Saturday, February 28, 2015

Brioche. . .

. . .knitting, that is. This afternoon I took a little skillbuilding class at my LYS on brioche knitting. It was not a project class, although I did buy a skein of Cascade Superwash 220 and a skein of Painted Desert in a worsted weight to make a two-color cowl.

We spent quite some time playing around with the pattern; and after a number of times casting on and ripping out, I finally produced a small swatch. By the time I finally understood the technique, I realized it's actually pretty simple. It seems to be nothing more than knit 2 togethers, slip stitches, and yarn overs, complicated by fancy sounding names and maneuvers that are the same as the basic knitting stitches we already know. I don't think it's any more complicated than lace work; and in fact, basic brioche in one color is easier.

That is not to say, however, that it can't get complicated. We didn't have much time left in the class to try a small swatch of two-color brioche, but I did get a smaller swatch made. I knit a few rows of garter stitch first, then started the brioche pattern. You can see the pattern developing, with a row of vertical knit stitches in the burgundy color. On the reverse side, there's a corresponding row of vertical stitches in the peach color. It's reversible, which is so cool.

From what I've read, two-color flat brioche (as in a scarf) is more challenging than two-color brioche in the round (like a cowl), so if you can figure it out flat, knitting in the round should be easier.

On Ravelry, I've seen brioche patterns for hats, which means increases and decreases; patterns with cables; and brioche sweaters. I intend to try it all; but for now, I'll start with a basic cowl in one color. And that's after I get my two big quilts finished! has a free e-book on Brioche that explains the technique pretty well, but sign up is required (it's free). If they inundate you with daily emails, you can set your preference for a weekly review or none at all.

Pink Ribbon Weekend

PINK was the color of the month for February's Rainbow Scrap Challenge. I spent much of last weekend working on the pink ribbon and finished it up during the week. I worked on 30 blocks for this one, like last month, and you can see the top and bottom halves of the ribbons. Once finished, the quilt will be about 70" in length, and right now I can't get far enough away from the design wall to get a photo of the whole ribbon.

I used fabrics with a little more texture and pattern this month, and one or two with little bits of another color in them, and I think I like that more.

You can see what others are doing for this month's Rainbow Scrap Challenge here.

Today will be mostly a knitting day, with a Brioche class this afternoon, post to follow. I think it's just a skill builder, but I'm going to find a pattern for a cowl on Ravelry and take that with me.

There was no snow in the long range forecast, but now I see we're expecting another 1-3 inches on Sunday, and more on Wednesday. Is it spring yet?

Friday, February 27, 2015

February Finish

Yesterday I stitched out the label, added it to the quilt, and sewed the binding on the first side of the Carpenter's Star quilt. This evening I finished sewing the second side of the binding, took the photo, and then it went right into the wash. I reread the rules for a Quilt of Valor quilt, and apparently they'd like you to wash before you ship. The pillowcase will get done Sunday.

I worked feverishly all day on plaid blocks. They are easy enough to put together but time consuming. I need 49 blocks and have 8 left to sew. I think now, I'll probably start sewing rows together and use the last 8 blocks as leaders and enders. At least I'll feel like I'm getting along with it a little faster.

I'm also thinking it's not looking good to get the wedding quilt done by mid April. I generally work pretty well under pressure, but this is a lot of pressure! We'll see.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Projects for a Snowy Month

Everyone in New England must be having the same problem right now, where to put all the snow. We had another blizzard-like storm a few weeks ago that dumped 10 more inches of snow; and since then it seems we've had a storm every four or five days with another 3-4 inches of snow. The snow in the yard is up to my waist now, with huge piles all around from snowblowing and plowing. Our trailer in the yard has disappeared from view, as has most of the woodpile. And we had another four inches this morning. Nothing in the forecast now until March 8, when we are supposed to get 12-15, according to the long range forecast. Not that I'm buying that. The weather people haven't had a good track record predicting weather accurately this winter.

It's been extremely cold here as well, as it has been elsewhere in the country. Yesterday morning when hubby went off to work, the temp was -27 degrees. Most days it might warm up to the teens during the day, if we're lucky. I hate the thought of going out in the cold, so I have been hunkered down in the basement, sewing like a  madwoman.

I currently have 6 or 7 projects actively in work. Some are ongoing and only get worked on a few days a month, like the Rainbow Scrap Challenge. A couple are projects I'm trying to finish up. Patrick's Plaids is one of two queen-sized quilts I'm trying to finish before mid-April, so these blocks are my main focus for the rest of the week.

One of my knitting pals lost her son nearly a decade ago, and she began making a quilt with his shirts. She got all the four-patch units made; and then I don't think she worked on it again, so I offered to finish it for her. The blocks are a bit challenging to make because they're actual shirtings, not the shirtings we find at the quilt shop; so a few of them fray a lot or are kind of squiggly to sew, but it's getting done. The blocks will eventually be sashed in white with navy cornerstones, then a navy border, then a piano key border. My friend had a very different border treatment in mind, but I'm not sure if I'll be able to implement it. We'll see.

As I've been working on the plaid blocks, I started putting together the top of a Carpenter's Star quilt as a leaders and enders project. One of the gals in our quilt chapter did this as a workshop for us at the beginning of February, sort of a "sew one and you're done" quilt. Each square in the quilt finishes to 6", so you can make a large quilt fairly quickly. I've seen some variations on this pattern on Pinterest and would definitely make this again if I needed a quilt in a hurry. Anyway, since the finished quilt was within the size guidelines for a Quilt of Valor, I decided to make mine in red, white and blue and donate it accordingly. I think both the national organization and also our state rep are conducting a block drive right now, so I'm just donating a whole quilt.

The top looked quite plain to me after I got it together, even with the different cream backgrounds, so I used a variegated red-white-blue thread for the quilting, and I like it better. I've cut red binding for the quilt which will add a little more interest, and hopefully someone will like it. The binding is made, but I must stitch out and attach a label before I can apply the binding; and I still have a pillowcase to make, a presentation case, if you will.

After the Carpenter's Star top was finished, I needed another leaders and enders project, so I started sewing the units for the triangle quilt together. I constructed the top in quarter sections, which is my new favorite way to assemble a top. The quilt looked too plain to me with the cream and dark borders, so I added triangle units to the corners. Better, but then it looked unfinished to me, so I'm adding a row of triangles all the way round. Then, I think, it will be finished.

Because these were waste triangles, the small triangles finish to 1-1/4"; so the whole quilt top will not be larger than about 40" square. A good size for a small wallhanging.

Back to the plaid blocks.