Search This Blog


Friday, September 25, 2015

The Sweetness of Friendship

Marci is the most steadfast person I have ever known, and absolutely the best friend anyone could possibly have. If you need someone on your side, she’s the one you want. She is loving, loyal, fierce, and a myriad of other wonderful things. We met many years ago while we were both working in Houston, Texas, and were somewhat unhappily thrown together by the company we worked for. Admittedly I was an enormous princess, which is quite an understatement, and would have been very hard to take way back then. I still am quite a princess, but can now manage to keep that in check most of the time. It’s been about 28 or 29 years-ish since that first meeting, and we’ve been down the highway from each other for just over 16 years now (she’s in Chippewa, close to Niagara Falls and I’m in Hamilton). We finally managed to get together last weekend, so she's now enjoying the warmth it provides.

While red is not her particular favourite colour, she looks stunning in it. Her creamy pale skin, sparkling blue eyes, and dark hair all work beautifully with it. Since a quilt is effectively worn when you’re under it, well, it felt like the right choice for the project. It has been my pleasure to provide Marci with various knitted goods over the years. Since I remain unable to knit for the foreseeable future, another way to keep my dear friend warm had to be devised.

I wanted to quilt this one myself but circumstances intervened when the machine broke and the top was too stiff from starch to quilt by hand. Those happy circumstances led to Sandy Lister of Scrappy Gal Quilts in Etobicoke who long-arm-quilted it for me. It is beautiful. Very. Very. Beautiful. Sandy worked miracles with this top, and had to contend with a lot of bulky seams and inexpert work. She was supremely patient, and always gracious and helpful. I am very grateful she took the dream to way beyond the expected. The quilt is so much more than hoped for due to her expertise.

A few other people helped me along the way. My CEO’s wife Brenda, who happens to be a new quilter as well, pointed me to her knowledgeable friend Shirley. Shirley, who designs quilt patterns on the side, provided expert recommendation for adding a border to the quilt. With regret, the first border I tried did not work out, so it had to be frogged (it was my ineptitude all the way and nothing to do with Shirley’s advice). Shirley also recommended Sandy’s services.
Pattern: Metro Lattice by Sew Kind of Wonderful, modified due to sewer’s error (yes, me).

Pinwheels: Birds and Berries by Lauren & Jessie Jung – 4 prints of the 6 used to make the pinwheels, and another for the binding. The other fabrics are from unknown sources/designers. I am madly in love with Lauren & Jessie Jung’s work.

Border: As luck would have it, I found a coordinating Birds & Berries print in a beautiful yellow. As luck would have it, due to a sincere lack of skill it proved impossible to get the recommended border in place, so it became solid red. Oh well. I’ll keep Shirley’s border recommendation in mind the next time one is needed.

Lattice: Kona Chinese Red

Batting: 100% cotton in a thicker than usual version. I am not sure which brand Sandy used.
Things to like: I like everything about this design and making it. Even all of the trimming. It was a privilege to be helped by so many along the way. After such a long time looking at colours dulled by starch, washing has brightened it considerably and the whole thing has been transformed. I love the wrinkly, crinkly feel of the thing and hope Marci feels the same.

Not so much: My over-confidence in sewing the ovals together all in one shot without checking. That just was not a bright move. At. All.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Frustration and Despair

Well. It looked good from the top.

900 pins and 21 hours later, flipping it over revealed pucker after pucker after pucker. Many attmepts were made to remove the puckers. Fixing them on one side led to puckers on the other. I need a new strategy. Any hints?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Potato Chips

Nickita Box Bags are very much like potato chips in that they are a bit addictive to make. Here are another two, made with fat quarters fished from stash. This pair is more square than the first set, which is good. I am right impressed with how nice they look, and they make me feel like a sewing super-star.

The pattern for this box bag came from a Craftsy class called Zip It Up – Easy Techniques for Zippered Bags. I’d put in a link, but it takes me to where I last stopped in the class. Sorry. Patterns for three different zippered bags are included with the class, which was really worth taking. The instructor’s tips and hints really helped make my bags look the best they possibly could. More are most certainly going to be made, and maybe next time it will be a Bendy Bag – one of the class patterns.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Effect of Gravity

After about 4 months of slow paced stitching, Gravity’s flimsy is complete. Despite not caring for many of the colours used in its construction, as expected, assembly has changed that. Despite the liberally applied starch, the overall effect is that of an enormous, sparkling gemstone. It is spectacular. While technically this is a big project, it did not feel like that at all due to the slow pace of the quilt-along, and the large scale pieces and blocks. It’s hard to believe most of the project was hand-sewn. Now it’s on to the quilting stage (by machine thank you), but some practice is required first. A wide Tula Pink fabric called Free Fall in Battleship (surprise, it's grey) was purchased for the backing, along with a variegated thread by Sulky for the top (Soft Black), and a clear polyester thread for the bobbin. Wish me luck.
As ever, thank you Myra of Busy Hands Quilts for hosting the Gravity Quilt Along.

Thursday, September 10, 2015


Wanting something a little different to do on Labour day took me on a trip on the wild side to make a couple of box bags. There is certainly room for improvement in the sewing, but they are cute and look great if you aren't looking too hard at them. Best of all, they work to contain some routinely used notions - one for pins, snips and rotary cutters, and the other for thread.

As ever, my faithful quality control inspector was right there. Thank you Six. For the whole thing.

Stumbling across a random project on someone's blog led me on a search for the Bendy Bag. Disappointment abounded since it looked like the pattern was not available digitally. But then someone mentioned a Craftsy class that featured it in the lesson plan. Since the class was on sale for about $20, it was the perfect opportunity to give it a shot. Starting with the box bag was the right thing, and taking the class was really helpful.

There was some waffling over fabric selection. The prints ultimately chosen for the bags were particular favourites but they were sort of being reserved for that something special in the future. Then I snapped out of it, and put them to use. Saving them for some random project in the future when a real project was possible right now? Duh.

Next time, I am going to use a stiffer fusible fleece. They were fast and fun.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Vintage Comfort

The recent baby shower was a lovely event, filled with family and friends. Loads of children and other babies were in attendance. As expected, it was fun to see my cousin’s first grandchild and catch up with everyone. There were 2 other freshly born babies there, both cousins of the new baby. This was a celebration for my Aunt Marion’s new great-granddaughter. Marion’s been busy for the past 8 months or so, and has been generally unavailable for the usual activities. She has been dealing with serious illness with 2 of her sons, one of whom had a transplant only last week and the other is in hospital. She is doing as much for my cousins as she can. It is heartbreaking to see my strong, spunky, healthy 80 year old aunt hurt so much. Of course, it’s hard to see everyone else around her go through this painful process as well. Marion’s children, my cousins, have very strong ties to each other, as do their children. There’s nothing to be done and no words or actions provide any help. While Aunt Marion’s grandchildren are becoming parents themselves and might be too grown up for snuggling with Grandma, her great-grandchildren are not. What better comfort is there beyond a cuddle with a child under something cozy?

Almost everything has been pushed to the side for this project since the baby shower, aside from meeting a couple of other commitments. I made a block for a fellow Maritimer, and finished the background for Gravity.

Sometimes I wonder why I accept that all instructions in a given pattern are right for me instead of following my head. The half-square-triangle sets that make the outer corners of this lovely block were made from pattern specified 4-7/8” squares. If I had bothered with a deeper look at the design, it would have been evident that the corner squares should finish at 4.5” so they fit the rest of the block. That really isn’t possible with the base square cut at 4-7/8.” While it is very close, variations in cutting and sewing can result in squares that do not finish at the right size, and that’s what happened with almost every one of those 64 squares. They were too small by about the 1/8” mark. It would have been better for me to cut the squares at 5” and trim down where necessary, and there was certainly enough fabric to do so. Hopefully this detail will not be forgotten in the near future, since it can be used in the cutting of Peter’s quilt, something that’s on the boards soon with any luck.

Oh yeah. As expected, Six helped.

Marion’s favourite colour is blue, so Carribean Sea from the Free Spirit Designer Solids line was chosen as the background fabric. At times that has felt like it wasn’t the best choice, but now it’s all together it looks good. Most of the fabrics come from Valorie Wells Ashton Road collection, and Connecting Threads. The design is Vintage from Cluck Cluck Sew, and my aunt will hopefully love it. The fabric and pattern were a result of winning one of the prize packages from the Gravity Quilt Along.

While it was possible to conceptualize how big a 15” block is, opening up a completed block to see how large it actually was came as a surprise. They were really a bit overwhelming all on their own but anchoring them into strips has grounded their impact. Witness my little helper’s leg for scale.

The flimsy is almost complete, requiring only the sashing to be applied to the outside edge. I could hardly wait to see what it looked like and hung it on the line for a quick look this morning before setting off to work. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Gravity Greys

It was possible to leisurely hand stitch 8 seams together for Gravity’s background in an hour. As with other tasks I don’t much enjoy, a lot more time was spent staring at the pieces rather than just getting it done. Intellectually, it is so much better to just get the work done rather than staring at it, but emotionally? Well, generating the excitement for all that drabness was close to impossible. Please don’t misunderstand – I like grey, but I’d rather work with colours that are not grey. Or brown. And that was a lot of hand-stitching. With grey. If it had been interspersed with other colours things might have been different. Or perhaps if it was machine sewn it would not have been as odious. To get as much of it out of the way as possible, I interpreted this step in the QAL such that the block strips for the background were assembled as much as reasonable without stepping into complete assembly of the top. Forgive me. While this all could have been machine stitched, there is a noticeable difference in the look between the hand stitching and machine stitching that made me carry on with the stitching by hand nonsense.

There were a number of missteps with the grey in putting the blocks together in their strips, mostly due to not caring that much about all that grey, and that was clearly a mistake on my part. It was a real pain, but they were all resolved. Many swear words were spoken and quite loudly too. Have I learned a lesson there? Probably not.

Here's my pile of grey.
The background was expanded by a diamond on each side widthwise. Peter and I continuously struggle for blankets in the winter, and we have a king sized bed. Since the size of this bedroom bound quilt was in my control, making it wider made sense and was easy. An extra diamond was inserted along the sides and the edge filler blocks were shifted slightly in colour where necessary. It would have been nice to go 2 blocks wider, but I’m feeling a bit lazy about the whole thing. It’s actually more about not wanting to carry on with more grey. Oh yeah – some of the expansion bits were Kona Snow. 

Thank you very much Myra for hosting the Gravity Quilt-Along.