Thread Thoughts

The Nut Graf knits, sews and attempts other crafts

Last-Minute Gifts: Stuffed horse December 20, 2007

Filed under: Sewing — chengat @ 7:40 am
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Here’s an easy stash-buster project that took me less than a half hour to make:
horse1.jpg

I made a bunch of these last year and gave them away to the little kids in our family. The above photo is the prototype I made for my son. It was inspired by Poncho, a very gentle Shetland Pony that my son used to ride at REINS, a therapeutic horseback riding program for kids with special needs. (If you click on the horses link at the REINS web site, you can see a photo of Poncho — he’s the horse of choice for the toddler crowd.)

Materials: I used fabric remnants found in the clearance bin of my local Joann store and novelty yarn I had in my stash for the mane and tail. You can also cut thin fabric strips instead of yarn.

I drew an outline of a horse on a piece of paper (the simpler the better), cut it out and pinned it to the fabric (folded right sides together). Cut the fabric around the template, making sure to leave about a quarter inch or so for seams. Lay your yarn pieces as pictured in the photo below:
horse2.jpg

Carefully sew around beginning at the saddle area, leaving open about an inch and a half at the saddle area for stuffing. Make sure you leave some shape definition around the head. I also recommend double stitching over the mane and tail area to secure the yarn. Snip fabric where there are sharp curves, making sure not to clip into the seams. Turn inside out, stuff, whipstitch shut. Use pinking shears to cut a rectangular saddle with contrast fabric. Cover the whipstitched area with the saddle and use a decorative stitch, e.g. running stitch or blanket stitch to attach. Further embellish with sequins, bead, or ribbons if so desired.

This is my final installment of last-minute gift ideas. Merry Christmas!

 

Last-Minute Gifts: Needle felting December 12, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — chengat @ 2:41 am

Here’s another idea for a last-minute crafting gift – needle felting. I completed these two guys in one evening:
snowmen.jpg
They’re from a Woolpet kit that I bought from The Loopy Ewe.
woolpets.jpg
They come in other animals, like sheep, birds, polar bear and I especially like their hedgehog. These would make good ornaments, or leave them in a kit to give to someone. They come nicely packaged in a clear take-out box container with two felting needles, clear photo instructions and, in the case of my snowmen kit, enough roving make at least another pair. You will need foam or a sponge to cushion your project while jabbing with a felting needle. Laurie from Woolpets also sells felted sculptures and kits from her Etsy store.
Here is another cute kit I bought from Joann.com:
critterkit.jpg
They are called Critter Kits and are made by MyFavoriteThimble.com. They come with roving, instructions, bead, thread and a Colonial felting needle. Pictured here next to Mr. Boston Terrier are a felting needle tool and a mat made by Clover. The Clover felting tool is more for applique work than for these small sculptures. You place the wool applique over the base fabric and punch it with the tool to apply the piece. It’s a way to easily decorate sweaters, scarves or bags without sewing.

Lastly, if you like the terrier pictured above, you might want to check out the amazingly life-like kits at FleeceDog.com or get the Fleece Dog book, which contains lots of photos and is fun just to leaf through. Happy jabbing!

 

Last-minute gifts: Sewing December 8, 2007

Filed under: Quilting,Reviews — chengat @ 12:44 am
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Wow. I hadn’t realized it’s been exactly a month since I’ve updated this blog. I was trying to finish knitting up some hats for my nieces and nephew, went out of town for Thanksgiving and then had to get a new logic board for my iMac (no charge thankfully).

So looking for some last minute gifts? Let’s turn to sewing, which usually takes less time than knitting the same item. Here are two books I bought a month or so ago, one to make gifts and the other could make a gift:
ab3.jpg
These are Last Minute Patchwork and Quilted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson and Midwest Modern, a coffee table book by Amy Butler.

Hoverson also wrote Last-Minute Knitted Gifts and owns Purl and Purl Patchwork, in New York City’s Soho district. Like LM Knitted Gifts, the projects are broken down by estimated time to complete: less than 2 hours, 2-4 hours, 4-8 hours, 8-12 hours and more than 12 hours. Projects range from pincushions and pillows, to large-sized quilts. Here are some of my favorites:

Color-wheel quilt, a striking wall hanging

(Sort of) Crazy Quilt, inspired by the quilters of Gee’s Bend and Denyse Schmidt
lmq3.jpg
and Peanut, the wee elephant, designed by Hillary Lang of Wee Wonderfuls fame. This looks like a good way to use up scrap fabric.

The book also includes chapters on color theory and quilting basics, although I wouldn’t use this as a reference on quilting as there are no how-to photos. Last Minute Knitted Gifts is one of my favorite knitting books, and this one will likely become one of my favorite sewing books too, alongside Denyse Schmidt’s Quilts and Amy Butler’s In Stitches. (P.S. I forgot to mention the book comes with full-size pattern templates that you can photocopy or trace) Grade: A

For those of you looking for sewing patterns, Amy Butler’s Midwest Modern may disappoint you. There are only two, for floor cushions and an envelope pillow. Instead, this book is more of a behind-the-scenes peek at Butler’s designs and aesthetics. For example, here’s a photo of her workroom
ab2.jpg
And here are some of her sketches: ab1.jpg

Many of the photos of Butler’s projects used in the book can be found on her web site, but there are also some shots of her garden and other places where she finds inspiration. The photos, taken by her husband, are beautiful and there are tons of them. This book is eye candy for the hard-core Amy Butler fan. Grade: B+

I’ll end this entry with a quotation from Butler’s book: “I wanted this book to inspire you — not to look at my life and work in awe, but to see how simple and approachable a creative life is. It’s not about adding layers to our life, but about stripping away obstacles. Fear is one of the biggest obstacles any of us can face….Don’t allow your fears and anxieties to overshadow your passions.”

 

Dark winter knits a la Kim Hargreaves November 8, 2007

Filed under: Knitting,Reviews — chengat @ 1:15 am

Something about the winter season, perhaps the grayer skies and deep nights, that makes us knitters turn to darker colors. I’ve noticed Blue Moon Fiber Arts (those behind Socks that Rock) has come out with a new color grouping called the Raven Clan, 13 colorways that are heavily shaded with black. Complex. Mysterious.

And speaking of dark Gothic themes, I just received Kim Hargreaves’ new pattern book, Heartfelt: The Dark House Collection. Doesn’t the title evoke a novel written by one of the Bronte sisters? The book is typical KH: timeless pieces with a modern look. The collection includes 21 patterns, including sweaters and accessories knitted in yarn of all gauges, ranging from simple to more advanced techniques – in other words, there is something in here for everyone.

Each of the patterns is well photographed. I hate it when photographs in knitting books and magazines (that means you, Vogue Knitting) obsure important details of the knitted piece in favor of some “artistic” shot, or pose the models to hide some flaw in the garment. Not to worry with Ms. Hargreaves. For example, look at Amory:
amory_x3.jpg
See how each photo is beautifully shot, yet highlights the details of the design.

Of her designs, I especially like Faith, a cardigan with eyelet panelling and gathered sleeves; Calm, a light mohair sweater with eyelet detailing around the neckline; and Amory, a fitted sweater with a curved hemline and lace panelling down the front and back. Each design is elegant yet comfortable looking. For accessories, I like the cozy look of the Haven scarf, a lace design for a bulky yarn; and the feminine yet saucy look of Bonnie, a slouchy lace hat.

I bought the kit for Faith. It’s a pretty cardigan perfect for holiday parties when knit in the drapey and shiny Bamboo Soft yarn called for in the pattern. I got the kit in the color Gypsum, which is a medium gray that is less blue than pictured on the Web site, as you can see here. The cute flower pin and belt were unfortunately not included in the kit.
faithkit.jpgfaith_x3.jpg
Each of Hargreaves’ kits comes boxed with tissue, ribbon and gift card. They would make a perfect gift for a knitter or crocheter. They also include any buttons, beads or – as in the case with the Precious cropped cardigan – even handmade silk ribbons. The buttons I received with the Faith kit look to be excellent quality and are made of glass and have faceted edges.

I also bought a kit for Trinket, a ruffled scarf not from her book but from Hargreave’s Finishing Touches accessories collection, which is only available on her Web site. The kit is in the color Violetta, a deep purple, and includes silver-lined beads in amethyst purple. The glass beads, perhaps size 8/0, look like Miyuki beads, or similar quality. You beaders out there probably know that Miyuki seed beads have the highest and most consistent quality. You can’t risk using poor quality beads on your knitting as they can be difficult to string, or worse yet, they may snag or cut your yarn.
trinketkit.jpg1_earth_trinket_2.jpg

Hargreaves’ patterns are formatted like other Rowan patterns, with clear instructions, charts and schematics. But one big negative (and this is a problem with other Rowan patterns as well) is the patterns don’t offer much details on the yarn used. Rowan probably does this intentionally to get you to buy their yarn. But even if I do buy Rowan yarn, which I often do, I would still like to at least know the composition of the yarn and yardage per skein/ball. This is a huge problem when knitters want to use an older pattern and Rowan has discontinued the yarn. Thank goodness for sites like Yarndex and Ravelry, to find info on discontinued yarn.

Other points: I did notice one piece of errata in the Heartfelt book. For Amory, the yarn is listed as Kidsilk Aura when it should be Bamboo Soft. But since this is a freshly minted copy, I’m sure this and any other errors will be corrected soon. The shipping from the U.K. to the U.S. is expensive, but she ships very quickly. I ordered the book and kits last Tuesday (Oct. 30) and got it today (Wednesday) – exactly a week.

Now I just have to finish my Road to Golden sweater and cast on for Faith!

 

Happy Halloween! October 31, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — chengat @ 11:58 pm

greenmonster1.jpg
Not really a Halloween costume, but it is a monster. The hat that is, not the boy. This is my 3rd Monster Hat knit from an Insubordiknit kit. I found the matching shirt at Target. I highly recommend the Monster Hats, especially with the gift-giving season coming up. They are fun and quick knits. Each kit includes one-of-a-kind hand-dyed, self-striping yarn, pattern and a felted monster patch.
greenmonster2.jpg This one reminded me of Frankenstein. The colors maybe?

 

I am falling in love again October 27, 2007

Filed under: Knitting,Uncategorized — chengat @ 8:10 pm

…with the Turkish Cape. Sometimes you do need a little timeout to revitalize a relationship. I got tired of it last year, all that demanding color stranding, the purling Continental style, the nasty knotting as the yarn twisted on each other, the complicated color chart. But recently, I revisted this former flame and remembered what drew me to it in the first place — such beautiful colors, such soft yarn. I’m not sorry I had abandoned it when I did. Perhaps it was for the best, I was impatient and wanted it done quickly. But now (maybe because I am a little wiser and more experienced) I have taken a bit more time and care with it. It is not a project to be rushed through. So, here it is blocking:
tcape3.jpg
I just need to pick up stitches along the bottom edge, work the band pattern and then the lining (the pink and turquoise section). My strategy of working just a few rows every day has worked. As soon as I got tired of this, I would drop it and move on to something else. It got a lot better after I completed the blue pattern section which required stranding up to 5 colors. I’m still not happy about the tension in that area but I’m hoping the blocking will ease it somewhat.
I think I’m also falling in love with the Tangled Yoke Cardigan, especially seeing how many lovely ones there are out there on Ravelry. This arrived on Friday from Elann, their limited edition Lana Cash in the oatmeal color:
lanacash.jpg
I’m swatching to see if it is a cheaper substitute for the Rowan Felted Tweed called for in the Tangled Yoke pattern. Lana Cash is 70% wool and 30% cashmere and knits up to a double-knit gauge on #3 needles. Yardage is an excellent 256 yards for only $3.98 a ball. This yarn sold out quickly, so let’s hope they bring some more back soon. There are still some black left and another color that looks like a tweedy ginger that they’re calling Sienna. The texture prewashing feels a little like raw silk, dry and nubby. Elann says it will bloom with “lofty softness” after washing. In any case, I like the way the swatch is turning out so far. I think this could make a nice rustic shawl as well.

 

Re-evaluating UFOs and other lovely distractions October 24, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — chengat @ 5:25 am

Many of you probably already know by now that much of San Diego county has been engulfed by fires or is in danger of it. I am thankful my family and friends are not in harm’s way, and hope those of you in the area reading this are also staying safe.

So, to keep myself distracted, I have been organizing my knitting. In particular, I have been addicted to Ravelry. It is the best time waster! I have uploaded nearly all my knitting of the past four years, which I have been taking notes on all this time so I was able to cut and paste some of it. I also uploaded my WIPs and UFOs, which forced to me evaluate why they have been languishing on the needles.

Here’s a list of some of my hibernating projects (progress in parenthesis):

Tuscany shawl (30%): using Sea Silk in periwinkle – I started this as a summer travel project, but I ended up being too busy on my trips to knit.
Orangina (60%): Karabella Vintage Cotton in red – I am almost done with the lace section, so it really shouldn’t take me much longer to complete this. But now I am on to fall/winter projects.
Lady of the Lake cardigan (30%): Fleece Artist kit in midnight colorway (purple and brown) – I thought I’d be able to squeeze a quick project or two last spring before it got too warm. I was wrong.
Cropped Cardigan with Leaf Ties (40%): Cascade Indulgence in light purple – see Lady of the Lake cardigan
Enid cardigan (20%): Reynolds Whiskey in pattern colors – I love the way this looks in Interweave, but the stockinette has bored me. Plus, now I’m interested in knitting Tangled Yoke, which has a similar look without the color stranding or steeking.
Endpaper Mitts (50%): Louet Gems green and white – This was a travel project from last Christmas. I made one, I’ll try to finish the other when I travel this Christmas.
Ash (70%): Rowan Kidsilk Spray in vino (red) — This has been on my needles through 2 winters now, but I’m almost done. I still like it, but the pattern’s getting a little boring.
Seascape shawl (15%): Helen’s Lace in River (light teal green and puple) – The colors make this more of a spring/summer knit. Maybe I’ll pick this one up again next year.
Soul (45%): Rowan Calmer in squirrel (charcoal gray) – This Kim Hargreaves pattern looked great in the Calmer Collection book…until I found out it requires cable needles every 5 stitches on every other row. Ugh. I would rip it but I’m almost done with the front. The question is, do I make the back in the same pattern, or just give up and knit the back in ribbing just to finish it and get it over with?
Child’s Spiral Geek pullover (30%): This one is only hibernating because I misplaced the yarn for it in our move. I have to finish this for my son before he outgrows it though.

And, I’ve decided to take my Turkish Cape out of hibernation:
tcape1.jpg
This is a beautiful cape featured in Vogue Knitting two winters ago (the one with the Twisted Float Shrug on the cover.) I got the yarn pack from Kpixie and started knitting this last year, feeling confident about color stranding after finishing Eunny’s Deep V Argyle Vest. I got pretty far, but it’s an incredibly frustrating knit. It requires stranding up to 5 yarns in some sections, and involves purling with several colors. I picked this up again because I do want to finish it at some point, though there’s no hurry to do it. I figured if I just keep it out and aim to knit a few rows every week or so then I might be able to finish it. I’m only a few rows from the top section and then there’s a color band that I have to pick up and knit around the whole shawl. Here’s a view of the back so you can see all the various color floats, which I later got pretty lazy about catching every few stitches:
tcape2.jpg

Finally, I’ll end my entry here with some finished pieces:
Springtime in Paris socks parissocks.jpg
This was a pattern from the Six Sox knitalong. You can see the Eiffel Tower pattern there on on the right (with the sock’s purl side out) and raindrops pattern on the left (stockinette side). I used Claudia’s Handpainted in the pink clouds colorway because the pink reminded me of the romance of Paris, while the gray represents the dark clouds of spring.
Poppy socks from Sundara: poppysocks.jpg Love the yarn, love the pattern. Easy to memorize and a quick knit.
and Juliet:
juliet.jpg
This took a little longer than I had hoped. I had to restart the lace section because I was running out of yarn, despite meeting gauge and having the 600 yards suggested for the size medium. I think it’s because I knit more garter rows around the bust which requires more yarn than a lace pattern. I ended up knitting the bottom lace section in a size small by increasing until I had the number of stitches for the small size. I knit until I ran out of yarn, which was at the end of the 6th lace repeat, then knit the garter rows in some handspun yarn from Insubordiknit. Whew! I think I’ll use the handspun to make the loops for the buttons and I need to find some nice big buttons.
Next entry, I’ll review some sewing books I just got through Amazon. Fun stuff, stay tuned!