Rainbow stripes duvet cover

Rainbow stripes duvet cover

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It all started with a rainbow solids jelly roll and it eventually grew into a pieced top and then a duvet cover for my daughter’s 8th birthday. I pretty much made it up as I went along, which is know is not what most beginner quilters do – but it was the process the suited me.

I started by arranging my strips into  pleasing rainbow gradation. I eliminated a few ugly brown and black strips.

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I then taped out the size of a US twin duvet on the floor and starting arranging the strips in patterns.

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I was rather fond of this starburst but all those crazy angles seemed a bit overwhelming. In the end I settled on plain rainbow stripes. This was inspired by a quilt I found online but I cannot for the life of me remember what it was.

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I then bought some white strips and sewed them together too.

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I cut my rainbow stripes and added white stripes to each end (unpicking the appropriate seam from the solid white stripe block), then added plain white panels between.

I then used a plain white twin bedsheets as a lining to the pieced top, so that i wouldn’t have lots of unfinished seams up against the duvet, they would be protected and the whole thing would last longer. I used basting pins to pin the two layers together and then sewed straight lines along the vertical columns. I used a walking foot but still had a fair amount of shifting.

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Then I used another white sheet to create the duvet pocket. You cans see that I used the hemmed sheet ends for the opening itself, and added buttons and buttonholes.

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The buttons were the first I have done on my Juki machine and the first automatic buttonholes that I have ever done. It was pretty fun and easy, and certainly quicker than manual buttonholes, which is what my old mechanical Elna could do.

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I decided to make a matching pillowcase to go with the duvet cover. This is also lined and has a buttonhole closure.

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Here’s how the whole set looks on the bed. US size twin duvets are much wider than the old Australian single size ones (of which I still have a few from my childhood). The duvet hangs down much further one each side of the bed than I was expecting, not that that’s a bad thing. The bed pictured is an Australian single which is apparently 2″ narrower than a US twin mattress.

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Overall both I and my daughter were pretty pleased with this! It was certainly more expensive than buying a duvet cover and pillowcase, but I feel the design is child appropriate and also suitable for an older girl or rainbow-loving adult, so should last a fair while. While a proper quilted quilt might be more timeless, a duvet cover will get a lot more day to day use, and was what my daughter wanted.

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Star quilt – help me out!

Star quilt – help me out!

I am in the midst of planning out my first quilt. I have made two strip pieced tops before, one of which has been turned into duvet cover and the other of which is a problematic UFO that will hopefully one day be a duvet cover, but I have never made an actual quilted quilt. I started out making English Paper Pieced stars because they are cool, but now I’m rather tiring of making them and would like to turn them into an actual quilt.

So far I have 24 stars that are 8″ across. They are not truly symmetric bizarrely, but look and stack differently depending on whether the seam straight across the star is horizontal or vertical. I would like to make a twin/single size quilt which google tells me is roughly 68″ by 88″. I trialled some different options on my lounge room floor using some white tablecloths as the background. Tell me which design I should make!

A. Filled in center

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This option would fill in the rectangle of stars that is semi-outlined here, and then leave a plain white border. The star section would measure 44″ by 63″ and I would need to make another 35 more stars, for a total of 59. I just don’t think I have it in me.

B. Two double diagonals

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Imagine that both of these rows are doubled. A bit like this.

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This would look quite modern and would require 18 more stars, which is still quite substantial.

C. Long diamond

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Like this it would require only one more star. If I added another row on each diagonal it would take another 12 stars. I would turn it 90 degrees too. I am not very fond of this design.

D. Make a tiny quilt

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If I ditched the single bed size idea I could just make a quilt with the stars I have. I would need to add 6 half stars and 10 extra white diamonds to fill in the horizontal edges. It would be 38″ by 31.5″ total and I just don’t know what use I would have for a quilt that size other than hanging it on the wall.

E. Rectangular center with patterned borders

If I took the rectangle of stars about and added one vertical and one horizontal row I could get a rectangle 35″ by 42″ which would leave 16.5″ on the sides and 23″ on the top and bottom if I took it out to single/twin size.

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I could round this to 20″ and add some machine pieced borders, flying geese of some such. Given that I have never made a machine pieced block this would add another level of complexity and stress, but might look quite nice. It would take 8 more full stars and 6 more half stars plus the pieced borders. It would look more traditional.

F. Horizontal diagonal stripe

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This simple two row diagonal stripe on plain white background only takes 22 stars, two less than I have now, which is a relief. I am a bit concerned that it does not look balanced.

G. Vertical diagonal stripe

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This longer diagonal stripe requires only 6 more stars to be made, plus some diamonds filling in the edges. My only concern is that I would end up with ginormous diagonal bias seams when piecing the stars to the background and they could stretch out. Or maybe I could appliqué the stripe of stars onto a whole cloth background?

H. Random applique stars

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Break the stars up and appliqué them onto a white background. Requires no new stars. My eight year old said this was her favorite.

So send me your opinions and advice please! Which idea do you like the best?

 

 

 

 

 

Granny’s Favourite cardigan for Tessa

Granny’s Favourite cardigan for Tessa

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We recently returned home to Australia for a month, and while we were there I finished off this little cotton cardigan for Tessa. This was a good thing since summer was definitely not over yet, and there were some rather blistering temperatures, to which, it seems, I am no longer accustomed.

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The pattern is Granny’s Favourite by Georgie Hallam (now Georgie Nicolson) and it is indeed a big favourite, having over 1000 Ravelry projects. In fact I made this for Tessa before:

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Here she is at 7 days old wearing the 15″ chest size, knit in Bendigo Woollen Mills Luxury 8ply which I hand dyed. The hat was a lovely gift.

This time I made the 21″ chest and the 24 month full length sleeves and body, and the fit is good. This is a well designed pattern and includes nice finishing details, I would definitely recommend it if you like this classic style.

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The buttons are from my Mother-in-law’s button tin and I love them. The yarn is Bendigo Woollen Mills Cotton 8ply in parchment. It’s very smooth and pleasant to knit.

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The neck has stretched out a bit with wearing. Such is the nature of cotton yarn. I was pleased to have finished this so Tessa could wear it in Australia, and I’m sure that it will still fit through the coming US summer as well.

Here is my little girl who has just turned two in the dress that I made for her big sister’s 2nd birthday.

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I’m really happy that it’s getting a second life. Happy birthday Tessa!

 

Flared denim skirt – McCall’s 5431

Flared denim skirt – McCall’s 5431

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So I’ve managed to sew a wearable skirt! It’s a bit of a win, it’s been so long since I had a success. The pattern is McCall’s 5431 which I bought in a pattern sale a few years ago. It’s now out of print. This is a really flared skirt.

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I picked the pattern because I find yoked waists quite comfortable to wear and the pockets seemed quirkily cute.

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They really are giant, but secure enough for my phone.

The fabric is a mid weight, reasonably drapy non-stretch denim from my stash.

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The pattern sizing is a bit annoying. I graded the pattern up three sizes from a 20 to a 26 which should have had a 40″ waist according to the pattern sizes. I was aiming for a 43″ waist and had to take out the zipper and remove 2″ from the centre back. It’s still a bit big and I do really need to wear a belt to keep it up. And I measured the pattern pieces and everything!

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I initially made the view D in the longer length but the mid-calf length plus the volume was pretty dowdy, so I hemmed it back to knee length and used package bis binding for the hem facing.

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This is not, dare I say it, the most flattering skirt shape in the world, but it’s comfortable and practical and get the feeling that I might end up wearing this skirt quite a lot. It also looks good with the shorter length of my silky wool customfit jumper, so that’s a win too!

 

Cancun boxy lace top

Cancun boxy lace top

Finally, a garment that was both a joy to make and a joy to wear! It’s really the pinnacle for every maker, and an especially happy moment for me right now since I seem unable to sew anything wearable at the moment.

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The pattern is the Cancun Boxy Lace Top by Erin Kate Archer, it’s a freebie. I love loose lacy stitches and I see open knits a lot at the moment, but there are very few knitting patterns around for anything like this.

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The top is basically two rectangles knitted separately and then sewn at the shoulder and side seams.

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I was initially nervous about this voluminous shape. Really what suits my figure is wide pants and a fitted top, rather than skinny jeans and a loose top. But it’s exhausting maintaining anti-fashion (eg. there’s very little selection in tall, plus, curvy fit jeans), so here I am wearing a somewhat current shape. It’s actually no too bad.

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The fabric is really soft and drapy, which helps the volume look right. It doesn’t look nearly as much like a tent as I feared.

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(Photos by my 8 year old, after school, in the rain. Top quality head cut off shot here.)

This top was planned as a summer top, to be worn with a singlet top underneath, but I think it works ok with long sleeves in winter too. The yarn is Bendigo Wollen Mill 8ply cotton, in the colour parchment, which I bought years ago when I first learned to knit, but the cardigan I envisioned never happened.

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I really enjoyed knitting this pattern. I always enjoy knitting yarn loosely on larger needles, and I enjoyed the variety of easy lace stitches. This pattern is pretty much an easy lace sampler, and would be a good beginner project. It worked up very quickly.

I made a few modifications to the pattern, adding length by adding more segments, and rather than tinking back a mistake in the middle solid mesh stitch segment I just moved the next pattern row over so it looks like an intention line of three diagonal eyelets. The pattern has a few minor errors, details are on my Ravelry page. This pattern has only one size, and I’m wearing it with 10-11″ of positive ease.

I like this so much I’m thinking of knitting it again in a fingering weight, or maybe a rayon or more slippery yarn. There are just so few lacy top or cardigan patterns out there. Can anyone recommend something similar to this?

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A customfit cardigan

A customfit cardigan

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I have just finished my second Customfit handknit! I’m really pleased with it. It took me 5 months and one day, with a few other small projects interspersed, because knitting such a large project on one hit is a bit taxing.

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The yarn is Bendigo Woollen Mills Alpaca in the color Tosca. It is 100% alpaca and at AU$16/200g it is really a quality yarn at an affordable price. I bought the yarn in November 2010 at the Mill factory shop when I was there with my good friend Sarah and her Mum. Sarah lives in beautiful alpaca jumpers (sweaters) that her mother knits her, mostly all-over patterned Arans, and I wanted to knit a bit of that snuggliness for myself.

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You can see that this is a heathered shade, and there is the occasional fleck of really bright blue. There are a few longer guard hairs in this yarn, it is not as soft as some other super-soft 100% alpaca yarns, and can be a wee bit prickly around my neck. But is has a bit more body and hopefully more durability than a baby alpaca yarn, I guess I’ll see.

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It does have some bloom and fills in the yarn over holes in the lace pattern a bit. That’s ok with me.

This pattern is Foyle’s cardigan and was custom generated to my measurements. Overall I am pretty happy with the fit, at least compared to my last unwearable cardigan. My back piece ended up longer than the fronts, probably due to an inconsistent row gauge on my behalf. I’d say the front length is spot on perfect for me, I could wear this with jeans and not feel that I had an annoying gap. The sleeve length is pretty good too, I choose 19″ from underarm to cuff, and I’d now say that is a minimum length for me. It is certainly not a generous over-long sleeve, when I move around the cuffs pull up.

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It’s hard to tell from these photos, but there is really a lot of positive ease through the body, too much. If I was sewing this I would take in the side seams by an inch on each side. It is certainly a relaxed fit, and it looks very sloppy with anything other than jeans or a fitted skirt. That said, I really do like the way that the back body fits into my waist and is not baggy there. This is from the back waist darts. There is no waist shaping on the fronts.

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Check the shaping! That’s 13 decreases between hip and waist and only 2 increases between waist and bust. This is probably a fair reflection of my bottom-heavy shape.

So customfit gives you choices about the increases and decreases that you use. You can see how my choice of decreases that sloped towards the shoulder gives this line of stitches along the neckline. I wasn’t sure how this would look, but I think it worked out ok, even though the left and right sides look different.

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Overall I am really pleased with this cardigan. Though I do have slight concerns that it is a bit warm for indoor wear, which is a bit of a pity. Outdoors you really need a waterproof coat here in winter, so if it’s too hot for under a coat or indoors then it won’t get a lot of wear. I’ll guess I’ll see. I am very happy that I finished it in time to wear it this winter though.

After I wore this cardigan for an afternoon I realized that I had inadvertently made myself a garment that was very similar to a hand-knit cardigan that my beloved maternal grandmother used to wear. It was a green V-neck cardigan with patterned fronts and plain sleeves and back. I guess that it was knit in 8ply/dk wool. I think that my paternal grandmother may have knit it, and when cleaning out her unit after she moved into residential care it was left behind, where it came to us, and then on to my maternal Grandma. I remember her wearing it quite frequently, often with ribbed wrist cuffs to extend the sleeve length. After she died I claimed it and wore it quite a lot including taking it backpacking around Europe. The sleeves and body were too short and eventually it was purged from my wardrobe. I really did love it though – being a lover of hand knits way before I learned to knit myself. This cardigan is very similar and I don’t even realise it until I was finished.

2016 reflections

2016 reflections

I’m sitting here with coffee and sourdough toast, and it’s 6am on the first of January – I guess it’s time for reflections. After 2014’s year of massive change (having a third baby, moving across the world), I consider 2015 a year of consolidation. In 2015 Althea became much happier at school and has some lovely friends, Julian started at a new, friendly co-op preschool, and Tessa turned into a talking, walking toddler. My Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is finally under control and stable, and I guess I’ve settled into, and accepted, my role as a stay at home parent of three children at this time.

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We managed to get our entire family able to bike ride together – Althea on her own bike with gears and the younger two in a trailer, which is really, really heavy to pull especially since it’s so hilly here, but for someone who used to love her daily cycle commute, being able to take a family Sunday morning bike ride is a big achievement.

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I managed to get into a great lap swimming routine, two evening a week, then it fell apart. I joined a great choir, then it fell apart. That’s ok. I’m starting with a new choir next week, and I’m going to try to set up a home yoga routine, starting with a 30 day yoga camp.

My sewing mojo just disappeared this year, but my knitting mojo fired, probably partly because of my awesome Sunday knitting group. Such an interesting group of women – I’m so lucky to have found them. I did manage to sew a few things including a pieced duvet cover for Althea’s birthday in September. Since Santa brought me an automatic buttonhole foot for Christmas it might actually get it’s button closures some time soon.

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This dress/skirt for Althea is my favorite piece of sewn clothing for the year.

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This skirt is one of the few useful bits of clothing I made for myself this year. I made a lot of duds.

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I made my first Customfit sweater this year which I am very, very happy with. It’s a bit short but is still a great fit improvement on every other sweater I’ve ever knit. I have almost finished my second Customfit, it’s an alpaca Foyle’s cardigan. I am so determined to have it finished while winter is still in full swing – it’s going to be warm.

A wearable sweater – huzzah!

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I’m pretty proud of this Welcome to the Flock set I made for Tessa.

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Baa-able hat for Julian

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The lace required a lot of concentration but I’m so proud of this alpaca Rosewater hat.

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We had three lots of Australian visitors in 2015, my mother-in-law in March, my dear friend in August and my sisters in December. This was just so wonderful and I’m so grateful that they all gave up so my of their time and money to cross the vast Pacific Ocean to see us.

The beautiful rose garden in Portland, Oregon, that I visited with my friend Kate.

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I also survived the three month summer school vacation which was, well, pretty challenging. Our house was very hot, with no cooling and we had quite a few nights when it was too hot to sleep. Three months of being the sole source of entertainment for three children was tough, even with a few activities (holiday programs/day camps) thrown in. I also eventually calmed down when taking taking my three little drowning hazards swimming in the lake. We only took a two day/one night weekend away to Mt Rainier. Next summer we’ll definitely try for more.

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I’m looking forward to 2016. We are taking out first trip back to Australia since we moved here, and it’s going to be timed for sunshine and Womadelaide! It’s going to be bittersweet seeing all our dear friends again and then leaving though. Hopefully summer will be less exhausting.  Julian is starting school in September and Althea is changing schools. I’m going to try Tessa out with a few hours of preschool. Hopefully full nights of sleep will materialize. I’m not going to make crafting goals, as that is too much pressure for me. Crafting fits around the other non-negoitatable things in my life. I make things as the mood takes me, catching the sparks of joy.

A baby in January, a toddler in December 2015.

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Wishing you all the very best in 2016. Another year, another adventure.

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