Throw-Back Thursday: Cherry Picking Vest

November 13th, 2014

Moths have good taste. They chose to place their offspring on my beloved cherry sweater, which I knitted by hand from Sasha Kagan’s Big and Little Sweaters. On their way to adulthood, the baby moths nibbled more holes than I wanted to repair.

So I put the cherry sweater with an oversized red sweater that never looked good on me anyway, and made this crazy-patchwork vest.

After machine embroidering the red sweater I stabilized the knitting with fusible interfacing. I cut the stabilized sweaters into patches and arranged them on a lightweight cotton foundation cut from a commercial vest pattern. I sewed them in place.

Oh no, the patchwork didn’t look good! The bright reds, blue, and white looked too busy and choppy. What could I do?

Decorative stitching along the join lines helped a little. I tried various tricks to tone down the stridently contrasting colors.

Finally I saw what was in front of my eyes the whole time. The vest had a circle theme (the red cherries and the embroidery motifs). What usually-circular item do I love and have in droves? Buttons! To tone down the white, I added red buttons as an echo of the cherries. I made the busy pattern even busier! Much better.

If red buttons on the white areas looked good, would white buttons on the red and blue areas be even more wonderful? I tried it out. Yes!

The exuberance and completely ridiculous busy-ness of this project make me smile every time I see it.

This vest was accepted into the Small Wonders exhibition at the 2005 Spring Quilt Festival in Chicago

Third Grade Art Days

November 12th, 2014

Third Grade Textile Art

I was the lucky one on October 23! My daughter Ella and I spent a busy morning with third graders at an Austin-area elementary school for Art Days. This is Ella at the beginning of the day.

Parents spent weeks organizing and preparing for Art Days, funded the purchase of most of the supplies, and organized visits by visual artists, musicians, actors, and authors. (Thank you, Carolyn, for inviting me!)

Our work room was all ready to go with a gallon of school glue and an 8 x 10″ canvas for each student. Ella and I brought buttons, beads, sequin trims, felt, and crocheted bits and pieces. After a while, the supplies got scattered around a little by those hard-working third graders.

Third Grade Textile Art

I had lots of…let’s call them crocheted beta-flowers–the prototypes for the flowers that became part of Crochet Bouquet and Crochet Garden.

They’ve been sitting on my storage shelves for years, because I couldn’t imagine throwing them away. The third graders made excellent use of them. Look!

Third Grade Textile Art

I am absolutely thrilled and amazed by every single one of these compositions. The colors, the enthusiasm, instinctive design sense–oh my.

Third Grade Textile Art

Third Grade Textile Art Third Grade Textile Art

Third Grade Textile Art

This is “Superman with a Zipper.” See the green sequin “S” for Superman?

Third Grade Textile Art Third Grade Textile Art

Third Grade Textile Art

Third Grade Textile Art

The mother of the student who decorated the canvas at the bottom left, guessed correctly that it was his, without first seeing his name on the back. “Those are the colors in our playroom!” she said.

Third Grade Textile Art Third Grade Textile Art

Third Grade Textile Art

Third Grade Textile Art

Third Grade Textile Art

Third Grade Textile Art

Third Grade Textile Art

Third Grade Textile Art Third Grade Textile Art

Third Grade Textile Art

Third Grade Textile Art

Can you tell that two friends decorated these canvasses?

Third Grade Textile Art

Look, right in the middle is a “Mumsy”-prototype from Crochet Bouquet, and a “Baby Cornflower” from Crochet Garden in the top right corner.

Third Grade Textile Art

This is a “Byzantine Beauty” from Crochet Garden. I crocheted several different versions of that flower before finally getting it right.

The young lady that created this design was quietly confident. She studied the canvas, rummaged around in the piles of supplies, and came back with exactly the right piece to accent the Byzantine Beauty. She repeated the process until she was satisfied.

Sixth Grade Textile Art

Ella finally got to decorate her own canvas, after helping third-graders all morning.

It was a Good Day!

November 11th, 2014

Iced Water at the Café Rouge knitted, quilted wall hanging

My mom and I went to the Threads of Texas Quilt Show on October 3 to see all the beautiful quilts made mostly by members of the Town & Country Quilt Guild of Stephenville, Texas.

We hadn’t even made our way to the quilt exhibit, before my friend Hazel saw us. “Have you looked at the quilts yet?” she said.

No, we hadn’t.

“Then I’m not going to say a word,” she said, “because I don’t want to spoil anything for you.”

How tantalizing.

Shards 2: Sometimes, a knitted, quilted wall hanging

Four and a half long rows of quilts greeted us as we walked into the exhibition hall, which doubles as a gymnasium—hours of lovely, colorful entertainment. The skill and talent in that big room, the time invested in making those quilts, the effort of putting together a show, were mind-boggling.

We turned to the right, toward the first row of quilts, to take them in one by one. We soon came upon the Mixed Media division, where my quilts were hung.

Here’s what we saw. You can imagine the happy texts to my husband and daughter, and the big smiles that lasted well into the weekend.

Shards 2: Sometimes, a knitted, quilted wall hanging

Iced Water at the Café Rouge, a knitted, quilted wall hanging

The black and yellow ribbon is from National Quilting Association Certified Judge Marilyn Hardy, who judged the show and awarded all the ribbons. Usually one NQA CJ ribbon is awarded in a show judged by a NQA certified judge. The recipient’s quilt is posted on the NQA CJ award website. I hope you’ll go look—there are lots of great quilts on the page.

A good day for a knitter and crocheter who also quilts

Firewheel Meadow Finished in Time

November 10th, 2014

Firewheel Meadow wall hanging

I wish September began with a P, so we could use it in this catchy name: Productive Peptember. Okay, I’m laughing, because it looks so funny in print. Microsoft Word doesn’t have a synonym for “productive” that begins with S, so I’m off to the true synonym master, Roget…

No joy from Roget’s Thesaurus, either. So let’s say that I got a lot done in September: two magazine articles and one magazine design, which I’ll tell you about when they appear.

AND the Firewheel Meadow wall hanging, which I have been posting about in progress. The last stitch was secured on September 30, the day before it was due at the Threads of Texas Quilt Show.

And I’m so glad it was done in time, because it won third place in the Mixed Media, Small Quilt division. Yay!

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.