Changing seasons

As summer winds its way to an end and the kids start getting ready for another first day of school, it’s impossible to deny the truth any longer:

Christmas is coming.

I am slightly panicked by this idea.

I had things I wanted to accomplish this summer, you see. Things to knit, things to sew, patterns to design and get onto Etsy, and a fabulous and huge cross stitch piece to finish up. (I made progress on that one at least, but it is far from done.)

None of that happened.

Instead, I filled my days with busy of a whole different sort, and not a lot of crafting. But now…now that autumn is on the horizon and Christmas is peeking its head around the corner, I realize how little of what I intended to accomplish actually did get accomplished…and so I am panicking just a little.

It has been a great summer so far (I refuse to admit it’s really over) and I am pleased with how things progressed, but now it’s time to buckle down and get things done.

Starting with Santa and a sweet little reindeer.

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Mariposa damaged and repaired

I honestly had thought that the first thing to go on the wonderful Mariposa throw would be that green border around the edge. I was so convinced of this that I hummed and hawed for days about whether or not to attach the border the way it was written.

In the end, the border has held up just fine. No toes have gotten stuck (nor little fingers) despite much use for such elegant and esteemed purposes as television watching, book reading, hammock swinging, teddy bear wrestling, and pillow fort building.

One might chalk it up to the fact that my kids are taller than I am now and know to be gentle with handcrafted goods, but there are toddlers and preschoolers who visit regularly enough for that not to be true. They gravitate to the Mariposa throw for the bright colours, I think.

When they aren’t going after the tiger print Minky that’s so soft and so fierce all at once, that is.

With all the loving the various blankets get, it’s a wonder they hold up as well as they do.

A few weeks ago, B came to me with a mournful look on her face. “Mama, the flower blanket is coming apart,” she announced.  A mournful event indeed! I hurried over to have a look, fully expecting to see a trailing fuzz of green yarn ends somewhere around the perimeter, but it was perfect. So perfect, I couldn’t tell where, if anywhere, it was coming undone until B showed me: one of the mariposa flowers had just sort of unzipped itself from its surrounding white bed of clustered stitches. A few quick repair stitches later and you can’t tell there was ever anything amiss, but now I catch myself running my gaze over the cheerful rows of flowers every time the blanket comes out, just waiting for another sneaky mariposa to try to escape its bed of white.

As for the green border, it’s as perfect as the day it was added and I now suspect it will be for a very long time to come.

Getting ready for February

As I have mentioned before, I don’t suffer from a case of January start-itis when it comes to crafting. Instead, I take January to breathe in all I have finished in the preceding year and finish up a few odds and ends I didn’t quite manage to get done the year before.

And then, in February, I find myself admiring this and ooh-ing over that and before I know it, I’ve started half a dozen projects and have my eye on half a dozen more.

But this year, I found myself selling far more pieces than in previous years and I had almost more work than I could handle in the lead-up to Christmas. So much so that crafting for family was put on the back burner and crafting for myself hasn’t happened at all for almost half the year.

It’s hard to fathom.

As 2016 wrapped up, I started taking a mental inventory of all the things I want to finish, or at least make more progress on. And then I went digging through my shelves to see what I had meant to start but not gotten around to in a while, and found all sorts of buried treasures. I suspect I have enough to carry me through the entire year if not longer, especially given that I am still getting commissions for other things and will be devoting time each week to those items and have less time than usual for my own crafting. So I am determined to at least make a little progress on some projects–some that have not been touched in quite a long time now.

The first of which is a fire truck that I thought a certain young man had long outgrown a fascination for, but it turns out he remembers that I had started stitching a piece for him and he has decided he wants me to finish it for him after all.

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Working on this piece, even for a little while, made me recall a few other cross stitched pieces half done and sitting in the cupboard, so progress on those would be lovely, too. A Christmas sampler:

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A lovely witch/wizardess/goddess piece that was gifted to me partially done and our girl B instantly claimed (so I could finish it on her behalf, of course. She’s generous like that). I think it was the fact that the lady in question is reading a book that caught her eye.

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And a gorgeous Teresa Wentzler that I started many years ago and had completely forgotten about.wentzler

Of course, before I get to those, I have a mermaid tail to finish up – it’s almost done, just weaving in the ends to do. Approximately 6 bazillion ends, and you know how very much I love weaving in ends. (I don’t. At all. Why I keep taking on crochet projects built from blocks is beyond me. Remind me, would you please, to stop doing that?)

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This mermaid tail is from a pattern by The Felted Button. She has the most colourful, textural, gorgeous crochet patterns – check out her site if you never have. Here a closeup of the tail so you can get a better idea of what the triangular blocks look like:

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The tail is done in sock-weight yarn (it’s skinny!) and the yarns all have either a strand of glittery metallic thread or sequins or both woven in to them. It makes for a lovely, shimmery, fish-scale effect that’s missing from the photos above.

Another crochet pattern I want to finish up is this:

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It’s a lovely lace-weight shawl that I started on the plane to Cuba and then never found the time to get back to. As it’s for me, it’s easy to put it aside for other people, but when I look at it, it has been over a year now since I set it down. The pattern is lovely and intricate with bands of colourful lacework in various stitches in the centre and a wide strip of Bruges lacework on either edge.

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It’s going to be a couple of months at least before I get my hands back into this one, but I’m hoping to finish it by summer. Then, maybe I’ll find the perfect pattern for this lovely yarn:

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It has been sitting in my “wishful yarn bliss” pile for a few months now. I’m not yet sure what it will look like, but it will be either a scarf or a hat to keep me warm in winter.

On the embroidery front, I’ve been working on another tree skirt project. This one is from a kit, but I will be embellishing heavily with embroidery, as I did with the Peace Joy Noel wall hanging a few years ago. You can see how thoroughly embroidery-encrusted I plan to make it in the Love Letters piece I did after taking Sharon Boggon’s class.

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Last, but certainly not least, I hope to get another 2 blocks finished on my crazy quilted and embroidered wall hanging.

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The currently finished blocks are on the right in the picture above.

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The two empty blocks on the left are pieced, but not yet embroidered.

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The blocks are 10-inch squares and I think the finished piece will end up being 3×3 blocks with a border of some sort.

So, an ambitious plan for 2017, but one of progress, not necessarily completion, given how many other things are in the works both with myself and for the kids.

What do you have planned for this bright and shiny new year?

I have a crush

It’s true. I have a crush on someone. He knows it, too, and it makes him grin every time he looks at me.

One might wonder what, exactly, it takes for me to start crushing on someone. (Hint: it involves yarn.)

You see, for Christmas, a certain man we call Dad gifted me some yarn. A whole bunch of yarn. Skeins and skeins of it. A dozen, at least, in all different colours, weights, and fibres. One in particular was so wonderfully bright and cheerful and soft and lofty with just the most perfect amount of haze that it started making me smile before I even got it out of the package.

And then I cast on with it last week, on a gray and dull day, and my entire day was vastly improved within seconds.

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Seriously. Look at those colours. How can anyone not end up totally crushing on a man who brings you yarn in those colours?

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It’s Isaac Mizrahi Craft Sutton, and the colorway is Amsterdam. I love it. It’s amazing. Especially when modeled by The World’s Giggliest Knitwear Model while wearing a shirt that couldn’t clash more if it tried:

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Isn’t she beautiful? I love that dimple. And that yarn. Ohhhh, that yarn!

I’ve been wearing the scarf all week. It’s just a simple little garter stitch scarf where you cast on until it looks wide enough and then knit row after row until you run out of yarn (I only had 2 skeins of it, after all), and then you wrap it around your neck and remember how very, very much you are in love with the man who gave you the yarn that is brightening your days as March rolls in.

Pointy things and then more pointy things.

When last I posted, I was pondering whether or not to add the border to the Mariposa throw. In the end, I did–but true to form, I did not follow the recipe.

Oh, I mostly did, at least for the first row, building the border bit by bit as it wove its way up one point and down another, skipping over the valley to make a little point of its own. But when it came time for the second round, I decided to do things a little differently and worked a back post stitch instead, giving the border the same lush thickness found on the rest of the throw’s squares.

I still have doubts about how sturdy the little toe-catching loops are going to be, but it’s done now, for better or worse.

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And with the Mariposa finished, something else covered in points found itself flying off my hook:

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Isn’t he the sweetest little toothy guy?

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He’s done in a combination of super bulky and worsted weight yarns, and the pattern is a mish-mash of things I’ve seen elsewhere combined with quite a few modifications of my own.

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Everyone keeps commenting on his eyes and I must say, I am terribly pleased with how they turned out.

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I’ve documented what I did on Ravelry (more or less – it’s not a formal pattern per se, just enough notes so I could duplicate what I did should I choose to in the future). It’s meant to be a preschooler/child size, but it could easily be made smaller or larger by adjusting the number of increase rounds in the crown of the hat before beginning to work straight.

A finished Mariposa

Sometime last night, this happened:

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It’s my Mariposa throw, sewn together and tails woven in (except for one random green one, I see, that managed to sneak past me). Forgive the terrible photo – it was taken late at night using my phone instead of getting a proper photo shoot.

Within minutes of finishing, this blanket found itself wrapped around our girl B. She still proclaims loudly to anyone who will listen that she simply does not understand why this blanket is a family blanket and not a blanket just for her.

And then she announces–also loudly–that I have to make her one of her own.

I have pointed out that she knows how to crochet and could make herself one, but judging from the scandalized look I got in return, that’s not going to happen anytime soon.

In the meantime, I’m going to sew in that last green tail and contemplate some more whether or not I want to put the green border on that the pattern calls for.

The border is bothering me, you see. It’s perfect, matching the stems as it does. It’s a lovely pop of colour, too.  But the Mariposa throw has an irregular border that zigs and zags all the way around, and the border includes a funny little zig and zag of its own, leaving little triangular loops in the inside edges of the zigs and zags.

I have visions of people catching fingers and toes in the little loops and damaging the blanket. (Not their toes. Why would I worry about their toes? Let’s be serious here.)

You can see the loops I’m talking about on the pattern page at the Felted Button; just scroll down to the last picture in the post for a really clear look.

So I think I’m going to let it sit for a day or two while I ponder the border. Maybe I’ll leave off the loops, or maybe fill them in with double and treble stitches to make them solid bits instead of loops. Or maybe I’ll do them just as prescribed and see what happens.

What do you think?

A stocking is the thing

It dawns on me that in all the pre-Christmas crafting craziness, I never did show off all the stockings I managed to finish this year.

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The cookie stocking is the one you saw in bits and pieces in November. Bit by bit, it came together until…

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…a finished stocking was ready to head off to it’s new home.

Just in time, too, as there were a few more stockings yet to do before the big day.

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One with a sweet little reindeer…

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…one with Santa about to hop down the chimney. These two were destined for two little girls, sisters, who apparently loved them very much.

And then there was this one, simple and plain, but so much fun. The embroidery at the top was done using a couching technique, which gave it much more elegant curves than I usually manage with stem stitch and I am thrilled with how it turned out.

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But the one that captured my heart this year was a custom design that took many hours of back-and-forth discussion before we settled on a final plan, and I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.

It started with a wolf.

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A few trees and some snowy hills filled out the body of the design.

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And a generous helping of embroidery and beading made the snow sparkle.

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The trees were embroidered, too. They were stuffed lightly first so that when the embroidery stitches went in, the green felt took on a life of its own with branches and twigs, full and leafy, coming to life in more than just my imagination. A sweet little owl made its home in the branches, too.

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And finally, the top cuff was put on in layers, embroidered, and beaded.

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It was based on a traditional First Nations design and together with the feather dangle, adds a huge amount of character to the stocking.

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All in all, I am so very pleased with the final result.