Sunday, January 31, 2016

commence operation moonraker

Having finished quite a few projects recently, both quilts and knits, I am treating myself to something new. This one will be a Moonraker, a fun and colorful asymmetrical wrap. I'm using a couple cakes of green that have been hanging around in my stash and taking the chance to use up some leftovers.

The pattern is pretty simple since it's mainly in garter stitch, but there are these neat little bobbles of contrasting color that are certainly anything but typical stitches. I'm a few rows in and I can tell this one will be a fun knit. I think if I keep at it little by little over the next few weeks I might have myself a fantastic St. Patrick's Day accessory. 

Saturday, January 30, 2016


so. stinkin. cute. 

Our friends are having a baby -- and she's due in February! I thought it would be nice to make her a little sweater to keep her warm during these chilly El Nino months. It's not exactly snowpocalyse like it is on the East coast, but us West coasters are quite ok with some cold rain thank you very much! Either way, baby needs to keep warm and toasty. 

I whipped this darling little thing up in a few days. Worsted weight yarn + easy pattern = quick knit. Don't be fooled, the ease of knitting and the fact that the pattern is free does not mean that its a crappy pattern. In fact I quite liked it, and I can see lots of room for modifications and additions on this simple blank canvas. The only change I made was to use a contrasting yarn for the button band and collar. After browsing through the many finished projects on Ravelry I decided not to do contrasting arm and waist bands. There aren't many wth just a contrasting collar, but I liked those the best. 

I found a matched set of tortoise-shell-like buttons in my random bag o' buttons from Britex. They are sewn on with pearl cotton thread so they are nice and sturdy. Keen eyes and a good memory will reveal that these are the same colors in my Split Rotation. Indeed, I used up the remaining navy and have a small amount of the persimmon left. I still love this color combo and it's sweet for a little girl.  

Pattern: Baby Sophisticate (my Ravelry project page)
Yarn: Caron Simply Soft Solids in 'Dark Country Blue' and 'Persimmon'
Needle: Size 8 circular (rosewood)

Friday, January 29, 2016

fun fun fun

I made a birthday pouch! One of the ladies I know from the barn celebrated a birthday recently. A few of us went out to dinner and I didn't want to show up empty handed. I know her well but not incredibly well outside of a horsey context, so I went with my traditional approach of giving something that I would want. This little pouch certainly fits the bill. And after working on mostly quilts and knitting for a while a small, quick sewing project was SUPER fun to make. 

Kepler really wanted to help. He jumped up on the desk and assisted (i.e. got in the way, but was cute nonetheless) while I cut out my pieces. 

I had a lot of fun picking out fabric. It had been some time since I browsed through my stash, and I unearthed this floral print that I just love. I think this kind of project is perfect for a large scale print like this, and the neutral toile and linen seemed like a good pair to combine with such a bright neighbor. 

It did all start out with this zipper, though. I have a few assorted zippers hanging around from the last time I went down to the San Jose Flea Market (serious deals!). The bright coral caught my eye as a color I think my friend would like so I started there and picked the fabrics to work with it. 

I used a Gathered Clutch Tutorial I found some time ago (thank goodness for Pinterest or I never would have remembered it!) with a couple of changes. Instead of using the interfacing, which I did not have, I used steam-a-seam lite, which I did have, and because you can't just attach it to one piece of fabric I adhered a piece of muslin to the back of each panel. The stiffness of the muslin actually helped give the whole thing a little more oomph than I think even the interfacing would have. 

The gathering and pressing wasn't as finicky as I feared, and the front panel turned out looking pretty neat. I chose a bright aqua thread to do my topstitching with, both across the band on the front and by the zipper. With the assembly of the pieces onto the zipper, as below, I think next time I need to take special care to be sure the zipper is set in enough from the panel edges. It was not obvious to me that you don't want to sew through the zipper piece in the final step. Counterintuitive, in fact. It still doesn't make that much sense to me. 

In the end, I fudged it, and it turned out looking just fine with no hole showing like I thought might happen. I'm not sure how! But next time I'll just make sure to leave a generous 1/4" instead of the scant 1/8" I had on one side... 

In general I'm not a great fan of working with zippers but I've gotten better at it. Just look at that nice neat zipper! And it even opens! The toile fabric inside is another one of my favorites and I'm tickled that I managed to get that lounging couple situated where you can see them peeking out when the pouch is open. 

The tutorial gives options for adding dividers, pockets, and even credit card holders to make this truly a functional clutch. I wanted to leave it as an all purpose pouch instead so I didn't add any of the options. I know I use them a lot, and I think it was safer to give a pouch instead of a 'purse' type of article since I'm not sure she would use a purse with no strap. 

I am so so happy with how this turned out, front, back, and inside, and I was amazed it only took me a couple of hours to make it. I bet it will be even faster the second time. Because there will be a second! And likely a third, fourth, fifth.... alas I have no more coral zippers so I can't make an exact copy, but I think I may make a couple more with this fabric combination for me and Mom because I love it so much. Then on to new ones for everyone else I know! I'm going to need more zippers.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Wingardium Leviosa

Last weekend during playoff football, while all my picks were winning I might add, I finished my first pair of socks! Check it out, they actually look and fit like real socks. The combination of the pattern name and the yarn name made me think of the scene in Harry Potter where everyone is trying to make feathers fly. I give you Wingardium Leviosa. 

I don't know if it was the excitement of the football games or that I had in mind that the first sock was a little big on the leg, but sock number two ended up being a somewhat tighter gauge. It's pretty clear if you hold them up next to each other. Each fits -- after wearing them all day when they were done I found that I like the foot of the first sock and the leg of the second sock best.

My toes ended up being different on each sock. The first sock I didn't decrease on the 'big toe' side until the last four rows of decreases and on the second I started a few rows earlier just to see how it would work. I like the second version the best. Kitchener stitch is a little finicky and I had to look up how to do it both times but it is magical. The perfect join every time! The only noticeable 'seams' are the little diagonals from the decreases up the side. 

Despite the noticeable differences between the two socks, I'm going to leave this pair as-is to commemorate my first sock attempt. I really enjoyed this learning experience, and I'm pretty proud of myself for making a passable pair. I'm looking forward to finding some more patterns with different heel constructions, since it seems like that is an area where there are a lot of different options to play with. Until then I'll just sit back and watch this week's Championship games!

Pattern: Hermione's Everyday Socks (my Ravelry project page)
Yarn: Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light in 'Calligraphy'
Needle: Size 1 DPNs

Saturday, January 23, 2016

not-so-violent waffles

The moniker for this post comes from an inaccurate, but hilariously consistent, read of the pattern name: Violet Waffles. Turns out if you glance at the pattern title quickly, it - for some reason - reads as Violent Waffles. No waffles, violent or otherwise, were harmed in the making of this hat.

I started this just before we left for Chicago so I would have some easy knitting to do on the plane. It was supposed to be modified to be a double layer reversible hat (essentially two hats joined together at the brim). In the end, when Dave tried it on, he decided he would rather leave it just the one layer but with a longer brim than I made so he could flip it up and still completely cover his ears. Because of Plan A: double layer hat, I had used a provisional cast on so fulfilling that request was no problem. I forgot that the stitches would be offset by a half stitch when the provisional cast on was unzipped. Upon realizing that I thought that maybe I'd have a problem with the ribbing join turning out wonky, but I tried it out for a few rows and it doesn't look weird at all. In fact, if I didn't know, I wouldn't notice.

This is a great pattern to keep in mind for a quick gift. I finished the as-written hat in just a few days (though the extra brim had to wait a while because I only took one color with me on vacation). The pattern was knit in Madelinetosh DK with no modifications other than a few extra rows of brim and I didn't use the smaller needle for the ribbing. Court & Spark is the main color and the trim is El Greco, hand picked by Dave at Knit, Purl on our Portland trip. (Ravelry project page)

All in all, super happy with the pattern, the project, and the finish. I think maybe I should try some more hats! Alas it isn't that cold here, but maybe everyone in Chicago gets a hat for Christmas next year ;).

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Retro Granny on its way

It's been nice to start the year off with a relatively clean slate. I have just a couple of knitting projects, a few small sewing projects (that have admittedly been hibernating a long time), and this granny square quilt. I've spent the last days brainstorming new things to work on, but I haven't really landed on anything that's truly grabbed me yet. Looking through my notebook of ideas reminded me that I had this (and those other small projects I mentioned) hanging out ready to be finished, so I'll likely spend some time finishing things before embarking on the new and shiny. 

My dear Retro Granny, as I've decided to name her, has been super fun to put together so far. I discovered I was smart and finished all the blocks up before tucking it away. All I had to do to get started again was take out my cutting board and trim squares. Mom bought me a 12.5" square ruler which has made the dreaded task of squaring up blocks SO MUCH EASIER. I've been doing fine without by using my 6 x 24" ruler and some basic geometry, but it's so much faster with this guy. I will never scoff at how expensive quilting tools are ever again. 

See how amazing that square looks? That's right, a perfect nine inches square. Perfect. It didn't take me long before I had the whole stack of 20 blocks all trimmed up and ready for the next step. 

I thought about skipping the sashing and instead sewing these together side by side. I'm 99% sure this is going to be a baby quilt for Dave's supervisor('s baby), but even given that I think it would have turned out smaller than I would have liked. Plus, after perusing Google images I found that I simply liked the versions with the space around the blocks better. So sashing was cut and sewn on, and before I knew it I had myself a finished top!

Right now I'm apparently a pro at finishing up quilts so hopefully basting, quilting, and binding won't be far behind. It's funny, you'd think after all the work I just did over the holidays I'd be ready for a break, but all I wanted to do when we got home was sit down and sew. Well, that and clean the kitchen, but we won't talk about that. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

new year, new socks

I have never knitted socks. Many of the bloggers I read knit beautiful socks seemingly every month, whipping them off their needles like hotcakes off a griddle. They've always seemed to me, along with sweaters, like one of those things that 'real knitters' do. For them socks serve the purpose of being both practical and fast projects, and to be honest probably also a great excuse to buy that gorgeous skein of sock yarn. Hmm. Can't be all that bad can it? Thus I decided to attempt to add this knitterly skill to my repertoire.

Well here's my first sock! I finished this a couple days after Christmas and am a few inches into the second one. I'm determined to avoid the dreaded second sock syndrome and get these done by the end of the month. I may still go back and modify the toe decreases (again) but then again I may not. Hehe did you hear that? I'm already talking like a sock pro. 'Modify the toe decreases' indeed.

I am certainly learning from this experience. The phrase  'turning the heel' has held a special kind of mystery for me, but now that I've done it the concept has gone from mystery to magic. It's a triumph when a few rows into the gusset you realize "holy cow, it's actually starting to look like.... a sock!" Also, socks are one of those things we take for granted that just fit. We buy socks at the store without needing to think about size in the same way as we painstakingly try on jeans or sweaters. Turns out, there's some finesse to fitting hand knit socks that I did not appreciate such as: "don't make the cast on too tight or you'll never get it on" and "knit as many rows as you need before the toe decreases". Apparently some people just know how many rows they need for their feet. I had to keep trying mine on as I went. 

I started simple with a free Ravelry pattern called 'Hermione's Everyday Socks' mainly because it seemed clearly written but also because, let's be honest, if anyone could get me through a sock knitting experience it's Hermione Grainger. The texture pattern is simple enough that the variegated yarn I'm using doesn't compete with it and it's easy to memorize. Of course, I referred to the pattern religiously through the heel and gusset sections, but overall a pretty simple knit. Maybe this sock thing isn't so complicated after all!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Lonestar Hexagon, finished

Oh my gosh. Accomplished doesn't even begin to describe how I felt when I finished this quilt. Not only was it the THIRD quilt I finished before the holidays it was also the largest, most difficult, and most 'off the wall'. 

Dubbed the "Lonestar Hexagon" this quilt has many hands that participated in the making. All of this started when I decided to figure out how to make a 6-pointed lonestar block for a quilting bee I was in a couple years ago. I had a lot of fun making my block, and I hope the others enjoyed theirs as well (tutorial here). Then I decided I didn't actually have enough blocks to achieve the size I wanted, so I enlisted Mom's help to make a few more blocks with me. One of our results became the center of the quilt. 

Similar to Jasmine's quilt, this one went through several iterations in my head and an improvisational assembly process. That was where I left off last time I wrote about this quilt, and also where it was when I stepped off the plane in Chicago. The back I planned to use was too small for what turned out to be a rather large quilt top, so I just folded up the top, packed it in my suitcase, and planned to purchase backing fabric and batting when I got there. 

I'm SO glad I did because otherwise I would never have thought to use corduroy. I found this beautiful pinky peach small wale corduroy and got the rest of the bolt! Six yards, it turns out, is quite a substantial amount of fabric and also exactly the yardage needed to assemble a back that would accommodate this top. (I left the scraps of backing and batting, which were pretty good sizes, in my Mom's sewing room hoping she will find some way to use them.) I spent a lot of time on the floor basting. Nothing like a deadline to motivate me through! The quilting was simple because I just didn't have the stamina to do anything fancy. I did lines from point to point across the center to make wedges and then stitched in the ditch one row in along each side to get the outer parts of the quilt fixed into place. The binding fabric has navy, which matches the background triangles on the front, and a pretty aqua print that sets off the back nicely. And who am I kidding, any color would go with the front! 

Speaking of which, here it is in all it's glory. It's crazy and scrappy and colorful and wonderful. I think it suits my niece Samara to a 't' and she was really excited about it. In fact, I'm told it is "really comfortable and I fell asleep right away." It's kind of an odd form factor for a quilt in that it is a huge hexagon, but it totally works. It ended up 54" on a side, 108" point to point, and 90" side to side - pretty big! That, for reference, is a queen sized bed in the picture and there is plenty of overhang. 

I'm so pleased both with how this turned out and with having it out of my work in progress queue. I think I can start the new year with a fresh sewing slate and finally tackle some projects that have been on my mind but that I've been putting off because I knew I had some major things in progress already. How's that for a plan, 2016?

Friday, January 8, 2016

Lucky, finished

The second quilt I finished last month was the one for my Grandpa - a very special project! When Mom was out visiting this fall she suggested I might make him one, and then she and I picked out the fabrics and the pattern, which is 'Lucky' by Camille Roskelley. I very much enjoyed sewing up this pattern, and I imagine I will do another some time when the inspiration strikes. The blocks are based on HSTs, so perhaps as I sew other things I'll throw together the occasional few from my scraps and put them somewhere to be combined into a delightfully scrappy version down the road.

When the top was done Dave helped me pick out the perfect backing fabric, a rich deep navy with metallic gold deer heads! There were a few other more abstract patterns in the same colors (arrows and triangles), but the deer heads are just awesome. The print lends both an air of masculine sophistication and a sense of light-hearted humor to this quilt and I love it.

I quilted down all the sashing 1/4" in from each side and then down the diagonals that lined up with the center of each diagonal of quilt blocks. This gave me a window pane pattern with x's in each window on the back. I chose white thread for the top and a variegated golden yellow/brown thread in my bobbin for the back. The variegated thread plays nicely with my deer heads. 

Instead of making a scrappy binding from leftover fabrics as I originally thought, I got some more of the deer head print. I like the matching backing and binding on the backside and that you can also see the deer on the front. The gold sparkles around the edges, too. Instead of my usual zig zag binding which I thought would mask the deer, I just sewed a straight line to attach it to the front. Turned out fine! 

It finished up at 63" x 80" which is a nice big lap quilt that I hope my grandpa will enjoy. He seemed to like it when he opened it, and when he found out that I made it, said that it was that much more special to him. To add to that, when he saw my nieces open their two quilts, he asked "why don't you go commercial?" -- high praise indeed!

I do believe this is one of my favorite quilts I've made. It would be hard to pick a favorite, but this one and Mom's are pretty high up there. They both capture a more traditional style of construction but use fabrics that are more 'me'. I'm sure it also has something to do with the recipients and I being on the same wavelength :). But also, it feels like the more quilting I do the more I get to stretch out and find my quilt-y identity. I'm hoping to spend some more time this coming year at the sewing machine, though of course the knitting needles and crochet hooks won't get left behind! 

Monday, January 4, 2016

Posies, finished

In my last update, I had managed to piece the background fabrics and pin down the EPP flowers where I wanted them. From there it was "just" a matter of basting, quilting, and binding to end up with a beautiful finished quilt for Jasmine. I really like the combination of colors and prints. Many of the prints are actually from a package of precut hexagons I picked up at Joann's quite some time ago. (Long enough ago that I don't remember!) There are also a few bird and owl prints in there that are precious leftovers from other projects that I hope she enjoys discovering.

In addition to pinning the flowers in place, I also used some lightweight fusible interfacing. I cut out rectangles 2 x 3 inches or so and steamed them under each point and each 'v' along the edge between diamonds. Doing so helped keep everything in place a little bit better during quilting than I think pins alone would have. It kind of reminds me of the little photo squares you use for scrapbooking to stick pictures to the page. 

I quilted somewhat 'organic' horizontal lines. I say organic because I was neither measuring spacing nor parallel-ness along the way, though in the end they were all approximately spaced evenly about 4 inches apart. Because the edges of the flowers were still somewhat free to roam between quilting lines, each one was hand quilted around the perimeter with pearl cotton. I had an aqua left over from my Modern Medallion quilt that was just right.

The backing I used was actually a flat sheet from a set I had in Sacramento. When I sold the bed, the sheets went with it but I kept the unused flat sheets because I liked the patterns and figured they would be great for quilts. The curlicue medallions in soft neutrals on this particular fabric suit this one very well. Mom found me this great geometric fabric for binding. The bright peach and pink diamonds and hexagons are perfect. I used 2.5" strips, as is typical, and sewed the binding down by machine with a zig zag stitch. 

I participated in two Flickr-based quilting bees a couple of years ago, and this is the first quilt to be finished from those adventures. While it ended up being quite different than the original idea I had, I quite like it! Dare I say I'm 'tickled pink'? Thank you to the ladies from the Get Your Hex On bee who spent their time stitching little hexagons into diamonds for me. All told, the quilt is 70" x 65".

It's gone from an intended Christmas gift to a birthday gift back to a Christmas gift in terms of timing the finish, but now it's done and gifted and my niece has a new, girly, bright blanket for her bed (modeled here in my parents' guest room, all pictures courtesy of Dave photographer extraordinare).