June 4, 2018

Graduation Dress!

Less than a month ago, I graduated summa cum laude from Whitman College. My time at Whitman has been among the best four years of my life thus far, not only academically and socially, but also craft-wise! In the last four years, I have improved immensely as a knitter. I have knitted six sweaters, 22 hats, three scarves, my first two pairs of socks, three headbands, and released fifteen original knitting patterns. Beyond knitting, I taught myself to crochet and completed four embroidery projects, four sewing projects, and two quilting projects. A casual scroll through the last four years on my blog shows how a part-time hobby can accomplish quite a bit without a particularly concerted effort.

So it's only appropriate that I end my collegiate career with one last craft project: a graduation dress! Last fall, I set a goal for myself to make one garment each semester during my senior year of college. Last semester, I made myself a green shirt, and as a crazy spring semester was wrapping up without a sewing project, so I leaped at the last chance. My housemate Kiana's sewing knowledge and in-house sewing machine was too good to pass up. 

I started out sketching out my "dream dress" with the aid of Pinterest and browsing the Vogue and Simplicity online pattern catalogs. I finally came up with a design I was happy with, and then spent a bunch more time scouring all the pattern company catalogs for a depiction of the exact design I had dreamed up. Of course, that is not really how it works... what form of logic would suggest that my original design was also dreamed up by someone else? No form of logic, duh. (Was I really ready to graduate college with that mindset?!) Once I realized my error I searched around for a pattern that could accommodate the design I had concocted, and that worked a little better. But then the pattern that I decided on was not available in-store, and I had to wait a precious two weeks before the pattern came on the Wednesday before Sunday graduation. Nothing like some good ol' procrastination to close out college! 

The pattern I ended up selecting was Simplicity 1651D5. When it finally arrived, I made a bee line to the fabric store, hoping to find a solid teal cotton blend. Alas, such a fabric was not available, but I ended up choosing two complementary cotton quilter's classic fabrics (on 75% sale!) The finished product is perhaps more retro than I originally intended, but I'm good with that. 

The actual sewing took the better part of three or four days -- the first cutting out and preparing all the pattern pieces, the second and third days putting most of the pieces together, and the fourth (the morning of graduation!!) making the finishing touches like the hem, zipper, bra cups, and back straps. The open back was my main pattern modification, which was inspired by a random swimsuit back I found on Pinterest. 

While the fit is not 100% perfect, it successfully stays on my body as a dress :) And the issue is that it is a little on the loose side, so that could always be fixed. Overall, I'm stoked about this dress! I think I solidified some major sewing techniques, like assembling interfacing and putting in a zipper, that will be much faster next time I tackle a garment project. While my parents may not have been impressed with my last-minute sewing project in the midst of packing to move out and graduate, I am personally quite pleased that I managed to turn three yards of fabric into a dress in such a quick time frame. 

As for post-college plans, must you ask? I'm still figuring it out, but as I get my bearings, I have a bit more time for crafty pursuits. Stay tuned for future updates.

Happy summer, and 
Happy Crafting!!

May 28, 2018

Au Naturel Handspun Scarf

In December 2016, I had just finished Semester in the West. Fellow Westie Nina did 4H in high school and still had natural wool on hand from the two sheep she raised, Eboni (a darker-haired sheep) and Ivori (more creamy-white wool). During the semester, we bonded over our mutual appreciation for fiber crafts, and she asked her parents to bring her spinning and carding supplies up to Walla Walla to teach me how to spin! 

It had been a number of years since Nina herself had spun, so we both learned together on Nina's drop spindle. Eventually, Nina was carding and I was spinning, a nice teamwork operation. Over the next couple days, I hunkered down and spent several hours each day spinning. By the time I left for winter break, I had spun about half of the carded wool into two skeins of inconsistently bulky yarn--classic beginner stuff. 

Then, of course, is the question of what exactly to do with the wool. I had recently discovered herringbone stitch, and I decided that I could use another warm scarf for a nasty winter that was upon us in Winter 2017 in Walla Walla. I wanted to experiment with an asymmetrical shaping, and after consulting the maker history on Ravelry, I just did my own thing. 

Starting with three stitches I increased one stitch on each side of the right side until I got to about 51 stitches. Then I worked the remainder of the body at 51 stitches, decreasing at the end only once per right side to make it much longer and skinnier. The result, which took over a year to spin and knit up (with long intermittent breaks), is quite a bit longer than I was going for. The fabric is also quite bulky, and I am not quite sure yet on the best way to wear it. It is, however, very warm! 

Generally, I would write up a pattern for this scarf, but this project didn't quite work up well enough for me to endorse it for posterity. Plus, I would struggle to give an accurate yarn recommendation when it is beginner handspun!

Recognize this photo from #DIYfebruary?! Yup, that's when I finished it--in a quick burst of spinning and knitting on a lazy Februrary Saturday morning when I couldn't stand the thought of working on my thesis. I'm calling it my "Au Naturel Handspun Scarf" because it is completely undyed and it is my first handspun project! During the spinning process, I tried to incorporate darker and lighter wools to get a random mixed palette into the scarf. I was more successful in this on the second half of the scarf. :)

It may be May but it's never too warm to think about wool and warm knits, even if these projects aren't currently on my needles.

Until next time, 
Happy Crafting!!

April 30, 2018

Sky Scarf

I promise this is the very, very last Semester in the West post. (It was almost two full years ago at this point, I'd hope so!!) But I really got my knit on during those 3+ glorious months on the road, which helped me grow a lot as a knitter. So, talking about growth, I want to share a FO that is 100% garter stitch, my sky scarf! I may rarely knit solely in garter stitch these days, but for this project, it was all about color and symbolism.

Photo taken at Horseshoe Prairie in northeast Oregon, Feb 2018.
The semester before I departed for Semester in the West, Lea Redmond, a Whitman alumna, paid a visit to talk about the knitting book she had recently published called Knit the Sky. Knit the Sky argues for intentional, process-based knitting. The finest knitting need not be the most technically sophisticated but meaningful. While filled with other creative knitting project ideas, the Sky Scarf is Redmond's flagship project in her book. Her instructions for this scarf are less a pattern and more a recipe or scavenger hunt clue: buy a few different colors of yarn that reflect the sky and its variations, intentionally look out at the sky every day for an entire year, and knit two rows each day with the one or two colors that best depict the sky from that day. At the end of the year you will not only be a knitterly climatologist for your area; you'll also have a scarf! 

December on the left, August on the right. Can't you tell?!
I had never been exposed to this kind of artistic knitting and thought that Semester in the West would be a great opportunity to try something like that out. As you have already seen with my hat project, I wanted to take advantage of being outside and my soul marinating in the rawness of the elements for three months to knit something unique and special. And a sky scarf would be perfect! Something about sunsets grab me as if they aren't cliché, and I witnessed more sunrises during this semester than the rest of my life combined. Our ventures throughout the West--sometimes called "big sky country"-- made this project suitable. 

Moab, UT: B2, W
Instead of knitting a scarf over the course of an entire year, I decided to knit a scarf for just the three months of the semester. I also think this scarf is particularly interesting because it doesn't reflect the seasonal fluctuations of a particular place, but rather a snapshot of the greater American West. Thus, in order to knit a full-length scarf, I knitted five rows per day instead of the prescribed two.  I bought five skeins of Knit Picks Palette to cover the blues, grays, and whites that the sky can behold and then divided each skein into two balls for each color. Although it was fingering weight yarn, I knitted two strands together as one and used US 6 needles. In my daily journal that I was both forced and glad to keep, I not only recorded the date, time, and location, but also which colors the sky best matched that day--Pool (blue 1), Sky (blue 2), Cream (white), Finnley Heather (gray 1), or Marble Heather (gray 2). When I changed locations, I worked a bobble at the beginning of the new row. This way I could start at the beginning of the scarf and trace my way through the entire journey!

Gallatin Gateway, MT: W, G1
Summarizing an entire 24 hours of sky into one or two colors is a delicate impossible act. What time of day do you record? How do you summarize so many hues of blue and varieties of clouds? What to do when a squadron of ominous, gray clouds appear, dump a small tsunami of rain, and then yield a spotless blue sky the rest of the day? 

Farmington, NM: B1, W
Here's what I came up with. I focused on the daytime appearance of the sky (i.e. not sunrise or sunset) to keep the color possibilities constant. I recorded the colors that I thought most accurately described the sky for that day and what made it memorable. Was I drenched by that one passing cloud on a run? Might as well go with it. With only two grays and two blues, I asked myself, "is this a bright blue or a light blue?" and "is the sky a light gray or a dark gray" to determine my classifications.

Southwest Texas: G1, G2

Since I was recording the colors of the sky in a journal, I rarely (if ever) ended up knitting each day's sky color on the same day. Typically, when I was tired of knitting the hat I was working on, or was waiting on a Westie to pick a design, I would devote a day to catching up on the sky scarf, and knit a couple weeks' worth at a time. Thanks to the scant amount of rain and abundant clear skies we had on the trip, I ran out of bright blue (B1, or Pool) before the end. Since I was out of mailing range and had plenty of other things to work on at that point, I just recorded the last sky colors and finished the scarf after the semester ended. There has been an extended timeline to finish up this beast--while the majority was worked from August to December 2016, it was finally finished in February 2017 (see below picture for a photo from the day it was finished), and wasn't formally photographed until February 2018, and here I am, in frickin' April, finally writing up this project that has been finished in my closet for over a year! My tardiness says nothing about my fondness for this truly unique garment. 

So that's my sky scarf! It was the first scarf I knitted myself since the beginning of high school, when my knitting skills were, ahem, nowhere near where they are now. I wear this scarf proudly and often during the winter months!

Lea Redmond's visit to Whitman to talk about her creative approach to knitting has been hugely influential on my knitting perspective. I wonder what my next nontraditional project might be. Let me know if you have any suggestions!

And in the meantime,
Happy Crafting!!

March 7, 2018

DIY February Challenge | Part 2

ICYMI: During the month of February, I challenged myself to wear something I've made (or significantly altered/modified) every day. I'm calling it the #DIYfebruary Challenge. 

See how the first two weeks went: #DIYfebruary Part 1

Hey hey! February is done, so it is time to share the second half of my #DIYfeburary challenge, which was a smashing success! I am impressed that I didn't miss a single day-- of both wearing a handmade item (the easy part) and photographing the evidence (however terrible the selfies may be). 

I did not quite manage to wear everything I have up in Walla Walla that I made or significantly modified. I spent a full day of my winter break last January taking up the hem of a pencil skirt I purchased (including the liner), and I didn't wear it because there wasn't a business casual event to wear it to this month. There were other odds and ends that also I didn't manage to fit in, like a scarf I made in 2007 that should stay in 2007, and my first pair of socks that were always way too big for me.

And so, here are weeks 3 & 4!
Feb 15: Halifax Beanie // Feb 16: Green Shirt & Halifax Beanie

Feb 17: Au Naturel Handspun Scarf // Feb 18: Blustery Thermal Headband

Feb 19: Aidez Cardigan // Feb 20: Au Naturel Handspun Scarf

Feb 21: Beaded Beanie & Aidez Cardigan // Feb 22: Gridiron Bordeaux Hat, Afmaeli Sweater & Princess Bride Socks

Feb 23: Elizabeth's Hat & Hela Sweater // Feb 24: Beaded Beanie & Shirred Yolk Sweater

Feb 25: Sky Scarf // Feb 26: Aidez Thermal Headband & Shirred Yolk Sweater

Feb 27: Cotton Candy Earrings, Second Scarf & Greenfield Cardigan // Feb 28: Gridiron Bordeaux Hat & Cotton Candy Earrings
And again, there are a few pieces that have yet to be featured on the blog. They'll be coming up during the next posts.

As a final recap, here is a collage of the full month of #DIYfebruary.

So that is how I completed the #DIYfebruary challenge. Maybe in 2019 I'll do it again! (Who knows where I'll be at that point...)

Until next time,
Happy Crafting!!

February 19, 2018

DIY February Challenge | Part 1

For this month of February, I am challenging myself to wear something that I've made (or significantly altered/modified) every day. I'm calling it the #DIYfebruary Challenge. 

Beyond just wearing something handmade every day, there aren't any other rules. Repeats are okay. I don't necessarily have to wear every piece I've ever made--I don't have everything I've ever made in Walla Walla, and I would be pretty embarrassed if had to wear the scarves I made in elementary school. 

I've had the idea to try this out for quite some time now. I did a test run last November, and held out until Thanksgiving, when I came home to much warmer weather. Given that I have a lot more knitted garments than sewn garments, winter weather is definitely an important factor for me to able to complete this challenge. The first week of this February was a warm false spring, which made me get creative when it was too hot to wear knitted sweaters, hats, or scarves. But now, it is currently 20 degrees (F) outside and now it would be hard to not wear things I've made.

The hardest part of this is documenting it. I don't consider myself a talented selfie taker, nor do I love the abundance of my face on this post. But here is the documentation for the first half of this challenge! Power to the handmade.

Feb 1: Greenfield Cardigan // Feb 2: Hela Sweater

Feb 3: Sunset Earrings // Feb 4: Elizabeth's Hat

Feb 5: Princess Bride Socks // Feb 6: Choral Maxi Skirt & Aidez Cardigan

Feb 7: Aidez Cardigan & Swish Pants (altered) // Feb 8: Galactic Frenzy Skirt

Feb 9: Shirred Yolk Sweater // Feb 10: Sky Scarf

Feb 11: Cozy Cabled Cowl // Feb 12: Gridiron Thermal Headband
Feb 13: Afmaeli Sweater // Feb 14: Hela Sweater
I haven't featured every one of these pieces on the blog yet. So you're getting a sneak peak of what's to come!

I'll be back with the second half of the challenge in a couple weeks. Until then, happy crafting!!


January 10, 2018

Piano Riffs Embroidered Pillow

Find other posts about embroidered pillows below:
Wildflower Bouquet | Quilted Paintbrush | Robin | Perched Owl

There are good ships, there are wood ships, but the best type of ships are friendships...

Okay, it's cheesy. But when a very special friendship emerges, it's fun to document in a special way, especially when you know they will appreciate it. That is what led to me to spend 50 hours during the last three weeks of the fall semester making this pillow for Thomas. I'm calling it "piano riffs."

Thomas and I were more or less forced ("strongly encouraged") to become friends on Semester in the West, but since then we have managed to become even closer. In the west, we were two of the nerdier nerds, and often worked late into the night in the trailer (thus, we were part of the not-very-originally named "late-night trailer crew"). We also explored Arches National Park together on one of our only days off (thus, "Arches crew"). (Signe and Griff were also part of the crew.) We are both frequently found in the music building, and we were in Aural Skills together last semester, which was challenging for us in opposite ways--Thomas is a pianist and composer, and I'm a singer. And we were able to meet up in Scandinavia last summer and travel around western Sweden and Copenhagen. And that's not even all of it...

While Thomas is not the only one who have I had abundant memorable adventures with, his innate appreciation for... well, everything (after all, he's an Environmental Humanities major with a music and biology double minor--that's not nothing) makes any gift-giver as happy to give something as he is to receive it. Nothing is better for a crafter than a recipient who appreciates the amount of effort that went into the piece. I have read several books and blogs advising knitters not to give anything more substantial than a hat to someone, unless you know they will appreciate it and understand that a hand-knit sweater represents a heck of a lot more time than a factory-made sweater. Well, I followed that rule: first I made Thomas a SITW hat, and he was wildly enthusiastic about it. He leveled up.

Thomas is going to study abroad in Costa Rica this spring and summer through my graduation and departure from Whitman, so this was disguised as a birthday present, but mostly acted as an until-we-meet-again gift. One Saturday night in November after coming back from... somewhere, I sketched out a design for the pillow, calculating that, with exactly one month including a week of Thanksgiving break, I could just barely pull it off while still passing my classes.

This is what the memory book includes: Binoculars (for birds and butterflies), a piano keyboard, a globe (for trotting), fall leaves, a Western kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis), and three books we both read--Bill duBuys's  A Great Aridness, our SITW summer reading; Sightsinging, one of our textbooks for Aural Skills; and Scandinavia, a guidebook reminiscent of our summer travels. 

A "generic" wilderness scene representing SITW, complete with the night sky, mountains, foothills, and forest.

Delicate Arch, the icon of Arches National Park, and the namesake of "Arches crew." Also, my sign-off with my nickname of select few people, "Lizbird." 

In the interest of not posting every single closeup photo I took, the memory book also includes: a butterfly (species is native to the Western US but I've forgotten the exact one), the flags of Denmark and Sweden, and music notes illustrating a peculiar rhythm that is there for aesthetics only.

I worked with my embroidery thread stash, most of which belonged to my grandmother, some of which came from her mother or grandmother. The white fabric is just a classic white muslin, and the green background fabric is leftover from my green shirt from earlier this fall! I bought a 14" square pillow form from Jo-Ann Fabrics and made the pillowcase exactly how I learned in my high school Fiber Arts class, where I made my first embroidered pillow. In case anyone is curious (i.e. my future self), the stitches I used include: back stitch, satin stitch, French knots, whip stitch, leaf stitch, chain stitch, free-hand (for lettering), weaving stitch (white piano keys), and running stitch.

As I predicted, Thomas was quite appreciative of the gift. I really enjoyed the process of making it during concerts, airplane rides, holidays, and in the library, while procrastinating on other things; honestly, I can't recall ever being quite this excited to give a handmade surprise.

Thomas is going places... for now, to Costa Rica. Thanks for the memories. Until we meet again, aloha nui loa, hasta luego, mange tak for alt. 

Happy Crafting!!

December 5, 2017

Ruth's SITW Hat

Yes, this is another post-SITW binge hat. My esteemed sister Ruth wanted in on the custom-order hat fun and chose the same hat pattern as Griffin, "The Easy Ombre Slouch Hat," except with purple and grey instead of teal and grey. It's a fun and easy pattern, so I was happy to make a hat with it again only a few months later. And of course she also wanted the pom-pom, too.

While this hat was certainly intended to be a birthday gift (in January), the only thing I did before her birthday was buy the purple yarn. I knitted the hat on the bus from Bellingham to Walla Walla (via Vancouver, WA due to a snowy Snoqualmie Pass...) during the chamber singers road trip last early February. And while the hat was completed in early February, it just sat around my room until I came home for spring break. Better late than never, I guess. :) I was hoping I'd waited long enough that she had completely forgotten about this tardy promise, but she greeted me expectantly when I came home. Fortunately she liked the finished piece!

Amid the ridiculous poses during our front-yard photo shoot, I guess she likes the hat! Yarn is Knit Picks Swish DK in Eggplant and Drops Karisma Superwash in Light Gray. I modified the pattern a bit to fit the SITW style (see modifications detailed on my post about Griffin's hat) and used US 2 and US 6. 

View this project on Ravelry.

Happy Crafting!!