In Praise of Scrappy Socks (…and maybe the Internet)

The internet is a constant source of inspiration for me.  I don’t think I would be half as crafty without it.  I could easily lose a whole day in visiting sewing and knitting blogs and pinning on Pinterest.  Time wasting?  Maybe some days, but most days I learn something new or become inspired to see new possibilities in the yarn and fabric stash I already own.  It also leads me to creative people around the world.

This latest project is proof of the value of browsing.  Pinterest recently recommended these socks to me. I just loved all the color and stranded colorwork knitting is my favorite type.  They were made by a knitter & blogger, Jenny F, in Finland.  Her blog has beautiful photos of her work, but is in Finnish or Swedish or something I only normally encounter in IKEA. :(.  It seems from her Ravelry page that she was inspired to make her socks by some fingerless mitts from a knitter in Reno, Nevada.  See what I mean?  All these connections  wouldn’t happen without some serious internet browsing, right?IMG_0062


Every time I knit a pair of women’s socks it seems I end up with leftover yarn.  I’ve never stopped to measure, but I’m guessing somewhere around 50 – 100 yards on average.  It’s too much to throw away, but it seldom gets used.  I took Jenny F’s socks as my inspiration and worked out the pattern and started knitting using up leftover bits of yarn from my stash.  I’m smitten.

IMG_0066Like so many scrap projects, scrap can look an awful lot like just plain crap when you’re just starting out.  Put 3 or 4 random colors of yarn together and they can be hideous, but something happens when you start adding more.  I especially love throwing in a neutral, like a gray or a brown to give your eyes a little rest now and again.

IMG_0061Hopefully, I’m not the only one who loves the cheerful, rich mix of colors.  I think there are a few things that help in scrap knitting.  First, the cuff, heel and toe are all one color.  I also made sure as I knit the first sock that I had enough yarn to knit the second sock in the the same color pattern so I’d end up with identical twin socks.  I think it gives a little more polish to the scrappiness.

The color work pattern also helps this scrap project.  By carrying the previous color into the next band of color, it helps to blend one color into the next, carrying your eye along with it.  I also forced myself not to think too hard about what color to use next.  If I don’t do that I tend to slip into ROYGBIV color patterns too easily!

Some technical details for anyone thinking of scrap busting their yarn:

Each band takes far less yarn than I would have imagined – the photo of the balls at the top was taken after my socks were more than 3/4 done.  I look forward to making more!

Don’t be afraid to mix it up.  I used all superwash fingering weight wool yarns, because thats what I had for leftover sock yarn, but there are solids, tonal, and kettle-dyed yarns, and yarns with glitter here!  I like the gypsy feel that this mix gives off.

I think Jenny F cast on 60 stitches to make her socks.  I cast on 64 and would probably think about going up to 68 next time.  Any even number will work.  I’m using a 1.5 needle here.

I wove most of my ends in as I knit because colorwork finishing is a bitch otherwise :).

Next time, I think I’ll take the time to make jogless stripes.  These socks are for me, and I don’t mind the jog, but with so many color changes, it might be nice.  This time I arranged my stitches so the jog line runs down the back and along the bottom of my foot where it will be less noticeable.

A great resource for making socks is Charlene Schurch’s book Sensational Knitted Socks.  It might be out of print, as it only seems to be available from third-party sellers on Amazon.  If so this is very sad, because this book really teaches you everything you need to know about making socks in any size with virtually any yarn and it includes really great patterns, too.  I refer back to it all the time when making projects like this to guide me through stitch counts for heel turning  and gussets, etc.

It’s so satisfying in a “waste-not-want-not” kind of way to use up my scraps and end up with something pretty!



New York Beauty Pillow


Like so many people who craft, I have materials everywhere.  I’m lucky enough to have a designated room to sew in, but it is jammed full.  Every once in a while I go tearing through a drawer or cupboard and discover something I’d forgotten completely. The other day I rediscovered a few yards of Benartex Foundation by the Yard fabric.  Have you heard of this before?  I hadn’t.  My friend Melissa and I found it during a Korean fabric shopping trip a couple of years ago and bought some because it seemed cool and the price was right.


It’s a pre-printed muslin panel.  Each panel has 12 foundations for New York Beauty quilt blocks and complete instructions for how to piece them are printed along the sides of the panels. Apparently, Benartex makes these panels pre-printed with lots of classic quilt blocks.  I’ve always done my foundation piecing on paper, but this works just the same way only the muslin stays on the back of your finished block.  No picking bits of paper out of the seams?  Sign me up.

I’d been wanting to make a pillow with a Valentine’s feel to it, so I decided to try making a few of these blocks in shades of pink and red.

I started with foundation block pieces:



I decided to use solid shades of pinks and reds for the points and text prints for the background.IMG_3203

Originally I was planning on making this a square pillow with four blocks forming a circle in the center, but I got to this point and had an idea:


About a year ago I bought a couple of down lumbar pillow forms for a pair of chairs in our family room.  I never got around to making the covers I had planned.  I liked this half circle so much (and – amazing – the measurements worked out) I decided to make covers using just 2 squares each for those instead of a big square.  Lazy or brilliant?  You be the judge.

I quilted in arcs on the background fabric using the edge of my walking foot as a spacing guide.IMG_3206

I added an invisible zipper and some backing fabric from my stash using this helpful tutorial.  IMG_3210

And voila – a finished pillow!

IMG_3213The colors are right for Valentine’s Day, but I think I can get away with leaving it out a little longer!

Block Printed Goodness

I always have too many projects in my head.  I wish I could make them all.  After making lots of passport wallets for the Etsy shop on Saturday, I indulged in some more selfish sewing on Sunday.  There’s a backstory to it.

My lovely sister-in-law is a such a talented woman and my dear friend, too.  She’s a poet, college professor, animal lover, intellectual badass, and recently, a block printer.  She and my big bro’ (who also does not suck) have been carving away at linoleum blocks in their free time.  Their prints are so much fun that she finally gave in to all the requests from friends and family and opened an Etsy shop of her own, SentimentalAsylum, to sell some of their work.  Isn’t it great?


Of course, when I saw all their work I immediately though: “How do we translate that onto fabric?”  God love her, she went out, bought quilting cotton and got to work. She’s brought me several yards of printed fabric to play with.  I have a secret to admit:  I’m afraid to cut it!  I mostly just stare at it and admire!  This did not make Sista’ Friend happy, though, so I made a teeny attempt to actually use my printed fabric on Saturday:


This was a safe choice with the small-scale print, but I love how it came out so much that I can’t wait to try to sew more with some of my bigger block prints.  Wouldn’t the wave print above look great as a fussy cut on a bag?  And those leaves as an all-over print?  Must get her to print some leaf fabric next… Can’t wait to make more.

They taught our whole family how to carve blocks when they visited a few weeks ago and we were all hooked.  My kids haven’t spent this much time away from electronics in ages! My snapshot isn’t great, but this kids and Super Uncle moment was too cute to miss:


After all the lessons, Sista’ Friend says I don’t need her to do my fabric printing anymore, but with designs as cute as theirs, I plan to keep begging for more yardage!




Spent yesterday making some new Family Passport Holders for my Etsy shop. These are great for keeping everyone’s passports together on international trips.  I’d sold out of all the large ones I’d originally made (yippee!).


I started with a really great pattern sold by Amber of One Shabby Chick Hawaii, but I’ve given it quite a few mods for sewing ease, mostly.  I find installing snaps fiddly , so I’ve switched out snaps for velcro, and instead of a wraparound skinny strap, I prefer a wide short strap.  It holds everything just as well, but takes less time to close back up at the airport.  This project has a lot of bulk what with all the pockets and interfacing, so I find it much easier to get a nice result by rounding the corners using a thread spool as my template before stitching.  It reduces the corner bulk nicely when turned right side out and makes topstitching easier.  I also use a heavy interfacing  just on the strap and exterior fabric to give the wallet more structure when empty.  I don’t want it to feel flimsy when customers pick it up before they’ve added their passports.

I think it took me almost as much time to photograph and list these on Etsy than it did to make them!  I’m awful at photo editing and uploading!  Putting our passports into each of these in order to photograph them made me nostalgic for our travels as we haven’t used them in over a year.  I do wish we could use them more – without an overseas move!

Need a passport wallet for up to 6 family members?  Try Amber’s pattern or pick up one ready-made in my shop.



Snowed In

When it looks like this outside, there’s no excuse for not getting some sewing done!  I’ve been chain piecing for hours and days working on my Postage Stamp Quilt.


I’m not done piecing all those strips together yet, but I’ve already got enough squares to fill up my design wall.  When I slapped up the first 3 or 4 squares, I have to admit I was thinking “Eyesore!” but now that more of the squares are on the wall, it’s really grown on me.  Scrap quilts are greater than the sum of their parts.  I like all that color, but I think in future I’d also like to try a scrap quilt with a more limited color palette, too.  The only rule I had when cutting for this one was no black, brown, or gray (though there are little bits of it in some of the prints).


Still haven’t figured out how big I want this one to be.  I’ll have to see how many squares I end up with when all the piecing is finished.  I have lots of ideas for any orphan blocks.  Table runners? Accent strips on bags?  The possibilities are many!


Linking up to Scraptastic Tuesday!


Scraptastic Tuesday

Postage Overdue

When I’m working on a project I throw all my useable scraps into one metal bin and tell myself that I’ll sort those into their scrap drawers as soon as I’m done.  It’s a lie.  The scraps actually pile up in the bin as one project turns into the next. From there they spill onto a chair, and then the floor, and then someone plans to visit, and only then do I start sorting frantically so the sewing room looks slightly organized and like less of a fire hazard.

On my latest dive into the scrap heap it became obvious that I could cram no more into those drawers (except yellow…must buy more yellow fabrics…) and something must be done.  Step #1 in Scrapdown 2016:  A postage stamp quilt.

I’m combining the postage stamp and checkerboard tutorials from one of my favorite blogs, Red Pepper Quilts, to make my postage stamp quilt.  Most of my scraps are shorter in length, so I’m using the 2″ x 7″ strip size and using white strips to break up all that color from my rainbow of scraps.

I spent the better part of Monday and half of Tuesday just cutting scraps:


And half of Tuesday and all of this morning chain piecing strips together:


And I’m still not done. I keep having to go back and cut more white strips to pair up with all those scraps.  I think I had about 430 colored strips to start, so once these are all joined into blocks I may have enough for a HUGE quilt or a few small ones.  This project is all about using up the scraps, not the size of the end result.

I wish I could say that my scrap bins were empty now, but the best I can tell you is that most of the drawers now close without too much stuffing.   And I have a lovely pile of strip blocks waiting to be cut and pieced into postage stamp blocks.


More updates on this project and more scrap projects soon!



Feathering the Nest

Fall is in the air.  Okay, not really.  This is Virginia in the first week of September.  It’s currently 90 degrees out.  But I wish Fall were in the air.  It’s my favorite season.

I’ve been working on a project that has an autumnal feel to me:


I call it the Bohemian Feather Table Runner.  It’s inspired by and adapted from this beautiful Anna Maria Horner quilt.  I just loved the design, but wasn’t sure I could manage the whole quilt.  The shape of the blocks just begged to be made into a table runner instead.

IMG_2658 IMG_2656

It’s a great way to use up scraps.  I think the natural linen adds to the boho feel, but then again, I think linen should be used in everything.  Evening gowns? Yup, why not. Bathing suits?  They never flattered me anyway.  I have had the backing fabric in my stash for a long time and loved it but wasn’t sure where to use it.  It’s a fairly big scale print and I didn’t want to wreck it by chopping it up.  I love how it works with all the prints on the front.


I’ve put it on sale in my Etsy shop, but I am tempted to keep it.  Might have to make a second one for me!

Fun with Floss

Sometimes I get tired of sitting at the sewing machine or I want to hang out with the family.  There is NO space for the family in the craft room.  It’s my selfish place.  And my happy place.  That sounds wrong, doesn’t it?  Don’t judge…

Anyway, I recently discovered some creative fun for when I’m not hiding in the craft room:61Ou85QzfeL

I used to love to embroider, but I stopped because, let’s face it, people don’t really NEED that many cross-stitched wall hangings, and I can’t stand making things if they don’t at least have a hope of being useful in some way.

This book is full of cute little designs and projects that actually can be used or can embellish another sewing project.  I’ve made several houses from the Felt Winter Village project to use as tree ornaments.  They are pretty cute if I do say so myself. I’ll try to add some pics of those soon. I also made a larger project using the embroidery design, but not the same pillow design from the front cover of the book:


I wanted mine to be square and I got a chance to use some of the fabrics leftover from my holiday gift quilts.  I like it so much that I’m tempted to keep it, but (for now at least) it’s in my Etsy shop.

Forgotten Finish

This one is an old finish, but a new post.  I made this baby quilt more than  a year ago before we even left Korea.


Somehow (shocking) it got lost for months in the melee of the move.  The pattern is from a beautiful tutorial by Bonjour Quilts.  The fabric is a mix of Sweetcakes by Riley Blake and assorted solids from my stash.

IMG_0736Those pink prints remind me of Strawberry Shortcake Dolls from my misspent 80’s youth.  I can almost smell her fake strawberry-scenetd nylon hair…sigh…good times.  Hopefully the gray and the modern pattern offset that sickly sweet girly girl thing.

IMG_0741IMG_0737It’s sparsely quilted echoing the lines on the front of the quilt in pink thread.  This was made in the days before I even thought about learning to free-motion quilt.  I don’t think FMQ would have added much to this quilt, though.  The simple, straight lines make sense to me here.


IMG_0744Time to add this one to the collection to be sold!

What’s new?

Been waaaay too long since I’ve taken time to post!  I need to get back in the habit.  Here’s what’s been cooking lately:


Isn’t this fun?  It’s a bag I made using Riley Blake’s Union Jack fabric.  The pattern is modified from a Sew Serendipity Bags pattern that fits the size of the flag print just perfectly.


I love how it turned out.  I kind of want to keep it for myself, but it is part of several projects I’m making to sell, so stay tuned for news of that.

IMG_0044I obviously have a lot of work to do learning how to take pics that aren’t BLURRY!  Must work on that!