Ready for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Mostly, it’s because I love a nice, big turkey dinner. I do reflect on what I’m grateful for on that day, but I also know that it’s an invented holiday that was used to promote American nationalism and unity. Did you know that Thanksgiving began as a harvest celebration? It was celebrated on any old day of the year, sometimes more than once a year! Anyway, fabricated or not, it’s my favorite day and I never miss making a Thanksgiving dinner, even if I have to do it on the weekend after the holiday. I live in Spain, so Thanksgiving is just another day to go to work around here.

I sewed up my turkey and cornucopia this morning. Mr. Turkey says “Happy Thanksgiving” to you and the Horn of Plenty reminds you that it’s not all about the yummy food. You’re supposed to give thanks.

And, just in case anyone is curious, I’ll summarize the technical details. I cross stitched these on 18-count white Aida cloth. The charts come from 2001 Cross Stitch Designs, which is an encyclopedia of charts published by Better Homes and Gardens. I did not follow directions precisely with the messages, which are included on the chart. Instead of backstitching with one strand of floss I used two strands so it was more visible. Also, I decided to use a dark brown floss for the backstitching details on the cornucopia rather than the recommended charcoal color. For the sewing, I sewed the bottom and sides with right sides facing each other to some canvas for a nice sturdy backing. Then, I turned them right-side-out, ironed them, and folded the tops closed and sewed the top, leaving enough space to thread some yarn through with a crochet hook. I tied the yarn in a knot and hid the knot inside the top seam. I think it’s pretty cool I didn’t need a dowel, because I did not feel like looking for a few at the Chinese bazaar.

My English learners are going to be surprised to see these, I think. Some of them don’t know what Thanksgiving is and have no clue about American traditions. They may have seen people pigging out on Thanksgiving in a film but the symbolism is not in their “vocabulary,” so to speak. I want them to ask me questions, mostly because they need to practice asking questions, which is not an easy thing to do, believe it or not! I always try to do or have things around to inspire them to ask me questions. If they don’t, I just say, “I would like you to ask me questions.” Alternatively, we play a game that forces them to ask questions. Anyway, asking questions is an intermediate level ability, but if you don’t ask questions frequently you can get rusty at it, no matter what level you are. Good language teachers constantly find ways for students to ask questions in class.

And now… I’m holidayed out. I’m sure I’ll get in the mood for making more holiday-themed stuff in the future, but for now I just want to work on any old thing I feel like doing!

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Wearing sweaters 2

Still no FO! I’ll probably finish my Thanksgiving decorations tonight or tomorrow morning. So, I’ll talk about the sweater of the week, which is my “Unisex Zip.” Try not to notice that I need a haircut and a shave, OK?

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This pattern comes from the digital edition of The Knitter’s Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters” and is used as an example to show you how to design your own knitwear using the numbers from the “blank” pattern for a basic modified drop shoulder sweater. You can find information about it here.

I love wearing this sweater for many reasons.

First of all, it’s a wardrobe basic. There are no cables, no fancy color designs. The pattern calls for a multi-colored yarn, which means it goes well with lots of other clothes. The stitch pattern breaks up the stripes of color very nicely so you don’t get big, dominant pools of color. If you wear a long-sleeved tee under it, as photographed here, and put on a pair of jeans, it acquires a casual look. However, you can also wear a button-down shirt with a collar and some khakis to look more dressed up.

Another benefit is the stitch pattern. It’s a ribbing, but with slipped stitches. I don’t know if anyone reading this has actually tried to wear a truly ribbed sweater. I find them uncomfortable because they cling so much. This ribbing clings, but not to the point of strangulation, which makes it very comfortable. The modified drop shape adds enough contour to the chest without outlining it too much.

Also, this is a light wool sweater. The yarn weight is sport, so it’s warm, but not too warm for Fall weather. The pattern calls for a camouflage color way from Briar Rose. Unfortunately, this yarn is now discontinued, so I had to look for a substitute.

Which brings me to the last reason why this is a favorite: THE YARN. Briar Rose discontinued their sport weight line, so I needed a different merino wool. I got really lucky here. I live on continental Europe, where merino wool is just everywhere. As a matter of fact, if I travel 15 minutes outside the city I can easily find a flock of merino sheep roaming about in a field. I bought my spun-and-dyed-in-Spain merino wool from Tejo lo que Hilo. The name of the company translates to English as “I knit what I spin.” They have beautiful hand-dyed wool, which you can see knit up in the photo. This little company also sells equipment for spinning along with yarn you can dye at home. The quality of this merino wool far outdoes that of a more “trendy” and pricey brand, such as Madelintosh, which will pill even before the knitting is completed. I finished knitting this sweater in May 2016 and it still hasn’t produced any annoying fuzzies. Last year I wore the living heck out of it and this year I plan to do the same. So yes, good-quality, reasonably priced merino is sometimes better than the big name brands that cost more money. Sturdy merino wool exists, and some of it is grown, spun, and dyed right here in Spain. This sweater, for me, is a wardrobe staple and a special souvenir from my favorite country to live in, representing a way of life and a language I love.

Wearing a hand-knit sweater, when it’s properly made to fit well, is such a luxury, especially when it’s made of soft merino wool. It’s also cool to know that my hours of knitting won’t turn into a sweater with ugly balls of fuzz sticking out any time soon. It will eventually happen, but the material I chose has slowed down the process very nicely.

WIP times three on Thursday

Yet again the stars did not align between work schedule and hobby schedule to allow me to post on Wednesday about my works in progress. So, just before Spanish lunch time, I can report on my progress.

I really want to get my Thanksgiving decorations done soon. I thought I would tire of my cornucopia in favor of the biscornu, but this has not been the case. They have each received equal time.

To the left we can see my cornucopia and to the right my pinwheel biscornu. The biscornu would be more done than it is if I hadn’t messed up and had to restitch the blue pinwheel.

My “Widsith” sock now has a complete heel and the beginnings of a foot.

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And that’s all for today!

Do I really need a biscornu?

The short answer: no. But they are so cool and I want 1000 of them!!!!!! I have never been much of a frilly type, but suddenly I just feel like my scissors deserve to rest on something comfy. Needless to say, I have become obsessed with biscornus and I have been itching to make some for a couple of weeks, now. I’d love to share a photo of a biscornu, I haven’t even made one yet. I’m afraid to share photos from other places because I think they’re protected by copyright. If you want to see what one looks like, please do click on any links I provide below.

In case anyone is wondering, a biscornu is an oddly-shaped pin cushion that can also serve as a place to rest your little scissors. Lately I have been devouring all web pages devoted to biscornus, both tutorials on how to sew them together and charts to cross stitch them. Lots of aspects of them are attractive to me: they’re a small project, they often involve cross stitching, a lot of them have bead work, they usually also have something cool in the center, either a big bead or a button, and they are hand sewn together in an invisible way, usually attaching edge to edge along a border of backstitching or cross stitches.

There are plenty more reasons to like them and make them. For instance, they could be great gifts for people who enjoy crafts. I think I’m going to binge on making them for crafty friends and family. I know quite a few people who would appreciate receiving one. Even my sister-in-law, who loves to sew.

I’ve been browsing on the web for biscornu ideas for about two weeks and this is a useful list of my favorite resources that other people can use if they’re interested.

Free Biscornu Patterns

Cross Stitch Pattern Central’s huge list of biscornu charts. I really like this list of patterns. Unfortunately, some of them are not really biscornu because the centers are stitched on. Usually, the corners are the more interesting parts while the center is left a little blank to put in a button. Even despite this, I think a lot of these that are just little, square pillows could be made into biscornu.

Craft gossip biscornu patterns. This is a shorter list, but they are all charts truly suited to making biscornu with gaps in the center for a bead or button.

The Victoria Sampler has a quite a few freebies and they’re really nice. One of the things I like about these is that they are available with different versions, changing up the colors or inserting different details.

The Cross Stitch Guild has just one pattern, but it also includes a tutorial for sewing it up. This is the one I’m starting tonight, actually. I’m going to make two or three of these so I can gift them to my crafty peeps. I like the design because it’s geometric, so no matter what a person’s taste might be, it will work for them.

Really good patterns for sale

I first learned about biscornu from the December 2017 issue of The World of Cross Stitching. There are four charts there that are really interesting.

Creative Poppy has some really good things on sale from very talented designers. In fact, the designer Faby Reilly made the charts for the four biscornu in the issue of The World of Cross Stitching I just mentioned and she sells charts through this French web site. Barbara Ana also has some excellent designs. I like these because they have a sense of humor. Cross stitch humor is growing on me big time. I bought the autumn one about two hours ago and I plan to make this soon. I must admit that I’m quite partial to Barbara Ana. I wanted to buy all the biscornu charts she is selling. I settled for one. I just love the squirrel! I’ll cave eventually and buy her owl biscornu chart. I also grabbed the monochrome biscornu designed by Marie-Anne Réthoret-Mélin. This one will be fun to work on because it calls for DMC Color Variations. I’ve been dreaming about cross stitching with variegated thread. I think the pricing here is reasonable and they give all customers $4 off their first order. Even better, I like that I can download pdf versions. No waiting for the mail to come!

And that’s all I’ve got to say about biscornu, for now. I suspect my Thanksgiving cornucopia is going to be forgotten for a while. It’s going to be fun to work on a little square thingy.

 

Sucked into the cross stitching vortex

I should probably change the title here. I could call it, “Sucked into yet another crafting vortex.” The laws of physics probably do not allow a person to get sucked into more than one vortex at a time, but I am abnormal by nature, so I am now confessing to have been sucked into a fourth vortex. Since age 16 I have been floating about in the crochet vortex. Then, in my mid-twenties, the knitting vortex slurped me up. Ever since somebody gave me a vintage sewing machine I have been vacuumed into the sewing vortex. And now here we are, witnessing the cross stitching vortex just swirling me in with a big gulping noise.

I’ve just made this discovery while stitching my Thanksgiving cornucopia. I got all nervous about the fact that the cornucopia seems to have non-descriptive color blobs inside of it, and no actually discernible fruits or vegetables. I shall preface my thought with some info: I am getting my Thanksgiving designs from the book 2001 Cross Stitch Designs that Better Homes and Gardens has been printing for ages. It’s frickin’ awesome. My Thanksgiving turkey comes from the same chart that my cornucopia is on. Anyway, as I was saying, I was stitching away at my Horn of Plenty and got really annoyed because I felt like I was creating a purplyblueblob of sorts. So then, I had to do it, I accessed my brain for fall fruit that might be blue. Plums? Nope. Blueberries? No way, that’s a summer thing. So then I just asked José, who is always available, quietly reading a book right across from me in the living room: “Are grapes a fall harvest thing?” He looked at me like I was a total idiot. You see, we live in a region of Spain famous for its wine. In fact, grapes are a major aspect of the economy and we actually took an exclusive tour of a vineyard in the countryside a couple of years ago, in autumn no less! So, he finally did answer me. He said, “Sí.” And then I felt like a true ignoramus. However, I then realized something: I was stupefied by the cross stitching vortex, which inadvertently had managed to suck me in. Just stare at these “grapes,” and tell me if you see grapes or just a purplyblueblob.

whatisthis blob

I’m sorry I used my iPhone, but it is late and I just put my stitching away for the evening. The poor quality of the photo is not changing anything just in case you’re wondering if it looks like a blob because I took a crappy photo. It’s a bluepurplyblobbyblob. Now that I know it’s supposed to be a bunch of grapes, I am calm, despite the fact that this is evidence that the vortex has hoovered me in. Losing one’s serenity forgetting that grapes are an autumnal fruit is not cool.

More data to show that the x-stitching vortex has got me is the fact that I woke up this morning remembering something the Yarn Harlot wrote years back. I can’t remember the exact words, but she said something like: if you’re a knitter, you knit, otherwise, you just want to do cross stitch. It’s a joke. She can truly cross stitch and has done this in the past. As I meandered into the kitchen to make coffee, I recalled that Elizabeth Zimmerman had said something similar in another book, saying that if you try to knit and get frustrated to the point of abandoning it, you’re probably better off taking up cookery. I think I remembered these things I had read years ago because I have become so distracted from my knitting these days. I am by no means a knitting failure. I’m a knitting genius, if I do say so myself! I’ve just been distracted. My poor sweater in progress hasn’t even been looked at since Wednesday or so. Why? Cross stitching vortex overrode knitting vortex.

After I had my coffee this morning, I got dressed and where did I go when I hit the streets? The sewing and embroidery shop just about six blocks away. It’s called “Capricho,” which means “Caprice.” A lot of shops and bars around here are called “Capricho” for some reason. Anyway, I bought DMC floss and Aida cloth, enough to make a thousand samplers. The shopkeeper remembered me, since I had only been in the week before, and the week before that, and the week before that, etc. She complimented me on my Spanish and asked me what country I was from. After she took my money and handed me my bag of goodies, I headed home. When I got home, I noticed that the unusually friendly shopkeeper gave me a cute gift, which is exhibit B that proves I am sucked into the vortex:

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If a shopkeeper in Valladolid, Spain gives you a free gift with your purchase, you know you go to their shop a little too often. This fair city is known for being borde, which means cold and unfriendly. If you get a complimentary item from a shop around here, it’s like you’ve been rewarded for your constant spending and loyalty. Looking back on this encounter in the shop, everything was just so obvious and I was too clueless to notice. This woman smiled at me for the first time ever, even though she’d seen me before. She told me my Spanish was beautiful. She asked me about all kinds of things, including my favorite colors. The writing was on the wall. The cross stitching vortex has sucked me in! When the vallisoletana shopkeeper is nice to you, it’s for your money, past, present, and future.

Needless to say, the sewing shop is now the yarn shop’s family. Oh yes, the local yarn shop also gives me freebies, every single time I go. In fact, the knitting store gives me stuff even if I don’t buy anything, so grateful for my years of loyalty and addiction to knitting and crochet. And so the vortexes converge! I suppose on my part it’s a bit of an accomplishment. If local shopkeepers are super nice to you in this tough city, you’re doing something right.

Further proof of my obsession with this craft is that I keep dreaming about future cross stitch projects, just like I dream about myself wearing future completed sweaters.

All in all, I’m a lost cause. I don’t even feel like going out most of the time. If I’m not knitting, I’m cross stitching. If I’m not cross stitching, I’m crocheting. If I’m not crocheting, I’m playing with the sewing machine. Multi-vortex sucking me in!

Wearing sweaters 1

It’s that cold time of year to get out the sweaters and wear them. Yay! I don’t have an FO and from now on, every Friday that I don’t have an FO I’m going to show off my sweater collection. This week, I broke out an oldie but goodie, the “Arguyle” gansey I finished about three or four years ago. I believe this was the second sweater I finished since I had begun living in Spain. I used four-ply yarn rather than the recommended sport weight which means I even used a different gauge! It took me about 10 months to complete. I’m glad I did all that hard work and used wool. It still looks like new. I chose two inches of ease rather than the recommended four and I can still wear it successfully! Yay me. I may be in my forties, but I can still wear slinky sweaters.

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As far as “wearability” goes with this sweater, I wish I could turn back time and not follow the pattern exactly. This gansey is knit traditionally with an added twist: a saddle shoulder. I don’t think the designer shaped the front neckline well enough to account for the saddle. If I could knit this all over, I would have added more shaping at the neckline to make it deeper. The saddle with this minimal neck depth causes the sweater to shift around a little too much on the shoulders and sleeves which means it’s a bit fiddly to wear. If I wear a jacket, I have to adjust the sweater again when I take it off. Other than that little picky aspect of it, it’s a good lightweight sweater perfect for this time of year when the temperatures drop somewhat.

Anyway, one fun part about knitting and crocheting – besides doing it – is being able to use your makes, isn’t it? With some good quality wool a sweater will last a lifetime looking like new.

I changed my mind

I considered not cross stitching the cornucopia this year for my Thanksgiving decorations. Last night, when I finished my turkey, I was happy. But then… that cornucopia idea started entering my mind again. I caved this morning and started it. As you can see, my turkey is very cute. Like the bird, the Horn of Plenty is pretty easy to stitch, using just one color at a time.

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Now I just have to decide if I want to put some sort of message on them. I have considered “Happy Thanksgiving” for the fauna and “Let us give thanks” for the flora. But then “Gobble gobble” comes to mind for the poultry and then “Happy Thanksgiving” for the vegetarian platter. I guess I have time to figure it out.