Friday, February 28, 2014


I'm still waaaaaaay too scared to ever attempt a full-size quilt, but I am having fun testing my piecing skills on table runners.  No matter how hard I try (and how much spray starch I use), I still have issues with things going wonky.  I can't even imagine how crazy it would get with these tiny mistakes compounding themselves over something the size of a quilt.  It boggles my mind how Corey's Granny was able to make such a perfect queen-sized quilt for us.  Anyway, here are two of my latest finished table runner attempts.

This one is to replace the Valentine's Day one on my kitchen island.  I am not always known for getting holiday decorations put away immediately after a holiday passes, but I'm definitely known for bitching about things like the Christmas lights that are still up (at the very end of February!!!) at the entrances to our neighborhood and at various homes around town.  Good lord, people.  I know it's cold outside and you don't necessarily have to take the lights down, but do you have to still keep turning them on (or forgetting to turn off the timers) every night?  This table runner is sort of St. Patrick's Day-ish, but it could work year-round.

I wanted to try a fun technique I read about at Actually Amy for piecing with HSTs (half-square triangles) where you sew two squares with right sides together (all the way around) and then slice and dice on the diagonals.  Open them up and voila, you have four squares made of HSTs!

The fabric was from a pack of fat eighths that I had bought on a whim months ago.  The binding is just packaged quilt binding.  I probably should have added sashing around the edges so the binding wouldn't cut off the points of the diamonds, but I'm still learning!

To quilt it, I spray basted some felt to the back (and added some dark green Kona cotton as the backing) and then sewed on either side of each of the seams.  Holy cow, that took a ton of thread.  I had to run back to the store for more to finish.

The next one was made from a bit of a bundle of fat quarters I had also bought on a whim.  I used the stack & slash method from Samelia's Mum (the same one I had used for Ivette's table runner), but put two rows of them on top of each other to make it fatter.  Charlotte declared this one to be an Easter table runner, so maybe it will go on the kitchen island once St. Patrick's Day has passed.

The batting is felt and the backing is some left over navy bottom-weight fabric left over form Peter's Halloween pirate vest.  My machine was NOT pleased for some reason with this choice, and kept skipping stitches while I was quilting it (even after I changed needles, rethreaded the top and the bobbin threads, changed tension, changed settings, etc.).  Lesson learned -- use a lighter-weight fabric for the backing.  It probably would also help if I got a walking foot.  I quilted using the same "sew on either side of the seams" technique, but I only sewed around the blocks.  I got tired of picking out the quilting with the skipped stitches and decided this was plenty of quilting for a simple table runner.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Afghan Ahoy!

So, I have said for a long time that I would never crochet another afghan (the time! the cost! the boredom!), but when I heard about Moogly's Afghan Crochet-a-Long, I was intrigued.  To make a long story short, my favorite crochet blogger organized a fun project where she would post a free pattern for a 12" square (also called a block) every two weeks, and 24 blocks later, voila-- you have an afghan!  Well, you need to sew or stitch them all together, but still, the hardest work will all be done.  Plus, a whole community of crocheters (hookers is my preferred term, of course) will be doing it all together, communicating via Facebook and Ravelry.

I was still a bit skeptical that this would be as fun as it sounded until my awesome playgroup and crochet buddy, Joann, said she was going to give it a try.  All right, I thought.  Let's go!  8 weeks later, here's how I'm doing so far:

Bam!  I am having a blast.  It is so fun to post pictures of the completed blocks on Moogly's Facebook page and on the Moogly CAL 2014 forum on Ravelry.  We're all using the exact same patterns, but each hooker chooses his/her own yarn brand and colors, so everyone's blocks are turning out very different.  It is so amazing to see everyone's afghans coming together.

Oh, sorry-- Sonia wants me to post this picture of her posing with the blocks:

Because of all my doily crocheting experience (good grief, those patterns are complicated), I'm not having much trouble with the afghan block patterns.  But, on the Ravelry forums, anyone who is having trouble can post their questions and even upload pictures of their partially-finished blocks; then, other hookers can respond and give help where needed.  I am so in love with Ravelry (click here to check out my projects).... Once again, I have Joann to thank for encouraging me to get in involved with that website.  It's a great place to keep track of all my projects, see other projects that people have made with the exact same pattern that I am using, and find new and fun patterns to try.

Anyway, back to the Moogly Crochet-a-Long....  I am using 4 different colors of worsted-weight Caron One-Pound yarns.  The "claret" red isn't as bright in person as it is in these pictures.  I'm edging each block in the same dusty navy color to give a more homogenous look to this patchwork quilt.  Here are closer pictures of my afghan blocks (which have not yet been "blocked", which means soaked in water and pinned into a perfect square shape):

Anticipation Mystery (by Margaret MacInnis)

Catalina (by Julie Yeager)

Hugs N Kisses (by Aurora Suominen)

Veronica's Rose (by Melissa Green)

I can't wait to see what other blocks Moogly chooses for us to crochet!  And I'm dying to see how the afghan will turn out.  This is going to be one heavy blanket....  I'm definitely not letting Sonia use this one in her fort-building activities with Daddy.  I'll have to find a good place in our new house in Texas to display this labor of love.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Detroit Tigers tote bag

Charlotte's elementary school is holding some type of fundraiser that I haven't really taken the time to understand, but I know each class is supposed to put together a themed basket full of fun things to be auctioned off (or something like that).  I was informed that the theme was "Detroit Tigers", so I figured I could sew a little something for the basket using some Tigers fabric.  Unfortunately, Jo-Ann's was out of said fabric (though I did find University of Washington fabric for some reason???) and I was too lazy to drive all over the place to hunt some down.  Appliqué to the rescue!

The solid fabrics are both duck cloth.  The chevron fabric is a thin quilting cotton.  The straps (it's one continuous loop, so maybe I should just say strap?) are a nylon webbing.  As usually happens when I design my own bag, I am not thrilled with the outcome and would do many things different if I ever made it again.  For future reference, my cut list was two pieces of 18" x 9" in navy, one piece of 18" x 10" in orange, two pieces of lining cut to 18" x 14" (probably should have been more like 18" x 13.5"), and the nylon webbing was 3 yards long.  I boxed the corners at about 5 inches (along the hypotenuse).

For some reason, I thought it would be cool if the logo was on both the navy and the orange parts of the tote bag, but in hindsight I wish I had made it smaller and only sewn it on the navy part.  I also was an idiot and chose chevron fabric even though I always hate using it because it's almost always printed off-grain.  Let's just hope the poor soul who purchases the Room 17 Kindergarten basket doesn't notice.

Despite my best efforts, one strap ended up remarkably longer than the other.  I have absolutely no idea how this happened.  There's no way to get the strap off an adjust it, so I'm going to have to cut the strap down near where it meets the bag and take a bit out.  Let's hope I can sew it together cleanly enough that the purchaser doesn't notice.  I'm also not thrilled with how there are teeny threads sticking out from between the stitches around the "D".  I keep trying to trim them, but I can't seem to cut them close enough.  So, I'm not in love with this bag, I will most definitely not bother putting a label with my name on it inside, and I hope to heck that no one I know buys our class basket!

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Erin's crochet project bag & bagsket

Ages ago, I was trying to figure out a good design for Brad & Amanda's Gallon o' Games Bag, and set aside a prototype that had not ended up as I had envisioned it.  Erin happened to see it when she was visiting and declared it the perfect bag for her crocheting projects.  I happily handed it over, and promptly forgot about documenting it.  Luckily, Erin recently remembered that it had never been documented on the blog and sent me these photos.

The bag has a draw string top and the sides are made of clear vinyl -- Erin shares a love of see-through bags, just like me.  The fabric at the top was purchased waaaaaay back when I was first learning to sew during law school (probably in 2001 or 2002, from a dinky little sewing machine retail and repair shop that also carried a bit of fabric).  The red fabric on the bottom is from an old tablecloth that had been a wedding gift but met an untimely demise not long after.  The handles are black nylon webbing, I believe.

I like the ornery cat, chillin' in the background of the picture.

That bag was actually not the first crochet project bag I had made Erin.  Originally, I made her a "bagsket" (using Foofangle's tutorial)  It turned out to be a little small for Erin's purposes, since she's usually working from full skeins of yarn.  This is the top view, with the drawstring top closed:

And with it open:

The fun thing about the bagsket is the nifty pockets all along the inside.

Smaller skeins of yarn fit better in this bagsket.

This was one of those hard lessons learned when using directional fabric.  Yup, those flowers are upside down.  DOH.

On one side, I got them right side up.  The funny thing is, Erin claims she didn't even notice until I pointed it out to her.  I should learn to just keep my big mouth shut.

As long as Erin keeps crocheting us awesome stuff, I'm happy to make her 18 more project bags and baskets!!!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Nate's Dragon

No, not PETE'S dragon.... NATE's dragon!  My friend, Pauline, saw the Smaug that I made for my dragon-loving husband, and she asked if I might have time to whip up a dragon for her husband for Valentine's Day (note that I waited to post this until after Valentine's Day!).  We looked at a bunch of dragon patterns, and Pauline chose a really cool Asian dragon pattern and, after slyly asking her husband what color he would like for a theoretical pet dragon, chose blue with gray highlights.  And here is the finished result!

I think I need to take a break from dragons for a while-- the patterns for both Smaug and this dude contained errors and it took a lot of mental energy to guess what the pattern author intended.  Are dragon patterns cursed?  I had similar issues with the baby dragons that I made for Rose last year! Oh well.  All of those dragons still turned out awfully cute....  I'll probably crochet another dragon before I know it.

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Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day crochet for Sonia's teachers

Sonia's two lovely teachers deserved two lovely Valentine's Day gifts, so I chose two awesome patterns to crochet them.  I had seen both of these patterns float by on Pinterest several times and knew they would be perfect!  First, I made this awesome Danish heart (find the free pattern here), which is just like those adorable little heart baskets we all made with construction paper when we were kids.  It turned out so cute!!

Side 1:

Side 2:

It opens up into a little basket, which I filled with candy, of course.  Hershey's Kisses.  Mmmmmmm.......

Love this!!!!  I will definitely be making this pattern again in the future.

But, I get bored making the same crocheted pattern over and over, so I made something different for the other teacher.  This heart scarf (find the free pattern here) looked so delicate and pretty, and when I realized I had the right yarn for it (pink fingering/sock-weight yarn left over from the African Flower ponies), I got to hooking.  When I ran into a problem with the scarf turning out too short, I checked out other people's heart scarf projects on Ravelry, and I was not alone in this!  In the end, I made a scarf with 32 heart motifs rather than 24.  And, I added two rounds of single crochet stitch edging rather than just the one.  Unfortunately, I ran out of the pink yarn near the end, so I ripped one round out and finished it off with cream yarn instead.  I love the way it looks!

I'm annoyed with myself that I didn't have someone model this in a picture.  Maybe Mrs. O will wear it one day and I'll get to take a blurry cell phone picture of her.

This pattern is really adorable, and I would definitely make this one again, too.  But I want to try it with sport weight yarn next!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Valentine's Day table runner

I have accumulated quite a few Valentine's Day decorations over the past decade of being married, but I didn't have anything cute to put on the kitchen island.  My mother-in-law had bestowed upon me a bunch of holiday-themed fabric scraps a few months back, so I dug through them and pulled out some with hearts on them to mix in with a couple from my stash.  One morning of watching Peter and his bestie, Ben, playing in the basement, plus a bit of time the next afternoon while the boys were playing at Ben's house, and voila!

The runner is about one yard long, and about 14" wide.  I used store-bought quilt binding bias tape for the edging because I was too lazy to make any of my own.

I cut the strips 3" wide, sewed three of them together, cut the strips into squares, and stuck them together in alternating directions.  Worked out a tad better than previous quilting efforts.  Here is a better shot from overhead.  Peter had a conniption when he saw me standing on the island, and then demanded to come up as well.  Um, no.

I'm low on felt, so I actually used two layers of fusible fleece in between the top and backing.  They weren't really fused to anything, though.  The backing is the red striped fabric (from an old sheet my friend, Kym, gave me to use for sewing projects).  I'm still too chicken to do anything other than straight-line quilting, so I just drew a grid on with a water-soluble fabric marking pencil and went to town.

Unfortunately, the blue marking pencil is not quite as water-soluble as I was led to believe, so you can still see it in spots.  I'm petrified to wash this thing, but that might be the thing necessary to clean it up.  My kids are bound to spill something on it soon, anyway!

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Saturday, February 8, 2014

Silvana's birthday backpack

Charlotte has declared Silvana to be her bestest friend in the world, except for Shelby.  Keep in mind that these girls have never had a playdate outside of school in their lives, and you will quickly realize that Charlotte has a penchant for hyperbole similar to Corey and me.  Regardless, when Charlotte was invited to Silvana's sixth birthday party I knew I had to make something adorable for such a sweet little girl.  When I volunteered at school this week, I asked Silvana what her favorite colors are, and she answered (of course) "pink and purple".  Charlotte has also talked endlessly about Silvana's love for cats, so I figured a pink Hello Kitty lined drawstring backpack would be just the thing for her.

The outside is a gaudy hot pink duck cloth.  I grabbed a few things from the Target dollar bins to put with the backpack to complete the gift.  The drawstrings are black parachute cord.  Here is the backpack closed:

The lining is the same quilting cotton fabric as the appliqué on the outside.

Somehow, I conned Corey into taking Charlotte to the party this afternoon.  I have been to plenty of parties at Pump It Up and have no desire to attend any more if I can help it.  Not sure when the kids are finally old enough that the parents don't have to go to these birthday parties and stand around awkwardly pretending to have fun, but it can't be too soon for me.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Sam's Skunk Hat

Way back in September, Sonia's little buddy, Sam, turned 5.  I heard from his parents that Sam is obsessed with Pepe Le Pew from Looney Tunes, so I started looking for a good Pepe or generic skunk pattern.  This one looked AWESOME, but it was a bigger project that I had hoped to do, and I was running out of time before the birthday party.  Then it hit me-- what might be just as fun as having a stuffed skunk to play with?  Wearing a skunk hat and pretending to be Pepe Le Pew!  So, I freehanded a skunk hat (the base hat pattern was, of course, my favorite Hello Kitty hat pattern from the Crochet in Color blog, but the white part and the ears were made up by me).

Did I remember to take a picture of the hat before I gave it to the little 5-year-old skunk lover?  Nope.  But I saw him wearing his hat at preschool the other day, and he gave me permission to take a couple of blurry cell phone pictures for posterity:

No crochet project left behind.  Must document them all.

Happy birthday five months later, Sam!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Birthday backpack

Charlotte's classmate, Joslyn, had her sixth birthday party last weekend.  As a gift, I sewed one of Sweet Bee Buzzing's Lined Drawstring Backpacks (just like the one I sewed for Maisie last summer, with different appliqué and fabrics).  Here it is, open:

I added some appliqué just for fun, using the lining fabric.  The red fabric is canvas (left over from Barb's baskets) and the polka dotted fabric is a quilting weight cotton.

For the straps, I used some 1"-wide cotton webbing.  For fun, I triple stitched some red and turquoise on them.  Each strap is 52" long, so it took a REEEEEEEEALLY long time to do all that stitching.  It does make the straps a lot more fun, though.

Here is a shot with the bag closed.

I love the lining fabric.  Multi-colored polka dots are always fun.

A note about the tutorial -- the instructions say to leave a gap for the straps in the lining.  Then, in the comments, a reader points out to the author that those gaps are not really necessary and the author agreed.  I hadn't read the comments before I sewed Maisie's backpack, but I remember wondering why the heck those gaps were in the lining.  This time, I read the comments first and skipped that unnecessary (but totally harmless) step!  

Monday, February 3, 2014

Kieran's Shark Hat

SHARK HAT!!!!  I loved this shark crochet hat pattern the second I saw it on the Repeat Crafter Me blog, and I thought my hilarious godson, Kieran, was the perfect guy for it.  Sonia graciously modeled it here:

My one issue is that when the dorsal fin was stuffed, it looked too much like a horn (it wasn't flat enough), so I added a couple of stitches to make it flatter.  Unfortunately, in these pictures, those stitches show up really well!  You can't see them as bad in person.

Merry belated Christmas, Kieran!  Hopefully I'll get a picture of you wearing it sometime soon.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Smaug and the desolation of my crocheting skills

A note for the uninitiated: Smaug is the dragon in J.R.R. Tolkien's book, The Hobbit. Anyone who has spent a good amount of time with my husband, Andrew, knows of his love for all things Tolkien.  So, when I came across Christine Nast's amigurumi pattern for Smaug, the fearsome dragon who terrorizes Middle Earth and lays on top of his treasure under a mountain for a ridiculously long time, Andrew's eyes lit up and he begged me to crochet it for him.

This is NOT a hard pattern.  It is adequately-written, and if you follow all of the instructions you can even add LED lights for the dragon's eyes (yeah, I skipped that part).  But for several reasons, this pattern and I had a rough go.

Problem #1: I am such a tight crocheter that when I followed the pattern for the wings, they ended up all curly and wouldn't lie flat.  So, I crocheted 4 wings and slipstitched two layers together to make two double-thick wings.

Problem #2: Andrew had a fairly specific picture of Smaug in his mind, so he helped me come up with the design for Smaug's neck frill.  Unfortunately, I am not that great a crochet designer, so it took me several attempts to actually crochet something that looked like what Andrew was describing.

Problem #3: For some reason, I had trouble with the pattern's instructions for a forked tail (which the pattern author had based on the image of Smaug that Tolkien painted in his watercolor entitled "Conversations with Smaug"). So, I freehanded this forked tail.

Problem #4: By far the biggest issue I had was that the belly coloring (which is done by switching back and forth between the body color and the belly color as you crochet the body) is not symmetrical.  That caused me to have a really hard time sewing the legs and the wings on because I could NOT get them placed properly.  Symmetrical detailing is an issue that all amigurumi crocheters have, and this pattern was giving me fits.  ANYWAY, I ended up completely unraveling (or "frogging") the entire body and tail, re-doing it in one color, and free-handing a separate belly piece to be sewed on later.

Problem #5: I am a bad surface crocheter (crocheting on the surface of an already-crocheted piece); in this case, I was trying to crochet the pink sparkly spine onto Smaug after he was already stuffed.  The pattern called for you to add the spine before he was stuffed, but for reasons I can't even begin to get into, I needed to stuff this poor dragon before I could add the spine.  Getting the spine right took two attempts and it was pretty hard on my hands.

Enough complaining.

On to my favorite detail!  Smaug lays on top of his treasure for so long that some of it becomes fused to his belly and chest, acting as armor, making it hard for the dwarves to kill him.  I wasn't satisfied with just crocheting the belly piece out of metallic yarn (my first idea), so I ended up spending about 3 1/2 hours sewing individual metallic beads on the belly panel to simulate his treasure "shield".

Sooooo, there's supposed to be one bare area on his chest that a dwarf aims for to finally kill this mean old dragon with an arrow.  Unfortunately, the metallic beads kind of blend in with the metallic yarn I used, so you can't see the bare spot all that well in these pictures.  It's more obvious in person (especially when you run your fingers over the area).  Oh well. Live and learn.

At any rate, Smaug is FINISHED and Andrew loves him.  Maybe when the sun decides to shine again, I'll take this dragon outside and try to get a good shot of him laying on some treasure (maybe Sonia's plastic gold doubloons?).  I don't think I'll attempt this pattern again any time soon (especially because I idiotically did not take notes on my freehanded items), but I'm happy with this result.