New chairs for the New Year?

28 Dec

Once upon a time, there were two chairs that looked something like this:

Alanna Nelson sews slip covers

With slipcovers old enough for a drivers’ license, it was time to give these chairs a slip of respect. Fortunately, a trip to New York’s Garment District yielded a fine remnant at a fabulous price. It’s time for that fabric to become new slip covers.

So far, I’ve repaired one chair body and made a muslin cover, which gave me a chance to test my pattern. Whew! That was already a chunk of time. Now it’s just repair this chair, make a second cover and sew the two slip covers.

Just….

Will there be at least one new chair for the New Year? I’m off to my studio.

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Turtle Grass II heads out

27 Dec Alanna Nelson Turtle Grass II SAQA Trunk Show Quilt

When the Studio Art Quilt Associates announced their 2017 Member Trunk Show, I had a pretty good idea of what I might send. After all, the portrait orientation letter sized quilt could easily grow from a nuno felting day inspired by the greens and blues of warm weather swimming toward shore.

The big question: How to bind this tiny quilt? I love the flowing color that comes with nuno felted pieces. A traditional fabric binding can be so stiff and angular. A facing would have worked, but I should have considered that before I cut my final size. What to do?

Somehow, the answer came to me as I babbled at our NOBO SAQA break out group… a felted binding! This time, I tried needle felting. Maintaining uneven edges, I needle felted the binding to the finished quilt top and sewed it to the quilt back. It took much longer than expected.

Alanna Nelson Turtle Grass II SAQA Trunk Show Quilt

Turtle Grass II

Now it’s time to send this piece out for its traveling adventures. Fair winds, oh little quilt.

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The Story of A Quilt

26 Dec

From a stack of library books, a quilt was inspired. The Celery Stick block from Marnie Buck and Jilly Guffy’s Quilt du Jour was supposed to quickly yield a nice big quilt top to build my machine quilting skills. Oh, well. Quilt and quick aren’t really two words that go together.

The Celery Stick block is easy to piece and scale up or down. Shopping my stash, deep night blues and yellows formed the color palette. Oh, yes, an Italian hilltop town at night could totally be an option. Many great memories of day trips to this northern Lazio town were reason to start strip cutting.

But what to quilt? After all, the whole purpose of this quilt is: 1) to play and enjoy the quilting process 2) to create a warm queen size bed cover 3) to be challenged. Then it occurred to me. I could quilt in the guild symbols of 18th Century Orvieto to build my skills.

Alanna Nelson Oriveto Quilt Inspiration Arte e Mestieri

Arte e Mestieri di Orvieto

The Guilds of Orvieto depict the reliance on textiles in 18th Century Orvieto’s economy. I remember the afternoon spent chatting with a gentleman who made terra cotta representations of these Guild mascots. I bought one as a gift. I wish I’d purchased more. So here is my quilt that is inspired by Oriveto which hung at the 2016 Rising Star Quilt Show

Vintner was one of the easier quilt shapes to dress.

Detail of the quilt top.

The Oriveto City Seal

Alanna Nelson Orvieto Quilt at Rising Star Quilters 2016 show

Orvieto as it hung at the RSQ show

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So think of me if you’re ever on vacation and you find you cannot sleep forever. I’m under this wonderful quilt with twinkling lights and wonderful wool batting.

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12 Textile Posts of Solstice

25 Dec

A long absence from the blogosphere, for sure… Did you think the election did me in? No, I’ve seen this type of change in Italy and Tunisia, so that’s not the explanation. Transitions sum up the last six weeks, a dozen blog posts lurking in my head the entire time. So I’m finishing 2016 and kicking off 2017 with highlights of my creative days, minutes and dreams. Here we go!

First Textile Blog of Solstice, a travel story. My destination? Seattle. My knitting project? Scarf Ornament.

Some background? Once upon a time, I lived on the Puget Sound. It was my childhood dream come true. While Rome, Milan and Boston held my home address for the last couple decades, my heart still feels at rest in Seattle.  Spending the week before Thanksgiving in Western Washington brought all of those home feelings front and center.

Alanna Nelson finds inspiration in Seattle

While Seattle changes, certain landmarks stay the same.

What to knit? A peruse of my stash found a lovely burgundy Shuibui Staccato and a golden skein of Anzula Milky Way. The colors were lovely, a perfect combo for Scarf Ornament. The perfect color combination, yes. The perfect fiber combination, no. As I wound the very fine, single ply Milky Way on the plane, I knew another yarn needed to replace that golden wonder.

What a perfect excuse for a ferry ride to Bainbridge Island to the lovely Churchmouse Yarns. After perusing the entire store, I returned to the Staccato and chose a yellowy green. Purple and green is not everyone’s color choice, but I have grown quite fond of the results.

Alanna Nelson knits on Washington State Ferries

I couldn’t wait to cast on in the new yarns.

In addition to friends and family, the Seattle Art Museum’s Yves St Laurent exhibit  proved to be a fabulous way to spend an afternoon. Before I knew it, my Seattle sejour was over, but the scarf ornament continued.

Yes, the knitting continues. With home renovation projects, work and holiday festivities, my only knitting time has been on the MBTA. Scarf ornament is not a project for public transit, imho. I’m about 5 repeats into the scarf and only now am I memorizing the essence of the pattern. Working 20 stitches, picking up the pattern and repeating is a slow process on public transit.

Alanna Nelson knits Scarf Ornament by Svetlana Gordon

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Soon, I will retire this project to my bedside. But it’s the time of year when I should turn back to my Master Knitter corrections. That story’s for another day in my twelve textile posts of solstice.

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Knitwear repair steps

8 Nov Alanna Nelson Knit Repair Boston

My reputation as a knitwear repair whiz brings sweaters, afghans, baby blankets into Melrose’s yarn shop. Always frugal, my heart always prefers repair to replace, but this recent sweater was a challenge. If it weren’t for Scrapiana’s posts on Twitter and Instagram about #TheBigMend, I might have suggested ways to up cycle this designer light as air hooded cardigan.

Alanna Nelson Knit Repair Boston

Fine cashmere with nasty rip

With such a large hole, matching the navy cashmere fine yarn was a huge endeavor.

  • The first choice is use the mending yarn that came with the sweater. Of course, you can never find that when you need it.
  • Second, could I shorten or remove hems to harvest yarn for the repair? Not without many trickle down issues.
  • Could we source a similar yarn? The client tried without success and finally, the fine folks at In Stitches suggested that I try embroidery wool. The navy looked quite close, so ahead I went.

Then of course, the real work began:

  1. Write the lace pattern to match the existing decrease and increase methods.
  2. Determine the gauge and appropriate needles to obtain the gauge.
  3. Identify the actual section to reknit.
  4. For this project, I picked up the bottom row of stitches in the replacement section, joining the rows to the sweater as I worked. Then I grafted the last row of replacement stitches to the cardigan.
  5. Weave in any ends of the original sweater
  6. Check the garment for other wear and tear.
Alanna Nelson knit repair results Boston

#VisibleMend

In this instance, the mend is visible. That navy embroidery wool looks quite bright next to the original garment (no, it really isn’t a black sweater). It’s mended, whew. It’s not invisible, wah. Can’t perfection always be an option? No, Alanna, not always! A life lesson lurks somewhere in this knitwear repair.

 

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September Salute

1 Oct

Alanna Nelson knits lace in Tabarka, Tunisia

September, where did you go? Summer left and I miss it so.

Bare skin, sunshine, warm sailing days slip into sweaters and shawlettes to combat the grey.

Boston Harbor sunset sail September, 2016

The first grey weekend in eons gives me the opportunity to nest in my new studio space, plow ahead on indoor quilting projects and begin blogging again.

Most New Englanders love fall and jump into formation as soon as the first apple drops in late August. Me, I wait for the equinox, with full knowledge that by Thanksgiving, the best of fall leads to that quiet hibernation called winter. Sigh.

Ok, no use worrying about tomorrow today…

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.

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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!

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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.

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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

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