More babies!!! More quilts!!!

Laying out the petals was the hardest part.

A few months ago, I expressed the wish that people would have more babies, just so I could make more quilts. Well, I don’t know if that is the whole reason, but some people have obliged me. My awe-inspiring SIL and her husband are expecting in October, and I have been spending some afternoons in the basement sewing up an appliqued top. It’s better in the basement, since we don’t have air conditioning- I’ll sew, and the kids play with legos, and I’ll come up periodically to refill my iced tea and just be blasted by the heat.

I couldn’t find any patterns I liked, so I just imagined this one. I love the high contrast of the purple and red over the cream.  I also love that the cream has a very subtle pattern on it. Is it a flower exploding? Fireworks? The Girl thought the explosion should be centered, but I like the asymmetricality of it and the way the quilting lines flow off the petals. I mean sparks.

I just finished the binding this afternoon, and love how the red finishes up and ties it all together.

My math and my memory were way off when I bought the fabric for the back-I only got a yard of the dark blue with sparkly stars print. My solution was to add a panel of pieces from the front, an idea I got from a library book called “Quilts, Baby!” by Linda Kopp.

My backing fabric wound up 6 inches too short, so I added a panel of patchwork.

I probably wouldn’t have thought of it if I hadn’t seen it in the book, but when I first saw it while reading, I wondered why anyone would cut up perfectly good fabric on purpose, just to sew it back together. It is a question I ask myself regularly about quilting, actually. And yet here I am quilting…

I can haz bed for kitteh?

On a related note, there were so many scraps of purples and reds that I made the Hellcat a bed. It hasn’t prevented her from sleeping on the guest bed pillow, though. Sorry, Mom. I’ll change the pillowcase before you come.

She doesn’t have another pair just like them at home

The Girl has been wearing unmatched socks for a while. I haven’t heard anything but positive comments about it, even when they don’t know I’m her mom. For instance at the first softball practice, when the family next to me said “oh, look at the cute little redhead on first base, her socks don’t match.” I guess when people think it is appalling or stupid, they keep their mouths shut. Sometimes when people tell her that her socks don’t match, she’ll say, “Yeah, I have another pair just like them at home.” usually, though, she says “yeah, it’s my thing.” I think it is pretty cool.
DH got his pair of socks for his birthday (I lost them under the passenger seat, so he didn’t get them on his birthday, but I did eventually find them) and then it was the Girl’s turn for homemade socks.
Her current favorite color is red, and I got some really pretty variegated red from Knitpicks (have you been? if you do yarn crafts at all, the prices are amazing, and the service is great, and much better quality than the stuff I can get at the big craft stores ( no affiliation with them, it’s just that since my local yarn store went out of business, I’ve relied on them)

As I cast on the first sock, I had an idea. Why knit a pair for her, that she will only wear half of at a time?
Why not make 2 completely different socks, or, since this is a huge ball of yarn, 440 yards, why not make as many coordinating socks as I can, adding in stripes of other leftover colors that coordinate? This way, she won’t have a pair just like them at home- she’ll have a bazillion socks, all different.

I love the way the stripes on the variegation work out- all shades of rich red.

So, while sitting in the bleachers at swim lessons, and on the blanket at the park, I made a wavy lace sock. (It’s a little tight to get on, it probably won’t get worn much, and she will likely outgrow it first. Oh well)
Then, at softball practice, and on the drive to the wedding, and the drive to and from the family reunion in Denver, I worked on a ribbed top with a yellow and orange intarsia star on the heel flap- my first try with intarsia, and maybe my last, but it was fun. Then I used the same yellow and orange on the toe. (in case you were wondering, I don’t knit while driving- just when DH drives. I am neither that coordinated nor that crazy.)

The star doesn't look as cool as it should for as much of a pain in the neck as it was to make...

Next, on the way to the family reunion in Idaho (!) where we had 11 hours to drive there, and another 11 hours to drive back, I made a modified wavy lace, where the main pattern is only on the cuff, and there are just eyelets that continue down the instep. Oddly, this one did not get finished on the road trip- you really can’t knit that many hours straight. I can’t anyway. I’ll get it done sometime this week.

Just a few more rounds on the toe, and look how much yarn is still left...

Finally, I’ll do a sock with some dark blue stripes,  and that should take care of the red yarn, and to be fair, it will be the Boy’s turn for a pair. He wants white socks. That match.

Holey Socks, Batman!

Can you see where the hole was? Hint- it is the bumpy lumpy patch by the was my first try- I'm sure I'll get better.

I have been knitting socks for about 4 years- I make them for myself, and the kids and DH (by the way, if you see an acid green pair, they are for his birthday, and I kind of lost them) I also make them for gifts for other people I love, but don’t go hinting around about buying a pair- I’m happy to teach you to knit socks, but I it doesn’t make sense to make them for money rather than love.

It takes about 8 hours of work for a sock- usually it is work while I am doing other things, watching softball practice, or swimming lessons, or waiting at the dentist. I usually have 1 pair of socks going at all times, and it helps my mental health and concentration, so I do it at staff meetings and trainings and car rides. So on the one hand, it is borrowed time- I am rarely just knitting, but on the other hand, it is a lot of time to invest in a sock, so when a couple of pairs got holes, rather than toss them, or turn them into puppets, I decided they needed to be darned.

Not right away, of course. Projects need to marinate, for a while, sometimes.

When I was a kid, my mom had taught me to darn by kind of weaving across a hole, which is one way to do it,   In my research I found a different process, sometimes called swiss darning, sometimes called duplicate stitch, where you kind of trace the  stitches at the bottom of the hole, then create new ones where the hole is, then connect them to the old stitches at the top of the hole. Kind of amazing, and prettier than a woven patch.  It appeals to the witch in me- making something out of nothing. The muggles will never figure it out!

Here’s a link to darning with duplicate, with a demo on something that actually needed darning, and another, that just shows duplicate stitch as decoration, but was the best demo of where your needle should go, and when.

Did those posts used to be something else?

So, like 5 years ago, I got the idea that I was going to cobble together a canopy bed for the Girl, so I bought some old staircase balusters and did nothing with them. Ideas are sometimes like that- you buy the materials, and then…the materials have to marinate a while.

Time passed, and a canopy bed no longer seemed like a good idea, but I had these 4 turned posts, so I painted them blue and put them by the apple tree, propped up in the holes of cinder blocks. When people asked me if I was going to do anything with them I couldn’t really give them the answer, “I did- look, there they are!” I would mutter something about birdhouses…

3 birdhouses and a finial. Guess which ones I painted?

So I kept thinking.  We had painted some birdhouses a couple of years ago, what if these posts were supports for birdhouses? These aren’t the kind of birdhouses that birds really want to live in- you can’t open them and clean them, they aren’t really “habitat” they are more “decoration.” And I could plant something at the base that could climb them, so they would add some color and some structure. Then the question was how to stand them upright without putting them in cinder blocks. I also didn’t want to bury the bottoms in the ground, because that would make the posts really short.

This spring, I came up with a solution. In the grand family tradition of not spending any money on anything, I used some PVC pipe pieces, some blue duct tape and some rebar (okay, I did buy the rebar, but it was for a different project, so it doesn’t count. I just didn’t want you to think I was going around stealing rebar.)  I taped the PVC to the bases of the posts, hammered the rebar into the ground and slid the pipes onto the rebar.

There's a can of blue spray paint in the garage, I may spray the PVC...

I planted them asymetrically. If I I have learnedanything from making bulletin boards, it is that if something is supposed to be straight, and it’s just a little bit crooked, it drives you crazy. However, if it is supposed to be off-center, then no problem. Unless you are already crazy.

Now, they next step will be attaching the birdhouses on top. The Girl has suggested super glue. Any thoughts?

Growing Flax for Fiber

I love it when two nerdy habits intersect- here, gardening intersecting with love of fibery, knitty, spinny stuff. I ordered some flax seed from Pinetree Garden seeds- these are slightly different from the flax seeds that get added to smoothies for their nutritional properties- the varieties used for seed production are different from the variety used for making yarn. The Latin is Linum Usisittissimum- I love it when the Latin name of a plant is so transparent- “useful,” anyone?

herbal image from "C of Books"

I’ve soaked the seeds overnight, and cleared a little spot in the xeric bed that doesn’t currently have anything in it. I scraped away the mulch, and chopped up the soil a little.  I sprinkled the seed, and now I need to keep it moist for… 20-25 days til it germinates.What? That really seems like a long time- probably not a typo on the seed packet, though. If it were a wetter spring, I wouldn’t be so worried, but it has been super dry here, so it has to be me with a watering can until they get established.

The flowers may be either blue or white, on 3-4 foot tall plants, with light, feathery leaves.

At the end of the summer, I’ll pull the plants, and learn how to process them- I’ve already seen some videos made by a living history museum, there seems to be a lot of pounding involved. Can’t wait!

Unventing Slippers

The Yarn Harlot referred to thrummed mittens a couple of weeks ago, and I had no idea what they were. Google to the rescue- it is a technique where a piece of unspun wool is tucked into stitches to make the inside of mittens, or anything, extra warm and fluffy. It was pioneered in Labrador, where they need the warmth, apparently.

The loop of fleece that peeks through adds warmth and cushion.

I wondered about slippers- I had made a pair for myself, and a still-unfinished pair for the girl, using the French Press pattern  These are knit in pieces, sewn together then felted. Felting is when you take wool items and wash them- the moisture, heat and agitation of the washing machine makes the fibers grab on to each other. It shrinks by around 25 percent, usually, but it is an inexact science. The pattern is well written, but I was disappointed in the ones I made. My French Press slippers are comfy, and they fit, but they are kind of lumpish. The girl’s came out too wide, and I will eventually cut them, and re-sew them. My mind rebels at it- because even after cutting them up, it is probable that they will look lumpish.
So my idea with the thrummed slippers was to have them basically be a sock pattern that fit me, then as I wore them, the um, moisture and heat and agitation from my feet themselves, would felt the fleece inside.
My first attempt was too big- a hobbit might like them, but ,well…I ripped it out, carefully saving the bits of twisted wool in a ziplock, and invented a slipper pattern that is very ballet shoe-like. I started at the toe, and thought, what would happen if you went back and forth on the sole? for every row I did on the toe, I would do 3 on the sole. I tried it, and it worked pretty well. Then I had to duplicate it on slipper number 2.
Elizabeth Zimmerman, patron saint of knitting, invented the term “Unventing” for when you create a way of doing something, then find out later that someone else had created it before you. I am sure someone else has designed this pattern, and maybe better than this, but I am really pleased and proud with how these have come out.

The thrums inside my pair have begun to felt. They work really well as a liner to my Crocs.

This also forces me to find out how to make a perma link, or something, so I can offer this on the sidebar as a free pattern. Before I can do that, though, it needs a name- cute, catchy, memorable, not nasty… please offer any suggestions in the comments.

The girl also wants a pair- chinese red yarn, neon blue thrums.

Can’t resist a special order…making another pair helps get the pattern dialed in,also. Writing knitting patterns is surprisingly hard.

People should have more babies, so I can make more quilts.

I gave Austin’s quilt to his mom last night (he’s the “baby to be named later”- he has a name, but he hasn’t seen the light of day yet) and washed Michele’s. The washing has made it puckery, and the stitching comes out so much better now. In real life it looks really good, but I can’t get a picture to come out showing how cute it is. I guess real life is what matters, right?

Do I blame the camera? or the photographer (me)? Quilt pictures are hard...

I’m so pleased with how this came out- once I had the border and the big motifs done, there was a lot of open space, so  used a marker to draw little pictures to fill in. With the batting I used, there has to be quilting at least every 8 inches, so I had the kids draw some stuff, and I drew little pictures as well that I outlined with stitches. So we have a cat, a fish, a couple of birds. No dinosaurs, which was a surprise.

Now I just have to get it mailed off.

No longer the color of a band-aid


I’ve written before about a top I was knitting with some really cheap bamboo yarn that was a 


 ghastly color. Gray, beige, greige…with a little pink thrown in. Maybe some of you thought, oh, just wait til summer, and when you get a tan, you’ll look better.

 Um. No. I’m pretty pale. Even in August, I just get pinkey-beige…greige, if we’re being honest..

So, since I can’t color myself, I figured I’d dye the sweater. There is a bit of risk in this – sure, maybe the yarn was a 2 dollar investment, but the time is a big deal. Spending a month of free time working on something I can’t wear is disappointing.

Each package of dye cost about $3. I only used one, but I wanted a back-up.

I doubled my investment with a packet of dark brown Dylon dye from the craft store. I chose it over Rit because I have used both before, and Dylon seems stronger- it dyes deeper and seems to last longer, too.
My concern with dying an already-knit item was that the knit stitches themselves would act like tie-dye, so it wouldn’t take up evenly. In this case, I didn’t need to worry- the color took really evenly, and it is even a bit darker than I expected. I love my new sweater!
Judging from some of the searches that have found me, people want to know if Kool Aid works for dying cottons or other vegetable fibers. As far as I know, no. I do know they will stain cottons, but I don’t think they will be colorfast on anything other than wools and silks. That is why I went with a packet of relatively toxic dye for this sweater, and why I didn’t let my kids help me with this project.

 I followed the directions on the package- I have an enamel roasting pan that I only use for dye. I used disposable spoons to stir with, I wore gloves, and I didn’t do it at a time when the kids would get underfoot. The dye is most toxic when in powder form- it is not something anyone wants to breath in.

I mixed the dye according to package directions, and did most of the dying outside.

 However, once it was mixed, I didn’t want the boy hopping through the kitchen and spilling a gallon of dark brown liquid. Yikes! can you even imagine?

I washed the sweater first, then left it wet and put it in the dye. The directions say to stir for 15 minutes then let it set for another 45. I kind of got distracted and left the pot on the back porch for over an hour. It may have done some longterm damage…but I can’t tell at this point. I’m really happy with the color, and can’t wait until it’s warm enough to wear it.

Upcycled iPod Speakers Tutorial

This Christmas I requested mini speakers for my iPod touch- the kids came through with some little round ones. DH steered them toward speakers that have a battery, so they don’t drain so much power from the player.

However, what I wanted the speakers for was for playing music outside- I mostly hate earbuds- I want to be able to hear what’s going on around me. I wanted something portable, and cute.

Enter the upcycled jewelry box from the thrift store with holes cut in sides and rope lid with cool paint job and funky clasp… that’s a terrible name. Speaker Box 3000, aka SB3. iBox?

We’d better think of a cool name, because this could be the girl’s summer job-manufacturing and selling these. We’ll get all the thrift store boxes we can find.You know you want one!

Step 1 Find a box. Our local ARC has a ton of wooden boxes of all sizes and conditions. You might even have a box already, just begging to be used. I got our on orange tag day, so it was half price, only $2. The original Hobby Lobby tag was still on it- somebody paid 10 bucks for it…

Step 2 Find speakers. Like I said, these were Christmas presents, but I’ve seen similar ones at Walmart for around $5.

Step 3 Cut holes. there could be a step 2 and a half:  buy a hole saw, which is what I did. They fit onto a drill, and come in various sizes. My speakers are roughly 2 1/4 inches in diameter, so that’s the size I bought. It was about $8. I already had a drill, and since I plan on making more than one, I figured the $8 was worth it. I might go around looking for things that need holes cut…Anyway, step 3, put the box in some kind of vise, or clamp, or hold it steady some way, then cut the hole. You could also probably use a coping saw, but I decided to invest in the hole saw.

The hole saw is visible on the workbench- the boy was amazed by the tool. "How did you get them so symmetrical!?"

Step 4 paint the box. The girl helped- I picked the colors- kind of turquoise on top of vibrant green, with some sanding- a little vintage-y, as the girl said. Depending on the box you start with, you might decide not to paint. 

The original color was virulent pink, with a butterlfy decal on top. The girl was happy to paint it.

Step 5 Install the speakers with hot glue…. I have some foam, so I plan to cut out a block, then a rectangle for the iPod and battery case. I also need to add a handle and clasp.  The plan is to be able to carry the box around the garden, so I can weed the asparagus and listen to tunes… I’ll post a photo when the paint is dry.

Finished Object- baby quilt

Plum blossom in sashiko stitching.

Finished the blue and yellow quilt, and have started another in a similar style, with turquoise batik fabric for the top and flannel for the back.
I suddenly admire all the great photos I have seen on the web of quilt details, because they are hard to take. My point- and-shoot is struggling to get any detail to show up. The weather is not cooperating either- cloudy and bleak is not great for photography.

This corner is done in the mountain stitch pattern.

Finally we have gotten a string of crystalline days, and I could bring the finished quilt and the future quilt out to the patio to take some pictures.

I have just begun stitching the turquoise one, also for a baby to be named later, and have pretty much done a circle in the center, for a medallion. I am going away from traditional Japanese patterns and putting a Celtic knot in the center and a braid around the edge. This quilt also has a layer of batting in it, which makes quilting go slower.  On the blue and yellow quilt, since the baby is being born in the spring in Denver, I just wanted cotton on the front and flannel on the back- soft but not warm.  Turquoise baby lives in Alaska, so I figure he or she would appreciate the extra warmth.

Turquoise Batik, sandwiched with cotton batting and flannel.

When I claimed my identity as a quilter a few weeks ago, I may have been misleading- I actually hate the patchwork stuff- it makes my brain hurt. But sewing layers of stuff together is pretty satisfying.

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