The Secret Language of Hexagons

Once in a while, there’s something in a movie or TV show which will catch my eye. I secretly love when crafting is referenced in pop culture, even in jest.

Heck, I even get excited when really nice handmades gets used as set dressing or costumes (Juno had some awesome sweater vests).

Most recently I noticed this amazing crocheted hexagon blanket while re-watching Wayne’s World for the first time in a loooong time.

I’m sure the average set dresser saw this as the usual ugly granny square blanket that would live in the typical basement rec room. But these be some truly bodacious granny hexagons!

There’s also this wonderful scrappy hexagon quilt used in the movie About Time.

It’s hard to tell from this picture that the fabric here is more than the usual printed cottons. There are some velvets used as well which makes me think this was probably built from old clothing scraps. Oh and nice hexagons too right?

What’s the big deal with hexagons you ask?

Current piece

Well, back in 2009 is when I first became enamoured with the shape. It began with the Jelly Bean Afghan early in the year and continued with the Hexagonal Quilt sometime over the summer.

Little did I know the effect these projects would have on me.

You see hexagons are kind of spectacular. They are one of three regular polygons that can be used to make regular tilings, but somehow don’t seem to be used that much. Or so I thought.

Once I started working with the shape, I began to notice it everywhere. And they are truly EVERYWHERE once you start noticing them. Those who know me in real life have likely noticed me whisper “hexagon” to myself, and perhaps take a picture of something random with no further explanation. Or even with too much explanation. It’s become my own meme of sorts.

At some point I started collecting the results of my personal hexagon scavenger hunt over on Pinterest. Many of the images are snapshots taken while travelling. I’ve had friends and coworkers forward me links to projects, products, articles and images based on their use of hexagons. It’s that kind of thing.

Most often I come across a wonderful old hexagon tiled floor. But strangely enough, hexagons also get used in futuristic settings too. Used in Amazing Spider-Man films (I haven’t seen 2 yet, but it shows up in search results).

Woolen Spun

Back in March, I caught the spinning bug again after reading winter issue of Ply magazine. Now there was a LOT of that farm fleece to go through, and as this was a rather grimy fleece, I didn’t quite get through scouring it all. That’s ok. I have enough prepared fibre from the fleece to play with for a bit. I think I might try to get a decently clean fleece in future to play with. Now I have a “real” reason to possibly go to Rheinbeck in future.

The other thing that I got super excited about in this issue was the first article “Lying About Longdraw: Helping spinners get from worsted to woolen” by Jacey Boggs. I was really pumped to work through the methodology laid out in the article to get to spinning woolen.

Yoke Roving

So I picked this merino roving out of my fibre stash. Yes, it’s roving and not top. I thought it was a batt when I picked it out at Lettuce Knit on a weekend trip to Toronto a few years ago, but later saw that it was roving wrapped up. The article does say to work through with differently prepped fibres but I decided to work through with the same fibre throughout. Still worked.

Somewhere around step 5 or 6 things really started to click and I was “instinctively” started pulling the fibre out longer and longer before allowing it to wind onto the bobbin. Suddenly I was using longdraw like nobody’s business.

Yolk 2-ply

I was so pumped by my successes with this skein that I went to the library and took out a number of spinning books. The Intentional Spinner by Judith MacKenzie McCuin and The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook by Carol Ekarius and Deborah Robson were the most useful that I read.

Yolk 2-ply

I’d love to say that I flew through this bump of fibre, but I’ve been spinning in my fastest ratios for a while which means I keep ended up with very fine singles (such problems to have!). I didn’t do a WPI count, but I can say that based on the weight to yardage ratio, this yarn lace weight.

Yolk 2-ply
2-ply
‘Yolk’ Pear Tree
100% Merino Roving
Woolen spun
Start Date: June 2013 (?)
End Date: May 14, 2014
112g
Approx. 774 yards

I finished the yarn by fulling it. I washed it in hot water and transferred it to cold water and back a few times before thwacking it against the side of my tub. It’s so soft and surprisingly plump and squishy. I’m not sure if I’ll be doing much worsted spinning anymore. This woolen yarn is that nice!

I’m so pumped about this yarn that I nearly threw all my active projects aside to immediately cast on for Kate Davies’ Hap for Harriet. I have contained myself for the moment, but it’s sure to be on the needles soon enough.

On my latest spinning project, I’ve changed my ratios and am trying to spin a heavier gauge of yarn. It was going to be a proper 3-ply, but I didn’t think I’d get much yardage.

And another thing

In the last few years, the infrequent things I’ve posted have mostly been finished things. Or at least I intended to post them. There’s been a lot of catch up. While my making of things hasn’t waned over the years, my reporting of them has. Which makes me reflect on what my intentions are in this space. I have been quite out of the habit of blogging for quite sometime and yet I can’t quite bring myself to call it quits entirely.

Crafty blogs have been quite important to me over the years, which is why I felt the need to start one up in the first place. Even when I haven’t been actively participating by sharing my own content, I have endeavoured to keep up with what other crafters have been posting and taking inspiration from that. Mostly, I read blogs though I rarely comment. It’s tricky when you follow a bunch of them. And commenting is one of the more frustrating experiences to try and do from a smartphone. I don’t intentionally lurk, but effectively I do.

Communities demand a certain amount of participation of their members in order to survive. And as I’ve become a big time smartphone user in the past few years, I’ve shifted to using more immediate forms of posting short commentary snippets, Twitter and Instagram mostly. So that’s satisfied my need to share things in the short term.

While this sharing is more immediate, impulsive and rewarding (with likes & favourites), it’s also less focused or detailed. Twitter & Instagram have been about whatever I’m doing at the moment, and thus not much about crafting. And I find I no longer am keeping track of many details of my projects. I start things to have something to work on. Finish them and use them. I might take pictures & try to remember when I worked on it to put something in Ravelry or on Flickr, eventually. Or often I won’t. Which is fine. Life moves on, we all understand.

But I kind of miss it. I miss delving into the detail of my inspiration. I miss sharing my excitement over a newly learned technique. I miss feeling connected to people who are maybe actually interested in hearing my rambling details of what changes I made to a pattern, or understand why handmade quilts make for the best naps. I miss being a contributing member to community that has been important to me.

And there has been no real reason for me to have stopped.


Now I’ll ramble a bit about a sweater I’m currently working on.

Garter stitch beginings

Back in May, I finished knitting a shawl (I’ll maybe tell you about it sometime). Once the end of the border was grafted to it’s beginning, and it took up it’s current residency on my coffee table, I begun swatching for Candlewick.

I have had this yarn and patterned picked out for sometime. I probably bought this yarn back in May/June 2012 after finishing the Audrey in Unst I knit using Briggs and Little sport (and never posted about).

This is one of the few times that I think I’ve purchased yarn with a specific pattern in mind. And I even started swatching right away. I don’t recall why this was put aside. I probably just got busy at work and continued with something that was further along and didn’t need as much thinking.

Or maybe I was cross stitching? I don’t remember.

Finished back & right front beginnings

Fast forward to May. I knit some new swatches, managed to find the right gauge with this yarn (2.75mm needle). Cast on for the back. Made sure to check the measurements in the schematic and compared them to my new favourite cardigan. And just this morning I finished the back and started on the right front.

Can I tell you something? I am in LOVE with this yarn! 40% Merino, 30% Organic Cotton and 30% New Zealand Possum fibre. I was intrigued by the possum and it’s just knitting up to make a beautiful fabric. There’s a great squishiness to the garter-stitch borders.

It’s too early to really tell, but this might just be the hand-knit sweater that I’ll finally wear. This could even become a favourite sweater (I hope I didn’t jinx anything).

So here’s to getting back into the habit of things.

Almost a dress

There is a finished quilt that hasn’t been photographed. A shawl that needs ends woven in & blocking, another skein of handspun (woolen lace weight this time) and now an almost finished dress.

Almost finished! #armyofdresses

We’ve started to get some hot & humid temperatures here in Montreal (29°C yesterday) which have made me wish for more hot weather dress options. I have more options for “transitional” weather periods which is usually a fairly short period of time.Especially this year it seems.

This dress has been almost almost finished for a while. I cut out the pieces 2 summers ago, started working on it last year sometime and worked on it a bit a few months ago. I picked it up again this week as a quick finish. The vintage voile is just the thing for hot weather.

Now, I just need to finish attaching the collar, add some buttons and I’ll have another dress in the rotation.

Fleece-sanity

A sheep’s fleece has taken over my front studio space this week. It was quite accidental and surprising as I’ve had this fleece for years. I can’t even remember where this fleece came from. A family run farm either in Ontario or here in Quebec. After a number of offers through friends of friends, my brother finally gave me this bag full of fleece to play with some time after I got my wheel.

I’ve never quite worked up to digging into this fleece until now. Since this came from a farm where sheep are raised for food instead of wool, it’s not the cleanest of fleeces. Combined with my understanding that fleeces from “meat sheep” are considered “garbage”, I figured it wouldn’t be worth the considerable effort it would take to clean this. Also, I don’t have any proper wool scour. All these are reasons that this fleece became a “never never” project and it got put into a fibre bin for a few years.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when I heard mention of PLY Magazine by some indie dyers/spinners on Twitter. I decided to try out an issue. Reading through, the Winter Woolen issue popped out at me. I’ve been trying to teach myself longdraw for the past few years, since I started playing with cotton.

Longdraw is supposed to be faster, but somehow my spinning hasn’t really increased in speed much in the past few years. My spinning posture has been pretty awkward too. I’m not convinced that I’ve really gotten the hang of longdraw just yet. So I was quite excited to see that there was an entire issue devoted to the subject and ordered a copy to see how the magazine was.

After sitting around on my coffee table for a while, I finally took a look inside. I was quickly hooked and read this issue straight through cover to cover. My friends will know how rare this is for me to do with any kind of magazine. I will often buy some magazine, flip through, read some of it and then rant about how none of the articles are in-depth enough. This usually leads to someone suggesting that I stick to books.

But this issue was completely satisfying to me. So much good information! Lots of articles! New ideas! Knowledge from people who know more than me! After finishing reading through the issue, I feel much more confident in continuing my efforts to learn woolen drafting methods.

I was immediately inspired to drag out this fleece I’ve been storing for years based on the article about down breeds of sheep by Beth Smith. Basically the article refutes the idea that these are “garbage” fleeces not worth processing and suggests that the wool is well suited to making socks. Dense, warm, and even somehow “felt resistant”.

So I dragged out this bundle of fibre, dumped it on my floor, and got to work preparing it to scour. I started by picking out vegetable matter and lightly fluffing the locks before scouring.

After scouring a few bundles, it’s become apparent how fibre needs to be REALLY clean before getting wet. All the caked on mud bits stayed pretty much as they were after an overnight soak, scour and multiple rinses.

So my pre-scour preparations are now more thorough. I’m using my flick carder to open up each lock. So the fleece taking over my floor is slowly getting prepped for the next step.

It’s unbelievable how soft and fluffy the washed fibre is. It’s going to be so fun to play with!

Mitten Repair Shop

I’ve found myself repairing some knitwear recently. The last few days have been spent working on repairing some wonderful fair isle gloves friends of mine brought back from a trip to Iceland last year. While these gloves are really well knit, they’re a bit delicate for the inescapable winter chore of shovelling snow. Well inescapable for most Canadians.

While fixing these gloves, I found myself returning to the long avoided task of fixing my father’s fair isle mittens which succumbed to a similar fate. I knit these mittens as a Christmas present back over the ’11-’12 holiday break. My dad loved these mittens and I quickly heard back about how wonderfully warm they were, perfect for an Edmonton winter (which is a true test for hand knit accessories).

The downside to knitting these “ultimate” mittens was that my dad wore them for all of his outdoor winter activities, including shovelling the driveway. After 1.5 winters, the exceedingly soft alpaca that they are made from was worn through on many parts and I had to figure out how to fix them.

While I found it wonderful that my dad loved his mittens so much that he was wearing them all the time, it was heart wrenching to see how roughly these mittens had been used. I decided the best way to fix them was to reknit the tops of the mittens & thumbs, not a problem as there was plenty of yarn left over from the first time around.

But there was a bigger problem that was causing me to delay this repair. Sure, I could fix them, but in another year or so, I’ll be fixing them again. I could be set for Christmas presents for life, re-knitting mittens for my dad every year. As much of a hard time as gift shopping can be, I’d rather not knit the same thing year after year.

So the real fix is a bit more that perpetually re-knitting some mittens, it’s the creation of a mitten system. Yes, I am fixing this pair of already beloved mittens, but I’m also going to knit a second pair of “work” mittens out of a more hard wearing yarn. Alpaca is quite soft and warm, but the average Canadian snow shoveller requires fibre that is a bit tougher. Some sturdy wool mittens that will felt rather than fray with the reality of everyday winter chores.

So…what exactly happened in 2013?

Clearly last year’s efforts to try and post projects from 2012 bogged down any kind of posting about more current projects from 2013. So I’m going to do one mega post in point form of what the heck I made last year. Some of these projects have more pictures, feel free to click through to Flickr and have a look around.

SEWING 2013

I made 2 giant yellow tote bags.

Finally finished making a box bag from a thousand years ago.

Made a baby box bag out of the leftover yellow fabric and sent it to my Mom with the previously mentioned gianormous tote. She uses it to keep all her lipsticks together.

Made a set of 3 box bags as a birthday present for my friend Susie.

Started piecing a quilt. Finished the top, sandwiched it around Easter and slowly hand quilted most of it during the rest of the year. I have 4 blocks left to go.

Finally put button holes in 2 shirt dresses. I used the button hole attachment for my old Singer Featherweight. The resulting button holes are really nice.

Almost finished another shirt dress.
Made a 3rd version of Vogue 8728 for myself, with added side seam pockets and contrasting bias edging (didn’t have quite enough yardage).
Made 2 versions of the Amy Butler mini dress for my Mom. Cut out and coached her to sew number 3.
Almost finished sewing DKNY Vogue V1160, again for my Mom. Got stymied on the last step, rolled hem in polyester chiffon. Still have to finish that.
I paused sewing here for a while. Too much sweatshop sewing this summer.
Worked on the ever-growing hand pieced hexagons here and there.

Then did some Hawaiian appliqué during Christmas holidays. I finished a block I’d begun last year, and made it halfway through another block.

SPINNING 2013

I finished spinning a batt I’d started in 2012 (I think). Aspen Grove Farm Batt purchased in Lunenburg during our 2012 summer trip to the Maritimes.
Then I started spinning another batt purchased from Lettuce Knit during a weekend trip to Toronto. It’s still waiting on my wheel for me to finish it.

KNITTING 2013

This was the year of the striped baby blanket. I made 3, and have given away 2. I really like the colour combo on the 3rd one, but fear that most people might find it too ugly? And the 3rd baby’s Dad is a big Montreal Canadians fan…



I started a Damson shawl, then put it away for bad behaviour (not enough yarn and too ugly).

I knit the 2nd Cladonia shawl for my Mom.

I made myself some “early Winter mittens” to wear from 0°C to -15°C, then it’s time for stranded mittens to take over. I started these as cable on the side mittens, but didn’t like them. So I switched to a knit from the top pattern.

I participated in the Westknits Color Craving Mystery Shawl, which ended up kind of giant.

I finally finished my Koigu Pomatomuses. These were going to be flip top, and I did make one of the tops. Then I decided I would find the tops more annoying than useful, so finished them as is.

I decided that after five Winters of wearing the same beret, it was time for a new Winter hat. After scouring all the slouchy cable patterns I could find, I finally settled on Rosebud. And then I knit 2.


I started some leg warmers over the holidays which are still in progress.
And I think that’s everything. Phew.

I made a shawl once.

Begun in the summer of 2012, finished early in 2013 and now eventually blogged in 2014.

Finished & blocked shawl

Left side of shawl

Shawl detail

Right curve of shawl

Pattern: Cladonia by Kirsten Kapur
Materials: Fleece Artist Peter Rabbit & Handmaiden Great Big Sea
Start Date: July 28, 2012
End Date: August 17, 2012
Blocked: February 8, 2013

I made this shawl for my Mom, out of yarn she selected during our trip to the Maritimes in 2012. There’s another version of this shawl with nearly the same yarns in blues that I knit for her in 2013.

I had cast on a version for myself in some non-fluffy yarns, but it sat unfinished for long enough and I finally frogged it last week along with some other long-standing unfinished lace projects.

10% Quilted

Mmmmm....sandwiches.
Sandwiched last weekend.

To hell with the back log. I’ve been enjoying some hand-quilting this morning. This stage always is super exciting, this is where the magic happens. From sandwich to quilt! It’s happening! It starts getting all ripply and cosy.

First broken needle from hand quilting. CRAFTS.
Broke a needle yesterday. First time I broke a needle while hand-quilting.

I got the best compliments yesterday when I was hand-quilting in public. The best comment being: “It looks like I should be all curled up underneath it now.” I know I’ve already said this but this is the magic step. All the cozy magic is being built into the quilt. I’m casting spells for infinite delightful naps.

Sunday Morning Hand-quilting

This morning I was hanging out in a sunbeam, quilting, drinking tea and listening to Rock ‘n’ roll. Delightful way to spend a Sunday morning.

10% Quilted

Yes, this is one of those quilts everyone was making that time. I started this last month sometime? Sewing the top was pretty fun/productive. And yes, I’m still enjoying hand-quilting. 1 day + 1 evening = 10% quilted. Not a bad ratio.