Sunday, July 26, 2015

European Travel Wardrobe

Attention: this post is entirely off subject. You may be seeing more of these in the next month. Thank you.

In a short while, my husband and I are taking a dream vacation: a 20 day trip through 8 countries in Europe. Neither of us have been to Europe before, and we are so excited to get the chance to go.   All our boarding passes are printed, and I'm itching to hit the road!

On this post, I'd like to focus first on some of the preparing I've been doing with clothing. 

We are traveling thru in September, beginning in Paris, then taking a 12 day Mediterranean cruise, taking a train through the Alps, then ending with Munich and Oktoberfest.  I've spent hours planning our visits and transportation, researching points of interests, and making reservations. 

This will be our second cruise, the first being a Disney Cruise to Alaska in 2013.  After that first cruise, the bar has been set very high for quality.  I can't rave enough about Disney, but I'm confident Holland America will be a great one too!  We learned a lot from that first cruise.  We over packed, but we also had the kids along.  This time, we will slim-line our choices, multi-use everything, and hopefully be left carrying a lighter load.

Considerations for clothing choices:
  1. Average daily temperatures for the areas we will be visiting range from 75-62 degrees, so layering will be ideal.  
  2. We plan to tour cathedrals which have strict dress codes (no pants or skirts above the knees).  
  3. Obviously, there will be much walking involved, so clothing needed to be comfortable. 
  4. Laundry services will be limited until we reach the cruise ship, and then there are no public-use laundry facilities. So I'm planning to do some in-sink washing. Things need to be hand washable and resist wrinkling. 
  5. There will be 2 "Gala Formal" dining nights on the ship (full suits for men and cocktail attire for women).
  6. The remaining dinners are "smart casual".

Considerations for luggage:
  1. We need our luggage to be light and easily mobile, as we plan on using mass transit as opposed to taxis and such.  There may be times where we need to walk 4-5 blocks on cobblestone paths, carrying all our stuff.  
  2. New size restrictions on carry-on luggage: 21" for international flights.  
  3. It would sure be nice to have extra room for souvenirs we find, we shall see...

With these things in mind, I realized that we could probably handle pulling a small 4-wheeled luggage piece (one small enough to be easily carried if need be) - we will use our small 22" luggage, but a second bag should be wearable. 

I found this: Cabin Max Metz Backpack

It is a 21" backpack that is deceptively roomy.  There's a nice organizer pocket on the front that is great for quick access.  It's also nicely padded on the back and straps, making it comfortable to carry.   Reviewers say it's perfect for carry-on, so Chris and I both have one to use.

Personal items would be our camera bag and my day pack: a Pacsafe Citysafe 200 Gii Handbag

This handbag is new to me for this trip, but I'm already impressed with its security features: RFID blocking, slash proof body and strap, and locking zippers.  It's water resistant and can hold both a water bottle and an umbrella without taking up interior space.  And it is just the right size for the job.  I'm 5'4" and 115 lbs - I have no business trying to haul a huge beach tote around Europe! 

Now onto the clothes. If you know me well at all, you know I'm a planner. So you won't be surprised to find that I went straight to Pinterest.  If you search for "capsule wardrobe" in Pinterest, a whole new world will open to you!!  I learned A TON about clothing, mixing-and-matching colors, and tricks for making the same pieces look totally different. 

I loved the idea of taking a few coordinating pieces, and being able to make an exponentially higher number of combinations of outfits. However, I was not willing to go to the store and start from scratch, buying all new outfits. So I worked with what I had.  Also worth noting: nearly all my pieces are inexpensive, purchased from Kohl's and Target.  (Not the cocktail dress.  That didn't come from Target!!!)  I'm of the mindset that clothes needn't be expensive to look nice.

I picked a color scheme: teal, yellow, and neutrals.  Bloggers say to wear dark colors to Europe to blend in with locals, but I love a little color.  Anyway, they'll know I'm a tourist as soon as I open my mouth (I only know a little rudimentary Spanish, and though we will be briefly passing through Spain, 98% of our time will be spent in countries speaking OTHER languages).  My language dictionaries and lost looks will probably give me away first!

I took a look at my closet and told myself that each piece I choose needs to match/go with at least 4 other pieces - ideally with 2 bottoms and 2 tops.  It also must work with the 3 shoes I'm taking.  All in all, I'm very pleased.  I'm a little concerned that my pumps aren't fancy enough for my cocktail dress, but I find it silly to take different shoes for the 2 formal dinners.  No one looks at your feet anyway, right??

Here is what I'm taking (top to bottom):  
1. 2 T-shirts: one navy, one teal 
2. 3 blouses: cream stripes, dark teal with mesh, and patterned yellow
3. 4 cardigans/button-downs - all neutrals
4. 3 scarves: white, yellow and teal
5. 1 gray tank top
6. 1 black legging
7. 2 pants: 1 dark jeans, 1 cream slacks
8. 1 dark denim knee-length pencil skirt
9. 3 pair shoes: pumps, flats, sneakers
10. 1 lightweight jacket with gloves in pocket. It can separate into a windbreaker and a fleece. 
11. 1 cocktail dress
12. 1 casual dress
13. Not pictured: swim suit and sarong, night gown, and underwear.
From these 14 base pieces, I've figured I can make nearly 40 different outfits!  A nice thing: I believe the outfits will adapt nicely to warm and cool weather. 

Some of my favorites:  (pardon the poor picture quality, and the dogs/kids that photobombed me!  I initially had intended these photos for just my own use, but then decided to share!)

I saved 22 pictures of outfits onto my phone, so I can have help dressing quickly each day. I plan to delete the photos as I wear each outfit, so I don't repeat. 

One outfit will be on me that day, and two more are packed in my carry-on.  That leaves only about 7 pieces in checked luggage - I'd probably be fine without them in a pinch.  That said, I have yet to lose my luggage, and I certainly don't want to on this trip!  I'll cross my fingers.

We have these packing cubes: Shacke Pak set of 4 packing cubes

and I really like how they compress and organize your clothes, keeping things neat and tidy.  The bag used for storage doubles as a dirty laundry bag. 

I think the choices I've made will adapt to all the considerations above, and hopefully I'll look nice!  

The BIG question:  Do I take a knitting project??

It will be quite the adventure!  Check back in, I'll be posting as I go - sharing my travels with you!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Ready for another GIVEAWAY?!

Ok y'all (I can say that because I live in Oklahoma!)  Are you ready for another giveaway?  I had a lot of fun with the last one, and have decided to make something new for you!

This is a narrower version (7.5" in width - 2" narrower than before) of my Kathmandu Sparkle Scarf.  As you recall, I fell in love with the colors in this yarn at Hobby Lobby, and had to weave another scarf!  This yarn color has now been discontinued.

But it has beautiful jewel tones, a nice shine to it, and is a soft worsted weight yarn.  It has a thin thread spun into it with sequins.

I made this in plain weave, as I did the previous version.  As I was threading the loom, Christopher walked in, and suggested I try a different weave structure.  (Well actually, he said "are you gonna do a different design with this one?", but I knew what he meant.)  I was nearly done threading, so I continued with plain weave, but I'm going to try a basic twill with variegated yarn next.  

I was so happy to be able to achieve my target ppi for this project, it is a balanced weave!  YAY!  And it wove up so quickly, I was able to weave it in about 6 hours total.

It's beautiful.  Sometimes it's hard to capture the richness of the color on camera, so trust me on that.

Technical stuff:  It's 7.5" wide x 80" long, excluding a 4" fringe on each side.  It contains 12% wool, so should be hand washed and laid flat to dry.

Would you like to own it?  I'd love to give it to you!  Here's how you get an entry:
  1. Go to my Facebook page, and "Like" it, if you haven't already.
  2. Share the post with the giveaway
  3. I'll draw a randomized winner on 7/15/15, and will contact you if you've won!
Thanks for visiting!  Good luck!

Update: 7/15/15 - The winner is Nina Lopez!  Congrats!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Red/Natural Striped Kitchen Towels

I have finished my red and natural striped kitchen towels, and am ready to share!

This set is a study on twills.  I picked four designs to try, and switched with each towel.  The four designs were:
  1. Horizontal herringbone
  2. Mini herringbone
  3. 2/2 point twill
  4. 1/3 and 3/1 hopsack
I once again used 8/2 unmercerized cotton, in colorways dark red and natural, obtained from Yarn Barn of Kansas.  I used a 24 sett in a 12 dent reed, which I am still very pleased with this setting for all the towels I have done so far.  I decided to do a single-color weft this time, and make vertical stripes in the warp.

Here are some pictures of my work in progress:

Warp completed

Hopsack on bottom, point twill on top.  The pink line is my cutting line.

Mini herringbone
Horizontal herringbone

After completing, I used my sewing machine to zig zag stitch on either side of my cut lines, then cut them apart.

Towels just off the loom

Zig zagging the ends

I decided I had had enough of hand hemming towels, so I pressed and pinned a double roll hem, then machine stitched.  This worked surprisingly well, and although the hem isn't perfectly straight, it works well and was SO MUCH FASTER!  I'll be doing this all the time now, and I'm sure I'll get better and better at it!

Hems pinned and ready to sew
My hemming

And the finished products!  I love the designs, particularly the horizontal herringbone!

My critiques: for whatever reason, I only wove to 30" on each towel, completely disregarding the extra for take up and shrinkage I allowed for on my warp calculations.  So they are short.  Finished dimensions: 22" long and 25" wide.  But all in all, a successful weave.  New towels are on the loom now, so stay tuned!

For those interested, here are the links to my weaving record sheet, which has instructions and drafts that I followed to make these towels:


Friday, July 3, 2015

A Super Hero

After 9 months and many hours, I've finally finished my newest design: Super Hero Blanket.  I designed this one for Noah.  If you recall, I made a Spiderman Blanket for Elijah, and wanted to do something similar for Noah.  When I asked him which super hero was his favorite, he couldn't name just one.  In my mind, I thought, well...why not use multiple??

So I began looking for patterns.  Not only were there no patterns for multiple super heroes in one blanket, but there were no patterns for blankets with any super hero logos on them.  I soon found out why.  It is copyright infringement to sell patterns with those logos on them, as they are owned by their respective parent companies, Marvel and so forth.  But not to be deterred, I found the logos I wanted to use, pixelated the images, at times by hand, and created point graphs (spreadsheets) with each image in the dimensions I wanted.

I drew a schematic,

and pretty well stuck to it!  I designed it in a block fashion, intending to make each area separately, then seam it together.  I chose Knit Picks Shine Worsted yarn, mostly for economy, but also for ease of care.  I've worked with it a lot before, and it's a good yarn.

So back to the beginning, where I only had a pile of yarn.  I knew that the logo areas would be challenging, because they involved multiple colors, often covering small areas.  The only feasible way to do this in knitting is intarsia.  All the blocks were completed using 97% intarsia techniques.  The remaining 3% was fair isle knitting, which was used when there were only a few stitches of color needed in an area.

As you can see above, I quickly became overwhelmed with bobbins.  For each area of color, a new bobbin is needed.  For example, on the Batman panel, which seems fairly easy (especially since it only has 2 colors), I needed to manage 9 different bobbins plus my skeins of yarn, so 11 yarns working at the same time.  Things quickly became a twisted mess.  But as I worked, I developed methods for keeping things organized.  I've shown my work after some experience below.  I improved!  I won't go into the tedium of the tips I discovered, but if you're making this blanket and need some tips, please contact me.

Skip ahead, quite a ways ahead.  The next challenge was the large middle star panel.  I placed this design on a spreadsheet as well, but to manage it, it had to be placed on 4 pages to accommodate the number of stitches and still make it readable.  With 210 stitches, it took a long time and involved a lot of counting.  But I'm so happy with how it turned out.

Once finished with all the design pieces, I laid them out together and measured the areas remaining for the solid color dividing panels.  I picked a stitch pattern, and made those.  Here are all the pieces completed and ready for blocking and seaming.  See all the ends to weave in???  WHEW!

At this point, I was very nervous about how the pieces were going to fit together.  I actually completed the first seam, between the corner piece and the Captain America panel, and sat it on the table in my craft room and looked at it for about 2 months.  I just wasn't sure the pieces were going to look right once I seamed it, and I didn't want to go to all the work of seaming, if it wasn't going to turn out.

Finally, I got up the courage to just try it.  I was confident in my math, and decided to risk it.

Here I am seaming:

I worked across the super hero panels on the top, seaming them to the dividing color blocks.  Then I repeated the process with the bottom panels.  I gained confidence as I went, realizing I was worried for nothing!

Once the top and bottom panel rows were completed, I pinned them onto the large middle star panel, and seamed.  I used the tails of the blocks whenever possible, and joined new yarn when it wasn't.  Here I am, seaming along.

AND IT'S FINISHED!  I'm so happy with it.  And I'm even more proud of myself for being diligent in my work, planning well, and following through on a tough assignment!

Noah has watched me along the way, screeching out "Hey!  That's BATMAN!" here and there, but when I finished it, he immediately laid down on it and rubbed his face and arms across it and said, "so beautiful, Mama."  All worth it.  Right there.

Here are the boys enjoying the blanket after I finished taking a picture.

Now, if you see this and want to make your own super hero blanket, I want you to email me.  I am unable to put the instructions up due to those aforementioned copyright laws (not here and not on my Ravelry design page), but I may or may not have an official pattern written up.  Email me:

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A Late Mother's Day Scarf

My Mom is the best.  She's my best friend, and we talk nearly daily.  So for Mother's Day this year, I asked mom if she would like me to make her something.  She has been telling me for a while that she wants me to make this or make that, but always in passing... so I told her to just tell me what she's wanting and I'll do it.

She decided on an infinity scarf.  The colors she picked were navy and red.  Off I went searching.  I decided I wanted to weave the item, but that's as much progress as I could seem to make on it until I took a family trip to Texas.  My sister-in-law, an avid knitter, recommended we go visit Madtosh Crafts in Fort Worth, the flagship store for Madelinetosh.  This was a total DANGER ZONE for us.  It was stuffed to the gills with the largest selection of Madelinetosh yarns I've ever seen (including some colors unavailable elsewhere), along with many other of my favorite yarn brands.

While there, I found an exclusive color (Moonstone - only available at that store) of Tosh Merino Light that I fell in LOVE with.  I decided despite Mom's color guidance, I'd go with this color.  For two coordinating colors, I decided on Flannel Blanket and Antique Lace.  Pictured below, the Moonstone is the blue, Flannel Blanket the reddy-orange, and Antique Lace the gray.

I tell ya, I'm just a sucker for Madelinetosh's tonal yarns.

So with 3 colors, I now had to decide what to do with them.  I spent about 4 hours (I kid you not), browsing, trying to find a point twill draft.  Although it wasn't quite what I thought I was looking for, I really liked a mixed twill draft I found buried somewhere, and I WOULD give you that link, but I don't really want to spend another 4 hours trying to find it again.

I will, however, give you my WIF draft that I created.  I took the original draft and altered it to fit my width, centered it, and made it a two-color warp.


In case that doesn't work for you, here's the drawdown image.

I initially started out with a sett of 12, however after threading it that way and doing a sample, I could see that the design was drawn out and too wide for my likes.  And do you see the threading error?!  Ugh.

I fixed the error and changed the reed over to a 15 dent and resleyed.  I was much happier with the result!

So far, I've woven about 15 inches or so, and am LOVING the look of it.

I plan to weave until I can't weave anymore, and then cut it off and sew it together for the infinity scarf.  When I've finished, I'll publish my weaving record sheet with all the calculations, yarn totals, warp color orders and etc.  So check back soon!   Happy weaving to me and happy Wednesday to all of you!