A Biased Approach

I find the most fun part of quilting to be the planning stage.  My mother refers to it as “projecting” (like project, the noun, plus -ing, not projecting like to display something to speak loudly when on stage).

Anyway, I like figuring out how a quilt can go together; what measurements to make each piece in order to create a finished product that will fit with the batting that I probably already bought.  I do way more math than is necessary but that is part of the fun – apparently I miss doing basic geometry.  It’s kind of ridiculous that despite all this preparation and calculation, I inevitably end up with a quilt with mismatched corners.  The reason for that, however, is not a lack of planning, but a lack of care when it comes to execution.

I use a mat and rotary cutter to slice up the fabric and while I do my best to hold everything steady and cut neatly, I cannot honestly say that my strips or squares (or whatever) always come out right.  Also, I tend to sew fast and while watching TV so I do not always keep my seams even and consistent.  Still, I consider my finished products to generally be close enough for jazz (so to speak) and even my mother who makes excellent quilts slowly says it is better to be done than perfect, so I’ll take it.

Anyway, my cousin had a baby (well, his wife did) in April and I decided to make him a quilt.  I like the concept of the Attic Windows design and decided to go with that, putting characters in the windows by fussy-cutting novelty fabrics.  In retrospect, I should have narrowed the sashing because the windows don’t look quite right although I am still pleased with the result overall.  The character content should be bigger compared to the more plain elements.  I went with 2 1/2″ strips (and 2 7/8″ squares cut diagonally) for all of the border-type fabrics and 4 1/2″ squares for the mostly licensed character fabrics.  This allowed me a pretty standard 1/4″ seam allowance all around.

singer tableOne of my problems with keeping a nice 1/4″ seam is the fact that I used my sub-par sewing machine.  I inherited an extremely heavy sewing machine from my mother (when she upgraded decades ago, she is still alive and sewing) which is more furniture than crafting supply, really.  It is a Sears Kenmore from the early seventies and while it is, of course, electric, it is not computerized.  The bobbin winder does not work well anymore (it actually works fine but then the machine doesn’t want to sew anymore after it is used – something about the clutch, I am told) but that is really its only problem other than its bulk.  In the past year, however, I purchased a secondhand (but very lightly used) Brother CS6000i.  This machine has a drop in bobbin, is super easy to thread, and is very light.  On the other hand, the stitch quality is not as good and the markings for seam allowance are harder to follow.  Anyway, my nice (if old) machine was folded up in its cabinet and had stuff on top of it, so I decided to use the other machine.  I don’t know that I regret it, exactly, but it may not have been the best idea.brother machine

Yes, based on these photographs, it is obvious that my apartment is a giant mess but every photo I take shows that, so it is hardly news.  Anyway, I pieced the quilt over the course of a few months, stopping periodically to buy more fabric then having to wait until I went to my grandmother’s house on Friday in order to wash said fabric before I could cut it.  Late in the summer, I bought a panel that had postage stamps for eight Texas cities; something I would normally never purchase but the baby this is meant for lives in Texas so I decided to go for it.  Anyway, I finally finished piecing the quilt, made a sandwich with the batting and flannel back (I like flannel backing especially for baby quilts, it is soft and fuzzy) and then got sad that I actually had to quilt it.

A baby quilt is not very big, this one was around 42″ x 58″, narrow enough to use regular width fabric on the back, but I am not good at quilting; worse even than I am at piecing.  I think my Brother may have come with a walking foot but I don’t know where it is (or whether I actually even own it) so I just went with the one foot I keep installed and picked a decorative stitch.  It did not go very well.  The problem is that I do not keep even movement through the machine.  If I let the feed dogs do all the work, the stitches are way too close together because of the material thickness but if I pull it through, the stitches are way too far apart.  A decorative stitch really shows off the variation far more than a straight stitch; a lesson I learned too late (although it is obvious in retrospect).  I might have mitigated this affect by doing a free-motion type of thing where the stitching meandered around the quilt but I decided to go in straight lines.  Additionally, I picked a different decorative stitch to go length-wise than I did width-wise so the whole thing is a little bit of a clusterfuck.

Finally, I was done quilting (although I had to stop partway through to buy more thread, unfortunately a poor match for the original which I got from my mother but that is a whole separate issue).  I went to JoAnn to purchase bias tape with which to bind the quilt.  I had decided on orange to pick up the accent in the most prevalent border fabric but did not like the shade choices available to me.  Also, I decided that I should go with 100% cotton instead of the blend available for purchase so I decided to make my own bias tape.  I consulted the internet regarding how much fabric to buy (I decided on one yard) and instructions on how to proceed.  Most tutorials instructed me to use a bias tape maker.  A smarter person would have purchased a basic one – they are not too expensive but no, I thought “I don’t need that, I have an iron” or something equally cocky and just bought the fabric.

bias tape backI cut 2 1/2″ strips (for 5/8″ double fold bias tape) at a 45° angle from my fabric.  It is hard to say for sure, since I stuffed the extra into my scrap bin instead of measuring it, but I think I used about half of the yard I bought.  I sewed the strips together using a 1/4″ seam (approximately), which I then trimmed and pressed open.  I folded the now long strip in half and pressed that seam.bias tape first fold  It took [what felt like] forever to press all six yards or so of fabric which I now had connected.  I tried to make sure that the seams stayed flat when ironing to prevent lumps but I cannot be really sure about that due to laziness and boredom.  The now 1 1/4″ wide strip piled up on the floor next to my ironing board as I worked. 20171105_092501.jpg The next step, of course, was to flip the right side down and bring in the edges so that they would be hidden on the final product.  This is where a bias tape maker would have been very helpful.  I had to go inch by inch and line up the edges with the center line without going over it at all.  This was not hard but was time-consuming.  Eventually, I finished that and folded the bias tape in half along the original line, ironing it again to make the crease obvious and sharp.

pin bias tapeWith my bias tape made, it was time to start binding my quilt.  I pinned it all along one edge, lining up the edge of the tape with the edge of the (trimmed) quilt sandwich.  If I had thought this through better, I would have left a section unsewn at the beginning so that I could overlap it with a folded edge but I rarely think things through so I just started sewing and had to improvise later. before corner I sewed along the first fold, about 5/8″ from the edge and stopped 5/8″ away from the corner.  I am actually glad that I did not prepare the corners in advance because I did not do the best job of pinning the bias tape in place and had a little ripple that I was able to get rid of when I worked the corner, starting over with pinning along the next edge.  I backstitched where I stopped and cut the threads, pulling my work off of the machine to fold up the corner. after corner Basically, I created a right angle and folded the excess fabric over the line of stitching I had already made then I pinned the rest of the side in place and started sewing 5/8″ from the edge, being careful not to sew over that folded bit.  I treated the other corners in the same way and trimmed the excess bias tape when I got to the end, leaving a couple of inches to overlap and fold the edge under before sewing.

flip to backfold cornerneat back cornerThen, I did something stupid.  Well, not right then, first I folded the corners over neatly and pressed them into place, that looked pretty good but then I decided that I wanted to machine stitch the binding in place in order to hold it more firmly so that it can stand up to machine washing.  Plus, I remembered that I am lazy and hand stitching invisibly is hard.  basteOf course, I saved no time because I decided to baste the binding in place before sewing it in order to make sure I captured the back edge – I totally failed to achieve this goal.  I tacked it in place which did take less time than careful invisible stitches would have but then, I went to sew the binding on, planning to “stitch in the ditch” on the front and just sew the edge of the bias tape in the back.  In several places, I missed the tape on the back altogether and, being lazy / sloppy as I am, I sometimes missed the ditch in the front.  For the former, I had to rip out the non-helpful line of stitching and re-make it in a way that would actually hold everything together. finished corner front This took long enough that it made me realize I had saved no time whatsoever.  Next time, I will hand stitch the binding as I have been taught to do.  Eventually, I did finish and found my work to be satisfactory if not ideal. finished back I briefly considered doing something like a zig-zag stitch all along the place where the quilt and binding meet in an attempt to hid my sins (so to speak) but that seemed excessive, plus it would really show how poorly my orange thread matches my orange fabric, so I decided to let it go.  Finally, I decided I was done.  I ironed on my tag (I know I have more but they have gone missing somewhere) and decided to take a photo and pack it up.

pillowcase frontIn the meantime (after I finished the top but before I got around to buying and washing the fabric for the bias tape) I decided to make a matching pillowcase.  My reasons for this were twofold: I had extra blocks that did not make it into the quilt and the Texas fabric had come with a large central panel that I was never going to use for anything else. pillowcase back I actually still have blocks left over but they are the ones that I consider sub-par and do not mind not using.  Anyway, I measured a pillowcase I already had and started putting the thing together.  The pillowcase is not ideal – it is sort of a mish-mash of ideas held together with what scraps of fabric I had that matched the quilt.  Still, I think it turned out (mostly) okay if not great and I sent it along with the quilt when I mailed it to Texas last week.

So, as a conclusion, I think I will make my own bias tape again but first I will invest in an inexpensive bias tape maker to do the folding for me!  Also, I will make my next quilt on my Sears Kenmore and see how much that improves my ability to keep to a particular seam allowance.

finished quilt


Straw-baby sweater knitting pattern

Okay, two months later, I guess it is time for another blog post that nobody will read . . .

Earlier this year, I found myself between knitting projects and decided to use some of my stash to knit a sweater for my baby niece.  She looks super-cute in pink so I started with that and picked out a turquoise-y green for contrast.  Like I usually do, I made up a pattern based on theoretical sweater construction and math then made notes about what I actually did.  Initially, this sweater had no theme, it was just a tiny sweater with a placket in the back to make it easier to put on a squirming toddler.

About halfway through the sweater, I thought about how plain it would look, even in the awesome hot pink color, so I decided to do something with the contrasting green on the front.  It occurred to me that the colors were reminiscent of a strawberry, so I decided to go with that.  Also, that made me think of how my nephew used to say the word when he was a toddler, “straw-BABY” and it seemed especially appropriate as a motif!

I experimented a bit with embroidery and duplicate stitching but in the end, I decided the best way was to use a crochet hook and chain stitch the outline of a strawberry then duplicate stitch in some seeds.  This turned out to be harder than I initially expected and after trying and failing more than once, I decided to use waste yarn to make a rough strawberry using a running stitch then follow that shape with my chain stitching.  In my (totally not biased) opinion, it turned out pretty well.

leaf button
This green is so wrong!

The real challenge was finding buttons that worked with the theme.  I started out by going to JoAnn where I looked at pretty much every pink, green, strawberry, and leaf button I could find but nothing worked.

strawberry button
This button is too small.

The pink buttons were too boring and none of the greens were the right color.  The closest I came to matching my self-inflicted theme were still totally wrong.  I went to every store in town that I thought might carry buttons but had no luck at all.

I guess I can’t expect better quality control for the price I paid.

Eventually, I decided to try the internet.  I generally don’t like shopping online for supplies that need to match but by this point, I had become desperate for strawberry-shaped buttons that would do the job.  I found a promising set on Amazon that was inexpensive although would take a long time to arrive since they were shipping from China.  They did not arrive when expected so I went to visit my niece without the buttons and made her try the sweater on before taking it away for future finishing.  Eventually, my buttons came and while they were mostly as advertised, I have to wonder who the hell wants turquoise or blue strawberries?  Of course, I got more of the silly colors than anything else.  Also, some of the buttons were mis-printed but fortunately, mostly the aforementioned useless colors.

strawberry buttons
Nobody needs this many blue strawberries!

At least I got enough red ones to finish my project.  Well, they are supposed to be red and appear as such in the listing but they turned out to be dark pink instead, which is actually better because they ended up matching my pink yarn almost perfectly!  The green was totally off but you can’t have everything.  I think that these wooden buttons are a great match for the sweater, assuming they hold up over time.

button placket
The green isn’t exactly right but the “red” was faded just the right amount.

I used the long green yarn end that I had left hanging to sew on the buttons and I think that the end result was worth the wait.  I’m pretty sure my niece would think so too if she wasn’t too little to comprehend my weird strawberry-button obsession.  I am going to see her again in about a month and even though it will be the height of summer, I am totally going to give her this sweater and make her model it for me again.  That’s what she gets for being so darn cute and lovable!

cutest model ever
After I made her try it on and [sort of] pose for me, I cruelly took back this button-less sweater.
Okay, the pattern:  I have not done the math to write this up for various sizes so it is really only suitable for toddlers who are about one and a half to two years old.  My model was 16 months when this photo was taken and as you can probably tell, it is way too big for her but babies can always be counted on to grow, so that doesn’t worry me!  I think that this pattern could be adapted for any sort of motif.  When you are choosing one though, be sure to think about the difficulty of finding matching buttons!  This sweater is worked from the top down and has NO seams.  I abbreviate a lot of things, check the end of the pattern for definitions (and links)

strawbaby back
There is a little poof at the bottom of the placket but overall, I am quite pleased with this sweater.

Straw-baby sweater pattern by Kalyani

Now available on Ravelry!

Size: 18 months – 2 years

Materials: Lily Sugar’n Cream (worsted, 120 yd/71g) 2 balls MC, 1 ball CC

Needles: Size 7 & Size 8 circular

Notions: Size G crochet hook; 4 1″ buttons; stitch markers; cable needle and/or stitch holders / waste yarn.

Gauge: 4 sts/inch on larger needles

NOTE(*): I like to cast on and off with larger needles even when using smaller ones to work the ribbing, this is mostly because I tend to cast on tightly and this keeps me from doing so.  Cast on and off with the smaller needles if this is not a problem for you.

strawbaby front
All ready for that adorable model!

Neck Ribbing:

With CC, cast on 45 stitches using long-tail method on larger* needles

Switch to smaller needles

Row 1 (ws): k4, *k1, p1, repeat from * to last st, k1

Row 2 (rs): s1, *k1, p1, repeat from * to last 4 sts, k4

Repeat rows 1 & 2 1x more

Row 5 (ws): k4, switch to MC, p4, pm, p8, pm, p12, pm, p8, pm, p8, k1 [45 sts]

Switch to larger needles

Short Rows:

Row 1 (rs): s1, k2, yo, k2tog, *k to 2 sts bef m, kfb, k1, sm, kfb, rep from * 1x, k2, w&t [bh made]

Row 2 (ws): p to last st, k1, turn

Row 3 (rs): s1,*k to 2 sts bef m, kfb, k1, sm, kfb, rep from * 1x, k5, w&t

Row 4 (ws): p to last st, k1, turn

Row 5 / 1 (rs) : s1, *k to 2 sts bef m, kfb, k1, sm, kfb, rep from * 3x, k to end

Row 2 (ws): k4, p19, w&t

Row 3 (rs): *k to 2 sts bef m, kfb, k1, sm, kfb, rep from * 1x, k to end

Row 4 (ws): k4, p26, w&t

Row 5 (rs): as row 3

Row 6 (ws): k4, p to last st, k1


Row 1 (rs): s1, *k to 2 st bef m, kfb, k1, sm, kfb, repeat from * 3x, k to end [8 sts inc]

Row 2 & all ws rows through 24: k4, p to last st, k1

Row 3 (rs): s1, k2, yo, k2tog, *k to 2 st bef m, kfb, k1, sm, kfb, repeat from * 3x, k to end [8 sts inc & bh made]

Row 4 (ws): as row 2

Repeat rows 1 & 2 3x

Row 11 (rs): as row 3

Repeat rows 4 – 11  [bh made on row 19]

Row 20 (ws): as row 2

Repeat rows 1 & 2 1x

Row 23 (rs): s1, *k to 2 bef m, kfb, k1, sm, k to m, sm, kfb, repeat from *, k to end [161 sts]

Row 24 (ws): as row 2

Row 25 (rs): s1, k to last 5 sts, slip 5 sts to cable needle, do NOT turn

Join in round (rs): hold cn behind work, *k 1 st from cn tog with st from beg of last round, repeat from * 4x more, k to end of round, pm

Divide for Sleeves & Body:

Round 1 (rs): s1, *k to m, sm, place 36 sts on holder, co 8 sts, sm, repeat from * 1x, k to beg of round [100 sts]

Round 2: k around

Round 3: *k to m, ssk, k to 2 bef m, k2tog, repeat from * 1x, k to end

Repeat round 2 3 x

Repeat rounds 3 – 6 3x

Round 19: k around [84 sts]

Repeat round 19 until body measures 6” from co sts at armpit

Switch to CC & smaller needles

Bottom Ribbing:

Round 1: k around, sm

Round 2: *k1, p1, repeat from * to end, sm

Repeat round 2 7x more

Bind off with larger* needle

Arms (with MC & larger needles):

From the armpit sts on the body, pu & k 4 sts, k 32 sts from holder, pu & k 4 sts, pm

Round 1: k around, sm [40 sts]

Round 2: k3, k2tog, k to 5 sts bef m, ssk, k3, sm [38 sts]

Repeat round 1 2x

Round 5: k2, k2tog, k to 4 sts bef m, ssk, k2, sm [36 sts]

Repeat round 1 2x

Round 8: k1, k2tog, k to 3 sts bef m, ssk, k1, sm [34 sts]

Repeat round 1 2x

Round 11: k2tog, k to 2 sts bef m, ssk, sm [32 sts]

Repeat round 1 4x

Round 16: ssk, k to 2 sts bef m, k2tog, sm

Repeat rounds 12- 16 until sleeve measures 6” from armpit [sts mayvary]

Switch to CC & smaller needles

Cuff Ribbing:

Round 1: k around, sm

Round 2: *k1, p1, repeat from * to end, sm

Repeat round 2 7x more

Bind off with larger* needle

Repeat for 2nd arm

Strawberry Motif & Finishing:

It turns out I am incapable of chain-stitching a strawberry shape totally freehand.
strawbaby inside
In retrospect, this may not have been the best idea, the long bits of yarn may catch on buttons and the like.










Holding yarn inside sweater use crochet hook to chain stitch the outline of a strawberry on the front.  Cut a long tail and duplicate stitch “seeds” inside the outline.  (It may help to use a long running stitch made of waste yarn to vaguely outline the shape before you begin chain stitching.  Each chain should be no more than 1 ½ stitches long.)

strawbaby motif
I think this turned out as well as it possibly could under the circumstances.

Sew 4 buttons to garter stitch band opposite buttonholes

Weave in ends


  • bef – before
  • bh – buttonhole
  • CC – contrasting color
  • cn – cable needle
  • co – cast on
  • inc – increase(d)
  • k# – knit # sts
  • k2tog – knit 2 together
  • kfb – knit into the front & back of the stitch
  • m – marker
  • MC – main color
  • p# – purl # sts
  • pm – place marker
  • pu – pick up
  • rm – remove marker
  • rs – right side
  • s1 – slip 1 stitch
  • ssk – s1, s1, k 2 slipped sts together
  • st(s) – stitch(es)
  • sm – slip marker
  • w&t – wrap yarn around the next stitch and turn the work (note, on row after w&t, work wrap together with stitch)
  • ws – wrong side
  • yo – yarn over

Things I have made