Spring Woodland Quilt

Published on Wednesday June 6th, 2012

This poor blog is going to keel over, gasping from all the unaccustomed exercise! What’s a girl to do while waiting for a baby but tie up loose ends? I’ve taken that phrase literally, producing my first tied quilt for a most beloved neighbor’s birthday present.

It was all monkey see, monkey do with this quilt. The moment I glimpsed this fabric by Holly Ward Bimba in a similar project over at Soulemama, I knew it had to be mine — or, rather, Barb’s. I hotfooted it over to Spoonflower (fair warning if you haven’t visited before: that place is a slippery rimmed abyss of delights from which you and your pocketbook may never emerge!) to see the whole gollybard Woodland collection and was finally able to limit myself six favorite prints. I chose the cotton poplin, a new fabric for me, in the interest of keeping the quilt light in weight and because Holly’s watercolors look so darn beautiful on that crisp surface.

I sketched the world’s simplest design, alternating panels half the width of the quilt with groups of three blocks, and pieced it in no time. I chose a pale blue striped cotton (rather loosely woven but beautifully silky to the touch) for the back and found the perfect grey-brown binding fabric with white flecks (by Cori Dantini) to coordinate with the Woodland palette. I was imagining my friend spreading this quilt on the grass for a picnic, and I knew I wanted to tie it to give it that casual, not-too-fancy-for-real-use air, so I wanted a lofty batting. Bolt had a lovely woolen one, practically weightless but sturdy. (You just can’t beat real wool!) And I went to the yarn stash for more wool to tie it with — I had some Cascade 220 superwash in white.

Here’s where I fell off the turnip truck. I had blithely imagined tying a 6′ by 6′ quilt like this one would be the work of an evening. I’d just thread my yarn along every six inches at the seams and in the middles of the blocks, snippy-snap with the scissors, tie the ends and trim them. How tough could that be? I found a sturdy needle that’s too sharp for weaving ends in knitting but has a large enough eye to take a worsted-weight yarn if you cajole it properly.

Turns out forcing a large needle through two layers of cotton poplin every time you hit a seam allowance is mighty unpleasant on the fingers. And hovering over the quilt sandwich (you haven’t bothered to baste or pin it together because there seems to be just enough friction between the wool and the cotton that they aren’t really going anywhere and you can smooth out wrinkles as necessary) on the floor when you’re nearly nine months pregnant is not such happy camping, either. I found I could make one garland of ties across the width of the quilt before my fingers were throbbing and my back was demanding we do something else. Once I had a couple of central rows in place I felt confident that I could move the whole operation to the bed and sit cross-legged with the work in my lap, which improved my performance to two rows of ties in a sitting. And here I discovered, during a string of unusually warm evenings, that wool batting makes a quilt very cozy indeed. Our neighbors heat their house with a wood stove, so this really means the quilt will have an even more useful life than I’d imagined, but now I was a sore-fingered and sweaty pregnant woman stripping down to her underthings in order to labor away at a process that was supposed to be so much faster than machine quilting and the whole endeavor was starting to seem a little mad. I persevered, though, having the bit between my teeth as only the enormously gravid can.

And then it was done, and my fingers had grown tougher so that the binding went smoothly and more and more rapidly as I settled into the dipping motion of the needle. And this afternoon I gave the ties a haircut and then shot some quick pictures while Ada pointed happily at the different fabrics and squealed, “Buhds?! Bees?! Fwowuhs?!” And we delivered the gift.

Only a week late.

Now where’s the binding fabric for that baby quilt? I’m on a tear. And I have gorgeous leftovers of all these prints to make Ada her own smaller version, or perhaps a collection of little summer tunics…

Skirt for a big girl

Published on Sunday May 20th, 2012

Smoke is just about rising from Signy, my trusty little Husqvarna. I finally bought a new packet of needles for her this afternoon; the one I’ve been using since we rekindled our relationship this spring is as dull as an old dog’s tooth. And she’s started to sound a tiny bit clattery. I hope a fresh, sharp needle will help, but I suspect I’ve finally run her over enough yards of fabric that she’s due for a tune-up. Hang in there, girl, because we still have a big push to bind a couple of quilts and finish a baby jacket before Little Dipper turns up. I made friends with her walking foot and successfully stitched a quatrefoil pattern all over the baby quilt. Then I got a bee in my bonnet about making a quilt as a birthday present for a dear friend. I pieced the whole top in one furious go this afternoon. But before either of those projects, Signy and I pulled together a little gift for dear Denise’s beautiful Kira, who has somehow turned three already:

Three-year-olds are still foreign territory for me, so I guessed about the size based on the Craft Council standard measurements. Also, this pattern is a little ticklish in its wording. It’s the Little Bo Peep skirt by Anna Maria Horner; the directions require that you customize the size according to the circumference of the child’s waist (sounds good, right?) but then begins rather airily to refer to the “width” of the skirt when you cut the front and back panels. One possible interpretation is that “width” = the circumference measurement you’ve just written down. But this would result in the skirt hem being roughly three times the child’s waist measurement, and that sounded awfully floofy and didn’t seem to match the illustrations. Searching the internet to see what others had done was inconclusive. So I went with the theory that “width” = half the circumference. But I fear this skirt isn’t quite ample enough for a three-year-old to really run and play in. If I make another, I’m going to cut front and back panels three-quarters the waist circumference.

But once you’re past that hurdle, there are some nifty skills a person can learn in making this skirt, I’ll tell you. Oh, la la, French seams! Ruffles!

These weren’t my first ruffles, but I couldn’t have picked a French seam out of a line-up until now. I followed Anna Maria’s instructions with no idea what I was actually doing… hey! Lookee, Ma! The edges are tucked away forever in a neat little casing! I love a chance to conceal a raw edge, although the result (at least as executed in quilting cotton) is a bit bulkier than seems ideal in a garment this size.

All in all, a good learning project, and a quick handmade something for a special girl. Next up, Signy gets a well-earned rest while I hand-tie a quilt for the first time (It looks pretty easy. Famous last words, right?) and sew snaps on a very wee baby cardigan. I think this may be how I nest. Violent cleaning of the house would probably be more virtuous than tearing around in a whirlwind of needles and wool and poplin. But not nearly as much fun.

Letters to Little Dipper, 1

Published on Thursday May 3rd, 2012

Hi, baby.

I’m looking at the calendar and finding the number of weeks until you’re due to join us out in the world is alarmingly small. So small that your big sister can count that high without skipping any numbers. You do seem to have made yourself quite at home in there, rearranging the furniture however it suits you, staying up late, eating whatever you want. So maybe you’ll be in no hurry to move out and I’ll be carrying you around a whole month longer than I carried Ada. But it’s definitely time to start getting some things ready for you.

I’ll be honest. Some of the things that are going to be for you were supposed to be for your sister. These booties, for instance.

All I had to do to finish them for your use was to weave the ribbons around the ankles. Ada wasn’t born sporting much in the way of heels, so it was nearly impossible to keep footwear of any kind on her unless you could really cinch it tight around her scrawny little legs. And somehow I never took the necessary ten minutes to scare up a couple of lengths of ribbon and solve that problem with these booties before she grew out of them. (And your sister has tiny feet to this day, so it’s not as though I didn’t have a window of months and months.)

The quilt, though? That’s new. Especially for you. If I can muster the courage, ingenuity, and attention to figure out how to attach and use the walking foot for the sewing machine so I can quilt it before you’re born. (Because after that I’ll still need to hand-stitch the binding, and if we compare the size of that task to the job of putting the ribbons on the booties… I think you can see where I’m going with this.)

By the way, I hope you like green and purple and red. I seem to have stumbled into a bit of a color scheme here.

Of trousers and travails

Published on Saturday September 4th, 2010

They tell you it’s amazing how the time slips by when there’s a new baby in the house and you’re its prime source of food and solace. It’s true. While I’ve been home much more than usual with plenty of time to spend at the computer, the rate of blogging has not increased correspondingly. This is partly because I do most of my typing with one hand while feeding my daughter (actual nap time when two hands are available has to be used for working and, when my brain is too fried to be reliable for editing, for knitting) and partly because I’m constantly discovering new ways to botch the infant care and waste time fixing my mistakes. The prize-winner thus far is the day I filled out a bunch of forms as if I were the baby (this I was supposed to do) and then capped it by signing her social security card (this I was not supposed to do). It’s really just unfeeling of our government to send an important document to the home of a new parent with instructions that read, “Adults: sign immediately in ink.” Those of us with brains not running on premium aren’t too good at reading on to the next line that explains how children should not sign until reaching age 18 or until their first employment, and then inferring that the instructions are written as if Ada could read them herself. So now I’ve made one trip to the social security office for a new card and have been told to return with a letter from the pediatrician affirming that the tiny baby I’m trying to keep quiet by breastfeeding in their waiting room is actually who I say she is. (Her birth certificate, a carbon copy of the form from the hospital requesting her original social security card, and the spoiled card itself are somehow insufficient proof, and it’s going to be a while until she has a driver’s license or a passport.)

And just now I’ve blown twenty minutes picking green fuzz out from between her fingers, toes, and chins. You may have seen the impossibly soft and fluffy bamboo blankets they’re making these days. Don’t be fooled into thinking they’d make a scrumptious cozy towel for after a bath when the baby’s actual soft towel is in the laundry hamper, okay? They lint like you wouldn’t believe in the face of dampness and rubbing. Yes, I muppetized a baby. She is clean and fresh smelling, but she looks and feels like the love child of Kermit the Frog and a chinchilla. Or maybe The Hulk was fuzzy when he was a wee bairn?

Anyway, before I was spending my time in these intriguing kinds of ways, I took pictures of the finished Oliver + S Sandbox Pants to show off here. Ada won’t be able to wear them for another year or so, but I’m pretty pleased with myself them. You know how to click for bigger.



The darker patches are where I removed the pockets from Mr. G’s old shorts. There are grass stains, too… I think my beloved played some ultimate frisbee in these one summer at college. Here are the secret polka dot pockets:


… and the buttonhole elastic I substituted for the drawstring:


Best of all, I think she’ll be able to wear them just about the time she grows into this adorable owl vest, knitted by my lovely friend Katherine. Mmmm, tweed:


This outfit is going to be so ridiculously cute I’m going to want to gobble her up. Oh wait, I already do that. The green fuzz kind of sticks to the roof of your mouth, though.