Saturday, July 19, 2014

Non-textile Summer Project

We are in the midst of summer, and the weather has been absolutely beautiful.  Today, the house is open because the humidity is low and so are the temperatures.   After a couple of brutal 95+ degree summers, this one has been lovely.  It is very unusual to be able to have the house opened up in the middle of July.  The bees have been busy gathering pollen from our lovely St. John's Wort shrubs.  (If you live in the eastern US, this is a great native shrub to have around that the bees adore.)

My children have been home most of the summer.  They just didn't want to be tied down to lots of camps and commitments.  I decided that it was fine.  That was how I grew up after all, few commitments and lots of freedom.  My children are growing up and I think back to those long days of toddlerhood when the days seemed so long, and time to myself was nonexistent.  Now what I see is that my son is starting to stretch his wings with his own projects, riding his bike, jogging, and generally moving on into his teenage years and developing a healthy separation from us.  It is bittersweet, but I am proud of his newfound interests and strengths.  He will be gone in a few short years and I want to relish the time my children still want to spend with us.  My son has taken on washing and waxing my horse trailer, mostly to work off the money he owes me on a misguided episode involving the app store, $200, and upgrades and prizes to games.  A lesson that I am happy he has learned as a teenager at home rather than as a young adult in college.  There were a few tears, but happily he owned up to the mistake and when I asked why, he, with great honesty stated, "I thought you would never notice."  It is always a good thing to check your credit card statements!  My daughter spends her time reading books, something she longs for in the during school.  She would rather spend a day with a book than just about anything else, thank goodness for libraries.

So, I my time has been spent with children and other projects.  My son and I have started building a table for our patio.  I am trying to instill the idea of self-sufficiency, making do with things we have on hand, and the idea of crafting your own beautiful pieces.  It does seem to be taking hold.  At one point in this process he looked at me and said, "This really isn't that hard, is it?"  Also, one of the treasures in our home is our kitchen table, a table I built with my dad over a summer.  I am hoping my son will cherish this table in years to come.

We or rather I should say I wanted a farm table, and I had my son sit down and draw out the plans.  We then laid it out and found out that a 78" wide table is a bit too wide.  I am hoping the lesson of laying things out in space will stick with him.  We revised the design to be 38" wide and 78" long.

We started the project by going through the wood in our hay barn.  The former owners left us with a bunch of oak fence boards and we pulled several of those, cut them to length and took them to a neighbor to have planed.

The resulting product is really lovely, much different from the boards we took over.  My son was shocked to see the difference between the rough boards and the planed boards.

Next, we used 2x4's and 2x2's to build a frame for the table.  Then, we decided that we needed to put skirting boards around to cover the 2x4's and make it look nicer.  We didn't plan for that, so I ended up just purchasing 4 1x4 finished oak boards from a local builder supply.  My son asked why we didn't just buy all of the wood there.  I pointed out that those 4 small boards cost more than having the rest of the wood planed.   Here we have the skirting board on the two long sides, and need to put on the two end pieces.

I wanted to use cedar logs for legs.  My son was very skeptical of this idea, but I was insistent.  We cut the legs to length and I put him to work on sanding them.  After several hours of sanding and a couple of days, we had beautiful legs for our table, and my son was now convinced of the beauty of the idea.

You can see the before and after above.  We took the rough logs from dead cedars and cut and sanded them to the state you see on the right.

Now, I just have to get my son back out to finish up the table.  We just got back from vacation, and I think he is enjoying just sitting around and doing a lot of nothing!  I will post photos of the finished table which I hope to finish soon.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Put on Your Highheel Sneakers....

Okay, so these are not high heel sneakers, but ever since my daughter who is now 10 had some beaded pink high top sneakers that she had as a 3 year old, I have been wanting a pair of my own.  One funny story, we were on a trip back from Grammy's house, and as we are boarding the plane, my then 3 year old daughter says to me, "The stewardesses are going to love my shoes!"  Sure enough, walking to our seats, one of the flight attendants tells my daughter she loves her shoes and do they come in her size.

I went out and bought my own pair of Converse sneakers after my 10 year old daughter bought a black pair with bright green laces.  I had the option of white, red or black.  White just seems to be asking for trouble, who can keep a pair of white shoes clean?  I thought about red, but went with the black.

I then tried to figure out what I would want to bead onto the sneakers.  I went with the old standby of  a floral theme.  Here are my design sketches for the shoes.

Next, I wanted to have an outline to follow on the shoes.  A trick my mother taught me she learned from an old quilter was to use slivers of soap to draw a design onto dark fabric.  It works like a charm.  What I learned pretty quickly is that I have less room on the shoe for the design than I had on paper despite the fact that I drew it to the exact size on the paper.  

I wanted to cover up  the insignia, so I went with bright red and blue on the center.  This was the hardest part to bead because of the thick coating of plastic used to print the insignia.  However, if your hands are strong you can use a thimble or a pair of small needle nose pliers to push and grab the needle.

 I haven't quite finished beading both shoes.  I have finished one shoe, and have almost finished the inside of the other with another new design.  My daughter suggested I bead on four different designs. Here are photos of the first shoe that is now completed.  Once I finish the second, I will take a photo of me wearing my crazy shoes, which, by the way, my 13 year old son says I ruined.  Although my daughter has asked to wear them as soon as she can wear my size, which won't be long since she is already in a size 7 1/2 women's!

Friday, April 25, 2014

No Sewing....But Thoughtful Design Work

We had a pipe burst January 25th.  Since then, we had dry wall and floors ripped out, baseboards taken out, and half of our belongings are stacked in bedrooms, bookshelves, and floors.  My studio is stacked in piles in the kitchen, the hallway, my sewing room, the bedroom.  My loom sits in the floor in the living room, which isn't all bad, since I have plenty of room.  However, things are just a mess.  Finally, this week after lots of wrangling with the insurance company, getting lots of quotes from contractors, and finalizing numbers with the insurance company we are getting the drywall repaired.  Who knows when the flooring will be in.... I am looking forward to putting everything back in its rightful place.

In the meantime, I try to sneak in a bit of knitting in the evenings when I finally get into bed.  The last couple of weeks there has not been much knitting.  Soccer practice starts at 6, so by the time I get home from dropping off in town, back to the farm to feed animals, and then cook dinner and clean the kitchen, there is not much time to knit.  I do get the odd moment in the car waiting.....

But, sewing is out of the question right now.  My sewing room is a mess, but I look forward to starting back soon.  I have lots of projects I am considering and two commissions for coats.  So as I drive around taking kids hither and thither, and running errands, this gorgeous coat by L'Wren Scott is certainly starting the thought process for some interesting designs.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Lightning Cardigan: A Collaboration with a Farmer

Last fall I wrote about a sweater kit that I was working on in collaboration with the owner of Black Twig Farm, Rachel, sheep farmer and baker extraordinaire.  She also makes amazing caramel apples as you can read about here.  We met through a tapestry art group and I was inspired by her amazing yarn.  She raises Navajo-Churro sheep on a mountain top in Virginia.  Last year my kids and I went to see all the lambs and mama's, what a treat.  The kids even got to bottle feed a lamb (one of a triplet that had been rejected).

Rachel uses as many local plants as she can get augmented by some natural things that she buys such as indigo and cochineal, and dyes her beautiful yarn.  (The photo below was taken by Sarah Cramer Shieldsand was taken from the Beyond the Flavor website.  You can see Rachel dyeing her many yarns on a lovely early fall day.  In the foreground is a pot of madder, the middle pot holds cochineal, and the back pot holds osage orange which results in a lovely green.

When you see her yarn, the colors just glow.  Because they are hand-dyed, she often does not have enough of one color to make a sweater so I took it as a challenge to use her lovely colors to design a sweater that could use a skeins of different colors.   Here are some photos of the resulting sweater.

This sweater uses natural black which is really more dark brown as the bottom color, the next color up is a grey over dyed with comfrey, the main color is osage orange, and the top color is a white yarn dyed with comfrey.  The accent color is white dyed with indigo.  The sweater come in small, medium and large and is meant to be a fitted sweater through the waist and bust and flares out at the hip.  The sweater shown above is one that I knitted for myself.

The one shown below is knitted with yarns dyed with walnut and the accent color is dyed with cochineal.  This sweater is one that I knitted for Rachel and looks lovely on her.  

Here are some photos of me wearing the sweater in size small.

We have the instructions for sale on Ravelry, and kits for sale if you are interested.  The sweater instructions include directions for making covered snaps and lining the button band with matching fabric and covering the neck seam with velvet ribbon.

  The kits come with selected yarns, fabric for lining the button bands, velvet

Here is just a sampling of the kits that we have on hand right now.  The kit below has yarns dyed with marigold and onion with a cochineal dyed accent.

The next kit we have on hand is dyed with madder and uses a madder-dyed grey for the accent.

The next kit uses all cochineal-dyed yarn with an accent using the Navajo-Churro's natural black, which is really more of a very dark brown.

This last kits uses a mixture of onion and walnut dyed yarn.

If you are interested in just the instructions, they are for sale on Ravelry here.  Or, if you want to put together your own colors or kits, just get in touch with me.  

The sweater is knitted uses a worsted weight aran and #9 needles.  I found it to be a quick knit, although it does require that you learn or know how to strand.  

I keep thinking I will knit another sweater for myself out of the yarn, but in the meantime I am designing a coat sweater using the natural grey in bulky.  As it gets a bit farther along, I will show some photos.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Recovering Busy Bee

While I am recovering from the flu, and waiting for the snow to melt away, which it is doing as we speak I write this, due to thunderstorms and 60 degree weather, I am trying to get some of my knitting done.   The mud is getting deeper with the melting snow and now with the rain on top.  My horses and dogs are covered in mud.  Not to mention all the mud my son tracks into the house.

In the meantime, I am spending a bit of time working on my wardrobe following along on Coletterie's Wardrobe Architect project.  I am still working on sketches for my silhouettes, but I did get my colors finished.  On Coletterie, Sarai divided up her palette into three categories plus metallics.  I just used the first three which are: neutrals, near neutrals, and statement colors.

Here are my neutrals.

Black and white are my primary neutrals, although for some things I do wear the dark brown and taupe.  I tend to shy away from the cream and tan as much.

 Here are my choices for my near neutrals,

and for my statement colors.

The main thing I notice is that they are garden colors.  They are the flowers and plants that populate my garden, peonies, zinnias, ferns, lavender, blueberries, asters, bee balm, and cone flowers.

Soon, I hope to present my next pattern, the flower sweater.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

First Design for Sale on Ravelry

I have several sweaters I have designed over the past few years, but I didn't get around to writing a pattern until I collaborated with my friend Rachel Willis of Black Twig Farm to design a sweater specifically for her yarn.  Then, I looked back at my sweaters and decided that I needed to write up a few more of my designs.  I finished the first which I am calling Saturday Night Tee.   It is a sleeveless tee made for wearing on a special Saturday night out.  (I like to sketch all of my designs, so every one of my kits will have a hand sketch as a part of the label or directions.)  It is a sweater with a history. . .

I knitted my daughter a hat a while back a la Katherine Alexander.  Her class was the first knitting class I had ever taken and it was great fun.  So if you ever have the chance, you should sign up for one.  Her knits are GORGEOUS, and great fun to knit.  Anyway, I knitted this great little hat for my daughter and entered it into the Fall Fiber Festival a few years ago, and I won best in show for the hat and won 150 grams of some lovely hand-dyed wool. I tried to find the hat for a photo, but cannot locate it, it may be lost for the ages, or tucked in some deep recess in my daughter's room.  Anyway, here is a photo of one similar to it.

So, I had this beautiful yarn, but not enough to knit either me or my daughter a sweater.  So instead I decided to stretch the yarn a bit by adding in some Rowan Kidsilk Haze and knitting it on big needles, and making it sleeveless.  Here are some photos of the resulting sweater.

I like to see a sweater on a real person's body rather than just on the mannequin.  You can make anything look good on a mannequin, but not so much on the body.  So, here is the sweater on me.

It is a lovely soft sweater that feels good to wear.  I like fitted sweaters that show off a figure.  I know that I often get chilly so I decided to knit a shawl to go with it.  I decided to try my hand at Debbie New's scribble lace.  I used the Kidsilk Haze again in the same color as the sweater and added a contrasting ribbon yarn.

I get loads of compliments on the pair when I wear them.  They are a quick and easy knit and very fun.  Also,  you only need about 450 yards of dk yarn and four skeins of Kidsilk Haze for the sweater and you will have some Kidsilk Haze left over and you may need only one more skein for the scarf.  If you decide to knit it, let me know and send some photos.

In the meantime, we have been holed up at our house since we got hit with about 16 inches of snow last Wednesday night overnight and through the day.  And the three days before that I was hanging out with my son who was home with the flu and then shared it with the rest of us.  My daughter bounced back pretty quickly, but my husband is quite sick with it.  I am not so bad, but not so great either, but it means that I will be inside knitting and weaving rather than trying to do farm chores!  I am hoping that I am done digging since temperatures are supposed to reach into the 50's today.  In the meantime, I am working on my second set of directions to be put on ravelry for my daughter's Flower Sweater.  Stay tuned for that.

Here are a few of our winter wonderland pictures.  Just for reference, we have a four foot, four-board fence, so the first board is completely covered in snow and the show reaches the second board in a few places.

Here is our older dog Elsie enjoying the dug out path.  She is not such a snow dog as our Spinone; she tends to stay inside enjoying the sun and the fire.

Hope you are enjoying your winter and staying well.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Weekend Wrap

I have had a ball of expensive Super soft 8 ply from Pear tree yarns in my stash for a while.  (Apparently this yarn is discontinued so I am sorry if you want to find more).  I tried knitting a shawl last year on vacation, but it just didn't work.  I kept losing my place, and I am not really a shawl person.  I was at the yarn store the other day buying some yarn for a tapestry when I spotted Coco Knits directions for the Weekend Wrap.  It seemed perfect.  I didn't have quite enough yarn, but it looked as though I could still knit it with the 245 yards I had instead of the 320 yards called for.

It was a quick knit on 17 needles.  To be sure I had the armholes placed correctly.  I knit a gauge, then measure the gauge, measured the amount of yarn that the piece took and then figured up how much yarn I needed for the bit between the armholes.  It calls for 10 inches between the armholes and it is supposed to be 20 inches long there.  So, I knitted a gauge that was 5 inches by 2 inches (I know, a little small for a gauge, but I figured there was a lot of leeway in this pattern).  So, my sample was 10 square inches and it used up 5 yards of yarn.  Next, I figured up the amount I needed in between the armholes on the pattern was 10 X 20 inches or 200 square inches.  Next I needed to figure out how many yards that was so I set up a proportion:

10 in X in / 4 yd   = 200 in X in/ L  

where L is the number of yards I needed for the middle part.

When I worked it out as 80 yards.  I measured this off of my skein of yarn and rolled it into a ball.  Now, not knowing if I had used any of the yarn when I knitted my other project for which this yarn was intended, I did not know if I truly had 165 yards remaining so I rolled out the yarn all over the house, doubled it so I could cut it in half, then wound up two balls, one for each front.  Crazy I know, but it worked.

When I was done, I wet blocked the piece and it stretched with no work to be the size specified in the directions.

Here is the wrap on me, because almost anything looks good on a dress form, but I want to see it on someone's body.  So here you are.  You can also check in Ravelry, my user id is ringadal.  The back is quite short on me, so next time I would add some stitches to get a longer back, but of course I would also have more yarn.  however, I did block it to the size stated in the pattern.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

New New Year's Wardrobe Task

Well, last year I swore off buying clothes for the year.  I did not buy a single piece of clothing for myself with the exception of a pair of riding pants.  My old ones finally got so worn that no amount of patching could make them wearable.  My sewing skills do not encompass equestrian gear.  I tried that once a few years ago, and never even finished the pants I attempted to make.  I did get four new tee shirts last year, but all four were gifts from my husband.

This year I had not planned on doing any kind of resolution, I probably still will not buy any/many clothes, mainly because I can't afford the ones I like.  However, in reading a sewing blog that I found not too long ago,  I found a task that I was planning on taking on anyway.    Madalynne is a young sewer from Florida who now lives in Philadelphia.  She linked to Sarai Mitnick of The Collette Sewing Handbook fame as a style maven.  For Sarai's new year, she is doing a series on Architecting a Wardrobe.  I wasn't so sure I wanted to follow along at first, as I read the first few exercises, but I got to exercise 3 which was about shapes and I got interested.  I know that I need to pare down my wardrobe and really focus on the pieces that I want/need to sew to fill out my wardrobe rather than willy nilly picking things to sew on a whim.  So, I decided to give this whole exercise a shot.

So, here is goes.  I am going to summarize the first three exercises, but basically....

On Making Style More Personal and Defining a Core Style

  • I am/was a tomboy who never liked frills or ruffles
  • I like high fashion, but I am not trendy
  • I want unique, quality pieces that fit 
  • I want to feel confident and attractive without being conspicuous, awkward, gawky, or frumpy (who doesn't right?)
  • I like quirky, layered and funky, but can't seem to pull it off for myself
  • I like pieces that are architectural, unique, fitted and stylish
  • I like Ingrid Bergman and Audrey Hepburn

On Exploring Shape:  The Shapes I Love

  • Fitted dresses
  • Somewhat fitted pants (fitted, but not skintight)
  • Fitted jackets
  • Cardigans
  • Somewhat fitted outerwear
  • Skirts: Aline, straight and pencil
  • Below waist, but above hip for pants and skirts
  • High waisted skirts
  • V-necks, U-necks, turtlencks
  • Above elbow sleeves, 3/4 sleeves, long sleeves, and some sleeveless things
On Exploring Shape:  The Shapes I HATE for myself
  • Very loose clothing
  • Miniskirts (okay, I loved them when I was younger but not so much now-- a bit age inappropriate)
  • Hip huggers or anything that gives you a muffin top or someone a look down your backside when you lean over
  • Boatnecks, cowls, square, halter tops, Off shoulder, strapless
  • Cap sleeves, spaghetti straps

What would I like to wear?  Hmmmm, let me see if I can find some images.....

This image is from mage from Selvedge.  This is a Bruce Oldfield design of a boucle wool coat with a floral collar. 

An interesting jacket from Downton Abby.

A dress from Madame Gres circa 1935.  This dress is up for auction.   I do notice that all of these pieces are cream or neutral, but my color is green.  

Anyone else up for this?