Rainy days are sewing days

It has been wet and gray, weather that makes me want to curl up with a stack of fabrics and a rotary cutter!

A while back I made another diamond quilt, inspired by one I saw a pic of online. The inspiration quilt was arranged with very symmetrical rows, but I wanted a more random distribution to go with the scrappy stripes. (I can’t find the original inspiration picture, but it was a little like this one, but with wider diamonds and a scrappy background.) Mine ended up rather differently, like this:

Yesterday I gathered a pile of floral fabrics and a diamond template and started cutting to make my second diamond quilt.

My diamonds are 12 inches high, with the blocks end up at 12 1/2″ by 7 1/2″ wide. I always make them a little bigger and then trim them to the exact size to make up for any inaccuracies in my piecing. I don’t use pins when I sew the blocks so trimming fixes any shifting. And it doesn’t take long to trim them. In this case there were 24 diamond blocks.

It was definitely a quicker top the second time around, mainly because I wasn’t having to sew all the strips together for stripes, and I also made most of the background blocks bigger as well. Much less sewing all around, and I like the solid effect as well, though I think I will try a third with a single color background. I was determined to make this one without buying any more fabric which made a patchwork background mandatory. And I do love scrappy in a quilt!

Dye lots really matter!

Muir wrap knitting project in progress

Recently I started knitting Muir, a Knitty.com pattern that I’ve long had on my Ravelry favorites list. But as I knit repeats and weighed yarn balls, it became clear that no matter what the many people who’ve made this project with Malabrigo lace yarn have said, my knitting gauge wasn’t going to be able to stretch only two skeins of yarn to all the repeats and the borders. So I went online and ordered another skein of the colorway VAA from the fast and friendly people at Jimmy Beans Wool.

Which is where my neglect of dye lots comes in.

Malabrigo lace yarn

My plan to switch skeins every couple rows is not going to save this, not when I already have four repeats done with just the original, darker yarn. The differences are too drastic. The new yarn has a third color completely dominating it, a color not even present in the first skein.

I think this is going to be another navy-is-my-friend overdyeing project. Navy acid dyes have saved me many times. I’ll feed the new yarn in here and there and then plunk the whole thing in the dyeing crockpot when I’m done.

Color changes aside, I love this yarn. Malabrigo lace is one of the softest yarns I’ve ever come across, and it is a joy to knit. I’ve been knitting a lot of worsted and thicker yarns lately, so the soft, weightless slip of this through my fingers is pure joy.

Improved ironing – a fast DIY

I don’t use an ironing board when I do my quilting – at least not the traditional long, narrow, collapsible type. There just isn’t enough surface space. So I made my own. The first one was a 2 x 2 square, which was just the right she for my sewing table top, and very portable, but too short for sewing long seams. And if I put my little cutting board on it, there wasn’t much ironing room left.

Cutting board on ironing surface

So today I made a new, larger board.

Cutting board

This one is 2 x 4 – a lot less portable, but definitely a lot more ironing surface.

These are really easy to make if you have a staple gun. I got my board at Home Depot. They sell both the 2 x 2 and 2 x 4 sizes precut. The only other materials I needed were all cotton batting and a heavy cotton fabric. I used a printed canvas floral.

Then it is just layering, folding, and stapling. The board is the smallest element, then the batting, and the outer fabric the largest to wrap around all the rest.

Iron board in progress - layers

I cut off the fabric and batting in triangles at the corners to make it less bulky and folded it like wrapping a present. Making the batting smaller than the outer fabric meant I could fold the edges of the fabric over the batting and staple it under, so there were no raw edges to worry about.

My plan is to get a cart for the sewing room and place this on top so I can move it around to where I need it, depending on the type of project. For now, it works really well on the dining room table. I can iron longer pieces or iron and cut smaller pieces without having to move everything.

This can’t be good

Broken walking foot

I was happily and successfully quilting away on a fairly simple quilt – just straight lines along seams – when the needle started falling out, then broke, and something went sprong, and the walking foot stopped feeding the fabric from the top.

I took it apart to see what was the matter, and now I can’t get it back together again. I’m going to try again in the morning with better light and a less tired brain. There aren’t that many pieces, but I’m all fumble fingers.

So, since I couldn’t keep quilting, I switched to knitting. Also not a smooth ride. When I finally figured out the crochet cast on for a new lace project, I was almost to the right number of stitches when the cable separated from the needle and dropped the middle stitches. Tried again with a new cable and had to unpick the new stitches of the first row when I didn’t follow directions correctly. I’m now a whopping two rows into the project and I’m putting that down too.

I’m excited about the quilt, though. It is made with Moda’s Road 15 by Sweetwater line. I had a layer cake and a charm pack, so I added some Kona solids and did a combo of squares, half square triangles, and four patch blocks. I also found a great green and white fabric for the back with lots of little houses that fits the roads/houses/maps theme of the top.

White houses on green fabric

Quilt in profess

P.S. Wrote this last night, but couldn’t log on to post it. Not my night for great success!

Design wall

I have a fairly small room in our house for a sewing room. It works, but there is a definite need for some serious time spent figuring out just what sorts of furniture would make it more workable and more organized.

Today’s addition-in-progress is a design wall for quilts in progress. Before today, I’ve had to spread blocks for quilts out on the floor in the living room. Besides creating quite an obstacle course for anyone else hoping to walk from the couch to the kitchen, it also meant either moving my sewing and cutting to the dining room or running back and forth from my sewing room to the living room. Not far, but a pain.

Design wall
A JoAnn’s coupon helped purchase some very inexpensive white flannel. Today I’m testing it with the help of some painter’s tape and a baby quilt I started. If it all stays up, I’ll sew the pieces of flannel together and attach it more sturdily.

Fused fabric – Chinese zodiac animals and a few fish

Last year I took a Craftsy class called Hand Stitched Collage Quilts from Laura Wasilowski.  It was one of the first classes I took from Craftsy and was a definite success.  Here are a couple of projects I made during the class and inspired by Laura’s books:

I love fused fabric quilting for wall hangings because I can add embellishments like embroidery and buttons and still finish in a reasonable amount of time.  And this type of applique is also very quick.  After a few projects, I now have a lot of scraps and don’t have to spend a lot of time fusing the webbing to a lot of fabrics.  Just larger pieces need to be fused and I can begin the more fun part of cutting and ironing.

My children are originally from Taiwan, and they love to hear about their Chinese zodiac animals.  So,  I decided to make them wall hangings of their zodiac animals.

One son is a rooster.  I love bright batik fabric, so his rooster is a full feathered guy, with a black button eye.  I added some feather stitch embroidery here and there to make sure everything stayed in place, and we hung it above his dresser where it looks out over the room, and apparently wakes him up each morning at the crack of dawn.  That boy has never slept in in his life, so that part of the rooster label fits very well.

My other son is a pig.  Not just any pig, but a golden fire pig, which is considered very lucky and only happens every 600 years.  To be honest, we don’t know a lot more about the zodiac than we have read on Wikipedia.  To add to the doubtfulness, the description of fire pigs doesn’t fit my son well and would also apply to every other child born in the same 12 months, making them all equally rare (?) and exactly the same.  But he enjoys the idea that he is a rare and lucky child (along with every other kid in his grade) so we go with it.

For his wall quilt, which is very small, I went crazy quilt style, on top of the gaudiest and goldest (not a word?) fabric I could find.  The photos don’t really do it justice.  It gleams in both threads and sequins.  He loves it and it is hanging right above his bed.  I need to add a little more support – all those buttons at the bottom have made it start to sag a little.

The next project was perhaps a bit too ambitious.  I wanted an underwater sea scene for our cabin.  It got a little out of hand.  I just couldn’t stop adding to it.  Really, I needed an editor to rein me in, or Tim Gunn to wander by and order me to stop adding embellishments.  This one has it all – fused fabric, embroidery, buttons, even crochet and knitting.  (Can I just say that I LOVE that there are knitting patterns for barnacles?)  It took me forever to finish because I kept wandering off to other bright and shiny projects that caught my attention.  This one taught me to stick to smaller, quicker projects.

Knitted barnacles on the coral reef

My most recent wall quilt defies that size lesson, however.  My sister loves koi, and her husband, in random order, and she asked me to make him a koi quilt for his birthday.  More fish!  How could I say no?  After looking at Google images of a lot of koi photos and paintings and quilts, we came up with this quilt.  I sped things up a lot by skipping hand embroidery and going with machine stitching.  I added a lot of free motion quilting in the fins and the lily pads and to outline everything.  Lots of texture without all the hours and hours of hand embroidery.

He is flying in tomorrow and I’m anxious to find out if he likes his surprise.  My sister seems sure it will be a hit.

Yellow Bird Stitches begins

After reading so many wonderful and inspiring crafting blogs, I’m adding a blog of my own to the world.  (Hi, Mom!)

The online community has taught me so much.  I might have managed knitting without Ravelry and the bloggers and video postings, but I probably wouldn’t have been as versatile or had the range of projects that I do.  Thanks to online help, I learned to knit things like this:

Mom’s lace tablecloth

After knitting, the next fiber craft I added was spinning.  After a trip to the county fair where there was a spinning demonstration in the sheep barn, I casually commented to a friend how fun it looked.  She pulled her mom’s spinning wheel out of the attic and I was off!

Some of my early yarn

Spinning soon became dyeing and spinning.  I started on a wheel, and later learned to spin on a spindle as well.

Next came weaving.  I’ve kept this part of my fiber hobbies low key.  I use a 24″ rigid heddle loom, and don’t get too fancy with the weaves.  But it is a great way to use all that yarn!

hand spun scarf

For some years, this was enough fiber crafting for me.  Spinning and then knitting or weaving the yarn filled a lot of spare time!  And with work (as a middle school librarian) and family (two little boys and a husband) there wasn’t a lot of spare time.

And then, a year and a half ago, we moved, from Washington to Oregon.  And my job didn’t.  Suddenly, there was a lot more free time.  More crafts were needed.

So I added a new sewing machine and took up quilting.  Lots of blogs and online videos and Craftsy classes later, I make both fused fabric quilted wall hangings and full out blanket sized quilts.  With the move I got a small but mighty dedicated craft room, so I can keep the fiber and fabric from taking over the rest of the household.  (Insert sound of family laughing hysterically here.)

Finished Quilts

That’s my fiber journey so far.  It definitely isn’t finished.  There is a never ending list of patterns and fibers and fabrics to try.  I can’t wait to see what comes along next.