Friday, March 30, 2012

The Berkshire Satchel: a free pattern for you

When I was a girl in the 1970’s, my friends’ older sisters wore incredible jeans that were somehow lean down to their calves, but then parachuted out into huge flares until you couldn’t even tell they were wearing enormous wooden-soled platform shoes, and they had loooong straight hair and big hoop earrings, and they wore long hippie vests made of granny squares.  They had huge glow-in-the-dark posters of Peter Frampton on their walls.  Their hair was so long they could sit on it.  They were probably only sixteen or so, but I thought they were so glamorous, so beautiful.  I stood in the corner of the yard, eating a homemade popsicle and wearing a t-shirt that said, “Kiss Me” and watched them go off on their boyfriends’ motorcycles, hair flying.
I still think granny squares are so wonderful.  I was a little bit thrilled when the Attic Dormitory Blanket was big enough and I could save a few of the grannies I’d already made for another project.  I had 40 squares leftover, and when I started thinking about this bag, which needs 44 squares, I thought that was a pretty satisfying way to use them up.  Carrying this bag around makes me think of those older sisters, and how I later wished I’d been old enough for Woodstock and how Janis Joplin’s custom-painted Porsche is still on my list of things to DIY.
I’m so pleased that you visit my blog, and that you take the time to leave me a comment now and then, so I’ve made a pattern for this bag, which you can download free here.  I hope you like it!  Now I have “Born to Be Wild” stuck in my head…

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Miss Kastner


I sewed some stuff.  But enough about me.  Look at my new sewing machine!  Isn’t she pretty?   This is Miss Kastner, and she came to live with me on Valentine’s Day, because Dean is sick of repairing sewing machines a good and lovely man who found this fabulously vintage machine for me on craigslist.  I love him.

She is called Miss Kastner because that’s what’s written on her instruction manual.  I know!  She came with the manual, and a whole huge bunch of other goodies too, stuff I haven’t figured out how to use yet, including a big box of what look like medieval dentures, a buttonholer (oh, I get a thrill when I think about that one) and about four walking feet that all appear to be identical.  I guess I have a lifetime supply of walking feet now.  I hope I do. 


Miss Kastner is a 1964 Singer Slant-o-matic 600, and if saying that out loud doesn’t make you want to jump up and do the Watusi, then I don’t know what would.  She has all metal gears.  (Can I get an Amen?)  She ticks along like a Rolex.  She is my new favorite thing. 


On what was only our second date, Miss Kastner and I made these project bags out of vintage pillowcases.  We worked together to figure out the best way to get that drawstring casing to work out while not interfering with the French seams I had my heart set on, and while neither of us has figured it out quite yet, we aren’t worried, because we have a lot more pillowcases to play with, and all the time in the world. 


(Big thanks to Angela for giving me this brilliant idea in the first place.  Vintage machine!  Metal gears!  But of course.)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Luck and Gratitude

Thank you all for your sweet comments on my blanket!  I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that you stop and visit, and that you take the time to leave a thought or two for me.  It really means so much, thank you.  That blanket almost did me in, I’ll tell you.  Joining those last few rows of squares felt like taking tap lessons while wearing lead shoes.  I just wanted to bail.  It just seemed like it was enough, already.  I’m glad I didn’t, but it tested my fortitude, and I think I overdid the hooking in the homestretch, because now my wrists ache.  Time to switch gears and maybe sew or embroider or, heck, dust something…that would be a thought…


Whenever the sun peeks out—and it hardly ever does; our city gets fewer sunny days per year than Seattle—I run around taking pictures of everything in sight.  This is my loot from a recent thrifting haul, waiting to be put away.  I love the labels, they’re the best part.   I think this fabulous thread wants to be pillowcase edging, but I’m not picking up any hooks today. 

Look at this beautiful sock yarn Erin sent me!  It is Shepherd’s Wool, spun in my—and Erin’s-- home state of Michigan.  Erin and I are both a little homesick, I think.


You should feel this yarn, it is as soft as a kitten.  I have a plan, oh yes.  I can hardly wait to see how those marled skeins will look when they’ve been knit.  Erin, thank you so much. 

Also new here at Chez Cozy is this sweet vintage quilt, again scored in the thrift shop.  I know, right?  I can’t believe my luck, either. This was going to be a cat bed until I noticed how awesome those old fabrics are, and how it’s (tenderly imperfectly) hand-quilted.  And now it’s in the pile of things to keep the cat away from. 


Thank you, also, to the lovely Laura at Cute as a Button for the sweet award.  I am terrible about passing them along, but I do appreciate them, so very much.  Laura is making a delicious granny blanket—go and see! 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Attic Dormitory Blanket


We are having the most spectacular weather.  It was 80 degrees F yesterday.  In March!  In New York!  I have never seen anything like this before, and I spent much of the last few days just sitting on the patio with a book, going dormant and basking like a lizard on a rock.  This is vacation weather.  This is what you hope for when you book your winter break trip to Tampa.  Oh, it’s nice.  Of course, I also felt the insistent nudge of this pesky blanket, tapping away on my shoulder as I began to doze off.   It’s eighty degrees, who wants a lap full of wool?  Well, I do…


Finally, it is finished.  I say this with a satisfied and weary sigh.  I do believe I might be cured of the grannies for awhile.  Maybe.  Don’t quote me on that.  But four hundred granny squares is a lot. 


I’m always surprised at how much the different pinks assert themselves in the photos.  It seems so mostly-blue to me, in person. 


Remember the Nanny McPhee blanket?  I know you do.  There have probably been thousands of Nanny McPhee-inspired blankets created since that movie sent everyone running for their hooks.  When I saw it, I sort of sucked in my breath.  Just thought, Oh Yeah!  I’m making that.  I loved the children’s attic bedroom under the eaves, with the beds all lined up and cozy with quilts and blankets, and the littlest girl had the best blanket, a scrappy granny made up of wee squares.  Deep sigh. 


It was only a matter of time, really, before I succumbed to the yearning. 


I loved making these grannies, sitting beside my basket of little balls of wool in every color, chipping away at the scraps all winter.  I begin to notice a few rules I seem to follow:  I have a deep aversion to the primary colors, I never put pink and blue directly beside each other, and I have a compulsive need to throw in a good measure of ugly neutrals, just to tone things down. 


I also came up with a strategy for ensuring a more or less even distribution of color. I worked on the individual squares in batches of ten, making sure to use a variety of colors and values within those ten squares, and then I safety-pinned them together.  I kept these groups intact through the blocking process, re-pinning them together once they were dry.  When it came time to join them, I chose two stacks and spread the squares out beside me, making the decision about which square to add next based on which squares would be its neighbors.   This method also helped me easily keep track of how many squares I had made, and it helped keep them orderly until I was ready to hook them together. 


Here are the stats:  I made 400 three-round granny squares (though I only ended up using 360 of them—it was big enough) out of scraps.  Lots and lots of scraps, lots of little balls of leftovers of leftovers.  I’m talking about balls of yarn the size of cherry tomatoes.  I don’t remember what any of them were, except that I use a lot of Cascade 220, Ella Rae Classic Worsted and Amity, Berrocco Vintage, and Patons Classic Merino, so you can be sure it is mostly comprised of those yarns, although there are quite a few thrifted oddments in my yarn basket, purchased for their weight and color, and I have no idea what they are.  The white yarn in the joining rounds and edging is Berrocco Vintage in “Snow Day”, and I think I used ten skeins of it.  The edging is two rounds of single crochet, finished with a picot edge. 


It looks like a blanket you’d have in your attic dormitory, on an iron bed, possibly originally crocheted by the Ladies’ Aid Society to benefit an orphanage.  It looks like a blanket you’ve had your whole life.  It looks beautiful and thrifty and scrappy and full of love.  It looks right at home there.  I am happy.

Sunday, March 18, 2012



I’m almost done with this.  Just a few more rows to go…just a’s so white…whiiiiteeee…zzz.  It’s getting a little tedious, this incredible amount of Just White crocheting, the joining rounds.  Truthfully, the tedium of the endless miles of white rounds entirely lacks the pizzazz of grannying. 

It is going to be So Worth It, though, because wow…I love it so much.  I keep negotiating with myself about it.  Maybe sixteen rows is enough?  Hmm?  C’mon, this thing is huge…then I throw it across the bed to see if it’s big enough, and it really isn’t.  Maybe eighteen rows is enough?  I know I’m just going to start another granny blanket about .24 seconds after I finish this one, so I don’t know what the big hurry is. 

The truth is, I lack focus. 


I started this last night while watching a lot of episodes of Portlandia on Netflix. 


We have a territorial male cardinal who keeps attacking his reflection in the kitchen window.  Note to self:  print scary photo of Shel Silverstein to hang as deterrent.


It seems like it’s always sunny on Sunday.  Weird, no?


Dean baked homemade chocolate cupcakes yesterday.  With cream filling.  And chocolate ganache.  I cried with happiness. 






I love coffee.  It’s warm outside!  Have you seen The Quilts of Gee’s Bend?  (Whoa, more on that later). Laundry, roof repairs, car wash, dog bath, mop floors, yardwork, chicken house, school event, library books….  Haha, heehee, ho ho! 

Blanket!  Focus! 


No, not that one! 


That’s the one.  Eyes on the prize. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Crocheted Dishtowels


Good grief, check out that wrinkly tablecloth.  I am such a slob.  Actually, I’m a slob who craves order, but I just can’t get it together to make it happen.  Please, housework?  Come on, I’m too busy crocheting!  Well, what does a lazy girl with extremely lax housekeeping inclinations do with a bunch of cotton yarn?  Why, she crochets herself some kitchen towels she can use to wipe up stuff!  Nobody guessed this was a towel, although you all did give me a whole bunch of good ideas for other things I can crochet instead of ironing the tablecloth.  Woot!


Yes, I have crocheted a dishtowel.  Here it is, photographed in what will be its natural habitat.  Don’t look too closely at the dinged-up refrigerator; I raised baby animals and toddlers in this kitchen and I’ve got the teeth marks to prove it. 


I loooove it, isn’t it pretty?  So stripey!  Here’s how it happened: I want to make blankets all the time.  Blankets are so much fun!  So cozy!  There are so many inspiring blankets out there, and I can hardly keep a lid on the temptation to keep starting new blankets and jeez, how many blankets can a girl have going at once, anyway?  I have two at the moment, and another one is all queued up—and that’s not to mention all the other countless piles of stuff in progress—so when my greedy eyes in wide-eyed perusal of this now-famous book landed on a photo of a crocheted dishtowel draped artfully on a stove handle, well, it just rang all my bells.  It’s like a blanket, only not.


I got out my cotton yarns (this towel is all KnitPicks, either Comfy or Shine Sport) and made a mini blanket, using Lucy’s ripple pattern.  While I was at it, I made this, too:


That’s the catherine wheel pattern from this book by Sasha Kagen, and the yarn is “I Love This Cotton!”  (that’s the best name—why beat around the bush, really, right?  No link for that one, though; it’s like crocheting with glue)  and Jo Sharp Soho Cotton DK (which has a weird, string-like quality.)   


There will be more of these.  My mind is whirling with them.  They make my beat-up kitchen look so great!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Homespun Style Crochet



As expected, I ran out of white yarn, so now I’m waiting for the mailman to rescue me.  Meanwhile, everybody’s buzzing about this book, and with good reason, because it is fantastic.  I love every page, and already it has inspired a project idea.  This bit of crochet is not a blanket.   


Nope, it’s not a blanket.


It’s not a pillow cover, either.


Is that a festival of stripey happiness, or what? 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Never Enough



I’ve been putting in some quality time on the wee grannies blanket this week, and have been racing the dwindling pile of white yarn in a feeble attempt to get to the finish line before it runs out.  Even though I knew there was nowhere near enough, I just kept crocheting faster and faster, ever hopeful.  Do you all race the yarn?  I always do, and I almost always lose. 


Gosh, I just love this join-as-you-go method—Lucy, you’re the bomb.  Look at how it makes little stars at the corners!  Oooh, aaahhh.  This project is still so captivating to me.  I’ll be sorry when it’s over.  Well kind of…


I guess you all know what this means, right?   I can’t wait!!!!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Moonlight scarf



One summer night, when I was young, a boy came to my door and asked me to go for a walk with him, and we walked for miles and miles together down the moonlit country roads, holding hands and falling in love along the way.  For some reason, I thought of that night as I made this scarf, and how I wore a gauzy white dress that glowed in the dark, and how as the night got chilly, his hand in mine was so warm.


This little scarf makes me think, too, of outdoor concerts in August.   I want to kick off my sandals and lie on a quilt in the warm darkness, looking at the stars and listening to Judy Collins play her guitar.  (I did this once.  It was holy.) 


The pattern is my own, devised as an experiment.  I worked on this every day for a week, and got as far as the very last repeat on the edging—two inches from the finish line, friends, with ten minutes of knitting remaining—and ran out of yarn.  I meant to take a picture of that, the urgent scarf with its ten remaining stitches and the sad, frayed length of yarn that was left, but I was crumpled by it, and also it was eleven o’clock at night.  Which is not too late an hour to quickly order more yarn--a crusher, since I only needed about another five yards, but it must be done, and when it arrived yesterday, I sat down for half a second and finished the edging. 


Then I soaked it in the sink and pinned it out to dry overnight.  That wishbone shape is the result of my experiment—I wanted to know what would happen if I increased at both ends of every row, instead of just every right side row, and now I know.   It makes a wishbone shape.  Not unlovely; a little bit interesting. 


Perfect for summer, which really will be here soon.  Maybe we’ll go for a walk. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Teeny cross-stitch heart


A few weeks ago, I became the lucky recipient of a serious embroiderer’s de-stashing, and turned immediately to this darling book for inspiration. 


I’ve been thinking a lot about why we craft, and probably there are as many reasons as there are people.  High on my own list of reasons is that the repetitive motions of needle through canvas or fabric or linen or yarn is just soothing, calming, quiet.  Stillness is not my default setting, and I love, more and more, the steadiness that needlework brings me.  It can be a bridge over troubled water.


It can fill the empty places, on your walls and in your spirit, too.