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Molly's Sketchbook: The Twenty Minute Tote with Kokka Apples

This Winter has been absolutely brutal almost everywhere across the country. New York City is cold, icy and covered in dirty snow drifts.  Everyone seems to be wearing colors as dreary as the weather, thick black coats, gray scarves, navy blue mittens, it's so depressing!  So on a recent chilly day we decided we needed to make something quick and colorful to fight off the winter blahs.

There is nothing quicker or more satisfying than a tote bag so we decided to revisit my Twenty Minute Tote from last year and update it with cheerful colors and new prints. We recently got in Kokka Fabric's Apples collection, a Japanese upholstery weight cotton printed in fun, jelly-bean bright colors. Just looking at these happy prints makes us feel a little warmer so we knew we had to use them. We also picked out some matching Cotton Webbing, which is strong and colorful and makes the bags look so finished and professional.

These totes really do come together in 20 minutes a piece which makes them a great, quick, way to add a little Springtime color and excitement into the dull end of Winter months. To make your own bag you'll need:

If you'd like to try it out please visit my Twenty Minute Tote journal here. Thanks-- Molly


Molly's Sketchbook: Felt Ball Trivets

Felt Balls are such fun, versitile objects. You can make them into all kinds of cheerful projects, from garlands, to necklaces. We recently started carrying pre-made felt balls, in a bunch of useful sizes and beautiful colors. Having the felt balls pre-made opens up a whole new world of quick projects.

We brainstormed and came up with these ultra-simple, ultra-cute trivets. They take absolutely no time to make and use only one package of twleve pre-made felt balls. Essentially they are just a ring of felt balls, strung together with lovely contrasting Trio silk and wool yarn. The yarn is tied into neat french knots in-between each ball, like a string of pearls, so that it's contrasting color shows though just a bit. The technique could easily be adapted to make necklaces, bracelets or even garlands.

The ring might seem a little floppy, like a necklace or bracelet rather than a traditional trivet, but it becomes a remarkably stable platform once a circular object, like a teapot, is placed on it. You can make these to fit any circular bottomed dishes you may have and they also work under a larger rectangular dish as well (although they won't show as much.)

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Mini Quilt of the Month - January: Courthouse Steps 

Quilts often seem a little intimidating, to me at least, because of their size and scale. I'll get inspired to try something but often get discouraged when I think about all the steps involved, from cutting a million little pieces to basting the finished top, to hand finishing the binding. So I was really excited when Joelle and Page approached me about doing a new monthly series on The Purl Bee featuring mini quilts. I love the idea of trying out different quilt ideas on a smaller scale where you can actually finish a bunch of them. It's also a great idea for decorating since they look so cute all hanging together on a wall!

We are always inspired by vintage quilts, their colors, patterns and textures are so incredible and really deserve to be put on the same artistic level as painting.  So, for our very first Mini Quilt of the Month we decided to explore a traditional quilt block called "Courthouse Steps" which takes its name from the stepped pattern it makes. This block is a variation of a log cabin block, which you may be more familiar with, but it's pieced in a slightly different manner.

We are really looking forward to bringing you a new mini quilt project every month this year.  Each one will be thoroughly explained from cutting to finishing so we think they will be a great place to start if you've considered making a quilt but are intimidated by the process. 

Enjoy! -- Molly

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Whit's Knits: Forever Baby Blanket

I call this the Forever Baby Blanket because its design is so timeless and classic. You will never look at it and wonder, "What was I thinking?", which is important when it comes to baby blankets because no one throws away a handknit baby blanket. It is, in fact, forever. It gets wrapped in tissue, surrounded by cedar, and tucked away until a new generation comes along and thanks you for having made such an enduringly beautiful blanket!

I was really excited to use Purl Soho's latest addition to our line of Anzula yarn, For Better or Worsted. Like our beloved Squishy, For Better or Worsted is a superwash merino, cashmere and nylon blend in gorgeous hand dyed colors. It is the perfect baby blanket yarn, machine washable, super duper soft, and special enough for heirloom knitting.

Ever since making the Autumn Equinox Vest I've wanted to revisit the Cartridge Belt Rib. Its distinctive texture is characterised by deep valleys and high ridges, created by a simple slip stitch pattern. For a baby blanket this rib is a wonderful choice because it provides a lofty coziness nothing short of what we want for our precious babies!

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Whit's Knits: Four Felted Hot Pads

I had the idea that I would like to knit in a way that was more like painting, a bit more spontaneous, more whimsical, more for the sake of itself. A hot pad seemed a perfect little canvas for my experiments. With some quick sketches formed out of the haze of deep sleep, I set to work!

I started out with a strangely clear vision of what colors I wanted to use: dusty pinks, deep yellows and foggy lavenders. When I'm feeling uncompromising, I always turn to Manos Del Uruguay's Handspun Semi Solids. With dozens of incredible hand dyed colors to choose from, Manos is the closest you can get to mixing your own paints. I knew it! Each color I had envisioned was sitting right there on the shelf!

Riffing off common knitting designs and techniques, I ended up with these four little "paintings": the Argyle Hot Pad, the Striped, the Log Cabin, and the Bordered Square. None are complicated or fancy, but to me each one has a sort of precious completeness to it. I never knew knitting pot holders could be very satisfying!

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