Clever stitch markers

Bead stitch markers.
Worsted weight yarn, size 9 needles, stitch count markers (12 stitches from end, 48 stitches from end and every 48 thereafter).

 

I’ve used a variety of stitch markers but was wholly unsatisfied with what’s currently available.  They’re either bulky or intrusive or too easily dropped/lost, all of which are frustrating.  I’ve worked out a couple solutions that work better for me.

If I leash together two of the commercial markers (I’ve used plastic split ring, round plastic and triangular) they work much better as the marker doesn’t get lost and is easily retrieved if it slips from my grasp when transferring from one needle to the next, but they’re still bulkier than is comfortable when using sock yarn and size 1 needles.  On the plus side, if the leash is tied to a clip or pin so it can be fastened to the work, they don’t fall away when they’re dropped.

An even better solution are markers made from filament and beads.  The flexible filament is very thin and keeps the marker from interfering with the work, the bead makes the marker easy to spot and acts as a handle or connector and are big enough that both needles can simultaneously be inserted into the marker reducing the chance you will drop it when transferring between needles.

Beyond that, they’re pretty and make me smile.

 

An afterthought

The middle sock was my first (modified sweet tomato heel). The left sock was second (different modification to the sweet tomato heel). The black cuff/heel/toe was the last (short row with the sweet tomato stitch pickup technique).
Perfect technique, far from perfect yarn matching

I love the Paton stretch sock yarn and I love wearing the socks.  I only have one pair of socks I like as much, a Smartwool sport sock that fits as well as the socks I make for myself.

In the socks I’ve done so far, I’ve got two modified versions of the sweet tomato heel and a short row heel using the sweet tomato stitch pickup technique.  This time I’m going to work a modified version of the afterthought heel.  The single row of black yarn near the needles is where the heel will be inserted.

After three pair of socks, I think I’ve found my rhythm . . . sort of.  The trick is to wear glasses strong enough for me to see the stitches.  I’m no longer dropping stitches or inadvertently adding stitches.  Who knew?  Go me!

I’ve refined the pattern I’m using (toe up sock).  My wedge toe has more of a pleasing curve (magic cast on 40 stitches, increase every row for 4 rows, every other row 2x and every 4th row 1x for a total of 68 stitches).  Now that I’ve got the technique down and have wised up and started wearing strong glasses things are coming together nicely.  I just need to test drive this heel technique to see which one works best for me (least number of holes and fits the best).

Because my feet are so short I can get a whole pair of socks out of a single skein of sock yarn if I don’t need tall socks.  If you discount the ~30 hours it takes to make a pair of socks, these are a bargain at about $6 a pair.  If I want the socks taller than a 3″ crew, I need just a touch more yarn, thus the black toes, heels and cuff.

This latest pair of socks show I can’t seem to get the quality of work paired with the pattern matching.  Admittedly, this yarn is the left over from the very first pair of socks, so I’m cutting myself all kinds of slack.  As I seldom leave the farm, the likelihood of anyone but me noticing the pattern doesn’t match is pretty darn small.  And if they do notice, I’m pretty certain I won’t care.

The tree and the fog

Tree and fog. I’m lovin’ it!

I’ve got not quite a quarter of the honeycomb blocks done for the background on Lorr’s quilt.  In this picture I have only about half the finished fog on the wall.

It’s gone a bit slowly because I’ve been testing ironing seams this way, that way, pressed open . . . I think I’ve got what I want now.  I’m happy, happy, happy.

The colors, the variety, the textures.  Yup, I’m happy.  If all goes as planned, this will be a stunning quilt.

Now that the picture is up, can you see what’s wrong?  This is why pictures are so important!  In the very center of the picture, see the blue sky showing through the leaves?  Oops.  Can’t see the sky through the trunk.  I’ll have to replace that with a non-sky piece.  It’s the little things . . .

Perfect rice, the easy way

Pick your weapon.  Any shape or size, as long as you can get the rice in and out, it’ll work!
Fill it with rice
Fill with water (yup, with the rice STILL in whatever you’re using to measure).  You now have a rice and water mix.  Dump it in the cooker.
Don’t worry about the rice left inside, you’ll rinse it out in the next step.
Fill your measure with water one more time.  Add it to the ricer and water already in the cooker. If you’re good, all the stray rice will end up in the cooker instead of left in your measuring device.
Add a little bit of oil. It helps keep the rice from sticking together. I don’t know if this step is advised for sticky rice so you’ll need to check.
Cover the cooker and switch it on. When it switches itself off (or, in my case, switches to warm), your rice is done!

This method of cooking rice is super easy, no measuring cup required, though I take the lazy man way and use a rice cooker. You can, depending on your cooker, make any amount of rice you want, enough for one or more!

Pick your measuring device.  I’m not saying don’t use a measuring cup, but you certainly don’t need one with this method.  I’m using a small drink glass for my measure here.

This method works because it provides the right amount of water for the rice every time.

Fill your measure up with rice.  With the rice still in your measuring device, fill it up with water as well.  You now have a mix of water and rice in your measuring device.  Dump the rice and water mixture into the cooker.  Filling the measure with rice and water gives exactly the right amount of extra water.

The amount of water we’ve added won’t be enough, so we have to add one more measure full of water.  Remember, it doesn’t matter what measure you start with, just use the same measure all the way through and it will come out perfect!

Just so we’re really clear, you’re adding one measure of water and one measure of rice and water mixed.  I add the full measure of water after the rice and water mix to rinse the rice out of the measure so none is wasted.

Top it off with a drizzle of olive oil, put the lid on, plug it in and turn it on!   When it shuts off, you’ll have perfect rice!

Auditioning fog

Test auditioning the fog fabric.
Drafting the template

Now that the leaf portion of the tree for Lorr’s quilt is done, I’m working on the background fog.  I don’t want it to be all one foggy piece of fabric, I want it to be more in keeping with the rest of the quilt, more random color and texture.

I’d been searching for over a year to find enough foggy batik fabrics for this part of Lorr’s quilt, but they just aren’t out there. Progress was at a halt.

Our Guild had a fabric dying workshop with the fabulous David Christensen.  I dyed 10 yards of batik quality fabric trying for perfect soft shades for the fog.  Some of the pieces are too dark, but not too many.  Overall, the result was a nice collection of soft greens, blues and grays with enough texture to be interesting.

I had originally intended to use one of the Dance template sets for this portion of the quilt, but I’ve since changed my mind.  I’m going with a machine sewn honeycomb block.  Sewing this block by machine isn’t for the faint of heart.  I’ve developed a technique that gives me accurate placement of the pieces.  I’ll try and get a tutorial together showing the technique.

I drafted the 2″x4″ template for the honeycomb block on pallet slip sheet cardboard.  I get this at the local feed store.  It’s a 4’x4′ sheet of thin cardboard that’s waxed or plasticized which makes it a little difficult to write on, but it makes great templates . . . and it’s free!

I used my cutting fabrics using cardboard templates technique so as not to damage my template.  The only adjustment I made was to not move any of the fabric for the second cut as it preps the end of the strip for the next template placement.

I think I’m going to like this block and fabric for the fog.  The sewing’s a bit tedious and nearly every seam is a Y seam, but I think the end result will definitely be worth the effort.

Striking a chord

Fantasy Petals

I get a weekly newsletter from Quilting Books, Patterns and Notions and I occasionally find inspiration therein.  This week the periodical has a lovely and splashy flower wall hanging that’s lovely, full of bright color and made from batiks.  Not only does the color sense suit my style, this would be a perfect pattern for machine pinning.  Perfect!  The pattern is available here.