Monthly Archives: March 2009

The Balancing Act

Let’s just say that leaving Puerto Rico was more than a little difficult. I may even have shed a few tears. And how did I cope with the sorrow of parting with one of must relaxing, revitalizing places on Earth? I jumped back into the swing of things without pause; I spent the whole plane ride back working on my takehome midterm, and all of the next day catching up on readings and papers for class. Now, this was very gratifying- but it didn’t take me long to realize that life should really be a bit more in-between. So that evening I went out to dinner with some friends to Top of the Hub (affordable this once thanks to Restaurant Week), mentally conjured up my weekly mini-quilt over a cocktial or two, and finished it before breakfast the next morning. It felt good to be quilting again.


As is often the case, there was no single, clear inspiration for this one. I’ve had triangles on the brain, but I’m also interested in experimenting with this play between patchwork and whole pieces of cloth. However the idea to me, it’s very appropriate. The design seems to represent balance, and that’s exactly what I need these days.

To counteract a full day of academia, I’ve spent today on what I’m calling my Curly Que quilt, the one originally inspired by my Puerto Rico mini quilt. The flannel fabric for the back arrived while I was on vacation so I spent the morning pinning it all together. It’s such a soothing process, flattening out fabrics with your hands and securing the layers into place (thank you to my patient roommates for allowing me to take over our common room floor in order to get the job done). This afternoon, I started- and finished- the quilting stitches on the top, a series of yellow and red curly ques:


I added little buttons to the center of each curly que in order to draw attention to the quilting stitches. And to stay in the spirit of the two separate halves, I used quilting ties (red, blue and yellow) to secure the bottom:


Now I just need to finish up the borders and it’s done; I love this slightly different approach to quilting, the balance between patchwork, stitches and whole segments of cloth. However, the borders will have to wait until tomorrow. For the rest of the afternoon I’m devoting myself to  my Polka Dot Log Cabin Quilt- balance is, after all, the name of the game, and I need to devote fair time to every delightful project (I’ll probably take my knitting out with me to dinner).


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Stitching in the Sand

A change in location has done very little to my patchwork productivity- and enjoyment. Traveling is really a glorious experience for knitters. Between airplane  flights, airport waiting, car rides and all those other in between moments, one has plenty of time to whip out the needles. Every knitter knows this. But knitting by the beach, as far as I can tell, is an underpracticed activity. Fortunately, not for me.

I love the beach; the sand, the salt water, the sun. I’ll admit this doesn’t immediately sound like the most yarn-friendly environment, but you’d be surprised what a plastic bag and judicious sitchery can get away with. Knitting at the beach also makes me realize what a friendly activity it really is. While most people read or plug into their ipods, knitting tends to draw a crowd- from little girls to baffled older men who are both puzzled and delighted to see such an unusual seaside activity. So I’ve managed to make a few new acquaintances and complete several rows of my entrelac cowlneck scarf, all while blissfully lounging by the waters of the Caribbean.


Actually, I’m being modest. I didn’t just completed a few rows, but I finished my scarf altogether! Now comes my confession. I realized, upon boarding the plane to Puerto Rico, that I twisted my circular knitting- a rookie mistake! I couldn’t believe it, and I was already on the fourth row of entrelac; I couldn’t bring myself to go back. Fortunately, it’s hard to get too down on a plane ride to PuertoRico and the sympathetic flight attendant was a knitter herself so I had someone to share my annoyance with. Also fortunately, my friend Mikey (a Physics lover) was here for a few days and managed to convince me that this means my scarf is a mobius strip which is a very cool thing. In the end, I like it anyway, and you can hardly tell when I’m wearing it. Such is the life of a knitter; we all make mistakes.








Now, I still think this one might be a little too wide. Clearly I’m experimenting with this whole cowlneck scarf idea and have yet to get it just right. Fortunately, I had the foresight to bring along a few random balls of yarn (from my stash, hooray!), knowing full well I was likely to complete this project and terrified of the prospect of being knittingless in a place that doesn’t exactly abound with yarn sources. I wasn’t sure what I’d do with these random balls, but a third cowlneck scarf is now the obvious choice- third time’s a charm after all. Thanks to a morning by the beach and an afternoon stuck in Old San Juan traffic, I’ve already made some progress on cowlneck scarf #3 (entrelac-style #2) and I’m feeling pretty positive about this one. The coral pink color is Classic Elite Allure (cashmere and angora blend) and the navy blue is Classic Elite Portland Tweed if  I’m remembering correctly. I also have leftovers of the yarns I was using before so the color scheme will be a bit of a mix:


In addition to my rather prolific knitting, I’ve been enjoying my already-completed patchwork projects- especially since this is the first time I’ve been able to wear some of them. Here’s a little sampling of how my patchwork has gotten around:


Me in the patchwork shorts on a catamaran. We spent an entire day going to gorgeous private beaches, snorkeling, lying in the sun- and my shorts saw me through it all. They’re also my new go-to beachwear. I’ve been pulling them on over my bathing suit, getting them wet and sandy and it’s wonderful; that’s what I made them for!


Me, my patchwork clutch and Mikey out at dinner. This clutch is the perfect evening purse, better than lugging around a large bag. On the other hand, I need a somewhat larger bag during the day to keep my knitting in so…


Me with my patchwork bag and antique fabric skirt which I wore this afternoon while visiting the Puerto Rican Art Museum. I always enjoy using my own creations, but when I’m on vacation it takes on particular significance, a sort of comforting reminder of home. Not that Puerto Rico is uncomfortable. In fact, it’s absolute bliss and having my knitting and patchwork with me is simply the icing on the cake.

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Good for the Soul

With my thesis officially handed in, I am truly embracing the blissful prospect of oodles of free time to spend on my beloved crafting. If the past couple of days are any indication, these next few months will indeed be productive. First of all, I finished my cowl neck scarf- and I love it.


It turned out wider than I had anticipated so I added a drawstring to make it a little more fitted. The good old Boston weather was actually nice enough this past weekend for me to try it out (instead of my usual blanket-sized entrelac scarves) and it’s a great piece for this transition time into Spring, maybe even for cooler summer evenings. On the other hand, I’m wondering what it would be like if it weren’t quite so wide and didn’t need a drawstring… and my next project will satisfy my curiosity. Believe it or not, I finished this scarf so much sooner than expected, I actually didn’t have another project immediately lined up. This meant an odd hour of in-between time during which- gasp- I had no knitting project. Fortunately, desperation can inspire creativity- not to mention resourcefulness. I love nothing more than a trip to the yarn store, but in the spirit of frugality and since I was feeling a bit of a time crunch, I decided to dip into my ever-abundant stash…


This barely begins to capture the degree to which my life is overflowing with yarn- but you get the idea. Naturally, I decided to go for some color, and dug out three different Classic Elite yarns (fortunately for me, my yarn stash is still rather luxurious):


The pink is Lavish (100% cashmere), the orange is Carmed (cashmere and mohair) and the blue is Princess (Merino, Viscose, Cashmere, Angora). Not exactly slumming it. And I like the unexpected color combination- very Springy indeed. It took me a little while to decide on the pattern. I toyed around with some different options but felt myself inevitably drawn back to an old reliable: entrelac. I mean, it’s the patchwork of the knitting world, I just can’t get enough. And this pattern s a little smaller than the type used for my giant entrelac scarves (which, incidentally, have landed me for the second time on this awesome fashion blog– check it out)! Anyway, little entrelacing is fun and has a different look:


This will be my companion project for Puerto Rico. Yes, it’s that time again- tomorrow I’m off to lounge on the beach, to swim in the water and drink Pina Colados before noon. It is Senior Spring after all. And since quilting isn’t exactly transportable, I finished this week’s mini-quilt early, and couldn’t help but be inspired by my upcoming trip. I think the reference is pretty obvious:


I love the contrast between the patchwork bottom and solid blue top- it’s a little hard to see but I did some curly cue quilting stitches on the blue (with yellow thread) to add texture and interest. I don’t usually get too fancy with my quilting stitches but was surprised to really enjoy it on this scale- and to find myself deeply compelled to try it out on a larger quilt. Fortunately, this is a pretty painless quilting technique thanks to the larger, less rigid patchwork. Therefore, it only took me a few hours to whip this up: 


I know, I know- I said I was going to focus on my Polka Dot Log Cabin quilt exclusively, but I couldn’t help this little detour (and the Log Cabin quilt is still coming along, I’m churning out polka dot squares at a respectable rate). I was delighted to discover how much red and blue fabric I have in my stash. I think these patterns both clash and blend in a lovely way. Obviously, it’s not finished since I have to find flannel for the back (functional quilts should have soft backs in my opinion) and then work on the fancier quilting stitches. Let’s just say, I’m really fond of this new, relatively ‘quick’ technique. That’s what’s so wonderful about patchworking- it can be tedious and time-consuming or free-wheeling and carefree. Both are good for the soul. Fortunately, sunshine is also good for the soul so though I may have a few days sans-quilting, the island lifestyle (and, of course, my knitting) will certainly make up for it.

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Fancy and Frugal

Needless to say, the economy isn’t exactly in stellar shape these days. While this poses many problems- particularly for someone leaving school and (hopefully) entering the job market- the need to be frugal has an upside. Certainly, one takes fewer luxuries for granted. And, of course, one can become quite resourceful. I’m admittedly a little bias, but I feel like nothing’s more resourceful than patchwork. It is, by definition, an act of salvage and making do. So, when I spotted a beautiful Marc Jacobs sweater for about $300 in a magazine, I decided to make my own instead- and patchwork showed me the way! I swung by T.J. Maxx (a discount clothing store that I’d never shopped in before- it’s marvelous) and bought three sweaters for a total of about $12 (two were from the kid’s section). I spent an afternoon cutting, recombining, making fabric-covered buttons, and voila:


As you can imagine, the whole thing was just black and white stripes before I got my hands on it. Naturally, I prefer the contrast. And I must say it’s pretty gratifying to walk into a thrift store and end up with something more unique than the item I had originally lusted after- and hundreds of dollars saved!

However, thanks to my summer internship at Classic Elite which enabled me to afford cashmere yarn for the last time in what will probably be a very long time, I also finished up something a bit fancier this weekend. Let’s just say the train ride to NYC (not to mention the train delay) was just as productive as I had anticipated. While I may have gotten some odd looks in Penn Station as I sat knitting on the ground, surrounded by bright pink fabric, it was well worth it. My sweater is complete, simple and lovely:

0040061 005

Like I said before, 100% cashmere yarn needs no embellishing. It’s a straight forward modified drop sleeve fit, three-quarter length sleeves… and fits perfectly. I owe the much-improved seams and picked-up stitches to Sharon Brant’s wonderful workshop that I attended a couple of weeks ago at Westminster Fibers. Thank you! I even have one ball of cashmere leftover. Who knows what I’ll do with it, but I’m in no rush to use it up…




Like any responsible knitter, I had my next project lined up and have since made considerable progress. I’m using Cascade’s 100% cotton Sierra (on the more frugal side of things as far as yarn is concerned) and working with a polka dot pattern that I came across in “The Essential Guide to Color Knitting Techniques.”

This is, incidentally, a glorious book- well worth the investment for any color-minded knitters. Anyway, the pattern combines purl and knit stitches, as well as lots of slipped stitches, which precludes the whole lumpy intarsia problem I was having before.


I’m aiming for a sort of cowl neck minus the sweater… a cross between a scarf and a shawl if you will. The color combination should be familiar by now, definitely one of my favorites. It’s coming along quickly and should be finished soon- which means I’m already mentally conjuring my next knitting project.

I’m also getting much better- as in much quicker- at circular hand quilting. Furthermore, I’m really starting to enjoy it. Don’t get me wrong, learning how to use a sewing machine changed my life, but a little handwork is a nice balance. So I’ve completed a couple more polka dot squares, making nearly seven altogether which is more than half of the total required for my Log Cabin with a Twist quilt.


Now, last but not least, mini quilting continues. I’m getting into the ‘sketching’ groove and letting myself be a little imprecise, even more improvisational than usual. This week’s little quilt is already finished- and to be honest I am yet again unsure of how the idea came to me. It’s a sort of woven quilt made of bands of overlapping fabrics, secured with french knots.


I feel like this would make a pretty awesome full-sized quilt. And it really isn’t all that difficult… some day… Meanwhile, I’m sticking to one big project at a time (more or less) with plenty of room for experimentation on the side.


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Pillow Patchwork… and lots of Pink!

It’s week #2 of my life as a mini quilter and so far I’m still on top of things- in fact, I’m ahead of schedule. Since I’m taking a weekend trip to NYC I thought I’d get a head start and before I knew it, I’d finished my second mini quilt. Well, in the end it’s a bit more like a pillow, but it’s certainly still patchwork:


This one doesn’t particularly comemorate the week- it’s simply something I’ve always wanted to try, and that’s the point of these quilt sketches! It was really quite easy (especially since I used a package of Bernatex pre-cut fabrics: City Blooms by Kitty Yoshida) except for the final assemblage. I slip-stitched the pillows together- though according to Reader Digest’s “Complete Guide to Needlework” you can use a machine zip stitch as well- and as you can see, they didn’t line up perfectly. Then again that’s not the point! I love my experimental little quilts- yes, all two of them!- because they’re a chance to try something new and relax on the rules.

I’ve also been working on my Log Cabin with a Twist and got a few more log cabin squares finished.


I realize they don’t have quite the same contrast as much Log Cabins but I rather like that about them. It’s a little more patchworky. I’m also slowly working away at the polka do squaress but overall I’m hoping to pick up the progress. I may be hand quilting on the train ride to NYC!

I’ve also come quite a long way on my pink cashmere sweater. Knitting with this kind of material is just… heavenly. And addictive. So perhaps it’s no surprise that I finished the front, back and most of a sleeve. The simple stockinette is also very condusive to reading/studying/movie-watching. I’m thinking of a simple pullover with three-quarter sleeves (partially in honor of the approaching spring weather and partially because I’m not sure I have enough yarn for full length and I definitely can’t afford any more). My knitting bag is a glorious heap of pink:


At this point I”m going to try to finish the sweater before embarking on my next knitting project (I haven’t forgotten those polka dots). It shouldn’t take long at all. Looks like I’ll also be stockinette stitching during that train ride!


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Birthdays and Beginnings

Today I turn 22, so it seems only right that I commemorate  exactly why birthdays are so important. Obviously, there are many reasons- another year of wisdom and life experience being the most obvious. But it probably comes as no surprise that for me birthdays and patchworking go hand in hand. It was on my 19th birthday that I received the gift which introduced me to the wonderful world of quilt making. My Grandma Kay sent me an “Around the World Quilt”  and I will never forget the feeling of opening up that big cardboard box shipped from St. Louis to see a beautiful array of pink and green fabrics.


I have to admit, I didn’t go home and begin making my first quilt right away. I spent the rest of that semester in love with my quilt, such a comforting object to have in a dorm room. I would think of my grandmother working away on it in the evenings; quilts are so palpably full of the love of the person who made them. But it wasn’t until that summer that I decided to try my own quilt making. I had wandered into Fabric Place for some reason I can’t recall- I have a bad habit of going into yarn and fabric stores without a specific project in mind which usually means overspending. For some reason, my Grandma Kay’s quilt entered my mind and I decided to make one of my own. I bought a copy of Carol Doak’s “Your First Quilt Book,” and a basic pattern called “You Just Can’t Cut It.”

My first quilt was a long process. I had no idea what I was doing and followed every little detailed rule to a tee, terrified that a sixteenth inch differences would throw off the whole thing. Though I’ve gotten more confident and my techniques have relaxed since then, I loved every meticulous step of this first forray into quilt making. Here it is, my first quilt, completed in the summer of 2006.


So on my birthday, I feel that I owe my grandmother a thank you for inspiring me to take up patchworking and therefore giving me one of the best birthday gifts I’ve ever received!

Unsurprisingly, my birthdays continues to be about patchworking. This time I have my Mom to thank for that. Imagine my delight upon receiving the antique Log Cabin quilt that I fell in love with months ago in Concord Center. Of course I hadn’t forgotten it, but I never expected to see it again. What a wonderful birthday surprise!


This is an amazing quilt. It smells musty and it’s falling apart just a little bit but that only adds to its appeal. It’s made from this silky material, almost like neckties- and is such an inspiration for my own Log Cabin quilt. Clearly, antique quilt collecting agrees with me; it fuels my own ideas and connects me with the history of this craft.

It gets even better. My mom also managed to track down beautiful old feedsacks for my own patchworking pleasure:


I couldn’t have picked out better patterns myself. Blue and red is my favorite color combination but these designs are also fun and rich. They’re gorgeous. Now I just have to figure out what to do with them- whenever I have fabrics that I love this much it always takes some time to settle on a worthy project. I don’t think it will be anything as traditional as my Birds in the Air quilt; I like the idea of taking these old fabrics and this time making them my own.

So yes, birthdays are important days. They’re a good chance to reflect but also to move forward; you never know how much a birthday gift will influence the future!

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