Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Knits in the City

Seeing as this is knitting related, and today's post deals with knitting, I'll include this little bit of knowledge I've gained lately. I've begun knitting the bicycle basket and in general the knitting is going quickly. The only thing that slows the process, other than the guilt of knowing that I should be doing other things, is working with the Jute twine called for in the instructions. A couple of you wrote to me warning that knitting with this "yarn" can be hard on your hands. I'm here to confirm that. I can't work on this project for more than two hours in a row without needing to take a break. I even considered abandoning the twine(it was only $2.50 a skein) and switching to a bulky cotton yarn. I decided against that because I think it would lose that rustic charm that the original basket has. Anyway, the moral here is "knit in short bursts, knot(cute,huh?) long stretches.
OK. On to what this post is really about.

Are you wondering what that is? It's an urban art knitted cozie, of course. Several years ago artist Carl Trominski installed a series of "paintings" along both sides of an underpass. At the time of their unveiling, I didn't think very much of them and I still don't. Underneath the knitted cozies, they're just blue fields painted with reflective paint. At first I honestly thought they were installed as a safety measure. They didn't read as visually interesting at all. Sorry, Carl.
Now, I love them.

Local artist, Magda Sayeg, was commissioned to knit cozies for the paintings/traffic signs.

I'm especially appreciative of the fact that the designs she selected for the cozies are very identifiable as traditional knitting patterns. There's a variety of ripple patterns, stripes and granny squares. She's not using knitting as an expedient way to encase these paintings, but using the paintings as a canvas to celebrate knitting.
I think it's inspired and inspiring.
I rode my bike, sans soon-to-be-finished knitting basket, down to the site of the underpass to take these pictures. When I got there, I couldn't help but feel happy that I lived in a place where textiles would be so publicly and proudly displayed.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Of Bikes and Baskets

Happy Earth Day, everyone! That is the called for greeting, right?
Anyway I wanted to share a few Earth Day appropriate images with you and tell you about something fun and planet-friendly,thus the inclusion in the "Earth Day" post, that I'll be participating in during May and the item I'm going to have to craft in order to participate in aforementioned Earth-friendly activity.
First, the pretty pictures.

Tell me you can't see pictures of poppies without hearing the voice of the Wicked Witch of the West shrieking, "Poppies!" Of course you can't.

Aren't those pictures just like time lapse photography? I've documented all the stages of a flowering poppy and I only had to run around to every poppy in my yard to do it.

I should conserve some of my energy because during the entire month of May I'm going to be participating in The Commuter Challenge. The focus of the Commuter Challenge is to encourage folks to get out of their cars and on to their bikes. My husband and several friends from work are already committed bicycle commuters and they formed a team and participated last year. This year he's added me to the team and I am pretty psyched. The goal in the Commuter Challenge is to rack up as many trips as possible by bike. A "trip" is defined as any place that you would have driven to that you're riding your bike to instead. The only "trips" that don't count are ones made strictly for exercise. Yesterday I rode to the bank, then to the Post Office, and finally to the Farmer's Market. With the ride home that's considered 4 trips. It's not May yet, but I thought I'd get a feel for the route. I may be jumping the gun here a bit, but I'm deeply competitive and I want to do well in the Commuter Challenge, despite the fact that there really isn't any specific reward for the first place team.
I rode to the Farmer's Market to buy eggs which is all I could fit in my backpack. Once there I wished I'd had a way to bring other goodies home because there was a lot of good stuff to be had. Eureka! A new craft project is in order.
I need to knit this:

It's from this new book.

The really cool thing about this bike basket is that it's knitted out of twine you buy at a craft or hardware store. Thankfully the sample is lined with some Echino oilcloth, so it's not that rustic. But, I always like a project that sends me to an unexpected place for the essential ingredients.
My husband is a wee bit horrified by the thought of this basket. Not because he doesn't want me to bring home veggies from the market, but because of the odd vision that having a knitted basket on my fancy bike, complete with clip-less pedals, might be. To that I respond with a familiar refrain, " This is Austin, after all."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

There's Something I've Been Meaning to Tell You

I've been keeping a little secret from you for a few months and I'm so glad that I can finally divulge it. I figure the timing is right because the secret has already been revealed in a national magazine.

If you've purchased or perused the latest issue of Stitch, available on newsstands now, then you might have noticed that I have a project in the Spring 2010 issue.

But that's not my big secret.
This is:

I've got a second book coming out in December. This time I'm working with Interweave Press and I couldn't be more excited about the book and the projects, one of which is excerpted in Stitch.

The book has actually been available for pre-order at Amazon for a little while, but I knew that it was going to be excerpted in the Spring Stitch, so I decided to wait until then to let you all know my big news.
Folks, I can't wait for you to see this book. It features over 20 projects ranging from quilts(surprise!), several of which are lap size or larger, to bags, pillows, scarves, even a baby book that can double as a crib bumper or nursery decoration. I didn't include the kitchen sink, but there's a kitchen curtain pattern in there. All of the items were made primarily with commercial fabrics, though I couldn't help but throw in a few hand dyes, so they're very reproducible. Also, there's an extensive and thorough techniques section, an element that was aided by the fact that my wonderful editor is also an accomplished sewer and could give feedback based on her experience.
I'm so thrilled with the book that it has been an amazing struggle for me to keep quiet about it. Couple that with the fact that I'm not good at keeping secrets anyway and you have a recipe for a bit of frustration. Now I can breathe easy knowing that my secret is out.

Friday, April 16, 2010

A little bit of this, a little bit of that...

...a pot, a pan...a potholder. Remember that song, sans the potholder reference, from Fiddler on the Roof? It's part of the ode to the fictional Russian town of Anatevka. Great song, great movie. Has absolutely nothing to do with the 2010 Great Potholder Swap.
But this does. I set up a flickr group so that all can post their potholdery creations. Just go here and join the group.
I know that we're entering the warmer months, at least those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere, and that might give you pause to think," Do I really need new potholders? I won't be using my oven as much because summer's coming and I won't want to heat up the house by turning on the oven." My response to that is you don't realize how much you need potholders until you make homemade ice cream three times in the same week. Sisters(and brothers), there is nothing your hands need more protection from than the ice cream freezer can, fresh out of the ice cream freezer. Also, the odds of getting to eat any of said homemade ice cream when you have three teenage athletes and their friends roaming your house are not good. Lucky for them I'm definitely a process person. And, since I'm planning more ice cream this weekend, strawberry this time, I need more potholders, right?

These are made out of my seemingly endless collection of 2 1/2" squares of hand dyed fabric.

They're backed with four, 5" squares and the edges are rounded and bound.

As I was making these, it dawned on me that these potholders were the pattern I wanted to offer next alongside my bundles. I currently have several sets of the citrus bundles available along with the pattern for making the Big Patches Pillow Cover. Now I want to write up the pattern for the potholders to be sold along with 32, 2 1/2" squares and 8, 5" squares. That would allow for making a pair of potholders with both sides crafted out of hand dyed and patterned fabric.
Maybe I'll even include a simple ice cream recipe.
Look for that bundle next Friday.
In the meantime, if you have any great ice cream recipes, I'd love to hear them.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Why Being a Lazy, Pack Rat Pays Off

For those of you participating in the potholder swap, this post really will answer some of the questions you all have posed about the swap. Just work with me here and all will be revealed.
First though I have to respond to a comment that came in yesterday about the swap. Anonymous said, "So, nu, I've got my Insul-Bright and I'm ready to make potholders...." Well, anonymous, don't plotz because I sent out a mass email yesterday with all the pairings. If you left a comment with your email and I didn't get you in the swap or you didn't get the email, please contact me at malka@stitchindye.com. For those of you who aren't sure what the words "nu" or "plotz" mean, I suggest consulting a Yiddish/English dictionary.
Now, back to my lazy/slovenly ways and how that could possibly relate to this swap.
This morning I decided that it would be fun to make another pair of potholders to illustrate the post I anticipated writing regarding the swap. I made a pair of potholder tops and then went in search of some Insul-brite batting. I looked through a closet where I store some of my fabrics and other materials, but I think I'm out.
What I did find was a basket, a laundry basket, filled with scraps. Most were really small individual scraps, the kind that prompt my husband to ask," Exactly how small does a piece of fabric have to be for you to throw it away?" By the way, my answer to that is,"Why would I ever throw fabric away?"
Anyway, the basket of scraps did contain one partially pieced set of blocks. They were some improvisationally pieced diamonds that I had probably sewn together a good while back and set aside because I wasn't sure what to do with them. The basket also had a couple diamond blocks that were similar, but weren't attached to the main group of blocks. Initially, I thought I would take the blocks apart and make them into coasters, but first I'd have to find my seam ripper and then I'd have to pick the seams apart. That's where the laziness component comes in.
So, instead I made the blocks into this:

I only had to piece the last row of blocks, quilt the top, and make it into a pillow. I probably saved myself entire seconds of work.
Seconds that I'm now going to devote to answering a few queries about The Great Potholder Swap.
I've had a few of you ask me about the heat resistant batting. There seems to be some conflicting information about whether the insul-brite needs to be sandwiched in between cotton batting to be effective. I can only speak from my experience. The potholders that I make and use do not have extra batting in addition to insul-brite. I haven't encountered a problem. I think that if I was removing something from a super-hot oven, say 450 degrees or more, I'd probably double up on the potholders for each hand. This would be true if I was using, perish the thought, store-bought potholders or my own creations.
In response to whether there is a tutorial for the hexagon potholders I made, there isn't because that's my design. I'll probably write up the pattern and offer it with a template. To quote from one of my favorite children's chapter books, Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, "Can I get back to you on that one?"
The answer to whether you need to have a blog to participate in the swap is: no, all are welcome. The answer to should I contact my swap partner to get their address, color preferences, and other pertinent information is: yes. And, the answer to how many licks does it take to get to the tootsie roll center of the Tootsie Pop is: 42.

I am going to create a flickr group so that everyone can post their potholder creations and I'm happy to answer any other potholder-related concerns you all may have.

That's it. Ladies and possibly gentlemen as well, start your sewing machines!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Supersize Me

Well, not me exactly, but a quilt block I've designed.
Want to learn how to make this:

Then click here.

I should add that I stood on a seriously wobbly ladder on an annoyingly windy day to take this shot of my Super-size Shoo-Fly quilt as it lay on my driveway.
Climb every mountain. Ford every stream....You get the picture.

Enjoy the tutorial.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Where have I been?

I've been...

...getting ready for Passover.

...baking macaroons. Especially because I promised myself we wouldn't eat those sad, tasteless, canned things that masquerade as macaroons.

...running a little behind on the roll out of my Citrus Bundle Kits. I've had to move the launch to April 6 because I ran out of blank fabric and had to order more.

...going to the second annual Funky Chicken Coop Tour.

...putting together a little tutorial for Sew, Mama, Sew's April Quilt Month. Check out my post here on April 6.