Archive for November, 2009

Fabric Tiles Table Runner

November 24, 2009

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, my attention is totally focused on the table right now — the people who will be sitting around it come Thursday and the foods that we will be preparing and enjoying — as well as all that I have to be thankful for.

Therefore, when I sat down to play with Marcia Derse’s wonderful fabrics, I shelved my original idea to make a purse and instead designed this simple, modern table runner.

After finishing the one above with an off-white background, I played the “what if” game and made another table runner, this time  in green. As you can see it is not quite finished; I think I will quilt this one.  I’m not sure if I will get it done for Thanksgiving, but I can definitely envision some Fall decorations on it — dried flowers, small ceramic pumpkins, or a simple wood candleholder/candle.  Here is a free pdf of this pattern TableRunnerPattern.

When I was photographing these runners, I realized what a nice wall hanging this design makes, although I would definitely quilt the piece so that it would hang better.

A New Fabric Collection from Textile Artist Marcia Derse

November 16, 2009

Last week I made a trip to Troy Fabrics, a fabric distributor in Chicago, to purchase fabrics for several commissions that I have underway.  As I turned the corner on the first aisle, I let out a gasp: the fabric on my right looked just like Marcia Derse’s beautiful hand-dyed fabrics! Okay, I admit only a fabric lover would have this reaction, anyone else would just not get it.   When I picked up one of the bolts and read the selvage, I learned this was indeed her design.  It is beautiful and so closely resembles her hand-dyed fabrics.  My intent when I walked into Troy was to buy two bolts of fabric and not one more.  In a flash, I quickly loaded seven “gotta have” bolts into my cart — and threw out my shopping list. I thought this was pretty good considering the collection consists of 25 different pieces.

Marcia Derse Fabrics

Marcia Derse is a textile artist from Ohio.  Having met her several years ago at a quilting show in the Chicago area, I contacted her to find out more about the fabrics and their availability.  She explained the “Gerta” collection is her first fabric line for Troy; it consists of eight designs in three colorways, plus a “cheater cloth” version (cloth that mimics a pieced quilt) that is a compilation of several of the designs.  The designs were culled from her vast collection of hand-dyed fabrics that she has produced over a number of years. (And, I thought I had the difficult job of choosing just 7 bolts from 25!)   In most cases, Marcia provided Troy with the actual fabrics which they then replicated for this line.  In others, where a lighter fabric was needed to fill in the collection, she painted the design and provided that to Troy.

Marcia uses a rich palette of colors, including pumpkin, terra cotta, red, magenta, purple, and moss green (my color descriptions, not her’s).  In her original fabrics, there is a slight color variation to each one resulting in a very rich look and making each piece unique.  This same variation has been reproduced here so that even though the fabrics are produced by the hundreds of yards, rather than in quantities of less than a yard, they truly have retained the look of the original hand-dyed pieces.

You can visit the Troy website to view the entire “Gerta” line and a listing of quilt shops that will be carrying it.  In addition, you can view and purchase fabrics from Marcia directly by going to her website.  Right now, Marcia is at work on a second line for Troy.

Within the next several days, I will be posting a project that uses this wonderful fabric.  In the meantime, happy sewing!

Wear in Good Health – Beanies for Newborns and other Community Projects

November 12, 2009

“Handcrafts belong to an earlier world, the slower pace of pre-industrial life where one had the leisure to sink deeply and profoundly into the rhythms of nature within and without and to feel a connection with the earth as a living spiritual entity . . . Handcrafts throughout history have often been fashioned with the aid of prayer, one prayer for each bead or each stitch, while keeping good thoughts to enhance the spiritual purpose of the object.”   The Knitting Sutra:  Craft as a Spiritual Practice by Susan Gordon Lydon.


As I sit in the late evening knitting these little beanies for an unknown wearer, I am imagining a happy, healthy life for each baby and infusing each hat with good thoughts.  A woman in a local knitting guild will take these hats along with others knit by members and deliver them to local hospitals and other places that have expressed a need.

I used to think that if I was going to have any impact at all, I had to make many of whatever.  I now realize that whether I donate one hat or a dozen, each one will help someone and that is what is important. My friend Paula uses leftover yarn from the purses she designs and makes to crochet colorful lap-sized afghans for residents of the senior citizen center on her street – she delivers each one as it is completed.  Some months she delivers a half a dozen, other months she delivers one, but each is much appreciated.

If you are looking for places to donate handmade items to, look around your community or region.  In addition, several recent books tell the inspiring stories of organizations that collect handmade items for specific causes and provide project directions.  These books include:

  • Knitting for Good!  A Guide to Creating Personal, Social, and Political Change, Stitch by Stitch by Betsy Greer
  • Knitting for Peace:  Make the World a Better Place One Stitch at a Time by Betty Christiansen
  • Quilting for Peace:  Make the World a Better Place One Stitch at a Time by Katherine Bell

In talking with friends recently about their community knitting projects, several mentioned that the charities they contribute to are always short of items for older children and teenagers.  This is something to inquire about when you are donating items that are sized for a specific age group.

A Side Note

The classic hat pictured above is from a pattern in Erika Knight’s Simple Knits for Cherished Babies; each one takes slightly more than one hour to complete.

Expand Your Knitting Repertoire

November 4, 2009


Halloween is behind us and winter is in the air on these chilly mornings here in the Midwest.  This is the time of year when I pull out the yarn and knitting needles and start knitting scarves — one or two to keep, the others to give away as gifts.  Last year I walked into the local knit shop, Knitche, and saw this totally fun scarf on display and immediately signed up for the class.  The free pattern, “Latifa”, is designed by Jillian Moreno and is available here on  The entire scarf is worked in a garter stitch; when you are finished knitting the scarf, you go back and add the ruffle.

I have knit for years but have to admit I still feel somewhat like a beginner — if I’m knitting anything more complex than a garter stitch I need the room quiet.  What I discovered in this class, however, is that the details, like the ruffle here, can make whatever you are knitting look a lot more difficult than it actually is.  Scarves or blocks (that can later be stitched together for an afgan) are perfect for  learning these techniques without becoming overwhelmed by the size of the project.   I may never knit a Kaffe Fassett sweater, but I will build a repertoire of  interesting stitches and details to use when knitting all of those scarves.  A couple of other great resources for expanding your knitting knowledge are Nicky Epstein’s books, such as Knitting on the Edge, and Lesley Stanfield’s 100 Flowers to Knit and Crochet (great fruit, too!).

A quick note about my scarf versus the one on Knitty.  This was such a simple scarf to knit that I went on autopilot; it was not until I put it on that I realized the scarf was four squares shorter than the pattern!  I ended up liking the length just fine, so decided not to go back and add to it.