Thursday, December 31, 2015

Seven More Triple Luxe Cowls!

Yes, you read that right. I’ve crocheted seven more Triple Luxe Cowls. Only one was for me! The others were Christmas gifts. Here’s a quick rundown of the latest seven I made:

Basic Black

Come winter, I wear a scarf all day long, pretty much every day. (My office is usually too cold for my liking.) While I love and wear the two previous scarves I crocheted for myself, I still found myself reaching for my tired old jersey infinity scarf several times a week. Why? It’s black, and black goes with everything. I knew I needed to crochet myself a black scarf, even though it’s not a fun or exciting color. Then, I stumbled across a cute local yarn store: All Wound Up. It was full of lovely, colorful yarn. However, inspired by my previous Wardrobe Architect efforts, I stuck to my resolution to make a black scarf and picked up some nice, sensible Berroco Vintage Chunky yarn in Cast Iron. They even caked it for me, which was nice. Even though it’s a bulky (5) yarn, it did not have as much body as the Lion Brand Woolspun yarn. I had to crochet 18 rows to make it as wide as my blue scarf. It was a little boring to work on, but as expected, I wear it often.

Fancy Black

My grandma is pretty glam for an octogenarian, so I knew her yarn had to be special. At Michael’s, I found this super bulky (6) Isaac Mizrahi CRAFT Carlyle Yarn that was black with gold highlights. I managed fifteen rows for this one, and then ran out of yarn. It’s super soft. Sadly, I thought I had taken pictures of it before I sent it off, but apparently I did not.

Avocado, Aquamarine, Periwinkle, Purple, and City Lights Mix

For the other five, I used the Lion Brand Woolspun yarn called for in the pattern. The various colors I chose were Avocado, Aquamarine, Periwinkle, Purple, and City Lights Mix. It’s a nice, reliable yarn and I had a lot of fun crocheting all the different colors, according to the recipients’ tastes. The City Lights Mix skeins are smaller than the solid skeins, so I did a bit of crochet math and figured out that if I chained stitched 110 instead of 120, I would have enough yarn for sixteen rows. It worked like a charm! I might do that again and any subsequent cowls, because both the Avocado and Periwinkle ones ended up at fifteen rows, because I ran out of yarn.

I still love this pattern, even after making it nine times so far. Even so, now that the Christmas giving season is over, I’m going to try my hand at a new pattern or two.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Emphasis Table Runner

Paper piecing has not come easy to me. From the first, it struck me as upside down and backwards, and my mind has struggled to make sense of it. Well, no longer! I took Carolyn Friedlander’s Emphasis class at QuiltCon 2015 and the way she explained it resonated with me. After making a few Emphasis blocks for my QuiltCon Compilation quilt, I was able to finish up the table runner I had started in the class, no problem.

Quilting this table runner was such fun! I used green Aurifil thread down the center and navy on the sides, following the angles of the piecing.

This little quilt was made 100% from my stash, which was immensely satisfying. I’m really happy with how it turned out and am actually looking forward to tackling more paper piecing as I continue to quilt my way through Carloyn’s book Savor Each Stitch as part of the Quilt the Book challenge.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Violet La Rue Mini Ribbed Cowl

Back when I crocheted in college and shortly after, I only knew of two sources of yarn: large craft store chains and small local yarn stores. Now that I’ve rediscovered crochet a decade later, I realize that there are also a wide variety of online sources as well, from independent shops, Etsy sellers and more.

I discovered Citizens of Textile because I follow Heather of House of a la Mode on Instagram. I like her quilting, but I love the photos of indie dyed yarn she shares. She runs Citizens of Textile, which is the online equivalent of a pop-up shop. You can only buy the artists’ products the first weekend of the month. I was drawn to the indie yarn, but there are also completed knitting items, unique bags and pillows, and sometimes even a quilt or two. I really like the model because it allows a variety of makers to create lovely things throughout the month and sell them without having to maintain an online store day to day. As someone who hates going to the post office, this is an idea I can really get behind.

Because of its pop-store nature, buying from Citizens of Textile is quite the experience. The store opens at 5pm the first Friday of the month, and if you see something you like, you better buy it immediately! Apparently, “cartjacking” is a thing, so if you don’t move quickly enough, someone else will buy it out from underneath you. It’s quite nerve-wracking, but worth it. Heather’s hand dyed yarns are lovely.

My first purchase from Citizens of Textiles included three skeins of Violet La Rue in Bangin’ Bulky single ply, which is a Merino wool/Nylon blend. I bought three because I intended to make a Triple Luxe Cowl with it, and I had used three skeins of Lion Brand Woolspun for that. Because I’m still learning about the world of yarn, I didn’t read the fine print and was surprised that each skein contained only 76 yards. So, no full sized Triple Luxe Cowl. I tried to make a small Triple Luxe Cowl, but the yarn wasn’t a good fit with the pattern.

In the end, I made a mini Ribbed Cowl using Purl Soho’s Crocheted Rib Cowl pattern. With the bulky yarn, it was super quick! While I was making this cowl, my plan was to give it as a gift. When I wore it to take pictures, I almost changed my mind! I loved how warm and squishy it was. Ultimately, I gave it away to a knitter friend who appreciated it. One day, I hope to make a Ribbed Cowl to keep for myself.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Pattern Testing: Mini Tania Culottes

This September, I had the opportunity to pattern test the Mini Tania Culottes, which are part of Megan Nielsen’s new line of girls’ patterns. I was thrilled, as I have long been an admirer of her patterns, and the mini versions couldn't be cuter. Initially, I had planned on pattern testing all three versions, but real life intervened and I was only able to finish version 3 before the feedback deadline. I picked that one first because it was the bigger and would therefore take the longest to sew, thinking that I could whip up the shorter versions too. Oh well. While this pattern is indeed a quick sew, my real job workload was such in September that my best laid plans were derailed. Luckily, the instructions were easy enough to follow that I was able to sew this together in fits and starts in the few stolen minutes I could find.

I totally wasn’t paying attention and didn’t realize that the pattern called for woven fabrics until it hit my inbox. While I have a small stash of garment fabric in woven and knits for myself, I only had knits on hand in my daughter’s colors. (She is very particular about what she wears and the pinker something is, the more likely she is to wear it.) Since the pattern indicated that you could also sew it up in knits, I decided to take a chance and just roll with it. I used Les Points Knit in Rose by Frances Newcombe for Art Gallery Fabrics, and it turned out well enough. However, if I ever made this pattern out of a knit again, I would use a lighter, flowier one.

While I managed to finish the culottes and submit my feedback by the deadline, it took me some time (and some bribing) to organize a photo shoot with my daughter. Therefore, please enjoy these pictures of Mini Tania Culottes worn in chilly, rainy November weather. I can’t wait until next spring, because I’m planning on whipping up some shorter culottes in woven fabrics. The pattern is easy, quick and clever and I love that it combines the functionality of pants with the cuteness of a skirt.

Disclaimer: I received this pattern for free in exchange for pattern testing it. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Mommy and Me Triple Luxe Cowls

Behold, my favorite crochet pattern to date! After finishing my Scarfie, I surfed the web until I found the Triple Luxe Cowl from All About Ami. It’s free, and calls for bulky Lion Brand Woolspun yarn, which is readily available at my local Michael’s. One of the things that initially drew me to this pattern was that Stephanie describes the pattern in simple, everyday language with lots of pictures before giving you the traditional “coded” pattern. Since reading crochet patterns is still a challenge for me, I found the explanations and pictures super helpful. I think part of my previous problems with crochet stemmed from the fact that my instinct is to stitch in the third loop, and without pictures, I didn’t notice that I was doing it wrong. For this pattern, you’re supposed to stitch in the third loop, so no issues there.

For the blue Triple Luxe Cowl, I read through the everyday language directions and set to work. I was so into it that I forgot to make the seam and crocheted the whole thing in one continuous round. I don’t think the jagged top is all that noticeable in the end. For this cowl, I used Lion Brand Woolspun in Royal Blue. It’s very snuggly and warm and I really enjoy wearing it.

While I was working on the blue cowl, my daughter requested one for herself. After some debate, we settled on pink. I wanted to use something a little softer than Woolspun for my daughter’s cowl, since she is so particular about what she wears. I returned to my trusty local Michael’s store and picked up two skeins of Loops & Threads Charisma yarn in Think Pink. While it is indeed softer, the stitch definition isn’t as good, so I prefer Woolspun for this pattern.

To make a child-sized cowl, I chained 90 instead of 120 at the beginning, and stitched 12 rows instead of 16. This time, I remembered the seam. Since I had already made the pattern once before, I was able to puzzle through the traditional pattern well enough. If I were to do it over again, I would make it even smaller, because this one has a tendency to slip off my daughter’s shoulders when she runs and plays. Nevertheless, my daughter loves her new cowl and wears it often.

I really enjoyed crocheting these Triple Luxe Cowls and have already started another one for myself. I am also now an avid follower of All About Ami and look forward to trying another one of her patterns someday. Her crocheted accessories seem distinctly modern to me. I consider myself a modern quilter, and I’d like to be a modern crocheter as well. However, I’ve had a hard time finding more modern crochet blogs to follow, and would welcome any suggestions you may have, dear readers. In the meantime, I’ll continue to enjoy this pattern.

Monday, November 16, 2015

QuiltCon Compilation Quilt 2015

This past February I had the pleasure of attending QuiltCon. It was an amazing experience, and I walked away with an overabundance of inspiration. This quilt combines aspects of all four workshops that I took at QuiltCon 2015: Japanese Sashiko Stitching with Maura Ambrose, Emphasis with Carolyn Friedlander, Basic Improv Quiltmaking with Quilters of Gee's Bend and Off the Grid: Creating Alternate Layouts with Lee Heinrich.

I started the improv blocks in the Basic Improv Quiltmaking with Quilters of Gee's Bend workshop. The supply list called for old clothes, so I brought a couple of my husband’s old dress shirts and some coordinating quilting cotton scraps. There wasn’t a lot of structure in the class, so I left with a stack of improv blocks and no idea what to do with them.

While the improv blocks sat untouched in my WIP pile, I pondered what to make to enter in the QuiltCon 2016 show. I really enjoyed the 2015 show, and wanted to contribute something special to the next one. One day, it hit me: why not make a quilt that showcased what I had learned at the last QuiltCon?

First, a made a scrappy version of Carolyn Friedlander’s Emphasis block. You can find the pattern in her book, Savor Each Stitch. Paper piecing still isn’t my favorite technique, but I enjoyed taking a more improv approach to this one, in order to make sure that it played well with the Gee’s Bend blocks.

Using the dimensions of the Emphasis block as a guide, I trimmed down and built up my improv blocks into rectangles. I laid them out in an alternate grid, with the Emphasis block offset as an asymmetrical focus point, inspired by Lee Heinrich’s Off the Grid class. I made sure to make enough blocks so that the end result measured 37” square, just big enough to be too big for the Small Quilts category of the show.

After the top was pieced, the fun began. Using the circular motif that Maura Ambrose had taught in her Sashiko class, I hand quilted concentric circles one inch apart, using the middle of the Emphasis block as the starting point. I used a Sashiko needle and thread, and no hoop, just like in the class. At first, it was challenging to hand quilt a larger piece without a hoop. Once I got the hang of it, I loved it. Stacking stiches on the large needle made for quick stitching and the thread glided through the fabric in the loveliest way. Since I really wanted to finish this quilt in time to submit it to the 2016 show, I worked on it whenever I could, but I was a little bit sad when it was finished because I enjoyed quilting it so much. I already have plans for my next quilt using this technique.

In the end, I am extremely satisfied with my QuiltCon compilation quilt. I feel that it expresses the spirit of each of the classes I took. Even if it isn’t accepted into the show, it’s a wonderful souvenir of my trip and all that I learned. 

Update: Linking up with Scraptastic Tuesday at she can quilt and Finish It Up Friday at crazy mom quilts.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Mystery Fabric Hemlock Tee

After I made my first Hemlock Tee, I wanted to sew another one right away. During a trip to Pacific Fabrics, I hit up their knits section and found this rayon/lycra blend that didn't have a brand name written on the bolt. However, the color spoke to me, and it was slinky but still opaque. I decided to give it a try.

The Hemlock tee is a lovely, quick pattern, but this shirt took me over a month to sew. The slinky fabric just wasn't fun to work with, even though I was looking forward to wearing it. Once the calendar flipped to September, my motivation returned. I wanted to finish this so that I could move on to my fall sewing!

I wish I could say that I was happy with the end result. For a day, that was true. Wearing this shirt made me feel both comfy and confident. At the end of that one day, though, I realized that the fabric had already started to pill! Lesson learned: do not buy unbranded mystery fabric! Luckily, the pilling hasn’t noticeably increased, even though I wear this shirt often. However, I’m not going to let one disappointing fabric choice hold me back. I'm already planning my next Hemlock tee. This time, I'll use better fabric!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Basic Gray Staples: Mesa Tunic, Aurora Tank and Hemlock Tee

Back in August, I caught the garment sewing bug again. I happened to have a bunch of gray Robert Kaufman Laguna Jersey knit fabric laying around, so I grabbed a few new-to-me patterns and went to town, with varying degrees of success.

Mesa Tunic

I really enjoy the patterns from Seamwork and look forward to the new offerings each month. The Mesa Dress was an instant favorite. However, I’m trying to sew clothes that I’ll actually wear, and I knew that I wouldn’t wear a dress without pockets very often. Instead of adding pockets, I decided to shorten it and make a shirt instead. After reading comments on Instagram about the pattern running small, I cut out a size larger than normal, complete with grading out to an even larger size at the waist and hips. The end result was too big in the shoulders and somehow still too tight around my middle. It was worth a shot, but this shirt will be relegated to the pile of layering shirts that I wear under sweaters during the winter and never see the light of day.

Aurora Tank

I’ve been looking for a knit tank pattern, and the Seamwork Aurora Tank seemed like a good choice. It has a couple cute details: gathers on the straps and a pleat in the back. Also, I really like how the yoke is assembled. Even though I graded out a size at the waist and hips, it’s just a little bit too snug for my taste. I can see the potential though, so I look forward to trying it again sometime, grading out an additional size. This version is good enough that I wore it in public when it was just too hot to wear sleeves this summer. It also works nicely as a layering piece.

Hemlock Tee

After making two patterns that ended up being too tight, I decided to try a pattern that was one-size-fits-all: the free Hemlock Tee from Grainline Patterns. It was everything I needed it to be: quick to sew, loose and comfortable. For my first try, I omitted the sleeves, but I’m looking forward to making a few long sleeved Hemlock Tees now that the weather has cooled down.

Even though not every pattern turned out to be a winner for me, I’m really happy with my garment sewing efforts in August. I tried three new patterns and found two that I liked. Pretty good results, if you ask me.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Work in Progress Wednesday: October 28, 2015

I haven’t had much time to sew lately. Whenever I can find time, I’ve been focusing on hand quilting my QuiltCon Compilation Quilt. It started as improv blocks from the Gee’s Bend class and has evolved to include elements of all the classes I took at QuiltCon this year. Since I’m planning on entering it in next year’s show, and the deadline is the end of next month, this is the only quilt I’m working on right now.

Linking up with WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Rediscovering Crochet with a Scarfie Infinity Scarf

When I was a little girl, my grandma Dorothy taught me how to crochet. At her knee, I learned to chain stitch and single crochet. However, I never learned how to read crochet patterns. I’ve been told that it’s easy to learn the abbreviations, but I’ve yet to get over that hurdle. Over the years, I’ve tried my hand at a few projects. In college, I made a granny square scarf out of a Martha Stewart Living magazine. When I lived very close to a nice yarn store, I made scarves without a pattern by just stitching double crochet over and over again until I ran out of yarn. My crochet habit faded away when I moved and immersed myself in quilting. Nevertheless, each fall, when the leaves started to turn, I thought of Grandma Dorothy and wished I could read crochet patterns. One year, I tried to teach myself knitting, but it didn’t take. Even though I didn’t have the necessary skills, the yearning to create warm cozy things with yarn remained.

A couple weeks ago, I was at Joann’s Fabrics picking up some notions for a sewing project when my eye was drawn to an end cap display of Lion Brand Scarfie yarn. The packaging promised that one ball would make a scarf, and that the crochet pattern was included on the back of the label. Right then and there, I decided that this was the year I would learn to read crochet patterns, one project at a time. I picked up a K (6.5mm) hook and was all set to rediscover crochet. (For those wondering, one ball of this yarn is 312 yards, and the fiber content is 78% acrylic, 22% wool. This color is Denim/Navy.)

As luck would have it, the pattern on the back of the label wasn’t even one of those scary ones with the funny abbreviations! It’s in plain English (and Spanish and French) and directs you to stitch half double crochet until you run out of yarn. I used a video tutorial from Wool and the Gang to learn the required stitch and went to work. Immediately, I was reminded of why I love crochet and why I missed it so much. Crocheting is quite soothing and meditative. With a simple pattern like this, there is very little thinking required. At the end of the day, it feels incredibly good to sit down and rest my weary mind while my fingers are still creating something. Crochet is also very quick. I managed to finish this scarf in a week!

I realized after the fact that I made a couple of mistakes. I used the K (6.5mm) hook that was listed on the outside of the label instead of the J (6mm) hook that the pattern called for inside the label. I also worked all my stitches into the back loop instead of the front loop. Since I was consistent, nobody but myself or someone who had made the pattern before would notice the difference. Also, the end was wider than the beginning, so I’m not sure what happened there.

I prefer to wear infinity scarves so I researched how to seam crochet pieces and used a slip stitch seam to turn this plain scarf into an infinity scarf. The yarn is soft and machine washable, so I’m sure I’ll wear it often. I’m just as sure that I’ll be crocheting more in the future. As soon as I finished this scarf, I started on my next pattern, which is also in plain English. Watch this space!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Blood, Sweat and Tears Bulls-Eye Quilt

Last month, I finished the Bulls-Eye Quilt in Carolyn Friedlander’s Savor Each Stitch book as part of the Quilt the Book challenge. While the previous project, the Arcs Quilt, used only convex curves in the needle turn appliqué, the Bulls-Eye Quilt features both convex and concave curves. I really liked how the Bulls-Eye Quilt built upon the technique of the Arcs Quilt, although in the end I prefer convex curves over concave ones. I was surprised to find that each quadrant had its own unique template to trace, but since I was only making one block the tracing and cutting was over quickly.

While the main goal of the Quilt the Book challenge is to sew all the items in one book, my own additional challenge is to use my stash for these quilts as much as possible. Due to my year-long participation in Pink Castle Fabrics’ Cotton + Steel club, I have more fat quarters than I know what to do with. For this quilt, I picked four low volume prints for the background and paired them with solids from my stash. While none of the prints is my favorite, I’m really pleased with how they all work together. I left off the borders because nothing in my stash felt right.

In two of the quadrants I machine quilted vertical lines, and in the other two I quilted horizontal lines. I really enjoyed the process and may use it on a bigger quilt some time. It definitely makes for a nice crinkly quilt after washing.

The back of the quilt is made entirely out of scraps from the front. I don’t usually like making pieced backings, but at this small scale it was a breeze. I couldn’t let the extra wedges go to waste, so I appliqued them on the back, after the quilting was finished but before the binding was attached. A couple of them are a little puffy, but it’s the back. The binding is another low volume Cotton + Steel fabric from my stash.

If I liked making this quilt so much, why did I include “Blood, Sweat and Tears” in the title? Well, when I was pin basting the top, I pricked my finger something fierce and bled on it in several spots. At the suggestion of a fellow quilter, I used hydrogen peroxide to remove the stains. Then I threw it in the washing machine for good measure, which had the added bonus of making it nice and crinkly. The sweat came from the unusually warm summer we had in Seattle this year. Turning on the iron without the benefit of AC was torture, so I was glad to have a needle turn appliqué project to work on during the hottest days. The tears were from the convergence of several icky things going on in my personal life last month, most of which are better now. After that, I needed a pick-me-up and finishing this quilt filled that need.

Quilting my way through Savor Each Stitch has been immensely satisfying so far and I am looking forward to the next project!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

August 2015 in Review

This August was a month of high highs and low lows. While I enjoyed the events I attended, like Epic Meet-Up 2015, there was a lot going on at work and in my personal life, so I didn’t get as much sewing time as I would have liked. Still, I managed to complete my first composition book cover, a gift bag, three blocks for the forest themed Seattle Modern Quilt Guild improv charity quilt, and another mini quilt from Savor Each Stitch. Hopefully September will be less busy.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Scrap Happy Arcs Quilt

Last month, I finished my first quilt after starting the Quilt the Book challenge. The Arcs Quilt is the first project in Savor Each Stitch and I really enjoyed making it. I love how Carolyn provides three examples of the pattern, each with their own thoughtful write-up. I made mine out of some of my favorite Cotton + Steel scraps. Before having a daughter, I avoided pink like the plague. I am drawn to it more now because it is my daughter's favorite color and reminds me of her.

Some people consider needleturn appliqué to be time consuming and tedious, but I find it relaxing. It’s also very portable, which is a huge draw for me as I have long bus commute with unreliable wifi. Since I averaged four blocks a day, I was finished with all the blocks in a couple weeks. Because it’s such a small quilt, I was done with the machine piecing before I knew it and was on to the quilting.

For the hand stitching around the arcs, I used a dark pink perle thread that my daughter had picked out ages ago when I made her visit the fabric store with me. While working on this quilt, I learned to appreciate why stitching in the ditch is so common. Stitching outside of the ditch, as I did in a few places, proved awkward and not as neat. Still, I really enjoyed the handwork.

For the border, I chose to machine quilt a few simple lines to make the border recede and the handwork pop. The binding and backing were from my Cotton + Steel stash. It was super satisfying to make this mini quilt completely out of scraps and stash and it’s one of my favorite things I’ve made this year. I’m looking forward to sewing up more projects out of this book.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Improv Composition Book Cover

Tonight at the #Epicmeetup2015* there will be a composition book cover swap. Normally, I’m not one for swaps, but since I intend to experience as much of the event as possible, I decided to give it a try. While it didn’t turn out quite like my vision, it’s my first ever composition book cover, so I’m cutting myself some slack.

I used the suggested tutorial by Amy Dame. It worked well enough, but if I make one again, I would use a much smaller patchwork piece to start. The tutorial recommends making the piece 27”x17”, while I think 27”x12” would be sufficient. I lost a bunch of my focus fabric when I cut down my patchwork piece, which is the main reason I’m not thrilled with what I made.

For the patchwork panel, I knew early on that I wanted to use the improv strip piecing technique. I found a cursive print in my stash for my focus fabric, added some black, white and blue fabrics and went to town. My initial fabric pull wasn’t varied enough, so I raided my mom’s never ending scrap basket for more pieces in my colorway. (Thanks, mom!)

I enjoyed the improv process and liked the fabrics I picked, especially the black and white stripe. If I ever make a composition cover again, I’ll be more mindful of the finished size and maybe sketch out a more detailed plan for the patchwork. Sometimes going with the flow is good, and sometimes a project could benefit from more forethought.

*Formerly known as the Pacific Northwest Modern Quilt Guild Meet-Up