Casting on for a Blanket

The needles were all packed away on a high shelf in the closet. The yarn had been displaced to make room for fabric.

This winter, rainy days and nights made me wish I had something on the needles to pick up and knit.  My hands found varied uses during my knitting hiatus and rested from too much repetitive motion.  The numbness in my fingers had subsided and I had stopped wearing my hand braces at night.  In truth, I think I had gotten burned out on knitting, and needed a break anyhow.

I saw a garter stitch blanket that I wanted to cast on for right away: Caron Essential Stripes Knit Blanket.  It was the perfect combination of comfort knitting with just enough interesting aspects with the use of three colors, striping, and color blocks. I like that it is knit in five panels.  There won’t be much sewing up to do, and the weight of a big heavy mound on the needles with long rows to get through is avoided.

Which yarn to use and which colors?  I swatched with a few different acrylics and read reviews on yarns.  Some of the negatives I read about were yarns described as scratchy, splitty, and squeaky. Sounds like a cartoon trio of mice!  Another thing to avoid is an acrylic that is “plasticky”.

Why acrylic?  I want a blanket that is easy care, machine washable,  durable, and low cost.

I have never had a yarn squeak, but I did discover some differences in yarns.  Take a look at these two samples:

2 acrylic yarns: top Red Heart Soft, bottom Loops and Thread Impeccable

I have a definite preference in the appearance of the two yarns.  I much prefer the bottom yarn that is matte to the shiny one.  The Impeccable has more heft, looks cottony and reminds me of marshmallows.  It’s also more sturdy and less stretchy.

Besides individual preferences, choosing a yarn depends on whether it will be knitted or crocheted and what will be made from it.  If I were making something to wear, I would be more concerned with drape.  The colors and shades of a color a yarn is made in is also an important consideration.

The pattern was written for Caron One Pound, and the blanket looks very appealing in the pictured colors in the beautifully staged room.  They didn’t have those colors in the store, and I wanted to swatch before deciding on my colors.  I did buy one skein of the One Pound to swatch, and it is also matte, although a little stiffer than the other yarn I knitted up.  It would also be a good choice for a blanket that will hold up through frequent washing.

So for this blanket, Impeccable it is!  After much waffling, I settled on the aran, navy, and soft rose combination.

There wasn’t a photo of the entire blanket, so to see how the sections would look together I mapped it out using my old Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet that I still have installed.  I played around with it and made some changes.  By reading the pattern more closely I also realized that the panels are meant to be laid horizontally (widthwise) with the ridges going vertically.

knitting on size 9 Susan Bates circular quicksilver needles

I’m not on a tear to finish this.  I just love that it’s there waiting to pick up when I want to knit.

Have you left and then gone back to a craft years later?

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Beginning a Vintage Inspired Star Quilt

The board game, Monopoly, will be retiring its thimble token this year.  Does that mean hand sewing is “out”?  I don’t use a thimble for most of my hand sewing, but it is essential for hand quilting.

Quilting magazines were always available at my neighborhood grocery stores and drugstores.  During the past year I’ve noticed they no longer stock them.  I think that’s not because quilting is no longer popular, but much of the focus for patterns and fabric has shifted to the online marketplace.  I would guess that my location, a big city in southern California, is also a major factor why these quilting magazines aren’t selling enough to be carried.

One drawback to making quilts is it’s expensive in comparison to making clothes. Much more yardage is needed for all the coordinating fabrics, backing, and batting.  But that’s also the fun part of quilting – playing with different fabric combinations.

Peace & Unity Selvedge

A year ago I bought a set of 20 fat quarters of Civil War Reproduction fabric called Peace & Unity.  Time to decide on a pattern and get to work!

I liked the quilt on the cover of the December 2005 issue of American Patchwork & Quilting that I bought at a used book store.  It features sawtooth star blocks set on point alternating with a yellow print fabric.  The quilt is dated circa 1900 and is titled Vintage Stars.

Quilting Magazine Cover

on point layout of quilt

Besides the fat quarters for the stars, I would need various shirting fabrics for the background part of the blocks.  It was hard for me to settle on the fabric for the alternating squares, and I still might change it if I decide I don’t like how it looks.  Budgeting is a factor; I bought 5 yards of the gold print for $10. Although the print reads like a solid from a distance, it has cross hatching in a slightly darker shade of gold.

fat quarters and gold square

Because many of the fat quarters were dark and deep colored fabrics I pre-washed them as a precaution.  They are high quality fabrics and didn’t bleed at all.

The star blocks in the magazine pattern are 7 inches.  I made sample 7, 8, and 9 inch blocks before deciding on an 8 inch block.  I decided on a 8 inch block partly because of the size of the quilting rulers I own, and also because I wanted to make my flying geese with this Amy Smart, of Diary of a Quilter, tutorial of a no-waste method of making four flying geese units at a time.  There is no formula for a 7 inch block using this method.

I am cutting a 5 1/4 inch square and four 2 1/2 inch squares of my background fabrics.  I will make three stars from each fat quarter cutting a 4 1/2 center and four 3 inch squares for each star.

The flying geese measurements have a little extra so they can be cut to the correct size after sewing them.  For the 8 inch blocks they are 2 1/2 by 4 1/2.

Although this is not a hard block to sew, my sample blocks were still 1/4 inch off, either bigger or smaller on one side.  This isn’t a block that can be cut to dimensions at the end, because this would cut off the points.

I took care with the following steps  in order to get a uniform size:

  1. Cutting the pieces exactly.
  2. Sewing the scant 1/4 inch seams.  I changed to the 1/4 inch foot.  When sewing the geese units I lined up the gauge on the foot slightly to the right of the center line.  Another problem I had was my stitching veering off at the end and I had to correct that.
  3. Pressing!  I was mindful to press the seams in the suggested direction, but I noticed I was not always pressing out the seams completely.  There was a little tuck of fabric making the row 1/8 or 1/4 inch shorter.
  4. Measuring the rows before joining them to make sure they were 8 1/2 inches across.
  5. Making small adjustments when sewing the final rows together so that the seams were matched.

2 finished sawtooth quilt blocks

I like seeing my pile of stars growing!

Any thoughts on quilting?  Are quilting magazines still carried in your neighborhood stores?

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Quilted Sewing Machine Cover

Machine Quilted Checkerboard

I made my first sewing machine cover back in 2012.  That was when my only thought was keeping out the dust, and I just used some blah fabric I had on hand.  The pattern was from the book “One Yard Wonders”.  My sales slip is still inside; I bought it at Borders in  October of 2010.  I didn’t even have a sewing machine yet when I bought the book.

Old Sewing Machine Cover

Inspired by all the versions I’ve since seen on Pinterest, I decided I needed something a little fancier and prettier to cover my machine.

I wanted to use a sewing themed panel I had, incorporate some patchwork, some other bits of sewing themed fabric, and linen blend fabric I had bought for “zakka” style projects. I didn’t fully plan the layout ahead of time, as I like making it up as I go.

Sewing Panel I planned to use for pocket

I used the sewing panel for the pocket.  Then I made a checkerboard section with 2 1/2 inch squares of linen and accent fabric.  The third section is a representation of garment sewing with applique dress forms, one containing a little dress, and some hand appliqued hexagons.  The bottom section is composed of four 4 inch spool quilt blocks.  The spool blocks are from Laundry Basket Quilts.

Long Panel for Sewing Machine Cover before quilting

I love the zig-zag fabric for the center “thread” of the spool blocks.  Do you see what they look like?  Spools of rick-rack!

I used Sew Delicious’s basic tutorial to make a quilted cover with side panels.  Once I had my four sections sewn together in a 17 1/2 inch wide by 30 inch long piece of fabric, I added batting and machine quilted the sections with the exception of the dress form panel which I hand quilted with #8 perle cotton embroidery thread.  I used the same thread to hand quilt the pocket, and I added a few buttons as accents.  My machine manual fits inside the pocket.  It’s one part of the original cover that I liked.

Pocket Side of Sewing Machine Cover

Then I quilted the side panels, sewed them to the main long piece, sewed a lining, and hemmed the bottom.

Quilted Side Panels

Hand Quilted Section with Perle Cotton #8

Sewing Machine Cover in Sewing Nook

I used so many techniques I’ve learned since I’ve started sewing to make this cover.  I’m really happy with my new, improved, one-of-a-kind, quilted sewing machine cover!

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2017 Calendar Towel Tote Bag

Previously, I made a few aprons from vintage calendar towels.  2017 begins with a new calendar towel, made into a simple tote bag.  I modeled it after a non-bulky bag that can be rolled up to fit inside the outside pocket of my purse.

2017 Calendar Towel and Fabric

I added some fabric, and sewed the straps under the top fold of the bag.  The tote could use some interfacing at the top and in the straps, but I couldn’t find any at home so I skipped it.  I’ll use the bag for less heavy items.

Sewing Strap to Tote

Calendar Towel Tote Bag sunflowers

2017 Calendar Tote

In 2017, I plan to work on sewing clothes, some quick refashions, quilting (including a big project), and embroidery.  I miss having something on the needles to pick up during this very rainy, stormy winter we’re having in southern California this year so maybe I will throw in a little knitting as well.

I  always think of organizing at the beginning of a new year.  One thing I’m doing is tracking my sewing spending using the “My Binder” app.

My sewing machine feet have a new home thanks to finding this neat little double-sided container for $3 at the drug store.  What luck; they’re a perfect fit!

Sewing Machine Foot Organizer

Sewing Machine Foot Organizer Side B

I don’t think I did any cross stitch last year.  Well, at least not until the 31st of December.  I spent the last day of 2016 and the first day of 2017 stitching this little gnome that I made into an ornament.

Gnome Cross Stitch

I changed the colors, lengthened his hat, added a felt bottom and a gold bead on top.

Gnome Ornament in Nest

I like him hanging around – he makes me smile.

Happy sewing and crafting in the New Year!

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Tree Block Patchwork Pillow Part 2

Sometimes, I’m fussy about my makes.

I couldn’t stop thinking that the center of my pillow needed an improvement.

I drew a tree.  Fussy cut the tree from fabric.  Fussy pinned the tree to the pillow, first lower, then higher.  Finally my fussy voice said “OK, you got it”.

Drafting a Tree

Fussy Cut Tree

I hand appliqued the tree with ends turned under, and hand quilted around the tree.

Tree Block Pillow with Center Tree

Tree Block Pillow with Applique Tree

The bottom row doesn’t really show up because of the very plump pillow form.  So I thought the center was lacking and needed a focal point.

The before and after:

Tree Pillow Before and After

Much better!  If only all of my mistakes were so easy to make right.

Do you listen to your fussy voice until it’s satisfied or do you accept perceived flaws and call it a day?

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Tree Block Patchwork Pillow

I love leftovers!  Especially fabric leftovers.

My Christmas project this year used seven leftover tree blocks from my “A Home in the Forest” wall quilt, patchwork rectangles, batting with hand quilting, and red piping to make an pillow cover.  I quilted little tree shapes on some of the patchwork squares.

Tree pillow cover with piping

Making my own piping was worth the extra steps.  I wanted to match the binding on my “A Home in the Forest” wall quilt.

Home in the Forest Quilt binding

A home in the forest quilt

I cut 1 and 1/2 inch bias strips and encased the clothesline cord using the machine’s zipper foot.

Then I moved my needle closer to the piping and sewed it to the quilted front of the pillow.  The edge of the fabric on the piping has to be clipped as you come to the corners to help the piping lie flat when you make the sharp turns.

Lastly, I put the two pieces for the envelope back face down (wrong side up) on top of the pillow front and moved my needle all the way to the left to get as close to the piping as possible.  In this step you can’t actually see the piping, but you can feel and see the raised ridge it makes.

pillow envelope back

My completed top before sewing front and back together was 14 and 1/2 inches to fit a 14 inch square pillow form. I cut the fabric for the back 20 inches long to allow for the overlap, then cut it in half and hemmed both sides.

Tree block patchwork pillow 14inch form

Tree Block Pillow on couch

In hindsight, I should have arranged the squares differently and added a tree block to the middle row so that a tree would be the focal point in the center instead of the two patchwork squares.  With the chubbiness of the pillow form the bottom trees aren’t as visible.  Oh, well.  I don’t want to take it apart. I was thinking about appliqueing a tree to the center.  Maybe I will give it a try before putting it away because I feel it needs a “fix” to be artistically pleasing. Do you agree or am I being obsessive?

Unlike most of my sewing, I was more process oriented than product oriented when making this pillow. It was fun, relaxing, and soothing to create.

The tree blocks are from Amy Smart, who writes the blog “Diary of a Quilter”.  She wrote tutorials for both a small size block and a larger size for big quilts. This is a fun block to make as the cuts to make the tree are done freehand instead of by measuring.  You can’t go wrong!

Thank you for reading along this year on my sewing and crafting journey.  I appreciate your comments and encouragement as I try to improve my sewing and write posts that are interesting for you to read.

Happy New Year!

 

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Twas the week before Christmas

Twas the week before Christmas;

The tree was put up

And decorated with ornaments made by my hands.

Knitted socks, felt socks, and little knitted bears,

Rustic cloth stars, and cinnamon stars with a sharp scent.

A few cross stitched scenes thrown in as well,

With a burlap and poinsettia wreath on the inside front door.

What’s left to do?

Well,  I took out 7 tree blocks left from the quilt of last winter,

7 tree blocks

Arranged them with patchwork and red piping so bright,

backing and cord for piping

And made something new with an idea long in mind.

I pieced and hand quilted while music was playing,

batting back hand quilting tree blocks

Enjoying the process, the making, the peace,

tree patchwork

Away from the hustle and bustle that comes with the season.

clove entrusted oranges

I finished in time, the details will come later,

I haven’t the time to hone a new post.

The rain stopped and the dog put his head up

To howl and to tell me “Let’s go for a walk”.

dog-at-work-hardhat

dog-at-work1

Before I go, let me stop and say:

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a

Happy New Year to all!

(My apologies to Clement Moore)

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