What Quilts Mean (& Orange Peels FO)

What Quilts Mean Header

Wow, guys. This quilt has been a long time coming. It’s been through a lot. I started planning this project last August, and started really sewing sometime in September, so it’s been over eight months in the making. And not just any old eight months.

Orange Peels Quilt

While I was finally quilting, sitting at the sewing machine for hours on end, the quilt passing under my hands, I thought a lot about what it means to me. What making it meant to me while I worked through the first eight months of grieving for my mother.

Orange Peels Quilt

In a very literal way, this quilt helped me work through the first steps of this seemingly never-ending process. The hand-stitching of appliqu├ęd orange peels is a beautifully mindless process, allowing me to shut down my brain while keeping busy at the same time. And sharing the steps and my progress with you all gave me the vehicle to interact online again, before I was really ready to talk about casual stuff. Every bit of this project helped me inch forward in some little way.

Orange Peels Quilt

This quilt has been a distraction, a comfort, and a friend. As I guided it through the machine, I thought about the actual tears that have soaked into its fabrics over the last eight months, and I wondered if it’s like the Sword of Gryffindor: what it absorbs only makes it stronger. Will it hold on to all of those feelings for me?

Orange Peels Quilt

One thing I know for sure: this quilt is not just a blanket. And the moment I thought that to myself, I knew it was true of all quilts. We don’t make quilts because they keep us warm. For most of us, we don’t need to do that at all. We could go buy a blanket for a fraction of the cost at our local department store. I’m forever saying that I love how quilts are allowed to be, symbolically, a little corny. We join fabrics that symbolize special people or times in our lives. We sew together to symbolize a sense of community or bond between the makers. We quilt to celebrate special occasions or meaningful events.

It’s clear that making quilts means something to us, and (hopefully) to the people who use them. To me, my orange peels quilt was something like an amour – to both protect me from and insulate me in my grief. And for the rest of my life, it will remind me of a comfort that I can’t quite put into words. There is a sort of comfort in sadness, when you feel broken-hearted – and this quilt will contain that for me, forever.

Orange Peels Quilt

I’ve invited a handful of fellow quilters to share their thoughts on the meaning of quilts. I’ve asked them to prepare a post, in any form or style they want, with the title, “What Quilts Mean” and I will share their responses over the coming weeks, or maybe months, or until I run out of contributions. I was overjoyed that they wanted to join me in this little project, though I know so many have thought about this topic from a million different perspectives – I can’t wait to hear some from our online community. I really hope you all enjoy the series!

Sew Together Bag FO

Eeeeep, how I love my Sew Together Bag so much!

Finished Sew Together Bag!

Here’s the basic stats:

Sew Together Bag Pattern by Sew Demented, available via Craftsy.
– I English Paper Pieced the exterior using teensy pieces of Liberty Tana Lawn and Kona Navy. The squares are 1″ and the exterior is quilted with plain batting, no interfacing.
– The embroidery on the exterior is done in a perle cotton, size 16, and the design is from a 1930s embroidery transfer I bought on eBay!

Finished Sew Together Bag!

– Inside, I’ve got fabrics by Anna Maria Horner, Lizzy House, Cotton + Steel (neeeeeed mooooore Cotton + Steeeeeeel) and a few I don’t know the designers of – shout if you know!

Finished Sew Together Bag!

– I used Vilene woven interfacing G700 in only the places the pattern says to use interfacing and my bag is incredibly sturdy. I’ve talked before about how much I love this interfacing, it’s so perfect for bags and pouches. I’m never really sure what designers mean when they say ‘medium-weight interfacing’, ‘heavy sew-in interfacing’ – etc – in patterns, because most interfacing isn’t sold that way, or at least not that I’ve seen anyway. Many places simply list the product name (i.e., Vilene woven G700) or have interfacing on the bolt. Unless you already have good experience matching interfacing to projects, it feels like a bit of a crap-shoot. I’d love if more designers put a ‘such as’ in their pattern materials list, so you at least have something to go on. Meanwhile, I just noticed that Jaycotts here in the UK has more descriptive product titles than most shops, so check them out if you aren’t sure what to buy!
– I sewed everything but the steps with a zigzag stitch with my darling Bettie, my Singer Featherweight 221K. I thought she might have a hard time with all those layers and interfacing, but she’s such a champ, just stitched right through it without a complaint!

Finished Sew Together Bag!

I essentially followed the pattern to the letter, except for a few notes:
– I used longer zippers for the interior pockets, then trimmed them back once the three pockets were all together. This was simply because I had them lying around and didn’t want it to turn into a pricey project, but I’ll do it that way on purpose for the others I’ve been told I’m making for family members. :) If you have a longer zip, you can move the slider completely out the way and not have to worry about getting around it at all. Sure, you can stop halfway (with your needle down!) and slide it up, but if you have them handy or you aren’t paying more for the extra length, I’d go with a slightly longer zipper and skip the whole bother.

Finished Sew Together Bag!

– I hand-stitched my binding around the sides, just because it’s always neater for me that way. I had to do it by machine along the zipper length and that took me a couple of tries to get it looking as invisible as possible, but it worked out ok in the end.
– I did machine-attach the bag handles just as the pattern describes, but I’m not really that happy with how it came out. My Bettie did great, but it was so difficult to keep everything lined up nicely with so much to sew through. You can’t really see that stitching here, but I think it looks a little sloppy. I think I’d just do that section by hand next time – I might even rip out that 1″ of stitching one day and re-do it by hand on this one.

Finished Sew Together Bag!

But anyway, holy cow, how I loved this project! Even though I rushed it to be done for the Fat Quarterly Retreat and it could’ve been a more relaxing project, I still loved the hell out of it. It seems like it’s going to be tricky, but it’s such a fun and clever pattern and if you just do as you’re told, it will all work out in the end. I love my bag SO much!

Patchwork Town Sampler – FO

Huzzah, it is done! I can hardly believe it. I was seriously starting to see those blackwork patterns when I closed my eyes and in the lines of my tiles and books and furniture, like when you used to see Tetris blocks falling in your sleep after playing your new GameBoy for 37 hours straight.

There’s actually not too much to say about this project as an FO – there were a couple of late nights, one really, really late night, and getting it affixed to the canvas wasn’t nearly as difficult as I’d anticipated. I should mention that I owe pretty much a metric crap-ton of thanks to Kim from String-or-Nothing for her amazing free-to-download collection of blackwork fill patterns. I happened to come across this *exactly* when I needed it, and it was invaluable. I was really sleep deprived towards the end there, so I am honestly not sure if I used any of Kim’s fill patterns exactly as they are printed, but I definitely used the whole book over and over for inspiration. Using a little bit of one stitch, adjusting it to suit the project, adding a touch from another pattern.

So it’s done and I’m extraordinarily proud of it – honestly, when I had this idea months ago, I thought it was a good one, but it ended up looking a million times better than I expected it to. I’m so glad it’s done, but so so so glad I did it.


FOs (knitted)

Magrathea Shawl FO
Magrathea, finished

This doofy photo was, sadly, the best of the bunch, and it doesn’t even show the glittering sparkle in this lovely yarn from iKnit! Dammit. I love the shawl though, so so so much. Possibly my favorite knit ever.

Ranger Cardigan FO
Ranger, finished

This is my brother. He’s a dork. The cardigan came out pretty well though – other than sleeves that are too long (he’s cuffed them here) – even if I missed finishing it during the Ravellenic Games by about a hundred years.

Noro Scarf FO
Noro Scarf FO
Noro scarf, finished

Noro Sekku (laceweight) scarf also done, ready to give away as a Christmas present – but I really enjoyed this pattern in the end as well, and I’ll be making myself a version in one of the Noro sock yarns. I’m not likely to wear a cotton decorative scarf like this one, but I love how this pattern handles the Noro colors, so I’ll do a wooly version for winter.

On top of all this stuff finally getting finished, a dear friend also helped me work out a problem with a new pattern I’ve been working on, which means it’s basically finished! I just have to get the pattern together and get it tested, woohoo! More on that soon though. For now, I think I’ve learned my lesson and will keep the number of WIPs down to a reasonable few. It’s clear that having so many WIPs doesn’t work for me – I get frustrated because I feel like nothing gets finished, and because things take sooo long to finish, I get bored on top of it. I doubt I’ll ever be a monogomous crafter – what’s the fun in that?! – but I think this last string of never-ending WIPs will keep me in check … for a while, anyway. How about you? Are you a serial starter or a faithful crafter?

Mod Sampler Quilt

Mod Sampler Quilt

Huzzah! It is finished! Finally! My Mod Sampler Quilt (free pattern here, by the amazingly awesome Oh, Fransson) lingered for months – or, um, maybe years, now that I think about it – but it is finally quilted, bound, crinkled, and lovely.

Mod Sampler Quilt
Mod Sampler Quilt

I made it really hard on myself by deciding on a quilting pattern that went in different directions and meant each square had to be quilted individually and, as a result, it’s full of mistakes and imperfections — but I just don’t care. I made it all by myself, from picking the fabrics to hand-stitching the binding, and it’s all mine and I. Love. It.

Mod Sampler Quilt
Mod Sampler Quilt

At the moment, quilting – and sewing in general, really – is always a low priority for me. It’s actually the activity I most often use for just pure relaxation, because it is in no way “work”-related. I don’t sell sewn items, I don’t make sewing patterns, I don’t write sewing articles – I don’t take it too seriously. It’s just for fun – but that does mean it gets pushed to the bottom of the list when other stuff needs working on. So my poor Mod Sampler – named ‘Bridges and Balloons’ after the dreamy Joanna Newsom song (live version), which just seemed to suit it perfectly – sat untouched for months at a time, waiting for me to get a few minutes here and there to play with it. With autumn sneaking up faster than I wish it was, I thought it was time to just get it done already. And I do love it so so much, I’m so proud that I made such a cozy, cuddly thing all by myself. Bizarrely for me, a tiny part of me is looking forward to it getting chilly, so I can curl up with my quilt and a cat in my lap.

Mod Sampler Quilt Tag

I already have a pattern and a stack of fabric all picked out for my next quilt, but I have a couple of gifts to make and I have to knock a few other projects off the Shame List first. I’ll call it incentive to keep focused on finishing my zillion WIPs!

(P.S. – I just wanted to let you know that I’m going to be on a blogging-break for about a week / week-and-a-half-ish. I have a list of things that still need touching up, design-wise, from when I moved here from my old blog, and I never seem to get around to dealing with them. Call it a blog staycation, to give me time to finally get those last bits looking purdy!)

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