Firewheel Meadows Wall Hanging

August 22nd, 2014

Crocheted Firewheel, Indian Blanket, Gaillardia flowers

Whatever you call them—Indian Blanket, Gaillardia, or Firewheel—these colorful, happy flowers are a joy to behold. We had them in our front yard for years, and oh, how I loved to come home to their bright greeting.

Figuring it was time to make a firewheel wall hanging, I crocheted dozens of them using the pattern on pp. 83-84 of Crochet Bouquet: Easy Designs for Dozens of Flowers. The flowers are made in two layers and then sewn together.

Crocheted Firewheel, Indian Blanket, Gaillardia flowers

The project stalled for a while, and during that time, I had occasion to drive around Texas. I noticed the roadside Firewheels had very dark centers. My memory said that the tiny yellow flowerlets of Firewheels bloom around the edge of the flower center. But not quite! They bloom from the edge of the center toward the center of the center, darkening to a rusty red as they age.

Crocheted Firewheel, Indian Blanket, Gaillarda flowers

As you zoom along the highway, you mostly see the yellow on the edges of the outside petals going to a much darker red center. No orange streaks. Not many yellow dots around the center. Luckily I hadn’t embroidered many yellow dots. But all my flowers were sewn with orange yarn. I would have to change them.

Choosing yarn for wall hanging

For the firewheel meadow, I wanted a strong green for the foreground, bright greens for the middle ground to give the impression of sunlight, and grayed greens for the distance. Here are my three piles of green. This is why one needs a stash, or as I prefer to call it, a yarn collection.

Ultimate Sweater Machine knitting for wall hanging

My trusty Ultimate Sweater Machine knits my wall hanging backgrounds very fast. This is good, because they are often large! In this photo, I’ve already finished the blue sky, and am in the process of making the green meadow. I knit with lots of different yarns, changing the yarn every one or two rows. This is easy on an Ultimate Sweater Machine.

Stabilizing knitting for wall hanging

Since I cut up and sew the knitting to make my wall hangings, I stabilize the knitted fabric with fusible interfacing. This takes a while, but the interfacing stops the cut knitting from unraveling and it keeps it stable for sewing. To much handling will eventually mess up the edges of the cut knitting. I aim to sew before that becomes a problem.

Foundation piecing knitted fabric

I use a quilting technique called ‘foundation piecing’ to make a quilt top from my knitted fabric. The foundation is a piece of fabric, which will be part of the finished product, but you won’t be able to see it. I use fabrics that I know I will never use for anything else.

On the left side of this photo, you can see the cut pieces of sky pinned to the foundation fabric. To the right, the pieces are already sewn. Using a zigzag stitch, I catch the edges of two patches, which sews them together as well as attaching them to the foundation underneath.

This wall hanging is fairly large, so I pieced and sewed it in four sections.

Arranging crocheted flowers on wall hanging

Yay! I finished piecing and sewing the wall hanging! I love the part where I get to arrange embellishments. Our dog, Finn, kept an eye on me as I placed the largest flowers in the foreground, medium sized flowers in the middle ground, and small flowers in the distance.

This was a pre-arrangement. Before I could finalize the placement of flowers, I still had to quilt and bind the wall hanging. I wanted to get a feel for how it would look. Would I need to add anything to the quilt top before quilting? I took pictures to help me remember this arrangement.

Adding buttons to wall hanging

Wait, wait! Let me try out the buttons I had picked out for this piece! Yes, I felt the dark buttons added contrast and made the flowers look more like the real thing. One more photo, and then I gathered up flowers and buttons in preparation for the next steps: quilting and binding.

Andean Hats

August 6th, 2014

My lovely model, Ella, was almost four years old when I posted pictures of her in our Andean hats in December 2006. Now she’s eleven and a half and too big to wear those hats.

The hats are too amazing and the little girl too cute to leave the remaining photos in my unposted file. Here they are—a tribute to the hand-knitting skill of those knitters of the Andes, who were probably men.

Andean knitted hat Andean knitted hat

Andean knitted hat Andean knitted hat

Andean knitted hat Andean knitted hat
Words are knitted into this hat!

Andean knitted hat

Andean knitted hat

Now we enjoy our Andean hats every time we walk down our hallway.

Knit Upholstered Stool

August 3rd, 2014

Knitted upholstery

We loved the skips of England, low-slung dumpsters parked temporarily in front of houses where people were cleaning out or remodeling. We would stroll by, glancing nonchalantly into the skips, looking for interesting furniture or other treasures that were, for the moment, someone else’s trash.

Charles brought home this oaken stool from a skip one day. It needed refinishing and a new top. He stripped and refinished the wood. I provided the upholstery.

The knitting was left over from a piece I made on my Ultimate Sweater Machine. After fusing interfacing to the underside, I machine stitched a grid at about one-inch intervals across the stabilized fabric. Following instructions from a library book, we reupholstered the stool.

That was in the late 1990s, and we’ve been using it ever since!

Guest Hand Towels Foreshadow Future Books

July 30th, 2014

How can you make something prettier by adding a little crochet or knitting here and there? With little time to knit or crochet a large project, how can you customize a gift or put your individual stamp on a purchased item?

crocheted starfish, knitted fish on towels

These applique towels were my answer to that question early in the 2000s. They foreshadowed my crochet books, which are full of motifs for customizing and decorating fashions, home décor, and gifts.

I machine-stitched the felt sand and seaweed onto the towels. The fish are knitted, a pattern I borrowed from one of my early designs in print: “Tropical Fish Cardigan,” Christmas Year–Round Needlework and Craft Ideas, p. 14 ff., March 1994.

Eventually an English magazine published my crocheted basket starfish towel design: “Star Bright” (crocheted starfish on towels), Popular Crafts, p. 62, July 2002.

Makeover Monday—Embellished Jacket

July 28th, 2014

Jacket with Fun Fur collar and cuffs

My website is getting a makeover!

My cousin-once-removed, Stephanie-k, is working with me to update colors and structure. We’re streamlining the site to reflect the changes my designing business has undergone in the last ten years. Yay!

This green jacket is one of the projects we’re dropping from the original site. The model is my daughter, when she was eight years old. Now she’s almost nineteen.

It’s easy to dress up a jacket with a furry collar and cuffs.

You will need:

  • Jacket, purchased or handmade
  • Lion Brand Fun Fur or Festive Fur to match or contrast with jacket, 1 skein.
  • Size 10-1/2 US knitting needles or size needed to obtain gauge of about 5 1/2 sts per inch/2.5cm in garter stitch (knit every row).
  • Sewing thread to match yarn
  • Sewing needle and tapestry needle

Knit collar:
Cast on 8 sts. Knit every row until piece is long enough to reach around the jacket neck. Bind off. Weave in yarn ends with tapestry needle.

Knit cuffs:
Cast on 8 sts. Knit every row until piece is long enough to reach the bottom edge of the sleeve. Bind off and cut yarn, leaving 6″/15cm end of yarn for sewing. Repeat for the second sleeve. Use the end to sew the cuff ends together. Weave in the yarn ends.

Finishing:
Pin collar and cuffs in place. Hand sew collar along neck edge. Hand sew cuffs along the bottom edge of the sleeve. Hand sew cuff to sleeve the upper edge of the cuff, about 1-1/2″/4cm from the bottom edge of the sleeve.

TextileFusion Again!

July 27th, 2014

Firewheels Wallhanging in progress

Finally, finally, I’m making another TextileFusion wall hanging. It will have a narrow band of blue sky and lots of green for the base. After it’s quilted, I’m going to applique Fire Wheels all over it.

The Fire Wheel is a two-layer flower project from Crochet Bouquet. In real life, Firewheels are among my favorite Texas wildflowers. They are also known as Gaillardia or Indian Blanket.

In this photo, I hope you can see the patches of darker green toward the bottom, which are already sewn to the foundation fabric. I’m patching in the bright green, where you may be able to see my pins holding the patches in place.

KNITstyle magazine, October 2014

It all has to be finished by October 1st, because the wall hanging will be in the Threads of Texas Quilt Show in Stephenville, TX, October 3-4, 2014.

Speaking of TextileFusion projects, the October 2014 issue of KNITstyle magazine features an article about my knitted, quilted, and embellished wall hangings, with lots of pictures. Daryl Brower wrote a very nice piece about me and my work. Thanks to her and to editor Cari Clement, who suggested the article.

The Great Wall of Yarn, Indianapolis

May 27th, 2014

The Great Wall of Yarn at The National Needlework Association Summer Trade Show is where yarn manufacturers show off their new yarns. Hanks and skeins of yarn hang within reach of eager hands, designer swatches show just what you can do with these yarns. Best of all, each manufacturer provides six- to eight-inch lengths of yarn for shop owners and designers to take away.

The first time I saw the Great Wall of Yarn in 2012, I chose the most novel or interesting yarns and taped them into the notebook I always carry around with me. I took notes, most of which were even legible. After this flurry of activity, I noticed a stack of booklets provided to show attendees. The booklets listed each yarn on the Wall and who manufactured it. A convenient space was left between listings, where one could tape the appropriate yarn sample.

I vowed that next time, I would find the booklet first and tape every single sample yarn into its space. Well, it took me over an hour, but that’s just what I did at the 2014 TNNA Summer Trade Show in Indianapolis, earlier this month. I had so much fun!

What can I tell you about the new yarns? Cashmere figured prominently among the luxury yarns. Bold and understated metallics gave a sparkle to the Great Wall, but not too much. Mint, teal, peacock and other values of blue-green were plentiful.

Several manufacturers featured yarn whose raw fiber was sourced in the U. S. Good-looking recycled yarns caught my eye, too. I liked the feel of Kollage’s “Riveting” yarns, made from recycled blue jeans.

For sheer restrained luxury, my vote is for Zealana “Air,” 40% cashmere, 20% silk, and 40% brushtail possum. Oh, to knit a scarf with such softness and lightness.

New York, New Jersey, New Yarn

May 23rd, 2014

Do I need more yarn? NO!

Do I want more yarn? Considering the size of my stash, I can resist buying yarn these days. But sometimes…if a yarn is really nice… or if it’s pink…

Cascade Yarns’s Souk was on a low shelf at Knitty City. Its bold colors with their subtle variations appealed to my folk art-loving heart. The slightly irregular spin did, too. I love yarns and other things that are obviously good, but not refined to within an inch of their lives. I see a Crochet Charm Lace project in Souk’s future. The buttons, on the other hand, are destined for a wall hanging, without a doubt.

Schulana Macaibo fell into both categories: really nice and pink. Lengths of matte tape-style yarn alternate with brilliantly shiny lengths. The colors seem to glow! The Blue Purl, a yarn shop in Madison, New Jersey, displayed a lovely cowl made of Macaibo, along with a free pattern. I was drawn in like a moth to a lightbulb.

Here’s the yarn with the first few rows of the cowl already on my needles. This one is for my daughter Eva, who goes to the University of Texas. The orange in the yarn is almost UT orange. Close enough, anyway. I’ll make another cowl for my daughter Ella with the pink yarn. Maybe she’ll let me borrow it.

I’m planning a multi-pink sweater to replace one I made in 2001. It finally wore out, but it is immortalized in the banner at the top of this blog and also in my friend Peggy’s quilt, which you can see in my last Valentine’s Day post. The Blue Purl had two pink yarns for my new sweater collection: Jojoland Fantasia and Claudia Hand Painted Yarn. The Madeline Tosh yarn in the photo is from Knitty City.

My friend Jane was responsible for my being in New Jersey and at The Blue Purl. We hadn’t seen each other in about 15 years, so I took the train down from New York City to visit her. We picked up where we left off—talking about yarn and knitting.

We met when we both lived in Sheffield, England. Both of us enjoyed going to charity shops, which in the UK are thrift shops that support charities. The shops usually had a large collection of knitting needles and other needlework tools. Sometimes they had yarn for very good prices, probably from someone’s estate. I bought lots of buttons from the charity shop near our house in Sheffield.

We examined Jane’s collection of charity shop yarn. She had worked through a lot of it, making socks and experimenting with stitches and shaping. “Isn’t this yarn awful?” she said, showing me the white and multicolor yarn in this photo. She had about six balls of it.

I said, “I’m pretty tolerant of weird color combinations.” I pointed out that the colors were all slightly grayed, which gave them an interesting vintage feel.

“Here,” she said. “Have two. Then we can have matching socks.”

New York Weekend

May 22nd, 2014

I met Crochet Insider’s Dora Ohrenstein for lunch and a visit to the Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art on Madison Avenue. We have both been authors for Lark Crafts, and we both design for magazines. Dora has only been crocheting for ten years, so I would say she obviously has a flair for crochet design.

Some years ago, Dora traveled to Tajikistan to explore the origins of crochet. Later she went to Istanbul, Turkey, for the same reason. I’ve written before about my fascination with Turkish crafts, which I think are beautiful. I want to go to Turkey, too, and Dora gave me lots of information and hints about traveling there.

Just before we went our separate ways, Dora asked if I had noticed any crocheted fashions on my walk up Madison Avenue. Yes I had! The motifs on this skirt remind me of old tablecloth or bedspread squares. I couldn’t find the name of the shop where I saw it.

Further down Madison Avenue, the Hermes shop amazed me with a strange and wonderful needlepoint display. I can’t begin to guess how many hours went into the planning, shaping, and making of these crazy wonderful pieces.

I enjoyed a leisurely Mother’s Day, walking south from my room through neighborhoods to the Strand Bookstore. This mosaic was a lovely, colorful surprise.

Happiness at Lion Brand Yarn Studio

May 21st, 2014

In the early 1990s, David Blumenthal of Lion Brand Yarn Company was among the first people to commission knitting and crochet designs from me. I designed a couple of afghans and sweaters, which Lion Brand used to promote their yarns.

Last week, about twenty years later, was homecoming time. I returned to Lion Brand as a textile artist and crochet book author. Yay!

The friendly and helpful staff at the Lion Brand Yarn Studio (34 West 15th Street) hung my wall hanging, Passionate Heart, in the gallery space just to the right as you walk in the door. The wall hanging will be there through the end of July 2014. Having a piece of art displayed in New York City is absolutely thrilling.

You can see Passionate Heart in the background of the first photo above. The next photo shows it from another perspective, where you can see the beginning of the yarn display at the left.

On the evening of Thursday, May 11, customers and employees of Lion Brand Yarn Studio gathered for my presentation “TextileFusion: A Knitting of Art.” Before we started, I had to tell them the story of the lamb design in Cute Crochet World (pp. 30-31).

My husband and daughter were sitting around talking, when he asked, “Does steel wool come from sheep?” She knew the answer to this silly questions. I happened to be designing the lamb pattern at the time.

“Hmmm,” I thought. “I could make a steel wool lamb with that ‘Wool Stainless Steel’ from Lion Brand.” So now we know of at least one sheep with steel wool.