Switching between crafts

For a long time I didn’t do a lot of knitting. I was spending my available time with quilts, and just didn’t pick up the needles much. And there was a time in there as well when I was spinning and spinning.

But now I seem to be back to knitting. I have several WIP quilt tops that I can’t be bothered to complete somehow, other than a baby quilt back and the start of summer. And my spinning wheel is getting pretty dusty. But the yarn keeps my attention, whether soft as a breeze garter stitch scarves or actual sweaters.

And I have a finish! After a lot of trauma with the pattern, restarting and revising multiple times, I’ve finished a sweater that I absolutely love.

This sweater is a combination of a Caramel cardigan for the background sweater and the floral chart from the Papa sweater.

More accurate colors in this daylight picture.

I tried really hard with the actual Papa sweater pattern. I knit the body almost completely twice, and a third time halfway. But I couldn’t get past the puckery gathers. Because the sweater is designed not to have any increases in the space where it is charted for the flowers, there are a TON of increases in a short space. And it just was too much for me and the yarn I’d chosen, a wool/silk blend from Cascade called Roslyn.

I tried variations on the increases, but it was never going to be something I’d wear.

Attempt number three to like this pattern

So, looking for alternatives, I found the Caramel cardigan. I’m always going to wear a cardigan more than a pullover anyway, and I liked the idea of moving the flowers to the lower border. I’d always planned to do them as duplicate stitch rather than stranded, so the number of stitches not matching was not a worry – I could fudge the chart when it came time to stitch them in.

Caramel is a simple and drapey pattern so it went smoothly. Then I had to audition a lot of reds for the flowers. A red Roslyn didn’t cover as much, and doubling up fingering weights didn’t give me what I wanted, but worsted weight did. So I ordered a couple different Cascade 220 bright and deep reds and one of them was perfect. (I just wish I could remember which one was the winner – I seem to have lost the ball band.)

I ended up trying five different red yarns.

I watched a lot of BritBox shows while doing this duplicate stitch. I’m a huge fan of Gardener’s World, and when I ran out of new episodes and had to wait, I switched to a favorite low-budget sci-fi show, Red Dwarf. There have also been a lot of district meetings about online teaching, so I added flowers during those too. (It helped with the despair created by that many Zoom meetings and training videos.)

The finished sweater fits, it is slouchy and comfortable and bright and cheerful and I am so happy I persevered through all the rows and rows of yoke increases that went nowhere.

And now a new sweater is being born on the needles. I like to try new construction methods and I don’t like to sew in sleeves, so the Spøjs cardigan is perfect. It is knit in two halves and then those are knit together while binding off the provisional cast-on. I’ve learned a new stitch making it: the half fisherman’s rib, which is easy but interesting to make. I’m using Roslyn again because I enjoyed its feel so much that I ordered two more colors (and a third just found its way into my shopping cart).

The color is a dull, dusty brown, and given my mood when I cast on – the PNW on fire everywhere and confined indoors because of the horrendous air, after months of being confined at home because of a still worsening pandemic, the latest weather news that they’d run out of letters for hurricanes and had to switch alphabets, and then RBG died . . . last week was like the world couldn’t get any worse. I’m basically waiting for the Big One earthquake or an alien abduction at this point. So I’ve named this sweater the Ashes of 2020. I’m hoping 2021 will arise like a phoenix from these ashes. Or, at least I’ll have a new sweater to wear as the authoritarian order cracks down and I have to join the resistance and live in the woods. The part that hasn’t burned down anyway.

It’s just a rectangle

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My sister moved into a new house near us last spring, and her attention has been focused on fixing up the inside to make it not just a white box. But as summer arrived she started to take a look at the outside, specifically the little side yard that is her main outdoor space. When she bought the house, she paid for a fence to be put around the yard, and the builders spread bark there, but it was otherwise barren and ugly. And she complained of bark splinters in her bare feet.

She got some quotes on having a paving stone patio laid, but they were crazy expensive. And she started thinking about a deck, but she was a little intimidated about the building process. But it’s only a rectangle! How hard could that be?

So we made building her a deck a summer project.

She hired my boys one morning to scrape away most of the bark to use elsewhere, and then deck building commenced.

What we discovered early on is that apparently a lot of people in America right now have decided to do home building projects. And, with factories sometimes closed or shipments delayed due to Covid, the local stores were cleaned out of a lot of what we needed. It was a two state search to find 10 foot pressure treated joists. Luckily the 16 foot lengths for the beams on the long edges were easier to come by, and we needed fewer of those.  I have a battered but useful utility trailer that made it possible to haul in the 16 foot boards.  

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While the 10’ board search went on, we dug down and packed gravel for the cement blocks.  A friend helped her jackhammer away the cement steps in our way.

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(Let me tell you now that I don’t know most of the technical terms for any of the things we used. Pressure treated wood, joist, nail, that’s about the extent of my building vocabulary. The words “support thingy” were used a lot and about more than one part.)

My husband helped with delivery, and my sons helped with the hammering of two by eights together to make support beams for the long end. They also helped us get the first joists hung to create our rectangle.  We also made a lot of construction-question phone calls to my brother, who lives on the East Coast, and builds house additions in his spare time.

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At times my hammering skills were not up to par. But most of the nails went in all the way in and straight.  For a given definition of straight.

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We stretched it 16 feet along the side of her house, and then right up against the fence, just 10 feet out from the house. We made it a floating deck, using post blocks that could be leveled, because I was pretty sure the two of us wouldn’t be able to get posts in the ground and make them all the same height.  According to local codes, any deck less than 18 inches high doesn’t have to be permitted, and because it’s not attached to or touching the house, she didn’t have to go through the HOA approval process.

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Our proudest moment was when we successfully used my small and slightly wobbly portable table saw to rip a flexing, flopping 16 foot Trex board down to fit the final gap at the fence edge on our first try.

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Least proudest moment is the support brace between two joists that bent five nails and three screws before we gave up and figured there must be a hidden knot.  We were relieved when that one disappeared from sight as the top Trex boards went on.

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it isn’t perfect, but it’s level, sturdy, stable, and a great size. Now we’re starting to think about what kind of deck furniture we might build to add to it, and what the step up should be made of. It takes up about half the length of her side yard, so she also has another area that we can make into a patio at some future point.

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The happy new deck owner.

Life as a dog

Sometimes it is good to be a dog.  When you get to spend time exploring at the sea, for example.

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Sometimes, though, it is hard.  Like when you eat a bee, despite all the warnings.

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Or you try to take a nap and get stuck in the couch.

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Or someone you thought you could trust leaps on you from a height.

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But then it goes back to good times in the sunshine, and all is well.

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Venturing a bit further out

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We had to cancel most of our summer plans to be safe, but we were able to substitute in one long weekend at the Oregon coast.  A rental cabin with a private backyard, so still socially distanced.  I’m getting a chance to knit by the sea and count sea lions.  It’s lovely.

Twenty-four sea lions this afternoon, bobbing where a river opens into the sea.

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A bit excessive

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I’m still spending a lot of time in the garden each day.  I am really loving the spiral vine anchors that the various vegetables are putting out.

But I have learned a lesson about not scouring under every leaf when harvesting. These zucchini grow fast!

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These seem to have grown overnight!  So much for my plan to pick them when they are small.  I only turned my back for a minute!

And the summer squash have started as well.

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We’ve made zucchini bread, chocolate zucchini bread, zucchini fritters, and breaded zucchini fries.  It didn’t even make a dent.

And now the cucumbers are beginning. . .

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It is smaller than my pinky now, but there are at least 12 plants! I may not have thought out this out carefully enough.  I’m going to have to start sneaking veggies onto my neighbors’ front steps and running away.

When not out watching my vines grow, I managed to finish my caramel/papa sweater. After ripping it out three times, I finally got it right. (Switching to an entirely new pattern helped.)

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The second sleeve went quickly, and I really love the useful new stitch markers I got recently.  Usually I use coil-less safety pins, but they’ve been disappearing over time as all small things do, so I ordered this colorful set of bulb shaped pins.  I like to leave them in the sleeves to show where all the decreases are so that I can make sure I’m matching the sleeves as closely as possible.

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I’ve been auditioning red yarns for the duplicate stitch.

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It looks like a worsted yarn looks the best, so I’ve ordered a skein of dark red Cascade 220 to be sure I will have enough.  All the red I had in quantity were more of a fingering weight.  And I really didn’t want to get 2/3 of the way through the one small ball of worsted I had and run out and not know where to get more.

The duplicate stitching is going to be my evening TV watching project, so it probably won’t finish too quickly.  It is too hot for sweater wearing right now anyway, so no hurry.

Looking closer

The patio knitting continues.  I’ve gotten the first sleeve on my caramel sweater done since the pic below was taken and gotten the double points in for the second.  The yarn is Roslyn from Cascade, a wool/silk blend.  The plan is to duplicate stitch around the bottom in a red design once I’m done with the knitting.

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The knitting would go faster if I wasn’t distracted by the garden.  This time it started with trying to see how close up I could get with my phone and iPad cameras to various surfaces:

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My jeans, the table top, a patio paver, and a slightly blurry zucchini.

Then I went for more zucchini elements.  (Honestly, the zucchini and I are absolutely bonded at this point.)

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From there I was pretty much crawling around on the lawn and patio trying to get as close to various flowers as the camera focus would allow.

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Meanwhile, no-longer-a-puppy Maxx kept watch.

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Well, when she wasn’t messing up my shots by barging in and trying to eat the bees.  That is a lesson soon to be learned.

Bountiful harvest

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The new raised bed soil must be incredibly fertile. The zucchinis have gone mad! They’re about 4 feet tall, and have completely smothered the beans, and the peas behind them have barely managed to escape upward.

And there are a lot of zucchinis starting in there!

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This morning’s harvest beside the bowl – I’ve been trying to pick them when they’re small, but if I let it go a couple of days they don’t wait for me.

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Luckily, my husband likes to bake. So today I’m going sit on the patio and eat chocolate zucchini bread and knit a sleeve on my sweater.

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And figure out a plan for when the late-planted summer squash and the cucumbers catch up!

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Adding shade

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Around 20 years ago, my sister bought a hammock and frame at a garage sale for $25. When they moved she wasn’t able to take it with her, so she “stored” it at my place and I’ve had it ever since.  (I’m still obligated by the terms of the transaction to refer to it at all times as “my sister’s hammock.”)

It has survived four or five moves with me, being left in the rain, being abused by children who used it as a play structure, and it is still going strong. I love my sister’s hammock.

However, lately I haven’t used it as much, because there really isn’t much shade in our current backyard.  It just gets too hot lying there in the sun.

With our new patio area, there was potential for an improved hammock placement. I had a couple of shade sails that we used to use over the old patio. The equilateral triangle I tried first was too small and had the wrong angles for the posts, and the right triangle was way too big. But too big can be solved with scissors.

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A new hem on the longest side, and a pleat to shorten the opposite point, and we now have a hammock in the shade.

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That hexagon area is supposed to be our fire pit seating area, but since we haven’t purchased either the fire pit or the seating yet, it will make a great hammock spot in the meantime.

Sewing cute

My sister, who is one of the few people that I let inside of our isolation bubble, decided it would be a “fun project” to sew a baby quilt for one of her colleagues.  Actually, this time she turned out to be right. It really was fun.

Slightly to her dismay, she did most of the sewing. The baby decorating scheme is apparently forests and mountains.  I found examples of quilts with trees and mountains and she picked the birch tree look. Their school mascot is a hedgehog, so that definitely had to go into the forest.  Then we both cut and she sewed all the straight lines.  Fairly straight even!

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This quilt was our inspiration.  We went with raw edge appliqué for the hedge hog, and strip sewed a bunch of black, white, gray and cream to speed up the trees.  A little slicing, reversing, and occasionally seam ripping a slice to insert more to mix up the lines made the tree part go very quickly.  I sliced up the background to insert the trees and she sewed them in.

A few sloping forest floor lines later, and there was only the hedgehog left to make.

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That is just pure adorable in my opinion.

The sandwiching, quilting and binding were all my jobs, though she did come back and learn how to bury thread ends.  I will make a quilter out of her yet!

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It was pretty simple quilting.  Mostly stitching in the ditch around the trees and the bark stripes – I occasionally lost the ditch, but it went well overall.  I outlined the hedgehog and added some internal stitching to really anchor it – we know the raw edges will fray a little over time, but that is supposed to make it more like hedgehog — Fur? Hair? Spikes?  At least that’s how we are going to explain it.

Here it is pre-washing machine:

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And straight from the dryer in full crinkle. The hedgehog survived!

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It was off to the baby shower 5 minutes after it came out of the dryer.  Finished just in time.

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Maybe too much warm?

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I finished up the quilting and binding of the baby quilt I’m making for my teaching team member.

I also knit a colorful sweater for the soon-to-arrive baby boy.  As I was knitting and sewing from stash to avoid leaving the house, the colors of the two presents don’t go together, which sort of bothered me through the whole process.  But I doubt the baby will care.

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Blankets and wool sweaters for a baby due to be born in the middle of the summer heat.  Maybe not my best decision making?

I did try to make the sweater a size for a slightly grown baby, hoping it will fit when winter rolls back around.  It was 91 degrees here yesterday, so the sweater is definitely going in a drawer for some months.

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But first it is going on their front porch, while I ring the bell and then dart away, masked, to avoid spreading viruses.   The world is so weird right now.