Though I knit baby Jack a sweater, since I was getting to meet my first cousin once removed (I’m pretty sure that’s our relation—he’s my cousin’s son) at Beach Week, I had to make him something, right? The little stinker (on the verge of walking unassisted!) just turned one, and he took to the ball immediately. Success!
In fact, during a naptime session on the beach I watched him in the Pack-n-Play struggling with his FOMO but also distracted by his new best toy: he hugged, pet, and babbled to the ball. I dared not take a photo lest I distract him from napping, which was what he was supposed to be doing. But rest assured it was heart-burstingly cute.
The crab fabric was bought at Makers’ Mercantile when I visited in March. I knew I’d use it to make Jack-Jack something, but I wasn’t sure what until I spied the Purl Bee Fabric Ball pattern. I made the medium size, which was perfect for his little arms to wrap around. All the solids are Kona cotton, and I just used heat n bond to affix the red circles—I meant to stitch them down a little but didn’t, and that was probably a mistake. I’ll know for the future. Also I used the cardboard-and-foil trick for making the circles, with middling success. It’s still pretty hinky. But it works!
When we found out that one of our own was pregnant, the members of KBC started discussions of what kind of group gift to give. A quilt, sure, but not everyone sews. So we brainstormed an additional knit idea, and we eventually decided a mobile of knit birds would be cute and kind of funny—the parents, recently relocated to the East Coast after years in Portland, would be no strangers to the concept of putting a bird on it.
Finding a bird pattern led to much snickering when we settled on a free Blue Tit bird pattern from Lion Brand. Be warned: It is a finicky knit, and there was much swearing by all involved. The pattern is clear, it’s just a pain to knit. My bad; I am the one who found the pattern and decided it was the one! Ultimately one of us decided to knit the branches instead of wrestling the yarn into a bird (fine by me–finding random branches and ensuring they were bug-free was kind of stressing me out). Another took on the task of quilting and binding the group quilt (more on that separately), so in the end we had 7 unique birds!
Here’s my bird—knit using a random assortment of Cascade 220 from my stash. When I perched it on the branch I made it more “squished” than its natural state, so it got a little chubby. And maybe cuter than it originally was!
I set to perching them either in flight or on the branches so that they made a balanced mobile and oh boy was that a challenge. I used to make mobiles a lot in high school, so I thought it would be sooo easy. But hello, that was 20+ years ago, my skills were rusty, and most of those mobiles involved PAPER ORIGAMI. Not heavy, various-weighted knit birds! I did learn a fishing lure knot tying technique that I think is pretty sturdy and is good to use with filament thread (though I never really succeeded in making it look as taut and neat as in the video), and I feel really good about the finished mobile. I so badly wanted some birds to sit atop branches, but they were so heavy they’d flip right over; thinking to string the vertical supports through the birds was an inspired bit of genius, I thought!
We finally gave the mobile to the family at Maryland Sheep & Wool yesterday. And cutiepie Hazel, knowing it was her flock of birds, set to claiming it immediately—nomming on one right away!
I know that every new quilt is my new favorite, but truly: I love these quilts. I love them because I think they look pretty cool, but I also love them because they are exactly what I intended.
See, these were made for a close friend and coworker. Four years ago I was tasked with working with her team as a sort of adjunct help, and I didn’t know how I’d mesh with her, their leader. But it turns out we see eye to eye on so much—we approach the world in similarly straightforward, logical ways—and now I’m a full member of her team. I feel confident in saying that we trust each other completely, as colleagues and as friends. So when I was thinking about quilts to make for her upcoming twins, well, I felt as if the pressure was on.
I wanted clean, geometric shapes. Sharp angles seemed appropriate. Solids, definitely. The design needed to be a complete quilt—not made up of different discrete squares. I want to say “no creativity” but that feels too stark… except it’s exactly what I wanted. They needed to feel logical and sharp, but of course I wanted them to be interesting and attractive. I wanted the two to coordinate in gender neutral colors, even though I knew pretty early that it would be two boys. HSTs were clearly the answer.
They were also so easily executed in a completely logical way: One night, I selected fabrics from my stash of fat quarters and cut all the squares for both quilts (actually, the day she told me she was pregnant with twins). Another night, I sewed the diagonals of all the squares (that’s 128 diagonals—and epic chain-piecing evening!). A few nights later, I cut the HSTs apart. A few days after that, I ironed them all open, etc. It was just so… straightforward. Perfect. The only fussy time was spent arranging, and rearranging, the HSTs until I liked the look.
This might all sound weird, and maybe it’s not giving the right impression of my friend. Maybe she doesn’t even see or get what I was going for, but no matter—the babies will have cute little blankets to drag around, play on, or even sleep under!
For the backings I bought a gray gingham that was crazy off-grain or I don’t even know what but it made basting and quilting them absurdly difficult. (And was purchased at Purl Soho, so… that was exceptionally annoying.) A friend who is an experienced quilter was over the day I basted them and she was the one to point out that the fabric was causing my problems, not my skill level. For the labels, I wanted two matched phrases but came up blank. My friend Holly suggested these two sweet thoughts, so I embroidered them and sewed them on on opposite corners (because they’re fraternal! get it?).
There’s no denying that Pinterest has helped me as a sewer. With no central location like Ravelry to go to, it’s hard to see a lot of quilts or garments in one place to gather inspiration and ideas. My “Quilty Inspiration” board is one of my favorites to revisit. I can see trends in my own liking (I started out loving on total rainbow quilts, have moved to different palettes lately), and I can also see that there are certain blocks/quilts that are executed in ways that I prefer over others using the same basic design. Sometimes it’s really easy to see what I like about one execution over another (modern color combinations, say). Sometimes it’s easy to see but hard to know how to execute (some kaleidoscope quilts work SO WELL and others don’t; I know it’s about the tone of the fabrics but picking fabrics to do it seems intimidating). For granny squares, I seemed to like a certain type and not others. What was the defining characteristic, I wondered.
It was the outer ring’s paleness/quantity of white. I liked the quilts best when the granny was treated as a series of concentric rings, and when the outer ring’s contrast with the background fabric wasn’t overly stark, whether because of the high quantity of white or the color of the square. This gave those quilts a sort of “instant vintage” quality, and I definitely wanted that for this baby quilt. So I set about making a bunch those kinds of blocks myself. It wasn’t super easy (and I’m sure you’re all eyeing that block in the lower left and saying ‘hmmmm you didn’t want a stark contrast, you say?’ Whatever, it can’t be EXACT.) but it was a fun exercise. I used up a decent amount of scraps to make it, too, which was satisfying. It also used up every last inch of Kona Snow I had in my stash. In fact, the outer ring of sashing is a white cotton batiste I used as a lining in my Cambie dress; the difference is more tactile than anything and I’m totally fine with that because I was NOT going to buy more fabric just to finish this top! The colors I chose are gender neutral by design, with a mix of all the colors of the rainbow—but all generally softer, more baby.
Because my ability to successfully baste has left me, despite all the best precautions (I starched the top this time! It was suuuper flat!), I wasn’t keen on too much machine quilting. I just did some machine passes in the sashing to get it all held together, and then I hand-quilted around each motif and the center square. I picked hand-quilting colors based on the colors in the blocks, and had a lot of fun doing that part. I still need more practice to be good at hand quilting but in some ways I like the truly handmade look of it.
Backing is a whole piece of fabric in a fun polka dot—I like when a quilt is small enough to be ale to do that! (And I’m really happy to be slashing up my stash so expertly.) The binding is a cheerful Kona yellow (not sure which shade). The label was just hand-written with washable marker and then stitched in some black perle cotton. I love that it’s my own handwriting (OK, a stitched version of my handwriting, so it’s a little weird but pretty close) and says nothing more than what I mean. I am so happy for my friends who are expecting this little one, and can’t wait to be Aunt Erin to their kid, even if from afar (they live across the country from me).
I mailed this quilt (via just USPS, what was I thinking! I should have gotten tracking info!) so it would arrive in time for the baby shower; happily the host of the shower tells me it arrived safe and sound. Yesterday was the shower, so I think I can safely post these pictures today!
This summer, family beach week is going to be a little quieter, because we’ll be missing a whole chunk of our family. They’ll be staying home, anticipating the birth of my cousin’s baby, the first of our next generation! So while I’ll be laying on the beach, catching crabs, and eating my fill of fried oysters, they’ll be putting the finishing touches on a nautical-themed bedroom for the little one.
And to go with that, I knit him a sweater.
Though our family is much more crab-oriented, I thought little whales and anchors would be more easily graphed; I charted out the band of them and put it on a slightly modified Child’s Placket Neck Pullover by Joelle Hoverson. I’ve knit this sweater before, and I know it comes together fast; this was helpful because it took 3 tries before this finally worked right. First I didn’t like the charted pattern—too spread out—and second it was gigantic (a friend with babies saw it and balked, then I looked at the measurements and that one was more like a 2 year old’s!). I did tweak the stitch counts of the sweater to fit my chart as well as the CYC-given measurements for a six month old. Now, I don’t know the first thing about babies, but it looks super small, so here’s hoping it’s a very cool fall in Georgia, because I’d been hoping he could wear it in the winter!
The yarn? Good ol’ Cascade 220. Sorry to my cousin: you’re going to have to hand-wash this garment.