Friday, September 28, 2012

Go U, NU

The other sewing project I had planned for the end of August that turned into an epic mad dash was a pair of baby quilts for a college friend of the Hubster’s. M is expecting twins, and another member of their little group decided that it would be fun to throw her a themed baby shower when much of the group came together in Syracuse for Northwestern’s football opener.

 Gifts were to be either Purple or “ridiculous.”

 I chose purple.


When I offered to make these quilts (in late July), I took a look at my fabric stash and realized it was pretty light in the purple department. Two days before she died, my mom was going up to our favorite Pittsburgh quilt store (The Quilt Company) in order to buy a sewing cabinet. I tagged along both for company and to look for purple fabrics.


Mom called me from a shop in Peters Township while I was at the gym that Friday telling me that Sew Much Fun might have some candidates as well. I stopped and got a few more options on Saturday morning before my shift at Bloomin.


As I’ve blogged previously, everything scheduled for August came to a complete halt the following day. Once I finished the SpaceCadet project, I had four days to do this pair of quilts, start to finish. Game on. I started piecing the tops on Sunday night, sandwiched them on Monday and Tuesday, quilted Tuesday and Wednesday, and had the bindings sewn down Thursday and washed them Thursday night. I win.

Because I had no real plan for precisely which colors I’d use in each quilt, I decided from the beginning that I’d do a scrappy binding.


I also used my favorite technique to start/finish binding, and it worked out perfectly, as you can see above.


There’s one “Northwestern” touch that I put on both quilts. My original plan had been to quilt a “sculpted N” into a block of the quilt, but there was no time. So I added “Go U, NU” to both quilts. Since clearly, these kids will be Wildcats, just like their mom.


I had flannel in the stash, and these quilts were ditch quilted, then stippled. Quick and dirty. It’s one of the reason I love quilting. There is no way in hell I could do ANY knitted gift for twins, start to finish, between Sunday afternoon and Thursday afternoon. But with quilting, all is possible.

Parents-to-be have been instructed that these quilts are machine-wash, and should be dragged through the mud and puked on. It's one of the things I love about baby quilts. They're damn durable. Win.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

I.B. Footsie

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I finished a pair of socks for me. It appears that I haven’t blogged them yet, so here goes.


I picked this pattern, I.B. Footsie by Heather Zoppetti, because I’d already knit a pair of her CSI Socks (Dawn Gnot) and loved them. And it would play nicely with a skein from my ever-growing SpaceCadet collection.


It did cross my mind to switch these to Upstream socks, but I didn’t want to reverse-engineer the stitch pattern, so I left it as-is. I even used DPNs as-written! My lone set of Signature DPNs, actually.


It took a little while for me to get the stitch pattern memorized, but once that happened, these socks zipped right along.

Toe Pic!

I even did the toes as-written, although I modified slightly to make the toe more rounded (decreased every round, not every other round for the last six rounds). Then I kitchnered.


The heel is almost as-written. I did make one mod, based on the strong recommendation of my friend Turtlegirl76. The double-gusset heel! She’s right (of course). It does cup your heel really nicely, and I like that it takes the gusset decreases out of play, leaving a nice clean transition from leg to foot. Need a better look?


OK, so it’s kind of difficult to take a picture of the sole of your own foot. Sue me. In all, this was a fun, quick knit. The calendar may not show that it was quick, but that was because I put it down for long stretches, primarily because I didn’t want to mess with DPNs outside of home. I am sure I’ll enjoy wearing this pair for many winters to come.


I.B. Footsie Socks 
Pattern: I.B. Footsie by Heather Zoppetti 
Yarn: SpaceCadet Creations Estelle 
Color: Calm Before the Storm 
Quantity: roughly 60% of the 430-yard skein 
Needles: US 1.5 (2.5mm) Signature DPNs
Started: 8 April 2012 
Finished: 14 July 2012 
Mods: Double-gusset heel, rounder toe than written.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Van Buren Point, 2012

The Hubster and I didn’t spend nearly as much time as we would have liked at the Lake this summer, something we hope will change in 2013. But since I know I have at least one reader (Hi, SJ!) who enjoys my sunset photos, I figured I’d post a “highlights” from the year.

Our first trip was for July 4th. We went up early in order to attend a memorial dinner for a dear friend who passed away in February that was held on Monday the 2nd. The following night, we seem to have had a nice sunset.

We didn’t get up again in July, but attendance at our family’s Van Buren Point night party has always been mandatory (for us). The night before the August 4th party had another good sunset. It was too damn hot for it to be great, but this was my favorite shot from that particular evening.


I did make a quick trip up in late August, the week after my mom died. But I was only there for one night, and missed sunset because I was at dinner with wonderful family friends. The afterglow hinted that the sunset had been fantastic, but spending time with important people was far more important than getting my camera for sunset pictures.

A brief stay over Labor Day weekend yielded possibly the best sunset of the summer to my camera lens that Sunday night


And, finally, we never managed to catch a sunset during last week’s vacation, but our final morning dawned clear and cold. I got a few great shots just minutes before we packed up and headed back to the ‘Burgh. If it had been 20 degrees warmer, it would have been a perfect beach day.


Here’s hoping for many more sunsets in 2013.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


I have two problem areas in my house. The weaving room and the basement. Why are they problem areas? Because I’m a slob. That really is the problem. I’m not very good at picking up after myself and making sure all of my stuff has a home.

Last Friday, my aunt and I started the task of going through my mom’s belongings. Apparently, that has inspired me to get my own house in order while I was at it.

Which is ironic. Since when a family friend passed away several years ago (he was a Depression-era kid, so he took the phrase “lifetime supply” to a whole new level) I’ll always remember my mom saying that digging out his house convinced her that she’d never have that much STUFF. And that nobody would have to go through anything like that when she died.


 The before pictures are really embarrassing, but I’ll give you a taste. This was standing in the doorway of the room. Not one inch of clear counters, I had stuff stacked all over the bench and even on top of the shafts of my loom. Sad Panda all around.


If you looked towards the front wall, you could see the mess of crap near the front window. What you can’t really see is that there were no clear footpaths anywhere in the entire room. It was a broken ankle waiting to happen.


See? Scary. And slightly humiliating. You wouldn’t believe it if I told you how long it’s looked like this.

 My wonderful friend Dianne sacrificed her Saturday night to come and help me tackle this room. I fed her Chinese food, gave her a skein of sock yarn, and called that her salary for the evening. By the time she left, the countertops were almost clear, and I was already starting to sort the many bins of yarn, project bags, “miscellaneous,” and weaving supplies.

Here’s most of the trash that came out. Two huge trash bags. Progress!


By bedtime on Sunday, I was done. And when I came downstairs on Monday morning, I walked into this room and had to smile.

And I have to tell you, I could feel my mom’s approval. I did it. I tackled the weaving room, and I won.


The best part? It makes me feel like I’m capable of fixing the basement, too.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

A Little Sewing, A Little Story

This post should, at least in part, explain my long absence from the blog. Please bear with me. It’s a bit of a long story.

I’m in two yarn clubs. Blue Moon Fiber Arts’ Rockin Sock Club, and the Interstellar Yarn Alliance, product of SpaceCadet Yarns, which is run by my friend Stephanie. The ISYA is currently open for subscriptions until September 14, and I’ve been a member since she started the club.

Anyone who has been an ISYA member for all of CY2012 has now received two “extras” that came from my basement. A drawstring bag in their February kit, and a notions bag in the August shipment.

Lens cap for scale

Stephanie and I talked about me doing some sewing for her (again) much earlier this year. The numbers were up for the current six-month window, and she wanted a notions bag. I had a good idea of what I wanted to sew, figured out yardage so she could order the fabric, and we discussed notions costs.

I got the fabric from Stephanie in early August. I did all the cutting and fusing of the fabric and interfacing the week of August 6, fully intending to spend the week of August 13 doing all the sewing. No problem. Plenty of time to hand the bags over to Stephanie well in advance of her end-of-month deadline.

Of course, that was plenty of time … until my Dad called me the morning of August 12, to tell me that my 67-year old mother had passed away in her sleep. She was totally healthy and scheduled to leave on August 18, to spend two weeks in Brazil and Argentina with her sister. This was completely unexpected.

I’ll probably write a lot more about my mom some time soon. For now, I’ll say this: I knit because I learned from my mom when I was little. So little that I don’t remember learning. I quilt because when I got to California and needed a new hobby, quilting was at the top of my list because I’d seen my mom take up that hobby fairly recently. I bought my first sewing machine (at age 27) because I knew that if I tried to hand-piece and hand-quilt like my mom, I’d never finish anything. And I have an eight-harness floor loom in my house right now because my mom split the cost with me. She never used it, but I don’t think that bothered her at all. I started this blog so she could easily see what I was up to crafting-wise while I was living in California and she was in Pittsburgh, since she couldn't (consistently) figure out how to view pictures I emailed.

Clearly, I did not get much of anything done the week of August 13. I sewed the first “test bag” on the afternoon of Tuesday, August 14, primarily because the visitation at the funeral home didn’t start until 4 p.m. and I was going completely stir crazy waiting until it was time to change clothes and leave the house.

 It wasn’t exactly smooth sailing. I had already decided that I (probably) wanted to change a few details from the pattern I was using as a guideline. I got the zipper in OK, but first my serger wouldn’t sew correctly, so I completely re-threaded from scratch. I had to pull out the manual. It wasn’t pretty. Then, on the second side-seam, I broke a needle when it hit the metal finding on the zipper I was trying to avoid.


By Saturday night, I managed to figure out (remember) how to change the broken serger needle, and I had the assembly line going full speed to finish on Saturday, August 25.


These bags are far from perfect. There are things I would have done differently if my brain had been running at full capacity while I was sewing that first test bag, and by the time I was finishing the full batch, those things were making me a little crazy, so I didn’t keep one for myself (and asked Stephanie not to include one in my kit). (Don’t worry, I made something slightly different for myself out of the scraps)


But I finished the bags. All of them. On time. With enough days left over that I could finish a second sewing project that had been promised with an August 30 due date. There were lots of tears involved, but it was good to do something that didn’t require too much thought but was tied so closely to my mom. I’m OK because she taught me how to be a strong, capable, independent woman, just by following her example.


I hope the ISYA members enjoy these bags and don’t see the flaws that I see. I hope that they can see, after reading this story, that not only are they a fun little “extra” in their kit, but they are a testament to 41 years of learning everything from my mom. I hope I can continue to make her proud as I move forward in life without her.