Sunday, December 31, 2006

Visions of blue

Fellow quilt guild member Jan brought a stack of blue-and-white pieced blocks to our monthly meeting back in November. She'd won them in an online swap. Pretty as they were, she didn't have an immediate use for them. Might they be useful in the guild's current community service project -- making lap quilts for residents of the local county nursing home?

"Absolutely," I told her. And I tucked them away in my sewing room for when I had a chance to do something with them.

Yesterday, while making good on my pledge to reorganize the sewing room, I ran across them. And it was the perfect time to stop everything, pull some marbled fabric out of the growing stack of blues, shove aside other stacks on the cutting mat to make some sashing strips, and get busy sewing. Just a short time later, Jan's blocks had become a great-looking quilt top.

My favorite block of the batch has a lovely Dresden look to it. Didn't the original quilter do a great job leaving a perfect quarter-inch seam allowance around all those points? The sashing framed it perfectly, and I love the thought of an older lady admiring the charming teapot in the middle.
In January, the guild plans a Saturday Sew Day when we'll layer, pin, baste, quilt and bind this quilt and a lot of others. We hope to have enough finished to make a nice donation to the nursing home.
Thanks, Jan, for a great contribution - and we'll never know who made all the blocks, but it's great to think about how a little effort from a lot of quilters will bring a lot of cozy comfort to someone who could really use it.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Quilting in the news - Chicago

Here's a neat news story about a volunteer quilting program in Chicago, fueled by an interior designer who found herself awash in discontinued fabric samples.

Be sure and check out the video version, which tells the story more poignantly than words can...makes me want to head right back to my sewing machine, which I'm going to do right now!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Scrap yarn and hats

Turns out the unraveled granny square centers worked well for making skinny stripes around various baby hats. Between those scraps and a lot of other yarn odds and ends, I had several happy hours of knitting with no real plan at all. Here's how a few of the hats turned out.
Three more days before heading back to the tomorrow I'm going to make nice with my sewing machine, which I think is feeling a little jealous of the knitting needles...

Thursday, December 28, 2006

A self-imposed challenge

I guess there was a time when making crocheted granny squares seemed like a good idea to me. Because when I was re-organizing my yarn stash the day after Christmas, I ran across a little bag filled with several dozen crocheted squares about an inch and a half across.
I know a lot of grandmas have made these afghans over the years, and bless their hearts for doing so, but you know what? Granny squares make lousy afghans. They've got big gaping holes in them, so they're not warm. Accordingly, they seem to have no sense of utility unless you want your couch to look like it's straight from the old set of "Roseanne."
So it's safe to assume that I will not, in fact, be converting these long-ago-started granny square centers into crocheted afghans.
Instead, I decided to challenge myself to see what else I could do with them. It's ridiculous, really, because there's not enough yarn in the whole batch to really worry about, and I could have tossed the whole bag and not lost a moment's sleep over it. Still, it seemed like a fun idea, especially as I'm working on this batch of baby hats for the hospital. I've used more than half of the squares already, and I'll post some of the results tomorrow.
I want to use up all the squares in the bag, but I've already subtracted three of them for another purpose. It seems that the charming Abigail thinks they make great cat toys, too.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Have a merry little Christmas

These past couple of weeks have been too hectic with work to leave much energy for major sewing projects. So it's been the perfect time to pick up the knitting needles in the evening and make a few baby things. Here's how a couple of non-traditional yarns knitted up - I love them!

When I dropped off the "Santa Baby" hats at the hospital last week, I asked the volunteer office if the maternity ward had any special needs for other donated items. Turns out they don't get nearly as many hand-knitted hats as they like to have on hand, which really surprised me - often hospitals are inundated with hats because they're the first thing folks think of making. I figured the Christmas hats would come in handy as a quirky little thing this week, but I really didn't expect they would have an ongoing need for hats.

So I've been enjoying the chance to relax with some of these small, finished-in-an-hour projects, and have been using a lot of brights from my stash. I'll make some pastels, too, but it's fun to use something a little funky as well.

It's especially nice to be reflecting on these sweet babies during this special season of the holy Babe in the Manger. I wish you a very warm and wonderful Christmas.

Friday, December 15, 2006

When mistakes don't really matter

I broke one of my own rules this week.

The rule is this: Don't ever donate an item for somebody else to use that you wouldn't be perfectly proud to see on your own child or use yourself. In other words - don't turn out junk in the name of charity, because that's not charitable at all.

I still believe in that rule. But when my schoolteacher daughter called Wednesday night to tell me about a family with a lot of children who'd just lost everything in a fire, it seemed appropriate to recalibrate my internal formula of quality vs. utility.

I'd built up a fairly substantial box of stuff that was clearly not my best work. A knitted blanket in double-thick baby pastels, but too large and too heavy for a baby. Another in garishly bright yarn. A winter scarf that seemed a few stitches wider than it ought to be. A bunch of hats that were experiments for new styles and stitches - and close inspection revealed more than a few bungled rows and mis-aligned ribs.

I'm not a perfectionist in my craft work by any means. Still, I hadn't felt right about sending this stuff off to the hospital or the youth center. But it seemed a shame to let vanity keep a bunch of hats and blankets in a box in my guest room when they could, with all their flaws, be put to much better use.

So off the box went to Brooklyn yesterday - along with the little jester hat I completed on Sunday, and a flannel baby blanket a la my mother.

This family will need a lot more help getting back on their feet, but if the children have new blankets to cuddle with at night, I hope it'll help at least a little.

Monday, December 11, 2006

A little color, a lot of punch

For some reason I tend to hang onto tiny little balls of yarn. I mean, the size of a golf ball. Just left-over odds and ends. It's ridiculous. I have a grocery bag of them and I've been adding to it for years. Lately, I've been meaning to throw the whole thing out.

But yesterday I actually discovered a use for them.

I was knitting a child's cap on standard off-white yarn and suddenly decided to give it more of a ski-cap sort of look by adding a little color. I've never done much multi-color knitting, but alternating every other stitch didn't seem too intimidating, and the little balls of leftover yarn were all I needed. And before I knew it, I had this:

There was just enough yarn left over to make the pom-poms for the corners of this little jester hat. The idea came from a preemie-sized hat in Knitting for Peace, but I sized this one up to fit a four- or five-year-old. I have to say, it's the best use of tiny amounts of scrap yarn that I've found in a long time!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Santa babies

Last week I read in Tracy's terrific blog, Wool Windings, about some adorable Santa Hats and matching booties she'd been making for The Preemie Project. Her sets were so cute I could hardly wait to rush to my stash and dig out a skein of Caron Red Simply Soft and start some for our local hospital. I didn't have any fuzzy white yarn for the "fur," so I picked up something called "Masquerade," part of the new line of yarns that JoAnn's has come out with. It's sort of chenille-y, with a little wisp of sparkly nylon - just right for the cheerful trim. Here's how mine turned out.

These knit up so quickly that it'll be easy to add to this little batch and get them to the hospital well before Christmas. Thanks so much to Tracy for the inspiration!