To sew or not to sew

31 Aug

How many times over the last 15 years have I vowed not to make my own clothes?

Alanna enjoys window shopping in Northern Italy
While living in Italy, interesting clothing options popped from every shop window. Why do I need to sew with so many fabulous options nearby?

While focusing on art quilts, accepting reluctantly that there are only 24 hours in a day. Why would I neglect my fiber art?

Then reality hits: Italian fashions are often too short for my limbs, too expensive for my budget.

I find fabulous fashion fabrics that I definitely want in my life! So much for my vow not to sew my clothing. Temptation and opportunity lure me back into paper patterns and fitting sessions. So the zig zag continues. I enjoy sewing my own clothes.

Last winter, I vowed to update my wardrobe with clothing purchases. Shuffling through Boston’s dressing rooms yielded more skinny jeans (yawn!) that stuck to my calves when I stood up. The color palettes suited winter or summer complexions, but not this contrasting persimmon autumn. Really? Can’t I find interesting clothing that fits my lifestyle? What to do?

Summer arrived and favorite duds came out of boxes to save the situation(many of them made by me!). My vow to update my wardrobe pops into my mind as the fall/winter fashions hit the news stands and shop windows. In October, I will buy some new clothes.

During the studio move, all of my wonderful fashion fabric passed through my hands. Scrumptious.

Oh, yes, I will sew this fall.

Tags: , ,

When you can knit but can’ t count

22 Aug

Carefully considering the appropriate cast on for the 7 Crescent Shawl by Lisa Barnes, I quickly put 232 stitches on a 24″ size 7 needle the night before our Montreal road trip. By the end of the weekend, the lace portion was complete.

“What long rows,” I thought.

Alanna Nelson knits shawl in New England

Never mind, the rest of the Crescent Shawl was stockinette st short rows… perfect for our sailing vacation which began two days later. I plugged away, enjoying the mindless knitting while watching waves, wind and lightning. Eventually it occurred to me that this shawl was asymmetrical.

Crescent Shawl knit while sailing

The #7 Crescent Shawl with a long tail

 

I’d cast on 332 stitches, not 232! All scrunched up on the short needle, I couldn’t really tell.

Do I finish, I wondered? What if I worked 12 st past the join on the long side, so I would finish up at the same time on both ends? What the heck, it may be just fine. It’s still mindless knitting.

Well, it’s really not. Once finished, no way did I want it to do on my present shelf. Really, the lace pattern is a bit disjointed. Actually, there’s so much going on in the yarn that I really couldn’t see the pattern anyway. But the Noro Mirai yarn is quite soft. I like the yarn, I like the idea of a crescent shawl, but something with lacey, easy to knit holes, something soft and buttery, with light layers would be a better mix for this cotton/silk/viscose yarn.

Rather than rip out and knit again, I think I’m going to write my own crescent shawl pattern. Stay tuned!

Tags: , , ,

Nika Feldman: Traveling with needle

18 Aug

While I may forget a comb or pajamas, it is rare that I hit the road without knitting or reading. On a recent overnight sail, I found myself in one of Gloucester’s book stores, looking for a quick read.

Leisurely deck reading of American Craft Nika Feldman

All magazines on deck!

Unwilling to commit myself to an entire book, I picked up the most recent American Craft magazine.  Nika Feldman, the subject of the August/September feature, is a woman after my own heart.  This woman travels, relates, communicates with a needle, thread and scissors. I always travel with knitting needles and yarn, eschewing quilting as less portable. How could that change?

Mulling over ways to bring quilting into my travels, I realize that a sketchbook and pencil fell of my travel packing list. Ten years ago, these tools lived in my purse. The arrival of the iPhone pushed it out of my bag. It was too easy to snap a photo, and my purse was lighter, smaller. Sketching should re enter my daily habits and most definitely return to my travel packing list.  Shouldn’t everyone draw?

At one time, drawing was a skill crucial to education. Travel journals consisted of words, sketches, watercolors. Of course, at this point, I always turn to Isabella Stuart Gardner’s travel journals. As she neared the end of her life, Isabella burned her letters, but chose to keep her travel journals. How do you remember your travels? Selfies? T shirts? Art? Magnets? Post cards or other ephemera? Matchbooks, coasters or cocktail napkins?

Would drawing change your relationship with the place? Clearly, traveling with a needle, scissors and thread completely frames Feldman’s work. She has the benefit of time on her side… no quick sailing trips to Gloucester… but your travel experience would definitely change if you drew or stitched.

So much for deckside knitting comtemplation.

Tags: , , ,

Mirai Crescent Shawl: through the lace

10 Aug

A long car trip offered ample time to work through the lace chart on the #7 Crescent Shawl. It wasn’t a great project for chitter chattering with family, but I managed survive without needles in my hands.

This scarf lets you practice a Central Double Decrease (they call it S2KP, which still means: slip two stitches together knit wise, k1, pass the 2 st over).

Alanna Nelson knits Mirai Crescent Shawl

Wish I’d cast on with a longer needle….

The lace pattern is not difficult to follow, but frankly the yarn takes center stage.  I think I’ll need only one skein of yarn so…

What about working a feather and fan pattern instead of the lace? You get holes, you get to focus on yarn and the scalloped edge reflects the crescent shape?

I just may try that!

Stay tuned

Tags: ,

Mirai Crescent Shawl KAL: Cast on!

5 Aug

Over at In Stitches, Jean showed me a Noro blend of cotton, silk and viscose called Mirai. Hmm, a non scratchy Noro yarn? I must try it.

Turns out, there’s a Knit a Long (KAL) on the horizon. #7 Crescent Shawl from the latest Noro Magazine is a free pattern if you purchase Mirai yarn. Heck, I’m on a road trip this weekend. Why not cast on another project?

Alanna Nelson knits Noro Mirai Crescent Shawl

Noro Magazine #8

I bought two skeins of Mirai, even though many Ravelry projects managed to finish with just one. What the heck, I may make it twice.

Taking time to acquaint myself with the pattern before I jump in the car (what an idea, right?), the instructions state cast on 232 st and immediately dive into the 10 st repeat 18 row lace pattern. Well, here are a couple of questions:

  • Which cast on should I use? Normally, a long tail cast on but with so many stitches, would a knit on cast on work?
  • No set up row? Really? Normally, I like a row of plain knitting before jumping into the pattern, especially for a scarf made of stretchy cotton and silk.

Here are a few unblocked swatches I made in worsted weight wool.

Alanna Nelson knits swatches for Mirai Crescent Shawl

The results are clear: A long tail cast on and purl one row before beginning the lace pattern.

The bag is by the door and ready to go. I didn’t forget stitch markers…. I figure I’ll need 23 of them until I get a hang of the pattern.

Anyone else doing the Crescent Shawl KAL? If you buy the Mirai yarn, you can get the pattern for free, without having to purchase the magazine. However, there are other interesting mosaic stitch and lace patterns that catch my eye… this magazine’s pages will show some wear and tear!

I’m off!

 

Tags: , ,

Iris Apfel documentary

2 Aug

Really, I just wanted 20 minutes of light television to keep me company while I knit before heading to bed. Instead, I found the Iris Apfel documentary

It reminded me of the joy and inspiration when I saw the exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum a while back. Enjoy what you wear!
Catch the documentary on WGBH again on Wednesday night.

Can it really be August?

1 Aug

Once Boston Sailing Center‘s season opens in May, time flies by! If you catch my Instagram feed, water, wind and yarn photos reflect the days.

#summer #boston

A photo posted by Alanna Nelson (@tactiletravels) on

That doesn’t mean my stitch and glow lifestyle stops. I just don’t take time to blog about it. After all, there’s only so many hours in a day!

There was no sailing for me over the last weekend. All other activities were structured around relocating my studio space from the attic to better digs. There was definitely chaos before catharsis.

Holy cats! Moving my studio out of the attic. #notfortheweak #knittersofinstagram #quiltersofinstagram

A photo posted by Alanna Nelson (@tactiletravels) on

A few other unexpected movements in the house mean I won’t move into my new space until after our summer cruise, which is right after we head up to Montreal for the weekend.

AAAH! No wonder it seems incredible that it’s already August. The last three months have flown by, one great thing after another. Never fear, I decided that blogging is a good way to document all of the fibery goodness that speeds through my life.

Tags: ,

Quilt Photo Declaration

9 May

Writing a Studio Art Quilt Associates member profile  about myself sent me scampering for quilt images. Turning to the CDs, flash drives and cloud storage nooks where my art quilt photos lurk, I found some nice memories.

Alanna Nelson art landscape quilts of Italy

Detail from “The Road to School,” 1999.

Alanna Nelson Italian landscape quilts

Detail “Road to School,” 1999

It took forever to sew these pinky nail sized leaves onto the Road to School. At that point, I would machine quilt for the bed, but art quilts were always hand quilted. Now I use a longarm or hand quilt, depending on the statement and effect desired.

Hand dyed wool, cotton art quilt Bright Sky by Alanna Nelson

Bright Sky II, 2013

I couldn’t easily find CDs of some professionally photographed quilts. Ack. There are quilts that I never photographed, some of which I’ll probably never see again.

Italian Landscapes in Art Quilts by Alanna Nelson

Gioia’s Rainbows, 2003

This little journey down quilt memory lane shows how pursuing the Master Hand Knitter program has reduced my quilting since 2013. That will soon be out of my life so I can focus on quilting more.

I hereby declare:

to photograph all completed quilts from this day forth, establishing a data storage policy which shall make future retrieval of digital images more efficient.

Tags: ,

Remembering Mothers

8 May

It hit me on Friday, shopping cart piled high with cedar mulch. My grandmothers, while no longer on this earth, accompany me to the garden center each spring. Achingly, tears well up. Grief, joy and thankfulness spill down my cheeks for the gratitude I feel for these women who loved me.

Alanna Nelson art quilt inspirations

Gramma Bee tip toeing through the tulips, 1990

Mom is just a phone call away. My parents plot their springtime planting throughout the winter. Undoubtedly their garden is better prepared than mine at this point in the growing season. They are inspiring and encouraging.

On Mother’s Day, I am thankful for all my mom, my grandmothers and Helen Timm gave to me. Am I giving as much to future generations? I’ll try.

Tags: ,

Nuno felt art quilts swirling into action

1 May

I promised to update you on the nuno felting results. This quilter just adores the water color, layered effect that nuno felt gives to my tops.

Equipped with roving in greys, natural off whites and blues, I actually completed one quilt with nuno felting yardage in April.  Attempting to represent moving water while still honoring the wooly origins of my materials, I placed needle felted “rocks” underneath a portion of the quilt top and then needle felted it to a suiting weight wool border.

Feline fiberista approved.

Nuno felt art quilts by Alanna Nelson With several nuno felt pieces in hand, I headed over to Laurena’s Longarm Quilting and experimented with different battings and threads. Hand quilting is imperative for certain portions of the quilt… it “moved” in just the right way.

Here’s a detail of Rapids….
Alanna Nelson art quilter Rapids 2016

And now back to the next episode of watery themed quilts. Time to dye some wool.

Tags: , ,