Tuesday, March 27, 2012


I like random things.  Random number generators fascinate me.  It's geeky I know, but I'm a geeky girl and I can live with that.

When I decided to call David for the first time (we weren't REALLY dating yet), I flipped a coin.  I found that flipping a coin always helped me make a decision. Not necessarily by "telling" me what to do but by making the choice for me I would react, either relieved or upset, and know what I really wanted to do.  I flipped the coin, it said, "call David."  I flipped again, "call David."  I decided to go 3 out of 5, still got the message to call David.  Thought maybe the coin was messed up so got another, flipped again, went for 7 out of 9, then 11, then 13...at which point I realized that something random was really going on and I called the boy and the rest is history, so to speak.

David and I are traveling somewhere this summer.  We still don't know where because we are compiling our list.  We went through it while at the beach and pulled out the impractical trips (we do only have 1 week, so Australia doesn't seem reasonable) and used the random number generator app on David's phone to help us pick the replacement.  Coolness and fun.  We're going to go through it tonight and decide which trips we really aren't interested in anymore--we have been doing this for almost 3 months now--and do the same thing.  Random number to pick another trip on the list.

And why are we doing this?  Because on SUNDAY we will "draw" our trip.  And I'm very excited.  David wanted to draw early, but I'm holding us to this.  By Sunday we'll have 182 options, some repeats, huge variety, and we'll draw and pick one and that will be our trip. 

So me.

I like to design with randomness too.  Take the banana pudding warp I have on the loom right now.  I decided to use lots of different yellows with an accent of brown as I mentioned yesterday.  Then I pull out my random number sheet that I print out using Excel.  The numbers on it are between 1-9 and I then determine what I want my multiplier to be.  There are a few things that go into that decision:  how thick or thin the thread is, my sett, what I want it to be, and how much I really want one color to show over another.  On this warp I decided that all yellows except for one really bright one would be multiplied by 5 and the brown and the bright yellow would not be multiplied.  I then start winding the warp until I get enough yarn.  I am always amazed at how it works out that I use the different yarns exactly the way I want to.  Randomness is cool.

Here is what I did:  I lined my yarns up, there were 6 different colors.  I use the first number on the page to choose my color.  Let's say it was 7.  I count though my cones until I get to 7 and then pick that yarn.  It wasn't one of the single mulipliers, so I muliplied 7x5 and came up with 35.  I wound 35 ends and put the yarn in another line.  I looked at the next number.  Let's say it was 2.  I counted 2, picked that yarn, decided it it was a single or multiple of 5 and then counted out that yarn, and so on.  When I'd gone through the whole pile of yarn I started over.  I get a random ordering of color, random size of stripes, random placement of the accents (bright yellow and brown) and an overall project that "reads" like banana pudding. 

And I'm still trying to decide if I'm going to weave it with random stripes, or do something different...choices choices.

I honestly can't wait until you can see it, but that will be June, sorry.

In the theme of randomness, I'll show you some placemats I made a couple of years ago.  They were warped using random numbers and woven using random numbers.  I kept a constant of the gold separating the different stripes, just to give that leveling effect that all projects need.  I love these placemats.  I think they look very modern, and quite different than the original design.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Scrap Weaving

About 4 years ago I wrote a blog on scrap weaving.  You can link to it here if you're curious.

When I was seriously quilting, I did a lot of scrap quilting.  I read a book dealing with the issues many people have in scrap quilting and how to make choices so that your scraps ended up reading together rather than a jumbled mess of stuff.  Pattern size, color ranges, variations in light and dark are all very important decisions.  The eye wants to make sense of things, so if you use 30 different reds and partner them with 30 different whites, you'll SEE a red and white quilt, not a quilt using 60 different fabrics.

I employ the same theory in weaving by grabbing many different shades of a color and pair it against something that contrasts.  Yesterday I started on my bee/banana gifts and as I was winding my warp I said to myself, "I've made banana pudding."  I call that a success.  I love creating with color that way.  In fact, I was having so much fun that I just kept winding the warp until I was finished.  I have to work late today, but I'm so excited to see it in the loom I may just take some time and sley it just because I can't wait to see what it looks like all spread out.

Let's see...what picture to show today.  I can't show what I did this weekend, or what I worked on last night, or really much else that I'm working on currently.  And I haven't taken a picture of the lovely sweater that I'm knitting...so it'll have to be a historical picture.

How about me winning the quilt 3 years ago.  I love this quilt.  It hangs in my bedroom nestled up against a turquoise wall.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Happy Endings

I love a books with happy endings.  Lately that's all I can stand to read.  I don't have the slightest attention span for depressing, dramatic or otherwise unhappiness.  I want to read something that I can believe makes the characters and their world better...and me by default.

I want my spring break to have a happy ending.  It has been such a perfect and wonderful spring break...and going to work tomorrow feels like it's going to be harder than usual...so today I will make the end of my spring break happy.  I'm not sure how I'm going to do that, but I will.

A tiny little update on things that have been going on since we left the beach.  Came home on Wednesday to some rather dramatic weather.  It stormed and rained and poured and thundered.  The tornado sirens went off three times in the afternoon/evening.  All were safe and sound if not a little damp and ruffled after the whole ordeal.

Thursday Mom and Dad came for their visit which was just about perfect.  We sat around and talked.  David and Daddy did some gardening.  Mom and me and the girls did some quilting.  Yummy food was eaten, and we all seemed to truly enjoy ourselves.  And now Mom and Dad are almost home...and I'm winding down to get to work tomorrow...but in the meantime I think I'm going to knit on that sweater that I forgot to take the pattern to the beach.  It's coming along very nicely and I love the yarn.  So soft and slippery and sparkly.  I can't wait to slip it on! (and as another part of the happy ending I'm making it a size smaller than I originally intended because I completely intend to be able to wear it by the time it's finished!)

Today's picture is of a hat I knitted last summer.  It's made from Noro yarn and I love how the self striping becomes self-circling in this hat.  I love Noro yarns.  I could spend my life knitting nothing but that if I lived in a colder climate.  As it is, the wool gets to me.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Misdirection and Hexagons

After I posted yesterday I attempted the laceweight yarn.  NO luck at all.  It was very stressful trying to work with it so I've decided it will become a lovely woven shawl.

Then I floundered for a bit and finally pulled out the yarn I used for the hat.  While I wasn't interested in doing another scarf after I'd put the other scarf away, a new scarf was a new pattern and might not be as miserable as the first (I really am a slow learner).  I tried one pattern, but the yarn was too bulky.  Tried another, but the yarn was too smooshy and didn't show any stitch definition.  Then I thought I'd just wing it for a bit...another mistake, so I pulled all the stitching out, put the yarn in the basket and settled in with my wonderful book (finished it this morning.  Thoroughly enjoyed "The Surrender of Miss Fairbourne by Madeline Hunter).

This morning I eyed my knitting bag and there were three projects that I hadn't worked on.  The first was the knitting I do in the car and when I want something to do with my hands but want my brain otherwise engaged and the second was the hexagon blanket.  I loved working on that blanket back a few weeks ago.  Almost thought I couldn't put it down, but I did so that I could finish Big Secret #2.  The third was my lovely purple socks which are a challenge that I am not feeling quite up to today...so, the project #2 won!

How I love this blanket.  The whole construction is interesting, the yarn is divine and the pattern is just difficult enough not to be boring while still easy enough that I can stop every now and then and talk to David.  I sit and do an entire "square" in one sitting, then go do something else.  I can't wait to snuggle under this with David this fall...
My picture today shows all the knitting I worked on while at the beach.  That top left hexagon is really the same color as the bottom right one, but shows up as yellow because of all the lovely tropical pastels in the condo.

I'm a little sad to be leaving.  We've had a perfectly relaxing and wonderful vacation, but it's time to go home and face the real world again, visit my parents (YEA!) and finish off spring break relaxing with my furniture and kitties...

Monday, March 19, 2012

Diligence pays off, but man is it tiresome!

I've been working diligently on the Misty Garden scarf.  I've probably knit 2 feet the past two days. I'm hating it again.

That means that it's going to go back in the bag and I'm going to start something else.  I don't want to be knitting something that I hate while enjoying an absolutely perfect spring break.  (the part of me that's desperately holding onto the fantasy that I live here and have no responsibilities for the rest of my life is slowing backing up and facing reality.  I hate that too).

Anyway, it's very pretty and quite fun to work on in the afternoon because of all the beautiful sunshine coming in the condo, but I'm bored and this picture will suffice to show that I did work on it a lot.   I'm going to start a cowl of some beautiful alpaca and silk lace weight yarn, knitted double so as not to be too terribly slow at moving along...or at least that's what I think it wants to be.  We'll see.  It may want to be this other lovely shawl I saw today...will have to toy around with that idea for a few minutes.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Despite my best efforts...

...I forgot to pack a key ingredient to success with my main knitting project:  the pattern.  I know exactly where it is.  I never even picked it up in the packing frenzy before we left.

I had a moment of panic, then remembered that I overpacked all my knitting projects.  I then had a moment of "not wanting to do any of them" which I quickly shushed.

THEN I got on the computer looking for other free patterns, thinking that that would be all I needed to get myself going using that lovely yarn.  After a while I decided that the beautiful yarn deserves to be what I originally intended for it...

At which point I pulled out all my bags of yarn, looked longingly at the bag full of wound off hanks and put it back in the knitting bag.  I picked out the lovely multicolor merino by Malabrigo and made this hat.

Not a bad use of my Saturday if I may say so.  I can't wait to get it home, wash it and sew the "snail" on the side so that it lays all flat.  I'm already planning the scarf/cowl I'm going to make with the vast amount of leftover yarn I have.  I'm thinking weaving a scarf makes most sense as it goes about 100x faster and I won't hate it before it's finished...

Friday, March 16, 2012

Let Vacation Commence

I'm so excited because in 2.5 hours David will be here to pick me up so that we can check into our condo in Orange Beach, Alabama, at precisely 3pm.  I have a stuffed bag of knitting (and yes, I remembered to get the needles, though as David said they have stores nearby that we can get whatever I forgot), 3 novels, 2 puzzles and 1 gorgeous view.  I have a feeling by Sunday I won't recognize this over-taxed, stressed out girl that I've been for the last few months. 

Deep breaths, ocean breezes, waves crashing, pelicans galore, and hopefully some dolphin sighting.

I cannot wait.

In keeping with the theme, here is the view from my studio window for the next 5 days.  I do hope I make some progress on that sweater I want to knit!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Knit Bag all Packed Up

I have a weird phobia.  I don't know if it's really a phobia or not, but I have an irrational avoidance of boredom.  "Thaasophobia" is the clinical name for phobia of boredom.  No one wants to admit that their problem is as bad as all that...but when I'm packing and foresee a lot of downtime in my future, I do sort of feel a little panicky...what am I going to do when I don't have anything to do?

So, in resopnse to this phobia (which I'll stick with for the sake of ease of writing) I always overpack books and crafting.  My knitting bag is so full that it won't close.  There is no way that I could possibly knit all that yarn in 6 months...but what if
  • I don't like the project,
  • need something else to do,
  • find the sweater too difficult,
  • finally decide to stick it out and finish that beautiful scarf I started a long time ago,
  • all the books I bring aren't interesting,
  • it rains,
  • it's sunny...
You see how this starts to verge on the irrational.  So, for this beach trip I have packed a cool blanket I started working on a few weeks ago, my purple socks which I have been missing during my most recent cross stitching frenzy, my new sweater, the other cool blanket that I can work on in the car and while visiting with people, a shawl I'm interested in starting, this gorgeous hat I'm dying to make...I think there's one more thing but I don't remember.  I have my tools, pens, index cards (I did just realize I forgot my needle sets, so need to get those when I get home), and patterns.  I'm fully loaded.

I won't be bored unless I forget to put those needles in there and then we'll be driving all over South Alabama looking for a yarn shop to get some needles!

And I can hardly wait until tomorrow at noon when David's going to show up!  yippee!

Today's picture is of a table runner I made for a friend last year.  I learned the weaving technique called "overshot" on my spring break last year.  I absolutely love this decorative weaving technique, which is quite versatile.  I'm actually considering doing a scarf in a fine silk and alpaca lace one day.  In the meantime I think this table runner was a bit hit.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Second Big Secret and Traveling

I'm happy to report that the Second Big Secret Project was finished last night.  I'm so relieved.  I didn't really worry that I was going to finish it in time, but I certainly didn't want to be holding off just because I wasn't pressured.

So, that means that I now have loads of time to get all my Little Secrets finished before the bee...at least I hope so.

But, before I start all that, I have to get ready to go on my beach vacation.  I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to the beach vacation...how much it's going to help my peace of mind...how much it's going to help me relax, focus, and regenerate.  So, I won't try, but just imagine how nice it'll be when I'm there soaking up some sun, listening to the waves and breathing in that cleansing beach air (I read somewhere that the levels of oxygen at the beach are much higher than elsewhere, so it really is cleansing to the body).

On that note, I have to "get ready" to travel.  This takes lots of planning and preparation because I'm going to spend essentially 5 days with nothing to do.  Poor planning will lead to boredom, and I'm awfully cranky when I'm bored.

And "getting ready" to travel means that I have to get all my knitting projects lined up and prepped (in the case of the sweater I'm going to start that means winding off hanks of yarn because I won't have a swift at the beach).  I have to make sure that I have all the proper tools to work with so I have to go through the patterns to check things off...and most importantly I have to have a couple of extra project in case the one I intend to focus on is a flop.  Busy busy I have been the past couple of days.  Tonight I'll pack my knitting bag...the clothes, eh.  Not so important.

Today's photo is of the scarf that I showed on the loom yesterday.  If you look closely at the weave structure you can see that it has relaxed, the pattern is more "tight" and crisp, and the drape looks very soft and comfortable.  It's one of my favorite designs.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Like everyone, I have made my share of mistakes.  Sometimes I've made the same one more than once...I stubbornly hold onto an idea that it's going to work out differently "this time."  Around my house we call that "hitting the A button" as a reference to playing video games and doing the wrong move persistently.

As in life, mistakes can be very useful things in crafting. 

For instance, once I cross stitched the accent parts of a skirt in an adorable picture for Elizabeth in the absolute wrong place, making many different flowers and other design elements outside of the skirt based on the original mistake that I made, and realizing it to the point that I had to spend two days pulling out stitches (which I hatehatehate). I came to the realization that:
  • challenging myself on purpose in cross stitching isn't always the best idea
  • When working on a difficult, large cross stitch, only stich in sections, not "colors"
  • I should check, double check, and check once more.
Of course, I've made all kinds of other mistakes.  Once in a Christmas stocking I left out an entire lower branch of a tree.  I decided that I wasn't going to unstitch everything, so I just stitched around it.  That "fix" was so obvious to me all that year.  I can't find it now.

Quilting took a little of the perfectionist out of me.  I realized that even if I do make mistakes and my work isn't perfect, I'm ok about it because the finished product is usually beautiful.  Sometimes I have to resew, but most of the time I take a deep breath, tell my inner perfectionist to take a break, and move along and see what happens.  When I'm finished, I hardly ever notice the mistake.

I have discovered, however, that weaving is not at all forgiving about mistakes.  There are many design choices along the way and any choice can mess things up so that the project does not work.  I have realized that threading mistakes do not wash out.  I have also realized that I cannot weave with extra distractions going on because of that.  If I have a complicated pattern in threading, I work in small manageable chunks, double check and tie off before I move on.  If I'm treadling something complicated, I have to take a break every few inches and double check that I'm ok.  I usually know which side of the loom the shuttle should be on and can sometimes realize I skipped something before I've carred along too long.  Sometimes I'm too much in my head and not paying attention and have to go WAY back.

Since I sell my woven items, I feel that they SHOULD be perfect...because of that, I have a lot of towels with errors in them in my stash at home.  Most people don't notice, but I just wouldn't feel right selling a flawed item.

Mistakes in knitting:  I just don't know what to do about it.  I'm scared of all the live stitches you get when ripping out.  I am afraid I won't get all of them picked up again.  Dropping a stitch can look awful if not fixed in a hurry...and sometimes it's hard to see.  So, for now, I'm extra careful.  Maybe after I get moving along I'll be better.  I have ripped out a couple of things and everything worked out ok.  That's just a matter of finally getting my confidence levels up.

In general, I think that sometimes mistakes can lead to some beautiful products.  We just have to be patient with ourselves and learn from them.  I try to be more careful as a result of some of the mistakes I've made, but I've also learned that sometimes being too picky can lead to too much stress and not enough enjoyment.

Today's picture is not of the finished scarf as I promised yesterday.  I had a very crazy night last night and didn't even think about it.  But for the process of learning, I've decided to put a picture of a scarf on the loom.  You'll get a nice contrast to what it looks like tomorrow when I do post the picture of the finished scarf.  Fabric on the loom is all tight and drawn up.  It looks like someone under stress.  Many fibers after they are washed have a different characteristic, too (linen and wool especially).  So, sometimes the item on the loom looks totally different than the finished product.  This one will not look too different, but you can see how drape and relaxing of the threads makes a difference, but that's for tomorrow.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Everything's Turning up Yellow

Last week my Aunt Betty asked me if my "White Elephant" game that I put together every year was really called a "Yellow Elephant."  After looking at my studio this weekend, I have decided that it should indeed be called a "Yellow Elephant."

For those of you in the know, this should excite you that there are many hand-made gifts to come.  For those of you not in the know, I make/buy "bee" or "banana" themed items for the Quilt Bee almost every year.  I'd started working on one great secret several months ago.  I will finish it tonight (even if I have to stay up until midnight to do so). 

I was all excited about almost finishing this and went to look at my little stash to see what I'd created and how many more things I needed to get.  Well, the news was kind of sad, actually.  I, who thought I was almost done, was shocked to see that I only had 5 items, 6 if you pushed it, and I wasn't willing to do that.  4 of those items are hand-made, one of them is just hilarious, the other is adorable. 

And since:
  • I was going back to the drawing board,
  • had just finished with the major secret conspiratorial project (which is coming along most adorably I'm proud to say now that it's out of my hands), 
  • was about to finish my most recent weaving project, and 
  • weaving projects move along fairly quickly considering,
I decided that all the gifts this year would be hand-made.  *(Editors note:  This is a very typical Leslie reaction to things.)

I started pulling yarns from all over the place, seeing yellow things in places I didn't know they existed.  In 15 short minutes I had pulled all the yarn I want to use, was VERY excited to see that I didn't need to buy anything and had loosely (read: in my head) planned out 8 more projects for the bee this year.  That means that EVERYONE will get a hand-made gift, some better than others, but all handmade.  Isn't that just the coolest thing ever.

Now we'll see if I can pull it off without losing my mind again.  2011-2012 will go down as the year of weaving for the bee.  But it's SEW worth it considering that this year is our 20th!

All that means that I won't be able to show actual photos of my projects in progress on the loom.  I'll have to start showing more knitting, or old projects because these are going to bee top banana secret!

Today's picture is of the scarf that I just finished the moment after I took it off the loom.  Weaving on the loom has a sort of "ugly duckling" quality to it.  One of the scariest things a first time weaver does is cut the project from the loom.  It's sort of like the moment of delivery.  Here is this thing that you've put lots of sweat and energy into:  Will it live up to your dreams?  BUT once cut from the loom, the fabric starts to show its beauty.  This one was washed, attacked by the cat (no damage thank goodness), and is now safely stowed away in a bag to send to its new owner.  I'll have pics of it finished on my next post.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Making Time for Crafting

Last week I had my crafting group over.  Only one person could show, but it was still a very nice time.  One question she asked was "do you craft everyday?"  And I answered, "Of course, do you?"  And she said she didn't.  She didn't have time with all the other things she has to do and demands of her family, but she wished she had time.

I've been working on handwork projects for as long as I can remember. I worked on them everyday of my life.  I guess I never really thought about how much a part of who I am it really is.

Last night I got home late after having my hair cut.  We had dinner late and then I decided that I was going to sit on the couch with David and not do any crafting at all last night.  How weird it felt.  Not to be DOING something with my hands while watching TV is like that feeling you get when you're leaving the house and you know you've forgotten something but can't figure out what it is you've forgotten.

What I wish is that I had more time.  That I could make a little bit of time here and there to do a little work on a project.  That's why I started the lunch time afghan.  I know it'll take me at least 5 years of lunches to get this thing finished, but it's cool to watch a couple of inches grow on a square each day.  I've picked the perfect project for a lunch-time project, because all I have to do is knit to the end of the row and turn and get back to knitting.  Every now and then I count the rows to see how far along and I am and then keep going or start my decreasing.  It's that simple.  How fun...so I can even work on a project when I have multiple other things going on around me. 

Today's picture is another one of my comic cat Pearl.  She loves getting in my yarn bins.  Here she's in a shelf I have that has these nice little cubbies which are, apparently, a perfect fit for her.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Thoughts on perspective

Having perspective is one of those important life-skills.  It teaches us the importance and value of things and allows us to prioritize and let go.  It's also a great skill for stress management.  Gaining perspective on the magnitude (or lack thereof) of an issue can help you to see that it really isn't all that important after all.

I think perspective in art is one of the most important aspects of what makes something interesting and what makes it amazing.  To be able to see the tiny details and how they'll fit into the bigger picture makes or breaks a work.  For instance, when I was quilting, I was a scrap quilter.  I would buy fabric that I liked.  Very rarely did I buy a "set" of fabric to make a quilt.  My goal was to make something that had overall perspective but not necessarily "matched."  So, when I made an Irish Chain for a friend, I used navy blue solid for the background and different fabrics of light blue for the chains.  This was a really nice option because the eye wants to make things go together put the blues into one group and the navy into another and the pattern glimmered.  It's amazing how two red fabrics can sit next to each other and not be pleasing, but put those two fabrics together with four or five more reds and the perspective totally changes.  Those 7 fabrics now read as red when paired with something that is "not red."  It's amazing (try it sometime).

Crafting always makes me think of perspective.  The work you do is so up close and personal and the end result is usually not quite so up close and personal.  The perspective I have when working on something is totally different than my enjoyment of it when it's framed and on the wall (or however else it's put in its final version).  I think that weaving is very interesting regarding perspective becuase I never see more than 2-3 inches of woven fabric completed at one time and the fabric on the loom is completely different than the fabric in its "finished" state.  Perspective makes a huge difference.

And it's the designer who sees what it needs to look like up close and personal and envisions what it's going to look like on a grand scale who can really wow people and create art.

Today's picture is of my loom when I was weaving a lovely pink scarf.  The warp is so bright and beautiful and this picture shows how I see my work when I'm working on it.