The Blue Quilt – Part Four

I was a bit fed up with the numerous problems this quilt kept throwing at me, and tempted to pack it away for a while, but I knew I’d probably forget how I was fixing the rows of blocks so I had to get that part done. To preserve my will to live, and because the Sew Mini was old and I didn’t want to overheat it, I also decided to fix no more than one row of blocks at a time. I got distracted by the Purple Quilt top, but once that was done I returned to the blue quilt and finished the last three rows of blocks one hot Sunday when I just wanted easy, brainless sewing to do.

Then I did put it aside. Using a walking foot would make the topstitching much neater, and I didn’t think the one I had would fit the Juno. Instead, I made the Square Cat Quilt and Crayon Quilt.

That left me with this:

The leftovers from the Blue Quilt.

And everything else.

I didn’t want to do anything with the blue leftovers it until I’d finished the blue quilt in case I wanted to add more sashing and patchwork to the sides. The mixed leftovers batch didn’t inspire me. Not even the skull-themed fabric strips. I was almost left with nothing to work on.

But then the Juki was back and working beautifully. I launched into finishing the Blue Quilt. The quilt-as-you-go method is designed to lesson the time you spend wrestling a big, heavy quilt. But the more you add, the bigger it gets and in the final stage you do have a big, heavy quilt to deal with. During the break I’d had an idea to lesson the strain. Instead of just adding rows of blocks and it getting bigger and bigger, I could work from both sides simultaneously, creating two smaller sections that would be joined at the middle. Only when the middle section had to be top-stitched would it be a PITA to handle.

To add the middle section, I sewed it onto one already quilted part, then sewed the other side of the top onto the other already quilted part, then hand stitched the backing in place.

Then I just had to top stitch it. Yeah. What a monster. I had to unpick nearly half of it and sew from the other end to try and smooth it out, but I tell you, if there were quilt exams this one would get an F-.

But it was assembled at last.

And I hadn’t needed to put aside the blue batch of leftover strips. There wasn’t any way I was going to wrestle the monster Blue Quilt a minute longer. Well, except for the binding, but that’s another story.

Squares & Borders

When I considered what quilt to make next, I considered the leftover strips and asked myself what I would hate to toss out. My eyes went to the crayon and psychedelic fabric, and the uncut pieces of fabric with feathers and cat-in-a-garden designs.

I started playing and found myself making borders around a white square. I’d seen this method of building blocks in videos, and it looked simple and fast. I began matching solid coloured strips and chose three that matched well, and I was ready to start the construction.

I began with the squares, which I fussy cut. I wasn’t able to get one of the types of cat cut from the fabric and managed 8 squares. But when I laid them out it seemed obvious that a 3×3 grid would work best. So I cut around the cat an appliquéd it to a square cut from a plain garden part of the fabric.

Next I laid out coloured strips for borders. Then I took three of the multicoloured fabrics I liked – feathers, dots and psychedelic stripes – and added the next round of borders. Then more colour, and sashing in white.

And I got sewing.

I’m calling this the Square Cat Quilt

I really enjoyed the patchworking method, so I decided to do another quilt using it. This one used the crayon, dotty and thick stripe rainbow fabric cut across not along the stripes. I was able to make twelve blocks before I ran out of fabric.

This became the Crayon Quilt

At this point, I was also spending time cutting backing, batting and allocating fabric for binding. By the time I finished the second squares and borders quilt, I had five quilt sandwiches ready for top stitching. Add to that the Blue Quilt, which used the quilt-as-you-go method, and I had six quilts to finish.

And one or maybe two more quilt tops to make before I was done for the summer.

Bookcase Quilt

So, thanks partly to the Juki requiring a service and repair, I have a new machine.

I’d had a shop web page for it bookmarked for many months – maybe even a year – as a machine for taking to friends’ houses or lessons. When the Juki started eating needles I checked on the web page and to my delight it was on sale, reduced by 33%.

So the Sew Mini went back in the cupboard and I put the Juno to work. Oh, it was nice to have a variable speed foot pedal again!

I turned my attention to the batch of striped fabric strips. I discovered three things: firstly, I had leftovers from the Snakes & Ladders quilt already sewn together; secondly, the overall combination of stripe patterns didn’t combine that nicely; thirdly, it also contained some uncut pieces of fabrics.

Regarding the already sewn pieces, some were in pairs, some were several pairs sewn together in a short column. They were of similar widths so if all the pairs were joined I would have a longer column. Four of the fabrics – about half of them – were a combination of strips cut along and across the stripes, and could be sewn together the same way. I could do a column of each, then join them all together with a strip of white between. So I did that.

It’s a good knee rug size.

The Purple Quilt

Midway through fixing the rows of blocks for the blue quilt, I got bored. So I took the batch of purple strips, ironed them, removed those with selvedges, and sorted them into stacks of the same fabric and laid them out in an appealing colour sequence. I had near enough to twenty of most of the fabric designs. So I cut in half a few strips of the ones that were less than twenty, then got to sewing it all into one long strip.

With that done, measured, counted and did some math and worked out that if I cut the strips 120 cm long and sewed them together lengthwise I’d get a quilt top around 180 to 200 cm long. So I started doing that. 2-3 days sewing later and I had this:

Which I’m pretty happy with, and put in the pile of quilting to do when I get the Juki back.


The Rainbow Cat Quilt – Part Two

Sewing the squares for this was so much fun – the most enjoyable technique I’ve used so far in this Summer of Quilts.

A friend decided to have a sewing day, so I wound up sewing squares every day for a week to get them done in time for it. I figured it would be a quick and easy task to sew the squares together, but it turned out taking the paper off the back is quite time-consuming, so I only got half of the top constructed.

The next day I was tired, and the next week was really busy, and then I was really, really tired. After a week I hadn’t touched the quilt except to remove the rest of the paper. Eventually I did get the top finished. I cut the backing and batting and made the sandwich.

But then the shop that I had ordered the rainbow topstitching thread from rang to say it wasn’t in stock so they’d have to order from the supplier, which meant it wouldn’t arrive for a few weeks. I put the quilt aside and returned to the Blue Quilt.

Well, three weeks later there was no sign of the thread, so I gave up on that and started looking at other ideas. In the interim, I had discovered that the quilt had relaxed and distorted, pulling in at some corners and protruding at others. I resewed the protruding ones to get them to sit flatter, but I don’t have room to let out the seams where the corners pull in. It looked like machine quilting would be very troublesome.

So I decided I would hand quilt it. Which I expect will be slow work, but maybe, hopefully meditative. But at least I don’t have to wait for the Juki to come back from the repairer do it.

The Blue Quilt – Part Three

I didn’t get back to quilting for a week, and when I did I was all fired up to sew the rows together. However when I looked at them, I realised that in my determination to get the rows sewn, I’d made a big mistake.

My blocks looked wonky.

The middle block is square, but the righthand one is pulling it in and the lefthand one is stretching it out.

Some were 9 3/4 inches wide, but most were 9 1/4. I looked at the markings on my square ruler and realised that I’d been distracted by the big fat dominant red lines that marked the half inches, and put my marking tape at the 9 1/4 mark.

Ten stripes together measured 9 3/4 inches. I’d had to do a bit of stretching and pinching of seams to get the blocks to fit together, and this explained why. I went for a walk and considered what to do. I could remove two stripes and cut the blocks down, or I could sew every other seams of the stripes to narrow the strip width. Either way, I was going to have to unpick every row of blocks and rework them in some way.

I decided on the latter option. But I didn’t do all the blocks at once (at first). To make the task seem less like drudgery, I began a quilt-as-you-go method at the same time. (I had been intending to send the quilt to a quilting service, but when I read the tips and tricks on their website it said “Don’t use selvedges” and I groaned aloud. If I’d rejected all the flannelette strips that had selvedges I wouldn’t have had enough for the quilt!)

This meant making a sandwich and quilting the first row, then sewing on the second row and backing at the same time, then tucking batting between and pinning it all together before quilting the new section. Then sewing on the next row until the whole quilt was done.

For the quilting of the first row I did a simple 45 degree angle grid, not trying to be precise. It involved a lot of turning of the fabric sandwich, which I realised was going to get slower and more annoying as the quilt grew in size. So for the second row I did a simpler vertical zig zag, and was able to avoid turning the sandwich by using the backwards stitch on my machine. Having done two different patterns, I decided to see if I could do something different on each additional row. On the third I did wavy horizontal lines, using a walking foot.

As I was fixing the blocks of the fourth row, my machine started breaking needles at random times. It seemed to happen whenever I changed the bobbin, but then it would happen when I hadn’t changed anything – one seam would work perfectly but when I started the next: BAM! Another needle broken. There seemed no option but to take it in for repair.

I’d given my old regular machine to the op shop, so the only back up I had was this:

Scissors for scale.

Which is very cute, very basic, very noisy, but for fixing the blocks it works just fine.

I swear, though, this quilt is cursed.

The Blue Quilt – Part Two

By the time I’d finished the Rainbow Cat Quilt top I had enough confidence to return to the Blue Quilt. With fresh eyes I could see that my approach to joining the blocks was overly complicated. I just needed to sew them into rows then sew the rows together.

But part of the overwhelm had been not knowing if I had enough strips to make enough blocks. So I decided to work that out. The way I designed it, each row or column of navy or dark floral striped-based blocks has the same sequence of strips. I was going to have a different sequence for each row and column, but decided to keep it simple and have just six varieties. After counting the already completed blocks, I clipped them together in batches of the same stripe sequence and hung them on some pinboards, with a note of how many more needed to be made.

I didn’t have enough strips of some fabrics to do a queen-sized quilt of 10 x 9 blocks, or 9 x 8 blocks. It had to come down to an 8 x 7 block quilt. By then I’d watched videos on adding sashing, so I knew I could do that to make a queen sized quilt.

So every day or two I chose some of the batches and sewed up the remaining blocks needed for each. They seemed to sew up really fast. I had them done by the end of that week, just in time for an impromptu sewing day at my place.

At the start of that day, Paul set up two folding tables next to each other and I laid out the blocks in order. I found that some needed tweaking and I’d completely missed one row of flowery blocks, but with an afternoon of sewing ahead it wouldn’t be long before I was ready to start joining blocks into rows. The guests arrived. We set up. We chatted and made a start. I got the extra blocks made.

And then the power went off.

Fortunately, trimming the blocks kept me busy for the next few hours. When the power came back on, just after my guest left, I started joining blocks and the next day all were sewn into rows.

I didn’t get back to it until the following weekend, when I looked at the rows of blocks and realised they were really wonky. Looking closer, I realised that I’d cut them half an inch narrower than I was supposed to, thanks to the confusing markings on the square ruler I had.

This was going to take some fixing.

Quilting the Quilt

I’ve only quilted a larger quilt once before, and it must have been quite a while ago because I’d forgotten what it was like. Which is like wrestling a big, fuzzy, floppy mattress. I had to put my sewing machine in the middle of the cutting table to have enough room to handle it. I’m certain my stitching would have been far neater if I hadn’t been constantly pulling, pushing and manipulating it.

The plan was to use ‘serpentine’ stitch, which sews a wavy line, but when I selected the number for the wavy line shown in my machine’s manual I got a completely different stitch. The manual had no other info – just a chart – so I gave up and did the ‘stitch in the ditch’ method instead. Though this does make it look a bit like a puffer jacket (which I loathe) the bamboo batting makes it feel appealingly cushy rather than full of air.

Even though this is possibly the plainest quilting topstitch patten, it still ate up four and a half reels of thread. I had two in the right colour already, and I’d already bought more, but it turns out the number on the edge of the Gütermann thread reel is the same on all reels, and the actual colour number is the ends of the reels. So I made a fourth trip to Spotty in as many weeks only to find that every colour in that thread was in stock except the one I needed. I asked a staff member and they said the shelf had been restocked the previous day.

Fortunately, there was a thread in the same colour in another brand.

I wanted to bind it with the same fabric as the backing, but flannelette probably doesn’t make the most robust of fabrics. Unfortunately, the quilting cotton was nearly twice as expensive and the only colour that came close to matching was too dark. Then I remembered a friend’s method of finishing: just turn over the edge of the backing to the front. This wouldn’t be any less robust than making bias binding out of the backing, and it’s much faster. So that’s what I did.

I like it. The colour lifts my mood.

However, when I looked at the leftover fabric a hard truth settled over me: I did not succeed in reducing my stash. I started with three of these bundles:

And now I have probably more mass of fabric left:

I did add Mum’s pyjamas to the initial bundles, but that just means I’ve ended up with as much unused fabric as I started with.

At least one piece isn’t cut into strips – the piece I was going to make bias binding out of. The options for using that are much broader.

Lucy’s Honeycomb

A little white ago a friend asked on FB if anyone wanted a ball of slubby, multicoloured yarn formerly a scarf that had unravelled. I put my hand up for it and offered to weave it into a new scarf. She accepted.

We had a couple of quick consultations, in which I showed her some examples of weaving using slubby yarn, she picked honeycomb weave with a green background as her favourite. I did a lot of math and worked out that I didn’t have enough of the green to make a shawl, but plenty for a wide scarf.

Weaving honeycomb was rather pleasant, and similar to the deflected doubleweave I’ve been weaving in that it pairs smooth wool with a textured yarn, and is fast and engaging to weave.

My calculations were way out, though, since I still had plenty of both the slubby and background yarns left when the scarf was done. I considered making another scarf. Then memories of this friend wearing a beret/tam had me digging out a device I made years ago for weaving tams, and I got to work. The body was woven from the old scarf yarn, then fulled a little. The brim was knit separately out of a natural coloured 8ply yarn then sewn on.

The pom pom was made from the thrums, making this a very frugal project. I still have a ball of the slubby yarn left, but I’m going to offer it to my friend to save in case of moth damage.

When I embarked on the band knitting, I looked up beret patterns to see how many stitches were cast on and realised that berets seem to be in fashion again. It has me eyeing the yarn stash.

The Pin Loom Blanket

This project has taken me over half a decade. It started as a small weaving thing to do while travelling then, when I had accumulated enough squares to start thinking about what to make out of them, something bigger. Eventually I hit on the idea of a double-thickness blanket of stuffed squares. Since then, however, I decided not to stuff them because the weave isn’t dense enough for the filler not to show through.

After I did the pin loom workshop a few years ago I bought the double size square loom to get a little variety into the blanket and speed up the process, though it didn’t really speed up the process much. It didn’t help that, no matter what size square I wove, if I worked on it too much my back would complain. So progress was made in small bouts of enthusiasm and abandonment.

Early this year I decided it was time to finish it off. Using safety pins, I connected the squares together in an appealing sequence and used a board to carry it all from room to room when I needed the kitchen table for something else. Slowly I wove the remaining squares. Gradually I crocheted around the edges. Doggedly I sewed it all together, then crocheted a border. When I think about the hours I must have spent on it, I’m sure it has to have taken hundreds. I wonder if it was all worth it. If the journey is more important than the destination, then yes, it being an epic trek that I was totally over by the time it was done definitely overshadows the relief of having it done.

Not all wanderers are lost? Yeah, I’d totally lost all will to live by the end of this one. But I survived.