Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Joy to the World Continues

I finished making all the words for my Joy to the World quilt (back of the Merrily Christmas quilt). I got as far as the first four lines of the verse and thought that was probably enough; I didn't need the last line to make the point and I thought things might be getting too crowded. (And I hear you should always leave them wanting more! :)

To test my theory, I took the Merrily Christmas quilt and laid out the words on the back of it. That way I could see exactly how the words would fit in the space.
I moved them around a bit and liked the result. To record the positions, I took pictures of all the spaces with a ruler laid out. Both word spacing:
 and line spacing:
It's hard to read like this, but zooming in on my camera works just fine. And we're not dealing with very precise measurements. Once I had numbers for the length/height of each word and the spaces, I laid out a plan in Excel.
I already had some 10"x10" squares made so that is why I used blocks of that size across the top and bottom. The other areas were broken into chunks that I could make separately and put together like a puzzle. The four outside strips (including the top which was broken down into 10"x7" pieces on the plan) will be continuous strips of one fabric. (Or one fabric each side.)

I started with the smaller spaces between the words. Then I started to make chunks of "made fabric", attach them to the words, and put them together.
 This is what my work station looked like:
Tiny pieces on the side table (in the lid), strips in the container, and larger chunks to the side of the machine. I enjoy the raised work table for the flat sewing surface, but sometimes I think the best part is that I can keep stuff on the table and it won't encroach on the sewing area. (I also have two levels to hold stuff.)

In a little while, I had this much done:
Felt like a lot when I finished sewing but doesn't look like as much when I see the whole quilt top!

I really wanted a design wall so that I could see how it was coming together, what colours (maybe "shades" would be more accurate?) or accents I may need to add to keep it balanced, etc. But I really couldn't think of any place in the house. When I decided to settle for the spare bed, I realized it should work fine. Right now, anyway, I don't have to lay out the whole quilt, just the centre part, and it fits on the bed just fine.

Part of why I wanted to take a break from sewing is that I was loosing track of what reds I had. When I went though my fabrics, I had sorted out some smaller chunks (smaller than a fat quarter), which I would use in this quilt, and fat quarters/larger chunks, which I would store with the other fat quarters. But when I started sewing, I found three piles! What was the third pile? I'm not sure but it might have been a pile of additional fat quarters that I decided to use in the quilt. Obviously I lost track of what I was doing!

Anyway, skip ahead to where I laid out all the fabrics I had:
Now I know exactly what I have and won't cut into a larger piece when I have a smaller piece of the same fabric. It looks pretty and organized now -- I'm sure it will be a big pile of mess once I get sewing again, but in the mean time I feel like I'm on a little firmer ground to start again.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Organizing my Quilting Fabric: the Fat Quarters

If you know me at all, you know I like organization systems. But, being a maker, I mostly like to DIY my own system instead of buying products. (They seldom are exactly what you need or fit your space anyway.) If you want an example, click here to check out my silverware drawer.

I store my fabric in the paper boxes I could take home from my various office jobs. You can see on the right that some companies got smart and started decorating their boxes with designer patterns. (Seriously, actual designers whose name I recognized.) With the price about as low as it could get at every supplier, a box like this will get your paper chosen over the others. (I'm disappointed I never was able to snag the Star Wars series they had for a while!)

Is anyone else thinking of flour sacks in the '30s? I didn't think it was just me.

I lay the fabric flat in the boxes, folding it as little as possible. This means, every time I want to look for some fabric, I have to take all the fabric out and pick up and move each piece to see what else is there. And it takes some effort to keep it flat and neat.

Well. Recently a few things came together and rocked my (fabric) world.
1. Watching Marie Kondo in January and getting on board with storing things vertically (like file folders in a drawer).
2. a. Realizing a bunch of cardstock I had would work as well as the cards you can purchase to fold fabric around. (Lots of quilters use the pieces of cardboard they sell for comic books.)
2. b. Realizing that I had enough cardstock and would get more quickly enough that it wouldn't be forever until I would have my fabric done.
3. Realizing that fabric folded over cardboard didn't have to be stored on open shelves, which is the only way I had ever seen it.

For a while now I have cut down the front and back of boxes like this,
and saved them. I used a few to wrap my ribbon around for storage, but I really don't have a lot of ribbon. The rest were just sitting nicely on the shelf waiting for a good purpose. They didn't take up much space and if I ever decided they weren't needed, I could throw them all in the recycling bag, easy peasy.

I don't really know why I didn't think of this earlier or maybe it was the thought that I would never have enough to make it worth it, but recently I put two and two together and struck gold.

A fat quarter, folded in half
Before I explain, I'm going to go back to basics and talk about fat quarters (FQs). Quilters talk about fat quarters all the time. For years and years, you could only get fabric "by the yard". It was commonly available in 44" widths (although actual width is usually 42"), and you bought a half yard or full yard (or 5 yards if you really liked it).

Well, sometimes you only need a little fabric, but a 1/4 yard that is 9" wide isn't very useful. So someone thought of selling a "fat quarter", that is a 1/4 yard that is 18x22 instead of 9x44. It's not as good if you need long strips, but mostly you need other shapes that the fat quarters are better for. (FQs are generally pre-cut and packaged for purchase so they also allow a lot of sales without the sales help having to custom cut everything on demand.)

Ok. So. The paper boxes I use are 11" x 17". You can see that a 18x22 piece of fabric doesn't fit very well. Usually I would fold it in half (18x11) but then I still had to fold over an inch or two. It's awkward. Plus there was the going through the whole box thing. Plus the Marie Kondo thing.

Looking at the size of the box, I decided I could fit four rows side by side. Doing the math (17" / 4 = 4.25"), I decided I would cut them 4-1/8" to leave room for the fabric and 8.5" tall. So that is what I cut from my cardstock:
And lately Troy has really been into ice cream treats, so I cut a lot more from other boxes:
I put the cardstock on the folded fat quarter
and I can fold the fabric around it
so that none of the raw edges are visible
and everything is
and tidy.
This makes my heart happy.

I would guess I have about half of my fat quarters done.
Look how great they look! (This makes my heart happy too.)
And now I not only will fit more in the same space, I can flip through them and see what I have.

I haven't worried too much about sorting them until I have them all done. (I had them roughly sorted by colour already so they're pretty organized anyway.)

Some people sort by type (batik, prints, novelty, etc.), but I do it strictly by colour. If anything is intended for a specific project, it's already pulled out and separated in its own project box.

Since quilters seem to be endlessly fascinated by other people's stash and how it's organized, I'll let you know that I have

  • one box of fat quarters. It was getting pretty full but will have more room now. :)
  • one box of "yardage" (larger pieces). Mostly this is fabric I bought because I liked it and it was probably on sale for a good price. The most I would have of one piece is 2-3 yards. I don't buy larger pieces for backs because I do so many pieced backs.
  • one box of red yardage. Seriously, I have almost as much red fabric as all the rest of the colours. (I think I buy more than I use. I don't know why that is. Maybe because it's in a separate box!)
  • and I have another half to three-quarter box with elephant fabric and a few other specialty fabrics. (Probably some chickens in case I need that for a project for my mom.)
  • One of the boxes pictured at the beginning is full of fabric and supplies for my Lucy Boston Patchwork of the Crosses. I keep everything together until a quilt is done done. (Not that I wouldn't sneak in and use some for another project if I wanted it.) This will be a lot of fabric to incorporate back into my general stash when the time comes.
  • Small scraps are kept in another box (in bags by colour). Before my Plaidish Quilt, they were threatening to overflow the box, but they fit now. Scraps cut into strips are in a different (smaller) box.
I haven't decided if I'll carry onto the yardage when the FQs are done. But it shouldn't be hard to fold it over a card twice as wide. I'd just have to cut the cardstock from larger boxes. I guess I have a new size to start collecting...

Friday, September 6, 2019

Not Short on Shortie Socks

Ready for one more pair of shortie socks? It's been a summer full of them!

The very day I cast off the last pair, I cast on a new pair! I found one ball of self-striping yarn in the stash, and got started. I quickly realized that my usual short-row toe was not going to give the best results with the stripes. (If by "quickly" you understand that I knit the toe and then had to take it out.)

So I tried a more common toe that starts at the tip and increases to the full width of the sock. I started with 12 sts (on each needle, 24 total), and quickly increased to 22 (44 total) by increasing one stitch on the right and left of the sole and top every row. Then I increased every other row to 32 (64 total) stitches.

Six days later, I was casting off the first sock. Or almost casting it off. I had started the sock right where the yarn changed from blue to grey and wanted to start the second sock in the same place. Well, I only had five stitches left on the bind off and only had about 2 inches left of blue. Not enough to cast off five stitches and leave an end to start the next sock.
I was stumped for a minute, but then noticed the other end of the ball was dark blue so I used it for the last five stitches. Makes a couple more ends to work in, but I had preserved the colours. Later I noticed that I could have used the tail at the beginning of the sock too. It was longer than normal (and of course blue).
I then cast on the second sock starting at the same grey/blue colour change and hoped it would match the first. This would depend on knitting it the same as the first sock, keeping my tension the same, and the yarn being dyed consistently over six repeats (three for each sock).
And guess what! It worked!
I think I had to make a slight adjustment when I went around the heel to keep the colours the same but it's hardly noticeable.
I made the heel turn a little different, making the short rows from short to long instead of long to short and I didn't like it.
There are little bumps from the short rows and they end up on the bottom of the sole instead of at the edge of the heel. I can't feel it while I'm wearing them but I prefer the look of how I normally do them. Now I know.
I finished with a 1x1 rib. It's a little shorter than I would have done but, as noted, I was constricted by the yarn stripes.
Totally worth it!

I love the muted colours of this stripe. This was a ball of yarn my sister found at a second hand store and passed on to me because she wasn't knitting socks at the time. Then later when she got into socks again, she knit a pair with the same yarn!

These are a little small for me which is a good sign that they will fit the person I'm giving them to. :) At first I was confused about why they were small because I did the usual number of rows before doing the heel, but then realized the new way I did the toe is fewer rows than my usual toe. That would do it!

Project Stats
: 22 July '19
Finished: 5 Aug '19
Pattern: none (improvised); toe-up, gusset, heel flap
Materials: Patons North America Kroy Socks Ragg Shades (in Blue Stripe Ragg), 45 g
Ravelry project page: Grey self striping shortie socks

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Boxy Tee Together

I know I have been doing and showing a lot of quilting lately, but I have picked up a knitting needle now and then.

I finished the knitting of my Boxy Tee and then blocked the pieces so they would be easier to sew together.
I was pretty disappointed to see that the purple bled. It's especially noticeable on the pink and light blue:
It was one of the yarns purchased as yarn and not harvested from a second hand sweater. I didn't even think about it and left the pieces soaking in a pot for a long time. If I had been worried about it, I could have soaked them flat instead of crumpled up, would have removed them quicker and could have used a colour catcher sheet. I'm going to block it again after it's seamed and the trim is on so we'll see if I can remove any of the excess dye. I don't hold too much hope though.

Then the pieces sat for quite a while. 1. I got absorbed into some quilting projects, and 2. I wanted to ponder which side to consider the "right side" and decide how to sew it together.

Here's a comparison--front:
The colours blend better on the "purl" side, but I have a hard time not thinking of it as the "wrong" side (which it usually is). It's hard to enjoy wearing something if your brain is constantly screaming, "It's inside out!" Also, the fabric tends to balloon out in the direction of the purl side which affects how it hangs on the body. With the knit side out, the garment tends to cling (in a good way). With the purl side out, it tends to pouf away from the body. This does not conform to traditional ideas of what "flatters" you, but maybe I shouldn't conform to the idea that skinnier is always better anyway.

In the end, I decided to try a reversible garment. I'll probably only wear it the one way (purl side out) but I'll feel better knowing I could wear it the other way. :)

The pattern has you pick up stitches along the edge of both pieces to be seamed together and then do a three-needle bind off to attach them. I decided this would look a lot like a single crochet seam and went with that instead.
The crochet seam has the added advantage that it looks the same on both sides since the selvage stitches (or seam allowance) are encased in the crochet stitches.

At first I was crocheting through just the selvage stitch (I slip the first stitch, so you get a nice chain up the side) but found that it wasn't overly neat. For one thing, sometimes I wasn't consistent about it, so I'd get odd spots like the one highlighted below:
And in other places, there were large gaps because the selvage stitches were loose. By the end, I was crocheting into the first proper stitch and it was looking better.
(Although in these pictures it is obvious it still needs a good blocking.)
The crochet pick up also gave me a place to hid all the ends.
With all the colour changes, there were a lot! I just pulled them through the crochet loops for about an inch and cut them off. The crochet is quite tight and doesn't stretch much so they are quite secure. I worked in the ends on each seam as I finished it so I didn't get stuck with a mountain of them all at once.

While reading through project notes of this pattern on Ravelry, I noticed another knitter used single crochet for the seams, but she didn't like that the neat "V"s of the stitch sat to the side and weren't visible from the front. In the picture below, I have folded the garment so the Vs face forward (nice and pretty). If you look at the picture of the seam above (the one after the knit/purl comparisons), you can see that when the garment is flat, you see the side of the stitch, not the top.
Although, I would love a nice neat row of Vs showing as well, I am not bothered by this. The  main intent of the pattern is to get a strong contrasting line of stitching on the seam, and you get that. What I don't like as much is the way it looks on the other side. It's more obvious in some places than others, but horizontal bars of red are visible and it doesn't look great.
I am planning to single crochet along those bars so that this side with have a "mock seam" visible and will have the same look as the pattern intended.

Once the seams were sewn, I could work on the armhole, neck, and hem trim. It was an interesting garter hem with a braid detail and then an i-cord bind off. (Talk about finishing a run with a marathon! It's been a lot of knitting to "finish" the garment!)

And as an added bonus, doing a four colour braid results in a big tangled mess of yarn.
For every stitch, you twist the working yarn. It's done in the same direction across the whole row, so you get a lot of built up twist. (Many times, the trim is done over two rows, twisting the opposite way on the second row which straightens out your yarn.) But there was only one row of twisting in this case. The good news was that I could cut three of those colours as soon as it was done and untangle the yarn.

The  multi-colour trim also left me a lot more ends to work in!
I couldn't work these into the crochet stitches if I wanted to keep the garment reversible. I tried to hide a lot of them under the twisted stitches of the braid, but now it looks like the braid isn't tight enough to hold them in place; a lot of them are showing their ends already. I may have to anchor them down better.

For the bottom hem, I could pick up the stitches from the provisional cast on that the front and back pieces were started from. When I was completely done the hem, I realized I had made one mistake:
On the first row, I knit when I should have purled, and it put the "two-colour" row of garter on the stockinette side. I would have rather had it on the reverse side with the rest of the two-colour rows.

Then the stockinette side would have had two neat rows of garter in each colour and the reverse side would have had alternating two-colour and single colour ridges.
Oh well. It's a tiny thing and likely never to be noticed by anyone. It would have made me happy if it was the other way though.

As I put the garment together, I was sure it was going to be much shorter than I wanted it to be. I figured it would just hit my waist band. But when I tried it on, it was fine. Not quite as long as my impression from knitting the back and front pieces (since they're only half the width, they give a very long and skinny impression), but comfortably long.

This was part of the reason I made the hem longer than indicated in the pattern. (I added an extra garter ridge in each colour.) It did help with the length, but I also think it is in better proportion to the whole garment now too. A skinny trim is ok on an armhole or neckband, but I generally prefer something with more "heft" (in visual appearance, if not in weight) for the hem.

All I have left to do is finish working in the ends of the neckband and give it another dunk to block it. I am thinking about stretching it a little more vertically when I dry it this time. I'll measure my current gauge and see how much different it actually turns out.

May I suggest?

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