Seven years of quilts

I was quilting during lunch this week and a coworker asked who had taught me.

No one.

That’s not a brag; it’s an apology to recipients of my earliest quilts.

When I visited Cincinnati last summer my friend P told me that his kids love the quilt I gave them in 2009. “They snuggle up with it when they watch movies.” At least if they’re watching movies the lights are off, because that quilt is all out of whack. The pastels with  blocks of black, the helter-skelter piecing…it’s weird.

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I make probably two quilts a year and I’m only half interested in truly improving (otherwise, I’d take a class or something, right?). But just in making more I’ve learned a few tricks and developed a better eye.

In 2012 I made a quilt for my friend’s first baby that was also wonky, but more purposefully so. It had better balance…a nice tension between the movement of the chevrons and the expansive white space.

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Last fall I finished a baby quilt for L using the “double trouble” block. It’s easy to make a whole stack of them assembly-line style, and the block itself is an even split between precise (the 90-degree triangle) and improvisational (the off-kilter white strip and tiny triangle). Double-trouble and I are friends. We get along.

Mini-quilt
My friend announced she’s due for her second baby so I’m turning to the double-trouble block again, this time with oranges and blues.

Improvisational baby quilt

For the first time I’m trying a thicker thread for the hand-quilting (recommendation courtesy of Bonnie, maker of some truly beautiful quilts). This is #8 Perle cotton in a variegated blue.

Improvisational baby quilt
I held up the quilt last night and R deemed it my best one yet. “It’s prettier than yours!” he taunted baby L. True. But that just goes to show that the quilt-improvement train is still moving forward!

 

More DIY baby wardrobe

This fall I was shopping for baby L and found myself rejecting an entire rack of holiday dresses because “frilly things look weird on her.” Something about that is true…I think? When I’ve put her in super girly stuff R and I agree that something seems off. Maybe it’s her lack of hair? I have a picture of myself at around 18 months in tiered ruffled lace, and it looks so odd underneath my glaringly bald head.

It could also be that I’m projecting wardrobe preferences onto the baby, because I’ve looked through her clothes drawer and it’s verrrrry familiar. No browns or tans. Hardly any pink or yellow. Lots of black pants with bright tops, bright pants with black & white tops, etc. Oh and a cat shirt with sparkles, which I would wear if I thought coworkers would take me seriously in it.

She’s built kind of spindly and narrow, so I’ve taken to putting her in leggings. I even sewed a couple pairs this fall so that I could make them extra narrow and extra long.
DIY baby leggings

DIY baby leggings
And what looks better with leggings than tunics? I knit a dark teal version of Like Sleeves for Babies. It’s a little short and wide, so if I knit it again I’d lengthen it so that it could start as a dress and become a tunic as she grows.

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The other thing I’ve been busy making is hats. This kid’s head circumference is >99% on the CDC charts. It’s a seriously impressive noggin and it’s required a set of progressively larger garter earflap hats. I love the pattern though – it’s everything you want in a baby hat but nothing extra, and it’s a great use of handspun or partial skeins. She just doesn’t always want it on her head.

Garter earflap hatOther posts about DIY baby clothes:
Handspun poncho
Two tiny newborn sweaters
Double-thick mittens

The mini-quilt

UntitledThe little quilt is done! And I love it. The rainy season in Mexico is about over and we can start using the clothesline with more confidence, so here it is drying amongst the bedsheets on our rooftop.

Pattern: Double-trouble block, machine-pieced and hand-quilted
Fabric: cotton scraps and a bedsheet for the back
Batting: Heirloom Cotton
Size: 32.5″ by 35.5″
Recipient: the back of our ugly rental couch

The project started purely as a way to de-stash – there’s a few dresses in there, a previous quilt, and some of my grandma’s fabric. I was making good progress last spring, but then things stalled out and this became a mini-quilt. Made for easier suitcase-packing anyway. It took a few weeks, but I finally figured out how I wanted to arrange the quilting stitches.

PicMonkey CollageWhile home in Ohio last week the goal was to finish the hand-quilting so that I could use my mom’s machine to attach the edging. I finished quilting around 7pm the night before my early morning flight. Oops. Never one to shy away from a project, my wonderful mother helped me pin, stitch, and press well into the evening. When the sewing machine wouldn’t behave she coaxed a back-up machine to life (it’s one of those inside-the-wooden-table White machines) and off we went.

UntitledI again pulled up this tutorial as a reminder on how to finish the edging. Highly recommended. I finished the hand-sewing part of the edge during two airport layovers the next day. And then voila! Now I’ll shift efforts to the knit blanket.

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“Is that for the baby?”

This is what nice ladies on buses have asked me for the past month. When I responded I was knitting a sweater for myself, not the baby, their eager smiles faded a little. Perhaps in disappointment at a missed opportunity to ooh/ahh over itty bitty baby knits? Or disapproval over the decision to spend pregnancy days knitting for me?

UntitledEhh, well, the sweater is all blocked and seamed now. And I LOVE it. No finished pictures yet, but that’s because my intended photography day was ruined by a horrible morning at Immigration. I’d been warned about Mexican bureaucracy, but this has reached new levels. I was only able to eat ice cream and take a nap. Photos of the finished sweater soon.

I will now make inquisitive Mexican ladies much happier with the next two projects: a baby quilt AND a baby blanket.
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The quilt is what I started in Boston. I learned about the baby right as I was running out of crafting time to expand on the above, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to make something small and stroller-sized. I pinned the layers in Ohio and brought it to Mexico, then stalled over the stitch pattern. After an inspiring craft-themed gchat with an old friend some ideas started rolling, and that night I got out of bed in the wee hours to sketch this:

quilt finalIt’s like a fractal mix of radial and concentric. Kind of art deco?

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The blanket is the Purl Bee Fluffy Brioche blanket, knit up in 10.5 with some chunky light gray cotton/wool that I bought in bulk at a WEBS sale. After the fussy cables and smaller needles of the cardigan, it’s so fun to breeze along on a big chunky knit project.

But lest the Mexican ladies get too excited, when I went online to find the blanket pattern I couldn’t help but notice Purl Bee’s new City Cape pattern. Hmm…very tempting.

Sewing straight lines

“What are you making?” is the quintessential icebreaker question when people see you knitting. After hearing about whatever it is, the unanimous citizen response is, “Oh I don’t have the patience for something like that.” Repeating this interaction but replacing knitting with sewing produces an eerily similar response: “Oh I can’t even sew a straight line.”

It’s as if people feel a need to justify to why they haven’t (or don’t plan to) take up the same hobby. Or they’re trying to fend off what they perceive as a forthcoming recruitment pitch, which, given a knitter’s love for knitting, isn’t entirely crazy. How do you usually respond to these unsolicited explanations? (I’m assuming you get them too) Because I’m not sure that people are accurately identifying the barriers.

I usually say that patience is something I possess in wildly different amounts depending on the situation.

And as for the sewing in straight lines, it’s actually pretty hard for me (probably because it requires so much damn patience…measuring, cutting, piecing).

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I’m working on a stash-busting scrap quilt that – like most – requires sewing together lines of blocks (the last quilt pattern I used was cleverly chosen to avoid this). It’s so hard to match up row after row of little squares! What trick am I missing? I had to rip out several seams and redo them so that the lines weren’t egregiously mismatched, and there are still plenty of little places where it’s not quite right, but…I like where it’s going. I think it will look good when it’s finished.

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Spring sewing

I don’t usually like to entertain complaints about winter weather that is completely expected (i.e. it’s Boston in January, of course it’s snowing), but this year winter was noticeably never-ending. A friend’s wedding in southern California helped get me through that last stretch of sub-freezing horribleness. Ahhhh – palm trees. Short-sleeves. Iced coffee.

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In between bridesmaid duties I worked in an afternoon at the Fabric District, since my first tour of the place was so successful. I loitered for a while at the bargain place, but sadly, this time around no bin of new closeouts was wheeled out of the back room. I still snagged a nice striped jersey knit for around $3.

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The great news is that my new boss is big into crafting and owns all the gadgets, including a serger, and she’s going to let me borrow it so I can make a proper maxi skirt (and maybe re-sew the one I made last time because the seams are starting to pull).

The second and final purchase was this stretch cotton blend. What should it be?

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When it’s 8 degrees Fahrenheit out….

…this is the most lucrative bit of cat real estate in the apartment.
UntitledThey love the warmth of the pilot light. It also provides a nice vantage point for spying on a brown Boston terrier who we’re dog-sitting. He is very cute and nice, but he and the cats aren’t quite sure about each other.

UntitledEdith took her own safety very seriously at the beginning, and for the first time ever I found her perched on top of the shower door.

If you were caught up in Storm Hercules, I hope you’re safe and warm. We didn’t get too much snow here – maybe 8 inches with some drifting – but it was incredibly cold out. My walk in the snow didn’t last long.

UntitledSo…naturally I worked on some knitting and sewing. The sockyarn that I spun up this fall yielded a pair of Christmas socks for my mom and there was still enough left over to make myself a pair. I’m finishing up the second one now. I also started working on a new quilt. Kind of a wonky chevron thing to use up a bunch of scraps. Did you have any snow day projects?

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