• things are about to get woolly...
  • Archives

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 10 other followers

  • Advertisements

Introducing Fabricolage

Hi Guys! I wanted to make an official announcement that I am moving to a new blogging home. There are several reasons for this change. As I’ve thought about my long-term goals for my career in fiber, I realized that my passion has expanded to include more than the original thrust of this blog, which was for knitting. I’m on the road to becoming a fiber artist, but knitting, crocheting and designing are still my home base. My free pattern links will now direct you to Fabricolage, but the same patterns will be there to greet you.

My new site, Fabricolage is an umbrella concept to grow with me as I gain traction in the amazing, glorious fiber universe! I hope you’ll come with me!

Sara Kay


A Sewing Machine Repair Which Will Live in Infamy

this is what happens, stevie!

The “experts” at Steve’s Sewing and Vacuum installed my thread guide backwards on my sewing machine before charging me an arm and leg for a repair and tune-up. I just discovered it when I tried to thread my machine and…couldn’t. I have learned many things through one of the worst customer service episodes I have ever experienced.

#1 Get the quote in writing–through a very sloppy and (now I’m thinking intentionally) confusing explanation of the repair cost, I totally misunderstood the quote (I thought it was about $60 and it turned out to be double!), and for a scant $100 might have just bought a new sewing machine. They also charged me for parts that they “replaced” — which actually constituted reinstalling MY existing parts.

#2 Always thoroughly check your product’s condition before leaving the store. This is so much of a “DUH” that I am embarrassed, but just have to say it.

#3 Go ahead and try to solve your own problems, e.g. fix things yourself, look up techniques, google it, and don’t let anyone make fun of you for trying (yes, they mocked me for removing the bobbin housing myself! — something I had SUCCESSFULLY done before to remove a thread jam) So with a great deal of mental swearing and trying not to cry my tears of rage, I removed and reattached the damn thread guide and outer casing. And it works! EFF YOU, STEVE!!!

#4 Don’t smile and put up with people talking down to you, mocking you or acting like you’re an idiot for needing a basic repair and tune-up. This is where my nice-girl attitude and lack of assertiveness bit me in the butt so hard, I’m gonna need a rabies shot. Take the business ELSEWHERE.

Whew, back to normal…

my usual charming self?

Betsy Headwrap ~ A Free Pattern

Betsy took a walk somewhere!


Gone Feltin’

Doing creative things makes me incredibly happy. By great good fortune I came to work at the library where I discovered a talented young artist. We quickly became friends, mostly because she’s a darling person and partly because we discovered a mutual interest in knitting, sewing, fiber, etc. Did somebody say Project Runway Obsession? CaptivationCollaboration, and her mom, Linda, who just happens to be a fiber artist. Funny how things work out, isn’t it? So last weekend she taught me to nuno felt. Preview:

A few months ago, we got together and I got my first lesson in basic felting from wool roving. Up to that point, I had only “felted” my knit and crocheted items in the washing machine. Felters will tell you that this isn’t felting at all, but fulling which is the strengthening and hardening process after your wool fibers have been locked together to make a piece, whether by actual felting from wool fiber, or by knitting or crocheting the yarn. Anyway.

I made some flowers and a nice piece of white felt, got very excited by the relatively speedy and organic nature of this medium and it was off to the races! Through my online meanderings, I learned about the work of Moy Mackay, a Scottish fiber artist who “paints” with wool. A-ma-zing. Anxious to try my hand at a fiber painting, I acquired some merino roving from my local knitting and spinning enthustiast’s shop, The Lamb’s Wool in Lansdale, PA, and spent several evenings in the kitchen drafting wool, playing with my arrangement of colors, enjoying the fluffy softness and the thrill of making something and then soaping, rubbing, rolling, throwing, and splatting my felt around in various sinks and bathtubs. It’s a really good thing my husband isn’t easily taken aback. He almost never asks about the odd things I am doing (unless I emit a cry of what might be pain), and patiently listens to me jabber like a jay when I’m thrilled by a new craft. I made this felt landscape that I turned into a clutch.

A week ago, we got together again and Linda walked me through the process of nuno felting. In my periodic Flickr crafty creep sessions, nuno felt had caught my eye as a mysterious and a beautiful art process that I have been dying to try. In fact, I did try it during the last bout of felting activity, but was unsure of the process, despite the aid of library books and online videos. As a result, I essentially gave up too quickly and my wool fibers never fused through the fabric weave, basically it got lightly felted on top without adhering to the pretty butterfly-print fabric I had ready to turn into a Thing of Outrageous Beauty. I was a little discouraged and put my felting things away in the closet for awhile.

Being a largely self and internet-taught crafter, I have become something of a crafting loner, and I cannot emphasize enough how nice it is to learn a new craft from an real, live person, especially one as lovely and generous as Linda. We had fun, I got to pet doggies and see gorgeous crafts all over their home (she’s given me the quilting bug, batten down the hatches, mateys, it’s going to get real serious here in a few weeks).

First, we discussed my selection of colors and fabrics to felt into. I chose to begin with a simple color and a more basic fabric, and went with a 100% silk chiffon (I think!?) in white. I had been imagining a nuno felted scarf based on a gradient of neutral colors, from black to gray to lighter gray to white. So, accordingly, Linda pulled out some of her stash for me to peruse and I began with a warm gray merino. I had this idea that I wanted to leave some open windows in my nuno felt to see the silk drape, so I began laying out wool in a cross-hatch pattern around the raw edges of the silk and then began on the panes. I had horizontal and vertical lines and with 9 rectangular “windows” spread over the silk. [I realize that this is one of those cases where a “picture is worth all of these dang words,” but I’m sorry, I was in the moment!] Then I went a completely different way with the colors, and added some black square middles to a few of the windows, then some royal purple outlines on the squares, then filled in the rest of those windows with a soft lavender.

Finally, I realized that I didn’t really want any open windows at all, and filled in the others with a sea green. Next we wet down the entire piece, using these nifty bonsai tree watering bulbs! The water was warm and mixed with an olive oil soap slurry.

After carefully wetting down the entire piece, we pressed the wool down to make sure the design wouldn’t shift any which way as we began the preliminary stages of felting the wool. Working from each side of the table, we used our bare hands to rub the layers of fabric in small, massaging motions.

Note: felting is oddly sensual, what with all the touching and feeling — it really takes me out of my comfort zone as a 4th generation Swedish-American.

Then I rolled up the entire thing, bubble wrap and all, and used extra-long rubber bands to hold the whole bundle together in a tube shape. Then I rolled 200 times. After that, we could see that the wool was beginning to felt gently together, but that it was not going through the silk at all yet. So I bundled it again and rolled a few more times. Then for about 20-35 minutes, we let the bundle roll on LadyFish’s super-cool felting machine. Then commenced the visit around the art gallery that is their home. Eventually we looked again at the wool and silk layers to ascertain whether any penetration had occurred. I told you it was sensual. Not yet! So we carefully re-rolled the whole thing in plastic wrap and I took it home like that–wet and soapy inside, but contained, and I stuck it into a plastic bag for the ride home. I got home feeling very tired and excited to see my felt come to fruition, yet also slightly dreading–what if I couldn’t get it to go through the fabric again? Ugh, rolling all night, and it still might not! I put on a few episodes of Rosemary & Thyme and and rolled and rolled and rolled. I rolled with my feet, I rolled on my lap, I stoop up and rolled on the table.

I unrolled the bundle periodically to check on the progress, and during one of the unrolls I noticed that my edges seemed to be drying, so I got out my own bonsai watering bulb and tried it out for the first time — LOVE that thing! Rolled and rolled and rolled and finally when I held it up to the light, I could see the tiny little wool fibers poking through the silk! Eureka! I had been ready to dry it out and admit my defeat (for that evening, anyway). Seeing those little hairs of fiber spurred me on to keep working into the night and I unrolled it again and rubbed, slapped, clapped on the fibers and they began to shrink and harden and tighten up!

I decided to do the throwing part now. I got into the bathtub and ran the water as hot as I could stand to touch and soaked the piece down. Then squeezed it a little and stood up, throwing it as hard as I could against the bottom of the tub. Bam! Bam! Bam! I’m sure the neighbors loved that. A little payback for making our apartment smell like an ashtray, heh heh heh… Rinsed it cold, then hot again. Bam, bam, splat! Time for a vinegar bath in cold water. 15 minutes later it was time for a clear bath in cold water. 15 more minutes later, I squeezed it out and hung it up to dry. I love it! The abstract design looks so much more interesting and purposeful than I thought it would. Since it is a shawl, the blocks of black and purple and the windows of lavender and sea green show up in a random yet balanced way. I’m thrilled!

Conferred with Linda at work on Thursday and learned that I need to full it some more. But I have pictures already and will show an update after I finalize the fulling process. Luckily, it’s not too late, you just wet it down again and keep working. “There are no mistakes in felting!”

Literary, Knitterary!

Some time ago, I began keeping a list of fantasy knits from books and movies. I was thinking about knitted and crocheted items mentioned in stories and characters who knit or crochet. Good old Miss Marple!

So this is the beginning of my dream collection of literary knit and crochet designs. It’s okay to count movies too – or think of your favorite books that have been made into movies and remember the glorious period costuming! *Happy Sigh* Here’s my working list. What are your knitterary dreams?

1. Mrs. Bantry’s Hat (from the Queen of Crime’s Miss Marple mysteries) would be a cloche covered artistically with flowers–particularly “bluebells, daffodils, lupins and hollyhocks”, or “a kind of herbaceous border.” How I love Agatha Christie. Here is Gwen Watford as Dolly Bantry (pictured on left). Her hat is sadly untrimmed with flowers!

Mrs. Dolly Bantry of the Old Hall and Miss Jane Marple

2. Mr. Holmes’ invalid blanket (from Jeremy Brett’s tv series of Sherlock) — it’s a giant granny square!

“It won’t do, Watson!” He couldn't have meant his blanket, surely.

3. Mrs. Ramsay’s stocking. I do not care for Virginia Woolf, and I hated the book To The Lighthouse. But Mrs. Ramsay was knitting socks, so there’s a redeeming quality!

4. Ahhh, Ondine. Knitted minidresses, aran sweaters, fair isle sweaters, shawl collared sweaters, watchcaps, gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous movie, and great story too! For those who love fairy tales and myth! Starting with In Bruges, I discovered that I really like Colin Farrell when he plays an Irishman (it was pretty fun to see him sing as an American country music star in Crazy Heart, too). Anyway, in Ondine, he plays Syracuse–a fisherman who lives in a small village on the coast of Ireland…I think you can see where I’m going with this. I was convinced that this movie would have some pretty gorgeous knits and I was not disappointed. In fact, I was elated!

Okay, love, love, love Ondine’s knit dress! Even with tattered edges, and though we never get to see it dry, it’s beautiful!

This is how I want to look after almost drowning.

Next comes Syracuse’s classic watchcap. The coloration of the movie is so beautiful and there are many deep greens in the costuming and scenery (truly gorgeous Irish coastline), I can’t quite make this color out, it seems, brown, green and gray all at once. I really love it.

One of the least geeky watchcaps I've ever seen.

And another shot of the garter stitch dress and an allover cable tweed pullover for good measure.

I'm not certain this needs a caption.

5. Sir Gawain’s autumn jumper. I mean, come on. Sir Gawain the Green Knight? Am I not supposed to think of an emerald green allover cable and seed stitch pullover?

6. Knitting with the Vengeance – A Tale of Two Cities. I envision this project as some sort of knitted flag/blanket. It would probably have to be as red as blood. Garter stitch, I’m assuming, since she manages to knit away so furiously! I suppose having her teeth filed into points helped her break yarn when the scissors weren’t handy.

7. Jo March’s blue army sock – “I can’t get over my disappointment in not being a boy; and it’s worse than ever now, for I’m dying to go and fight with Papa, and I can only stay at home and knit, like a poky old woman! And Jo shook the blue army-sock till the needles rattled like castanets, and her ball bounded across the room.” Please, Jo! You’re hurting us here…the dropped stitches off the dpns!

8. Greta Conroy’s shirtwaist – Anjelica Huston plays Greta in her father’s wonderful film, The Dead (a short story by James Joyce). I adore this film, and there is so much Irish crochet lace! I watched the movie years ago on loan from a college professor back when I was oblivious to cinematic crochet/knitting interest, so when I purchased it on amazon and popped it into the dvd player, the amazing beauty and care they put into rendering such a sentimental part of the very Irish-ness of the film. A very strong theme of the story is Gabriel (the main character), and his rejection of his Irish-ness and becoming a “West Briton” and the alienation he feels from his own people, and eventually his wife. It actually brought tears to my eyes; it was one of those moments where everything just came together and I loved it so much. I loved this story, I loved this actress, I loved this crochet!

Second lady from left and third from right both wearing amazing crochet lace...hard to see, so watch the film!

9. T.S. Eliot’s Typist. She is one of my favorite characters from The Waste Land; a modern young woman making her own way in sordid London of the 1920’s. Knit and crocheted undies — stockings, slippers, camisoles, and stays. Combinations are one-piece underwear suits.

“The typist home at teatime, clears her breakfast, lights
Her stove, and lays out food in tins.
Out of the window perilously spread
Her drying combinations touched by the sun’s last rays,
On the divan are piled (at night her bed)
Stockings, slippers, camisoles, and stays.”

That’s all I’ve got for tonight, will be thinking about new installments!

Yo-Yo Gets a Makeover!

Oh, hi!  How long have you been sitting there? Me? I’ve been swatching, sketching, procrastinating on designs, learning to wet-felt, making hummus and many kinds of cottage cheese pancakes, yarn-hunting, listening to audiobook murder mysteries, just the usual.  Anyway, here’s what’s up.

I’m pleased to announce that Yo-Yo is now available for $4.99 through the Knit Picks website and ravelry!  This pattern has been re-worked using Knit Picks’ Swish Worsted yarn. I’ve added 5 sizes for a total of 7 sizes from Preemie to Large Adult (12″ – 24″).

"Pardon me, Miss, but may I ask where you got that snazzy hat?"

I’m very excited about the expansion of this design! I received lots of positive feedback (thanks, guys!) after its initial offering, but found that crocheters wished they had sizes for babies and kids, too. I chose Swish Worsted because of the amazing color combos available and also because of the yarn’s easy care (machine-washable, etc.) for those adorable babies who want to throw their charming new hat straight into the mud.

Since the new pattern calls for a basic 10-ply worsted wool, I think it will be beneficial to those crocheters who are trying to use up the stash — something we all are supposed to be working on, right?  After all, as an inveterate Michaels/A.C. Moore/Hobby Lobby/Whatever Craft Store is Closest yarn junkie, I appreciate the simplicity of working with a standard worsted weight for my favorite patterns.

She turned slowly toward the sunlight with a tree growing from her head...

So check it out on Ravelry too, and let me know what you think!

The 2011 List. These Are Not Resolutions.

I’m making a list of the things I’d like to do this year.  One of the beneficial life skills I learned in corporate America is how to tame that creature called SMART goals.  To really get things done you should form goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. Blegh, I know–at least you didn’t have to sit through a workshop on it.

Examples of STUPID goals: be better, achieve stuff, lose weight, sell more, buy less, etc.  Those are vague desires fueled by feelings, rather than goals.  Don’t feel STUPID if you’ve ever made a goal of this kind, just look at it from the SMART perspective, and it’ll help you see why you might not have achieved your goal.

That said, this is a lighthearted list of things I want to accomplish this year.  Nothing deathly serious.

1. Turn 27. I’m considering the purchase of an eye cream, but recently heard that anti-wrinkle potions are really a bunch of hokum. Thoughts?  I  have recently begun to spend more time peering in the mirror wondering if the lines around my eyes are more or less advanced than everyone else my age.

2. Go to a Phillies Game. This is pretty straightforward.  My husband has never been to a major league baseball game and it’s been a LONG time for me too.

3. Visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art…again, and get through the entire thing this time, especially Costume & Textiles!

4. Run a 5K. Zumba-Zumba-Zumba-ZOW!

5. Design 2 New Patterns. Submit 1 needlecraft pattern to a print magazine and 1 to an e-zine.

6. Blog 24 times. Craft and write. Write and craft. 2 posts per month.

7. Read 12 books with my book club.

January – A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb

February –

March –

April –

May –

June –

July –

August –

September –

October –

November –

December –

8. Study to improve my pattern-grading skills and use a grading tutorial on a new pattern from start-to-finish. Who knew that when I said, “I’ll never use this?” about maths, I was so wrong?  I’m just grateful that knit and crochet design doesn’t require anything to do with my arch-nemesis: molar mass, which always sounded like heavy teeth to me. Massy molars?

9. Grow out my natural hair color. I want to save money, strike a blow in the battle for peace with my natural self, and have thicker, less brittle hair that I can blissfully damage with a body perm if I so choose. I plan to get more regular cuts instead of saving up for color.

10. Knit socks to completion. This is a hard one. I have been known to knit one sock, feel the heady glow of creating such a useful thing and wear…one sock.  I will use the 2-at-a-time method to knit a real pair of socks.

11. Make my own Christmas cards. I’m thinking cross-stitched or embellished with embroidery.  Maybe I should start now.

12. List my merch on Etsy. I have quite a few things I’ve made that I’d like to give a chance on etsy.  Just need to set aside time to work on that.

13. Learn to work woven crochet. Plaids! Need I say more?

14. Learn to work fair isle. I would like to make a small fair isle project, like a glorious tam! I’m very keen on the technique where you take a variegated or hand-painted yarn and fair isle it with a solid color to make those watercolor kind of designs.

15. Write a blog tutorial. Topic undecided.

16. Sew a garment from a pattern. Sew a wearable garment from a pattern.

17. Balance my blood sugar. I’m working on managing my hypoglycemia by eating fewer refined sugars/flours and simple sugars and by eating proteins and whole grains more frequently throughout the day.  The only problem with this bullet goal is that it is so ongoing, I don’t think I can ever check it off the list. Hmm. Not SMART.

18. Visit the Jersey Shore and see if I (we) get sand kicked in my (our) face(s).

19. Read before bed. I was going to say “watch less t.v.” but I realized that I don’t truly know how much t.v. I watch, but I know that I will not be doing a scientific analysis of my time expenditure. Besides, I want this list to be positively oriented, rather than “uhh, stop eating all junk foods, stop being lazy and cook/clean/work out” – those are only discouraging.

I will be adding and crossing things off throughout the year, but this seems like a good start. What do you want to do this year?