Trading Yarn for Ribbon

The knitting has really slowed down around here.  I still have a few things on the needles that have been languishing while I worked on smaller, more quick-to-finish projects.  Over the weekend I cast on a blanket square, part of a larger blanket project through my knitting group.  Things were going well until I realized I was almost out of yarn, with about 1/3 of the square to go.  Riiiiip!

Then my hand pain came back with a vengeance.

Swollen, achy joints in both hands have kept me away from the knitting for days now.  Occasionally I sneak in a couple of rows to see how it feels, but inevitably things start hurting worse after a few minutes.  It’s quite distressing!  I really thought giving my hands a break from the knitting and drinking lots of water would help, but the situation persists.  My only hope is that this is temporary, that things will return to normal once I have the baby.

In Lieu of knitting, I have been spending a little more time in front of the sewing machine.  Turns out I love ribbon as much (if not more) than I love buttons and have amassed a nice little stash of it.  Ribbon is great for gift wrap, sure.  But it’s also great sewn onto simple things as playful embellishment.  I have already made a couple of these playmats as gifts (inspired by one from SouleMama in Handmade Home), but needed one for Peaceful Baby.  Then I got invited to a baby shower, so I decided to make another.  So fun!  So fast!

How would you spend your free time if you couldn’t knit?

Sewing from the Soul

Amanda Blake Soule’s new book, Handmade Home, is chock-full of goodness.  There are all sorts of projects that can be done with thrifted or repurposed materials, and are appropriate for crafty adults and children alike.  Her outlook of encouraging creative play and expression in our everyday lives is truly inspiring.  She engages in a way of life that I find very appealing and can only hope to draw from more and more.

Here’s a little taste for you, compiled from the book’s introduction:

Each day provides us with the opportunity to create something.  Making things by hand is a way I share my love and a bit of myself with those dearest to me. Each time I make something for my home and my family, I feel a satisfaction unlike any other feeling.  Through the act of making I find solace and peace in the small moments of my everyday life.  When I am at work making things, I am fully present in the moment.

Sounds familiar…

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I found myself particularly taken with an item that I thought could be immediately useful to a couple of ladies I know who have or are expecting little ones.  The Fringed Play Mat pattern is reminiscent of the ribbon blankets you may have seen at the stores.  I had seen those and thought to myself “I could sew that!”; I was thrilled to see a simple pattern in the book for just how to do this.

Instead of making mine the 35-inch square size, I purchased fat quarters of quilting fabric.  I used 2 quarters per blanket, along with some organic cotton batting and a variety of ribbons.  Inexpensive, fun, and simple to make.  I’m really starting to like this sewing business!

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As with any hand-made project, there inevitably comes a moment where you want to toss the whole thing out the window for one reason or another.  The first blanket I made went so smoothly that I probably got a little over-confident in my abilities.

The second blanket did not go as well at first.  As soon as the sewing machine started acting up, refusing to perform a simple zig-zag stitch, I lost it.  This could have been one of those pregnancy horemone-induced rages and/or breakdowns, but I quite literally tossed one of these blankets across the room before breaking down in tears.  The thread on the underside was zigging perfectly, yet the thread on the top wasn’t getting stitched into the fabric at all.  It was just getting pulled along in a straight line; this made ripping it out easier, but it was insanely frustrating.  After a time-out, the machine and I came back together for a trouble-shooting session.  I tried everything I knew how to do (which isn’t much) and eventually, inexplicably, it started working again.

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Roll it up, wrap some ribbon around the whole thing, and you have a charming and presentable gift.  I added the tag that I use for all of my knit gifts, made out of a manila tag I got at Staples and a stamp I got from Michael’s.  I hand color them and write content and care instructions.

I hope the sweet babes who receive these blankies enjoy laying, drooling, playing, and napping with them!  I certainly enjoyed the process of combining fabrics with ribbon, stitching them up, even ironing them.  Sewing (even when it’s a little frustrating) brings me an entirely different sense of creativity and satisfaction than knitting.  I can’t quite explain it yet, but there is a difference in process for me that I am finding invigorating.  So while I continue to feel excited and inspired by my knitting, I am also adding this new playing with fabric thing to the mix.  Between the two, the possibilities seem endless!

Flanneling the Nest

In the past couple of weeks I have fully entered into the “Show your baby some love by making things” phase.  You’ve seen the knit sweater and hat.  Now I’ll show you some sewing.

I am a novice sewer.  I remember first wielding a sewing machine in high school when I took (gasp) Home Economics from Miss Friday.  She was the same woman who taught my mother a thing or two in Home Ec when she was in high school! It’s possible my sister even took her class. Ah, small towns…

We never got to making garments or anything too complicated, but I do remembering sewing a small Easter bunny.  So I knew the basics of sewing a straight line, back-stitching, turning corners, pinning hems, and…well, that’s about all I know!

With this huge bag of tricks up my sleeve, I decided it might be time to get to work on a little something for baby.  I went to JoAnn’s looking for inexpensive trimmings for a simple baby quilt and was overwhelmed with choices.  I was suddenly inspired when I saw a quilt kit; these were the colors we’re working with for a gender-neutral nursery, and Sweetie and I are both toile nerds, so this was perfect.

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This is where I should probably clarify that I bough this kit months ago.  I cut out all the little squares and sewed them into strips months ago.  The top was complete by the end of May.  I sewed the back flannel onto one side, then folded it up for one reason or another and let it sit until today.

Oh, it feels so good to finish something that you walk by almost every day, staring at you from its Unfinished Corner.

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  • Pattern: Cuddly Quilt Kit in Children at Play 2

  • Fabric: flannel, cotton, and something like teddy bear fur

The lines aren’t perfectly straight, and it could use a good ironing, but it is full of love and hope and imperfections.  It was fun to daydream about my baby snuggled up under this blanket in the winter, or playing on it in the grass in the summer.  And that’s the beauty of making things with our own hands and hearts: it’s not perfect, but it’s filled with good intentions.  And I believe that those who wear and use these things can feel all that goodness.

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Now that this is finished and the dust has been blown off the Singer, I am feeling like making some more baby items.  Have you seen Amanda Blake Soule’s newest book, Handmade Home?  I am loving her emphasis on recycling fabric and notions into new items for the home and those you love.  I wanna make like Soule Mama and sew up a baby sling, a beach blanket, and some cloth diapers!

I’d also like to make a generous pile of burp cloths and flannel receiving blankets.  Can anyone recommend some free patterns, tutorials, or interesting fabric sources?