Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Catching Up to July

We weren't entirely certain if we would have summer or not because it was such a cool spring. Last week it seems to me I got up one morning and it was 59 degrees. But the heat rolled in yesterday, and the humidity rolled in this morning. I went to a friend's for lunch at noon, and it was uncomfortably warm sitting outside on her porch.

When the weather warms in the spring in Maine, growth just erupts everywhere. Hostas are planted on either side of my back walkway, and they are bigger than ever this year, and so are my ferns. I've cultivated them along the tree line, and they're huge.

I've done way more knitting than quilting in the last couple months, but I've gotten a few quilts finished up. It kinda goes in cycles, you know? Our quilt chapter works on some sort of charity project every year, and this year we are donating to Project Linus; so I finished up three strippies for the project. This bugs-in-a-jar fabric is pretty cute, I think.

I also spent some time working on a quilt that one of hubby's female friends at work wanted. I don't normally do consignment quilts, but she's a nice gal and wanted it for her daughter, who is leaving the state for a residency in Utah as a cardiac surgeon.

Quilting Treasures is evidently licensed to print Wizard of Oz fabrics, and I believe they've printed 4 or 5 collections over the years. It was tough finding fabrics that are now out of print, but we managed to find a kit on eBay with sepia toned fabrics.

The seller substituted three different fabrics for ones in the kit, which didn't present too much of a problem; but the cutting instructions in the directions were also incorrect, so cutting and sewing took more time than I anticipated.

The customer also wanted words in the quilt. Piecing letters not only would have been a headache but it also would have changed the dimensions of the quilt, and I was worried about having enough fabric as it was. Hubby came up with the brilliant idea to embroider them.  We were all pleased how the final quilt turned out.

Finally finished the grey leaf patterned socks...

...a pink baby sweater set that languished for a loooong time, waiting for seaming and  buttons...

...and the knit swirl I was working on back in April. I wanted to have it completed by May 30 so I could wear it to a concert. I actually finished it on time but never got a chance to wear it because it was an outdoor concert, and it was 50 degrees and threatening rain that evening.

The design of the sweater is brilliant. It blocked flat before the seaming was done, then I sewed the sleeve seams together and the neck seam. I shortened the sleeves, and they are absolutely perfect. A beautiful sweater that will have to wait for cooler weather before the first wearing.

My younger son graduated in May with two Accounting degrees. He actually has one more course to complete for one of the Accounting degrees, but the university evidently decided to confer both degrees in May, then he gets his diplomas in December when he finishes up. Poor kid has been in school for nearly seven years. He spent two years in community college and earned an Associate's in Culinary Art before he started on the accounting. More skills in this horrible job market is a good thing.

I'm trying to decide what quilt projects to work on in July. I already have several projects kicking around the studio, and I've got a couple of new quilts I want to start for family. I think first up is going to have to be the Curvy quilt I started a few months ago. I taught a workshop in May for my quilt chapter and made just enough blocks to teach the class. Time to get that finished next, I guess.

Credit where credit is due: Whirlwind Quilt by QuiltingTreasures.com

Friday, April 18, 2014

March-April Knitting Finishes

I got some knitting done when I was too tired to work on the champagne quilt. These are thrummed mittens, with little bits of wool called thrums knitted into the inside of the mitten. I think roving is usually used for the thrums, but I used a single ply yarn, which seemed to work just fine. These were a gift for my sister-in-law.  She lives in northern Virginia, and she may have gotten to wear them a few times before their weather turned warmer.

Our weather is still pretty chilly here in Maine. We had a little snow Tuesday evening, which may have finally all melted away today. We may be getting another dusting in the wee hours of the morning tomorrow. I'm beginning to wonder exactly when winter will end this year.

The emerald socks have been on the needles for quite a while, only because I usually keep a pair available as time fillers for car trips, office appointments, and days when I just can't think. I like the way the yarn pooled in this pair.

I have another pair of socks on the needle already. I'm using String Theory Caper Sock, which has a little cashmere in it, and they are so soft! My feet will be so spoiled! String Theory is made right here in Blue Hill, Maine, and I am waiting for the chance to get up to their store. 

The push is on to get this sweater done. It's from the book Knit Swirl by Sandra McIver, which is a perfect descriptor of the sweater. I started one of these two summers ago but was so overwhelmed by the sheer number of stitches (798) that I abandoned it and thought I'd never try it again.

I have quite a few more knitting projects under my belt since then, so felt quite confident with larger yarn and a cast on of 665. After the first welt, there are lots of decreases, so it goes along faster.

I've set a deadline for myself for May 30 to have this finished, because I'd like to wear it to a spring concert my husband and I are attending.

April Finishes

The last couple of months have been crazy. I spent every spare minute working on a couple of quilts that were to be gifts for friends. My local yarn shop owner was married mid-February. She gave us only four or five days advance notice, so I worked as fast as I could to get this done.

This is what has become known to me as a champagne quilt, so named for the variety of neutrals used in the quilt. I made my niece one several years ago for her wedding. It's a simple enough pattern, but I think it makes a stunning quilt.

I liked the title "Champagne and Roses", so I found several fabrics with roses for the quilt, found a backing that had tan roses on a white background, and asked my friend who machine quilted it for me to use her rose pantograph.

One of these years I might get a champagne quilt made for myself. Alex Anderson has a book on neutral quilts with a nice star block design that I'd like to make.

The second surprise quilt was simply a gift of friendship for someone I've become very fond of. My friend was classically trained as a pianist and has been studying the harp for the last six years. I saw this quilt, called "Symphony in B" in the Nov/Dec 2013 issue of McCall's Quilting magazine and couldn't stop admiring it, so finally decided to make it.

Except for the keyboard units, the quilt was really a quick sew. I thought the way the keyboard was constructed was really cool. My younger son, who played a string instrument as a kid and now plays some guitar, saw it after the top was finished and liked it so much that I've ordered another kit for him.

The presentation for both quilts was April 2, and both recipients seemed to be quite pleased with their gifts. A few tears, and lots of hugs and laughter made for a fun afternoon.

Now that those two quilts are complete, I can focus on another Curvy quilt for a workshop I'm teaching for our quilt chapter next month. I made this one last summer, partly because I wanted to try sewing these curves, and partly because I thought maybe it would be something different for quilt group.

For the first one, I went through the stash and pulled a bunch of fat quarters that were mostly red, yellow and green, with a little purple thrown in. For this one, I pulled fabrics that were mostly orange, yellow and green, with bits of blue.

This is my stack of curved units for the whole quilt, 280 in all.

Once the strips were sewn and the curved units cut, I divided up all the units into four piles, and I'll piece a quarter section of the quilt at a time, leaving the last quarter for use at the workshop. Although I like the colors very much, I'm not sure if I'll like this quilt as much as the first one. The scale of most of these prints is much larger than the ones in the first quilt, and maybe that's what's bothering me a little. Maybe I'll like them better after they're sewn together.

Credit where credit is due: Curvy quilt design by Mark Lipinski

Thursday, March 6, 2014

More Knitting Finishes

I really enjoy learning new techniques at my Local Yarn Shop (LYS), so I was pleased when they offered a class in Fair Isle. I'd already learned how to carry yarn across the back of the work, so it wasn't a leap to learn the technique. Fingerless mitts was a perfect little project to start with. Only problem was this pattern does not have a gusseted thumb, but the pattern was easier to maintain that way.

I am crazy about this Boxed Pullover from Nora Gaughn. It's a raglan sleeve with a crew neck. The pattern calls for a bulky weight yarn, so I knit it up in Berroco Lodge. I finished all the knitting in eight days, then spent a few more days blocking and seaming. Earlier this week I bought more Lodge to make a second one, but that might not get done til next winter.

I also made a shawlette to go with it, and I'm crazy about it too. Found this one on Ravelry, called Ambleside Shawl. Very easy to knit, but it takes a while. I used Malabrigo Rastita in a dk weight. The Rastita is a slightly felted wool, very soft; so I bought more of this too in a different colorway for another shawlette.

I've been wearing a lot of wool sweaters lately because it's so blasted cold. It was -12 degrees when hubby got up for work yesterday morning. It seems like winter will never end. 

Quilting Finishes

Nearly everything in January got put on hold because of a surgery scheduled mid month, but I did finish this quilt ahead of time.
It looks a little plain to me, but I liked it anyway after it was done. I bought the fabrics several years ago online and was disappointed with both the scale of the prints as well as the colors. Shopping from catalogs sometimes presents challenges. I saw an opportunity to use them up when one of my quilting pals suggested a challenge from this pattern, which was called "PS I Love You", from the Wilmington Prints website. 

My surgical procedure, which most folks never heard of, was performed to alleviate symptoms of a rare disorder that most folks never heard of. Three hours in the O/R, six incisions across my belly, and an overnight stay in the hospital. Now that the surgery is seven weeks behind me, I'm feeling like my old self again, and most everything that has ailed me for the last three years has finally been resolved. I am a fortunate woman.

Our quilt chapter conducts a Mini Raffle most meetings. It's a fundraiser for the chapter, and members donate all the items. I took a turn in January and made this travel iron tote and donated the iron too. Cute, cute pattern and easy to make. I used silicone fabric for the lining, so you can take it to class, use it as a small ironing mat, then pack up the hot iron in the tote to take it back home. The pattern is from Sisters Common Thread and is simply called "Travel Iron Tote".

I also made some mesh bags from Nancy Ota's line of Zip It bags. This zippered pouch is perfect to carry around all my knitting notions--scissors, markers, ruler, pencil, tape measure, and so forth. I made a smaller wallet size as well. The mesh is vinyl, and is available in a range of colors. A friend of mine has made them for cosmetics, kids' crayons and school supplies, and other creative uses. The pattern, "Zip It ScreenPlay II", includes directions for five sizes.

Nancy has a couple different patterns for mesh totes, and I made the medium size from the "Screenplay" pattern as a birthday gift for someone in my quilt chapter. Haven't made one for myself yet, but I intend to make a couple to use as totes for small knitting projects, like socks. Next time I'll make them a little deeper and make the handle longer.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Roasted Butternut Squash Lasagna

Any Downton Abby fans out there? Season 4 started this evening, and we were so looking forward to it. We didn't discover the series until the last episode of Season 2, so we bought the DVDs and got caught up before Season 3 started. We loved it from the first episode. It astonishes me how popular it's been. Now there's a quilt fabric line for Downton Abby, and I came across a book of knitted garments for it also.

We are supposed to get more freezing rain tonight, but the high tomorrow is supposed to be 45. Must be the January thaw. Too bad it's only going to last one day. The low tomorrow night will be 8 degrees. If you haven't already figured it out, I love Weather. A Weather Geek, as another blogger once told me.

My husband does most of the cooking at our house because I've hated to cook since I was a kid, but once in a while I get the urge. This afternoon I made a pot of spaghetti, which we haven't had in ages, for supper tomorrow night; and we also made a roasted butternut squash lasagna for supper tonight. My favorite knitting pal shared some absolutely fabulous butternut squash gnocchi a month or so ago, and I've had butternut squash in my head ever since.

The recipe came from the Oct 12, 13 issue of the little Parade magazine that comes in the Sunday paper. I stashed it away in my pile of recipes and came across it a couple days ago, so decided to try it. It was so good! Here's the recipe. It's also available free online if you google it. One note: we cut this recipe in half, baked it in a bit smaller baking dish (8 x 11?), made two layers instead of four, and it was enough to serve 5 or 6 people. We had it with Caesar salad. Also, I didn't use a food processor to puree the squash. I just used a potato masher and a wooden spoon to mix in the milk.

Roasted Butternut Squash Lasagna


  • 1 large butternut squash (about 4 lb) cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 5¾ cups milk, divided
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 7 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 7 Tbsp flour
  • 12 no-boil lasagna noodles
  • ¾ lb fresh mozzarella, sliced ¼-inch thick


  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Toss butternut squash with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Divide between 2 parchment-lined baking sheets. Roast, rotating trays halfway through, until tender and golden, about 40 minutes.
  2. Transfer to a food processor along with ¾ cup milk, thyme, and ¼ cup water. Puree.
  3. Make white sauce: Melt butter over ­medium heat in a medium saucepan, then whisk in flour and cook, whisking constantly, until tan, about 5 minutes. Slowly whisk in remaining 5 cups milk and cook, whisking, until thickened, about 10 minutes. Season with 2 tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper.
  4. Spread about ½ cup white sauce evenly across bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Top with 3 noodles. Dollop 1 cup squash over noodles and use the back of a spoon to carefully spread into an even layer, covering ­noodles completely. Top with 1 cup sauce, using back of spoon to spread evenly. Repeat the noodle, squash, and sauce layers 3 more times.
  5. Arrange mozzarella slices on top and ­season with pepper. Cover with foil; bake 50 minutes. Increase heat to 475°F, remove foil, and bake until mozzarella is golden in spots, 5 to 10 more minutes. Let stand at least 15 minutes before serving.

Knitting Finishes

I've been doing a lot more knitting than quilting the last several months, and I finished this sweater this morning--for the third time. I tried a loop and button for the closure but didn't like it, so I ripped out the trim around the neck and reknit it with the tie.

This is the V Neck Cardigan from Knitting Pure and Simple, top down, pretty easy to do. The yarn is Berroco Remix, a blend of cotton and silk with a tweedy effect and very nice to work with. Last spring or summer I  took a class at my LYS called "Knit Your First Garment". We made a vest with a chunky cotton, so it was quick to knit, and I learned a lot, but it really doesn't fit well because it's too big. This is my first knit sweater, and it fits just right. I'm tickled.

The pattern for the Elizabeth Zimmerman Baby Surprise Jacket was nutty to follow because I adjusted the size. The pattern was confusing in the first place, but trying to figure out the stitch count for the alternate size made my head hurt. Nevertheless, it turned out very nicely, although it's probably sized to fit an elf.

I used Noro Silk Garden, which I think is awfully itchy, but the colors are every bit as intense as they look in the photo. One of my knitting pals made a scarf in Noro Silk Garden, and it was considerably softer than this sweater, so it must soften with use or perhaps laundering.

I'm tempted to make one of these in an adult size for myself, but Zimmerman only gives you a vague description of the math involved to make one, so it seems you have to write the pattern yourself, which might make my head explode.

The Quick Slip Cowl, which takes about 10 minutes, is knit with Berroco Brio, a chunky weight yarn. It doesn't really take 10 minutes, but it's a pretty fast knit. I've never been much of a scarf person, but it's been arctic in the northeast and getting colder still, and it's very nice to have a bit more warmth around my neck.

I finished the Leftie scarf, by Martina Behm, well before Christmas. I used an Ella Rae Lace Merino in a sock weight plus a purple sock weight yarn for the leaves. This is a fun little scarf to make and wear, and making them is getting to be an addiction with the ladies I knit with at the yarn shop. One of my pals has made three, another pal is finishing up her second and is starting a third, and I'm getting ready to start another as well.

I've had one of these patterned socks done for quite a while and finally finished the second one the other day. I forget which book they were from, but they weren't as hard to knit as I thought they would be. Making a patterned sock was on my bucket list--mission accomplished. I started a grey pair too and also have one more sock to go. Next up on the sock bucket list is toe up.

My LYS also offered a class for Dreambird, so I took that one too. It's been slow going because I was trying to finish up other projects. So far I have eight feathers done. I think the pattern calls for 28, but I suppose you can do as many as you want.

I don't think the pattern is particularly well written (but English is not the author's primary language), but neither do I think it's terribly difficult. It only took a couple of feathers to get the hang of it; but after 8 feathers I can watch tv but not carry on a conversation. I used a fingering weight yarn with alpaca in it for the main color and a Mille Colori for the feathers. It's interesting to see that the two colors in the yarn are alternating every other feather. An interesting pattern indeed.