crafts · knitting · quilting · Sewing · yarn

Crafting memory

I was not a crafty child.  Honestly, if you had told me ten years ago that I would love crafting this much I would have laughed at you.  I always hated craft night at Girl Scouts because I felt that my crafts never came out as well as everyone else’s.  My middle school art teacher told me that I had no discernible talent.  So maybe I was a late bloomer?  Or maybe I just don’t do anything in half measures.

Anyway… so I’m making a quilt.

But more on that in a moment (stare at the pretty fabric!)

I often hear other knitters tell stories about growing up watching their mothers and grandmothers knitting.  But, so far as I know, no one in my family has ever knit a single stitch.  (We did have a few crocheters, but no one in my immediate family.)  That’s not to say that they weren’t crafty.  My grandmother was a quilter.

I was to a large extent raised by my Grandmother, for reasons I won’t go into.  She was the sweetest woman you could imagine, but she had a backbone of steel – the many disappointments of life never fazed her.  For 26 years she was absolutely the rock of my life.  When she fell ill my junior year of college, I moved back home without hesitation, a decision I have never regretted.  She passed away 4 years ago, and not a day goes by that I don’t miss her (and yet thank her for the strong woman I have become!)

She left me her things, and I have been trying, especially over the last 2 years, to slowly go through them.  It isn’t easy.  She saved everything, much of it for me, and I tend to get very emotional.    Going through boxes this week, I found a journal in her handwriting written about and to me during my early childhood, something which I know I will now cherish.

I also found (and this was the reason for the cleaning this week) her quilting and sewing things.  So much fabric… acres of dusty linens from the 50s and 60s, stored in cardboard boxes for who knows how many years.  I found a large packing box full of hand crocheted doilies, tea towels, and aprons.

I found a box marked Patterns that contains vintage sewing patterns, mostly from the 1960s.

I wasn’t even aware that she had sewed her own clothes, but the pieces on most of these patterns have been cut, used, and carefully replaced.  Some of them are in my size, and I plan to keep them around for later.

I also found several unfinished quilts, including this wall hanging:

I actually remember her working on this in the mid 1980s.   Much of the quilting is finished.   She quilted by hand, and she did teach me how.  I have always loved quilts, but hand quilting is really slow.  Every year I go to the state fair and stare at the quilt section with envy.  But this year?  This is going to be the year I relearn all these long forgotten skills.

I have picked a pattern for a small machine quilted beginner’s lap blanket, and I’m going to go for it (sewing test blocks now, it makes me happy that I remember many of these skills!)  My machine sewing is better that I thought – I got the special foot that helps you get a 1/4″ seam every time, and it is tremendously helpful!

I still find sewing clothing intimidating.  I got the SEW U book on the recommendation of the fabulous Robin of Yarn Crawl, and it has been tremendously helpful.  I like the way the author explains things, and between that book and the S.E.W. Workshop, I’m feeling more confident.  I looked into garment sewing classes, but unfortunately my working hours mean that none of them will work for me (this is usually the case for me with classes and knitting groups as well.)  I’m probably going to try making a skirt, since simple a-line skirts seem easy.  Maybe in this fabric?

I like to think that my crafty Grandma would be proud of me.  She certainly would have loved all of the colors and patterns I gravitate towards – where do you think I got my love for bright colors?  From my Grandma, who didn’t really believe that getting older meant you should fade quietly away into that good night.

Soon I’ll show you some of the wonderful vintage fabric of hers that I found – it’s all very dusty and must be thoroughly washed.  Opening the boxes gave me an allergy attack and a migraine last week.

So… that’s what I’ve been up to.  Lots of planning, lots of practicing.  I also cast on for Salina, but I’ll post more on that when I have more to show – it’s not the fastest knit ever, but it is beautiful!

Happy Halloween to you all – Marc and I plan to wait on trick or treaters, and have tons here, in such a dense area.  Halloween is very good for my business – parents see my sign, I give out my card, and usually I get a new student or two.

Here is a preview of Salina, looking very tiny to start.

crafts · finished objects · knitting

FO:Tsunami socks

Pattern: Tsunami socks, from Knitted Socks East and West

Yarn: Socks that rock lightweight in moonstone, nearly all of 1 skein

Needles: US sz 0 Knitpicks metal DPNs

Notes: This was a really enjoyable knit.  The pattern was completely clear, and this pattern was easily memorized.  I made a few alterations – after the leg section I decreased down to 61 stitches for the foot, because it would have been too big with the larger number.  I also decreased more quickly than called for on the toe.  I don’t know why, but I always have to do this – I think maybe my toes aren’t very pointy.

I enjoyed the yarn, which was very firm.  I don’t think it’s very lightweight at all, and these socks probably would knit up smaller in the called for yarn (Regia silk I think.)   It’s also not quite as even looking as some sock yarns.  I can’t say it’s my favorite sock yarn ever (I prefer softer yarns) but it is nice.  To my mind it’s similar to Colinette Jitterbug, which has a similar hard twist.  My row gauge was big, and I should have made the heel flap much shorter – it’s way too long on me.  But that’s ok, I love the pretty wintery colors, and I can’t wait to knit more socks from this book!


crafts · decorating · knitting · Life

In the meantime…

Wow – what a great response to my question about other crafts – I’m glad to be in such great company, and I hope my quest to learn to sew goes well!  I’m waiting on a part for my machine, though I do now have a copy of the manual, and I’ve been working on my knitting (of course!)

My next sweater is going to be Salina, from Rowan’s Vintage Knits.

Yes, I finally found a yarn.  I’m using Rowanspun 4-ply, double stranded.  I actually have 2 colors – Jade and a dark blue, and they look great together!

I also finished one of my tsunami socks.

Socks that rock lightweight is surprisingly not light.  It’s got to be on the heavy side of fingering, or maybe it’s just very dense.  I like knitting with it quite a bit!

I’m also giving serious thought to redoing our attic soon.  Marc uses it for his things, but I don’t like to be up there, and I would like a craft area.  It has central air and new windows (including skylights) as well as plumbing, but it lacks drywall and needs a new floor (currently a very old linoleum.

The stairs:

main area

Big new windows (at either end.)

What do you all think?  I think we can it mostly do ourselves, and I need a house project!

crafts · Cross stitch · embroidery · Sewing


I find myself lately with a lot of spare time.  This is mostly because of my job situation change – I’ve gone from working 1 full time and 1 part time job to working 1 full time job (that really has part time hours, and is in my house anyway, so I don’t have to travel.)  I also have 3 day weekends most of the time, the result of not teaching on Fridays (because in my experience, Friday lesson people cancel all the time.)  I love having all this free time – I am so much less stressed, and definitely a nicer person!  (Part of the niceness may be the result of not having to get up super early 1-2 days a week, resulting in a constant sort of jet lagged state, since I have never been able to adjust to early waking.)  What am I doing with my free time?  Well, I’m not knitting more, because honestly my hands would fall off, but I have been giving a great deal of thought to my other crafty interests.

I do have them, you know – it’s just I love knitting so much, and before I didn’t have time for any other crafts.  But now?  I finally get to try new things!  To that end, I have a sewing machine!

It’s a Viking/Husqvarna 219.  It’s in basically new condition, minus the manual (which is on the way) and the needle clamp screw (which I have ordered through my local sewing shop, and should be in soon.)   I actually bought this machine new, years and years ago when I lived in Indiana.  I think I sewed one thing with it, and then it sat in the original box for about 8 years until this week.  I no longer remember how to use it, so I will be taking the introductory class at my sewing shop (which is also the local viking dealer, glad we have one!)  In the meantime, I got this book awhile back, on recommendations from this blog.

SEW: Sewing Everything Workshop by Diana Rupp.  It’s excellent for a near beginner – it really takes you through every step, and the patterns are really cute!  All the “learn to sew” books I had before were so old fashioned that they drove me nuts, but this is excellent.  Of course, I can only practice measuring and cutting things right now, and familiarize myself with the machine and how to wind bobbins etc, but I can already tell it’s going to be good.

I’ve also been stalking my local bookstore (and Amazon) for inspirational books, and I love these:

My mom used to quilt, and I love patchwork.  I also love the adorable plushie patterns that I see lately, and would love to make some!  And of course I always need skirts (and have a hard time finding skirts that I like in stores!)

My other current crafty interest is a renewed interest in embroidery and cross stitch.  I have done both since my freshman year in college, but lately I haven’t done much.  I pulled some of my WIPs out of the closet this week, and was happy to find that I have several nearly completed pieces!

This is called “Deco Spirits,” and has 4 panels representing the 4 elements.  I’ve finished 3 panels and have started on the last one.  I’m hoping to try DIY framing on this, as my framer isn’t here anymore and I don’t trust many people with needlework.

Here are my other nearly completed pieces:

Click to make them bigger.  The first is by Mirabilia “The Petal fairy” and is done except for beading.  The 2nd is a mandala garden by Chatelaine from France.  It needs beading and some metallic stitching.  It’s also really enormous, I don’t know if you can tell – I can’t believe I put it away for 2 years with only this little bit to do!  The last is by Monsterbubbles.  The tree needs to be filled in, and I think there is some backstitching.  I may give this one to my Mom, I think she would like the quote.

Actually, one of the hard things about this type of craft has been trying to find non cutesy, religious,  or country patterns.  Even now, with all types of stitching showing a resurgance, designs that suit my style are rare.  I don’t do a lot of embroidery, and while I can find designs that are more modern there they are rather simple.  I’m thinking of trying my hand at some designing for myself.  I do like the european style samplers that seem popular now, and some of the reproduction antique ones.  Since I own a Victorian home, they seem to fit.

I also ordered this series and fabric:

I love Day of the Dead images, and there’s a cute little skeleton dog (and a picture of a skele-cat!)  These are new from Praire Moon designs.

Whew… that’s a lot of stuff.  What other crafts do you participate in (or dream about!)

crafts · knitting · yarn

Sock stash enhancement

Sad news this week… there will be no pictures of the Bobbie cardigan coming.  Why?  Because it looks super awful on me.  Even my husband agrees that it just isn’t “me.”  It is a bit big in the shoulders and bust, so I can’t come up with a closure that is flattering, but it doesn’t look right hanging open.  So… it will be frogged (eventually) and the yarn made into a nice shawl or something.

Still, I was kind of depressed about it, so… I sort of ordered some sock yarn.  At least I managed to avoid more green yarn, and it’s all lovely!  Some pretty shots for you – this is what the light box was made for!

Have you any wool? Luxe sock in Spice

This is beautiful… lovely merino cashmere blend, and the colors are so perfect for autumn!

Have you any wool? Luxe sport in Winter’s Reserve

I bought this to make socks with, but upon reflection the yardage (250 yds) is less than I would like.   It’s sport weight, but on the lighter side of that – thinner than Shepherd Sport, for instance.  If I want socks I will need to choose carefully.  Again, it is so soft, and the colors are beautiful.  This is a new dyer to me, and I’m very impressed!

Madelinetosh sock in Gilded

I love Madelinetosh’s colors – they are always such an interesting blend (well, except for PopRocks, which is just retina searing pink (love it!))  I love yellows and golds, so this was a natural choice.

Madelinetosh sock in Victorian Gothic

I bought this for the name, I can’t lie.  Two of my favorite things in one?  I had to have it.  I’m kind of obsessed with both the Victorian era and all things Gothic, so… I really like the color too – see what I mean about interesting colors?  It’s variegated, but it’s not crazy.  I’m really curious about how this will knit up.  I’ll have to choose carefully, but I’m thinking of a pattern from “Knitting socks with handpainted yarn.” I’d love any ideas you might have for sock patterns with this one!

There… stash is enhanced, and I feel better.   There are still a few sock yarn lines I want to try (Sanguine Gryphon etc) but I try to keep things at a manageable level – I’ll go back to the rule I had before, where I have to knit a pair of socks before I get a new skein of sock yarn.   But who am I kidding?  I can’t resist a beautiful semi-solid yarn!

crafts · knitting

sock weather

I started a pair of socks today (Tsunami from Knitted Socks East and West) and really wanted a way to photograph them.  The yarn, Socks that rock lightweight in blue moonstone, is beautiful but impossible to photograph.

So today, in a fit of crafting, I built my own lightbox.  I used the tutorial here, and it was great!

The colors are close – the yarn is a pale aqua combined with silvery gray.  I like how it’s variegated yet doesn’t obscure the pattern at all.

I’m not really sure that the light box is “my thing.”  It’s a bit sterile, but I can see it working well for some purposes.  My husband is thrilled, as he has been begging for a way to photograph his lego creations for ages, so I suspect this will be mostly for him.

Here is a picture of the same yarn with natural light:

I prefer it this way, even if the colors are obscured.   It looks real, where the lightbox photo is too posed for my taste, and I don’t know… I like the photos for my blog to say something about me and my style, and the light box doesn’t.

Marc is happy to finally have a place to photo his legos.


Yes, I finished the sweater!  It was quick due to the chunky yarn and almost nonexistent sleeves.  I probably won’t have photos for a bit though, since Marc isn’t home during daylight hours this week.  It turned out well, though I must say that sewing in the sleeves was a bear, as they were way small for the armholes.  I haven’t decided yet on a button – it calls for using a loop and long button, but I may use a pretty pin and call it a day.  I’m pretty sure I will want it adjustable.

I’m going to concentrate on those socks for a few days and sort through my queue… I have too many things there, and right now I’m feeling socks!

books · crafts · knitting · patterns

Book Review: Knitted Socks East and West

Every year as autumn rolls around I become obsessed with knitting socks.  Knitted Socks East and West by Judy Sumner is the first of 3 sock books I have bought this year, and my favorite!  The idea behind this book is to incorporate Japanese stitch patterns into socks.  The author opens by discussing her interest in Japanese stitch dictionaries (one that I happen to share!)  She explains several stitches that are common in Japanese patterns, with diagrams and written instructions.  The books quickly moves into the reason you’ve bought it – the patterns.  And they do not disappoint!  I’ve knit many a sock, and at a certain point sock patterns tend to blend together, but this book is different.

For one thing, many of the socks are knit in gauges larger than fingering weight.  I love detailed socks, but sometimes I want a nice pair of slipper socks that I don’t have to worry so much about snagging on my wooden floors.  The 2 pairs above are knit in worsted weight yarn, and there are others, even one for chunky yarn.  There are several patterns that call for a stockinette gauge of 24-26 st/4 inches also, making use of sport weight sock yarns.  My favorite patterns in the book are below.

The last 2 patterns call for fingering weight yarns, but the gauge is sport.  None of these stitch patterns are especially hard, but the results are lovely.  The photography in the book is beautiful, and most of the patterns have several clear photos in addition to the more artistic ones.  If I have a criticism it’s that they seem to have hired a model with very small feet – in many of the patterns the socks are obviously too big, and I do find it a little distracting.  There is a note at the beginning of the book that many of the stitch patterns are large and hard to take repeats out of, so perhaps this contributed to the problem.  That’s a small matter – this book is beautiful and a lovely addition to any sock knitting library.  I’m already planning my first pair, and I got out all my sock yarn to take stock:

Hmm… I need some red and yellow sock yarn to balance out all this blue and green (the seasonal peach Smooshy looks lonely!)  I can’t wait to start my first pair!

crafts · knitting

Fall is for layering

I used to really object to the idea of layering, preferring suffering to feeling suffocated under fabric.  That was before I realized that layering could include wearing short sleeved sweaters over something long – and my arms don’t have to feel like stuffed sausages!  So I’m a wee bit obsessed with this idea.  After finishing 2 short sleeved pieces already this year, I’m working on another.  This is Bobbie, from the Rowan Colourscape Folk collection by Sarah Hatton.

I’ll be honest… in part I’m making this because I had 4 skeins of Colourscape in Northern lights that needed to be used (and I can’t believe I bought that – this yarn is crazy overpriced IMO.)  It is nice to knit with though, and I like it in the double moss stitch.  This is a really simple pattern, and it’s going very quickly – since taking that photo I’ve finished the back and part of one front.   After this sweater I will be working on something with long sleeves – it will be time!  It just doesn’t get cold early here – I usually find that I don’t get any use from my long sleeved sweaters until November at the earliest, so I’m pleased to have found something transitional (other than socks, which I will be starting up again soon) to knit!

I’ve been on a bit of a sock book buying spree, so look for some reviews of those coming soon.  I usually don’t buy books of sweater patterns, but for some reason I own every sock book known to man.

crafts · finished objects · knitting

FO: Kürbis baby hat

Pattern: Kürbis baby hat

Yarn: Vanna’s choice in Tangerine and Kelly Green

Needles: US 5 and 6

Notes: I’m not much of one for knitting baby items, but I do have a baby niece – and what kind of a knitter aunt would I be if I didn’t make her something?  Besides, this hat is adorable!  The pattern was easy to follow.  I only made one alteration – knitting the stem on 3 stitches rather than 4, because my yarn was slightly thinner than called for in the pattern.  I knitted it tightly, and the size seems ok.  It only took a few hours.  The yarn was alright for an acrylic – not as scratchy as red heart, but less floppy than simply soft.  I like that it comes in some nice muted colors.  I’d use it again for something like this, though not for anything larger I don’t think.

Halloween is almost here – ah, my favorite holiday!