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!