posts tagged: friends

put a bird on it!

pepperknit | knit bird mobile -- group projectWhen 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!

pepperknit | knit bird mobile

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!

pepperknit | knit bird mobile -- group project

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!

pepperknit | knit bird mobile -- group project

X marks the spot!

string quilt

Last weekend, my knitting best friends and I got together for another weekend away. This was the tenth time we’ve done it! It’s only the fifth time we’ve swapped something—and this round, a crafter’s choice, I got to make for JulieFrick! Because it was our tenth meetup, I chose to make a big “X” mini quilt, in colors that I thought she would like. Well, I thought she would like them after we created a spreadsheet to note favorite colors, and she specified “I like most all colors when they’re a bit “off” of their standard rainbow-bright versions.” This required some serious stash-digging, because when I stopped to think about it, I like colors specifically when they are bright!

It’s just a basic string quilt, but I did it as a quilt as you go, using wavy quilting lines (I neglected to take a close-up shot). This was the first time I’d made an actual quilt using QAYG, so the backing part was a stumbling block. (Every other QAYG I’ve done was a pillow top.) I decided to do a whole cloth backing and stitch in the ditch along the “X” to hold it all together. We liked its flatness so opted not to wash it. The binding is a slightly darker shade of the stone color I used for the X (both Kona cottons, from fat quarter packs, so I have no idea what the color names are).

string quilt

I decided the piece needed a really great label to commemorate the occasion. I designed this in Photoshop using various fonts, which I then traced onto some Kona and stitched using embroidery floss. “Celebrate” probably could have used a bit of a different treatment, but it feels pretty festive! It was fun to stitch it up. When I have the time to devote to the label, I am always happy with the results. I should start planning the labels first!

embroidered quilt label

I love that I got to give this to Julie in person. She’s one of the most interesting and passionate people I know—I learn so much about how to be a better person from Julie. She makes amazing jams and other preserves, can knit and crochet anything she wants, and works tirelessly in service for the good of the world. How lucky am I to be her friend! I feel that way about every one of these women, actually: They’re my people. I learn from them, maybe I help them learn some things, and I trust them implicitly. We spend these weekends eating amazing meals, knitting/crocheting/stitching, and sharing deep—and truly shallow—conversations (this time, while bobbing in the pool). We are already planning our 11th weekend away, and I cannot wait.

knitting circle


delicious dinner

farm pano





personalizing a purchased embroidery pattern

So this FO is basically one big inside joke—forgive me! But it’s a great example of how you can take a pattern and personalize it for your intended recipient. I’ve actually done so twice with this lion by Penguin & Fish, who normally only says “ROAR.”

lion embroidery

One of my favorite coworkers, Emily (who I used to be in the same knitting group as!), is prone to some, shall we say, theatrics. If frustrations are reaching a tipping point, she will relatively calmly say “ROAR!” to express her anger. Sometimes she is so annoyed about a person she’ll call them “a dumb dummy.” And for some inexplicable reason, she’s always saying “honk” or “hello honk” when answering the phone. And sometimes she gets this urge to spill water on the floor. Perhaps I have painted a picture of a mentally unstable person? No, it’s just Emily, one of the funniest, kindest people I know. For her last day at the office, Beth and I cooked up a customized lion embroidery. He’s saying all her favorite phrases—and even he couldn’t resist tipping that glass of water out. But look, he’s just as sweet and calm as you’d expect.

I stitched it onto Kona Snow and used a cheap embroidery hoop and found various flosses in my stash, so this guy came together really quickly and easily. When I made this pattern once before, from the kit, it was for a friend I met in yoga class. We eventually joined a studio together, then started seeing Iyengar senior instructor Joan White together. So when she was expecting, I embroidered this little guy with a modification: I stuck out his tongue and wrote “simhasana” below; that’s the Sanskrit for Lion Pose. I have only a photo I took with my phone of this and I can’t even find it now! (I did this years ago.)

Who will get a little lion next?

washi dress

Now that I’ve started sewing my own clothing (ha, look at me, talking like I’m making a whole new wardrobe already) I’ve been thinking a lot about fit. When I shop for clothing in retail stores, I try items on to see how they look, but I don’t think about how they fit. I realized, in making a Washi Dress, that I don’t know how to really assess how something fits yet. But I like to think this one looks pretty good on! (All photos by Caro Sheridan; the last photo by our host, Phil!)

chevron washi dress

I didn’t make a muslin of the Washi—my bust measurement went fine with one of the existing sizes, and I knew the skirt was forgiving enough to not matter. It came together fast once I got the shirring to work (which, upon further reading, I’ve learned I did not do correctly, but it functions fine, so I’ll just be improving my technique for the future. In case you are wondering, the problem is that the elastic is wobbly on the back, which means I didn’t have it properly under tension. I’ll be playing with that once I get more elastic.). I went with a tank instead of sleeves and made white bias binding out of Kona Snow for the armholes. (Now I wonder if I should’ve used that for the neckline too, but I’m not doing it now.) I tried it on once it was all assembled, modeled it for my boyfriend and a friend, and asked if I needed to change anything. They said it looked fine.

chevron washi dress back

But does it FIT fine? I’m not convinced it does. The bodice should probably come lower. The bust darts don’t make the bodice shape to me in any real way. The neckline gaps just a bit (maybe partly because my “featherweight” interfacing was too heavy in combination with the cotton, lightweight though it is, or maybe because I forgot to clip the curves). I know there’s room for improvement if I take this one on again.

chevron washi dress

Wearing it while tromping around Star Valley Flowers‘ farm in Wisconsin, however, I discovered it is a great garment for wearing. It’s comfortable, breezy, and the fullness of the skirt means it requires absolutely zero effort at all. If I add a white cardigan, I’ll happily wear this to work and show off my handiwork. But I won’t make this dress again without significant revisions. This field of sunflowers are actually part of Driftless Organics‘ farm, across the street—we couldn’t resist them!

in the sunflowers in the sunflowers

tova top

My first sewn garment!!

tova top in quilting cotton

I knew I was coming to a glorious location here in western Wisconsin (that’s the Mississippi River in the background—I had never seen the Mississippi before!), so I wanted an FO that I could rope my favorite photographer, Caro, into shooting for me. But I wasn’t going to be able to knit anything in time, and I wasn’t going to drag a quilt halfway across the country, so it was time to actually sew some clothing! I think the tight deadline plus the almost insane panic I felt that I would be missing out on gorgeous photo shoot locations were what I needed to finally get over my fear and start cutting into fabric for garments.

It was super steep on that bluff, you guys, and I was wearing flip-flops. (I stopped about halfway down to a stone ledge that friends were exploring.) So excuse any weirdness in these photos. But about this shirt, the Tova Top. I used a quilting cotton, which I knew would probably be too heavy; it hangs pretty well in spite of that. It does feel slightly stiff, though, and I’d be interested in trying this out in a more appropriate fabric—plus running it through the wash a few times.


The inset probably gave me the biggest trouble, because working around its corners was tricksy. I actually picked it out once; it came out much better the second time. The collar was also somewhat mysterious to me (fold over what?) until I actually did it, and then it was pretty clear—it came together without too much hassle. Confession time: Practically every seam in this garment had to be sewn twice! A combination of always forgetting to change a setting (lengthen stitch length for basting, but forget to switch it back!), being slightly confused by the black and white step-by-step photographs in the tutorial, and being almost a complete novice (those garment sewing classes I took 10 years ago are in my brain somewhere, but not at the front of my brain). In all, though, this top wasn’t hard to make at all and it came together in a 2-day intensive.

One major delay in the process was learning how to thread my serger and get the hang of using that. Illana gave me the serger years ago (she had a new one) but it had literally never come out of the box upon being transferred to my possession. And of course I got it threaded and ran out of thread soon after, so I am now an expert on threading that machine! But I figured if I was going to start sewing garments I ought to get them finished as well as I could. Caro, a professional, told me she peeked inside my garments and approved of the job I did, so: PHEW!

tova top in quilting cotton

I’m looking forward to the weather turning so that I can wear this more! The flap at the front really is very revealing if you’re not standing still, so I’ll need to wear a camisole underneath, and if I were to sew this pattern again I think I’d add a button or somehow cause that to be more closed.

tova top in quilting cottonI’m telling you, that bluff was steep.