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Sewing machines and I have a long-standing feud.  I try to sew stuff, they break down almost immediately.  Usually it can be solved by the more knowledgeable owner but on at least one occasion I actually rendered the machine unusable.  Friends in the know have suggested that part of the issue is that pretty much all the machines I’ve used have been thrifted 70s and 80s ones.  While older machines, with their greater proportion of long-lasting metal parts, can be fantastic for a knowledgeable seamstress who has a good relationship with her local repair shop, they’re not great for a novice who has no information to troubleshoot with. 

Recently, though, I found out that my cousin owns a new-ish machine, one that had been in storage and that she was willing to lend me on condition that I learn the mysteries of its working and then share the knowledge.  And having taken a class at The Makehouse – a local organization that not only offers crafting workshops but also space and machines that folks can pay an hourly drop-in rate to use – I was high on craft fumes and totally primed to SEW ALL THE THINGS.

So check this out: I sewed a thing!

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I started with the lined dice bag tutorial from Tally’s Treasury.  Since I specifically wanted a second sock-project-sized bag, I grabbed an already-wound cake of yarn and looked through my cupboards to find a round bowl about the right size.  I traced the bowl to make the bases, then measured its circumference to know how long to make the sides.

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I added a special touch inspired by the project bag I bought from Emma of Emma Knits (formerly the dyer behind Everything Old – side note, you should totally check out her awesome new podcast, which focuses on fibrecrafts but touches on sewing and fashion as well).  One of my favourite things about that bag is its interior pockets – for spare stitch markers, my cellphone, notes on the stitch pattern I’m working, etc.  So I cut a piece of the material I used for the outside, as long as the sides and about 1/3 the height, hemmed it on one side, and sewed it to the inside piece with several vertical seams (I did pin one specifically so it would fit my phone, the rest I placed randomly) before putting the lining together. 

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And the whole time, I didn’t destroy the machine, not even once!  I feel so buoyed by this success I am just itching to get started on the many half-finished or barely-started sewing projects I came across while deciding what fabric to use for this one.  Hope they all turn out this well!

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a big geek.  Not only am I a general Geek (who loves sci-fi and tabletop roleplaying games and the Avengers movies and…) and a fibrecraft geek, but also a folk music geek.  Back when I was first learning to spin, I wrote about how I felt like my spindle connected me to all the makers who came before me, especially through folk music relating to fibre crafts.  I loved the idea of putting together my passion for music with my spinning skills to literalize that connection, and this week I had a fun opportunity to do just that.  My family was invited to sing at an intercultural night of music featuring both organized choirs and ensembles with a specific ethnic focus, and more casual groups who just like to get together and sing music from their culture.  My mother suggested that we perform some French Canadian music, as another group was presenting English folksongs from BC already, and she lead with the suggestion of “Dans mon chemin (In my road),” the song I mentioned in that old post.  I added a song I had recently learned, after having sung it many many years ago in a choir, “Je le mène bien, mon dévidoir (I run my swift well),” giving us our theme of fibre crafts.  Finally, Mom added “La laine de nos moutons (The wool of our sheep),” a sort of little-red-hen type song that I loved for its thematic resemblance to “Sejala sam lenek (I sowed the flax),” a Croatian song about flax and linen that I sing with the Balkan Babes.  But it’s not just the singing I’ve been dreaming of.  No, I also thought how cool it would be to do a bit of performance-spinning-in-public!  And it turned out, so did my sister.  So we got out our spindles and spun while we sang!   And since I know pics or it didn’t happen, here is the video of our performance (sorry, it’s just a cellphone and the video quality is questionable).  Check out the cool harmonics in the first song – I was a bit confused when I first listened to the recording since I could have sworn I didn’t sing that high note until the very end of the song…but by the second verse I realized we had just achieved the sort of excellent blend you can get when you’ve been singing together for over a quarter century. ;)

 

I can’t be the only one who feels far more inspired to make changes in my life in the spring than in dreary January!  The return of the sun coupled with Nature’s effusion of energy always fill my mind with grand ideas, wild plans, and fresh hopes.  Also I have a smartphone now!  I have been loving the convenience of always having a camera in my pocket, not to mention the ease of being able to upload photos straight to the internet.  And I have been knitting some seriously awesome stuff, if I do say so myself!  For example, I participated in the recent Follow Your Arrow mystery KAL and hoo boy do I love my FO!

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It’s still a bit cool here but many afternoons have been warm enough for shirtsleeves and a magnificent shawl!  And this one is so dramatic, it’s equally cool with jeans and a tshirt or a fancy dress.  I modified the edging a little to add the slowly widening stripes…because I was running out of yarn!  I had way more than the required yardage to start, so I worked an extra repeat of the lace, which meant making adjustments to the knitted on edging which meant by the end I was cutting every spare inch off my colour changes to try and finish the last pink row (thinking of following in my footsteps? More details on my mods on my project page).

Follow Your Arrow was also my first MKAL. It was a large one, and one with a vibrant community. I know some people felt disappointed with the pattern, but I really think one has to be prepared for the unknown when embarking on a mystery KAL. Mystery, dudes. It’s right there in the title. I loved the experience – I got exactly what I was looking for: a shawl construction that I might never have chosen, but that I now get to experiment with, not just on the needles but in my wardrobe. The unique “kite” start surpassed my expectations and I am totally excited to knit another with a few different clue choices down the road (probably in a single colour, possibly in handspun)! All in all, I don’t know that I’m going to do a lot of MKALs, and for example you couldn’t pay me to do a sweater MKAL, but I had so much fun with this one I hereby resolve to do more in the future…as well as more blog posts!

Carry on…

Hey blog.

I’ve been busy.

Hanami Recap

Also, I just discovered Fotor, a free photo online photo editor that you might see cropping up in future posts.  Look, it makes collages go!

And dear bob there is so much to catch up on under the jump.  SO MUCH.

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My Forest Floor Legwarmers are finished!  And the stranded colourwork turned out pretty well, if not as perfect as I hope to get by the end of 2013 (The Year Of Stranded Colourwork, as I have decreed it!).  In the end, I had plenty of yarn for full-length, slouchy legwarmers.  In fact, despite having carefully weighed and weighed again, after working the 19 stripes on each leg that I’d calculated I had yarn for, I was left with so much yarn that I carried on to 23 stripes, unpicking the ribbing at the bottom of the first legwarmer to add more length.  Why 23?  I don’t know, I was at knit night and it just felt right.  And apparently I estimated well – I have several yards of light brown left, but only about 8 inches of the dark brown.  Perfect!  There’s two skeins out of my stash and onto my (now warmer, cozier) legs!

I’m feeling pretty proud of myself right now.  I set myself a goal in January to have three skeins of yarn out for every two I bring in (including handspun).  So far the proportions have been pretty even, but just yesterday I was able to destash 14 full and part-skeins of yarn – mostly cotton that I was given as gifts, and it’s nice enough but I far prefer wool – as well as finishing the legwarmers and a pair of seed-stitch bathroom-cleaning rags for 3 more skeins knit out.  This puts me so far ahead in the stashing down that I feel like I should celebrate.  By going to the yarn store.  But I won’t, because…well, I made no such resolution about my fibre stash.

In fact, dear readers, I wanted to talk to you about that.  I signed up for a couple of clubs – Dyet Yarns’ Fairy and Folklore club, running January-March, and Fat Cat Knits’ Fairytale club, running March-June.  Yeah, I’m a sucker for folklore.  And I’m going to blog my club fibres, but on the off-chance that someone reading this hasn’t got theirs yet, they’ll be under the jump.

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Oh yeah, BEARS!

At a family dinner last night, I was reminded that I never updated about my Bundle-Up Bear Brigade post Christmas!  Shocking!

By the time I finally put away my bear bag (yes, I had a bag I carried around all month containing every relevant scrap I could collect as well as the pertinent needles & notions), I had knit 8 bears.  Sadly, since 6 of them went to other homes over the festive season, I don’t have a photo of them all together, but I think I’ve got pictures of all but the very last one (who I just discovered at the bottom of a project bag, finished except for her blank little face).  First up, here’s a picture comparing the regular and mini sizes (regular size bear went home with a friend’s toddler because babies deserve bears; yellow Noro suit belongs to the unfinished last bear).  I might be biased, but I rather prefer the teeny ones!

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Now I want you to notice in the following pictures the amazing crispness, clarity, and colour.  One of the awesome things about giving away the bears to various family members was that my mother-in-law was usually around, with her DSLR camera, and she was kind enough to let me use it.  I have hemmed and hawed for a long time about getting a DSLR – I know that part of the appeal is that I imagine I can make up for my artistic shortcomings with a fancier machine, and as such I’ve pushed myself to be content with my point-and-shoot and improve my skills instead.  But the pictures are just so much better.  So after I purchase the sweater quantity of Everything Old yarn I’m currently saving for, I’ll be starting a new camera fund, because – look!

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*Wistful sigh* …and now back to your regularly scheduled point-and-shoot update, under the jump.

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Now that I’ve got my computer back up and running, and the Universal Toque pattern tested and posted, it’s time to revisit my FOs, WIPs, and wistfully, the frog pond as they’ve been in the last six weeks.

First up, here’s my current love affair: Stephen West’s Spectra, knit from Little Red Bicycle worsted (grey; purchased at Knit City, and sadly I think in-person sales are currently the only way to buy this awesome yarn) and my early handspun, in Hydrangea BFL/silk gradient-dyed fibre from Everything Old!

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More (pics, projects, pontification) under the jump.

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