What Happened to April – Finished Objects and WIPS

 

Hello Readers,

Before that MMMay18 post, I was pretty quiet (actually silent) in this space for the last month. All that radio silence is my first real period of blog-absence since Reclaimed Craft started in August 2017. I had a great streak of posting at least once a week since that first post appeared, however, April came in and just smacked me in the face.

So what happened to April? Where have I been? What have I been making? AM I STILL AROUND?

Answer: yes, I’m around. I’ve been pretty active over on instagram… I’ve been making a bit, not a lot, and definitely not according to my schedule anymore. I have been writing – final papers. Those thirty page gems that demonstrate my skill as an almost Doctor of Theology and Health Care Ethics (coming 2020 if all goes well). This writing takes WORK – and uses very similar skills to blog writing. All my writing abilities have been zapped up by these papers. But I’m not sorry for my blog absence because these papers will be amazing and all three people who read them better be impressed.

So, more to theme, what have I been MAKING? Well, April left me with a lot of work to do, so honestly my projects have been minimal.

Finished Objects

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This embroidery sampler has really kicked my slow sewing bug into shape. I want to add hand embroidered elements to all of my me-mades. Is it possible? I think so.

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I finished a pair of socks which are (subjectively) the ugliest socks in the world. Rainbow is just not my style. However, I will wear these socks with pride. Also you can just see the final paper fatigue written all over my face – I’m embracing it.

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I finished another GORT! for my friend Carly from scrap yarn. I wanted to celebrate her birthday and her upcoming graduation from seminary with a sweet toy that mixes her favorite color (forest green) and my favorite color (dusty pink). Incidentally, she has hated the color pink for our entire friendship (something about recovering from consumerism… and suburbs), so I have now made it my mission to reintroduce the color to her in a helpful and palatable way. I think it’s working… This Gort is stuffed in a similar way to my last Gort, but with more cut up fabric scraps than yarn pieces – which makes it a bit lumpier and heavier. Yarn scraps are definitely my stuffing of choice when it comes to toys.

WIPS

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I have some Selbu mittens on the needles. They need thumbs.

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I’m working on this wedding blanket for my good friend Veronica. I have not been able to find the right style for this blanket. It has to represent her well and be large enough to avoid the baby blanket look. I’ve knit three different versions, and have finally settled on a log cabin style Mexican blanket inspired look. I will 100% not finish this on time, so it’ll be a late wedding present.

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Finally, I have a Kalle shirt in progress. It’s been languishing for the last month, untouched, for some unknown reason. All I have to do is add the hem binding and the buttonholes. I think the thing stopping me is the stain on the back. I have so many ideas for how to cover it creatively to make it a design feature – but my creativity has really been funneled into those final papers, so crafting has taken a serious back seat.

I’ve also finished one of the most beautiful dresses I’ve ever made – but that deserves a whole post dedicated to its creative glory. Fear not, there is more making to come!

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A Monster for Baby Francis

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My wonderful friend from my PhD program is having a baby! So to celebrate, I knit her this sweet monster baby toy. This is Gort from the Big Book of Knitted Monsters by Rebecca Danger.

Toys like these monsters are my favorite way to use scraps of yarn. I use larger leftovers for the body and those small offcuts for the stuffing. Unravelling thrifted sweaters produces a surprising amount of yarn scraps – some of the scraps used to stuff Gort were from 2015.

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Speaking of stuffing toys with scraps, I once heard an experienced toy knitter say that the only reliable way to stuff plush and full toys was to use poly-fil (or some sort of polyester batting) specifically for toy use. I’ve never used polyester filling for my toys. I’ve stuffed with lambs fleece, roving, and mostly scraps of yarn and fabric. I have never had a toy collapse or grow lumpy. I prefer to use scraps as it saves them from the landfill and serves a wonderful purpose.

The body is stripped with worsted weight yarn – the dark blue hails from my mother-in-law’s stash while the light blue marl was from a wedding blanket I knit in 2015.

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I decided to embroider the facial features on this monster to make it baby safe. The embroidery process was a bit nerve-wracking, but I pulled myself together and tried my best to plan it out. I think this little toy has a friendly face, perfect for small ones. Though, I did have a bit of a crisis immediately after finishing the face as I feared it could come across as terrifying. Thankfully, everyone who saw the monster disagreed and thought it was adorable and said it was overreacting.

This little monster is going off to meet it’s new family this afternoon! I’m hoping it will fit right in and be a loved for many years.

In Progress: February Knitting Hopes and Dreams

Sometime in the middle of January, I sat down to plan out the next few months in terms of knitting projects. By the next few months, I really mean that my knitting schedule is booked until July. I think this spurt of scheduling was brought on by my ordered approach to my graduate school coursework. Every paper and assignment is documented in the calendar and every reading assignment is broken down into digestible bits. This makes a lot of sense for graduate school; blitz reading 500 pages of Ancient Christian primary sources is equivalent to death. However, this was the first time I’ve applied my heavy organizational method to my craft. Previously, I knit whatever popped into my head, usually motivated by the yarn that was available. I would sometimes schedule knitting projects by deadline – especially helpful for Christmas gifts, but it was never really part of my crafty life.

At the moment, my knitting mojo is high and I have a lot of projects I want to complete. Each of those projects fills an important void in my wardrobe. I tend to feel overwhelmed when I have a lot on my plate without direction. Sometimes this leads me to feel stressed about how many knitting projects I want to complete in the next year and doubtful that I could manage to finish them. This doubt, that I won’t complete the projects I want to in time, is not grounded in actual fact. If I look at my knitting history (thanks ravelry!), it’s clear that I am actually quite good at finishing projects (no UFO’s here folks) and I tend to be highly productive when it comes to knitting.

By scheduling my knitting life for the first half of the year, I am simultaneously relieving myself of the stress of unknowns while also combatting the doubt that I can actually accomplish my goals. I’m embracing my knitting schedule as a experiment in empowerment through realistically evaluating my skills in knitting.

So what’s this schedule? February has three projects in the line-up.

  1. A quick scrap buster to gift to a friend. I’ll share more about this project after it’s completed. Ugh, secrets are the worst.
  2. Birkin by Caitlin Hunter. I’m knitting this sweater using yarn gifted to me from various parties. While I probably wouldn’t have picked this yarn on my own, it’ll work just fine for this sweater. For the main color I’m using Manos del Uruguay Alegria in the Petal colorway. For the colorwork I’m using selections of Bergere de France in Cyclamen (pink), Elephant (dark grey), Meije (white), and finally some unknown stash yarn (light grey). I would prefer to use stickier yarn for colorwork; all of these yarns are superwash and have some nylon content (except maybe the light grey?). However, as these yarns are in my stash and available, I’d like to use them despite the fact that they’re not my favorite. Also, because I already have a Birkin sweater (designed by Amy Miller), I’m calling this sweater my St. Valentine sweater because of its general pinkness.
  3. Carbeth by Kate Davies. I had already had this on my schedule for February, and it so conveniently was also in the minds of the hilarious ladies at Mason-Dixon Knitting. Their #bangoutasweater kal is all about Carbeth this month. I’m very excited to play along. I’m holding two strands (black and blue) together for this sweater. The yarn is unknown fiber content from cones which I found at Scrap It Up, the creative reuse craft store in Cincinnati. The black is quite thistly – and my guess is that it might be carpet grade wool? Holding it alongside the blue yarn (which is much softer) and a good soak in some water softens it up a bit. This sweater will be a true test in my skin’s readiness to accept scratchy fibers. I’ll probably have to toughen up a bit.

I’ll share more about my knitting plans as their (loosely held) deadlines approach.  For now, I’m fully committed to finishing these three projects during the shortest month of the year. I see a lot of knitting in my future.

2017 Gifting: Zoey the Cat Ornament

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The last hand made gift for 2017 is Zoey the Cat (ornament). This little sweetie is modeled after the cat who, this fall, won my heart and brought me to two amazing roommates. Zoey the ornament cat is the perfect reminder of this surprising season of cat cuddles and roommate laughs.

Ornament Zoey is made from used materials found at Perennial. She has a black felt body with an embroidered face. I used hand stitching (rather than machine) during the construction process. She’s stuffed with leftover sweater scraps from my Open Waters shawl. Her dress is made from linen duvet scraps and her shawl comes from a scrap of a slightly felted sweater. To add a little holiday spirit, she’s carrying a jingle bell (ironic because the real Zoey hates bells and noise of any kind).

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I used the “Fern the Cat” ornament pattern in Making no. 4. I didn’t change much, except the color of the felt cat body, and I eliminated the bag. I’m still pretty new at embroidery (visible in the unique size of each eye), but I found this pattern easy to follow, helpful, and manageable. My favorite part was hand stitching the body together. Like most people who sew, I also avoid hand sewing whenever possible. However, the author of this pattern recommends hand stitching as a deliberate slow and peaceful practice. I took her up on this offer and found that it was exactly as she described. I narrowed my focus on tiny stitches and many of my concerns disappeared for an afternoon.

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I think the real Zoey is proud of her miniature, and her real parents are delighted. I have enough black felt left over to make another mini Zoey, and I’m thinking I might need one of these myself.

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2017 Gifting: The (Sock) Hat

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I really wanted to knit Kyle a pair of socks. I have been on such a sock knitting binge starting with this pair here, and I thought I could wow Kyle with a pair of his own hand knit socks for Christmas. I bought yarn, making sure it would be soft and easy for him to care for, and I cast on. The yarn is Araucania Huasco Sock in the Toco Tucan colorway. I couldn’t find much about this yarn online. The Araucania website says they’re handdyed by artisans and inspired by Ancient South American Crafts – but I couldn’t find any information on who actually dyes the yarn, where the artisans live, what kind of dyes they use (though my guess is some sort of acid dye process), or where the wool comes from. The yarn is a 75% merino/25% nylon blend. I wouldn’t call this an ethical yarn option, but I chose it because it was the only color option in the yarn store I knew Kyle would like and soft enough for him to enjoy wearing. Would I use this yarn again? Most likely not. As I’ve been learning more about superwash wools and nylon, I want to avoid them more . I’m considering the natural alternatives to petroleum derived synthetic fibers like wool, cotton, and linen. I also want to avoid chemically intensive production processes which rules out materials like bamboo or any superwash wool. I’m quite new to this conversation, and I’ve been learning quite a lot from Mrs. M’s Curiosity Cabinet – one of my favorite knitting podcasts as well as this episode of the Fruity Knitting Podcast.

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Let’s get back to the project.

This sock story doesn’t have a happy ending. It was never even made. I forgot to factor in how specific Kyle is about his socks – very tight, very thin, never falls down. Kyle’s sock preference is the opposite of a hand knit sock. There’s nothing wrong with this, I’m not trying to convince him to prefer hand knit socks over store bought socks – I just wanted to make him something he would actually wear and be proud of. I made Kyle plenty of terrible things when I was learning how to knit, and he accepted them graciously and now doesn’t wear them (neither would I). It’s high time he had something that was actually good.

So we sat down together to find something that would be worn and fit his style. We came across Mawson by Jarod Flood, a trendy and simple hat that has two gauge options. I wanted to use the original sock yarn (we both agreed the colors were perfect), and holding this yarn double I could make the DK weight gauge requirement. After I barely swatched two inches of fabric I decided it was good enough and was off on the knitting race that I arbitrarily set for myself.

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The best part about this pattern is the crown. The decreases are so clever – reversible!!! And the decreases create the loveliest crown design. I love the simplicity and versatility of this pattern, but it’s very clear that this hat (though simple) has been well designed. I will probably knit this hat for everyone who is knitworthy in my life sometime in the near future.

Kyle knew he would only wear this hat watchcap style, so he requested I sew the brim to keep the look permanent. I just used a running stitch with the same yarn to invisibly secure the brim to the hat. It’s still stretchy, the seam is invisible, and it’s exactly what he wanted.

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2017 Gifting: Open Waters Shawl

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Boy oh boy, what a project.

Back in September, during a phone chat with my lovely mom, I confessed that I was already thinking about Christmas gifts – making them, that is. I really wanted to get ahead of the last minute make-a-thon that usually takes over my festive spirit. Apparently, she was already thinking about gifts too – she knew exactly what she wanted. It went something like this,

I want a wrap for church when it gets cold that matches my kitchen backsplash.

After digging a little deeper, it came to light that she was talking about a shawl (not necessarily a rectangular wrap) and her backsplash was slate blue (very specific, thanks mom). So I set out to knit her a warm, slate blue shawl for Christmas.

I have never, ever, knit a shawl. Every time I think, “maybe I would like to have a shawl,” I always imagine how I could use that same amount of yarn to knit a sweater… and then knit that sweater. So this gift knit was necessary for me to break into the shawl knitting universe that I know so little about – and for that I’m grateful to my mom for her slightly weird request of a Christmas present.

I sent her a few patterns of shawl’s I liked, and ultimately we settled on the Open Waters Shawl my Melanie Berg in Making no. 2. I was drawn to the unique stitch pattern. It looks so inviting and creative. I also liked that most of the body of the shawl is in garter stitch and a smaller section in a more complex stitch pattern – enough complexity to stay interested but enough basic stitches to chill. The dream combo. This pattern is for an asymmetrical shawl, which includes increasing on one side (to create the wingspan/hypotenuse of the triangle). I know shawls come in a variety of shapes (words like crescent and half pie that make me think of baked goods, not knitting), and some folks have strong feelings about which shapes they prefer. My feelings toward shawl shapes are distinctly underdeveloped; I just don’t know which one is best.

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Finding the yarn for this sweater was a minor effort. I traveled out of my usual thrift shop boundaries to a suburban thrift store. After circling the sweater racks for 30 minutes searching for a slate blue fingering weight sweater with good fiber content to unravel, I finally settled for a less preferable option: multiple lace weight sweaters. The first sweater was a cornflower blue 100% cashmere sweater from Ann Taylor LOFT (I always find this brand has fantastic quality sweaters). The second was a graphite grey linen/silk/rayon blend from J.Jill (also good quality sweaters from the brand in general). Both of these sweaters were machine knit with very fine yarn (cobweb/laceweight). I knew unraveling was going to be a *t a s k* but I decided the right color (literally blue/grey) in quality yarn was worth the challenge.

And it sure was a challenge. The cashmere sweater was quite weak, snapped often, and produced a lot of fuzz. This is to be expected of a short fiber like cashmere, but still I was struggling to remain positive through this sweater harvest. The grey sweater was a whole other bag of worms – I didn’t notice that this sweater was machine knit with two separate strands of yarn, which unraveled at different tensions. So one yarn was always a little saggier than the other.

I’ve done most of my unraveling without a yarn swift, but halfway through endless winding of laceweight yarn, I gave in – I needed a yarn swift as soon as possible to finish this project. After maybe about 20 minutes of research one weekday morning I decided to buy an amish style swift. By that evening, I walked out of my LYS with the ChiaoGoo Amish Style swift at a price that just fit within my monthly craft budget (no extra yarn for me).

The yarn swift is a game changer.

I sped through the rest of my unraveling, washed the yarn, stretched it gently to remove any knitting kinks, and was ready to start knitting.

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The pattern calls for a US size 2.5 needle, which I do not have… so I decided a US size 3 metal circular needle would have to do – and my swatch turned out okay, but again, my first ever shawl, so I really didn’t know what to expect.

This shawl was strange to knit. My yarn combo did not want to knit nicely, it was both slippery and stiff. The main part of the stitch pattern is small sections of bound off stitches – this was really difficult to do with my yarn + needle combo. The knitting process felt like it took ages! I’m used to garment projects with their different sections, sleeves, button bands, and the like. This shawl was one large piece of repeating patterns – a new style for me. Once I finished the last pattern repeat I rejoiced at the thought of binding off. But I knew binding off wasn’t the last step of this project. It would need a serious session of blocking to help the stitch pattern shine. I was generally intimidated by this step so I put off blocking for two weeks to try to build up the courage to stretch my knitting.

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I’m pretty unsure about the finished look of this shawl. Generally in the middle. After blocking, the fabric turned into something light and airy. I don’t know if it will actually keep my mom warm, which was a crucial part of her request. I do know that it hits slate blue straight on the head. However, I do worry that I stretched the fabric out too much and that I should have added one more strand of yarn to add a little bulk to the shawl. But, alas, these are all lessons learned for next time. I do think I’ll knit a shawl again, and probably one of Melanie Berg’s designs. For a first ever shawl, I think this turned out just fine.

2017 Gifting: The Simple Handkerchief

I love making gifts for my family every holiday. I remember the first year I learned to knit I decided to make my sister a scarf, and I’ve made a lot of gifts since then. My skills have considerably improved since 2012, and so has my gifting philosophy. Each year someone in my family will receive a larger gift, usually knit, that takes time to make. The others will receive something smaller, but equally personal and beautiful.

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Starting off small, my dad will soon be the proud owner of this embroidered handkerchief (Last year he received this massive scarf, so it’s his turn for something small). It’s the perfect gift because he has now officially entered old man club and uses handkerchiefs 24/7 (which I love about him). It also declares his love for his favorites state (mine too). So, where winters are long and runny noses are common – the embroidered handkerchief is a practical statement to the kind of love only a Minnesotan could have.

Though this looks simple, the making process had some dramatic moments. First, the only embroidery hoop I could find was much much larger than the handkerchief. I decided to baste it to a larger piece of fabric and embroider through both layers. I planned to cut away the excess fabric after embroidering. Of course, the removal did not go as smoothly as I expected – I cut two holes in the actual handkerchief… I was almost devastated, but I decided to try out some mending skills. So with my white thread and a knowledge only gained from a few instagram posts – I set out on my mending journey. I think it turned out just fine! My dad’s definitely not going to notice. Would I do this again? Probably not – the removal process was far too risky and the handkerchief was so thin and vulnerable. Embroidery hoops are useful tools and I should probably invest in a range of sizes.

 

Besides the little snafoos, the overall process of embroidering this handkerchief was a breeze (I did most of it at 5 AM when I couldn’t sleep). I used backstitch for the Minnesota outline and the lettering and a chain stitch for the heart (plus one tiny stitch for shaping).

Merry Christmas Dad.