Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Quilt Night: Cutting Fabric

Once a month, I get together with a group of quilters for a six-hour session of sewing, eating and chatting — not necessarily in that order — and this was our quilt night weekend. When I talk about quilt night, I don’t mean an old-fashioned quilting bee with a group of women daintily hand stitching one woman’s quilt. We each work on our own projects, which are usually quilts but can also include items such as tote bags, pillowcases, wall hangings, or table runners. I’ve been going for about five years and, with the exception of a few down-to-the-wire Halloween costumes, have been working on the same project the whole time.

Detail of a portion of a Queen size quilt held in a hand quilting hoop with more of the quilt in the background.

I started this queen size quilt around 1999, and thought it would be great as my first hand quilting project. Hand quilting suits the layout of the Bride’s Bouquet blocks wonderfully, but I am clearly not a fast hand quilter. I’ve unintentionally given my fellow quilters a lesson in perseverance!

This week, a beginner quilter needed some help cutting her fabric. The wonderful J— offered to give a cutting lesson to all who were interested, and I’m glad I took a few moments to hear what she had to say because I picked up a few new-to-me tips.

Depending on the ruler, the line has a thickness to it that is about the equivalent of one or two thread widths. This can make a big difference over a complete quilt! Align the ruler so that the line is fully over the fabric, not straddling the raw edge or completely off the fabric. This will give you a little extra wiggle room when you sew. (I actually already do this, but never knew it was correct!)

Detail of quilting ruler line overlapping fabric edge.
You can see the ruler lines completely overlap the fabric edge.
When cutting strips, cut a larger piece then make it narrower. For example, if you need three two-inch strips, cut one six-inch strip. Lift the ruler and move it over to cut one two-inch strip. Then lift the ruler again the cut the last four inches into two two-inch strips. This method focuses on moving the ruler, not the fabric, so there is less chance that the fabric will become misaligned. In addition, when cutting multiple strips in a row, the strips can easily become a little more crooked with each cut. By cutting a larger piece and then cutting that piece down, it minimizes the room for error and the possibility that the fabric is no longer square.

Quilting ruler on blue fabric with previously cut veritcal lines visible.
Notice the vertical lines toward the right where the fabric has already been cut.
This next tip is helpful if you need to cut with a shorter ruler, or need to check whether your fabric is square. After folding the fabric selvage-to-selvage, lift the folded edge and align the pattern along the fold with a pattern repeat. By aligning the fabric repeats, you will know the fabric is square before you cut. This won't work for every fabric, but with the fabric I tested in my stash it was very obvious whether the repeats lined up or not.

Dragon fabric folded on itself to show pattern alignment and straight cutting.
The vertical line near the center shows where the fabric fold aligns with the pattern repeat.
What are some of your favorite tips for cutting fabric?

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

(un)Knit Happens

Back in January, while anticipating cold winter days, I decided to knit a pair of mittens. I knew exactly the stash yarn that I wanted to use: Plymouth Yarn Zino in colorway 1 and Red Heart & Sole with Aloe in colorway E745 Ivory. I had used these yarns together in a pair of socks back in 2011, but I gave them away as a gift so I never had the chance to fully enjoy those colors!

I chose the pattern Marko’s Mittens by Nancy Bush. The first mitten was coming along wonderfully, and I had all but the thumb complete when disaster struck. As I started knitting the base of the thumb, a few stitches slipped off one needle. Normally, it wouldn’t present a problem to pick them up and move on. This time, the combination of the stranded colorwork and the location of the dropped stitches conspired against me. No matter what I tried, I could not pick up the stitches without misaligned colors and gaps between the stitches. Gaps make for drafty mittens, and that’s not good!

I set the mittens aside, hoping that after a short break I would be able to figure it out. It ended up being a mild winter, so there was no urgency to work on them again. This week, I decided it was finally time to revisit the project. I devoted an evening to trying the salvage those stitches before making the difficult decision of frogging the mitten (rip-it, rip-it) down to the thumb base. It almost physically hurt to undo all of that work.

Hand knit colorwork mitten in progress on a tangled pile of unravelled yarn on a white background.

So, here we are: about a third of a mitten and a tangled mass of yarn. I’m easing back into knitting the mitten, taking it slow with no sudden movements. I have plenty of time before the cold weather returns.

Have you ever had to start over on a complex project? Or is it still too painful to share?

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Charitable Giving

This week I finished a lovely beaded scarf. The pattern is Wisp by Cheryl Niamath and is available for free on Knitty. I used one skein of luxurious Cascade Yarns Kid Seta Noir in color 12 Greenish, and a 24g tube of 6/0 Czech glass seed beads in the color Tapestry Mix. I only cast on 26 stitches, which narrowed the scarf to almost half the width in the pattern, and skipped the buttons. Buttons with beads may be too much!

Beaded green hand knit lace scarf on a white background, scrunched up horizontally to better fit in the photo..

The scarf will be donated to a Chinese auction for a charity event. My husband’s work schedule changes with the weather, so volunteering at an event doesn’t always work out for me. Volunteering from home gives me a chance to support a charity while on a budget without making a commitment to attend the event. I would be making things anyway, so why not sometimes do it for a good cause?

Beaded green hand knit scarf in progress on bamboo knitting needles next to a ball of yarn and extra beads on a white background.

If you want to make items for charity auctions, here are some things to consider:
  • Who will be there and why? Think about the purpose of the fundraiser and the people who will be at the event. In this case, women of all ages will be raising money for a women’s organization at a semi-formal dinner. I wanted to choose something that the winner might begin wearing that night.
  • What materials and pattern are best? In order to get the highest bids for the charity, you’ll want to choose quality materials and a unique pattern to make your item stand out as something the bidders won’t easily find elsewhere. What that means exactly will depend on the event and the people who attend. For this elegant event, I think the mohair/silk yarn with a touch of sparkle in the delicate lace pattern will make an impact.
  • When and where will the event be held? This event will be in Florida in July, so an item that screams winter probably wouldn’t draw much interest. The scarf pattern that I chose is light and airy enough, both in color and pattern, to fashionably ward off the chill on a summer evening — or in a room where the air-conditioning is on overdrive!
  • What color should it be? I find that making home items is tricky because people are particular about what matches their d├ęcor. With clothing items, color choices tend to be more flexible. This green is a neutral color that looks good with a wide range of skin tones.
Beaded green hand knit scarf in progress on bamboo knitting needles next to a ball of yarn and extra beads on a white background.

Do you make items for charity auctions? What other tips do you have?

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

An Introduction

Welcome! Since this is my first blog post, I thought an introduction would be a good place to start.

My name is Chris. I’ve been quilting for 25 years, knitting regularly for 15 years, crocheting off and on for ten years, spinning fiber for six years, and I even started making bobbin lace a few years ago. I sew clothing and home items a few times a year, and would like to sew more often. I’ve done my share of hand embroidery and cross-stitch. Sometimes I draw, and less frequently I paint. I’m intrigued by weaving and beading/jewelry making but haven’t jumped in to either of those yet. I have a fine arts degree — basically, I love making things!

There’s an old saying: “Every quilt tells a story.” I would expand that to say that everything we make tells a story, if not more than one. This blog will be a place for me to tell the stories that go along with what I make. It will mostly be knitting, quilting and spinning, but there may be some other creations thrown in. Sometimes a recipe is a work of art, or a sign for a school program. Opportunities for creativity are everywhere, and they all have stories to tell.

Is this set of topics too broad for a blog? Maybe. But I don’t believe I’m the only one out there with multiple interests. I hope that I can write the posts in such a way that even if you don’t use the same materials, you’ll get something from the stories that go along with the projects.

I’m going to start out posting weekly, and see where it goes from there; I see blogging as a creative process that will evolve over time. Feel free to comment and let me know what you like or don’t like. I won’t promise to change everything I do based on your feedback, but I will do my best to keep you interested.

See you next time!