Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Holiday Lull

The frantic pace of the holidays is almost over. There are still friends to visit with, new year's parties to enjoy and resolutions to make. But the bulk of my creative energy has been spent and I am in a period of rest and renewal.

I never did finish that second sock for my SIL, so I am slowly working my way towards that goal. I also have to re-make one handmade gift as it was too small (more on that in another post). I am also going around the house and doing little things, like making proper hanging pockets for some pieces of wall art.

I received many, many kind knitting-related gifts and I am just enjoying them in their packages for the moment: dreaming of their potential and future projects to be enjoyed. I received my first set of 5-inch dpn's. They are impossibly small looking and remind me of trying to knit with toothpicks.

One special gift from my mother-in-law was a gift certificate to the Prairie Arts and Fibers store in Grayslake, IL. Since we were at Sandhill Organics for the holiday I was able to leave the kids with my relatives for a few hours and head over there for some rest and relaxation. I came away with my first skein of cotton-nylon blend sock yarn and a beautiful dish. I think that I enjoyed the time browsing as much as my purchases. From the moment I walked into the store I felt welcomed and encouraged to touch, try and relax. I was offered tea and brownies and told to stay and little or as long as I liked. I would have stayed all day, but reality has a funny way of setting in: there were kids to clothe/feed and a drive home to make.

Now that we are home I am using my spare moments to enjoy the great books I received. I am taking my time with the pages and photos. No need to rush through these. Did you spy that one on the top of the pile? DH and I are headed there for a mini-vacation in a week. Any suggestions for not-to-be-missed textile-related things?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Last-minute gifts

Getting a few more in under the wire. I made up four sets of these coasters, inspired by a pattern I took from Pretty Little Patchwork (which also inspired my mom's present, but more on that in a later post). The pattern called for hand embroidery around the house design, and for a quilted (i.e. patchwork) center, but who has time for that?! I quickly did these with the machine and went with a solid background. Perfect gifts for my Mother-in-law, a neighbor, and whoever might be in need of some extra-special gifts this holiday season.

The other last-minute sewing has been more tote bags. There is a set for my cousin, one for a sister-in-law and one for a friend. There are two in there for me too. I loved one too much to give it away, and the other you ask? Well, let's just say that DH noted, "Now there's a bag I'd be happy to carry to the woodworking store." A bag my husband will gladly carry around?! How could I give that one away? If you want, you can see them all in the flickr group.

As for the knitting, the cowl and second sock for my sister-in-law still need to come off the needles. Time to stop blogging and start knitting! But, really, who has the time now with all the baking to be enjoyed, presents to wrap and laughs to make?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Handmade holidays Check-in

So I took the handmade holiday pledge awhile back. While I desperately wanted to stick with the pledge, I have come to realize that at times I may need to honor it as much in spirit as in practice.

I won't go on to provide you with a list of excuses why I can't manage getting everything handmade, but let's just say that at the top of the list a little 3 y.o. girl who built up a massive amount of courage to ask Santa for a magnifying glass. Now, I could go to etsy and get her a gorgeous one like this one or this one. But, I don't think that gift would make for a happy child: mama would follow her around to ensure she didn't a) break it, b) lose it, or c) bury it in the dirt - all of which are perfectly acceptable kid things to do. So I find myself searching for an alternative philosophy that will permit me to buy a magnifying glass (that can get broken, lost of buried), but also allow me to put my money where my values are.

My solution? Buy local. When I can't go for handmade, I'll go for supporting locally-owned business. It also helps that our county has an initiative aimed at this very thing!

As for my own list of handmade items, I'm staying on track!

1) Personalized tote bags for twin nieces: done

2) Quilt for soon-to-be-born niece: done

3) Knit socks for sister-in-law 1: done

4) Knit socks for sister-in-law 2: in process

5) Knit cowl (similar to one pictured) for friend: in process

6) Present for my mom: done (here's just a sneak peak since I know she reads this blog!)

7) Block set for soon-be-born niece: on the honey-do list

8) Block set for nephew: on the honey-do list

9) Something special for girlfriend-in-law: on the honey-do list (can't divulge too much as she might read this blog)

10) Baked goods, such as sweet breads - inspiration from Project Quick-Bread - and biscotti, for the many others that touch our lives on a daily basis, like teachers, neighbors, etc: on the list for next week.

There are, of course, a bunch of other gifts that will be given this year - some that include traditional gifts that have been given every year since I can remember; I give a subscription to National Geographic Magazine to my Uncle every year - but this year there will be something new. Many of the gifts we're giving will be handmade. This is more true today than over years past and is something that we will begin to actively incorporate into our annual giving rituals. It may mean that I begin my holiday knitting in July, but it feels really good to be able to give of myself this holiday.

However, all this work hasn't kept me from treating myself. I even managed to squeeze in a quick project for myself. The cowl pictured above is actually for me. St. Nicholas brought me the softest yarn, that was begging to be turned into something to keep me warm this winter. I only used 1 skein for the cowl...so what to do with the other? Maybe a pair of these sucky thumb mitts for my littlest?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Advent Calendar

The advent calendar is complete! (I'm only, what, 7 days late?) In the end I decided to not put numbers on the socks as it might be too distracting - I added more detail in the socks than I originally thought. Maybe I'll just add numbers to the clips instead? For now the girls will just have to count each morning until they find their surprise; sort of like a Sesame Street-Christmas-number-of-the-day thing. The photo below is of the socks along the fireplace, but they will have to be moved back to the window when the stockings come out later this month.

This project was time consuming (maybe 36 hours total), but loads of fun. I had enough colors that I never really got bored coming up with a combination, and the sheer volume of yarn I had laying around meant that the girls got into the design aspects too - more then a few of their color combination picks are represented here. The best part, however, was never needing to make a companion sock. I just kept moving from one new design to another!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Holiday Bows!

The older girls received a package in the mail yesterday. Inside were to two sets of handmade holiday bows direct from my sister-in-law. What a sweet gift. I would be remiss if I didn't mention that she has others, just like these, available at Colibri Crafts. Happy (handmade) Holidays!

Colibri refers to hummingbird, the green variety of which is found in abundance in my sister-in-laws native Panama.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Mauda Woodworks

My husband is an amazing woodworker. He has recently decided to sell sets of his heirloom-quality, all-natural children's blocks at Mauda Woodworks. I'm here to support him - shamelessly.
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edited on 12/7 with new photos!
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I've also added a photo of a recent gift from him to me; one that he made for me. A beautiful cedar-lined blanket chest. Contrary to it's stated purpose, the first occupants of this piece are some skeins of yarn and other knitting supplies. For now it's tucked into the corner of the living room. DH says that he didn't make it to be a downstairs piece of furniture - it's supposed to go in a bedroom - but I think it's too beautiful to squirrel away up there.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Fall Quilt

Finished just in time for winter! This was the biggest, most massive project I've ever worked on. I felt like I was wrestling with a crocodile to get the darn thing through my machine. I knew I was working with something big when I had to move the living room rug out of the way just to make the sandwich. Boy, was that an ordeal! The girls were wonderful, however, and very respectful: always careful to step around the quilt and not run all over it.

Now that it is finished and I am taking pictures of it I am coming to fully appreciate how bit it actually is. The photos are taken with the quilt on our queen-size bed. And it still spills over the bottom of the bed. I can't believe it. I wanted to make a twin-size quilt, I started out making a twin-size, and am pretty sure that I followed the directions for a twin size, but it came out more like a full or queen. (Note to self: I won't EVER undertake anything this big again - too difficult for a beginner like me to handle. Lap quilts are perfect.) I thought this might go in our living room as an extra blanket for the winter, but maybe this will become a guest blanket. It really is too big and heavy to manage in the living room. Oh well, more excuses to quilt and sew? I can't complain. But any new projects are on hold until after the holidays.

In the meantime I have to quickly learn about piping and putting in a zipper. My mom's handmade holiday gift depends on it!! Yikes!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Baby bonnets

I've had a run of baby bonnets around here lately. DH requested one for his co-worker, which I gladly agreed to do, but I was still feeling awkward about my recent experience with my LMKG bonnet, which I wasn't totally happy with. In fact, I hadn't put that bonnet on my youngest since I knit it. So, I decided to change all that.

First, I created a dart for the LMKG bonnet and it now fits so much better - more snug around the neck. I've noticed comments on ravelry about this design aspect too, so I know that I'm not the only one; and I didn't knit it up wrong. Here's a photo of the new back. I basically sewed a seam and then tacked down the excess along one side.

Secondly, for the gift bonnet I branched out on my own and modified the LMKG pattern to create a bonnet that fit more snugly. I am really, really happy with this modification. This bonnet is already out the door, and from what I hear the mother-to-be loved it. If anyone is interested I'd be happy to write down my modifications and post them here. It creates a bonnet that fits the head a bit better - more form fitting. Here's a photo of my "model" wearing the hat.

Lastly, here is a photo of my same model in the gift bonnet from Lily. After some queries on ravelry, it turns out this is likely a bonnet pattern from EZ's The Opinionated Knitter. From my responses it seems the general shape and construction are hallmarks of EZ's designs, but the colorwork appears to be an original addition. I don't have a copy of this book yet, but it's on the Christmas list. I can't wait to see if I can re-create something similar!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


A basket full of lovely potential. Warm winter colors and chilly weather to feed my inner sock-obsession. Life couldn't get much sweeter this morning.

This basket happens to be full of KnitPicks essential sock yarn in solid colors: pumpkin, dusk and grass. This yarn gets a double thumbs-up from me. My recent experience with these socks encouraged me to splurge and get more!

I'm also done with the other gift socks and am glad they are off my needles. Below is a photo of the finished sock. It actually think they look pretty cool when you take a step back. I'm glad to see that I'm making progress with my handmade holiday gifts. Having this blog is certainly helping me meet my deadlines.

Friday, November 21, 2008

New Pillows

It was pillow week here at The End of This Row...

My Mom surprised the girls with a set of Eric Carle's Very Hungary Catepillar pillows this past weekend. We had been talking about the lack of pillows for the older girls at their two day/week daycare and my Mom said she had the perfect solution. As you can imagine, the girls love them! The littlest ones' pillow will have to stay at home for awhile, but it is very cute in her room for now.

My Mom's project gave me the inspiration, along with Tigerlily Tinkering's recent room-makeover-with-pillows, to give pillow covers a try. It didn't hurt that my Mom provided me with a book that had basic directions. I did a set in the gold circle fabric for our library (my primary school work place) which now cover some, IMO, gaudy maroon floral pillows that came with the couch. The bigger pillow is for our living room which was in need of some color. It now covers an ever-darkening cream-colored pillow that was starting to see some major wear from little shoes and feet.

The fabrics I used for the three pillows were gifts. My mom gave me the Amy Butler awhile back and I received a huge roll of the gold-toned fabric from my good friend Lily this past summer. If you haven't checked out her Etsy shop yet, you should. She is one talented woman. Makes me begin to realize that I need to start paying my good fortune forward...

These covers are deceptively easy to complete! In fact, I made all three pillow covers in under an hour. Yes: I ironed and cut the fabric, sewed and covered the pillows - and had them back on their respective couches - in under 60 mintues. I could hardly believe it. Granted they aren't anything fancy; just your basic knife-edge, fold over closure pillows, but still. Complete craft gratification during naptime?! Can't beat that.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Finally finished sweater

I finally finished up the helena sweater that I crafted for my littlest. I modified the pattern slightly for the trim work and went with garter stitch detailing. Regardless, it still looks cute! Details are on ravelry.

The blue of this sweater is lovely. It really brings out the blue of her eyes and sets off her red hair. I want to wait until she's walking to put this on her - which she is almost doing. She'll wander around with me, by one hand, but hasn't mustered the courage to take that first step on her own. Although I don't remember, it must be scary to learn to walk. Trusting yourself for the very first time is a pretty big deal I imagine.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Mexican tile inspired knitting tote

I started attending a local knitting group on Wednesday evenings. It only meets for 90 minutes at a local wine/coffee shop, but it is great to meet up with local knitters, close to home, and share tips, techniques and reviews (of yarn, stores, websites, etc.) I was slightly embarrassed that I had been carrying around current knitting projects in a tote that I made for one of my daughters, so I quickly whipped up this one. It even has three interior pockets: one sized for needles, one for the phone and one for the ipod.

My husband got this fabric for me. He actually purchased an entire grocery bag full of fabric remnants from a garage sale this summer (for 25 cents). He was so sweet when he brought it home - although almost none of it seemed useful at the time. It is full of satin-y table cloths, dark florals and other misc. treasures. I returned to this bag last week to look again and I found this lovely piece. On a large scale the print is pretty overwhelming, but on the small scale it reminds me of Mexican folk art tiles. I love how this bag turned out! It reminds me of the year I spent abroad during college in Cuernavaca, Mexico, studying Spanish.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Fall reading

A few books that I have been studying lately.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Deer hunting in South Beach and other mistakes

So while waxing poetic in the previous post about finding my style/stride with knitting, I come full-circle to show you these two mistakes (or as I like to think of them: growth opportunities).

First, the socks. I really like the pattern and the design is easily memorized for maximum portability. The project gets an A+. My choice of yarn? C (can't give it anything lower because I love green, and yes, there is green in there). To my Wisconsin eyes this sock looks like a deer hunter landed in South Beach. On the other hand, the name of they yarn is 'frogprince' which pretty much sums it all up. The camo colors are reminicient of a frog, with strands of princely blue/turquoise running throughout.

Aside from the color, the yarn, a nylon/wool blend, knit up like a dream. One sock is complete and the second is on the needles so I am required to finish them - plus they are a part of my handmade holiday pledge so they must be knit and gifted. They really are lovely socks and the soft yarn feels great against my skin. Luckily my recent knitpicks order arrived with three sets of solid color essential sock yarn: grass, pumpkin and dusk. I can now re-knit this pattern, and the embossed leaves pattern, with pride and cross two more handmade holiday gifts off my list.

This second photo is of the very first sweater I ever completed. Have I ever worn it? Once - the day I finished it. Will I ever wear it again? Nope. So I am mustering the courage to frog it. I need to - the yarn is too nice to waste away on a closet shelf, making me feel guilty. The buttons are too nice to be hidden away. When I was learning how to knit I got impulsive and tried a rowan pattern - 'Slate' - which was too advanced for me. I got in over my head and never looked back, until last night. I think I will try to dig up the pattern and re-make it - it has all the components of a lovely cardigan, but my problem was the gauge, yarn, needle combination. It is too drapey (is that a word?) to wear - it needs more structure and substance. So, I have resolved to pick a night, in the not too distant future, to frog the entire thing.

Any advice on what to do then? Do I need to wash/soak the yarn before re-using it? Is this a hopeless project? Should I just save the buttons and move on?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Auburn Studios

The inspirational font of, more than a few, creative benders [seriously, I have left my computer in the middle of reading her posts and dashed to my sewing machine] Mr. Monkeysuit has just opened her own etsy shop, Auburn Studios. Go over and check it out - I promise her products and patterns will help you along your quest to create lovely handmade holidays.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Fall quilting

The fall quilt is underway. I hope to finish the top and the border this week. I purchased the batting and thread so I am all set with materials. On to the work.

As I sit here looking at the color choices for my most recent quilts I am starting to see my personal style - as chaotic as it is right now - starting to come through.

With knitting, finding my style came easy, but it took time. I have been able to grow from beginning patterns to more advanced projects with yarns that I love (I still make bad choices though, stay tuned...). Quilting is proving to be as much, if not more, of a challenge as I learn. There are lots of fabrics that I love, the problem is that I struggle with how to put them all together (I know this is common). This quilt looks a bit too rainbow for my taste, so I tried to line up the dark browns close to the center which I hope will play off the dark brown border. On the other hand, I am happy that went with so many patterns. I think they give the quilt overall movement and character without being too dramatic. The prints are all small enough, and close enough in size that they almost appear to blend from one to the other without too much difficulty. Maybe I'm off my rocker, but I think I like that aspect of it.

At the end of the day the fact is that I spent way too much moo-la on the fabric NOT to love it - so of course I LOVE it, but the trick moving forward might be taking more time in my choices and exercising restraint with color.

In other quilt related news, I received my adorable lap quilt from my BTRS swap partner. Thanks Lisa! I think I'll attach a binding, and maybe a baby-themed applique, then gift it to some soon-to-be parents during the upcoming holidays. My handmade holidays are off on the right foot!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Green Monkeys

I headed out to a conference today and took my still-warm sock knitting needles with me. I started on the Monkey Socks in the pictured yarn. So far so good...pics on my progress when I return next week.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day

Be sure to cast your vote today. I finished making these socks just in time to head to the polls. It made waiting and standing in line that much more fun for me.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Happy Halloween

...from my two little ballerinas. Finally they stood still long enough for a photo (this was before the onslaught of candy, mind you). I made one tutu in pink and one in purple. I think they turned out pretty well. I encased the gathered tulle with ribbon, and then triple sewed another decorative ribbon on top (butterflies on one and flowers on the other). The ribbon trails around the back and the tails are long enough to tie. I did sew in some elastic - 4 inches or so at the back - to keep it all together, but you can't see it when they are wearing them and the tails are tied. This way I don't have to be there when they want to wear them, tying them on over and over again. They can just pull them on and they'll stay on.

I hope you had fun trick-or-treating! I'm not sure what to do with the pounds of candy laying all over the house. Any creative ways to use this candy without eating all of it ourselves? Would you, maybe, like some? Leave me a comment with your e-mail address...

Saturday, November 1, 2008


Change - what a buzz word this season, huh? Truth is that I am feeling change; shifts in the way that I work, parent and love. I don't mean to be too deep - just trying to convey the fact that things around here felt similar day-to-day for awhile towards the end of summer, but now they feel very different every day. My husband is attributing it to the changing seasons (and impending election), and I do think that he is right in some ways. To honor the change in seasons I am embarking on a changing seasons quilt. Lots of yummy fall-tinged colors and natural batik prints. This will be a twin size - my first quilt this big. Not sure when this one will really get underway, but the pieces have been cut and are staring down my machine ready to be assembled. I am following the yellow brick road pattern from before, I like the different shapes and way that the colors flow easily into one another.

A second big change around here is coming up this winter. We are losing our long-time (2+ years) nanny to California for a nursing job. She's graduating with her degree and I am very proud of her. She has strong family roots in these parts, so I know she'll be back, but she won't every really be back here, you know what I mean? While she's only been with us for 2 days/week she has been with us through many changes: a new house, a new baby, new classes, new routines, daycare, playgroups, and potty training. I mean, really, who wouldn't be sad about losing someone who cheerfully changed dirty underpants?! And for twins, nonetheless? So I've decided to make her a quilt. She's been eyeing the other BTRS quilts I have been making and I think this will be a great going away gift. The fabrics here are floral, solids and an awesome wave print for the backing - the perfect CA fabric if you ask me (I stopped myself as I drifted towards the palm tree prints...). I'd really like to perosnalize this one on the back for her. I'm thinking handprints of each of the girls? Maybe applique? I plan to loosely follow the BTRS lap quilt directions for this one, but I will modify for a twin size.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Socks and snowflakes

We got our first snowflakes of the season here yesterday. Nothing that stuck around - they were those huge, big, light flakes that fall beautifully from the sky. I loved seeing it, but am also thankful that the real snow is still weeks away. In the meantime I am happily knitting socks. I finished up the winter socks (pics below) and am now working my way through the embossed leaves pattern - these are gorgeous socks. This is a picture of the first sock perched up on the couch; a safe distance from little fingers that love to play with yarn. I think I will make a few pairs of these and keep them on reserve for gifts. They are lovely to look at and lovely to wear. Plus, what a great reason to get some more yarn!

Some observations on socks:

1) Socks are a quick knit, almost instant gratification, but I tend to loose steam after the first one is finished. The second one doesn't seem like a challenge, but at least it gives me a chance to fix any mistakes I made the first time around.

2) Having a second sock means that I am able to redeem myself - for any of the said mistakes in the first sock.

3) Size 0/1/2 needles seemed really small to me at first. Almost like they would snap like toothpicks in my hands. But once I got used to them it is hard to imagine that I ever knit socks on anything larger.

4) I thought it would take forever to knit something on needles that small. And while it does take more time (although not much) it makes a much, much, much nicer sock. The embossed leaves, pictured above, are on size 2.

5) The embossed leaves pattern is also the first time I knit with four dpn's. I've only ever made socks with three needles before. I love how you can fold down four needles for travelling - but it does make the sock more clumsy in my hands to start. It is difficult for me to wrangle all those needles and points in the beginning when trying to join the yarn. Any advice here?
6) Purple. Why are both pairs of recently knit socks shades of purple? I have no idea. None, whatsoever.

7) I love wearing hand knit socks. They are a true pleasure in my life. Self-indulgent? Sure. But I'm not complaining.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Winter Socks

We are almost done! I don't know why it has taken me so long to finish these. Maybe it was the great quilt distraction, but in any event I am determined to complete them! I think that I am going to give my sewing machine a break for a bit and return to the knitting needles to finish up some outstanding projects.

These are a k3p1 rib around the calf and along the top of the foot. The basic sock pattern is from the Ann Budd book. These are going to be comfy and warm by the fire this winter!