Friday, December 11, 2015

Another First - a lace shawl!

I have seen and admired lovely lace shawls made by other knitters and said "nope, can't do it."  Maybe I could make lace table wear, but if I wore a fluttering shawl, I would certainly catch the yarn on something and there would be pulls or tears the very first day, and that would be sad.

But then I had some lace weight yarn that didn't work out for what I bought it for, and one of my Vogue Knitting Magazines had a lovely shawl pictured on the model like a kerchief, so I was game to try it.

I thought it would take me months to knit - skinny yarn, skinny needles, complicated charts... I was wrong.  Three weeks and a day.  When it was off the needles and I laid it out on the towel for a photo it was (drum roll please) actually, awful - bunched up, the lace patterns don't show up, and it was really too small to wear.

But I know about this with lace - it has to be blocked.  Here ts is after a nice soak pinned onto the same towel (camera flash changed the color).

After it dried, for better contrast I took it to the sewing room dropped it on a yard of black doupioni silk.  Black Cat Moki came to check it out

 and without my having to beg, she immediately agreed to be the model.

Here's how I'll wear it - shown over a yoga t-shirt which is not very elegant.  All that fastidious lace work is fairly well obscured by the gathers around the neck ....

.... but my fellow knitters will know!


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Should have been a quick knit....

This is my first cowl, but it may be an unusual shaping technique - you start by knitting back and forth to create an arc shape, then join and knit in the round to complete it once the inner edge of the arc is long enough to fit over your head.

The pattern is called "Appia" by Hilary Smith Callis. It is based on a traditional reversible striped lace pattern called Roman Stripe.  On my mannequin above, I have the fabric spread out so you can see the lace - in the photo below, I was trying to show off the picot edging - something else I did here for the first time.

In real life, it would be scrunched more around the neck.  They say these cowls keep you warm - we'll see.

I bought the yarn a couple of weeks ago at Southeast Animal Fiber Fair (SAFF).  It is a hand-dyed merino-cashmere-nylon blend sock yarn, and was delightful to knit with.

I don't know why it looks blue under the "daylight" fluorescents in my studio. 

 In reality it's a beautiful soft gray called "Seattle Sky"

Here's the unusual shape, doubled up on my bed.  The neck opening is the angle at the upper right, the center back seam is the short side on the right.

I probably knitted this entire project twice.  It's an easy pattern, I just made a lot of little mistakes and wouldn't see them for a couple of rows.  But I'm motivated to make a few more cowls, especially with a forgiving yarn like this one.  It did not give me any difficulty despite all my knitting and unknitting and reknitting.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

More yoga socks

I need these once a week, year-around since the temperature in the room at the Y where I attend class is quite variable and my feet are almost always cold.

The pattern is by Shiri Mor, published in Vogue Knitting 2012. The pretty cable pattern goes up both the front and back of the sock. The heel opening is simply bound off one row and cast back on the next, then given a single crochet edge.

Now I have two pairs.  Maybe I'll no longer spend Sunday evenings hoping my stirrup socks will dry by class time on Monday (since I tend to forget to wash them all week.)

Friday, October 9, 2015

I knitted plaid!

Plaid blankets have always appealed to me.  Most knitting patterns for plaids have you knit horizontal stripes, then you have to do something special to get the verticals, like duplicate stitch, or a crocheted chain on top of the stripes, which is ok but seems like a lot of trouble for an approximation that doesn't quite have the tartan look.  Here's a link to a free vintage plaid scarf pattern done with a crocheted chain for the vertical stripes for comparison - you only get skinny vertical stripes.

Back in 2005, Vogue Knitting published a scarf pattern by designer Annie Modesitt with a clever construction that really gives the look of a tartan plaid.  I just repeated the design four times across to make my throw.

Tartan plaids are made with a twill weave, so you see the two colors crossing each other in little diagonal stripes - Here's an example of a twill-weave plaid from Wikipedia -

Annie's knitted version gives dots of knit stitches instead of diagonals, but the mix of colors works like the woven plaid.  (My closeup photo to show the knitting is upside down.)

Annie's method involves knitting the odd rows across in intarsia columns - with my 5 colors in 4 repeats, that's 20 ends of yarn.  I tried using large bobbins which was a failure - documented in my Ravelry project file.  In the end I used embroidery floss bobbins and had to work in a lot of ends since you can't put a lot of worsted weight wool on a bobbin designed for thread.  (I wove them in as I went.)  This is what the back of the knitting looked like with the bobbins across the top.

The horizontal stripes are worked by knitting each even row in the same direction as the previous odd row using just one color for those rows, alternating between knit and slipped stitches. 

When this project came off the knitting needles, it was curled up and lumpy, but that didn't stop Lu from testing it out as soon as I spread it on the floor to have a look.

Here are a couple more photos of the throw, on the bed in the guest room which is what I made it for.

The gray yarn I used has a hint of metallic sparkle that doesn't show in my photos.  The other yarns are plain wool.
 Although this took only about two and half months from start to finish, I'm glad to move on to smaller projects for a change.

Monday, October 5, 2015

A decorator special

When we refurnished the living room, we moved the Asian rug that went with the old furniture to our bedroom.  Although the existing quilt's colors were not terrible with it, the patterns of quilt and rug together were too busy and incompatible.  In addition, the sun had taken its toll on the quilt's fabrics in one corner - they were fading and some were starting to shred.  I was not immediately inspired as to how I would replace it, but a local fiber-related flea market supplied a color-themed decorator fabric sample book in our brown and blue-green scheme.  I dismantled the book and was able to cut two 2.5 x 5 inch strips of each fabric which I pieced in a single stripe. 

This obviously left a lot of area to be filled. Knowing this quilt is likely going to fall apart from sun exposure, I didn't really want to spend a lot of time on the problem, and decided to quilt rows of feather motifs.  Feathers fill a lot of space quickly - though the structure I put them in maybe isn't so fast.

The 9.5 inch interlocking circles design is a composite of ideas from one of the longarm feathers tutorial books I learned from when I first started my quilting business.  The alternate design - a half-clam shell 3.75 inches across - came from a striped printed fabric I noted while fabric shopping on-line several years ago.

The decorator fabrics are of varying weights and textures - you can see a textured chenille under the leaf print in this next photo.

I hoped my design would not take weeks and weeks to finish, but it took longer than it should have.  I loaded the quilt with what is the left side first, so the stripes go the length of the longarm table.  I basted the top edge, then decided to nail the pieced strip with its varying weights and textures (including some devilish slippery fabrics) firmly in place making sure it was very straight before doing any other quilting.  I was thinking, "Oh, it's only the second full roll of the quilt, I don't really have to baste all that, do I?"  Well, I should have been checking as I worked my way back to the leading edge, because I quilted in about 2 inches of backing fabric as pleats - and since I was working backwards, I did not see it until I had quilted an entire row of circles and feathers, a row of half-clams and feathers, and finally a row of interlocking circles that all had to be ripped out.

This quilt was really not planned very well at all.  I thought I would use the feathered cable that borders the pieced stripe throughout the quilt, but the feather spine template I was using was not designed for cables and quilting the four lines of the cables with it it was so tedious I really wanted to give it up after doing the first stripe with it - but I had invested in it and was pretty tired of ripping out quilting by that point - so just one more cabled row sets off the pieced area.

Here's another photo of the pieced stripe.

 Happily, my lack of planning somehow resulted in the same 1.5 inches of border on the final edge, to balance with the same width I had filled with angled straight lines on the first edge.

We used to have a textured rug and patterned quilt - now we have a textured quilt and patterned rug.

I hope the natural colored sateen fabric will last a little longer than the printed fabrics of the old quilt - but maybe five years from now, I'll have a different idea to try.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

August 1865 - The Civil War is Finally Over for Eli

The last letter I have from Eli to Calvin was dated July 22nd, datelined Union Springs, Alabama.  Calvin received it in Indiana on August 2nd, so I saved this last soldier's letter for this last monthly post.

Eli wrote:  "Dear Cousin, I seat myself once more at the pleasant task of answering your most welcome letter of July 1st and 2nd which made its appearance yesterday afternoon finding me enjoying very good health, was very glad to hear that you were all getting a long so well. We have just found the place where I like soldiering, Co K is doing provost duty here we have a house right in town very good shade around it, but still I would like to be at home, harvest wages were very good this season $2,00 is much better than 50 or 60 cts per day and then the grub is so much better.  That is what I look at -- you did not live on strong Coffee, spoilt bacon and hard tacks..."

Calvin must have commented on Eli's last letter's story of falling in love with "the best looking girl that I have seen since I have been in rebeldom" because he says, "Well you see the reason that I did not do with that young lady as you propose was this. You know that I am very bashful and should not like to approach one of the fair sex (in her standing especially,) so abrupt as to cause her and me both to faint on the spot. I'll just tell you what it is some very gay girls here in and around this little place.  If we should stay here a month or two I intend to have a chat with some of them sure. I was at Sunday School today and saw one that just smiled my taste she had such pretty curls and such ruby lips. Oh My but I wanted to go for her."

Eli returns to the 52nd's service "... There is a great deal of talk about our going to Mexico what do you think of that, I tell the boys that I shall have to go home to see pap before I can go to Mexico because I had to coax a long time before I could get his consent to go to fight the rebs and I think that I would have to coax some time longer before he would let me go to Mex.  It does not alarm me a bit to have them talk about going to Mexico because they know well enough that the whole command would rebel a great deal stronger than the south ever did."

"...I do not pity you for this reason because you have been there at home all the time and had all the chance in the world, and I have been away down here in Egypt a fighting the rebels but never mind the war is over with me now and I shall look around some for a wife.  Never you mind about going to see that widow for me I think that I can better myself right in this country I think I shall try at any rate. I wish you were here to eat water melons with me there is plenty of them and they are cheap too. I have just nearly lived on melons, apples and peaches since we have been here."

Eli then describes the provost duty -- yesterday they arrested a black man for stealing a lot of clothes. There are already two more in the jail, one for murder, and the other "for threatening to kill his master and burn his house down. The jail is about 10 feet square, a frame building cealed with two inch plank with one little hole cut in the back side about 12 inches square and bars put across one way."

Eli finishes the letter saying "The church bells are pealing forth their musical strains but it is too warm for me to go to church this after noon. We have very hot weather here now days." He also says they have plenty of fleas in the sandy soil.

    *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *         

Eli Hause would officially muster out with the 52nd on the 10th of September.  A year later, he was again corresponding with his cousin Calvin as he left their home town and went to work in construction, first in other cities in Indiana, and then in Fairbury, Illinois-- a booming place with a new railroad just coming to town.  There he was attracted to the daughter of a neighbor, one Myra Jan (Jennie) Marciller, and obviously overcame the shyness he wrote about, because he described their first date as a walk from one end of town to the other, and got married to her two weeks later.  They moved to Missouri, just as Eli told Calvin he would do after marching through the state with the 52nd in 1864.

Jennie was remarkably small of stature, but a strong pioneer woman. While they moved around in western Missouri, she gave birth to the first three of the four children she and Eli would have, and made a log cabin quilt.  His brothers Elmer and William also tried to make a life in Missouri, but they both gave up and returned to Indiana. In the fall of 1874, Eli took his family back to Hardenburg as well.  Eli died of typhoid pneumonia on February 13th, 1877 when he was just 30 years old.

The Hause family has amassed a remarkable record of their genealogy, but until I contacted them, they were unaware of Eli's Civil War Service.  He had a very simple marker in the family plot in the local cemetery, which broke between my visits last summer and this spring.

Eli died almost exactly two years prior to Congressional authorization to provide official markers for veterans in private cemeteries.  A few months ago, I started the process of applying for one for him.  First I had to obtain his complete service record from the National Archives. I had been sorry that the family have no photos of Eli - though here's one of the two brothers that went to Missouri with him and Jennie - the younger Elmer (left) and his older brother, fellow veteran William:

With the Complete Service Record, I got this description of Eli, which at least partially answers one question the photo above raises - 

You can get a government-supplied stone marker for a veteran only if the grave is not currently marked. My application for the marker was answered with a request for proof that Eli is buried in the cemetery I named on the form.  Because of all the history between then and now, I couldn't provide the types of documents they asked for, but just yesterday, I spoke with a VA Memorials official and emailed the above photo of his grave marked with the small brass plaque (placed by the townspeople in about 1980), a photo of the family monument, and the local newspaper notification of Eli's death the county librarian found as my evidence.  Not long after our conversation, the VA official sent me an email saying she had approved  my request, adding that Eli's marker should be delivered to the monuments company in nearby N. Vernon, Indiana in four to six weeks.
When I started on the Civil War quilt series back in 2012, I had no idea I would end up rejoicing at the official approval notification I received from the VA this morning.  I did not make a block for Eli this month because I have not yet decided all of the blocks will go together and how many more I may need, but for August 2015, I'm satisfied to have a obtained different kind of memorial to Eli's service.

Thursday, August 13, 2015


Last year we started on a project to redecorate the house. That project has only a few final touches to go, and this quilt for the guest room is one of them.  To go with a deeper color paint, I made a white silk-cotton blend whole cloth (Robert Kaufman Radiance - pieced to make it cover a queen-size mattress). 

When we started to photograph the quilt hanging up outside, the air was still and the sky cloudless so no time to work on the wrinkles that set in overnight.  (unfortunately, the weather conditions didn't last.)

For the center of the quilt, I used an applique design from Kitty Pippen's Asian Elegance: Quilting with Japanese Fabrics and More.  I had to do in quilting what that design did with color so I chose to quilt the backgrounds much more densely than she did in her quilt.  I made the Hawk Feathers (the chevons seen below) with varying widths of stripes to resemble the different striped fabrics she pieced.

Here are a couple more views of that center panel with dogwoods and stylized hawk feathers.

I didn't relate to the mandarin ducks in the original design, and substituted cranes from a Dover publication.  Here they are a little closer up, standing in water.

Once I had the center quilted, I did two borders with sashiko-based designs - combining clamshells and orange peels (called Seven Treasures of Buddha by the sashiko artists) for the first. Those were easy to quilt. The Ocean Waves (the diamond pattern) was much harder and what I spent more time on than the rest of the quilt put together.  Or maybe I just spent more time dragging my feet on that part?

So as not to have to worry about making the Ocean Waves pattern turn corners and keep it facing right-side up where it falls off the bed on the sides and at the foot, I used a flower design from the same Dover book the cranes came from as a cornerstone.

 The top and bottom border are a Summa Designs pantograph wave pattern with some free motion, and the sides are a Hermione Agee feather panto based on the clam shell. By the time I got to those last borders, I was tired of working on the diamond pattern, and that allowed me to get the quilt off the machine.

Here are two views of the room nearly finished.

Norris made new nightstands to fit the room. The photo above was taken while the drawer was in the garage (modelling for the nearly finished second one).  He'd probably like us to show the real thing (below photo taken before the new lamps and mirrors showed up)  The drawer fronts are ambrosia maple (sorry for the lousy photo taken with my cell phone.)

In case you wonder why our mountain house has this Japanese-themed quilt, this is the fabric we chose to reupholster the chair with - 

I just said, "Clamshells - I can go with that."

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Holiday Quilts - International - Part 2

Now for my part in the other Remarkable Robins Quilts.  I'm sorry to say I don't have photos of all the finished quilts I can share.

My first assignment was an 18 inch block for Kerry's St. Patrick's Day quilt.  Kerry wanted a celebration of her Irish heritage. She made a six inch block with roadsigns on a potato print, indicating destinations in Ireland. Dorry sent me a tea towel printed with a map of England on Pure Irish Linen and a handkerchief embroidered with shamrocks to use. I cut out the Legend and the Pure Irish Linen label. I used a strip of the green that Kerry had used as the backing of her Round Robin vegetable quilt for the green squares and added a 100% linen for the background.

I never pieced linen before and found it was a joy to work with. It is stable and presses beautifully.  
Here's a closeup of that handkerchief embroidery.  It floats over the orange dot Kerry supplied.

For my Flat Stanley, I opened the atlas to the map of Ireland. Lu came right over to check it out and Kerry loved cats, so that was the photo I used.

Next I made a block for Jo.  Jo and all of our Australian residents said they don't decorate for holidays much, and instead chose holiday destinations for their quilts.  Jo's was the coast.  She gave us each a different water fabric with waves. Mine was a gradation.  

I bought a gradient hand dye from Vicki Welsh and had fun playing with a way to intermingle both fabrics. I took the Ocean Waves block and simplified it so I could leave Jo's fabric in large pieces.

It was a surprise when I realized that when Vicki made the gradient, she took the blue and brown palette from a  photo of the same rocky coast Jo used as inspiration for her quilt.

The center of Jo's block is embellished with charms, and a fish net I made with thread on a water soluble base.  The net took almost as much time as the piecing.

I took my beach towel outside for my Flat Stanley.  I have the rocks of the coast in Jo's inspiration photo, but no water.

My next block was for Dorry's Easter quilt.  She supplied a yellow fabric dotted with pastel colors.  I made her an Easter Lamb in a grape leaf wreath with a polka dotted sky.

Dorry's fabric wound up in colored Easter eggs for the wreath.

The design I appliqued on the eggs is an adaptation of the Rotorua quilting design I put on the quilt Kerry made for Dorry's son Casey (here are my photos of that quilt).

I couldn't decide between my Flat Stanleys for Dorry -but I'll just show one here, with the lamb nestled among my blooming native iris.

My last block was for Heather who chose a return to Spain on her holiday.  My sister-in-law Joanna went to Spain for a study tour during this time, and took lots of great photos I had permission to use.  These tiles are in the Castillo de Coca.

Heather supplied us with a rich print by Jason Yenter.  Here's how it looks in a Spanish tile design: it's the large ring.  The inner circle motifs were from a coordinating print.

I really had fun with my Flat Stanley of Heather's block, taping it to the tile wall at the Pavillion downtown Asheville, with locally made tile.  Afterwards, I learned that the ceramic artist studied under masters in Spain and credits their influence in her work.

My assignment for the next round was to make 4 18x 6 inch sashing strips for Rhonda's Christmas quilt.  She gave us the red hearts on tan that appears a bit left of center.

These are my four strips arrayed as for the quilt -

The last part I played in this International Holiday Extravaganza was to assemble Judy's vacation trip to Japan.  I had four very different, asymmetrical blocks.  Two used Judy's supplied aqua dogwood fabric in three inch strips on two sides, and one used it on just one side.  Japanese art generally is not about symmetry and I was already feeling challenged by the four blocks.  Then Kerry sent me a preview of what she was making for the sashing strips.  Kerry was a master with color, and what she was doing with brilliantly colored, high-contrast squares was scary for me.  So I changed the rules, and with Kerry's cooperation, we got Judy's quilt together.  You probably have to click on this photo to examine what's going on.

Judy's six inch block with magenta and lime green is just to the left and down from the little doll.  Rhonda came next with the floral spray on a sashiko-enhanced background that appears in the lower left corner. Heather followed with the six clever paper-pieced cranes that look like origami.  Dorry made the adorable kimono-clad doll with her framework of gradated pinwheels, and Jo appliqued the Noshi design near the upper left.

Jo's block had 3-D dogwood blossoms made from Judy's supplied fabric - she shipped her block to me with these foam supports to keep them from flattening:

 I mimicked Heather's aqua zig zags with white silk to set some lime folded fabric embellishments

and made white cotton flowers - both of these folded fabric flower designs are from Rebecca Wat's book. You can also see some of Kerry's sashiko embroidery in this next photo.

Kerry had pieced the sashing strips in various combinations following a tentative mockup I had done with the blocks in EQ7, and thoughtfully included lots of extra 3.5 inch squares she worked with, as well as the remaining dogwood fabric from her 1/2 yard piece.  My sister helped with the final layout of all the pieces. We tried to balance the bright colors and extended the gradation of Dorry's pinwheels into the connecting strips.  I used a strawberry pink gradation (also from Vicki Welsh) for two very narrow border strips and finished with a border limited to two fabrics and a few more white folded flowers.

The Robin quilts were always a challenge - so many talented quilters putting in so much effort really pushed me to my creative abilities.  Judy's Japan quilt took me so far out of my comfort zone I can't really say if I like it or not. Two years later, I will admit is is a relief that we have not taken up another project like this, but if such an opportunity comes up again, I'll probably jump right back in.