Backyard Building – Mosaics Part II

When I wrote the first piece about the mosaic stones in our driveway, there were some critical pictures I couldn’t access at the time, important enough that I thought it warranted a second post.

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Before I get too far into the story, and lest I give any new mothers a complex about what a super-achiever I was in those early months, this picture is a pretty accurate representation of how I spent most of my time the first month after Owen was born. Lucky for me, Sophie has always been very good at distracting herself, especially when she feels the comfort of a parent close by.

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I don’t remember whose bright idea it was, but someone decided we should try creating our own mosaic stones to give away as gifts for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. We incorporated pieces of ceramic dishes, marbles, recycled glass fragments and colored glass chips.

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I was determined to be an active participant in this creative endeavor, but had to admit after a few whaps with the hammer that smashing glass wasn’t the safest activity to try with my baby in a sling.

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My participation moved to the sidelines as overseer, commentator and director while Sophie helped us out by ‘prepping’ the stones, which needed to be washed before applying the concrete. I supervised as she placed marbles and tumbled glass on her own stone which Lance had slathered in Thinset.

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The pièce de resistance was a double stainless steel sink Lance made for my father to use as an unconventional planter in his garden. He built a plywood frame for the sink and applied Thinset directly to the wood.

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It was a beautiful work of art, each panel distinctive, created with painstaking attention to detail.

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Unfortunately, the wood wasn’t sealed, so after spending a few months exposed to the elements, the mosaics began to fall off, one by one.

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When my mother-in-law came to see her new grandson, she took home five of these large stones in her suitcase. Two years later, when she rebuilt her patio, she had three of the stones laid into the stairs.

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Lots of Leaves

Once upon a time, I knit two ponchos for a friend. Her friend saw the little ponchos and said “Boy, I’d like some ponchos for my boys.” She asked if I would accept a willow chair she built in a workshop in exchange for my work. “I noticed your front porch is a little bare,” she said.

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I gladly accepted because our porch was very bare and the chair fit perfectly. After reclining on it a few times, I decided it needed a pillow; the design came to me in my dreams, sending me downstairs to sketch in the middle of the night.

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The first of the ponchos is just about finished. I’m using two strands of laceweight alpaca my mother-in-law bought from a peasant woman spinning in an alley in Potosi, Bolivia; bits of Bolivian debris are spun into the wool adding a touch of the authentic to this rustic yarn; anyone who knows Jen and her boys will appreciate how well this yarn will suit their rustic aesthetic.

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While knitting it one afternoon, my eye rested on the leaf pattern on my skirt. When I return to Seattle, I’ll create some brown felt leaf cutouts and embroider the edges to create an embellishment around the bottom of the poncho.

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I’m not sure if the end result will end up looking as it does in my imagination, but the process will be fun along the way.

Knitting Wire Necklace

After weeks of absenteeism, I was finally able to attend the Fiber Gallery‘s Sit ‘n Knit last Tuesday.

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My vibrant friend, Melissa the Baker, she of yarn and kitty tattoos, formerly known as the Empress of Desserts, was wearing this beauty, inspired by Leigh Radford’s Silver Squares Necklace in AlterKnits.

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She brought beads and wire with her instead of yarn, rationalizing that she doesn’t want to knit with wool in the summer, and in the late fall she is too busy making Christmas presents, so why not switch her schedule? Knit wire necklaces for sister-gifts in July and leave your hands free for wool in November.

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knit_wire.jpgI was so taken by her project, that I immediately went home to try one for myself. Naturally, the materials I had one hand weren’t exactly what Melissa was using, nor were they the same gauge as suggested by Leigh Radford. I did have a fine sterling silver wire, but it was so pliable that I had a hard time casting on in a fashion that looked neat. Long-tail and cable cast-on both created a messy jumble. In the end, I settled with long-tail, wasting a bit of wire after casting on the stitches just so I had something to handle. Who knew wire could be so slippery?

I also struggled with getting the beads exactly where I wanted them. Do you knit the first row or purl? If you knit the first row, do the beads go on your purl row? First stitch or second? Once again, I settled with an assymetrical piece, deciding that it was an intentional design feature if anyone asked me about it. So far, my husband has been the only person to comment. If he ever asks for his own pendant, I’ll work a little harder on figuring out how to center the beads.

If you are interested in trying this yourself, I cast on seven stitches using 30 gauge sterling silver wire, and a US 7 aluminum double point needle. I knit five rows using a mismatched pair of needles, as per Melissa’s suggestion – one US 7 and one US 4 needle. Melissa and Leigh suggest using 28 gauge wire. Have fun playing with wire.

Edit: Marysusan made a great suggestion for taking this idea one step further: turn the knit wire into a mesh cage. Think of small treasures you want to carry around your neck, perhaps a pearl or polished stone; create a small amulet. I love her illustration, so had to include it here. Now I just have to get my hands on a little wire and try this out (I knew I should have packed some).  pendantsketchfinalsmallercopy.jpg

Wear What You Make

I was a walking mannequin yesterday, wearing a complete outfit I made, minus the Chaco sandals.

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The Barcelona Skirt by Amy Butler was my first attempt at solo sewing, essentially a test skirt using leftover fabric from a skirt my mother sewed for Sophie. This is one of three skirts included in this pattern; the other two will have to wait until I return from New Hampshire.

All told, it really wasn’t too bad; I managed to figure out the invisible zipper without ripping out any stitches. Agonizing about which size to cut was the worst part.

My measurements don’t fit neatly into any category, so I had to cut for the largest size and then take in the seams when it was finished. If I wiggle a little, I can make the waist drop down to my hips. 

There is a great pattern review, tips and tutorial at the Sew Mama Sew blog. Don’t forget the Flickr Skirt Group!

Happy Felt Books

One of the beauties of being ‘temporarily without children’ is the freedom to browse as long as I want at Kinokuniya, the Japanese bookstore located inside the mega Uwajimaya in the International District. I picked up this little felting booklet last week (ISBN4-277-49005-0).

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If you ever been tempted to try felting, but weren’t sure where to start, pick up this book. For only $3.95, you can try several very simple projects.

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This little lily pin is felted in several layers around a stone. Each layer is snipped open to create the petals.

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These beauties couldn’t be simpler: three little pieces of flat felt are cut into circles and then sewed together with a couple of beads.

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I haven’t decided what to call this one because it doesn’t resemble anything botanical, but it was fun to make all those little balls.

Rogue Ravelry

I have a confession to make: lists make me really, really happy. First it started with flickr, which made me think I should blog. Then I discovered LibraryThing. Now it is Ravelry. There is something about seeing my own stuff (which I can see perfectly well piled up around my feet) listed in a neat and orderly fashion (perhaps because the stuff around my feet isn’t in this state) that makes me feel at peace. It makes me feel so good that when I’m not doing it, or the job isn’t done, I can’t think of anything else, so it leaves me feeling restless, agitated and cranky. Let the girl make her lists!

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I started last week working on adding my projects from flickr while I was at my parents’ house in Vancouver. There were lots of project photos I hadn’t uploaded, pattern details weren’t jumping to mind and I couldn’t remember the names of some of the yarns.

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On Wednesday morning, I drove back to Seattle, without my children (thanks Mom and Dad!); the rest of the day was spent in holiday fashion with a picnic, bbq and fireworks. Thursday was spent on errands, which included three Goodwill stores and an evening potluck. Friday morning really had to be spent catching up on my webmaster work for Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (you can only put off paid work for so long). The whole time I was thinking of my incomplete projects in Ravelry.

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It isn’t like I don’t have tons of other things to do: fold three bursting hampers of laundry, replenish our empty fridge, play with roving I bought from Arbutus Farms, sew a skirt I plan to wear to a wedding in one week, cast-on for a shawl I want to wear to the same wedding…wait, did you say you need a pattern? Better look it up on Ravelry.

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That was the beginning and the end of today. While I feel sheepish admitting how much time I’ve spent organizing the knitting pictures on our computers, photographing undocumented projects and entering details into the database, the reality is that this makes me happy. If it makes me a geek too, so be it.

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There are three more projects to photograph, but I think I’m done for the moment, as is Rogue. Who needs a wool sweater in the summer, but a vest is perfect! The sleeves are in progress, but for now the vest will work just fine. And, yes, I am having a hard time taking off Marianna’s skirt.

Holey Heels

While I love my handknit socks, I really don’t want to spend a lot of time reknitting a heel, nor can I bring myself to embrace Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s method of darning: standing over the garbage can shouting “Darn, darn, darn” while dropping them into the wastbasket.

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Exhibit A: a pair of socks knit with Koigu 100% merino yarn in 2004, worn once a week for three years straight. I’m surprised they held up as long as they did. I took them out of rotation before the heel blew away completely, intending to darn them, but they sat in my project basket for six months, untouched.

The good folks at Arbutus Farm on Lopez Island displayed this brilliant solution to fixing thinning heels. Needlefelt them!

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Stuff your felting pad, foam or brush inside the sock. Then place a little roving over the thin spot and start poking.

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Turn them inside out to poke the roving back through, and then turn them over one more time. There will be fuzzy bits left on the inside of the sock, and this section will feel a little stiffer than the rest of your sock, but to my mind this is a better solution than throwing them away, or reknitting a new heel.

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Voila! A perfectly wearable, if inelegant, handknit sock repaired.