Tag Archives: sewing

Obsessed

I have been BUSY. Not knitting or anything that I’m “supposed” to be doing, but I’ve been busy, powering through my quilt.

I guess the secret to actually finishing a quilt is to let it sit for 7 years in your closet, then be stuck in quarantine for months. Who knew?

Anyway, I’ve made major headway. I’ve done (almost) all the quilting, sewing two lines on either side of each two-color seam. It looks really cute, but man, that was a lot of sewing.

And I like sewing.

I really like how the back looks on a hand-quilted blanket. It’s all cozy and wrinkly around all the quilting. It reminds me of my mom, who was always quilting when I was a kid. (Though, she hand-pieced as well as hand-quilted. She’s crazy. But, her quilts were (and still are) beautiful.)

Once the quilting was pretty much done, I trimmed the batting and the backing, and did a rolled hem to finish the edges. It looks great, except for one section where (years ago) I trimmed the backing way too short, or maybe I’m just did a really bad job centering my quilt top on the backing? So, that section has some scrap yellow fabric sewed on. It’s mostly unnoticeable. (Except for me. I notice it, and it bugs me. But do I ever finish a project without it having some element that I want to fix? No.)

There’s just one little spot that really irks me, though… It’s right here:

That’s right, there’s a tiny scissors-cut, right at the edge of the quilt. Why is it there? When did it get there? Did I do it? If I did, what was I thinking?

So many questions, and no way to easily and invisibly fix it. So, I think I’m going to pout about it for a while, then sew on a patch. Ugh.

Well, I’m almost done- I’ve got to finish up one corner of the border, take out the basting, and probably quilt a little square at the center of each block (I’m a little worried about how puffy the centers will get without any more quilting, but I also want this thing to be DONE).

I’m so close, I can taste it.

Stitching (Instead)

So you guys know I’ve been trying to finish up abandoned projects and use up yarn that’s been languishing in my stash for far too long. I’ve made some progress. It’s kind of satisfying, if I’m being honest. I do like finishing things.

But if we’re talking about unfinished projects, there’s one that I can’t ignore. The Grand Kahuna of WIPs. The White Whale of UFOs.

One major project that’s been languishing for far (far, far, far) too long.

It’s been in my studio since… before we moved (almost 7 years ago), and honestly, probably several years before that. If you told me this was a 10-year-old project, I would believe you.

And the ridiculous part? It’s probably been about 75% finished for the better part of a decade.

It’s my monster quilt.

It’s huge- about 80″ square. No idea why I picked that size. It’s not a standard bed/quilt size, and it’s freaking huge! I don’t know where I got the design, or if there was a pattern, or why I picked the colors I did (yellow is not a color I usually gravitate to…). But, I know I put the quilt top together, made the sandwich, basted the layers together did about half of the quilting before I got bored/distracted and forgot about the quilt. Every few months/years I’d see it in my closet and go, “Huh… I should work on that,” then forget about it again.

At the beginning of quarantine, I really started to buckle down on this project, alternating hand-quilting a square or two with working up a baby sweater sleeve or a few inches of scarf. It’s coming along, I’ve only got about 9 more squares to go (plus the edges and sewing on the binding… but let’s not dwell on that yet).

It’s a satisfying project, but if I ever say I want to make a quilt again, maybe don’t let me…

Have you ever actually finished a ridiculous unfinished project?

Not Knitting

It’s been hot as… well, something that’s really hot.  It’s been too hot to really think.  And it’s definitely been too hot to knit.

Seattle doesn’t usually get more than a day or two of hot weather in the summer.  (I’m talking actual hot weather, not “Seattle Hot” where it gets to 75 degrees and everyone whines.)  But this year, we’ve had a couple weeks of upper 80s/low 90s, which is real miserable.  No one has air conditioning around here, and in the places that do (like the mall), it’s pretty disappointing.

So I’ve set my big blue sweater aside for the time being.  As lovely as it is, I’m not interested in sitting with a gigantic pile of wool on my lap.  No thank you.

Instead, I went diving into my craft room stash for something a little more seasonally-appropriate to do.

And, boy, did I hit the jackpot!  (Thanks, Past Allison!)

At some point, I must have been on a cross-stitching jag, and I bought three little cross stitch kits.  They’re cute little Christmas-y birds (that are inexplicably postage-themed?).  A goldfinch, a bluebird and a chickadee.I had already started the goldfinch- the “stamp” part was mostly done when I pulled it out the other day.  (I honestly have no memory of working on this cross stitch- I must have started it years ago!)  A couple days of work, and voila!   I’m working on the bluebird now.  I’ve already messed up the head, but I don’t think it’s terribly noticeable, so I decided not to unpick the problematic stitches- he’s just a slightly chubbier-than-normal bluebird.The birds are supposed to be made into little ornaments, but I’m not sure if that’s what I’ll do with them.  Maybe they’ll end up being part of a wall hanging quilt, or sewn into little pillows.

I suppose I should finish them before I go planning next steps.

What do you do when it’s too hot to knit?

Inspiration: Back to School

I’m excited- it’s that time of year again!  The weather has (begun) to cool down- we even got a couple rain showers a few days back.  I’m sure the pumpkin spice everything is right around the corner (I’m not even mad- cinnamon  is delicious).  And, in Seattle, it’s Back to School Time!

Actually, the kids were back in school last week.  My job always starts a week or two into the semester, which means that I go back to school this week!

I love teaching summer camps, but I think I like the school year better.  I get to spend more time with each class, which means I get to know my kids better, and get to see them develop fully as sewers.  And, the hours aren’t as crazy- I love hanging out with my students, but an 8 or 9 hour day without a substantial break is not ideal.

So while everyone else is worried about pencils and notebooks, this time of year means three things to me.

1. I get to start schlepping my sewing machines around again.  This is the only part of my job that’s less than delightful- There’s nothing more tiring at the end of a long shift than having to load up 10 big old sewing machines onto a cart, drag them out to the car and unload them into the trunk, knowing that I’ll have to get them out again tomorrow.  I wish I could carry little amigurumi sewing machines like this one.  They would be so much easier to manage, though I suppose they wouldn’t work quite as well as the Pfaffs.

Sewing Machine by Sky Magenta2.  Back to School means pins.  So many pins.  Pins on the floor. Pins in projects.  Pins loose in the car.  Pins stuck in my sweater.  Pins that kids found on the floor from the week before.  Pins poking kids fingers.  Pins being used to conduct tiny sword fights.  Pins everywhere.  (And, unfortunately not a ton of pins in pincushions or pin boxes, no matter how many times I try to remind my kids.)  Maybe if I made everyone a pin cushion this cute, they’d actually use it?  (Wishful thinking, I suppose, though they are super sweet.)

Pincushions by Nicki Trench3. And, with the weather turning gray-er and more damp, and with the fact that it’s getting darker earlier and earlier, it’s the time of year to start drinking more coffee.  (Ha!  As if I ever really stopped.)  I love bringing a coffee or cup of tea with me to work- I’m basically talking nonstop for three hours, which is (if I’m being honest) too much talking, so it’s nice to have something to sip on in the three seconds of quiet I get during a class.  Plus, a little caffeine before hanging out with a dozen 7-year-olds never hurt anyone.

Coffee Cozies: Twisted Cable Version by Jennifer BurtI am so ready to go back to school!  Are you?

Treasure!

The other week while we were on vacation, my mom and I took a lazy afternoon stroll around the tiny town we were staying in.  (I was secretly hoping that we’d find a coffee shop, but no such luck.)  We did find a bowling alley, a post office that was only open Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays and someone with what I can only call a “Shrine to America” in their front yard (complete with a fairly creepy Uncle Sam doll).

And, we found a massive junk/antique shop called “The Yard Sale.”

I’m not a big antiquing gal, but Mom was in the market for antique windows to decorate for a project, so we went in on a treasure hunt.

Unfortunately, we didn’t find any windows, but we did find something, buried among the VHS tapes and decrepit Furbies.It’s a teeny, tiny sewing machine!  It’s only 5 inches tall (6 if you include the spool of thread on top)!  It’s a vintage, miniature, toy sewing machine- and it actually works!  It’s got a real sewing needle and everything!

It needs a little cleaning, and a bit of TLC (and a new hand wheel, but that’s not 100% necessary to make it work), but it’s in remarkably good condition.

And look at this!

It was manufactured in the US-controlled zone of Berlin, so we can date it to the late 40’s or early 50s.

It even still works! (Kind of, at least.)

I need to see if I can do something about the tension- it’s a little tight.

And, this is neat!  Since it’s just a toy, it doesn’t have a bobbin.  So, when you look at the back of the fabric, you can see that it makes a chain stitch!  (The chain stitch falls apart if you look at it the wrong way, so it’s not super practical.  But, I’ve never seen a sewing machine that is quite like this one!)I’ve got a bit of work before my new sewing machine is up and in tip-top shape again, but that’s OK with me.  I think it’s pretty hilarious as-is.  It really made my day when I found it.  And I think it looks pretty cute, sitting on top of my full-size machine.What’s your favorite thrift-store find?  Also, if you know where to find hand cranks for vintage miniature sewing machines- I’m in the market!

Quilt, quilt, quilt

Oh boy.  I really, really underestimated the amount of work on this quilt.

It’s coming along, and it’s going to be really pretty.  But, at this rate, it won’t be done until well into the 2020’s.

Isn’t it funny, I have no trouble spending hundreds of hours painstakingly knitting away on a lace shawl or a cabled sweater without noticing time passing.  But, when I get out the sewing machine, I want everything to be finished as fast as possible.  On the other hand, you know that there are plenty of quilters out there who sew big, complicated quilts but don’t have the patience to knit a pair of mittens.

Weird how that goes.

Anyway, I’ve gotten my first square done, and it is beautiful (and big)!  I love it!  It’s about 18″ across, and my little squares fit together pretty evenly(not perfect, but well enough).OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANow, I’ve just got to make 11 more!

Have you ever bitten off more than you could chew?

Still not Knitting

Hoo boy, guys.

I think I may have bitten off more than I can chew…

This quilt is a beast.

I started simply enough, with a fairly simple (or so I thought) quilt square.  It’s just triangles and squares, in only 3 colors (dark blue, light blue, and white).

But then, as I tend to do, I started elaborating.  First I planned out the entire quilt so that I will have to make 12 blocks (which increases work by a ton).  Then I decided that instead of just picking one dark blue fabric and one light blue fabric, I’d pick 4 of each, and mix them up.

But still, while I was just cutting out the pieces, and sewing the first seams, I thought I was doing OK. I still was enjoying myself.  Sure, there was a lot of cutting and pinning and sewing, but it wasn’t bad.

Then I got to the ironing.

I forgot about the ironing.

So much ironing.  (I don’t like ironing.)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat was I thinking?

Do you have the same problem with biting off more than you can chew?

A Different Kind of Stitching

Sometimes I get an itch to do something else.  Something other than knitting (I know!  Heresy!)

This time, I was inspired by the kids I’ve been teaching in my Tuesday sewing class.  They’re all making quilts!  Some of them are making quilted pillows, some of them are making mini patchwork blankets for their dolls.  And two of them are determined to make full-on, usable quilts.  One girl has already made almost a dozen big quilt squares!

It’s so fun watching the kids put together their quilts, that, well, I was inspired.

(Also, I made the quilt we have on our bed almost 10 years ago, and it’s getting disreputable.)

I started the project (like any good Allison Project) with a sketch and a lot of math.  I decided to do a square based on a Carpenter’s Wheel, but a little simpler.  (You know, so the queen-sized quilt won’t be too much work.  Ha!)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI took a trip to the fabric store and picked out 8 different prints- 4 light blue and 4 dark blue, along with white for the background and a royal blue for the back.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI spent last weekend cutting out literally hundreds of triangles, and this weekend sewing them together.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s been a fun change of pace!  Of course, I’m still in the new-project-honeymoon-phase, so we’ll see how long I stay enamored.  (My last big quilt was started about 4 years ago, and still hasn’t been finished. Whoops!)

Have you ever made a quilt?  Do you have any tips or tricks for me?

 

Project Bags!

My folks came out to visit me last weekend (Hi Mom! Hi Dad!) and we spent three days exploring the Puget Sound, riding the ferry, and eating too much good food.  It was great to get to spend time with them without having to worry about doing all the holiday stuff that comes with visiting at Christmas or Thanksgiving (not that I mind making Christmas cookies and eating green bean casserole).

And not to sound too materialistic, but Mom brought me a present!  An adorable little project bag, perfect for a pair of socks-in-progress.

And, do you know the best part about the project bag?  She designed and made it herself- from sewing the bag all the way down to creating the fabric designs!il_570xN.835404308_255k[1]I know, right!  Look at those goats!  Adorable!

I will own that I’m pretty good with needles and yarn, but while I like doodling from time to time, I’m not half the graphic artist my mom is.  (She’s actually going to school for illustration and has a pretty cool little business designing fabric and paper goods)

il_570xN.835407966_lncv[1]She actually has on a whole line of knitting- and crochet-inspired patterns, and then is using them to make bags, pouches, chidren’s clothes, and all manner of useful things.  Look at this sheep/stockinette project bag.  Could you get any cuter?

il_570xN.780881295_lwek[1]And, she’s even making little hand-bound notebooks, perfect for throwing into your matching knitting bag!

il_570xN.825976551_3v45[1]I know I’m a little biased, but I think that any of these would make a great gift for a favorite knitter in your life (or me!).    If you want to take a look at all the adorable things Mom makes, you can visit her Etsy store here:

Paper or Threads

Or, if you want to make your own projects from the fabric she designed, click here:

Spoonflower

Ouch!

At my “day job” (which hardly even counts as a day job, because it’s too much fun), I spend several hours each afternoon hanging out with elementary schoolers and teaching them how to use a sewing machine.  It’s pretty rad.  I love talking with them (they’re seriously goofy), and helping them figure out new skills.  The best part is when they finish a project they are really proud of, and they go around, showing each other their awesome projects (I had a girl finish an owl-shaped backpack a month ago, and she’s so proud, she wears it to class each week).

But, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows in sewing class.  When you have more than a dozen 6- to 11-year-olds, sometimes things go wrong, especially with real-life sewing machines, scissors, pins and needles.  Each week, we get a couple kids who poke themselves while pinning something and need a band-aid.  Sometimes an especially tiny 6-year-old tries to carry their sewing machine and drops it on her toe.  And I’ve even had a couple kids sew through their fingers with the sewing machine, while they weren’t paying attention.  (I know… horrifying!  They’re both OK now, though.  Pro tip… always watch where your fingers go when you’re using a sewing machine.)

But usually, I manage to keep myself relatively injury-free.  Sure, I poke myself with pins as much as the next person, but nothing bad, no scars or anything.

Until last week.

I reached into a bag of fabric which I thought was pin-free.  It was not.  The pin sliced a 1-inch gouge on the side of my right index finger.  There was blood.  It freaked out the kids.  I had to step up and be all “No big deal, kids.  It totally doesn’t hurt or anything.”  But, I really wanted to be swearing like a sailor.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis cut is exactly where I wrap my yarn when I knit.  (No!!)  I had to forgo knitting for about a week, so I broke out a quilt that I started a while ago, and worked on that instead.  It went well.  I actually made quite a lot of progress on it.  And, my finger was healing up nicely.

Until… the needle slipped and I sliced my finger open again.  Same finger, same size injury, just shifted over about a half an inch.  (I was at home, with no little kids around, so I swore loudly this time.)

So, I’m still on knitting bedrest, until my finger heals.  And, I’ve got to say, it’s not super fun.  I’ve still got that quilt to work on, but I’m itching to get back to my husband’s sweater, and a couple other projects I’ve been neglecting.  If only it didn’t hurt so much to knit…

What do you do when you can’t knit?

(And, don’t forget to put your name in the hat for a copy of the Knit Picks Spring 2015 Collection!  You have until Wednesday morning!)