Tag 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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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!

Southwestern Shell: simple summer sewing

This is the post script to the sewing binge I went on a couple weeks ago – a sleeveless shell made from the aqua southwestern print from L.A.

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I traced the pattern from a turquoise Banana Republic shirt…it’s one flat back piece, and one front piece with bust darts.

I was stumped as to how to finish the edges, especially the neckline. I love the loose tie on the turquoise shell, but my machine was having trouble finishing the raw edges of this fabric…all my attempts looked shoddy. Then I remembered that a coworker had recently handed me a package of black bias tape in the office kitchen: I meant to buy iron-on hem tape, but instead I got whatever this is. Someone said you sewed so can you use it? 

Yes! It was just what I needed to tidy up the armholes and neckline…

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While I had the machine out I started going through my scrap pile and playing around with the beginnings of a quilt. I haven’t pieced a quilt in a while, but so far I like where this one’s going…

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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!

The cross-country quilt

A few years ago I had a summer off work, which seemed like the right time to take on a big quilt project. I had no experience, but plenty of enthusiasm and bags of fabric scraps from my grandma, my mom, and my friends. I organized the scraps by color family, pieced a 45-strip square block from each color family, and separated the blocks with denim. I used cotton batting and a vintage bedsheet for the backing.

Then I moved to Oregon. I brought the safety-pinned pieced quilt with me, and every once in a while I worked on hand-quilting a block or two. I have an old quilt from a great aunt, so it wasn’t hard to see that my  stitches are BIG and SLOPPY on the whole hand-quilting-scale. When I was about three-fourths finished, I looked at the whole thing and felt an overwhelming sense of “UGH”. It looked amateur, and not in a DIY folksy way. In an inept, inexperienced way.

I kept the hand stitching in place, ran the whole quilt through the sewing machine (block-by-block), then ripped out every last hand stitch. And people say I’m not patient!  But I AM used to ripping out knitting projects and restarting. I like the final look, plus it’s fun to have my mom and grandma point out different scraps and describe their past lives – i.e. my mom’s dance dress, my aunt’s first school dress.