Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Last Three Weeks- Crafting

In the last three weeks I have made more things than I ever thought possible. Well, that's not true, I know it is possible to make a lot more than I made, but it was record output for me. I didn't manage a handmade gift for everyone, but the dream still lives on. It is possible if I can manage these three things: start earlier (as in next month), get people to stop having birthdays between Christmases (don't know how that one's going to go over), and by not working on any other side projects (yeah right, already blew that one).

This year I just didn't start on time or give myself enough time. And in one example of spectacularly poor planning I signed up for a quilt class on December 7th. I don't really regret it though: Here's the picture from the pattern front; mine will look very different.

The class went from noon until 6 pm and that was right before the last two weeks of school (which consists of not a little bit of grading, planning, and copying). In addition to lasting pretty much all day this class required a good bit of "homework." Now, teachers are notoriously bad students, but in this way I completely break that mold. I listen when the instructor is talking, don't skip class, and always do all of my homework. So, the Friday before class I bought my fabric. I wanted something that sort of resembled the Alaska wildflower mix that we saw this summer.
I ended up with a mix of more browns than greens, but still really like it and that weekend proceeded to cut out 224 6"x8" rectangles and 224 3.5" squares. Then my loving husband devotedly drew not one, but two lines on the backs of the squares.
The lines were where I sewed, and the second line is because I have this crazy idea that one day I'll use the leftover half-square triangles for something very cool.

I went to class and and worked almost the entire time, but because I had two lines to sew on every block it took twice as long. So when I left, of the 56 blocks I need to complete my quilt, I had a grand total of seven completed. But I think they are lovely!
I love the way the blue stands out and I think the rest will do the same.

Now if only I can think of something to do with all of these...

But, I put aside my Twinkle quilt (sadly) in order to get back on the holiday crafting train. I had quite a bit planned and not all of it ended up finished. Some not at all and others partially. In the partially finished group was a pair of socks for Bob. He ended up with 1 and I finished the other today. I tried to tell myself it was because I wanted to make sure it would fit right, but really I just ran out of secret knitting time.

My mom also received an unfinished gift: a stocking. The stocking part is finished, but the ruffle that attaches to the top is not quite done (about 4 more rows I think) and then you knit a cuff up from there.

Here's a little back story on this stocking: My mom has wanted this stocking since she saw the pattern in a Better Homes and Gardens magazine from 1990. You do the math on that. And after she knit Bob and stockings and was buying yarn to knit Bobby's, I volunteered to knit hers. Bad, bad idea. How fast she agreed should have told me something.

She brought me the pattern and the yarn and flipped open the magazine to show me the picture:
It said to turn to page 113 for the index of directions, and then that sent me to the actual pattern on page 79. This circuitous route to the pattern should have been my first sign that this was not going to be a simple deal. Or the mention of the word "heirloom" in the description (think: "Ah, yes, this si the stocking that cost poor aunt Leah her sanity."). And, if that didn't give it away the page of directions should have. It's three columns and the first two are devoted to lace patterns. At the top of one it had a little note that said the following:
Skill Level
For the expert knitter.
(The italics were theirs.)

I took it home and got nauseous just reading the patterned sections. I told Bob I had three options:

Option 1. Work on my lace knitting skills. Build them up through a series of other progressively more challenging projects.
Pros: A trail of other achievements leading up to this one. An experienced if not "expert" would be attempting it when the time came, instead of knit-a-sweater-with-a-duck-tail-me.
Cons: It would be another 18 years before my mom got her stocking. I might develop a mental block about this project and that alone could keep me from ever knitting the stocking.

Option 2. Knit the thing starting now. Just go at it and hate my life for the next 3-5 years.
Pro: It would get done eventually and I would feel great when it was finished.
Con: The whole hating life for 3-5 years thing. (I'm pretty sure divorce may have been in the cards with this one.)

Option 3: Outsource my knitting.
Pros: My mom would get her stocking. The stocking would be done right. My mom would still have a sane (and married) daughter.
Con: I wouldn't have actually knit the stocking I would have paid someone to knit it and I got into the whole handmade thing because I wanted my hands to be the ones doing the making.

Bob was a big fan of option 3, I kind of wanted to go for option 2: it seemed dangerous and edgy.

I ended up giving it a try. I didn't get passed the 3rd row of the 1st pattern and I only got past the 1st row because my sister (who I had literally taught to knit the week before) pointed out one little phrase in the pattern I was overlooking. Yeah, ironic, huh?

I took it in to ask a woman who can knit with the best. She suggested I chart it out. I had knit from charts before so I did.
I was pretty impressed with myself that I could even write out the chart (it wasn't really that hard, though) and after I had a visual of what I was doing I was unstoppable. I knit a sample to make sure I could knit the pattern I had charted.

It worked and I started on the real thing. One hour before my family was due to come over I closed up the heel and wove in the ends. I stuffed the stocking, fabric to line it, and the almost finished ruffle into a project bag I made my mom(she had to have at least one finished gift) and put it in a box for Bob to wrap.

It looks much better in real light. It's knit out of natural white wool in a light sport weight. And it's not blocked so it's hard to appreciate some of the finer details (such as the over 300 bobbles). I was pretty happy. I may be getting ahead of myself, after all it's not completely done yet, but I didn't even realize that actually knitting the stocking and maintaining my sanity and marriage was an option!

Other than that project I also sewed 5 bags, knit 2 hats, sewed 1 apron, and helped my sister sew a needle case for the sister that figured out an "expert" pattern after knitting for one week. I'm kind of jealous of the needle case actually... ...

I still have a few gifts I want to make, and since I haven't seen those people yet, the gifts aren't known to be late yet... So really, they're not, right?

All of that brings me through until today when I started cutting out the pieces for my New Year's Mystery Quilt (doing my homework, but also breaking one of my rules for finishing all my gifts for Christmas). I don't know what the final quilt will look like; all I have are fabric requirements and my friend Sally helping me pick out fabric. I still have some strips to sew together and cut, but I'm almost done.
I'm very excited to see how the final quilt turns out!


Northern Lights Fiber Co. said...

Lovely! I amazed at how beautiful your twinkle quilt is turning out! The colors are just amazing! oh and the stocking! You get a gold star (ok maybe ten!) for that one!

Anonymous said...

Leah, you are fantastic! Thank you for the stocking. I feel a little guilty that my stocking kept Bob from getting his "pair" of socks.
Also thanks goes to Bob and Bobby for giving you the time to work on this "heirloom" project.

Sally said...

I love your mystery fabric...I can't wait to see the quilt!

And I did go back to both quilt shops and buy more fabric. It was a bit out of control.

Lisa said...

I love the fabric in your New Year's Mystery Quilt. Very good choices.