Elinor Brown Knits

Knitting Designs by Elinor Brown

Category: quilting

For the record book

Several weeks ago, I wrote about an afghan I finished for my husband’s grandmother, Laura Belle, who died last fall. I told you about her knitting but I probably should have started with her quilting. After all, Laura Belle only threw herself into knitting and crochet to keep her hands in shape once she moved into an apartment and gave up quilting. After she died, my father-in-law gave me several boxes of her crafting supplies. In them, I found a book I treasure more than anything else: her quilting records. Although she certainly made more in her life, Laura Belle began this log at the age of 60. The record book spans nearly thirty years of avid quilting and includes works she sold as well as ones she gave to family and friends.

Laura Belle's quilting records, 1972-2001

In some years, she turned out almost one quilt per month – all, of course, by hand. Each entry identifies the name of the pattern she used, the number of quilts she made with the pattern, the recipient, and the year she completed the work. In all, 113 quilts, crib-size to king-size, recorded on a mere five pages of notebook paper. It amazes me to see what amounts to a life’s work of quilting represented in such a small amount of space.

A life's work

One thing that remains constant throughout the book is her evident generosity as a hand crafter. Many times, she listed a quilt as one she made for herself but then later crossed that out to indicate the name of the person to whom she gave the work. I smiled to myself as soon as I noticed the pattern. How many times do we do this as knitters?

“What? You like my scarf? Why, yes, I made it. Why don’t you have it? After all, I can always make another one!”

We all know the joy of sharing a handmade gift with someone who will appreciate it. In many ways, I find knitting for an appreciative audience far more satisfying than knitting for myself. After all, I could always make myself that pair of socks, couldn’t I?

1975 and 1976 were busy years - nearly one quilt per month, completely by hand

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about Laura Belle and her quilts since I have been working on two gift quilts of my own this year. I completed the first one earlier this week.

What a Bunch of Squares quilt top

Pattern: I loosely followed the “What a Bunch of Squares” pattern from Quilts by Denyse Schmidt

Fabric: Squares are made from scraps of blue and orange prints and framed by Kona Cotton; the back is muslin with a long strip of randomly pieced leftovers

Size: Approximately 80″ x 108″

This was a housewarming present for a man known for his collection of really ugly ties. When I saw this fabric at a sidewalk sale this summer, I knew I had to try to use ugly tie-like fabrics.

The ugly tie block

My goal was to pair mismatched fabrics to yield a pretty quilt, regardless of how loud or peculiar the individual prints were. I am quite pleased with the result!

Irregular squares

For the backing, I collected remnants from two of the many prints and sewed them together at random to form a stripe to run the length of the quilt.

What a Bunch of Squares quilt back

Because a quilt of this size would never fit on my little sewing machine, I sent this to my local fabric store to be machine quilted.

What a Bunch of Squares quilt

With time, I grew more and more amazed by the enormity of Laura Belle’s five pages of records. This project took me five months to complete, although I sewed a seam or two here and there when I found a few moments of free time. Selfishly, I wish I could still show her my work. At the very least, I think she would laugh about the inspiration for this one! Regardless, I hope my quilt will provide as much joy to its new owner as Laura Belle’s quilts offer me and Aaron. Perhaps it is time for me to start a record book of my own, short and paltry though it will assuredly be!

Gentleman’s Half Hose in Ringwood Pattern

I know what you’re thinking, right? Didn’t you just see a pair just like this a few weeks back? Knee socks? Really? In August? Who knits knee socks in July and August? Well, I do. And I am not alone: Christy and Joyousknits both finished this same pattern in July and Sarah started on a pair too.
Knee socks in 5.5 days

These were the fastest socks I have ever knit: the pair took only five and a half days! Sadly, their rapid production says little about my speed a lot about the hours I spent glued to my books! As a bonus, I can cross off another Knitting Vintage Socks pattern: seven down, only 17 to go!

Gentleman's Half Hose in Ringwood Pattern

Pattern: Gentleman’s Half Hose in Ringwood Pattern from Knitting Vintage Socks

Yarn: Opal Uni in #1415

Needles: US 1.5

I did not alter the pattern at all and I found it to fit perfectly. I most certainly will use this stitch pattern again; it was fast and easy to memorize, involved little purling and produced a firm and not too stretchy fabric. I doubt I will even need to run elastic through the cuffs to keep these socks up but only wear will tell. And isn’t the texture of this stitch pattern wonderful?

Cool ribbing

The calf shaping briefly appeared to be too high but the socks fit remarkably well. I imagine the aggressive calf shaping placed higher up the leg contributes to keeping these socks up.

Calf shaping

I cannot speak highly enough of this sock pattern. Leave it to Nancy Bush to use a terribly simple stitch pattern to create a snug, well shaped and attractive sock. While not too exciting to knit, this is ideal if you need a good, mindless, on the go sock pattern.

While I have more finished products waiting to be blogged, I thought I would leave you with a preview of some current work. I’m a bit disappointed that I have blogged only finished objects this summer. When I read knit blogs, I almost prefer reading works in progress posts over finished object posts, if only because I learn more from them. In the spirit of blogging WIPs as well as FOs, here are a few of the ongoing projects I have right now:

Almost to the armholes

Aaron’s Aran is almost to the armhole divide but progress slowed to a halt when I had to rip a few inches. My love for this project has waned a bit purely because I loathe the Addi Lace needles I bought for it. I suppose some people must like brass needles but all I smell is metal: my hands, my yarn and my needles all reek of that awful, metallic smell. Ugh! I still love the sweater so I will finish it this fall but I will never buy another brass needle as long as I live.

Beginnings of a tweedy yoked baby sweater

I cast on for a tweedy yoked baby sweater to use up some New England Harrisville yarn I bought to swatch Aaron’s Aran. I will likely need to buy more yarn – so much for a stash buster project, right?

The unending Katharine Hepburn cardi

The dullest knitting project Katharine Hepburn Cardigan progresses slowly, in large part because of the painfully boring stitch pattern. The back is done and blocked but I only have half of one front done.

One Fascine Braid sock down, one to go

ONE! Fascine Braid sock by Tiennie! Go get this pattern! It’s free, easy and pretty! I only wish I had chosen a color other than brown – the pattern is barely visible with this yarn.

Irregular squares

A collection of irregular squares (pieced with scrap fabrics) for a quilt. This is a gift so I likely will not blog much about it until I finish.

Next time, there will be some more sewing FOs and a visit by Jennie!