May 2007 Archives

Stacking, Whacking and Poking

A Pile of Groovy Fabric: Feeling Groovy, Robert Kaufman Fabrics

Believe it or not, this picture took me about 4 hours to create. It is 8 pieces of fabric cut to represent the same repeat and then meticulously stacked and pinned so that the repeats lay exactly over the top of one another. And yes, it's a set up for another quilt style that I am experimenting with as a result of another class I am taking at Quiltology. Clearly I have fabric projects on the brain these days.

What this picture represents, is the set up for a set of quilt blocks out of this book:

Yep. I'm taking a workshop on "stack n' whack" quilts where the stacking and whacking results in quilt blocks with kaleidoscopic effects. In this case, the base block that I will be working with is the LeMoyne Star. By creating a series of diamond shapes using the exact same location in a fabric print repeat, it's possible to create these blocks and get some incredible results.

The fabric I picked for the project is called "Feeling Groovy" and it's a Robert Kaufman fabric that I purchased from Quiltology. I selected it for three reasons:

  • It has a diverse, dense print with a lot of color and a lot of variation
  • I am going to do a crib sized version of the quilt, and I wanted something bright and happy that would be crib compatible
  • I just fell in love with it when I thought about how it might look in my baby's room

That first element is actually the most important. In order to get good results from the stack n' whack process, it's important to pick a print that has a lot of variation and doesn't have a lot of "white space" so that your resulting blocks will have a lot of variation and interest as well. The second and third aspects of the decision are really just a matter of personal taste, and the fact that I don't really have the time right now to tackle another large bed-sized quilt. Not to mention that washable cotton items seem like more practical things to make for my August arrival than do wooly things at the moment.

The first part of the class involved identifying a fabric we wanted to work with, some contrasting fabrics to complete the blocks with, and learning how to cut out the fabric repeats so it would be easy to set up the stack we were going to whack from. It also involved learning how to do all the pinning so that the fabric stack would be exactly lined up and would stay in place when the whacking process began.

Flower Head Pins: An Essential Tool for the Stack n' Whacker

The pinning process* resulted in me gaining some greater understanding about why one would want to spend money on flathead pins to go along with some good sharp jabs in the fingers Flathead pins like the flower pins in the picture above, lay flat against he fabric and don't get in the way when you put a ruler over the top of them to set up your cutting. Since ruler control is pretty important when you are going to rotary cut through 8 layers of potentially expensive fabric, the extra cost of these specialty pins is worth it.

Homework for the next class was for us to get our stacks pinned together and whacked and to start working on cutting out our background fabrics as well, so that we could work on laying out our final designs in the next class and start getting a few blocks put together. The whacking process took a few tries for me to get comfortable with, but once I understood my tools and some basic dimensions better, I was able to create the 12 sets of diamond shaped pieces that I need to create my stars.

Up next: playing with the stars... creating kaleidoscope images in fabric.

* This process is interesting, but doesn't lend itself too well to blogging about it. The simplest way to describe it is that you run a set of pins through defined areas in the fabric to get the fabric pieces to align and then you use other pins to get things locked down and remove the first pins. And you do this at grid intervals all across and down the fabric. There's a lot of shaking and smoothing involved in the process to get things to lay right. It's all relatively easy, but pretty time consuming, especially when you are starting with a print that has a large repeat interval, as this one does.

Seeing Stars


Today, I present a collection of my favorite stars from my stack n' whack project. Each pair of images represents both possible orientations for the diamond-shaped pieces that I cut out, as a demonstration of how much variation you can get from that simple rotation. I also tried to include as many different colors from the fabric as I could, to demonstrate how the fabric that I started with could yield many different color palettes.

Star 1
Star 2
Star 3
Star 4
Star 5

Any favorites? I took pictures of all the possible star combinations so that I could "audition" the orientations on my computer. I find, quite often, that the camera helps me see things that I didn't with the naked eye alone. This is particularly true when I shrink and enlarge images to simulate distance.

The next step is to cut out my background pieces. I have some fun Kaffe Fasset prints for the background that I will show off tomorrow.

Toronto Bound


The annual meeting of the American Society of Microbiology (ASM) is going to be in Toronto the week of May 21st. My company is going to be there to market our wares on the trade show floor and (assuming my doctor clears me for travel) I'm going to be there from Sunday evening (May 20th )until Thursday morning (May 24th).

This will be my very first vist to Toronto. We're staying downtown at the InterContinental Toronto Centre and I'd love to have some recommendations for "must sees" in down town Toronto. I'm hoping that the famous Lettuce Knit isn't too far away -- I'd really like to see it and find out what makes it so special to Toronto knitters. But I'm interested in finding out about other places that make Toronto special. And if you have a favorite restaurant, please share it! I always love to know about good places to eat.

I understand that May 21st is Victoria Day in Canada. Are there good things to see? Events to take in? We'll be setting up our booth that day, but, otherwise, I'm expecting to have some free time. I'd love to know more about the holiday and how Canadians usually celebrate it.

Finally, while I hope I don't need it, can anyone recommend good hospitals downtown in Toronto? As I mentioned earlier, I'm not going to leave Chicago unless my doctor tells me everything looks good, but I figure better to be safe than sorry and be prepared with a phone number or address or two.

I don't know yet how much scheduled free time I'm going to have (that's the hard part about being there on business... the whole point is to schmooze potential customers, meet with strategic partners and find out about new technology) but I'm hoping I have time for a couple of coffee breaks and that I might have a chance to meet some of the folks in the Toronto fiber community.

The First LeMoyne Star Block

Groovy Star on a Kaffe Fassett Background

Once I had all of my star pieces stacked and whacked it was time to cut out the background pieces. All of this cutting was simple. It simply involved cutting two sizes of squares and then cutting the squares into triangles. I have four fabrics for the background colors for the stars. Three are Kaffe Fassett prints and one is from FunQuilts via FreeSpirit. I'd show you these prints, but I'm fighting scanner problems tonight, and it's late, so they'll have to wait until a later post.

At any rate, I just finished getting all my cutting done before I headed off to the second of my two stack n' whack workshop classes. In this class, we focused on piecing the blocks and optimizing the process so that we could employ chain piecing instead of working on one piece at a time. It was in class that I also decided to change how I was going to put my stars on their backgrounds.

If you look at the star (above) you'll notice that it can be divided into 4 quadrants. I was going to use a separte background color in each of the 4 quadrants. However, after laying out some of my squares that way, and then trying out the stars on "solid" backgrounds (like the one above) I decided that I liked the solid backgrounds better. So now I will have 12 stars, with 3 stars on each background color.

For this first star (which is the third star, right side pictured on the post two days ago), I opted for the Kaffe Fasset "Roman Glass" print in pink to work with the pinks in the floral pattern in the diamonds. I'm pleased with how it came together. My sewing is far from perfect, but I did get some great pinning tips from our workshop teacher, Jan, that helped make this block a lot better than it would have been if I had muddled through on my own (I'll try to document the process in the future). The over all result makes me happy, as most of the lines that need to match up, do match up and the center is no where near as wonky as it could be. Not only that, but the block is 12.5" x 12.5" -- exactly the size it is supposed to be at this point (not something I accomplished with my 9 patch blocks). A pretty good first attempt, I think, and I have high hopes that it will only get better as I work on more blocks.

Initially I was a little worried about my background prints, but I think this one does a nice job of providing a foundation without overwhelming the star. I think it's also compatible with being a baby quilt -- it was suggested a few times in class that my baby should love this given all the bright colors and contrast.

Office Transformation


While some folks were off enjoying Maryland Sheep and Wool, I was at home helping to direct some of the house organizational changes that need to happen before the baby arrives. Given that my fiber room is becoming the nursery, that room has to get emptied out before nursery building can begin. That means moving most of my craft stuff to other locations and creating a better crafting space in my office area -- which I chose because it's well lit and close to my main computer area. We decided to start with creating the new workspace first, since it would allow me to move a number of things from my old space in an orderly fashion.

My parents were coming to visit this weekend, and my dad, handy guy that he is, helped John with the process of making it happen quickly and smoothly. I did almost nothing -- but I do have some photographic evidence of the transformation.

Before The Transformation: The Original Configuration

This was my corner of the office before the process started. The bookcases are mostly empty because the first part of the process involved moving a bunch of my books downstairs into some new bookcases we bought for our guest room. Yes, I know, I have a lot of clutter. Part of this re-organization process is also for me to start reducing some of that. John and I are both world champion pack rats when we want to be.

Tabula Rosa: An Empty Space to Get Started In

With the help of my Mom, Dad and John, all the remaining stuff got moved out of the bookcases. The big bookcase got moved into my bedroom (where I am creating a small reading nook (probably there will be pictures of this later) and the bookcase on the right moved to the other side of the room (John's half of the office) where it will be used to help organize some computer stuff.

Hanging the First Shelf Rail

The new workspace needed to include shelving up to the ceiling. John and my Dad decided on using a system that involves hanging the vertical brace pieces down from a horizontal support. The cool thing about this is that you don't need to drill holes in the wall for anything but the horizontal support.

John Hangs the Shelves

Once that horizontal support is in place, it's a simple matter to hang the vertical supports, put in the shelf braces and place the shelves. All this stuff came from the Home Depot. The shelves are nice because all Dad and John had to do was trim them down to the size they liked. They are melamine shelves with an oaky looking color to match my desk and the trim on the workspace top.

The Base Plate Is Installed

My Dad, who built the workspace top, decided that the best way to create a flexible workspace for me was to create a top that "floated" and didn't have any supports that would get in the way of me putting a chair under the top at any location. These oak pieces were attached to the wall to provide some additional strength for the cantilevers he was using to help support the top. The opening is just to provide access to the electrical socket and cable and phone connections.

Getting Close to Finished: The Workspace Top and Lights Installed

My Dad built the worktop at home with some melamine he had and trimmed out the front edge with an oak edge to give it a nice decorative touch. It's 30" deep so that I have a workspace that can be a nice place to sew, but can also support doing a little cutting, paper art, pattern design, or whatever other thing I can think of to do there. John installed the lights over the desk to help give me a fully lit workspace. The lights are standard fluorescent assemblies with OTT lights in them so I'll have natural daylight colors. It's hard to see, but my dad drilled two holes into the back of the top so that electrical cords for the lights and my sewing machine could run down underneath (Treese doesn't like a lot of exposed cables, my husband tells my dad -- clearly he knows me well). Those holes have those nice plastic inserts that you find in office desks for cabling to help keep things neat and to prevent jagged edges from snagging anything.

A Finished Workspace

Here's the finished space, complete with my sewing machine installed in its new home. To further polish the area, John bought cord covering conduit to cover the cords from the light fixtures and mounted a powerstrip underneath the top to support the lights and the sewing machine and whatever else I want to plug in there. Et Voila! I now have 80" of new workspace, a collection of lovely shelves to move books and craft components onto (those boxes on the shelves are something that I found at Joann for scrapbooking, but which work awfully nicely for storing fabric and quilt blocks). It's a perfect dedicated living space for my sewing machine with a reasonable workspace to support my sewing projects. And having a dedicated crafting area should help me keep my computer/office oriented workspace tidier and just generally give me a nicer work area.

Only a couple of things remain to be done... we are installing some "tchotzke shelves" to the left of the main shelves so that some of the small trinkets from my book case can be displayed there, and I will have some cool magnet it boards under the bottom shelf so that I can keep track of the notes I like to make for myself. Next weekend I will be treating myself to a trip to the Container Store to look for storage boxes for the top shelf to hold less used supplies, and I will likely add some additional storage (on wheels) under the desk top to hold supplies I need to have close at hand.

To say I am psyched by the potential of this new space is an understatement. It's beautiful emptiness is already inspiring me to discard things that aren't necessary and to think about how to create an organized, functional space. John and my Dad brought this whole thing together exactly as I had planned it in my head -- while my mom and I attended a bridal shower and treated ourselves to a nice trip to Quiltology. I feel lucky to have such great guys around to help make my life better.

And now the mass book and craft moving process can begin...

A Second Star


Given all the office renovation and moving of things required for that, not much crafting was done. However, I did get started on the second block of my stack n' whack quilt. I also convinced my scanner to let me get an image of the fabrics that I am using as background fabrics for the quilt.

Background Fabrics for the Groovy Stack N' Whack

The top left and bottom two prints are Kaffe Fasset prints, the top left is a Fun Quilts print. All of these fabrics were selected to co-ordinate with some of the colors in the Feeling Groovy fabric that was the main fabric for the LeMoyne Stars. Although I started out thinking that each block would have a corner in each color, after putting a couple of stars on a background of just one color, I became convinced that the solid backgrounds helped pop out the stars better. So, since I am making 12 blocks, I will have 3 blocks with each print as the background print. Here's my first block with the greenish colored fabric.

A Second Block

I really like the contrast betweent he bright orange flowers and the gren background fabric. The yellowy tones are just perfect together. And I'm also generally pleased with the piecing. The important lines and junctions are where they are supposed to be.

The only thing I am not so happy about is that the block should be 12.5" x 12.5" and it is closer to 12 x 12. Somewhere along the way I lost 1/2 an inch. I don't think I lost it to the seams, but I also didn't notice any strange issues with the sizes of the pieces, either. So I'm going to have to do a little measuring compared to the first block and my existing pieces to see where that 1/2 inch went.

Since serveral folks commented on how impressed they were with my piecing, I thought that I would try to show off some of the tricks that I learned in my class that helped to make my piecing look nicer. So for my next block, I'll try to take good pictures to help show off the process for anyone who might be interested.

For me, there's almost nothing more fun than finding software that can support a craft addiction. I like software that can help me visualize the final product before I actually cast on a stitch or cut a single piece of fabric. With quilting, I'm finding that there is a lot of color to think about, and that having the chance to examine a layout before you start cutting and piecing can really make a difference when it comes to getting something you really like.

A couple of weeks ago I got my hands on a copy of Electric Quilt 5*. What a fun piece of software. It's relatively easy to use (I went through the first set of tutorial exercises and it covered most of the basics you need to get started) and it comes "programmed" with a number of standard quilt blocks and a small collection of fabric so that you can "paint" the blocks with any fabrics you like and put blocks together in any order to see how they look. You can plan borders, applique work and quilting patterns as well. And if you don't like the fabrics it comes with, you can use a scanner to scan your own fabrics and put them in and see how they work. The geek girl in me digs it quite a lot, especially since the learning curve is relatively shallow when it comes to doing the simple things that most people will want to do.

While it was a little too much work to try to model each individual square in my quilt, I was able to put something together to see how the background prints might work in combination with the Feeling Groovy fabric.

Feeling Groovy Stack n' Whack Quilt

Right now I have the border of the quilt in the Feeling Groovy fabric. That could change if I find something I like better between now and when it's time to put the border on. But I think this image provides a reasonable estimation of what my final project will feel like when I've got the top all sewn up.

Other than that, I don't have to much to show tonight... to be honest, I've been feeling a little down and grumpy and fogged in by a carbohydrate haze. Last week I failed my one hour glucose tolerance test (by one friggin' point!) so right now I'm in the midst of a carb-loading diet in preparation for the three hour blood drawing extravaganza that I have to get up way too early for on Thursday.

I'm not sure why I'm dealing so badly with this... probably I just don't really like the feeling of having "failed" the first test (especially by what I consider a negligible margin) and having someone else tell me what I have to do (I've never been so good at taking orders from other people) combined with the fact that all this carbohydrate is making me feel like a bloated hippopotamus.

Yes, yes, I know all the reasons why it's important to do this...and even though I repeat them over and over, I'm still feeling grumpy about it. I know, too, that I am not alone in this. Plenty of women have to deal with it and most people who take the 3 hour test don't end up being diagnosed with gestational diabetes. No doubt the winds will change and my mindset will improve (making quilt blocks is very therapeutic at the moment) but for the next couple of days it's probably going to be somewhat rough going. Overall the pregnancy ride hasn't really been a bad one, but it sure would be nice to have a few weeks of being pregnant where I wasn't getting stuck with a needle...

* Yep, I know Electric Quilt 6 is out, but I got a great deal on Electric Quilt 5 and it's upgradable to Electric Quilt 6 when I feel motivated to go in that direction.

Thank you to everyone who left comments yesterday to help me with my concern about my glucose tolerance test. If you have time to think good thoughts at my pancreas tomorrow morning it will be much appreciated. And it will be the first time my pancreas has ever received so much attention in my life!

In the mean time, I've been documenting the process of putting one of the LeMoyne Star quilt blocks together. Let me state very clearly, a quilting expert I am not. What I am good at is listening to good instruction and taking advantage of what I have learned from other more experienced people. A lot of what I'm going to post today is based on the good advice I got from others. Also, rather than create one very picture heavy post, I'm going to divide the process up into some natural chunks.

Step 1: Lay Out the Block

The very first step is simply to lay out your block, getting the diamond shaped pieces in the orientation that you want them to be in, and selecting the background fabric that you want to surround the star. In this case, I chose the light aqua Kaffe Fassett print because I thought it was a nice background for the pink and blue elements in the start.

Step 2: Set Up the First Pieces to Sew Together

The order of sewing that I learned in my class makes a lot of sense when it comes to making sure that you piece the right things together. One thing that may not be apparent initially is that certain pairs of pieces have one orientation, while other pairs have the opposite. This is true of the diamond shapes and the small triangles, which ar ethe first pieces you want to put together. You can start with any diamond shape, and then flip the bordering small triangle onto it so that the right sides of the fabric are facing. You line up the long side and point of the triangle with the point and side of the diamond. And you do this for every diamond/triangle pair where the triangle has the same starting orientation -- in other words, you are going to do this with every other diamond/triangle pair.

Step 3: Pin The Triangle and Diamond Together

This picture should make it clearer which edges should align with which other edges. The important thing here: don't be afraid to use your pins! This will help you keep the points from squirming away from each other when they go through the machine. Really, if I learned anything from this quilting workshop, it was just that: pins are your friends. Pin early, pin often. Use as many pins as you need to to feel comfortable that your fabric is going to stay where you want it to.

Step 4: Start Your Sewing Machine

This isn't so much a step in the process as it is a handy tip that I learned from Carolyn. To avoid those nastly little thread globs that can show up at the beginning of a seam because the top or bottom thread gets caught where it shouldn't, use a scrap piece of fabric to start your chain piecing seam. This picture also shows another very helpful tool when it comes to making nice seams -- my Bernina #57 foot -- this foot has a 1/4" guide on the right edge that makes it very easy to keep track of where you need to be seaming. I love this foot!

Step 5: Press Seams Open

For the other two tops I have put together, you just press the seams to one side or the other. when you open up your pieces. For these blocks, you actually want to open up the seam and press it down. The why of this will become clearer later when the pieces start getting larger. For this process it is very handy to have a nice, heavy iron. And I think a dry iron works best because there's no way for the pieces to distort with the addition of water.

Step 6: Put the Pieces Back in the Layout

The last step of this part is easy: just put the pieces back into the layout where they go. This allows you to admire your work and do a visual check on whether things are lining up well. Word to the wise: don't be afraid to rip if you aren't happy with what you see. It's a lot easier to rip at this point than it is when you've built the blocks up a bit more. And it takes a lot less time to rip and re-sew a seam than it does to rip and re-sew knitted stuff, so don't be afraid of the process.

Well, I survived my high dose of glucose and the four needle sticks that the long form glucose tolerance test required. No results until late afternoon sometime today (Friday), but I'm optimistic. A lot more so than I was when I got on the bus to go to my doctor's office Thursday morning. I'm not sure why. Perhaps it was the nice woman who gave up her seat on the bus for me (completely unprompted on a very full bus) or the fact that it was such a nice morning when I had the test and I got to go walking between bleeds. Even if it doesn't help my glucose readings, the walking definitely made me feel better. How can you not be happy when the morning sun is shining over Lake Michigan and you can feel the breezes off the Lake? And I even managed to turn the heel on the second of my Sprung socks.

Anyway... to pick up where I left off yesterday, once you put those pieces back in place, it's time to add the next piece to the diamond, small triangle set that you have.

Step 7: Add a Big Triangle to the Diamond and Small Triangle

To do this, you simply place the larger triangle, right sides togther, aligned with the other edge of the diamond.

Step 8: Pinning the Big Triangle

Once again, your pins are your friends! You want to line up the square corner of the triangle with the square corner of the diamond/small triangle combination and the edge of the diamond. You do this for all 4 diamond-small triangle pieces that you pieced in the first part.

Step 9: Ironing Open the Seams

As you did with the previous pieces you're going to iron open all the seams on the back sides of the pieces that you just sewed together. Now you have two triangles and a diamond fit together as a larger triangular piece that is the first half of the 4 square blocks that make up the larger LeMoyne Star block.

Step 10: Admire Your Work and Get Ready for the Next Set

Once all the pieces are ironed, take them back to your table and lay them out where they should go. You're done with these pieces for a little while, but it's always nice to admire your handiwork.

The next thing you're going to do is repeat all these steps for the second batch of diamonds and triangles. It's the exact same process, only the final pieces are going to be mirror images of the first set of final pieces. When you're done with that, you'll be coming down the home stretch!

Three Cheers for My Pancreas


In the category of "Too Much Information"....

I passed my three hour glucose tolerance test with flying colors. Woohoo! Happy dancing and Snickers bars all around!

And all my numbers were well below the threshholds they needed to be below in order to pass.

The copious whining about tests in pregnancy will now come to a halt -- at least for a little while. Thank you to everyone who provided good words and support. I know it's a little thing, but it certainly became a big thing in my head.

Happy Mother's Day to everyone out there celebrating the holiday. And a most excellent weekend to everyone else. May you all have the lovely weather that's expected to be here in Chicago for the weekend!

Now I'm going to wrap up my LeMoyne Star Quilt Block process. This is where the sewing starts to get easy, but you do need to pay attention to how you are pinning things together. After the last post, the idea was to repeat the process documented in the first two entries to create a mirror image set of triangles.

Step 11: After Both Sets of Triangles Have Been Pieced

This is what you should be looking at after the second set of triangles has been pieced. Most everything from here on out should be fairly straightforward. The most critical parts of the next steps involves making sure that you are pinning pieces so that the right lines line up correctly.

Step 12: Pinning Triangles to Form Squares

The pinning process here involves two steps -- securing the pieces together and making sure that the edge to be sewn is aligned correctly. For this seam, the most important thing to remember is that you want the place where the two different fabrics meet to line up as perfectly on both sides as it can. Believe it or not, this junction is actually more important than the center, because your eye tends to be drawn to places where it sees transition, and it will tend to make assumptions about what should be going on with the center of the square that wash out mistakes you make there.

To help you get things secured, the first thing to do is to pin the seams that make the "V" where the different colored fabrics are joined. Secure the one that is the farthest away from the seam you're going to sew, first. To do this, you really want the pin to go down through the center of the seam on the top piece and out through the center of the seam on the bottom piece, thus, aligning the seams. After that, you'll do the same thing for the seam closest to the edge you are going to seam together.

Finally, you're going to pin the edge you want to seam. Start with the place where the two fabrics join and make sure that it lines up on both the top and bottom triangle. Trust me -- even if other things aren't perfect, this is the thing you want to have line up correctly. After that, smooth things out from the middle and line up the points on either side as best you can and pin.

Step 13: The Finished Squares

Once you've done the pinning and sewed the four sets of triangles together and pressed them (press the seams out just like you did for the first part of the process) you should have something that looks like the picture above when you lay the pieces out on your table. Now you have 4 blocks. The rest of the seams should be pretty obvious.

Step 14: Pinning Squares to Form Rectangles

The pinning technique is similar to what you did for piecing the triangles into squares. Use those internal seams to help secure the two squares together. Then carefully line up the places where the fabric joins occur on the edge you are going to sew together. Do your best to make the center point seams line up on the top and bottom as well before worrying about pinning the corner where the background fabrics join.

Step 15: The Finished Rectangles

After pressing out the pieces (seams out) you now have two large rectangles -- you're one more seam away from a finished block.

Step 16: Pinning Rectangles to Form the Final Square

Yep, more precision pinning is required for this process. I didn't worry as much about securing the inner seams at this point, but you should feel free to pin down anything that makes you happy. For this piecing, I did start in the center and made sure the center lines came together correctly on the top and bottom pieces. Then I moved out from the center on either side and made sure the seams where the background and main fabrics joined were aligned before securing the outer corners.

The Third Finished Block

One more seam from my trusty sewing machine and another pressing event with my iron, and you have a finished block.

See, not so hard. And a very pleasing result!

The Fourth Star Block

The Fourth LeMoyne Star Quilt Block

Here you have a block surrounded by the last of my four background fabrics. I chose the background to complemen the pink and purple tones in the flowers in the diamond shaped pieces. And I think, in the end, the two sets of fabric complement each other quite well.

From a construction perspective, this block started off well. In fact, up until the point I seamed the two large rectangles together to form the final square, I thought this block would be almost perfect. But, as you can see, there are issues with the center of the block, where one of the diamond points looks rather sharply out of line. Everything else lined up well, however, so I couldn't see a way to fix it that wouldn't have left me with an equally obvious/visible problem in a different part of the block. So I've left it the way it is. I think perhaps that when it is quilted and in active duty, it will be less noticeable than it is now.

The Fifth Star Block


The slow crafting process continues Chez Biologist -- only one more quilt block to show for myself.

The Fifth Groovy Quilt Block

Once again, I like everything about this star except the very center. I can't quite figure out where the wonkiness comes from -- probably my seams are not quite the 1/4 inch that they are supposed to be. As the pieces get built up, there's a little more tendency for them to slide around a bit, at least in my hands. What I do like about this block is how the brown tree trunk pattern ends up forming a ring around the bees, and how the leaves fan out towards the points. I chose the pink background fabric to provide a big contrast against the green and to pick up the flash of pink in the wings of the little bees.

Sewing this block gave me the chance to think about knitting. Very specifically, I can't take my sewing machine to Toronto next week, and one sock cuff isn't likely to be enough knitting to keep me busy Sunday through Thursday. At the same time, this also isn't the time to start a large knitting project, because I don't want to haul that much knitting gear or yarn along with me in my suitcase.

So I got to thinking about one skein projects, and as I was moving my knitting books around, I came across Zoe Mellor's 50 Baby Booties to Knit. Mmm.. baby booties. Seems appropriate right at the moment. Lots of good things in this book, but since I don't have a whole lot of experience with booties myself, but I have hear that babies are extremely good at removing booties, I thought I'd ask you experienced bootie and child having folks (I know you're not necessarily the same people) to recommend some of your favorite patterns. And some of your favorite yarns for babies. I've been thinking that this might be a good way to use up some of my sock yarn remnants... but is your average wool/nylon sock blend too harsh for baby skin? I'd love to hear your suggestions, opinions and ideas!

Getting Ready for Toronto


Well, I was going to answer some questions that came up on the past couple of posts last night, but my laptop has been pressed into service for the conference I am going to next week and while it is busy doing it's job, I can't access some things I need that would make it easier for me to take care of that question answering process. I also am having a hard time answering email, period.

Perhaps this is a good thing, because it forces me to get away from my computer and get some important things done before I leave on my trip... like laundry, and continuing to empty things out of the nursery so that we can get it painted.

At any rate, the work on the quilt blocks continues, as does the knitting on the AbFab afghan (lots of things on the DVR makes for a reasonable amount of knitting time on that project). The sock will probably see some more activity when I head downtown this afternoon. It will certainly see some action on my trip to Toronto.

Thank you to everyone for the good suggestions for booties and yarn. I'm very tempted to try just making her a simple pair of socks. It has occurred to me (and I think it was also suggested to me some time ago as well) that Baby "Here There Be Dragons Socks" might be a fun thing to make.

I'm hoping that I'll have Internet access and the time to take a few pictures of Toronto. If not, I should be back next Friday.

Have a great weekend!

First Views of Toronto

CN Tower from the 14th Floor of the InterContinental Hotel Toronto Centre

You have to love a conference package that comes with free high speed wireless internet access -- and the claim is actually true. I've been in Toronto now for about 4 hours and from where we are staying the views are lovely.

A View of Lake Ontario from the Hotel

And the hotel room isn't all that bad, either. Now I just need to figure out where some good restaurants are (as opposed to the touristy near by to the hotels restaurants) that really give some flavor to Toronto. Clearly a city that's this lovely must have some good places to eat.

Given that the troops are still gathering for our meeting (it is just a hoot to me to see signs saying "Toronto Welcomes the American Society of Microbiologists" -- who would have thought that any place would be excited about having a bunch of people who study viruses, bacteria and fungi running around?), this night is likely to be a good one to relax in my hotel room. So I think I'm going to dig into this:

Bootie Making Materials: Rowan Wool Cotton, Cotton Glace, and 4 Ply Cotton

There are so many cute patterns in Zoe Mellor's book and too many lovely baby girl friendly colors to choose from in cotton and cotton blends. I've always wanted to try out Rowan's cotton-based yarns without making a commitment to a big project in case I didn't enjoy the experience of knitting with them. Babies need lots of booties, right?

And one last picture before I sign off. I just could resist getting a snap of this sign just past the security check point in Terminal One at O'hare.

Be Careful Choosing Your Starbucks

I don't know which is funnier... the concern that people might choose the wrong Starbucks and not have the option of getting their tall skim mocha lattes or that the "drip only" Starbucks and the restrooms seem to be in the same place...

The Sixth Star and a Bump Shot

The 6th LeMoyne Star

This star marks the half way point through the blocks that I am putting together. It has a real "jungle flower" feeling to me. And I like the sort of flower within a flower pattern you get (if you think of the star design as something of a flower motif). I do wish that bottom left piece had fit in just a little bit better so it looked like there was just one little flower in the center. However, it is as several people have said: very slight variations in the diamonds* can have an impact on how the center looks.

It has been suggested in my comments that perhaps I should show off a "bump shot" so that you can all see how Ms. Z and I are progressing. Since I am now closing in on 29 weeks and I suspect that I will soon be ending the "cute" part of my gestational period (signified by the fact that several of the cute little tops that I bought are getting a little more belly baring than I like, I thought it might be a good time to take a picture. Hotel bathroom mirrors aren't entirely ideal, but they do work okay. That said, I am not feeling quite bold enough to make it a feature picture on my blog for a day. However if you would like to see how the Z and I are doing just click here. I'm getting to be a very round biologist! And my little passenger almost never sits still for very long. I think Z is preparing for a career as a professional soccer player!

* I know that a few people have asked how the pieces for the stars are made. The idea behind stack and whack is that you find the repeat in your fabric and then you stack as many pieces of fabric on top of each other (matching the repeat) as you need to to create the geometric shape that you want to feature. Then after you "stack", you get out your rotary cutter and "whack" -- i.e. create pieces of the size and shape that you need to make to get the central block feature.

Hotel Room Knitting

Wool Cotton Booties and a Canadian Icon

Booties are the perfect hotel room knitting. Small, fast and not so much finishing. Z now has her first pair of booties, and her very first knitted item from her mother. These are the "Textured Cuff Booties" knit out of Rowan Wool Cotton from Zoe Mellor's 50 Baby Booties to Knit. It's a quick and easy project since most of the knitting is on 4.0 mm needles. I'm not usually a sucker for tiny sweet things, but these booties make me happy as I imagine them filled with baby feet. Perhaps not her first booties (they are supposedly sized for a baby 3 to 6 months) but it seems like the wool content will make them a nice accessory when it gets a little cooler.

I'm glad y'all liked the belly shot from yesterday. I find my body right now to be both strange and amazing. If body image was strange before becoming pregnant, it's even stranger now as I alternate between feeling that I am not too big and then thinking I am completely enormous. And then I feel her move around and stop worrying about the getting large part. I've been feeling her move since about 18 weeks, and I just don't think I could ever get bored of the little reminders that John and I will soon be sharing our lives with a new small human.

Last Day in Toronto


I can hardly believe that I'm settling in for my last night in Toronto. Where did the week go? I got to spend my night in an exceptionally fun way, though.

SnB at Lettuce Knit

With almost perfect weather, I got to enjoy a final fabulous evening in the company of a very friendly group of knitters at a beautiful little yarn store, Lettuce Knit. The atmosphere was warm and welcoming and it's hard to imagine a better way to spend an evening in a new city. I enjoyed seeing Rachel H and Stephanie again (Rachel made sure I got a nice walking tour down to Lettuce Knit and I got to hold Stephanie's current sock) and I got to meet Amy for the first time as well as Michelle and more lovely Toronto knitters than you can shake a stick at. As always, I have to apologize for my terrible memory for names -- but it really was a pleasure to spend a few hours knitting with such a nice group of folks, and I do hope that I get the chance to come back someday and do it again.

Of course, a little bit of shopping was done... but discussion of that will have to wait until I have good light to take pictures in.

The Seventh Star Block

The Seventh Star Block

In some ways, these quilt blocks are like candy. Everytime you finish one, you want to start another to see how it is going to turn out. The challenge now is making sure that the background and the star turn out to be complementary together -- and that I'm orienting the stars so that I don't end up with too many that have the same feel. I'd like each block to have it's own unique quality.

I'm back in Chicago now. Funny to think that I have probably taken my last out of town trip -- certainly my last airplane trip -- for a while. I did really enjoy Toronto and I do want to go back, but it's also nice to be home. It was really nice to sit on the couch tonight, prop up my swollen feet, and watch some things off the DVR while John got to feel the baby move. I feel like we're all supposed to be together right now. And it makes me happy that John wants to feel her move and share that part of the pregnancy experience with me.

And should you want to see a few more pictures of me in Toronto, Stephanie got some fun pictures of me and my bump with her sock -- I feel quite honored to have been able to pose with the sock, and I know that it must certainly be a good karma thing for Ms. Z.

To those of you in the states, I wish you a peaceful Memorial Day weekend with good weather and time to enjoy the things that make you happy. Is there anything nicer than a three day weekend in late spring? To everyone else I wish the same, but that you can get equally good mileage out of two days instead of three.

The Keyboard Biologist is having her own big Memorial Day yarn sale!

With the cleaning out of my fiber room to make way for the nursery for the soon-to-be arriving Baby Z, I've got some de-stashing to do. All of this yarn is in good condition and comes from a no-smoking household. To find out more information about any availble item to be de-stashed, just click on the picture to go to a more detailed description along with pricing and any other info I thought would be helpful.

To see the whole collection of listings on my de-stashing blog, just click here.

No doubt there will be more as I continue the cleaning and evaluating process. Thanks for looking!

Phildar Yarns for Chanel-Inspired Jacket and Pattern Book with English Translation

Jaeger Chamonix in Limoges


A Whole Whack of Fabulous Novelty Yarn

Jaeger Natural Fleece in Coal

Austermann Candy Color, #4

Anny Blatt Astrakan in Noir

Mondial Kashmir in White


Muench Bergamo in Phlox

Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride in Loden Leaf

Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride in Tahiti Teal


The Fine Print:

All my yarn is stored in a non-smoking home. I do have cats, however, and while they don't generally get to the yarn room, sometimes they do come in contact with it. All items up for sale are in good condition and have no known defects unless indicated. All yarn is final sale.

I am a PayPal Verified Premier member. I can take payment in the form of direct PayPal transfers, credit card through PayPal, PayPal eChecks, personal checks drawn on a US bank, and money orders. If you are not in the United States, you must send me money through PayPal and all transations are in US dollars. If you want to send me a personal check it must clear before I will send you the yarn.

When I ship, I ship USPS Priority Mail with Delivery Confirmation. Buyer pays for postage in addition to cost of yarn (unless otherwise noted in the item description). If you live outside the US, I will ship USPS Global Priority. I am happy to add delivery confirmation or certification to international shipments but buyer pays for the additional services.

To contact me to purchase any item here (or to ask questions about anything available for sale), please email me at If you are interested in making a purchase, please send your full name and mailing address so that I can calculate shipping for you. It would make my life ever so much easier if you could include the name of the yarn in your email when you inquire about it. Thanks!



Thank you to everyone who is helping me de-stash. Last night I got a lot of yarn, fiber and tools on it's way to new homes. Even my husband was impressed by the number of things heading out the door in such a short period of time. I'm just happy that some of this stuff will get to have a new life in someone else's stash!

A lot (and I mean a lot) of people asked after the Blue Moon Fiber Arts Merino/Tencel blend. While I only had one batch to sell, I wanted to let everyone know that Toni Neil at the Fold sells handpainted Blue Moon rovings. I didn't discount that roving at all, so if you wanted that fiber or fiber like it, I'd suggest giving Toni a call or dropping her an email. She's very helpful and I know she will take orders over the phone.

I have updated yesterday's post so that items that I no longer have are no longer shown. When something says "SALE PENDING" it means that someone has committed to the item, but I have not received payment for it yet. If I do not receive payment for something in a reasonable time (reasonable depending on the payment method) then I will offer it to the the next person in my inbox.

In the meantime, it's not all de-stashing around my house. There are definitely some new entrants into the stash as well. The most recent batch of stash enhancements came from Lettuce Knit in Toronto.

Tulips Sweater Kit and A Bit of Silk & Cashmere

Right after I got to Lettuce Knit, Rachel H (a most excellent enabler) made sure I had the Tulips Baby Sweater kit in my hand. Tulips is a pattern designed by the folks at Dream in Color Yarn and uses their beautiful handpainted worsted weight superwash wool, Classy. This isn't normally offered as a kit -- Megan at Lettuce Knit has decided to help make this project more available to knitters everywhere by putting together the small amounts of each color that you need to complete the project. It's a very sweet, colorful little sweater. And if you've been watching the Yarn Harlot's blog, you know it knits up fast. I decided that this would be the first sweater I would knit for the Z Baby -- it will be much too large for her for a while, but it should be about perfect for her when it's coldest here in Chicago. And it's about the size project I can actually tackle right now and have some hope of completion.

The other little treat in that basket is some Handmaiden 2 Ply Silk Cashmere in a colorway that iis just so much purply radiant fabulousness I couldn't say no. 300 meters is enough for something nice in either the scarf or small shawl category, I think. Perhaps a nice treat for myself during my maternity leave... assuming, of course, that I can focus on knitting anything during that time.

I thought I'd close with one of my favorite signs of summer -- the first peony bloom of the new year.

My First Peony Blossom of 2007

Peonies are probably one of my favorite summer flowers. I love how big and bold and colorful and flamboyant they are. I love watching them rise from the ground every year, sometimes so fast that you think you can see them grow. These flowers aren't afraid to be beautiful and they can even grow happily in an urban environment just as long as you give them a little sun. If "bloom where you're planted" applies to any flower, it's my peonies -- putting on a show under less than completely ideal conditions. Whenever I walk out my front door and see them, they make me happy.

Welcome summer!