Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Quilt Night: Crazy Quilt

Last week, I wrote about our belated holiday party at Quilt Night. I didn’t get a chance to explain what I’m working on at Quilt Night now that my Bride's Bouquet quilt is complete.

Embroidery Details on a Crazy Quilt Block

Probably about 20 years ago, when I was still new to quilting and even before the Bride's Bouquet quilt, I stopped into a fabric store and saw a lovely ivory-colored sheer fabric accented with pink roses, small blue flowers and green leaves. I realized the fabric wasn’t durable enough to stand up on its own in a quilt, but I also knew a bit about crazy quilts — that the colorful fabrics were sewn onto a simple backing and all of the embellishment meant that the crazy quilt wouldn’t be subject to the hard use of a standard quilt.

Button Detail on a Crazy Quilt Block

With a vague plan in mind I picked out some coordinating fabrics, both traditional cottons and additional sheers, as well as some white muslin. I found a few skeins of embroidery floss, beading thread, beads and buttons.

A traditional crazy quilt is made from random scraps of all kinds of fabric. Each seam is covered with embroidery stitches, and beads and buttons are used for further embellishment. My crazy quilt is a little more structured in that I chose specific fabrics and embellishments within a narrow color scheme.

Bead Details on a Crazy Quilt Block

The foundation blocks are 11 inches square. I believe my logic in choosing that size was that the muslin was 45 inches wide; it allowed me to make blocks with the least amount of waste.

Embroidery Details on a Crazy Quilt Block

I’ve sewn up eight blocks so far, four starting at the corner and four starting at the center. At some point, I decided I didn’t want the block-making to get too far ahead of the embellishment. The embellishment on the fourth block is almost done — or, at least, done enough to move on to the next block. I have a feeling that after I’ve gone through all of the blocks, I’ll go through them again to add more embellishment. It’s the type of project that could go on as long as I wish.

Embroidery Details on a Crazy Quilt Block

I haven’t yet decided how the blocks will go together, although I do have some fabric set aside for a border. The border fabric isn’t in any of the blocks, and should set them off nicely.

It’s a fun project. It’s nice to let my mind wander and hand-stitch whatever feels right at the moment. I think the reason I haven’t worked on it more is because it can require a certain amount of setting up and spreading out, particularly when I want to add beads. Once again, the project that doesn’t travel well gets overlooked.

What are your thoughts on crazy quilts? Have you ever tried making one?

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Quilt Night: Holiday Party

After two winter weather delays, we were finally able to have our holiday party at Quilt Night this week. The weather was still a bit dicey, but we were determined to make it happen. This year, we had a potluck dinner and we each brought a white elephant gift from our sewing room for a gift exchange.

I was surprised to receive a 16.9 ounce bottle of unscented Mary Ellen’s Best Press. If you’re unfamiliar with it, Best Press is a spray starch that does wonders for keeping quilting fabric crisp and smooth — and, no, I’m not affiliated with them.

16.9 ounce bottle of unscented Mary Ellen Best Press

I was shocked that someone gave the Best Press away but, as the saying goes, “one person’s trash is another’s treasure.” I gave away a panel of self-adhesive Moda fabric covered in snowman parts and clothes. The idea is to cut out the pieces and stick them onto your project as if you’re dressing paper dolls. My girls have each made their share of “appliquéed” snowmen and they’re getting too old to be interested in making more of them. I also gave away a book of sewing tips and tricks that I had read but wasn’t using as a reference as I expected. Both of those gifts were also met with shock; the woman who received them couldn’t believe I didn’t make a mistake in giving them away. Recycling is such a wonderful thing!

We all chipped in on a nice gift for our hostess, and she surprised us all with individual white elephant gifts. I received a tabletop Christmas tree made from wooden spools.

Tabletop Christmas Tree made from Wooden Spools

A few months ago, J— was trying to figure out what to do with some cheap vodka she had found in her cabinet. Some of us suggested she make her own vanilla extract, and we had a lively conversation about vanilla extract recipes. Some of us had made our own before, while others had never heard of it. Unbeknownst to us, she did a little research and shopping after that night and we all received a bottle of homemade vanilla extract at the party.

A Bottle of Homemade Vanilla Extract

To keep with the quilting theme, J— wrapped each bottle of vanilla extract in a fat quarter that she had ice-dyed herself.

Ice Dyed Fat Quarter in Pink and Purple

All in all, it was a wonderful evening with good friends that extended our holiday cheer.

Speaking of extending holiday cheer, I recently started reading the We All Sew blog by Bernina. Regardless of the brand of sewing machine you use, they write about pattern ideas, fun projects, and general sewing tips — once again, no affiliation. Leading up to Christmas, they were giving away gifts as part of their Holiday Countdown 2016 celebration. I only remembered to enter a few of the giveaways, but I won one! This week, I received an 18-spool package of Mettler Silk-Finish Cotton 50 thread.

18 Spools of Mettler Silk-Finish Cotton 50 Thread

Between the Best Press, the fat quarter and the thread, I’m looking forward to revisiting some quilting projects. What has inspired you recently?

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Entrelac Scarf

I’ve been trying to work through my yarn stash. One yarn in particular caught my eye recently: Plymouth Yarn Zino in colorway 1 Blue Pink Orange Green.

Ivory and Multicolored Pastel Knit Stranded Colorwork Sock
Back in 2010, I picked up one skein of Zino at my local yarn shop. Shortly after that, the yarn shop had a going-out-of-business sale and I couldn’t resist picking up two more skeins at 75% off. It is a soft fingering weight yarn of 75% wool/25% nylon with long color repeats. With the Zino and some Heart and Sole with Aloe from Red Heart in E745 Ivory, I finished a gorgeous pair of socks as a gift in 2011.

This summer, I blogged about using the same yarn combination to knit a pair of mittens. Once again, I think the result is gorgeous — but I still have just over two skeins of Zino in my stash. I’ve come to the conclusion that there are only so many items that need to be made in the exact same colorway.

In 2014, I tried entrelac for the first time by knitting a scarf with the free pattern Entrelac Scarf by Allison LoCicero. I had always been a little intimidated to try entrelac, but I found the pattern to be simple and fun. An entrelac scarf in Zino would serve the dual purpose of being a beautiful wearable item that would coordinate with the mittens I already made while using up the remainder of the yarn.

Multicolored Entrelac Hand Knit Scarf in Progress

Zino is much finer than the aran weight yarn that is called for in the pattern. Instead of knitting three base triangles on US-8 (5.0 mm) needles at the beginning of the scarf, I knit seven base triangles on US-2 (2.75 mm) needles. Before blocking, the scarf is about ten inches wide; I wanted a wide scarf, but I may have gotten carried away. The yarn has too much halo to easily frog the scarf and start over, so I am carrying on and trusting the process.

Hand Knit Entrelac Multicolored Scarf in Progress

I am almost to the end of the first skein. Next I will use up the partial skein, which is from a different dye lot, before moving onto the last full skein. The scarf is about 20 inches long at this point and I’m estimating that it will be about 50 inches long by the end, before blocking. The length will increase somewhat after blocking, but the scarf may not be long enough for a nice drape after wrapping it around my neck. I’m already considering connecting the ends to turn it into a cowl.

Do you change your plans while a project is in progress?

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Bride's Bouquet Quilt

If you were to look up the word “perseverance” in my personal life dictionary, you would find a photo of the quilt I finished this week. This post is a little longer than usual because making this quilt has likewise been a long journey. And yet, as I reread what I've written I know that there are so many more details than what you see here.

As near as I can remember, I think I started this quilt in 1999. I was still relatively new to quilting; I don’t believe I had made more than five quilts by that time. I don’t recall whether I was drawn in first by the pattern or the fabric, but somehow I settled on the Bride’s Bouquet block featuring floral fabrics.

Hand Quilted Quilt with Brides Bouquet Block and Border

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Bride’s Bouquet block, there are a lot of Y-seams with set-in corners. As a beginner, I didn’t realize what I was getting myself into; the fussiness of Y-seams can make experienced quilters squirm. In addition, the center of each block has seven seams that need to come to a single point — that’s a lot of bulk to manage and align.

Twenty-six blocks in, and I decided that the entire top didn’t need to feature the Bride’s Bouquet block. By alternating those blocks with plain background blocks and setting everything on point, I had enough blocks to make a queen size quilt with one block left over to add to the back. Hurray for “design opportunities!”

Hand Quilted Blue Backing on Brides Bouquet Quilt with Extra Block

When I started the quilt, my sister and her boyfriend seemed to be on a path toward marriage and I had thoughts of the quilt being a wedding gift; by the time I finished sewing the top, they were no longer together and my sister was engaged to her now-husband. I couldn’t very well continue my plan of a wedding gift with a different groom! It would be a quilt I would keep. (Don’t worry — over the years my sister and her husband have been the recipients of other quilts.)

Hand Quilted Quilt Featuring Brides Bouquet Block

The more I looked at the quilt, the more I thought it needed to be hand quilted. With a couple years already invested in the quilt top, what were a few more years to take my time with the quilting? I found a template that I thought filled the plain blocks nicely and coordinated well with the shapes in the Bride’s Bouquet blocks, and I was off!

Blue Backing on Hand Quilted Brides Bouquet Quilt

A queen size quilt is, of course, too bulky to bring along on road trips and such. Making the fine stitches requires good lighting and eyes that aren’t already tired from a long day. Even with a thimble, there are little finger pricks and pokes. Summer weather and a quilt across the lap aren’t a comfortable combination. Add small children to the mix, and it’s not a project that can be left out to work on a little here and there as time allows. Suffice it to say, I did not work on the quilt consistently for many years.

Then I started going to Quilt Night. I’ve mentioned this group before. We get together once or twice a month and work on whatever projects we wish. For years, as everyone else moved from one project to the next, I brought this quilt with me every month. It was a bit of a joke to see what I was working on, but at the same time the other quilters were inspired to pull out their own UFOs — if I could work on a quilt that was by this time over ten years in the making, they could work on something they set aside 18 months ago. At times it seemed like the hand quilting would never end … and then suddenly, finally, it did.

Tone on Tone Hand Quilted White Quilt Block

I finished the hand quilting about a month ago, and have been slowly hand stitching the binding in place. This week, the binding was complete. My first order of business, even before stitching my name and the date into the quilt, was to wash it. Twice.

Details of Hand Quilting on Brides Bouquet Quilt Block

My piecing and quilting skills have improved over the years, as one would hope they would with almost twenty years of practice. Yes, there are some areas of this quilt that make me cringe a little when I look at them because I know so much more about what to do and not do, but every mistake on that quilt was part of a greater journey that brought me to the skill level I have today. I could probably pick out the first and last bouquet blocks I sewed if I tried — but I would rather enjoy the quilt as a whole. The whole is, truly, greater than the sum of its parts.

It’s been about 18 years since I started this quilt, and now we get to sleep under it every night. The time and memories that went into the quilt somehow make it feel even warmer.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Welcome to 2017

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind, as the final days of the year always are. As 2017 begins, I thought it would be fun to look back at what I made in 2016.

Knitting:
  • 1 bracelet to hold my Fitbit
  • 1 beaded lace scarf
  • 2 wash cloths
  • 1 dish cloth
  • 2 pairs of mittens
  • 2 pairs of fingerless mitts
  • 2 hats
  • 3 pairs of socks
  • 1 set of chair socks
  • 1 produce bag

Crochet:
  • 5 coasters

Sewing:
  • 1 shirt
  • 1 sundress

I did some spinning over the summer, although not as much as I would have liked. I added quite a few blocks to the two knit scrap afghans that are in progress. Names were embroidered onto our Christmas tree skirt, and I finally finished hand quilting the quilt that I started decades ago. I read books about lettering, typography, knitting, quilting, and creativity. And, of course, there were the miscellaneous repairs of clothing and toys that always crop up.

I don’t have many specific plans for 2017. My main goal is to finish the binding on the hand-quilted quilt. I have a few other quilting projects in the works and there are two I have in mind that I’d like to complete. I’m in the mood to knit a sweater but I’m not sure if my stash will accommodate a project of that size; I may need to get creative with yarn combinations. I’m sure there will be spinning, socks, more blocks on the scrap afghans, more books, and projects that I haven’t begun to imagine yet.

For Christmas, I was fortunate to receive a few creative tools as gifts.

Clear Glass Molded in the Form of a Head

I’ve been using my children as hat models, but since they’re at school all day it can be challenging to take photos in good sunlight. The glass head will allow me to take pictures of hats when the light is good whether I have models available or not.

Two Sets of Double Point Knitting Needles and One Set of Stitch Markers

Over the years, my set of US-3 (3.25 mm) double-point knitting needles has dwindled from five to three needles. My old plastic set of US-7 (4.5 mm) double-point knitting needles has seen better days. Now, I have a new set of each. As a bonus, one set came with a pack of stitch markers.

I was also given a gift card to a local craft store. They sell yarn and quilting fabric, as well as supplies for a wide array of other crafts. I’m looking forward to browsing the store and being inspired by new ideas.

What projects do you have planned for the new year?