Friday, October 29, 2010

Handspun angora

So I had been arduously spinning the angora roving I bought at the Garden State Sheep Breeders Sheep and Fiber Festival back in September -- on my spindle -- and I had worked through about four ounces in a month.  Along comes my spinning wheel and zoom!  I zipped through the second four ounces in less than a day.  Here I am plying the spindled yarn with the wheel-spun yarn with a little help from Kelsey the cat:

Winding a hank on the swift is much quicker and easier than using a niddy-noddy, in my experience.  My swift, when it's fully opened, makes a 36-inch skein, and I had about 51 yards of what feels and knits like a bulky-weight yarn when I was done. 

Here's the skein, all neat and tidy and soft and fuzzy.  I carried it with me and petted it all day today, but couldn't resist and by 4:30 was winding it into a ball so I could begin knitting K's Christmas mittens.  It is truly delicious, and I am utterly amazed that I am so far along in the process of turning fluff from a bunny into clothing for my child.  Incredible!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My handspun!

The stats: Natural Grey Border Leicester, 136 yards or thereabouts, somewhere between aran and bulky weight -- I did not measure wraps per inch because I forgot before I skeined it, but that's such a hairy unit of measurement that I'm not sure it matters much. It's got a nice soft hand; I think it will be suitable for a scarf, hat and mittens, which was my intended project for this fiber.

I picked up a pound of this nice Border Leicester at Rhinebeck the weekend before last when I got my NEW SPINNING WHEEL (the Road Bug by Merlin Tree, more to come on that soon.)  I have about twelve different projects going on, as usual, but would like to get a gauge swatch done on this yarn soon, so look for that and poke me if you don't see it.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

UFO: Busy Stripes Quilt

I have no idea why this little quilt has been sitting in my UFO box for two and a half years.  A little stitching in the ditch, a little binding and it will be all set to go to a little fellow I know who will love to snuggle under its flannelly goodness. 

Thursday, September 30, 2010

UFO: Slice Twice Sorbet Quilt

This one has been in progress in my studio for ages, and was meant to be bound and done last spring, but summer happened and I have been slip-stitching sporadically all these months.  It's the Slice Twice -- Isn't That Nice pattern that I picked up at Olde City Quilts with a Moda Sorbet layer cake. Something like Two. Years. Ago.  I sewed about 3/4 of the top together, let it sit for a year, and then came back to it when the guilt hit me like a ton of bricks.  I finished the top, made the sandwich, did some machine quilting and put a tie or two in each block for good measure, and sewed the binding on the front.  All in record time.

In the next few days I will be diverting as much creative energy as possible to stitching the rest of the binding onto this quilt I have come to love; then I will finally get to show you the finished product!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

It's about the process

The project started because I had been in the hospital and a nurse, who was expecting a baby before long, had been extra kind to me.  Before I even got home I knew that I wanted to make the super-soft patchwork-bound blanket from Weekend Sewing for Baby C.  As soon as I was feeling up to it, I headed down to the fabric store and bought a length of beautifully soft wool/cashmere blend, and fearlessly tossed it in the washing machine to felt it.  The results were amazing, dense and plush and warm, exactly what I'd had in mind.

I cut the two pieces, but not carefully, and the blanket ended up being an inch short on all four sides because of it.  The blanket-construction and decorative zig-zagging went well -- a pleasant surprise for me because the other times I've made this blanket I've botched those.  Then I sat down with my bins of fabric to start creating the patchwork binding strips.

It was so hard to decide!  I wanted to use all of my favorites -- it took a long time to narrow it down.  Finally I worked out my patchwork panel.


I really like this method of making binding -- it leaves so much room for interpretation and creativity.  Here are the finished strips, ready to sew on the blanket:

Here is the bound blanket -- it doesn't look too bad, although the binding is not sewn on perfectly and there was some difficulty sewing through the thicker parts where the binding overlapped (this was done before my Kenmore came home.)

Had I left well enough alone, I think the blanket would have been gift-able.  But because I knew the baby's name, I wanted to personalize it.  This is where I ran into trouble.  

Because I bought the wrong kind of interfacing (Wonder Under instead of single-sided fusible) I had to cut out the 'C' three times before I accepted the fact that I was going to have to fuse the thing on in one layer and machine-applique instead of stitching the letter to the fusible, turning the thing inside-out, ironing it on the blanket and doing a decorative stitch by hand.  Enter the dreaded zig-zag stitch.  Although I tested it on a scrap and thought I had it right, I accidentally set it too wide and too short, making for a very sloppy stitching line around the 'C.'  Hoping to disguise my messy work, I satin-stitched an edging around the letter with an embroidery needle and pearl cotton.  You can see the result below:

So I'm not at all sure what to do about this.  Give it away?  Cut it up for scraps?  Make another one with the fabric I have left over?  The truth is that I don't like it very much.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Just Make It ... Sew

When I was picking up my "new" sewing machine the other day there happened to be a reporter from the Burlington County Times interviewing the shop owner, so I had to wait a minute or two while she talked to him.  JoAnn and I chit-chatted while she rang me up, and the reporter noticed and asked me for a quote, which -- liberally paraphrased -- appears in this article.  Look for more about JoAnn and her shop (including photographs, I hope) in the future...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Up and running

Just a quick post to let you know that my Sears Kenmore 1430 Zig Zag is back in my possession, and after some fiddling and studying I have it humming nicely on some scrap fabric.  K is home "sick" (read: needing Mama time) today so I haven't been able to do any real sewing, but I will post when I get a chance to zip through a quick test project.

The word, through the fabric store owner, from the repairman, is that I have a good sturdy machine with a pretty stitch that, if I take care of it, will last me a lifetime.  Cost:  $50 for the machine at the thrift store; $84 for repairs.  Score!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Vintage Kenmore

Earlier in the week, I found this at my favorite thrift store:

I noted the model number and did a little research on the thing.

There's not a huge amount of information readily available, but apparently the Kenmore 1430 Zig Zag was a pretty popular model somewhere in the vicinity of 1972 and is an all-metal workhorse that can sew easily through several layers of denim and even leather (demonstrated here on YouTube) and has "6 quarters" of room underneath the presser foot -- great for quilting. 

Just the same, the machine I found was not in working condition and cost a fair amount of money, so I passed on it.  But it stuck in my mind, and I visit that thrift store several times a week.  Yesterday when I was paying for my latest finds, I looked up at the marquee where they advertise the day's sale tag color -- blue.  Of course, nothing I was buying had a blue tag.  But.  The vintage Kenmore sported a blue sticker.  I asked the saleslady if that counted, and she gave me the nod.  Half of a fair amount of money seemed reasonable to me -- if the thing could not be fixed I could sell it for parts -- so I nodded and she rang it up.

Now I am totally beside myself.  I rushed the machine to my favorite fabric store in downtown Burlington -- they have a man there who comes in to do repairs, and he'll be in on Tuesday.  I can't wait to hear from him!  In the meantime, I have joined the Kenmore Vintage Sewing Machine group on Yahoo Groups (yes, of course there is one -- search for "vintagekenmoressew" if you are so inclined) and am combing Ebay for parts and accessories.  What fun!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

K's duvet cover: a taste of independence

In the interest of putting K in charge of making her own bed, I bought her a twin-sized duvet some time ago.  Not wanting to spend $39.95 or more on a cover for it, however, I let it sit in the linen closet and rot.  Despite the fabulous collection of vintage bedsheets toppling the bookcase in my studio next door.  Somehow flower power just doesn't fit the image I have of my girl.

Not long ago, however, I happened upon a complete set of twin-sized rosebud-print sheets from Target's Simply Shabby Chic collection in the Salvation Army store -- a guilty (because I have more than once paid full price for this line) favorite of mine.  I snapped them up and set them aside, waiting, waiting.   And lo and behold, the other week, it happened!  A different sheet from the same line popped up in the Linens section and made its way into my hot little hands.  Woo-hoo!

I used the tutorial at the "Decorating: a journal"  blog that I have used before -- it is straightforward and simple and requires no fasteners, which has worked well with the first duvet cover I made.

This will suit Miss K well and be comfy and cozy to boot.  I'm looking forward to many a toasty morning snuggled up with her, planning for the day to come and maybe goofing off a bit?  And she will be so proud to pull up the covers and have a neat and tidy bed in no time!  I think it was worth the wait.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Questions from the Tooth Fairy

K lost her first tooth last night in her sleep (is she really that grown up?), and with her sharp little six-year-old eyes managed to find it nestled in her white chenille bedspread (thank goodness!) -- leaving us with an important task:  Finishing the Tooth Fairy Pillow today so that it will be ready for tonight's hijinks and hullabaloo.  Originally we had cut the pieces out of wool felt with the idea that K would sew the pillow herself, but she assured me that she would not be offended if I assembled the thing while she was at school, so I set to work.

I tried to keep the stitching neat and sturdy but still childlike, as though K had had a hand in it -- not hard since my hand-sewing skills leave a bit to be desired.  I wanted to stuff it with wool batting but chose K's favorite bamboo since she's the one who has to sleep on it.  I do hope she likes it.

Now.  Questions. 

  1. What is the going rate for baby teeth these days?  K said something like "maybe a dollar?" but my fairy is just not sure.
  2. Would a little present be appropriate along with the small amount of money the fairy is likely to leave?  Like a new toothbrush, perhaps?
  3. How on Earth does my fairy get the teensy little tooth out of the pocket without waking the excited child?

Garden State Goodies

Last weekend was the Garden State Sheep Breeders' Sheep and Fiber Festival.  I drove out on Sunday all by myself! It was fun to pet the angora rabbits and talk to the baby llamas, and I ran my fingers through tons of raw fleece -- but much to D's relief came home with neither fleece nor llama nor bunny.  (Though I will be looking into raising angora rabbits.  How much trouble can they be?  And how totally worth it would it be to grow my own fiber?  Really!)

I did bring home some beautiful alpaca worsted to knit into Katie Himmelberg's Best-Fit Jumper from Simple Style, which I have been drooling over for a while now.  (The pattern calls for an alpaca-merino blend and my yarn is just alpaca, but I am going to knit the ribbing with a smaller needle in the hope that it will retain its memory -- I'm testing it out on the swatch.  If it doesn't work I have no doubt but that I can find some other use for this delicious yarn!

While you're admiring the yarn, take a gander at my new swift!  Life has recently become significantly less arduous for the wool-winders in the Martin household.  I think D agreed on my purchase (special sale at Knit Picks!) because it freed him from his bondage to the almighty skein -- possibly more so than as a reward for my hard labor driving K to camp in the Pinelands and schlepping her to the beach all summer.  In any case, I am loving it!

(Stay tuned to see the other goodies I brought home from the festival, as well as progress on the Wonky Blocks quilt...)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Wonky Blocks

I'm sorry for disappearing these last few months; it has been a crazy summer, with trips to visit aunties and Alma Maters, a lovely vacation at the beach and many weeks of driving long distance to (totally worth it!) day camp in the Pinelands.  Thankfully, school starts up again tomorrow and things are settling down again.  I have many projects to show you! Let me start with my latest passion, the "mystery quilt," to which I will give the working title "Wonky Blocks."  (An appropriate homemade gift will go to the person who can guess the actual name of the quilt before it is finished -- I will be dropping hints along the way!)

I am working entirely with pieces from my scrap box and from pre-cut (homemade) charm squares and jelly roll strips so far -- I will need to purchase fabric for a border, backing, and possibly for binding as well.  The process of making the blocks has been quite liberating -- I started making geometrically precise little blocks with the pre-cuts, and finished by sewing the tiniest scraps together in any way they would go and cutting the results into squares.  I'm loving the results!

Putting the quilt-block puzzle together is exciting and hurts my head, and is taking up the living room where D will want to set up with his computer as he is working from home today, and I am not half done yet.  There may be turf wars to come.

Still to do:  piece quilt; determine a size for the quilt (how wide do they make quilt batting, anyway, and can you sew two lengths of batting together to make a larger one?); determine type of border to use and amount(s) of fabric to buy; and so on, and so on. 

Monday, May 10, 2010

Meet Hank

Here 's my first homely hank of homespun, made with my Ashford spindle and plied from a center-pull ball that fell apart in my hands after the first yard or so.  I did not take note of its length because I was too concerned about the yarn untwisting itself to measure it before I skeined it up.  However, given Hank's diminutive stature (not to mention its highly variable level of twistiness -- is that a word?)  I think that in the future I will wait to ply until I have spun two cops, and ply from two balls under a couple of flowerpots until I get hold of (or make) a lazy kate.

For all its obvious imperfections I'm in love with this yarn!  I love the colors and the twist, the bulk and the softness, and I fully intend to work with it when I have finished spinning the batch.  I can't wait to see how it knits up!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Spinning hand dyed merino

Since we took our class together at the Sheep and Wool Festival, K has been itching to spin some real yarn.  I've not wanted to hand my Golding spindle off to her because that's MY ball of yarn and I don't want anyone else to mess with it, thank you very much! 

So I went down to Woolbearer's to look for a spindle for her, because although I could have made her a toy wheel spindle, I knew she wanted the real thing.  I found the perfect beginner's spindle there (selling for peanuts) and some variegated purple merino roving that I knew she'd go crazy for, and a book called Spin to Knit: The Knitter's Guide to Making Yarn.  I brought home the book, 8 oz. of the roving and two spindles and sat down to fiddle.

I knew, getting into this, that the merino would be harder to spin than the coopworth.  Its shorter fiber length makes it slippery and easy to pull apart, and my impatient tugging didn't help; my roving kept drifting into little clouds.  But I loved the merino's springiness and soft hand, and I enjoyed working with it. 

When K got home we took the guinea pigs outside and put them in their pen, then sat down in lawn chairs to spin.  We had a rough start because I got fussed about making sure she drafted in a particular way, and I couldn't see that her drafting was fine; it just wasn't the same as mine.  (In fact, it was better; her fiber never drifted apart.)  There were tears and there was some shouting, but once I realized my mistake I quickly apologized, and soon K was brightly saying, "Isn't this fun?" and chanting, "I'm makin' ya -- arn, I'm makin' ya -- arn!"  And she was.  She got the hang of drafting and twirling the shaft and managing her fiber and she did a fine job.

(We plan to make hats with the yarn we spin and be Purple Hat Buddies.  Also, I have signed up for a spinning class at Woolbearer's that starts this Saturday.  Oh boy!)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Festival fibers and a spindle!

Yesterday we went to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival in the blazing sun and heat, and I had a blast picking out my very own drop spindle and fiber to go with it.  There were sheep, goats, alpacas, llamas, bunnies, and sheepdogs to see, and lamb delicacies of all kinds, and beautiful beautiful yarns, but I was on a mission.  I'd been reading Respect the Spindle: Spin Infinite Yarns with One Amazing Tool, and I was convinced that I could spin yarn.

K and I took a class called "Exploring Simple Spinning" where we used a homemade drop spindle made with a dowel and an old compact disc when we first arrived.  We spun absolutely nothing with it.  The thing was useless, or we were, I wasn't sure which.  But I had a good idea of what kind of spindle I wanted (high whorl, 2 oz. or so, rim-weighted and notched) and I sent D and K off to the sheepdog demonstration while I searched for my spindle.

After nearly giving up hope and purchasing the wrong (oh so wrong) spindle in desperation, I asked at yet another roving vendor's booth where I might find a spindle to spin their fiber, and was directed to Golding Fiber Tools in the Main Exhibition Hall.  There I found this beauty:

See the little sheep faces carved into the whorl?
It's exactly what I was looking for, and this morning I spun this yarn with it:

They tell me I won't be able to spin yarn this interesting looking once I get better at spinning!
I'm so excited! I bought 12 oz. of undyed Coopworth roving (I have yet to learn what makes Coopworth different from other kinds of wool, but the woman who sold it to me said it supposedly spins itself, so I will look it up in my copy of The Knitter's Book of Wool later on) and some beautifully dyed "art" fiber that seems to have a little bit of everything in it, because that is what the woman who helped me find Golding was selling.

I'm looking forward to finishing my first ball of yarn, learning how to ply, and seeing if I can knit with what I've made.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Hunky Dory charm quilt

Recently I discovered The Village Quilter in Mount Holly, a fun alternative to my local quilt shop that's not too far from home.  I went over there to poke around and couldn't resist picking up a charm pack of Moda's "Hunky Dory" fabrics, thinking I'd do a quick prayer quilt and get to work with some pretty prints at the same time.  They soaked me for another couple of yards of fabric by handing me a "free" charm quilt pattern, but I tried not to be too bothered by that.  Here's the result:

I enjoyed working with the fabric so much that I decided to quilt it instead of tie it, so I made another quilt to give as a prayer quilt and did some outline quilting and bound it instead of turning it.  I like the backing too; it was fun to use a big piece of a large-scale print.  These pictures were taken with my phone and do not do the quilt justice -- I will try to get better ones up soon.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

In the bag

I have been busy making bags, because (unless they're the plastic grocery kind) you can never have too many, and it is always possible to make one suited to your exact purpose that is also pretty.

These were a snap to make using Betz White's tutorial.

For example, these shoe bags from vintage bedsheets (and yes, I have a pair of pajama pants in each of those patterns) replaced the plastic bags my dear friend was using to pack shoes in when she traveled.

This bag was a bit challenging with its pleats and lining, but look how cute it is!
I had fun making the "Mama's Bag" from Amanda Soule's Handmade Home -- the body is a thrifted brocade curtain, the lining is cotton poplin, the straps linen and the tie grosgrain ribbon, and the bright aqua and yellow helped to cheer me up through a dark, snowy winter.  I've been keeping my red cashmere/merino chemo-cap-in-progress in it and it makes me feel quite sophisticated.

What a fabulous way to repurpose a pillowcase!
I have been looking for a good pattern for a market tote bag for some time now -- one Christmas I made a bunch of Morsbags as gifts and kept a few for myself, but found they didn't hold up well against the volume of groceries I needed to bring home.  And forget those ugly cheapie "canvas" bags they sell in the supermarkets.  I rip right through them.  But the other day I found this tutorial on Creative Kismet, and I was overjoyed!  A good, sturdy and adorable market bag made with materials I own to the point of ridiculousness.  What could be better?

I'm going to make a dress for K with the other pillowcase from this pair!
Ah, but now I'm on the hunt for a good produce-bag pattern.  Because yesterday while I was thrifting I found a gorgeous Laura Ashley rose-print sheer that will make up into as many produce-bags as I could need, and possibly more.  Once I find it -- Look out, Wegman's!

Friday, April 16, 2010

International girl

Here is K getting ready for school on International Day.  She is (sort of) dressed as a "Russian Peasant Girl" in long gathered skirt, peasant blouse and babushka scarf (courtesy of Carefree Clothes for Girls.)  And I have become One of Those Moms who stay up late the night before The Day Of, sewing the costume the child Has To Have and didn't plan ahead for.  I could kick myself for doing it, but at least she looks cute -- if not exactly authentic.  (Her idea was to go in her Sock Monkey Pajamas, because they say "Made in Vietnam" on the label.  Not exactly what the teacher had in mind, honey.  I like your creative thinking, though.)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Stashbusting; or, I am totally making this quilt

I have officially declared May "No New Fabric Month."  In preparation, I have been rummaging through my scrap bins to identify usable material, and cutting it up into sizes predetermined by the good folks at Moda, who make those irresistible charm packs, layer cakes and jelly rolls lying around next to the bolts in the quilting stores. 

This is what I got out of the "small scraps" bin!

I could buy any number of books of quilt patterns that utilize the pre-cuts, but I was feeling thrifty and started hunting around on the web for free patterns, and I found this tutorial for a Value Quilt.  I love it!  It cries out to me!  I must make one!  You will excuse me, please, if I go back to my scrap bins and keep cutting.  I am on a mission!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Quick fix

I needed a quick project to do this morning in between finishing a quilt top and preparing it for quilting, and the guinea pigs needed some new bedding, so --

I think the blue of the mattress pad brings out the rust in Gordon's fur!
If I had given Chancellor his name, it would have been Spike.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Ready and waiting

Here's the quilt I made to take to this week's prayer quilting session.  It's taken from a free pattern I got from Moda when I bought one of their charm packs last week -- hopefully you'll see the quilt I made from those squares soon; it only wants binding.  For this one I made my own "charm pack" out of 5" squares from scraps of vintage bed-sheet fabric. It was a joy to put together; at every stage I loved it more and more.

I was not at all certain about the plaid fabric for the backing, but I dove in with it and I think it gives a fresh, modern look to the old-fashioned florals.  I would have liked to quilt this one but of course the prayer quilts are tied, so I put in pink pearl cotton ties and it's all set to go.  An extremely satisfying 24-hour project.  Will definitely be doing this one again.

Vintage linens

Who has time to post with a collection of vintage linens this pretty? I'm making a prayer quilt, a tablecloth, a set of napkins, a dress (dresses?) and some charm packs for a rainy day out of the scraps. Who has time to clean up the studio with all that to do?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


I've been spring cleaning my studio! The first thing to do was have K tidy up the message on the little board that sits under my calendar:

I sorted through all my books and reorganized them according to size and how much I love them. I got rid of a few and made room for some big jars to hold my pretty laces and fringes. Talk about eye candy!

It was warm enough to open the window and let the balmy breezes air out the room. I love my eyelet curtains!

I pulled Every. Piece. Of. Fabric. off the shelves, sorted by color, re-folded, tucked away in plastic bins (I love you IKEA!) and found enough beautiful material to make a gorgeous quilt from Alex Anderson and Liz Aneloski's Super Simple Quilts #3.

So in my fresh, bright, clean studio I got to work. Hope you find some freshness in your life now that the dreary days of winter are coming to an end!