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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!”

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Miss Sadie: 2010

Hey there! First, a recap: 

Miss Sadie’s Scarflette was my first design/pattern-writing project and free pattern offering, and I’ve been thinking about her and decided that with Fall nearly here it’s time to discuss some updates and mods to this pattern. Originally published on my old blog, Girl in Sheep’s Clothing, Miss Sadie has been well-received and it’s been so much fun to see other knitters’ photos on ravelry and the Hobby Portal craft forums in Russia! 

If you take a moment to glance at the pattern, you’ll notice that Miss Sadie is simply a knitted rectangle. The transformation from (basically) a large swatch to scarflette occurs during the seaming of this humble rectangle!  As such, it is a blank canvas for stitch patterns and interesting yarn combos.  The key is to work the rectangle to dimensions of 10 X 19.5 inches. But we are not bound by sizes, are we? Bah! Make it wider, make it longer!  Do what you will! The basic shape will always turn out when you seam. 

My favorite ways to mix up the basic pattern are seed stitch and making giant art yarns by combining 4 or 5 different colors and textures of yarn and then knitting on giant needles (these Sadies also knit up super-fast!).  They are popular at craft fairs and very satisfying to cast on and bind off in the space of a single movie! 

Seedy Sadie

 

Purple People-Eater Sadie

 

Simple Sadie

 

Marine Biologist Sadie

 

Snowy Sadie

 

Seventies Sadie

 

 So, if you’re making Miss Sadie, drop me a line at stitchowl@gmail.com and send photos if you like; I’d love to share more ideas on how you’re making her your own! 

I Dye, Horatio!

For the purpose of justifying this witty title, I need you to agree to be Horatio, k?  

The other day I stopped at the grocery store on the way home from a jog at the park.  On my way into the produce section, I caught a glimpse of a fluorescent beast in the surveillance camera as I picked up my shopping basket and prepared to scavenge out some supper.  Of course, the beast was me, wearing my absolutely favorite, hot pink, soft, zip-up, mock turtleneck sweatshirt.  A sporty garment, a wardrobe staple, nothing crazy.   

Except for that color! Zowee!  

how...shocking.

 

Now, it’s funny how things work together.  You know how you’ll get a thing on your mind, and then all of a sudden you start noticing it everywhere?  Occasionally my husband, with a sigh of deep regret, will remember the ideal driving machine of his youth –his hunter green Jeep Cherokee–and suddenly it seems that the highways, byways, parking lots and driveways of Eastern PA are flooded with Jeep Cherokees, just because we started thinking about them. That kind of thing.  

Anyway, I had started to wonder about those inconspicuous little boxes of RIT dye available at mega-discount retailers, grocery stores, Jo-Ann Fabrics, et cetera.  And I thought….what might I do with some dye?  

The security camera gave me my answer. It adds 10 pounds AND makes me look like a pink monster.  

So! Immediately obtained a box of RIT Color Remover at nearby JoAnn Fabrics and followed package directions for the washing machine.  Now the sweatshirt was showing its true colors…shining. through. I saw its true colors…anyway, the color remover took out a lot of the shocking pink, but left behind a diseased shade of peach (not pictured — sorry, was too anxious to fix resulting hideousity, heh heh)  

Again following package instructions, I took a box of the powdered Denim Blue dye and ran it through the wash cycle.   

Note to Self: Get better at taking blog photos/remove old towels from background.

yay!

 

I didn’t realize that the synthetic thread would not take the dye, but the effect is kind of fun after all, success!  Will have to be careful when laundering, as may not wash well with others. 🙂

Elspeth

Elspeth is a knitted shrug pattern with crocheted edgings. She is available now in my etsy shop for only $1.99!

Elspeth is feminine without fuss—the perfect layer for the breezy days of spring and summer. Worked flat in one piece, this shrug is knit at a slightly loose gauge in seed stitch and incorporates neck and back shaping.

Edgings are crocheted directly onto the garment after knitting is complete and armholes are seamed. Elspeth is eminently practical and just plain pretty–who doesn’t need more of that?

teas and books and knits *bliss*

Pattern includes the following sizes: XS/S, M/L, 1X/2X, 3X/4X, 5X+ which cover bust sizes between 31-62 inches.

Please note that this is a KNITTING PATTERN with simple CROCHET edgings. After payment is received, you will receive a downloadable PDF file. Pattern has been tech-edited and test-knitted to ensure a quality experience for the handcrafter.

Soft and breezy, Elspeth accompanies the drinking of tea, reading of books, and the enjoying of spring and summer breezes to perfection! I loved working on this pattern and have made it several times, once as a custom order for a friend who I was thrilled to learn, wears it all the time! I love designing shrugs and envision many more to come. Elspeth will need some company if she’s ever going to have tea party, after all.

A Catch-Up (Ketchup?) Post

Oh, hi! It’s been just about forever since I last brought you any tuft of fiber-related goodness going on in my world.

On the Needles

There has been plenty of needlework and the slow but steady development of my etsy shop! Please stop by and take a peek, I’m thrilled by the encouragement that has come in and very excited to realize the dream of sharing handmade with a purchasing public!

As for the knitting, I must confess to a little UFO (unfinished object) promiscuity and the existence of not just one, but two languishing socks!

A little history:

I caught a serious case of sock fever in early Fall, giving way to Sock-tember, Sock-tober, the despairing dry spell of Sock-vember during which it seemed I could not manage to finish a sock, and a fit of pre-Christmas Sock-cember that abated due to a suddenly and passionately rekindled romance with crochet! But more on that later.

My personal experience with handknit socks has been fraught with false starts and disappointments. My First Sock was worn with great affection and esteem, but worn so proudly that I never knit a mate! I gave up socks for at least a year after coming to an intimate knowledge of the harshness of second-sock-syndrome.

With the advent of Sock-tember, I forced myself to finish my first fingering-weight pair for my dear mother’s birthday, and fueled by the energy of that great event, made my first pair from SWTC Tofutsies! Tofutsies, by the way, comes in gorgeous colorways and boasts the unique inclusion of chitin fibers from various crustaceans as a beneficial antibacteria…um, okay. I just loved the colors!

Those socks, so lovingly labored over, so carefully considered and fitted, so admired and worn with truer devotion than any other item in my wardrobe since childhood, developed holes within 6 weeks! I wanted to darn them, but put it off a wee bit too long and ended up damning them to the trash can once they were veritable sole-less socks. I know that a better and thriftier knitter than I would resurrect/patch/reinforce with sewing thread, but I am not a better knitter. The loss was too keen. And so the scourge of the [perpetually unfinished] handknit sock continues.

In other knit news…

…a Spring scarf for my brother

…a giant winter white granny square blanket/shawl/living room tent

bulky crochet is the best!

…the oddments project to end all…well. all the oddments!

"who you gonna call? STASH-BUSTERS!"

….and a lace project, this is Natalie Larson’s lovely Spring Beret pattern (a free ravelry download), but I did it in wool because I need it NOW

yes, that's lace ~ all things are possible!

Miss Sadie’s Scarflette ~ A Free Pattern!

Miss Sadie lives here now.

Summer Lovin’….err, Stitchin’!

The summer grew wings after we got home from vacation, and I have been busy with fibrous experiments, both wearable and edible…

Project #1, simple sundress, modded from Heather Ross’s Mendocino Sundress pattern available for free here. I used Heather’s instructions and watched the demonstration on Martha Stewart a couple of times to catch all the tips on using elastic thread for the smocking. It is fairly easy, and I only had to take out my bobbin chamber once to get a nasty bit of stretchy thread out ;o), I think the most important thing to know is that you mustn’t stretch the elastic thread as you wind it onto the bobbin by hand. Ready for my big confession? I didn’t go to Kinko’s to have the pattern blown up and printed, as is suggested in the pattern instructions. I just looked at the dress shape in its PDF file and gave it my best shot, free-hand (avec ruler/yardstick/tape measure). I knew I wanted it about knee-length anyway, so I didn’t want to pay for paper I wouldn’t even use. Confession #2: I skipped the pocket. I love pockets as much as the next reluctant, purse-bound female, so I thought about it, but decided not to mess with it on my first sewing rodeo. Enough groveling, here are the pics.

dressy dress dress

simple sundress

comfy!

I actually love it! The fabric is a cotton from the $1 shelf at Wal-Mart in 2007 when my husband, then fiancé, bought me my sewing machine and some fabric to play with. It is very light and airy, and was an incredibly gratifying project!

Project #2, the one-yard skirt tutorial from grosgrain’s lovely and inspiring blog, found here. I am an extreme novice sewer, so having a skirt in only 20 minutes is not something I am concerned with. In fact, I’m certain that if I were to make a skirt in 20 minutes, it would involve duct tape or rubber bands, possibly both. But this skirt seemed awfully cute and thrifty at only 1 yard, so I was game! Note: there is a casual mention toward the end of the tutorial that this skirt is best for a size 2 – 8 and since I do not yet fall into that category, I found that the full width of the skirt did much more to make me look like a pot-bellied bear in a dirndl than look as cute as the sample pics, but I was undeterred! I just pinned it where it looked okay and chopped off the rest of the bulk! And it worked great! I have an elastic-band, semi-straight skirt that I wore to the grad student picnic the following evening [no one asked if it was ‘home-made’…SUCCESS!]. So the moral of the story is for those above size 8, try it, but don’t be afraid to change it a bit. Three cheers for Grosgrain!

less-than-a-yard skirt!

Project #3, Remodel Thy Pants! From a hodge-podge of tutorials found in a google search, this handy toot emerged as a winner. This was a lot of fun. I chose a pair of aging, Old Navy work pants that I once wore for waitressing, and after an afternoon of carefree laundering [“just throw it in there!”] turned into high-waters. No longer! I love this clever little trick, and my favorite shorty-short tweed slacks are soon to follow.

highwaters no more!

closer detail of the piecework:

quick and dirty approach to seams

Project #4, Slapdash Skirt, started out as the basic straight skirt from Sew What! Skirts by Francesca Denhartog & Carole Ann Camp, but I soon discovered that after I attached my side zip and pinned the skirt around my [most ample] hips, it was the furthest thing from flattering that you or I could imagine. This is no fault of the book…I’m sure I went wrong somewhere in the pattern-drafting stage. In any case, I applied the pants-theory [Remodel Thy Skirt!] and stitched in triangles of fabric on the sides to kinda, sorta form an a-line. I’ve been wearing it a lot, so I think it worked!

a line

slapdash

On to the knitting!

When we visited Nashville, my mom took me to a proverbial palace of yarns and treated me to 5 skeins of Aslan Trends Artesanal in the lagoon colorway. I love this yarn–it’s the slightest bit wabi-sabi considering the long alpaca hairs that protrude from the knitting and the many and varied bits of straw rustically spun into the fibers.

This sweater is called Plume and features a gentle cowl and belled sleeves, both knit in brioche stitch. The construction is top-down, raglan with a K1, P2 ribbing at the lower body edge. The cowl is tacked down with mattress stitch to keep it from undulating in the autumn breezes, and I’m very pleased with it, in terms of fit and style. I made the scoop neck a touch low [math has never been my strong suit], and now have to find a little camisole that will work for unders.

hurry up, Fall!

mapping the sleeve

And finally, the edible fiber comes in the shape of the granola recipe I tried today. I avoid buying granola at the store because it’s expensive and overly sugary, but in Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, which I love, I discovered this delightful stuff…

yum!

It’s delicious and smells so good baking. And couldn’t be easier, my version is…6 cups of oats, 1/2 cup of honey, 1/2 cup of sliced almonds, dash salt, 2 tsp cinnamon and 1 cup raisins, stir up and bake all minus the raisins for 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees (stir a few times so it all gets a chance to crisp), then cool on a rack and stir in the raisins. Once it reaches room temperature, you’re ready to eat! In fact, I think it’s time for some right now ❤