Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Year Tote Bag

It's a good thing that there's an extra day in February because I just finished my final red and white wool project today. It's a tote bag with a textured gradient of red 3D dots.

I'm not a big fan of a lot of the bags on the market, they're all very similar and traditional. There are also a lot of great, fresh looking styles, but they demand a higher price. When you have the skills to do it yourself, you should. The result will always represent you better than a store bought product.
It is lined with blue twill fabric to keep the felt exterior from stretching and deforming with use. When I get a job, I'll be using this to replace my current work bag, so it has to be sturdy enough to hold 20 lbs of papers and computer. The straps are just cotton webbing, the same as on a factory made bag
The hardest part was figuring out how to do colorwork with a texture of shortrows. I treated each red lump ad if it was just a normal fairisle color shift. The strands were carried in back as I worked my way across the row. You can see that the red yarn does not continue across the row because, if it were, the dots would be connected with a thin line.

These two pictures to the left show the knit part of the project before and after felting.  I left blank spots in the textured areas so that there was a place for the straps. As usual, most of the shrinkage was vertical. I made a ridge along the bottom of the bag to add shape to the squared off bottom panel. This attempt to shape the felt did not really work and the ridge kind of blended into the felted fabric. Next time, I would add more purl rows.

Currently there is no written pattern available. It's very similar to some other lumpy patterns I'm working on, so it wouldn't be hard to write out, but I'm not sure if it really appeals to many people . If there's a response (via comments) I would consider doing the work of writing it up for the ravelry pattern store.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Wool Chukka Slippers

The goal of this project was to make myself a pair of (red and white) wool slippers that could be worn around the house and sometimes outside. They would be pretty close to a shoe construction, having a sewn upper with laces and all, but would not require lasting before soling. It was important to use materials and tools from around the house in order to avoid spending a lot of money.

The other goal was to provide some good instructions on how to make a unisex looking house shoe with a real leather or rubber sole.

So here you can see me modeling my new shoes. I thought it would be really funny to make my shadow look like a windsock man but keep my feet really still. The resulting GIF hangs over my layout on the left and looks bizarrely 3D because of the slight shifting of the camera, but it makes me very happy.

I'm showing you this second GIF so that you forget about that whole instructions thing for now. When I went to put all the images together, there turned out to be a lot more steps than I could edit,explain, and post tonight. Because of the 20 or so small simple steps to make these slippers (compared to the 120+ for a pair of handmade pumps) instructions will follow in a series of installations over the next few weeks starting with pattern making.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Beyond Dead

The term for ironing the texture, stretch, and loft out of acrylic fiber is killing. Killed acrylic had good drape and feels smooth and almost silky. A few months ago, I started to experiment with the idea of heat setting acrylic swatches into more interesting textures than their usual flat form.

This pink swatch is in a fold pattern called a Miura-Ori. It was ironed into folds in the compact position on top. when you open it up, the crease pattern is visible. Because of the shininess of the yarn after ironing, the folds really shine in the sunlight.

This second piece in aquamarine yarn has an unstructured texture. It was crumpled and baked to get this unusual, almost organic topography. It almost looks like the mountains on a map. I hit one side with green Montana Gold  spray paint to create a different effect on the back. The shine of the yarn is really nice with this texture, and the crumpled effect creates an elasticity in the fabric.

The goal of these swatches was to take a fiber which is not generally considered desirable and to transform it into something where the artificiality and cheapness become positive attributes. These two effects can only be achieved with a synthetic fiber  and are quite beautiful. I'm thinking up some patterns that might use this sort of textile, so if you like the look and have some ideas, please comment.

These techniques are going to be the topic of a tutorial which shows how to heat your acrylic safely and with style. Hope you all liked the examples.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

TV Gameshow Sweater

There is someone out there who read my moodboard-like post about some sweaters being time machines and is waiting to see what came out of it. The time machine sweater was finished about 3 weeks ago, but didn't have any photographs that did it justice until a few days ago. Taking inspiration from the cheesy photography in vintage pattern books, I put together a little scene with period furniture. The color combo reminds me of some of the game show sets from the past.
I don't usually like to model for my own knitting photos. This case was no exception and I think you can see it on my face. I may not appear so, but I'm very happy with how this turned out. There aren't many concepts that are begging to be realized in red heart super cheap synthetic, but this one needs the artificiality to look right. The colors are so retro and they seemed to fit with the mustard chaise lounge (who doesn't love a mustard chaise lounge?). You can read about the history of the lounge on the MoMA website if you're interested.

This is a close up showing some of the fitting and the color. When this gets sized up, I'll have to learn how to chart the colored section.
The raw numbers for the full range of sizes have been worked out, so the testing phase will start soon. The pattern will be available by fall, so keep a look out if you want to knit your time machine sweater.

Friday, February 17, 2012

I heard you like pills

Yo dawg, I heard you like pills* so I put your pills in this pill so you can take them where you take it. 

See, this is a big felt pill. It looks like that little pill.

And inside of the big pill is a container with little pills. It's good for traveling because you can take your pills with you wherever you go.

I'm in the habit of carrying a prescription bottle and a baggie with Advil and Benadryl with me when I go on overnight trips. As part of my celebration of finding bright red Patons Classic Wool at the store, I made this little holder for my pills.  It fits a small prescription bottle and a few bags of other stuff for traveling.

You will need one or two colors of Patons Classic Wool - I didn't measure yardage, but it isn't much.
You will also need  size 8 double pointed needles.

Gauge before felting is 5 stitches by 8 rows per square inch.

Capsule top
Cast on 36 stitches and divide equally amongst 4 needles.
Knit 30 rounds.
Knit 7, k2tog. Repeat this sequence another 3 times, you will have 32 stitches.
Knit 1 round
Knit 6, k2tog. Repeat this sequence another 3 times, you will have 28 stitches.
Knit 1 roundKnit 5, k2tog. Repeat this sequence another 3 times, you will have 24 stitches.
Knit 1 roundKnit 4, k2tog. Repeat this sequence another 3 times, you will have 20 stitches.
Knit 3, k2tog. Repeat this sequence another 3 times, you will have 16 stitches.
Knit 2, k2tog. Repeat this sequence another 3 times, you will have 12 stitches.
Knit 1, k2tog. Repeat this sequence another 3 times, you will have 8 stitches.
break yarn and pull it through the remaining stitches.

Capsule bottom
Cast on 32 stitches and divide equally amongst 4 needles.
Knit 52 rounds.
Knit 6, k2tog. Repeat this sequence another 3 times, you will have 28 stitches.
Knit 1 round Knit 5, k2tog. Repeat this sequence another 3 times, you will have 24 stitches.
Knit 1 round Knit 4, k2tog. Repeat this sequence another 3 times, you will have 20 stitches.
Knit 1 round
Knit 3, k2tog. Repeat this sequence another 3 times, you will have 16 stitches.
Knit 2, k2tog. Repeat this sequence another 3 times, you will have 12 stitches.
Knit 1, k2tog. Repeat this sequence another 3 times, you will have 8 stitches.
break yarn and pull it through the remaining stitches.

Felt these pieces in the washing machine or by hand. I did mine by hand and it took very little time.

Now you have a pill shaped pill case.

Make 20 of these in 3 colors and you can play real life Dr. Mario.

*The number of Americans that take a prescription hovers between 40 and 50%. It is reasonable to assume that an even larger number of people take over the counter pills somewhat regularly. I'm also going to assume that this means most people "like pills."

Monday, February 13, 2012

Instant valentine

How many times have the baking challenged tried to make something special for someone special on valentines day? Often it ends up being a cute, but not delicious, gesture.

I'm proposing that somewhat challenged cooks turn, this year, to the microwave oven and treat your date to a mug brownie. Some of them are very tasty.

They're all over the internet with a wide variation in flavor and texture. In order to get something with the right texture and a rich flavor, I've been working on my own version. You will find that it is less like cake, and more like a true brownie. It has more cocoa than most other recipes, nutella for added flavor complexity, and a bittersweet characteristic.

The recipe for two cakes (cakes for lovers?) follows

1/2 cup flour
3 tbs of sugar
1/4 cup  and 2 tbs of unsweetened cocoa
1/4 cup of nutella or peanut butter
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbs of milk 2 tbs oil
1 tsp of salt
 optional coconut or chocolate chips

Mix all of these ingredients together in a bowl.

Divide between 2 glass pudding cups and microwave separately, Each for 75 seconds.

I finished mine off with some caramel sauce and powdered sugar.  I may not take the best food pictures, but seriously this is worth trying.

chocolate season

The week leading up to and surrounding Valentine's Day is Chocolate week. I thought that some of you who are making big plans for tomorrow might appreciate a really easy dessert (or appetizer) which is a sweet twist on the classic idea of cheese and crackers. For a limited time, you can find these chocolate pretzel inspired fudge covered Ritz crackers.
 I also got some of this nice French processed dessert cheese called gourmandise. It is available in cherry and walnut flavor. Though the flavors are associated with sweetness, there are no sweeteners added to the cheese, making it an interesting savory treat or the perfect complement to desert.
 If you like Chocolate and walnut flavors (or cherry) this is a really great dessert, or a great appetizer for an all chocolate meal. All you have to do is slice the cheese and put it on the crackers.
Chocolate crackers with walnut cheese, yes.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Red and white ombre knit bandana

Using my previously tutorialized gradient dying technique, I made a ball of Lang Bebe superwash wool for an early spring weight bandana.

Bebe is a light fingering weight yarn which is very soft and has a lot of drape when knit in a loose gauge. I used 150 yards for the dyed ball, keeping the remaining 230 yards plain white for rest of the scarf. This time, instead of kool aid, which is surprisingly hard to find around here, I used Wilton food color and vinegar.
The pattern is just a basic triangle.

I used about 400 yards of light fingering weight yarn on size 6 needles, but this pattern will work with any weight or size.
Start out by casting on 3 stitches
Row 1: P1, YO, P1, YO, P1
Row 2: K1 row
Row 3: P1, YO, Purl up to the last stitch, YO, P1
Row 4: K1, YO, Knit up to the last stitch, YO, K1
Row 5: P1, YO, Purl up to the last stitch, YO, P1
Repeat rows 2-5 until you are close to the end of your yarn or are an inch away from your final size.
Work 6 rows of 1 x 1  ribbing then cast off.

The color change happens about halfway up the scarf.

I think it looks nice, but next time I would not want the dyed section to end so high up.
I'm still not sure if I'll keep or wear this. I had kind of planned on giving this to someone but I dropped the iron on it while blocking and made a big yellow iron burn. Very disappointing, but at least it isn't in an obvious place.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

not the best week

It has been longer than usual since my last post, and that is because the house was temporarily converted to a doggy hospice care center. My 17.5-year old poodle, Jinx, started to change last week. She has been sick many times before, but this time was definitely different. She stopped eating, two days later she stopped drinking water, then she stopped moving her back legs.

Last night we made the decision to take her to the vet. An hour before our appointment, she did get up and walk across the room, but she was so confused by her inability to move like she used to. I always thought that on her final car ride I'd be able to give her one last treat to leave her with a happy moment, but she refused everything, and a dog that won't eat peanut butter is surely ready for death.

My mother took this picture this morning, Jinx looked pretty tired. As she lay on her bed for the last time, I couldn't just let her go without having physical proof of her existence. I cut some of her hair, being careful not to change the way she looks. 10 grams of poodle locks with a wide variation in staple length and color. Some day I'll spin it into something soft that reminds me of her. Wrapped in a towel, I held her on the car ride. Jinx was never the type of dog to passively let you carry her, but there was no resistance in her muscles, they were just weak and soft. All of her energy was concentrated on breathing. At the vet, there was some trouble finding a vein for injection, 4 days of refusing water and very little drinking left her extremely dehydrated.  She looked the same after she got her injection as she did before. I stroked her face, and could not imagine that she couldn't feel my hand.

My uncle offered to bury her in his animal cemetery with his past pets (ranging from horses to birds to various rescued creatures). It's a very nice favor, especially because I'm interested in retrieving some of her bones in a few years. I think after I die, I'd like someone in the family to display my skull on a mantlepiece or bookshelf, so I'd like to have Jinx around in that way.

After the vet, she was taken to the farm and buried in her RUN DMC shirt and acid washed diaper cover shorts. She never liked to wear clothes as a young dog, but in her old age she welcomed extra layers of warmth. It just seemed right to leave her as she was and not take away her comfort even though her shirt and pants were reminders of her aging. I have heard that she was buried in her towel, which has my name tag on it too.
I prefer to think of Jinx like this, running outside and chasing squirrels.

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