Thursday, October 18, 2007

Pinwheel crazy

Tonight I completed the last of the 24 quilt blocks I need for my current project. I absolutely love this block pattern. It's from Nickel Quilts, one of the first quilting books I purchased when I started quilting four years ago. The pattern is called "Labor Day Madness" -- here's a photo from the author's web site of a finished version.

I chose dusty blues and a range of deep reds on cream background for these blocks, and hope to get them joined with vintage blue sashing strips and a gorgeous striped border this weekend.

I thought the block might be a little tricky with its partial-seam construction, but it really went together quite nicely. I did find, though, that even after doing 24 blocks, I still had to consult the instructions each and every time.

Something about this pattern just really grabbed me. It seemed to have a bit more motion and panache than traditional pinwheels where all the points meet in the middle.

This pattern comes with an added bonus -- leftover combination units that can be used in another project. I ended up with eight dozen of these little jewels that, once trimmed, will be great in yet another pinwheel project. I'm almost getting dizzy already!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Feel-good quilting!

OK, I didn't really need two weeks to prepare another post . . . but anyway, here I am again. I wanted to share a few photos from the United Way silent auction, which has been the focus of most of my crafting energies through late August and September.

The auction brought in a tidy sum for United Way, and I was really pleased with how my quilts and knitted scarves contributed to the overall effort. And I have to say, it was a real thrill to see people bidding and willing to fork over a little hard-earned cash in exchange for something I'd pulled together in my sewing room. Yes, it was all for charity, so people were perhaps a little more generous than they might have been if it'd been on the open market. But still, it was a lot of fun.

Believe it or not, my boss ended up with the Halloween table runner. Our CFO actually bid several times on the "Tumbling Leaves" table runner, only to be outbid in the end by another executive. (This totally turned me into the equivalent of a giddy high school sophomore - "Oooo! I made an execu-quilt!!!") And my friend Annette in accounting ended up with the scrap medallion quilt -- so I couldn't have been happier.

After a bit of a crafting breather, I'm back to sewing again - so hopefully I won't wait two weeks to post again....!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

100th-post drawing winner

As scheduled, I tossed all the names of last week's commenters into Dan's well-worn Tilley hat this evening (yes, including relatives - this was a scrupulously fair event, and there was no sense in penalizing anyone with whom I happen to share DNA...)

And the winner is...

Candy, this may not equate to winning the lottery, but I'll be delighted to send the little quilted coasters your way! You may be in the midst of moving right now, so just e-mail me when you have a moment and let me know which address I should use.

Candy is a lovely young woman whose blog I discovered about a year ago. She has become a real advocate for the comfort of bereaved parents. Her Emmazing Grace foundation is dedicated to providing size-appropriate garments and other items for tiny newborns who are called to their heavenly home. The foundation also assists with headstones or other burial items for families who need them, to help honor and mark the significance of these brief but precious lives. She and her husband dedicate this work to the memory of their tiny daughter, Emma, who lost her valiant NICU struggle two years ago. Candy's sharing of her family's story has really inspired many people to continue this special service work.

I'll post some photos of the United Way silent auction in the days to come, but suffice to say it was a huge success. I was delighted with the response to my quilted things, and it was really fun to see the bidding mount up for a great cause. More in a bit.

And thanks again for the good wishes on my 100th post! I really have enjoyed doing this blog and will continue to for a long time to come.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

United Way quilt - and a prize

Today I finished the binding on this quilt for Friday's United Way silent auction. I'm so happy with how it came out! The paisley border -- from a long-forgotten piece of fabric in my stash -- seems to set off the scrappy piecework perfectly.

Since every bit of this quilt came from fabric I already had on hand, I decided to indulge in the services of a local professional longarm quilter - something I haven't done in a few years. I'm really glad I did. I hope you can see some of the detail below. Didn't Ellen do a terrific job?

So next week, I'll let you know how the silent auction turns out. It's always a fun event.

In the meantime, a brief aside. This is my 100th post! So, in following the example of several other bloggers I admire, I'm offering a drawing to celebrate.

Between now and the end of day Saturday (Sept. 22), just leave a comment on this post, even if it's just to say "hi." This is the perfect time to come out of lurkdom! On Sunday, all the names will go into a hat, and I'll ask Dan to to randomly select a winner for this set of six quilted coasters.

My sister has already asked if relatives are eligible - of course they are!

Thanks for helping me celebrate my 100th post. And come back next Sunday for the results!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

My so-called experiment

I was digging around for inspiration for a scarf I wanted to knit for the United Way silent auction. I wanted to use up two skeins of Lamb's Pride bulky "Blue Flannel" that I'd had in my stash for three or four years. Such a luscious yarn; such a beautiful shade. Plus, Lamb's Pride and the entire Brown Sheep line is spun in my beloved home state of Nebraska. So I really wanted a terrific pattern for this little love-fest I had going on with the yarn.

I found this pattern for "My So-Called Scarf" and just loved it. An unusual stitch. Even a You-Tube demonstration on the slipped stitches and psso's.

I got into it for a little while, and you know what? I didn't love it. The stitch was great, but I was bothered by the bumpy edges on the scarf. I'm so used to slipping the first stitch of every row and creating that lovely, smooth edge. This pattern didn't allow for that, and I hadn't bothered to do the math to accommodate the additional stitch on both sides of the pattern.

Plus, I realized I really don't like scarves that aren't reversible. Now, I love to admire the wonderful cables on the Irish hiking scarves but I can't get over the fact that they look very different on the other side. It probably doesn't bother most people. It bothers me. I'm OK with that.

Suffice to say, My So-Called Scarf soon disappeared and turned instead into a standard, classic, K2 P2 ribbed scarf.

Boring? Predictable? Sure. But warm? Stretchy? Reversible? Yes, indeed. And I'm OK with that, too.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Going table runner crazy

At my workplace, we're coming up on our third annual silent auction to benefit United Way. It's always a fun event, ending with a real frenzy of last-minute bidding as the auction draws to a close at the end of day. Everyone pitches in and contributes items for the auction tables - from sports tickets and golf games to jewelry, baked goods and handcrafts.

Last year I made purses and more purses, and they brought in a respectable sum for United Way. The real bidding wars, though, seemed to arise over the quilted table runners, especially one in Christmas reds and greens. So I decided to make more seasonal table runners this year.

Here are a few that I've pieced, but are still in various stages of being quilted and bound.

If you've picked up the Fall 2007 issue of BHG's "Quilts and More," you'll find the pattern for these Tumbling Leaves. They show it as a wall hanging - but I really like its look on the table.

Some vintage-looking Halloween prints came together nicely for this one.

Here's a Christmas one.

And this one's not seasonal, but I ran across the blocks last weekend in my sewing room. I bet it's been at least three years since I've pieced them. It was easy to toss them together and add a couple of borders for another easy table runner.

I'll be quilting a couple of these myself, and a few others are with the long-arm quilter for a nice, professional look. I can't wait to get them back and finish them up with the binding - my favorite part!

Monday, September 03, 2007

This and that

I can't remember when a summer has flown by as quickly as this one! My projects have mostly been small ones over recent weeks, perfectly suited to traveling and relaxing summer evenings on the porch.

A set of small wool hats for a special Afghans for Afghans baby hat drive...

...a few more pumpkin hats in assorted sizes...

...a couple of warm wool hats for one of my co-workers who's also a volunteer firefighter and paramedic, and can always use some extra warm gear for folks they assist after accidents...

...the binding on a vintage flannel baby quilt pieced by one of my fellow guild members...

...and a couple of test blocks for this year's quilt guild service project.

We'll be making a raffle quilt for the local Humane Society to help fund their spay and neuter assistance program. Guild members will make one of these blocks with the same black as background, using their own brights. Which one is your favorite?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Michael's quilt

There's a new little fellow in our family who's now two weeks old and doing great (and his parents will be, too, as soon as they can get some more sleep!) This quilt is on its way to Chicago right now, and I hope little Michael James will have some happy hours snuggling with it.

This was great fun to put together. I saw a similiar one made up at my local quilt shop, and loved the combination of scrappy brights and one unifying background of blue and white polka dots. As I cut and pieced this version for Michael, I added in a lot of scraps from quilts I've made for his cousins over the past couple of years. It brought back so many warm memories of all these sweet little great-nieces and nephews. I hope it'll somehow transfer the love a big, warm extended family to this newest little guy in our fold.

There are only two little blocks that go into the making of this quilt - a four-patch and a half-snowball. I can't believe the versatility of this combination. So after I finished Michael's gift, I started experimenting with another version, using a warm antique-y tan as the background color. I like it so much that I think it will become one of my donations for this year's United Way silent auction at my office.

A few of these....

Make a few of these....

Which, in turn, make a few of these....

I'm very excited to see how this one turns out. The scraps seem to sparkle and become almost jewel-like in this starry setting. However, over the next week, I'll be doing knitting instead of sewing -- Dan and I are taking off for a much-needed week of vacation. We'll be taking our first RV trip and camping at Lake Champlain on the New York/Vermont border.

I've been sorely tempted to take my sewing machine along -- I have idyllic notions of setting up a workspace on a picnic table at the campground, and sewing happily away in the great outdoors. However, for this trip, I think I'll stick to the more portable knitting needles and churning out a few more hats. I'm restricting myself to one medium-sized plastic bin of craft materials, but you can bet I'll be cramming as much into it as humanly possible!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Today's shopping

It's a chilly, rainy evening, so it felt especially good to take yards and yards of warm, fluffy new flannel out of the dryer and fold them just now.

Of course, it would have felt good, anyway - as I wrote about last year on July 23...

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Hemming a hat

I don't think I've ever edged a knitted hat with anything other than ribbing, a band of garter or seed stitch, or a simple rolled edge. This week I discovered how to put in an actual sewn hem, and I'm loving the neat, tidy look it gives -- to say nothing of the double thickness for extra warmth over the ears. Have you ever tried it?

I'm still experimenting, but the trick seems to be to cast on and then knit in the round for X number of rows - on the hat above, I knit seven, but I imagine you could do any number you want. Then purl one round (this creates your turning ridge), and go back to knitting X number of rounds again. Then purl another round or two for a little style, and go back to straight knitting, or whatever you've chosen to do for the rest of your hat.

You then go back and fold your bottom edge under along the turning ridge, thread your cast-on tail into a tapestry needle (you'll have left it a little longer than usual for this very purpose), and do a loose whipstitch on the underside so the curling edge now lies flat. So neat, so tidy -- almost tailored and sophisticated-looking, if a knitted hat can be such a thing.

I realize this is hardly rocket science, but for some reason I was just so excited to learn this. I could hardly wait to share it with my very talented and clever friend Jean yesterday, and while she already knew about this technique, she kindly celebrated my discovery nonetheless. Jean also recommended using this technique at the bottom edge of a sweater if it doesn't need to "pull in" with ribbing.

What's more, Jean advised me, you can create a sweet picot edge along the hem of a little girl's hat or sweater by substituting the purled turning ridge with a simple row of yarn over/knit 2 together. So I'm sure I'll be trying that one soon, too.

Little hats are such great summer knitting -- perfect for those afternoons of sitting on the front porch, and chatting with whatever neighbors happen to stroll by. I believe I'll pour a big glass of iced tea and head out to the porch right now.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Peek-a-boo pups

Isn't it fun to see what delightful little surprises happen when piecing a quilt?

I only had a small piece of this puppy-dog print, and it seemed perfect to toss in the mix for this happy, scrappy child's quilt. I didn't fussy-cut the squares at all, but somehow these three little pooches found the perfect way to show up. It makes me smile to think of a sweet little one snuggling with this quilt and playing a quiet little game of "find the puppies."

And this little square shows just how much fun I'm having making this quilt:

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Show-and-tell Tuesday: Another refashioned dress

I'm totally hooked on this pattern, which helps turn a Wally Cleaver shirt like this...

...into a cute little dress like this.

I've got a stack of about five other shirts waiting to make similiar transformations. They're really fun to make, and so easy.

My only problem with having made this amazing discovery is that now I'm constantly evaluating the shirt of every man I see. When Dan and I were in Florida last month, I saw terrific summer shirts at every turn. The fellows wearing the shirts adorned with splashy border prints -- the sort they don't tuck in -- had no idea I was staring at their attire. All I could think of was how great those prints would look when transformed into happy little sundresses, all twirly and girly.

I even caught myself staring at the brightly striped shirt of one of our summer interns at last week's staff meeting. The fabric was gorgeous. The back yoke was just deep enough to make the perfect dress bodice. And the kid is tall, so, yay! Enough extra fabric to make a generous ruffle around the hem!

All I know is, I've got to save my shirt-lusting for the racks at the thrift store and keep it out of the office. Can't you just see me trying to explain myself if someone complains about me to HR?!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Little boy blue...

... and his little hat, too!

July is very special month in our family, with at least six birthdays and a seventh almost certain to happen before the end of the month. This set is headed out to Dave and Kate in Chicago to help welcome their little one who's due in a couple of weeks.

The yarn is "Buttons," which is quickly becoming my favorite soft wool for wee ones.

Today is wrapping up what's been sort of an extended long weekend. I was off work on Wednesday, worked on Thursday, took a vacation day Friday, worked only a few hours Saturday, and am off today. It's been terrific, and very good for my knitting and sewing productivity. Hope everyone else is enjoying these wonderful days of summer, too.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Children's bags

A few weeks back, I had a great conversation with one of the staffers of the only women's shelter in our county. I had sent her a batch of little girls' sundresses, but was concerned that I was foisting stuff upon them that they didn't really need.

She assured me the dresses would be put to good use by some of the little girls seeking shelter at their facility with their mothers. And when we got to talking about other needs that might be a match for someone who likes to sew, she suggested some small bags to hold personal care items for children.

She told me that they were usually well-stocked with toiletries to give the adult women who checked in, but that it would be nice to have something age-appropriate to give to the children, too.

I was so glad to use some of the juvenile and novelty prints that were sitting in my stash. Here are a few of the drawstring bags, all filled and ready to be delivered tomorrow:

And here's a look at the contents of one of the bags for an older girl:

There are 20 bags in all. Each one contains a new washcloth, bar of soap, toothbrush, toothpaste and a hairbrush and/or comb, as well as a few other dollar-store goodies like hair barrettes, small notebooks and puzzle books, "Go Fish" cards and bubbles for blowing.

Sewing the bags was a breeze, but when it came to shopping for the contents, I knew I needed to bring in an expert, and a good one at that. I enlisted the services of my young friend Rachael, the 11-year-old daughter of one of my friends at work. Rachael was only too happy to join in the project. We spent a very enjoyable evening shopping together, and I learned more than I ever dreamed possible about what sort of ponytail holders pull your hair and hurt, and what sort are just fine. We had a terrific time, and I feel much more confident about the bag contents as a result. Thanks for your consultation work, Rachael!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Show-and-tell Tuesday: Refashioning!

Inspired by all the clever craftiness over at Wardrobe Refashion, I had some fun making these two ridiculously easy little things. And I'm delighted with how they turned out.

Here's how a thrift-store pair of jeans (with worn knees) turned out after I sliced it right under the zipper and attached a skirt with a happy fish print from my stash.

And once I saw this tutorial that linked off of one of the refashioner's posts, I could hardly wait to cut into an old gingham seersucker shirt. Here's how it turned out:

The back of the shirt becomes the front of the dress. I got ambitious and ripped out the tuck where the shirt back joins to the back yoke, then gathered it for a softer look. Unfortunately, I stitched some pretty serious tucks into the seam in the process of re-attaching. But rather than re-do the whole business, I put some little buttons over the tucks and it almost looks like I planned it that way...

The best part is the back of the dress, made from the front of the shirt.

I guess I could have re-attached the pocket and Izod label somewhere, but I didn't bother.

This was so easy to make! Next time I think I'll make the ruffled shoulder straps a little narrower, as these look a bit wing-like to me, but I'm definitely going to make more of these dresses, and the little skirts, too.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Little pumpkins

Late last October, I ran across my copy of Ann Norling's classic fruit cap pattern. By just purling every eighth stitch, it was easy to adapt into a ridged pumpkin hat that really did turn out to be as cute as could be.

Unfortunately I started the project so close to Halloween that there was only time to churn out one, so it went to the youngest member of the family, my great-niece Abbey. This year, I decided to start a bit earlier. And last week's trip to Florida provided plenty of time to get started.

I used Dreambaby DK yarn and size 4 DPNs for these cute little caps. I'm not worrying too much about gauge at this point - they're pretty stretchy. I have enough yarn to churn out quite a few more, so I'll make some larger, some smaller -- once the family wee ones are taken care of, I'll have some to take to the hospital. Can't you imagine taking home a newborn in late October, all decked out in a little pumpkin hat?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

From big dress to little dress

I knew when I spotted the Liz Claiborne label on this dress at the thrift store Saturday that I had to do something with all this really good-quality fabric. So, I did.

This pattern is so easy -- See & Sew #3889. And the lightweight denim is just perfect for the soft draping of this little sundress. Best part of all was, I used the original hemmed edge, so no hemming! (Thanks, Ms. Claiborne!)
Well, Dan and I are off to Florida for five days, so I'll probably be offline until next week. Unfortunately, it's not vacation, but a vendor mart for the little retail store we own and that Dan operates. (I don't think I've ever mentioned it on the blog before, but we do love birds!) Even though it's work-related, it'll seem like vacation just having several days in a row with my sweetie. Hope everyone has a happy and crafty few days ahead.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Show-and-tell Tuesday: Placemat purse

One of my thrift store finds on Saturday morning was this cheery little 13-cent placemat.

It’s become this cheery little purse.

This was a fun project from start to finish. I had the black plastic handles already. The fabric was a leftover scrap from another purse project last fall. Even the closure was a no-cost feature. I liberated the black cord from the chic little paper shopping bag I got when I bought conditioner at my salon last week (I would have declined the bag altogether, but I knew those cord handles would come in handy soon!)

The big pearly button isn’t a button at all, but an old clip-on earring sewn firmly into place.

The bag was a nice summery addition to my drab black outfit for work yesterday. It also gave me an excuse to wear these fun red espadrilles that I got with my sister in Chicago last weekend. I got compliments on both of them all day long.

The reds don’t match very well. Did this bother me? It did not.