January 2008 Archives

The Call of the Sewing Machine

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There's a new baby coming!  No, not for me -- one baby is perfectly sufficient for me right now -- but for a special baby nonetheless. Thus, it's a perfect time for me to listen to the quiet, provocative voice of my sewing machine calling to me from my craft desk.  I've decided on a simple project.  A variation on the Children's Delight quilt in Quilts from the Quilt Maker's Gift by Joanne Larsen Line-- a very lovely quilt book* recommended to me by Carolyn.

After selecting the block pattern for the quilt, I headed off to Quiltology to look for the right fabrics.  Initially, I was thinking about something that really said "baby", but after browsing through Collette's fabric collection, I liked the idea of making something that would grow a bit with the child, and could be a part of the child's room as the child grew.  Since I don't know the gender of the baby I decided to stick with "baby neutrals": yellow, green, orange and purple with splashes of pink and blue.  Here are the fabrics I chose:

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The two fabrics in the center are Kaffe Fasset fabrics. The focus fabric for the quilt blocks (i.e. the center of the block) is the second fabric from the left -- I love all the colors and the psychadelic lollipop quality that the fabric has.  The focus fabric will be bordered with the blue fabric with the orange polka dots, and the corner stones for the block will be the orange Roman Glass (second from the right) fabric.  The square will have a second border, and that will be done with the yellow fabric, which will also have corner stones from the Roman Glass.  I'm hoping it will turn out to be playful and light and just a little funky. 

* This book is a nice book for a beginner like me.  It has many quilts, most of which are based around classic quilt blocks.  It shows most of the projects in a variety of fabrics to help the reader see what different effects different fabrics can have.  It also has nice instructions to help you strip piece and do things efficiently.  However, the book isn't solely for beginners, the quilts in it range from the delightfully simple (like the one I am going to make) to rather more complex.  It would seem to offer something for almost every quilter.

Quilt Pieces, Part 1

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The subject of New Year's resolutions simply isn't going to appear this year.  Every time I talk about anything related to that kind of subject it means that nothing related to that subject ever continues.  But with the beginning of 2008, I do want to get back to something that resembles regular blogging.  However, I recognize that right now I still have a hard time getting to sit in front of my computer.  And there is a trade off: more blogging = less knitting, quilting, etc.  So my hope is to maintain a modest schedule of posting on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Also, there is likely to be a good deal more blogging that falls into the category of photoblogging -- just me posting pictures of the latest progress on my projects without too much discussion.

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Work continues on my current baby quilt project.  I'm working through it in stages and giving myself little goals.  Because I can work on it in fits and starts while Z naps or when she's busy playing independently, it is a little easier for me than knitting.  Since my previous post, I got the fabric washed (a new thing for me: my first three quilts have been done on unwashed fabric), ironed and now I have the basic strips cut out.  Almost time to start sewing!

Children's Delight Quilt Pieces, Part 2

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20080106_BabyQuiltPiecedStr.jpgStrips of fabric + sewing machine = quilt block foundation.  The strips on the left contain the focus fabric plus the side borders and the strips on the right are the top and bottom borders for the blocks.  My sewing machine is patiently waiting for more cutting to occur so that we can proceed to the next step.  So far, I think these fabrics go together extremely well!

Unembellished Baby Jacket

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While posting time has been limited, knitting time hasn't been as bad.  John and I spent New Years in Ann Arbor with my family, and I spent some of my free time working on the Circles Stroller Jacket from Itty Bitty Nursery by Susan B. Anderson.

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Pretty simple, eh?  Simple, but a delight to knit up because the Blue Sky Alpaca's Organic Cotton is simply the nicest cotton yarn I've ever put my hands on.  It's so soft it's like knitting with silk!  If you wanted to make someone's baby a special garment out of a luxury fiber, this stuff definitely has that kind of feel, while still retaining the washability of cotton.  Perhaps the only drawback is that it only comes in "natural" colors, which, depending on the baby, can be a bad thing.  So far, Z isn't too hard on her light colored clothing...

This sweater called for 3 skeins of the yarn and I made the largest size (supposedly 12-18 months, but I don't think it's going to work quite that long for Z), and I definitely used enough of the third skein to say that the yarn estimates were on target.  Even if I had made a smaller size, I suspect that three would have been required.  The hood soaks up more yarn than you might think it would. 

This little sweater has a nice construction process, the back and two fronts are knit flat and a three needle bind-off is used to attach the pieces together.  Then you pick up and knit the sleeves on.  The hood is put on in a similarly simple way, making it the sort of garment that can be worked on in a car or on a couch, depending on your needs.

It's not finished, yet.  I have a custom-sized zipper on the way from The Zipper Stop (an easily affordable luxury) and I still have to embellish it with the fun circles that drew my eye to the project in the first place.   So not only do my knitting needles get a nice work out, I get to play with my crochet hooks and sewing machine as well.  This will be the first time I've ever tried to put in a zipper with a machine -- and only my second zipper insertion ever!

Children's Delight Quilt Pieces, Part 3

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The next part of the process for this quilt involves turning those strips into the foundations for the quilt blocks.  To do that, I cross cut each set of strips to give me the borders and the focus fabric with a border.  Then it's just a matter of laying out the pieces and sewing the focus piece to the first border.

20080112_BabyQuiltFirstPiec.jpgWhat are they going to look like when they are all put together?

20080112_BabyQuiltSquareMod.jpgThese blocks clearly aren't seamed yet (these are the focus strips bounded by the border strips), but you can begin to see how the design is going to take shape.  That's one of the things I really like about piecing quilt tops.  Things start at one small focal point and just continue to build out as you add pieces.  I'm always excited about working on every new stage because every time I iron open a new seam, I see something new start to form.  Even on a simple quilt like this one.  Right now, I love the way the orange is popping out at me, and how the focus pieces end up looking like crazy retro rainbows when they are not fussy cut to maximize the circles.


Embellishing a Little Jacket

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20080120_CirclesJacketHalfE.jpgThere's nothing like a blank canvas to inspire creativity.  That empty natural colored baby jacket didn't stay that way for long.  First, I set in the zipper (not really all that hard, thanks to my trusty sewing machine), and then I set about adding to the jacket the embellishment that gives it its name: the circles.    In the photo above, I've crocheted all the circles onto the jacket and am working my way around adding the satin stitch that gives the circles the interesting raised texture.

20080120_EmbellishingCircle.jpgOne thing that became clear in this process: it's harder to free hand a circle with a crochet hook than you might think.  It also takes longer than you might think.  When this jacket is all said and done, I am betting that I'll have spent almost as much time on the embellishing process as on knitting the main part of the jacket.  The close-up shows the completed circles and a set that have been "outlined" with crochet and are awaiting their satin stitch covering.  I nixed the idea of taking the circles around the bottom and back of the jacket because, frankly, I got a little tired of putting on the circles.  But the nice thing about not lining the jacket is that I can continue to add circles to it any time I feel like it.

Once I finish covering the remaining circles, the only things left to do will be the zipper pull and some additional rings that embellish the top point of the hood.  And then maybe we'll try the thing on a certain baby that lives in my house now.   It will be way too large for her, but baby photo shoots are way too much fun!  


Children's Delight Quilt Pieces, Part 4

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In between jacket embellishing sessions, I'm still working on the baby quilt.  My sewing machine and I are getting this random collection of parts to look more and more like quilt blocks.

20080120_BorderingQuiltBloc.jpgThere's a little bit of a jump from the last set of photos because my computer "ate" some of the progress pictures off of my SD card for no reason I can figure out. I finished the inner block (the focus fabric bordered with the polka-dot fabric) and I've sewn on the first of the yellow border pieces to all of the squares.  In this picture I'm getting ready to sew the last yellow border/orange cornerstone strip onto each of the blocks.

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Which, of course, brings us to the final Children's Delight quilt block.  Pretty sweet and colorful, I think.  I'm making the "lap" size quilt, so I'll be sewing these blocks together in 7 rows of 5 blocks each.  For me, this will take a little longer than the strip piecing, because for these big strips, I'm going to have to start pinning blocks together before I start sewing in order to keep the seams lined up.  I'm also going to have to trim each block down a bit to that they are all starting out about the same size (as per usual, the way I sew my seams means that these blocks are a tiny bit smaller than they are supposed to be, but that doesn't really change the quilt all that much, since I'm at least sewing my seams in a consistent way. But I've definitely made it to the home stretch -- and what I think is the fun part.  Moving from the "micro" level of the quilt block to the "macro" level of the quilt top. I can't wait to see what all these blocks look like when they start coming together!

Circles Stroller Jacket Finished!

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I never would have guessed before I had a baby that I would have enjoyed knitting baby wear.  I am not sure whether I am enjoying it so much because I'm a product knitter and knitting small things gives me the pleasure of having a complete creation or because there's nothing quite as sweet as seeing something I have knit on a small, beautiful baby with a big smile.  Like all things, no doubt it is a little of both.


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Here's the finished jacket -- it's hard to get a good picture of a garment with a hood;  hoods add a garment part in a third direction and I wasn't able to find a good way to really show it off the way I wanted to.  But, hopefully, this picture shows how all the elements play together -- along with some of my wonky circles.

20080126_CirclesZipperDetai.jpgI was surprised how much I liked the last detail elements of the garment.  I didn't think the zipper pull would do much for me until I put it on the jacket.  Nothing like an up close photo to make it clear just how wonky some of those circles are.  However, I have a feeling that on a three dimensional very cute baby, that bit of wonkiness won't be so obvious.  (To make the D&D analogy... small sweater makes saving throw vs. baby with charisma of 18+.... oohh! sweater loses that die roll...)

20080126_CirclesHoodDetail.jpgThe other extremely sweet little detail was the top loops attached to the point of the hood.  All these loops are made a little differently from the circles on the jacket.  When I first read about the construction, I thought it would be fussy and a little bit annoying to make, but it actually turned out to be easier (for me) than those circles.  Essentially the rings are just yarn-wrapped I-cords.  Something I might have to remember for the future!

20080126_ZosiaWearingCircle.jpgBut what truly makes this jacket super cute is the little girl who is going to get to wear it this spring.  It is a tad big for her right now (which is what I was striving for  -- I didn't line it, so it will fit well over another layering piece), but it looks so soft and comfy, I almost want to knit an adult sized one for myself.  And I just love seeing her smiling little face surrounded by that hood.  It makes all that embellishing time completely worthwhile.

For anyone thinking about making this garment (the Circles Stroller Jacket from Itty Bitty Nursery), it is lovely and easy and a chance to let your creative side roam as much as you want it to.  It would make a lovely special baby gift  for a friend who appreciates hand knits, and it really doesn't take all that much time even with all the embellishing.  The Blue Sky Alpacas Organic Cotton is a treat to knit with and soft as silk against baby skin without all the special handling needs (I still wouldn't put this garment through an aggressive machine wash cycle, but I'm thinking it would do just fine on the delicate cycle in both the washer and dryer). 

However, I did find a couple of minor errors in the pattern (probably just due to the fact that I have an early edition of the book and there's no errata that I could find posted yet), so you will want to read through carefully before starting to make sure that everything makes sense to you before you get started.    None of the errors are terribly serious, but they could be irritating if you're in a hurry.

I didn't make too many changes to the construction.  However, I handled the hood edging differently than the pattern stated.  I worked the edging as I knitted up the hood rather than knitting the edging and attaching it to the hood later.  I hate seaming and I thought that it would just add bulk in a place that didn't need any extra bulk. 

If you were expecting a quilting post, well, I was hoping to have one up, but last Thursday, which is usually my day to get some quilting work done (it's my day off during the week), ended up being a day that both John and I spent the day home suffering from a little bit of food poisoning.  It was hard enough to take care of Z let alone think about standing up to square up quilt blocks, so the quilt got ignored last week in favor of something that could be worked on while I sat on the floor with a baby.  (To give the sweet Z baby a lot of credit, she was a little angel during the day, and I was feeling much better by the evening when she started to get a little fussy... probably because her parents were both just so fussy themselves!)

On one of my recent trips to Macy's on State Street (how do I miss Marshall Field's... let me count the ways...) I saw the Ralph Lauren baby collection.  One of the things that I loved was the set of ombred baby garments for spring.  We're planning on a little vacation to Florida in early March, and they seemed like they would be perfect for that.  But then my sense of practicality kicked in and I remembered that I had something in my stash that would create the same effect and would create a much more special memory for me of Z's first trip to the ocean. 

20080126_PhilOndeBabyTopSta.jpgA long time ago (probably back when dinosaurs still roamed the earth), Phildar introduced and then quickly discontinued their Phil'Onde yarn.  Phil'Onde creates an ombred coloration in the garment as you knit.  If you remember my Phil'Onde Pull, you'll remember the effect the yarn creates.  I've really enjoyed that garment, and since Phil'Onde is mostly acrylic (but very soft and very nice -- not plasticky feeling at all), it's machine washable and also a sensible yarn for a baby garment.  I actually bought yarn for my sweater and then bought some for a sweater for John and, er, for the first of my nieces. I made the sweater for me, but never really got motivated to make the other two.  Now even my second niece is much bigger than the garment I was planning to make, even in the largest size.  Ah well, I guess we all know which road is paved with good intentions...

It does seem to be true, however, that if you wait long enough, things come back into style.  I've seen ombred things in a number of places (it seems to be trendy in shoes these days), so Z will have the opportunity to be a trendy beach baby.   What makes this garment a real treat to make is that it is all in the round.  So, even feeling lousy, it's not too hard to et a couple of rounds in here and there.  And, like all Phildar patterns that I've worked, it has just enough clever bits to keep the mostly mindless stockinette bits more entertaining. 

Although lately I've been avoiding pink for Z (after all, how much pink clothing can one baby girl have?!) I love this color, which Phildar called "nenuphar".  It's pink, but it has enough yellow in it to make it a more sophisticated color than the baby pink of most of the garments in Z's wardrobe. 

For those of you who might be wondering, when in the heck is she going to knit an adult sized sweater again, well, I don't have a great answer for that one.  I've been wanting to do it, but all the patterns that have caught my eye lately are pretty fitted, and I'm really trying to knit out of my stash rather than buying new yarn (trust me, it is no hardship to go shopping in my stash...).  Right now, my bust line is about 2" more substantial than before I got pregnant.  Since I am still nursing Z, I don't know if this is permanent change, or just temporary -- it seems to be one of those hard to predict things for a lot of women.  I'd hate to make a fitted sweater that I loved at the larger size and then wean Z, and find that suddenly I was back to my old size and that beautiful fitted sweater was now on the big and sloppy size. Or make a smaller size and never look right in it.  So baby garments, socks and house "garments" are high on my list right now.

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