Smalls SAL June 2014 (Better Late than Never?)

Pardon the wrinkles please! I’m on a deadline.

Continuing in my fine tradition of sneaking in just under the deadline of the grace period (or at least what I think is the grace period), I bring you this month’s (by which I mean June’s) entry for the Smalls Stitchalong (SAL) challenge. This is my version of Bent Creek’s “EduCATed,” a sweet little chart I bought eons ago and have been meaning to do ever since. It combines two of my all-time favorite things: cats and books. Together at last. And a punny title! Who could ask for anything else?

This pattern has two personal connections for me as well. First, the cat in the pattern reminds me a lot of my adorable, big beastie of a boy cat, Barnaby. Here he is in all his glory:

The Amazing Barnaby
Could I be more handsome?

I took it as a sign from the cross stitch gods that the name of the floss for the cat’s body was Gentle Arts Sampler Threads “Barn Grey.” “Barn Grey” for my grey Barnaby. Serendipity.

Sadly, lately, I spend more time watching that television in the background than I do reading. But I do enjoy old-fashioned hardcover books like the ones in “EduCATed.” My current obsession is collecting all of the Coralie Bickford-Smith Penguin editions. They’re repros, not vintage (obviously), but she uses contemporary colors and styles to capture that nineteenth-century Art Nouveau look beautifully. Here’s a pic of her first series, some of which you can also see in the background from one of my previous blog entries:

Coralie Bickford-Smith books, first set
So beautiful… and they will all be mine one day…

So that’s it for today — short and sweet, with some beautiful hardcover books at the end. Seriously, check out the whole collection — it’s amazing.

Update July 27, 2014: In case anyone’s interested (and, I suppose, in case anyone’s not, too), I made some floss substitutions for “EduCATed.” The green book (second from the bottom) and the green in the green-and-gold book (third from the bottom) are two different (very different) dye lots of Gentle Arts Sampler Threads “Dried Thyme.” It’s hard to believe they’ve been sold under the same color name. For the collar and the lines on the book second from the bottom, I substituted “Chesapeake” and for the cat’s eyes I substituted “Olive,” both by Weeks Dye Works. I chose “Olive” because it was a better match for Barnaby’s eyes. For the pages in the books, I substituted color #120 overdyed floss by Needles Necessities.

GIVEAWAY: If you would like my gently used chart for “EduCATed,” post a message below or send me an email and I will send it to you. Thank you for checking out my blog!

Two Beginnings, Three Finishes, Two WIPs (featuring my entries for the May 2014 Smalls SAL)

I’ve had a productive week or two here at Casa “The Lyf So Short” with projects finished and projects started. As the song says, “Every new beginning is some other beginning’s end.” Or, if you want to be slightly more literary, my former undergraduate mentor used to quote this line from Great Expectations all the time: “Pip, dear old chap, life is made of ever so many partings welded together…” Perhaps the equivalent for a knitting blog would be something like: “life is made of so many bind-offs knitted together….” So, in the spirit of beginnings and endings and middles…

Beginnings: I’ve cast on for the Sherlock-themed challenge sponsored by my local Stitch n Bitch group, the West Hollywood chapter. I’m making a pair of “The Wallpaper Had it Coming (Again)” mittens by ampersand designs, a pattern based on the wallpaper in the living room of 221B Baker Street in the BBC Sherlock series (I first mentioned these mittens here). I’ve also cast on for Spring Kerchief by Sachiko Uemura in a beautiful silvery gray Colinton Lace yarn from my LYS, Unwind, courtesy of a gift certificate from my generous godfather. Do I “need” either of these projects? No. Will they help me reach my knitting goals for 2014? No. What was my point again?

Endings: I’ve finally cast off on the Susie Rogers’ Reading Mitts that I started in January, and now I have a photo to share, at last:

Suzie Rogers' Reading Mitts, Relaxing in a Bowl
Suzie Rogers’ Reading Mitts, Relaxing in a Bowl (love that picot edging!)

Don’t let the length of time between casting on and casting off fool you, this is actually quite a quick project, especially considering that it’s knitted in a relatively small gauge. I used Blue Sky Alpacas’ Sport Weight in a lovely periwinkle blue, and it knit up like a dream. I wish I had taken “before and after” photos of the blocking process, though, since it made a huge difference in how evenly and consistently the stitches lie. I tend to be a fairly consistent knitter with not a lot of variety in my stitch sizes as I knit, but even my knitting looked a little “lumpy” in places before blocking. I think this had to do with the nature of the yarn itself which has a bit of twist to it.

So I’m doubly pleased with the result, and I highly recommend this pattern to anyone, especially if it’s your first time working a simple thumbhole. The sizing runs the gamut from willowy maiden to beefy-armed serving wench (my size). These mitts are my favorite kind of knitting — a simple but elegant design that packs a lot of punch. Go ahead and check out the pattern’s Ravelry page and all the beautiful photos of the completed projects. You won’t be disappointed.

2014 Smalls Stitchalong Logo
2014 Smalls Stitchalong (SAL) Logo

And continuing with the finishes… I’ve finally finished my Smalls SAL entries for May. I’ve stitched two “free-bees” (their spelling, not mine) from La-D-Da, one called “A Rose is a Rose” and one called “Fallen Leaf” (both designs are available for download here, along with some other lovelies. I’m currently drooling over their new “Spring Hare” design). I’ve had my eye on the “A Rose is a Rose” design for quite a while now, ever since I decided I wanted to design my own “A Rose is a Rose is a Rose” design and went searching the Interwebs (which John Oliver has hilariously taken to calling “the Electronic Cat Database”) for other cross stitch designs featuring that famous saying.

 

"A Rose is a Rose" Freebee by La-D-Da
“A Rose is a Rose” Freebee by La-D-Da

I changed the floss colors; the most obvious effects were to make the rose more purple than the red/mauve that was called for and to make the stem darker. Here are the substitutions I made:

  • For Gentle Arts Sampler Threads “Chamomile” (the center of the rose), I substituted  GAST “Woodrose”
  • For GAST “Old Red Paint” (the main color for the rose itself), I substituted GAST “Briar Rose” (for some reason, I really liked how the two colors for the rose had the word “rose” in their names — it’s like Shakespearean word-play for the cross stitch set!)
  • For GAST “Dried Thyme” (the leaves), I substituted GAST “Evergreen”
  • For GAST “Old Hickory” (the stem and thorns), I substituted Weeks Dye Works “Bark”
  • For GAST “Dark Chocolate” (the lettering and border, I substituted WDW “Chestnut (honestly, I can’t imagine this last change made much of a difference)

And here’s the second La-D-Da free-bee I completed, “Fallen Leaf”:

"Fallen Leaf Free-bee" by La-D-Da
“Fallen Leaf Free-bee” by La-D-Da

For this design, I substituted Weeks Dye Works “Bark” (lettering) and Gentle Arts Sampler Threads “Autumn Leaves” (leaves and border) for GAST “Pine Woods” and “Cinnamon” respectively. I also added another little design element in the middle of the “W” in the word “wave,” fleshed out the leaves a little bit, and changed the “a’s” to a font I liked better. To each her own…

Middles: I’m also continuing to chug away at the presents for my nieces. For Ella, I am working on Annie Modesitt’s Fiesta Tea Set. For Lauren (as I’ve mentioned before), I’ve completed the Baby Bobbi Bear by Blue Sky Alpacas, and this week I’m going to finish some sweaters for him to wear about town. ‘Cause he’s fancy… Photos to follow soon. Fingers crossed!

 

April Smalls SAL Check-in: “Union Jack Freebie”

This royal throne of kings, this scepter’d isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England…

In celebration of actually completing this month’s (by which I mean April’s) 2014 Smalls SAL challenge, I’m letting my inner Anglophile out to play. To be truthful, my inner Anglophile isn’t exactly usually inside the house practicing her violin and doing her math homework. She’s usually out cavorting around for everyone to see — watching BBC America, reading nineteenth-century English novels, eating lemon curd, indulging in a mild fascination with Prince Harry, driving on the left side of the road (OK, maybe not that last one).

I charted and stitched “Union Jack Freebie” (last seen as a work-in-progress here) for my fledgling — very fledgling — cross stitch design company, Wordsmith Designs, and the charted design will be up on the web site soon. However, it’s already available on this blog here as a free pattern.

Union Jack Freebie by Wordsmith Designs
Though she be but little, she is fierce!

To give you some idea of the scale of this design, the entire frame is only 6″ X 4 1/2″/15 X 11.5 cm, and the design size itself is 2.52” X 1.4”/6.4 X 3.55 cm. I stitched this Union Jack on 25-count beige Jobelan, which is my current favorite fabric for doing one-over-one designs;  the stitch definition is fantastic and it’s not too tiny (and exasperating) to work with considering my middle-aged eyes. The threads I chose were Gentle Arts Sampler Threads in Midnight (blue), Schoolhouse Red (red) and Oatmeal (ecru/white), although the pattern comes with some alternative suggestions (DMC, Anchor, Crescent Colours and Weeks Dye Works).

I’ve tried to be as accurate to the real Union Jack flag as possible. The tricky parts were the diagonal red lines which do not quite line up in the original, although many reproductions “cheat” by having simple diagonal lines.

The frame is a standard 2″ X 3″/5 X 7.5 cm frame I found at (I believe) Target several years ago. The cracks at the joins don’t appear so alarming in real life as they appear in this photo. It’s funny how photographs magnify even minor flaws. I’ve noticed this phenomenon when photographing knits before; the slightest imperfection — a knot in the wrong place, a stitch that sticks out, a stray cat hair — shows up like it’s got a huge neon arrow pointed at it.

Photography issues aside, I hope you enjoy this quick and easy pattern. I’d love to see any pictures of completed projects.

Well, it’s the beginning of April so it’s time to set some New Year’s goals for 2014!

[WARNING: This is quite a long post, and it’s generally all about my personal knitting/stitching goals. Alas, no Benedict Cumberbatch, nerdy knits, or penguin sweaters today.]

Boy, time sure flies when you become temporarily obsessed with the knitting on a certain TV show and then you catch the plague! I’ve been meaning for the past two-and-a-half months to write a post where I set out my knitting, stitching and crafting goals for the year, but it seems like something always got in the way. Sadly, goal-setting has never been one of my strengths, but I’m setting some goals to try to work on that in the future….

Knitting WIPs and Goals for 2014

Let’s start with what I have on the needles or in the hoop right now. The progress bars in the right-hand sidebar will let you know how far along I am with my current projects. Here’s the list of current knitting projects (in the sidebar, they are listed in order of the oldest to the newest project, but here I’m listing them in order of priority):

  • Baby Bobbi Bear and assorted outfits (a belated gift for my niece’s second birthday) update: Baby Bobbi Bear was completed on 4/5/14 and the sweaters were completed on 6/29/14
  • Winter Lace Afghan (a belated wedding gift — are you sensing a theme here?)  update: completed 5/16/14!
  • Breast Cancer Ribbin’ Scarf (seriously, all this needs is some kitchenering. Is that a verb?)
  • Felted Sashiko Cover (this is a little something I’m working on as a freebie pattern to accompany the sashiko-style cross stitch I’m designing for Wordsmith Designs — see below)
  • Susie Rogers’ Reading Mitts (you know, because it’s so cold here in Los Angeles in springtime) update: completed 5/22/14!
  • Swedish Thora (a belated gift for my beautiful and patient Aunt Janet — there’s a point where gifts become so belated, there’s no point in rushing anymore. Sigh.)

For my personal knitting goals, I will probably continue to emphasize making gifts, especially for my nieces. They are the only nieces (or nephews, for that matter) that I will ever have and they are only going to be small once. Soon, they will want to assert their own tastes (I can already see it happening) and they won’t be willing to wear whatever I make for them. As the old saying goes, you’ve got to get in while the gettin’s good. I have plans to make some Easter knits for the girls, including the Fiesta Tea Set by Annie Modesitt (all the Tahki Cotton Classic has been purchased, in yummy Fiestaware colors like lemongrass, peacock, plum, scarlet, shamrock, sunflower and tangerine). update: finished the Fiesta Tea Set in late June/early July 2014!

Needlework WIPs and Goals for 2014

My cross stitch WIPs are as follows (oldest to newest):

  • “Ewe and Eye Needlecase” by Maureen Appleton/Heart’s Content
  • “Celtic Band Samplar” by Homespun Samplar
  • “Union Jack,” an original design of the Union Jack flag which I will be “releasing” as a Wordsmith Designs freebie soon update: completed 04/06/14!

My cross stitch plans for the year have three parts. First, I plan on stitching a set of four Shepherd’s Bush Christmas Stockings for my brother, sister-in-law and The Two Most Adorable Nieces in the World.™ My favorites are Peter, Christian, Harry and Robert. My sister-in-law has approved of the choices, and she especially likes Peter and Harry. Fortunately, I already had the patterns for all of them except Harry, and I also have the charms for Peter. During Silver Needle’s recent Super Bowl mega-sale, I ordered the chart and charms for Harry, and they just arrived a couple weeks ago along with some other goodies. Maybe if I start now I can get them done by Christmas (I didn’t say Christmas of this year).

Second, over the next year (a year from today, not by New Year’s 2015), I’d like to complete the Mirabilia “In a Garden” series. You can read about the first time I blogged about this here. I want to stitch each piece during the season it depicts; I’ve decided to follow the dates of the solstices and equinoxes for my due dates, so each piece will be due on the last day before the next solstice/equinox. The dates for 2014 are: March 20 (spring equinox), June 21 (summer solstice), September 23 (fall equinox), and December 21 (winter solstice). I’m going to start stitching “Summer” on June 21. I can hardly wait — I’ve picked out the hand-dyed fabric and everything! More details to come.

Third, each month I will be participating in the 2014 Smalls Stitch-Along (the handy-dandy icon is in the right-hand sidebar). I’m already behind in my stitching for this challenge, but I plan on catching up this month. The “Union Jack” project is part of this “catching up” — all told, it measures 2.5 inches by 1.5 inches. That certainly qualifies as small!

In my copious free time (the discerning reader will note a hint of sarcasm here), if I have any stitching time leftover, I would like to finish the other two projects I have going already. I’d also like to make Bent Creek’s Holly Quaker Stocking pattern for me and Drawn Thread’s “Give Thanks.” I’ve been concentrating so much on knitting lately that my needleworking has fallen to the wayside. I’m really looking forward to getting back into the habit. The little bit of work I’ve done on the “Union Jack” small is reminding me how much I enjoy the feel of a needle and thread in my hands.

Goals for Wordsmith Designs

For Wordsmith Designs, my first three design priorities for release are (in this order):

  1.  A sashiko-based design that I don’t want to go into too much detail about right now
  2.  A Celtic alphabet design that’s already designed and stitched but still needs some “polishing”
  3.  A design called “Memento Mori” and that’s all the detail you’ll get for now
  4.  A design called “A Rose is a Rose” and that’s all the detail you’ll get for now

I want to have the first ready to go to the model stitcher and the second ready to release by the end of next month (April 30). Getting the sashiko-based design finished also means designing and knitting the sashiko cover (mentioned above in my knitting goals). The deadline for “Memento Mori” will be two months after that (June 30), and for “A Rose is a Rose,” it will be two months after that (August 31). If I get my behind into gear, these should be very reasonable goals. I’d better not dawdle. “Mackintosh Rose” is getting lonely.

Goals for Moon & Sixpence Knits

For Moon & Sixpence, I am working on three free patterns:

  • an update of my (very basic) Michael Nesmith hat pattern, one that is more historically accurate and includes the four-button variation Nesmith wore sometimes
  • a scarf and cowl with a breast cancer ribbon-style cable pattern (I’m debating whether to charge a nominal fee so the proceeds could go to breast cancer research)
  • a small cabled heart design based on a Christmas ornament that IKEA was selling a couple years ago

Of course, the problem with free patterns (besides the obvious lack of remuneration) is that there is no real compelling reason to complete them promptly so they tend to end up in the land of “someday I’ll get around to that.” I would love to have the breast cancer ribbon-style scarf completed by October, which the Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

I am also working on some patterns that will be for sale: a tweedy baby jacket, some Aran-style hats, and a double-knit illusion scarf. The first two will give me a chance to dip my toes into the complicated world of sizing knits; I have some experience with this when working for and with others, but this will be the first time I go out on my own and I feel like I need to take baby steps first. Literally. Maybe I’ll find that I’m underestimating my design capabilities. That would be a very pleasant surprise.

 

Phew! Well, this should certainly keep me busy in the year to come. Let’s see how many of these goals I actually meet. I need to attach some specific due dates to these projects — you know the old saying: the difference between a dream and a goal is a timeline. Check back on December 31st! And wish me good luck and good motivation!