Wednesday, March 26, 2008
there once was a time when i made a quilt for every baby in my life. then, i hit that certain age when not only is everyone i know having babies, but i have my own, thus severely curtailing my free time. so, given the pesky laws of supply and demand, things adjust. my niece katherine is already 4 months old, and as it became clear a quilt was not in the cards, i hit upon an idea. her mother (my sister-in-law) mentioned that her first daughter had a name banner for her bedroom (a sweet sunny felt item made by a friend) but that katherine did not. combine that with the fact that they will soon likely be packing up everything they own to move to another continent, the smaller the gift the better. i decided to combine the concepts -- quilt and banner -- and came up with this. (it's difficult to photograph something that is 10 feet wide...)
i decided this was the perfect application for the set of amy butler fat quarters i bought recently (when i buy something with no plan in mind, i'm always happily surprised when i use it in a timely fashion). i found a great font online, and (by tracing a printout at the proper size) used it as a template for embroidering the letters -- i even found i had floss around that coordinated nicely with the fabrics, and had white fabric on hand, so the only thing i bought specifically for this project was the ribbon. i added the botanical heart flourish seen below as a tenth panel (to allow the banner to hang evenly), and i think it adds a nice touch. this sort of addition would be needed if the name was quite short, or if you needed a space between two names or words. also seen (at bottom) is my test of filling in the embroidered letters. i liked the bolder look, but it was time consuming and also left the result feeling less clean, i thought, so i stuck with the outline.
i also used this opportunity to play around and try to boost my confidence with free motion quilting. i came up with a different quilting pattern for each of the ten panels, and since each was small, i could figure out what i liked and what i didn't. (i was surprised to find how much i liked outline quilting, following the print on the fabric, because i thought that might be annoying to work.) i didn't mark anything, and it is now reinforced for me why i should. (lesson finally learned this time, i promise!)
Friday, March 21, 2008
inspired by sew mama sew's secret pocket eggs, i decided i'd whip up a dozen for the easter egg hunt we had today with friends at the park. i didn't have anything on hand to put into the pockets, so these eggs have to be treat enough on their own, i guess. eva had fun helping me choose fabrics and stuff them, and i enjoyed being able to use up those tiny, tiny scraps i knew i was saving for some reason.
my friends are so creative -- the other eggs contributed to the hunt contained lots of great treats (and no corn syrup in sight :) -- egg-shaped chalk, graham cracker bunnies, pipe cleaner flowers and bunnies, stickers, stamps, craft dough, real flower blooms, and even strawberries! (honestly, i'm not sure what all, since eva didn't gather all that many eggs herself, content to take it a bit slow.)
after the egg hunt and picnic, the kids enjoyed splashing in the fountain and running around while some of the (non-pregnant) parents partook of a glass of wine. and as the sun set on our little celebration of spring, a beautiful huge yellow moon rose over the downtown skyline.
spring can just last forever as far as i'm concerned.
Monday, March 17, 2008
This little bonnet is for my sister's baby, who we are hoping will arrive by Easter (she'll be a day or so shy of 42 weeks by then). Maybe a little bonnet will provide some encouragement? I couldn't find what I wanted, so I just made this up. For once, I actually wrote it down as I went, so now I can share with you my very first pattern. It's pretty adaptable to your needs (different stitch patterns, different sizes)... it can't really be messed up if you just stick with the basic shape. Enjoy!
Perfect for spring/Easter, Christenings, or just general cuteness. Written in American crochet terminology; convert as needed.
1 skein (really just half a skein or so) Rowan cotton glace or similar yarn (this is 23 st per 4"/10 cm).
size F (3.75 mm) hook
Gauge is not critical for this project. Just add or remove repeats to reach desired size.
approximately 4 repeats of fan stitch (used in MAIN section) per 4" (10 cm)
8 rows of fan stitch per 4" (10 cm)
Finished bonnet has an approximately 15" (38 cm) circumference.
Approximately "newborn" size (or 0-3 mo, probably). It would be very easy to size up to suit your needs by making the rows longer and adding a few rows... nothing complicated here.
Bonnet consists of (1) the MAIN section worked in a fan stitch, a rectangle that forms the sides and top of the bonnet (think wide headband), worked from back to front edge (brim); and (2) the BACK section, a square attached in the center back of the MAIN section, which covers the back of the head. This t-shape is then seamed along the sides of the back to form the bonnet shape.
Ch 57 (or a multiple of 5 st + 2, as needed for desired size). Ch 2, turn.
Row 1 -- Skip 3 chs *in next ch [2 dc, ch 1, 2 dc], skip 4 ch*. Repeat from * to * across, ending with dc in last ch (having skipped only 3 ch). Ch 2, turn.
Row 2 -- Skip dcs *in ch-1 sp, [2 dc, ch 1, 2 dc], skip 4 dc*. Repeat from * to * across. After working last ch-1 sp, dc in turning ch (now abbreviated as "tch"). Ch 2, turn.
Rows 3-8 -- Repeat Row 2. On last row, omit final ch 2 and fasten off.
(The idea here is to work a square slightly less than 1/3 the width of MAIN section, centered along the starting chain edge. Adjust starting/ending points of the rows as needed if you have modified the size, and add enough rows to keep this section roughly square. I worked it in a modified open stitch, but you could just do rows of dc or the fan stitch from above or whatever is to your liking.)
At starting chain edge of MAIN section, join in ch-4 space that follows fourth fan. Ch 2.
Foundation row -- Dc in same ch-4 space *ch1, 2 dc in next "space"* 6 times, where "space" is alternately the ch in a fan center or a ch-4 space between fans, ending in ch-4 space that follows seventh fan. Ch 2, turn.
Row 1 -- Ch 1, dc in ch-1 sp. *Ch 2, dc in ch-1 sp* 5 times across the row. Ch 1, dc in tch. Ch 2, turn.
Row 2 -- Dc in ch-1 space, *ch1, 2 dc in ch-2 space* 6 times. Ch 2, turn.
Rows 3-6 -- Repeat Rows 1 and 2. On last row, omit final ch 2 and fasten off.
On both sides of the BACK section where it meets the MAIN section, slide the stitches along the ch-4 space in toward the center, thus "rounding out" the corners a bit. Sew the two sections together (technically, there is no right/wrong side, so choose what looks best). As you sew, keep the sections even for the first half or so of the seam, then ease in the extra length (if any) of the MAIN section as you complete the seam so the bottom edges are aligned (again, this helps give the crown of the bonnet a nice round shape, avoiding pointy corners at the crown of the head).
Join at bottom front edge of bonnet on either side. Sc around the bottom edge all the way around to the other front edge. A note about stitch placement: across the bottom edge of the fan stitch, place 2 sc in each tch space. As you stitch across back, hold in slightly to help shape bonnet (I placed 1 sc in each ch-1 sp and 1 sc between each pair of dc). When you reach front edge, ch 1 and turn. Sl st in each sc around.
Without fastening off (if you like, to save weaving in two more ends), ch for about 8" (20 cm) to create a tie. Cut yarn and attach at opposite front bottom edge. Ch an equal length to create second tie, and cut yarn.
Weave in all ends. Block as desired.
Update: Here she is! arrived just in time for Easter...
Please report any errors and feel free to ask questions by leaving a comment below.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
last week i finally finished up this quilt for my sister's (due any day) baby girl. i actually began this quilt two years ago: i made the same style top for a friend's baby, and wasn't terribly confident on how many strips etc i'd need. it soon became clear (before even sewing anything) that i had enough for two quilts, so i did both tops at once. (economies of scale! hurray!). i knew at the time the second quilt would ultimately be for my sister's future baby girl -- and if she happened to have only boys, someone else would be the lucky recipient.
given the quilt was started two years ago (i vividly remember shopping for fabrics at a local quilt store with my now-toddler then-wee-squirmy-babe bouncing around in a sling), some savvy fabric types will recognize a few amy butler prints from an older collection, including the large-scale floral on the quilt back. it's a little time capsule of a project, isn't it? i will say, one of the fabrics (the lavender one with little white dots) caused no end of trouble, since it was a more open weave for some reason and thus stretched more and refused to line up. now i know: if i ever encounter a suspicious fabric like that in the future, i'll just fuse interfacing to it before i begin cutting to keep it in line.
i chose this design since i was always intrigued by bargello style quilts. they're not as hard as they seem -- sure, there are so many tiny little squares (528 in this crib-sized quilt), but the whole thing is quite orderly once you get going. the basic method is this: you piece equal-width strips (say 2") that run the width of your quilt (include extra for dozens of seam allowances). fabrics should run light to dark of two colorways to maximize the effect, and just repeat those 8 or so fabrics until you get the desired height of the quilt (i did three repeats for 24 rows). now cut strips the opposite direction (creating column strips), varying the width from as little as 1" up to around 4". make every strip into a ring by joining the ends, then lay it all out and decide how you want to place everything. the fabrics should shift up or down one "square" as you move across the rows, creating the effect (sort of like a stock market graph to my eye). strategic placement of wide or narrow strips give you a more extreme or gentle slope to your "graph" pattern. once you have it all figured out, decide which row of squares will be the top of your quilt and use a seam ripper to open up your rings above that row. number your strips all at the top or all at the bottom edge, then sew together. this sounds confusing but i promise it isn't; if anyone has questions or wants more info please just leave a comment and i'll do my best to help.
this was my first real attempt at free motion quilting, so i didn't attempt anything too elaborate. i did a curvy swirl of sorts that roughly tracks the darkest and lightest fabrics as they move up and down in the bargello pattern. my stitch length isn't the most consistent, but i overcame my fear of "ruining" a quilt by subjecting it to my novice free-motion skills, so that in itself is an accomplishment. i filled in with some in-the-ditch quilting every 3" or so to keep the cotton batting from bunching up, and on the border, i did some randomly angled lines, sort of reflecting the art deco feel in the border fabric (and contrasting the hard angles with the curvy quilting in the center section). i like the overall effect, and the quilting is all pretty subtle anyway since i used a blend-in beige thread (wimp!).
i believe strongly in the idea of signing one's quilt (because you never know what will become an heirloom, and your great-grandchildren might want to know who made the quilt and just how old it is -- my family has some generations-old crocheted lace socks that have an old tag pinned to them indicating they are "60 years old"... not so helpful to us now). so, i always plan to include a patch on the back with lots of great info on it... but then i can never think what it should say! in this case, i don't yet know the baby's name, so i couldn't list the recipient, and everything else i could think of beyond my initials and the date seemed like fluff -- or just a lot to embroider. (anyone want to share what they put on quilt labels? favorite methods?) so this label is my little bit of hand-stitching on a machine pieced and quilted project. i also secretly enjoy doing all the tiny even little stitches required to secure the bias binding to the back of the quilt -- so maybe i should contemplate doing a future quilt without the machine for once? then again, just the hand stitching part of the binding took four hours, so i'd need to prepare myself for a very distant completion date if i did it all by hand.
so there it is. julie seems pleased, and i'm sure the baby will like it. (babies are traditionally easy to please like that. it can get more difficult later when they develop an aversion to everything that isn't, for example, entirely purple. but the babies are just pure love.) off to put notes on the photos, so click through to flickr if you want more tidbits of information.
Friday, March 7, 2008
i'm back... mostly. i'm still not back to normal (whatever that means in your third trimester), but i'm not stuck prone on the couch all day, so that's a major improvement. the best part is that i have enough energy to work on some projects again! first on my list was to finish up the baby projects for my sister, whose first baby will be arriving pretty much any day now.
i'll leave the more elaborate projects for later -- i don't want to post them before the box arrives at her door -- but i think it's okay to show off the sling in advance, it doesn't need to be a big surprise. i whipped up this pouch sling in a few hours. it's made of home dec weight fabric and lined with a thin cotton -- a basic cotton sateen or something with a tiny bit of stretch is probably preferred, but i like the prints you can find in the home dec fabric. i don't line the slings i make for austin summer babies, but i think it will work okay for a northern climate (even though it gets hot there in the summer). the benefit of the lining is that now it can reverse to solid brown, in case there's a day when she's not wearing blue (but no worries, she wears blue most days, so we're good.)
i put a loop at the bottom for clipping on her wallet/keys or for a toy for the baby, and since it was lined i also was able to add an in-seam pocket. that's a great place for a few wipes or some cash or something small (bulky items would be uncomfortable for the baby). i like the idea of adding these ways to carry a few items, because (once the baby is a bit older and not potentially needing a fresh diaper or spitting up everywhere every 10 seconds) you can just leave the diaper bag in the car, especially for quick errands.
i've made several pouch slings for myself and friends, basically through trial and error. rather than write it up here, you can find some great directions on jan andrea's site (along with directions to make lots of other baby-related gear).
for the uninitiated, i can't say enough positive things about babywearing. you don't have to carry the heavy awkward baby seat around, your hands are free, you can nurse the baby while you get groceries and no one can even tell, and you can even keep a young baby away from germs if it's flu season. but best of all, it's great for the baby and he or she will be far more content -- what mama wouldn't love that? all this for a few dollars worth of fabric and a few hours of time. (i will warn, however, that correctly fitting a pouch sling is tricky business, so read up on proper fit and be prepared to adjust the size if you make one as a gift. other options include a ring sling -- which is adjustable -- and a mei tai style carrier, which can be worn like a backpack or baby bjorn, but less bulky to lug around and holds the baby in a better position.) lots more info can be found on the baby wearer site, among other places.
oh, and sorry the pouch sling photo doesn't show it in action... it's a bit awkward trying to model it over my big belly! but below is a custom mei tai sling i made back when i thought i might sell them as a business. ooh, silk...
i can't wait to share the other baby gifts! next week...