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 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!!

May I suggest?

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