Sunday, March 25, 2012

Books - Quarter 1

I'm off to a steady start with my reading list.  Even though the quarter isn't technically over yet, I am only half-way through my current read, so I won't be finishing it this week because I'm putting in a lot of time knitting the Seafoam Lace Scarf from last week's post.

Here is what I have so far....

1.  I started reading this in December and only just finished it in February.  This is the second book in the yarn series by DM (first book was The Shop on Blossom Street).  In a nutshell, women who have something going on in their lives (divorce, reluctant reunion with an ex-husband, overweight teen starting in a new high school & a bad break-up) join a knitting class at the yarn store on Blossom Street.  This class brings these unlike women together to form a lasting friendship.  I chose this book because I had read the first one and because the class they took was a sock knitting class.  Remember, I was knitting my own socks about the time I started this book (which, I still need to finish...)
It was enjoyable, but a bit slow.  I give it 2.5 thumbs up.

2.  I bought this book at the library sale because it looked interesting; I had never heard of this author before.  Apparently in 2008, this was a best seller.  The author wrote this book while he was in medical school, during his residency.  You quickly see the sort of thing they teach you in med school/working in the ER, in the first few pages of the book.  It goes into detail about how he dislocates a mugger's elbow in the parking garage.  Basically, the doctor in this book is an intern at a hospital in New York and his past reveals that he used to be a hit man for the mob, where he is now in Witness Protection.  He runs into a patient who knew him in his past life and now the intern must outrun the mob guys that are now trying to kill him.  This novel is very graphic with blood and body-related medical tricks that he uses to get him out of precarious situations.  I would say this is a high intensity read and I recommend it.  It even has it's own website with a game (BeatTheReaper).  I give it 3 thumbs up.

3. Here is a book that I came across at a yard sale and I couldn't not buy.  The Nancy Drew series is what got me into loving reading in the first place.  Originally published in November 1930, this book has sold over 2.7 million copies as of 2001.  Rereading this book as an adult, I still find it stimulating.  Yeah, it is written for young readers, but so was Harry Potter and Twilight.
This book introduces Nancy as an 18 year old that gets interested in a case that her hometown of River Heights is upset over when an inheritance of a recently deceased townsman was willed to a very snobby and social-climbing family.  Nancy and others do not believe that the heirs are truly these people and goes in search of a newer will that must exist.  I really did not remember any of the details from when I read this book at the age of 10, so it was very nostalgic to reread it again.  I will always love my Nancy Drew stories.  Fun-fact: Carolyn Keene was just a pen name given to the variety of ghostwriters that wrote the stories.  There was up to 11 different writers.  I give it 4 thumbs up.

4. This is the first book in a mystery series.  It takes place in the year 1900 in Indiana, when houses still had servants and maids.  The head maid, who is the main character, Hilda, finds a dead body in the lilac bushes.  The person is unrecognizable due to the gruesomeness of the crime.  You soon learn that it was an affluent neighbor's sister who has just returned from China.  This novel takes you back to a time where servants were not seen as equal, so Hilda has to sneak around to solve this murder.  The police are corrupt and her friends and family thinks she is crazy for trying to help.  She gets herself into several sticky situations but eventually solves the murder and is able to keep her job.  I thought that the ending and conclusion were rushed.  I was on the last two pages of the book where the conclusion came together, then the book just ended.  It was still enjoyable, though.  I have the third book in the series so I might as well read it to get it off my bookshelf.  A funny note about this book: it takes place in a section of IN called South Bend and that was a crossword clue in my daily newspaper the other day.  It said to name the school in South Bend; which there is a scene where Hilda walks across town to Notre Dame to gather clues.  If I was not reading this novel, I would not have known that!  I give it 2.5 thumbs up.

So, apparently, you can learn life lessons reading fictional stories.  Let's go over what I have learned:
  1. I can make friends by joining a knit class.  Well, not always true.  Some women that visit yarn stores on a regular basis tend to form a clique and not welcome you right away.  I don't want to offend anyone by saying that, but I find that to be true in my neck of the woods.  In MA, the Wool Patch was very open to my friend and I when we went a few times to the Thursday Sit N Knit.  So, not every shop is like that.  Take away lesson:  you can't be shy when you go in...just act like you know yarn and talk to those ladies about their projects and you'll do fine.
  2. I can make weapons out of my own bones, if I do not pass out from the pain first.  Yes, in the Reaper novel, that is just what the main character had to do to save his life.  I would pass out at the sight of my own blood, never mind having to actually cut myself deep enough.  So, that lesson is not that practical.
  3. That riding around in a convertible is way cooler than a regular car and it does not cause any extra attention to you when you are tailing bad guys.  Hmmm, I always found this funny that an 18 year old drives a convertible and nobody thinks this would stick out.  Yes, Nancy Drew's father is a lawyer, but back in 1930, wasn't convertibles really expensive?  I also learned that a closet clothing rod can be used as a lever to pry a locked door from it's hinges when you are trapped inside.  I will try to remember that the next time I break into an old house to find a clock. (psst, the will was hidden in the clock)
  4. Finally, I can pick a lock with the stays in my corset.  Well, I wear an underwire bra these days, so I guess that would be the next best thing.  Picking locks sounds fun, but I'm not sure if I have the patience to do it under pressure.  I will rip apart one of my old bras and try breaking into my own house.  I'll report back later.
These are valuable lessons that I may need to reflect on in the future.  So don't ever think that reading novels is a waste of time.  If you are reading anything now or have just finished one, please share what it is you have learned, however unpractical.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Seafoam Lace Scarf - Part 1

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I did not come prepared with a green, St. Patrick's Day project.  I should have held the Unbiased Cardi until this weekend.  Anyway, the project I am featuring this week does have some green in it, so that will be good enough.

When I was visiting MA over the Christmas holiday, I bought some yarn at The Wool Patch in Middleboro, MA (I mentioned it in my Vivica Beret post).  I bought yarn for two projects, the beret and this scarf.  This scarf comes from the book Feminine Knits by Lene Holme Sams√łe.

In the book, it is called, simply, Lace Scarf, but that's pretty generic.  I have renamed it the Seafoam Lace Scarf because as I work it up, it is so light and airy and one of the colors in it is a seafoam green.  It reminds me of real seafoam when the water breaks on the beach and it creates the bubbles (foam).  That is how the lace pattern appears to me, foamy and light.

The scarf will be knitted in two different textured yarns.  First, I will knit the main scarf in Queensland Collection, Caracara, color # 003 (50% acrylic, 30% Nylon, 20% Kid Mohair).  The number 003 is not that descriptive, but it is a light green, mint and blue-violet variegation.  Then when the main lace scarf is complete, then I will crochet a lacy border with extra detailing at the ends with Elsebeth Lavold, Hempathy, color # 042 (41% Cotton, 34% Hemp, 25% Rayon).  Again, the number 042 is not helpful, but it is a grayed, baby blue.

In a nutshell, I will knit until I reach the length I want the scarf to be (about 30") or until I run out of yarn, whichever comes first.  I started this towards the end of February, by first making a gauge swatch to ensure that I can knit the lace pattern without too much trouble.

The scarf is only 5 1/2" wide, so it goes by quickly.  This is what I have done as of yesterday (Saturday):

It measures about 10", so that means I'm a third of the way done with the main scarf.  This project is definitely going to span a few posts.  I will have to remember to end the scarf with green, so that both sides will match.

See how light and airy it looks?  It is very delicate looking, but it is more durable than you think.  The mohair element of the yarn gives it that fuzzy, almost halo look. 

Very feminine, indeed.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Unbiased Cardi

I've read that you can convert a sweater into a cardigan with some bias tape.  So, on one of my trips to Goodwill, I bought this cute Aeropostale, cabled, lime green sweater, with the intention of converting it.

I figured this would be a cute one because it was a bit snug on me.  I took the scissors, bias tape and chose a pink button to sew to the top to match the pink embroidered butterfly on the front.

I cut up the middle and got my biased tape prepared (ironed it).  I pinned the bias tape to the raw edge of the sweater.

I started sewing the bias tape to the sweater edge.  I only got a few inches in and I already was seeing crooked sewing and even the biased tape was off the sweater.  Not good.  I hate bias tape.  I never liked it.  I had a project once where I was sewing bias tape around the entire perimeter of this baby bathrobe.  Ugh!  I couldn't do it; I had to have my friend Kj finish it.

This project is not coming out any better (and I don't have Kj near me to finish this for me)!  I just cut off a little more of the sweater to cut off the bad bias sew job.

I then decided to chuck the bias tape and just fold over the raw edge and sew.

This came out much better.  Next was the arms.  They were so long and monkey-like.  I figured I would shorten them, similar to what I did for the Silk Tissue Tee a few weeks ago.

I cut a section out from the arms, keeping the wrist cuff portion.  I used the same technique where I reattached the cuff to the arm.  This was about where the elbow was.

It does not lay smooth like it was seamless, but when I have it on, it is at my elbow, so the crook of my elbow bunches it up; you can't tell something is amiss.

Yeah, I took this pic on Saturday morning, please excuse my bed-head.  Anyway, here it is, my unbiased cardi.  It is a cute little thing to just throw on when you're feeling a bit chilled.  I did not use the pink button because this is way snugger than I remembered.  It would not have looked nice with the button.  I can't close this cardi any more than you see in the pic.

That's fine by me...I like it for the arms and a splash of color.  I feel good about rescuing something from Goodwill or a yard sale and putting my own pizazz into it.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

T-Shirt Skirts

I had leftover material from my 5K Shrug from a few weeks ago that I was going to throw away if I could not make something useful from it.  I figured it might make a cute skirt that I could use as a bathing suit cover-up or hanging around the house skirt.

Leftover 5K Shrug Material (T-shirt Bottom)

Here is what I had to work with.  It's not much, that's why I think it would be a good pool skirt.  I evened off the top raw edge with my rotary cutter.

Nice and Even

I always have elastic lengths in my sewing kit, so I measured some out and use the width of it to determine how thick my elastic casing needs to be.

Casing for the Elastic

I measured an inch and did not bother to iron the fold nor did I do a double-fold.  It's a hanging-around skirt, so I'm not too concerned with being exact and perfect.  I marked an area with purple chalk on the casing, to leave open so I can feed the elastic through.  You can't see the chalk markings, but they are between the cutting ruler and my second ruler on the right. 

Feeding the Elastic Through

I have a handy-dandy threader that I use in cases such as this, but if you do not have one, then a large safety pin works well too.

Once the elastic was in, I sewed the elastic ends to each other and then sewed the casing closed.  I made sure the elastic was flat and not twisted.  Then I fixed the runching so it was evenly distributed around the waist.  I sewed a tacking stitch or two on each side to anchor the elastic to the casing so it will not twist when I wash and wear it.

Very Plain

The skirt is very plain, but functional.  I would wear it with my tank top or shirt over the waistband.  Otherwise, it came out fine.  I'll have to bedazzle it or something (later, though)!

It's Comfy!

I have a second t-shirt that I wanted to chop up.  This one is an XL t-shirt that our bowling friend gave me.  He always gets promo stuff because he works for a liquor distributor company.  The t-shirt has the Malibu Black logo on it.  I love the original coconut-flavored Malibu rum, but I have not tried the Black yet.

This Will Make a Good Skirt

I cut the top part off, right below the armpits.  This t-shirt was really big, so I had to cut some width off too, or this would have looked like a sack on me.

Sewed Along the White Chalk Line

I did not want to have an elastic on this one though.  I decided to cut two strips from the leftover fabric and make this a side-tie skirt.

Side Ties

 I sewed these strips horizontally along the side of the top raw edge of the skirt. 

Sewed Only the One End Down

I tried it on and tied it.  Not too bad...I like it!

Side Tie Action

Here it is again:

Another Pool Skirt

This one is a bit more form-fitting, but I still like it.  I've lost a few pounds so I'm feeling pretty confident. 

Watch out I come!  (Saturday was really warm, like 80's, but today its back down to the high 50's...brrr!).  I will put these two away until the end of April.  It's never too early to prepare for warm weather!