Archive for February 2011

You’ve got a nerve to be asking a favor

February 27, 2011


Pattern: Easy Drawstring Bag by Page of Purl Soho
Fabric: Upholstery remnant from Hancock Fabrics (24″x60″)

I’m a terrible swap partner.

Last fall, flush from the joyful experience of Dish Rag Tag, I joined International Scarf Exchange 9, led by one of my team members. I love scarf knitting. I love my DRT Five Alarm Fire teammates. What could go wrong?

I’ll tell you what. Me. In the scrum of hat-making and organizing for Conway Cradle Care, the scarf I was making for my partner grew slowly when it grew at all. Then with Christmas knitting, it again played second fiddle. I received my scarf at the end of November, a beautiful and professional piece of work in holiday hues, which should have shamed me into finishing mine, but I found a million things to do other than knit my exchange scarf.

Luckily, my swap partner was Leah, the exchange organizer and my teammate. Or maybe it wasn’t so lucky. You see, she knew everything that was going on in my life. She wasn’t anonymous. My obligation to her was less structural and more personal. You’d think this would motivate me to fulfill it, but instead it convinced me that she would cut me all the slack I needed.

I actually finished the scarf early this year. You know what? It still hasn’t been sent. And here’s why: Being so horribly, unforgivably late, it needs the most wonderful gifts to accompany it to make up for my failings. The later it gets, the more wonderful the goodies need to be.


This weekend, I think I’ve finally cracked it. My desire to continue practicing my sewing and mastering my machine, plus a search for basic and useful patterns that didn’t require me to be garment-precise yet, led me to the idea of a knitting project bag. If it turned out well enough, I thought, maybe it could be the apology-offering that accompanies Leah’s scarf, finally allowing me to send that package to its destination three months late.


Saturday morning: a pilgrimage to the fabric store with Cady Gray for supplies. Saturday afternoon: sew sew sew. In the above photo you can see the part of the bag that was new to me — creating a gusset so the bottom is square. Each bag is one piece of fabric, folded up lengthwise and sewed up the sides. The bottom is formed by sewing across the triangles of each bottom corner and cutting off the fabric above the seam.


I used the same ribbon purchased for Cady Gray’s needle roll for a drawstring. In one of many lessons this project taught me, I discovered that the cool dress trim I bought to use as the cinching cord was too wide for the channel (I hadn’t managed to examine the pattern closely enough to figure out how tall the channel was before going to the store.) The first one I made was roughish, especially at that top channel seam where I had a hard time keeping the allowance steady and the stitching straight. The second one was an improvement.


Yes, I made two. One to give away, and one to keep. Long-suffering Leah deserves both, no question, but now that I’ve got the hang of this project, I imagine there are many more in my future. Just as there are many more people who will deserve my apologies for being a terrible swap partner, I’m sure.


The principal girls of the USA

February 19, 2011


Pattern: Knitting needle/crochet hook roll-up case (5006) by Butterick
Fabric: Cotton print from Hancock Fabrics
Machine: Singer Featherweight 221-I

Carol got me started.


She helped me see that my sixty-year-old sewing machine wasn’t a mysterious, malevolent, impenetrable device.


We figured out the bobbin. I threaded it. Then I threaded it again.


She got me part way. Most importantly, she gave me the confidence to bring it home.


I made a needle and hook roll for Cady Gray. I sewed it together on my machine.


Sometimes I sewed it wrong. Then I ripped it out and did it again.


There were layers. Many layers. There was basting. I used my iron more often that I did all of last year combined.


I changed bobbins. White thread for the seams, red for the contrast stitching. That means I threaded the machine several times. All by myself.


It’s far from perfect. But with every stitch, I learned — about my machine, about the pattern, about the fabric.


A simple pattern, with no fancy stuff. The basics. With the basics, though, I think I can tackle the next thing — whatever that may be.


Now Cady Gray has a place to keep her very own needles and hooks (yes, she’s started crochet). And I have the beginnings of a new skill. Thanks for the machine, Mom. Thanks for the tutoring, Carol. Thanks for a new world of possibility, sewing.

That turns this grey sky to blue

February 12, 2011


Pattern: LoveHearts by June Gilbank
Yarn: Elmore-Pisgah Peaches & Creme (100% cotton), unknown colorways
Hook: U.S. E/3.5mm

Before we got snowed in for three days this week, we had the presence of mind to pick up Valentines for the kids to take to school tomorrow. Unfortunately, they were the uninspiring grocery store variety, and while perfectly fine for classmates en masse, they didn’t include nice teacher versions.

So I flipped back through the quick homemade Valentine options I’ve been seeing in my RSS feeds for the past few weeks, and found these little crochet hearts. A rummage through the dishcloth cotton stash and the roll of random crochet hooks, and in minutes I was cranking these out in small, medium, large, and 3-D versions.


Last night while watching Thursday night comedies timeshifted on the TiVo I made enough hearts for the kids’ homeroom teachers as well as their special activity teachers. Today I engaged Cady Gray to create cards for them. For my money she did an unusually creative and thoughtful job crafting appropriate Valentines-y messages for each recipient.


For her homeroom teacher (the inside reads “My heart is yours”).



For her music teacher.



For the school librarian.



For the PE teacher.



For the GT specialist (who teaches thinking skills, you see).



For the art teacher.



Archer swooped in to write the message for his homeroom teacher.



On the inside of the cards, Cady Gray contributed little hearts and Archer, appropriate icons.



I like how he corrected Cady Gray’s spelling of the music teacher’s name and drew a triplet on this one.



Cady Gray claimed the biggest one — stuffed with polyfill — for her best friend. No problem. I’ve got plenty of cotton and the rest of the weekend; I can make as many of these as anyone could want.

Now that I’ve found you

February 6, 2011


Pattern: Amigurumi Love Birds by Lion Brand Yarn
Yarn: Vanna’s Choice Solids and Heathers (100% actylic), unknown pinkish colorway; Elmore-Pisgah Peaches & Creme (100% cotton), colorway Red
Hook: U.S. H/5.0mm

Saturday morning. Sleep late. Snow covers the ground; nobody’s going anywhere until the temperature rises enough to melt it. Check your e-mail — a newsletter from a yarn company with some pattern suggestions for Valentine’s Day. Hmmm. Sounds like the perfect treatment for the case of startitis that’s you’ve been fighting: a quick crochet toy using available scraps that you can finish before your other projects know you’re neglecting them.


Arguably, it’s your first foray into the world of amigurumi, if you don’t count the Poke Balls you made this summer. And part of the attraction is that the shape seems so simple — a roundish cylindrical pellet. When you get towards the end, you notice that there are decreases on one side and increases on the other for a couple of rows, just to create a hint of tail to the rear and a little taper to the body on the front. The slightest bit of detail to suggest birdishness without hampering the chunky plumpness of the elongated oval.



Wings are circles folded over and slip-stitched together, attached by the starting tail around the top edge. The pattern calls for safety eyes attached before stuffing, but remember, this is a spur-of-the-moment project with yarn scrounged from the partial-skein drawer — there’s no going to the store for supplies. Go for quick embroidery eyes Mochimochi-style, a few straight stitches for a beak. Minimalism — that’s the ticket.


A few hours later, Cady Gray has two new friends. And her two new friends have each other. Instant gratification and love to spare.