Thursday, April 03, 2014

Snuggly and Soft : How to Make a Rag Quilt

Possibly one of the easiest methods of making a quilt is to make a rag quilt. It's perfect for a beginning quilt project. All it consists of is making "flannel sandwiches" and then stitching them together. The biggest part of the job is probably choosing your fabric then cutting it out.

Baby Boy's Quilt - Was he really that small?
I made a rag quilt for Baby Boy when he was a baby. I had taken part in a flannel swap with my Summer Mama's group on Ravelry - it was in amongst all of our charm square swaps that provided the fabric for my Friendship Quilt. Somewhere along the line we'd decided to deviate from our usual swap of 5" cotton squares to 8" flannel. I used the more masculine looking prints and had saved the more feminine ones for a future project. Needing a baby gift for a friend of (BF)G's, I decided a girly rag quilt would be just the thing. They are so snuggly and soft, not too mention very easy to wash. Plus they get softer and snugglier with each washing!

I sorted out all my remaining 8" squares as well as cut some more from remnants I had left in my stash, then hit the fabric store for the backing flannel. I was able to make use of cotton quilt batt I had left in my stash from my other quilts. (A rag quilt can really be a way to make use of the leftover bits!)

There's loads of tutorials and patterns out there for how to make a rag quilt, and I'm sure they're all pretty much the same, but I thought I'd give you my quick and easy take on making one.


Gather your materials together.  If you cut carefully you should be able to get five squares out of an 8" strip of flannel, but you will want to make sure you leave yourself extra length to straighten the edge. Do NOT pre-wash your flannel. (I know it seems an odd thing to not preshrink, especially flannel, but trust me on this one!) 25 8" squares will produce an approximately (depending on shrinkage) 36" square quilt once finished. 

Step One - Prepare your fabrics by cutting :

25 x 8" squares of assorted prints or solids flannel (pick whatever suits your fancy for the quilt top)
25 x 8" squares of either print or solid flannel (all of one fabric for backing)
25 x 6.5" squares of cotton quilt batt

Step Two - Make a flannel sandwich :

Take one backing square and lay it wrong side up, making sure that if you are using a directional print you have it facing the way you would like it.  Then place a cotton batt square in the middle of your backing square, finally put the top on your sandwich right side facing up.  Once you have made all 25 of your sandwiches you will be ready to start sewing.

Make a sandwich
You will simply sew an X across each of your 25 flannel sandwiches. Your blocks are now quilted and ready to go.

Sewing the X

What the quilted sandwiches should look like 

Step Three - Deciding on placement :

Once you are done sewing all 25 flannel sandwiches you are ready to determine your placement of each.  I find the easiest way to do this is to clear a space on your floor so you have room and just set the blocks out in rows of five. Then you can start playing with the arrangement. Move your squares about until you have it the way you like it. There is no right or wrong way to go here, just be mindful of your direction of your squares if you have a directional print at all. When you have your arrangement the way you'd like it, stack your blocks in piles with the first on the row being the top of the pile and the last being on the bottom. It also helps to take a photo of your arrangement in case your blocks get mixed up between arranging them and sewing them together. Ahem. Not that something like that would ever happen to me. Ahem.

Determining placement
(with the help of my trusty assistant, Fluffy)

Step Four - Assembly :

You will now sew each of the blocks together by placing them WRONG sides together and using a 1/2" seam allowance. To keep things nicely lined up you will want to use pins in this step. Flannel can shift and slip, especially when things get bulky. (A walking foot can be useful here if you have one). Sew them into strips of five blocks each. Once all your blocks are sewn you will have five strips that need to be attached.

Next you will sew your strips together to form the quilt. Place your top and second strips WRONG sides together matching seams and pinning carefully. Then sew the entire length of the strip using a 1/2" seam allowance. Next place your second and third strips WRONG sides together and stitch. Continue in this manner until all five strips have been sewn to the previous one. Your final part of this step is to stitch 1/2" from the edge around the entire perimeter of your quilt.  You're almost done now!

Stitching the strips of blocks together
Step Five - Finishing :

Here comes the time consuming part.  You are going to carefully snip all your seam allowances and the entire outside edge of the quilt. A pair of spring loaded scissors are really helpful with this and taking little breaks along the way will make life a lot easier and your hand a whole lot less sore.  Be very careful not to cut through any of your stitching when cutting the seam allowances.
Carefully snip seam allowances
This is what it will look like

Your final step in making your rag quilt is to wash and dry it. Do NOT simply throw it in your washing machine for this important first washing. You will regret it and it may result in the need for a repair man. It is going to produce an unbelievable amount of lint that your home machine likely cannot handle. 

You have two options here. Go to your local laundromat or if that isn't feasible pop the quilt in a zippered duvet cover and wash it in your machine. At least that way the lint is contained, although you will be picking lint out of the duvet cover from here to eternity. Better that then your washing machine! (Once your quilt has been washed and dried for the first time it will be perfectly fine to wash with your regular laundry without risk of doom.)

Trim any long threads you may have missed, shake out the quilt to dislodge any remaining lint and then sit back and admire your snuggly, soft quilt.  You're done. Don't those now fluffy seam allowances look great? Wasn't that easy? 

A close up of the now softly frayed seam allowances
Ready to gift!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Cowls, Cowls Everywhere...

I think I've mentioned in previous posts about my new found love of cowls. They're so easy to make, and easy to wear.  I've knit seven in the last 12 months. I thought it was more, but I just went back and counted through my Ravelry project pages and there's only seven. Seven doesn't seem bad at all. Maybe I don't have a problem after all.

My latest one that I just cast off was the Lonicera Cowl from The Sexy Knitter. I knit it as part of a KAL for Sarah Wilson's group. It's a fun knit with a fairly easily remembered lace pattern. Sarah gives a couple of options in yarn weight and size too, so it's quite versatile. 

I chose to knit mine as the short version in a worsted weight, using Araucania Nature Wool in a blue green colour. It's actually the same yarn I used for my Hetty Cardigan that I knit last fall.   

It was a fairly quick knit all in all. It did take me about a month, but that was mainly because I am working on a large test project for Jenni Lansing Designs and as such have only worked on the cowl sporadically in order to try and get the test knit done on time.  

Since winter is still seemingly still going strong we'll have to see if any more cowls jump out at me to be knit. I could very well end up like Bartholomew and his 500 hats only with cowls instead of headwear at the rate I'm going!

I've also done a few other quick projects - I knit a wee baby gift and a couple sewn birthday gifts as well as a new cardi for me, but those will have to wait for another day… I hear Baby Boy rummaging around in the fridge and that never bodes well...

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Fifty Below

I'm really excited to be presenting a new original design to you today! I gave you a sneak peak in my last post, but I'll give you all the details now that I've launched my pattern into the world via Ravelry!

It's been such a long cold winter this year. Here on the prairies we've had relentless bitterly cold temperatures and windchills.  Hats, mitts, cowls or scarves have been a constant necessity just for survival outdoors.

I've found, this year, that I really like wearing (and knitting) cowls! They're so easy to pop over your head and go without the worry of ends dangling in the way or slip sliding off your neck like a scarf can. They're also really quick to knit, which in my books is always a bonus!

So without further ado, here is Fifty Below, a simple design born in the days when the windchill had the temperatures diving down to the fifty below range!

Fifty Below is a warm cowl that is knit flat, then seamed. It can showcase a special yarn or add a pop of colour in an easy to memorize cable panel up centre front. Perfect for those days when the temperature drops and the windchill is biting!

The cowl will knit up nicely in any worsted weight yarn so it is a great mix and match stash buster project as well! 

Gauge is not terribly important to this project as long as you are satisfied with the fabric you are creating, but please keep in mind that a different gauge from that listed could affect size and/or yardage needed.

You can download the Fifty Below pattern(for free), then grab your needles and yarn. You'll be ready in no time to bundle up and head outside to enjoy the rest of winter knowing you'll be cozy in your cowl when the mercury plummets!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Getting Things Done

I had a few things on the go in my project bag (I say bag, but really I mean bags). My Butterflies are Free colour work socks I was talking about in my last post as well as the cowl I was working on, plus a vest - the Montague Vest from New England Knits - that I started early last spring.

I have been getting things done. Happily checking those projects off my list.

First up, my socks. Oh how I love these socks. Is it wrong to be so proud of them? I feel like quite a grown up knitter with them. Of course mostly because of the fact they are colourwork (and they fit!!!!!), but also because they do fit because I was a "big girl knitter" and instead of huffily ignoring the fact my first sock didn't fit quite right, I decided to do something about it. (Plus of course I'd already been a "big girl knitter" and ripped back to fix the mistake earlier on in my first sock!)

I ended up modifying my socks that were too wide and too long in the toe by ripping back several rows into the colourwork (a whole butterfly worth) and ending the colourwork there. I then switched to smaller needles, decreased by eight stitches evenly around and continued the toe from my usual 64 stitches decreasing down to 20 stitches and binding them off with a kitchener stitch. Perfect fit. I can't believe that I knit an entire pair of socks in under two weeks. Amazing!!! I need to start wearing them more before sock season ends! I also need (yes, it's a NEED not a want) to knit another pair of colourwork socks. I need to knit Water for the Elephants. So strong is my obsession with them, I was tempted to cast on in pure wool rather than wait until I had a wool nylon blend. Thankfully a friend talked me down off that crazy ledge by reminding me how often I would need to darn socks that didn't have nylon reinforcement. Phew. Glad I dodged that one!

Next up I have to tell you about my cowl! It's my own design and I'm pretty proud of it too! (I'll be publishing the pattern on Ravelry very soon!) I used Patons Classic for the main colour and then added a pop of colour to the neutral brown by using some gorgeous handspun that a friend had given me a few years ago. Just the thing to get a gal through the doldrums of what feels like a never ending winter. I'll tell you more about it in it's own post tomorrow likely!

My final project I want to tell you about has been a veritable thorn in my side for far too long. This pattern is starting to rate right up there with the blasted Lopi Sweater of Doom. Nothing went right on this thing. I started out with great gusto last March. Swatched and all. Except my gauge swatch lied, as they will sometimes do. A small four inch gauge seemed perfect. A whole vest worth and that yarn grew like a bad weed. As soon as it got wet it went from hip length to almost knee length. Heck! The armholes alone stretched just about to my waist. I immediately ripped back and reknit to a better length. But that wasn't the end of the problems. I knit the front edging and suddenly my vest pulled up so high in the front it was as though it was cropped. Agggh. Ripped that out and picked up more stitches along the edges, used bigger needles and hoped for the best. As you can see in the picture it's still pulling up, but no where near as badly as before. The vest has sat in my project bag for months waiting for me to darn in the ends and do something with the armholes. The pattern doesn't do anything with them, but left as is, I think it looked like I'd simply forgotten to knit something. Bare bones edges on armholes are not attractive in the least. They look sloppy and unfinished. At least the way I knit them anyways!

It was driving me nuts. Every single time I opened up my projects page on Ravelry I was taunted by it's unfinished self sitting right at the top of the page. I finally couldn't stand it any longer. Something had to be done. I dragged it out of the depths of the closet the other night and knit an edging on the armhole while I watched a movie. Disaster struck again. At least this time it was only three rows and 37 stitches of garter stitches worth of disaster. It was too tiny. I almost couldn't squeeze my arm in. So frustrating. I was determined though and last night I conquered it. Larger needle, more stitches (hmmmm… anyone else sense a theme here?) and it was much better. I darned in the ends this afternoon, put it on and had Little Man snap some photos on my phone - he's 4 1/2 so I made him stand on a chair for a slightly more flattering angle but that unfortunately doesn't help the blurriness that occurred as a result of him impatiently humouring me when he'd rather be playing lego, but you can get the idea anyways! I got immense satisfaction when I marked it as complete it scooted way down on my Ravelry project page. So far down that I don't even have to see it unless I scroll way down.

As I mentioned I'll try to be back tomorrow with some more details about the cowl and a link to the pattern for you.

Friday, February 07, 2014

All About Socks

First let me tell you I only wear socks when absolutely necessary. I will wear sandals and flip flops for as long as I possibly can. Pretty much from snow melt to snow fall. Well ok, maybe I'm not quite that opposed to socks. That would be nuts! In all reality I would say +5C is about my cut off temp where I give in and wear socks and am quite happy to do so. But not store bought socks. Woe is me if I have to resort to that particular torture for my tootsies!

So knitting socks is always pretty high on my queue of must knit projects. As much as I don't like wearing socks I LOVE knitting them. There is nothing so cozy or cheering as a newly cast off pair of socks.

I just finished a pair of simple socks last week.  They're just ribs and cables. Nothing fancy or fussy about them. I really like them though. The ribbing makes them fit perfectly, they don't even come off when I take my boots off. (Bonus points for that! I loathe taking my boot off and having to hop around on a bare foot trying to avoid the ice cold snow that's invariably been tracked in).

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
Pretty in Pink!
I knit these socks two at a time using the magic loop method, which is a thing of beauty in itself. No dreaded second sock syndrome possible with that. Once you're done, you're done. I had some trials at the beginning though and almost resorted to doing them one at a time. No matter what I did I kept ending up with a massive tangle of yarn and needle cable. Frustrated beyond belief, I finally gave up, cast on one sock and started in. Ten rows later I decided I was not going to be beaten by a bit of string and sticks, so set sock one aside, cast on sock two, worked ten rows and put them both on my circular. I was off to the races. Thankfully. Or I'd still likely be working on my Rib and Cable socks instead of already working on my second Butterflies are Free sock! I did do a few minor modifications to the pattern - my usual short row heel and my usual toe, but other than that I knit them as written.

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Just starting...
ACK!!!! Mistake!
Ooooh Pretty!
Can I wear just one?
I've been itching to try colour work socks. I find the stranded knitting to be so much fun and oh so addictive. I always want to knit "just one more round" to see the picture appear before my eyes. I felt that I had lots of practice after knitting my Lilac Mittens, G's Moulin Rouge Mittens and Mom's Lotus Mittens, so felt it was time to take the leap into socks (see what I did there? LeapSocks? ha ha!).  A friend of mine recently completed a pair of Fireweeds for our colour work KAL in our Ravelry group and they were so beautiful it made me want to cast on even more! A quick stop in at the yarn store in the city on Friday and I was ready to go. I had decided on the yarn I wanted, Sisu, which is a Norwegian wool/nylon blend that should be fairly hard wearing and is really reasonably priced (less than $5 a ball!) so had done a gauge swatch the night before on some leftover Sisu I had in my stash. I'm glad I did. I never swatch for socks, but with the stranded knitting I was an entire stitch off. Eeek!

I cast on my first sock Friday evening and grafted the toe yesterday. Six days! For an entire sock! Did I mention it's addictive? I spent far too many late nights knitting "just one more round" and then Baby Boy was up at 5am yesterday so I took advantage while he quietly watched Kipper on Netflix to finish the toe.  I even had a disaster that I had to  rip back - late one evening as I tried on my sock to admire it, I realized at the start of my knitting that evening I had made a mistake. A very noticeable on the front of the sock can't ignore kind of mistake and had to rip back 15 rows. OUCH! But I put in a lifeline and had at it and I'm glad I made the effort!  Last night I cast on the second sock and so far, it too, has been flying off the needles! I hope by next weekend to have my second pair of socks for 2014 ready to wear! And then I really want to cast on another pair of colourwork socks.  Remember last post I was saying I couldn't decide between butterflies or Water for the Elephants? Well. I just can't seem to get those elephants out of my head...

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Working away on my second sock!
When I'm not working on my sock, which is only when knitting time doesn't lend itself well to chart reading (car knitting, when I'm keeping watch over the boys in the tub, or watching a tv show that's too intense for knitting concentration) I've been knitting a cowl that I'm in the process of writing a pattern for.

One of these days I need to set down the needles and get back to the sewing machine, but for now with all this cold weather we've had this winter it's all knitting all the time it would seem!

How about you? Is there something you gravitate towards when the mercury plummets?

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Greyson - 3.0

I love how much my kids like hand knits! It's such a pleasure to knit for such an appreciative crowd.

My most recent finished project was a long requested sweater for Little Man. He was quite envious of Baby Boy's Greyson that I knit in the summer and felt quite left out that he didn't have a mama knit pullover for himself. When I was in the thick of the holiday crafting I promised that in the new year when I could get to the yarn shop in the city I would get the yarn for his.

I really love Julia Stanfield's patterns. They really are my first choice when I start thinking about knits for the little ones. This is actually my seventh project from her Little Rascals E-book. Besides the two other Greyson (both for Baby Boy last year - the first one met with a tragic incident involving the wool chewing dog) I've also knit two Hotshots and two doll sized Hotshots. Her patterns are well written, practical but cute and quick as a wink to knit given their top down seamless construction.

I picked up the yarn on the 10th, got Little Man to wind it on the 11th and cast on the 12th. I cast off exactly one week later and Little Man was able to wear it to school last Monday morning. Instant gratification. You just can't beat it!

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Winding his wool  - Very serious work!
Little Man has some pretty high (unrealistic) expectations for this mama's knitting abilities. At one point we had the following conversation when I pulled out my knitting to work a few rounds during a rare quiet moment in the afternoon:

Douglas:  is that my sweater, Mommy? Is it almost done? Can I try it on?   
Me: oh sweetie, it’s not ready yet. It’ll take me at least a couple of days… 
Douglas: (with tragic desperation in his voice) NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Don’t say a couple of days! I wanted you to be done it today! I need it!  
Me: but I just started it last night…
So the pressure was on. No lazing about on this one. Little Man is a harsh task master. Thank goodness it was a quick knit. I'm not sure how things would've gone if it wasn't. I suspect a fair amount of moaning and distress. The way he was going about you would think the poor lad had to walk about naked normally. I assure you that isn't the case - he has enough clothes for about half a dozen four year olds, he just didn't have a v-neck pullover exactly like his brother's.

He was so happy when I cast off and had to try it on the second I finished weaving in the final end
of yarn.  He wore it the rest of Sunday, Monday to school and a handful more times in the last week.  Good thing it's knit in my "go to for kid knits" Berroco Vintage, which is easy care machine wash.

Greyson 3.0 - in action

I've got a few other things on the needles right now that I can focus on now that Greyson is finished. I've been working on a pair of simple rib and cable socks from veteran sock designer Nancy Bush and have blocked and washed my gauge swatch for Braid Hills, a beautiful intricately cabled cardi by Scottish designer, Kate Davies. I am working up my nerve to dive into that one - I will admit looking ahead at the pattern has me a bit intimidated.  Beyond that I'm obsessing over a pair of colour work socks.  I can't decide between Water for the Elephants or Butterflies are Free (both by Rose Hiver), but a trip to the yarn shop is in my future next week when I'm in the city. Maybe I'll decide when I see what colour selection they have in stock. I just know that one of these designs will be knit, by me, starting next weekend.

How about you?  Anything you're dying to get started on?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Wear All The Wool

We've had some pretty cold days here on the prairies this winter, which has made me want to knit all things and wear all the wool.  But it's ok. I'm a knitter. I'm expected to wear all the wool. Or, at least, I assume I am.

Last spring, my friend Sally sent me some beautiful hand spun yarn. I had over 300yds of DK weight loveliness to use, but no idea what to use it on. I didn't want to waste it on something not worthy of hand spun so it waited, tucked away in the drawer, until such time as I found a pattern that I deemed to be the right one.

Of course I found a pattern I loved right when I was in the middle of holiday crafting, but I was good. I waited until after Christmas to even wind my wool so I wouldn't be tempted to cast on.

On December 28th, as the beginnings of a blizzard swirled outside the window, I hunkered down, cozy and warm inside and cast on my Knotted Pine hat. The instructions say to use a tubular cast on, which would have been grand, except I could not, for the life of me, get it right. I would get about 80 stitches in and completely mess it up. I tried. Oh how I tried. I restarted six times. Then I gave up. I realized I could keep restarting and never get my hat actually started or I could cast on with a different method and actually have a new hat sometime within this lifetime. Five minutes after making the decision I was well on my way.

I really enjoyed the pattern with its unique construction; it utilizes short rows on the ribbed band so it doesn't bunch up at the back and is knit straight up then the crown is shaped with a few quick stitches after it has been grafted together. There is also enough going on in the pattern that there's no chance of losing interest before it's finished!

Once I'd completed the hat I realized two things. A) I had no mittens to match and B) I had plenty of yarn left over. Hmmmmm. What's a knitter to do? As the temperatures plummeted to a forecast of almost -50C with the windchill I cast on using Ann Budd's basic mitten pattern. I used a contrast cuff as I wasn't sure how far my yarn would stretch and knit the mitten using a half twist stockinette stitch and a column of honeycomb stitch to mimic the Knotted Pine hat. I'm still debating if I should knit liners for the mittens for extra warmth. I'm thinking something in alpaca or an alpaca blend would be soft and toasty warm.

After casting off my mittens I still had yarn left over, and alas, how is one to wear all the wool if one does not own a matching cowl? I'm all about cowls this year it would seem. (Last year was small triangular shawls. What can I say? I'm fickle.)

I knew my yarn wouldn't be enough for an entire cowl, but I wanted to showcase it somehow, so simple striping wouldn't suffice. I also wanted to have it match the hat and mitts in pattern as well as yarn. I cast on, and started knitting. I used Tincanknits Oats (that I'd knit for N for Christmas) as inspiration - I liked the simplicity of how it had just a small section of garter stitch running up the front rather than an all over pattern and once again used half twist stockinette and honeycombs to tie it all together.

I'm really pleased with how my set turned out. It's cozy and warm not to mention kind of fun that I actually match when I'm wearing all the wool!