Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Anya as fashionishta

Anya finally had a chance to wear the tunic I sewed for her several weeks ago. This past weekend we went to a wedding and she wore the tunic* there along with the red sweater I made for her. It made for a smashing ensemble, if I do say so.

*Did I even share anything about this little frock on Mad Knitting? I may have forgotten. The pattern is Burda 9655 (here it is on Pattern Review), which includes a dress version of what Anya is wearing and a pair of pants with a side zipper and little ruffles on the bottom. I made a pair of the pants for Anya a year ago and she never wore them. They did sort of look like PJs so I don't entirely blame her….

I've used Burda patterns for a few things for my kids. The instructions aren't great, but so far everything I've made has been simple enough for me to figure out. I've also been pretty happy with the fit of everything I've made, and that says a lot. I've recently been browsing the Burdastyle online store and I'm tempted to try out some of the digital patterns if I can ever catch up with the backlog of projects I want to do first.

Other large pattern companies (coughcoughSIMPLICITYcoughcoughMCCALLS) really suck at sizing. I don't care how many $1 pattern sales certain big box craft stores have in the future, I'm not buying those brands again because everything turns out giant everywhere except for weirdly tight necklines. I recently donated a whole stack of unused patterns to the thrift store because I was tired of them taking up valuable shelf space and making me feel guilty for having bought them in the first place.

I do not know if Anya will wear this more than a handful of times. For one thing, she is growing like a weed (as all 6yo children do), and for another, she considers this a dress up item, so she will only wear it for special occasions like weddings and piano recitals.

That's okay. It's worth the trouble to get a few pictures like these.

This picture takes my breath away. When did she get so big?

Friday, April 11, 2014

blackberry bramble

At long last, I can share a project with you that I finished almost two months ago! I test knit a cowl for babycocktails and boy was it ever nice and cozy in our protracted winter season.

It was mighty cold when we took these pictures back in February.
Seriously, what was I thinking, wearing short sleeves??
It's a fun, easy knit. Long sections of plain stockinette make for good waiting-in-line knitting and the color work adds just enough interest to keep you from getting bored.

Plus, the end result is so smashing (if I do say so myself!)

Thea calls for Plucky yarn in the pattern, but I used Ultra Alpaca because I had enough on hand. (Did you know that knitting from stash helps reduce the size of your stash?? Indeed.)

This picture reminds me of a conversation I had with my kids a few days ago.
Son (age 8): Mom, are you symmetrical?
Me: Yes, more or less.
Him: Even when you're naked?
Me: Uhhhhhhh, sure.
Daughter (who often speaks in exclamation points and likes to interject): But no, mom! Because look! You have some gray hair on this side and more gray hair on that side!!


Seriously, though, this cowl is probably the best thing I've knit all winter. It's warm and cozy and eye-catching. Plus, the thing I love about cowls is that they are warm and cozy like scarves but they don't fall off. Also, it's hard to screw up the fit. Wins all around, I say.


Pattern: Blackberry Bramble by Thea Coleman from babycocktails
Yarn: Berocco Ultra Alpaca in white and denim mix (less than 2 skeins each color)
Sticks: size 7 circulars for main st st, size 8 circulars for color work sections

Thursday, April 03, 2014


Do you remember that I promised to make Anya a quilt? Yeah, I had almost forgotten, too. I may have even forgotten to mention that here. Anyway, that promise was made several months ago, around the time I finished the flannel one for Daniel. Logically, it would follow that if I make a quilt for Daniel, she should get one too, right? Of course! She picked out the fabric and pattern well before Christmas, and despite all my intentions of getting right on that project, I didn't. Everything sat in a neglected pile until a few weeks ago when I cut out some squares and finally got started.

I don't do a lot of quilting, and there are some good reasons for that. For one thing, I find fabric selection to be a completely and utterly overwhelming process, one riddled with second-guessing and self-doubt.

I love quilts that are sleek and modern and orderly. I also love the ones that are a riot of color and patterns and almost chaotic, but I never make those (see above re: overwhelm). I even like some of the ones in between. What I'm not a fan of are the cutesy, folksy quilts, but I'm not here to judge. Whenever I make something quilt-y (like a quilt…or a stack of potholders out of failed quilt squares, which you'll find out about soon enough…) I tend towards minimalist fabric selection because it feels safe.

Note the square below in all its simplicity. Blue and tan. Those are the colors Anya picked for her quilt, along with a lovely, deep solid red. She chose the block pattern, too, a series of simple, orderly triangles. I have a print that would make a gorgeous border but I don't know if she'll let me use it. When it comes to style, I think she loves simplicity more than I do.

So far, so good. Those corners match pretty well, etc.
The way I make these blocks is to draw a diagonal line from corner to corner on a square...

...then sew two squares together 1/4" on either side of that diagonal line, then cut along the line to get two sets of triangles. 

 After about 5 blocks, things were well on their way. Or so I thought. Last week I cut out some more squares and sewed them together along the diagonal for some more blocks, and…uh oh. See there how the half-block on top is a little smaller?

Yeah, that's what happens when you're not being extra careful that all your seams are exactly 1/4". You may not be able to tell from the picture below, but my seams were too wide and the resulting half-blocks are narrower than the original ones.

This brings me to the second big reason I don't do a lot of quilting: the precision required. I have some perfectionist tendencies (have you noticed?) and sloppiness in my own work drives me crazy. I've learned (mostly) not to let perfectionism get in the way of actually doing anything. Some mistakes and imprecision I can live with. I certainly can't live with quilt blocks that are 1/2" smaller than their counterparts!

There are five of these botched blocks, or will be once I finish sewing up the halves, and on their own they look fine. Five isn't enough for a whole new quilt, of course, but I can put a narrow border on them, back them with some insulated batting, finish them off with a bias binding, and voila! Someone in the family might get a nice stack of matching potholders next Christmas. 

Meantime, I've figured out how to sew 1/4" seams on my new machine and the stack of blocks I sewed up over lunchtime turned out much better. I may get the hang of this after all.

Friday, March 28, 2014

a little more embellishment

I had a little free time today, and I should have spent it working on some vocal music that just got dropped into my lap. (Le sigh)

Instead, I decided to embellish the second pair of accidentally-too-small-felted-slippers and get them all ready for the school fundraiser. 

Pompoms ahoy!!

To make the soles of these slippers non, uh, slippery, I used a scraps from a suede skirt I picked up at a thrift store a couple weeks ago.

I have mixed feelings about these big fundraising events. It's a public school. We shouldn't have to mine the parents for money to pay for things that ought to be available already. On the other hand, it's not the school's fault that the budget is tight and that half the kids who attend live in poverty, so it's important to do what is necessary to provide the best education possible for the kids who are there right now. Will the few handmade items I contributed make any sort of difference in the big scheme of things? Honestly, I doubt it. But at least I had fun making them.

Thursday, March 27, 2014


Those little green slippers needed some embellishment, so I did a little freeform embroidery on them with some little pink glass beads.

Here they are in repose with some pea shoots the kids and I have been growing indoors to snack on.

I like how these turned out. I started some stitching on the brown pair, but I changed my mind. I think those are just calling out for a cluster of little brightly colored pompoms to give them some pizzazz.

What do you think?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

the good, the bad, and the ???

The good:
Daniel's starry hat is finished and he loves it! I will do a proper FO post once I get pictures of him wearing it and can write up the instructions. For now, you'll have to make do with a quick selfie I took of myself wearing it.

The bad:
My failed test knit. Oh, how this one hurts. I have never had a test knit for Thea go wrong before, but this sweater just isn't working out. Here's another selfie, this one from the bathroom! I think I'm the only knitter who has failed the Paloma Cardigan so far, so I blame only myself and not the designer. Instead of the Bulky O-Wool called for, I used Blackstone Tweed Chunky (discontinued now) because I had it stashed. The Blackstone Tweed is lovely and soft and the right gauge, so I thought the subbing would be fine…but alas, no. Something wasn't right. The body of the sweater is too loose, the sleeve is too tight, and the whole thing doesn't hang right. It's possible I can reknit this whole sweater a little smaller and salvage it but for now I can't bear to look at it, let alone frog. Once I take the tweedy mass out of time-out I may turn it into this pullover, which will hopefully be a little more flattering.


Lastly, the ???:
Back in February, when we were cursing the cold temperatures (wait, we're still cursing the cold temperatures! Oh, spring, where art thou hiding?), I decided to whip up some felted slippers. I had just bought The Knitted Slipper Book (because Clara Parkes loved it and I'm just a huge fan girl of Clara Parkes) and my feet were cold, so I started out with Trim Clogs. This pattern requires you to make two pairs of slippers, then felt them, then nest one inside the other as a liner for dual warmth. The knitting itself didn't take long, though it was stretched out over a few weeks since I kept putting it down for other things (like the two projects pictured badly above). Then when it came time to felt, I tried it in the sink by hand for about 20 minutes before I ran out of patience and stuck all 4 slippers in the washing machine with a towel on the hot cycle.


This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Felting is a gamble. Obviously, if I want slippers of my own I'll have to start over. But if my kids want slippers, they've got 'em! The green ones felted smaller than the brown (note to self: Knitpicks WOTA and Valley Yarns Northampton do NOT felt the same way!), but they are now so dense you probably wouldn't need the double layer anyway. My other option is to embellish both pairs a bit with some beads and/or embroidery and donate to the school's auction, since my children prefer to be barefoot indoors anyway, even all winter long.

Monday, March 24, 2014

i still love my new toy

Even though Old Man Winter didn't get the memo that he's overstayed his welcome, I'm in spring cleaning mode. I just sent off a bunch of yarn I sold from my destash page and I want to spend a little time today doing some more decluttering and clearing out stuff I am not going to use. Even Stuart caught the bug and managed to offload a bunch of old electronic gear on craigslist this weekend!

In the spirit of Out With the Old, I spent some time yesterday making a very nice sturdy tote bag to donate to the kids' school. The school's big fundraiser fun fair is coming up in a couple of weeks and includes a raffle and silent auction. I already spend a fair amount of time volunteering in the classroom and with the school's Outdoor Education committee, so I didn't want to pile on the volunteer hours working at the fundraiser, too. However, I'm happy to contribute a few handmade items to the auction, especially since I have my new sewing machine to play with!

I made this tote bag out of sturdy outdoor canvas fabric leftover from an abandoned project from last year. I had originally bought it to make curtains for the preschool Anya was attending. A few days after I bought the fabric, we found out the preschool was being forced to relocate. There was a lot of Drama with a capital D, and in the meantime I didn't think it was worth making curtains for a preschool that was going to move in a few months anyway. Ergo I was stuck with this fabric! I had bought solid colors, too, including the blue you see there on the outside pocket and handles. Most of the solids I turned into tote bags that were then printed with the preschool logo and sold at a fundraiser in the spring, but I have a lot of this dotted stuff left, enough for 3-4 more tote bags this size, I think.

The lining is plain old solid cotton leftover from a costume I made for Anya last summer. I'm out of any fabric that would be suitable for lining, so I'd have to buy more if I made more of these dotted bags…and buying more kind of defeats the purpose of using stuff up, so for now, this is the only bag I plan to make.

I designed the bag myself, but that's nothing special, really. I did the top edge a little differently than usual and added fusible fleece to the green lining to give the bag more structure.

This bag looks pretty good, if I do say so. I know the new machine made a big difference because it can sew straight and true. See that topstitching there? My old machine just wouldn't have made it look that nice, especially on this kind of fabric, which is stiff and with a wide weave.

What will I sew next? I don't know! But I feel like I'm kind of on a roll here.