Almost almost finished

It’s amazing what happens when the world leaves you alone so you can really get going on some knitting.

This morning I talked about my mosaic project. I didn’t know what it would become. After saying “I’m not cooking” and ordering a pizza, everything just took care of itself.

First of all, the knitting is done. Second, before deciding firmly on what the mosaic rectangle would become, I took a peak in my fabric stash to see what I had. You see, if I didn’t have anything in my fabric stash, I might have speedily concluded that the mosaic rectangle would become a table runner. However, I found the perfect fabric to line it and create pockets. Behold my theoretical roll-up tool organizer:

mosaicandfabric

It’s night so I’ve had to use some artificial light, but I think you can still appreciate all the difference having the right fabric has made in my decision. The dark blue fabric will definitely go around the outside to frame the mosaic pattern. From here, I’m not sure. I might use the light blue patterned fabric as the inside liner and the dark blue for pockets. On the other hand, maybe I’d prefer to do the reverse. I feel like the piece needs more dark blue. This is why I wasn’t thrilled with the colors in my knitting. The white yarn is too bright and doesn’t contrast enough with the light blue yarn. Anyway, the fabric will make all the difference.

Tomorrow I shall spend some time cutting and ironing fabric. Then, to the sewing machine!

 

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Not quite finished

Today I only had to teach one class in the morning so now I am free to do whatever I want. I decided this morning to work on my mosaic knitting rectangle. I think with a couple more pattern repeats this will be taking a direct flight to done city.

mosaic18_2

I’m still not 100% certain about what I want to do with this, but I’m considering either using it as a table runner or turning it into a rolled up storage case for my most often used tools. I’m not really happy with the colors, though, so I’m leaning towards table runner a little more. On the other hand, I was thinking that in the future I could knit another roll up in better colors with a different mosaic design and switch them out. Two is better than one, I suppose. Another idea would be to just give this to someone who wants it and likes the colors for a roll up storage case.

I have finished two more pumpkins although the pumpkin project itself isn’t really done. I think they’re pretty cool.

I’m so glad it’s the weekend!

Text-only Wednesday

No pics today. Nope. Just some text. I want you to feel nostalgic for the days of yore when you were trying to beat The Legend of Zelda and you went over to the GameFAQs site to read the walk through with its ASCII terminal type and maps “drawn” with symbols. OK, maybe you never did that. I did, though.

What made me think of this? Because way back in 2002 I decided to get out the old Nintendo and follow the walk through to beat Zelda, finally. 17 years later I did it again! That’s how I spent my weekend. No, I did not remember all the things I had to do to win the game, so once again I relied on good old Colin Moriarty’s nerdy, ASCII instructions. By the way, Colin, thank you again.

Wait a minute, this is a knitting and crochet (and sometimes cross stitch and sewing) blog. Totally off-topic. I’m supposed to talk about crafty things. OK. Here it goes:

  1. Socks knit with Cascade Heritage Prints yarn: I turned the heel on the second sock.
  2. My sister’s pineapple shawl: languishing in the UFO bin.
  3. Cross stitch pumpkins for Halloween: I’ve got three done and I’m working on a fourth one. I wanted to photograph them but I worked all day and now it’s night time so, nope, no picky-picky. Another time. I’ll be talking about these things for a while, anyway, because cross stitching them entirely is just the first volume of the saga. Once they’re cross stitched I’ve got to decide how I want to sew them together. I also “need” to buy fabric to accent them. I really “need” Halloween-themed fabric.
  4. Cross stitch “Celtic Wheel” throw pillow (or cushion, take your pick): I’ve managed to get some little details done. I’m still in quarter 1 of the chart. I might overstay my welcome in this area given that the details are time-consuming. Yesterday, with about three hours, I got the little thingies that might be rocks or might be snails (not sure what they are supposed to be) stitched up partially. If only Joan Elliott cared about my blog. I follow hers. BTW, Ms. Elliott, if you’re reading this, what are those things supposed to be? Are they magical rocks or magical snails? And please excuse my ignorance. Sometimes I see them as snails and sometimes as rocks, because the thingies that sit in the middle of the piece don’t have antennae, but then the ones that are on the border framing the whole piece seem to have antennae. I debate with myself often if they are snails hiding in their shells or magical Celtic rocks with mystical time travel powers.
  5. Top-down crochet “Telegraph” sweater: languishing in the UFO bin with its cousin, the pineapple shawl.
  6. Crochet cotton tablecloth: languishing yet perched on the back of my sofa, exposed to the elements but certainly free to finish itself if it feels motivated. I tell it often, “feel free to finish yourself” but so far it isn’t getting my drift.
  7. Tunisian crochet afghan: on month 4 of being ignored, yet pleased to be resting in the afghan cubby. It often shouts at the projects in the UFO bin that it’s in the VIP furniture.
  8. Hexagon afghan: Resting peacefully next to its brother, Tunisian crochet afghan, telling him to shut up and leave the non-VIPs alone. It’s not their fault they’re wool and need a line of protection against pests, after all. I’ve even heard Mr. Hexagon say to Mr. Tunisian, “don’t get so full of yourself, we’re cheap acrylic, after all!”
  9. Socks that are finished yet not washed or blocked yet: Those three pairs are in the UFO bin, shouting at Cascade Heritage Prints to get done already, so that maybe they can all have a bath together.
  10. Never-before-mentioned mosaic knitting thingy: I made some progress on it. I still have no idea why I’m knitting it and what it will be. It’s blue and white and a big rectangle. I cast it on some months ago and forgot I had started it. I found it by accident yesterday and knit some on it this week just for fun.

If you’ve read this far, thank you for your attention. Since you are kind enough to stay, I pose the question to you: What the hell would you do with all these WIPs? It’s too much. Some days I feel like putting white dresses on them all, parading them through the town, and leading them to the mountain to sacrifice them to the volcano.

So far the only idea that has occurred to me is that I will finish my socks and then just work my way through all the other projects until they are done before I ever, ever, ever start something new. Obviously the afghans have a low priority given that it’s July and it’s hotter than seven shades. However, the shawl is manageable. I think I’ll try to finish the shawl and the table cloth next while using cross stitch and the mosaic knitting whatever-it-is to take a break from the shawl, table cloth, and cross stitch. I don’t like this idea much because I WON’T HAVE A PAIR OF SOCKS GOING. THE AGONY. But that’s life when you have the attention span of a fish that knows how to knit, crochet, and make other things.

Book Review Break

I know I haven’t churned out a book review in a while. It’s because I got burned out on writing them. I’m sure in the future, maybe after summer, I’ll get back in the groove. Until then, I have created a new page you can surf to from my home page. Click on the button “Book Reviews” and you’ll see a list of all the books I’ve reviewed with links to their corresponding blog posts. I organized it all in alphabetical order by title and indicated whether the text is for knitting, crochet, or both. I do not receive books from publishers to review. Also, authors do not send me requests. I review whatever I feel like talking about on here.

Some friends of mine – including my good buddies from my knitting and crochet club – have asked me how and why I got so many books and patterns. In case you’re curious, here’s my answer:

First off, I’m a book enthusiast, a trained literary critic, and I like to have patterns just to have them. It’s sort of like being a coin or rock collector. I just like to have plenty of literature and I like to have special editions of my favorites. There’s a practical reason, too, which is that I find a lot of inspiration in patterns. When I see something I like, I buy it, after some thought.

Another method of acquiring so many is that people have given them to me. Friends and relatives alike know what my vices are. Also, my sister made a habit of getting me Amazon gift cards for Christmas and my birthday and I’ve been able to buy a lot of Kindle versions of pattern collections and other types of crafty things. When the gift cards were flowing I got a whole ton of goodies.

Over the years I’ve also had magazine subscriptions. I’ve recently canceled all of them, though, because I started to feel like I was seeing a lot of the same every month.

Additionally, the way my parents raised me has a lot to do with it. My mother and father encouraged me to read and take interest in my own education. When I was a little boy my mom took me to the library once a week so I could borrow books. I remember always getting excited about the regular library excursions. If I saw something in a book shop I liked and it wasn’t available in our local library my parents had no qualms about buying it for me, even though sometimes it meant waiting for when there was extra money to spend. Books and food were considered worthwhile expenses and there was no established limit on them. If I was hungry they fed me. If I wanted to read they strove to keep me interested. My dad also instilled in me the importance of taking care of my things, making sure they were kept organized and out of harm’s way. This means he also taught me not to write in my books. He turned me into a collector. So, in my adult life my library is something special to me and I don’t ever feel guilty about buying stuff to add to it. They’re educational so they are a good investment. Of course, we mustn’t exaggerate. I don’t spend all my money on texts and I’m certainly careful not to go overboard.

Lastly, all of this encouragement I got in my childhood turned me into a literature and language specialist. In high school my favorite class was English and I got really excited about all the literature we read in those classes, from Homer to William Faulkner. In college I studied Spanish and Anthropology and I went on to get a PhD in Hispanic Literature. My undergraduate double interest was due to my inner conflict about whether I wanted to study mythology, archeology, Spanish American colonial history and literature, or Spanish Peninsular literature. So, obviously, books are very much the center of my entire life, from when I was a toddler to middle age! I have special treasures in my library that are not crafty at all. For example, my very old Obras completas de Miguel de Cervantes (Cervantes’ complete works), my facsimile edition of the first publication of Don Quixote, my Complete Works of Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allen Poe, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, respectively, and many more.

All of these factors have shaped me into the pattern and book collector I am today. I don’t think I’ll ever stop reading and getting extreme pleasure from discovering a new book, whether it be a literary work or a craft-oriented one.

Getting ready for Halloween

As many of you know, a lot of people tramp through my house because I tutor them in English in my living room. Well, after two years, I’m tired of looking at this leisurely work space. I need to add new colors and patterns to perk it up.

I’ve decided that it would be entertaining for the students to see festive decorations during particular key seasons for Americans: Halloween in October, Thanksgiving in November, Christmas in December, etc. So, I’m getting ready for Halloween by planning and creating little things to put out here and there in the living room. I’m pretty sure I’ll knit and crochet some things: how about some knit throw pillows with Halloween-colored stripes and some amigurumi bats? I’ve also decided to cross stitch some things to hang up.

This week I’ve started cross stitching some pumpkins I found in Just Cross Stitch. There are six different ones. I haven’t decided if I want to stitch all of them because I might like to mix them with other Halloween-themed items. I’ve finished one pumpkin and started another one. Here’s the one I finished this morning:

pumpkin

I like them because they aren’t the typical Jack-o-lantern, although I plan to stitch up one of those, too. Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to. How about you?

Mostly, I’m cross stitching

I’ve been knitting my socks and crocheting my table cloth some, but, for the most part, I’ve been cross stitching. I’m pleased with my progress, but it’s slow going.

cross stitch jul15

The part that makes this project evolve slowly is the border. It’s very detailed. I’ve considered just getting the rest of the border finished before doing anything else, but the border doesn’t run completely around the piece. There are other things that interrupt it and add interest to the design. Once I get this quarter of the chart all stitched I’m going to complete the backstitching in this section before moving on to the next. What I can’t decide: work to the right or go up? I suppose I’ll figure it out when I get this done.

A helpful tip: it IS possible to backstitch before completing the entire project, just as long as you backstitch in an area that has all the cross stitching around it completed. The cool thing about this pattern is that the backstitching only happens inside the borders. So, I can do the little details bit by bit when I finish cross stitching a quarter of the piece.

Today I’ll also be knitting because it’s knitting and crochet club day. We’re going to a new bar that has a large outside seating area. It’s a beautiful day for a beer and a little sock knitting with friends. I’m looking forward to it a lot.

Weldon’s Practical Needlework Deluxe Editon

This is not really a review. Instead, it’s more like a narrative of my experience with this large collection of books. Weldon’s Practical Needlework was a periodical publication that circulated around the British Empire during the Victorian era. It is believed that the first issue was published around 1888. It’s difficult to say an exact year because these bulky newsletters don’t have dates. The 20th century becomes discernible when the company’s phone number begins to appear on the front page of the publications. All of these newsletters were published by topic. The knitting ones, for example, had the title of Weldon’s Practical Knitter First Series. One of the selling points of these magazines was that they never went out of print. They could be ordered by title and series number. Another benefit to its audience was that it contained a lot of photographs and illustrations that were high-quality for the time.

Interweave sells the Weldon’s series in facsimile format. I decided to buy the deluxe edition because I couldn’t make up my mind which volumes I wanted to have in my library. Having never seen one of these before I was very surprised to see that there is plenty of text to read. There are many commentaries and suggestions to guide the Victorian crafter who wanted to do “Lady’s Fancy Work.” This makes it an interesting historical document about middle-class Victorian women who were eager to occupy their free time with various needlework activities. To my surprise, comparing the past with the present, an equal number of things are different as they are the same.

What’s the same? Well, to start with, a lot of the publications that intend to instruct the crafter refer to the days of yore, when past generations regularly did this or that craft but then it was “lost” or ceased to be practiced. The Weldon’s Practical Knitter First Series in fact presents knitting as a forgotten art and provides all the instructions necessary, with illustrations, on how to hold the needles, knit, purl, etc. Even tatting is treated as an “old-fashioned” hobby in the periodicals devoted to this challenging thread work. I had always imagined tatting as something that was considered “usual” in the 19th century! When I first read through these books I was also surprised to see the use of the word “cosy.” Apparently, it became a common way to talk about home decor in the British middle class in the Victorian days. Sock patterns appear in all the knitting publications, however there was also a separate series called Weldon’s Practical Sock Knitter. Victorian knitters, like many of us, were really addicted to sock knitting. There were even multi-colored sock yarns available! Sock knitting is presented as a useful and convenient activity that requires little thought, ideal for when a “Lady” is too tired to do something more complex. Does this sound familiar? There was also a series to instruct women on how to sell their makes which included “bazaar items” patterns to sew and embroider. Crazy patchwork, apparently, was very popular. I had no idea women made crazy quilts in 19th-century England. Above all, one of the things about patterns that hasn’t changed one bit since Weldon’s was the concept of trying to make everything easy to understand and execute for the crafter. Patterns in the Weldon’s newsletters are very often marketed as “quick and easy.” And, oh yes, let’s not forget the tea cozies. They abound in Weldon’s.

Of course, we can also observe how things have changed. To begin with, people don’t wear gaiters or fascinators anymore, along with a whole heap of other accessories. A gaiter was a long tube of knitwear that began below the knee and continued down to cover the foot’s instep. It was sort of like a leg warmer but with half a sock covering the tops of the feet. A fascinator was something women wore on their heads. They were often frilly and could be very extravagant. Also interesting is to see all the patterns for knitted and crochet underwear. For knitting I was very much surprised to see how double knitting was treated as totally run-of-the-mill and easy to do whereas today it is not very often done and is considered “extreme knitting.”  As for sock knitting, I counted more than fifteen different style heels. Furthermore, if you read all the Weldon’s Practical Sock Knitter issues you observe how construction techniques evolved over time, culminating in the now standard “heel turn.”

Some of the text in these magazines also gives some insight into middle-class Victorian attitudes in England. The author, for example, informs his or her audience without mincing words that one should buy cheap, inferior-quality wool to make shawls for poor women (not cool). Disabled people were also talked about insensitively, as demonstrated by a pattern for “invalid’s boots.” Ladies who made crazy quilts were encouraged to use them for decorating their servants’ or children’s rooms, implying they were too common for the lady of the house to use. These days a pattern that does not list gauge or measurements exactly is not even acknowledged as a pattern. In Weldon’s there are instructions for one size which is very imprecise. Garment sizes are vaguely described as “for a girl of 4” or “for a gentleman,” etc. It was assumed that if the “Lady” used the knitting needle sizes and exact yarn indicated then that was enough to create the perfect fit. I suspect that there were many Victorian “gentlemen” who found their handmade clothing very uncomfortable. However, I suppose people were more prone to say “good enough, it’s done!” in Victorian England.

I’m really glad I bought this. It is very unlike a lot of old patterns and books I’ve read from the Antique Pattern Library. I will definitely use a lot of the patterns, especially the afghan blocks, knit and crochet stitch patterns as well as the embroidery and cross stitch ideas. If I ever decide to knit a block from these bulletins, however, I’ll adapt them for knitting in the round, as the patterns call for knitting four triangles and sewing them together. I don’t think it is too difficult to adapt them for the modern age.

I really enjoy historical things, so this collection is just the right thing for me. It’s not something to get for practical purposes — how ironic given the title!