Monday, December 4, 2017

Gift Card Holder

My church organizes an "Angel Tree" each year where tags are hung describing items needed by local families that could use some help. You pick a tag (or two), buy the item, wrap it, and return it with the tag.

I usually grab the gift cards because they're easy and it seems other people don't like to buy them. I assume they don't think they're any fun. They might not be much "fun" to receive either - there's not a lot of excitement you can get out of what gift card design was chosen.

I've been obsessively watching a new podcast - the Stitch TV Show - and one of the hosts mentioned making little quilted gift card holders. Maybe that would be fun - for me to make and the recipient to open.

So I googled tutorials or patterns and used this one on So Sew Easy. But instead of using one plain piece of fabric, I used some of the "slab blocks" I had put together previously. They were mostly square and I needed a long rectangle, so I just cut them up and pieced them together again to get the right shape:
Then, following the tutorial, you do a little folding, sew around the outside, turn it inside right and you have a little gift card holder:
Front - with pocket.

The many seams made it harder to turn inside right so the corners are not too square, and I think I should have made it about an inch longer so the flap would be longer. But it's a fun little piece anyway.
Tie it with a ribbon and it's all set to make someone merry.

Linking up with Oh Scrap! from Cynthia at Quilting is More Fun than Housework.

Sunday, November 12, 2017


I don't know if you've noticed, but the Christmas music and commercials offering all of the things you should buy are already out. One even had the nerve to start with carolers singing Jingle Bells and the protagonist saying "'s only November" and then being convinced it is indeed time to start buying buying buying. I did not fall for that one.

But it is true that people who hand make gifts or like to make their own decorations do have to think about these things early. I don't mind if the fabric store has Christmas fabric in July. There's a good reason for that. And for whatever reason, my mind turned to Christmas about a month ago when I came across this image:
I only ever found this image. I couldn't find the source, who made it, whether it was a pattern or an item for sale. But for whatever reason, when I saw the picture, I really wanted to make this star pattern into a Christmas table topper. (Who can predict when inspiration and motivation will strike at the same time? If you could bottle that, "5 hour energy boost" would go out of business and you would be a millionaire.)

It's not surprising I was attracted to a star made from a sixteen-patch and half square triangles. It seems to be what everything I'm doing right now is made of. And it's scrappy. Need I say more?

One problem was that I had absolutely no Christmas fabric scraps. I don't mind using some non-seasonal fabrics if the colours are right, but none? That doesn't seem right. So I called my sister and asked her to bring what she had and was willing to give me. She saved my butt.

We had fun looking through all the fabrics. I had no problem adding some more reds, and then we went shopping where I picked up a few more fat quarters that I thought would work. (Ok, like 10.) We did a general sort of layout where I decided I could group the flowers/stars by colour instead of doing it completely scrappy.

I also decided that there was no need to do HST for the flying geese border. I cut 2.5x4.5 rectangles instead and sewed them together like you would sew a flying geese unit. It saved a lot of seams and made for a smoother look.

I decided I couldn't do this quilt table topper unless I laid it all out and planned where everything would go. With the restriction of the colour placement I wanted and with a piece this small, you can't sew pieces together and arrange them afterward.
In the picture above you can see the three stages of the stars. The blue is laid out but nothing is sewn. I kind of simulated the triangles that would be sewn. The red has the HSTs sewn but none of the squares are sewn together. And the green has all of the star sewn together. (Isn't it amazing how much difference in the size sewing the seams makes, even with only a 1/4" seam?)

In the border above, the rectangles are folded in half so I could see the colour progression. They look like squares but they're not. :)

Once I had the center together, I couldn't stop and put the border together as well.
It's not sewn to the center yet in this picture. I had to put that off for another day.

Here's a close up of each star:
One of the fabrics my sister brought had very fancy gold trimmed poinsettias. I didn't think they would fit in the design (and hated to cut them up), and then I had the brilliant idea to use them for the center of the stars. I love the effect.

You can see the background is made of a lot of scrappy neutrals. This is something I am learning and having fun experimenting with. I did try to group neutrals with green or red or blue in the area around the corresponding star.
After I had the border sewn on, I layered it with a piece of red damask and pin basted it. I decided not to use any kind of batting. I wanted a very flat table topper.
I've started to quilt it and so far I am pleased with how it's going. There is a ways to go, but I am confident I can get it done by Christmas season.

Linking up with Oh Scrap! on Quilting is more fun than Housework.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Kaffe Fassett Quilt Finished (Strangely Mirroring my Tenure)

I'm going to do things a little different and do the big reveal first.
Here it is! My most recently finished quilt!

The quilt is 11x11 blocks that were 7" before quilting and washing. So I'd say the final quilt is about 72" square. Batting is cotton because that's what I used at the time I started it.

It was started in 2010, inspired simply by the fabrics I found:

I believe it was the first time I had seen Kaffe Fassett fabrics in real life. I think I dreamed up the (simple) idea for this quilt while perusing the one shelf of Fassett prints.

I remember piecing it in the mornings before work. I had just changed jobs and suddenly not only had a 30-40 minute shorter commute, I also started an hour later! That was a lot of time in the morning I wasn't used to having. (Of course, by now I am sleeping as late as I can and have no time in the morning. Also, I recently told them I would be leaving after this season is finished. It can only be a coincidence, right? I'm sure it has nothing to do with this quilt being done.)
I laid out the squares on my "design wall" which was a flannel sheet hanging in front of the window in our dining room. While we were still finishing the drywall, apparently.

With this simple design (and all that time in the morning) it didn't take long to have the top together.
If you look closely, you'll see that not all the seams are sewn. I pieced the top in three strips so that I could try quilting in sections for the first time. I think I had just been to a talk by Marti Michell, who wrote the great book Machine Quilting in Sections (which I promptly purchased).
Here is the center section being layered on the counter. That's when we had our kitchen space laid out in the dining room. (Proof that although we make slow progress on the house, we do make progress. The kitchen is in the kitchen again and has been for a while.)

I took choosing a quilting design very seriously. It didn't take long to decide to sew big circles around the red squares, but what to do between them? Here's a practice mock-up square I did:
Don't worry -- it's a square lying on top of the quilt. I didn't practice on the actual quilt! (I eventually turned it into a pot holder for my sister's orange and yellow kitchen.)

After seeing it on the fabric, I loved the look of the design and texture created by the heavy quilting, but didn't like how the design looked on the fabric. They competed with each other instead of complementing each other. I ended up simplifying the quilting and let the design on the fabric determine the quilting. I also used matching thread instead of contrasting. Enough of the texture, none of the distraction.

Four of the practice squares got turned into this pillow:
Since then, it was damaged by a mouse digging into the centre looking for bedding (or food or who knows what). Now that the quilt's done, I may have to dig it out and see if it can be repaired or patched. But the pillow confirmed my decision to use a dark intense blue for the binding. I love how it looks as a border flange on the pillow.

Then it was time to start quilting the quilt.
I have pictures from 2010 and 2011 but then they stop. I don't think I have worked on this quilt at all since then.

It has lived on my UFO list on the Ravelry quilting group since I joined in Spring 2013. For whatever reason, this quarter it rose to the top and was the one I got out to work on.

And I did! A couple weeks ago, I had the idea that I could possibly get it done by the time of my sister's visit at the end of October. The quilt had nothing to do with her, but I thought it would be a fun surprise to have it finished without telling her. She's also a quilter so I knew she would share the pleasure of a finished quilt and enjoy the honour of being the first to sleep under it!

One by one, I pulled out the strips and finished the quilting. They weren't as far along as I thought, but I got them done:
I laid it out to make sure I had the diagonally stripes lined up correctly and then put in safety pins to make sure I got the right corners together while sewing.
I used a code to match corners. Either one safety pin or two
and either line up horizontally or vertically.
Then it was time to put the pieces together -- something I had never done before. I pulled out Marti's book and reread the various options. (I think she lays out six.) None of them really matched what I had, so I made up my own variation. Actually two.

For the first seam, I cut away the binding as close as I could from the stitching. Ideally, it would be 1/4 inch in from the cut edge. Then I trimmed the back and front on one side to the finished edge. (That is, 1/4 inch longer than the seam.) On the other side, I trimmed the front, but not the back. I left the backing fabric oversized.
Then I pinned the two sides together with the fronts facing each other and sewed a 1/4 inch seam, holding the oversized backing fabric out of the way.
Here's the back of the quilt showing the sewn seam:
I ironed the seam open as best I could. I had quilted to the edge so in some places I had to undo the quilting stitches a bit and in others, I just couldn't quite open the seam. I trimmed the backing fabric to about an inch. (I didn't measure.)
Next, I folded the raw edge of the backing fabric so it met the seam line:
Then I folded the backing fabric over the seam so it was flat, with the raw edge folded under:
Pin it and place and then sew it down the same way you would sew a binding:
For the second seam, I tried a little different method because I didn't want to have to pick out some of the quilting stitches. I cut a long strip of fabric (it was one of the pieces I trimmed off the quilt edge). I put the two sides of the quilt together with right sides together and then laid the long strip on the back of one side of the quilt with the "right" side down. I then stitched a 1/4 inch seam through all the layers:
 And then, apparently I stopped taking pictures. Hmmm.

Well, once the seam was sewn, I pressed it to one side (away from the facing strip). I folded under the raw edge and brought the facing strip over the seam allowance. Then I pinned it (as above) and sewed it.

Here are the final results:
Method 1
Method 2
Method 1 is a little less noticeable, both on the back where there is only one seam and on the front where the seam is flatter. But you have to leave a margin at the edge where there is no quilting.

Method 2 has two seams to see on the back (both sides of the facing strip) and is bulkier because all of the seam allowance is pressed to one side. But you can quilt however and wherever you want.

Neither one is at all noticeable on the front of the quilt if you don't get close and already know what you're looking for. Using all the same fabric on the back may make it less noticeable, but I suspect the seams between two matching fabrics may catch someone's attention more than seams between different fabrics.
I think this just looks like all of the pieced backs that are so popular right now. And really, why am I even concerned about someone seeing that I quilted in sections? It's not like there's something wrong with doing it that way!

Now that the quilt was in one piece, I was ready for the final step...binding. Thankfully I store everything for a project in one box so I didn't have to hunt for the fabric. I cut bias strips 3.25" wide and stitched them together end to end.
I fold the bias strips in half and stitch it to the front. I had trimmed the front to 3/8" from the sewing line (1/8" past the edge of the top) so that I could have a nice wide binding.

I picked up the method of sewing the mitered corners somewhere online. I stitch to the corner and then turn 1/4" from the end (or however wide your seam is--3/8" in my case) and stitch toward the corner to make the 45 degree angle. Then I break the thread and fold the bias strip to make the corner and start stitching the next side. This works much better than trying to do it all in one pass.

But only recently did I think to apply this to the hand stitching on the back. And I took a few pictures.

Here the binding on the right side has been sewn down on the back of the quilt. I stop stitching at the top and make a few small stitches in the same spot, but don't break the thread.
Then I fold the binding down on the next side, forming the miter and making sure the folded edges meet right at the corner.
I then push the needle to the front and sew the miter angle closed from the inside edge to the outer corner.
Once at the corner, I push the needle to the backside and sew the miter angle closed from the outer corner to the inside edge. I take a second stabilizing stitch in the same spot and then continue sewing along the new side.
I'm really happy with the result. (I've said it before...I used to really pooh pooh sewing down the miter corner. I mean, it's not like the fabric is going to come out. But it really does look better. Really.)

Here it is on the quilt:
I think the blue is an unexpected choice, but I really like it.

Here are a couple shots of the quilting on the final quilt, front
and back.
So that's one quilt done for this quarter's UFO club on Ravelry. That means I have earned a fat quarter (of fabric) from the other participants. It's also one less project in my craft closet. Of course, the box the supplies were in is already holding stuff for the next project I started. The way it goes....

Monday, October 23, 2017

Sleeves + Seams = Sweater and Shipped

It is finally finished! It only took two years....

Well, sometimes that is what it takes. The main hold up for this one was that the colours I had weren't right for any kind of striping but there wasn't enough of any one colour to use. I decided I could dye two of the colours, but that didn't get done for a long (long) time.

I did finally get to it earlier this year and was able to continue the sweater. Fortunately the notes I made in the printed pattern, which was more like a recipe than a pattern, gave me enough information to carry on.

Last time you saw this sweater, the front and back were done and the collar was knitted on. Everything was ready for the sleeves.

Yes, the sleeves.

The first problem was to address the amount of yarn I had in each colour. I first attempted to knit them in the same stripe pattern as the body, but I didn't have enough of a couple of the colours. I worked on both sleeves at once so I could know right away if I had enough. When I realized I didn't, I had to rip out both of them and decided on a different striping pattern you'll see in a minute.

Then I had decisions to make about the shaping. The pattern called for sleeves with flat tops - no armhole or shoulder shaping at all. This works, but it's not a very nice fit. With wool this thick, it would be especially uncomfortable because of all the unnecessary bulk under the arm.

So I worked on figuring out a shaped sleeve cap that would work. Hmmm, I don't know what I was thinking the first time, but you can see it on the left:
If you can't see how wrong that shape is, let me assure you that it is way wrong. Of course, I had to try sewing it in anyway just to see if it would work. It didn't. So I put it aside and worked on the second sleeve, making a few improvements. You can see it on the right - much better. Once I ripped out the left one and knit it to match, I was able to sew them on to the body.

I decided to use a thinner and stronger wool to sew the seams. As I mentioned before, the yarn it is knit with is a single ply and doesn't hold up very well for seaming. It would also make the seams much too bulky. So I grabbed a leftover ball I had in a sort of "neutral" matching colour and used it instead.

Here is a shot of the mattress stitch before I pull out the slack:
Give a gentle persistent pull, and your seam is all sewn up:
You can't even see the sewing yarn anyway. Here is the seam from the inside:
Still a little bulky. Sometimes people will sew the seam using only half of the selvage stitch instead of the whole stitch. That would cut this bulk in half. I decided not to do it because I didn't think it would work well with the slipped stitch selvage stitches that I do.

Here is a shot of the sleeve seam as well:
And here is the entire sweater:

I don't think you can tell that purple strip had to have surgery:
I adapted the collar of the pattern and I think it worked out well:
I finished the sleeves and hem with a garter band. I prefer it lately to ribbed bands and it matches the garter collar.
Project Stats
: 7 Jul '15
Finished: 17 Sep '17
Pattern: The Steppe Ahead Sweater by Irina Makarow
Materials: Various balls of Lopi, picked up here and there.
Once this was done, I felt it was worth sending a box of woolly goodness to Wool-Aid.
The organization was just recently able to reconnect with a monastery in Gamrau, India. We haven't been able to send to them since 2015. We didn't know why but now know it was because of internet problems and no one who spoke English. Somehow a sponsor in Belgium is now able to act as a go-between and organize things.
There are now 32 young monks, ages 7 to 17 living there (up from 19 a few years ago), plus six elders. Winter weather in Gamrau is severe, and this group has always struggled to stay warm. They have restrictions on what colours they can wear, but my red socks will work perfectly. (And don't worry, the other socks and sweaters will work perfectly well for another group.)

After finishing this sweater, I didn't have a big quantity of any of these colours. I sent them to my sister who's always knitting hats so she could use them up. It will be fun to see what she comes up with.


May I suggest?

I Say! or at least I did once...