Monday, September 30, 2019


This piece makes me smile! The last time Dave and I went out to Fengari in Half Moon Bay I saw a purple sparkly version of this and loved how over the top it was. The furry yarn was so interesting I really wanted to make one of my own. The golden fur was too pretty to pass up so I started there. Rather than getting the (quite expensive) sparkly Prism Stuff yarn that the original used, I wandered around and found some skeins of madelinetosh chunky in the COOLEST color called Plaid Blanket. Just my taste! I love the greens of course, and the gray and brown make it the perfect yarn for a fall accessory.

The fuzzy yarn wasn't too bad to work with. the biggest challenge was the process of fluffing it up after everything was done. I expect that will still occur as it gets worn. Essentially, the thin fibers need to work their way out of the twists of the knitting, which they readily do because they are so slippery. You'll notice that there are vertical-ish lines of knitting next to slanted rows. It was supposed to be just simple chevrons along the whole thing but somehow I must have missed a decrease or increase and got a stitch off, but by the time I noticed it I decided I liked it that way. I swear I followed the written pattern. In the end that makes this less stretchy than the one I saw in the shop, but blocking helped a lot and it actually fits my shoulders better this way. 

It isn't quite a cowl but not really a shawl either. It wears very well with the bottom panel dropped down over both shoulders and the top ribbing up around the neck. The whole thing didn't take very long - I finished in in a few weeks in June, while dreaming of cooler weather. It looks very cute and I'm looking forward to some chillier days this fall so I can romp around looking like an autumnal lion. 

Pattern: Chevron Cowl by Laura Bryant (my Ravelry page)
Yarn: madelinetosh Chunky in 'plaid blanket' and Prism Plume in 'mustard'
Needle: US 9 and US 10
Size: Blocked flat to 13" /20" across (top/bottom) and 14" tall

Friday, September 27, 2019

a design wall at last

OMG this last Sunday Dave did a thing. And it's an awesome thing! I have a design wall in my craft room!! I'm still not sure where the sewing machine will end up, but what I do know is that I'm glad we waited to get any more furniture in here so we could end up deciding to do this. We had discussed how and where to try a design wall - do we use foam board from the hardware store, or try to get display boards from Staples, should it go over the cabinet on the other wall, on the closet, or somewhere else. In the end, Dave was very clever and just taped a couple of our largest moving boxes together. We covered it with a flannel flat sheet we aren't going to use on the bed anymore and put it on the biggest open wall we had. The bottom part is loose and that's because we just let the extra hang down past the boxes when we nailed it to the wall. Boom. Lightweight, pinnable if I need to, and the flannel is worn so it's nice and sticky. Also, free. So exciting.

I have always envied quilters and craft room pictures with great big design walls. Moving things around on the floor or in sketches is very good, but I don't think there's any replacement for being able to put the actual pieces up and really let them hang out (no pun intended) for a while. It seems like it can make the whole final assembly/layout process so much more thoughtful. For me that's always the "oh well let's just get it sewn together and see what happens" part. But now I have a glorious, huge, amazing space on my wall. For example, I thought I was going to just sew my churn dashes together to make a small quilt, but now I'm playing around with making it bigger.

It took me some time to decide what blocks I wanted to fill in with. I want this to be more of a traditional looking fall-ish quilt so I made some four patches and stuck with the darker colors, navy and magenta. I really wish I had some burnt orange to use instead of the magenta, but I am making this from my stash and I didn't think the bright peach would keep it looking like fall. So magenta it is. 

I also messed around with the orientation of the four patches. The one above makes some interesting secondary patterns where churn dash and patchwork block corners meet (that I would not have seen had I not been able to take a few steps back), whereas the one below is very different. It feels more traditional to me, probably because of the checkerboards. I also felt like the churn dashes got lost a little bit more, so I stuck with the first layout.

The issue I was having with the first option was that the parts were the four patches all met in the middle of each 12 inch filler block was very dark and heavy feeling. (The dim pictures don't help, but it was nighttime and I wanted to keep working). Those visually took over, but the way the background ended up framed the churn dashes really nicely. My solution was to take a brighter fabric, a yellow print from the Indie collection, and add a triangle to one square in each four patch where they met. This makes a little sparkly diamond at those heavy intersections and lightens things up a bit. I also like the way the on point square echoes the angles of the churn dashes. 

See? Already I'm finding this whole thing very useful for thoughtful quilt assembly. It's not quite what I had imagined initially, but it's fun to follow wherever whim is taking me right now! 

Saturday, September 21, 2019

breaking in the quilting room

Yesterday I started a new quilt! Boxes are just about unpacked in the rest of the house, so it seemed ok to allow myself to start my first big project. In lieu of sewing or knitting while we've been packed up these last couple months I've been watching oh so many YouTube tutorials and looking at Pinterest projects. Always fun.

I've had my collection of Indie fabrics for quite some time. I even already made a quilt from them as a wedding gift for my cousin. BUT I really got them for myself because I like them so much. So I decided to pull out the stack again and see what I could make for our new place with what I had leftover. With the tutorials in mind, I landed on a churn dash block made from 5" blocks. These were so quick to make (I used Missouri Star Quilt Co's method) and I had a lot of fun pairing fabrics. I especially like the way this blue and orange block turned out.

Before I started, I separated the prints into 'cool' and 'warm' piles and made the center and rectangles from one of each. I chose the coolness or warmness of the coordinating solid to match the center square. It's not really that noticeable because the prints are so many colors, but I do think that little bit of planning makes the overall look somewhat scrappier than doing a lot of color matching would have done. 

I have myself a set of 12 blocks that will be about 12 inches finished and now I will play around with them to see how I want them arranged into a small quilt. My one piece of advice? Trim everything square before final assembly of the blocks! I tried to wing it on my first two blocks and they turned out ok but were tougher to line up seams along the way than the ones where I actually took the time to trim the HSTs. My inner lazy girl tried to resist but she lost out. Trim the things.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

blocking alllll the things

OMG. The craft room is full of blocking boards and pinned out wool. And it’s glorious. A couple days ago I sat down to weave in ends on a bunch of finished projects. It took me all afternoon and evening (the last project had lots of stripes). Today I decided to address the pile ready for blocking.

I started out thinking I’d block just this scarf. Incidentally, it was way easier to do this than I thought it was going to be. I can’t believe I put it off so long!

Then I decided to take the plunge and block out this cowl. It has a feathery yarn on it, so I wasn’t sure if I could get it wet. No time like the present to find out! There was no way I would wear it unblocked anyway, so it’s worth trying out. The internet says I can hand wash and lay flat, so it should be ok.

Then I decided to take the plunge and pin out this shawl so I can wear it this fall. It took so many blocking mats and pins I wasn’t sure I’d have enough!

The amazing part is I had room to do this all! It’s so nice having my own space to spread out on table, cabinet, and/or floor. The only consequence of the current state of the room is there is no room to actually do anything else in it, but having three things getting dried out and finished at once is so great. And there’s even a door to close so the kittens can’t find any mischief.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

fabric origami

On the same shopping trip where Mom and I got her bag pattern and fabric I picked up a pattern and a couple of fat quarters of my own. The pattern is the Fold-It-Hold-It Bag from Pieced Tree Patterns. Again, there was one made up in the shop that was too cute to pass up. I picked this navy print with bright pink flowers and a pretty mint and white geometric print that reminded me of a flower basket. 

Believe it or not, this is basically a single rectangle made with each side a different fabric and then folded and tacked down in a couple places to make this shape. It's really quite clever and a great way to play with pairing fabrics. Once you get more familiar with the construction I'm sure it would be easy to figure out how to embellish more with things like trim, embroidery, or other fun touches. 

It stands up on its own pretty well, and this one, which is the medium size of the four noted in the pattern, is a pretty good size for gift giving or maybe storing things in the craft room. The bigger one might work as a knitting or crochet project bag. Despite what you'd think, the contrast print does not end up as a bag lining. Rather, it is a little bit of peek-a-boo color that shows on the front and back, especially when the bag is cinched closed. 

Super fun and quick to make, this was a great way to spend an afternoon continuing to break in the craft room. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

forest fog progress

Last week I hit a milestone on my Forest Fog blanket - I finished the middle panel! This has been a long time coming, and I'm pleased with how it's looking so far. 

Mine is a bit different than the pattern called for. It is supposed to start with trees instead of flowers at the bottom, and then alternate tree/flowers/tree/flowers/tree but I read the pattern wrong and started in the wrong place. In my defense, I do think it was a little bit confusing the way it was written. Regardless, I had gotten pretty far through the flower section before I realized it, and I didn't want to rip back. Instead, I decided to take the two flower panel sections and split one in half so that there were still three tree panels but each of them were sitting above a field of flowers. I ended up with the same number of rows by also slightly modifying a couple of the divider sections as well. Easy! 

I don't think that will matter very much in the final product, it still looks really nice and will shape up even better after blocking. The trees look much harder than they are, but they did take a lot of concentration to keep track of where I was in the pattern. 

The next step is the border, which is knitted separately and sewn on. I did consider the idea of knitting it on as I go, but after doing that with the shetland shawl forever I didn't really want to do it again with this. Plus, I'm not sure how many repeats I'll need, where on the edge I should start it, or how I want to do the corners so I'm sticking with sewing it on after the fact. It's a pretty leaf pattern - I still need to look at the pattern each row so it's not super fast going, but I've already got 10 repeats done. Can't wait to see how this next stage goes!

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

summer rainbows revisited

Here is another update from mid-July sewing. Looking back it seems like I started this a couple of years ago (August 2017?!). I've been making slow progress on the French braids since then, but found a couple of days this summer where I really wanted to work on them and get them finished up. 

The colors are looking so fun together -- definitely what I'd call bright and busy! Making the braids is surprisingly easy and just requires some patience because there is a lot of pressing required. Getting up and down from chain piecing to the ironing board slowed things down a bit, but I'm looking forward to solving that in the new place. ;) I was pretty smart though, and had kept all of the pieces in little orderly piles in a project bag in the closet so I didn't have to reorganize my color runs. It was super easy to just pick up and start piecing. Smart thinking, past self. 

These couple of pictures are from our old place and very effectively make the case for a design wall in the new one. It's hard to lay out big pieces and decide what you want to do with them using just an ironing board. Here I'm playing with the layout as written in the pattern - there are separators between the braids that I haven't made yet. I'm also considering doing something completely different with them and incorporating other quilt blocks that I like into more of a sampler style. I'm not really sure, but I'll have fun playing with all the possibilities.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Mosaic Medallion, finished

I finally finished this quilt in mid July, a year-ish after starting it, but SO MUCH LIFE has happened in between that I'm getting to sit down and reflect on it just now. Remember this? 

My last update in February I had just started the hand quilting. It took some time and I seriously debated finishing up by machine midway through, but I finished it up in time to bind and photograph before heading up to Sacramento to have a fun weekend with the recipients. Phew! Made it in time for their one year anniversary at least!

For the binding I used up my navy polka dot print and added a few leftover strips of other fabrics that were in the quilt. I really like the look of a scrappy binding, especially when the quilts are all folded up. I used my usual method of sewing to the front and zig-zag stitching down in the back. 

For the back I just pieced together two long pieces of yardage of fabrics I used in the quilt top - one is a really colorful flower print and the other a bright purple batik. I was sure to also give them a few color catchers for the first few washes, because I'm not at all sure how the batiks I used will wash. 

This is by far the largest quilt I have made to date. It ended up being about 90 inches square and a bear to wrestle with! I do love how it turned out. The pattern was a free pattern from Art Gallery Fabrics called Soulful Windows, and all of the fabrics were just pulled from my stash. Sarah really loves purple, like me, and I think the green and navy are nice complements to the different hues of purple I had.

I hand quilted in different colors of pearl cotton: coral, navy, and a variegated turquoise. It gets lost from far away but I promise, close up the colors pop and look really nice. I just did rounds of straight stitching around the medallion sections to keep it simple since the whole thing is pretty busy looking as it is. 

That also brings some of the medallion pattern from the front onto the back, which is otherwise pretty simple looking. 

This originally was intended as a picnic quilt, like other wedding quilts I have made, but it turned out so big that it fits very nicely on a queen sized bed. I hope they enjoy it, however they choose to use it. 

Monday, September 9, 2019

a new beginning

I have a few posts to catch up on to share some finished (but yet to be blocked) knitting projects and one exciting (!) quilt finish from July. But the MOST EXCITING thing that's happened in the last couple of months is that we bought a house! After nine years of living in the same condo in Palo Alto we packed up our belongings and moved south to Morgan Hill just a couple of weeks ago. 

I'm pleased to report that there is a local yarn shop as well as a local quilt shop. And even more pleased that I now have my own craft room. Mom and Dad visited last week for the Stanford-NU football game and got to be our first guests. Of course, this also meant that the girls had to make something to inaugurate the craft space!

The quilt shop in town has a good selection of fabrics, but what I like the best are the patterns for smaller projects they have in stock. There are lots of samples made up, which makes it so much easier to want the thing, doesn't it? Mom and I each picked out a pattern and some fabric before we left, and the last night they were in town she and I got to working on the bag she chose. 

The pattern is the Orange Dot Quilts H Bag in the mini size by Dora Cary. The fabric on the outside is a decor weight print we found at the shop, and the contrasting print inside is a regular cotton print I've had in my stash forever. It's an Anna Maria Horner print that was going to be curtains in our last place, but I never got around to it. The big flowers were a perfect match for this project. 

As we cut, the only "fussy" cutting we worried about was the panel shown above. We centered it as best we could and just let the rest of the fabric do what it would. Turns out that on the other side another panel got centered pretty well, too! The bag is reinforced with some iron on interfacing and was actually pretty simple to construct. The dowels are such a neat idea, and were not at all difficult to incorporate. The other neat thing about them is that you can just roll up the bag around them when it's not being used (like when it has to go in a suitcase...). I'm also pretty sure this could be reversible, especially if you used the same weight fabric for the outside and the lining.

I did a little bit of decorative stitching around the top edges using a preprogrammed stitch on my machine that I thought looked like little bird tracks. The thread is a light blue that matches the print inside and contrasts just enough on the outside to be subtle but noticeable. The whole project took maybe an hour and a half from start to finish and it turned out looking quite polished. More to come, I'm sure.

The craft room isn't quite "done" yet, but it certainly felt good to get in the first project. I think the more I work in here, the more I'll know just how I want to have it set up for all the different things I get up to.