Sunday, April 7, 2019

Started Piecing Inclusivity

Hi all -

I hope everyone is enjoying spring! I've been enjoying the weather! I did get sick with a stomach flu that wasn't a lot of fun. It cut into my productivity, but I'm all better now and am starting to make progress again.

I started a new quilting project. I have made a queen-sized quilt for each of my nieces and nephews for their college graduations. I'm down to my last niece and she is scheduled to graduate in December, so it's time to get started on her quilt. I've been thinking about her quilt for several years now. She's the activist in the family and is very supportive of the LGBTQ community (I'm so proud of her!) so I wanted to do something that reflected that. I purchased this pattern in Houston in 2018 because I thought it would be perfect:

The pattern is Hexactly by Hunter's Design Studio. I liked the crisp, modern feel of this pattern and thought it would be perfect with the hexagons done in the LGBTQ rainbow colors. So, I pulled out the pattern and started planning. The picture on the front of the pattern is for the twin-sized version of the quilt. The queen-sized version of the quilt looks the same, but has 11 columns of hexagons. I really want just the rainbow colors, so I'll be changing it up a bit. So, I'll be doing 7 columns like the twin-sized quilt (the LGBTQ rainbow actually has 6 colors, but I'm taking some license here because odd numbers look better and I like having some of the columns go up and other columns going down). I'm going to piece each column and set them on top of the background before making any other final decisions, but my initial feeling is that, unlike the picture, I will separate the columns with some background to make the motif wider so it isn't lost in the middle of the bigger quilt. Then I will probably line up the largest hexagons evenly across the quilt, instead of staggering them up and down like the picture, with the other hexagons going up and down as in the picture. Then, with the quilting I'll add ghost hexagons in the column colors so that all of the columns end up having the same number and sizes of hexagons and they just alternate which are pieced and which are quilted. The rest of the quilting will probably some form of vertical straight-line quilting. I'm currently calling this quilt "Inclusivity," although the name could change before I'm finished. I have several months before I have to make that decision!

I did have to order a large quantity of a solid fabric for the background of the quilt so I went to, my favorite online fabric shop that carries every color of the Moda Bella Solids fabric that I love. I have a color card at home with a bunch of fabric samples of this fabric, so I got that out and looked at the grays. I was initially thinking I would use a light to medium gray for the background. But when I was looking at the fabric samples, my eye kept being drawn back to this charcoal sample. It's a beautiful dark gray with a brown undertone. It still is very modern, but is less mainstream than the lighter grey I was thinking about. The other colors I've chosen are bright, standard rainbow colors.

This picture doesn't capture the brown undertones of the solid, but you get the idea. I also decided that I would use a single fabric for each rainbow color since I don't think that making that part scrappy would add anything to the quilt. That was a hard decision for me since I'm so attracted to scrap quilts!

So, now it was time to start the piecing. There's not a lot of piecing in this quilt, but the hexagon angles make the cutting an sewing take more time. To cut the hexagons, I made a copy of the hexagon shapes in the pattern, cut them out and taped them to the back of my rotary ruler. Then, I lined that shape up to the edges of the fabric and cut each edge.

I didn't stack my fabrics when cutting the hexagons because I wanted the cutting to be as accurate as possible.

Then I cut out all of the connecting triangles from the background fabric and started piecing. I got all of the side pieces sewn onto the hexagons to make them the same width:

And got the triangles added to the largest hexagons:

I feel like I'm making pretty good progress so far! And I'm loving the colors!!

Before starting my niece's quilt, I went ahead and finished my project bag with the free-motion couched spirals panels I had made. I wanted to get those panels off of my cutting table so I could get started on this project, but I didn't want to stow them somewhere where they might never get finished into anything. I found a brown fabric with circles on it in my stash that I thought went perfectly with the panels:

I really like how this bag turned out. It's a little larger than my other bags so I think it'll be very useful for some of my larger projects. For now, I've put a couple of balls of worsted weight yarn in this bag, hoping to start a pair of socks from a Craftsy class on knitting socks two-at-at-time. This would be my first pair of socks, so making them out of worsted weight yarn will make the process quicker and let me learn the process before moving on to the smaller sock-weight yarns. But we'll see when I get around to that....

But I have been doing some knitting. I made some progress on my Baby Novus sweater. I got the back panel finished:

And then I started on one of the side panels. I was actually working on the side panel when I got sick and ended up being too tired and had too much stomach pain to finish the last couple of rows. I picked this back up when I was feeling better, but I wasn't 100% yet so I found I was having trouble concentrating on the pattern and screwed up a few things, but nothing bad enough to take it out. So I finished that part, then put the project back down again for a later time:

Fortunately, when I put aside the baby sweater, I also got my next installment of my Sunshower Shawl project in the mail. So far, this pattern is just a huge number of knit stitches with some YOs and increases scattered around so it was the perfect project for someone who couldn't concentrate well. I got this month's installment done in a single day:

Then I decided that I should also finish my Moxie Cowl. All of the knitting had been finished on this project for a couple of weeks and I had even soaked it and pinned it to the blocking boards, so all I needed to do was stitch the sides together into a circle. So I pulled that off of the blocking boards and stitched it up with a Kitchener stitch. I haven't done much Kitchener stitch so I had done the stitches much too tightly, but it was easy to go back and adjust the yarn to get a perfect tension on the stitches after the fact. I really love how this cowl turned out!!

And I made my favorite model show how it looks in use:

Damn, he's cute!!

Finally, I did some more work on my Ironish scarf:

The stitch pattern in the middle of this scarf is really easy to memorize and is really fun to do! I'm almost done with the center section and I'm going to miss working on it, but really look forward to wearing it!

Well, that's all for this time. Hopefully I'll make some good progress on my niece's quilt before next time. I'm really looking forward to getting the columns of hexagons done so I can start playing around with layouts!


Sunday, March 24, 2019

Free Motion Couching

Hi all -

Spring is finally here and I look forward to the warmer weather! It still looks like winter at my house since we had a blizzard a week and a half ago and got two feet of very dense snow. The weather had been mostly nice since then, with highs generally in the 40s, but it takes a long time for that much snow to melt. Here's what it looked like at my house yesterday:

We're supposed to have highs in the 50s next week so I look forward to seeing more of the ground and to our neighborhood roads widening a bit so cars can pass by each other a little easier, but I don't look forward to how muddy the roads will be! Oh well, it's good to have moisture anyway!

Yesterday a played a little bit with some free-motion couching on my Bernina. I bought the free-motion foot several years ago and played with it a bit since I got it, but then I put it away and never got around to getting it out again. But I've been seeing more and more of the free-motion couching on the longarms and I have some yarn that I didn't enjoy knitting with that I thought would be perfect for couching, so I decided to get everything out and play around a little bit. I've been picturing this yarn on a quilt for a while, but I'm not ready to start that so I decided to make a panel for a project bag instead. (I'm planning on playing around with a lot of techniques and using them in project bags, so hopefully this is just the beginning!) It took me a while to decide what I wanted to do, but I finally settled on a horizontal line of swirls. To start, I cut my fabric a little larger than the size I wanted for the panels and fused some fusible fleece on the back of each piece. I used a water-soluable marker to mark horizontal and vertical center lines, and then used a circle template to mark circles centered on the horizontal line. I loaded the foot, set everything up and couched the swirls:

This picture is in the same orientation as I did the couching. I started at the bottom and moved up, couching around the perimeter of the circle and swirling in to the center. I then just went straight up until I reached the next circle. These swirls were good for figuring out how the couching worked. Because the yarn didn't completely fill the hole in the foot and because the foot feeds the yarn in from the left-hand side, I found that the yarn didn't always want to catch on the lower left-hand side of the swirls. This makes sense because that's the location on the circle where the yarn is least likely to end up under the needle. In the above picture, you can see some thicker areas in the circle on those sides. Those are where I went back and forth with the couching to fill in areas that weren't caught in stitching. I was happy to see that these didn't stand out terribly. I also found that when I was starting a new swirl, it helped to stitch backwards a few stitches along the circle, and then start stitching the swirl to keep that transition sharp. When I didn't do that, the yarn pulled a bit to the right where the swirl began. Here are my finished panels:

I really like how these turned out and when I run my finger across the yarn everything feels secure. I just made these yesterday so I still need to make a project bag out of them, but I should have that finished by next time. I do think I want to play around with this couching some more!

I've also been working on my second Sue Spargo project bag, Birds on Parade. March Madness is going on right now and I'm finding that hand embroidery is a good pastime while watching games that I want to pay attention to, so I've been making progress on my embroidery projects. I was able to finish all of the hand embroidery in this pattern:

Here are close-ups of each of the birds so you can see the stitching better:

This has been a lot of fun! In the pattern, the back doesn't have any applique or embroidery on it. I've decided that I want to add some since you sometimes end up looking at the back side of the bag and because it seems a shame to waste this space when I could have some more fun here. So I ordered some wool felt so I can add something to the back. I'm thinking I'll put some flowers and leaves or some butterflies back there. I'll let you know what I decide!

Since I finished the Sue Spargo embroidery while March Madness was looming, I knew I needed to make another hand embroidery project so I would be ready for the games. I've been thinking for a while that I want to make a project bag out of some of the bundles of fabric strips I've been picking up at the Cherrywood booth at Houston for the last couple of years. Here's what the fabric bundles look like:

I've been picking these up because I want to make a Cherrywood string quilt at some point. But I also had started picturing a Cherrywood string-pieced project bag and decided that I had to start on one. I used a fusible fleece for the base and used sew-and-flip to add the strings. Then I added a 1-inch band across the bottom of the strips and then added the bag bottom, also using sew-and-flip.  Then, my idea was to do a variety of hand embroidery stitches in the strings, using some Valdani perle cottons that I picked up a while ago that have the same earthy colors as the Cherrywood fabrics. Just as I was about to start the embroidery, I realized that I didn't want the embroidery to run all the way up to the zipper, so I added another 1-inch strip of fabric across the top of the panels. I did this after I had trimmed the panels so this was originally just a fabric layer. When I started the embroidery, the top strip kept flapping down and it started to fray, so I quickly added some interfacing to the back of the strip, added top stitching to the folds on the bands and also added a narrow zig-zag stitch to the top edge of the fabric. Everything is feeling a lot more secure now and I'm not seeing any more fraying.
Here's what each side of the bag looks like, along with close-ups of the stitching I've done so far:

I'm really loving how these are looking so far! And I'm enjoying the embroidery. I wasn't sure how the Cherrywood fabric with the fusible fleece would needle, but it really sews easily. Which is good since there's a lot more stitching to do on this bag!

I've also been doing some knitting. We received our final installment of the Moxie cowl, so I got that knitted up:

I was hoping to get it blocked and get the ends sewn together before this blog post, but I'm really good at procrastinating when it comes to blocking my knitting. But I did get it in the bath today and it's upstairs blocking now, so hopefully it'll be completely finished by my next blog post!

I also got back to my Baby Novus sweater. I had been having a bunch of trouble with the gauge so I had put it aside so I could think about it for a while. I generally have to deal with problems by stepping away and letting myself think about it and make my decisions while working on something else. I decided that it wasn't worth it to stress over the gauge and just moved up to the 6-9 month size and now I've made some progress:

This sweater has an interesting construction. You start on the bottom of the right arm and knit the right side of the sweater. Then you start at the bottom of the left arm and knit the left side of the sweater. For these sides, the knitting stitches sit sideways from what you normally see. Then you knit the back panel, attaching it to the sides as you knit. Then it's the side panels that finish the sides and sleeves as you knit. Finally, there's an I-cord edging that ends in some I-cord that creates a tie to close the sweater. So there's no seaming at the end. I just have the back and side panels and the I-cord to finish this up. I hope to get that done in the next week.

Finally, while I was taking a hiatus from the Baby Novus sweater, the March Lola's Choice kit arrived.

(I'm having fun using my other Sue Spargo project bag for this project!) This month's kit is for the Ironish scarf, by Laura Nelkin. This scarf uses a really cool stitch called the Iron stitch. I assume this is a stitch that Laura made up, but I'm not sure. And, to add to the fun, some of the Iron stitches are beaded. Here's what the stitch looks like:

Isn't that pretty? The scarf is gray on the ends, where it tapers to a point, and is pink in the middle where the Iron stitches are incorporated with some lace. I'm about half-way done with this scarf:

Isn't that pretty? I just love the colors and can't wait to get back to this project!

Well, that's about it for now. I hope to have some finishes and maybe a few new fun projects for next time.


Sunday, March 10, 2019

Tree of Life Wallhanging Done

Hi all -

It's been another fun couple of weeks. I'm excited to have finished my Tree of Life wallhanging, which was the class project from my Jane Sassaman class at Houston last year. I really like how it turned out!

Since my previous post, I applied the binding and did the main panel background quilting. I applied the binding first because I like to get that out of the way and because it's easier to quilt the inside with the clean edge on the outside. I'm really happy with how this binding turned out and I'd rate it as one of my best bindings ever. The corners, where I have my biggest problems, turned out almost perfect!

For the background quilting, I decided to do some dense quilting that played off of the design of the background fabric. The background is a single piece of fabric that changes from yellow at the top to blue at the bottom by increasing the density of the blue dots on the yellow background. For the parts that read as yellow, I used yellow SoFine thread and did a dense stipple in the yellow with pebbles around the blue dots. Here is the first section (the area in the "V") quilted:

I don't know if you can see it in the picture, but I love how cleaner everything looks once you get that background densely quilted! The unquilted background areas just look puffy and cause the appliques to recede, but once the background is quilted the appliques come forward and everything looks so sharp! That's what I find so fascinating about quilting. Here's a picture of the back where you can see the top portion of the background quilting better:

It was a bit difficult to get good lines in this area because the thread matched the background too well so it was difficult to see where I had already quilted, but I like how it turned out. As I got to the bottom, where the blue dots were so dense that they disappeared into each other, I switched to blue thread and just quilted pebbles.

Now I just have to sew on the hanging sleeve, which is pinned to the quilt and ready for the hand stitching. Some people sew the top edge of the hanging sleeve inside of the binding, but I'm really picky about my binding and you don't get as clean of a binding when you do that so I put in the extra effort to stitch the entire hanging sleeve by hand.

Of course, I've also worked on some other projects. I came across a tutorial for a little bag and decided to make one to try out the construction. I wanted to do it right away so I would have the construction in my head since I know I won't find the blog post again. This is the Patchwork Gift Bag by Sherri McConnell. Here's my version:

I went ahead and made it the size in the pattern, even though I was a bit worried that it would be too small to hold a knitting project. It did turn out a bit small, but might still be useful for a small project like socks or mittens. But I'll find uses for it.

I also did some work on my second Sue Spargo project bag, the Birds on Parade Sac. I got the applique done and started on the embroidery.

I'm really enjoying doing the embroidery on the wool! The back side of this bag doesn't have any applique or embroidery on it, but I might add some after I finish the front. It depends on how anxious I am to get the bag finished and put a project in it!

I also continue to work on my knitting projects. I finished my pair of Flip-Top Mittens by Laura Nelkin:

I found some really cute buttons in my stash to use and I really love how these turned out! These will be going into my Homeless Shelter bag, but I might have to also make a pair for myself.

At the end of February, I got my second installment for my Sunshower Shawl by Ambah O'brien. This is a year-long project and I hope to keep current on it, so I knit that up right away:

The colors are really beautiful so far! Just a couple more weeks until my next installment......

I also received my March 2019 Lola's Choice kit from Laura Nelkin. This is a bi-monthly project club. This month's project is Ironish in some gorgeous gray and pink yarn, which I'm keeping in my beautiful Sue Spargo project bag:

This project looked too fun to set aside. It has a really interesting stitch and I love playing with beads, so I started this project and added it to my WIPs. Here is a close-up of the beautiful beaded Iron stitch:

Isn't that cool? I'm about halfway done with this project.

I would have finished it, but realized I needed to get back to the mittens (above) and the baby sweater (no progress this time) if I'm going to get them finished by the end of the month for Laura's knit-along.

Finally, yesterday I received this month's installment of my Jimmy Beans monthly knit club project. This club has monthly installments on 3-month projects. This quarter's project is the Moxie cowl that I've shared with you before and this month was the final installment. I really love this project so had to dig into it right away. I got the knitting done:

I just have to connect the ends and this project will be finished. Then I just have to decide: do I keep this for myself since I love it so much, or do I give it to my niece who loves to wear blue because it goes so well with her blonde hair?

I hope everyone is staying warm through these last few dregs of winter and a looking forward to a beautiful spring!