Category: Handmade

a quilt and a blanket in progress

March 23rd, 2019 — 6:37pm

Hey all,

Thank you so much for the sweet comments and emails! I’m bad about replying but I’ll get to it one of these days… Just know that your kind and loving words meant a great deal to me.

Here’s my in-progress knitted Friesland blanket. I’ve finished 13 motifs and I have 15 remaining, I think. Yikes, it’s going to be enormous! I grafted together seven of them ages ago, and then I just kept on knitting. I didn’t realize how many I had finished until I counted them up today! I haven’t blocked any since the center 7, so I’ve got a serious pile of blocking to attend to. According to Ravelry, I started this blanket in March of 2017. Double yikes! Time to do some serious knitting.

And I’ve made a good start on Henry’s “Stacks” quilt. The fabric is the “Wit and Wisdom” jelly roll from And a plain black roll too. Doesn’t
it look like stacks of nice old hardback books? I’ve got all the strips assembled and joined together in five groups of eight, and now I’m embroidering book titles in random places. Some are books that Henry and I have enjoyed together, and some are my old favorites, so it will act as both a quilt and a list of book suggestions :)

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some news

March 17th, 2019 — 7:24pm

So. I had a pulmonology appointment a couple weeks ago. I’ve been going downhill for the last few months (constantly exhausted, much more short of breath with even the slightest exertion, need more supplementary oxygen) so I expected some bad news, but yikes. Hearing it out loud was rough. Doctor says I have a year left, maybe two if I’m lucky. Let’s split the difference and call it a year and a half. So I’ll probably be dead by the end of 2020. Blah. I was in a horrible black depression for a few days but then I pulled out of it. My therapist, Suzanne, is an angel and a goddess and a true healer.

I decided to spend my time doing exactly what I please, to the greatest extent possible. I’ve had a huge burst of creativity lately. One of my huge regrets (this is gonna sound odd) is that I don’t have much more time to sew on my beloved Singer Featherweight, so I’ve decided to slow down on the sock-knitting and baby-clothes creation, since those things get lost, wear out, and get outgrown, and turn instead to quilt-making. Quilts last virtually forever, are useful and beautiful, and never get lost or outgrown.

I haven’t done much quilting in the past. About sixteen years ago I made a beautiful queen-size hand-quilted Monkey Wrench quilt for Dan, and maybe eight years ago I made a simple tied comforter for Henry, but that’s it for my quilting experience. I enjoyed the actual construction, but did not enjoy not figuring out how much fabric to buy, the cutting of large yardage into small precise pieces, nor the hand-quilting, which is the reason that Henry’s comforter is made of big squares of two alternating fabrics and simply tied instead of quilted.

Well! When I started googling for quilting techniques etc., I discovered the Missouri Star Quilting Company. They sell beautifully coordinated, high-quality quilting fabric which you can buy by the yard but also in pre-cut bundles of a few basic shapes that you can then cut into the smaller shapes you need AND they have hundreds of friendly tutorial videos for inspiration. (And they tell you exactly how much yardage you need!) Their fabric is expensive but “you can’t take it with you”, eh? Thanks for funding my new quilting obsession, Mom :)

I am now well-versed in the language of the “Jelly Roll” (a bundle of 40 strips that are 2.5″ by 42″ in beautifully coordinated prints or solids), the “Layer Cake” which is a stack of forty 10″ squares, and the “Charm Pack” which is a stack of forty-two 5″ squares.

The first quilt I made was for Steve. I drove to JoAnn’s fabric and craft store the morning after my hideous doctor appointment and distracted myself by choosing everything I needed to make his quilt. I made a few big blunders while creating it but it all turned out fine in the end, mostly because I am BAD at planning ahead when crafting (I’m a crafting improv girl) so I ended up with a bunch of extra blocks, counterbalancing the blocks I ruined with my first (failed) attempt at free motion quilting. :) Need more practice! So I switched to straight-line quilting with my even-feed foot and it all went smoothly after that. Photo time:

I cut my fabric into squares. I think they were maybe 7″? I can’t remember. Then I matched each blue square with a creamy-yellow square and sewed them together around all four sides. Then I sliced each square diagonally and pressed the resulting “half square triangles” open. Look at me, with the quilting jargon. Then I sewed these together into “Hourglass” blocks:

Then I sewed four of those together to make big blocks. This block probably has a name but I don’t know what it is. Do you? It’s similar to “Ohio Star” but not quite.

I squared them up and laid them out on the floor to make sure it would look nice:

I sewed the big nameless blocks together into long strips (not pictured) then layered those strips with batting (doubled unbleached cotton batting, only the best natural fibres for my loved ones) and backing (which was a flat sheet that I never use), then machine-quilted them along all the straight lines…

…stitched the fronts of the long strips together, then flipped the quilt over and sewed the back together by hand…

…then added a “double binding” (Jenny’s tutorial was the best), which is sewn around once by machine, wrapped around the edge to the back, and finished by hand. I enjoyed this part especially much! I’d call it ladder stitch or slip stitch, but googling those terms gives you a crazy assortment of different stitches. Here’s the Correct Method:

And, finished! Not pictured: I wrote a care label on white muslin with a fine-point archival waterfast pen and stitched it by hand to the back. It has my signature on it so Steve can take it to the Antiques Roadshow someday when I am remembered as a beloved, world-famous audiobook narrator and show it off :)

It took 15 days of pretty intense work and it REALLY distracted me. I bet this post distracted you a little too, huh? :)


9 comments » | Blog, Handmade

Plum-Colored Cardigan

January 29th, 2019 — 8:48am

Here’s what I did last weekend:

Pattern: Blackwood Cardigan from (Size 10)

Fabric: Plum-colored cotton/bamboo/spandex fleece from Mood Fabrics
(Christmas gift!)

It took a lot of courage to cut into the fabric. It’s by far the most luxurious fabric I’ve ever worked with — thick, drapey, and crazy-soft; it’s softer than a kitten, seriously. I made a practice cardigan first, just to be safe. (Yellow, see previous post)

Here are the pieces cut out

Here are pockets pinned in place with temporary tissue paper backing for stability

And a pocket sewn. I did all the top-stitching on the Featherweight; even though it isn’t zig-zag it’s fine because those areas aren’t under stress. The fabric was so much loftier than I’m used to that I slid off the pocket edge a few times. Oops. But no one will ever notice :)

And, finished!

It’s a simple, straight-forward, well-designed pattern. The instructions are clear, as is usual with Helen’s patterns, and it’s not much of an exaggeration to say that it took longer to cut the fabric than to sew it together! The design includes extra-long sleeves that bunch up adorably or can be pulled over the hands for warmth, but because my arms are extra-long the sleeves on my yellow practice cardigan weren’t long enough to suit me. I added about 3/4″ inch of length to the sleeve and an inch to the cuff (which is doubled so it’s actually only 1/2 inch longer).

All seams sewn on the serger; all topstitching sewn on the Featherweight (straight-stitch).

It’s a perfect replacement for my ancient worn-out Target cardigans. The fit is excellent and the fabric is cozy and quite warm; it blocks the wind better than I was expecting. I’ve worn it every day since I made it :) Extremely proud of myself.

2 comments » | Blog, Handmade

Singer Featherweight 221

January 25th, 2019 — 10:30am

As promised!

My Grandpa bought this Singer Featherweight sewing machine for my Grandma in 1951. I know the exact year because it has a special Centennial badge on it, as described in this post:

This photo shows the original instruction booklet and all the accessories:

The funny-looking thing is a buttonhole attachment. This machine only sews a straight lockstitch, forwards and backwards — no zig-zag or other fancy modern stitches. The buttonhole attachment actually moves the fabric back-and-forth under the needle while sewing. Amazing. You can see it in action in the first video here:

At some point over the last SEVENTY YEARS, Grandma lost one of the buttonhole cams and the TINY black screw that holds the feed-cover in place, but the wonderful sold me vintage replacements for these parts for just a few dollars! From them I also bought motor lubricant (specially formulated for this machine), a pretty little matching seam guide, which you can see attached to the machine in the first photo, and a thread guide for modern cone thread.

I have set my big modern Pfaff aside and am attempting to do all my sewing with just my serger and the Featherweight. It’s sort of challenging because I sew with knits a lot, which usually require a zig-zag stitch; however, with the serger for stretchy seams I’ve been managing ok. In the 70s Grandma bought a little zig-zag attachment for the Featherweight. It doesn’t work perfectly, but I think it might be good enough for the occasional hem. I need to experiment a bit more.

Here are a few of my recent sewing projects. Sorry for crappy selfies — I no longer have Henry at my beck-and-call for photographer duty :)

Practice Blackwood Cardigan (before I cut into the luscious plum-colored cotton/bamboo/lycra fleece that Steve gave me)

My third pair of Avery Leggings. This adorable striped cotton/lycra is from The Fabric Fairy:

Underlovelies, sewn without a zig-zag! I stretched the hell out of the elastic while sewing it on with a straight stitch. Worked great! Pattern is from Klimpergross. I’ve sewn about 6 pairs so far and I love them. Elli sent me the fabric, and she also gave me all three Klimper books over the past few years. Wonderful Elli. <3

This suit for Lulu is made of two layers of cotton flannel. So thick and warm! Pattern is based on Babyanzug from Kinderleicht. The matching cap is Ohrenklappenm├╝tze by Schnabelina.

This little flannel jumper for Lulu has extra-long straps with extra snaps for growing room. Pattern is based on the Mikey Strampelhose.

Ok! How’s THAT for a real blog post? With photos, even! :)

3 comments » | Blog, Handmade

knitting for the fair!

May 27th, 2014 — 7:21pm

The Fair is almost here!

Last week I dropped off my entries for the Home and Hobby show. The shawl is a Jared Flood pattern: Girasole, which I knit once before in blue worsted to make a sofa-blanket for my mom, but the flowered hat is my own design. Fingers crossed for a blue ribbon!

2014-03-18 14.16.07 HDR

2014-05-12 10.10.01

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Our tree! And stuff.

December 7th, 2013 — 1:40pm

We finished decorating our tree yesterday! Isn’t it great? Every ornament has a history. Lots are handmade: mostly by me (I make more every year), but there are some very special ones made by beloved relatives. There are a few ornaments that go back to my very first memories of Christmas and many that were gifts from special people. I love my Christmas ornaments :)


On the table you can see my little paper Christmas Village! See this old blog post to read its story and find the files to print your own:
(I printed mine at 50% because I wanted a tiny village.)

And here’s our Nativity Scene. Strong Bad and his pals attend every year!


Also, now that I’m finally feeling better, I’ve been working on Dan’s gloves. He now lives in a place that gets actual winter and I don’t want his hands to be cold. I bought conductive thread for the fingertips so he SHOULD be able to use his iPhone without taking off his gloves.


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I’m sick again :(

November 20th, 2013 — 9:48am

Sick again. Bad cough, congested, phlegmy. I won’t be able to do any recording for a while, I’m afraid. I don’t have a sore throat, though, so that’s something to be thankful for.

Here are some photos of things that I’ve been making:

Crocheted snowflakes. I’m going to sell them on Etsy once I get some good photos.

Two pairs of little socks for Emma Rose:

Well, I guess I’ll have some more juice and close my eyes for a while.

4 comments » | Blog, Handmade

Finished “Der Kleine Prinz” socks

October 21st, 2013 — 10:13am

Finished! I did a good job matching up the stripes, eh? That’s not so easy with a multicolored yarn.

All details on my Ravelry page (no log-in required):


1 comment » | Blog, Handmade

a wonderful knitting trick

October 15th, 2013 — 9:37pm

To avoid that little gap, hole, or loose stitch at the top of the heel flap when picking up the gusset stitches:

WOW. Why did I never think of this? In case that link breaks — all you do is, while picking up stitches along the edge of the heel flap, pick up one more along the same column after you reach the top (bottom?) of the heel flap. On the other side of the heel flap, just start picking up stitches one stitch below the corner where the flap meets the leg, in the same column that becomes the edge of the heel flap. (It takes a lot of words to describe this trick, but just try it; it’s as simple as can be.)

Presto. No gap, no hole, no need to twist anything.

More details about these socks on Ravelry:

little prince sock yarn


Look, no gaps, no holes:


1 comment » | Blog, Handmade

May 1 – recording updates

May 1st, 2013 — 11:04am

I’ve just updated my “Kayray Reads to You” page to include The Grey King, Bagthorpes Abroad, The Sweet Smell of Christmas, and The Adventures of Little Bear. As always, if you like these stories please buy copies of the actual books.

I’m almost finished recording the third Melendy family book — Then There Were Five. Just one more chapter to go, so check back soon! I might even finish this afternoon.

Also yesterday I knitted a cunning little iPhone pouch to hang around my neck when I wear stupid pocketless girl-pants. :)

Aran iPhone Pouch


3 comments » | Audiobooks, Blog, Handmade

April 30 — more handmade stuff

April 30th, 2013 — 9:30am

Now that Kirsten has had her baby shower, I can show off some of the things I made for my baby niece! Links go to each item’s Ravelry page in case you want more details.

Tiny green booties


Adorable little bonnet (modeled by a large orange)


Entrelac beret


Striped cardigan


Black and white blanket


2 comments » | Blog, Handmade

April 16 — I’ve been making things

April 16th, 2013 — 12:10pm

I’ve been making a lot of things.

What most of you are wondering is — am I recording anything for you? And the answer is yes! I’m just finishing up Elizabeth Enright’s “Then There Were Five” for the “Kayray Reads to You” podcast, and I’m also working on “Just William” for LibriVox.

I finished this big warm sweater back in November and wore it all winter, but then I decided it needed a shawl collar and pockets, so I ripped off the button band and reknit it, and added lovely big patch pockets.


More details at ravelry:

And here is a rather adorable knitted cow:


Also, when I was looking for something one day, I found a set of four vintage linen napkins with cutwork designs stamped on them that I bought from ebay 8 years ago and never finished! So I’ve finished them. They make wonderful hankies.

In progress:




6 comments » | Audiobooks, Blog, Handmade

June 28, 2012

June 28th, 2012 — 4:00pm

Photo time!

Me (June 3, 2012):


A hummingbird:


Cabled cardigan in progress (Ravelry link):


One green striped sock (Ravelry link):


Lace cardigan in progress (Ravelry link):


Blue-ribbon socks at the fair (Ravelry link):


Honorable Mention shawl at the fair (Ravelry link):


7 comments » | Blog, Handmade

March 1, 2012

March 1st, 2012 — 10:23am

Happy March! Hope you had a good Leap Day yesterday, and that Leap Day William brought you lots of candy.

Last night I invented a handkerchief edging that I like a lot. Thought I’d write it up here so I can remember how to do it.


Mark off a hemmed hankie in inches and imagine 1/2 and 1/4 inch marks too. Shells happen at every inch mark and at the corners, and all the scs are at 1/4-inch intervals between the shells.

Starting at an inch-mark: 6 dc, sc, ch1, sc, ch3 picot, ch1, sc. Then you’re ready to do another 6 dc at the next inch-mark.

At corners work 8 dc.

Easy! Pretty! Delicate!

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Feb 26, 2012

February 26th, 2012 — 11:07am

Hello, yes, I’m still alive. Fell out of the habit of blogging, but I’ll try to get back in.

Hmm, what has been going on…. On Dan’s recommendation I read Neal Stephenson’s “REAMDE” and loved it. Really fun plot, great characters, beautifully written. I would say “I couldn’t put it down” except I did force myself to put it down occasionally so that I could postpone reaching the end!

I played a lot too much Skyward Sword in January and did something awful to my right arm. Had to take a break from knitting which pretty much drove me crazy. Eventually I found out that I could crochet without too much pain so I had a ton of fun making lovely lace-edged hankies to replace my nasty old cut-up-t-shirt ones.

Ravelry link:




I invented a few of the edgings, found some here: (love those charts!), and got a few more out of this great $2 pdf booklet: Edgings: 100 Old and New Favorites.

Ok that’s enough for now. Next time: my “Ticket to Ride” obsession. The game, not the song, although the song is great too ;-)

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January 6th, 2012

January 6th, 2012 — 11:51am

Happy New Year!

I really need to do a quick wrap-up of the end of December so that Future Kara can remember all the stuff that happened. Let’s see… I finished making Dan’s “Discipline” hooked rug on Christmas morning before he woke up. He loves it. In fact, he loves it so much he doesn’t want to walk on it, so we’re going to hang it on his office wall. Henry loves his cozy warm robot quilt. I love my tangerine-orange KitchenAid stand mixer and the wonderful stack of books that everyone gave me, and my jigsaw puzzle, and the amazing huge framed Link to the Past map!

photo photo
photo photo
photo photo

Henry and I had a bit of an adventure when we bought the Christmas tree, a new variety called a Grand Fir, which was beautiful, inexpensive, long-lasting, and smelled amazing. I hope we can get a Grand Fir next year too. Anyway, after we bought the tree we discovered that Henry’s learner’s permit was missing. We retraced our steps and asked the tree guys to look for it, but it was just gone. And Henry was scheduled for his driver’s test a few days later, so it was a real problem! Next day we went to the DMV and got a new permit, and then immediately found his old one in the car. Hilarious. Problem solved. :) And he passed his test! He can now drive himself to and from kung fu, and even run errands for us. Excellent.


I printed out my Christmas Village at 50% and built it and it’s so tiny and cute! (Make your own:


One more thing — here’s the frog I knit for Elli:
(Ravelry page

5 comments » | Blog, Handmade

Here I am again

October 5th, 2011 — 12:32pm

Boy, I really got out of the habit of blogging regularly. Sorry about that, life has been hard for the last few months. Now I have about a million things to say but I will just have to choose a few and space them out.

First — Happy 16th birthday (a little late) to my dear Henry! You’re really fun to hang out with and I am so proud of you!

We went to the zoo together on a cool cloudy Sunday for photography fun:


Here’s another nice thing I want to share. Dan gave me a tiny rug-hooking kit for my birthday and I had such fun learning this new skill! Very soon I want to make something bigger. It seems like a great craft for using up the small amounts of leftover yarn that I end up with, and all I will need to buy is a bit of burlap for the foundation!


And I’m working on a beautiful yellow lace shawl. The pattern is “Hartfield”. Details on Ravelry:


4 comments » | Blog, Handmade

Mosaic Headband Pattern

June 14th, 2011 — 11:04am

I designed a sweet little headband using Barbara Walker’s “mosaic” technique, and I wrote up the pattern, made a PDF, and posted it to the Ravelry store. You can download the pattern PDF here: Mosaic Headband

The Ravelry pattern page is here: (no login required)

And now, photos!

I made the first one with green and white Risata:

After I posted it on Rav, I got a lot of compliments and even a few requests that I’d write up a pattern, so I did. And then I knit a blue and white one with Palette while following my own pattern so I could check for mistakes and confusion:



I’ve always been intimidated by mosaic knitting. The descriptions are always so wordy and I couldn’t quite believe that it would work. But when I decided to be brave and try it out on this little project, I discovered how fun and easy it is! To sum up: you follow a chart of dark and light squares. You knit across and back with only one color of yarn, then drop that color and knit back and forth with the other color. While knitting with color A, you slip any stitches which are color B on the chart. Both directions. That’s it, that’s all there is to it. Just try it!

2 comments » | Blog, Free Patterns, Handmade

new knitting projects

April 19th, 2011 — 8:33pm

I’m working on two main knitting projects for the fair this year. The delivery deadline is May 25th, so it’s time to get cracking!

Thing One is another striped Chroma vest like the one I designed and made for Mom, but with a few refinements to the pattern and some adjustments to fit me. I reached the underarms today, which means it’s time to plan out the steeks and the whole thing gets much narrower and moves along even faster, so I’m well over halfway finished with the main knitting. After that it’s just steeks and ribbing. Woohoo!

Ravelry page here (no login required):


(Actual green is more mossy, less minty. Actual red is less orange, more a dull tomato red)

Thing Two is a “Nerderdel” lace tired skirt. Just started it today as a reward for making such great progress on the vest. The yarn is knitpicks “cotlin” (cotton/linen blend).

Ravelry page here (no login required):


I might also enter a striped scarf that I’m making, which is pretty and would be fun to show off, but it’s not very special. Also it’s SO BORING and SLOW to knit and it’s only half-done…

Ravelry page here (no login required):


2 comments » | Blog, Handmade

The vest is finished!

April 8th, 2011 — 7:27am

I designed and made this vest for Mom’s 66th birthday, which was in January, but she’s used to getting late handmade presents. Yesterday it was officially finished, and I gave it to her and took photos:

P4072265 P4072263

So cute! Both vest and Mom :) (more photos on flickr)

It’s made of Knitpicks’ “Chroma” and “Wool of the Andes” yarn. I worked it bottom-up and steeked the armholes so the stripes would be consistent. Crocheted steeks are MUCH more fun than sewn ones!

You can read all about its construction and see more photos on its Ravelry page (no login required):

I took it along to the North Coast Knitters Guild Knit-at-Night on Wednesday and it was much admired! I love love love the Knit-at-Night. Everyone is so friendly and encouraging and warm. I really look forward to going every month.


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