Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The Hexagon Project: Blocks 6–9

It’s been four weeks since I last posted about The Hexagon Project. I’m happy to say that I maintained my pace of one block per week and have four new English paper piecing flower blocks to share.

Angled View of Four Hand Sewn English Paper Piecing Hexagon Flowers

Lessons Learned ... So Far
As I’ve mentioned before, this is my first EPP project. I’ve been sewing — both by hand and machine — for years, but each new technique comes with a learning curve. Following are a few tips and preferences I’ve discovered based on my EPP experience so far.

Hand Sewn English Paper Piecing Block Number Six in Beige with Red Flames and Bananas

Quilt piecing is usually done with quarter-inch (0.64 cm) seam allowances, and I cut my paper and fabric pieces accordingly. However, due to the folding and handling, I would prefer closer to 3/8-inch (0.95 cm) seam allowances in order to prevent the paper pieces from popping out as I sew.

Hand Sewn English Paper Piecing Block Number Seven in Red and Star Print

But I’ve also learned that I don’t need to cut the fabric exactly at the outset. It’s common for sewists to fold a square or even an odd-shaped scrap over the paper template then trim as desired after basting. I’ve been machine-sewing long enough that my brain doesn’t automatically think that way for piecing, but I can see that it would definitely be a time-saver that doesn’t waste fabric.

Hand Sewn English Paper Piecing Block Number Eight in Fish Print and Red

I’ve discovered that I prefer stitching dark-colored hexies because it’s easier to see how much fabric I’ve picked up on the needle. The light colors blend too much with the shine of the silver needles. I’ve seen some black sewing needles available online, but haven’t decided yet if it would be worthwhile to buy special needles then switch them out every time my fabric color changes.

Hand Sewn English Paper Piecing Block Number Nine in Beige and Brown

I’ve read various opinions from others as far as what type of thread to use for hand piecing, and I think it really comes down to personal preference. I’m using cotton hand quilting thread, simply because I’ve acquired a lot of it over the years and this is a good way to use it up. I have spools of white, ivory, beige, and red; so far, those colors have worked well with my fabric colors. Yes, the stitches are a bit more visible than if I used a finer thread weight or a closer color match, but that’s never been a big concern for me with quilts.

Using Sheer Fabric Gift Bags to Separate Hexagon Flower Pieces

As far as storage and portability, I have everything I need tucked into a small tote bag. My favorite “hack” has been re-using small sheer fabric gift bags to separate the hexagons for each flower block. The small gift bags fit inside a larger gift bag, keeping them together in the tote. I can carry enough coordinated hexagons for multiple flower blocks every time I take my sewing out of the house, the bags look cute, and I didn’t have to buy anything extra.

Design Board of Rigid Insulation Covered with White Felt

Depending on the print, I can be particular about how I lay out the hexies before sewing them together. I use a “portable” design board at home. I use the word “portable” loosely because my design board is a one-inch (2.5 cm) thick piece of rigid insulation that measures 24 by 24 inches (61 by 61 cm). I have a piece of white felt stapled onto the board to help grip the fabric blocks. The board isn’t truly portable in the sense that I can carry it around with me wherever I go, but it makes it easy for me to move unsewn blocks from room to room without disturbing them. If I get ahead of myself with basting, I can arrange up to six flower blocks on the design board.

Straight View of Four Hand Sewn English Paper Piecing Hexagon Flowers

I now have nine completed blocks, and I’ll have another update on The Hexagon Project in about four weeks. In the meantime, do you have any tips for hand sewing or EPP?

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Dingle Hat

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that I’m trying to work through leftover yarn from previous projects. We live in a warm climate now, which has added an extra challenge to my knitting plans.

My current focus is on my leftover sock yarn. My sock drawer is overflowing, so I really don’t need to knit more socks for myself. I don’t have enough of any coordinating colors to make another light wool top. And it doesn't get cold enough here to get much use from items like hats, mittens, and scarves.

But I have family members who live in cold climates, and I have four months until Christmas!

Front View of Knit Dingle Hat Worn with Crown Flopped to the Side

I searched Ravelry and found a lot of patterns for winter accessories that call for fingering weight wool yarn. As a bonus, some are available for free and some I already own.

I was drawn to the hat patterns first because they are one-and-done projects. As much as I enjoy knitting socks and mittens, it’s refreshing to work through a pattern without having to make notes so I can duplicate the work on the second piece.

Side View of Knit Dingle Hat Worn with Crown Flopped to the Side

I started with the free Dingle Hat pattern by Sabrina Schumacher. It’s a simple slouchy beanie with instructions for stranded colorwork knitting in two, three, four, or five colors. The pattern is written for two sizes — Adult Small and Adult Medium — and I chose the larger size. However, I tend to knit loosely with stranded colorwork so I went down in needle size to US-2 (2.75 mm) and US-3 (3.25 mm).

From my stash, I picked:

  • Cascade Yarns® Cascade 220® Fingering (100% wool) in 8505 White
  • Cascade Yarns Heritage (75% Merino wool, 25% nylon/polyamide) in White, previously dyed with Strawberry, Grape, and Berry Blue Kool-Aid
  • Plymouth Yarn Dancing Toes (40% Merino wool, 40% alpaca, 20% nylon/polyamide) in 99 Natural, previously dyed with Lemon-Lime, Ice Blue Raspberry Lemonade, Changin’ Cherry, Berry Blue, and Fruit Punch Kool-Aid

Front View of Knit Dingle Hat Worn with Crown Slouched to the Back

The colors coordinate well, but the dye isn’t as vibrant in the Plymouth Yarn. I don’t know whether that’s due to the fiber content or a change in my dyeing process. In any event, I thought there would be enough difference between the two dyed yarns to look like a gradient with the white in the three-color pattern. I was wrong.

I still liked the color combination, so I switched to the four-color pattern. I used the darker Cascade Yarns Heritage for Color 1, the lighter Plymouth Yarn for Color 3, and the white between them as Colors 2 and 4.

Back View of Knit Dingle Hat Worn with Crown Slouched to the Back

The pattern was easy to follow and relaxing to knit. I think it would be a good first project for someone who is new to stranded colorwork. I really only needed to look at the instructions in the beginning as I moved from the brim to the colorwork, and at the end for the decreases. I love the way the hat turned out and already have a recipient in mind.

And the Cascade Yarns Heritage is all used up now. One yarn down, a lot more to go!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Finish: Modern Mystery Quilt

Over the years, I’ve acquired a lot of quilting fabric. My supply is nowhere near some of the fabric libraries I’ve seen, but it’s enough that some years ago I came up with a rule for myself:

At least half of the fabric for any quilt that I make must come from my stash.

Front of Pastel Modern Quilt Featuring Circles and Stacked Rectangles

Since I began working with this mindset, I automatically go to my supply of fabric at the early stages of every quilt. I no longer find “forgotten” fabrics because I see them all often enough that they don’t have a chance to be forgotten. And when I do buy fabric, it’s with a specific purpose in mind so I buy just what I need. OK, I still buy extra sometimes, but the random visits to my local quilt shop have stopped!

This rule also challenges me to open my mind to different color and print combinations. I am mindful that I paid just as much for the back of the fabric as I did for the front — if I want a color that’s a little different than what I have on hand, there’s no reason I can’t flip it over to use the “wrong” side. And, for that matter, the back of the quilt takes up just as much space as the front; it can do more than serve as a backdrop to show off the quilting.

The Quilt
A few weeks ago, I wrote about finishing a modern quilt top. It measures about 60 by 78 inches (152 x 198 cm) and all of the almost seven yards of fabric for the front came from my stash. Most of these pastel fabrics feature simple geometric prints. It’s difficult to see in the photos, but the white background fabric has shimmery pale gold stripes; I can’t resist a little sparkle and shine!

Detail of Subtle Shimmery Gold Stripes on Background Fabric of Modern Quilt

I had two orphan blocks that were made from some of the same fabrics that are in this quilt: my first attempt at a New York Beauty block and a pieced pumpkin. I incorporated them into the backing by setting each block into a row of similar colors. Then I worked with the largest leftovers from the front of the quilt, as well as some additional fabrics that didn’t make it onto the front, to create enough strips for the rest of the backing.

Back of Modern Quilt Featuring Two Orphan Blocks and Wide Strips of Fabric

The cotton batting was sewn together from large scraps, and I quilted evenly-spaced stripes with white thread on my home sewing machine. The smallest leftover pieces from the front were used to make a scrappy binding.

Front of Pastel Modern Quilt Featuring Circles and Stacked Rectangles

An entire quilt made from stashed fabric, and I still have plenty more where that came from. But it’s progress, and cozy progress at that!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Mirage

It’s been a while since I posted a knitting project. I really wanted to be able to share this project this week, and I made it just under the wire! My newest project is so freshly off the needles that the photos were taken last night at sunset before blocking it.

Front View of White Sleeveless Cotton Top Knit using the Mirage Pattern

In June, I wrote about a new knitting project that had me excited. The hitch in my excitement was that I was knitting with white yarn. I was so worried about staining the yarn that it took me six weeks to knit a straightforward stockinette sleeveless top!

So many of my usual knitting routines were disrupted. I wouldn't take it with me out of the house where any number of disasters could be lurking. I wouldn’t pick it up to knit a few rows while I was cooking in case I had missed cleaning some food off my hands or had a random splash on my clothes. And I wouldn’t knit it while my children were up and about because they like to touch the yarn. That didn’t leave me with a lot of knitting time.

All of those precautions were quite silly, of course, because if the yarn can’t survive the knitting it surely won’t survive the wearing.

Pattern Details
The pattern that I knit is Mirage by Shellie Anderson. It was published by Shibui Knits and features two of their yarns: Fern in 100% cotton for the main structure of the top, and Silk Cloud in 60% mohair and 40% silk for the detail at the bottom.

My measurements happen to fall squarely between the sizes for M and M/L. Based on the number of Ravelry reviews saying the pattern runs large, I opted to make the smaller size. The fit, which doesn't seem to have been changed by blocking, is perfect with no modifications.

Back View of White Sleeveless Cotton Top Knit using the Mirage Pattern

I really appreciated the details that went into the pattern, such as the sloped bind-off for nicely curved armholes and the steps for avoiding weak spots when binding off in the center of a row. I’m not sure the different cast-ons were necessary, but I enjoyed adding one more technique to my repertoire.

The pattern includes instructions for a sleeveless shell or short-sleeved tee, both with A-line shaping. I like that the top can be dressed up or down, and I can see this becoming a go-to pattern that would be easy to adapt for even more options.

This was my first time knitting with Shibui Knits yarns, by the way, and they’re lovely. (No affiliation.) Fern is possibly the softest cotton I’ve tried. The yarn is a little pricey for me, though, so it will remain a special occasion purchase.

And on that note, I’m ready to wear my new white sleeveless shell — as long as I don’t leave the house or encounter any food or other people!