Four Flowers a Day

September 10th, 2014

Crocheted Firewheel Wall Hanging

The Firewheel Meadows quilt is due at the 2014 Threads of Texas Quilt Show on October 1. So far, I’m making steady progress toward the finish line by appliqueing four flowers a day onto the quilt. See the flowers at the left of the picture, with the petals curling up slightly? Those are the ones I sewed today.

At four a day, I’ll finish with the flowers on September 16, which gives me plenty of time to do more embellishment, sew on the label, and finish the hanging sleeve. AND finish two other projects by the end of September!

Oh, but some days it’s difficult to sit down and sew four flowers. I’d rather be doing something else, like reading stuff on the internet or sneaking a game of 2048 on my daughter’s iPad.

The process is character-building. Yes, that’s what it is.

Memories Monday–Recycled Sweater Vest

September 1st, 2014

TextileFusion vest made from recycled sweater

I placed a darkly colorful man’s sweater on the thrift-shop counter. The cashier looked at me apprehensively. “Do you realize this sweater is 100 percent wool?” she asked.

Yes, I did. That’s why I bought it! Frankly I was amazed that such a wonderful sweater was still on the shelf, but apparently the wool content wasn’t as attractive to other people. The price was right, too—about five dollars.

Wool is perfect for TextileFusion projects. It takes heat well, which is important because I stabilize the knitted fabrics with fusible interfacing. Since wool threads tend to cling to each other, wool is good for cutting into pieces.

For this vest, I cut the facings and hems off of a commercial sewing pattern, and used it to cut vest pieces from the sweater. I stabilized with fusible interfacing and machine stitching. My current favorite mother-of-pearl buttons were perfectly subtle embellishment for the vest. I added other buttons and trims, too.

Firewheels and Buttons

August 31st, 2014

Oh, those challenging firewheel centers! The dark, bloomed-out flowerets are around the outside of the center, while the yellow, currently-blooming flowerets are toward the center of the center. Clearly this calls for homemade buttons!

Making polymer clay buttons

Luckily, I had company in this button-making adventure. Ella and I gathered materials and got to work. She researched polymer techniques in the classic text Polymer Clay for Everyone, by her mom. Woo hoo!

Ella made a jellyroll cane with turquoise and pearl, and wrapped it in purple. Slicing the cane is the most exciting part! We both love how it reveals the design inside the cane.

“What are you going to do with those pretty buttons, Ella?”

“I’m going to put them in the button jar until I find a good project to use them for,” she said.

Like mother, like daughter!

Ella's handmade jellyroll button slices

My buttons were a little different. I made a Skinner Blend, a very clever technique which shades two or more colors into each other. You start with two colors of clay fitted together diagonally like this:

Skinner blend buttons

*Fold the piece in half as shown in the picture, and run it through the pasta machine.*

Skinner blend buttons

Repeat between *s until the blend is even.

Skinner blend buttons

Skinner blend buttons

Skinner blend buttons

I rolled the resulting blend starting at the yellow end. This made a cane of clay that shaded from yellow on the inside to burgundy on the outside. Thinking the buttons needed an even darker border, I blended some burgundy with black and wrapped it around the cane.

Handmade buttons for crocheted Firewheel, Indian Blanket, Gaillardia flowers

The button centers look good! The best part—I cut buttons for the large flowers, then reduced the cane and cut button slices for the medium-sized flowers, then reduced it some more and cut button slices for the small flowers!

Ella and I used the scraps to make miracle beads and scrappy buttons.

“What are you going to do with all those scrappy buttons, Mom?”

“I’m going to put them in the button jar until I find a good project to use them for,” I said.

Like daughter, like mother!

Sign Up Now for Taos Wool Festival Workshops in October

August 25th, 2014

Polymer clay buttons

The Taos Wool Festival is always the first full weekend of October, with workshops starting a couple of days ahead. This is a great time to be in the mountains of New Mexico. The autumn colors and crisp weather are just wonderful.

This year I’m offering three classes at Taos:

Polymer Clay Button Boutique, all day Friday, October 3. You’ll go home with lots of colorful, pretty buttons, ready to use. They’re machine washable and dryable. Beginners are welcome!

The buttons in the photo above are Swirl Buttons, which we’ll make in class. You can match your Swirl Buttons to any yarn or fabric.

Mosaic knit fish rug

Knit Mosaic Patterns and Design Your Own, Saturday afternoon, October 4. After this class, you’ll be able to knit any of Barbara Walker’s many mosaic patterns, and you can design your own! Read more about the workshop here.

This fishy rug is from a picture that my daughter Eva drew when she was seven years old. Think of the precious drawings you could capture in knitting after taking this class!

Knit Cables, Bobbles, and Braids workshop

Cables, Bobbles, and Braids, Sunday morning, October 5. You’ll learn how to do these stunning knitting techniques, but more importantly, you’ll develop a deeper understanding of these textural wonders. You’ll go away ready to twist and shout!

Please sign up for classes before September 1, 2014, at

This notice is also on my other blog, but with different pictures. Enjoy!

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. Too 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.

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.