Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Skuld returneth

Many apologies for not getting promised post up this week - despite my best efforts, I managed to leave the memory card of my camera at college each and every day.

Despite having a sock to finish, when I went to my local Stitch 'n' Bitch meeting yonder week I felt disinclined to bring any knitting with me - I need a break from the pointy sticks. Instead I grabbed some aida fabric and worked on an extremely simple piece of cross stitch I've done several times before. This looks a little 'threadbare' as I was using too few strands of embroidery thread for the hole count of the aida, but it's only intended to jazz up something of mine, not as a gift, so it's ok.
Later that same week I had a few minutes to spare while dinner was simmering on the stove. I quickly pulled out my sewing machine and came up with this very plain bookmark. It's more of a practice run than anything else, I plan to make some funkier versions with brightly colored thread, but the idea had been knocking around in my head ever since I lost the bookmark my friend Fiona had given me. I was on a bus and it slipped out from between the pages of my book, onto the floor, unable to be found. While this one is not as pretty, it does have the advantage of a large loop which can be slipped around my wrist while reading - thus avoiding future mishaps, huzzah!

So that was last week, which I should have posted last weekend. Again, apologies. This week I got around to the emptying the bobbins for my spinning wheel. As I detailed previously, I'd had some trouble plying with my wheel. I have no doubt that I could have solved this which a bit of jiggery-pokery, I nonetheless decided to use one of my delicious drop spindles. This went fine, made much easier with the use of the lazy kate which came with my wheel. My spinning needs a lot of work, but as I've said, this will come with time, practice and a lot of fiber.

Many moons ago I did the bulk of the work for the Short and Sweet (Ravelry log-in required) cami from The Happy Hooker by Debbie Stoller. I love this book - I tried to learn to crochet from at least 5 other books before this one, and just didn't get it. With this books clear instructions and illustrations, I finally understood what I'd been doing wrong. Along with this, the patterns are much more contemporary and funky than those found in many 'Learn to' manuals (á mon avis). But I digress. I thought this cami would be perfect for throwing over my shoulders in the summer - not as a cardigan, but just to make me feel a little less on show when necessary. I made this using Rowan Wool Cotton, which is really easy to work with. Though the 50% wool, 50% cotton strands can occasionally get separated around your hook, it has no fuzziness or halo associated with it, so the stitches are very easy to make out. This was particularly helpful as this pattern involved a much more exotic pattern than any I've worked with before - not that that was a bad thing. I managed to read the pattern entirely wrong, meaning rather than joining the front and back beneath the armholes and working back and forth in once piece, I had to work each separately and seam - don't ask, it was a mistake on my part. Like I say, I finished the body ages ago, and naturally left the last bit, the arms, sitting in a bag in my room for months since. I looked and it earlier this week, and realized what had been putting me off was trying to figure out how to get the stitch motif in the sleeves to work, given that I'd constructed the sleeves differently. Having identified my mental block, I made an executive decision, and did away with the fancy sleeves altogether, and just doing a few rows of single crochet to finish off the raw edges. Here's the result - if I'd been thinking with a sensible head I would have worn a different color vest top to you could see the stitch definition, but I didn't and now I'm too lazy.

Action shot!
Have a great week everyone.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Apologies, update this week will be (as it already is) a bit late. Was at home in Donegal, land of no internet, for the weekend. Just relaxing with a beer now before movie and bedtime. Update coming this Tuesday!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Fixing my life up

Kristin over at Craft Leftovers put out a call for inventive ways to mend or upcycle ripped, stained or garments which might otherwise fall into disuse or be thrown out. Remember my fabric pinwheel? I didn't really know what to do with it at the time, but it occurred to me that it might be a nice way to hide a tear or, as I'm much more likely to acquire, a permanent weird stain. The advantage of this is that the size of the pinwheel can be adjusted depending on stain/rip to be disguised, and the fabrics can be selected to match or compliment the garment.

I don't think it will get selected for a prize or anything, but I enjoyed having a 'problem' to think of a solution for. Maybe I'll try and find some little craft-alongs to get me thinking.
When I came down on the bus from Donegal, there was a nice person waiting for me with some nice flowers. It was incredibly sweet, treatment I'm really not used to! While unpacking, I came along a little photo album I'd been gifted. It was perfect timing because I'd finally got around to printing some photos - for basically the first time since I got my camera around 2 years ago, if you can believe that. A great gift but....a little plain. I recovered it using the florists paper that my flowers came in, as well as a fragment of some pretty jazzy wrapping paper I had lying around. I'm omitting a photo of the back because, eh, I managed to get some red paint on it....somehow. Typical.

The next few weeks have the potential to be pretty stressful for me, for reasons I'll detail when I know what's going on in my life. I'm determined to keep crafting through it though. See you next week!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Did I finish the second sock this week? Pfft, of course I didn't, that would be way too sensible. I did get some spinning in though, since I finally replaced the driveband of my spinning wheel. The drive band is basically the bit of string which translates the motion from the big wheel to the flyer and the bobbin. The bobbin is the big spool which collects the yarn, and the flyer is the bit with pegs around it.

As you spin, the yarn is wound onto the bobbin because it is designed such that it rotates slower than the flyer. Technicalities of wheels aside, the string snapped on me sometime before Christmas, and believe it or not (I for one found it hard to believe), amongst all my crafts supplies I had no plain string. I finally rectified this situation on Wednesday, then spun up some roving I bought at Pippa Blue here in Galway. I've talked previously about predrafting fibre before spinning. To briefly reiterate, this means teasing the fibers apart length-ways to give a thinner fibre, rather than just a thick sausage of fiber with the briefest hint of twist (thinner fibers need more twist to keep their tension. This twist is what you're introducing in the act of spinning). Both my spinning book and a lot of tutorials I've read have not bothered with predrafting, but instead instructed you to develope the knack of drafting the fibre as you spin, using one hand to regulate the yarn being drafted out, while the other hand determines how far down the length of fibre you allow the twist from the wheel to travel. It was this somewhat magical ability (as it seems to me) which I was practicing when my driveband snapped, and perhaps it was for the better, as I was getting incredibly frustrated. I just could not get the hang of this drafting as you go business. At the time I thought the tension of the wheel (i.e. the tension in the driveband, which is regulated by a number of parts which can be adjusted) must be playing a part, and it was while I was fiddling with this that the string snapped. Anyway, when I replaced the driveband I decided to forget what I was 'supposed' to be able to do and just do it the way that worked, predrafting the fiber before I span. My spinning technique still needs a lot of work - I have every tension from corkscrew tight to knackered-wrist limp in this sample - but at least I had fun this time.

I then tried to ply this with some white Blue Faced Leicester I'd spun previously. When plying yarns, you twist them in the opposite direction to the direction with which you introduced the spin (other wise you'd just be spinning the already spun fiber even more). So as I turned the wheel clockwise to spin, I would turn anticlockwise to ply. The turning of the wheel went alright, but for some reason then my bobbin wouldn't pull the fabric on as it plied, so I just ended up wiht the first ten inches or so getting incredibly plied, as all the twist had nowhere to go. I was reluctant to fiddle with the tension of my wheel as it had been fine for spinning. I cut my loses and resigned myself to plying by spindle sometime over the following weelk.
I've also been continuing with the needle felting I talked about last week. One of my sisters said I had to make her some art, given that pieces from my other sister and one of my brothers are already gracing the walls of her living room. It was with this in mind that I started the project below, using thick black felt and some pink mohair I've had for at least two years. It may or may not be her birthday present come this March - it depends what the finished piece is like. Either way, it won't go to waste, because as we all know, I loooooooove anatomical hearts.
I further indulged my heart obsession this week when supposedly cleaning my room. Upon stumbling upon my box of fabric paints, I freehanded this. The free handing is obvious - the top left vein is crap and I left out a whole ventricle - but I think I like it none the less.
Right now I have a lemon tart in the oven, which I've never cooked before, so wish me luck. Have a great weekend everyone.

Monday, January 3, 2011

I really felt the craft love.

First of all, sorry for the slight extra delay on this post. I thought I published it yesterday, whereas I actually just saved it as a draft. Silly me.
Everyone have a happy holidays? Or should I say, are you having nice holidays - if you're lucky, you're still on them. Happily enough, I am lucky, in more ways than one. Not only do I have holidays until Wednesday, but I got home safe and sound despite the snow, even if it did take some in the region of 8 hours. The snow in Donegal was very heavy indeed, which, though rendering the landscape around my house beautiful, played havoc with my mum's oven and water supply. I really enjoyed my week at home, spending the time at my mum's house watching tv, playing with the cat and knitting, and the time in at my best friend Ruth's house watching tv, playing Bananagrams and knitting. So what have I got to show for myself? Not just one pair of socks, but one and a half!

These were knit with some Donegal Yarn wool I bought at Feanór craft shop here in Galway. It knits up really fast on 4.50mm needles, which is why I was able to fly through these socks. My cold feet were extremely grateful for.

While unpacking my bags I came along the spare inches of yarn I'd cut after weaving the ends off the first pair, when suddenly I rembered I had a dryfelting needle!
 A dryfelting needle looks like just a little bit of pointed metal, but it actually has teeny tiny barbs along it's sides (much like, it may or may not interest you to know, a cat's penis. Hey, it's my blog, I can write what I like). These barbs are pointed such that as the needle travels down through the fibre, it will grab any fibres it encounters along the way and pull them down with it, but as it is pulled out of the material, the fibres will slide off them. So as you jab the needle repeatedly, the fibres get more and more tangled together and will eventually be fused together. This technique can be used in both 2-d and 3-D works of craft, some of which can be seen on Feanór's etsy shop. I'm not up to anything quite so ambitious, but I was happy enough to turn a scrap of fabric and spare wool into a cute little anchor.
If you look at the back of the material, you can see what I mean about the fibres getting dragged into the other fibre. This it what makes the fibres stick together.
This is a handy technique for using up spare lengths of yarn - as you can see form above, you really don't need much at all.
Enjoy the rest of your holidays everyone.