Monday, April 26, 2010

homemade heating pad

The thing I like best about sewing is that the results are so immediate and functional. Take this project: a heating pad and cover in a simple, natural, cotton muslin.

I've been dealing with a hurt muscle that needs some heat to unknot it. I sketched out an idea for a heating pad. Swung by the fabric store for some unbleached cotton muslin and the natural foods store for some bulk brown rice. Ironed, measured, sewed, filled, and stencilled.

And in an evening, I crafted myself the perfect heating pad. I can heat it up in the microwave in just a minute or two. It's just the size I wanted. It has an earthy, nutty smell when I've heated it up. It soothes my sore muscles and makes me happy.

And it happens to perfectly match the vase of mint that I've had on the windowsill. I love it when small things fit.

Friday, April 23, 2010


This little shawlette is really pissing me off.

I don't know if I even feel like writing about it, it grates me so just to look at it! But here's the short version: it was meant to be a simple experiment in shaping, with slightly more than a half-circle shape, and an edging of bobbles like raindrops hovering on the edge of a leaf.

The fabric flowed off my needles. The shaping is fine enough for an experimental piece. But the edging has been hanging me up for days.

I decided I didn't like the bobbles that I'd swatched. I tried bobbles in five different sizes, with different spacings and techniques. I tried to do a knitted-on lace edging. Three ways. I tried several different types of crocheted edgings. Thought I'd gotten it right, then came up 5 yards of yarn short. I unravelled the edging yet again, made some adjustments to save on yarn, didn't like it, and ran out of yarn anyways.

So that's where I am. Frustrated with all the hours wasted. Not liking the garment. Considering frogging it so that it doesn't mock me from the knitting basket.

Leila came over to investigate while I was taking photos. She walked across it and was not impressed.

Monday, April 19, 2010

weekend knitting

Classic weekend view ....

Knitting between climbs in the great outdoors. Sun glinting off my needles. Peace and quiet.

And, yes, that is a ball of Noro Cash Iroha sitting in the dirt. It'll all come out in the blocking.

Between the driving and down-time knitting yesterday, I nearly finished the small shawlette I'd started that morning. If all goes well (by which I mean that this improvised shawlette miraculously came out the way I'd hoped) it'll be finished and blocked this evening.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

blue contemplation

How good it felt to sew the ends in on this little project!

The yarn is naturally dyed wool that I bought from Earth Arts when I visited her New Mexico studio/home last summer. I started knitting it into a Contemplation Pouch last autumn. I don't know why it took me so long to knit on the strap ...

But I'm happy in the end! The yarn is a little sturdier than the other wools that I used in the pattern, and it's a little bigger, too. It's the perfect wee bag to carry my iPod, phone, and leash on my morning walks.

(I tried to get a photo of myself wearing it for scale. At least you get a peek at the cat in the background!)

In other news, we finally put up a laundry line! We've been air drying our clothes on a wooden rack ever since we moved to Arizona, but never got around to installing a line. We finally did it last week, and it's great!

Again, I don't know why it took us so long; once I decided it was time, it only took half an hour to pick it up at the hardware store and install it (or rather, tell Mountain Man to do it, ha ha!).

Monday, April 12, 2010

branching out

Rock towers and desert in the first morning sun, seen through the screen of our tent. A beautiful scene to wake up to on a Sunday morning ...

As for the crafting, well, I sincerely thought that I'd be finished with the white cardigan by this weekend, but I've gotten all fumbled up trying to modify the sleeve caps. I find it so aggravating that I may very well never finish it.

I sorted through my many unfinished projects to find something more finishable to bring along, and I found this little gem: a Contemplation bag in naturally-dyed wool. It was knitted and embroidered when I was in Taos last fall and has been waiting for a strap ever since.

I half finished knitting the strap in between climbs on Saturday and completely finished it on the drive home. Now it just needs to have the ends sewn in, and I'll give it a proper showing.

While pulling out this project on Friday afternoon, I remembered how much I loved its delicate branch motif. It was inspired by a wind-blown branch in an old Buddhist painting. I wanted to explore other ways of incorporating it into my crafting, so on Friday evening I cut out a stencil of it and painted it onto a few pieces of chocolate-brown cotton jersey.

For my first experience with fabric stenciling, it was surprisingly smooth and satisfying.

My grand plan was to make the "Reverse-Applique Bandana" from the amazing Alabama Stitch Book. It's made out of two layers of cotton jersey. You stencil the top fabric, stitch the two fabrics together around the stenciled shapes, and then careful snip out most of the stenciled fabric. In the finished project, you get glimpses of the bottom fabric, framed by a hint of the paint and hand-stitching.

This part for me did not go as smoothly. Fortunately, I'd also stenciled onto scrap fabric to practice first. Here it is, with my reverse applique experimentation ....

It was rather slow-going and uneven, since I'm a rusty hand-sewer. But the real issue was that the reverse applique was a bit too textured for me, at least in these colors (high contrast) and with this stencil (smaller than with the sample stencil that comes with the book).

I much preferred the simple lines of the printed fabric. So, in the end, that's what I decided to go with. For the rest of the weekend, I simply used the stenciled triangle of fabric as my bandana.

Ha ha, sort of a silly look, I know. But I do wear a bandana a fair bit when we're out camping and climbing (as evidenced here, here, and here) so this will become a staple in my outdoors kit!

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Isolation Canyon

Weekend in Isolation Canyon, camping and climbing. Here's what it looks like from the rim of the canyon (with me, crouching at the top of a climb)

I feel like my eyes have been dulled by the yards of white wool and natural linen passing through my fingers. What a refreshing shock it was to be on the quartzite walls, my face literally pressed into the rock's warm hues.

It was a real sensory pleasure to be out there. Enjoying the chatter of the birds, the rushing of water, the silence of night. The aromas of woodsmoke and morning coffee and sunbaked pine needles.

And all the beautiful textures ... to have hands gripping rock, grasping for sturdy branches, plunging into cold water, digging through rich earth, ruffling through happy dog fur.

Those hands were knitting, too. My clean hands project was the sleeves of my white wool cardigan. My dirty hands project was my mystery shawl in gray wool. Neither is much to show now, but hopefully the cardigan will be finished by our camping trip next week!

Friday, April 02, 2010

linen & leather

I've started sewing. It's rather free-form ... I don't really know what I'm doing, but I'm having a ball playing around with fabrics and simple garment construction.

My initial pieces are in a linen-blend fabric. I cut out an A-line shape that's just big enough to fit over my hips. Sewed up the side seams, hemmed the bottom, threaded elastic into the top hem, and voila!

My sister teased that I looked like I was wearing a gunny sack, but I was undeterred. I love this skirt. LOVE it. Love it so much that I turned the remaining fabric into a dress.

I had just enough fabric to cut out another version, with the same skirt but then continuing straight upward into a tube top. I hemmed the bottom and top. Threaded 1/8" elastic into the top. Stiched on some simple straps made from scrap fabric. And sewed a wide belt out of linen fabric and a remnant of leather.

The first straps I'd sewn on were of leather, too. Two inches wide. But when Mountain Man started to tease me about how I'd need to carry a wooden club as an accessory, I decided to back off the cavewoman look and just keep leather at the belt.

I'm exceedingly proud of the belt. I built it around an asymmetrical scrap of soft, olive-colored suede that I'd found at a fabric store. I cut two piece of linen that were about an inch bigger around than the piece of leather, and which then tapered to narrow ties, about five feet long in all. I sewed the right sides of the linen pieces together, turned it inside out, top-stitched the linen, and then laboriously hand-sewed the leather on top with buttonhole thread.

The hand-stitching through the leather took a painful 2 hours, even though it was just a simple basting stitch. All I can say is that it was damn good that the one sewing book I've bought so far is the amazing Alabama Stitch Book. It emphasizes the artisanal art of hand-sewing and applique. And it taught me to "love" my thread before I start stitching (I thought this was silly when I first read it, but it started to make sense when I was in the depths of frustration with the stitching).

Anyways, these are simple pieces, but I'm happy. Here's one more shot for the full "cro-magnon couture" effect, along with my cave bear ...