July 27, 2015

11 Picture Perfect Purls -- The Byzantium Top by Irina Anikeeva









Let's take a moment to talk about dishcloths. Oh no, are you bored already? You've got that same glazed look I get when anyone talks about knitting dishcloths. Bear with me and blink that away because knitting dishcloths is astonishingly popular and there are 8,343 PATTERNS recorded on Ravelry!

Me?  I don't comply. To prove this to you, back in 2008 I joined the group called "i'd rather poke myself in the eye with a dpn than knit a dishcloth".




Truth be told, dishcloth patterns do something I really love: they make rather sophisticated pictures using just knit and purl stitches. Here are some whimsical examples:


Blubb Dishcloth by Barbara 8

Dishcloth Owl by Mamafri

Octopus Dishcloth by Mamafri

Happy August Everyone Dishcloth by Wineta

You'll see two things that all of these cloths have in common, 1) cotton yarns with excellent stitch definition, and 2) angled shots to successfully see the designs. While I was always tempted to join the fun -- I wanted to keep my eyeball intact too.


Mad Eye (crochet) by GothKnitty


So, of course, I jumped at the chance to test knit Irina Anikeeva's excellent new pattern "Byzantium Top".





Finally, purl pictures that are life size, geez! For those of you that don't know, Byzantium is the ancient Greek colony that They Might Be Giants forgot to mention in their famous song. (It was the predecessor of Constantinople and Istanbul). There are a lot of interesting Byzantine tile patterns, but I see a butterfly. Or an Aztec mask!




This is a top-down seamless tee that uses short rows to raise the neck and incorporate a dolman sleeve. It's very fun to make, especially when you get to the front to play with your purls. Of note, the purl pattern is used only every other row, so you get a break to zone out.

There's also a subtle scoop hem on the back that I really like.




To get my stitches to stand out, I dived into my stash of the classic yarn Rowan Cotton Glacé. This is a sport weight 100% mercerized cotton that is very tightly spun. You couldn't split this stuff if you tried! It was my first time using it and to be honest, it was a tad like knitting with rope. It's not very comfortable on the hands, but it still glides across the needles better than other cottons I have used (I'm just not a cotton fan, let's be honest). While it’s tough on my hands, it’s all for a good reason: the stitch definition is incredible and I can't see it ever wearing out, even on a swashbuckling Maine sailor!  Like me!  (okay, totally not me)

Take heed though: it wrinkles!!





Also, don't forget what we learned about dishcloths, that you can only really see the pattern in the right angle and shadow.

This...





...versus this.


Before the hollyhock bloomed, with deer-chomped leaves!

This was really a good knit for the spring.  It's not an airy kind of tee, so it's suitable for the cooler weather we have in Maine.  Too cool for my taste... yesterday (July 26) was a high of 63F, ugh!

The only thing you can do in that weather is sweat work, so we stacked a cord of chopped wood.  It's my first time doing it, but I look forward to doing it again someday.  (A far enough away day, like, after my hamstrings stop self-combusting.)




It faces South (good) but there is no roof (bad).  We are trying a tarp roof method.  Check out our birch tree "paperweights"!




I am positive that you can look forward to some knitting pictures in front of this backdrop in the near future!


See my Byzantium on Ravelry



HOUSE UPDATES!


Before I go, I need to show you the 3rd of probably 4 waves of flowers in my garden.  We're getting to a point where everything that I showed you was unknown in the Spring has flowered, and tons of stuff that wasn't even there in the Spring is flowering now!

Please do feel free to ID in the comments, I am clueless!

My mystery hollyhock started as a merlot, but now is a deep pink, yum:




The "cherry" tree is so not a cherry tree:




Pale pink delicacies, like candied flowers:




Fuschia papery bouquets:




Yellow daisy like things but with dill-like leaves:




A totally different set of day lilies:





The russian sage is juuuuuust starting:





And so is this brushy thing:




Finally, my only addition, the Home Depot rose has 3 buds:




She should be a pretty one, do come visit again to see her in fully ladylike form!


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July 15, 2015

11 How To Sew A Hexagon Cushion Insert -- The Rowan CAL 2015







I've been a faithful Rowan Yarns Knit-Along (KAL) groupie from the start, and I've got two incredible afghans to show for it: Monocolor and, well... Crazycolor. I was excited when the next event would be a departure into crochet -- but if you were anywhere close to the entire eastern seaboard, you probably heard my salty sigh when I learned that it was another blanket... oh no no no, I had had enough of that nonsense! Those things were epic undertakings, and I was looking for more of a short story. Even better -- a haiku.

Much to my relief, the designer Lisa Richardson had my interests at heart: the same blanket motifs could be used to make a scarf or a cushion. The new homeowner in me rejoiced for a pillowy treat.




Let's summarize so there is no doubt: the pattern is great, completely free and available for you to download right now. The theme is hexagons, and they will become your six-sided friends! Well -- if you are making the cushion, they might become your enemies. I mean, when is the last time you saw a hexagon pillow insert?!

That's where I come in, my scared never-sewing friend.  Allow me to walk you through a simple hexagon sewing tutorial.

First, let's start with the crochet pattern. I would say that it is designed for beginners to get used to crochet. It starts with simple hexagon motifs that progress into more difficult ones, adding new stitches with every step. There are videos to help you on the Rowan Youtube channel -- but I also suggest you snoop around the web for some extra support.

While you may know me as someone who heavily modifies knitting patterns, I'm not so confident with modding crochet. Even so, I would highly recommend replacing the start and finish with the following:

1) The Magic Ring (start)

2) The Invisible Join (end or change color)

I laugh because these techniques sound like Crochet Superheroes.


From Etsy here

The pattern is designed for a really lovely new Rowan yarn that just came out this Spring, Summerlite 4ply. However, I wanted a rougher, more organic look to my cushion, so I substituted with Rowan Fine Tweed.




I am in love with the colors I chose, I really must make a sweater in this combination.  My Ravelry project page will give you the exact amounts you need, should you want to be my sweet and faithful copycat.  NOTE: While the seams called for my off-white color "A", I used black (color "D") instead.

I did my own piecing map.  I kept the solid colored middle hexagon 'ring' as in the pattern, but decided against having the 'sailor, sailor' navigation wheel motif in the center.  I put the flowery one inside instead.

Here is the front and the back:




I followed the instructions on seaming, but made the seams stick out on the outside, which is easier - but also bumpier.  However, I'm leaning against this cushion right now as we 'speak', and the seams are not bothering me at all.  Phew!





Instructions on making the cushion insert: 

Start with a large two-layered square of fabric. You could buy an already made square cushion, or you could buy your own material of choice. I bought 1 yard of smooth Kona cotton (used for quilt backing) and settled for gray in order to make black motifs more visible.

Block your cushion with a good stretch to find out the length of your sides. Make sure to measure repeatedly so that your sides are all the same length while blocking. I managed to stretch mine to  12" per side. The cushion will contract after blocking, but your goal is to make the insert the size of the most your cover will stretch.

There is a handy dandy "HEXAGON CALCULATOR" on the web to help you understand hexagon geometry!  By keying in "12" in the "s" box, I was reminded that the diameter of a hexagon is double the side length.




It is fairly difficult to draw a true hexagon with a ruler.  Just being off by a little bit on the first sides will completely shift your final sides.  To make it much much easier, fold your fabric square into quarters...




... and use this guide to draw your hexagon with tailor's chalk:




Cut on the 4/8" seam allowances.




Sew the seams -- but of course, leave the last one open for stuffing!  Also, leave a seam allowance's worth open on the two seams bordering the open side.

Because your seams will be on the inside, you don't have to worry much about the cut edges fraying. However, if you have pinking shears, they will add some safety.  I trimmed my edges to ~3/8" and trimmed the corners very close.  This is always necessary for a good pointy point.




Iron your seams open as well as you can (I used a sleeve board for the hard to reach seams) and stick a dull point into each corner to bring it out nicely.




After stuffing (I used polyfill), pin down the hem of the opening.




Then baste.  Believe me, you need to baste. It's really hard to keep that stuffing in while you sew a gaping hole shut!




I back-stitched by hand, but if you have mad machine skillz, you can machine sew shut, too.



Voilà!  A hexagon cushion!





Now crochet the final seams of your covering over the insert!  (see my Ravelry project page for my seaming order for the crochet motifs)




You may have noticed that a lot of my pictures have outside light... I set up my entire "sewing room" on my deck!  It was a dream.





Even more dreamy is my cushion's new home in my built-in reading nook.  It's really wonderful, I'm so pleased.




Jealous? Don't worry: you, too, can have one!!  Download the Rowan pattern here.  


See my Hexagon of Hexagons on Ravelry






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