Tag Archives: quilting

Baby A’s Quilt

The blue and orange quilt has been mailed off to Cleveland and I got texted a photo of one very cute baby enjoying it.

Double Trouble quilt

This was the second quilt I’ve made using the Double Trouble block, which I’ve already described as the perfect level of wonkiness for me, but it was the first I’ve quilted using thick embroidery floss (specifically DMC 116 8-93 Pearl Cotton Thread Balls, Variegated Cornflower Blue, Size 8). I loved the look of it. For no more than I quilt, I’ll probably stick to this particular pattern/floss combo for a good long while.

Double Trouble quilt Double Trouble quilt

The other combo we’re into is smoked salmon and egg sandwiches on Bricco Panneteria’s olive bread. The bakery opens super early, so we make a point to stop by on our 6:30am visits to Boston’s North End on summer Sunday mornings.

Breakfast Sandwich

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.

sarah quilt
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.

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.

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!


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.



“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.

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?


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).


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.


Labor Day

Read proposes his dissertation topic in a month and just started work as the TA for an intro course. He still does all of the dishes, and for that I am eternally thankful, but until late October he isn’t available much on evenings and weekends. So for the coming weeks I’m open to suggestions for: a) new projects, b) trips with friends, and c) really good television.

I’ve already gotten started with (a) and (b). First, a last minute Labor Day trip to Charleston, SC with girlfriends. I’m actually returning to Charleston in a couple weeks for a wedding, but hey, that’s not when Tami could be there and besides, when is two September weekends at the beach a bad thing?

Kiawah Beach, Charleston South Carolina

While in Charleston I finished a pair of gray wool socks that’s haunted Tami for years. She was working on them in Tulum (19 months ago) and then claimed she couldn’t finish without me there to help. Mmhmm, I know…sounded fishy to me too. She is now threatening to start another project, quit, then mail it to me to finish. Just make it something beautiful and exciting Tami.

There are no pictures of the socks. Just one of me knitting them in the front seat on the drive to the airport. I wove in the ends as the sun was setting and raised my arms in victory. Goodbye ghosts-of-unfinished-socks!

When I got back I knit up a little welted toque to send Bethany in exchange for one of her new collages. It’s just 100 stitches around, sz 6 needles, and three six-stitch welts. I hadn’t done welts before – they’re really addicting and I love the look of them. Bethany, if you’re reading, I hope you like ’em too.


And then today, while Read alternated between dissertation work and NFL highlights, I listened to a bunch of podcasts in the sewing room and pieced the top for a quilt. It will be for a friend’s baby.


I’m really really pleased with how it turned out. I wanted to make something with my scrap stash that was on-purpose-wonky, since lord knows my technical skills nor my perfectionism are capable of turning out “just so” quilts. But I also wanted it to look clean and modern. I was inspired by Six White Horses’ improvisational chevron quilt (check out her blog, she does great work).

I plan to use a dark raspberry color for the back.





I have more projects on the needles already and another dress to sew. But all that will require more entertainment, so if you have suggestions for podcasts, Netflix movies, and/or television series – or you have ideas for a weekend trip – send them my way!

Southwestern Shell: simple summer sewing

This is the post script to the sewing binge I went on a couple weeks ago – a sleeveless shell made from the aqua southwestern print from L.A.



I traced the pattern from a turquoise Banana Republic shirt…it’s one flat back piece, and one front piece with bust darts.

I was stumped as to how to finish the edges, especially the neckline. I love the loose tie on the turquoise shell, but my machine was having trouble finishing the raw edges of this fabric…all my attempts looked shoddy. Then I remembered that a coworker had recently handed me a package of black bias tape in the office kitchen: I meant to buy iron-on hem tape, but instead I got whatever this is. Someone said you sewed so can you use it? 

Yes! It was just what I needed to tidy up the armholes and neckline…


While I had the machine out I started going through my scrap pile and playing around with the beginnings of a quilt. I haven’t pieced a quilt in a while, but so far I like where this one’s going…