Friday, March 30, 2018

May I Introduce Lucy Boston?

I don't actually know Lucy Boston (1892-1990) or much about her, but I can tell you what I learned from Wikipedia. She was an author who also happened to have made 22 "patchworks" in her life. She never wrote about them or made much of them, but they became known when a close friend arranged an exhibition in 1976. In 1985, her daughter-in-law published a book The Patchworks of Lucy Boston which is more stories and letters from her life with pictures of the quilts and less a quilt pattern book.

And much more recently, her quilts have become a craze. Or at least, I started to see them everywhere. And I couldn't stop looking -- especially at one design called Patchwork of the Crosses (POC or PotC for short).

It's usually done with the English paper piecing technique, which I have never done before. It's very fiddly and has many steps as you wrap each piece of fabric around a piece of stiff paper (gluing or sewing in place), then sew together adjoining pieces by hand. Finally, you have to remove all those papers. Who wants all that?

Apparently me because I let myself try it out and now I am completely obsessed. Here's an overview of the blocks I have finished since January:

A quick overview of how you put them together. I purchased acrylic templates in the shapes needed for the quilt. (The top set in the photo.)
Picture from the DIY Addict website, where I bought my supplies.
When you put the clear template on the fabric, you put the part you want to see inside the outline on the template, and you cut along the edges.

Then you take the papers (which I also purchased although some people make their own), and wrap the fabric around it.

Some people sew baste it the fabric around the paper, but I'm using a glue stick. (There's a special "glue pen" they sell for this that works better than a regular school glue stick. But the later works if that's what you've got.)

The basic pattern of how the pieces fit together is shown below; you just have to chose which fabrics goes in which place.
Picture from the DIY Addict website.
The shape is called a "honeycomb" to differentiate it
from a regular symmetrical hexagon.
The "blocks" go together something like this:
Picture from the DIY Addict website.
If you look at the two blocks in the sample quilt above, you can maybe see why it's called Patchwork of the Crosses. One block makes a cross with vertical and horizontal bars and the other makes a diagonal cross. It all depends on how you place the fabric.

The first thing I did was comb all of my fabric for ones that I thought would work. You want ones with repeating patterns (so you can put the same thing on four or eight honeycombs) and usually designs which are symmetric or where you can get mirror images.

The second thing I did was buy more fabric when I was visiting the in-laws in Missouri in February. I visited a few of my MIL's local quilt shops and then I also took a road trip to Missouri Star Quilt Company.

It was hard to know what would work since I had no experience, but I brought my template with me and was able to at least judge the scale of the design.

At one store, the owner did ask in her most polite but highly dubious voice if I was really going to put all those fabrics in one quilt. Yes, lady, I am. Watch and learn.

But I made my first block from stash fabrics, like this feather design:
I picked out some other fabrics to go with it and got started.

The first thing to do was figure out how to sew the honeycombs together. The easiest is a simple whip stitch from the back side. This often shows a little on the front but I had watched tutorials (dipping my toe in, so to speak, before I allowed myself to jump in) on how to angle the needle while sewing to avoid it.

It didn't work. For me, at least.

So I switched to a ladder stitch and that has been working much better for me. I took this picture to show the comparison with the whip stitch sewing the pieces of tree fabric together and the ladder stitch attaching the orange fabric.
But I think it mostly just shows how obsessed I can get with tiny details because I know you can't really see any difference. (Those white lines on the little bit of green tree are not stitches--that's part of the design.)

I think you can see the stitches a little more in the center of the following picture, but I mostly put it here to show how much I had to learn about matching up the patterns. The tree trunk was supposed to hit at the centre on all four pieces and it does on only one.
Oh well, from further back it doesn't matter as much. I'm not redoing it for sure, but I'm more careful now for sure.

This is a shot of the back of a completed block:
Once I have the block together, I take out the papers from the centre pieces. I need the ones on the outside for sewing on the sashing pieces. Removing the centre pieces relieves stress and pull on the fabric and stitches, and I don't want to leave the fabric glued to the paper any longer than necessary to make it as easy as possible to remove. This also saves me from removing all the papers in the whole quilt all at once, which would be quite a TV marathon.

I thought this process would involve deciding what pieces to cut out and then putting them together, but there has been a lot more experimenting than I expected. In many cases, I cut pieces out that I think may work and then play with them to see how I like them together or if I want them together.

Here are a few collages of different options I've played around with:
I don't think I ended up going with any of the above options.
This is the layout I have settled on:
but it's not sewn yet because I'm not convinced yet.
I thought the block on the left above was final, but when I saw it in a photo, I didn't like the pink in the outer corners. So I tried something else, and I like it a lot more. This one is more like the ones I admire online where it's hard to even pick out the different fabrics. (This is actually very traditional in the layout as the centre cross is one fabric, the four pieces diagonal from the centre cross are another fabric and the outer ring is made up of one fabric in the outer corners and a different fabric between them. What part of the fabric you chose to cut makes all the difference!)
I ended up with this design:

I played a lot with the owl pieces, and ended up here:
I haven't seen any other blocks like this. I wonder how many other animals I could make. A raccoon seems particularly suited with the markings around its eyes, but I don't know if that will happen.

Here are larger pictures of the blocks I have sewn together sew far.

The first few are more traditional in that they have a centre cross with matching pairs at the ends.

The next few are only a little different in that either the centre pieces or outside pieces are all the same fabric:

The next one is fairly traditional except that I carefully cut one piece of fabric to gradate from yellow to reddish orange.
The next one also doesn't stray too far:
The outer pieces and centre cross are all from the same fabric, but I had to cut three distinct sections. The outer corners have the strong diagonal blue line. The ones between them are cut to match the pattern at the seam and have a strong blue line where they meet. And the centre cross pieces were cut to make an interesting design in the middle and to have a blue curved line to meet with the line from the outside pieces.

And all of them could have been moved. The centre four pieces flipped so the blue curves met in the middle. The outer corners switched so that the blue lines made arches instead of Vs. Can you see how this gets complicated? (Can you see why I get obsessed?)

Finally, we have some more unusual designs where I have played with the form and not kept to the "cross" framework.

First, an X shape where I played with gradients again with careful cutting from one piece of green and yellow fabric:
Here is a turned X shape where I attempted a gradient by using different fabrics:
And finally, a spiral:
This would be fun with gradients too!

I am having so much fun putting together these blocks. So many possibilities!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Runway; Fun Day

I've had some excitement around here and it felt like it happened so fast I didn't have a chance to write about it. And then afterward I thought I'd better wait for the pictures because I remember the first rule of blogging: No pictures means it didn't happen.

Well, the week before the Vogue Knitting Live event in Chicago, I actually read through one of their marketing emails and saw that it was not too late to apply for the Readers on the Runway event. "What's that?" you ask? Well, it's a runway show of Vogue Knitting readers wearing garments or accessories that they have knit from Vogue Knitting patterns. Simple enough, right?

I wasn't planning to go to the event, but Chicago's just a hop, skip and a jump, really, so I applied on a whim. I submitted three articles I had made from the magazine's patterns and thought they might take two. Well, they responded that they would like me to bring all three and did I have any more? So I submitted one more item and they accepted that too. So I was set to walk the runway with no less than four of my knitted garments. Super exciting!

Yes, she's wearing my My Sister's Shawl
and she's keeping it too. :)
I notified my sister to see if she would like to go along and she jumped at it. She lives between me and Chicago so I made a weekend of it by staying at her place the night before.

We took the SouthShore Line train in leaving plenty of time to catch lunch in the city and explore the art installations we passed before we went to the show.

There are a lot of legs walking around Grant Park.
And some extra doors too.
Don't ask me what why we are looking over there.
When we got to the show (at the Hilton on Michigan Avenue), we had to hang out with Krysten Ritter who was featured on the latest cover:
In case you have to ask, she plays the badass super hero Jessica Jones (among other roles). And yes, she knits (and designs).

We also hung out with some bears Nicky Epstein made with all the sample swatches she had made and kept over the years!
We got our measurements taken by the author/designer Deborah Newton (herself), which is one thing I had on my must-do list. It's a little hard to measure yourself. :)

Then we just had time to catch the Vogue fashion show with 20 or so garments from the two most recent issues.
These were the samples from the designers that were actually photographed for the magazine.
And oh look! here's Krysten Ritter again and the model has on the very sweater Krysten wore on the cover:
We then had a chance to wander the marketplace. The only yarn I bought was a cowl kit from Handspun Hope. I had read about the project and was happy to support their mission to provide work opportunities and fair wages for women in Rwanda.
The yarn is either kept in its natural colour or dyed with local ingredients. One of the skeins I chose was dyed with avocado pit. Who knew 1. That avocados grew in Rwanda and 2. that you could dye with them? The result is a pinkish tan that I'll show you some other time.

As at any knitting event, it is normal to openly (and loudly) admire what people are wearing, ask them what pattern it is from, and what yarn they used. I got pictures of a couple that I really liked. Here's a cardigan done in mosaic knitting.
And this crocheted sweater caught my eye but I didn't have a chance to get a picture until I accosted her in the bathroom. (Awkward!)
I love how each of them used colour in their pieces.

Then it was time to get ready for the main event. (My main event, anyway!) And what was I going to be wearing? This:
of course. Ok, honestly, no I am not going to be wearing them all at the same time.

All of us models reported to the backstage area and were given a walking order. I was going to have to be quick about my changes to be ready for my next turn. But from what little I've seen of a real runway show (on TV), it looks like that's true of the pros as well.

We were given a brief explanation and backstage demonstration of how to walk and then, with Trish Malcolm, the editor of Vogue Knitting magazine announcing, we were off!

1. The show started with my lace coat:
Photo: Vogue Knitting magazine
After I had finished my walk and exited the stage, I heard my name and I was called back. The designer, Brooke Nico, happened to be on the show floor and heard it being announced. She ran to the stage because she wanted to see it. So I came back out to show her and gave her a namaste bow for her beautiful design.
Brooke was a very lively woman and this interruption seemed to loosen up the crowd. I noticed they were a lot more responsive after that than they were even during the "real" runway show earlier.

2. The Top-Down Crew Neck Cardi from the Holiday 2016 edition:
Photo: Vogue Knitting magazine
3. Cabled Shawl from Late Winter 2017.
Photo: Vogue Knitting magazine
This woman flew up for Tampa just for this show. (She flew from warm and sunny Florida to Chicago in early March, people - that's dedication.)

4. The ZigZag Skirt from the Winter 2011/12 issue.
Photo: Vogue Knitting magazine
Lest you have any doubts, this was a real walk/pose to the right/turn/pose to the left/walk to the end/pose for the Vogue photographer/turn/and walk out runway walk.
As we were walking, Trish Malcolm announced our names, the pattern, magazine issue, yarns used, etc.

5. Long-sleeved dress with cable details:
Photo: Vogue Knitting magazine
This was a late entry, so I don't have the information and couldn't find the pattern in Ravelry. (I was too busy changing back stage to be able to hear what was being announced.) I believe she added some mods because they were talking about her adding the ribbing at the waist to achieve the shaping.

6. The Sleeveless V-neck Dress from the Spring/Summer 1997 issue:
Photo: Vogue Knitting magazine
There were several entries that I did not get a picture of, but the final item was my Over Knee Socks from the Late Winter 2017 issue:
Photo: Vogue Knitting magazine
Then it was a dash from the stage exit to the stage entrance to join the final walk:
Photo: Vogue Knitting magazine
The white sweater and the blue or mauve wrap behind it are two of the items that I didn't get an individual picture of.
Photo: Vogue Knitting magazine
Then we waited back stage for the announcement of the winners. Oh yes, there are winners! I'll let you watch:
That was the designer, Brooke Nico, running up to give me a high five after the announcement:
Here is the group of all the reader runway models with Trish Malcolm (to my left):
Photo: Vogue Knitting magazine
And I got to meet the designer again and get a picture with her:
Photo: Vogue Knitting magazine
The day was a resounding triumph. Especially as we did have enough time to catch the 6:30 train and didn't have to wait for the next one at 9:15! Phew.
Now I get to decide which Vogue Knitting Live event I'd like to go to next to use my prize. San Francisco's in September; Minneapolis in November; and New York in January. Hmmmm....

And I had better start thinking about what to knit for the Reader Runway at the next one; I've used up all my "back stock"!

May I suggest?

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