Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Sketch Stitch Place Mat

One of my goals for 2018 is to sew more, and another is to become more involved in our new community. Combining these goals led me to attend a local quilt guild meeting.

After months of having conflicts with the meeting dates, it worked out well that my first meeting was in January; there were at least four other women who were also there for the first time. There’s comfort in not being the only new face.

Everyone was friendly and welcoming, and the guild maintains a full schedule of events throughout the year. It will be easy to jump right in and start quilting again. I have three guild events on my calendar already for February!

For the January program, I was excited to learn about the new-to-me technique of sketch stitch machine applique. We started a small project at the meeting, to be completed at home later.

Each of us started with a 10-inch (25.4 cm) square piece of fabric and a fat quarter. We folded our fabric squares to cut into snowflakes, just as you would for paper snowflakes.

At home, I fused interfacing onto the back of my fat quarter. I dabbed a few areas of the snowflake with a glue stick before setting it in place for sewing.

Sketch stitch is a fun way to applique. I sewed around each fabric edge three times, and for once the goal was NOT to neatly follow a certain line. The stitching is supposed to look a little messy. I discovered that I had to put a little effort into changing up my sewing lines for straight areas, but I had no problem going all over the place on the curves.

Let’s not think too hard on what that says about the current state of my sewing skills.

The fat quarter could have been cut to any size, to suit any number of projects. The guild’s ongoing philanthropy project happens to be place mats — they donate place mats to charities that provide meals for those in need, to be distributed during the winter holiday season. With that in mind, I set about making a place mat for the first time.

With another fat quarter for backing, I started measuring and planning how I was going to finish the edges once I had sandwiched the pieces together. Then I realized that I was making it too difficult — why not follow the same technique I had used for the applique?

I squared up both fat quarters, making the backing fabric about a half inch (1.27 cm) larger than the front on all sides. I folded and pressed the edges then sewed them down with more sketch stitch, leaving the raw edges exposed just as they are on the snowflake.

I’m on my way to meeting two of my goals for 2018, I’ve made a new type of project using a new technique, and I've finished my first donation piece of the year. Not a bad start!

Have you appliqued with sketch stitch? How do you like it?

Tuesday, January 23, 2018


Back in October, I attempted to make Calendula by Hélène Rush with my handspun Purple Llama yarn and blogged about it here. The yarn wasn’t well-suited to the pattern, so I moved on to a different project for the yarn and set the pattern aside.

Throughout the fall, the pattern kept calling to me. My online shopping brought me to Plymouth Yarn Company’s Nettle Grove in the colorway 31 Seashell, which is a blend of ivory, beige and sky blue. The yarn is made from 45% cotton, 28% linen, 15% silk and 12% nettle fiber.

Based on the pattern's suggested yarn, I would need up to 1,092 yards (998.5 meters) to make the 40-inch (101.5 cm) top with no changes. Five balls of Nettle Grove equal 1,090 yards (almost 997 meters). Thinking about how I cut it close on yardage with too many projects in the past year, I added a sixth ball to my order.

In mid-December, I finally cast on and found the pattern to be straightforward. Between the stockinette body and the lace details, the knitting is interesting without being difficult. The only change I needed to make was to work on US-6 (4 mm) needles to obtain gauge.

And, no, I didn’t need that sixth ball of yarn.

The construction starts at the end of each sleeve and works toward the center of the body, to be joined with a three-needle bind-off. Sewn seams are worked under the arms and down the sides.

While I'm very happy with the top, it doesn’t drape as well as I hoped. Part of that may be due to the construction, but I suspect the primary culprit is the yarn. It has a slight stiffness to it that relaxed a little after an initial soak. I think that with use — and maybe a quick tumble in the dryer — the fibers will continue to soften.

The weather is warming up enough that I can start wearing Calendula right away. My project timing is improving!

Now the big question: What to make with one ball of cotton/linen/silk/nettle yarn?

Edited to add: After a full day of wear, the yarn has softened considerably and the top now drapes beautifully!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Mug Rugs — Er, Coasters

I know, I know. I said I wouldn’t start sewing again until I had my new sewing space fully organized. Although it’s closer, it’s not done yet.

But, dear reader, I found some more kits!

These kits are for sewing projects. Some are giveaways from past Quilt Shop Hops. Others are from a series of thread classes I took a couple of years ago. I pulled out the smallest Shop Hop kit to find that it was for a set of four mug rugs.

Each mug rug is 3 7/8” square (almost 10 cm), so they’re really coasters because they’ll only fit a cup. Mug rugs are larger so they can accommodate a cup as well as a snack.

The kit included three strips of fabric and a small sheet of instructions. I cut the two narrower strips into small squares to sew into four-patch blocks, then cut the wider strip into larger squares for the backings. Scraps of batting from my stash were cut to the same size as the larger squares.

The batting and backing squares were larger than the four-patch blocks. The idea was to sandwich the layers together, sew three sides, then trim each side to a quarter inch (0.6 cm) seam allowance before turning everything right side out. The unsewn side was to be stitched together by hand.

I didn’t follow the directions completely. After trimming the three sewn sides, I trimmed the corners at an angle to reduce bulk, but I didn’t trim the unsewn side. The little bit of extra fabric made it easier to fold the unsewn seam allowance inward. Instead of stitching the unsewn side by hand, I pressed each coaster with the iron then topstitched around the outside edges. The topstitching flattens the seam bulk while neatly closing the previously unsewn side — and it adds a little decorative touch as well. To finish each coaster, I stitched in the ditch through the four-patch blocks.

This was a quick and easy project. I can see myself making more coasters — or larger mug rugs — to use up scraps and make fun little gifts at the same time. Before that, though, I need to finish organizing my sewing space!

What do you like to make with small pieces of fabric?

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Every Which Way

The first week of 2018 pulled me in many different directions, in the best of ways.


For Christmas, we received the book “Hamilton: The Revolution” by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the making of “Hamilton: An American Musical.” I learned a bit about what goes into making a musical, and the timeline in particular was eye-opening. I was amazed by the references that were worked into the lyrics from previous musicals and from the world of rap, and intrigued by the subtleties in the choreography. The energy with which Miranda approached the musical is inspiring and contagious, even through the pages of a book.


When our children became old enough to attempt to stay awake until midnight on New Year’s Eve, we quickly learned that board games weren’t a good way to amuse them. As the hour grew later, the tears came more readily. I started a tradition of opening a jigsaw puzzle early in the evening; it’s a bit more difficult (although not impossible) to burst into tears over the beginnings of a jigsaw puzzle.

We received two jigsaw puzzles for Christmas this year. The 1,000-piece puzzle was completed on New Year’s Day but the 2,000-piece puzzle, which we started a few days later, has proven to be much more challenging. At one point we were joking that if we put together ten pieces per day, we should be done by mid-July. It’s going a little more quickly than that now, and I’ll admit that I get absorbed in trying to fit “just one more piece.”

2000 Piece Jigsaw Puzzle in Progress


I mentioned in last week’s post that I want to finish setting up my sewing area this year, and I’ve started working on that in earnest. I can now access my sewing machine on its table! My new sewing area shares a space with our guest area and storage, so there is still a lot of random clutter in the room. I’m motivated to put all of those extra items away before I start sewing again.


Unsurprisingly, I’ve also managed to spend some time with fiber in hand. In recent months, I allowed a lot of unwoven ends to build up on the two scrap blankets that I’ve been knitting. I caught up on all of them while watching end-of-season football. (Go Bills! Roll Tide!) I even added a few blocks to the smaller blanket with some new yarn samples.

Two Blankets Knit with Scraps of Yarn from Other Projects

We celebrated a birthday, put away Christmas decorations, and enjoyed extra family time. Step by step, I’m finding my direction for 2018.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Welcome to 2018

Another year has come and gone. The past year brought with it a lot of change, with my biggest personal change being our mid-year move across the country. Looking back at 2017, it was still a productive year:

  • 28 furniture socks
  • 20 wash/dish cloths
  • 6 hats
  • 3 tops
  • 3 pairs of socks
  • 2 scarves

  • 9 hats
  • 1 cowl
  • 1 rug

  • 8 plastic canvas ornaments
  • 1 plastic canvas Christmas decoration

I read four art-related books, and made two bobbin lace bookmarks. I cleaned up an antique treadle sewing machine, updated a writing desk and chair, converted a knit skirt to a tote bag, and revived a beanbag chair. I visited an arts festival and a fabric store that were new to me. I spun some fiber, dyed some wool, and knit some more blocks onto my scrap blankets.

My biggest accomplishment was to finish hand-quilting the Bride’s Bouquet quilt that I started about 18 years ago. I went on to do some hand embroidery on a crazy quilt project, but otherwise didn’t do much sewing. Before the move my sewing machine and most of my supplies were packed, and since the move I haven’t finished setting up my sewing area. Correcting this is a priority for me this year; I want to do more sewing in 2018.

I plan to release a few knitting patterns, so look for those along with updates to this site. Some design ideas have been percolating for years, and it’s time to finally write them down to share with others. Coming up with the ideas is much easier than writing patterns for them!

I also want (OK, need) to explore more of our new home. I found a quilt guild and have reached out to a fiber arts group. I want to visit art museums and other art festivals, and look into the local fine arts guilds.

I hope 2018 is good to you and yours. What do you have planned for the new year?