160 down!

June 22, 2010

Well, first things first: thank you so much for your sweet and lovely comments on my skirt! Y’all are amazing! I felt so good when I read them, and I promise I will make the tutorial for you, since I received a few comments and e-mails about it.

I know I vowed to start documenting my progress on my projects, so I’m going to give you a look at my flying geese quilt top (or at least what I have so far). The tutorial I promised will not be posted until after I teach the block at the next NEMQG meeting. That way, I can see if there are any issues with my explanation or presentation.

So, I painstakingly squared up all 161 of my goose blocks (my count was off). Squaring up is the one thing I don’t like about quilting, I’ll admit…it really ruins it for me, and usually I have to break it up across several days or weeks, which is why this top is taking me so long.

The main fabric is a recycled cotton skirt from the 60s. You can see it in the photo as the fabric featured in five of the blocks.  Most of the rest of it came from scraps and some other recycled bits…although I did have to buy some new fabric as I neared my final count and began running out. The top is about 60×70 so far, and my plan (surprise, surprise) is to create a thin, pink border and then a large white border.The solid is Kona Bleached White.

This is, without question, my favorite quilt top I’ve made so far. I am absolutely in love with it.

So is the cat.

I have an important anniversary coming up, so I am going to be hosting a small giveaway this week…stay tuned!

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More Dior!

June 18, 2010

This is not news to any of you, but I am more than a little bit obsessed with the Dior House (from when it was Dior’s Dior house in the 50s, of course, not the current Dior house, mass producer of bad perfumes and bean-shaped bags). I was reading Alexandra Palmer’s Dior* last month and I became overwhelmed by the desire to make something Dior-inspired rightthisminute. Most things in that category, of course, would probably take me a year, so I chose a simple, pleated black skirt with slightly textural fabric. One non-vintage (GASP) pattern later, and here you have it:

Butterick 5285, how I adore thee! You combine the best of both pleated skirt worlds: knife and box. Your instructions are clear and you fit with little tweaking. The major caveat here, of course, is that making a true knife pleat requires  far more than “matching large dot to small dot.” If you’ve never made a pleated skirt before, you are in for a treat/ a lot of work. Crafting a true knife pleat that sits like a pleat in perpetuity requires no skill, but a great deal of patience.

Butterick does an extremely poor job of explaining this, and their photo does not look like your FO would look if you only used their instructions. A sharp pleat requires constant ironing into submission, hand-basting of every pleat, topstitching and edgestitching on the front and back of every pleat…the whole shebang (if y’all want a tutorial on this, I will make one).

The fabric is a heavy suiting fabric with a barely discernible texture (other people can’t see it, but I can and I love it); the zipper and hem, as always, are hand-sewn. And here’s the rub: if you REALLY want your pleats to sit right, you should hem both pieces separately either AS SOON AS THEY ARE CUT (double gasp). Learn from my mistake, please! I had to rip out all of my hand-basted pleats, hem the skirt, and then re-do the hand basting…thank God for Angela Lansbury and MSW.

But as long as you know that you should basically ignore their relevant construction suggestions, this is a great pattern. Really, I mean it. It fits how and where I like it: high on the waist and snugly through the lower abdomen. The length is great and the pattern pieces make sense and are easy to use. I think it is a must-have and is well worth the $17 I paid for it at my fabric store. I am sure I will use it again. It’s just too bad I used bright blue basting thread on the zipper and I walked around all day with leftover blue thread stuck to my bum :(…

*A very short book review: this book is excellent as a review of the establishment and business of the Dior house (including the historical context in which it was created),  but if you want pictures of Dior’s many gorgeous creations, you should look elsewhere. There are, at most, ten photos of his dresses in here.

Hello, friends! As I said earlier, I had to put all of my projects away last week to make my nana a tablecloth for her 83rd birthday. She has been talking about this tablecloth she saw in a catalog probably 50 years ago for a good couple of years now, so I seized the opportunity to sew one up for her, even though I didn’t have a photograph for reference. She asked for 14″ yellow and white squares. Easy enough.

Two trips to Fabric Corner later (apparently NOT easy enough to buy the right amount of fabric the first time) and some quality time with my giant cutting mat (and season 2 of Prime Suspect), I had the top. I sewed up the bottom and painstakingly laid them out on the floor. Then I ironed and pinned them all out into a lovely 70″ square…only to realize, when I stood up and reflected on my handiwork, that I had basted the layers together like a quilt (ie, wrong sides together), not pinned them together like a tablecloth (right sides together). <sigh> Old habits die hard.

But I finished it and gave it to her on Saturday, and she seemed to like it…

…which is, of course, the only important thing!

Unfortunately, I’m terrible at recording the colors of Kona I buy, but I do know that the white is Bleached White, which is my personal favorite…I think it’s a truer, brighter white than the others, and it looks great with bright colors and pastels alike.

Happy sewing, whatever you’re making!

One gloomy week…

June 11, 2010

…at least it was if you live in the New England area. Dear God. Yesterday was epically dismal. To top it off, I haven’t had much time to sew, and I haven’t made the most of the time I do have. My nana wanted me to make a tablecloth for her birthday, which is tomorrow, and I did…and it looks like a circus tent. But it was exactly what she wanted, so as long as she is happy, I’m happy! If I’m not too ashamed of it, I’ll take some photos of it tomorrow, probably in a beautiful setting that will distract you from the tablecloth itself.

I’ve been working for a week now on a flying geese quilt, using a very old-fashioned method that I love and plan to share with all of you in a tutorial soon. 126 down, 34 to go to reach the total I need for the top…if only I didn’t have to square everything up, it would go so much faster. 🙂

It’s Tuesday…

June 8, 2010

…and I think I’ve got the Tuesday blues! Do you? I’m looking at my little quilt and trying to figure out if it matches my original vision.

This might be one of those projects that needs to sit in the closet for a few weeks before I decide how to proceed. Seeing it on the wall makes me think a border would detract from its look. I know I’m vacillating quite a bit, but I think that’s a good thing…you should always be engaged with your quilt, not simply follow a schematic and disregard your intuition, don’t you think?

I hope you’re all having a productive week!

Thanks to everyone who commented online and in person and supported my gut feeling: a bordered square is best! Here was my original sketch (with quilting plan):

And here are the blocks arranged up on the wall (with a few sewn together already):

I put them on the wall, one by one, trying to achieve as much balance as possible the first time around. I honestly didn’t trust myself to mess around with the arrangement very much. After hearing Denyse talk about how “analyzed” her arrangements are, I was a bit paranoid. There are a few things I don’t like about the arrangement, but overall, I am very pleased with it.

I read once on Film in the Fridge that you should always take a photo of your quilt and then actually load it onto your computer (the annoying part) to analyze block placement. THIS IS A MUST WITH AN IMPROV QUILT. First, because you need a reference when you start pulling them down to sew them together. Second, you can tell how each fabric “reads,” not just what it looks like. Very important.

The one thing I didn’t anticipate was how difficult it would be to sew all of the blocks together…they were all different sizes, and trying to figure out the “best” way to arrange them has been difficult. Sewing them in strips would kill the improv look, so a random approach has been more effective in retaining the overall feel, but it has taken a while.  I’m still not done, but my copy of Prime Suspect, Season 2 has arrived, so I hope to put in some quality time in front of the sewing machine and TV soon :).

Letting loose

May 30, 2010

So, as I said yesterday, I am in the middle of an improv quilt. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this style, see Denyse Schmidt’s website here and the quilts of Gee’s Bend here for some good examples. It is going well, though much slower than one would think…improv quilts are not inherently faster to make than their traditional counterparts. Mine is actually progressing slower than anything I’ve made before.

When I started this, I knew I wanted an improvised design, but I didn’t sketch it out or anything. I only formed a few guidelines before beginning. My “must-haves” for this quilt were:

1. A bright and bold, infrequently used color combination

2. Extremely scrappy

Easy enough, right? I had actually settled on red, yellow, and blue before I went fabric shopping because I have a lot of red scraps from various quilt and garment projects. I ended up at a fabric store that carries very traditional fabrics (by chance, not intention), began matching whatever I could find, had it cut, and ran home to add fabrics from my stash. I call this quilt “Piece of Me” because that’s what it has become–it contains scraps from many different projects, some handkerchiefs I bought at a thrift store, some chunks of muslin from old blouse muslins, and even pieces of the cloth bag you get when you buy jewelry from anthropologie.

I employed Denyse’s paper bag technique (although mine is actually the cardboard box technique), which involves dumping all of your fabrics in a container, pulling them out without looking, and forcing yourself to use whatever you pull out. I know some people have trouble with this, but I don’t…it’s very freeing and I almost always like the results.

Sorry for the grainy photos! The natural light in my apartment is almost nonexistent.

I happened upon a recorded lecture of Denyse’s recently, and I learned that while her blocks are randomly composed, their placement is well analyzed. I know my placement is not great right now, but I am working toward something I like better. My square measures about 47″ by 65″, which is a little more than halfway to a finished twin-sized quilt. But I’m at a standstill. I’m considering a new layout. Instead of a full 65″ by 85″ (twin size), I’m wondering if I should finish it to 65″ square, create a small red outline of the square, add a huge muslin/ivory border to make it queen-sized, piece the back, and bind it in red.

What do you think? Keep going and finish it off as one huge improv design, or make it look like a “framed” design?