January 2011 Archives

January Cropped Sweater: Free Knitting Pattern Download

January 31, 2011


Meet the January Cropped Sweater. This is my solution when cold days meets flowy tunics that are all the rage these days. I was tired of my empire waist tunics and dresses bunching up or bulging under my sweaters and cardigans so I set out to design a sophisticated cropped sweater that could hold its own style-wise but no be so bold as to distract from the whole. The January sweater features a diagonal rib pattern boat neck and a zigzag pattern down the arm. Deep ribs hug the sweater to your figure so no waist shaping is needed. The deep ribs on the cuffs ensure that brisk winds won't creep up your sleeves. The sweater stops just at your natural waist so there is no need to worry about bunching of billowing blouses. The fitted nature of the sweater will keep you looking slim while accommodating trendy tunics and dresses. The details are subtle. The cropped sweater is knit with 4 balls Lion Brand Wool Ease Chunky, but with additional 2-3 balls you can increase the length of your sweater to waist length. If you want to add color you can opt for a color change for the neckline or just the cuffs. Go for coordinating colors like Dark Blue and Light Blue or something bolder: Light green and Teal. I have been sporting mine for a little over a week and it works really well for most of my wardrobe. The fitted nature also fits under all my coats without added bulk. I really enjoyed designing and knitting this sweater. The Chunky Yarn knit up quick and the added warmth was perfect during the recent snow storm.


The January Sweater is advanced beginner. You will need to be familiar with knitting in the round, increasing, decreasing and switching needle sizes. The pattern is simple to follow but you will need 4 balls of Lion Brand Wool Ease Chunky, sizes US 10, 10.5 & 11 needles, tapestry needle and waste yarn. If you want to make a full sweater, bump up your yarn to 6 balls. This sweater is best knit on Interchangeables to make the needle changes easier.  


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Hand-made Gifts for Baby Season

January 28, 2011

The plan was to post on a Hot Patterns Pattern today but when I was cleaning my kitchen the other night slowly doing my mental list of where I had to go this week and what I needed to make/finish; I noticed that I was at the threshold of Baby Season. Baby Season seems to coincide closely with Awards Season, so while the stars are strutting the red carpet in their fineries, I am making and wrapping bibs, booties, baby carriers and other sundries necessary for raising wee babes. I am quite sure that Baby Season is not a southern-only epidemic so I thought I would share a few of my favorite or most popular hand-made baby gifts. These are easy to make, of course-quick, and a big hit with mothers.

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 A nursing cover is a simple gift that works for a multitude of tasks (a great gift even for mothers who aren't nursing). I used mine for the obvious but also as a stroller cover when my little one napped or was over stimulated. My cover served duty as a changing pad/cover so as not to expose the baby in public when a private area can't be found, a quick and light spring blanket, and a sun shade. The list goes on and on. Making one is easier than listing all its useful capacities. You will need 1 yd of 2 different prints or colors of fabric. Picking out the fabric is the most fun (I think). You can go for any of the Premiere Prints that are sale today! For the funky, trendy mom- try our new Ty Pennington Impressions (I am loving the color combos). For a first child (and you know there will be more) make a nursing cover with one side a feminine color/print and a masculine on the other. I made mine from this awesome Kwik Sew pattern which also features a swaddler and sling. All three make a super baby shower gift.

The pattern lived up to the Kwik Sew name and was equally easy to read and assemble. This was just the ticket as the time I set aside to work on it was naptime and this day was particularly trying as naptime was out of favor. The project put me at ease and the satisfaction I received from the completed nursing cover was great enough to leave me ready for the end of naptime. I would recommend cutting and assembling several at one time, since they are so quick, in case you are invited to a party and difficulties leave you without time to make anything. I used 2 pieces of quilting cotton from my stash (working from my stash is my new years resolution) but I think in the future I will choose at least one side to be Home Dec fabric for better sun protection in the hot summers. Psst: You will need some boning.

The next pattern- Kwik Sew Babies Bib, etc-, I haven't made but it is securely on my list due to the fact that it will grow with your baby. You begin with the burp cloth and pacifier bib (prized by many of my mom friends) and move on to the cutie toy and travel pillow. I am so in love with this pattern. I was planning on drafting my own pattern for several of these items (namely the paci bib) because I didn't know they existed yet. They do and that is a load of work off my list. With a few yards of fabric and a delightful weekend spent in heaven (i.e. sewing room) you or I can have several gifts knocked out.

I feel especially good giving hand-made gifts to my mom friends because I know they are well made, infinitely useful, will match the baby theme and will be well loved. I know that I am showing my friend how happy I am for her and hope much I love her little one by carefully picking out fabric, putting thought into a pattern and making something special for the new family. 

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Danger Craft Tofu Dog Pattern: Knit your dog!

January 26, 2011


Danger craft's Tofu the Gently Dachshund pattern is one of those patterns that you just enjoy knitting from start to finish. All the little bits make it more fun. I also enjoy the assembly though finishing (weaving in end and seaming) is usually my least favorite. I decided to change up the pattern a little bit to model one of my dogs, Murphy. He is a short-haired border collie so a far cry from a dachshund but the modifications were small. First, I must expound on Murphy's virtues, namely how stinking cute he is (see him below). He has a very curly tail that even curls in his sleep. Murphy has black and white spotted socks that are often referred to as his spats. He even walks fancy. But Murphy's crowning glory is his wonky ears. One is always bent and the other is straight- most of the time. I point out all these magnificent characteristics because they are the traits I aimed to incorporate into my Tofu Dog. The changes were easy.

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First: for the Murphy socks, I just randomly changed from Cast Iron (black) to white as I was knitting the legs and arms. I did not count but just changed when it felt right. To make his spots, I went back after I had knitted the body and arms and using duplicate stitching I added black spots wherever. For the curly tail, I knit as per the pattern but then I added a length of pipe cleaner inside so I could curl the tail up. The wonky ears were just a matter of shortening the pattern. Instead of increasing, I decreased and then knit a few rows and decreased again. To make one floppy, I bent the ear a bit and then secured it with a small stitch and then another lower down on the ear. I also stitched the ears on so they would sit up instead of handing down like a Dachshund's. Murphy has a long nose so I didn't change anything there. All in all I think he looks amazing and I know my little girl will love having a Murphy whose tail she CAN pull and ears she CAN inspect.

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My next plan is to make another to match my other dog Maggie; she's an American Bulldog. The plan is to hold two strands so I can make the dog bigger. I will also add some short rows in the back because Maggie has a healthy rump. One ear will be orange and there will also be a curly tail but less so than Murphy's. I might also add some beans to add weight since Maggie, at 75 lbs, is quite stout and I think this is one of her finer points as well since you can't avoid noticing how heavy she is as she sits in your lap. I will let you know how it goes. I encourage you all to try this awesome pattern and make modifications to model your beloved dogs. Post your pictures on Facebook for all to see.

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This pattern was knit in Berroco Vintage In Cast Iron and Vintage White. I have not added the eyes or nose yet because the little messmaker above is very intent right now on pulling things off and often they end up in the mouth or my stepping on them. 

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Steeks in acylic yarn

January 24, 2011

Steeks make me sweat or rather they did before I actually attempted a steek. My Norwegian mother in law informs me that steeks were once the bread n butter of knitting. Everything was knit in the round and then cut and added to later: neck lines, sleeves, cardigans. I was flabbergasted. It just made me so nervous, until I did it. But, of course it is like that for everything: driving, dating, and getting a real job. You are so nervous before; it seems so weird. What if you mess up? It is all so new. But then you do it and then get used to it and as with driving and the rest if just falls into place. Steeks will be the same.

Now there are a few good articles out there on steeks (not a lot but some good ones) but the info available on non-natural fibers is virtually nonexistent. There are sources that say you can do it but I didn't find any that showed how or gave a good run down. So I set off to do that. I knit up a few swatches to practice my mad experimentation on in Lion Brand Wool Ease Chunky (80% acrylic, 20% wool). I knew this would make a good swatch to experiment with because we had the wool to snag and prevent quick unraveling and then the acrylic to serve as the control in our non-natural steeking experiment. I set to work.

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I figured in my research that I would need to machine sew along the edge of my steek but getting the stitch length just right and then determining if machine stitching would hold would be my issues. First, I tried just a regular stitch length that I would use sewing quilting cotton. I quickly determined that that would not hold. The yarn was too chunky and the stitch was too long. Generally every other row was caught up and secured. I dialed it down the smallest stitch length and pulling the knitted swatch widthwise a bit so I could see the bars between stitches, I sewed really slowly. I left a long tail of upper thread and bobbin thread at the beginning and end to knot at the top and bottom of my stitch line to secure the cast on and bind off. The slow sewing, smaller stitch length and really watching where the needle landed each time helped profusely to make sure each stitch was secure. After sewing another line of stitching down the other side, I was ready to cut my steek. I used my super sharp sewing shears to get the job done right. Afterward I picked up stitches along the side and knit a small facing to hide any frayed ends on the cut side. I tested my swatch thoroughly, pulling, tugging and finally giving it to my toddler to have at. The stitches held and the machine stitching did not significantly affect the movement of the sweater.

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I am so pleased to have gotten my first steeking experience out of the way and feel no fear in using them in the future. I am emboldened now and find myself daydreaming about how to incorporate them into all my future projects. I can see myself seriously cutting down on my purling! 

Learning Upholstery with a beginner

January 21, 2011


I have upholstered before but since I have officially finished one chair- though I did upholster it 3 times (the first time I feel out of love with the fabric, the second was velvet that was violently attack by cat pee and the third was finished) I consider myself a beginner. I think I know what I am doing but I know that I am still learning and probably will be for years to come as each pieces is different in its own way. But I do have a lot of experience under my belt. I loved my first project and it has given me confidence and a new outlook on Upholstery.


It is not as hard as you think. It is a lot like a puzzle or piecing a quilt or adjusting your pattern pieces on fabric. It is mostly figuring out which pieces of fabric fit where and how to make them fit. There is strategy and less sewing than you think. My chair was mostly tacks, which I loved. It made me feel very powerful to bang them into place. There was some hand sewing but that was also relaxing because it came in small bouts. Here are some helpful tips to get you started on your first or next project


1)      Get some tools- I found mine on eBay, thrift stores and hardware stores. Also- use your MP3 player. To me that was as important as my tack puller. I would get a good book in there and set to work. It was so relaxing. You don't need that many tools to get started but expect your first project to go slower than you plan because you will probably discover which tools you need/want as you go.

2)      Take pictures: before, after and as you go. Take close ups of joins and edges. My first chair, I was so excited, I just pulled pieces off so I could get started putting them back on. I regretted it as soon as I got started putting back on. I spent many hours figuring out that best place to put these tucks on the armrest or how to seamlessly join the top to the back. My current project I took pictures of all the places I had trouble with the first go round and then as I pull back and took off each piece (see above for samples).

3)      For the love of fabric- PLEASE don't use staples. My first chair was upholstered with tacks which were easy to take out as I stripped the old fabric. This new chair is stapled like no-one's business and it is taking twice as long to strip. Staples are much harder to take out and unlike tacks if you misplace one you can't take it out and move it. Often as I was placing a new piece of fabric, I would drive my tacks in half way. This would keep the fabric in place but also allowed me to practice with any tucks or alignment before I drove the tack all the way. Or I could pop them out and move them.

4)      Practice with Muslin. A lot of you might be scared because you are talking about 7-8 yds of Home Dec. fabric at ~$15/yd (if you will note that Fabric.com's designer upholstery fabric is awesome and inexpensive). But if you purchase that same yardage in muslin to upholster your piece in first, you can get a feel for your chair without committing your finished fabric (Note: Try to match the weight of muslin to the weight of fabric- medium weight or heavy weight is good). This is just like making a muslin in apparel. You can practice all your tucks, stitch lines and piecing. Plus recovering in Muslin under your finished fabric will leave you with a more professional look. The muslin will smooth out bumps and leave an even surface for a final layer of batting which will give your piece an extra soft and firm look and feel.

I will continue with more tips on upholstery next time but please feel free to comment with questions or areas you want me to address. You can follow my Wingback's progress on twitter @tdangermiller- you can also ask questions or make suggestions there, as well. I hope you can learn from me and I also hope to learn from you! This will be so fun. 

Pattern Review: Colette Patterns' Parfait Dress

January 20, 2011

Spring cannot get here fast enough, especially with the Snowpocolypse 2011 that happened last week. Although I love all the accessories you can pile on yourself during colder months, I cannot wait for sundresses. Luckily, Colette Patterns features a dress that can be a year-round favorite! The Parfait dress is a jumper  dress with lots of style and potential!


I chose fabric with a darker color palette that would transition well from season to season. This Anna Maria Horner voile from her new collection, "Innocent Crush" is a great choice. It's very lightweight which is great for layering in the winter and light and comfortable in the summer. However this voile is just ever so slightly sheer- so I will need a slip with this dress. I should have known better using voile! I recommend duplicating the skirt for a lining if using voile, lawn, or any other very lightweight fabric.

Colette Patterns are fantastic. The book style instructions make everything clear and consecutive. This is my second Colette Pattern dress and I've noticed some reoccurring themes in her cuts:

Theme 1: The Waist:  I'm not talking empire waist- but rather a waistline that is about a 1'' higher than what I'm used to- and it makes all the difference! Very flattering and comfortable!

Theme 2: Back Bodice: The darts are very exaggerated, causing this bulge around my shoulder blades -as if it was cut for someone that slumps over. After a first fitting, I continued the dart to the top of the back because it was not laying flat on my back.

Theme 3: Sizing: The cuts of this pattern for the width are exceptional- fits like a glove. However, I decided to cut the pattern pieces 2 sizes larger- on the lengthwise because I have a long torso. If you do too, I'd recommend customizing how you cut your pattern pieces so that the bodice will be long enough.

There were 2 "errata" in this pattern. No biggies- and thoughtfully corrected on a card in the back of the instruction book. This pattern and personal variations of this pattern will make up most of my spring & summer dresses for years to come. I highly recommend this Parfait pattern and can't wait to try more Colette Patterns!

Knitting in Small Diameter: Magic Loop

January 19, 2011


For the first few years of my knitting career, I believed that the only way to knit a circle smaller than 16 in.  was to use DPNs. I detested using DPNs and so would avoid all projects that required them. I missed out on many great patterns and many learning opportunities. I eventually caved and used DPNs but it was like getting a kid to clean their room on a sunny day. They avoid it and avoid it until they have to do it and it is no fun for anyone. One day, I stumbled upon magic loop. I was cruising blog land and came across a picture of a knitter whipping up socks while on a road trip. The picture showed the beginning of the socks being knit on one circular needle. I was shocked and excited! I ran to my favorite knitting forum (Knitty.com Coffeeshop) and posted a link to the picture and an urgent cry that I needed info on this technique with a quickness. 5 min later I had my answer: Magic Loop. The clouds parted, the sun shined down uponth my face and I heard the angels sing. I spent the night devouring all info on Magic Loop and practicing my heart out. It was awesome! And it is SO easy.

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First you need some flexible, thin, long length cable needles (at least 32 in. long depending on the diameter of the project) like Hiya Interchangeables. Cast on the required number of stitches just as you would with straight knitting.


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Scoot your sts down to the middle of cable and count out half of your sts (I cast on 16 so I counted to 8 sts). Fold the cable at the center of your Sts and slide each half of the Sts down a bit on either side of the center and pull the cable up, dividing your Sts.


Leave the Sts with the working yarn in the middle of the cable and slide the Sts without the working yarn to the needle. This is your left needle. Take up your right needle which will have no Sts on it and work the Sts from the left needle to your right. The other half of the Sts hangs out on the middle of the cable allowing them to stay close because of the flexible needle


Once you are done working the first half of the stitches, slide the unworked Sts to the empty needle and the worked Sts go to the center of the cable. Work the unworked Sts from the left needle to the right. Repeat the above steps until your project is the desired length.


I am in the middle of Danger Craft's Tofu pattern and so far I have knit the entire body, legs and arm on magic loop. It is my go to and so easy. I don't have to divide Sts among 3-4 needles. No need to jungle 4-5 needles and while I have lost many a DPN I have not yet lost an interchangeable. Magic Loop on Interchangeables also makes it easier to put my knitting away. I just twist off my needle and replace them with end caps. I never knew who to properly store and transport my DPNs without a needle sliding out. No project is avoided now!

Check out more small diameter knitting with more Danger Craft toys here.

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Stretch That Shirt's Life! An Easy Makeover for Outgrown Tees

January 18, 2011

We've all got them: tees that don't fit. Whether it's a cute little babydoll you bought hoping to lose enough weight to wear it, a Transformers tee your kid loves but simply can't squeeze into, or the delightful spouse's old college tee that he still treasures but can't get over his head, it's way too easy to accumulate a pile of clothing that's just too small.

Fear not! There's always a way to make it work.

My solution to the too-tight tee: augmenting with side panels! Here's how:

1. Carefully cut the side seam of your tee, from the lower hem right up to the hem of the sleeve. If your shirt has side seams, this is easy peasy. If it doesn't have side seams, lay it flat and mark the sides before cutting.

Once both sides are clipped, you should be able to spread the shirt out flat, more or less.

2. Using a fabric with 25% stretch across the grain (or more), cut two strips along the grain long enough to run the distance from the lower hem to the sleeve hem, plus a little extra - 1-2" - for finishing. I usually leave a ridiculous amount of extra length and trim it after I've inserted the strips into the tee.

The width of the strips will vary depending on how much width you wish to add to your garment. For this particular project, my strips were about 2.5" wide.

3. Sew the strips into the side of your tee, leaving enough to hem at each edge.

4InsetStripsAtSides.jpg4. Hem up your strips at the sleeves and lower edge, and ta-daaaaaaaa! Put on your newly renovated shirt!


A few additional thoughts and tips:

- You will likely discover rather quickly that most tee shirts are not blocked to sit perfectly square. There's often a little bit of twist or skew to them. Don't sweat it. Just line things up as squarely as you can, and go for it! The human body isn't square - nobody will notice if your tee-shirt's seam is a little off.

- You have an opportunity to be a designer with this project just like any other. Choose a contrasting color like the sample for a sporty, color-blocked look, or match the color of the tee shirt for an almost invisible expansion.

- Have multiple tees that aren't in the wearing rotation? If one of them has fallen out of favor, you might be able to use pieces of it to rescue another shirt - check and see if it's a potential donor!

- Remember, no matter what anyone says, you can never, EVER have too many tees. Keep and recycle them if you love them!

Spring time knitting with Cotton Yarn

January 17, 2011

I have noticed among knitters and lay people alike that knitting is seriously considered a winter activity. Like geese flying south and bear hibernating, knitting is what is done indoors and in cold weather. Not for this knitter and not for many steady fast others who have turned to knitting as not just an activity to populate their closets but as therapy and way to keep a cultural tradition alive. I know that this may do little to sway some but perhaps with some inducement (a proverbial carrot dangling from a stick, if you will) you will be knitting by the pool this summer. 


The biggest hurdle appears to be, the yarn. NO ONE wants to touch wool, let alone think of it without sweat popping up all over, especially here in the south. Cotton, however, is at home in the heat. It's cooling and lightness has earned it the #1 spot in summer wear. With cotton, you don't need to lay your creative focus and stress relieving needles in with your winter wear. I love to put aside many of my favorite sweater patterns or those I have not yet had time to knit in the cold weather aside for spring time (or in many restaurants, offices, and movie theaters that think 60 deg is the ideal climate for patrons in summer) knitting. I can't stop knitting, even when it is too hot to go on. I love the feel of completing one more row, of reaching another point in the pattern to see how the author handles this increase or this cable turn. And I love completing a pattern, weaving in the ends and gloriously blocking it. Cotton allows me to continue knitting and wearing my creations year round.


I generally go for heavier weight cotton for spring (worsted and DK) and then towards lighter weights as the temperature goes up (sport and fingering). I try to start in Jan but sometimes hold out till February because it is still so cold here. But before long I am dreaming of humidity and can't wait to pull out my cotton yarns. I know by the time I am done the weather will be warm enough or I will be stubborn enough to wear it. The colors of cotton sing to me as well. I can't help but spurn the jewel tones of winter and find my shopping cart full of pinks, yellows and (my fave) bright grass green. I will often alter my patterns to accommodate the warmer weather by shortening the sleeves but often enough just changing from wool to cotton is enough to make any sweater perfect for warm weather. Though cardigans are my favorite because you can unbutton for breezes, pullovers work well for office wear, early morning walks and late night dates. I love knitting with cotton; it is forgiving, great for textures and the warm weather equivalent of wool.

Pictures: A delicious light green Peaches N Crème Cotton, Berroco Pima Cotton in Cantelope, Sweater knitted during lunches at fabric.com in Lion Brand Cotton Ease, Dishcloth knit in Peaches n Crème.  

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Pattern weights

January 14, 2011

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I dislike pinning, sometimes. When it comes to stitching a long seam, I like the security of pinning (I don't yet have Holly's courage). But when it comes to laying out and cutting out my pattern pieces, I hate it! I always feel like pinning distorts my layout and skews my cutting line. Just that little bit of fabric puffed up by the pinning process and what fabric is used to hold the pin in place is just enough to throw off some of my seams, darts or hems. It may just be me, but ever since I tossed the pins (when cutting out pattern pieces, that is) and went with pattern weights, my sewing has reached a whole new level.

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Being the industrious seamstress that I am, I began my adventure with pattern weights with whatever was to hand. But after a few weeks of serious devotion to PWs (my short term for Pattern Weights) I decided to make my own. I cut out several 5 in. squares of quilting cotton and interfacing of coordinating prints (the weight pictured is in a lovely Moda) and on one side I attached a piece of 5 in. ric rac. Wrong sides together, I stitched the 2 squares together leaving an opened to turn and fill. I clipped the corners and turned it right side out. Using a handmade funnel of printer paper, I filled my PW half way with dried beans and topped it off with poly fill so it can serve as a pin cushion as well. I hand stitched the opening closed.

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Many years later, I have somewhat reverted back to my origins since my PWs are attractive to not only me but my wee child as well. Leaving me back to using whatever is to hand since she has not yet learned the value of returning object from whence they came. I follow rule after a few bad turns:

1)      Don't use your coffee cup (especially when there is coffee in it)

2)      Don't use anything bigger than your fist (if you start with small it you can use it for even the smallest bit of your pattern and won't have to keep searching your house for another PW)

3)      Don't use toys. The owner will come looking and demanding the return of their property leaving your without a PW)

4)      Don't use your cell phone. You will forget why it is holding your fabric in place when an important (or not so important) call comes in and either your fabric will fall off the table or your pattern piece will get caught in the breeze mid cut.

5)      Don't use anything alive- they are just plain unreliable.

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My favorites are an unused and tightly capped bottle of fabric dye, a previously used glass that held water and needs to make it down the kitchen but hasn't in some time, and my own hand made PW (when I can find it). There are plenty of other handy PWs hanging about your house but if your schedule allows make some of your own, they are ever so much fun!

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Blocking your knitting- Vol 1: Wet Blocking

January 12, 2011

Often when you are finished knitting you find yourself with a piece that is not quite how you imagined or doesn't fit as well as you had hoped. All the knitting down the drain you think as you plan to frog your project. Wait- All you really need is to properly block your knitted project. Wet blocking will bring out the details in lace, adjust fitting issues and show off the cables to best effect. Wet blocking is simple and to those detail-oriented folks, immensely satisfying.

To start you will need:
 a big bowl or clean sink of cool water
 a dry towel bigger than your project (go for double the size)
 some T pins
 a ruler
 a blocking board

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Start by fully submerging your knitting in the water and gently (especially for wool-you don't want to felt it) squeeze to saturate every fiber. You will probably see air bubbles escape. Then leave your knitting in the water for 20-30 min. Drain the sink or bowl slowly and then carefully squeeze out extra water. Don't wring the fabric, just lightly squeeze.

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Lay out your towel on a flat surface and open it fully if needed to accommodate your project or fold it in half width wise for small pieces. Carefully lay out your piece on the towel and gently shape it so it is laying flat. Roll up your towel until the whole towel is rolled up. Apply gentle pressure to squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Unroll your towel and lift your piece on to your blocking board. Start by pinning the major corners or points of your piece  (for a shawl the top 2 corners, for a sweater the shoulders and neck line). Using a ruler gradually add more pins until your piece is fully pinned and shaped to your satisfaction.

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Now comes the hard part: waiting. Put your blocking board in indirect light so it will not fade but will use the warmth to help it dry faster. You must wait until your piece is FULLY dry. Don't pull out those pins until you are very sure it is dry and then wait a little longer. The bigger the piece the longer the wait. It is worth the wait since you will be rewarded with a beautiful piece of knitting that fit better and looks amazing. 

St. Valentine's Day Bunting

January 10, 2011


Bunting: A lightweight cloth material often used for flags and festive decorations

In honor of St. Valentine's Day (or Single's Awareness Day, as I have seen it referred to), I have whipped up a most festive bunting to celebrate love. My history of Valentine's Day has always made it more of a celebration than an anxiety-riddled day of examining single life. My mom would always give up little gifts and cards before we left for school. There was also the huge PAR-TAY in grade school that equated Valentine's day with cute cards, lots of candy and my favorite color at the time, Pink. It wasn't until Middle School and High School that Valentine's became the black mark on the calendar. I decided shortly after a bad break-up that I wasn't going to celebrate it any more. I held to that all through my courtship with my husband and since. However, now with a daughter of my own, I long to recreate the joys of my childhood and that especially includes Valentine's day the way Mom taught me.


This project started with an idea: bunting. It is such a favorite in the craft world, I think, for 2 reasons: insanely customizable, relatively quick. My bunting would be, of course, made of valentine-y colors (pink, red, white) but also some new colors to spice it up. As usually happens as I was assembling my supplies (I should not that I wanted this project to use up scrapes and remnants from other projects) I found out that I was depressingly low on ribbon. I had no pink, red or white ribbon at all! I was too ashamed of this circumstance to even show my head in public. To serve as a ribbon to hold the bunting together, I decided to take strips of my chosen fabric and braid them up. To determine how long I would need it, I cut out my flags (roughly 6 in. W by 8 in. H) and arranged them. I then measured across the top and added a little extra for hanging. To make the braid, I cut strips about 2 in. wide (if you just snip into the fabric, you can rip it the rest of the way down and it will be perfectly on the grain). I then knotted 3 together and braided. When one strip was about to run out, I would knot it together with another. I continued to my desired length, knotted and trimmed the ends. I then cut ½ in. by 4 in. strips and stitched them to the top of the flags and tied the flags onto the braided fabric.

I cut out the letters from various colors of felt and glued them in place. Too late I realized I could have used my Cricut for this. You could also use a blanket stitch to secure the letters or Heat n Bond. I added big hearts at either end because it just felt right.

bunting braid.jpg

Materials needed:

½ yd of quilting cotton in various colors (½ yd makes 3 flags)

Three ½ yds of quilting cotton in various colors for the braid

3 sheets of 9 x 12 in. felt for letters

Embroidery floss or fabric glue

Basic Knitted Hat Pattern

January 7, 2011

Thumbnail image for hat-01.jpgDeep into winter as we are (some more so than others) I think it is essential to arm all knitters with a good hat. Hats are my favorite to knit because they are so warm/comfy and quick/easy. Usually once I get quite bored with knitting them it is time to start the decreases and then the hat is done. Knitted hats come in all shapes, designs and colors but they all start with a basic pattern. I will share mine with you.

First choose your yarn. It is most important to start with the yarn though you may have a basic idea of how you want your hat to look in the end- it all depends on the yarn. You may want a chunky hat with a cable but first you must know your yarn so you may base your math and needle size from the yarn. Next, using the needle size suggested on the ball band, knit a 4 in. by 4 in. swatch. Once complete, take a good long look at your swatch. Does it give the stitch definition you are looking for? Is the fabric thick enough? Will it give you the look you want? If the answer to any of these is no, consider switching your yarn. A smoother yarn will give better definition- essential for cable and textured stitches. If you fabric is not thick or dense enough go for a smaller needle. Next, count your gauge and multiply it out to the circumference of your head or the head of the hat wearer. My head is 22 in. around, for example, and with a chunky yarn giving me 12 Sts over 4 in. means I must cast on 66 Sts for a hat.

Now if you have a chosen stitch pattern that you want to incorporate you must accommodate this into your cast-on. Say, I want to use a lace pattern that repeats over 14 Sts. I start by dividing 66 by 14 and get 4.71. Rounding up to 5 means that I will have 5 repeats of the pattern if I cast-on 70 Sts. Adding the extra 4 Sts will only increase my hat circumference by roughly 1 in. If this is an issue you can always add on a ribbing with a smaller needle before starting the lace. The ribbing knit with a smaller needle will make the hat a little tighter along the bottom edge.

Knit until you reach the crown of your head (for me this is 7 in.) and then it is time to start your decreases. I prefer to make mine even across the stitch count and widely spaced so it will not distract from the patterns. A k2tog decrease gives a nice dome shape that will fit your head very well. To determine where to place your decrease you must divide into your stitch count and determine the highest number available to fit your pattern. Given the example above, I could divide 70 by 10 which would give me 7 decreases or I could divide by 14 which would give me 5 decreases. I would choose the 5 decreases since it would blend in with my lace pattern which has 5 pattern repeats.  I would then *knit (in pattern) 12 sts, k2tog and repeat from * to the end of the round (12 sts plus the 2 in the K2tog gives 14). The next round would be knit in pattern without decrease.Each decrease round subtract 1 from the knitted stitches: 2nd decrease round knit 11 sts then k2tog, 3rd decrease round knit 10 then k2tog, etc) Decreasing and then skipping a round gives a nice gradual crown that fits the head smoothly and comfortably. I would repeat these 2 rounds until I was k2tog the whole round. Then, you break the yarn leaving an 8 in. tail. Using your tapestry needle, weave the tail though the remaining loops following the direction of knitting and pull tight. Turn your hat inside out and weave this tail into the hat to secure the end.


Your hat is now finished! You can use this basic hat pattern to make any number of hats in any design or fashion. It is a trusted and true pattern that has served me well. Pass it on!

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Pattern Review: Smarty Girl Book Bag

January 6, 2011


Bags rock. No two ways about it. And who doesn't need more, more MORE?

The Heather Bailey Smart Girl Book Bag has intrigued me for some time, but I never had the magical flash of inspiration to make one... until we got the Tula Pink Parisville collection. I am crazy in love with this gorgeous Marie-Antoinette-inspired cotton print group and had to make things out of it as soon as I saw it. Off to the races! (Well, off to the the sewing room, but you knew what I meant.)


The pattern itself is initially a little underwhelming. It doesn't offer actual patterns for each piece. For elements that are simple rectangles, it gives dimensions and then you get to do your cutting DIY style. Once I realized how much paper this was saving, I was cool with it. I mean, it's not like I can't handle cutting out a rectangle on my own now and again.

The pattern does have really clear and simple directions, which would be fantastic for someone new to sewing. It goes together lickety-split. Mine went from cutting table to completion in less than two hours.

I made a minor alteration to mine in that I did not cut the two-piece ruffle layer out of two different fabrics. Because the Parisville prints are so intricate and sumptuous, I wanted to give the lovely details on my favorites a little more play.

One thing I will probably add in future versions is either a zipper closure under the flap or a zippered interior pocket to keep a wallet or other valuables safe. I am forever paranoid about important things falling out of my bag if they're not secured.

Another change up I will make on the next one is a slightly longer strap. The bag works ok as is, but I feel it rides a little high if I wear it across my body as shown on the pattern envelope (which is generally my preferred way to wear a bag).

This project gets an A+ in playfulness. It is so much fun to choose the prints for each piece of the bag, and most of them are so small that they require mere scraps.


Many Smarty Girls will be churned out in my sewing room in the near future, I think. If nothing else, it's a great way to use up smaller pieces left after other projects to create a fantastic gift stash closet!

In Stitches Wide Leg Lounge Pants in Claire Bella Flannel

January 5, 2011

AB lounge pants4.JPG

We all know where I stand when it comes to Amy Butler's patterns so I shall spare us all another romantic tale. No love though is perfect (not even Ms. Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy). So I submit to you the flaw in my love for AB's patterns: Wide Leg Lounge Pants from In Stitches. We will begin with the good as all star-crossed love stories do. This pattern was super cute in the photo and just as super fast to make. While there was more cutting than was expected because I had to piece together pattern pieces and then create my own to add length to the legs, after that it was all downhill. 4 pattern pieces (double that if you add the contrast cuff like moi) and as many seams. I could see the impending doom as soon as I joined the front pieces to the back...these pants were going to be HUGE. I opted to the medium size because across the board, I am a medium sized girl. If my closet where a bell curve, the majority of my wardrobe would fall well into the medium range. So I added the requisite width to accommodate the medium size when cutting out my pants pieces (3/4 in. on each piece). Once the pants were done it can be safely said that these pants could do without 4-5 in. in width (2 to 2.5 each piece) and still be considered Wide Leg. The length was also an issue. I will need to rip off the cuffs and trim about 2 in. from the length as well. I also had a problem with the waist line. While I definitely fall into the "Mom" category, it is a daily goal to not dress as a mom (mom jeans, etc) so when I pulled these disastrous (but comfy) lounge pants up and up and up and up all the way past my waist I sighed a sigh of defeat. This would never due. 

AB lounge pants3.JPG

The waist as well needed to lose at LEAST 2-3 inches. The whole project would have to be ripped back, recut and resewn. These pants were so big in fact that I am forced to wonder, "How could Amy Butler not know that these pants were so big!" They fit nothing like the picture. Even the small with its 1 ½ in. difference would not have given me the cute fit of the photo. I am also sure that I am not the only one to have encountered this fitting issue but the only errata for In Stitches Wide Leg Lounge Pants to be found on AB's site is an improvement on step 6 for a clearer way of applying trim. I was really hoping for a great pair of PJ pants in line with the wonderful bags and tops that Amy has produced. Take my advice and measure a pair of PJ's pants you already own at the leg opening, length and waist height and adjust Amy's Lounge Pants pattern to those sizes before cutting your fabric. I opted for an elastic waist instead of the draw string because anything dangly can and will be seized and used as a leash by my almost 2 yr old daughter. Plus I need to dress or undress rapidly in order to shower or look decent so fiddling with a suddenly double knotted pair of PJs was not on the menu.

AB lounge pants1.jpg

Now, the fabric on the other hand, Claire Bella Flannel is dreamy. SO Soft, wonderful drape, comfy inside and out. The colors were grown up enough that should I be caught outside picking up the newspaper, I would not have to hide my face but fun enough to make PJ pants, well, fun. The diagonal circles give a nice line which makes it more forgiving  to piece than vertical or horizontal. But the hand was delicious. I slept in my pants last night and they were so soft that going to bed was even more joyous than usual. Plus I was warm enough with my pants that I didn't need the long sleeve t-shirt and socks that I usually don before sleep. I recommend this flannel for robes and blankets as well. It is simply dreamy! The cuffs of the lounge pants were created by doubled quilting cotton from Amy Butler's Belle Line. I would have gone for her new Soul Blossom line but I didn't realize that I wanted a contrast cuff till 2 days ago. The next pair will have some Soul Blossom, for sure!

AB lounge pants2.jpgYou can follow us on Twitter! Get the scoop on Fabric.com Deals by following @fabricdotcom 
or you can get the inside scoop on my projects, see their progress and get extra tips and tricks by following me@tdangermiller

New Year's Resolution: Learn To Knit!

January 4, 2011

I've crocheted since I was 8. I figured it was close enough to knitting- good enough to make scarves and hats. I was content with sticking in my own little crochet world. Since working here, I've come in contact with so many wonderful yarns, patterns and knitters. Knitting has been a goal of mine for a while, so what better way to start than to make it a New Year's Resolution!

Knowing that I already enjoy crocheting, I figured I'd take to knitting pretty easily. The only aspect of knitting that is overwhelming to me is the amount of stitches and terms that exist! I tend to jump in head first to something and just hopefully figure it out along the way. So I figured, why not changing this behavior a new year's resolution too? So in regards to my projects, I want to learn how to do things the right way, the first time. A solid foundation is the key to anything right?


I picked a bulky, light colored yarn so I could see that fibers. I chose this Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick & Quick Yarn  in "Fisherman" and paired it with these large size 13 Lantern Moon palm wood knitting needles. I figured the bigger the better for starters. The next part was figuring out what the best approach was to learning the basics. I need something I could pause and re-watch as many times as needed, like this I Can't Believe I'm Knitting DVD Kit. So I picked up "casting on" and then a basic knit stitch pretty quickly. I then practiced the stockinette stitch and the purl stitch. I'm still trying to figure out which loop goes where in order to get which one, so I just keep doing a trial and error. The hardest part so far, is figuring out the best way to hold my yarn as I go. I have noticed that it is harder than crocheting to redo your work, so I'm just going to keep practicing these 3 stitches till my yarn runs out. Luckily for me, I like the inconsistency in whatever it is I'm making here...maybe a cowl scarf if I can somehow join to the ends?

This new hobby is very exciting. I can't wait till my first knitted project is done so I can move on to the next one. Even browsing Fabric.com's selection of knitting books is causing my mind to race. So many more options! I still love crocheting, but so far knitting is very awesome.

Amy Butler Style Stitches

January 3, 2011

AB bag3.JPG

I heart Amy Butler's books, all of them. Originally hooked when I was a newborn knitter looking for a great knitting bag, I stumbled upon her patterns while cruising blog land. I had to have it, though it had been sometime since I had sewn anything substantial. A new blog friend helped me with the pattern (Chelsea Bag) and walked me through it via email. My voracious appetite was whetted and I have since sewn just about every Amy Butler bag I got my hands on, even little known Amy Butler bags. So.... When I heard from a little bird called Momma, that Amy had a new, purse only book coming out (Amy Butler's Style Stitches), I quietly, with dignity, jumped up and down, ran down the sidewalk shouting at the top of my lungs with excitement. Once the book debuted and Fabric.com received it in stock, my plotting (err... planning) began. First I set aside a week for careful dreaming, perusing and drooling over the new book then I got to work. I decided since my general theme on this blog is to take a new approach that I could not just create one of the 26 patterns in some super cool fabric (tempting though that was) but that I would make a combo of 2 patterns to make a super bag, if you will, to tempt fabric.com blog readers. I decided that the Perfectly Pleated Clutch was not perfect enough and the Origami Bag was just what I needed to expand my knitting carrier collection. To combine the two, I borrowed the pleats from the clutch with the shape and instructions of the Origami. The new Dwell fabric was the perfect complement to this hybrid bag and lined with some awesome retro & mod quilting cotton

AB bag4.jpg

I started by following the pleating instructions and pleated enough fabric to cut 2 pieces for the exterior to matching the Medium lining pieces (I used the lining piece measurements since I would not be piecing). I basted the pleats in place being careful to baste twice so that once I cut the fabric, there would be basting on each piece to keep the pleats in place. Once the pleating was complete I cut my exterior pieces and also the interfacing. Opting for sew-in interfacing so the pleating would not be distorted due to the possible misplacement of the iron or misalignment of the interfacing, this interfacing would allow the pleating to behave as pleating should and not stay frozen in place. I basted the interfacing onto the pleated fabric following the direction of the pleats. I followed the remaining Origami instructions leaving the pleat basting in place until the bag was complete. Amy's instructions concerning the insertion and sewing of the zipper leave a very nicely finished product. Once finished, I removed the pleat basting stitches and was super pleased with the finished bag. I think it is a perfect combination of the 2 patterns and a great expansion to the book's compilation of bags. Try your own combination of Amy Butler's bags from Style Stitches and don't forget to include a link on our Facebook page!

You can follow us on Twitter! Get the scoop on Fabric.com Deals by following @fabricdotcom 
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AB bag.jpg

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from January 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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