Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Hey, today I can show you something neat that I finished a little while ago:

This is a hat with stranded colourwork on every round and cable crossings on every alternate round. When I was working out a cable pattern I was thinking about the zigzagging reinforcements on these ironwork supports, but in the yarn that Gryphon chose it looks more like a stained glass lamp than an ironwork dome (and just as well, I think). I am delighted by how the black dividing lines make the variegated contrast yarn pop—there are a lot of colours in it (rust, teal, green…) but they don't look muddy at all. Love, love, love. The yarn, Eidos, is a springy fingering-weight superwash wool that is outstanding for cables.

The pattern is available for purchase from The Sanguine Gryphon, for $5 USD. (And go look at the rest of the swirly decadent knitted things in the collection, too!)

Monday, March 28, 2011


Block #4 is finished:

Civil War Block #4

After the first three I wanted a relatively quick and easy reprieve, so I skipped ahead to #8 (I kind of want a whole quilt of this block):

Civil War Block #8

Then #7 (I love these wide log cabin stripes):

Civil War Block #7

And #9:

Civil War Block #9

This many blocks a day probably isn't a pace I can keep up any time other than the weekend, but I am satisfied with my catching-up efforts.

I am gradually figuring out this hand piecing thing. The triangles sewn on the bias are still a bit tricky, but I have figured out that the blocks end up less ripply if I finger-press the seams with some vigour before pressing them with the iron. I am plotting a simplified #3 block—I think I will make 72 degree diamond templates and piece a five-pointed star out of those shapes, and then appliqué it to a background square. That way I can have The Appliqué Experience without needing to do it seven times and without having to cut out a non-lopsided five-pointed star. (I cannot cut out a shape to save my life.)

Tentatively setting a goal: I want to be all caught up by the end of April so that I can finish out the year at the pace of one block a week.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Better late than never

I am jumping in to Barbara Brackman's 2011 Civil War Quiltalong, two and a half months late. I am armed with a rainbow of excellent reproduction fabrics (red yellow olive greyblue indigo violet lavender) and some exceptionally substantial muslin. There are many small pieces involved in this endeavour—each block is just 8"—so I am anticipating a certain amount of difficulty and frustration (and learning and growth and the triumph of achievement).

An extra-special bonus challenge I am setting for myself is to piece every block by hand. This is partly because I want to learn to do it and I want a lot of practice, and partly because I want at least one quilting project that is portable and quiet. The pace of the quiltalong is one block each week, so I'm hoping not to be too terribly overwhelmed, at least not once I've caught up.

Here is block #1:

Civil War QAL #1

(I told you I was late; the post with the block instructions is dated January 1!)

This block is sort of dynamic—a pinwheel inside a pinwheel!—so I picked a medium blue with lots of movement in it for the medium fabric. I think those tiny things in the dark fabric are supposed to be flower buds (though they look a bit like apples halved pole to pole).

And here is block #2:

Civil War QAL #2

I thought that this combination of fabrics looks a bit like a sunflower. The one in the centre is the lightest of my olives.

So far I am liking this muslin as an all-purpose generic background lightness. I was a bit worried that the rainbow would be too bright, or too busy; having a single solid thing common to all or most of the blocks is my emulsification strategy. We'll see if it works (and I hope that it does). My beginner's thoughts on hand piecing are that it is not as slow as I'd worried, and that it is actually pretty fun to draw lines on the backs of all my pieces before the sewing begins, and that it is a pretty great way to get very pointy points on the triangles.

Block #3 is seven tiny appliquéd stars, and I am not feeling up to that task this morning, though otherwise I intend to do a lot of making up for lost time this weekend. Onward to #4!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Aloft at last

We got something like eight inches of snow this week, and the wind has been howling late into the night. I decided that this was a good time to start knitting something cozy.


I have five skeins of Knit Picks' new silk/mohair blend, Aloft. It seems pretty much identical with Kid Silk Haze for a little under half the price, and comes in some of my favourite rich jewel colours. I've been having such a hard time putting it down that I am a bit over a third of the way through knitting a big stole, and the yarn only got here on Monday.


Nothing in the picture reveals the size of the thing: after blocking it'll be three feet wide, and its finished length will be six feet or slightly longer.

This project is not especially Russian, in design or material or inspiration—I was thinking about walled gardens, labyrinths and enclosed things—but when I was figuring out how big it should be, I had in mind the grey shawl that has been my near-constant companion since the fall. Aloft is unlike that Orenburg lace yarn in many respects, but it does come with a fabulous halo, and I imagine that someone could wear it wrapped around their torso underneath a wool coat to stay warm even in January.

Allover pattern

I like this very simple allover pattern. The repeat is rather big (18 sts by 34 rows), but it is easy to memorize and fast to knit, as most of the wrong-side rows are knitted plain with no patterning at all. The big eyelets are "peas" (borrowed from Gossamer Webs) and the circular things are the same motifs as in Mrs. Montague's pattern, arranged very close together. I think the alternating diamonds set into a diamond grid will end up being pretty striking, although it's all very undefined and soft-looking right now, before blocking.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Things to do when you have too many buttons, part one

Attach a whole bunch of them to everything you sew.


I am getting a big kick out of having a scrap basket with bits in it that I can use for small items. On Monday night I made a couple of pincushions from scraps to take to a friend (not pictured because it was nighttime when I made them, and because they are already given away; picture one made out of quarter square triangles made into a square, and one slightly bigger one made from half square triangles); then made another four, and have one more cut out and partly pieced. (Total buttons used so far: 32.)

pinwheel pincushion

I think the buttons and their indentations give them a satisfyingly full feeling, like cushy upholstery.

(14/16 pinwheel lawn blocks are finished, but the new ones are not interestingly different from the old ones.)

I have a small and easy free pattern in the current edition of Tangled, right over here. It's for a little lace scalloped-edge cuff to encircle your neck, and it is a good way to use up a bit of DK or worsted-weight angora and an afternoon. It's still wintry enough outside here to justify new scarves.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Marching onward

Yesterday's project was sewing together a million half-square triangle units, and today's is pressing them.

Imposing order

I am about one-quarter of the way through my unruly pile.

Unruly mess

8 blocks for the lawn quilt are finished, and all of these bits are for the remaining 8. (I thought I might be able to eke out an extra four blocks from the fabric I had remaining, but no: there are just little bits left.)

Also, I made the mistake of signing up for the Fat Quarter Shop newsletter, so now I get notifications of beautiful new things every Monday. I think I understand now why building up a stash of quilting supplies is so dangerously easy. Who can resist these purple birds? these tiny flowers? these wobbly concentric circles?

Fortunately for knitting content, I'll be able to show you several secret projects soon. I also have one glove of a new pair to brag about:

Lonely glove

Its mate will be a mirror image of this one, with all the pattern motifs pointing the opposite direction. The yarn is Knit Picks Gloss again, and I love the stitch definition it provides in these sorts of patterns. The yarn blooms a bit with washing, which is great for the plain stockinette sections, but it doesn't interfere with the crispness of those diagonal purled lines in the cuff. Excellent.