Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Loving Hands

The past few weeks, we've been going through closets and bins with an eye toward clearing out the clutter and better storing the things we want to keep. I was reminded of what a treasure trove of handmade textiles I have, and I thought I'd share some here.

First up is a quilt that came from my paternal grandmother's house - or garage, I should say. We found it in a footlocker. My mother and I decided this quilt must have come from my grandfather's side of the family, since stuff from her family was so well cared for. It has flannel backing, which no other quilt handed down through my family has, and it features some really cool graphic fabrics, probably from the 1930s or 40s -- giant blue and white pears, French people dancing around the Eiffel Tower and white golf balls on a mustard background. Fun stuff!

On Mom's side of the family, I have two items made by my great-grandmother's little sister, Gladys. I only remember my Aunt Gladys from her later years, living in the same nursing home as my great-grandfather (her brother-in-law). He didn't really get along with her, but I loved visiting her room. She and her roommate were crochet machines, cranking out pastel-colored blankets, dolls and cozies that covered nearly every corner of the room. This is a tablecloth that I think is crocheted. It might be tatting, though I don't really know anything about tatting. The work is very tiny. It only has a few stains and some tears that could be repaired. It's not really my style, but I do love it's intricacy.

Aunt Gladys also made this cool trivet-like thing constructed with interlocking crocheted rings. The white rings seem to have been made one inside the next, and then were woven together by the section in green/yellow and then bordered with same psychedelic yarn. The result is a groovy 70s Celtic knot.

I'm sure a big part of the appeal of these items for me is knowing something of their provenance and of their makers. It makes me sad that I can't talk to Aunt Gladys now and tell her how much I loved watching her work as a boy. Or that I will probably never know who made that quilt. But having these and pulling them out from time to time to admire them makes me very, very happy.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Flaps Down

I started a new project this week -- the first one I've started in quite some time. I'm using leftover yarn from the Hillhead Slipover to make a Polar Chullo. I don't think this 40-something is going to be able to make a chullo work as a fashion accessory, but I'm hoping a niece or nephew likes it.

The very first step in the process is knitting the ear flaps. The pattern calls for knitting them flat. I started doing that and quickly became frustrated after a few rows. I have such a hard time purling with my right hand, and although I've done it before, I had yarn dominance issues and I hated it. It felt so weird.

Then I realized I didn't have to strand flat! I started over, knitting in the round, and adding steeks between the two sides. It used more yarn, but it went faster. By this afternoon, I had both flaps done, and all I had to do was cut the steeks and over stitch the edges to stop unravelling -- not a major issue with this yarn, but the flaps are going to pass throigh my hands a lot in the upcoming knitting, and I wanted to play it safe. Plus, I plan to sew some fleece to the insides so tidiness is not a major concern.

Now on to the more interesting parts of the hat. One concern is that the two shades of blue aren't contrasted enough. But even in the called-for colors, the flaps aren't as visually interesting as the top paet of the hat, so I'm going to keep going with what I've got.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

55 Christmas Balls

The original plan was to have these done shortly before Christmas. Okay, so I'm a little ahead of schedule!

Last night, I finished the last ball, Thirteenth Day Kari. I'm kind of surprised at how quickly this project went, although, like many projects, I did tend to tackle it in bursts. Once i had the main pattern down pat, I could almost do these in my sleep. The main thing I needed to know was what row the contrasting yarn started on, and then I could just take off. The last one I did was finished in just a few hours. As I wrapped this up, I thought about all the possibilities for making one's own designs that would fit inside this format.

I have my favorites. The snowflake patterns from the beginning of the set still captivate me. I find myself drawn to the ones with traditional patterns and motifs over the ones with figurative themes -- although that squirrel is darned cute.

I'm glad I used beads rather than gluing on the crystals. One summer of storage in a hot Texas garage, and I would have had a box of ornaments sitting on a bed of rattly sequins. But I do think that maybe I overdid them a bit on a few of the designs. Towards the end of the project I found myself wanting to use them less and less. Still, I can't wait to see if they sparkle as much as I hope they will once they are on a tree with lots of lights.

I used the examples in the book when determining what colors to use. Hence the red and white (plus green in one instance). I've always liked the idea of a limited palette for decorating a tree, and I thought, "here's my chance." Jeff suggested I do some of them in a navy or dark green color, which I agree would look nice -- and some day I may get around to doing that. I'm not averse to the idea. In fact, there is a picture of a tree with 1300 julekuler on it in many colors that looks quite fabulous. For now, 55 is a nice number.

Thanks for following along as I made these. I can highly recommend them as a project. Now all that remains is one more set of pictures, but those will have to wait for later in the year. Martha was kind to point out that there are similar Advent and Easter projects designed by Arne & Carlos and some of the designs look really cool. I probably didn't need to know about this!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

I'll Be Darned

In the process of de-cluttering this summer, I've been going through boxes of things inherited from my mother and grandmother. I've been throwing a few things out, but mostly just trying to get better organized. Today, I ran across this -- a sock darner.

The archaeologist in me thinks that the layer in which it was situated would indicate that this belonged to my dad's mother. Which makes the family historian in me snicker. Because my maternal grandmother was the crafty one -- not Grandma. I know that she could sew. Her high school scrapbook is filled with references to a sewing club that only ever seemed to have picnics and go swimming. But I never saw her sew, or knit, for that matter. Much less darn a pair of socks. Perhaps this belonged to her mother? My great-grandma could do just about anything. I wouldn't be surprised if it was hers. Alas, there's no one left to ask about its provenance.

In any case, this little sock darner was well-used at some point. The finish on the rounded end is quite worn. And there are some dents in one side that lead me to believe that some child, probably my dad, used it to whack things with. I have no idea how to use one of these myself, but I know at least one of my readers has taken a class in sock darning. In fact, that's the reason I was able to recognize what this is. Maybe she can show me how to darn socks some day?

Back to organizing. Who knows what else I might find?


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Kalajoki Socks

I've been focused on other things besides knitting lately. Sadly, this often happens at this time of year. For when the thermometer goes way up and the weather is sizzling hot, a fool, for his wool, is not. I've been doing yard work, cleaning out closets (ahem), getting rid of unneeded junk, getting new flooring put in, and trying to take care of all those little things that need to get done before the new academic year begins.

However, I did manage to finish the socks that I cast on for nearly a month ago with the yarn i got in Denver. In the last two days I knit the heel flap, turned the heel, decreased the gusset and finished the toe of the left sock. And, miracle of miracles, I managed to keep my instructions and charts straight between the two. Not so easy when the chart for the left sock is on the right side of the page and vice-versa. Seriously.

They're snug, like I like, but an extra 4 stitches circumference might have helped. They slip on and off alright, if I can just remember that there is a left and right sock in this pair. And I think I've mentioned before that my rivers could have been wider even than the small expansion I allowed. My only concern now is that the stretchy river mouths are right across my big toes and I see some potential for fast wear there. Always worry about something, no?

Now, I need to buckle down and finish those last five Christmas balls.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Reindeer Pause

This week has been busy with genealogy projects, including photographing and adding interments at a country cemetery. But, I was also able to get through the chapter on reindeer ornaments.

I liked these designs, but as a group, I don't feel I excecuted them very well. Something about the really long floats over several rows, mixed with my lame right-handed tension, made for some puckered surfaces. I also didn't stuff these as tightly for some reason -- as if fiber fill was some sort of priceless commodity. Maybe I'm just getting sloppy as I get toward the end of this project. Must keep that in check.

First was the Reindeer Heart, a cool motif that could have gone as easily into the chapter on hearts. If you squint just right it kind of looks like a flaming Sacred Heart. Then, in a nod to non-Norwegian Christmas kitsch, a design called Rudolph. I couldn't not put a red bead on its nose, could I? I also added beads for the eyes, but the net effect was to make it look like the deer is crying -- or like it's been shot. Poor Rudolph. You deserve better.

The next one is just called Reindeer. Not much to describe, but I did like how leaving the legs on the far side of the deer detached from the body by one stitch lent a bit of three-dimensionality to the design. Not much, but it helps. And lastly, a Running Reindeer. I filled all the white stitches in the border and the three on each deer's body with crystal beads -- 60 beads in all. I think that's a record. Hope it doesn't snap off a branch.


Only 5 more balls to go!