Progress on the Duvet Cover

The previous owners of our house finished the basement in idiosyncratic ways- for example, when they installed the basement shower, the drain holes didn’t line up. That’s bad. They also put in a storage system in the playroom with a sewing closet. Open the doors, and there is a desk with a rectangular cut-out for a sewing machine, and little drawers for scissors and bobbins and ribbons and things. That’s good.
The result is that I can leave projects half finished and come back later, without having to clean off a table to sew.
The bad thing is that it is in the basement, which is cold and dark in the winter. In summer, it is great, because when it gets unbearable upstairs in the afternoons, we can go down and play with legos and sew. In the winter, I don’t get much sewing done.IMG_0038

But, today we have a project. So, today, we’ve cleared off the dining room table, brought the sewing machine up, and the ironing board, and we are making some bedding for Kate.

I mused to myself how I would be able to control my “control-freakiness” with Kate, and let her sew without hovering over her.  It turns out, I am not having to, very much. I helped her wind bobbins, pinned some seams on pillowcases, let her sew…and then she kind of got bored. We had 6 long panels, 84 inches by 22 inches, so we sewed them together, then sewed across the top.  Kate drifted off leaving me to zigzag the six long seams and press a hem  in the opening.IMG_0033

Thanks to my panel of experts, who advised me to leave a longer seam allowance, 1/2 inch rather than 1/4, and to zigzag the edges.  IMG_0044

For the opening where the comforter goes in, I have hemmed it, and am thinking about attaching snaps? I am feeling a little lazy, though, and have made comforter covers in the past without them. What are your thoughts? I have snaps in the basement…

Yeah...okay, probably needs snaps.

Yeah…okay, probably needs snaps.

Good-enough Twin Comforter Cover

9 yards cotton quilting fabric, 3 yards each of 3 coordinating fabrics

Cut 25 inches off each fabric length. Choose one that will be the contrasting trim for both pillowcases and cut in half along its width. Set aside.

Cut the selvedges off the long pieces of fabric, and rip them in half along their length. You will have 6 pieces that are 22 inches wide and 83 inches long.

Working with two strips at a time, pin right sides together and sew together with a 1/2 inch seam allowance, then sew the pairs together to make one big tube. Pin the seam on the top of the cover, and sew it together. I lined up my seams at the edges, although as I type this, I realize I could have lined it up any which way, so the strips wouldn’t have the seams at the same place. Next time…And of course, you could make the strips any width.

Take time to zigzag the seam allowances and press the allowances to the darker fabric.

The open end is where you will feed the comforter in.  I double-folded the hem and stitched it down, leaving the center open.

This is where I should have put in snaps… and I probably will.

For the pillowcases, sew the 12 inch long piece of accent fabric to the 25 inch long piece, along the width of the fabric, 38 inches. Press the seam toward the 12 inch side- it will be covered with the folded accent fabric. Fold and sew along the bottom and side. Press a half inch hem along the top of the accent fabric and topstitch down to cover the seam that attaches the two fabrics to each other.



antique or vintage?

When I went to my hometown for the weekend, my mom offered me a quilt made by her grandmother Neal.

She cautioned me, “Now, back in those days, they just made things from scraps, it isn’t all fabrics that are matchy-matchy.” She said she had 2, and my sister had looked at them and told her to give me first choice.

Pretty nice for just being made from scraps.

I don’t have very many stories about my great- grandmother Neal- she lived on a farm in  Kentucky and my mom would visit them for holidays and in the summer. She would always buy store-bought bread, so the children could eat sandwiches, but my grandmother was embarrassed by how many homemade biscuits my mom and uncles would eat. I imagine them at dinner,  reaching for another biscuit, and my grandmother giving them that look that says, “I can’t believe you are reaching for another biscuit.” But then they eat it anyway.

So, at home in the more recent past,  mom climbed up on the step stool, and pulled out a zippered blanket bag. Wrong one- that one was little- a crib quilt made for my oldest brother by my paternal grandmother- amazing patchwork, and tiny hand quilting. My mom told me that she had made that one, then one for my second oldest brother, then was declared legally blind. No more quilting.
The next bag that came out of the linen closet was the right one- it had two quilts made by my mom’s dad’s mom, Hattie Hill Hutchcraft Neal.

My mom speculates that she was named after her aunt, who was Harriet Hutchcraft, and married a man whose last name was Hill, so she was Harriet Hutchcraft Hill, and the baby who became my great-grandmother was Hattie Hill Hutchcraft. You hear people talking about how much they like old-fashioned baby names, but you don’t meet very many Hattie Hills these days. Wonder why
The firstquilt to come out of the bag was a flower garden, hexagons in pastels and medium colors on a white field, with a scalloped border. The scalloped border was what sold me, Kate liked the hexagons. We laid it out on the recliner, and I looked closely at the tiny hand quilting. I’ve done some quilting and oh, my gosh, this woman knew what she was doing. If I were at all competitive I would quit, because, you know, I would be competing with someone born shortly after the time of the civil war.
The other quilt, that I left for my sister, had stars on a white background, also very fine quilting, just as good, really. (I feel a little guilty- did I pick the better one? Is it fair?)

So, now, what do I do with this beautiful old textile? Zip it into a blanket bag in

I can scraches ur quiltz?

linen closet? Hang it up somewhere? Use it on a bed for the cat to tear up? I love that it is an antique (actually, what are the rules on linens? is it vintage? antique? where do you draw the line?) and I would like it to survive to become even antiquer (I know, not a word…) I have passed by two separate quilt racks at a thrift store- clutter-y and not really my style. But it is a shame not to have it where I can enjoy it. What are your thoughts?

Funky or Fugly?

See, the pink fading into brown, and then the baby poop green? I just don’t know.

I’m making a baby blanket out of Noro Silk Garden sock yarn. I love this yarn– it is from Japan, and has lovely color gradations- I made a cowl and leg warmers from a colorway with copper and greens and blues. I am working on a scarf in a colorway with deep purples and teals.

This baby blanket makes me wonder…on the one hand, it has bright pink and turquise…fading into brown. Then on the other hand it has purple and indigo and green…and green…and another green…a green that can really only be described as “macrame green.” Or avocado green- some kind of green from the 70’s.

I’ve been working on it a while, and I go back and forth between thinking it’s super cute…and thinking it is ghastly.

There is a kindergartner whose brother takes a Tae Kwan Do class while my kids do, and Erin, the kindergartener, keeps track of my progress. She is very interested in the baby, and the process of the blanket. She has serious doubts about the color combo, though.  She’s polite, and she’ll say she likes the pink, but then she gets a crinkle in her forehead. I get a crinkle in my forehead, too.

The pattern is from Knitting Wrapsody and it has an interesting construction- it starts with a square, which is divided into quarters, then triangles are picked up along each edge, then more triangles are picked up along those edges, then a rectangular border. Because of the way the colors fade into each other, sometimes the stripes on the picked up edges… clash. I don’t know. every time I look at it, I change opinions. So, look at the pictures- funky or fugly?

Alice really likes it- you’d think I made it out of catnip.

I figured out why bike panniers are so expensive

We have a reservoir with a community beach very close to our house- totally within biking distance. (I know, everything’s in biking distance if you have enough time) but this one really is- literally a ten minute bike ride.
We always drive though, because of the baggage factor- towels and lunch and sunscreen and sand buckets. (actually, the kids usually bully other kids into letting them use their buckets. Ugly, but it works)
We are also within a mile of a grocery, a small hardware store, a coffee place and a thrift store. And a farmer’s market.  I shouldn’t be driving to those places either. But again, the baggage problem.
Backpacks are okay, but they make me hot and sweaty, and commercial panniers cost more than I want to spend, so I decided to make some.

What separates panniers from just a regular tote bag is that panniers are bags that have a rigid, or semi-rigid side, that hook onto the rack on back of my bike. The interwebs have lots of tutorials on how to make your own, using army surplus bags or cat litter buckets.  Not exactly the look I’m going for, though.
I got a yard of natural denim, and 1/2 yard of super cute oilcloth. Actually the oilcloth came first, I got it on impulse because it was so super cute, then thought of it for the pannier project. The oil cloth will make the bags splash proof, but not really rainproof. It doesn’t rain here much anyway, and honestly, when it’s raining, I’m in the car. Wimpy, I know.

Look how cute it is!

I spent about $15 on fabric, and another 5 on hardware. The bags will wind up being fraternal twins, rather than identical, because as I made the first one, I figured out an easier way of constructing the second. It also winds up being smaller, though.

I thought of ways to make these with pre-made canvas tote bags- it would probably be cheaper as well as taking less time. I had plenty of time to think about this as I changed the burnt out light bulb on my sewing machine. (is that the difference between really expensive machines and cheapo ones like I have? On a $1300 sewing machine, do you just flip open the side and pop out the light bulb? On mine, I have to unscrew a thing on the back, pull the plastic panel off the front, get my fingers in there and unscrew the light bulb, and there is a plastic flap right at cuticle level that scratches every time the bulb goes around. It’s awful!

This is a very basic bag with a flap, and parachute clips to close it. The key to making the bag work as a pannier is to add another layer of fabric so there is a pocket for a rigid piece of plastic or thin wood to screw the hooks onto. In my case, I sewed the bags from scratch and added the layer of oilcloth as the extra layer, but it probably could be done with tote bags you have sitting around the house.

I found thesereally good instructions for doing the hardware.

Mirror clip, machine screw, split washer, nut and acorn nut.

I used a piece of 1/8th inch thick hard board that I had in the garage from another project (as always) that I cut to 12″ by 12″ and slid into the pocket. Then I attached mirror clips, from the hardware store with machine screws and nuts and stuff. I actually wrote down what I needed, as found on the link above, on a post-it and biked to the hardware store. Then I found a guy in an apron and thrust the post-it at him. “I’m making bike bags” I grunted. He found all the bits and pieces for me.

Bag number 1 fits great- now to finally change that bobbin and finish bag number 2- then it’s off to the farmers’ market.

Knitting at the top 10 percent of my ability

My Dad used to recommend skiing at the top 10 percent of your ability- his thought was that you wouldn’t improve if you just coasted along on the easy runs.
For the past several years, I have been skiing at probably the bottom 10 percent of my ability- teaching the kids to ski, then saying, “oopsy! time for hot chocolate!” or “brrrrr… lets go warm up!”

The knitting is finished, but the finishing isn't even started.

This past week or so I have been knitting at my highest difficulty level, though. It all started when I got a library book about the history of Bohus knitting, and kind of made up a yoked sweater pattern, based on a design from the book. Knitting it went smoothly enough ,I finished that in November. I put the sweater into a tote back next to my closet door because of what had to come next. steeking, which means stabilizing the stitches on either side of the center front, then cutting, thus turning a pullover into a cardigan. Scary.

Deep breaths, just snip, and it will be fine.

I committed this week to doing it, though, so I checked multiple internet sources, picked up button bands, and this morning, got out the brand new sewing scissors, and cut. Many sources recommend a glass of wine at this step, but seeing as how it was only 9:30, I decided against it.

The newly-knitted button bands will fold over the raw edge.

There will be a few more finishing steps, like sewing down the button bands and picking up and knitting the collar. I plan to park on the couch, watch some episodes of Downton Abbey. I hope to wear my new sweater this next week.

Ugly christmas sweater

“I’m just wondering what you are going to do when you’re a little old lady.” DH says as he watches me embellish a sweater with felted gingerbread men cut-outs.
I don’t know. But I have to say I am in love with this sweater. The theme is “Mele Kalikimaka” which is how they say Merry Christmas in Hawaii. There’s even a song.
There seem to be lots of ugly sweater parties this time of year- it makes me feel a little bad for the people who wear them sincerely. Only a little bad, though.
This isn’t really a tutorial- there are plenty of ugly sweaters in stores already. But if you’re thinking about making one…
I got a wool sweater at the thrift store- look in the men’s section for one that has already been felted- this is Eddie Bauer, marked extra large, so you know someone got it for a gift, then put it in the washer by mistake. It was like 3 dollars. I cut down the center front for a cardigan. Because it is felted, it won’t unravel. Then I started placing elements.and pinning them. Most of my elements I cut out of other felted sweaters. I know, the voice in my head is saying “perfectly good sweaters” but there are thousands of them at the thrift stores- one I even knit myself and then accidentally felted. It’s okay. There are enough sweaters in the world to cut a few up. I now have a shoe box full of wool felt- very cheaply.
I stitched my elements on, because that is my kind of crazy- if I were short on time, I would probably hot glue them- it isn’t like this is going to get worn that much.

Gingerbread man shooting the curl...

I had some aqua hand dyed, homespun yarn from my very first spinning experience (yes, I can spin, shhhh… don’t tell people, they already think I’m weird.) I stitched it on to represent waves- put in a sequined fish, a beach, a surfer, a flower. I got lazy when it came time to put faces on the gingerbread people. They look odd, but I’m going to go ahead and wear the sweater.

Edited to add- I did wear it, and got lots of compliments. One of my 6th grade girls suggested coconut shell beads for the hula girl bras- I so wish I’d thought of that. I also got some daylight pictures:

The front- the grass skirts for the hula girls were scraps of green calico from a quilt, the bikinis are bits of silk. The palm trees and sequined fish were about a dollar each at Hobby Lobby.

The Gingerbread Contest

Wow. There are people who are much better at building things out of cookies than we are.


There is a model of the new library re-model, with some of the rectangular parts of the building designed to look like books, and the front windows represented by animals made out of fondant.

This is in the professional division, because the maker is an architect. This is his first time working with fondant.

There’s a lighthouse inhabited by mice. The builder had to make a special mold to create pieces for the rounded lighthouse. Holy moly.

No, the Girl is not biting off pieces of the house- she is having an authorized candy cane.

Here’s a close up of the mice who inhabit the lighthouse. Not sure what it is a reference to? Is there a story about the lighthouse mice? Maybe there should be.

Notice that the mice underground are watching a scary movie- it's about a cat.

There’s a model of District 13, from the book Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins, as imagined by a teenage book club. Sorry, no picture.

There’s a model of The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe, by an entire kindergarten class.

Can you imagine 24 kindergarteners with this much candy and icing. Sticky.

We have ideas for next year- like an ice fishing shack on a glass candy lake, with some goldfish crackers visible under the water. Also, Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen’s moisture farm on Tatooine. Just give me time to forget the misery of this year.

Update- we actually placed! The Girl got 1st in the youth division, and the Boy got 2nd. I got 3rd in the adult amateur division, which considering the other entries, is no shame. Okay, there were only 3 in my category, but I’m still not ashamed.


edited to add- The Girl accidentally sat on her house. Maybe I should have said something when she put it on the chair? Yeah, it’s my fault. We knew we were going to compost them eventually, but she was still pretty upset.


Halloween Assemblage (art?)

They're so in love, and so grave...

Last year we came across directions for very cool Halloween decorations in Cloth Paper Scissors magazine (click here -I’m a little obsessed with this magazine)
The article was by Michael DeMeng ( click here– I just learned how to make these linky thingies!)- an assemblage artist with a spooky sensibility. The directions were to take dollar store cake toppers and chop their heads off, replace their heads with skulls, also from the dollar store, and apply sparkle paint liberally.


Maybe the original directions didn’t say sparkle paint, but we wound up using some. And by some, I mean a lot.

I was reminded that I wanted to blog about them when I found them in the decoration box- the photos have been sitting on my hard drive for a year.

The cake toppers that the dollar store happened to have were African- American. I have to say, it felt awkward chopping their heads off- liberal guilt, I know.

The original directions call for using wire to attach the skulls, so they are adjustable. We decided not to- we just hot-glued them instead. Also, the article called for a Dremel tool to cut the heads off with. I thought this might be my excuse to finally buy one, but tried a handsaw first. Let the record show that a handsaw works fine. I’ll have to find another excuse to buy a Dremel.

The Girl and I mixed several shades of acrylic paint together to get a nice grave shade for skin, and we went beyond just cake toppers, we loaded up on figurines, too. The one that freaked me out the most was the toddler on a rocking horse…one of the rocking-horsemen of the apocalypse? Creepy. But fun.

Bear Sweaters

My mom likes to take the grand-kids to lunch and shopping for birthdays. She has more fun doing this than shopping alone for something that might not be just right. The kids look forward to it, too.  She was in town recently, and took the Girl out for Chinese food and a motorized hamster habitat. I mean, a habitat for a motorized hamster. Then she took my nephew to McDonald’s and Build a Bear Workshop.

I hate going to Build a Bear, but I appreciate it as a distributor of magic.  I’ve recently learned a definition of magic as the “change of consciousness in accordance with will.”  When I heard that definition,  Build-A-Bear jumped into my mind. They help change the consciousness of their core customer base. Purchasing a bear (or monkey,which is what my nephew picked) involves a ritual of wish making and swearing fidelity and secret sharing that helps hold a child back in childhood. Some days it seems like the Girl has the pedal down to the floor trying to be a teenager. She’s  not wise beyond her years, because she doesn’t have the wisdom, but she’s too smart for her own good sometimes.  Somehow, a pink bear, named Pinky ,naturally, slows her down a little.

In addition to being an outpost of magical thinking, Build a Bear is also a money factory- My mom was appalled, “$3.50 for a pair of underwear, you can get a six pack of underwear at Walmart for 5.99!”

But this underwear has tail-holes…

World, meet Eliabeth. Elizabeth, this is the world. Sorry, no underwear...

It gives me an excuse to knit. I have made several bear sweaters, and they are pretty quick and easy. My nephew picked a brown monkey which he named Elizabeth, and when my mom told me about it, I cast on a sweater immediately.   Elizabeth’s monkey sweater may be a touch tight- I probably should have done a gauge swatch, but I hate to do them, especially when the sweater itself is so small.

I had leftover sock yarn- I don’t know exact yardage, but less than a full skein- there was some unrolling and starting in strange places on the ball to get the stripes to line up- if you use a solid color, you can just go straight. Certainly less that 200 yards of yarn, maybe around 100?

This construction method works for any size sweater, I have made them for myself, the kids, babies. I learned it from “Knitting without Tears”—Follow/dp/0684135051/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1318000347&sr=1-1   I checked it out from my local library.(also, I get no money if you follow the link- Amazon won’t do business with Colorado bloggers because of our tax laws)

Once you understand the technique for bears or dolls, you can scale it up.  If you have made hats, you can do this- the only tricky part is grafting the armpits, and you can find Youtube videos that show grafting. Just search knitting grafting, by the way, if you look for grafting armpits, you find weird stuff about hair transplants…

Percentage System Bear Sweater

Figure out the bear’s chest size- 16″ is pretty common. Don’t forget a little ease- extra space for the poor monkey to breathe, and dance, and move in.

Figure out the stitches per inch on the yarn you have and the needles you want to use. I was using fingering weight, and size 5’s, which gives me a gauge of about 3.75 stitches per inch.  I cast on 60, which I thought would be perfect, but it’s a touch tight. Oh well. With bigger needles and thicker yarn, 60 would probably be perfect.

I did about 1/2 inch of 2×2 ribbing. I changed to stockinette when the color changed, and increased 6 stitches evenly around.

Knit up the body about 4 inches.

Cast on 30 stitches for one sleeve- use two circulars  or double pointeds  I like the circulars better, but I couldn’t find any size fives available, so I used the doubles. Do the ribbing to stockinette switch the same way as the body, increasing by 10% when you get done with ribbing. I knit the sleeve until it looked about the right length and also matched up with the color changes on the body- it would have bugged me if the stripes had been way off. Did second sleeve same way.

Here’s the tricky part- put the sleeves and body on the same needle, with waste yarn on the 6 armpit stitches. So here’s how it looks- 28 arm stitches, 27 front of the body stitches, 28 arm stitches then 27 back stitches. Knit 2 rows, then at each place where the sleeves meet the body decrease 2 by knitting two together, then knitting 1, then knitting another two together. Do this every other row until you have decreased to 40% of the original body. Actually, stuffed animal heads are crazy big- I don’t think I did 40% on this one. I asked Pinky for help and tried it on her when it felt like it would be about right. Then I forgot to count, and I have already given the sweater away.

My nephew loved it, and Elizabeth seemed to like it, too. She’s very verbal for a stuffed monkey.

"OOH OOH! AAH AAAH!" that means she likes it.

The armpits for this are pretty tricky, but not impossible- they take grafting, which to me is like magic, (except not according to the above definition) because you are using a sewing needle to create a row of knit stitches. Take the stitches off the waste yarn and put them back on two needles. Thread the tail of yarn onto a large-eyed tapestry needle. Take a deep breath. Hold the knitting needles parallel in one hand. Then insert the needle knitwise into the needle in front, drop it off the knitting needle, and insert the sewing needle purlwise into the next stitch, but don’t drop it off. Then insert the needle purlwise into the first stitch on the back needle,  drop it off, and insert it knitwise into the next stitch. Repeat this until all six are off the needles. Check out Youtube- it is probably easier to see it than read it.  You can stitch up the roughly triangular holes that form at either end while you weave in the ends of the yarn. This same technique can be used for sock toes. I also used it for the sucky shawl I made but still haven’t figured out what to do about.

Craptastic garden design

“Have you walked up the road to see the house on the corner yet?” my sister in law asked. We were at a family reunion in small town Idaho.

“Why,do they have, like, garden gnomes or something?”

“Well, no, I didn’t see any gnomes, but you have to go up and see it…”

“But why?”

“You just have to go see it.”

Well, we took a walk at sunset.

The shed was actually white, but glowed in the setting sun.

Wow. It was a high desert garden filled with junk- no gnomes, just farm implements turned into birds, bedframes hung with mugs and vases, a bottle tree. multiple bowling balls, a shelf of trophies. Craptastic!  Both of my brothers- in-law looked at it with dread, worried that they were going to wind up with a yard full of crap too.  DH didn’t say anything, but obligingly took a photo of the bottle tree in the setting sun.

One of the best structures was a fence around what I think is a goldfish pond- I stayed in the alley, so I couldn’t get close enough to be sure. The fence was alternating panels of sheet metal and either glass or plexi, and I bet it was designed as winter patio- not quite a greenhouse, but you would get a greenhouse effect- you could go out in the sunshine in the winter and be protected from the North wind, but still get sunshine, and since the structure was only around 6 feet tall, you wouldn’t have to get a building permit.

The family reunion was 4th of July weekend, and since then I have been evaluating the things I add to my garden- how much crap does one need? A little crap may look insecure, whereas a ton of crap inspires people from out of town to stand in your alley and peer over the fence.  I am thinking I might want a bottle tree, though…

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