After I knit the Mama + Baby Monsters last year I was on a bit of a monster kick. I grabbed a copy of Rebecca Danger’s The Big Book of Knitted Monsters and picked a different blobby guy to knit for friends in Colorado. They took in a baby who needed care and love, and I realized that they probably weren’t going to get a traditional baby shower. So I knit Dot up in the same Baby Alpaca Grande Tweed by Plymouth Yarn, and even employed the same technique for making the little eyes. (I opted not to add the “dot” around one eye that gives the original her name.) I striped it to make it a little different and omg how cute is this guy!
I’m an experienced knitter, not afraid of any technique, from steeking to intarsia. But I’d never entrelaced. Which is weird, because I’m friends with Rosemary Drysdale, the expert on the subject. And her newest book features a round swatch of entrelac that was, I thought, crying out to be made into a nice round pillow. Back at TNNA in June, I was given a few skeins of the new yarn Mrs. Crosby Carpet Bag, and I decided it was just the thing for my round pillow, so I cast on and got going.
I found that entrelac is super easy, but to get it to look really nice you have to be just a touch fussy, picking up sometimes more stitches than you need to ensure all holes are closed. I learned when you work in the round if you accidentally miss one segment you are screwed and have to frog days and days of work. And I also discovered that you can’t just keep sizing up, or you’ll end up with a rippling mess.
This shouldn’t have surprised me: you can’t make a circle by doubling each round and expect it to stay flat. But I for some reason didn’t anticipate quite this much rippling—I figured I could wrestle it into a pillow with enough stuffing. But this was untenable, and it had to be abandoned.
Instead, I went with a basic entrelac, only I wasn’t satisfied with the successive rows of color that is standard. If the point, I figured, of entrelac was to make it look as if the bands were woven together, then the color should stay with the band, not the row. So I devised a color plan that would actually show the colors interlacing.
I had a really hard time trying to draw this, also I wanted to be able to test different sequences, so I actually cut strips of paper and wove them together!
Just a few rows of entrelac high—I was excited for a low, wide pillow. I changed the color scheme for the second side slightly. Seaming them together posed a stumbling block, as joining the bias edges didn’t look neat no matter what I tried. In the end I did a round of hdc on each piece and the joined them with a flat crochet join. I don’t mind the gray “seam” that runs around the whole thing.
Then I started stuffing it. And stuffing it. And stuffing it. The yarn, a merino-silk blend, is soo lustrous and soft, but it is supple and took to a lot of stretching, and I was definitely not feeling up to sewing a small inner pillow out of fabric to contain it. So I just stuffed until it was nice and full, and in the end I got a significantly sized bolster! (I think it’s at least 2 feet long.) It lives on the couch and is so delightfully squishy and nice to curl up with. Sometimes I use it as an actual bolster, using it as a prop for some gentle yoga on the floor while watching TV. I love it!
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!
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.
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.
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 dsktps.com if you’re interested!
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!
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!
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…
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.
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!