Pillowcase Renovation

Quite a while ago I bought a pair of pillows for our living room. They weren’t very expensive, and at the time they were exactly what we needed.

Recently we decided to change the colour scheme of our decorations, and realized these pillows didn’t go with our new colours. Armed with scissors, a sewing machine, and a couple of those fancy pillowcases that came with a comforter but never got used, I decided to make new cases for our pillows.

I was lucky that the existing pillow cases were the right width for my pillows. They were, however, quite a bit too long.

I started by measuring the width of the cases, and using that measurement to mark a cutting line along the length.

Next I used my seam ripper to detach the binding from the edge that would be cut off.

I bought zippers to make it easy to get the new cases off and on, so now it was time to install them. My first attempt didn’t go so well. I sewed the zipper to the front piece first, which made it impossible to sew it to the back piece. I ripped this out and started again.

Zipper attempt number 2 went much more smoohly. First I turned the raw edge of the back piece under and sewed it down. Then I turned the edge under again and sewed the hem over the edge of the zipper. This made a nice, neat inside with no raw edges. Once that was done I sewed the other side of the zipper down to the front piece.

My zipper was longer than my pillowcase, so I sewed a tack where I wanted the zipper to stop and clipped both ends.

Finally it was time to sew the binding over the edges. I won’t say my stitching is perfect, but it gets the job done.

The pillowcases fit perfectly, and work beautifully with our decor. This was a relatively simple project that was made almost entirely from stash. I’ve kept the pillow forms and pillowcases from the landfill, and saved money since I didn’t have to go out and buy new pillows. I call that a win!

2019 Year in Review

This is the time of year when so many of us take time to look back on what we did last year and plan ahead for the coming year. Here is what I made in 2019.

  • Knitting:
    • Finished Items: I finished 4 knitting projects in 2019, which is significantly lower than in past years. I’ve had a lot going on with work last year, which has cut into my crafting time. Also I’ve been doing a lot more non-knitting crafts and making a larger variety of items.
      • Cobbled Hat
      • Bounce Baby Blanket
      • Headset Hats for my work team
      • Secret Shawl (More details are coming later this year. Patience is a virtue.)
      • Various washcloths – this is an ongoing project as we wear through our existing stash of washcloths.
    • In Progress:
      • 3 shawls
      • 2 sweaters
      • A hat
      • Socks
      • Slippers

knitting in progress

  • Weaving:
    • Finished Items:
      • Hand towels – these were a log cabin colourwork pattern using worsted weight cotton, and I gave them to my mom before I got photos.
    • In Progress:
      • Handspun/mohair wrap

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  • Sewing:
    • Finished Items:
      • Checked Blouse
      • Sashiko Square
      • Plaid Circle Skirt (I have yet to blog about this, but rest assured, details and photos are coming.)
      • Regency era chemise
      • Small embroidery
    • In Progress:
      • English Paper Pieced Quilt
      • Burgundy Linen Dress – this is a mashup of a circle skirt, and a vest pattern that I adore.
      • Red Sleeveless Blouse – I started this before I got married. It’s time it was finished.
      • Converting a skirt to a tunic – I’m not sure if this project can be rescued, but I am determined to try!
      • Regency era short stays
  • Other Crafts:
    • Finished Items:
      • I have baked a lot of bread! My focus this year has been on sourdough.
      • My sister and I collaborated to make a Narnia-themed mobile for my nephew.

2019 has been a busy year! I can’t wait to see what 2020 holds!

Thanksgiving Roadtrip – 2019

I haven’t been with my family for Thanksgiving for over 10 years. Most of the family lives in sunny Arizona, while I’m in South Carolina. That’s a big trip, especially at the holidays. This year I started planning early, and I planned big. I let all my siblings know I was coming and I hoped that we could all be together at Thanksgiving. I talked dates with my husband, and we both requested time off from work. We planned and packed, and finally the day came: time to leave for 2 whole weeks with my family!

Day 1: Travel

We got up at the crack of dawn and drove 18 hours our first day. It was exhausting, but worth it. We hit 8 states that day, and spent the night in Amarillo, Texas. I brought a sweater with me as travel knitting. 

South Carolina

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Georgia

Alabama

Mississippi (where I did a little sweater surgery)

Tennessee

Arkansas

Oklahoma

Texas

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Day 2: Travel

On day 2 we spent about 10 hours on the road. We were wiped out from the previous day, so we stayed the night in Flagstaff, Arizona. As we went further and further west we started seeing red rock and cacti. It felt like home.

Texas

New Mexico

Arizona

Day 3: Travel + Family Time

We drove the 2 hours from Flagstaff to Phoenix, and spent the rest of the day resting and enjoying being with my family.

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My sister drew this picture of me as a Lord of the Rings character. We’re all nerdy and artistic in this family!

Days 4-5: Family Time

We laughed a lot and made Christmas cookies. We were also able to spend some time with friends. My husband made us all eggnog (pro tip: homemade eggnog is way better than store bought).

Day 6: Thanksgiving Day

We made even more cookies, and cooked Thanksgiving dinner as a family. We decorated my mom’s house with Christmas lights. All my siblings and even some adopted siblings were able to make it. This was such a pleasant, homey day. It was everything I wanted it to be.

Day 7: Travel

My grandma lives in California, so we headed over to see her, as well as my aunt, uncle, and cousins.

Arizona

California

Day 8: Sightseeing

My husband and I went to the San Diego Zoo, then watched the sunset at the beach. 10/10, would recommend!

Day 9: Family Time + Thanksgiving 2.0

We spent the morning with my grandma, then had a second Thanksgiving dinner with the California branch of the family. This was the first time my husband got to meet this side of the family.

I had brought my sourdough starter to make bread for the family, and expose it to some different yeasts/conditions, and this is the day I made sourdough bread (for the record, I don’t think my sourdough bread tastes any different now that I’m home).

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Day 10: Travel

Back to Phoenix for one last day with my family.

California

Arizona

Day 11: Family Time + Packing

Getting ready to leave is always bittersweet.

Day 12: Travel

No matter where you’ve been or who you’ve been with, there’s something satisfying about heading home.

Arizona

New Mexico

Texas

Oklahoma (it was dark and we were tired)

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Day 13: Travel

Home again, home again, jiggedy jog.

Oklahoma

Arkansas

Tennessee

Mississippi

Alabama

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Georgia

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South Carolina

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This was the best Thanksgiving I can remember. Thanksgiving is a hard time of year for my family, and it was so good to make some truly spectacular memories of this holiday. I am so glad we went, and very thankful to my husband for driving us 5,000 miles/60 hours across the country (I tried to drive, but he wouldn’t let me).

2019 Roadtrip

New Pattern: the Cobbled Hat

Pssst! Y’all, I’m sure you’ve already noticed, but Christmas is in 4 days! A lot of us are in panic knitting mode, desperately trying to get all our handmade gifts finished in time for Christmas morning. If you have a hat on your knitting list, might I suggest a pattern that I just published in Knotions Magazine?

This is the Cobbled Hat. It’s worked in worsted weight yarn on US 7 needles. Translation: this is a really quick knit. It only took me a few evenings to knit my samples. You can totally whip one (or a few) of these up in time for Christmas!

The pattern is written in 2 sizes, to fit adults and children. It’s a really stretchy stitch pattern, which makes it more likely to fit a larger variety of heads. I knit the sample to be slightly slouchy, but if you’re crunched for time you can make the body of the hat a bit shorter and it will be a fantastic beanie.

Check out the crown decreases. I am so proud of how pretty these are! The hat is shown on a lovely lady, but it looks great on men as well. The first version of this hat was for my Father-in-Law. He wears it incessantly in the colder months.

The stitch pattern is very simple and easy to memorize, but still looks like you worked hard on it. The only skills needed for this hat are casting on, knitting and purling in the round, a central double decrease, and weaving in the ends. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy!

I hope you love the Cobbled Hat as much as I do. I am immensely proud of this pattern. I can’t wait to see it worked up in stripes and gradients and all sorts of colours!

Merry knitting, friends, and Happy Christmas!

** All photos in this post are (c) Kellie Nuss for Knotions Magazine.

Sashiko!

This year has had a bit of a theme for me: experimentation. I’ve been experimenting with spinning methods, with sourdough baking, and with sewing everything in sight. One of my experiments was with Sashiko: Sashiko is a Japanese method of quilting/surface embroidery that uses (mostly) running stitches to create interesting designs. Traditionally Sashiko is used decoratively as embroidery as well as to mend or reinforce fabrics in a beautiful way.

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I had a bit of an ivory linen-blend fabric left over from a previous project, so I cut it into 2 squares, drew a grid, and started sewing. I love the Persimmon Flower stitch pattern, and I used this blog post from Sake Puppets as a tutorial.

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The first pass of stitching didn’t look like much, but then I turned the piece 90 degrees and started the second part of the pattern, and that’s when the magic happened! It was thrilling to see these beautiful persimmon flower shapes appear stitch by stitch.

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I found this project to be very meditative, and the finished project is quite beautiful. The front and back look different, and both are quite lovely.

persimmon

Once I had finished the decorative stitching, I folded the edges of the squares to the inside and whip-stitched the edges closed.

Hexagons

I was introduced to English Paper Piecing a little while ago. For those of you who are not familiar with it, English Paper Piecing (EPP) is a quilting method that uses pre-cut pieces of paper as a template to make sure your fabric pieces are sewn together perfectly. It helps you avoid wonky edges and crooked lines.

When I first ran into it, I thought it sounded like a lot of fuss and bother, but it was rather pretty. I followed the hashtag on Instagram so I could see more beautiful pictures of this art form.

Friends, if your goal is to avoid starting a new project or hobby, following a related hashtag is not the way to keep yourself out of trouble. I resisted the lure of a new, shiny craft for quite a while, but I finally crumbled after my birthday.

I went to JoAnn’s and bought some fabric and some templates. I fussy-cut out a bunch of hexagons. I basted each bit of fabric around a template, and whip stitched them together. I was hooked.

What started as a quick project to see if I liked the craft has now become a plan for a full-blown quilt. Send help. And more templates.

Spin Together

Early this month my spinning group joined a friendly competition called Spin Together. The goal was to spin throughout the week. Some people are very competetive about these things and spend gobs of time to spin loads of yarn. I was not in a situation where I could do that (even though I am a very competetive person), so I took a more laid back approach. My goal was to spin every day and to finish some projects I had started.

I spun 5 out of the 7 days, so I didn’t quite meet my goal to spin every day. But I did finish 2 projects, and ended up with some very lovely yarn.

The first project was a handful of Jacob rolags. Deb from Merciful Hearts Farm is part of our spinning group, and she generously shared some sample fleeces with the group. Jacob is a peculiar breed: their fleeces are mottled and splotched with different colours. I had never worked with Jacob or with unwashed wool before this spin. I separated the locks by colour and carded them up into rolags.

I spun the rolags in colour order from darkest to lightest. In order to preserve the colour order in the finished yarn I chain-plied it. I have a hard time getting enough twist in my woolen singles, so they quite often break. To combat this, I started the plying stage with a simple prep step: I chained the singles around a book without adding twist. This allowed me to control the chain length and twist better, and my handling of the delicate singles was much more careful.

You can see that I used my newest toy to spin this sample: it’s the Electric Eel Wheel Nano. The Nano did a great job spinning the yarn, but the fuzzy wool caught on the yarn guides quite frequently. Also, when plying after the bobbin was about halfway filled it stopped wanting to wind on. I will need to play with the Nano more to see how these issues can be worked out.

My second Spin Together project was a skein I started back in April. I used my Majacraft Pioneer for this spin. The fiber was a blend of Targhee, Rambouillet, and Columbia wools from Apothefaery Fibers that I bought at SAFF last year. The colours reminded me of fire and of a clear Autumn morning.

I had spun the singles quite fine, and plied them end to end with a lot of extra twist. This took me about 2 months, then I went to Manila, and didn’t return to my project for over 4 months. My goal was to make a crepe yarn, so at this point I was about 2/3 of the way through the project. In late September I started spinning another singles, this time in an undyed BFL/silk blend. During the week of Spin together I finished spinning these singles, and plied the singles with the 2-ply to finish the crepe.

I knew I was pushing the boundaries of how much yarn my bobbin would hold. The original 2-ply was 4 oz, and the crepe ply was at least another 2 oz (most bobbins hold 4oz or less). In the end the yarn was finished in a very dramatic way. I had gone to our spinning group meetup, and was plying away, hoping against hope that the yarn would all fit. I got to the very end of the bobbin, and my wheel wouldn’t wind any more on. So I enlisted some help: I treadled while another friend walked the plying yarn out behind me, and another friend watched to make sure the yarn didn’t come off my bobbin and get wrapped around the drive shaft!

We worked together to finish this yarn, it all miraculously fit on the bobbin, and I was rewarded with 580 yds of a beautiful sport-weight crepe yarn. Just look at it!

If you need me in the future, I will be spinning all the crepe yarn. I love the roundness of the yarn and the very visible, unusual construction.