Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My First Charted Knitting Project

I used a charted pattern for the first time this past summer. It’s named The Alberta Seamen’s Scarf, and it’s from Stahman's Shawls & Scarves, by Myrna A. I. Stahman.
I used some alpaca yarn that I purchased at a local fiber festival (ahem) some time ago.

This scarf required two skills that were new to me: 1) a provisional cast on and 2) working with a charted pattern. Both took a few tries, but I am persistent – and I really really really wanted to have those skills. I was tempted to write out the pattern but decided against it. I’ve done that before, which is exactly the reason I still didn’t know how to read a chart.

Tutorials for a provisional cast on are plentiful. But for me, sometimes it's easier to quickly glance at a web page and think, "That's too complicated for me" and click away. This time, I followed the instructions in the book. By the way, a provisional cast on is one in which stitches are cast on with "waste yarn" (preferably a smooth yarn about the same weight/thickness as the one used for the project); it's used for many reasons (to write about another day, perhaps), one of which is when you are using a one-way pattern and want both ends or "tails" of a scarf to match. 

There is a very nice history to the seamen’s scarf.

Since 1898, during the Spanish American War, volunteers of the Seamen’s Church Institute have knitted, collected, packed, and distributed gifts to mariners who are miles away from home during the holidays. The gift consists of a handknit garment, a personal letter, and information on SCI’s services for mariners. In addition to this, SCI also includes several useful items like hand lotion, lip balm, and toothbrushes—things difficult to come by when working long stretches on the water.

Knitting groups around the country connect with SCI in weekly knitting meetings at churches and at knitting-sponsored events. Through online sites like Ravelry and the CAS blog, the Institute works with hundreds to make the program effective.

The historic name of this volunteer program, Christmas at Sea, only partially describes the work of the people who make holidays a little warmer for mariners. While gift distribution happens during winter months, collection and creation of items happens year round, and while many gifts go to international mariners working "at sea," thousands of gifts also go to mariners working on inland waterways here in the United States.

The Christmas-at-Sea Program of the Seamen's Church Institute of New York and New Jersey provides volunteer knitters with patterns for knitting scarves, watch caps, sweaters, and socks. -- Seamen’s Church Institute

Christmas at Sea that’s a Seamen’s scarf he is wearing
Christmas at Sea patterns free knitting patterns available

The traditional Seamen’s scarf is knit from end to end by knitting 14 inches of garter stitch [knit every row], followed by 18 inches of knit four, purl four ribbing, followed by another 14 inches of garter stitch. The garter stitch tails provide warmth to the chest of the wearer, and the knit four, purl four ribbing provides both a wonderful fit and warmth as it hugs the neck of the wearer. – Myrna Stahman, Stahman's Shawls & Scarves, page 4.

I have made many of these scarves for our local City Mission. We love gifts of warmth here in western New York! I have also used the pattern to make a few for my favorite guys. My husband lets me borrow his all the time. That is, until now. Because now I have my very own hand-knit Seamen’s scarf!

Here it is, drying after blocking.
Here's a close up of the left "tail" drying.
This is the center ribbed section.
On my lovely styrofoam head and box
See how it cozies up around the neck?

I've already started my next charted knitting project. Someday it will look like this (but in a different colorway):
It's called From Dawn Till Dusk and is designed by Tetiana Otruta. This pattern is a free download for Ravelry members. Ravelry is free to join, and is a treasure of resources, help, and fun. I think that there are now more than one million members, so if you're a knitter, head on over. On Ravelry, I'm DearKnitter.

Blessings and peace...

Monday, November 26, 2012

Sew an Infinity Scarf in No Time at All

Following my success at making my pom-pom trimmed cowl, blogged about here, I saw a tutorial (actually, there are probably a million of them) for an infinity scarf and decided to make one. Living in western New York, you can never have too many neck coverings.

Jan's Infinity Scarf Tutorial is the best-explained of all the ones I've seen, at least, for me. The only change I made was to press the seam allowances open, including the portion that will be sewn last. It made that little bit of hand sewing turn out so nice.

Here's mine:
If you have a piece of soft fabric that at least 1-1/2 yards long, you can make one, too. As Jan explains, you can make it as wide or as narrow as you'd like, so you can use a fabric as soft and drapey as this silk – or you can make it from something like thick faux fur.

Let me know if you give it a try, okay?

Thanks, Jan, for a great tutorial!

Blessings and peace..

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Use Leftover Fabrics to Make Cute Linen Dish Towels

These are what I made out of some leftover fabrics. Don't you love to find a way to use up leftovers? And who can't use some new dish towels (for themselves or for gifts)? I am including in this post my tutorial for my one-measurement, low-bulk, mitered-corner hem technique. I've never seen it anywhere else; it was a puzzle I wanted to solve.
Linen Dish Towels With
Gingerbread Cookie Trim
I had about 2/3 of a yard of medium-weight brown linen leftover from this skirt (Kwik Sew 3789 blog post).
And I had these leftovers from a cotton print of gingerbread cookie baking after making three aprons some time ago.
Here's a close up of the recipe.
I happened to be moving the linen from the leftover pile to a drawer (always trying to get organized), and I serendipitously laid it next to the gingerbread fabric. Well, I thought, those are nice together. So I pressed both pieces of fabric and laid them out to see how many dish towels I could make from the linen. Three (see first photo).


I cut the linen into three rectangles, approximately 17 in. wide x 24 in. long.

I cut the print cotton into 6 pieces: three pieces at 17 in. wide x 6 in. long, with the "recipe" more or less in the center, and three pieces at 17 in. wide x 3 in. long.

Mark and Press:

Notes: In "home dec" sewing, most seam allowances are 1/2 inch. All folds in this tutorial are 1/2 in.

I mark, using a soap sliver, 1 in. from the long edge (width) on the wrong side of the print fabric.
Then I fold the fabric up to the marked line and press. Repeat for all long edges (widths) of the print fabric.

Place and Pin:

Place the print fabrics right side up onto the right side of the linen pieces. In placing it, be sure to allow for bottom and top hems. Pin into place along the folded edges of the print fabric.
I placed the bottom of the larger piece of print fabric 4 in. from the bottom edge of the linen, knowing that after hemming, it would be 3 in. from the bottom. The placement is purely a personal decision.

I repeated with the narrower pieces, placing them 6 in. from the top edge of the linen, again, a personal decision.


From the right side, stitch the print fabric to the linen, close to the edges, leaving the ends open (they will be enclosed in the hem later). Repeat with all pieces.
(I think the center towel has been folded under at the bottom. As you can see from the finished towels [first photo], the print fabrics are all placed at about the same place.) 

Trim Edges:

Trim any edges as needed. I wasn't precise when cutting the width of the print fabrics, knowing I could trim any excess at this point.)



As promised, here is my tutorial for my one-measurement, low-bulk, mitered-corner hem technique. {{Feel free to grab a piece of graph paper (or plain paper on which you have drawn a 1-in. grid), so that you can follow along with paper.}} First, the one-measurement, fold, and press step.

1. Using a soap sliver and a ruler (or your preferred marking tool), measure 1 in. from all 4 edges of each towel on the wrong side of the fabric.
2. Fold the fabric up to the marked line and press. This will result in a 1/2 in. fold. Repeat for all 4 sides of each towel. The order (short sides first, work around clockwise) doesn't matter.
The steam pressing has removed
the marking; no problem.
3. Fold the fabric again, this time, where the fabric is now doubled, and press.
Next is the low-bulk, mitered-corner step.

4. Unfold one corner.
I have marked in white soap and photo edited in red the cutting line. It's up, across a diagonal, and over. If you're following along with paper, go ahead and cut it. Here's the piece that is cut off:
5. Now, working again with the towel, fold the corner so that the first set of folds is back in place. Make a new fold (shown here) and press.
I photo edited in white to show
the former fold so that you can see
how this works.
6. Fold one edge, paying attention to the corner angle.
7. Fold the adjacent edge, again paying attention to the corner angle.
Are you seeing the miter coming together?

8. Clip or pin from the right side. I find that clips do not move the fabric the way that pins can, especially when going through 3+ layers of fabric. Repeat with remaining sides.
Clipped/pinned from the right side;
photo shows the wrong side.
9. Stitch from the right side. I like to stitch around twice, once close to the outer fold and again close to the inner fold.
Two rows of stitching (right side)
Two rows of stitching (wrong side)
10. Admire your work.

I made four linen towels and a teapot mat in a similar way this past summer, but with log cabin patchwork instead of a single print.
Questions? Comments?

Here's my comment: It took me significantly less time to make these three dish towels than to create this tutorial. It's one of those processes that takes longer to explain than to do. Give it a try!

Blessings and peace...

Friday, November 23, 2012

Kwik Sew 3789 Skirt

Here are my two completed skirts from this Kwik Sew 3789 pattern:
Oh, and that cowl? Blogged about here
The features that I liked about this skirt pattern are:
  • Seams that were sewn overlapped
  • Curves everywhere
  • A flounce
  • Elastic waist
I had already made five skirts this summer (before I started this blog). The finished skirt length of this pattern is 34 in., but I've shortened skirt patterns before, so this would be pretty easy, right? Not so fast, Nellie!  Let's look at the pattern envelope, pattern pieces, and fabric layout.
It's the skirt on the right
with overlapped seams
Look at all those curves! Every piece is curved, and each curve is slightly different from every other curve. The very feature that appealed most to me turned out to be the feature that added a lot of effort to make this work (H/T to Tim Gunn, "Make it work!").

I saw that the "easiest" thing for me to do—and still retain the style of the skirt—would be to remove length in three areas: the top of pieces 1, 3, and 5; the bottom of pieces 2, 4, and 6; and the bottom of piece 7 (the flounce). I tried every which way to alter the pattern pieces before cutting out the fabric, but my mind just couldn't do it.

So I cut out the pattern pieces as shown and sewed pieces 1 to 2, 3 to 4, and 5 to 6. I then sewed pieces 1/2 to 3/4, and 1/2/3/4 to 5/6. I then cut 2 in. from the top of 1/3/5 and 2 in. from the bottom of 2/4/6. Next, I sewed 1/2/3/4/5/6 to 1/2, in other words, join all of these pieces vertically (sort of, remember, everything is curved and at an angle).
I was easily able to cut 2 in. from the bottom of pattern piece 7, the flounce. I then had to adjust the circumference of the top of the flounce to match the new circumference of pieces 1 through 6. I made the same adjustment to piece 8, which is the narrow band of fabric that covers the seam that joins the flounce to pieces 2/4/6. Other than that, it was easy—LOL.

In my second skirt (after making all of those changes, I just had to use the pattern again!), I wanted to add a pocket. At first I thought I could add an in-seam pocket here:
But the angle of that seam was the opposite of what would be comfortable. Maybe a patch pocket as drawn here:
Well, that didn't take into account that 2 in. was removed from the top. There was no way to add a patch pocket that didn't cross over a seam line or would be placed in a spot that would look goofy. So, no pocket.

So, my final thought about this pattern: It is a well-drafted pattern that is just perfect for someone who likes her skirts 34 in long. Or who really enjoys altering patterns.

Blessings and peace...

Sunday, November 18, 2012

You Can Use Those Outdoor Pumpkins

A friend gave me her great big pumpkin that had been on her front porch since before Halloween. Now, this wasn't one of those little "cooking" or "pie" pumpkins. It's bred (is that the right word for food?) for size and color, I think. It's not bred for using to make a pumpkin pie. But, having some experience with this winter squash, I knew just what I would do with it. (If you're not going to use yours, I can assure you that I will put it to good use!)

I forgot to weigh or measure it. (I'm still getting used to the documentation that accompanies blogging.) When cut up, it filled my large roasting pan, the one that can hold a 20 lb turkey.

First, I scrubbed it with hot, soapy water because, well, you know how nature is. I then cut it up and, using a grapefruit spoon (love those little serrated edges), scooped out the pulp and seeds. I placed the cut-up pumpkin in the large roasting pan, added a little water, covered it, and baked it at 350 degrees F for about 2 hours. I might have cooked it a little longer than necessary. No problem.
Meanwhile, I placed the whole glop of seeds/pulp in a dish and microwaved it (you could simmer it on the stove) for a few minutes, then I let it cool. Then I "whisked" it with a fork (like you would if you were making scrambled eggs, which I'm not these days), and the seeds separated from the pulp quite easily. I ended up with 2 cups of pulp.
When the cooked pumpkin had cooled, I used my grapefruit spoon to separate the skin from the pumpkin. Here’s the skin (not much waste from such a huge pumpkin).
I placed the pulp and some of the pumpkin into my Vitamix blender (for this project, any blender would work) and pureed it. This variety of pumpkin is quite stringy, so pureeing it helps to get the desired consistency. Now it is all as smooth as silk.
I pureed the remainder of the pumpkin and poured it into a stockpot. It was almost 6 quarts of cooked pumpkin!
I used about 1 quart of the pumpkin for tonight's pumpkin (and carrots and kale) soup. I froze 6 pints of cooked pumpkin for soup and smoothies.

I had a few apples to use up, so I have some apple pumpkin butter simmering in the crockpot (recipe follows).

Apple Pumpkin Butter (all amounts are approximate)
4 cups of apples, cored and peeled
1/2 cup water
2 quarts of cooked pumpkin
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp ground nutmeg

1. Core the apples. Peel the apples and rough chop the peels. Place the peels into the Vitamix and add 1/2 cup water. Turn On, quickly increase the variable speed from 1 to 10, then turn on High. Pour this pretty pink liquid into a large pot or slow cooker.

2. Rough chop the apples and place into the Vitamix. Process about 1/3 to 1/2 at a time. Add a little water if needed. Turn On, quickly increase the variable speed to about 5 or 6, using the tamper as needed to get all of the apples finely chopped. Pour into the large pot or slow cooker. Repeat with remainder of apples.

3. Add the cooked pumpkin and spices. Adjust the spices for your preferences.

4. Cook on the stovetop or slow cooker on Low for 2 hours or more. Pour the finished Apple Pumpkin Butter into containers and chill. Freeze some for later.

Serve on bread, toast, crackers, bagels, banana bread, and muffins. Add to cooked cereal. Serve on pancakes, waffles, or French toast. Use in place of oil and some of the sugar in carrot cake (reduce the other liquid accordingly).

Disclaimer: I am an approved affiliate for Vitamix. You can get free standard shipping and handling (a $25 US/$35 CN value) by purchasing through Vitamix and using code 06-007841 when placing your order.

Blessings and peace...

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Easy No-Knit Yarn Cowl

I saw a tutorial for another cute cowl and thought I'd give it a whirl. This one is for a friend whose birthday we're celebrating tomorrow. It's five or six "braids" of yarn, each braid being made up of 3 sets of 8 strands of yarn, 40 inches long, then braided. Here's my end result:
The full tutorial is here. Please go take a quick look at her pretty blue cowl, then come right back, okay?

I ran into a bit of trouble with my first attempt, which resulted in this:
My wrapped section is about
three times what it should be.
Okay, I have more yarn. And my friend probably likes red better, anyway. I didn't see a way to end up with the desired result following the instructions, so I modified it a bit.

Instead of cutting 120 or 148 40-inch long strands of yarn, then combining them into groups of 8 strands, then each 8-strand each of which becomes one -- oh I can't do this math again.

Anyway, I decided to make one very long braid, then wind it around five times. Each strand started out about 15 feet long. Go ahead, laugh at me; think about braiding someone's hair that is so long that you are in different rooms for the last third. Oh and think about when you're braiding something really long, the "unbraided" sections are, in fact, braiding themselves. So you have to -- at the same time that you're pinching the braid, unbraid the lower portion. Ay-yi-yi.

Here are my 3 sets of 8 strands of yarn:
And a close up of one:
And because I knew that the instruction in the original tutorial, to tape the strands down to your work surface, would not hold for me, I knotted the ends of each strand and used binder clips:
And clipped them tightly:
And then I hung the binder clip on a pegboard clip:
I then started braiding. And braiding. And braiding. Then I wrapped it around five times, machine-stitched the braids together, used a bit of red duct tape to cover the ends, and wrapped yarn around the duct tape. The result:
I think she'll like it. I'm going to make one for myself, but it will be when I have a helper, someone who can unbraid the lower ever-getting-more-tangled part while I'm braiding away.

Is it worth your time to see someone's real-life experience following a tutorial? What do you like about it?

Oh, and is anyone interested in some dark orange (official color name Paprika) braids? And the rest of the ball of yarn, too. It's Paton's worsted weight wool. For a doll? Or a costume? I'll give them to the first person to request them in the Comments.

Blessings and peace...