Craving Texture, or something

I’m struggling with something that feels like a silly struggle, but I need to resolve it. A brief history: for years I had a sewing machine I used only for repairs and to recover pillows, basically. I fought with the bobbin case and tension too much to do anything else. In early 2015 I was unwell and spent a lot of time in bed, and decided to make myself a bed bag for my remotes and pens and things. I sewed it by hand, figuring out what turned out to be box corners, then embroidered a little picture on it. I was so pleased with it, I made another for my daughter. Then I remembered I earned a Girl Scout embroidery badge back in 1973, and looked online to see what people do with embroidery. I ran across crazy quilts. I loved the idea, so I got to the store, bought some wild clearance fabric and some iron-on adhesive, set up an ironing station next to the bed, and spent the next few weeks hand-sewing a quilt, embellishing with clearance buttons and ribbons, and learning/relearning embroidery stitches. 

This isn’t the lavish thing you’ll see if you Google crazy quilts. Most of those aren’t useable, though, and I don’t like to make things I can’t use. Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 9.00.29 AM
 That summer, I received a generous shopping trip for my 50th birthday, so I researched, then bought a new simple but well-rated sewing machine that didn’t need the bottom tension adjusted, and some fabric and accessories. 20170912_092719

I made aprons and bags, and a simple baby quilt, then commenced to a new crazy quilt. I put it all together the same way, but on the machine, then hand-stitched over all the seams. Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 9.00.40 AM
I was so pleased and satisfied with both, I thought I’d do one a year, but I haven’t gotten far this year. I’ve gotten good at the machine and learned many new skills, and seem have less patience for hand sewing. This makes me sad and frustrated. 

I’ve talked before in the twin to this space about how I feel overwhelmed by choices these days, and disconnected from tangible stuff. I resubscribed to a magazine and a Sunday paper, and I’ve been looking at old TV shows on broadcast TV. To try to find the roots of something. But I have everything at my command that a person on a limited, but comfortable budget could have, and it’s much easier to just skim the surface.

I mean, I don’t listen to records as much as I could as it’s easy to just turn on I Heart Radio. But I love playing records.

It’s all one big ball of complexities I want to straighten out, but on top of the list is that I want to combine my awkward but sweet hand sewing pleasure with the ease of putting things together with the machine, and yet what that requires is sitting in a chair and focusing and using my fumbly fingers as best I can. I’m better, crazily to me, than most people seem to be these days at focusing on a single slow task, but I think maybe there’s some guilt mixed into the picture. Is it okay for me to spend time that way? And also, can I still allow myself the pleasure of imperfect stitching, when I can look online and see the burgeoning movement of needlecraft in which people have far outstripped my humble little borders and simple flowers with tremendous artistic displays?

I never worry about that while painting on canvas, and I never worried about having a very average singing voice that probably only my kids enjoyed. I’m not competitive in the least degree. But something is holding me back. I'm glad for the skills I've learned to do on the machine, and intend to keep learning more. I need to be able to make myself sit and stitch by hand just as diligently, though. I can't say why, it's just one of those things.  

Double wedding ring quilt re-re-revisited

My great-grandmother was making this for me when she died in 1968. At least, that is what my mother told me 15 or so years later. It was kept in an old box all that time, and after she gave it to me, I’d take it out and look at it now and then, then return it to the box. It has survived countless moves, a few attempted repairs by a sweet young daughter, and my own sense of what ought and ought not to be done with it, which changes every year. 20170706_102707

Last year I cut away the most damaged parts on the back, attached a lightweight interfacing, and pinned some muslin to it. And shockingly to those who restore for posterity, I LEFT IT PINNED THAT WAY. 20170706_102851

I know, I do. Horror. I didn’t mean to; my brain flips over sometimes. I was going to attempt hand quilting first, but even at her rather casual eight stitches per inch, my own sewing (though I'm decent at embroidery) looked awful by comparison, plus I have things to do. I tested a bit of machine stitching using invisible thread on top so there’d be a stitch gap, but it still didn’t look right. And then I got busy with baby quilts.

Looking at it today, I thought, this is just enough. Something has to be done, and no, not for heirloom restoration; that is just not me. It needs to be finished and whole, and see how it lays over my bed nicely? It could keep doing that, and I’d just be gentle folding it back at night.

So my daughter’s blue stitching. Why not carry on with that? I can hand stitch all the white sections with blue floss, and run the machine over the patches in off white. 20170706_102742


It will look cute.

But as to the repairs, that’s a tougher matter. There are several patches to replace; I will find an old piece of clothing to cut up and insert, carefully. 20170706_103740
I will start quilting with the new piece of backing in place, then add an additional layer; no batting. And then that leaves the unfinished scalloped edges. I might turn and stitch them before attempting any binding. Got to still think on that.

I wish I knew her; my dad's grandma. I had just turned three when she died. Screen Shot 2017-07-06 at 10.58.46 AM

I'm Not the Measuring Kind (edited with more pix)

This past week, I made a quilt using techniques I learned last year when sitting in bed hand-sewing pieces together for a crazy quilt.

Every morning I got up ready to tackle a section of it after doing the usual early household tasks. On Monday, I chose ten fat quarters, trimmed them to exactly match each other, then cut each into four pieces, again matching them to each other instead of measuring. On Tuesday, I sewed them into nine blocks, and set the extra pieces aside for something else.


On Wednesday, I brought one of the blocks to Hancock Fabrics' senior citizen discount day to choose fabric for the back. Hancock
Then I cut nine pieces of batting and backing fabric to match, leaving plenty of extra to be taken up by sewing, and then I quilted lines down each of the nine blocks, doing three at a time on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Each day I sewed the three blocks to each other on the front, trimming away the extra batting, then folded the back seams together. I hand-stitched one set of back seams, but did the other two sets on the machine. That’ll come all right in the end.





Yesterday, I sewed the fronts of the three rows together and pinned the backs; egregious amount of pins. Then I needed a break from it. I think it’ll work best to hand sew the two long rows, and then I’ll go over the sections that are machine stitched, so it all matches. I might do that this evening. And then I’ll sew on some binding, another day this week after I buy or make some. In the end, it will be around 52x58 inches.



In between working on these sections, I rearranged my fabric remnants, yardage, scraps, and paint supplies, and took pictures of that as well, as personal encouragement and for the record, etc. There is also a large picnic basket filled with fabric and sheets from thrift stores to use as backing, lining, and more.



I liked making a quilt this “as you go” way, and mean to keep using it, so that I don’t have to navigate large projects through my little sewing machine and table space. Also, it was faster. However, I will leave even more room around the back for seam allowance another time, and I also want to try finishing the edges of each block, then sewing them together. That way, I won’t even need to add binding, which is something I don’t like. I prefer to make a “pillowcase” finish, then stitch around the edges for added durability. When I try this, I'll probably make more large blocks, maybe twelve 18x24 inch ones. Otherwise, they could be any size. A third option is to do it the way I do crazy quilts; make the blocks with only front and batting, stitch them all together, then add a solid back with the pillowcase method. I guess it'll depend on the design and my mood each time.

Soon I’ll get up each morning ready to tackle the garden and yard work, assuming bronchitis and etc. is in seasonal abeyance. But my next project in the meantime is a blue crazy quilted library bag. Stay tuned…

Nesting for Winter

Last winter I re-took up embroidery and made a crazy quilt, to while away time being unwell. In June I got a new sewing machine and I've spent the summer learning to use it well, and to gain some technique beyond sewing pillows and hems.

I've made two small quilts to give away, and another just wants binding for me to use it myself. I'm working on a big one for my son, and I made a very simple quilt top in order to learn what I'd need to know to make his.

I collected scraps that can still be used, and some remnant pieces, and also bought some fabric, charm squares and fat quarters when they were on sale. As well, I bought clothes and linens on half price days at Goodwill and St. Vincent de Paul, to use in projects. I've made several bags out of skirts, fat quarters, and charm squares.

Today I took inventory to see what I would need to hibernate and have plenty to do. I'm embroidering a six block crazy quilt piece, but I want to use the machine, as well.

My squirrel basket has all the large pieces of fabric. DSC_3702

I keep the scraps in a large shopping bag, but here they are all dumped out. DSC_3703

I buy fat quarters (18x21 inch pieces) only when they are half price. 1.49 each makes them 5.96 a yard, which is an ordinary price. I can buy fabric by the yard for less sometimes, but these are fun pieces I probably wouldn't buy otherwise. DSC_3704

This is the large quilt top to finish sometime; it won't sit unusable for long. DSC_3706

This one is lap-sized. It just needs binding to finish. I'm still not great at binding, but I've come a long way in a short time. DSC_3705

These are the blocks for my son's quilt. There are 9 of 32. I work on them in between other things so it doesn't grow boring. There'll be strips of fabric between the rows, a border of fabric squares, and a dark blue binding. DSC_3709

All I need to get through the winter is some more thin batting, more thread and machine needles, and cutter blades, which are much less expensive online. But I have a couple of paintings I want to get back to, as well.

Saturday Sewing Project

Each Saturday since I got my sewing machine in June, I have watched some sewing shows on ThinkTV, then I work on improving some particular machine skill. I've made a few different kinds of bags, some patterned quilt squares, coasters, and this weekend I made this—thing for my table. Without the leaf it's round, so I didn't want a table runner. DSC_3669
I put together pieces from two fat quarters, two pairs of shorts and a sheet from St. Vincent de Paul, and a remnant from a previous project, without strict measurement. I just made sure everything was around three inches wide when I began. Then I sewed it to a piece of muslin, added a layer of batting and quilted it to more sheet, which I then folded over to the front for a border.

The quilted areas are not as good as I'd like but using the zigzag was kind of a risk. I feel good about how I did the border.

This looks kind of disconnected and bleak! I'll pay attention next time and set a scene. Anyway. Sometimes I have a vase or a bowl of garden produce or fruit on the table, and it can sit on the mat now. DSC_3668