Tuesday, December 7, 2010

No Stockings Today

I'm working on a commission sweater which will be a Christmas gift, so can't say much about it (not that this blog gets much traffic -- but better safe than sorry, you know?).

I'm about a third of the way up the back. See?

I've also knitted some more on my entrelac throw in K1C2 TyDy Wool.

Those modules are all the same size (though you certainly can work shaping in entrelac by varying the stitch/row count of the modules); the lower half of the throw has been steam-blocked, and the upper half hasn't. I've got 10 balls in all of this yarn, 8 from the shop and 2 (in the same dye lot!! huzzah!) from an online seller, so it should be a nice size to use on the sofa. I love working with this yarn.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Stocking #5

Fresh from steam-blocking, I present Christmas stocking #5. Apparently, it's from Knit O Graph pattern #105.

The client didn't have the pattern for this family stocking, but provided me with two existing stockings to work from.

So I counted stitches and drew my own chart. Sometimes that's almost easier than working from the vintage pattern.

This stocking is unusual, at least in my experience, in a couple of ways:

[1] The intarsia (color patterning) goes all the way down the foot. Most of the vintage stockings I've reproduced for people have a plain foot, making it possible (and sensible) to work the foot in the round, as you would for a normal sock. Still, the instructions usually direct you to work the entire stocking flat and sew a seam up the bottom of the foot/back of the leg -- which turns out to be the fold line as the stocking is hung. This time, I actually had to do that, though I did work the toe in the round with double-pointed needles.

[2] It has a "peasant" heel. All of the vintage Christmas stockings I've made for clients to date have had a standard heel flap/turned heel construction -- like the typical socks folks would be wearing at the time. I've yet to see a short row heel on a vintage Christmas stocking, and this is the first peasant heel I've encountered on a vintage Christmas stocking. It's also the first time I've worked such a heel in two halves and seamed together, which sort of defeats the purpose of the peasant heel in general, but I didn't have any other choice.

Next up, a batch of three stockings for a repeat client -- from the Knit O Graph pattern referenced above! Derp derp.

What a coinkidink! I may just work the Santa from my own chart again.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Stocking #4

#4 is the pattern from the Bucilla Christmas Stocking Kit 7621. I've knitted this pattern previously, for other clients, and had the pattern in my files. This stocking was started Monday morning, and finished Tuesday evening.


That Christmas tree Santa is toting is covered in sequins. It takes a long time to sew on those sequins.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Stocking #3

This year's third stocking, like stocking #1 from Ann Norling pattern #1018.

It doesn't show in the photo, but the band on the hat and Santa's mustache have angora carried along with the white yarn, which has been brushed after knitting to make it more fluffy.

Back to stocking #4...

Friday, November 26, 2010

Haeli's Quilt, completed

I cut and sewed on the binding yesterday. I needn't have worried, as there was plenty of the striped fabric; indeed, I cut more strips than I needed to go around the perimeter of the quilt. But that's ok, because now I have some pre-cut strips for another project, as well as a sizeable chunk of the fabric.

This morning, I signed the back of the quilt and embroidered over the writing.

Here's the finished quilt, on our bedroom floor (so I could stand on the bed to get the whole thing in frame).


= stamped poly/cotton Jack Dempsey Sunbonnet blocks (crib quilt set) from Herrschner's
= cotton prints, including some 30s reproduction prints from a variety of sources (most were purchased as fat quarters here and there, including from Sew Sassy in Urbana, IL); none were bought expressly for this quilt (yay!)
= border & binding fabrics from Threads of Time in Danville, IL
= Warm & White cotton batting from JoAnn Fabrics in Champaign, IL
= repurposed pink flannel sheet for backing
= sashing and embroidered blocks handquilted with Americana 100% glac├ęd cotton quilting thread

Next quilt in the queue will be Christopher's Pajama Quilt. But first I need to knit some more Christmas stockings.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Houston, we have a border...

I sewed the border on Haeli's quilt this morning. It's a good thing I'm striving for "cute" and "cozy" rather than accuracy, because this corner is obviously not square. Oh well. The piecing in some of the blocks is off, too, but I doubt Haeli will mind. I don't think it's veered into the "loving hands at home" camp, and if you think so, please don't tell me. I'm not redoing anything.

Next, the binding, which will be this striped fabric, assuming there is enough:

I think I'll apply it perpendicular to the border print. Ideally, I would have mitered the border, but as I say, oh well.  I am learning a lot from this project. 

It should look something like this: 

Just imagine that there's no space between those photos. I'm not inclined to figure out how to make one abut the other. Again, oh well. 

Thanksgiving looms tomorrow, and should be the easiest, most stress-free yet, at least for me -- I will not be hosting, and will only have to drive across town. 

Last year, I cooked the turkey on Wednesday. I don't know why I thought to do that, or why I never thought to do that before,  but it makes a huge difference in the kitchen "traffic". I don't think I will ever again try to cook everything on Thanksgiving Day. 

The turkey was cooked and disassembled last night. I have two 9x13 cake pans full of meat (one dark, one light), a stockpot with the carcass and odd bits, and nearly two quarts of broth/drippings. Interestingly, it's easier to fit those four items into the downstairs fridge than it is to get the roaster in there. 

I will make gravy and stuffing tomorrow, and the rest of the family will bring the other components of the feast. 

I wish you a pleasant Thanksgiving, among family and friends. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Stocking #2

The second of this year's efforts, knitted on behalf of a former customer who has moved to Texas to be nearer her children and grandchildren.

Virginia had knitted this stocking for 5 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren. She sent along yarn and most of the charts for the pattern, but not the instructions.

I recognized it as the "Personalised Christmas Stocking from 1945" from Sarah Bradberry's website.  


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Stocking #1

Here's the first of this year's output, from an Ann Norling pattern (#1018). 

No, I didn't knit the whole thing in a day; the client had knitted down to the bottom of the angel's gown. I took it from there, embroidered the name, sewed the seam, took in ends, added the hanging loop, and blocked it. 

Blocking was a little nerve-wracking, because the client had used 100% wool for some of the colors, and 25% wool/75% acrylic for the green. I'm not sure about the white. She'd also pulled her stranding tight enough in spots that it was quite puckered, but I managed to steam it enough to resolve most of that, without melting the acrylic. Whew! 

This will go in the mail today or tomorrow. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Now, It Begins...

...the mad Christmas-stocking-knitting-marathon, that is.

For the last several years, I've been knitting Christmas stockings on commission, usually replicating the family stockings knitted by Grandma or Great-Aunt Tilly for the new babies, in-laws, etc. who have come along since Grandma's or Great-Aunt Tilly's demise. One year, I duplicated six family stockings that had been lost in a house fire. It's very satisfying work.

Today, I am finishing the first of this year's commission stockings, which had been knitted by the client almost to the heel shaping. I've finished the toe and woven in ends, and still have to embroider the name on the top, sew up the seam, and add the hanging loop. It should be complete by dinner time (it's mid-morning as I write this), assuming my grandbabies cooperate -- they'll both be here today.

I've gradually accumulated a fairly extensive library of vintage and contemporary Christmas stocking books and patterns. I'm sure this surprises no one. 

Two or three years ago, I decided it was time to knit proper Christmas stockings for my own immediate family, the "cobbler's children" rule being rather dismayingly in evidence. Since we have our own new half-dozen family members (my son's family), I took my stocking books to his home when we went to his son's first birthday celebration. Each of the kids chose a pattern, and so did my son & daughter-in-law. She also selected a pattern for the baby's stocking.

I'll get started on those stockings once I've finished the commission orders for this year, and post photos as they are finished.

Then there's the pullover I've contracted to knit as a Christmas gift for a 6'4" individual...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Yesterday, I bought more thread.

I taught my Functional Kniteracy class at the Danville store yesterday afternoon, so of course I drove over early enough to do some shopping at Threads of Time first.

I found a cute print to use for the border on Haeli's quilt:

I was torn between it and the striped fabric on the left, but (a) the print will work better with the generally scrappy look of the quilt and (b) there was only 7/8 of a yard of the striped fabric left on the bolt. I took it all, of course.

I may still manage to use the striped fabric for the binding. We'll see.

I broadened my fat quarter palette (is that a mixed metaphor? or somehow redundant?) with some darker, more abstract, rather subtle prints, which should work well with some Japanese fabrics I've acquired from Studio Aika. I have a Plan gestating. 

Threads of Time now carries sashiko fabric on the bolt, so I got lengths of sage green and white, which should make lovely runners and/or placemats. When Elin & Mike were here a couple of weeks ago, we went  up to Mitsuwa in Arlington Heights for the day. I was able to find three Japanese sashiko books at the bookstore there, which have a lot of patterns and ideas for household textiles, but I hadn't yet gotten around to ordering fabric to make them. Now I don't have to.

Then I bought more colors of sashiko thread, because (as you may recall) I collect thread. And a Chalk Cartridge Set, which should be useful for sashiko, quilting, and general embroidery marking.

I really hope it works well, because it looks so cool, and I like writing sticks of all kinds almost as much as I like thread. 

Oh, and I got some stinkin' cute flannel, which will make a stinkin' cute nightgown for a certain little someone. But no picture of that, because there have to be SOME surprises around here.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I'm still here...

and still playing with thread, though I haven't had time to post lately.

My daughter & son-in-law from San Antonio were here for a glorious week, and I've otherwise been keeping my head down getting things organized for the local fiber guild's Annual Show & Sale, which I have coordinated since 2007.

The S&S is moving into the 20th century, if not the 21st, this year -- we will have an actual CASH REGISTER instead of multiple pocket calculators, and will have a Guest Book/Email List Database (coded by my other son-in-law) running on a laptop (lent by the same). I will have the regular paper guest book available, if people don't want to type their info into the laptop.

I publicly committed to entering 12 items in this year's S&S, and will just make it. I have to block 2 scarves today. I have so many more ideas than time.

I've also finished knitting a commission sweater for a client; just have to weave in the ends, block it, and weigh it to determine the yardage consumed & send him an invoice. Then the knitting of Christmas stockings for clients will commence.

Here are some pictures of last year's S&S. We hold it in the worship space of a local church, which looks like this on Thursday evening:

and is transformed to this by Friday afternoon:

Guild members' demonstrations of fiber techniques are always a popular attraction. Last year, Esther Peregrine demonstrated silk reeling, using cocoons from the silkworms she raised.

She'll be doing this again this year.

Barb Stultz demonstrated weaving on a tri-loom, on which the warp threads are applied as you weave:

It's a pretty slick technique - I have a tri-loom, but haven't yet played with it. The white and lavender wrap with the lavender flower pin above was woven by another member, on a similar tri-loom. 

The S&S is open for business Friday 4-9 and Saturday 10-4. Then we take it all down, "fold our tents" and steal away until next year. 

Friday, October 22, 2010

Haeli's Quilt, continued...

The quilting progresses.

It's going much faster now that I have a quilting hoop/stand combo. Quilting while holding a large round hoop is neither ergonomic nor efficient. The stand has an oval hoop, which allows better access to most of what is contained therein, unlike the round hoop. With the stand, I am able to use both hands for the quilting, one above and one below the work. I'm strongly right-handed, so it goes a bit faster with my right hand below (it "knows" where it is, better than the left hand seems to). But I'm getting better at using my left hand below the work. It's probably good for my brain, as well. And using both hands, even with the "slower" left hand below, is still faster than moving one hand above and below for each stitch. I haven't yet worked out how to do the quilting stitch without taking the needle all the way through the layers - I'm still at the "stab" stitching stage (say that three times, fast). But it's working, even though it doesn't show up very well in the photos.

I'd estimate one-fourth to one-third of the quilting is complete at this point. Haeli's birthday was yesterday, so I hope she will understand when she receives her quilt well after the day.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Haeli's Quilt

I'm making quilts for my grandchildren's birthdays this year, starting with Haeli's (October).

I've always been fond of the sunbonnet baby motif, so when I found a set of stamped blocks from Jack Dempsey, packaged as a baby quilt, I ordered it (from Herrschners, as I recall -- this was several years ago). I never did get around to making that baby quilt, but I figured I could always embiggen it with sashing.

I took a month off work this summer, and just stayed home. Embroidering the Sunbonnet blocks was one of the first things I finished on my "sabbatical".

I planned the general layout of the blocks and sashing on graph paper and decided to use 9-patch and 3-strip blocks for sashing around the embroidered blocks.

Haeli likes purple & pink. I had all of these fabrics in my fabric stash*. Some were fairly recent acquisitions; others have been aging a while, but none of them was bought expressly for this project.

*Yes, I collect fabric, too.

I wanted a really scrappy, random look, and tried not to combine the same two fabrics in more than one or two blocks.

Likewise, when I laid out the blocks to assemble
the top, my only rule was not to have the same fabric in any two adjacent blocks.

I scattered the blocks with the darkest fabrics around a bit, but didn't worry about value any more than that.

I cut the blocks and strips using a rotary cutter over the course of a few days.

I started off very slowly piecing the 9 patch blocks. After the first few, I was able to chain-piece the rest of them. Piecing the 3 strip blocks was even easier.

It took only a day to piece the blocks, and another day to assemble the quilt top. It went together beautifully, although I did have to rip out and redo a couple of seams -- for example, when I sewed the center block of the strip to the 9-patch block on the edge, rather than the one in the middle; or when I sewed an entire strip on upside-down (d'oh!). But the corners matched up pretty well for the most part, and the overall effect is just what I hoped for. 

The quilt is backed with a pink flat flannel sheet; the batting is Warm & White (cotton). I'm handquilting corner-to-corner on the 9-patch blocks, and in the ditch on the 3-strip blocks and the embroidered blocks. I may also outline quilt around the "babies"-- I'll see how the embroidered blocks look once the pieced areas are quilted, and then decide.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Blackwork Embroidery

Much of the embroidery I do is on household textiles. I love blackwork embroidery, which doesn't actually have to be done in black thread, and had a lot of fun designing and stitching this little table mat. 

I picked up leaves on the way to and from the kids' 
school, and selected several, in different sizes and 
shapes, for my outlines. 

I planned the layout of the leaves for one-half of        
the mat pattern, traced them onto paper with an 
iron-on-transfer pencil, and then ironed the outlines onto a 12"x18" piece of 18-count Aida cloth. 
I chose floss in suitable colors, then worked a different filling pattern in each leaf. I really enjoyed trawling through my blackwork resources to select the filling pattern for each leaf. 
In most of the leaves, I worked more densely on one side of the central vein; in others, I increased the density of the filling stitch from the center outward or from tip to stem. 

The edges of the cloth were worked in Nun's Stitch a few threads from the edge, then fringed.

This piece was probably worked fifteen years ago. It's been laundered many times, along with the family wash -- no special treatment. I think it's held up very well. 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

It's Fall, Y'all

Cross-stitched door bows were quite the thing some few years ago -- early-to-mid-1990s, I'd guess.

This is counted cross-stitch, from a Dimensions kit purchased when I worked at the local craft/garden store*. Every autumn, it comes out to adorn my front door for a month or so.

The edges and ends of the fabric band were prefinished, so once the stitching was done, you only had to fold the band into the bow shape (it's not actually tied), secure the center "knot" with a few stitches, and attach some sort of hanging loop.

Dimensions -- and other companies -- made a lot of these kits, with varying designs, some seasonal and some not (kitties, bunnies, "Welcome", etc.). You'd also see patterns for them in stitchery magazines. Most of them were way too cute or foofy for my taste.

I remember seeing patterns for these in German handwork magazines, too, so they were not exclusively a US phenomenon. It must have just been in the air.

*A lot of supplies came home with me when I worked there, as you might expect. The discount wasn't even that great, but when you straighten, dust, price, and put out new stock, you see an awful lot of things that give you an awful lot of ideas. I still have lots of supplies, charts, etc. with yellow clearance tags; they were the hardest to resist. I'm pretty sure I made more money working there than I spent, at least most of the time. Working there also started me spinning my own yarn, but that's another story, for another time.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


I discovered Sashiko embroidery more than 15 years ago. I bought and read a couple of books on the subject, which described methods for marking the designs on fabric, as well as the stitching technique, but I was never quite ready to actually try it. Over the years, I encountered an article or two on the subject, which I read with interest, but didn't pursue further.
When Needleworks Inc. opened their Danville store at Threads of Time in March 2010, I was delighted to discover that Threads of Time carried a line of stamped Sashiko pieces from Olympus, as well as the Olympus threads, needles, and thimbles. 

I immediately purchased some of the pillow pieces, and worked the first one in the traditional white embroidery on indigo fabric, stitching through both layers of fabric. The six-pointed star/hexagon pattern is the "hemp leaf" motif. I'm not sure what the flowers are - but I don't think they're "sakura" (cherry blossom). I'll eventually make this into a pillow. 

 public side of work

back side of work 

You can see in the second photo that I used knots, and wove in ends. There are methods of starting and ending threads (especially if stitching through two layers) which result in completely reversible work -- desirable if you are making a table runner, curtain, or some other item which might be viewed from both sides. For a pillow, I figured it didn't matter so much. 

Next I'll stitch these dragonflies, also in white on indigo; you can see the stitching lines, but I'm afraid the label washed out from the flash. It doesn't have instructions on it, though, just an image of the design and the Olympus item number (240, if you're interested). 

dragonflies pillow fabric

I have several pieces of blue & white yukata fabrics a dear friend sent from Japan, which I'll use as the backing, and perhaps to frame the embroidery. The finished pillows come out about 12.5-13", so some embiggening would not be amiss. 

Japanese yukata (summer kimono) fabrics

When next I returned to the Danville shop, I purchased some more fabric pieces and several more colors of thread. I put an inventory of my Sashiko threads on my iPod, so I don't duplicate colors. I don't think I necessarily want to own all the colors available, but that's usually how it works out for me. 

This summer I stitched a pair of Sashiko pillows for my daughter & son-in-law's new home. You may recognize the patterns. The color is "off" in each of these photos, in oddly inconsistent ways (both fabrics are actually the same color, and I used the same threads for both), but the right-hand pillow in the first photo is probably the closest, albeit a tad darker than reality. 

For these pillows, I stitched through a single layer of fabric, so that I could use the other layer as the back of the pillow. I believe (from the markings on the fabric, which are in Japanese) that this was the intended method. I prefer the stitch-through-two-layers method, however: I like the look, and "heft" of the result, and it's the way Sashiko embroidery was done traditionally.

I have a few more printed pieces to work up, some in dark blue and some in other colors. When I've completed those, I expect to start working my own designs on blank fabric. I'm glad I finally got around to trying it!