Friday, March 01, 2013

Finish It Friday

This week's Finish It Friday was actually finished on Thursday because I was working on it as a challenge that had to be done by the end of the month.

The project was a pair of thrummed mittens that had been languishing in a UFO bag for years. I bought the kit, which included both yarn and roving, on a trip to Celeigh Wool in Alberta several years ago. The yarn is by Fleece Artist, who is Canadian and does lovely yarns, and I knew I would end up with a lovely pair of super-warm mittens to wear on my trips to the Frozen North.

What I ended up with is this: The hands are too short, the thumbs are too fat, and I ran out of roving before I finished, so the tip of the hand and the thumbs aren't thrummed at all. I know what the problem is; the original pattern had almost no ribbing, so I added 2 inches of ribbing at the cuff. But because it was designed with no ribbing, the thumb gusset starts a good way up the mitten. On my mittens, I have a ridiculously long cuff. But there is no way I'm ripping these apart and redoing them. They're done, or at least I'm done with them. I'll put them in my Arctic Gear box, and wear my Vancouver Olympics mittens instead.

I'm glad that I experimented with thrumms. I don't want to think that there's some knitting technique that I haven't tried. I doubt I will ever do it again. I didn't enjoy fiddling with the little bits of roving, and had a hard time making them small enough. If I ever do decide to rip these out, I will ditch the roving and make a simple pair of mittens out of the yarn, which was quite lovely. In the mean time, there is one less project bag hanging on the coat tree, and a project that's been hanging over my head for way too long is done. Hooray!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Finish It Friday on Saturday

This week I decided was the ideal time to take a few days away from home and go visit some friends that I don't get to see nearly often enough. I had planned to come home on Thursday, but Mother Nature had scheduled a mix of sleet, freezing rain, and snow that day, so none of us went anywhere, and I came home yesterday. Of course that meant I was away from my studio all week. But on the drive home I remembered something that I had left undone for quite a while that was really no big deal if I just put my mind to it and did it. So this afternoon I cleared away a few other things and got it out.

In 2008, North Star Quilt Guild of Cadillac Michigan offered a mystery quilt called Ningaloo Blooming. The name comes from the Ningaloo Marine Park in Western Australia. I did a good job of keeping up with the steps in the mystery, and while I don't remember if I finished the top "on time" it was done shortly after the last clue was published.

Delighted with my finished quilt I laid it out to photograph and this is what I saw:
Somehow in the assembly of the components one piece had gotten sewn in the wrong place, and that meant the whole unit got sewn in backwards. And since I didn't see it until other pieces had been added, fixing it wasn't a simple matter of ripping out one seam and flipping the unit. I was so disgusted that I folded up the top and stuffed it into a drawer, saying "I'll fix that another day."

Clearly, today is another day. I cleared off my sewing table, took care of some housekeeping to make more clear surfaces, then pulled out the top and looked to see what was needed. I peeled back the outer border, then started releasing the section that was reversed, which was actually 5 squares. One of the plain squares had gotten sewn onto the wrong end of the unit, so that had to be picked out and moved to its proper position. Once that was done, the unit could be rotated so it fit properly and sewn back into place. Once the outer border was reattached, the repair was done. I now have a finished top for Finish It Friday a day late.

I like this quilt as much as I did 4 years ago when I started it. The background fabric has always been one of my favorites, and it always surprises me how well it handled being cut up and sewn back together. Even though the pattern is interrupted, it doesn't look chopped. I like the bits of tropical fish in the center of each block, in honor of the theme. I've put it up on the design wall for the moment to think about how I want to quilt it. I've thought about having a long-armer do an all-over meander, because I think this is one case where an all-over pattern might work. I'm also thinking I might quilt it myself with horizontal wavy lines to mimic water. I'll study on it, and think about what I might have in stash that will work for a backing.
By the way, the instructions for the quilt are still available on the North Star Quilt Guild web site. Go to and follow the links for Ningaloo Blooming. You can also see other versions of this quilt that were made by guild members.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Finish It Friday

I've decided to either work at making this blog something worth checking out on a regular basis, or give it up for something more productive. I've worked out a sort of schedule of topics that will at least give me a starting point for daily posts. These ideas aren't new to me; I've seen variations of them on several blogs that I've looked at recently. But don't they say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery? I prefer to think that good ideas are meant to be shared, and of course we will all put our unique spin on the content.

So I'm starting with Finish It Friday. This gives me a chance to show off anything I might have finished this week, as well as give me an incentive to finish something that might be close to completion. This week I have two quilts to show (no telling when that might happen again!).

The first is called Positively Negative. It is the end product of a mystery quilt that I believe I started in 2004. I have memories of living on Lakeside Street when I pieced the top, and I only lived there for part of my first year here in Lake Village.
The close-up shows how it got its name; the same block is repeated through the quilt, but with the colors reversed. I like how sometimes you see octagons, and sometimes you see stars, and sometimes you just see a maze of pieces. Making the blocks with the triangle involved using a special ruler or templates, or something like that. They're a little tricky I remember, but in the end, they came together quite nicely.
 I didn't do anything fancy with the quilting, just stitched in the ditch (by machine) around the stars to emphasize them in the finished quilt.

The second finish is called Mardi Gras, for obvious reasons. I'm pretty sure I was living in Tallulah when I started this quilt, so I'm going to peg it at around 2000. The top came about as the product of a class I took with Jackie Robinson through Quilt University which dealt with dimensional patchwork.

The close-up shows how the center of the bow tie is folded so that the sides are loose. This ended up being one of my favorite classes as Quilt U, and I've been thinking about hunting down Jackie's book in my library and using this technique to make a couple of baby quilts. I know little fingers will love exploring all the little pockets in a quilt made with these techniques. 
In the beginning I had grand designs for the embellishment of this top. I mean, what's a Mardi Gras quilt without beads and doo-dads. But in the end, I decided that too much embellishment would detract from the piecing, so I ended up just putting a sort of braid of beads around the outside edge, and some pinned-on doo-dads in some sashing spaces down the center of the quilt (they're the things that show up as white blobs in the picture).

Of course, this quilt will be for display, not for snuggling. For now, when I hang it I will use the clip-on cafe curtain rings to hang it from a rod, or simply pin it to a wall. I might change that by next year, but since it has a limited season, I'm not sure I want to spend a lot of time figuring out a better way.

My Finish It project for today is this little bookmark that I bought last summer at the New England Quilt Museum. I used to do a lot of cross-stitch, but my eyes are older now, and frankly, I find this stitching boring. But I will enjoy the finished bookmark as a reminder of my summer adventure, and it can easily be finished by the end of the day. So I accept the challenge.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Starting the new year a little bit late

It's already January 12th, and I'm just getting around to starting the new year. But since I've only been home from my annual winter trek to Alberta for 3 days, I'm not feeling too badly about it. And the good news is that I have lots of quilty plans for this year, and am anxious to get started on them. So the fact that circumstances have given me a free weekend is really good news, and I'm using that time to get some things done in the studio.

Of course, the first thing that had to be done was a bit of tidying up. Right at Christmas things got crazy, and some of the overflow got dumped in there because it was free space. Most of that has now been cleared away; what remains will require a trip up the ladder to store, and I'll save that for another day. There was yarn waiting to be wound, and a bit of sweeping that was urgent. Once that was done I could get back to the last project I was working on, which was this:

This started out as a pattern called "Eat Soup with the Side of Your Spoon" from the book Country Threads Goes to Charm School by Mary Etherington and Connie Tesene. The fabrics were a set of 10-inch squares I acquired on some shop hop or another, which I cut down to 5 inches, then pieced. I liked the colors and the way the blocks went together, but there was a major problem with accuracy. The squares were not die-cut from a manufacturer, and therefore were not precisely 10 inches square. And since I just whacked away at them, by the time I finished, the edges were pretty wonky. The solution was to add the wide muslin sashing and then trim the blocks to uniform size; any inconsistency in the width of the sashing is not at all noticeable once the blocks are set together.

Adding all that sashing also solved another problem I was wrestling with, which was how to make the top big enough to cover a bed. I started working on this quilt over Thanksgiving weekend, which I had set aside to make some quilts for Superstorm Sandy victims. Those quilts never happened, but this did, and my intention from the beginning was to make it big enough for a twin-sized bed so it could be donated to victims of the next disaster. That thinking set the dimensions for the final blocks, the sashing between them, and all the other decisions about what to do with the pieced blocks.

It's coming along well. With any luck I will have a finished top by the end of the day tomorrow. The blocks are all in strips and I just have to sew the sashing strips that go between the rows, then do the final row by row assembly. At that point I will have to set it aside until I can get to a fabric store and get backing for it, since I don't think I have anything here that will serve. It may be a while before it gets quilted, but I have other quilts that are basted and ready for quilting, so I think I will pull one of those out next and have something finished and ready. There will be disasters, and while I will still feel helpless in the face of devastation, I will be able to send comfort to one person at least.