Monday, March 27, 2017

A Steek in My Heart

Zachary Jr.’s Blue Horizon Fair Isle Sweater is coming along.

Carter is modeling it for me. When it was time to check for sleeve length, the "girls" had to have a look and give their advice.

I think I’ll have the pattern for this sweater ready to publish this week. I’ve been posting photos of each step in one of the doll groups as a tutorial for people to refer to. I think it's almost as much fun to write a knitting pattern as it is to knit the project.

I plan to make one for Daphne Jr., one for Lukas (Soren's doll) and then one each for Carter and whoever the other doll will be to auction off for Habitat for Humanity in October. I may vary the motifs, but I certainly will vary the colors. Last year we outfitted two Creatology dolls from Michaels and made $350+ for Habitat for Humanity.

Vintage Stitchers met at Janet’s on Thursday. We had several new projects to look at. This one was a pattern by Edyta Sitar.

Janet has been working on this for some time. You may have seen the blocks in previous posts. The top is now done. It's flannel appliqué applied using a machine blanket stitch.

The pups cleaned up nicely at the groomer’s on Wednesday.

Rocky is doing well on his thyroid medication. It has brought his thyroid levels up to well within the normal limits. He seems to have more energy, too, and didn't complain when the weather turned cold again. (He often paws at the small electric heater, to tell us he wants it turned on.) That's especially good in light of the fact that he hasn't been wearing his sweater. He seems happier, too. Dusty's silver coloring is showing more each time he's groomed.

The pups even went ankle-deep in the cold water at Gorgoza Pond on Monday after his visit to the vet to have his thyroid checked. This is one of our favorite locations for off-leash walks. It's quite a bit lower than the trails around our house, and most of the trail is paved for bicycles, so we don't spend much time sloshing through the mud this time of year.

We got more snow Saturday, and then it turned cold. Enough already!

What's on my needles: Zachary Jr.’s “Blue Horizon” sweater, the second sleeve. 

What's on my Featherweight:
 Steeks for “Zachary’s Blue Horizon” sweater are done, then the binding for the Kaleidoscope quilt. Ready for some boy doll clothes.

What's on my loom: Still waiting.

What's on my wheel: Stanzi also still waiting. She may not see any action until the weather is warm enough to sit out on the deck and spin.

What's on my iPad/iPhone: Finished listening to The Professor by Robert Bailey. A good read, similar to Grisham’s law novels. Now listening The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson. Also listening to the choruses from The Messiah we will be singing Palm Sunday evening. On the Kindle app, I’m still reading Dying to Read, The Cate Kinkaid Files Book #1.

What's in my wine glass: Foxhorn Cabernet Sauvignon. The big bottle. If it snows anymore, I'm going to be looking for a gallon size.

What's my tip of the week: Potatoes are more nutritious if cooked in the skins. I take the skins off after cooking. It’s usually easy to do just using fingers.

Note: This blog post was produced on the iPad and the MacBook, using the iPhone for some photos and some photo processing. No other computer was used in any stage of composition or posting, and no Windows were opened, waited for, cleaned or broken. No animals were harmed during the production of this blog post.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Life in the Steekhouse

Vroni’s “Lavender Fields” sweater is done.

It can be worn as a pullover or as a cardigan. The yarn is Knit Picks Palette.

Friends on Ravelry were clamoring for the pattern, which encouraged me to get it ready for publication as a free download. I had a great test knitter who talked me into making an entire chart for the body and one for the sleeves. Another friend suggested Stitch Fiddle, a free program (unless you add some bells and whistles). I found it to be very helpful. I came up with this, which is pretty much the entire body with the center steek sts and armhole steek border sts marked.

You may remember that last week, I tried the larger, green, sweater on Carter, the My Sibling/My Pal doll, and Janet’s Molly, an American Girl doll. It was pretty tight on both of them. That led me to design a new version with a bigger body but pretty much otherwise the same. I’m making it in blues for Carter to model, and  eventually it will go to Zachary Jr., hopefully in time for DGS1’s birthday next month. Here are the colors I’m using:

In the meantime, Carter is modeling a sweater for Zachary Jr., also in blues, for another Debonair Designs KAL, this one for boy dolls. (No steeks involved in this one.)

With thicker yarn, it went pretty fast. It's Knit Picks Wool of the Andes sport yarn.

You also may remember that Dolly got her ears pierced. (Yes, I know! They’re just stick-on.) Gabi and Vroni decided they wanted some rhinestone ear studs, too.

Vroni's holding her hair up, so you can see the stud in her ear. Gabi has taken to wearing a ribbon in her hair to show off her ears. 

Thursday’s Common Threads was cancelled, not because of snow, but because the only two people (besides me) left in town were taking a quilting class that morning at one of the quilt shops in Salt Lake City. I should be able to make it to Vintage Stitchers this week and hope to be sewing binding on the Kaleidoscope quilt.

The big event in my personal life was receiving the results from genetic testing on my brother through's program. We had my brother tested is because my results would only show my mother’s ancestry, which I had already had done through National Geographic. My brother and I have the same parents (so I’m told and have no reason to doubt), so his ancestry is the same as mine.

Most of it was similar to my mother’s result, with some percentages going up or down a little bit. It was appropriate that I got the results on St. Paddy’s Day, because I found out that I’m...29% Irish! I treated myself to a Guinness, served in a German beer glass. (The "Budweiser" on the glass is no relation to the American brewery. This was a Czech brand available in Germany, and we bought the glass in Frankfurt when we were there years ago.) We had vegetarian chili for supper, appropriate, I think, for a multi-cultural family.

Here’s the bulk of my genetic background: 34% English, Scottish or Welsh; 29% Irish, 23% Western European (probably German, based on family lore), 5% Scandinavian (not including Finnish), then a total of 7% made up of Finnish/Russian, Eastern European, Italian/Greek and less than 1% from the Iberian Peninsula. No Asian, Polynesian or Native American. (DH is 6% Native American, so that will have to suffice. I’ve been calling him “Sitting Bull.” You can probably figure that one out.) They present it like this, and then you click on the various ethnic groups to get more information:

The most interesting revelation, however, was that I’m 2% Senegal African. Given that my family lived in the deep South during slave days and kept slaves, the ancestor from Senegal was almost certainly an African slave. How my family members who lived at that time managed to hide a mixed-race child in a fairly patrician Southern family is beyond me. I sense a story there. I’m guessing they hid the baby, who must have appeared white, in an otherwise white family. It had to be on my father’s side, because it didn’t show up in my original results with only my mother’s DNA. For a person raised in the deep South in the early 20th Century, my father was pretty open-minded, but I still think he would have been shocked to learn he was 4% “negro,” as he would have said. I’m wondering how many Caucasian southerners have African blood and don’t know it. It’s interesting to ponder.

The snow is melting in our neck of the woods. We needed to get the pups out on Saturday for a run on the trails, though. They need more than just the walk around the block. Sunday we had the opera and Monday we were supposed to get either rain or snow, so it was “now or never” on Saturday. 

As usual, Dusty ran about four times the distance we covered, but Rocky surprised us by running back and forth a bit, too. He’s been on thyroid medication for nearly a month. We sort of feel as if there is a difference in his energy level. He get rechecked at the vet’s later today.

DH talked me into substituting YakTrax for my snowshoes for our "hike." Bad mistake. They’re great for keeping you from slipping on ice, but they don’t prevent post-holing (where your foot breaks through the surface of the snow and your leg goes down a few inches or up to your knee). I need to hang a tag on my YakTrax in case I’m tempted to do that again: “Save these for when you take that last, long trip across the snow.”

What's on my needles: Zachary Jr.’s “Blue Horizon” sweater.

What's on my Featherweight:
 Binding for Kaleidoscope quilt while waiting for next batch of steeks for “Zachary’s Blue Horizon” sweater.

What's on my loom: I still haven’t started anything with the leftover warp. Maybe if I gave my loom a name, I’d feel guilty.

What's on my wheel: Stanzi is covered up in the corner. I’m ashamed to be so neglectful.

What's on my iPad/iPhone: Finished listening to Lies, Damned Lies, and History by Jodi Taylor. Now reading The Professor by Robert Bailey. On the Kindle app, I’m still reading Dying to Read, The Cate Kinkaid Files Book #1.

What's in my wine glass: Lindeman’s Cawarra Shiraz-Cabernet, 2014 vintage.

What's my tip of the week: Have scraps of yarn or thin strips of cloth too small to use? Put them out on the deck or the rail, especially if you have a birdfeeder. If it isn’t nesting season where you are (and you live in the Northern Hemisphere), it soon will be. Birds will be looking for nesting materials, and fluffy little bits are just the ticket.

Note: This blog post was produced on the iPad and the MacBook, using the iPhone for some photos and some photo processing. No other computer was used in any stage of composition or posting, and no Windows were opened, waited for, cleaned or broken. No animals were harmed during the production of this blog post.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Raising the Steeks

This is Carter.

After an internship as a model for our grandsons' doll clothes, he will be completely outfitted with his own clothes and go on to his paying job (paying, in that he will be bringing in money) at Habitat for Humanity as part of their silent auction in October. After that, he will go to a new home, most likely with a child who will cherish him and his wardrobe. 

Carter came to us from My Sibling and My Pal Dolls and came with his own denim carry tote (so he can go everywhere), a lttle plastic-free shopping bag for his groceries and a booklet on how to protect the environment. It's a good thing he arrived on a warm day. Carter definitely needs some winter clothes at our place. I'll be making him some sweaters, and changing him into some warmer pants.

He told me he was named after the former president, who has been such a supporter of Habitat for Humanity.

One of the first things I did was to try Gabi's sweater on him to help me in designing a sweater for him and other dolls his size. I found it tighter than I liked for this kind of sweater.

It fit him about the same as it did Molly, who came to Vintage Stitchers with Janet, just for the purpose of trying the sweater on for size.

Molly is an American Girl doll. She has smaller shoulders than Carter, but her arms are longer. The chest measurements are about the same. Looks like I'll be writing the pattern for another steeked doll sweater very soon.

In the meantime, Vroni's sweater is coming along. I'm on the second sleeve now, but here it was with the first sleeve underway.

My test knitter, Penny, encouraged me to draw up a full chart for the body and the sleeve. I'm very grateful to her, because it turned out to be easier than I thought, and I can see it will make it easier for people who want to follow my pattern. I'm also grateful to Simon, who inspired me to make Fair Isle sweaters for dolls (by making some himself) and then sent Vroni to live with me.
I've learned a lot about making these sweaters and am hoping to have very clear directions when I get done with this one.

In other doll news, Dolly got her ears pierced.

Actually, they are stick-on rhinestones, and they can be removed easily.

I found them at Michael's. I'm going to check with DD first to see if she thinks having a doll with pierced ears might make Daphne want to get her ears pierced. If I get the OK, a package of these will be in the birthday present in May.

The snow is melting and after the crazy blizzard a week ago that resulted in my getting home at 11:20 PM from a rehearsal that got out at 9:10 PM, we haven't had any more snow. I was happy to get to Vintage Stitchers, first time in a month. I had picked up my Kaleidoscope quilt from being quilted. I took it to Vintage Stitchers to show off the custom quilting done by Cindy, who works out of Davidene's Quilt Shop. I hope to get the binding on it this week.

Barbara had finished this great quilt.

The backing fabric she found for it is perfect. That's it, hanging on the chair.

Marilyn had this great machine appliqué quilt.

Barbara showed off her Dresden Plate quilt, because Janet was working on one.

Janet put down the samples of background fabric under her finished Dresden Plates, to get our advice about which one was most suitable. We all voted for the one on the left, which has a printed pattern that resembles a loose-weave fabric.

The quilt is for her daughter, who is getting married. Several of us went through our batiks and donated the colors she wanted, so she could have a variety.

Janet has been making pussy hats for friends.

With bulky yarn they go fast, and everyone wants them. She can make one in an evening, about as fast as making a dishcloth. Janet is so generous with her time.

Here's some added cuteness and a taste of spring, for my readers who live in parts of the country where spring comes when it's supposed to: our two younger grandsons planting strawberries at a local nursery.

Speaking of "spring," the pups are happy to get out in the backyard again, which they have been able to do the last few days, first with supervision: someone to keep them away from the house, where large blocks of ice were coming off the roof, a serious danger. We then graduated to letting them out alone for short periods when we couldn't see any snow hanging off the edges of the roof. Now the roof is clear...until the next blizzard.

What's on my needles: The second sleeve on the “Vroni’s Lavender Fields” sweater.

What's on my Featherweight:
 Steeks for “Vroni’s Lavender Fields” sweater are finished. Waiting for the next one.

What's on my loom: I still haven’t started anything with the leftover warp.

What's on my wheel: Stanzi still looking at me reproachfully.

What's on my iPad/iPhone: Finished listening to D. E. Stevenson’s Vittoria Cottage. Now listening to Lies, Damned Lies, and History by Jodi Taylor. On the Kindle app, I’m still reading Dying to Read, The Cate Kinkaid Files Book #1.

What's in my wine glass: Fish Eye Shiraz. Always nice value.

What's my tip of the week: Like creamed soups but don’t want to fill up on cream? Want to add protein to a boxed soup? Use a carton of silken tofu to make your soup creamy without the fat or to increase the protein for a quick meal. Blend in the blender or use an immersion blender or egg beater to mix the tofu with some liquid. The soft tofu is the easiest to blend, but you can use even the extra firm with the same results. You might need to adjust the seasonings, because the tofu doesn’t add any.

Note: This blog post was produced on the iPad and the MacBook, using the iPhone for some photos and some photo processing. No other computer was used in any stage of composition or posting, and no Windows were opened, waited for, cleaned or broken. No animals were harmed during the production of this blog post.

Monday, March 6, 2017

High Fiber—Make No Missteek

The second steeked doll sweater is finished and on the model.

If you're just joining us or have otherwise missed the last two weeks, this sweater can be worn as a cardigan or a "pullover," and we're using steeks so we can knit in the round. This has the advantage of allowing us to work always on the right (public) side and always work knit stitches, which makes the resulting fabric more even. (You still have to purl for the ribbing.) The main purpose of this doll sweater is to give people an opportunity to make a steeked sweater, with all the steps included, without the commitment of a full-size garment. Steeks can be intimidating until you've done the process a few times. The pattern will be available for free.

We knit the sweater body in a tube up to the armholes, then bound off for the underarm and cast armhole steek stitches on in the next round. Then we worked the slightly larger tube up to the shoulders and joined the shoulders, either by grafting or by binding off and sewing the bound off edges together. Then we machine-sewed on each side of each steek, two rows of vertical machine stitching on each side.

Here's what the inside of the doll sweater looks like after machine-sewing within the steek, but close to the pattern stitches that aren't part of the steek (see last week's blog for photos of the steps up to here). I already trimmed the loose tails down to a manageable length before sewing.

Then we cut. (Good light, sharp scissors and a glass of wine if needed, are key.) We cut right down the middle of the steek. It doesn't have to be very exact. After the ribbing is finished, we will trim the steek facing down to just a little past the stitching, so any irregularities will be trimmed off.

In this case the shoulders have been grafted using Kitchener stitch. The next step is to make the neck opening. There are ways of shaping the opening while knitting and filling in the space with steek stitches, but we have just knit the tube to the top. We then measure and baste with contrast yarn where we plan to cut. 

Then we sew two rows of machine stitching about 1/8" apart, just outside the basting. After the neck is sewn, we can cut just outside the sewing. Then we pick up stitches with the ribbing yarn to knit the neck ribbing.

We work a few rows of ribbing and bind off. Then we pick up on one side of the steek for the button/buttonhole bands. Here you can see the center steek stitches. They show up as dark vertical rows of stitches. There are some breaks between the rows, because we had some rounds of knitting that were solid lighter color. Still, you can see the vertical rows pretty clearly. The arrow points to the leg of the stitch that's within the steek but right next to the pattern stitches of the motifs. We are going to pick up this left leg of the outermost vertical steek stitch row from bottom to top, and then a few stitches in the neck ribbing. (The stitch is shaped like a V.) 

When all the stitches are picked up, it will look like this on the outside.

It will look like this on the inside.

You can pick up the whole stitch instead of just one leg if you like, but it adds a little thickness, something we want to avoid when making tiny garments like doll sweaters.

After knitting the buttonhole band (or button band, if your doll is a boy), we do the same thing on the other side, picking up the corresponding leg of the vertical row of steek stitches, this time the right leg.

After the button/buttonhole bands are done, it's time to pick up the stitches for the sleeves. Here's what the inside looks like before picking up for the sleeves.

Those flaps you see are the armhole steeks. We are going to pick up stitches on the outside from the bottom of the armhole to the shoulder and back down the other side, picking up the outermost leg of the vertical row of steek stitches, just as we did for the button/buttonhole bands.

The sleeves are then worked in the round, with decreases according to the pattern, ending with ribbing. When changing colors, I just tie a loose knot. Then when the sleeve is done, I turn it inside out and retie the knots securely, and then cut off the tails. If your motifs have very long floats, and your doll has fingers that stick out, you might want to line the sleeve with nylon net or some other thin fabric, especially if you're giving the sweater to a small child.

The next step is to clean up the inside. Trim the steeks to just a couple of vertical rows of stitching on each side of the button/buttonhole bands and the sleeve steeks. For the neck opening, trim to 1/4". Fasten down all the steeks to the inside of the sweater, using blanket stitch, overcast or cross-stitch, or cover the steek edges with decorative ribbon or stretch lace binding. If you're lining the sleeves, do it now. 

Sew on the buttons and block. Then the lucky doll, like Gabi, above, is ready for a photo shoot. Next week I hope to be able to post a link to the pattern for this sweater.

After I finished Gabi's sweater, I started on the Hana pattern for Vroni. This will go to Hannah, who now lives with DGD2 in Wisconsin, for her birthday in May. I finished it on Saturday. It's a cute jumper/tunic with pockets for small items: crayons, tiny dolls, comb, hankie, rocks or shells.

In real life, we helped with a performance of fun music and poems Monday evening by taking the donations from the audience as people filed in. Felicia and Keith, who sing in our choir, donated their artistry for the cause.

The proceeds went to The Peace House, our local women's shelter. It was a fun evening with beautiful music from two talented singers, along with a lot of laughs. A friend we hadn't seen in years came to town for skiing, and we invited him and his wife (whom we had never met) to come along for the performance. We also had plans for snowshoeing and supper on Thursday.

We lucked out on the weather. Thursday was beautiful--for a change. The pups really enjoyed the outing, as did we all. The supper was good, although our guest had already had lasagne two nights in a row, and that's what we were having. The gentleman was an usher at our wedding 51 years ago, and his wife is a knitter (among other things), and we found we had a lot in common. 

The snowshoeing wore out the pups. Dusty could hardly move after our walk around the block the next day. He crashed with Rat for a snooze on the padded bench.

Dusty is 10 months old now, close to 20 lbs. and 16+ inches tall at the shoulder, so technically a standard, like Rocky, although from miniature stock. We expect him to be smaller than Rocky, but he's getting close.

In the meantime, Rocky seems to have more energy since starting his thyroid medication.

In other cuteness, Portland and environs are having their annual Rose City Yarn Crawl. I really wanted to go, but it would have cut into preparations for The Messiah Project. Maybe next year. In the meantime, DDIL2 and DGS3 (the youngest) popped in to some of the participating yarn shops.

I wouldn't be surprised if he were the first grandchild to learn to knit.

What's on my needles: Just cast on for Vroni's Fair Isle sweater, a test knit of the variation of the steeking project for the slimmer Götz dolls, like Hannah and Vroni.

What's on my Featherweight:
 Ready to sew the steeks for the next doll sweater.

What's on my loom: I still haven’t started anything with the leftover warp.

What's on my wheel: I have thrown a towel over Stanzi. I got tired of feeling guilty for not spinning. She will need a major oiling before I spin again.

What's on my iPad/iPhone: Still listening to D. E. Stevenson’s Vittoria Cottage. Also listening to the choruses for The Messiah for the performance on April 9th. On the Kindle app, I’m still reading Dying to Read, The Cate Kinkaid Files Book #1.

What's in my wine glass: "Two-buck Chuck," Trader Joe's Charles Shaw Shiraz 2008 vintage. We accidentally opened one we were aging. Oops! Yum!

What's my tip of the week: You've probably heard that you should let the water continue to run after you've turned off your garbage disposal, but did you know that allowing the water to run before you turn on the disposal will allow the mechanism to work more thoroughly? 

Note: This blog post was produced on the iPad and the MacBook, using the iPhone for some photos and some photo processing. No other computer was used in any stage of composition or posting, and no Windows were opened, waited for, cleaned or broken. No animals were harmed during the production of this blog post.