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The Blog is Moving!

Due to some of the fancy extra features available, I am moving my blog from here to Blogger. I'm working on transferring the archives over so everything will be in one place, but any new posts will be found at:

Ambrosia and Bliss

I've been working with some new techniques and having a lot of fun, so I'll be posting more often beginning mid-February. I have an exciting new project coming up!

Another pair of socks!

Seriously, my feet get cold. I finished the Cascade 220 Superwash pair and I've been wearing them unblocked, straight off the needles. They do help keep my feet warm, yet they're thin enough I can still wear them in my tennis shoes if I need to go outside.

I wanted something a little more decadent, and it doesn't get more decadent than Malabrigo Worsted. I had a skein of "Bobby Blue" in the stash and decided to use it up.

This was my first time knitting with Malabrigo and boy did it make me happy. The stitches are puffy and delicious on US4's and the color changes just enough to be fun, but without giving me striped socks or pooling. I don't like striped socks. This color is sort of a cross between the Caribbean Sea and a clear sky in springtime and it's a lot of fun in the dead of winter. I changed the already modified Thuja sock pattern to use a straight 3x1 rib instead of a 3x1 seed stitch rib. It pulls in a lot more and helps the sock cling to my foot. It's still not a tight clingy sock, but it's meant to be worn over a basic cotton sock as an extra layer of insulation. The Malabrigo will probably pill and felt with wear, so these are meant to be worn in the house only.

I'm still not fond of knitting socks, but they're not bad for almost instant gratification. One sock takes me a couple of hours with worsted yarn, mostly because of the damn ribbing. I can now do short row heels like a champ and I think Kitchener stitching is fun. I'd Kitchener (is that a verb?) every seam I came across if such a thing were possible.

I should have plenty of yarn left for the second sock to make this a one skein project. If all goes well, this pair will be finished tomorrow night. Then I can get back to my sweater!

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It's a sock!

One down, one to go. This one is a bit slouchy and loose, which will hopefully be remedied by a good wash and blocking. Depending on how they fare after blocking and wear, future pairs may need to go down a needle size. My stitches are looser than usual. I blame my clumsiness with dpn's. I do most of my work on circs, but I don't like Magic Loop for something this small around.

Pardon the less than stellar photography. It's surprisingly difficult to take a picture of your own foot at an attractive angle.





This is the first truly fitted thing I've made. The whole time, I had fears of either a monster sock or one that strangulated my ankle due to a tight cast-on. I gauged the length by holding up a dpn to the bottom of my foot and starting the toe decreases when I had a dpn-length of foot knitted. It all worked and the thing is nearly the shape of my foot.

That said, I am really not in love with socks. I put it on and didn't feel anything magical. It's a sock. It's a little nubbly inside. It's just.. utilitarian. The process knitter in me had fun. I'm thrilled I learned one way to do short rows and I finally had a reason to learn the Kitchener stitch. I've become a better knitter because of this sock.

I'm going to give my sweater a big smooch when I finally get to work on it again. You can love your socks, but my heart belongs to lace.

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Bunnies!

I'm working on another painting, but since it's layered, it takes a while. It's good for my spastic attention span because I dab on some paint or glitter and wander off to let it dry. My next project is going to be making a light box so I can photograph my work with some semblance of professionalism.

I've paused my work on the sweater for a couple of days while I knit a pair of socks. I finally caved and decided to knit a pair because my feet are cold. When our high temperature for the day is still below zero, I can either set myself on fire or knit socks. I'm not smitten with them, so I don't think this will become an addiction. They can be useful little items, but when I see socks knit with fancy sock yarn, I don't swoon. These are going quickly because I'm knitting them with worsted Cascade 220 Superwash "Cordovan" from my stash on US4's. I made it past the heel on my first one last night and that was while talking on the phone and ordering a Phat Fiber box. (http://www.phatfiber.blogspot.com/) My big plans for tonight are to work on finishing the one and possibly starting the second. Cold toes are powerful motivation. I'll pop in a movie, huddle under a blanket and knit like the wind. The pattern is "Thuja" from Knitty Winter 2005. These are meant to be men's socks but they have nice 3x1 ribbing to make them clingy. I sized them down and it's working just fine. Lucy is the only one who will see them, so the lack of girliness is not a big deal.



And on the topic of knitting, the subject of today's post is bunnies! I found a link to PalominoMorgan's Etsy shop and I'm going into sugar shock because these bunnies are so cute. The description of their personalities is even better. They're all made from upcycled sweaters, which is very cool and means each one is unique. Look at this one called "Creamsicle"!

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The Cow Jumped Over the Moon

I've said before what an inspiration Liz from primoriginals has been to me. I love the idea of painting on wood so framing isn't needed. Layering gives such depth and interest to her paintings. After chatting with her, I ordered some wood and took a stab at my first mixed media painting.

I had this idea rolling around in my head and the finished painting actually closely resembles what I imagined. It's a big change for me, since I'm usually so literal in my paintings. This includes paper, acrylic paints, oil pencils, glitter, metal stars, and stamping and is finished with beeswax. The beeswax was definitely a learning experience, but thanks to Liz, I had a small quilting iron handy to smooth the finish. It goes GREAT over acrylic paint, but it's not so great over the paper. I may have to do something a little different on future paintings because it made the cow look slightly transparent. It gave it a little more visual texture, so it's not bad per se, just not what I anticipated.

I love the cow's expression and I'm really happy with how the moon turned out. I also really love the background with multiple layers of stars and the rich colors. Once I put a hanger on it and get good photos in the sunlight, this one will be up in my Etsy shop. It's going to be difficult to sell because I keep picking it up and admiring it. Even though I painted the silly thing, I keep finding new things as I look.



I had SO much fun with this and would have finished it earlier except that my work area is my kitchen table. I had to put everything away so I could have company for Christmas. One of my New Years resolutions is to be more artsy in 2009, and a sub-resolution is to set up a dedicated work table in my office/studio so I can go create whenever the mood strikes.

Look at someone else's pretty things!

I still don't have interesting knitting photos. Since the weather got colder, my hands have been terribly chapped and cracking. Knitting with Malabrigo Lace is difficult because it snags on my fingers and dries them out more. I've had to cut back on how long I knit each night and right now the finger my yarn passes over is a mess. Who knew knitting was a hazardous hobby?

I've been contemplating other artistic pursuits lately. I'm not stopping knitting, just adding other hobbies to my evenings and weekends. Liz has been a great inspiration and I have several mixed media paintings in my head, waiting to come out. I have some art supplies on order and they will hopefully be here by the weekend.

Other inspiring sites as of late:

The HeArt of Papercuts

It is absolutely amazing what this artist can do with paper and a blade. I am in awe and it's inspiring me to try some papercutting of my own. This is a papercut called "the Secret Anatomy of a Young Girl". The detail is astonishing and I see something new every time I look at it.



The Long Thread

There are so many arts and crafts here and she does a great montage of little finds from Etsy every week. I've added a large number of Etsy sellers to my favorites list, which is probably dangerous. She has good tutorials for crafts and lots of beautiful photos. Again, I'm inspired to create some projects of my own.

I'd like a sewing machine at some point. I'm glad I have some room to spread out and experiment with different kinds of art. It's all so interesting! I wish I had taken more art classes in the past, but there are options here. I've signed up for two classes this spring - one is art metal and jewelry and the other is metal filigree. I'll learn some new skills to use with beading and jewelry, and possibly other forms. The real temptation is the glass studio two blocks from my house. I could go nuts if I only had the funds!

Yes, I'm still knitting

I'm working on the sweater that will never end. It's my first adult sweater and I'm designing it myself. It's obvious it's my own design because I'm being a crazy person and knitting with Malabrigo Lace on US2 needles. Hence the reason it will never end. I'm about done with one sleeve right now. It doesn't look like much yet, but the swatching process was interesting.

I originally wanted to use a lace pattern called "Frost Flowers". When I started swatching it, I realized there are no resting rows. It has pattern stitches on the knit and purl side, although that's a bit of a misnomer. Both sides incorporate knits and purls and also some fun things like purl 2 together through the back loops. It's a pretty pattern, but since I knit Continental, changing rapidly from knit to purl is really frustrating. If you want to do me in, tie me to a chair and make me knit seed stitch or 1x1 rib. I'll spontaneously combust out of sheer frustration in no time. It's much more relaxing for me to knit a lace pattern with a lot of ssk's, k2tog's, yarnovers, etc than to knit a ribbed scarf.

So here's Frost Flowers on US5 needles.



Aside from the pattern stitches on every row, one repeat was huge and didn't really appeal to me. I wanted a finer textured lace and I wasn't willing to knit this specific pattern on smaller needles to get the effect I wanted.

Next I tried another lace stitch. It was nice, but not really speaking to me. I originally thought this could be a winner because I'm knitting my sweater sideways and this lace pattern looks good from all directions. This was also on US4's, which may be part of the problem.



I finally found what I was looking for. This is an old lace pattern called "Ostrich Plumes". It's similar to Feather and Fan, except the repeats are staggered so it swoops in and out instead of forming the deep waves of F&F. I knit it on US2's to get a nice fabric. When I knit lace, I like the stockinette portions to be solid and the yarnover portions to be open. Open lace knit on large needles doesn't appeal to me as much. Also, since this is a sweater, I'd like it to have some substance, even in laceweight yarn.



All of these swatches were knit with Malabrigo Lace in color "Olive". I love this yarn. It's so soft and delicious to work with and the subtle color changes keep my interest. They're not too obnoxious with the Ostrich Plumes lace pattern and I like the effect. I did have to frog back a big chunk when I realized this sweater was going to end up hanging to my knees. It was then that I discovered that Malabrigo Lace really binds to itself quickly. The last few rows were very difficult to frog because the fibers of neighboring stitches had begun to felt together, just from handling while I knitted. It's somewhat of a good thing since lace can snag easily and I don't want this sweater to fall apart. It may fuzz and lose some stitch definition, but I don't anticipate that it will be a big problem for me. This self-love on the part of the yarn also means I get more "yarn barf" than usual from my center pull balls. The yarn is felting inside the ball and I sometimes get a big clump as I pull out more yarn. It's easy enough to pull apart if I'm gentle, but it's something I haven't really seen with other wool yarns I've used. It's the nature of the beast since this is a spun single. If I had a yarn with multiple plies, a tighter twist or a different fiber, it wouldn't be this soft and it would behave totally differently.

All of the swatches were wet blocked and gently pinned to dry. The wet blocking really made the yarn tighten up and show its sheen. I can't wait to finish this sweater and give it a good soak to see what happens.

The Great Frame-Up

I've already mentioned my addiction to art by Liz of Primoriginals. Many of her original paintings are also available as 4x6 or 6x6 prints in her Etsy shop. When I moved, I bought a handful of them to liven up my walls. I wanted to frame them in funky frames, but I couldn't find 4x6 frames I liked. I also liked the idea of using a larger frame to give them more punch. I could only find pre-cut 4x6 mattes for 8x10 frames in white. I bought the only two Michael's had in stock and framed one of the prints.

I like how it turned out, especially since the print is very colorful and the white helps draw focus. (Click any of the pictures to view them larger).



I also had two 6x6 prints that were difficult to frame. I wanted square frames, but all of the ones I found were for different sized photos and custom mattes are expensive. While I was strolling through the framing department at Michael's looking for the mattes above, I saw 12x12 scrapbook frames on sale for $5 each. They're designed to hold a single scrapbook page. I grabbed two of them and went to the scrapbooking section to look at paper. I found two 12x12 sheets of textured colored paper for a mere 50 cents each. I added some removable adhesive dots to my basket and off I went.

I didn't need to cut the paper to fit the frame, so I simply measured my borders. I applied a sticky dot to each corner of the print and stuck it down. Removable dots are great because I could reposition as needed and it means I could theoretically change the background if the mood strikes. I LOVE the results! This one is now in my bedroom, hanging on my yellow wall.



This was so easy and personalized that I wanted to do more. I returned the other 8x10 white matte and went to the scrapbooking section again. I took all of the remaining prints with me and spent some time finding just the right paper to match both my decor and each print.

I used a razor knife to cut each sheet of paper down to 8x10 to fit the frames. I bought six of the same style frame so they're consistent through my apartment. I measured each page to leave a 2-inch border on all sides and used the sticky dots again. I found it's easiest to press the dot against the print while it's still on the roll, and then lightly roll it on, instead of trying to pry it off with my fingernails. These removable ones are like rubber cement and they wad up really easily if you mess around with them.





I now have five new prints with customized mattes and they turned out great!



I loved the print of the girl with cats the first time I saw it. I crack up at the expressions on everyones' faces and I like the whimsical paper. It's going in my kitchen, where the walls are pale green and I have other purple accents. The other print is a copy of one I sent to my sister in Iraq. There are three girls in my family, so it's a "sisters" print to remind her of home. It's going in my living room, next to the red couch seen in the background.



This print was a gift from a friend who knows how much I love Liz's art. I think it's going to be hung in my office. The colors will work in several different rooms, so I haven't completely decided yet.



This one is going to be hung in either the office or my kitchen. I love the swooping purple and green in the paper and I think it ties in well with the print. I just knew I had a match when I pulled this paper out of the bin.



This last one is going in my office. The print is called "Bye Love" and the pale blue background makes me think of rain.



There is so much variety available in scrapbook pages and they gave much more impact and personality than a plain matte. It was so easy and affordable to do too! I am thrilled with the new art for my apartment.

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

Life around here has not been all about the spinning and knitting. Two summers ago, I bought a whole bunch of old mirrors at a flea market. My idea was to hang them on the side of the garage so they would mirror the garden. I looked at them after I got them home and decided some of them wouldn't weather very well and others were too nice to leave out. Now that I'm in my new apartment, I dragged them out and looked at them again.

First victim - large oval mirror

I found this one for $5. It has a fiberboard backing and the frame is actually molded plastic. It wouldn't have stood up to the elements outside. I love the shape and size of it, so I really wanted to do something fun to make it fit in my decor.





First I painted the entire frame with white latex paint. I had sampled a little acrylic first, but it wouldn't bind to the plastic very well. Hence, the pink smudge. Even with the smudge, it was already looking a lot better.



I followed up with two coats of "Dark Violet" Liquitex Basics acrylic paint. It was interesting to see how the paint settled into the nooks and crannies on the frame. I wasn't sure originally about the color, but straight from the tube turned out to be exactly what I needed. I have purple accents in my living room, and this dried so deep that it doesn't stand out as shockingly purple. It matches some place mats I'm using to cover an end table and there are dark purple stripes in my sofa pillows. Up against my pale yellow walls, it's perfect. It's on the wall facing the windows so it reflects back sunlight and images of trees, shrubs and my birdfeeders. I LOVE how this turned out and it was such an inexpensive solution. I already had all of the paint, so the only expense was the mirror itself.



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Can't talk..

I just started swatching with Malabrigo Lace. I've read plenty of reviews of Malabrigo and I know everyone says it's delicious. They say that about alpaca too and alpaca feels itchy to me. It's all hype! Yummy is in the eye of the beholder or something..

I feel guilty stopping knitting long enough to type this because Malabrigo Lace is so delicious I want to eat it, smooch it and roll around on it, all at the same time. My swatches are so soft and light, they feel weightless. I can't imagine what a sweater knitted out of this will feel like, but I plan to find out.

Honestly, this stuff is magic. I love all of my yarn, but I'm completely smitten with my five tiny little hanks. And it's dark green! Yum!

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