Sunday, December 13, 2009

Beach blanket -- take two

I happened upon a gorgeous green chenille bedspread the other week and I knew it was time to try the beach blanket project again.  I'm showing you the back first because I love how D and I managed to cut the center medallion out so nicely.  It's not like anyone will see it, but I love knowing it's there.

The front side is made up of ten squares cut from vintage bedsheets.  I have already made comfy pajama pants from seven of these bedsheets, and I plan to make pajama pants from the remnants of the other three and revel in their flowery goodness!

And it all wraps up into a neat little package at the end. Bring on the beach weather!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Violet Beauregarde, complete

I fixed the hole! Now my sweater is wearable! First I re-knit and grafted the stitches together according to the methods given in this article. Then (though I know some of you will shudder at this) I darned over the graft because I was so worried that I hadn't done a good enough job. It doesn't look bad, especially when I wear the darned part on my back, and when I consider that this is my very first sweater EVER I feel quite successful about the whole thing. I learned many lessons and still came out with something I could wear. In public. Which I'm doing for the first time today, Violet Beauregarde and Barney be darned.

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

New knitting project

I am in love with this chunky alpaca from Cascade Yarns. It's just the right weight for a sweater -- not too heavy (the purple sweater I made is nice, but a little weighty for general wear, better for chilly winter evenings when I don't have to move around too much) or too stretchy and fluffy (the white yarn from Misti Alpaca that I tried the first time around was, once again, nice, but a little too pouffy.) This yarn is looking like a good substitution for the obscenely expensive yarn called for in the "Unisex Cashmere Knock-Around Pullover" in Weekend Knitting that I've had my eye on since last summer. It's by far the most challenging knitting pattern that I've tried, but I think I may be able to pull it off. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, November 16, 2009

On my wall

My favorite quilt, which D finally hung up in my studio last night.

I made it well over a year ago and it's far from perfect, but I love it! The picture does not do it justice -- come visit me and see it in person! You'll have to wade through piles of vintage bedsheet scraps, but it's totally worth it. Trust me.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Vintage, yellow and roses

What could be nicer to wear to bed? This fabulous pattern from Ducky House uses the hem on a vintage bedsheet to finish a tailor-made pair of pajama pants, and it couldn't be easier.

The pajama pants experimentation continues. I was disappointed, when I tried these on, to find that the too-high-slightly-snug-waist problem had shown up again, but this time I took action. I cut off the waist casing that I had just sewn and sewed one on the now-shorter pants, tried them on and was reasonably satisfied with the results. I'm going to make the waist on the next pair even lower, and I think that will solve the problem altogether.

And yes, for those of you who are wondering, I did iron them before I photographed them, but I doubt if I'll need to do it again as they're made with No-Iron Percale. Definitely a plus.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


I never would have thought of this myself, but it seems that laptops need cozies. Do a Google search on "laptop cozy" and you find quite a number of choices, whether you want to make your own or buy one ready-made (though of course you want to make your own.) The other day I stumbled upon a magnificent cozy on One Pearl Button, made from a beautiful cabled sweater-vest, and I knew that soon I would be making my own.

My cozy is made from a felted pink sweater, which I loved because of its flowery embroidery on the shoulder. Of course the embroidery was in a completely inconvenient place, so I had to applique it onto the front of the cozy. I was a little nervous but it came out nicely. The sweater was a little on the short side so I added a gusset at the bottom made from one of the sleeves. I lined the whole thing with a cream-colored cashmere (nothing but the best for my laptop) and made an elastic casing at the top.

Now when I'm not using it my laptop is snug as a bug in a rug!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Stacked Coins Doll Quilt

Yesterday's post featured an improvised rail fence quilt taken from mainly reds in my stash. Since I decided to make the blocks first, then determine the layout, there were a number of leftover blocks. Here's what I did with them, influenced by the Stacked Coins Doll Quilt in Remembering Adelia: Quilts that Inspired Her Diary by Kathleen Tracy.

It used up all the leftover blocks and only took a little scrap fabric from my stash to finish. I'm so pleased with both red quilts that I'll be re-creating them in blue and posting instructions for making them here, hopefully in the near future.

I'm thinking of making a doll bed, complete with mattress, sheets and pillows, out of a cardboard box (because those make the best toys, as everyone knows), to give to K at Christmas.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Red Crosses Prayer Quilt

Maybe they're a little more like pinwheels, but I like the idea of thinking of them as red crosses given to someone in need -- of prayer, comfort, warmth, what have you. This quilt came out of a desire to have something to bring to our church's prayer quilting session today, and a strong urge to make something with the pretty red prints in my stash. I took nine prints and made rail fence blocks, intending to arrange them however they would go once they were all complete, and this is the pattern they took.

Like any other blanket, the red quilt attracts cats. Here it is in its full lap-quilt stature. I'll be taking it later today for folks to put the ties in.

A detailed explanation of what a prayer quilt is and information about the Prayers and Squares organization can be found here. The specifics of our church's chapter is on the Outreach and Inreach section of St. Mary's website.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The (doubly) green artsy blanket

As promised, my weekend project:

"It's a cat bed for two cats!" exclaimed K.

It's really a free-form sort-of patchwork felted sweater-blanket -- or, as one seller on Etsy described their version of it, an Artisan Crafted Repurposed Felted Wool Blanket.

It's made from the trunks and sleeves of maybe 12 or 15 felted wool sweaters, zig-zagged together with lapped seams (that just seemed the sturdiest way to do it) and edged on the sides with ribbing cut from another sweater. I considered making it reversible by doubling the sweater pieces, but a) I wasn't sure how to do that, b) I think the backs of the sweaters are softer to the touch and would be nicer to have against your skin anyway, and c) I kind of thought that two layers of sweater would make the blanket too heavy. At about 76" x 87", it covers our queen-sized bed. (I didn't mean for it to get so big, but you know how things go...)

I washed it in cold on my machine's "hand-wash" cycle, and dried it on high (I dry everything on high; it's just a bad habit I have) and it came out soft and fluffy, if a little fuzzy. I plan to go over it with a sweater stone but I need to buy a new one when I go to the fabric store, so for now I'll live with the fuzz.

I love that this blanket is made from repurposed materials (hence the name), and I love that it feels like wearing an extra sweater in bed without the uncomfortable bulk of actually doing so. It will compliment my pillowcase quilt nicely (that's for another post) and making it is a step toward developing more of my own designs. I also love that it is green.

At the moment

Behold, my studio. I have just finished a major creative project, one for which I should have logged hours and expenses as I may decide to sell it. (If I can convince myself to part with the item, similar ones are selling for big bucks on Etsy.) I would show you what I made, but it's currently tumbling through the dryer. (I hope it's okay...) So watch this space; I have so much to tell you about but in time, in time.

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Ready for winter

K was home from school again yesterday, so instead of starting on the Playing Again quilt I made my version of the Doily Scarf from Handmade Home. It's done in soft felted wool suiting backed with thrifted vintage cotton (anyone recognize it from another project?) and uses doilies that I purchased at the Reuzit Shop in Lancaster for this specific purpose. It was both great fun and really easy to make and I love its fresh, unusual design. Although this one is red and green I will probably not just wear it at Christmas, and I will likely make at least one more to give as a gift.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

For my sick chick

Poor K has been home sick from school for four days now; it's getting kind of old for her though she's been a real trooper about not complaining. Mainly she's sad because she's missing the fun activities her friends are getting to do -- not the least of which is the Halloween parade tomorrow, in which she was to have worn her K-Cat costume and marched with her friends (and her proud Mama.) I hope she'll still get to do that, but hope is getting slender.

So last night I made her this comfort object from Amanda Soule's Handmade Home. With an average temperature of around 100.2, she hardly needs a hot water bottle. But there's something so soothing about having something warm to cuddle, and this sloshy little thing wearing Daddy's old comfy flannel shirt from college, that I wore for years after Daddy "outgrew" it, brought a smile to her face this morning.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Quilt for dawni

Remember the four-patch quilt from last March? When I promised that if you helped me give the quilt a name I would make one of you a miniature quilt as a gift? It's only taken me seven months and a weekend, but I've finished dawni's quilt and here it is, compliments of Miss K:

It is a Friendship Star Quilt, pretty much done as outlined in Kathleen Tracy's Prairie Children and Their Quilts: 14 Little Projects That Honor the Pioneer Spirit, which I think is as much fun to read as it is to quilt from. The fabrics were taken entirely from my stash, which is kind of embarrassing, given the number of them that appear and the ease with which I was able to choose them. I hope dawni enjoys it, whether she uses it as a wall hanging or maybe a doll quilt?

I may be making more quilts from this book soon, but my next project (taking time out here and there for holiday gift-making; I can't believe it's that time of year already) will DEFINITELY be the Playing Along Quilt from Anna Maria Horner's Seams to Me: 24 New Reasons to Love Fabric made with yards and yards of Amy Butler prints snatched up at the Berry Basket Quilt Show last weekend!

Saturday, October 24, 2009


In working on the knitted prayer shawl I mentioned in a previous post, I have learned that knitting ribbing is really easy (which is kind of what I'd thought) and that it's also really hard (if you don't understand the directions or pay attention to what you're doing.)

Directions: Cast on 80 sts. Sl. 1st st., k1p1 to end.

How difficult is that? Assuming you've really cast on 80 stitches (which you'll need for the cables later, and which I never even got to), you then need to know which way to slip the first stitch, knitwise or purlwise, and what those things mean anyway. (I sort of understand what they mean, so I slipped what I'm pretty sure was knitwise.) Then you need to know that you skip the first knit stitch and go right to the purl. I had to read on in the directions to work this out. It took me about ten tries. Finally, you need to remember to keep alternating between knit and purl stitches, which in theory is easy but is hard when you're just learning. Don't try to do it and chew gum at the same time.

Now, in Stitch and Bitch they basically say that to do ribbing, you knit the knits and purl the purls. When I tried approaching it this way (in a k2p2 pattern) I had no trouble at all getting it right. Looks like I've been knitting ribbing all my life. Huh.

I only cast on 32 stitches this time so we're looking at more of a scarf than a shawl, but I think I'm ready to move on to cables. Watch this space.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Notes to self

If you're going to be drinking tea while knitting, do not store stashed yarn on the floor in between tea-table and knitting chair, unless you want to spend the wee hours of the morning rinsing out expensive wool and alpaca yarns and hanging them to dry when disaster ensues, and spending who knows how many days wondering if they will dry in usable condition. Not to mention running soggy bath towels through the wash, scrubbing your good white woolen carpet and kicking your sorry behind.

Also, no matter what the picture in the knitting book looks like, cheap acrylic yarn is still that. Go with the good stuff and spend more time knitting and less time frogging.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Saying goodbye

I have had to set my mitten, sweater and other fun projects aside for a few days to work on a prayer shawl for a grieving friend. A week ago her husband came down with the sniffles as she was recovering from a bout with the flu, and early yesterday morning he passed away from complications due to H1N1. He was my age, and they were close to each other in a way that most couples wish they could be. Rodney is at rest and at peace, but my sadness deepens for his wife as the stitches and rows add up and I struggle with the new design.

I have been casual about flu shots in the past but will be scheduling vaccinations for myself and K (D's is already taken care of) this afternoon. Please make sure you get yours too, if you're able.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Berkshire Sweater, revisited

One of the reasons I was so quiet in September was because I could not stop knitting.  I found some irresistible alpaca/acrylic yarn (details on Ravelry) and started right in on a new version of the Weekend Knitting "Berkshire Sweater" I'd begun back in June/July when I first picked up knitting again in earnest.  I finished the sweater and it doesn't look bad for a first effort -- I'll share pictures and stories here at a later date.  Right now I'm concerned because after blocking it I discovered some mistakes, including a gargantuan hole in the middle of the thing, I suspect from two ends of yarn knotted together that I didn't notice in my eagerness to get the thing done.  Here's what the worst two look like:


Anyone with thoughts on what I might do to alleviate these problems  (And I did think of adding a big kangaroo pocket, but it didn't seem suitable so close to the underarm.  Sheesh.)  I do like the way the sweater fits, at least for a knock-around Saturday affair, and I loooove the softness of it.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Calling all knitters

So I've been discovering the fun and niftiness of Ravelry.  Come join me there!  My username is jamartin24 -- make friends with me if you're already on or request a signup link if you're not.  I'm slowly but surely getting my stash, needles, projects and ideas organized in my notebook and looking forward to meeting some new folks and expanding my horizons.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Busy day

Found lovely St.-Mary's-Blue patterned flannel in several designs, now have a handful of ideas to try and may actually be able to bring something to the Episcopal Church Women's annual meeting on Sunday where I'll be asking for folks to volunteer to help with the Baptism Blanket project -- I will be getting to work on that shortly.

Purchased lovely deep pink variegated pearl cotton to hand-quilt the yellow-green silk dupioni with a cerise cotton backing. It's all so soft and beautiful, I can't wait to start! I need to buy a hand-quilting frame before I can work on that, though.

Finished knitting the first mitten in a pair of beautiful blackberry wool tweed and was unimpressed with the result, but am so confident halfway through the second one that I'm fairly certain I'll be able to complete mitten #2 and rework mitten #1 into wearable (if not even giftable) pair by the end of the weekend, assuming other projects don't distract me.

Loving being immersed in art and craft -- this is living my dream!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Knittin' Mittens

Project of the day: Super Mittens, Weekend Knitting

Yarn: Cascade Yarns Cascade 128 Tweed, Blackberry, 90% Peruvian highland wool, 10% Donegal (tweed)

Challenge: Learning to knit with double-pointed needles

Thoughts: Pointy sticks everywhere! Like eating a flaming shish kebab!

Dreading: Thumb gusset

On deck: Washed silk quilt; Look-back leggings; Cozy armchair socks

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Baptism blanket update

I had just about sold myself on the traditional crocheted-baby-afghan for the baptism blanket design, with a St.-Mary's-Blue satin ribbon woven in as an accent somewhere, which would have been lovely; but two minutes ago when I had to rip half the thing out for the third time I also ripped two fistfuls of hair from my head and swore I would not crochet a third blanket. I'm going to be looking for easy knitting patterns (because I need to use this lovely white wool-acrylic-nylon yarn on something and it may turn out that a knitted blanket is just the thing) and then look at cotton or wool flannel and embroidery, or revisit the white-on-white quilt idea.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Art-on-the-go, take two

I needed a gift for K's friend who just turned six. He was having a "pirate party" and I so wanted to make him a pirate-themed "art-to-go-bag," but there just wasn't fabric to be had that wasn't sooo 5-years-old. So I settled on some "boyish" red-black-and-blue dots and stripes and made him this bag with matching felt pencil roll and art journal, and I found him a Dover Fun With Pirates stencil book to toss in with the mix.

I thought he'd probably like it but according to his mom he loved it! He takes it apart and shows it to everyone and explains what it's for, and even brought it to school for Show and Tell on Friday! I could not be more tickled! I hope to make one for the other kids in his class as they have their birthdays ... here's hoping!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Baptism blankets: fishing for ideas

I'm looking for a little help from the audience here; I really hope you'll all chime in with your comments and/or emails. Here's the story:

I've been asked by the folks at my church to design a "baptism blanket," which would be a special blanket given by our church to the parents of infants and young children who are baptized in the parish. (It would be part of an organization they're trying to resurrect called the Guild of the Christ Child, which in our parish would involve sponsors following the families through the infants' first three years and then helping them enroll in Church School.) The blanket should be about the size of a receiving blanket and labeled with the name of the child and the date of the baptism, but other than that I've been given no guidelines.

Here are some ideas I've had, and the problems I've encountered:

  • I have a pattern for an "eyelet bound carriage blanket," but it calls for "blanket fabric" which is impossible to buy by the yard at any local store, and although the book suggests cutting down an actual blanket, it is also impossible to buy a decent blanket for a reasonable amount of money. I have found some white wool flannel online that looks interesting, and if it felts well it will be washable (which is an unwritten requirement), but several people have told me that wool is out because they are allergic to it, because it is itchy, or because it is not washable. I kind of think I'd like to see the fabric before I throw out this option because it is the most "traditional" baby blanket I can think of.
  • I could make a simple two-layer cotton flannel receiving blanket with a "St. Mary's Blue" binding. (Another suggestion I've heard is that the blanket should include our "signature" royal blue in some aspect.) I would think some embroidery would be appropriate on the front layer to make the blanket look "special" enough. I don't have much experience with embroidery but I feel confident that I can learn to do it; or there will be ladies in the parish who have sewing machines that can do embroidery -- or possibly we could work something out with an applique. I know a woman on the altar guild who will probably have a book on church sewing and embroidery that I can raid for ideas.
  • I could make a patchwork quilt with all white-on-white prints and a white (or blue, I guess, but I kind of think that would look weird) binding. That has the advantage of being soft and washable.
  • I could use a crochet pattern that I used in making one of K's baby blankets, that would make a very nice baptism blanket, and just sew a patch to the back for the label -- we'd probably get those printed anyway. Depending on the type of yarn used, both soft and washable. (When I mentioned this option to my friends, they didn't think it would be washable, but I have tossed K's blankets in the wash over and over.)
Thoughts on these ideas? Other ideas? My mind is wide open at this point. I'm going to compile every possible option and make some test blankets, and then see where I am. I'll be sure to keep you posted.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Felted argyle hoodie

I have been saving the green argyle sweater for just the right project. It was just a little felted when I bought it at the thrift store, a little too small for me to wear as it was but just right for a sweater-collage. I think it's been sitting on my shelf for about a month, waiting for the right supporting sweaters to come along and inspire me. Yesterday, finally, I had the time, the inclination, and just the right materials to forge onward.

It's made entirely of felted lambswool sweaters (except the hood, which is cashmere), hand sewn with Persian wool yarn. The body of the sweater took me one day to complete; the hood took me another half-day. In all, I used four sweaters and have a fair number of scraps to be used, probably, in a wool blanket.

The hood was the hardest part to do because I had to draft a pattern, and my initial pattern was entirely too large; I had to un-sew my first hood, cut it down and re-sew it to fit my head. Then sewing it into the V-necked sweater was challenging, and when the hood is up it doesn't look particularly graceful. It doesn't look bad, but it could look better. It is unbelievably cozy and soft, though, so I'm leaving it in place and I will definitely use it.

I love this project because it is such an easy way to obtain a sweater that is just the right size and shape for my body, in a color and pattern that I love. I will be interested to see what other people's reactions are when I wear the sweater in public -- will they like it, or think it's curious, or shake their heads and smile at crafty Jennifer? I'll wear it anyway, because I like it, but we shall see.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Flower power

So I needed some new pajama pants. I liked the ones I had made but it was hard to keep them ironed for everyday wear, and then they didn't fit quite the way I wanted them to. Their official name is "Pajamas for Everyone" in Heather Ross's Weekend Sewing, but they really don't seem to be for people with hips or much of a waist, so I decided to try out a simple alteration.

All I did was extend the waist length by a couple of inches and adjust the legs accordingly, but it did the trick. I now have two very loud pairs of Pajamas for Me, and I expect to make many more as the days get cooler and I start pulling out the pretty flannels I have stashed away in the closet. Hooray for successful experiments!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Blast from the past

Last Saturday we were thrifting at the Re-Uzit Shop in New Holland, PA and I happened upon a wonderful basic sewing tome from the late sixties:

It was in perfect condition; I got it for $2, which I consider a steal when you note the original $7.95 price tag on the jacket. Love the back cover!

The thing looked strangely familiar to me, and I wasn't sure why till I got it to the car and had a chance to browse a bit. I realized when I saw the page below -- my favorite as a child -- that it is the exact same sewing book my mother kept next to her machine all the years I was growing up!

So -- a little bit of alchemy going on in the hills of Pennsylvania. Not bad.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Saturday sweater

Here is the "cobbled together" sweater I talked about in my last post. The blueprint for it comes from Crispina ffrench's The Sweater Chop Shop: Sewing One-of-a-Kind Creations from Recycled Sweaters. It comes from the best parts of three huge felted sweaters and is melty-soft and big enough for me to swim in and warm enough to sleep in on a frigid winter night. I love it.

True, the colors don't move me that much, but they'll look good with jeans and with my gray sweats, and what else do I wear on Saturday? I saved the pretty-pretty sweaters for later projects, when I have more experience "cobbling." Soon I hope you'll see zip-cardigans and hoodies and kangaroo pockets and more. And it's all hand-sewn! Amazing!
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In the works

I have way, way, way too many projects in the works these days, and I have been admonished several times by my daughter to stop buying new craft supplies until I have used up some of my existing ones. I have only been bringing home thrifted/foraged/secondhand materials with the exception of some wool sewing yarn, but it does add up.

So this weekend I finished two felted wool baby blankets, which I plan to send to a therapist friend who treats women with postpartum depression and likes to give handmade gifts to her patients who deliver. I hope she likes them, because I could happily supply her with many more! I'll tuck a few cashmere bunnies in the package for good measure.

Projects I'm working on include:
  • A hand-sewn felted wool blanket done in 5" squares, truly beautiful!
  • A "cobbled" felted wool pullover sweater -- more on this later
  • A huge tied quilt made entirely of thrifted pillowcases and backed with a thrifted bedsheet
  • Finishing up the second edition of the beach blanket
  • A new pattern for pajama pants that I hope will fit me better but that I'm a little afraid of
  • My alpaca sweater
  • Various things I won't mention because they're perpetual works in progress
Not to mention trying to keep the mess in order and finish decorating!

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Beach Blanket Botch

Well. It seems I have made another cat bed. This one competes in popularity with the ridiculous pink wool messenger bed I made earlier in the summer.

What you see here is the back of my Beach-Blanket-To-Go, my first attempt at a project from Amanda Blake Soule's Handmade Home, a book whose release I've been eagerly awaiting for nearly a year now. It's full of intriguing possibilities, and the beach blanket looked like a no-brainer to this moderately experienced crafter/sewer. Frankly, I'm perplexed as to what went wrong, but the layers went lumpy and the binding got twisted somehow and the whole thing just looks wrong.

I have some ideas for things to try differently in attempt #2, including making my own binding instead of using purchased bias binding, and trimming the edges after machine basting the layers together so the binding goes on evenly. We'll see how it goes. I'm not completely discouraged, but I am sad that I won't have a blanket made with my pretty gold chenille bedspread that I found while antiquing with D last weekend.

Well. Chalk it up to experience and give it another go.

In the morning kitchen

I love cake for breakfast, almost as much as I love pizza for breakfast. Leftover birthday cake is the best, but any cake will do, even if I have to bake it myself. This morning we had Lemon Glazed Poppy-Seed Cake, a variation on the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book Busy Day Cake recipe that I conjured up. It was so quick and easy and D rated it thumbs-up so I'll put it here in case anyone's interested and so I'll remember what I did.

I've rarely been in a kitchen that didn't have some edition of the BHG cook book in it, so I won't post the whole recipe. All I did was add about a teaspoon and a half of poppy seeds (I think I would go for the whole tablespoon next time) and make a glaze out of 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 tbsp. vanilla and 3 tbsp. lemon juice -- which was actually thicker than glaze consistency, It was more like paste; I thought it would melt more when I put it on the hot cake but it tore the cake instead, so 4 tbsp. lemon juice next time. We let it cool down for half an hour and dug in.

Quite tasty. Not gourmet, mind you, but it took all of 10 minutes to mix up and 30 minutes to cook and used 1 bowl (well, 2 if you count the glaze.) And we had cake for breakfast.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

My sewing stool

So I was walking past Philips Furniture in town this afternoon and instinct told me to cross the street before I came to his outdoor display -- invariably when I take the time to scan his offerings I find at least one that comes home with me -- but I thought no, there's nothing I need, I won't find anything. Then of course I saw something I needed. Desperately. For real. On Sale.

Here's my new sewing stool. It is just the right height for me and has a nice low back so I can take stretch-breaks without leaving my chair. I love the green vinyl seat and the fact that it opens up for extra storage. And since I had been sitting on my (albeit sturdy) side table I can now reclaim that piece of furniture and have a cup of tea by my side when I am reading or hand-sewing in my comfy chair.

Note how the avocado green coordinates with my Aunt Anne's vintage knitting basket in the corner. Does it get any better than this? I never thought I'd find the perfect sewing seat, but it's like this was made for my body. I love it!

Where do you sit when you craft or sew? What would you like to fall over when you're walking down the street that would make your crafting more pleasurable or productive?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Happy Birthday, G.G.!

I made my grandmother a silk shantung Bias Blossom pin from Cynthia Treen's Last Minute Fabric Gifts to celebrate her 90th birthday. "This is different," she told me when she opened the box. But she wore it all day just the same. And everywhere we went, I got to tell everyone that she was my grandmother and that today she was Ninety.

I made her a memory board instead of giving her a card. I was a little worried that she wouldn't like it, that she would think it was weird or different, but she was immensely pleased with it and became very concerned about finding a proper way to display it in her home. Taking a photograph of the whole thing did not seem right somehow, but I did snap a few snippets of it. Here are two:

This photograph has been a favorite of mine for nearly twenty years, possibly because I compiled the album G.G. is browsing through while she sits in the rocker in my parents' dining room. It's full of faded snapshots from the Seventies, and the colors of orange, brown and green seem to dominate. The person you can't see in the photo is my great-aunt, another extremely special person in my life, for whom my brand new niece was named.

This one was taken on a sunny but frigid winter day not long after my daughter was born, and it will always be a treasure to me. There are other photographs from that day of me playing joyfully with my child, and of my mother and my great-aunt holding her, but the series of G.G. talking with her namesake and becoming her great-grandmother is most meaningful to me.

So happy Nintieth, G.G.! You are strong and funny and sharp and capable, and you have always done well in this world. I am proud to be your granddaughter.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Working glimpse

Here are a few more peeks into my studio. I'm hard at work in here, really!

My computer workstation needs a bit of work to become functional -- I have to face the fact that my studio will also be a small home office for dealing with financial matters and general paperwork, and I'll have to allocate some space for that. Hopefully the cabinet in my secretary desk will hold most of that, with maybe a file cabinet to replace the plastic crates we've been using to file papers in since we were in college. Not my favorite part of sprucing up the place, but a definite necessity.

Over by the window, my comfy chair, which I very rarely sit in as it's usually covered in whatever projects I'm working on at the moment. Now that I'm right next door to the washer and dryer, I can be felting sweaters and pre-washing fabric while I'm ironing, cutting out quilting squares and sewing patchwork pieces together. It's a dream come true! And I do love to se eall of my favorite books on the shelves behind the chair -- they are so decorative as well as functional.

Here's the picture I promised of the finished Felted Wool Baby Blanket on the back of the comfy chair. I like it better as I look at it more, and I think I can learn to live with imperfection. When I get frustrated I need to remind myself that I haven't taken lessons, I've only been sewing for a short while, and I will get the hang of it in time. I feel like it's important for me to continue to be fearless and keep trying new things, because that's how I will learn -- and I am learning, and how exciting it is!

Felted wool baby blanket

Where does the time go? I've been sewing up a storm and have many projects to show you, some of which are in the washing machine right now so can't be photographed, but here's the latest sort-of triumph: A felted wool baby blanket with a soft fluffy flannel backing, another project from Betz White's Warm Fuzzies. Here's a picture of the work in progress, where I'm trying to decide which color thread to use for embellishment. (In case you were wondering, I went with the blue. It's a little hard to see in the picture of the finished product, which I will feature on the next entry.

I really like the color combination, but I was unhappy with the finishing touches, not shown here. The edge-stitching looks relatively even on the front, but messy on the back, which happens to me a lot in projects like this, and I just can't seem to figure out how to fix this problem. I think possibly I rush too much at the end because I'm so excited to see the project finished, and that taking my time would result in a neater completion.

Anyway, the cat likes it, and it's soft enough and fluffy enough that perhaps some baby will too.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Inaugural project: a felted poncho

This design comes from Betz White's Warm Fuzzies, a book devoted to projects made from felted recycled sweaters. K has been begging for a poncho ever since she opened the volume, and this one seemed to suit her need for bright color, warmth and softness -- the solid bits are made from sweaters with a hefty portion of angora to them, which I hadn't been aware would felt but which in fact worked themselves into a heavenly, fuzzy material that was a delight to work with. I made a size 7/8, which is a little big for K right now, but the way she's growing it will be perfect for the spring.

Welcome to my studio

Here's a shot of my newly-realigned shelves, with my quilting fabric arranged on them just so.  I'm amazed that the cats have not attempted to nest in there, but they seem content to laze on the woolen carpet or loll on the shelves I haven't quite finished filling.  More photos to come as the moving-in and decorating progress.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Short entry

Alas, I am having to start my sweater over because of some careless unraveling.

In better news, I am almost entirely moved into my studio and it is a dream come true.  Pictures as soon as I relocate my camera.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Mishmash: Topsy Turvy House Edition

The house has been turned upside-down for a week and a half now, as we did the painting, put up the shelves (which have a definite list to them and need to be re-leveled) and shampooed the rug in the studio.  I learned how to use a roller and a socket wrench and the carpet steamer.  I discovered how incredibly grimy the rest of the house is.  I bought a carpet and thought about lighting and tried not to make any new messes.

In the process I have been working on my sweater.  I bought the Addi Turbo knitting needles and fell in love.  They are just as good as Aunt Mary's teflon needles, if not better.  I finished the body and started work on the armholes.  Found that knitting back and forth on circular needles is not an intuitively obvious process.  Ripped out stitches, started again, figured it out.  This will very clearly be a "learning" sweater (to say nothing of the stretchiness of the alpaca, which is going to render the thing virtually shapeless) but that's okay.  It's designed to be a "Saturday" sweater anyway, and it will be well loved.  I can't wait to wear it.  (But I'll have to, because it's going to be a mighty cold day before it'll be chilly enough to be comfortable in all that wooly warmth.)

I love knitting!  I love painting!  I love socket wrenches!

Friday, July 17, 2009

My Hero

The amazing K-Cat takes time out from her busy schedule saving the world to pose for some photos:

Her cape is made from pink taffeta and yellow cotton (her choices) and her super power is the ability to claw through the heart of any villain. Her sidekick (not shown here) is Wonder Dog Deebo, who can howl so loudly that no villain can stand to be within earshot of him.

Things I learned from this project:
  • How to sew with shiny, slippery fabric
  • That I can really, truly do applique
  • How to sew on velcro
  • How NOT to sew on velcro
  • That it is REALLY important to read ALL THE WORDS in the instructions BEFORE starting to sew
Seriously, it was Dress Like a Superhero Day at camp today and K wanted to make up her own superhero, so we had some fun with it. She's been feeling sort of apprehensive about going to camp, but she had no trouble letting me leave her there today after the ooh's and ahh's over her fancy-schmancy outfit. I hope she's having a fantastic day!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

We painted the studio!

This week my mother-in-law very generously donated her time to help me move everything out of my studio and paint it a beautiful bright clean white. I'm so pleased with it! Now I have my work cut out for me. I need to:
  • Consider putting in a carpet remnant to protect the beige carpeting that's already in there
  • Wash the windows
  • Purchase and put together shelving for the closet
  • Determine which furniture I want to put back in the room and where I want to put it
  • Do a final clearing out of craft supplies I don't want to use.
On top of which, K needs a superhero costume for camp TOMORROW and I haven't even started on it. I'm using this tutorial to make her a cape, which I think is adorable and I hope she will too. I need to go pick her up soon and take her to the fabric store so she can pick out the stuff she wants it made from. Should be a fun, if somewhat rushed, job to do.

Monday, July 13, 2009


Here's the progress I've made on my sweater so far:

I'm about halfway done the body.  I'm still worried that it won't fit, but I'm soldiering on.

I definitely do not like these bamboo circular needles.  It is very hard to get the stitches to slide around on them evenly to get any kind of speed -- I have to keep stopping to coax the stitches along.  I am going to try out some Addi Turbo knitting needles and see if I like them better.  I've heard good things about them from more than one person.

Of course, I'm poring over knitting patterns galore and I've found an adorable pattern for angora booties that I want to try for my niece-to-be.  I think I could make them this week before I drive up to (hopefully!) greet her next weekend, if I worked hard.  As D and K would say, "Just keep knitting, just keep knitting!"