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Sunday
Sep182011

Molly's Sketchbook: Twenty Minute Totes in Outside Oslo Fabric

Is it just me, or is this time of year "birthday season"? My early-September birthday seems to start off a bundle of birthdays in my life. Several good friends, my husband, my mother in law, and my niece were all born in September or October.  With all these birthdays in a cluster, it's easy to feel the handmade-present-crunch!

This year, I know just what will save me: the Twenty Minute Tote! I originally designed this as a last minute wedding favor, and ever since, it's been my favorite quick project. You can whip up a bunch of them in a couple of hours (each one really does take 20 minutes or less!) and end up with a stack of pretty presents.  Slip in a book, drop in some fancy chocolates and treats, or tuck in a nice bottle of wine. A homemade tote bag makes anything you put inside a lot more special. Plus, it's just about the most eco-friendly gift wrapping around!

Since this design is so simple, a lot rides on what fabric you choose. This time around, I used a gorgeous new collection of upholstery weight cotton called Outside Oslo. These bold, stylish prints are sophisticated without being serious and come in a rich palette of colors perfect for fall.  I added some sturdy cotton webbing handles for a pop of color, and I love the way they came out!

A quick project, some stunning new fabric, and a whole bunch of birthdays, it's a great way to get going on fall sewing! For all the how-to's, just visit my Twenty Minute Tote Project Journal here!

Thursday
Sep152011

Whit's Knits: Chevron Baby Blanket

If you lived through the 60s and 70s perhaps you have vivid memories of a chevron afghan. Perhaps you appreciated it at the time; were indifferent to it in the 80s; despised it in the 90s; and have developed a deep affection for it over the past decade, itchy acrylic, zany colors and all!

This knitted Chevron Baby Blanket makes some accommodations both for modernity and for babies. Instead of hard-to-cuddle acrylic, this 100% cotton blanket is as deep and soft and cozy as a cloud. And instead of fast food orange and kitchen appliance avocado, this version is a delicate spectrum of natural colors just right for babies!

The next generation of chevron blankets starts with Blue Sky Cotton. Loosely spun into a uniquely cozy cotton, this is one of our very favorite baby blanket yarns. For delicate skin, it's non-allergenic cotton, and for busy parents, it's machine washable (yay!).

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Sunday
Sep112011

Mini Quilt of the Month, September: Bright Bits

September's Mini Quilt of the Month is our most playful and risky one yet! And not just because it looks so cool and edgy, but because it's sewn in such a breezy, off-the-cuff manner. As I sliced and pieced, I felt like I was painting with fabric because the process is so improvisational and free. With a rotary cutter for a paintbrush, you get to wield your tool with a wild abandon not usually associated with quilting.

Like our June Rainbow Mini Quilt, this piece takes its inspiration from the remarkable formalist painter, Ellsworth Kelly. This time we turned to an ink drawing from 1950 called Study for "La Combe II" (you can see the painting here.) We all loved its disjointed graphic quality and knew it would translate beautifully to a quilt. By first piecing thin strips of colored fabric at  random angles against a white background and then cutting it all up and piecing it back together in a different order, I think we achieved a similarly bold statement.

It takes a bit of courage to start slicing through the fabric at haphazard angles, but once you get going, it's hard to stop. It's amazing how quickly and easily a few strips of colored fabric can create something so beautiful. The bright, crisp mix of Kona and Shot Cottons makes the whole thing seem so alive, just like a great painting!

ps- You can see our whole Mini Quilt of the Month series by clicking here.

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Thursday
Sep082011

Our Favorite Fall Knits

The morning air is cool and crisp, and my hands are begging to knit. Although I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the cool cottons, rustic linens and lustrous bamboos of summer, I'm ready for the warm, lofty wooly yarns of fall. There is nothing like a project that keeps your hands busy and your lap warm at the same time! (Pictured above are Whitney's Perfect Fit Socks.)

To get your fall knitting started off with a bang, we've combed our archives for our most inspirational cool weather projects, perfect for right now! 

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Monday
Sep052011

Molly's Sketchbook: Swaddling Blankets

I love making handmade presents in anticipation of a new baby. I will always remember knitting my soon-to-be niece a baby blanket while I was on a road trip through Europe many years ago. As I looked out the window and watched the fields and mountains pass by I thought about what she was going to be like with every stitch. What would they name her? Who would she look like? Would she like me? I felt like my good wishes for her were being knitted psychically into the blanket. Ever since then I've tried to make something special for each of the new babies that have come into my life.

In addition to heartfelt, I also try to make my handmade gifts practical. There isn't much point in putting so much care and effort into something if it won't be used. So lately, my go-to baby gift has been a set of Swaddling Blankets with a hand-finished edge. They strike a good balance between usefulness and homemade detail. They are the right size to swaddle a baby (42-inches square), but they work perfectly well as a burp cloth or stroller blanket too.

I actually made my first set of Swaddling Blankets a few years ago as a project for the Purl Bee. Now I'm giving the original pattern a fresh look with this season's  fabrics. I  designed two sets of two blankets each, one set  in pretty pink:

and one in crisp blue:

I used the graphic Nani Iro double gauze stripes as the outsides and bright, lightweight Shot Cotton for the lining. These two fabrics together make a wonderful blanket, so airy and soft.

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