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.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

It's Small and Fast and Sneaks up on You

Nope that's not the start of a juvenile joke I know. But it does describe the quilt I made last weekend.

Ya, one weekend, one quilt. Take that, Eleanor Burns.

It all started with the idea that I could use the leftover nine patch blocks from my big nine patch quilt for a baby quilt. (I have a coworker who is expecting.) I played with the blocks on my coffee table and decided I was on to something. Since I found fabric for the alternating solid squares in Missouri, I was all set.

Saturday turned into a free day for sewing, and sew I did. It turns out I didn't have enough nine patches by about half so I had to make 10 more. That was because I realized I couldn't use just any of the nine patches--for a proper design, I needed to use ones that had five dark squares, not four dark squares.
This creates the strong diagonal lines across the quilt. So I fished out some of the 2.5" squares left over from the big quilt and made sets for 10 more blocks. I also cut into some of the scraps I had just purchased in Missouri, like the reds in these two blocks:
And used some of the mini charms I bought, like these darling puppies:
And, after a time, I had this quilt:
It's about 36" square. That size, partly because I like the 6x6 block arrangement better than a 6x5 or 6x7, but also because that's about all you can get on a one-yard piece of fabric for the backing! As it was, I was very close on a couple of the edges. Fortunately with a smaller quilt, it's easier to make sure things are centered and that you haven't lost part of the backing in the layering process.

For the quilting, I kept it simple by following the grid lines suggested by the nine patches:
I marked the lines on the solid squares with a water soluble marker. I generally avoid stitching in the ditch (which is sewing right in the seam line) because it's not as easy as it is simple, but that's what this quilt needed so that's what I did. (Sometimes quilts are so bossy.)

A lot of times this quilt layout (called "Irish chain") is quilted in diagonal lines along the diagonal lines of the red squares and then a special motif is put in the solid squares. But that is not the type of quilting for me (right now). I wanted to fill the space simply and consistently.

Originally I bought the navy airplane fabric to go on the front but it didn't work at all with the nine patches. Fortunately, the light airplanes worked much better. This left the navy for the back.
It's pretty dark for my taste, but it's cute enough to make up for it. But it definitely meant I was not going to bind in the navy because I wanted at least the contrast of a lighter border.

I decided to try machine stitching the binding. Not something I've had the best of luck with in the past. This time I stitched the binding to the back of the quilt and folded it over to the front. I cut the binding 2.25" wide which made sure it was a little longer in the front and the stitching line would be in the field of the backing fabric. In other words, I wouldn't have to try and line it up with the edge of the binding on the back.
So I folded it to the front so I could sew it on the front and see what I was doing on the "good side." The navy thread blended so well into the backing fabric that I felt any wiggly lines wouldn't be noticeable.

In fact, besides one or two spots in the beginning where I did "jump" onto the binding on the back, the stitching all looked pretty good from the back and front. Maybe I'm getting better at this! And it helps that with the quilting lines I did, this extra row of stitching on the edge blended right in and just looked like another quilting line. I think it looks pretty good from the front too. :)

The baby's not due until mid-May, so I am done with plenty of time for this gift! Oh wait. I still have to make and attach the label. I guess I still have a chance at "last minuting" this gift....

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