archives: crafts

home sweet home

pepperknit | embroidered NYC map

I embroidered this map of the boroughs of New York City for my friend Jodi’s birthday gift last year. I plotted all of the apartments she’d lived in—overly accurately, I might add, by overlaying a Google Map of the points atop my borough map, all in Photoshop. This thread was the closest I had to “Jodi aqua,” a color I’ve always associated with her, and red gave it a pop. This came together quickly, and I’m considering making another for myself!

reddit secret santa gift exchange

This past year was my first time participating in Reddit’s Secret Santa gift exchange—and how fun! I was one of almost 200,000 people who signed up to exchange a gift with a complete stranger. Several of my coworkers participated too, and we had fun filling out our profiles and wondering what kinds of gifts we’d get. I was very sure that Bill Gates would give me a private island. (Spoiler: He didn’t get me in the exchange. Bummer.)

Anyway, I got my match’s profile and had no idea what to get! She is passionate about music (which I don’t know anything about), and I wasn’t sure what the perfect gift for her would be. She did mention wine tasting and liking wine so I’ll admit I went the safe route: I got her a Corksicle and an aerating pourer, so whether she wanted white or red she’d be covered. And even though she didn’t talk about being a crafty person herself, I decided to give her something handmade, too.

pepperknit | coaster set

Enter a set of coasters. I found this wine-themed novelty fabric buried deep in my stash (in fact, I remember that I made an apron out of it probably 10 years ago, but for whom? No clue). I wasn’t going to fuss with these: Two 4.5-inch squares and batting sewn together on 3 sides, flipped right side out, open end folded in, top-stitched near the edge. I debated what to do for the quilting lines, and I was pleased to think up this simple “X” because to me it feels like the lines of a wine bottle holder. Is that reaching? Maybe, but I see it and I like that about it.

pepperknit | tree ornament

I also tucked a handmade Christmas tree ornament into the box—though she was doing a Secret Santa, I wasn’t 100% sure that she celebrated Christmas, but I have a ton of the ornaments so I figured why not. (I can’t link to more info on the ornament because it turns out I never blogged about them, doh. I made them in 2013, as you can see in the photo, but hers did not have the year embroidered on it.) In her thank-you note she said she actually collects ornaments! So that was perfect.

And as a nod to the only way that I can relate to her passion for music, I wrote my note to her on the back of a print of this photograph I took at Rudy’s Music Soho (it’s the guitar shop that’s next door to Purl Soho, so I’m around it often even if I have no business being in there!). It’s a desktop wallpaper available at if you’re interested!

pepperknit | guitars

As to what I got? Well, if I couldn’t get a private island, I like what I did get—my Secret Santa picked up on my love of traveling, and she sent me this National Geographic Journeys of a Lifetime book of the best places in the world! Flipping through it is endlessly inspiring; I want to go everywhere!

2014 in review

How is it that two years in a row I declared it the “year of garment sewing,” but I have only one measly finished garment from 2014 to show? Oh well—maybe 2015 is the year? But even if I didn’t make much clothing (in fact, I had an epic failure of a Moss Mini Skirt), I have plenty of finished handmade goodness to show off! Much of it of course is still not blogged—how is it I resolve every year to blog more and then utterly neglect this space by the end of the year? Anyway, I scrolled through my Lightroom and mentally assessed my whole apartment and discovered I’d made a load of things this year!

pepperknit | finished knits in 2014

Let’s talk knitting. Not much, it’s true, given the continued pain I have in my hands. My first magazine cover, though, which was a particular thrill! I wholeheartedly enjoyed knitting Stonecutter, but the more I think about it the more likely I am to give it to my mother, who will wear it proudly when I am likely to ignore it in my sweater drawer. Those squishy monsters are hopefully making some cute babies happy, and though I really didn’t like my Follow Your Arrow upon completion, I wear it regularly! That pillow needs blogging…

pepperknit | finished sewing in 2014

Boy did I sew more quilts than I thought I did. Three full-sized quilts: two for wedding presents, one for us. Two baby quilts (one yet to be blogged, that I’d like to make into a pattern if I could get my act together to do so). Three minis, a set of coasters, and I threw that one garment in here because it’s made of fabric. I’ve been spending the end of the year slashing through my stash, trying to make a dent in the bins that are full to bursting! I am looking forward to making lots more in the coming year, as I think i’ve really got the hang of this quilting thing now. A year ago I was feeling confident but still like a novice; at this point, I think I know my stuff. My technique for basting still needs some work, and as a result I need lots more practice quilting items, but I do think my entry-level sewing machine is at least partly to blame here. It’s time to start saving up for something bigger and better.

pepperknit | finished embroidery in 2014

But what I hadn’t anticipated upon starting this look-back is just how much embroidery I did in 2014. I love how satisfying it is to complete a project; plus it’s so comparatively fast (not like knitting or quilting!). Some of these are the elaborate quilt labels I made, others were just to be framed on their own, and others were part of a group project—they’ll be incorporated into a quilt or wall hanging. My embroidery supplies are in a completely terrible jumble in a Ziploc bag because it seemed like a lark of a craft, but it seems I do it a lot more than I thought, so I ought to get that organized. Tucked in the corner there are two of the onesies I made for the baby shower of my friend; these are complete no-sew projects that are great activities for a shower!

I don’t think I can express more strongly how surprised I was at my turnout this year when I gathered all the photos together today. Before I figured out how much I’d knit, I started to write my paragraph about it and I could think of only two things off the top of my head. Then I started actually looking, and I found that I finished 9 things!? One of them a highly complex cabled sweater? Yeah, I knit quite a bit. How did I not crochet anything, though?

Here’s to more making in 2015! It’ll be a #yearofmaking!

a quilt for us!

At long last, I have made a quilt intended to live on my own couch. I have one other quilt, my beloved KBeeC quilt, but that is large and sometimes we just want a little something on the couch.

pepperknit | arrow tail quilt

I used the templates provided by Sing All You Want for the Arrow Tail quilt, but instead of matching each row I offset every other. I grabbed all shades of aqua, yellow, and gray; many of the fabrics in here are the last bits of some of my very favorites.

Once I finished the quilt top—a straightforward affair, though I am not in love with matching up angled pieces—I decided to keep all the scraps out and work with them to make up the backing. I cut squares and built some improv/wonky log cabins. It was a lovely, mindless sort of piecing and everything came together so nicely. In fact, it seemed easier and more satisfying than the front, where it was so much more structured.

pepperknit | improv pieced quilt back

Ultimately I took a ton of the small remaining triangle-shaped scraps and made those into HSTs that will appear in a different quilt, so I worked with 8 log cabinsto build the backing. I didn’t plan this out carefully at all (the 8 squares didn’t actually match up with the width or height of the front) and I love love love it.

pepperknit | wavy quilting lines

I quilted it with wavy quilting lines, because that’s about all I can handle—my straight lines look wavy, too, so I might as well go for it. I bound it using the machine entirely; this was the first time I’d done that. The front looks really sharp and neat! I’m pretty pleased with how that came out. The seam line for the binding, though, is not flush with the fold from the first fold/seam of the binding, and that makes it more visible. (It’s about an eighth of an inch in from the edge of the binding.) But it’s really even the whole way around, so I don’t really care.

Yay for a successful finish!

when good patterns go wrong

In the fall, I started to crave a cushy, cabled sweater. The kind you pull out on a snowy day to sit on the couch and knit. I scoured Ravelry and ultimately settled on Stonecutter. I wasn’t really clear what the shaping at the ribbing was going to do on me, since it clearly does nothing on the modeled shots (and I knew I did not have her body, but still). I looked at finished pieces, and I wasn’t finding any obvious issues.

But I’ve got issues with it.

Pepperknit | Brooklyn Tweed Stonecutter

The way the “peplum” hits me makes me look impossibly wide, or rounded in ways that my body is not. Now, I’ve gained some weight in the last year, it’s true—ever-slowing metabolism, working from home, all that fun stuff—but this shape is making me look different than I am! Also even though I knit a larger size, my own issues with rowing out (where my purls are ever-so-slightly looser than my knits) meant an overall tightening up from my swatch, so the whole thing got a little narrower, and thus fits more snugly across the bust than I’d hoped it would.

Pepperknit | Brooklyn Tweed Stonecutter

So much else is going for it: the cushiness of Manos, the lovely soft white color (a dye lot issue on the back is something I will just live with and not care; I’m sure when I’m wearing it no one can see where I changed skeins), the warmth! I even enjoyed knitting this quite a bit—even more than a normal knit, because I was knitting it along with my friendĀ Christy Not Hip, and that was fun. I’ve worn it out twice: It looks SO CUTE under a jacket, but if I take that off, I look frumpy.

Pepperknit | Brooklyn Tweed Stonecutter

I finished this on my birthday, nearly a month ago, and I haven’t made a peep about it since because I’ve been debating unseaming the entire thing and adding length to the body. (Which, let me note, I already did: I knit a solid extra inch more than what the pattern calls for.) I really, really don’t want to bother unseaming and reknitting anything on it (I’d have to frog to below the arms). But I also really don’t want to wear the sweater as is very much. I’ll give it a few more weeks to decide, I guess.

Pepperknit | Brooklyn Tweed Stonecutter

My mom says I should just give it to her; she doesn’t mind it exactly the way it is (though it widens her too). We’ll see.