1

Mermaid Play Skirt

One of my favorite fabric designers and illustrators is Sarah Jane (she designs for Michael Miller). I’m also a little bit obsessed with octopuses (or octopi, should you prefer), so when she released her Out to Sea line, I snapped up the Mermaid Play print as soon as I could. I mean, how was I supposed to resist this cuteness?

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The mermaids! The whales! The octopuses! I had to have an item of clothing from it right away. I finally settled on using this tutorial from Gertie’s Blog for Better Sewing (which you should definitely cruise around if you have any interest in clothes). I’m still learning to sew clothes and I’ll admit that I’m not great at following patterns…things inevitably wander off course when I decide to add or subtract things, so this suited me perfectly. I ended up with a really adorable skirt, if I do say so myself!

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I followed the tutorial directions pretty much to the letter, to my measurements, of course. I did thread some elastic through the waistband, since it ended up a bit more loose than I wanted, and I added pockets, because pockets rule.

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I love the wider hem, and I’m really proud of myself for installing an invisible zipper.

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There are a few puckers, but the skirt is full enough that it pretty much hides them. I also finished the seams, so it looks fairly decent on the inside too.

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I’ve worn it a lot this summer and have gotten tons of compliments. I think when I make another one (and I definitely will), I’ll use a bit more fabric and make it fuller, but overall I’m really happy with it!

 

5

The Kisses Quilt of Doom

Up until a few months ago, I had been fairly lucky in my quilting life. Some frustrating moments, but no huge failures.

Until the Kisses Quilt of Doom.

It didn’t start out as a quilt of doom. It started out as me consuming entirely too much modern art (I spend a lot of time on google images), combined with a new challenge from the Modern Quilt Guild and Michael Miller for the new Petal Pinwheels line of fabric. I’m a big fan of both Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein and have been wanting to try a pop art inspired quilt for a while, so I decided this was my opportunity. It started out well; I came up with a plan to cut one inch circles out of the fat quarters provided, after fusing them to some Heat ‘n Bond.

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I cut three lips outlines from some white fabric (again backed by Heat’n Bond) fused the little circles to those, then ironed the lips onto a larger piece of fabric. All was well, things were looking great!

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And then…well, things went to hell in a handbasket pretty quickly. Turns out that all that Heat’n Bond made my fabric really, really thick, and I broke 4 needles just trying to get those things quilted. Not taking the hint, I decided to quilt diagonal lines a quarter inch apart…which halfway through I realized were bowing and turning more into half moons than straight lines.

This is where things really took a turn for the worse. I unpicked all those stitches and then, like a good quilter, marked my lines so I could sew them straight. Only, I failed to realize that I had grabbed my grease pencil meant for marking templates, and not my washable quilting pencil. So, see these nice black lines? Can you guess what didn’t happen when I washed it?

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Yep. They didn’t come out. At all. I tried everything I could think of, and everything the internet suggested, but I still had a beautiful quilt with ugly grease marks on it.

I still had a week until the challenge due date, so I cried a little, then sucked it up and started over (and I got my Letterpress dress out of the dismantling process, so it wasn’t all bad). This time I just appliquéd the lips, so the only part that had Heat’n Bond was the little dots. I marked the lines again, but this time with tailor’s chalk, which I had tested on the fabric and had washed out great. Quilting went quickly and smoothly, and I was so happy to get it done with a few days to spare.

Well. I don’t know what happened between the testing and finishing the quilting, but it happened again. The blue lines of the tailor’s chalk had somehow soaked in to the fabric, and it didn’t come off all the way when I washed it. I was left with another quilt, this one with faint blue lines. At this point I was really ready to just throw in the towel, but I can be just a little stubborn sometimes, and I was determined to finish this thing, somehow. I ended up using some light blue thread and a decorative stitch, and went back over the marks, to make it look like I did it on purpose. Once I started adding the blue, it didn’t look like the wall hanging I’d been intending, and more of a cute baby quilt, so I cut it down to just two lips. Here’s how it ended up:

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I’m actually pretty happy with how it turned out, though I still get pretty frustrated when I look at it. I do think the blue adds an interesting texture and I still like my original idea, so I may try it again at some point (some point that is far, far in the future). I do love how cutting up the fabric made really interesting geometric patterns, and I like the bold colors.

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I outlined the lips with an orange zig zag stitch, and the back is really cute:

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I might like it more than the front, although I suspect that’s more my irritation talking than anything.

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So there you have it: my first total quilting failure. I didn’t win the contest, but I’m still proud of myself for finishing, and she’s heading to be shown at our guild’s exhibit at the Northwest Quilting Expo…where I hope no one will be able to tell how many mistakes are in this one!

 

5

Sewing Box Makeover

I scored several great finds on our last Goodwill trip, so you’ll be seeing makeover projects a lot around here in the next few weeks – hope you don’t mind! This week, a sewing box. We were cruising around the furniture section and this fantastic box was just hanging out above the sofas:

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I was drawn by those amazing hinges, and then I opened it up…

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…and saw the spool holders! I think you’ll agree that it had to be mine. I loved the wood, but it was really beat up and the wood was splintering a bit, so I decided it would need to be painted. Luckily, I just acquired a bunch of Martha Stewart craft paint, so I had lots of colors to choose from (these are just a few).

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I decided on blue and got to work. I have to tell you, this might be my new favorite crafting item. The paint is nice and thick, so it covers really well, and the coats dry quickly. One coat provided enough coverage that it probably would have been enough, but two gives it a really solid color. It doesn’t smell, and washes easily off of brushes and hands. It comes in a huge range of really nice colors, and the color on the label is pretty true to what’s in the bottle. I would highly recommend them – I’m now actively looking for things to paint :P.

Once I got the color on, though, I decided that it just wasn’t enough (not the paint’s fault at all, just me being picky), so I broke out the Modge Podge and covered it in some leftover Birch fabric. This is what I ended up with:

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The underside of the lid is painted white, and I ended up mixing red and blue to get a dark purple for the inside and the handle.

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The hinges definitely look old and a bit tarnished, but they’re so pretty that they had to stay.

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I left those spool holders (obviously!) and it is perfect for my current hexie project. I think I may add a little box or maybe a pocket at some point, to have a place to store extra needles and my thimble and other odds and ends, but I’m pretty happy with it for now!

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The final tally was $6 for the box, maybe $1 for the Modge Podge, and about $1.50 for the paint (the fabric was in my stash). Well worth it, in my opinion!

Sewing Box Before and After

 

3

Coral and Gray Granny Squares

I think I mentioned a while back that I’ve gotten into crochet again, and I’ve been wanting to do some granny squares for a while now. I tried a couple of times with different yarn combos, but I didn’t love any of them. Then, a couple of weeks ago, we were at Goodwill (I know I say this all the time, but treasure hunting at secondhand stores is one of my favorite activities…you can find such great stuff for so cheap) and I scored a couple skeins of a mystery coral colored yarn that I knew would go perfectly with some gray Cascade yarn I already had.

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I found a couple more skeins (after hunting around for a while) that still had a label, and it told me that this is Fleisher’s Win-Sport. I can’t find any information on it, but I’m guessing it’s from the 1970s, and I kind of love that the label advertises that it’s both “easy care” and “mothproof” – I’ve never actually seen that on yarn label but no moths seems like a good thing, right?

It was thinner than the gray yarn I wanted to use, so I doubled up and cast on for a sunburst granny square pattern. I was totally in love with how it looked from the very beginning, and I’m only loving it more as I make more squares:

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My pretty little stack is growing at a pretty nice rate, and I’m almost tempted to keep them that way…

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…but I already have about 14 made, so I figured I should probably start make something out of them. Right now I’m thinking I’ll aim for 36 or so to make a nice little baby blankie.

The question of how to join them has been giving me a bit of trouble, but I think I’ve nearly settled on the flat braid join.

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I tried a few other ones, and this is the only one that I really liked, but I do think I’ll size down one needle size when I join them permanently (I read something a while ago that recommended trying that for a cleaner finish). If anyone has any other joining suggestions or techniques they like, though, please send them my way!

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0

Lots of Little Things – And Meeting Debbie Bliss!

First, I must apologize for my longish absence; I was sick for a little while there. But, I’m on the mend and I have lots of little things to share! First up, I got a wild hair and decided to make a wallet for my mom:

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I was fairly happy with it, although there were a few things I’d change next time. It’s hard to tell, but I used iron-on vinyl on the outside, to make it more water and dirt proof. It made the fabric really thick and difficult to sew, which my poor little machine was not happy about. Because of that difficulty, the pockets on the inside did get slightly crooked.

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It basically flat out refused to sew the velcro, so that part took me a lot longer than I’d been expecting. This frustration led to deciding it was finally time to get a more heavy duty machine, which I’ve needed for quite a while (I have a little Brother machine that I love, but she just isn’t up to the amount of quilting I do). A trip to Goodwill later, and this beauty went home with me!

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She needs some cleaning and servicing, but runs great and is super heavy, so no more shuttering all over the table! Now she just needs a name…any suggestions?

I also finished this little guy, for a sweet brand new baby boy.

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He was an order from my Etsy store, and measured about 17 inches high. He was so cuddly and huggable, I kind of wanted to keep him, but I decided the baby probably needed him more :). The pattern is this one from Debbie Bliss, which I’ve made several times and continue to fall in love with.

And, speaking of Debbie Bliss, she was visiting Seattle recently, and guess who got to meet her!

photo 1Yes, that is yours truly, standing next to Debbie Bliss, and wearing one of the sweaters she brought with her, from the new fall designs. This one is knit from the new Roma yarn, and that and the sweater design should be available at the end of summer, from what I understand. This is another from the same collection:

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It was an awesome afternoon. There weren’t that many people there, so we were each able to talk to Debbie and try one a bunch of sweaters. She talked a lot about her design process, and how to knit for yourself. Interestingly, she recommends that you pick a sweater pattern based on your shoulder measurement rather than your bust measurement, especially if there’s a lot of ease in the pattern. In hindsight, this makes a lot of sense, since a lot of the time when I make a sweater in “my” measurements, I’m not happy with the fit. But I have a couple of sweaters that got made a size or two small, and they fit great. I went home incredibly inspired and ready to work…and she complimented my dress, which pretty much made my week!

Hope everyone is having a great summer (and beating the heat), and I should be back to regularly scheduled postings next week!

 

4

Letterpress Dress

I recently had a bit of a quilting disaster (more about that on a later post) that necessitated dismantling the quilt and ditching the top and batting. It was fairly traumatizing, but the backing was still good, and happened to be one of my favorite fabrics, Letterpress by Michael Miller. I decided to make lemonade by turning into an easy summer dress, and I’m pretty happy with the result:

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I basically sewed it in the style of a pillowcase dress; I made one big square of fabric that was sewn on all sides but one, then used an existing dress that I knew fit well to trace the lines for the head and arm holes. Once I’d cut those out, I just hemmed each raw edge and, since it gaped a bit, ran some elastic through all except the bottom.

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It turned into a really blousy, breezy summer dress, but still fits great where it needs to (elastic is a miracle). It was absolutely perfect for our recent 90 degree heat, and since it’s just plain cotton, is very easily washed and thrown in the dryer. It also looks a bit like a swing dress, which I’ve been noticing making a comeback, so I’m kind of accidentally on trend, too.

For dinner with friends, I dressed it up and made it a bit more form fitting with a cute green belt.

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I don’t have a lot of neutrals in my wardrobe (unless you consider pink a neutral…), so it’s kind of nice to have a dress that can be paired with pretty much any other color. I’ve gotten tons of compliments on it and I love wearing my favorite fabrics, so I see lots of handmade clothes in my future!

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Undercover Blanket

I’ve had some trouble settling on a knitting project lately. Temperatures have been a lot hotter than usual around here, and I find that it really saps my motivation to do anything that has to sit on my lap. But, I can’t sit there without anything to do, either! I decided on a baby blanket, since they’re pretty quick and don’t take up much lap space. I’ve had the Undercover pattern from Beata Jezek in my Ravelry library for a long time now, and I had a stash of Cherub Aran in Denim Blues that turned out to be perfect:

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As I’ve mentioned before, I struggle a bit with variegated yarns. I often love the colors but hate how they look on certain projects, so I generally end up using them in blankets with a lot of stockinette, which can get boring to knit. Not so with this pattern! It has a really pretty lacy repeat that looks a little like leaves, but still shows off the yarn colors beautifully. It also knit up in only a few days, which satisfied my need for instant gratification.

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And it’s finished with a seed stitch border, also known as my favorite way to end a blanket, particularly a baby sized one – I’m pretty sure I can point to the influence of Debbie Bliss for that one :).

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I did find the instructions to be slightly confusing at first, so I wouldn’t recommend this for a beginner knitter. You’ll need some experience to get started, but once you get the pattern established it’s pretty easy sailing, and it’s looks really gorgeous when it’s done.

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I’m not the only one who loves it, either…I took it outside for a photo shoot, and in the minute my back was turned, Zoey managed to steal it for a cuddle (excuse my shadow, it was too cute of a picture to pass up).

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I definitely recommend this one, and Beata has a bunch of other really pretty patterns, so check them out if you’re looking for a new project (or even if you’re not!).

 

5

Another hexie project

Remember when I finished the hexie duvet and I said I’d take a break from hexies for a while? You all knew I was totally not going to follow through on that, right? Good, because I couldn’t resist!

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I got the this fabric (Comma by Zen Chic for Moda) from my mama-in-law Leslie for Christmas last year, and I loved it so much that I’ve been hoarding it for just the right project. It was a jelly roll originally, so I’ve been researching various patterns for strips, but…it just felt like it needed to be patchwork, and squares aren’t really a thing that grabs me. Despite my frustration with how long the first hexie blankie took, I loved the process (making and sewing hexies is pretty meditative) and it came out looking amazing. The picture of these fabrics in this pattern just wouldn’t go away, and I figured six months was probably enough to think about it. The start of this was also aided by the sudden onset of super warm weather here in Seattle; when it gets too hot in the afternoon to machine quilt, this is a good alternative.

These hexies are even smaller than last time, at about an inch across. While they’re definitely a bit harder to get used to at first, it didn’t take too long to get the rhythm down again, and having them so small means they can be stored pretty conveniently:

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I learned a lot from the last blanket, not the least of which is that these little guys take a lot of time and patience, so this project isn’t for anybody or anything in particular. I’m not even all the way sure what it will be – I think that will depend on how big it is when I get sick of it! I also cut the fabrics in a hexie shape to start out with, instead of squares; the squares worked fine last time but did create a bit of bulk in some of the seams, and it’s looking a lot neater this time around. Admittedly, absolutely no one but me cares about that, but it still makes me happy.

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I love all of these fabrics and how they play together, but these ones are my favorites (right now).

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Obviously polka dots are always at the top of the list, and the other two kind of look like fireworks to me. I love that hexies made from the same fabric come out looking different, just because of placement.

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And on a side note, has anyone else used these full finger leather thimbles?

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I love these things. Regular thimbles never seem to fit right, or make the tip of my finger feel weird (and I hate the metal ones). These are made with super soft leather, and the stretchy bit on the back makes it fit your finger really nicely, while still letting you move your finger freely. My grandmother used them quite a bit when quilting, and I’ve been looking for them for years with no success. I happened to come across one of hers that was still in the package, so now I know that it’s made by Dritz and is still around – I will definitely be ordering a bunch to have on hand. Check them out next time you need a new thimble!

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1

Early (tiny) Honey Harvest!

Last weekend while we were doing a hive inspection (and by “we” I mean that my husband did all the hard work while I stayed a safe distance away supervising), we noticed that we have a ton of capped honey already. We’ve had a very warm spring here in Seattle, so our bees started to feed early and they’ve had a lot to choose from. The hive has increased substantially in population since we got them in April and they have been very busy, so we decided it might be okay to have a little taste of our very own honey (normal honey harvest is at the end of August around here).

We started out with a little less than half a frame of capped comb:

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Since we didn’t have that much, we bypassed the extractor and just scraped it down with a hive tool. I took a video because it’s kind of hard to describe – the sound isn’t that important, but I think it shows the process pretty well.

Once the the honey had mostly dripped into the bottom bowl, it was time to wring out what was left from the honeycomb. My most important word of advice on this step is that the gloves are absolutely necessary! This is a very sticky process, as you can imagine, and it will take you about a million hand washings to get clean again if you skip the gloves.

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We just used regular old loose weave washcloths to do this step, because none of the stores near us had cheesecloth, and I think it actually worked fairly well. After this filtering, we did one more before funneling it into the jar, just to make sure we really got all the stuff out.

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We weren’t sure what color our honey would be, since we have so many different kinds of food around here, but it ended up being a very pretty light gold color. I was a little nervous about what it was going to taste like – what if we ended up with terrible honey after all this work? I shouldn’t have worried, because it’s amazing! Of course, we may be just slightly biased, but it’s sweet without having a funny aftertaste like you sometimes get with store bought, while at the same time not sweet enough to give you a tummy ache. I’m going to use it to make granola this week and I think it’s going to be delicious! We can’t wait to see how much we get during the real harvest at the end of the summer…and as quickly as this jar is going, we’ll be ready for it!

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1

Accidentally Nautical Blanket

Theres’ a new blankie in the shop! This one started after I’d finished the hexie quilt and needed something easy and mindless to work on. I had been sorting through my yarn and realized that I had a lot of navy left over from making my brother’s Christmas sweater, so I paired it with some white and came up with a cute crib sized blanket:

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The pattern is just a single row repeat, the same one I used last year for our purple couch blanket, which is exactly what I needed; the hardest thing about this pattern was keeping track of how many rows of white I needed to do.

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Originally, I was going to just do two rows of white for each section, but then I decided that varying widths would be more interesting. I only occurred to me afterward that it’s a very nautical looking blanket. It seems that nautical is everywhere right now, so I think I probably absorbed it by osmosis.

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It turned out slightly narrower than I had been going for, at about 28 inches wide, but overall I’m pretty happy with it, and I think I’ll be making more (a little wider though). I’m really trying to work through my yarn stash, and I love this Caron Simply Soft, so I have a lot of it. I’m also really in to crochet right now; it was actually the first craft I learned to do, when I was about 10 or so, but I don’t do it that often since I learned to knit. There’s something about a crochet blanket in a cuddly yarn that’s very comforting, though, and I’m interested in using more modern colors and design schemes in such a traditional craft. I think next up I’m going to attempt a wave stitch…stay tuned!

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