gift

Paper Piecing Progress

Because of the Project That Ate The Entire Universe, I haven’t made as much progress on my mom’s Mother’s Day gift as I’d have liked by now, but I have managed to stitch a few diamonds in place here and there. These rounds get loooooong as you go along, so progress seems so slow now. It took a whole evening just to make the diamonds, then another to sew half of the current round together.

Cushion cover WIP

On the other hand, I’m getting quicker at stitching them in and, for the first time in my life, I’m managing to use a thimble effectively. Usually they just make me hold my hand all awkwardly, so I end up taking it off and just repeatedly stab my finger in the same place until there’s a tiny, extremely painful hole. Me and my thimble are, like, totally BFFs now.

Cushion cover WIP

I’m so happy with how it’s coming together – after this Plume round, I’ll have to measure up and see if I need another full round after that. If not, I’ll just start building on the four corners to create a square that can be trimmed to make the cushion front. Either way, the grassy green in the top photo will come after the Plume round.

Cushion cover WIP

Also, I found this amazing vintage sewing box at a local Handmade & Vintage Fair over the weekend for £5! It’s gorgeous and I love it to pieces. I, stupidly, waffled over it for a bit, but my lovely knitter friends didn’t let me walk away from it. It’s actually the perfect thing that I forgot I needed. These cushion covers will be a relatively short-term project (famous last words), but it will take me years to make a whole Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt.

Vintage sewing box, a new home for paper piecing projects

Now I’ve got a place I can keep it all together, all tidy and pretty!

The Magic Square Sampler (aka The Math Geek Sampler)

Here’s a little project that went so fast, I never got a chance to show you anything in progress. Plus, it was all hush-hush because it was a gift for my father. Even though he totally knew about it. Anyway, Dad is, let’s just be honest here, a math nerd. He studied and taught math stuff (fancy math, not addition and subtraction, and don’t ask more because I don’t really know) and he gets geeky about it the way I get geeky about yarn. What are you gonna do?

Since I make samplers, modern samplers and whatnot, he asked me to make one for him, of a ‘magic square’. I suppose other math nerds will already know what he was talking about, but for the rest of us: a magic square looks a bit like a sudoku board, but the point is that every row / column / diagonal in it has to have the same sum. Apparently, there’s not many, and the one he wanted embroidered is the ‘classic’ magic square. If you want to know more, there’s a crap-ton of information here. (There’s a lot of info there, I haven’t even read it all myself.)

I sort of waited too long to get this started, so I was desperately stitching on – and past – his birthday, but I also had a little mis-hap.

Magic Square Sampler (aka The Math Geek Sampler)

I got as far as four numbers stitched when I decided I really hated it. It seemed good on paper: the cute fabric, pearl cotton, blues – except that the more I looked at it, the more it looked like it belonged in a little’s boy room, teaching him his numbers. Sigh. So I started from scratch with more grown-up materials.

Magic Square Sampler (aka The Math Geek Sampler)

Ah, much better. I was fine with the stitches I used in the first version, or at least a couple of them, so I (re-)started there. Then just sat with a stack of my stitch dictionaries and flipped until I found the right stitch for each number.

Magic Square Sampler (aka The Math Geek Sampler)
Magic Square Sampler (aka The Math Geek Sampler)

There were a couple of do-overs – like the 5 I did entirely in tiny satin stitch, only to decide it was lumpy and pull it all out. Picking stitches for each letter / number on a sampler is both incredibly frustrating and extremely rewarding. The 5 in satin stitch would’ve been lovely, but it was way too difficult to get the curve exactly right, especially on a fairly loosely woven linen like this (from IKEA). Some stitches work better on curves, some look great on straight lines. Sometimes you can tell just by looking at it, sometimes you have to do a little trial-and-error and risk wasting time.

Magic Square Sampler (aka The Math Geek Sampler)
Magic Square Sampler (aka The Math Geek Sampler)

For the most part, I used 4 strands to make the numbers a bit more chunky (and manly!) than, say, my Sajou sampler. And if you’d like to know which stitch I used where, here’s a little list (from top left to bottom right):

Magic Square Sampler (aka The Math Geek Sampler)

4 = coral stitch, 9 = raised chain stitch band, 2 = chain stitch, 3 = threaded backstitch, 5 = twisted chain stitch, 7 = fern stitch, 8 = threaded chain stitch, 1 = Portuguese stem stitch, 6 = double buttonhole stitch. The grid is just simple split stitch, and then I did a herringbone ladder stitch border around the whole to frame it. (Thanks to encouragement from some lovely Tweeters and Instagrammers. I wasn’t so sure about that herringbone border, but they convinced me it was good enough. Thanks, guys!)

Magic Square Sampler (aka The Math Geek Sampler)

Quilting, but not for me

This post is the last bit of my Big Week Off, as well as a little catch-up from, um, Christmas. I finally finished a quilt that has been a WIP for about 20 years, then realized I’d never shown the finished quilt I made for my brother at Christmas.

For Liberty or Union

I posted a WIP photo of this quilt back at Christmas time, but without my brother himself to hold it up for me, I was unable to get a photo of the full thing at the time. I won’t say much about it here – I already told anything there was to tell in the original post – except that I named it ‘For Liberty and Union’ after a line in a U.S. Civil War-era song, and he likes it very, very much. He tells me a lot, which is awfully nice.

For Liberty or Union

The quilt I finished just recently was actually made by my father but finished by me. He received all the materials about 20 years ago, as a birthday gift. As far as I know, he started it right away, but then our whole family moved to the Netherlands. International moves being just a touch disruptive, he lost the thread (haha, no pun intended) on this project for a good while. Then he started up again and actually finished the top on an antique Singer machine from 1893 (more on that another time). After which the family, in bits and pieces, moved to the UK. For various reasons, Dad decided that hand-quilting it as he’d always wanted wasn’t really in the cards, so he asked me to machine quilt it.

Here Comes The Sun

Not that I really know what I’m doing! Before this, I’d free-motioned one small lap quilt and that was my whole experience with quilting. I did the straight lines last fall, before concentrating on the one above, and that was fine except for not basting well enough and having to pick out several full-length lines after realizing it was bunching up. Lesson learned.

Here Comes The Sun

But we’d decided on a feather motif for the border. I got Dad to lay it out and transfer the pattern; he’s good at stuff that has to be measured all properly and stuff. I was terrified to mess it up, but after a lot of practice on scrap fabric and then a few false starts, I just went for it and vowed not to fuss over every little not-perfect line. (Sorry, it’s not that easy to see, I did actually try to make the quilting lines as visible as I could in photo post-production.)

Here Comes The Sun

Which really is the way to go. Even with my tiny bit of experience, I can tell that it’s better to get a flow going than keep starting-and-stopping. But yeah, it really could be a millionty times better. From a distance, seen as a whole, it’s fine. But up close … well, let’s just say I did for one split second consider not showing it to you. But then I thought it might be nice for beginning quilters like myself to see someone else’s first attempts. It’s encouraging to see that your first tries are just like other people’s! I did feel like there was a significant difference between where I started and where I finished, so that’s something.

Here Comes The Sun

I named it and made a tag in secret with both of our initials and the details of the quilt’s long journey. I chose ‘Here Comes The Sun’ because it felt like just the right level of cheerful but not peppy – it’s hopeful and comforting. I always name things after music, and especially in this case, because Dad and I have the music geek thing in common. But since it will really belong to both of my parents, I didn’t want to pick something that excluded Mom. I know that ‘Here Comes The Sun’ is a special favorite of hers, so it seemed pretty much perfect all around.

Here Comes The Sun

Christmas Gifts 2011: Big Brother

Civil War Quilt, in progress

Next up in the handmade gift round-up is this quilt, a (American) Civil War Era reproduction (or using reproduction fabrics, anyway) made for my brother, who is a history buff and especially taken with anything to do with early American life. When we visited the lovely Tikki London quilting shop, quite long ago now, and he bought himself the kit to make this quilt, I wasn’t really all that surprised. I’d already noticed it on the shelf and was waiting to see if he’d sniff it out himself.

Of course he didn’t buy that kit — or the extra fabric he ordered to make it into a larger bed-sized quilt — to make himself. He did ask me first, but he basically just handed it to me and said, “sew”. Not to imply that I minded! I honestly don’t – my family has done a lot for me, and I always jump when there’s a chance to do something in return. The brother rarely asks me to make things for him so when he does, I’m all over it.

Which makes this a very cheeky gift, in a way, since he pretty much bought it himself and I agreed to make it. The gift isn’t really the quilt exactly. What I did was used Christmas as the push to finish it (and I should mention that they were only squared up blocks and uncut fabric a couple of weeks ago) and used my budget allowance to buy the only bits he hadn’t: the backing fabric and the binding fabric (Kona Khaki and Espresso, in case you’re curious). I went over budget a bit, but got lucky and ordered the fabric during the 11/11/11 sale at the always awesome Simply Solids so came pretty close.

That’s it, really. The weather’s been dark and awful lately, so this photo is the best I could squeak out in a hurry. I quilted the bejeezus out of it early this week and got it all done in two days, and started handsewing the binding around the back last night. I got about one side done, and still need to make a tag for the back. Not too bad, really, with just over a week to go. And, this will be my first completed person-sized quilt ever, and I didn’t make a big mess out of it. Yay! To go with it, just for a few little bits under the tree, I mixed up some Cocoa Cumin Steak Rub, Memphis-Style Dry Rub for ribs, Greek Dry Rub for ribs (link soon, it appears to be having trouble right now), and a jar of Apricot Bourbon Mustard. Nom!

P.S. – If you’re interested in the SMS giveaway, there’s still about a day to enter it over here!

Christmas Gifts 2011: Mom

In my Giveaway Day post the other day (go check it out, there’s still a few days to enter!), I promised to tell you about the gifts I’m making for Christmas this year. Other than one friend, I really only exchange gifts with my immediate family members: Mother, Father, Brother. Because there’s just the three people for each of us to shop for, we used to go all out on each other. For the last few years though, with the world being the way it is at the moment, and us all freely admitting we can barely get to all the stuff we already have, we’ve gone for a more low-budget handmade-or-thrifted approach.

I blogged about it last year, but the rules are that we can spend about £15 on each person, maximum. Last year I did fine with that part, but started working on my handmade presents way too late and panicked towards the end. Seriously, people, there were tears. It wasn’t pretty. I was smarter this year and although I’m not finished yet, I’m not really freaking out. Um. Mostly.

Handspun Hemlock for Christmas

For Mom, I knit Brooklyn Tweed’s amazing Hemlock Ring lap blanket. It’s a classic. I made it actually lap-sized – perfect for when you’re sitting at a desk and catch a little chill. I didn’t want it to be too big and unwieldy for that purpose. I actually got this one done pretty early – according to my Ravelry project page, I finished it on September 20th. Hey, well done, self! Too bad I didn’t get the more difficult presents started right then. I could be taking a nap right now. But I digress.

Handspun Hemlock for Christmas

Anyway, I couldn’t find any decent yarn that could do the job within the budget, so I had to spin it myself. This is undyed, navajo-plied bulky Corriedale wool, 500g / 550m (and I knitted up every last inch, just about) from World Of Wool* for about £8 or so. I thought it would take me ages to spin all the wool, but I enjoyed the process a little more than usual for some reason and it was spun, skeined and washed in under two weeks. Corriedale is a lovely wool – it feels very cuddly and woolly, but its slight sheen makes it feel a little fancy. As for the knitting itself, anyone who’s knit this pattern will tell you that it both knits up freakishly fast and is strangely addictive. That makes for a fast enough project that I kind of feel like Mom’s getting robbed!

Handspun Hemlock for Christmas

So I’m also making up a jar of Vanilla Lavender Sugar Scrub (mostly using stuff found around the house), bought a vintage book from a charity bookshop (a couple of pounds), and still have to knit a hot water bottle cozy (from stash yarn). Of course I decided this morning that none of the available hot water bottle cozy patterns suit my mother or my yarn, so I have to make one up. You know, because I don’t quite have enough to get done in the next week and a half.

* It’s a WORLD of Wool. I want to go to there.

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