Process: Advent Calendar Noel Image

Hello! I just wanted to introduce myself in case you hadn't met me before.  I'm Adriana Hernandez-Bergstrom!  I go by Adriprints on my work, and  you can find me really easily with that moniker.  I'm the founder of the Finch & Foxglove art collective, and I did the first illustration on our digital Advent Calendar.

I am a really process-oriented person and I love learning how others get to the images they do.  I hope you can learn a little bit from my process too!

The "Noel Peppermint Bark" illustration started off as a doodle that I did in August or September.  I was at my mom's house playing around with an old watercolor set that I had left at her house in case all my luggage was lost.  In my mind, I was working on a tropical-Christmas kind of theme...

In between then and now, our group came up with a wonderful color palette for our advent calendar.  We looked at vintage Christmas postcards to get us started.  These colors were rich and wonderful, but not really tropical... and I really wanted to use the "Noel" lettering.  So I traced the lettering in Adobe Illustrator with the pen tool, used a color from our palette, and started working on composition with the other illustration assets that matched the palette a bit better.  I had created these assets or icons a few weeks ago by painting in watered down gouache.  They were extras from the greeting card project I did in October, and I did a direct "live trace" using Adobe Illustrator to capture them...

Once I had a composition that I liked, I brought each element separately into Photoshop, converted them to Vector Smart Objects and began to add texture and depth...

I really wanted a rich feeling like chocolate in the background, and at first I tried mint + chocolate with the lettering...

But, as you can see it looked a bit too cold in this version.  It read like mold or marble or something unappetizing.  So, next I tried peppermint, and that is what you see in the final image.  A little bit tastier, I think!

This is just one of the many illustrations in our wonderful digital advent calendar.  Follow along on our Finch & Foxglove Advent Calendar page!

Tutorial: Zig-Zag Quilt

You can make your own Zig-Zag Quilt top from stash scraps, and it's not too difficult!

Main requirement for piecing this quilt top:
72 white pieces of fabric, 4.5" square
72 print pieces of fabric, 4.5" square

You'll also need:
- additional yardage for sashing, backing, and binding
- batting for the center of the quilt sandwich

Side Note: Someone asked me how I get the fabric for my stash and how I chose the colors for this quilt.  My stash was built up from fat-quarters and yardage for garment sewing.  I am a bit compulsive after sewing projects.  I can't remember where I got the idea to save scraps larger than 2" square after sewing projects.  But, that's what I do. After a project, I cut down the smaller bits of fabric into two categories: strips or squares.  I trim the squares to be 4.5" because that's the size of my plastic template.  And the smaller stuff gets turned into strips or dresden plates.  Then, I have little clear plastic bags where these scraps are organized by color.  Obsessive yes, but hey, it made this project a real snap!

First, the basis of this quilt is the half-square triangle.  It's known in the quilting world as the HST.  After you've mastered that, you're pretty much set to go.  Here's how I did the HSTs for this quilt...

As described above, I started with two fabric squares in contrasting colors of identical size.  In the case of the Zig-Zag Quilt, I started with squares that measured 4.5".  As long as all your squares are consistently cut and pieced, it's all good.  Each pairing makes 2 HSTs.  You lay one white, one color square with right sides together.  Mark the diagonal, and stitch 1/4" above and below the mark.  Then, cut across the diagonal mark, open, and press the two squares you just made.  I do loads of squares at a time by chain piecing and then press them all at once... I learned this from Craftsy's 2012 Block of the Month with Amy Gibson - the February video here is all about the HST.

Once you've made a bunch of these HSTs, they can be combined in so many different ways!

In the case of the Zig-Zag Quilt, here's how I pieced the top:

Each row of zig-zags used 24 HSTs.
The final quilt had 6 lines of zig-zags, which equals 144 HSTs.
This also means that I started with a total of 144 squares of fabric: 72 color and 72 white squares.

In any case, once I had the long pieced rows of zig-zags, I carefully joined them across these rows, making sure to use pins to line up all the seams.  I tend to press my seams open, and this was no exception.

Next, I added sashing to the outer edge of the top (that white outer frame).  My sashing had extra width to it.  If I remember correctly, the sashing was 6" wide so I could trim it down if I had to square up the quilt after free-motion quilting.  I didn't end up FMQing, but it's always good to have a bit of wiggle room for squaring up.

You cut your batting (the fluffy middle) about 4" longer and wider than your top so you have 2" of adjustment... just in case!

For me, the trickiest part of this quilt was the backing.  If you have a really vertical/horizontal element on the back like in my version of the quilt, you want to be sure to hand-baste a few cross-hairs across the quilt so it's accurately aligned to the front.  I ran a line of basting down the center of the big vertical element, and across both the horizontal elements.  This help me to be sure it was oriented correctly to the quilt top. If you want to avoid this extra step, just use a non-directional print, and a whole cloth style for the back.

My first quilts lacked this kind of precision (and were really wonky) because I didn't understand how important basting was.  Once you learn to hand-baste quickly, there's no excuse! It takes a few minutes for a quilt of this size.  I did both pin and hand-basting for this quilt.

Lastly, is the actual quilting.  First, I stitched in the ditch (along the main zig-zags).  Then, I echo-quilted which means I ran a line of stitching about 3/8" away from the zig-zags.  I just used my presser foot's width as a guide.  Then, I quilted the sashing, added the binding (that final outer edge) using this tutorial from Sew Mama Sew and Mary on Lake Pulaski.

And, that was it!

The final quilt including the sashing and binding is 51" x 51".
The main print for the backing is Tula Pink's "Turtle Bay" print from her 2011 collection "Prince Charming" in Indigo.  Everything else was scraps and leftovers from my stash.

I hope this tutorial helps clarify the process of quilting something like this improvised quilt.  Have you ever quilted before?  What were your first quilts like?

MK Tutorial: Mitered Detail with Short Rows

This tutorial is a machine knitting tutorial that leads up to the publishing of my pattern, "Mitered Detail Cardigan."  The mitered detail in the pattern can be accomplished in two ways.  The first way described in the pattern, is with short rows (also known as partial knitting) and by wrapping each stitch as they are put on hold.  In order to best show what I mean, I made a video tutorial for this one...

Just in case it's too blurry in the video, here are detailed photos of what it looks like to "reactivate" a stitch into working position.

Wrap & stitch back in the hook part of the needle.

Wrap & stitch ready in working position ready to knit.

Here's a mini sample showing the detail on the front and back.  I think the color pooling of the yarn helps show the order in which things were knit.  The green section happened first, then the purple.  With WS (wrong side - in this case the purl side) facing, this block was worked from left to right.

Tutorial: DIY Pompom

Fall is in the air... And, I love hats with pompoms. And, sometimes you just want to make your own pompom, right? And add pompoms to everything? Okay, well maybe not everything, but just in case you *did* want to add a pompom to a favorite hat or rabbit toy, or change out an existing pompom for a different one, here's a photo tutorial on how to do it using a template I created.

You can download your own template here on Craftsy.

First, trace and cut the pompom templates from chipboard (like the cardboard of a cereal box). Align the openings of the template pieces so yarn can easily pass through.

Hold one end of the yarn.
Wrap yarn tightly around the template until there is very little room in the center of the circle, but the opening remains clear.  I mean really wrap it around until it's hard to wrap any more.  Use different colors of yarn and mix it up for a crazy party pompom!  Most yarns can be used as long as you can wrap it around the template, and cut it afterward...

wrap yarn around the template until center is barely visible

Using a pair of sharp scissors, cut wrapped yarn all the way around the outside of the circle between the two templates.

use sharp scissors to trim between pieces around outside circle

Secure the pompom by wrapping scrap yarn between the two template pieces, around the center circle, and tying a tight knot.
trim completely around the circle and secure
Remove template.  Fluff and trim to shape.
Use tapestry needle and tie-ends to attach to your project.

Want to make your own pompom?  Download your own template here.

Tutorial: Blocking Your Knitted/Crocheted Items

"Blocking" in the fiber arts world, is usually a finishing step. After your garment (or each piece) is knitted or crocheted, block to match the measurements given in your schematics, or you can seam them together and block them as a completed garment.

before blocking
blocked blanket

The first step I take in this process is looking at the yarn band.  I make sure I understand the care instructions for the yarn I'm about to block.  Then, I look at the pattern for any specific blocking instructions (lacy shawls often have areas that are accented in blocking).  If you're worried about your yarn and want to avoid washing the garment, you can spray/mist it with water and proceed with blocking.

The blanket shown above was made by a friend of mine, and she used a washable yarn.  So, I went ahead and soaked before blocking.  Usually it's a 20 minute soak (often longer because I forget about it).  This lets the fibers relax into its new form.  Then, I squeeze out the excess water.  If I'm using strong yarn that can tolerate it, I'd place the gently wrung-out project in a lingerie bag and set it to the lowest spin cycle on my machine with a towel or other things that need wringing out.  If the particular yarn is too fragile for the spin cycle, I use a fluffy towel and lay the piece as flat as possible on the towel, and roll it up.  This makes a towel-garment sandwich "burrito".  I then squish the towel to remove even more excess moisture.  Once you've removed as much water as you can, bring out your blocking surface.

A friend and I went "halfers" on some kid's foam puzzle mat like this, so that's what I use.  Basically you need a stable surface that can take and hold pins in place.  Some folks use a mattress, others just towels.  I place a dry towel on the foam squares and place the item atop the towel.

Next, I assess the best plan of action.  Should I use the stiff wires?  Just T-pins? Flexible wires?  A combo?  The blanket project above was an easy choice - stiff wires for sharp crisp edges...

I take a blocking wire and kind of "sew" it through the edge of the blanket taking evenly spaced chunks and trying not to splice any yarn with the wires.  Sand down the ends of your blocking wire if you continuously get snags.

For hard edges like in this blanket, I used T-pins to secure the intersection between wires.  This makes a nice crisp corner too.

curved edges = flexible blocking wires
For something round like this curved earflap, I use flexible blocking wires and T-pins (Squishy Chullo Hat).

before blocking the "Percy Shawl"
after blocking the "Percy Shawl"
And with this scalloped shawl, you can see the drastic difference before it was blocked and after...  I used a combination of techniques with this one (T-pins and thread).  If I had had blocking wires back then I would have used the stiff ones for the top edge to get a straighter line.  Instead, I used what I had - thread running through the top edge and T-pins to stabilize the thread.  Then, I used a boatload of T-pins for the scallops.

I hope this tutorial gives you a general idea of the many options you have for blocking your hand-made goods.  These techniques can also be used for pre-manufactured wooly goods, too!

There are tons more resources out there and here are a few to help you out whichever way you choose to block your project...

Blocking Resources:
blocking lace on KnittingDaily
using blocking wires from Knit Picks
using flexible blocking wires on Knitter's Review
blocking with pins on the purlbee
making your own wires: DIY blocking wires
blocking without wires on CrochetMe