Category Archives: other crafts

New for the New Year

OK. So. I have a complicated history with sewing. I grew up in a semi-sewing family and I had a sewing machine of my own from when I was teen-ish, but I never really caught the bug. I tried some quilting in my teens and then about a decade later I made a curtain to separate my laundry area from the kitchen that involved 4 straight seams in a single piece of fabric that was cut to exactly the size I needed it to be plus seam allowance — and I took a 6-month break halfway through because I couldn’t fucking stand the hassle and swore LOUDLY the rest of the time. (Two homes later and we still use that curtain and the seams haven’t given out, though. I will accept your praise for this.) I thought about clothes sewing here and there, but I never found the motivation to learn. My only frame of reference for homemade clothing, besides Halloween costumes, was the blousy house dresses my grandmother made over and over from the same pattern in thin quilting cotton and the elastic-waisted ankle-length circle skirts my mother made me for Xtian school that I think might have been made out of upholstery fabric — functional as garments but not something I ever wanted to replicate for myself. Eventually I just decided that the only thing I liked about sewing was the smell of ironing, found loving homes for all my fabric, and ebayed my sewing machine.

So I can’t really explain what is happening or why, but lately I’ve been…feeling an urge. I’m between semesters and I’ve been spending the brain space that has freed up marathoning all the knitting podcasts I’m behind on. Somewhere along this catching-up journey I saw Libby of Truly Myrtle talking about making a shirt, and then I realized it was the shirt she was wearing, and THEN I realized that there was nothing I wanted more in this world than to sew a shirt that fit me and looked like what I think of as a shirt. And that was that. I have determined it is time for me to sew.

It’s getting bad fast. I’ve lost  at least a day to youtube tutorials for things I can’t yet reproduce. I made a Fold Line account and started wishlisting patterns and downloaded a bunch of sewing podcasts and I started sketching out a Make 9 grid and…and…and…it’s getting beyond reasonable.

One of the big hindrances for me when I’ve tried to sew in the past has been not having either all the proper supplies or the space I needed (see above photo of our darling Zoe all up in my business) to really get anything done. I would spend so much time and frustration on getting set up or trying to find everything I needed that I couldn’t really feel like I was accomplishing anything. And since my whole budget right now for getting started is going to be my tax return (should I be entitled to one this year and, if so, if it actually shows up, of course) and I don’t know that I will have regular cash for a sewing budget, the plan is to buy a machine, set up a dedicated sewing space, and get a little stash of patterns/fabric/whatnots established so the sewing and I can get to know each other.

But I need some help. If I were going back in time to tell about-to-learn-to-knit or about-to-learn-to-cook Aoife what she should just buy right off the bat to be good to for whatever (beginner-appropriate) stuff she wanted to experiment with, I’d have no trouble. But about-to-learn-to-sew Aoife is likely to do a lot of wandering in circles moaning WHAAAAAATTTTTTTT if she’s not given some guidance. Tell me your secrets, sewists. What’s your sewing area setup like? What’s your dream sewing area setup like? Speak to me of machines and needles and tools and notions. Send me to your favorite online places to buy…the things. Answer any of the obvious questions I maybe should be asking but I don’t know that they’re obvious and that’s why I need help.

And then watch this space, I guess. Maybe there will be a shirt here one day.

2018 Recap

Hello, lovelies. How’s your year been?

In January, I mostly just cooked.


(More about that over here.)

In February, the truck broke down and it took a month to get the transmission rebuilt. I’m super lucky to live right on a bus route that gets me to work on time, but it adds an hour to my day each way, so I mostly just went to work, came home, ate dinner, slept, went to work, etc., and there was not a lot of time or brain space for knitting or cooking or pretty much anything.

Which pretty much takes care of March, too, although I did manage a hat and a pair of flip-top mittens to make my commute/walk a little toastier.

(Socks That Rock Mediumweight in Fuschia Rose & Deep Unrelenting Gray, yarn held double for the hat, patterns just sorta made up as I went.)

In April, I rediscovered the worsted weight scrappy striped blanket I told you about way back in 2016.

(Pay no attention to its 10-stitch companion. I thought that would be fun but it wasn’t.)

At the time, I said I thought it would be a 24″x36″-ish lap blanket. Something about the garter stitch and the stripes were just exactly what my brain needed when I picked this back up, though, and by May, when it was lap blanket sized, I didn’t want to stop.

June was mostly yardwork, but also I made this cake.

(Smitten Kitchen’s “I Want Chocolate Cake” Cake)

In July, we said goodbye to Zoe.

In August, we said hello to Alistair.

In September, I celebrated my birthday a smidge late with a trip to StevenBe and this pompom has made my life better, I can tell you that.

In October, I Rhinebecked. 

(!!!!!!!)

Remind me to tell you the whole story some time. It’s called Four Hats and No License, or Why I Shouldn’t Be Allowed To Pack My Own Bag.

November was for playing with my Rhinebeck haul.

(Peace Fleece Worsted that wants to be a Cathedral Grove cardigan when it grows up.)

And December was all about shiny new things.

(tosh merino light in Mint Condition, which was the full skein in the 2018 modern Christmas advent calendar from eat.sleep.knit. I have squooshed it on my nose several times and it’s real good.)


As Far As Things I Actually Finished Go

Yarn/Pattern Info (L-R, top to bottom)

Aforementioned mittens & hat; previously discussed worsted weight scrap blanket (which, of course, outgrew my scraps, necessitating the buying of more yarn and eventually weighing in at 6 lbs); Tosh Sock in Electric Rainbow/my usual cuff-down plain sock

Regia Pairfect Design Line By Arne & Carlos in 9135 Fall Night/exactly as the ball band calls for with 64 sts on 2 mm needles; DiC Smooshy in Damp Pillow/my usual cuff-down again; red mystery fingering weight wool/Spruce Point Pullover aka my Rhinebeck sweater that has yet to be properly photographed; bunch of yarn ends/fill some glass Christmas ornaments

Misc sock scraps/the last 2 of my scrappy socks that I found needing only toes and finished up while I was in bed sick one weekend – Lorna’s Laces Solemate in an Avengers colorway I think was called Assembl/a waffley rib textured hat for Dan – and madelinetosh BFL Sock in Well Water & Whiskey Barrel/improvised triangle shawl; STR Mediumweight in Deep Unrelenting Gray/improvised ribbed hat with special fancy birthday pompom; Cascade Eco held with DiC Smooshy in Milky Spite/Lamb Shoes but w/no face embroidery; Miss Babs & Tosh Sock & Frabjous Fibers/On the Spice Market all as detailed here

In the Deep Hue Sea Carribean colorway Salazar/my usual cuff-downs with a slightly longer cuff to work better with my new Docs; Cascade Eco + in a purple heather and Cascade 220 color 2215/There and Back Again (TABA) by Shanel Wu, which is a really fun sock knit flat that I got to test knit; Patons Kroy & KPPPM & something I can’t remember/Jewel, which I knit in April 2017 but only just found a loving home for and finally found the will to weave in the ends and block properly; oh and I made a quilted coaster which has nothing to do with knitting but it’s almost an actual square and I am very proud so please look at it thanks


And wow yeah so that was a year.

Let’s go do another one.

In conclusion:

Here’s, like, a million pictures of my bookshelf.

Last weekend we rearranged some bookshelves to try to get the apartment into a configuration that makes more sense. We have book storage needs in just about every room and, while in theory we have enough shelf space for all our books, we haven’t always managed to get everything in a place that allows us to take advantage of that. I did a similar rearrangement last year with tables and I’ve been most pleased with the results; bookshelves were the next part of the plan. I didn’t see how we could do it without buying something new, but Dan came up with the perfect solution:

  1. Purge the bedroom bookshelves of stuff we don’t need/want anymore to free up space for the expensive books we keep in the spare room. This would not only free up a shelf in the spare room but achieve the goal we were aiming for by putting the spendy stuff in the spare room in the first place, which was to keep it away from the cat. (We used to not let her in the spare room without supervision, but we’ve relaxed those rules since my allergies forced us to ban her from the bedroom and we felt bad about closing off so much of the apartment to her).
  2. Move the expensive books from the spare room into the bedroom, then move the spare room shelf to the living room.
  3. Move the living room shelf to the kitchen. Wanting that shelf in the kitchen was the desire that started this whole thing for me. The living room shelf was sturdy enough to hold the stereo but the sides were open and we didn’t have bookends good enough to hold up all my knitting and crochet books. Things got messy very quickly in the vicinity of that shelf. But the top shelf had sides and would hold my cookbooks quite nicely while the other shelves held overflow from the cabinets and this would make a decent placeholder until I get the Hutch of My Dreams. The shelf moving into the living room, being not only sturdier but much larger, would mean no worries about my glossy, well-illustrated  hardcovers.
  4. Move the tiny, flimsy kitchen shelf into the spare room where there were now hardly any books it would need to deal with.

So, that was last Sunday. I was mostly happy with how everything looked when we set it all up but I wasn’t totally sure about the new-to-the-living room shelf. It’s one of those $25 Wal-Mart deals with the segmented cardboard backing. I’ve owned a lot of these in my time. This one was a holdover from an old life where if I got bored with a thing I painted it. The cardboard back had a still-life on it. A copy from someone famous, can’t remember who, not badly done considering, but just not doin’ it for me anymore. I haven’t been thrilled with it while it’s been in the spare room, but it was easy to ignore in there. After having been face to face with it for the last week, though, by yesterday I was certain it would no longer suffice. Something had to be done. Something involving lots of steps and the iron and the glue gun and one of those segmented razor blade clicky knife thingies.  A project. A proper project, one that could be counted in episodes of Farscape, which is my preferred measurement of time.

I decided to cover the back in fabric. Dan was pulled in to assist. The supplies were gathered. The Wii remote was kept close at hand. And it began.

First we made the living room look like this:

(And one of us narrowly avoided some broken toes; if you’re tipping one of these contraptions forward, folks, please remember that 3 of the shelves slide right out without you even having to ask.)

Then I pulled out all 11 million tacks that were holding the back on. Most of them were happy enough to come out of the particle board but damn stubborn about coming out of the cardboard. For what reason, I have no idea; particle board is stronger than cardboard, yes?

I took my fabric (one of the few pieces I hung onto when I got rid of all my sewing supplies a few years ago; I knew I might want it for something some day and plus it’s purple), laid the backing on top, and cut the fabric closer to size, giving myself a pretty generous allowance.

I ironed the fabric as well as I could, then me and a bottle of Elmer’s had us a time.

While I wasn’t worrying too much about the private side of things here, I’m still pretty impressed with how neat I kept the edges.

Since this shelf is so much bigger than the one we had here before, I wanted to plan for it to hold more than the old one. It would need to hold the stereo, which we already knew it did perfectly from previous apartments with fewer bookshelf options, and it would need to hold all my yoga and knitting books. I also wanted it to hold yoga and knitting accessories. Finally, I had a sneaking suspicion that the very top would be a nice place to store Dan’s laminated Heroclix maps if only I could manage a way to keep them from rolling off.

Well, when pulling it apart we had rediscovered that this particular shelf had 2 cardboard backings on it because between the 2 of us Dan and I moved 9 times in the 2.5 or so years before we moved in together and that leads to a lot of excess and duplication. The standard-issue backing was the one getting upholstered, which left the still-life for hacking away at. And the factory-scored fold lines made what I had in mind so, so easy.

I cut a section of the spare backing down to a rectangle 4 inches deep on either side of the fold line and just wide enough to sit across the top of the shelf. I covered this in fabric just as I had the backing, then cut some right triangles out of the rest of the backing for support.

I folded the long piece to a 90° angle, Elmer’sed the triangles into place, tied some kitchen cotton around the whole thing to keep it sturdy, then reinforced the hell outta my triangles with the glue gun. (FYI, I set it to the “super hot and constantly dripping molten glue on everything nearby dear god help us aaaaaaaggggghhhhh” setting because I’m fearless like that. Also because apparently I like going around the house all afternoon picking dried glue stalagmites off of everything and certainly ruining whatever article of clothing I decide to iron next.)

Then Dan was called in again to display his exceptional reaching skills and he secured the little fence I’d made to the top of the shelf. Moving so quickly I barely managed to capture it, I might add.

He weighted down the fencey bit, set up the stereo, and then it was time for a little break. We’d made some progress but there was still a long way to go as far as living room tidiness was concerned.

I managed to get most of that taken care of last night, but I had to make 1 more push (and watch 1 more episode of Farscape – the finale, in fact) this morning before I could really call the whole thing done.

Done.

(As you may notice, by this time I had moved on to The Commander and, if you haven’t seen it, let me take this opportunity to say, “SKIIIIIIIIIIP IIIIIIIIIIIIT.” For serious. Maybe if they fit the same amount of plot into 2/3 the amount of time and/or if any of the actors had any chemistry whatsoever among any combination of them it would be worth a watch.)

And there you have it: 3 pieces of furniture ready to fulfill their purposes more fully than before, $0 spent, 6 episodes of Farscape and 1 exceptionally tidy living room.

Next stop: the spare room. ‘Cause you don’t even wanna see what still needs to be done in there.

Prep Work

My weekend activities typically amount to yoga, eating, knitting, & little more. This weekend, though I did not have a yoga class to teach & spent most of my time preparing to eat & knit, rather than actually eating & knitting.

I recently redid our budget & realized that if we spend what I think we should spend on groceries instead of what we actually do spend on groceries, there might just be a small savings account in our future. This is a big, huge, wild kind of deal. Money’s been tight for a while. So the prospect of  a bit of savings – even a very tiny weensy little bit – is a great motivator. (It’s not just groceries, of course. We’ll also be cutting back our fun money, meaning fewer skeins of yarn & action figures, but – tho’ it sounds like heresy even to my own ears – that expense is a hell of a lot easier to cut back on than food.) It means changing how we eat a little, but that just means reverting back to the way I used to eat. It’s all about buying big, cooking big, & preserving as much as possible; the next few weeks will be about trying to find that rhythm again.

This weekend I made 2 quarts of marinara sauce, chopped & froze 5 lbs of onions, roasted a chicken, & made 2 liters of chicken broth with all the leftover bits, bones, peels, stems, etc. The fridge & freezer aren’t quite well stocked enough to keep us going for too long, but I’m thinking about small steps. Only as much big cooking as I can do on a Saturday & a Sunday afternoon each week. In a month or so I should have things pretty well under control – & maybe just a squeensy bit in savings, if my math is right.

On the preparing to knit front, there was a goodly bit of winding to be done. I can almost see that there might be an end to the second skein of Cascade Eco+ for Dan’s sweater (can I tell you how much I love the idea of knitting a big big sweater for my oh-so-tall husband with just 3 skeins of yarn? ’cause, for serious, I hate weaving in ends), so I got out the swift & ball winder to get the last skein ready. The thing about this yarn (or, I suppose more accurately, the thing about my ball winder) is that it’s way more than my ball winder can handle. So, about a third to half of the skein gets wound up all nice & neat into a little yarn cake, then the rest I have to wind by hand. Once I was in the winding by hand groove again, I got the giantest skein of yarn known to Randi on the swift:

Might not look that big. Just trust me on this one.

Might not look that big. Just trust me on this one.

That’s some Cherry Tree Hill Oceania right there, & my, but this is just a great deal of yarn. 1440 yds. This is going to live on the swift for now & I’ve enlisted the husband’s help to get it wound. No way the ballwinder will handle this, so I’m winding it around a paper towel tube. I almost can’t see the tube anymore & honestly I don’t see even a dent being made on the swift. I don’t know how I’m going to handle this ball to knit with it  (handle this ball!). I’ll need to fashion some sort of stand.

So, not much visible progress on my projects, but take a look in my freezer & on my coffee table, & things are clearly getting done.

Purple Pea Coat!

I sent a big box o’stuff off to Texas today. It had this in it:

Fabric Trade

This will be staying with the lovely lady in Texas, while the rest of the package will be coming back to me this fall as the purple pea coat I have dreamed of lo these many years.

So, this is another great thing about Ravelry. Thanks to the awesomefest that is the Karma Yarn Swap group, I’ve found a volunteer to make me a coat. I bought the fabric for it years ago with no pattern in mind, just thinking it would make a lovely coat. Then I did that thing where 7 years go by and you think you’ll learn to sew but then you don’t. So, I offered up some of my knitting skills or my fabric…I suppose “collection” is the right word for it in exchange for the coat and boom! Coat for Randipants, coming this fall. The fabric in the picture is her payment, along with a few surprise goodies I threw in for funsies.

I’m terribly excited about the whole thing.

Making Plans

This is a post about how I consider buying yarn and knitting with yarn to be 2 different hobbies. It is also a post about how great I think Ravelry is.

I used to crochet, mostly afghans (or the beginnings of afghans that would then sit in bags in the attic; you know the drill). I preferred Red Heart for afghans because it comes in a million colors (and you can always find solids that perfectly match the variegateds), costs about $2/lb (very important when you’re 12; still important 17 years later), and was pretty much all my local Ben Franklin carried. I have absolutely no interest in entering into the Is Chain Store Acrylic The Greatest Thing Ever Or Is Producing It How Satan Spends His Free Time debate (except to say that, whatever else he’s doing down there, Satan can’t be making acrylic; acrylic melts). But I do know my own opinion, which is Yaaaaaaaay Red Heart! I can still get distracted by the entire wall of the stuff at A C Moore. I mean, it goes all the way to the ceiling and it has so many colors, you guys. Anyway, my point is, back when I crocheted, my other hobby was buying Red Heart. It turns out I can’t knit with Red Heart, though. I find it just a little too uncomfortably stiff, which isn’t a problem with crochet, since you’re only working with 1 stitch at a time. And I can’t crochet anymore, so when it came time to give all my Red Heart away to a friend who feels the same way I do about it, it did not surprise me to find that it filled an entire trash bag, overflowed a little, and ripped the side.

My buying-yarn-without-a-project-in-mind habit didn’t start for real until after I learned how to knit. Since I only ever crocheted afghans (though I did try a sweater once), I always bought yarn intending to use it for an afghan. Therefore, even if I didn’t have a specific afghan in mind, I was at least buying yarn with a purpose. Once I learned how to knit, though, I wanted to knit everything. Also, once I got my first taste of higher-end yarn (oh, it was Dream In Color Smooshy in Deep Sea Flower; mmmmmmmmmm) the yarn buying started to separate from the project planning a bit.

Well, to an extent. I can buy a skein of sock yarn knowing I’ll make socks out of it, even if I’m going to have that yarn for a year before I cast on those socks. So, there you go – I can buy a skein of sock yarn whenever I want! And I’ll buy a single skein of anything I think is pretty figuring I can probably make a hat or fingerless gloves or something out of it. So, hello, 20 or so single skeins of Cascade 220 and Patons Classic Wool. But I have been indulging my ooooooh-that’s-purrrrrty gene all along as well. Sometimes I buy just because it feels/looks nice – hence the several skeins of laceweight with not a shawl in sight. Over the last few years I have amassed quite a bit of stuff without having any idea what might be done with it.

Now, I don’t really have a problem with this method. I believe that hobbies are for fun-making and we don’t need to impose all these rules on them or talk about “being bad” vs “being good”. I have never gone on a “yarn diet”, for example, and I don’t hide yarn from my husband or lie to him about how much I buy. I think as long as you’re not taking money away from your household to spend on your hobby, then you’re ok, and I have never spent the rent money on anything but rent. However. I do have that other hobby – the one where I knit – and when I’m taking part in that one, I like to actually make things. Hats, socks, sweaters. Those things are made out of yarn. So, if I’m choosing a new project to knit and I don’t have yarn for it, and I go out and buy yarn for it without checking the several full drawers in the living room, well that just seems like I’m not taking full advantage of my resources, you know?

Enter Ravelry. My, but I do enjoy this website. (Want to know who else has knit a certain pattern in the exact same yarn and colorway as you? Want to  know what to do with exactly 105 yards of something or other? Looking for all the afghans people have made featuring Nintendo characters in some fashion? Done, done, and done. But I digress.) According to Ravelry, I have 7 pages of patterns in my queue and 114 different yarns. Until a week or so ago I wasn’t really seeing much connection between the two. Now, however, I have assigned yarns to about a third of the first page. It doesn’t seem like much, but I’m actually really happy with that number, because it represents several months’ worth of knitting time.

Even just matching up the patterns and the yarns has taken some time, but really this website makes it all so easy. Click the pattern, click the tab showing all the yarns people have used – they even show you which yarns people have used you also own now; all this website has to do is start making me breakfast and my life will be complete – and find something suitable of my own. Or, for the patterns I really want to make but don’t own anything appropriate to make it out of, I can browse around a bit to find what I would like to use, and then I have a shopping list for the next time I’m yarn shopping. No more buying 3 or 4 various skeins of whatever strikes my fancy if I know I really need 2 skeins of Smooshy for that scarf I’ve had my eye on. After a few evenings’ clicking and browsing and thinking, I now have plans for:

  • 2 skeins of Cascade 220
  • 1 skein of Mocha’s Fiber Connection Phoebe
  • that gorgeous purplesparkleyyum skein of Schaefer Anne
  • a sweater’s worth of Patons Classic Wool Merino
  • some Koigu that’s on its way in a trade along with 1 more skein I already have; and
  • a sweater’s worth of Noro Kureyon

The Kureyon was my first planned-for purchase I tried out my new plan on; the new plan is working already! I also have 5 more projects I’ve picked out yarn for and now I’m just waiting for the cash to accumulate a bit.

For Someone Who Doesn’t Sew, I Have An Awful Lot Of Fabric

For serious.

For serious.

 

I pulled the fabric vats out of the basement last night for a little photo shoot. I’m working out a trade with someone on the Ravelry boards and my offer includes her choice of my quilting fabrics. The quilting fabric is just what’s out on the floor here, by the way (and there’s another stack behind what’s visible); all the stuff in the bins is velvet, fleece, thicker woven stuff that looks like it’s for clothes. And then about a mile and a half of that black and white striped jersey sort of stuff in the bottom right that I can only imagine being used for some kind of old-timey prison dress up theme party.

Every time I pull this stuff out and sort through it, I realize I’d forgotten how much there is. The smallest bin you see there (top left) is 66 quarts and even when this is all packed away neatly, each of those bins is still filled right up to the top. I inherited this from my grandmother and I think it shows that I inherited my craft buying philosophy from her as well. I just apply it to a different set of materials, but the basics are the same: know what you like and buy a lot of it; always buy at least one extra unit so you’ll have leftovers; if it’s in your favorite color, who cares if you have tons more of almost the same thing at home?

(About that last one – there are several shades of pink in here that I think might be the same but I’m not really sure because they’re so close. This was the same way she bought nail polish too – always looking for the perfect shade of pink and never finding it.)

Ah, well. Soon at least a bit of this will be making its merry way towards someone who knows what to do with it and will put it to good use (and I’ll have a nice warm wool coat coming back my way for this winter!). A few more deals like this one and maybe I’ll have a whole new empty bin to start filling with yarn (’cause I always buy an extra skein just in case).