Monday, March 23, 2015

My First Fair Isle Knitting Project - Success!

Like everyone else in Nashville, I spent what felt like half of February stuck at home because of icy roads. Honestly, it was pretty great. Keith worked from home, and I spent more time than I want to admit snuggled under a blanket in front of the fireplace with a hot drink and a good book. I told my best friend, "It feels like a ski trip. Except, you know, without the skiing."

Those lazy days were well-spent, because I started and finished my first Fair Isle knitting project, and I love it. If you're reading this because we're friends, not because you like to knit, here's a quick primer on Fair Isle knitting (also called stranded color work): You knit with both colors at once. You hold the two strands you're using on the back side of your work, and consult a chart to see which color each stitch should be to create the desired effect. Every time you don't use a color, it just sits or "floats" on the back side of your work. Stranded color work creates a very dense, warm fabric, because the floating strands on the back make the fabric extra thick. That's why Fair Isle knitting is great for warm winter hats, gloves, and sweaters.

Now you can be like, "You guys, I know all about stranded colorwork. Psh!" *grin*

This project wasn't just my first Fair Isle piece. It was also my first use of Jeny’s Super Stretchy Bind Off, and my first project with the gorgeous fingering weight Knit Picks Palette yarn that my in-laws gave me for Christmas. To keep the project simple, I worked in the round and made it as a cowl. Working in the round on circular needles allowed me to focus on JUST learning how to do colorwork. No complicated DPNs that make me feel like I'm kitting on a baby porcupine. No purling. Awesome!

Of course, I made things complicated by choosing to adapt a sock pattern into a cowl. And to make matters worse, the sock pattern was written in Finnish! For you knitters out there, I used the Heijastuksia pattern. It's free on Ravelry. Yeah, I know how to make things simple. Pardon me while I smack myself on the forehead. But really, it wasn't so bad. I put all my project notes here on Ravelry, if you're interested. I think it was worth it, because I love the design; it reminds me of Medieval stained glass windows. I learned so much from this project, and I'm excited to try this technique again to make a matching hat. And mittens. And all the things for next winter. I really love Fair Isle knitting!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Sitting Pretty: New Tabouret Dining Chairs

It's been a while! Yesterday, my friends asked me "Why haven't you blogged lately?" I don't know... I guess I didn't want to update until I had something exciting to report. Snow days? Blah. Jury duty and dental work? Meh. New dining chairs? YAY! Let's talk about that. We got these chairs about three weeks ago, and I love them. LOVE.

It sounds nuts, but I spent the better part of a year searching for dining room seating that wouldn't cost an arm and a leg. When you need eight chairs, $200+ per chair is too much. And that's a problem, because I was picky. I wanted:
  • Low backs. I'd rather look at the china cabinet than the backs of chairs.
  • Simple backs. Spindly bits that press into the spine are no good. Ouch.
  • No upholstery. I don't want spills to be a big deal.
  • No DIY projects. I like DIY, but I already have enough projects on my to-do list!  

I was open to mixing and matching, with two big chairs on the ends of the table, but I couldn't find one chair style that fit the bill and stayed within budget--much less two. I considered dozens of vintage sets, but the chairs I liked always came in sets with five side chairs and one arm chair. I needed six matching side chairs and two arm chairs. I looked at modern plastic chairs, but Keith vetoed them. I looked at big box stores like Pier One, World Market and Target, and the quality was lacking. Around Christmas, I got frustrated and stopped looking.

And then last month, I saw a picture of a dining table surrounded by Tabouret metal chairs. I realized that (duh!) they would work perfectly. They had low, simple backs. They were low maintenance. I loved the gunmetal finish. And the price was right: We paid $428 for all eight chairs.* SOLD!

This is what we started with. The old chairs weren't horrible, but they were a bit too Grandma's Country Kitchen for me. The real problem, though, was that they felt like torture devices. My mother gave me those chairs because she and Dad couldn't stand to sit on them. And I agreed: They hurt my back and made me feel 80 years old. Mom encouraged me to sell them on Craigslist, and I was pleasantly surprised to get $400 for them. So I'm telling myself that the net cost of new chairs was $28. WIN!

The new chairs  make the room feel more casual than it did before, and I like that. This isn't a formal dining room; it's the only place in our house meant for eating. My taste often veers toward more formal things, but I don't want things to get too stuffy.

Another reason I like them? They're comfortable. They don't hurt my back or wobble. They're well made, with no jagged metal bits or welding issues. The metal seats don't feel too hard, but they do get cold. So I bought some low maintenance faux leather to sew box cushions/bun warmers. Ha! So much for no DIY projects! While I was at the fabric store, I also picked up fabric to sew draperies to flank the French doors. With those high ceilings, it gets a bit echo-y in there. This room needs draperies to soften the look, absorb sound, and draw the eye upward. As always, this is a work in progress. So please judge accordingly, and stay tuned.

* Since we bought our chairs, Amazon jacked up the price to $284 for a set of four. Not cool. I'm guessing the price won't remain high forever, so if you love these, I'd keep an eye on them and buy when the price drops.