Sunday, September 8, 2013

crafting freedom

There are times I have found myself bemoaning the fact that I lead a double life, that I can't make my crafty/creative interests part of my work life. My PhD is in Folklore, and material culture was one of my areas of study back when I was in grad it could be otherwise...could have been otherwise...but I have found my academic home in an English department, where other parts of my training are relevant, and my own research keeps me focused on print and performance, rather than fabric, thread, and yarn.

There's one exception, a project I worked up with an old friend, an Art Ed prof-turned-senior school department head at a prestigious girls' school.  

During a series of classroom visits with her grade 9 art students last Winter and Spring, I taught the girls to do English paper piecing, culminating in three themed quilts which I squared off, basted, quilted, and bound. 

There's so much to say about this experience; it will have to wait for another day, another post (or posts), or (most likely) an article.  This was the one period of time I have been able to blend my realities, to be both teacher-researcher and (in this case) a quilter.  It was deeply satisfying...but it also left me with little drive to quilt in my own spare least temporarily.

Two of the quilts were hung in the school last week. I'm looking forward to reports about the girls' reactions. I tried to warn them about the major perspective shift that happens when a quilt comes's that magic quilt alchemy, and they will be experiencing it for the first time. The thought makes me happy!


So no bemoaning today!  I feel lucky: lucky to have and to love my job.  And I'm lucky to have rich, rewarding, stimulating hobbies...that word sounds so trite, but maybe it's worth embracing. I loooooooove my hobbies!

And when I put the last stitch on the binding of the 3rd quilt a week ago, I suddenly!  Quilting time is now my own again. It is beautiful because it is not work, not evaluated, not required. 

With joy and a feeling of abandon, I whipped up a baby quilt for a woman I have never met, one of my husband's coworkers.


And a few days later I found myself raiding the stash again -- just like the good ol' days -- cutting up some treasured fabrics (Bloomsbury Gardens from Liberty Lifestyle), just as the inspiration hit and with no set goal in mind. (More on that project soon. I'm very excited about it!)

Pulling, combining, squinting, refining, slicing and was lovely and reminded me of what I find so wonderful about this craft.  If only I could distill that feeling and make it into a happy pill...

...but wait: if you're reading this, you probably have the ingredients at hand!  Go take your happy medicine, for goodness sake!



Saturday, September 7, 2013

back in the saddle

It's been a while, and I was starting to think that I might just let this blog gather dust...but armed with a nifty little toy (an iPad mini), I'm thinking I may be able to do some short and (hopefully) sweet posts in the months to come.

Last night I made a first pass at a sleeve for the was a bit of a bust since I just made it up as I went and it turned out too small.  All of my brain energy is going elsewhere right now, so I really need patterns.

A little fabric love for my work life: made a clutch/sleeve for my new iPad mini, pattern by schoolhouse patterns on etsy.

Second try was a success! I used the iPad mini clutch pattern from schoolhouse patterns' etsy was just the ticket, and includes a little front pocket perfect for my VGA adapter, or any accessory you want to keep close at hand. Highly recommended! As you can see, some of my current teaching -- Victorian women's ghost stories -- is impacting my fabric choices.

Finally, I'm taking the plunge and "claiming" my blog on bloglovin' action that still seems bizarre to me, but here it goes...

Wontchna please

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Monday, June 24, 2013

Project Cardigan, chapter 2...and a whole lotta knitting, in general

I love sewing but my first crafty love -- knitting -- has been consuming me lately, being so perfectly suited to my life, my over-full mind, my desire to get away from anything with a plug (and away from the dining room table, which doubles as office and sewing space).

Knitting has been perfect and this summer it's a fair bet that whenever my hands are freed from the keyboard or pen/cil, they are holding knitting needles.

I realized last night that in all the years I've been knitting I have never made myself the kind of sweater I wanted to wear all the time...until this summer.  I don't know what's going on, but my knitting stars seem to be aligned this year.  My 3rd FO in Project Cardigan is my Favourite Sweater Ever (or at least to-date!).

This is my Blackberry cardigan, made from Elspeth Lavold Silky Wool and using Baby Cocktails pattern "Bailey's Irish Cream."


Blackberry v of "baileys Irish cream" cardi blocking! Yay!
progress shot -- blocking
I visited my dear friend Freda recently -- please do follow the link to her blog...she's one of the most interesting, smart, and complex women you could hope to meet! -- and my blackberry cardigan was perfect for the cool Chicago spring weather.

My one modification of any significance was the addition of horizontal (short row) bust darts -- my first, and they were really successful.


in case the giant pink arrow blocked your view, here it is again

It might seem odd to add short rows (I threw in about 5 pairs of short rows) to a lace pattern, but they really did blend in.  All that was eliminated in the patterning at the side seam was one cable crossover...I don't think I'd ever notice this if I wasn't looking for it, but the fronts of the cardigan hang SO much better than usual for me.

The next cardigan off the needles wasn't quite as fact, I haven't brought myself to do those last little bits of neatening and button sewing because I am ambivalent.

IMG_2219This short-sleeved cardi is made from a bamboo yarn and -- don't let it be said I wasn't forewarned (the nice guy at the cash register at Romni Wools tried to tell me!) -- it "grew," unpredictably.  In fact, this fits more like my sweaters of yore, too wide aound the shoulders and underarms. Ick.

But it might be okay....  It definitely looks best layered over a long-sleeved dress like the one I happened to be wearing when I was knitting the neckband.

The jury's still out, and I have put this aside for the time being.

Finally, there have been some little things flying off the needles, since I find that it's healthiest for me to have a couple of things going at once.

There have been two lacey things made from HandMaiden Sea Silk (one of my all-time favourite yarns), drawing on patterns in my beloved Japanese stitch dictionary.






I could rattle on, but I think that's PLENTY on knitting discussed in a single post!

By the way, you can find my work on instagram (I'm "enchantedbobbin") and ravelry (my account was set up years ago and then long's all pre-enchanted bobbin: there I'm "mother bunch"). So if you're interested in the little progress shots that fill out the time between posts, please look for me there!

Wishing you many happy stitches,


Friday, May 17, 2013

Loulouthi hexies for Bloggers Quilt Festival S'13

It's been a couple of cycles since I entered a quilt in Amy's Bloggers' Quilt Festival 
and I'm delighted to be getting out of the quilt closet once again.


I can hardly wait to browse through all the lovelies in the various categories and really hope that you enjoy the little quilt I have to share with you, which I'm entering in Amy's new "throw quilt" category.

Loulouthi Hexies

This is one of those projects that took a loooooooong time from start to finish, which makes it especially meaningful.

Lououthi hexies, English paper piecing
47" x 54"
hand pieced (English paper piecing)
free motion quilted on my domestic sewing machine

I began this project as part of the Summer 2011 "hexalong" organized by Lynne of Lily's Quilts.  I began by experimenting with a variety of hexagon shapes and a small set of Anna Maria Horner's then-new Loulouthi line of fabrics, which I was combining with solids from my stash. One of the delights and challenges of Loulouthi is that it is far, far, far from a "matchy-matchy" kind of line.  The line has its own internal scrappiness, with a very wide range of colours and print scale. 

my very first giant hexie for the HAL

My collection of hexies started to grow....

first set of hexies for the HAL

big hexies in progress for the HAL    ....and grow and grow...

until the walls hung with vines...

Oops...until it started to feel a little out of control.

HAL "constellation"


I reined it in, establishing Kona lagoon and aqua as the only two solids to be used throughout, and also establishing a configuration of 60 degree stars and tumbling blocks as the basic "building block" of my layout.

Once I had this basic unit figured out, it became much easier to move forward and to do some heaxagon experimentation within the basic pattern (as you can see in some of the pieced hexagons that run along the edges of the finished quilt!).

EPP is slow, no doubt about it, but I'd say that most of the time it took to make this quilt top was spent thinking...trying to figure out how to balance the wildness of Loulouthi (and the scrappiness I was really enjoying) with my need for harmony in the layout.

Finally, more than a year later, I had a throw size top I felt happy with!Loulouthi hexies, started summer 2011, now almost done

And now, with the help of my sweet daughter Chloe who was willing to hold the quilt for a few minutes before school today, I have photos of the finished quilt, 
which is backed with AMH's "Summer Totem" 
and free-motion quilted on my domestic machine in a very relaxed loopy pattern.

Loulouthi hexies, back

Loulouthi hexies, loopy fmq

Thanks so much for stopping by!  Enjoy the quilt festival!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

camp memories

Hellooooooo! Happy spring (she writes, optimistically, as we in Toronto exit from a spell of chilly weather).

I have been meaning to post something about the absolutely wonderful, exhausting, memorable time I had at Brenda's Camp Stitchalot...but somehow the days and now the week/s have slipped by, and others -- like Rossie, Katy (here AND here), and April -- have done a great job capturing its spirit.

The fact that I have next to no photo documentation of the weekend has been one hindrance to blogging about the experience.  But the fact that I neglected my e-mail, instagram, flickr, and camera are actually really good signs: I was there, I was having fun, and for at least a little while I wasn't at all concerned about the world beyond. And fortunately for me, my fellow campers (and most especially my dear friend Melinda) did document and now there's a great pool of flickr photos to serve as our collective scrapbook.

The opportunity to focus on sewing, and I mean really focus (as in sew-every-waking-moment-focus) was amazing in itself. For a few days weekend-before-last, I forgot about my research, my writing, my deadlines, my admin responsibilities. I wasn't thinking about what to make for dinner. It was a great treat!

Most memorably, I had the chance to spend time with a group of women doing the same thing, and doing it with humour and enthusiasm. The talent and generosity of both our "counsellors" -- Brenda, Rossie, Katy, Rae, Melody, and Rashida -- and fellow "campers" is really stunning. It was just what I needed and I wish we could do it all over again, monthly!

I admit that my camp spirit waned on Sunday morning as my thoughts turned to the drive home and the very serious work in front on me...I think I even uttered the sacrilege, "It's ONLY fabric!" during a spontaneous scrap swap...what was I thinking?

I repent.

And I hope to go back to camp next spring!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Project Cardigan

Things are going pretty well around these parts: writing & thinking work is getting done, plans for more  such work are in place (which is greatly reassuring)...and a little crafting is underway too, knitting mostly.

Knitting and writing have a longstanding relationship in my life; this is good.  Very good.

And in addition to my writing goals for the summer, I now have some very lofty knitting goals too: since (when not on research leave) I live in cardigans and skirts in the fall-winter-spring (and even some of the's basically my work uniform), I would love to devote myself to some selfish knitting.  Cardigan knitting. Let's say, 5 new cardigans for wintertime.  Wouldn't that be nice?

PROJECT CARDIGAN! We're off to a good start, I'd say.

(1) The year began with an adaptation of Andi Sutherland's Agatha cardigan, made from a very delicious, earthy, mustardy colour of Cascade 220.  It is like a deep ochre with flecks of red in it.  I love it and have already worn this cardigan much more than any other sweater I have made for myself in 3 decades of knitting!

Agatha cardigan, adapted & complete

(2) And today I finished my version of Jane Richmond's Grace cardigan, made from Tough Love sock yarn by Sweet Georgia, in a yummy shade of pumpkin. I an indebted to another ravelry user for the yarn and colour choice...I really don't feel I can take credit for that at all!

grace cardigan, done!!

As I detail in my ravelry notes (follow the links above), I chose to make this sweater with some positive rather than negative ease and I lengthened the body and sleeves a wee bit.  I like the way the lightweight fabric drapes.  More comfy than having it be tight all around, I think.

Buttons for both are from my nice stash of vintage buttons, most of which were bought as a lot from ebay a few years ago. Apparently they had been in storage after a shop had closed down, and all were still on their cards with their (now) outrageously low prices printed on. The buttons I sewed on my grace cardi today are an odd bunch, in 2 shades of tangerine and 1 of pale yellow.  If the quirkiness of the buttons gets on my nerves, I'll switch them out at a later date.

There has been other knitting happening too, not all of it selfish, and also some charity sewing, but I'll hold all of that for another post, another time. For now, I'm going to rustle through my yarn stash and plan my 2013 cardigan #3. 

Happy stitches to you all!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Agatha cardigan, take 2

I have been a knitter for most of my life and while I have knit many well-loved sweaters for family members, my track record in sweaters made for myself is less-than-stellar.  All have been well-knit (if I do say so myself!), but there were always fitting issues....

I'm finally conquering this and I'm thrilled!

In my last post I showed the sad state of Agatha cardigan from this pattern by Andi Sutherland.  The design of that sweater is super-cropped and I had somehow deluded myself into thinking that extending the waistline (after the decreases) and including a nice wide band of ribbing would make it right for me. Wrong!

I ripped back to the waist shaping with the plan of shifting straight into hip shaping and a more average hip length. In short: I am really changing the shape and style of this cardigan.

Keeping in mind that I don't yet have a buttonband and I still have a little AGGRESSIVE BLOCKING to do (after 30 years I am finally going to be in the possession of blocking pins and a good mat!!! I have ordered these and these!), the fit is....GOOD!

Excuse the midnight photos.

Most exciting: I know how to make my next sweater a BETTER fit!

I am so grateful to Nic and Liz for introducing me to Amy Herzog, sweater fitting goddess.  I linked from her blog to her Craftsy class, which I watched in its entirety this weekend. I have already learned soooo much from Amy and am finally starting to understand what I can do with my sweater knitting to make some very wearable, flattering items for myself.  Yaaaayyyyy!

While I wait for my new blocking supplies I am going to start my "test sweater" for Amy's class.  I'm using a cardigan pattern called "Tempest" from Knitty Spring 2008, probably with some subtle colour blocking rather than stripes.  I have some gorgeous emerald solid and variegated Koigu KPPPM on hand for this project and, most importantly, I have several modifications planned: I'm going to move the back waist shaping from the seams to the 1/3 and 2/3 points in the back piece, I'm going to knit a size based on my upper chest measurement and add 1" worth of vertical bust darts, and I may eliminate the front waist shaping altogether (still mulling that one over).  I'm excited to get started....

Finally, I have one other sweater-fitting resource  in the queue and that is Ysolda Teague's Little Red in the City, which I mentioned in my last post. My overloaded brain and overloaded calendar can only handle so much at once right now, so I'm going to work through "Tempest" with Amy...and then I'll start to explore Ysolda's lovely, detailed book.

For now, it's on to my green cardigan and some more adventures in pattern modification.