Tuesday, 30 June 2015

FAL Finish: The Small Quilt With The Annoyingly Wavy Border Which Drove Me Batty Every Time I Looked At It

My current FAL list had a new item on it this time, which feels quite unusual as I seem to roll over the same projects quarter after quarter: a small quilt/wall hanging which I made when I hadn't been quilting long (the label says I finished it in 2008) and which hung above my stairs.   It's the second quilt I made and is the first one which was machine pieced:

Wall hanging

The problem with it smacked me between the eyes every time I looked at it (which was at least a dozen times a day!) and slowly but surely drove me batty(/battier).  I'm sure you've already spotted it but, just in case you haven't, I'll tell you: the border was wavy, the corners weren't square and it didn't hang right due to a combination of the aforementioned waviness and me taking notice of a blog post about 'I don't make hanging sleeves for quilts, I put hanging triangles in the corners'.  As someone who detests making hanging sleeves (even back at the beginning of this hobby!), this really appealed to me.  What I didn't know is that (corner) hanging triangles only really work if you're hanging a very small quilt.  I had to tack a partial sleeve between the triangles so that the weight of the quilt was more evenly distributed and pin a few tucks into the hanging triangles so that the weight of the quilt (which isn't significant) didn't drag the quilt out of shape.  I was only partially successful but I hung it up and called it done, faults and all.

The day came (somewhere around November last year) when I couldn't stand it for a moment longer.  I contemplated throwing out the quilt or donating it to the dogs' home but then realised that I was still rather fond of it, just not the wavy borders and not-square corners.  It was then I decided that a touch of surgery would be in order and that listing it on my FAL list would give me the impetus I needed to get the scalpel out.  (Not literally but only because I don't have one.  If I did, I definitely would have used it, I'm sure!)

I washed and dried it (it had been hanging on the wall since 2008 with just the occasional shake/hoover to get rid of the dust!) and then unpicked the binding and set it aside to re-use later.  Then came a few days of dithering over whether to remove both borders or just the wavy navy one.  In the end I cut off the navy border and had a good look at it with just the narrow aqua border before deciding that I wanted to have the blocks going to the edge of the quilt (even though it does make the binding a touch harder as there are points which could be lost) and got the unpicker back out.  At this stage it started to look a little sad but there was a glimmer of hope in there somewhere:


I sorted the binding (pressed it open, starched it and then re-pressed it in half) and stitched it on, being careful with the points.  I decided that blocking would up my chances of it hanging flat(tish) on the wall and so got to work.   Usually, I pin the item out when it's dry and then lay a well-wrung cloth over (this is my preferred method of blocking fabric and yarn items) but decided that the quilt needed to be washed again now the wavy borders had been removed as they were probably pulling the blocks out of line and a wash would help get rid of that distortion, and if it was going to be wet then I may as well block while wet!

Wall hanging - blocking

And then re-hung it on the wall (after a friend's husband chopped 6" off the dowel for me):

Wall hanging - back on the wall!

It's taken me a while to get used to the smaller quilt up there but it's much better than it was and it's far better than an empty wall.  I even managed to incorporate the original label on the back so it has two finish dates: 2008 (on the label) and 2015 (on the binding)!

The finishes link-up for this quarter is now open, so I'm linking up with Adrianne:

2015 FAL at On the Windy Side

We're having a mini heatwave (and yes, I'm complaining about it!  I don't complain about it being really cold or raining for a solid fortnight in January, I save it for the summer!) and Archie is torn between enjoying the sunshine (mainly on the front garden, which means I can't be away from the front window for more than a couple of minutes in case he takes it upon himself to wander onto the road or next door's garden) and doing the dog equivalent of sitting inside with all the windows open and the curtains closed:

It's too hot!!
He does like the back garden as well, just not as much as the front!  (You never get people passing the back garden so there's no one to watch out for and no reason to stand guard.  And why else would you want to be in the garden?!)

Hello, Mrs Bee!
The feverfew in the background had an argument with itself and has decided to get a divorce (from itself) - once it's flowered I'll sort it out but it seemed a shame to lop off the fallen bit when it was full of flowers!

This is one of his favourite places to lay in the back garden as he can see up the path and through the gaps in the gate to the road out the front.  If he's in the back and he's not on this spot then he'll be stood at the gate, either with his nose poked through a gap or trying to see if it will open with the application of a paw and some serious staring...

You don't need to take a photo of almost the entire garden...

The garden is taking shape, if you ignore the blue trug of pebbles and the blocks seemingly scattered round - they're marking out where I'm getting another raised bed (the ground there is dreadful and 'poorly draining' doesn't quite go far enough as a description so the only solution is a raised bed), once the landscaper gets back to me with a quote and has a gap in his diary.  I'm hoping it will be built by the autumn (I have plants to put in it!) but I'm not in a huge rush.  (Although if he said he could do it tomorrow, I'd snap his hand off!)
...because I'm the star turn: you just need a photo of me!  Honestly, you just can't get the staff these days *tuts*

Thanks for popping in, I hope you're doing well with your FAL list - don't forget to link up all your finishes before the linky closes (on 6th July at 11pm PST.  I think that's 7am on 7th July for us in the UK but I'm not completely certain so you're probably better off linking up before the deadline is imminent!)

I'm off to lie down in a darkened room - shout me when it starts to rain, will you?!!

Monday, 29 June 2015

FAL Finish: ET Phone Home Mini Quilt

One of the items on my FAL list was this 12" (finished) hand-pieced (not EPP!) test block for the ET Phone Home block (pattern by Lynne of Lily's Quilts):

ET test block
The first thing I needed to do was to give it a good press!

I'd made the block to test the templates (and work out my stitching sequence) before starting to hand piece enough blocks for a quilt - I haven't made much progress with the quilt but more on that later!

I used fusible wadding on the back and then machine quilted (with navy thread) in all the ditches, apart from the four 'squaring up' corner triangles, in an attempt to reinforce the circular appearance of the block:

ET mini - quilted

As seems to be usual with me and fusible wadding, I forgot to add a backing fabric!  I think it's because I usually use fusible wadding with cushions or bags/pouches where a backing fabric isn't strictly necessary and so my brain forgets to remind me.  It forgets to remind me about a lot of things...

Anyway, the back shows the quilting better:

ET mini -quilted (back)

I didn't have any of the navy fabric left for binding (I use scraps for test blocks), so I used a facing instead; I don't have a photo of the completed back (and it's now pinned to the wall and I'm not taking it down!) so you'll have to imagine it!

I do have a photo of the front, though:

ET mini - finished!

And here it is on the wall:

ET mini - on the wall
I think I'm going to put my lovely banner from Sheila above the clock as it will be the perfect place for it and will hide the rawlplug hole!

I'll be linking up with Adrianne when the time comes (that's from tomorrow, if you need a reminder!):

2015 FAL at On the Windy Side

I haven't made much progress with the 'official' ET blocks (i.e. the blocks for the quilt I hope to have...one day!) as I've only managed two blocks:

ET phones home - twice!

I'm making slow progress for a couple of reasons: the first is that it isn't high up on my list of sewing priorities (but will be moving up as I'm soon going to/aim to run out of hand sewing but I'll tell you about that another day) and the second is that it takes ages to prep each block!  I think the main reason for this is that the background shapes are irregular and so don't tessellate - this means that it takes me ages to lay them out to make maximum use of the fabric and that tracing round them is also less efficient than, say, squares.  Also, I'm trying to make this as scrappy as possible so I'm aiming to only use each 'triangle' fabric once in each round, across all the blocks.  I've prepped one of each of the three sizes for all the fabric I'd pulled for this quilt but will need more if I'm going to achieve my aim (I think I'll need 280 different 'triangle' fabrics if I make 35 blocks.  I might make less than that though, or I'll be collecting my pension before I've finished making blocks!) - I'll reassess once most of these triangles have been used:

Getting ready...

While I'm busy trying to tick things off my FAL list, Archie continues to live the life of Riley (or Lord Muck, take your pick!):

I hope you don't expect me to move anytime soon...

And he occasionally wonders how many photos of him I actually need:

Oh, it's you and the camera.  Again.

I'm off to finalise my selection of plants to buy with a voucher I won from Thompson and Morgan in a Twitter giveaway (free plants, how marvellous!!) as I need to spend them by tomorrow...

Thanks for popping in!

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Quilting and a winner

I've been chained to my sewing machine since my last blog post, desperately trying to finish quilting the fairy quilt (which is based on Sarah's Stained Quilt design) so that I stand a chance of having it finished by my niece's birthday (mid-July).  This is how it looked at the halfway point:

The straight lines (1" apart) are much faster to do than the not-quite-wonky-but-far-from-straight lines I pulled out but the quilting wasn't without its annoyances.  Every now and then (about every 600", I think), I'd get a loop of top thread on the top of the quilt, almost like the bobbin thread wasn't pulling it through properly.  I tried everything I could think of to fix it (new needle, rethreading the top and bobbin thread, altering the top tension, altering the bobbin tension, sewing really slowly, sewing a bit faster) but nothing seemed to work and, as it's such an intermittent fault, I can't replicate it!  It just meant that I had to keep a close eye on the stitches and, in the event of it happening, unpick a section and quilt it again.  If it happened close to the edge then I could take up the slack stitch by stitch but it had to be really close to the edge for it to be worth doing that, usually it was quicker to unpick!  Does anyone know what causes a machine to do this, other than sheer devilment?!

Tension woes

My next 'oh, I'm definitely getting there' moment was when I'd quilted lines 2" apart all across the second half of the quilt.  (I marked these using a hera marker, to ensure that the spacing was equal and the lines were parallel to each other.)

Making progress

I then went back and quilted a line between all those lines, using the quilting bar as a guide.  62 lines later (each just over 108" in length!), the quilting was finished:


The back is a little skewwhiff but I'm not letting it bother me as there's nothing I can do now, other than starting again and I'm not doing that!
Quilted - the back
The occasional 'close together' lines are where I've quilted in the ditch either side of the main sashing strips.

Yesterday I made about 400" of (yellow) binding and I'm hoping to trim/square the quilt and get the binding on the front this week.  Oh, and I have quite a few ends to tie in from those 'redoing the funny stitch' sections!  Then I need to sew the binding to the back and make a label before washing and drying it, and wrapping it ready for the birthday girl.

I think I mentioned that one of the few things I would change about my machine (apart from the tiny throat space) is the location of the reverse button - it's a 'tab' type affair just above the needle and is very easily caught when shoving the bulk of a quilt through the aforementioned tiny harp space; the result of this is that you can often find yourself going unexpectedly backwards which is most annoying!  To combat this, I went all Heath Robinson and got busy with half a cocktail stick, some paper and some sellotape (that 'magic' tape which doesn't leave a sticky residue), as well as a post-it note to remind me of the contraption(so I could remove it before doing any 'normal' sewing):

Getting a bit Heath Robinson...

I'm pleased to say that it worked a treat and I'll be doing this every time I need to quilt a big quilt!

Archie has deigned to choose a winner for the giveaway:

Sorry about the hard to read print - I'm stingy and print on 'draft' wherever possible!!
Congratulations, Saira, I'll be in touch soon!

Archie really wasn't impressed when he realised that there was absolutely no food in the ball, only bits of paper (it was getting close to needing his teatime tablet, which needs to be taken on an empty tummy!) and he stared at me for ages after.  This was taken about twenty-five minutes after his realisation and he'd been stood there for at least twenty of those minutes!

 I can't believe you tricked me.

He then moved to the front room (I was on the computer which is just the other side of that door - I leant round it to take the photo) and continued his protest:

I'm still waiting for the treats you owe me.
I made it up to him by giving him the ball (complete with treats - dried pasta, which is his favourite) after his tea and I think I'm forgiven!

I'm off for a cup of tea and a sit down with a book - thanks for popping in!

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

FAL Finish: Mr Fancy Pants Pouch

Fresh Sewing Day

While I was waiting to get wadding for the fairy quilt (more on that later) and then waiting again for thread to be delivered, I managed to get a few projects from my current Finish-Along list finished.  The first was the Bargello cushion from my last post and today I'm going to introduce you to Mr Fancy Pants Pouch (or Mr FPP, if you're feeling familiar).

Back in March last year (so it's only taken just over a year to finish - I call that good going!), I won a giveaway (sponsored by The Village Haberdashery) on Katy's blog for the fabric and notions to make a chevron clutch, which designed by her for The Village Haberdashery.

Mr Fancy Pants Pouch (my name for him, not Katy's or Annie's!) was supposed to look like this:

Image taken, with permission, from The Daily Stitch (The Village Haberdashery's blog). Photo credit: Annie Barker, The Village Haberdashery

but I knew I'd rarely use a clutch bag (I don't really go out on an evening and can't remember the last time I went out out (or even, using his definition, out!) - M.E. changes all sorts of things in your life, one of which (for me) is not really being able to go after about 7pm and definitely not being able to go somewhere as busy and noisy as a pub, even if I did drink!) and it seemed like a shame to keep Mr FPP in a cupboard, so I decided to give him a new look.  I knew I wanted to make the most of the fabric I won (0.5m of both the outer and lining fabric) as well as still use the gold leather and, if possible, the magnetic catch.  However, I couldn't work out a design to include all these things so eventually decided to make a zipped pouch which was large to hold a knitting project and include the strap from the clutch as I thought that would be really handy.

I'd read Katy's FAL tutorial about straight-sided pouches on Leanne's blog about eighteen months ago and it stuck in my head as something I wanted to try at some point.  I've only made one zipped pouch (when my mam wanted to learn how to make one) so naturally, I decided that my second pouch was an ideal time to try making leather zip ends!  I must point out that although I haven't made many zipped pouches, I've made plenty of things with zips in them (cushions, skirts, bags, etc.) so am fairly confident about putting in a zip, it's just the neat zip ends thing that I'm a beginner in *grin*

My first obstacle was pattern matching.  I made a template and cut out one side of the pouch (after carefully lining up the peak of a zigzag with the centre of the template, making sure the zigzag ran true across the template and tracing one of the gold zigzags so I could match up the other side) and then attempted to cut an identical piece from the fabric.  That was when I discovered that the zigzag wasn't printed as evenly as it looked and this was the best pattern matching I could manage:

Pattern matching...
Can you see how some of the pattern matches up exactly and some doesn't?  In the end, I admitted defeat and just cut it out!

Then I cut out the lining pieces, fusible interfacing (I used woven cotton) and fusible fleece/wadding and got busy with the iron.  That's when I discovered the next thing: interfacing can shrink.  (Some of you may already know that but it was news to me!)  These pieces were identical (in size, if not placement of zigzag!) before fusing:

Shrinking interfacing?
I hadn't washed the fabric so can't be absolutely sure it wasn't that which shrank (although it'd had a good steam iron before I started) but why did only one piece shrink?!

It's a good job I'd already given up on pattern matching the zigzag before this happened as I now definitely couldn't make the zigzag match!  I trimmed the pieces to the same size and then fused on the wadding, fortunately that was uneventful!

After a bit of 'which zip shall I use because I refuse to go to the shop and buy one when I have plenty in my box, there must be one here that I can use' pondering (I went for magenta in the end) and some sewing (the preparation is definitely the longest part of making a pouch!) and, after using my new wonder clips for the first time when sewing the leather to the ends of the zip (they were really handy for that!), Mr Fancy Pants Pouch was finished:

Mr Fancy Pants Pouch

As you can see (and as promised in Katy's tutorial), the sides really are straight, even after the 'shrinkage trimming'!

The zigzag doesn't match along the top but, quite honestly, it was as good as I could get it and it could have been a lot worse!  I love the magenta zip with the gold leather and the colours of the zigzags and I'm rather glad I didn't have a black or dark grey zip the right length!

Mr Fancy Pants Pouch

Here he is from the side, complete with ill-matching zigzags (there was no way to match those either but it would be easy enough, I think, to match a stripe or patchwork strip):

Mr Fancy Pants Pouch

The zip ends didn't turn out too bad in the end:

Leather zip tabs

And here he is carrying my current knitting project:

Mr Fancy Pants Pouch

All in all, I'm thrilled with him!  Thank you, Katy and Annie, for the fabric and tutorials!

Mr Fancy Pants stats:

Fabric: Remix zigzag in kale and a metallic print from Botanics
Finished size: 14" wide**, 11" high, sides (at base) 5.5"
Thread: Aurifil 50wt in off white ((2021); I had a faulty reel - have you seen what Aurifil sent to replace it?!  Crikey, their customer service is marvellous!) and Madeira gold metallic thread for the zip ends.

Now all I need to do is make good on my promise to take him to Whitby for an ice cream and a walk along the pier and then a climb up the 199 steps (and probably sitting on each and every bench on the way up and back down) to admire the view and do a bit of chatting (to Mr FPP, of course) while I knit.  It might be a while but I will do it!

**  It's a subtle change but when I make Mr FPP's brother, I'm going to start with how wide I want the zip opening to be, rather than how wide I want the pouch to be.  I wanted Mr FPP pouch to be 14" wide but, of course, that means that the zip is only 13" long and it would be nice if it were a touch longer so I could get a plastic folder in there without having to bend it.  I might need 60cm of fabric for Mr FPP's brother, just in case!

I'll be linking up with Adrianne at the end of the month:

2015 FAL at On the Windy Side

In other news, I started quilting the fairy quilt, and then I unpicked the 1080" of wonky lines I'd done as I just didn't like them and, generally, the lovely folks on Twitter agreed that they weren't wonky enough.

To continue or rip?

It's surprisingly hard to do wonky on a quilt which is 108" long as the lines are so long that you can't see where you've been or where you're going!  My machine feeds through straight (that's not a complaint!) so it takes some wiggling to get it go wonky and with all that bulk I just found it hard to get the result I wanted.  To paraphrase the lovely and helpful Daniel Rouse, they were close enough to straight to make the wobbles look sloppy rather than intentional - my thoughts exactly!

I started again the next day and the lines now look like this:

Straight lines
Much better!
Thankfully, I'm happy with how this looks (and they're quicker to do) and just need to continue!  My aim is to quilt two lines a day as that will give me some leeway and allow for days (like today) when I'm unable to do any.  The deadline is just over six weeks away...

My plants continue to delight me and the aquilegias are out in force at the moment:

aquilegia mosaic
I love the way the morning sun peeks over the back fence and highlights that yellow aquilegia - it really does look like it's glowing!

The side border is starting to fill out nicely, especially when you consider that I haven't really concentrated on this part of the garden yet:

Side border filling out nicely
The climbing rose (Rosa 'The Pilgrim') doesn't look quite as good this morning as it got badly battered by the wind... 

And some of my favourite plants, like this thrift, are in full flower:

I love thrift!

The bees are visiting:

Bee visiting the pulmonaria
Mr Bee visiting the pulmonaria

And lots of the plants are showing lots of growth since last year (when they'd spent at least eight months in pots):

Little acer and big brunnera and dicentra!
Small but leafy red acer with brunnera and dicentra formosa

I've added some more plants (including some cosmos, my first ever summer annuals and a bargain at 30p each!) to my large raised bed which is filling out nicely:

Planted - cosmos
Please excuse that block in the foreground, it's part of a series of them marking out the boundaries of a soon-to-be raised bed!

And, of course, Archie is always on the look out for a biscuit:

Oh the shame, I've been caught mid-lick!
As well as doing plenty of snoozing...


...or at least trying to but 'someone' keeps disturbing him!

What do you want?  Does it involve biscuits or walks?  'Cos if not, I'm going back to sleep and I don't wish to be disturbed!

Thanks for popping in!

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