of using it on the back of a pillow.
Until now.

I made the blocks for this pillow top a while back, but didn't quilt it until the other day.

That's when it struck me that I must, must ,must dye the backing for this pillow in my ovals chain pattern in deep orange.

I had hoped that my "vision" of what belonged on the back of the pillow turned out to be wrong. Like the concern over fingerprints on the backs of prints, it seemed frivolous to care that much about the back and to "waste" hand dyed and patterned fabric on the side that will probably spend most of its life facing the couch. Once I auditioned the fabric next to the top though, it was a done deal.
In fact I loved the combination so much that I bound the pillow with the same hand dyed batik.

Maybe the back is the new front?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Winner, winner, chicken dinner

No chicken dinner here because we're vegetarians, but we do have a winner. My lovely assistant who also functions as my youngest daughter randomly picked the number...wait for it...

So Miss Prairie Peasant is our lucky winner.

PrairiePeasant said...

I love most things asymmetrical, but for these purposes I'll say a circle!


If Miss Peasant would email me her address at, I'll pass it along to Rossie and we can get her ovals bundle to her faster than she can say Laura Ingalls Wilder.

This may be silly, but I enjoyed reading your shape preferences and, as a circle lover myself, was heartened to see that I'm not alone. Though I didn't conduct a scientific study or even count how many people claimed circles versus squares or hexagons as their favorite shape, I think that the shape most often named as a favorite was the lovable and rotund circle.

Also, there's still a chance to win a shape bundle of your choice. Click over to Rossie's blog and leave a comment there.

Thanks so much for playing along and have a fabulous weekend!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

It's all about scale

Remember this?

Here's my take on it.

Mine should probably be titled, " Big block. Little block."

I've wondered for a while about using a simple block design as an opportunity to play with scale. The standard shoo-fly block that I've featured in quilts and pillows seemed like a good vehicle to explore this idea. The standard block measures about 10"square while the super-sized one measures 36" square. My current thinking is to make four of these blocks and quilt the top in the same dense pattern that I use for the pillows.

This particular project is a little slow going because I want all the patterned fabric to come from my own hand dyed stores and that means I have to make the fabric before I sew the block. Based on this block it takes about a 2 yards of fabric to make a single block with one of those yards being patterned and dyed.
I don't especially care for seeing the finished product in my mind's eye before I've finished the project. I like the surprise of discovering it as it comes together. Though I don't have much trouble imagining the four blocks, what's keeping me interested and excited is the scale of the thing. I don't have a feel for the scale of the blocks. Even when the parts of this block were separate, I didn't really "see" what they would look like when I sewed them together. And then there's the difference that quilting is bound to make.
Dr. Suess was right. Scale does make a difference.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Giveaway! Giveaway! Giveaway!

Did I get your attention?
The other day I was talking to my youngest about what makes effective writing. Actually I was trying to get her to use some of the techniques that her writing lesson called for. The lesson discussed the importance of a powerful lead in non-fiction writing. In the interest of being a good role model to my girl, I though I'd craft a powerful lead to this post and nothing gets people's attention faster that the prospect of free stuff.
Fear not. I didn't title the post "Giveaway...!" just to get your attention. I am genuinely giving something away. Actually, not me exactly, but my lovely sponsor, Rossie. She and I are doing a double interview and giveaway. I have a fun and informative interview with Rossie here on my blog and she has the same, but with me as the interviewee on her blog. Make sense?
OK. Here we go.

Malka: You've been experimenting with this process for a while, tell me a little about what you like about it. What drew you to start working with this technique?

Rossie: I have certain colors that I love and surround myself with: rich teals, fall oranges, medium grays, and pure reds. Anyone whose has been in my house or seen my wardrobe will testify to this! I also have certain colors that I will never combine: white with off-white, dark blues with black, and brown with black. Because of this pickiness I have about colors, I started overdyeing and discharging my quilting fabrics in an effort to either get a color I craved or avoid a combination that I disliked. Around the same time that I was getting a firm handle on making these small changes to fabrics, I started reading your had one of your twinkle quilts up and were saying that it wasn't applique, but made by clamping and dying. Because I already had a sense of the dying part of the equation, I was really intrigued by the clamping aspect. And thus, you created a monster!

Malka: I know you had a struggle finding someone to fabricate the shapes, how did you finally find your source for plexiglass shapes?

Rossie: The city I live in (Ann Arbor, Michigan) has a big art fair every summer. Which sounds awesome, and it some ways it is awesome, but it is also kind of not awesome because the Art Fair has become so big that the price to get a booth is insane! Most local artists can't afford to rent a booth and staff it for three days; people who just want to share a performance...well, they are out of luck. In response, a group of local indie artists organized the Shadow Art Fair, a biannual event which is explicitly local, community-oriented, and affordable for vendors and patrons alike. It’s the coolest and I recommend it to anyone in the area!
At this summer’s Shadow Art Fair, I met Mike, the plexi guy. He had a booth, I was wandering around with a friend, I was feeling chatty. As the Shadow Art Fair website says "when local artists come out and meet each other, good things happen."

Malka: I see you have several different sizes of squares, circles and triangles, what shapes do you think you might branch out into in the future?

Rossie: I've been adding one or two new shapes a month, as inspiration strikes. So there are now plus signs, a pollex shape (like a thumb), and ovals. In some cases, the idea for a shape comes from a customer (as with you, asking for ovals) and in other cases, out of my own brain. Next up is a quadrangle that was inspired by the perfectly imperfect patchwork blocks of so many modern quilters. I keep a list of ideas in my planner, right now, the strangest thing on that list is "toast."

Malka: Your shapes have been very popular. What do you think it is about this process that interests other crafters?

Rossie: For one, I think your work is really inspirational. It's like seeing someone who can really makes a person want to get up a do their own awkward boogie! Also, I think itajime, especially when you use commercial fabrics, sits at a really interesting intersection between buying a finished product and making something from scratch. On the one hand, you get the thrill of choosing fabric you like and the familiar warmth of consumption, but you also get the thrill of putting your own spin on it, adding layers and making it your own. It’s like a quilter’s version of a remix or a mash-up; take from culture, do what you want with it, be yourself, have fun, give back.

Rossie mentioned that she periodically introduces new shapes. Recently she added two different sizes of ovals, 5" and 3". I'm psyched about that because I think ovals are the new circles.I've purchased a few and now I've been authorized/deputized by Rossie to giveaway an oval bundle. That's 2 pairs of both 3" and 5" ovals. All you have to do to be entered in the drawing is to leave a comment here telling me what your favorite shape is. It's like that famous Barbara Walters question, "If you were a tree, what tree would you be?" I'll announce the winner on Friday.
Good luck!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Thanks Winston

I want to personally thank Winston Churchill for giving me the courage to say, "I will never surrender." I realize that Churchill was vowing to never yield to invasion and occupation by the Nazis during World War II and I'm talking about not giving up on a project, but you get the picture.
The other day I lamented discovering that I didn't have enough yarn to finish my Tea Leaves Cardigan, at least not the way I had envisioned it. You all responded with much encouragement and a few suggestions. Several recommended that I consider making the cardigan short sleeved, an option I considered and decided to pursue. Luckily, despite how disheartened I felt by not getting to make exactly the cardigan I wanted I hadn't as yet ripped back my work. That was mostly because I had spit spliced my yarn together and I didn't want to have to deal with the mega ball of yarn that ripping back would produce.
Once I'd come to terms with short sleeves, I picked up where I left off and continued knitting the body of the sweater. The instructions called for 13" to be knitted in stockinette from the armhole and a final 18 rows of garter stitch as an edging. I did as I was told. I even added the left buttonhole band. And then I tried on the sweater. I liked the fit, but it was too long, at least for me. The bottom of the sweater hit well below my hip. I figured that once it was blocked it would be even longer. The length reminded me of those 70's sweaters with the matching knitted belts.
This time, though I was disappointed that I wasn't as close to finishing as I thought, I felt strangely energized by having to rip back and rework the sweater.

Dammit, I wasn't going to be defeated.

I marked the spot I wanted to rip back to so I could pick up the stitches and add the garter stitch band. I undid the cast off edge and began to unravel. Then, as I collected the yarn into a ball I realized something wonderful. All the yarn that was not going into the body of the sweater would now be available for another purpose-making longer sleeves. I can't promise long sleeves, but elbow length are almost guaranteed and 3/4 length is not outside the realm of possibilities. Maybe, just maybe, I'll have enough for long sleeves. No matter how much additional sleeve length I gain from shortening the body, this redo is most decidedly the silver lining to my struggle with this silver yarn.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

It's really not the same in black and white

I just watched The Who perform in the halftime show at the Superbowl. I bet a lot of you did too. But, how many of you watched in black and white? Not that many, I suspect. We're not big TV watchers and we're essentially cheap. These two qualities have conspired to provide us with an old and relatively small screened TV. Since our TV is analog, when the big change to digital happened, we opted to purchase the $40 converter box rather than a new television. In the past couple weeks something has happened to the converter box and we're only receiving signals in black and white. When we first discovered this, I almost enjoyed it. It made me nostalgic for my childhood. I'm not that old, but I have distinct memories of my family's first color TV. The cheap trait is apparently inherited and my parents weren't excited about spending a lot of money on a color TV. So, I grew up watching Richard Nixon resign and Mr Howell ogle Ginger, all in black and white. It was also briefly fun to share the black and white experience with my girls.
The fun's worn off and we're resigned to watching the Colts and Saints battle it out and having to rely solely on the symbols on their helmets for clues as to who is who.
All this makes me want to celebrate color. A desire that's only heightened by the fact that I just came back from seeing Avatar at an IMAX theater in 3D. Wow, what a visual feast. And I say this despite the 3D making me slightly nauseous and forcing me to close my eyes lest I lose my lunch on my fellow movie goers. So, I'm sharing some recent pillow creations that, though uploaded to flickr, I never shared here on my blog.

I realize that the last pillow isn't as colorful as the other two. This black and white thing must really be getting to me.

Roses are RED.
Violets are BLUE.
Watching the Superbowl in black and white,
Would make you sad too.

Friday, February 5, 2010

What were you doing when you were 24?

I've mentioned before that I swim on a masters team. Like the name implies everyone on the team is at least 18 years old though most are well past that age. Recently someone new has joined the team and she's quickly become a favorite. She's bright and bubbly and, being that today is her birthday, 24 years old. This is outside the norm as most of us are in our 30's, 40's and beyond. Her birthday prompted a thread on our group email list, "What were you doing when you were 24?" Several people piped in with tales of lousy jobs or, because there are four doctors who swim on the team, harrowing days in medical school. One guy said that was the year he met his wife. But for me, the year I was 24 was also the year I became a mother.
I was a little reluctant to say that on the list. Not because everyone doesn't already know that I have an 18 year old daughter. It's hard to hide when she's swimming just a few lanes down, though in a completely different group. Rather, it seems very out of the norm these days to be as young as I am with a practically grown child (I say this despite how she may behave sometimes). I'm glad though that I was so young because I got to enjoy them and play with them when I had a lot of youthful energy and I'm still young enough to do lots of things on my own, both for them and for myself.
Which brings me to the skirt I made for my youngest. She's going to a birthday party tomorrow night and wanted a new skirt for the occasion. Even better, she wanted me to make her a new skirt. All the things I needed to do today I put on hold because having an eighteen year old has taught me that the days of wanting a mama-made anything are so, so numbered.

She picked out the pattern, Simplicity 2698, and the gray linen. I modified the pattern somewhat, shortening the skirt and adding gathers to the front and back. The gathers were added despite the fact that the skirt has pleats. The waistband just didn't fit right otherwise. Abi also wanted the top stitching to be done in yellow thread.
I so enjoyed watching Abi model her skirt and her glee that I could make her vision of a skirt a reality.
I know that creating for your kids is not tied to how old you are, but I'm hopeful that being still relatively young, I'll have many more years and opportunities to do things for them.

Okay, now it's your turn. You know what I was doing when I was 24. What were you doing when you were 24?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Only the Pool Man Knows for Sure

The other day I sent my husband to the pool supply place near our house. We don't have a pool, but the guys at Leslie's Pool Supply didn't know that.
I've been patronizing Leslie's for several years because I need soda ash, essential for dyeing fabric. Soda ash is available from online dye suppliers, but it's more expensive and you have to pay shipping. Considering that I buy the stuff in 25 pound buckets, it's worth my while to buy from Leslie's. So, I've been going in there every couple months. I never told the folks who work there why I was buying soda ash. A part of me wanted them to think that I had an amazing pool that I was devoted to maintaining.
I sent my husband the last time because I finally came to the conclusion that I should invest in the 50 pound bucket and cut down on how many trips I was making to Leslie's and I figured he could haul that home easier than me. As my husband tells it, the guy behind the counter asked if he was buying such a large bucket of soda ash because he was having trouble balancing the chemicals in his pool. My husband answered that he didn't have a pool, but that his wife needed the soda ash to dye fabric. The Leslie's guy then asked, "Did she write a book about this recently?" My very surprised husband answered yes. The employee then added that there had been several people in lately to buy soda ash and when he asked what they were going to do with it, they replied that they had recently bought a book about dyeing fabric and that soda ash was necessary to the process. In my book I do write that local pool supply stores are great resources for soda ash.
Now, how cool is that?

My only regret is that my ruse about having a spectacular backyard pool is over and I have to rejoin the non-pool owning population.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Six Word Memoirs: Wee Little Tales

I was listening to NPR's Talk of the Nation today and they interviewed two editors from SMITH magazine. They were promoting a new book length compilation of six word stories.
Apparently the six word story was started by Ernest Hemingway on a bar room dare(surprise). He was challenged to come up with a tale in only six words. Hemingway's six word story: For sale: baby shoes. Never worn. Pretty powerful, huh?
The editors also read lots of other examples and invited listeners to submit their own.
Here are some of my favorites from the SMITH magazine site:

spel chek haz cumpleetlee spoyld mee.

Spat into life. I spat back.

Last night. Fun. Wait.... He's married???

I started thinking about what I would write for my own micro tale.

Privileges sans responsibilities. Welcome to teenage-hood.
(Do you think I might be living with three teenage girls?)
Pillow talk? I mean about pillows.

They're hard to come up with, especially within the confines of so few words, but fun nonetheless.

I was so inspired by the concept of six word stories that I decided to write six-word captions for the photos I uploaded to Flickr today.
They started out pretty tame.

Nate Pillow with improv sashing...aah

But, quickly degenerated to:

Threesome. No, not that kind, silly.

This one was probably my favorite.

Patches pillows. Plump, but precariously perched.

An alliterative six word story. I could have hours, maybe even days of fun coming up with these things.
What about you?
Pray tell, what's your six word story?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The fish seem happy...

...but I'm a wee bit bummed. It's not their fault, but my own. They're actually not involved and I only mention them because I previously claimed that happiness is a tank full of fish. Now I'd like to amend that statement to say that happiness is a tank full of fish and a enough yarn to finish the Tea Leaves Cardigan (Ravelry link).
I'm a basically optimistic person, so by tomorrow I should be ready to move on, but right now....
I have no one to blame but myself. In my zeal to start knitting the Tea Leaves Cardigan RIGHT NOW, I decided to use some yarn I'd reclaimed not once, but twice. The yarn is a wonderful blend of silk and merino, but didn't work in two different projects. I should note here that in both those previous projects I had knitted to near completion before it dawned on me that things were not going as I had envisioned. That probably should have clued me in not to try to use this yarn, but the my thrifty/controlling inner voice was so excited at the prospect of finally making this yarn submit to my will. Also, I reasoned that since the Tea Leaves Cardigan is knit from the top down and I've knit several successful projects that way, everything was going to be OK.
So, I cast on.

And I knit and knit. I was so happy and making such progress.

Today I realized that I would be finishing the body in the next day or so and that I should probably check to see if I had enough yarn for the sleeves. I didn't think there would be a problem, but it just seemed the sensible thing to do.
The horror! There's no way I have enough and, like salt in an open wound, the store where I bought the yarn at least a year ago doesn't have any more. I checked online too. I have been defeated by an incredibly soft and lustrous merino-silk blend.
I have other projects and they'll get me through this rough patch, but for now I'm going to have to mourn for the Tea Leaves Cardigan that never was.

Tomorrow though I think I'll start working on this:

Monday, February 1, 2010

A Kick in the Pants

That's what it takes sometimes to get me to try something that I had previously thought was outside my realm of possibilities. What's funny about this is the new things are often pretty easy/trivial.
For instance, a few years ago I was visiting a cousin when her then 17-year old daughter made us a delicious meal of vegetarian sushi. I was pretty impressed because I'd always considered sushi something that was only doable by someone with vast culinary experience. After the awe wore away it was replaced by a wee bit of indignation. I couldn't understand how someone who hadn't even graduated from high school could make sushi. I felt like the gauntlet had been thrown down and that was enough to push me out of my comfort zone. If she could make sushi, dammit, so could I. Of course, I quickly discovered that the reason a 17-year old was capable of rolling sushi had less to do with her abilities and more to do with the fact that it's actually pretty easy. Well, no matter, I now know how to make sushi and do so pretty regularly.
My second experience with awe morphing into something akin to a dare happened when I assisted in a teen cooking class. Every week this group of 10 or so teenagers got together and under the tutelage of the teacher, not me, made various desserts which everyone, student, teacher, and adult helpers got to sample at the end of the class. Yum!
At first I felt my kitchen skills were decidedly superior to the kids. I could peel an apple so that the entirety of the peel came off as one piece. I could roll out pie dough without having it stick to the counter. I knew what a double boiler was. Then one day we made crepes and I was crushed. Crepes definitely fell into the category of "things I don't make" and here I was in a teen class watching some 14-year old boy flip picture perfect crepes. "That's great," I said to him in praise, but inside I wasn't so positive. I came home that night and, following the instructions the teacher had given the kids, made a batch of crepes. They were not my best, but I've made them regularly since then and, like sushi, they have become a regular part of my cooking repertoire.
Then, the other day I saw this. I didn't get quite as indignant because Erin is not a teenager. Based on past experience that obviously plays a role in how competitive I get, but I did feel that pang. Bagels were on that unwritten list I keep of things I don't think a mere mortal such as myself can make. Don't ask me why. Don't ask me what the criteria is for deciding what is or is not within the capabilities of the average person. I just know it when I see it and bagels were definitely it.
Until yesterday that is.


Then I got so jacked up by my accomplishment that I baked a batch of blueberry muffins which never were or will be on the list of items too difficult for proletariat such as myself to conquer.