Category Archives: quilting

Sewing straight lines

“What are you making?” is the quintessential icebreaker question when people see you knitting. After hearing about whatever it is, the unanimous citizen response is, “Oh I don’t have the patience for something like that.” Repeating this interaction but replacing knitting with sewing produces an eerily similar response: “Oh I can’t even sew a straight line.”

It’s as if people feel a need to justify to why they haven’t (or don’t plan to) take up the same hobby. Or they’re trying to fend off what they perceive as a forthcoming recruitment pitch, which, given a knitter’s love for knitting, isn’t entirely crazy. How do you usually respond to these unsolicited explanations? (I’m assuming you get them too) Because I’m not sure that people are accurately identifying the barriers.

I usually say that patience is something I possess in wildly different amounts depending on the situation.

And as for the sewing in straight lines, it’s actually pretty hard for me (probably because it requires so much damn patience…measuring, cutting, piecing).

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I’m working on a stash-busting scrap quilt that – like most – requires sewing together lines of blocks (the last quilt pattern I used was cleverly chosen to avoid this). It’s so hard to match up row after row of little squares! What trick am I missing? I had to rip out several seams and redo them so that the lines weren’t egregiously mismatched, and there are still plenty of little places where it’s not quite right, but…I like where it’s going. I think it will look good when it’s finished.

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When it’s 8 degrees Fahrenheit out….

…this is the most lucrative bit of cat real estate in the apartment.
UntitledThey love the warmth of the pilot light. It also provides a nice vantage point for spying on a brown Boston terrier who we’re dog-sitting. He is very cute and nice, but he and the cats aren’t quite sure about each other.

UntitledEdith took her own safety very seriously at the beginning, and for the first time ever I found her perched on top of the shower door.

If you were caught up in Storm Hercules, I hope you’re safe and warm. We didn’t get too much snow here – maybe 8 inches with some drifting – but it was incredibly cold out. My walk in the snow didn’t last long.

UntitledSo…naturally I worked on some knitting and sewing. The sockyarn that I spun up this fall yielded a pair of Christmas socks for my mom and there was still enough left over to make myself a pair. I’m finishing up the second one now. I also started working on a new quilt. Kind of a wonky chevron thing to use up a bunch of scraps. Did you have any snow day projects?

socks

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Goodbye two thousand and twelve

I’m a few days late in putting together my salute to 2012, a year not terribly different from 2011. It was our coasting-comfortable year – same job for me, same apartment, same program for R – a welcome respite after so much change the two years before and what I’m sure is more change to come in 2013.

Compared to 2011, there was not quite as much experimentation in the kitchen this year. There was more sewing though, inspired by my trip to the fashion district of L.A. in early spring. Some mittens, a couple of dresses, a maxi skirt, two shirts, and my biggest accomplishment with the sewing machine: the chevron baby quilt.

2012: Year in Review

Still a lot of knitting. I think Holl was my favorite FO of 2012. I published two hat patterns – Joyride and Ryegrass - and my goal is to do more of that in 2013.

2012: Year in Review

We did a little more traveling in 2012 – Ohio to the park where I found Sam, Oregon, South Carolina, Cape Cod, Los Angeles. Everyone splurges on something, and R. and I have talked about how we’d rather have a tinier house in the future if it meant we could afford more travel (tinier house, but still yard enough for some sheep ;)
2012: Year in Review

Much love to you and yours in the coming year! I’ll sign out with one more photo collage, this one of the person (and pets) that make this space a home.

2012: Year in Review

Arden’s quilt

It’s done! And in time for the show this week too, although we’ll see how big of a disruption Hurricane Sandy is to the workweek. This is definitely the best of the few quilts I’ve made (click here and here for those earlier attempts), both in craftsmanship and aesthetic appeal. I want to make a few more like it.

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Pattern: my own, inspired by this tutorial. Machine-pieced and hand-quilted
Fabric: cotton scraps, including leftovers from these three dresses, plus yardage for the cream front and purple back
Batting: Heirloom Cotton
Size: 44″ by 55″
Recipient: Arden Pax, my friend’s first baby

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Not only do I like the idea of cotton batting (vs poly), especially for a baby, but I also like the look of it. The first wash/dry makes it shrink, giving the quilt extra puffiness.

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This tutorial was extremely helpful when it came time to make and attach the binding. This is the first time I’ve done a proper binding….I sometimes cut corners…so I was very proud that I did the process from start to finish and it turned out.

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on the needles

I didn’t get to Rhinebeck this year, but I have more than enough yarn and fiber for another year’s worth of projects so I’ll be alright.  If I wasn’t festival-ing what was I doing?

- a hat in aubergine tweedUntitled
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- the makings of a new pattern idea in the most wonderful olive color from Christine. I knit the entire front and blocked it, only to realize that it was a lot floppier en masse than the small blocked swatch. So I will start again with a smaller needle. blehh
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- and a continuation of the quilt! There’s an art show going up on campus for students, faculty, and staff. I got asked to put something in the show and decided to submit this. The hand-quilting is going faster than I expected, but I need a name for the piece. I hate naming things….help!

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Labor Day

Read proposes his dissertation topic in a month and just started work as the TA for an intro course. He still does all of the dishes, and for that I am eternally thankful, but until late October he isn’t available much on evenings and weekends. So for the coming weeks I’m open to suggestions for: a) new projects, b) trips with friends, and c) really good television.

I’ve already gotten started with (a) and (b). First, a last minute Labor Day trip to Charleston, SC with girlfriends. I’m actually returning to Charleston in a couple weeks for a wedding, but hey, that’s not when Tami could be there and besides, when is two September weekends at the beach a bad thing?

Kiawah Beach, Charleston South Carolina

While in Charleston I finished a pair of gray wool socks that’s haunted Tami for years. She was working on them in Tulum (19 months ago) and then claimed she couldn’t finish without me there to help. Mmhmm, I know…sounded fishy to me too. She is now threatening to start another project, quit, then mail it to me to finish. Just make it something beautiful and exciting Tami.

There are no pictures of the socks. Just one of me knitting them in the front seat on the drive to the airport. I wove in the ends as the sun was setting and raised my arms in victory. Goodbye ghosts-of-unfinished-socks!

When I got back I knit up a little welted toque to send Bethany in exchange for one of her new collages. It’s just 100 stitches around, sz 6 needles, and three six-stitch welts. I hadn’t done welts before – they’re really addicting and I love the look of them. Bethany, if you’re reading, I hope you like ‘em too.

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And then today, while Read alternated between dissertation work and NFL highlights, I listened to a bunch of podcasts in the sewing room and pieced the top for a quilt. It will be for a friend’s baby.

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I’m really really pleased with how it turned out. I wanted to make something with my scrap stash that was on-purpose-wonky, since lord knows my technical skills nor my perfectionism are capable of turning out “just so” quilts. But I also wanted it to look clean and modern. I was inspired by Six White Horses’ improvisational chevron quilt (check out her blog, she does great work).

I plan to use a dark raspberry color for the back.

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I have more projects on the needles already and another dress to sew. But all that will require more entertainment, so if you have suggestions for podcasts, Netflix movies, and/or television series – or you have ideas for a weekend trip – send them my way!

Everything wonderful happens here

I thought my Plain & Simple Pullover would be finished and blog-able by now, but there’s been a hold up on the buttons. Namely that I keep forgetting to go to Ben Franklin. In the meantime, some fun wonderful-ness from life and the internets:

(clockwise, starting with top left)

1. We’re visiting Oregon pretty soon. This means reunions with family, friends, and favorite eats (chicken at Plaza Latina & Che burrito at Laughing Planet).

2. It’s pickle season. There’ve been a lot of pickle-related searches popping up in my blog dashboard, and if the searchers know what’s good for them they’ll try No-Canning Quick Pickles. My latest Sunset magazine had a recipe for sweet & sour that looked tasty. Do you have any other recipe suggestions? I put in an order for 10-15 lb. of baby cukes from our CSA farmer..should be here post-Oregon for a big pickle making party.

3. O-H! (this is a buckeye call and response…you are supposed to yell “I-O!”) I want this necklace. The seller has lotsa’ states for showing your respective pride.

4. The images in this article on improvisational quiltingare so good I want them poster-sized and hung in my future hypothetical studio.

5. Have you visited Dear Photograph yet?

6. This could go in an entryway, like the updated version of that country cross-stitch sampler “Home Sweet Home”…but even better would be a pocket-sized affirmation as reminder that, wherever you are, everything wonderful happens here.

 

Spring sewing brainstorm

Yesterday a giant rainstorm melted the last of our dirty sodden snowpiles and I’d like to think that’s it for snow this season.  As an expression of optimism, I’m brainstorming spring sewing projects. Here’s a photo collection of my inspiration thus far. What am I missing? (besides mending your jeans, Tami…donworry that’s first on the list)

A new bag – A pen exploded in my beautiful orange corduroy bag last summer, which I could kinda hide if I kept it a certain way on my hip, but then half a bottle of hair oil leaked into it. That was the end…of both the bag and the hair oil. I still haven’t sewn another.

Ikea Fabric 6

cornflower blue Ikea fabric

I have this blue Ikea fabric in my drawer, which is calling for an orange exterior. Or maybe green? I use a construction process like this and I’m considering a hobo bag shape with maybe some pleats or a fold-over.  Like on of these beauties…

(c) stitchaline on etsy (click on pic to see posting)

(c) olivetreetextiles on etsy (click on pic to see posting)

(c) christystudio on etsy (click on pic to see posting)

A coin quilt – It’s about time for another quilt. My friend Bonnie at On The Way makes these great quilts out of men’s shirts and that fabric source, combined with the coin quilt motif, might be the next project.

small quilt for julia

Coin Quilt (c) uzbeckistan via flickr

Gnome coin quilt finished

(c) splityarn on flickr

(c) farfallagiallababy on etsy (click on pic for posting)

Somethin’ else - I have several of my grandma’s dress patterns from the 40s and 50s that I’d still like to make. I just need the right fabric…

1940s dress

Kat’s quilting question

I’m back from my travels. I got to see so much beautiful art and architecture, drink Italian coffee, eat sausages and sauerkraut in Austria, hang out with friends and family in Ohio, and after all of it Read and I still like each other. Success on all fronts. I’ll post some trip highlights later.

For now, a question from Bethany’s sister Kat (contributor and photographer for the Weber family etsy site).  She wrote in the comments section of Freehand Baby Quilt, and I realized in trying to craft a response that I wanted to share the links with everybody. So Kat – hope you don’t mind that I turned your question into a post.

For a beginning quilt collect fabric scraps from family and friends. Buying fabric can get expensive. With scraps you can play around and if it looks horrendous, you can scrap and start over without feeling guilty.

If you haven’t quilted before I think it’s helpful to buy a little booklet on quilting basics at the fabric store. Or you could research the basics online (Sew Mama Sew has a nice tutorial). I made my first quilt without researching anything, only to find out later that there are a bunch of little tricks and techniques that really help.

As for freehand vs. pattern, I think that the only necessity is a plan. Doesn’t matter whether that’s your own sketch and some templates cut from cereal boxes, or a pattern you buy at Joann Fabrics. There are so many clever, fresh quilt ideas online…here are a few I thought you might like:

Wee Wonderfuls makes beautiful yet simple quilts. It’d be easy to frame a bunch of scraps in white for a quilt like this.

Artists and friend Bonnie Hull from On the Way used men’s shirts from goodwill to make a quilt. Excellent thrift-store-hunting inspiration.

Orange flower: sketchbook just posted yesterday about hosting a piece-along for a zig-zag quilt (a project partly inspired by this quilt from Purl Bee). It got me thinking about making one…

image from The Purl Bee

 

Hope that helps Kat! Please send me pictures of your quilting process. 

Freehand baby quilt

My college friend Phil and his wife welcomed a new baby into the world last month. Phil’s only my second close friend to have a baby. After five or six friends have kids I might tire of planning baby presents, but for now it’s still a new and exciting venture. A coworker once suggested that blankets make good presents because the family can keep using them after babyhood (Bethany: take note of this possible future market for your circle blankets). The practicality of that suggestion stuck with me, so for Sarah I started planning a quilt.

 I explained on this blog that quilting is a little too precise for me. The right angles and straight lines, the meticulous measuring…try as I might things never matched up. And then you’re sitting there at the machine, trying to figure out how EVERY SINGLE seam on this long strip of squares could somehow not align with the seams on this other long strip of squares (insert image of a ten-year old Katie scrapping her doll quilt project in disgust). 

So I gave up on the meticulous stuff. No set pattern. No preset size. Only freehand machine quilting. The trick is getting the quilts to read “off-kilter-on-purpose” but not “novice 4-H project” (depending on the day, it’s a fine line). In the end I like them imperfect and I seem to be in good company. Craftzine advertised a class for “imperfect quilters” taught by artist Andrea Zuill. Blogger Artsy-Craftsy Babe writes about quilting and the beauty of imperfection. But my favorite quote is from Joe Cunningham at  Threads magazine, who writes that in a world of high-tech quilting tools and perfect symmetry, there’s something to be said for inexactitude: “…the appeal of freehand quilting is that it prolongs the fun part—designing and figuring out what you’re going to do next.” 

Welcome to the world baby Sarah!

I started with this bird fabric, and put it at the center of each of the four crazy squares

I put this quirky bird fabric at the center of each of the four crazy sqaures

 

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Each crazy square is quilted in a freehand radial pattern

 

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The backing is a starry-night-inspired black flannel

 

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through the middle and along the top/bottom is some checkerboard stuff...

 

my office bookshelf does double-duty as a quilt stand

ta-da!