Why Another Gingerbread Kids Pattern?

December 18th, 2015

Crocheted Gingerbread Cookie ornament

Years ago, my mom crocheted very cute gingerbread man Christmas tree ornaments. They were a lot of work, she told me, because there were lots of starts and stops, leading to lots of ends to weave in.

Do you recognize this pattern? Do you know where it appeared?—if you do, will you please leave a comment to let me know, so I can acknowledge it here?

The front and back pieces were crocheted back and forth. The back piece hides the wrong side of the embroidered buttons and face, and gives the piece more stability as an ornament. The sides are joined with a round of sc.

I always have a difficult time crocheting neatly into the sides of stitches to make borders or, in this case, to make a border and join two pieces. I can never make it look professional or even good.

Also, I’m not the only crocheter who wants to minimize the ends she must weave in at the end of the project.

When I was writing Cute Crochet World, I wanted gingerbread for the “Seasons” chapter, so I pondered the possibilities. The only way to minimize yarn ends AND avoid having to crochet into the sides of rows, was to crochet a gingerbread person in rounds.

And that’s why “Gingerbread Kids.”

Step-by-step tutorial to supplement the instructions in the book at my blog Curious and Crafty Readers. Instructions for making cute Gingerbread Kid ornaments are there, too.

Crocheted Gingerbread Kid Ornament

Embellishment Troubles or Joys?

December 11th, 2015

The title of this post was originally going to be “Embellishment Woes.” This project is causing me trouble. I’m not quite satisfied with any arrangement of flowers and buttons so far. But after thoughtful consideration, I remembered that this is my favorite part of the process. So no woes.

Titled 360 Degrees, this piece is for one of the member challenges at Visions Art Museum next year. It is a small quilt, made from a rug I knitted many, many years ago.

Once again I say, “Thank goodness for digital photography!” It’s so quick and easy to photograph different options and look at them all together. Here are photos of the arrangements I have tried so far.

Embellishment options for 360 Degrees wall hanging

Embellishment options for 360 Degrees wall hanging

Embellishment options for 360 Degrees wall hanging

Embellishment options for 360 Degrees wall hanging

Seems pretty likely there will be more photos before I make the final decision about embellishment. Really, I’m waiting for the thrill. The thrill will tell me when I’ve got the combination right.

Knitting and Quilting Puzzling Pinks

November 16th, 2015

Suzann Thompson's Puzzling Pink quilt

At 42″ x 31″, Puzzling Pinks is among my largest wall hangings. That’s a lot of knitting! Luckily, at the Ultimate Sweater Machine, I can crank out the stockinette stitch in record time.

Knitting for Suzann Thompson's Puzzling Pink quilt

As usual, I knitted a varied, shaded fabric by changing yarn every one or two rows—easy on the USM. With the green yarns sorted into groups of gray greens, yellow greens, and plain old green greens, I hoped to knit the impression of sun and shadow. There’s even a little blue for the sky in this garden of pink flowers.

Knitting Suzann Thompson's Puzzling Pink quilt

To create the patchwork squares of green background, I tried a little something different, cutting squares from fusible interfacing first, fusing them onto the knitted fabric second, and finally cutting them out. This worked pretty well.

Suzann Thompson's Puzzling Pink quilt

My quilting friends look forward to summers, because we get together in Dublin, Texas, for a three-day quilting retreat. Of course we sew, but it’s also three-day talk and laugh fest with yummy food and fun games.

My goal was to have Puzzling Pinks pieced and ready to quilt in time for our get-together. Managed. Quilting the piece took several hours, but this fun group of women helped the time pass quickly.

With three days of mostly uninterrupted sewing, a person can get a lot done. We were all very productive. By the end of our retreat, Puzzling Pinks was quilted, labeled, and bound.

Suzann Thompson's Puzzling Pink quilt

Crocheting Flowers for Puzzling Pinks

November 11th, 2015

Suzann Thompson's Puzzling Pink quilt at the Cross Timbers Fine Arts Council

Crocheted flowers for Suzann Thompson's Puzzling Pink quilt

Pink! It’s my most favorite color. It’s a good thing too, because the Puzzling Pink wall hanging is covered with dozens of pink flowers and I crocheted them all. And appliqued them.

Crocheted flowers for Suzann Thompson's Puzzling Pink quilt

These softly variegated flowers, made with Prism’s Kid Slique, are adapted from the Russian Picot Daisy pattern in Crochet Garden. Such luscious yarn!

Also from Crochet Garden, I made Anemones in Aunt Lydia’s No. 10 crochet cotton, Begonias in a Spud & Chloe yarn, and Tabby Ovals in a long discontinued yarn.

Crocheted flowers for Suzann Thompson's Puzzling Pink quilt

Crocheted flowers for Suzann Thompson's Puzzling Pink quilt

The long-stemmed buds are from the Valentine Roses pattern in Cute Crochet World.

Crocheted flowers for Suzann Thompson's Puzzling Pink quilt

Powerful Motivation

November 9th, 2015

Suzann Thompson's knitted quilts at the Cross Timbers Fine Arts Council

Need motivation to make a few wall hangings? Simply agree to show them in a quilt exhibit or two, scheduled for a few months away. Be sure to note how large you said they would be, so you can make them accordingly.

That’s what I did. The result? I’ve been working diligently, consistently, and pretty much exclusively on wall-hangings for the last six months. Tuesday, November 3rd, was the deadline for the last of the quilts. I did it! I met the deadlines!

The quilts in the photo are at the Cross Timbers Fine Arts Council River North Gallery, Stephenville, TX, until December 12. If you’re near Stephenville, please drop by and see them plus dozens more quilts made by members of the Town & Country Quilt Guild.

The other result of intense wall-hanging activity? I suffered from “wall-hanging eyes.” That’s when you have been sewing for so long, your eyes are focused at sewing machine distance or hand-sewing distance, and it takes a while to refocus them to see the real world.

And when I refocused last Tuesday afternoon, I saw that my house needed cleaning, papers needed filing, and blogs needed updating. That’s the plan for the next two weeks, before I start the next round of wall hangings. They’re not committed to an exhibit. Yet.

TextileFusion in Portland, Oregon

August 17th, 2015

Finally, finally, finally the Quilt! Knit! Stitch! show, with its workshops and markets and exhibits came to Portland, Oregon, last week. The quilts and fiber arts were stunningly beautiful, as usual. And this time someone was exhibiting knitted, embellished quilts. Me!

TextileFusion art quilt exhibit at Quilt! Knit! Stitch! 2015

TextileFusion art quilt exhibit at Quilt! Knit! Stitch! 2015

TextileFusion art quilt exhibit at Quilt! Knit! Stitch! 2015

Next chance to see the TextileFusion exhibit is at the International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas, October 29 through November 1, 2105. Come and talk to me there!

For more information, please visit www.quilts.com.

TextileFusion art quilt exhibit at Quilt! Knit! Stitch! 2015

Throwback Thursday–Vintage Crochet Cotton

August 6th, 2015

vintage Bucilla crochet cotton

On the first day of the Campbell-Neumann sale in Austin, we would already be in line with dozens of like-minded shoppers, waiting for the doors to open. Misters Campbell and Neumann liquidated estates about four times a year, and any sale included items from three or more families.

Campbell-Neumann was where I found Barbara Walker’s A Treasury of Knitting Patterns for the first time. And it was where I bought a bag of cream-colored vintage Bucilla crochet thread and an old receipt.

1941 receipt from Mayer & Smith, Tyler, Texas
vintage Bucilla crochet cotton label

Mrs. W. H. Yarbrough bought two “cro cot” from Mayer & Schmidt (Tyler, Texas) for 70 cents on April 2, 1941. I can’t tell from the receipt if the cotton she bought was the cotton in the bag, because there were at least ten 800 yard hanks. Maybe she bought two more, because she was following instructions to “Purchase sufficient of this color at one time to complete your article, making sure that it is all of one dye lot number as the next dye lot of this color may differ slightly in shade.”

Some things don’t change.

Lampshade knitted with vintage crochet cotton

Nearly 45 years after Mrs. Yarbrough bought the cotton, I used a double strand to knit a lampshade (pattern from Barbara Walker). Now, another 30 years later, we still use this lamp and lampshade in our house.

I also knitted a 3/4 sleeve, v-shaped-neckline-in-the-back top, using the “Oriel” pattern. My dad took a picture of me wearing it in 1985.

I’ve changed since then, but the sweater is as cute as ever, so my daughter Eva wears it.

Oriel pattern knitted vintage cotton sweater

When is a Wall Hanging Really Finished?

July 13th, 2015

Mama Lion wall hanging finishing

“The painting isn’t finished until you label the slides,” said Gay Fay Kelly, a painter and my former business partner about 20 years ago. Artists sent slides when they entered their work in juried shows or contacted potential buyers or galleries.

In this digital age, we don’t send slides much anymore, thank goodness! So after the last decorative stitch of a wall hanging is embroidered and the last button sewn in place, when is it REALLY finished?

Mama Lion wall hanging finishing

First, at the back of the work, I attach a 4-inch hanging sleeve. To hang the quilt, you slide a rod through the sleeve, which puts a layer of fabric between the rod and the quilt itself.

At home, I attach wire or monofilament to the ends of the rod and hang the whole assembly from a nail. If you use a wooden rod, you can install screw-eyes to the ends and hang the piece with nails through the eyelets.

Mama Lion wall hanging finishing

I often machine-stitch the title of the work, a copyright date, and a by-line into the quilt’s backing fabric. Mama Lion’s backing fabric was too colorful and busy for successful sewn-in information, so I attached a small hand-written label. Some of my quilting friends make beautiful labels. So far, mine are plain.

 Mama Lion wall hanging finishing

My brother Van turned me on to American Textile Recycling (atrscorp.com), so now I save all fabric scraps and trimmed yarn ends for recycling. Our family has recycled for ages, and so I was glad to find a place to take old linens, clothing, shoes, and fabric scraps.

Now, part of my personal finishing routine is gathering the scraps, yarn bands, and empty plastic thread spools and other containers, and delivering them to their respective recycling sites.

 Mama Lion wall hanging finishing

Finally, it’s picture time. The west side of the house usually has bright shade that is perfect for photography. At the moment, this is my photo studio–can you see the tripod at the left? I’m working on a better way to hang the quilts. A ladder isn’t really the best.

Today’s equivalent of labeling the slides is cropping the digital photos and saving them in various formats and resolutions for print and web-sharing. When that is done, the wall hanging is truly finished.

Mama Lion

July 12th, 2015

Mama Lion knitted, quilted wall hanging

This wooly mammal quilt is in honor of my TextileFusion exhibit’s sponsor for the 2015 Quilt! Knit! Stitch! Show in Portland, Oregon in August. Lion Brand Yarn Company supports textile arts through sponsorships of knitting and crochet events, as well as supporting projects of individual textile artists.

When I began designing knitting and crochet projects professionally in the 1990s, Lion Brand bought several of my designs. Since then, I’ve used Lion Brand yarns in many designs for magazines, for my crochet books, and for personal projects. At the Lion Brand Yarn Studio in New York, I’ve been privileged to sign books and present programs about crochet, writing, and designing.

For Mama Lion, I knitted with Lion Brand Yarn Company’s Amazing, Cotton-Ease, Fishermen’s Wool, Vanna’s Sequins, Wool-Ease, LB Collection Superwash Merino and Angora Merino.

Lion Brand has lent support to my design and artistic career. I hope I have brought some business their way, too. Thank you, Lion Brand.

Antelope Horns: The Final Lap

June 2nd, 2015

The last post about the Antelope Horns wall hanging ended with me sewing the patches to a foundation cloth. Here’s how they looked, compared to the photo, once I finally finished the foundation piecing.

Antelope Horns wall hanging

Next step: quilting with a regular presser foot, because I can control the stitching better.

Antelope Horns wall hanging

Now for my favorite part: embellishing. First, I outlined all the petals with a widely-spaced buttonhole stitch.

Antelope Horns wall hanging

For each flower, I crocheted five water-drop shapes. I laid them on the photo, to see how long the five stems needed to be, and how to attach them to a crocheted white center.

In the photo below, three of the flowers already have violet centers attached, but one shows the provisional white center. Though you can’t see it in the finished wall hanging, the white center adds dimension to the piece by lifting the violet centers a little higher than the horns.

Antelope Horns wall hanging

By laying out the horns on the photo, I could figure out how to finish the end of each horn, by crocheting taller or shorter stitches in the second round of stitching. Some of the horns are seen from the side, so their final row is different from the horns we see straight-on.

Antelope Horns wall hanging

I embroidered the purple stripes along the sides of the horns, which partially appliqued the horns in place. The dark violet center had lots of cream and light green embroidery. I sewed fuzzy five-petal flowerets to the centers before appliqueing them over the provisional white centers.

The button phase of any wall hanging is the best part of embellishing. I poured the buttons from our big jar, gleefully sorted through them, and chose 14 or 15 excellent candidates. I arranged them on the wall hanging and…oh. They didn’t look good. Aw, man!

Every button in the leafy section stood out like a sore thumb. The colors matched well. I even matched light swirls in dark buttons with the appliqued netting in the background. But they stood proud and a little too shiny. They distracted from the flowers.

In the flower half of the wall hanging, I managed to place four buttons. Their height matches the height of the applique, so they blend in better. After sewing on the buttons and attaching the hanging sleeve, the wall hanging was done.

Antelope Horns wall hanging

Hurray! On to the next project.