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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Knickers in a Knot

This week is a busy one with 2 days off for my own pleasure. Thursday evening brings the beginning of a class at Needlework for the Wren dress by Colette. It’s fun to move into new sewing territory, and imagine the possibilities. While the skills required to make the dress could be learned on my own, I want a live person to guide me through this one. The dress is so pretty I’d like to end up with a result that will actually be worn.

Having never sewn with a knit before, I decided it might be a nice idea to practice on something small to increase the chances for success. Many, many lessons were learned while attempting to sew the Comox Trunks last weekend, and it’s a good thing I like to experiment.

Stretch fabrics stretch differently in the north-south and east-west directions. It is important to note this and choose the correct fabric orientation before beginning.

  • Supplex is a wrinkle free fabric. That means ironing to lay a seam flat or make seam binding is a useless exercise. In this instance, topstitching tames that beast. This should not be a difficulty with a cotton/spandex product, but you never know.
  • It may be difficult to differentiate between the right and wrong sides of the fabric, and that might become apparent in different lighting if you’ve sewn right and wrong sides together. Orientation of the pattern pieces may also make a difference to how the pieces look when sewn together. To avoid mistakes like this, marking the bottom of a piece on the wrong side is necessary for me.
  • Cutting the project with shears was not the way to go – a rotary cutter did a much better job of it.
  • Slowing down the sewing speed resulted in better looking seams that also laid down better.
  • That seam is only going in once and you won’t be picking it out if gets screwed up in the sewing. Witness Peter’s new knickers. They’re in a twist.
  • Step away if patience is waning. See above.
A new pair of trunks will be underway this weekend, complete with a strategy to prevent knickers-in-a-knot syndrome. Yes, those underpants ARE in a knot.

On Friday afternoon, it’ll be the Big Smoke (Toronto) with Marci and her father to attend a class on 3-D printing at a branch of the city’s library. It’s been a long time since there were any adventures in Toronto, and things done with Marci and any member of her family? Well, you’re guaranteed a good time.

The front of the baby quilt has been finished aside from a border around the outside edge.

I had an inordinate amount of trouble assembling these blocks, and they aren’t hard. Hopefully this week’s sewing efforts won’t prove as frustrating as last week’s. Many of the scraps are being incorporated into the back. Hopefully it will all become a quilt over the next week since I am ready for a return to Gravity’s quilting.

Friday, November 20, 2015


It was the intention to get the new baby girl flimsy completely sewn last weekend, but there seemed to be something in the way to thwart that plan at every turn. When it came time to cut the background, the chosen fabric was tossed aside and a trip made to Needlework for another colour. The bus passed me by on the way home. Twice. Several of the flying geese blocks weren’t formed nicely enough, and when sewn onto the bottom of the ‘house’ blocks, the end result was way out of whack. The sewing machine kicked up a stink with bobbins that refused to play nicely while sewing leading to a lot of frustration and experimentation to get it going. Peter, Six and Tikka each wanted a lot of attention over the weekend as well. Once all of that was all sorted out, things started to go a little more smoothly and by early evening on Sunday things were starting to come together. As of this morning, things are mostly together with about 1/3 of a block left to go, followed by general assembly of the piece.

Colour is an amazing thing. This partial block was absolutely unappealing. 

The yellow and all that coral-ish pink backed up by the tan? Nyeh. Until…

What a difference. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Totally Inappropriate Thoughts

Saturday was spent plucking the wings off of butterflies, mutilating cats, and conducting violence against ballerinas. For some reason or another, serial killer tendencies were all that came to mind while slicing these pretty fabrics up for a new baby girl quilt. 
Maybe it was listening to that podcast featuring the authors of true crime novels that put those thoughts there. These sweetie-pie fabrics are from the Tiger Lily collection by Heather Ross for Windham, mostly picked up at Needlework downtown. It is so much fun to sew these sweet little things. The little darling arrived 11 weeks early, so most other sewing plans have temporarily been usurped.

Gravity is taking a short break while considering how to quilt the star. A plan is slowly coming to light. Here's a sideways look at the current state of the beast. 

That radiating line thing looks to be going on, just as was hoped for. 

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Proof of Concept

Last night Peter went to bed very, very early. That meant no quilting on Gravity since that space is upstairs next to the bedroom, and open to it. It gave me an opportunity to think about a quilt that’s been on my mine for my father and his girlfriend. Phyllis has not been well recently and has some as yet undiagnosed blood condition that leaves her cold all the time. 
The sewing machine made a temporary migration to the dining room. A while back I saw a quilt on Pinterest - the blocks were a form of pinwheel, surrounded by negative space and what looked to be a 2” sashing. It looked suitably old-fashioned yet whimsical enough to give it a go. A little bit of geometry later, and a proof of concept block, sans sashing, was made. 12.5 inches finished. 
I like the block enough to carry on. It's not sure if there will be any sashing, but a small border around the block in the same colour might just be the thing. Maybe. The block was relatively fast and easy to construct. 30 to 42 blocks are under consideration. It's all mood dependent. 

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Gravity: A Start in Free Motion Quilting

This past weekend was spent quilting Gravity. For the next little while, Gravity’s free motion quilting effort will be focused entirely on wavy lines that radiate from the centre of the quilt to the edge. This part of the quilting starts at the edge of the starburst in the background and carries on to the quilt’s edge. Other options are being considered for the starburst itself. As someone brand new to free motion quilting, I thought it would be good to make a note of the things that are working / have worked for me.
  • Turning the speed of the sewing machine down to the absolute minimum was very helpful. Getting used to moving the quilt under the needle was the focus at this point. Faster speeds did not help with coordinating my hands with the sewing machine needle and the foot pedal. Taking some time to learn the coordination between my hands, the quilt and the machine was really worth it. Sewing speed has been increased a bit, and is now on the slow side of medium. The faster speed can be a bit of a challenge, particularly at the beginning of a session, but building up to the speed as the quilting progresses works well.
  • Setting the sewing machine to stop in needle down position so the project doesn’t get any ideas of its own to move when stitching stops.
  • Learning NOT to stop moving the quilt before the needle is down is an enormous help.     
  • Focusing only on the area in the triangle formed by the needle and my hands on the quilt is hard but really worthwhile. Stopping before exiting this small area really helps achieve better results.
  • Having a good grip on the fabric is very important so dry hands are not helpful here. The thought of wearing gloves while quilting was really unappealing, so some bits of rubberised shelf liner were press ganged into service. A successful grip on the quilt using this bit of stuff showed immediate improvement in stitch length. Not that there still aren’t inconsistencies, but this helped a lot.
  • A tiny bit of tension in the sewing direction after positioning the quilt before restarting the stitching helps to avoid a small jump in stitching that resulted in a little jog in the stitching line. This little jump is in large part due to the bulk of the quilt and the release of tension when the needle lifts out of position to take the next stitch. It is queen sized piece and there’s a lot of bulk up against the throat of the machine.
  • Rest regularly. Posture has been a problem, particularly hunched shoulders. This seems to be getting better with practice and increased confidence, but stepping away for at least an hour between sessions has been important for me.

It’s going very well, if very slowly. The first 10-15 lines to go in had many issues, mostly due to the way the quilt was being moved under the needle and stitch consistency. By Sunday morning those first lines bugged me enough to pick them out. Realistically no one else’s nose is ever going to be as close to the work as mine is right now, and they could have stayed in, but the stitching had improved so much by then the picking was worth it. There are still issues with the stitching, but I am more comfortable accepting them.

Marking straight guidelines on the top in order to keep the radiating pattern more or less on track has been helpful for this exercise. About 1/12 of the quilt gets marked at any one time using a chalko roller thingy. It’s all that can be managed since one of Six’s favourite activities is rolling around on top of the quilt any chance she gets. That’s an activity that almost totally erases the markings.

Just over 1/3 of the background has yet to get its initial stitching laid in. I’d like to see at least 2 or 3 times the amount of stitching go in from there, but we’ll see how tired I get of doing this. So far, I love it.

Yeah. It's a bit tough to get the quilt through the machine with Six helping out. She loves this thing.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Gravity Ditched

Well, not ditched in the sense that the project has been abandoned. It finally went under the needle over the Thanksgiving weekend (Columbus Day in America) and the stitching-in-the-ditch was finished on Sunday. It was difficult to get started, mostly because I kept feeling a bit overwhelmed by the project, and the thought of using that stretchy invisible thread. Each time the thread needed to be cut at the end of a stitching row was a bit traumatic for me. Grabbing the bobbin thread and top thread to hold it away from the start of sewing so it did not get thread-nested into a mess? That, added to the fact that the thread was difficult to see and sew with? Totally reasons why it was not the best experience. Another strategy could probably have been developed, but my brain just wasn’t there. Aside from this, the ditching was surprisingly enjoyable. As you can see, Six wanted to help by test-driving the effectiveness of the quilt’s cuddle factor and routinely tried napping on the pile of fabric and batting whilst sewing. She sure likes it better now that the bulk of the safety pins are out, and she can be found sleeping on it whenever the house is quiet.
Gravity had been on hiatus since the assembly ordeal a few weeks ago. The wait was a good thing since a supplementary support system needed to be devised to hold the bulk of the quilt to the left of the sewing machine. Happily, one is now in place. Making the finishing deadline for the quilt-along probably won’t happen, but the quilting will be started today or tomorrow. The thought of quilting is causing a bit of anxiety. While there’s been free motion practice on some smaller items, manhandling Gravity is most certainly a lot different than pushing a baby-sized practice quilt around on the machine. Oh well. It’s all a challenge. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Block Injury?

This block was made for Valerie at Purple Boots andPigtails, who is making a quilt of Kona cottons in other people’s favourite colours. The idea was to use your favourite Kona in the block, spelling out the colour’s name. Embroidery, applique, piecing. Any way you want. You would not believe how many attempts were made at this block. 2 full metres of fusible web were used, along with about 1.25 metres of fabric. If a mistake could be made in putting the block together, well then, it was. From having the fusible collapse into a wad before affixing to fabric, to cutting it out backwards or peeling off the wrong side and making the characters backwards, and really bad sewing, it all happened. Several times. It was completed back in September, and then forgotten about. It isn’t as good as I’d like, but it will have to do. I can hardly wait to see Valerie's finished product. Next time, I'll take something like this to my aunt's place and use her fancy cutter.

In case you couldn’t guess, the colour is Chinese Red, as provided by one of my colleagues at work. And no, it’s not my favourite colour. There were a lot of leftovers from making Red Metro Lattice, and the backing of Blue Metro Lattice which needed to be used. The rejected attempts at this block were used for free-motion-quilting practice. No fabric was injured during the making of this block. I swear.