Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Blankie for Christmas

I have not blogged in a month. This time of year, projects that I work on cannot be posted if I want them to remain a Christmas surprise. One of these was a baby blanket project from the last couple weeks - but not just any blanket. When he was a toddler, my son's favorite blanket was lost while we were on family travel. I decided at the last minute, with barely enough time before Christmas, to knit my now-adult son a replica of the original blanket and gift it to him for his daughter who is due to be born in late March. I would also write and include a related poem suitable for framing. Here is Dan as a toddler using his original blanket shortly before it was lost; it was round, knit in garter stitch in a pinwheel type design, with a white, yellow, and green variegated yarn.

I finished the blanket in the nick of time, very late the night before my son and his wife arrived for the holidays. Here is a picture of the completed 2013 version reminiscent of the lost 1983 original.

Finding the vintage yarn was not easy. Medical technology now allows most expectant couples to know the sex of their baby before it is born. Thirty-odd years ago, when I had my kids, this was not the case. An odd effect of this advance knowledge is that there are now very few variegated yarns on the market that are gender neutral in color. Finding a white, yellow, and green combination was challenging. I did find the combination but in a finer weight yarn than worsted weight I wanted. I compromised by using two strands of the finer weight yarn. An unexpected outcome of the two strand approach was that the color variations were more subtle in the final product since stitches took on a tweedy appearance from two colors per stitch instead of one color per stitch. I actually like the more subtle effect.  It seems a bit more suited for a girl, inexplicably sexist as that sounds.

My timetable for completion was tight and then I lost two days worth of knitting due to a mistake. The blanket is knit in radial rows, spiraling around like a pinwheel with twelve sectors. The first five wedges clockwise were done correctly. Then I did not complete the 6th wedge shaped sector before knitting the later rows of what I thought was the 7th sector and beginning the 8th sector. Here is a closeup of the mistake showing clockwise from vertical the completed 5th sector, the 6th sector missing its final rows, the 7th sector missing its early rows, and the beginning of the 8th sector.  I had to rip out the incomplete 7th and 8th sectors. There was no other way to recover.

After composing the poem, I printed it in a format suitable for framing. I've repeated it near the end of this post in a larger font suitable for those whose eyesight no longer permits them to read tiny text. Here is the poem printout along with a picture of my son snuggled under his replica blanket. He is not sure if he will let his daughter have it! I am sure he will once she has wrapped him around her little finger.

Here is a side by side comparison of the 2013 replica blanket with the ~1983 original. I guess Dan still sleeps in the same pose he did as a baby. 

And here is the poem re-typed in a larger, easier-to-read font size.

Christmas 2013

A fortnight ‘fore Christmas, at the Chambers’ house
The gifts were a-mounding, hidden round and about,
“But I need something special for Daniel, my son.
He’ll soon be a dad – have his own little one.”

I remember a time when he was a lad
His favorite blankie was lost. I felt bad.
The tale is quite brief. I can tell it real quick.
We’d come back from New Jersey, a family trip.

Arms laden with luggage, car seat, and such
We looked all around but – no blankie to clutch!
‘Twas not in the car seat and not in the trunk.
“Where can it be?” Dad and I wailed in a funk.

“Maybe back at the airport? Is it at SFO?”
‘Twas just beyond midnight and a long way to go.
Dad drove back to the airport and ran to the gate
Searched ‘round all the seats, he was in quite a state.

He asked the attendants. He asked all the staff.
He checked “lost and found” but alas and alack.
He scoured the car lot. He retraced our path,
Recounting our footsteps - he’s real good at math.

Dad checked lost and found but no blanket was there.
‘Twas gone for forever, we knew in despair.
Dan rallied, a toddler, he was more philosophic.
Though saddened, he knew this was not catastrophic.

The shape was a circle, colored green, white, and yellow –
Variegated yarn, soothing tones, a blanket quite mellow.
And so in the months before he is a father
I thought, for his daughter, I’d make him another.

With Google my friend, I searched for that pattern
I found it, a pinwheel, like the moons orbit Saturn.
Finding three-decade-old yarn became my new passion.
Seemed this tri-color combo was no longer in fashion.

Four stores and more websites before I succeeded,
I found it and then I bought more than was needed.
Exactly twelve sectors the blanket required.
Could I finish by Christmas? After all, I’m retired.

But Christmas was close, how much time would it take?
Yes I could, I could do it, but must make no mistakes.
Two hours per sector – I’d knit one wedge per night.
Then I made a big boo-boo and realized my plight.

I lost two days of knitting that I had to rip out.
I redoubled my efforts but still I had doubt.
If you are reading this now, well, then I succeeded,
The magic of Christmas was all that I needed.

So Dan, when you snuggle, baby girl in your lap,
I hope that this blanket will help her to nap.
Please remember, all the while I was knitting.
Mem'ries ‘n love were embedded. And that’s so befitting.

With lots of love,


For those interested in making a round blanket like this, I found a website and adapted its pattern for a pinwheel mat. I used size 10 1/2 needles and two strands of light weight yarn, #3 in the standard yarn weight system. It took two 10.5 ounce big skeins and less than half of a third skein. Here is my adaptation of the pattern:
  • Cast on 70.
  • Knit 2, TURN, knit back over those 2. 
  • Knit 4, TURN, knit back over those 4.
  • Knit 6, TURN, knit back over those 6.
  • Can you see a wedge developing?
  • Continue this way. Two short rows of 8, then 10, then 12, then 14, etc. up to 70.
  • Once you've knitted across 70 stitches, turned, and knitted back you've finished the first wedge.
  • Do 12 wedges and you have finished your blanket. Just sew your last row to your first cast on row.

Monday, November 25, 2013

More Baby Projects and Bit of Art

I was continuing my baby project binge, working my way through my stash of flannel. This first pair of burp cloths was made using a Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy flannel from my mom's fabric supply. My mom passed away in 1979 and back then your fabric supply was not yet coined a "stash". Since my son and his wife are due with their first child in late March, I wanted my new granddaughter-to-be to have a bit of her great-grandmother to clutch in her tiny little hand. When I mentioned the print to my daughter-in-law she exclaimed that she loved Raggedy Ann and even dressed up as her one Halloween when she was a young girl. I had less than 3/8 of a yard but by using a plain white flannel within for the center triple thickness I was able to eke two burp cloths out of it. Kismet. Guess it was just meant to be.

Here are some other flannel burp cloth combinations from my spree. These are for a Christmas baby. One has the old fashioned nostalgic antique toy feel (but I still had to sneak in those spots) and the other is rockin' with the Dr. Suess modern vibe of wonky stripes (with my signature polka dots).

I have always like owls but whooo knows whooo these will go to? At first I tried to pair the owl print with something in the pink/orange color family or swirls pattern family but nothing seemed quite right. Stripes did the trick. I picked the yellow to go with the owls' breast feathers and the green to go with the leaves.

The jungle print wanted to be paired with some hot primary colors. The speckled one "tingles" my "funky" bone.

While I was churning out quick projects I sewed up some cloth books. They will get set aside for a holiday. The bunny  book is quite small. only about 7.5" x 7.5".

These next two are larger, 10.5 " square and 9.5" square. Actually the Christmas beavers on the left were not for a book but rather came from a panel of eight pictures by Cicely Mary Barker by Fabri Quilt Design titled Season's Greetings. But I thought the images were so darling I sewed them up as a cloth picture book. It does not have words but there is certainly a lot to speak to in the details of each page. I may consider using up other pillow/picture panels I have in that way. The Night Before Christmas contains the entire Clement C. Moore poem with Mary Engelbreit images and the panel was printed with the intention it would be made into a book.

I realize that fabric designers are artists. But normally one thinks of an artist as a sculptor or painter that uses a medium other than textiles. Seeing books for children made up like this makes me think what a wonderful way to introduce little ones to artists and the world of art. Children can hold a mini-museum in their very hands and even take it to bed with them. I learned a lot from writing this post by looking up Mary Engelbreit and Cicely Mary Barker in Wikipedia. And to think, I bought these panels just because I liked the fabric!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

WIP: McCormick Commemorative Quilt Blocks

Last Saturday I attended the 50th birthday celebration of my college dorm.  McCormick Hall is the only all girl dorm on the MIT campus and was dedicated to facilitate the advancement of women in science an engineering at MIT by giving them an environment to live in that made them feel safe and at home among female peers. Many lasting friendships were formed during those four college years.

To commemorate the event, participating alumnae were encouraged to submit a square to be incorporated in a quilt. I made one each for myself and four college friends. In one corner I placed our name and graduating year, in a second corner our major, i.e. course of study. The third corner reads 5th River East, which states what suite of rooms was our college home. The final fourth corner tells something quirky that I remembered for each of us. I bordered the blocks with a print that was "loud and obnoxious" as I considered it. I wanted it to be graphic enough to stand out and be a unifying sign that the five of us, went together. Then, when the quilt was assembled, the blocks would relate to each other even if scattered throughout the quilt top. I was also trying to be kind to whoever assembles the top from the varying size squares they will get by providing a border that can be trimmed.

This is my block. I had a thing for owls in college and my room was decorated with them. I'd crocheted my bedspread in afghan stitch blocks with intarsia owls.

This is my friend Sue's block. She and I used to take our study break to eat ice cream just about every night. 

My friend Margaret was a chain reader (as opposed to being a chain smoker). I still do not know how she fit that in with all our other studies!

My friend Brenda used to hula dance professionally in high school. No, she was not from Hawaii. She was from Maine. Go figure...

Norma loved food, cooking, and eating. I also picked this particular print to represent her because it also reminded me of her flaming red hair.

It sure was fun making these blocks and thinking of good times and friendships while doing so. So that too much time does not elapse from the event til this post, I am posting this from a mobile device at the airport on my way going home. I am skipping stats this week and will correct my typos and picture sizes once I am on a real computer.

WIP: Preparatory Stretching

It has been too long since my last post. That is because we have been traveling and, when we are home, remodeling has been invading our lives. I am just now getting back to my sewing machine after an extended hiatus. It feels so good. It is my yoga.

You know how an athlete stretches to warm up his muscles before an event? I stretch before launching into my quilting by making burp cloths. I know at least three moms-to-be who are due within the next four or so months. And new babies really do need burp cloths. So here is the fruit of my labors. Their labors are yet to be.

Yesterday I pumped out six burp cloths made from two fat quarters each. The back of each is wrapped around to be the bordering edge fabric on the front. In the front center section the flannel has been folded over double to increase absorbency. I could have made each pair the same instead of making each pair a complement of the other but I like for them to be different. They go together yet you can remember which one has been used recently if a glance does not distinguish it.

This barnyard set has my signature polka dots. I did both orange and green because I could not decide which I liked better.

Houses are not typically a baby theme, but I loved the colors.

I made three more burp cloths from three fat quarters and three 1/4 yard lengths. I realized the 1/4 yard lengths could be folded along the grain rather than cross grain and still be used for the double thickness center section. I just love when the fabrics that I have in my stash, although purchased at different places and at widely varying times, just come together in an unexpected way. Those middle sections came from 9" full width fabric strips that were part of on-sale cuddle quilt kit. The backs and outer edges were flannel fat quarters I had in my stash.

To provide proof of my excuse for my long absence from quilting I offer this "before" picture of our living room. The "after" picture is still to come.

I will hook up to WIP Wednesday at  but for now, here are my stats:

Completed projects since 10/3/13 WIP post:
  1. New hardwood floor, rug, furniture, ceiling fixtures and painting in living room
  2. Trip to Boston and Oklahoma City
  3. Bloomers to match two baby dresses (see dresses in September 10, 2013 post)
  4. Nine burp cloths
Ongoing projects:  
  1. Classic Cars strip quilt (August 3, 2013 post)- need to back, quilt, and bind
  2. Grinch quilt (May 22,2013 post) - all borders added, need to back, quilt, and bind
  3. Jack O'Lantern Trio (February 2, 2013 post) - awaiting FMQ
  4. Chicken quilt - awaiting FMQ
  5. Overlapping square wall hanging - awaiting FMQ
  6. Mask quilt (October 19, 2011 post) - hidden away awaiting inspiration for arranging hexagons
New projects since 10/3/13 WIP post:  
  1. Making preparations for bathroom remodel
  2. Nine burp cloths
Stats since last WIP:
     Completed  projects - 11
     Currently in progress - assembly completed on 5 of 6;  finishing is my bottleneck
     New projects - 11 involving sewing

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

WIP: Diane Went to Quilting Shows, E-I-E-I-O

Last weekend was a great one for quilting. My neighboring town of Pleasanton held a Quilt, Crafts, and Sewing Festival and my local nursery, Alden Lane in Livermore, held its annual Quilting in the Garden display and event.

At the Pleasanton Festival I bought some fabric. E-I-E-I-O. 
At Quilting in the Garden I bought a pattern. E-I-E-I-O.

The reason for the E-I-E-I--O theme is that I bought a cloth book at the Pleasanton festival for my granddaughter and I have already sewn it up. That is less than one week from purchase until completion. I think that is a record for me. It worked up quickly and the illustrations are really cute. The colors are cheerful and have a soft appeal to them.

Here are the duck pages. Quack, Quack! There are also pages for pig, cow, lamb, and horse. Oink, Oink! Moo, Moo! Baa, Baa! Neigh, Neigh!

I bought other fabrics at the festival, but mostly what I call basics such as a medium blue that reads as a solid. If you look closely you will see the states. There is also a grey, some black and white graphics, and a fat quarter medley of polka dots.

I also expanded my collection of stripes. 

I am chagrined to admit I caved and bought yet another quilt kit. The color combination just called to me and resistance was futile especially due to the clearance pricing. Here are the fabrics in an array of bright greens, purples, oranges, and turquoises.  They are much richer than this picture shows since the camera flash washed them out a bit.

Here is the pattern that accentuates the wreaths of acorns and berries and flowers.

I also bought five different novelty prints representative of, or at least symbolic of, four of my college suite mates and me. The girls' dormitory at my college, McCormick Hall at MIT, is having a 50th anniversary celebration and there will be a quilt made to commemorate the event. I have made five blocks, one for each of us. I have yet to scribe them with our names. After the event, once my friends have seen them, I will be sure to post the pictures on a future blog along with their feature fabrics. They count as my work in progress for this week.

At the Alden Lane Quilt show I bought this pattern by Sandy Klop that appealed.

Here are photos of some of the quilts displayed that I found inspiring or striking. I love the bright colors, hexagon shapes, and crispness of this one. It is called Flying Circles by Sandy Klop.

I liked the bold shapes and strong primary colors of this one. It reminds me of the game Quirkle. The quilt, like the game, is just plain fun. Is is called Sparkle Clean, also by Sandy Klop.

Just look at all those flying geese!  I can really admire the applique, even though I rarely (actually, never) do it. It too is by Sandy Klop and is titled Folk Art Fancy. It was not until I wrote up this blog post that I realized that my favorites quilts, the ones that I chose to take pictures of were all by the featured artist, and that the one pattern that I bought was also by her.

I was quite surprised to see this quilt made up and displayed at Alden Lane. The quilt top is made from Jo-Ann Fabric's 2006 QuiltBlocks Collection titled Rhythm & Blues and assembled as intended. The quilt artist was listed in the program as Robin Towers.

I, too made a quilt from these blocks but combined them very differently. The story behind my version of block assembly can be found in my June 20, 2012 blog post. I find it quite amazing how different the two can be, starting from the same basic building blocks.

I finished my second Christmas pillowcase, this week. I just re-read my last blog post. Talk about verbose! Yuck! One picture would have said it all. Actually the final paragraph did say it all. I did not need all the other paragraphs. Here is a picture of the two completed pillowcases, illustrating handedness and correct fabric orientation for when on bed.

I am off now to check out other folks' creations at WIP Wednesday at  Here are my stats:

Completed projects since 9/25/13 WIP post:
  1. Firetruck pillowcase - completed fabric orientation post
  2. 2nd Christmas pillowcase
  3. Old MacDonald Soft Book
Ongoing projects:  
  1. Quilt blocks for four college friends and me
  2. Classic Cars strip quilt (August 3, 2013 post)- need to back, quilt, and bind
  3. Grinch quilt (May 22,2013 post) - all borders added, need to back, quilt, and bind
  4. Jack O'Lantern Trio (February 2, 2013 post) - awaiting FMQ
  5. Chicken quilt - awaiting FMQ
  6. Overlapping square wall hanging - awaiting FMQ
  7. Mask quilt (October 19, 2011 post) - hidden away awaiting inspiration for arranging hexagons
New projects since 9/25/13 WIP post:  
  1. 2nd Christmas pillowcase
  2. Old MacDonald soft book E-I-E-I-O
  3. Quilt blocks for four college friends and me
Stats since last WIP:
     Completed  projects - 3
     Currently in progress - assembly completed on 6 of 7;  finishing is my bottleneck
     New projects - 3 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

WIP: Pillowcase Technicalities

I have made many, many pillowcases and blogged about them. I just noticed that I have made several of them  wrong without even realizing it. This post is probably more than you ever wanted to know about sewing pillowcases. But just in case you do not want to ruin that special piece of fabric you have been saving, read on.

My mistake is very noticeable in the fire engine pillowcase I just made for my son is law. When you lean the pillow against the headboard of the bed, the fire engines are taking a nose dive into the mattress or driving up to the ceiling.  I concentrated so hard on keeping the wheels oriented down toward the contrasting fire hose border that I did not realize I was off by 90° and the fire engines were sideways. Somewhat in my defense (in other words, my excuse), the instructions stated that if you have a directional print be sure it "stands" on the contrast band. The instructions called for three quarters yard of feature fabric but did not mention more was required if the fabric were directional.  Come to think of it, the instructions, which I have used many times, originally came from a pillow case kit. The fabric had been pre-selected and was non-directional.

The main body of the pillowcase is sewn from a 27" x 41" piece of fabric. The 27" is the length of the pillowcase and the 41" is the folded-over width. In most cases, for non-directional fabric, it would make sense to use the fabric width for the 41" dimension and three quarters of a yard for the 27" dimension. For most fabrics with a directional print, the up and down direction of the print generally runs parallel to the selvages of the fabric along the length of grain. If you get that 27" from the three quarter yard length direction, the images are sideways when the pillow sits on the bed. For fabrics with an up and down direction of the print parallel to the selvages, like this fire engine print, even though it is the norm for a directional fabric, you need one and a quarter yards of the feature fabric per pillowcase in order to get your 41" dimension.

This did not became obvious to me until I began to make a pair of Christmas pillowcases out of Christmas fabric where the up and down direction of the print runs cross grain. This directionality is not generally the norm but can be found in banded stripe fabrics from a fabric collection. I thought, aha, directional fabric, I will need more. Actually, no, because the up and down direction of the pale fabric on the right runs cross grain I still need only three quarters yard.  

The darker grey fabric on the left has an up and down direction that runs lengthwise with the grain (generally the norm). I used it just for the border. The contrast border is cut 10" x 41". Since it drops over the edge of the mattress anyway I felt the 41" could come from the fabric width and would be pretty wasteful if cut along the length. I did need to fuss with the orientation though so the border did not drop over the edge of the mattress upside down.

I also fussed and considered if I wanted the band to have stocking and doves or snowmen and trees.  But that is another sort of fussiness and irrelevant here. Here is one finished pillowcase and I have one to go.

Since I am making a pair of pillowcases I realized another aspect to consider. The two pillowcases would have a right or left handedness to them so that when the print of the main body was oriented correctly for the bed, one would open to the left and one would open to the right.

It took me longer to describe this than to figure it out.  Hopefully it was arduous enough that I will remember it next time I decide to "whip up a pillow case" or buy that cute novelty print because "I only need three quarters of a yard for a pillowcase".

So in summary:
Up-down fabric direction is along length of grain? Get one and one quarter yards.
Up-down fabric direction is cross of grain? Three quarters yard will do.
Contrast band is directional? Be sure it will drape over mattress edge right side up.
Making a pair? Take care that one opens to left and one opens to right.

I am off now to check out other folks creations at WIP Wednesday at 

Stats since last WIP 9/18/13:
     Completed  projects - 1 pillowcase + helped daughter in Oklahoma move
     Currently in progress - too many, no change in list since WIP 8/21/13
     New projects - 1 pillowcase + recovering from helping daughter move

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Dress Pattern Info

My previous post generated a fair amount of interest in the patterns I used for my granddaughter's dresses. The pattern I used for the owl dress was Simplicity 8814, shown on the left and the pattern I used for the airplane dress was Simplicity 9090, shown on the right.

Both of these patterns date back to the early 1980's.  But my daughter informed me (see comment on previous post) that vintage patterns like these may still be available at the stores and are just no longer shown in the pattern catalogues.  So if you have a specific pattern number in mind, you may still be able to get it from a drawer in the pattern files.  Other source options are or eBay.

I think the next thing I make for Autumn will be from one of these Butterick patterns, handed down from my sister. These are from an even earlier time.  Note the 60 cent and 65 cent prices. I think the sailor collar and pleated skirt are a real cute combination on Butterick 5261 and I very much like the scalloped collar on Butterick 5521.

I'd better sew a bunch of stuff while she is little. Since my stash is mainly from quilting, my lengths of fabric are low yardages. You can only make so many two-toned items of mixed prints before it gets repetitious looking. The other solution, of course, is to buy more fabric...

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

WIP: Granddaughter Dresses

I did not want to miss my third WIP in a row. I have been busy traveling and working on redecorating the living room and I have not done much quilting. I did want to share what I just finished though... two cute little dresses for my 11 month old granddaughter. I can't wait to see her in them!

This one has owls and squirrels and little birdies. I thought the owl buttons were a perfect match.

My daughter wants to be sure her daughter is exposed to toys and prints that are stereo-typed as being for boys. I honored that with this airplane print but I did put lace on the sleeves. The aqua and other blues in this print will go great with my granddaughter's big blue eyes.

My, but my clothing sewing skills were rusty! It was awfully hard to switch back to the HUGE 5/8" seam allowance after all my quilting with a 1/4" seam allowance. Puffed sleeves? I was out of practice on gathering those after all my flat quilts. Notions? I have many boxes of bias tape, hem lace, buttons, rick rack, and elastic but finding them was a challenge and I think took just as much time as the sewing. I did find my tracing kit with wheel and coated colored wax paper for transferring pleat markings and casing line markings. The 59 cent price really dates it. I could not even find the cent sign on my computer keyboard.

I will be checking out other folk's projects tomorrow since it is so late here but at least tonight I wanted to link up to WIP Wednesday at 

Stats since last WIP 8/21/13:
     Completed  projects - 2 dresses
     Currently in progress - too many, no change in list since last time
     New projects - 2 dresses