Monday, August 31, 2015

The Renaissance Festival Quilt

the king

elizabethan doublet

wind up man




My first visit to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival was in the fall of 2000. I was 19 and my first love had just ended our relationship. I was heartbroken.

As a way to cheer me up, my family insisted I join them at the festival the next day. That day was the start of a love affair so grand that it is impossible to describe in words.

Over the next five seasons, I visited fest almost every weekend. I bought a corset and renaissance dress on ebay. I bought my very first sewing machine and taught myself to sew in order to make my own dress one year. I flirted, I danced, I made lifelong friends.

I learned to talk to people. I learned to be confident. I learned that I didn't have to fade into the background. I went from a shy 20-something with low self esteem and social anxiety to a confident young woman who could think on her feet and hold her own in a conversation.

And most of all, I discovered that I belonged somewhere. Just as I was. It was like coming home to a family I had never known but had known in my heart all along. They were all there, just waiting for me to find them.

Those were glorious years! A very special, happy, stressful, interesting time of my life. Memories I hold dear, faces I can still call to mind. So much of my life happened there, so many of my thoughts focused on fest, year round.

It has been six years since my last visit to the renaissance festival. It was a gradual slowing down, a growing up, a growing apart. I now no longer obsess about fest, count down the days, go to the places where my fest friends hang out. Fest was there for me when I needed it most and gradually, I outgrew that need.

But there is and always will be a piece of my heart that belongs solely to the festival. I left it there the first day I set foot on the grounds. Even now, the smell of new woodchips sets my heart racing. So many reminders in an average day, memories pulled from the depths. It's all still there, just as if it was yesterday.

In the summer of 2010, Lizzy House's Castle Peeps came out. I bought a full yard set of prints the very second it came out. I knew I would someday make a very special renaissance festival quilt. Something that would capture the excitement and drama, the laughter and tears. The colors and noise and wildness of it all. The love, real and imagined. The adventures and the friends and the heat and the rain and music and morning sunshine curling through campfire smoke. Those busy, sunny, tiring, lovely, lovely days.

It took five years but I finally found the perfect pattern for my renaissance festival quilt. I knew as soon as I saw S.O.T.A.K Handmade's version of Katy's Fly the Flag pattern that this was THE pattern!

It reminds me of the bright flags hanging everywhere out at the festival. Their flutterings are in the background of every memory.


Fest started two weekends ago and will continue on through September. I'm taking this time, my favorite time of the year, to finally make my festival quilt. I'm adding in some Heather Ross Far, Far Away unicorns. I'm watching Once Upon a Time on Netflix. I've already made a few blocks and I love them! I hope that by the end of the month when the evenings turn chilly and wood smoke is in the air, I'll have a bright and lovely quilt to wrap up in. Stitched inside will be all the memories, good and bad. And wrapped up inside it, my heart will be whole.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Last Bit of August


grandpa shirt



I've been working so hard for the last couple of weeks. I completely overhauled my studio (more on that soon), threw a birthday bash for Ian, researched African waxed cloth in order to make a tablecloth for Ian's dad, decided on a layout for a pair of grandpa shirt quilts, sewed six tea towels (two with paper pieced hexagon flowers on them!), finished up a long overdue hat and made a significant dent in the Lintilla shawl.

August has been so nice, slowly finishing things bit by bit. I feel so good about finishing (and almost finishing) those two knitted gifts. I was so inspired to work on grandpa shirt quilts. I wanted to finish up every gift I ever started making for people. I was checking things off my list.

But all that came with a price. Two grandpa shirt quilts turned into four. Then I remembered all the woven scarves I'd planned to make as gifts last year before I had to quit because my hands hurt so badly. Knitting so much this month has aggravated my shoulder. And what about those orphan block quilts I was so excited to make. Oh, and I still haven't washed that waxed fabric because I'm scared of it!

And so, I'm calling a time-out. A truce, really. In what is left of August I will finish the Lintilla, hopefully by Saturday so I can block it and gift it on Monday. I will wash that scary fabric and finish the tablecloth for Ian's dad. I will finish organizing my studio and make a new cover for my ironing table. I will take the rest of August to finish up whatever I can, to tie up loose ends. And then I'm going to stop.

In September I want to take it slow and enjoy my favorite month of the year. I want to go apple picking with Ian, go to a vineyard for a wine tasting and eat dinners outside while the weather is still nice. We're going to the MN State Fair next week. I'm taking a week off of work, every day of which I'll eat breakfast out on the balcony. Ian just made a fresh batch of jam...oh yes, there will be jam!

I want to focus on just two projects. First, I will slowly knit my shawl for the knottygnome handspun knit-along. I will not overdo it, I will let my shoulder heal.

And second, I will make a quilt just for me. A Fly the Flag quilt inspired 100% by s.o.t.a.k handmade's quilt. I will cut into a long hoarded fabric. I will think happy thoughts about happy times. I will enjoy my newly organized, calm and beautiful studio. It's a good plan, I think.

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Boyfriend Hat


OMG, this hat is FINALLY finished! I started making it for Ian a year and a half ago. I love how it turned out but 1x1 rib is the worst! Also, grey is not very exciting, to me anyway.

But, as proof that my "slow and steady" plan is working, in just one month I managed to knit 6.5" of this hat. In the year and 5 months before that, I had only managed to knit 5.5". So, a little every day really adds up!

Ian says he loves it and it does look like the perfect fit. It's longer than his old hat which means more protection from the cold Minnesota winters. Making this hat for him was totally worth every boring, hand-hurting stitch.

In case you happen to love 1x1 rib, the pattern is The Boyfriend Hat, free from the The Purl Bee.


An aside: I remembered how much I do NOT like knitting with double pointed needles. Oh man, what a pain. At first they're exciting because it's something different and you're decreasing and you're almost done...but then they just get in the way and it stops being fun. They do make me feel like a "real" knitter, though. I don't really know why...they just do.

Up next on my slow and steady to-do list: finishing up the last repeat and ruffle edge on a Lintilla shawl (by end of August hopefully) and working on my Happy Half Moon shawl for the knottygnome handspun knit along. I have until the end of September to finish it. I think that's do-able!

happy half moon2

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Two Finishes!

summer in the city

summer in the city2

summer in the city3

"Summer in the City" was a super fun and easy quilt to make. I had a charm pack of Urban Chicks Swell collection as well as some pieces of Summer in the City. I added just a couple other fabrics to make the pieced strips just a bit wider.

And then I added ric rac! I thought it would look really good with these fabrics and it exceeded my expectations! I'm not sure if it's necessary but I prewashed/dried my ric rac just to be safe.

I scored a yard of a hard to find print from the Swell line for the back. Then this quilt waited years for a binding...which took all of an hour or so.

I brought this quilt up north for photos and my mom really loved it. She asked if she could have it to use on her computer, now it's hers.

improv quilt

improv quilt2

improv quilt3

My second finish was also a quilt that only needed binding. This was an early attempt at scrappy improv. sewing. I REALLY enjoyed making this one. When I was piecing it, it reminded me of an M.C. Escher drawing of stairs I'd seen as a kid. So, this one is named Relativity.

The quilting on this one was so fun. I sewed straight lines until I felt like stopping and then I would turn the quilt 90 degrees and keep going. It's sort of an all-over boxy stipple or loop. I'm definitely going to try that one again.

This quilt is going to my cousin's new baby Nora. I haven't met her and probably won't for a very long time...but it's nice to know that she'll have a handmade quilt to keep her warm.

I'm excited to have two more quilts finished and on their way to their new homes. Little by little, bit by bit...

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Greetings from the Lake!

lake quilt7

lake quilt5

lake quilt4

lake quilt3

lake quilt2

This is a really exciting finish for me. I've had these fabrics for quite a few years and it feels really good to finally make a quilt from them. My uncle found a bunch of fabric in the attic of his childhood home and gave it to me. We think it belonged to my great grandma...she quilted and sewed clothes and, of course, made quilts out of clothing scraps.

While I was making this quilt, I thought it was so ugly and I just wanted it finished so I could make room in the studio. But now that it's finished, it just dawned on me that I made a quilt using my great grandma's fabric. Isn't that wild?

And it's not really that has its charms. I decided to give this quilt to my aunt Kathi who appreciates things like this...who sees beauty where others do not. And she's sentimental about family things...things from the past.

That and she just bought a cabin and every cabin MUST have an ugly quilt. It's the one you remember from your grandma's house when you were a kid. The one that was perfect for making forts in the basement, the one you dragged around the yard, through the woods, onto the boat. The one you brought to the beach to watch fireworks or have picnics. The one you wrapped up in at the campfire while roasting marshmallows. This quilt will be perfect for all of that and more.

I wanted this quilt to last a long time so I made bias binding and attached it by machine. Plus, OMG, bias cut perfect! For the back I used a larger red gingham that I liked better online than in person and an Anna Maria Horner print that never seemed to go with anything else in my stash. The whole thing came together like it was meant to be. And I think it was.

Monday, August 10, 2015

A Strawberry Bag!!








Last week was a good week. I ordered another project bag from Sara at knottygnome crafts...this time in a Heather Ross strawberry print that I've wanted forever. I have three of these bags now. They are my ultimate favorite bags for my knitting projects.

This time I tried Sara's "Deluxe 2-skein Zippered Project Clutch". It's basically the same as her regular project bag but with some extras. There's a detachable wrist strap, a lobster claw zipper pull that's also a progress marker and two pockets inside the bag: one slip pocket and one zippered pocket.

I'm not usually an extras sort of girl but I have to say, these are all really great additions, especially if you carry your projects around town like I do. The deluxe bags cost a little more but they are well worth it! I'm only disappointed that I missed out on ALL of her Halloween themed bags...those sold out super fast!

Also, I'm participating in Sara's handspun knit-along on Ravelry and you guys will never believe what happened. I actually won a prize! It's a skein of her handspun rainbow yarn and it's so, so pretty! I was prepared to NOT win this yarn and yet I obsessed about it the entire week of the giveaway. I wanted to know what it looked like in person, what colors were in it, what it would look like wound into a ball, what it would look like knit up.

And then I won it! I couldn't believe it! I'm currently looking for just the right pattern. I have NO idea how I'm going to use it, not even what type of garment to make. If you have any ideas, let me know! For now, I'm just going to look at it and be happy.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A Truth Both Awesome and Horrible

After seeing how many quilts I finished this year, I was excited (scared) to find out just how many unfinished and finished quilts I have. So, here we go...the awesome and horrible truth:

Quilts in progress (blocks started, pieces cut, some finished blocks, etc.): at least 19

improv log cabin2

dream on

Finished tops: 22

Orange and Blue

quilt tops

41 WIP's. All quilts. No table runners or mini's. Some baby quilts but not that many.

So...that's a lot. Right? Like, it's so many that I sort of feel bad. Like the kind of bad I feel when I eat too many cookies...happy because cookies taste good, bad because one just shouldn't eat so many cookies.

I also counted 40 finished quilts (I kept 11 (this includes Ian's quilts) and I gave 29 away).

Nicey Jane Quilt

I've been quilting since 2006...nearly 10 years. I can't believe I've started 81 quilts and finished 40 in that time. No, seriously, if I hadn't checked my math a million times, I would NOT have believed that. I wouldn't have believed it if those numbers had been cut in half!

41 WIP's...41 more quilts to give away or find room for in my home. That number is sobering. Ian's fear of dying under a pile of my quilts might not be so silly after all.

I'm not going to make a big resolution to finish up WIP's or anything. I'm just going to keep working on them and giving them away. Slow and steady, a little at a time. One good thing, though...I don't think I'll feel like starting anything new for a while!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Orange and Green

orange green

orange green3

orange green4

So, I started this quilt 6 years ago. Everyone was really into 9-patches around that time and I had created a tutorial for a fast way to make two 9-patches at once. Once I made those first orange and green blocks, I was hooked! I just HAD to make more!

Soon I had enough to finish a top that then spent a few years hanging in the closet with my other finished tops. And now, 6 years later, this quilt is finished and living with my dear friend Karrie.

I'll be honest...there was a moment before I gave it to her where I contemplated keeping it for myself for just a few days longer. I'm not a bad person...I just really love this quilt! It's so bright and cheery and I just love the combination of orange and green. But, I also really love Karrie so it wasn't that hard to give it to her this weekend.

The 9-patches finish at 10.5" and the overall quilt is approximately 56" x 68". It's backed with a super soft flannel.

I tried loopy quilting for the first time. I really like how it gives a sort of happy energy to the quilt. I did have some tension issues and had to go back and fix a dozen or so loops. I'm a bit rusty, though. I haven't free motion quilted a quilt in years. I definitely need more practice.

This is my 8th finished quilt this year. That sounds like a lot (to me anyway) but half of them were already finished tops. I'm trying to make a dent in the pile...I don't actually know how many finished tops I have. I'm going to count them and let you know...I'm scared!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Greetings from Sacramento!




lake quilt

loopy quilting

Ian and I just got back from a trip to California. The only pictures I managed to take were of a forest fire from the airplane and a really cool coffee shop. I want my someday kitchen/dining room to look like that coffee was perfection! I loved the old-timey height adjustable stools and now have some ideas for a dual height know, for someday.

The reason I didn't take any other photos: it was freaking HOT there! Like, 104 degrees hot! We went to an outdoor play one evening and played a lot of "Dazzleball" with Ian's 3 year old niece but that was pretty much it for outdoor activities.

We spent lots of time with his parents and sister and talked and talked and there was some eating (omg, produce in California is awesome!). It was a lovely trip!

When we got home, I worked very hard to finish up a few quilts. I'll have a few to show you later this week. I'm actually making progress on my to-do list and I'm not feeling overwhelmed anymore. This is usually when I start to slack off, though, so I must try to keep up the good work. More soon!