Can’t Stop Knitting……..

I have lots to tell you about. But it seems I can’t stop knitting long enough to write a real post…

When I was in Anaheim for my rug hooking retreat, my friend Shelley wrote about a new knitting project she was working on–a blanket made out of leftover yarn and mitered squares. Before I became a quilter I spun and knit all the time, and mitered squares were one of my favorite techniques. I do still have lots of leftover yarn from my knitting days, and now I can’t stop. Just one more square….

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If you haven’t tried mitered square knitting, don’t start. I’m warning you. Its addicting.

I’ll be back later to catch you up on other projects I am working on.

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Recycling

Its pretty popular nowadays to recyle and repurpose things. And textile art is a great medium for doing that. I still can’t resist a good wool jacket at the thrift store, even though I know a good part of it has been faced, and not useful for rug hooking. I have a bin full of linen and silk clothing that I have picked up at the thrifts. I hope to use it in a quilt one day. Maybe this will be the year.

I have recycled quite a few sweaters. I used to dye the fiber, spin the yarn, and knit my own sweaters. And I used to wear a different size. So when I lost a lot of weight, I unraveled some of those sweaters. That was a lot of really nice wool and I didn’t want it to go to waste.

Once I knit a sweater for my dad. Poor dad. It wasn’t really a very masculine sweater. But to be honest, it wasn’t very feminine either. I brought it home with me when we cleared his house out. That was a lot of really nice yarn.

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Its been four years now. I found it when I was looking for something else in the storage shed. I unraveled the parts of the sweater that  I could. The front was constructed the way they used to make fair isle sweaters–knitted in one piece, and then cut and hemmed. So that made it useless to unravel. But a good part of the sleeves and part of the back were in good shape.

 

Of course, when something has been knitted for a long time, the yarn is  kind of crinkly. So you need to skein it and re-wash it. In the end I have quite a bit of this beautiful blend of angora, silk, and merino wool. I will make something nice and cozy that will remind me of my dad. It won’t be as much a memory of him wearing this sweater as it will be a memory of how kind he was and how much he supported all my creative endeavors.

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It All Started with Twine?

So has everyone seen the fabric twine? It must be on Pinterest, because it is so cute. I saw it on The Quilt Show website. The first time I saw it I thought, Ooh, pretty! But the second time I saw it I was hooked. They used it to make a little rug! So I clicked over to the tutorial. I needed strips of fabric. I do believe I have a box of strips somewhere. 

I found the box of strips, and soon I was MAKING TWINE. Now, to be fair, she did warn that it was a little hard on the hands. Oh yeah. That twisting motion was very hard on my hands. I made this much, and knew that twine making was not in my future.

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That made me a little mad, so I went back to the box of strips. There were plenty in there. I could make another knitted rug. I really do like these rugs. I have two in my kitchen, and they are nice and cushy to stand on. Plus, they are easy to wash. And free. And they use up a lot of fabric that I would otherwise be donating to the thrift store.

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Okay, so I got that rug started. The strips in the box were mostly neutrals, both darks and lights. I liked that idea, and decided to add just a few sparks of color once in a while.

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So about a week later I went into the studio with the intention of cleaning up. There were still some strips leftover in that box. I was thinking I would just toss them. I made the mistake of actually LOOKING into the box. There were three squares that I had started on a few years ago. They were from a fabric panel that had old inn signs on it. I really did like those signs, and I liked the way I had outlined them with the strips. Oh, plus, for some reason, there were two paper-pieced blocks in there. Maybe I should use these strips up and make a little quilt.

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ONE WEEK LATER, (and of course, with lots more strips cut out) I finished another WAY TOO BIG quilt top. It was very fun to work on this quilt, and it was a nice break from using my hands so much (machine piecing instead of hand work.) But 72″ X 72″? That’s gonna be a lot of dang quilting.

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In The Studio and On My Lap

Here’s the latest work being done in the studio–

I made the giant nine patch quilt top into a sandwich. First I made a pieced back for it. I’ll have to show you that after the quilting is finished.

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And I started working on the little snowball quilt idea I had. You can see that most of the blocks are 3 inch finished blocks. Then I made six, nine, twelve, and fifteen inch blocks to insert into the quilt. I thought of a lot of different ways to do this, but I ended up using the original little sketch I had drawn in my journal. I love having my little journal with me!

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I still have a lot of the 3 1/2 inch squares that I pre-cut for this quilt. I have another little idea in the works for them.

In the evenings, I usually move into the living room and have some handwork in progress.

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I’m working on another of  The Psalms quilts. Here you can see I machine stitched in the ditch to stabilize the background. But then I decided to do kantha style stitching over the entire background.

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Well, you know all about my circle love 🙂

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And I finished the rug made from fabric strips. These rugs are so cushy to stand on. I really like having them in the kitchen, and they wash very easily too.

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After being washed:

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Its just right in front of the stove. And the little girls like to lay on them when they are waiting for me to make their meals!

Knitting With Fabric Strips

 

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So, there were enough questions about this, and not enough info on the world wide web, that I decided to write a little tutorial. I hope this is helpful, and clear enough.

I cut fabric strips 1 inch by the width of fabric (usually 40-42 inches.) I did find some recommendations to tear the strips, which they said would result in less fraying. While I agree with this in theory, I don’t like the way the torn strips get all distorted. I like the way the cut strips look. Also, I am a non-pre-washer of my quilting fabric, so none of my strips are cut from pre-washed fabric. I think that it might be more enjoyable to knit with pre-washed fabric. But again, I’m not going there.

I use size 15 needles. I went and bought myself a nice pair of bamboo circular needles, because I like that their ends are not so pointy. Remember, cotton strips of fabric are not nice and stretchy like most yarns, so you want to try to knit not too tight (that’s why I wanted needles that were less pointy.) I did a gauge swatch, and it seemed like I got 2 stitches per inch, so I cast on 40 stitches for a rug 20 inches wide. I just measured, and it is only 18 inches. So there you go. You want to knit in a stitch that will lay flat. Garter stitch is the way to go (knit every stitch.)

Progress on current rug. Sophie supervises.

Progress on current rug. Sophie supervises.

After you cut a million and one strips, you need to join them, so you will have a continuous strip of fabric to knit with.  Take one strip (you can cut off the selvedge ends or leave them on,) and fold the end over on itself like so (you can see I am actually doing both ends at the same time.)

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Neatly cut a slit in the end. Don’t cut close than 1/2″ to the end of the strip, or it might tear when you join the strips.)

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I sit and cut a pile of these while I am watching TV in the evening. When you have enough, take two strips, and PREPARE TO JOIN 🙂 Slip the second strip through the slit in the first strip.

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Now bring the long end of strip two, and insert it into the slit in strip two, and start to pull it all the way through itself.

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Pull it ALL THE WAY through .

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Then pull both strips taut, and TA DA! You have a continuous strip. Continue doing this until you have a big pile of fabric “yarn.”

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When you roll your strip into a ball, you might notice that it is getting a bit twisty. You can overcome this by winding forwards for a while, and then reversing and winding the other direction for a while.

When you first wash your rug, there will be a TON of frayed threads. Yes, I give the rug a haircut. Its kind of fun 🙂

You can crochet with fabric strips, but I find it very hard on my hand, and I noticed that another blogger said the same thing. Proceed at your own risk. Even knitting for a long time with this heavy fabric and big needles is tiring. Proceed cautiously. Your rug will develop quickly. No need to wear your hands out making a bath mat. (I keep saying bath mat, but I think they make great kitchen mats.)

Also, Shelley reminded me that the first thing I did with fabric strips was to knit Christmas stockings. They are so cute. For these I cut the strips 3/4 inch, and I knit on 4 double point needles size 13. Just use a very basic, simple sock pattern. Use a contrasting solid color for the heel and toe.

So What’s Next?

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Even though I said I was finished with the cross quilts, I continued to work up until the night before we were to hang the exhibit. As the finish approached, I already had another little idea working in my head. I had seen this ad in my rug hooking magazine, and was enchanted by the colors in it.

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I had already pulled a huge group of solid fabrics that mimicked the colors of yarn in the ad, so I thought about what I would do with them when the time came. I find this is a good way to work. Instead of being pressured to COME UP WITH A GREAT IDEA when confronted with a group of fabrics, I have plenty of time to think about it. So coincidentally, I saw this little snowball quilt in Jenny’s blog (thank you, Jenny!) and for the first time ever, I really really liked the snowball block. I think it is the fact that I perceived them as small blocks, and also that they really mimicked circles, with the spiral quilting. Anyway, I decided to use the snowball block as the basis for all these colors. I looked at different sizes, and decided that a 3″ block would make me happy. Pretty easy to cut out 3 1/2″ squares, and 1 1/2″ squares for the corner rectangles. Here’s the start:

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And then, one night, I was sitting in my chair. And I wanted to make another knitted rag rug. Here’s the thing about these rag rugs. They are really comfortable to stand on, and they have held up well to multiple washings. They are completely thought-free–the only thought required is choosing the group of colors you want to use. That’s just fun. They are scrappy, so you don’t have to think about what color comes next. And I like the repetitive motion of putting the strips together and winding them into balls. I always stay ahead of my knitting, because I actually like putting the strips together and winding balls better than knitting!

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As I worked on this, I started berating myself. Why do you waste time like this? You could be working on a project that has meaning and purpose. But pretty quickly I realized that this is part of the process. I need to give myself time and mindlessness in order to renew and cultivate my creativity. I wonder if Leonardo da Vinci did mindless knitting between his masterpieces. NOT THAT I AM COMPARING MYSELF WITH LEONARDO. Just wonderin’ 🙂

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Quilting Break!

On Monday this week, I was driving around. I had a lot of extra events/chores/writing/duties in line for the week. I was thinking about how I hadn’t gotten a stitch of quilting done that day, and the thought suddenly occurred to me, “take a one week break from quilting.” So instead of being upset that I was not making forward movement in my quilting, I would feel free to get all these things done, without resenting them for ‘keeping me from my quilting.’

It has worked out great. I am still thinking about my quilting, both current projects and future plans. And I will definitely be ready to pick up where I left off this coming Monday. I got all my chores and duties done, and I do believe I enjoyed them more because that resentment wasn’t there the whole time. What I didn’t expect was that I would fill in the spare time with some of my other hobbies that I still enjoy but never have enough time for.

I have been spinning yarn:
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And knitting:

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And finally got back to my rug hooking! This is always so exciting, because as you can see, much exuberant color is involved. I do truly enjoy rug hooking, but it does take a little space to get it done. So in my small studio-house (I just came up with that. I think I will keep that description. It takes the pressure off of trying to make it a ‘perfect’ house,) there is not really enough space to rug hook and quilt at the same time.

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These are some of the ‘tools of the trade’–strips of wool cut with a nifty cutter–it cuts three even strips at the same time. Don’t all of us artists just love a good tool?

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And also taking up a little of my time this week is attending to the never-ending needs of these guys. This is a picture of them lined up by the wall heater. They love it when I turn it on.

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I’ll be back on Monday, with lots of quilting! Have a good weekend, and be sure to make time to take a stitch or two!