Sunday, December 24, 2017

May the joy of Christmas 
bloom in your heart 
now and throughout the new year!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving!

We have so much to be grateful for.  Enjoy counting your many blessings today!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Something Old for Someone New

A friend of a friend, expecting her first baby, asked me to convert her wedding gown into a christening gown.
It was a little bit daunting.  Look at all that lovely lace!  I didn't want to make a mess of it.  But I bravely took scissors in hand and sliced the gown up.

Being adventurous as well as practical, this new mother wanted an outfit that could be worn by either a boy or a girl.  So I started by making a romper out of the inner satin layer.  Using the satin was a bit more challenging than I expected.  First I had to find the grainlines in each section of the skirt, most of which went in surprising directions.  Also, baby pattern pieces, especially in the diaper area, are always bigger than I expect.  But I managed to fit all the pieces somewhere, and with matching grainlines. I used a McCalls pattern--my out of print copy is numbered 3063, but the same pattern is now offered as 6221.  I modified the collar and the pleats, and added the waistband.  Unexpectedly, I also had to modify the armscye.  The sleeve did not fit at all.  I hope that has been adjusted in the current printing, but be cautious if you use either version.
The covered buttons in front and on the back come from the back of the wedding gown, so they match perfectly.  I used snap tape at the bottom which doesn't match, but you can't see it.
Next I sewed a skirt, using the lace from the train and some of the original lining.  The satin band at the top includes buttonholes . . .
which attach to buttons placed under the waistband on the romper.
Thus the romper becomes a traditional length gown.  (I'm curious about the tradition.  The skirt is too long for me!)  The baby turned out to be a girl, and I'm sure she looked darling in her flowing skirt.  But I hope she has a brother someday, since I like the romper on its own, too.

As I said, this was a daunting project.  It required a lot of thought, and a good deal of redoing.  But I also think it is one of the best things I have sewn.  It was a good challenge.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Skirting the Issue 2017

It has been another busy July.  What with Scout camp, Cub camp, and family camping two weeks in a row, I didn't think I'd have time to participate in Skirting the Issue, Simple Simon's annual project collecting handmade skirts, quilts, and pillowcases for foster children.  But today, on the last day of July, birthday of one of the more famous fictional foster children in the world, Harry Potter, I made some time.  Between laundry and plum processing, I whipped out a pillowcase. 
Last time I participated, I was lucky enough to receive a prize package containing one-yard samples of Simple Simon's first fabric line, Four Corners.  So it seemed appropriate to use some of that fabric for this pillowcase.  I love the overlapping circles.
I also used them to bind this baby blanket, made of the large Southwestern focus print.  It reminds me of visiting my grandparents in New Mexico.
 I used the arrows print to make myself a shirt.  One yard of this snazzy fabric was not quite sufficient for the pattern I had in mind, so I added some white cloth that I had on hand. 
It ended up forming my initial, T, on the back.  Shall I claim it as a signature look?

It has been fun to sew with these fabrics.  I've yet to use the pattern that came with them, but I think it's going to be a Christmas present this year.  Thanks, ladies!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Family Album Quilt

Grandma O loved family history, especially old family photos, at least as much as she loved quilting.  So it's no surprise that she wanted to put the two interests together.  She collected portraits of all fourteen members of this Swedish family, had them printed on fabric, and wanted to put them together with black-and-white prints to mimic an old photo album.  She told me about her plans, and seemed pretty excited about them.  But she didn't get to finish the project.  And she didn't leave a diagram behind.
Frankly, I was relieved when Grandpa O told me he'd passed this one on to a cousin.  But he brought it to me last Christmas.  Apparently the cousin's vision of the quilt was different than what he remembered of Grandma O's plan.  The cousin added blank frames between the photos to make a large quilt; he was pretty sure it was supposed to be a smaller wall-hanging.  And some of the siblings were not in correct age order.  So he asked me to fix it.
I labeled all the people, figured out where they should be, and started ripping seams.  At first I hoped to keep the black frames, but I found that they were not consistently sized, and sometimes not securely stitched.  I ended up replacing most of the frames.  I preferred the black-and-white sashing to the black-and-tan.  I sliced the black-and-white strips in half, and had just enough to surround each photo.  With the disassembly and my own mistakes, I think I used my seam ripper more than I ever have for a single project.
With fourteen pictures in a 4x4 layout, there were still a couple of spaces to fill.  But I felt like the blank frames gave an "empty chairs at the table" feel to the composition.  All twelve of these children lived to adulthood.  They are all accounted for.  So I made a title block, using the embroidery machine to stitch the family name and some Swedish-inspired floral designs.  I'm sure these designs were meant to be more colorful, but I stuck with grays and subdued colors, to match the quilt's color scheme.  I also embroidered the family members' names beneath their photos.  The girls had three given names each, like Grandpa O's musically named grandmother, Anna Wilhelmina Albertina.  The machine has a sufficiently small font, though, and every name fit.
As I recall, Grandma O wanted to try a pretty fancy method of quilting on this project.  I'm not ready for that, so I kept it simple with straight lines around the black frames.  Then I finished it up with binding and loops for hanging.  I hope Grandpa O enjoys seeing his ancestors on his wall.  And I'm glad I could help after all.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Acorn Border--Free Crochet Pattern!

I wanted something special to finish off my Totoro in the Rain Afghan, and I thought of the acorn motif in the movie.  Inspired by Moogly's Polka Dot Border and the Cupcake Celebration Granny Square by Acorn Tree Creations, I created this Acorn Border.  Would you like to try it?  You'll need a crochet hook that matches your project, and yarn in:
  • a background color (I used off-white)
  • dark brown for the acorns
  • tan for the acorn caps
I'll give you instructions with detailed pictures first, then the pattern all together.

Begin with a row or two of sc in your background color.
Row 1: Sc, *ch3, 3 dc in side of sc just made 
(point made), 
skip 2 st, sc, 
ch 1, skip 1 st, sc*.  
Repeat instructions between *s. 

If you are crocheting around a corner, adjust so that the ch 1 stitch is directly over the center sc of the corner.

If you are crocheting all the way around a project, at the end of the first row ch 1, sl st to join first sc of the row, fasten off.

 Row 2:  Join dark brown with sl st in 3rd chain (top of a point), *4 tc in ch 1 space, 

sl st in top of next point*. 

Repeat between *s.
At the end of the round, sl st in first point, fasten off.

Row 3:  Join tan with sl st in 4th tc, ch 5.  *Dc 5 together in next 4 tc and sl st, ch 5*.
 (To dc 5 together, *yo, insert hook in next st, pull up loop, yo and pull through two loops*, leave two loops on hook.  Repeat between *s until you have 6 loops on hook. 
 Yo, pull loop through all 6 loops.)
 Repeat between *s, join with sl st at end, fasten off.
At corner, increase ch before and after corner acorn to 7 ch.

 Row 4:  Join background color with sl st in top of acorn cap.    
 *4 dc in top of background point (over tan chain and dark brown sl st),
 sl st in top of acorn cap*.
 Repeat between *s.  At end of round, sl st in first acorn cap, fasten off.
 No adjustment should be necessary at corners.
The acorns should puff up from the background stitches.

End with a row of sc in background color, and another row of sc in a contrast color, if you wish.  I used dark green to finish off the Totoro in the Rain Afghan.

Acorn Border

Row 1: Sc, *ch3, 3 dc in side of sc just made, (point made), skip 2 st, sc, ch 1, skip 1 st, sc*.  Repeat instructions between *s.

Row 2:  Join dark brown with sl st in 3rd chain (top of a point), *4 tc in ch 1 space, sl st in top of next point*.  Repeat between *s.

Row 3:  Join tan with sl st in 4th tc, ch 5.  *Dc 5 together in next 4 tc and sl st, ch 5*. Repeat between *s, join with sl st at end, fasten off.

Row 4:  Join background color with sl st in top of acorn cap.  *4 dc in top of background point (over tan chain and dark brown sl st), sl st in top of acorn cap*.  Repeat between *s.  Join with sl st in first acorn cap, fasten off.

I'd love to see what you make with the Acorn Border!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Snow Day

The snow this morning has exceeded our expectations.  Sure, there was a chance (a winter storm warning, in fact).  And a few flakes bravely stuck to the deck last night.  
 But now the ladder has grown ears,
  a snow monster lurks under the palm tree,
and more snow is falling.  I guess I'll have to take a walk in the winter wonderland, then come home and finish a baby quilt.

Are you keeping warm?

Friday, February 3, 2017

Totoro in the Rain Afghan--Free Graph!

When I crocheted a Corner-to-Corner Baby Owl Blanket for one sister's baby a couple of years ago, it inspired me to crochet something special for my other sister.  The owl's big round eyes reminded me of one of our favorite movie characters, the Totoro.  I looked for patterns, but didn't find one that was quite what I had in mind, so I made my own.

I had help, of course.  I consulted these designs from Simpelway and Strepie93 on Deviant Art, combined my favorite features from both, made some other adjustments, and hand-drew this graph.  Then I rounded up some yarn, and started crocheting.
I'd made a good start when the summer came, and I wasn't in the mood for sitting under a growing blanket.  So I used the same pattern and some waste canvas to cross stitch a onesie for my nephew.  Then I finished the afghan in the autumn.

Crochet hints:
  • If you've never done a C2C project, try the technique on a smaller pattern first, one with fewer color changes.  
Here are a couple of videos on C2C crochet: 
How to Crochet a Corner to Corner (C2C) Graphgan
Color Change on a C2C Crochet Graphgan 
And a non-video tutorial with lots of pictures:
C2C (Corner to Corner) Tutorial  
  •  Determine your own gauge. I used my favorite I (5.5mm) hook, and worsted yarn.  With 3 dc in each square, my squares came out at about one inch (2.5 cm) per side.  But yours will probably be different.  Crochet a few squares, measure them, then decide how big you want your blanket to be.  Change hooks if you want a different size blanket.  The graph is 55 squares tall, 47 squares wide.
  •  Now pull your sample squares out.  How much yarn did you use for each square?  Use this information to determine your yarn requirements.  I used two skeins of the background color, the light gray, and the belly color.  One was enough for the other colors.  
  • Also use this information to make color management easier.  I found the length of yarn I needed for each raindrop, cut those lengths, and wound each around a clothespin.  After crocheting one square, I would clip the pin to the area, so the yarn was ready when I needed that color again.  (It turned out that the scrap yarn I was using for raindrops was only long enough for 22 raindrops, not 23.  So I edited my copy of the graph before beginning.)  There was plenty of tangling with the large-area colors; having the small ones contained was wonderful.
  • Divide the large-area color yarns into 2 or 4 balls, so you can work one on one side and not have to cut it when you get to the other side.
  • Most of the small-area colors were yarns I had on hand, and the black and bright red yarns were thinner than the rest.  So I made each of those squares with 4 dc instead of 3, and they fit fine. 
  • Keep paying attention!  At the beginning of a project like this, I'm excited to change colors, and careful to mark what I've done.  Toward the end, I'm excited to eliminate colors from the tangle.  Hurrying to finish this one, I made some mistakes following my own pattern.  Oops!  I'll attribute the raindrops' levitation to the power of the Totoro's grin.  But you can avoid (or fix) things like that by checking each diagonal carefully before you finish.
  • A round or two of sc is a great way to finish a C2C afghan.  Instructions for my Acorn Border are now available.  
I'd love to see what you make with the Totoro in the Rain graph! 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Christmas Crochet

I had a great time crocheting some Christmas gifts last year.  These Sock Monkey hats were an obvious choice for my sister, her monkey-loving husband, and their little guy.  The pattern is by Sarah at Repeat Crafter Me.
It looks like they work as Snow Monkey hats, too!
I made this Gingerbread Cottage for my parents, using a pattern from Gourmet Crochet.
While the crocheting was pretty simple, mostly chains and single crochet stitches, affixing it to the frame was more of a challenge.  Have you ever tried to fit a sweater to a box?
It turned out well, anyway.  I especially love the roof and the round peppermints by the front door.
I made this afghan for my other sister.  It's a character from a favorite movie, Tonari no Totoro, which we first saw in Japan in the mid-eighties, with Dad translating.  That is still the best way to watch it.  Vae loves Totoro, and she's had some hard times, so I wanted the design to express this advice:
If Life gives you raindrops, jump up and down and grin like a Totoro!
I forgot to include that in the package, so I hope you're reading, Vae.
I hoped her furry friend would not feel threatened by the big eyes.  It looks like any threat has been neutralized.

I'll tell you more about the pattern another day.

What did you make for Christmas?