The Empty Nest

Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Laura wants to learn how to design and build houses. This is something she's always loved to do. When she was very young (and before she was allowed to use scissors) she built houses and villages by tearing and taping paper. Soon after that she was painting and decorating bird houses. Some of them were meant to be bird houses and a couple were purely craft projects but I liked them all and there was a perfect spot to hang them right outside the kitchen window. I put the houses up in the spring of 2002 and they were pretty to look at but not a lot of bird action took place. Bees, but no birds. The two small craft houses fell apart during the next couple of years but the big ones held together ... however, still no birds.

It had, almost exactly, been six years since I hung up the bird houses when, lo and behold, we started seeing sparrows around the "472" house!

It started with this sparow hanging around the outside of the house. In addition to the bird activity, the feather sticking out of the back of the house was a clue that a nest might have been built

All speculation ended when we saw birds being fed. At first we only saw one, but it became clear very quickly that there were two.

Here they are taking their first look at the world.

All grown up and getting ready to fly away.

But, FIRST there must be a party!!

All of this happened outside my window during the month of June and the timing and symbolism is not lost on me. Sarah graduated from college on May 25th and has moved to Seattle to live and work. Laura graduated from high school on June 4th and leaves for college on August 22nd (to study architecture!) For the first time in over 25 years there will be no children at home in September. I will have an "empty nest". I watched a cycle of life played outside my window this spring while another takes place in my life. Fly high and strong birdies. Live free, strong and happy, my daughters.

Grandama's Tablecloth - The Finishing Details

Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Thank you to everyone who emailed me or left a message at the original blog entry. They were all a great contribution in helping me determine how to finish the tablecloth.

The final decision was that some sort of border was needed to stabilize the edges. The original border was not a good design and through the years had not held up well, so I decided not to recreate it. The slight visual differences between the old and new thread meant the edging needed to be small and simple -- so I started with a round of single crochets. I liked the look of this but the row "curled in" on itself and didn't look right. A second row of single crochets looked awful and I experimented with a number of single crochet, chains and picot patterns for the second row and hated them all.

The winning effect was to turn the tablecloth after the first round and slip stitch around for the second row. This produced a thin, stable and non-curling border which was exactly what I had in mind. I LOVED IT!! I worked the first row of single crochets with a size 10 hook, and this matched the gauge of the tablecloth, but the slip stitches made using that size hook were tight and pulled the edging inward so I bumped up to a size 5 hook to get them loose enough.

Before & After

Without Border

With Border

Unfortunately, I don't have a good way to properly block the tablecloth. So far I've managed using a stair railing and a touch-up with an iron. My Aunt remembered a very interesting device called a curtain stretcher. Lace curtains had to be washed, starched and stretched and the curtain stretcher was a wooden frame with sharp pins around the edges which held the curtains while they dried. Mom said Grandma had one and she'd take the tablecloth over there and use it for the tablecloth. They're actually available for about $10 on eBay and Craigslist. They're big and bulky and from what I've been reading, not friendly to the fingers! So considering the number of times I'd actually use it .... I'll make do.

I've picked out the pattern for the motif and written it out. It's available over on the free vintage patterns page of this blog.

Fox's Heart of a Child Square - Pattern Testing

Friday, July 18, 2008
Occasionally, I like to test the patterns of other designers. This is a necessary step in designing because fresh eyes and hooks are needed to get a pattern written down correctly and into instructions that most crocheters will understand. This is not only an important process but, for me, a lot of fun.

Donna Mason-Svara aka Smoothfox designed this gorgeous heart square, which I immediately feel in love with when I saw it. There was no problem reading her pattern (she provided pictures for every round which were most helpful) and in an evening I had crocheted two squares! Donna also had a great idea to have the tested squares sent back to her so she can assemble them into an afghan to donate. So these first two are off to her but I'm starting another afghan using scraps for the hearts and a soft white for the main color.

Thanks Donna for a great pattern and the opportunity to help out!

Update 8/25/2008
Check out the afghan I made using this square!

A couple of repeats

Monday, July 14, 2008
I had three family graduations this spring! My niece Karla and my daughter Sarah both graduated from college and my daughter Laura graduated from high school. It's becoming a tradition for me to make afghans for these life transitions.

The afghan I made for Karla is a remake of the Soft Boucle Throw. This time I bumped up a hook size -- to a M! and added a pattern repeat to the width (an additional 24 stitches to the beginning chain). These two adjustments were exactly what was needed, I won't need to tweak anything more. I love this pattern! The afghan is light and soft and is a perfect warm weather throw. The finished size was 49" x 59" (not stretched)

However, once again, working in Boucle has it difficulties. It's hard to see the beginning chains when I work in Boucle and that's exacerbated even further with a dark color of yarn. Because I can't see those chains, I'm crocheting mostly by feel when I work the first row of the pattern and I know I'm skipping some chains or working two stitches into others and this is a problem if I come up short at the end of my chain (it's easier to take chains apart or spread stitches out at the end of the row than it is to bunch a number of stitches together.) So my strategy when working in Boucle and making the beginning chains is to work about 3 or 4 more chains then the pattern calls for and take them out if I don't need them.

The afghan I made for Laura's "Going Off to College Afghan" is a remake of Teatime Elegance this time worked in Red Heart Super Saver Country Blue, Soft Navy and Soft White. The finished size is 54" x 72".

I followed all my notes and adjustments from the first time I made this and the results are perfect! I made no further adjustments.

Sarah is waiting until she has moved and found an apartment so that she has a better idea of what kind of pattern and which colors she'd like for her afghan. Stay tuned!