Saturday, April 22, 2017

Striped Dress Comes Together (and Doesn't)

In the three weeks since I have shown the Vogue striped dress, I have gotten a lot of knitting done. I took it along when I went to my mom's for the Easter weekend. At some point, I had the front done, and the back very close:
I can't remember if I finished it during the visit or shortly after I got back. In any case, the back is now done as well.

I pieced the front and back together along one side. I seamed it with a crochet chain for some reason instead of a needle and thread. I'm sure the idea was planted by all of the sweaters I take apart. I think I didn't want to cut lengths of yarn to seam with and have more ends to work in. (There were a lot of ends from the stripes.) Later I thought I could have used those ends to sew the seam together in short sections before working in the ends. That was a thought too late in coming.

So I sewed the seam with a continuous thread and a crochet hook. I had to redo the bottom section where I used one strand of the yarn for the turned up hem. I needed to do more careful work with a mattress stitch (and matching yarn) so that it couldn't be seen.

After one side, I moved onto the shoulder seams. After careful work and a redo to improve on the first try, I held the piece away from myself to look at it. Um, something didn't seem right...
Yeah, I managed to sew the front left shoulder to the back right shoulder! So that was not going to work.

Since then, I have done both shoulder seams (correctly) and the last side seam. Before I raced onto facings and finishing the hem, I decided I had to stop and try it on.

Sorry, I didn't take a picture (you'll have to wait) but the fit was good enough to continue. But I did notice that I didn't match up the front and back well enough. There's a green stripe right at the waist that should match up at the side seams and it doesn't. (Apparently I didn't remember that while sewing the seam.) So I'll be taking advantage of the "quick rip" qualities of the crocheted seam and redoing the side seams again. I didn't make it easy on myself when I decided not to do identical stripes on the front and back. That would have made it easy to keep them matched up.

Once that is done, I'll decide whether to tackle something straight forward like sewing up the hem or tackle something that will require more figuring--the facings around the neck and armholes. Of course it's an illusion of choice because they both have to be done eventually!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Farm Girl Vintage Quilt Finished

The quilt--it is finished.

With persistence, all 326 inches of the binding was hand stitched to the back and done before I went home for Easter.

Here is a full view of the quilt:

It contains 44 of the 45 blocks from Lori Holt's Farm Girl Vintage book. (I omitted the "Old Glory" block of the American flag.) The setting is my own invention. It needed to be created to accommodate my combination of 6-inch and 12-inch blocks.

The sashing is proportionally a bit wide, but I wanted the centre of the quilt to cover the top of a queen mattress. I think it also helps to calm the quilt down a bit because that is a lot of busy blocks all together!

Looking at it now, I would have liked the green diamond accents to have been larger and perhaps centred differently. But there were constraints presented by the way the sashing was constructed and the fact that a 12-inch block is not as big as two 6-inch blocks plus a sashing in between.

The corner blocks of the border are also an issue as they don't appear to be centred in the space because the outer triangles match the border fabric. I'll have to research how to do it differently, or just use a different block as cornerstones. (I did consider star blocks but I wanted to keep the borders simple and clean. Maybe I should have used the maple leaf block.)

Don't start thinking that I don't like the quilt because I certainly do. But I can't help but evaluate what I think worked and what I would do differently next time. And this is the place where I record my thoughts.

One thing I am happy with is the look of the blocks. I was going for a low-contrast look and think it worked out. The contrast between the different block pieces isn't really stark but it's not all mush either. You can still easily see what the blocks are.

I don't think I've showed the binding yet:
I ended up having enough of the same brown to make another flange on the outside of the border (with all of 10" leftover!). The binding is a very bland print that I bought a lot of once because I thought it would work for a quilt, but it's never been right. Since I didn't have enough of the blue polka dot for the binding, I am happy with this nondescript colour that doesn't compete with the flange.

I cut the backing and batting about 1/8" past the quilt top so that I could sew the binding on with a 3/8" seam. This way binding will be completely "stuffed" by the batting but you won't end up with a really thin binding on the front.

I basted the flange down first with a zigzag stitch so it would tamp down the outer edge at the same time. I cut the binding at 2.5 inches (worried it might be a bit large) but am very happy I didn't go with 2.25 inches. There ended up being a few spots I had to trim the extra batting and backing down a bit so the binding would fit.

This was the first quilt where I sewed down the mitred corners of the binding. I never really believed it was necessary or made a difference, but dang if it didn't look a lot better!
Sewn on right; not sewn on left.
So now I guess I will be doing that from now on. The good news is that the idea was planted by watching a video of an easy way to do it. (Not so much an easy way, but how to do it while stitching the binding down. I had always thought of it as a separate step and it's not.) So although it is "one more thing", it's not much extra and actually does make a big difference. (This is me eating crow here.)

After the quilt was done and I could sit back and look at it, I was surprised at how well centred the quilting pattern turned out. You can see on the farmhouse that the pattern has loops exactly on both chimneys and first floor windows.
The barn was similarly centered:
Presumably a coincidence of the stitching repeat and the size of the block, but a happy one.

I mentioned that I pieced the back:
The large center piece is the yellow gingham that I had. The rest is made up of fabrics that weren't my favourites and then a few more to make up the difference. I used 10" blocks to fill in the sides, with some 10x20" pieces and one 20x20" piece where I had enough fabric to do so.

The back ended up quite a bit larger than the front, which is good for loading it on the long arm machine, but did result in some funny spots on the back. Like here:
where you can see a 1/4" strip of fabric at the top of the photo. If I had known it would work out like that, I could have shifted the back and gotten rid of that extra seam. But when you load the one end of the quilt on the machine, you don't know exactly how the other end will come out. (And as long as it's not too short, you don't really care!)

On the sides, the outside 10" blocks were cut off to just a few inches:

But again, as long as it's not too short, we don't really care! I did recover all that extra fabric after the backing was cut off and put it all in the box of scraps. So they may resurface on another quilt one day.

One thing I noticed while doing the binding and my nose was just inches from the quilt, was a lot of spots on the back where the batting was pushed through the fabric and where the needle tore through the fabric instead of piercing it cleanly.
You may have to click on the picture to see it in a larger size, but each circle in the picture is a spot where the stitching push through a tuft of batting. (This is called "bearding".) Each line is a thread of the fabric that was pulled because the needle didn't go through cleanly. This didn't happen with the last quilt I did using the same batting, so my current theory is that the needle was too dull. (I have since learned that wool batting can be tough on needles. I don't know exactly why.) Next time I use the long arm machine, I will ask for a fresh needle to be put on and that should take care of it. (I hope.)

While visiting at Easter, I had a little quilt show and tell at my mom's house of my recent quilts. Here is the Farm Girl Vintage on her bed:

And I know you've been waiting for this too...here is Kim's quilt:
The top is in two halves and is not put together or quilted but you can see how her blocks are arranged and how the quilt will look. She also had to get creative with her layout as she had even more 12-inch blocks. Her quilt has such a crisp clean look with the light sashing and the clear contrast in all of her blocks. It looks fantastic.

And here's one more shot of my quilt on the bed we set up for my sister (a different sister) in the construction zone:
That's right, she had the honour of being the first to sleep under the quilt!!

Project stats and facts:

  • The quilt is 74x84".
  • The project was started in January 2016, and one block was done each week throughout the year as a quilt-along with my sister.
  • The blocks are a mix of hand sewn and machine sewn.
  • Although I would do it if I had to, I have no desire to work with 1" and 3/4" pieces again!
  • I spoke to this sister more in 2016 than any other year of our lives as we Skyped each week to show our blocks.
  • Most fabrics were purchased as I decided on a 1930s theme and had none in my stash. (A few stash fabrics that fit in well enough were used.)
  • It was the third quilt I have done on a long arm machine. I created the pantograph pattern because I wanted the look of chicken wire.




Monday, April 3, 2017

Borders and Chicken Wire

When we last saw the Farm Girl Vintage quilt, I had completed the top and had decisions to make about a border.

I didn't have enough fabric to do a pieced transition section but I wasn't satisfied with how the blue and brown fabrics looked next to each other.

I tried a flange of the (more) solid brown in between and it was enough of a separation/definition that I liked it. I didn't think I would have enough, but I did some quick calculations and realized I only needed 8" by WOF, and I definitely had that.

What I didn't have was enough of the border to go the full length! I bought two yards (72") and the longer size was 75". While working on how to solve that, I decided to add some square in square blocks at the corners. I thought the brown fabric was going to be dark blue but it didn't look as good in real life as it did in my head. The one pictured above matches the flange, but I used several browns over the four corners.

I knew I had a big chunk of yellow gingham which I thought would be perfect for the backing. Turns out it was enough for half of the back. I thought I had enough yellow fabrics to make up the difference, but I didn't.

I ended up pulling out all the fabrics leftover from the quilt that I didn't think I would enjoy using in another quilt. I cut squares and rectangles as the fabric allowed and pieced it together into a back. It took a lot longer than I was hoping, but I did manage to get it done in time to be able to take it all to the long arm store this past week! I had a couple days off and I was really hoping it would work out.

When I showed up at the store, they didn't have any record of my call to reserve the time. Also, almost everyone was gone to a show so I wouldn't have much support or help if I needed it. I was irritated, but it all turned out. The machine was available and I manged to load the quilt all by myself!
Another thing I did myself was make the pantograph pattern. I was going to do up some hexagons in Word to look like chicken wire and then thought...I bet there's already something on the interweb. And sure enough there was! So I played with the scale and when I had it the size I wanted, I printed multiple copies, taped them together and boom! I had my own pantograph paper to follow!
Here's some of the paper on the table and above it you can see the pattern on the back of the quilt.

Things were going well, but after a couple passes, when I went to check out the front of the quilt, I saw that the flange was sewn down in all different directions!
I should have basted it in place. :( I debated how (not whether) to take it out and fix it, and decided I didn't have time to take out the whole row at the store. So I picked out the stitches that went over the flange, basted the flange in place and then sewed another pass across the same row. My "accuracy" is such that I didn't double the stitching very much. This meant when I got the quilt home, I could pick out the row that was sewn first. It was more comfortable doing it on my couch and I wasn't paying $15 an hour to do it!

After some time, I had the whole quilt quilted! Here it is fresh off of the machine:
While I'm quilting, I can't really let my thoughts drift because I have to concentrate on the pattern I'm doing. But I couldn't help seeing the price tag of the machine I was using (about $18K) and later I started to think about how many rental hours it would take me to cover the cost of the machine. A lot! And in the meantime, the store can store the machine and take care of maintenance for me. :) I think it's a pretty sweet deal.

And now I've had a few days to think about the binding and I think I have settled on a plan after not having enough fabric to do what I first wanted. The challenge is to have it done before I go home for Easter so my sister and I can do a big "reveal" to each other!!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Vogue Challenge Restores Knitting Mojo

Do you know I started knitting again? Like really knitting. Not just working on a pair of socks just because they're there. (The knitting's done on those, by the way. I haven't done any more on them. Like finishing. Or the embroidery I thought about doing.)

But I was reading around on my Ravelry boards and noticed that there was a new active thread on the Vogue Knitting group. Someone had the bright idea to celebrate the magazine's 35th anniversary with a knitting challenge. Could you knit two, three or even four projects from the "anniversary years" of 2017, 2007, 1997 and 1987?

The thread was a few weeks old by the time I got into it and reading about everyone else's projects got me more and more interested. And then I couldn't take it any more. So I jumped in.

For one thing, I had just received the 2017 late winter issue and there were a pair of knee high (ok, thigh high) socks that fit exactly what I had been wanting to knit for Squam. So I ordered the yarn--the very yarn the pattern called for, which never happens--and started swatching right away.
And that's as far as I got because I got a little distracted by the magazines I ordered from ebay from 1997 and 1987. And then I immediately started on a cotton sleeveless dress done in irresistible stripes. Oh here, I have a picture:
Isn't it great!

Even though I'm not crazy about knitting with cotton, I knew that's what this dress needed. And I started pulling out the cotton I had from raveled sweaters...like this red one:
 and this purple one
  and this blue one
  and this green one
  and this mustard one
  and this pink one
and, oh my!,
how did a person who doesn't like working with cotton get so much cotton yarn!! ?

Since all of them were already disassembled, raveled, and balled, all I had to do was pick and choose. And I chose all of them of course. Unfortunately the green is very limited because I've used it for a few projects already. If I had more of it, I would have dropped the red.

I did a swatch.
(close enough)

I did some figuring on how to make all these different yarns work together.
Some will be used as is, some will be doubled and the green will have to be tripled. This will get them all at 10-12 strands which will be close enough.

I auditioned some colour arrangements:
 Ok, I tried one and stopped there. (That middle colour really is more purple than blue.)

And I started knitting:
Quickly I had the first stripe sequence done and by now I am already up to the bust. (Did you notice that after auditioning a stripe sequence, I went and made a mistake in following it on the very first sequence!? That's alright, things are not going to be so predictable in this one anyway.)

And I did much much measuring and calculating to make sure the dress would fit me, not the "standard body type" (or average least-bad size) that patterns are made for. I measured the key points (waist, hip, bust, etc) and figured how many stitches I should have at those points, and then measured how far I have between those mile markers (vertically) to make the stitch adjustments, which told me how quickly to increase or decrease.

I even decided to go so far as to make the back wider on the bottom half (because, you know, it is) and to make the top wider on the top half (because, you know, it is) instead of splitting the difference and using the same numbers for the back and front. Will it make a difference? I don't know but I may as well find out.

And let me tell you, if you're having trouble getting going on a project and keeping momentum going, knitting stripes is the way to go! (It's the crack cocaine of knitting, except, you know, legal.)
Here's the back to about the bust line. (It is a lot wider than that, but stockinette stitch really curls in on itself.) I put the stitches on a string to hold them while I started working on the front. I'll make sure the front waist/bust shaping works ok and then that will confirm how much further to go on the back before the armhole decreases.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Cardinal Nine Patch: Finished!

Spotted "in the wild." As soon as I had the last stitch
in the binding, this quilt was on the bed!
You know my nine patch quilt is done, since I've already told you so all that's left to do is to sum up and show lots of pictures!

Troy was willing and available to help me hang the quilt. Thank goodness, because there was no way I could manage this big thing on my own. My porch came with nails along the inside edge (presumably from the last person's lights or decorations) and at some point I realized they would be perfect for hanging a quilt. I use binder clips to hold the quilt. They're strong enough, but just barely. All this is to say that you can't just start at one end and clip, clip, clip. You have to hold up the weight of the quilt until you get enough clips on, etc. So all this is to say, thank you, Troy, for helping.

Of course, once I got him involved, he couldn't leave the quilt alone!
Obviously it needed a good inspection. :)

Here's a view of the quilting from the front:
and the back:
I was disappointed with how the colours look in the photographs. In real life this quadrant, for example, just glows with oranges and yellows.
In the picture, you can barely tell that there are oranges and yellows there. It's also hard to see the progression of colours and their organization into an orange quadrant, green quadrant, blue quadrant and purple/pink quadrant.

But you can see the general pattern of darker blocks in the centre and lighter blocks on the outside...until you get to the last row on the right and left. That's where, after hours of placing each block just so, my sister and I threw on two more rows when I realized I had extra blocks and decided to make the quilt a rectangle!

Let's look again at the binding that I put on the quilt:
A pieced checkerboard to finish the edge without boxing in the design.

On the back, the pieced border is attached to a strip of fabric to reduce bulk and make sewing easier:
Here is a shot of the entire back:
Calculations showed that I would need nine yards (yes the whole nine yards) of fabric to cover the back and I couldn't imagine buying that much more to finish this quilt. So I pieced together some leftover blocks and some extra of the red fabrics I had collected. I thought a nine patch would be the way to go with this quilt. :)

When I ran out of pieces big enough to do a section, I used smaller pieces of mostly similar reds to make nine patches for the remaining two corners. I wanted reds close enough that they would essentially read as the same colour, but with enough contrast that you could still see the nine patch. Because, you know, more nine patches.

Here is a final view of the entire quilt.
Since Troy was helping out, I could get a picture of myself with the quilt. :)

Project Stats and Facts:

  • There are 255 nine patches on the front of the quilt.
  • That means there are 2,295 2" squares, plus another 96 used for the binding.
  • I spent 10 hours at the long arm store doing the quilting.
  • The project was started in July, 2016 and finished in March, 2017. (Pretty quick for me.) I started it thinking it would be a slow project over many years. Then I got obsessed...
  • Most of the blocks are hand sewn, although any with batik fabrics were done by machine.
  • I worked on the quilt in two countries, at least six houses, my car, two churches and a library.
  • A lot of the squares are from true scraps and leftovers, but I also purchased some 2.5" "charm packs" that appealed to me. Most of the reds were cut from my ever-added-to-and-never-used red fabrics.
  • Originally referred to by the practical moniker "Red Nine Patch" because there is red fabric in every block, I changed the name to "Cardinal Nine Patch" because an early plan was that the nine patch blocks were going to be the "back drop" for a beautiful batik fabric I bought--deep red with a black cardinal design. As I worked, the nine patches took over and now I'll have to think of another project for the cardinals!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Nine Patched: Trimmed and Bound

Last time I wrote about my Cardinal Nine Patch, it was quilted and waiting to be trimmed. I was looking for a place to do it because you really do need to layout the whole quilt. Right now I have no space in my house where I could do that.

I debated bringing it to my church which has rooms I could use, but it's too far away to just run there for an evening if I don't have to.

And then I thought about my local library, which seems to do a lot more than lend books. (I've noticed they have a lot of local groups that meet there regularly and it was there I participated in a free exercise program. It was the one that convinced me I am never going to do an exercise class again. I truly hate it.)

Back to the quilt...I called them up and explained that I was hoping to use a large room to do this one step on my quilt. She checked the calendar and told me they had a room free for me to use. Hot dog. So that night, I packed up the quilt (I had to use my largest rolling suitcase), my cutting mat and cutter and whatever else I thought I needed. What I did not bring was my camera so these pictures from my phone may not display very well.

The room did give me space to layout the quilt when I moved a few chairs out of the way:
I measured it in three places in both directions to see if it was mostly even. I think neither side was more than a half inch difference. Over 90-100", I thought that was ok. (The diagonal measurements checking for square were further off, but there's less I could do about that.)

Once I decided where to cut, I then crawled along on the floor with my cutting mat, ruler, and cutter trying to cut a straight edge on all four sides that was square with all the other sides.
In theory, I should be able to follow the edge of the quilt but real life is not that simple. Some places stretch out, some are pulled in, and so it goes. If you have a solid border of any width, you can even it out pretty easily. But I didn't want to cut into my squares very much because the difference in size would have been very obvious. (And for the hand sewn squares, it would have made the seams become unstitched!)  I made compromises and did the best I could.

Then it was time to think about the binding. I told you I had a great innovative idea and now I would see if it would work.

First I took extra 2.5" squares that I had from the quilt and pieced them into long rows, alternating lights and darks.
I also cut long strips of a solid fabric, wide enough to give me a final binding of 2.5"

I cut the long strip of squares in half and then sewed them to a strip of solid fabrci:
Here is a shot of the back after I stitched the seam:
The seams were pressed to the side so they would nest with the seams on the quilt.

After pressing the long seam toward the solid fabric, I had some 2.5" binding ready to go...
The great advantage of sewing a solid piece of fabric to the squares is that I wouldn't be sewing through the multiple layers of the seams when I sewed the binding to the back. The solid piece was wider than the squares and would carry past the fold. Oh, and it meant I didn't have to sew as many squares together!

Now that the binding was ready, I needed more space again. I would be sewing along all four sides of the quilt and there was no way I was going to be able to handle that in the space I have. Fortunately, a couple events came up so I was busy in town for the morning and evening of the same day, but had all afternoon to kill.

I brought everything I needed to the church and set myself up with four long tables. Yes, it took that many to be able to move this quilt around without it wanting to pull itself to the floor.

Then I started on the work, first pinning the binding to the quilt, one strip for each side. I was so eager to try out the binding and see if all my squares would line up, I forgot to fold the binding in half!
Fortunately I noticed before I sewed the seam. In the above picture, the solid fabric was folded up so the raw edge met the top edge, yielding a double binding strip. Then I could sew it.

Since I wanted all the checkerboard squares to line up, I didn't think I could do a continuous binding. I just didn't think I could figure out the exact length I would need to turn the corner and match the next intersection.

So I sewed a separate strip to each side and then did something I've never done before--sewed a mitered corner. I sewed a "V" shaped seam on the wrong side so that when I turned the corner right side out, I had a nice sewn mitered seam:
(I may or may not have used the hashtag "micdrop" when I posted this on Instagram. I was excited...)

Although it's pretty slick and I get the impression that it's what the judges want in juried shows, I'll stick to my folded continuous binding method. Since I have to trim the seam so close to the stitching line to reduce bulk, I think this method is actually less durable that the unsewn corner.

I managed to finish sewing all of the binding and corners in the time that I had that afternoon. When I left, all I had to do was sew the binding down on the backside. It was a long process, so it made it to a couple IG posts:
When I just started and had 382 more inches to go.

Nearing the end and on the home stretch...

But finally, last night, at well past my bedtime, it was done!!

I couldn't imagine a better binding for this quilt:
I love it.

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