Finally, Fusion Finished!

Have you ever wanted something real bad and then, when you get it, all you can do is sit and grin at it?

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I’ve been grinning at my finished fusion quilt for a couple of weeks now and I figure it’s time to share it with you. I know some of you will be happy to celebrate with me!

A brief re-cap of the project:

I started this quilt in autumn of 2017. As you may remember, I sell vintage linens on Etsy and, in handling my treasures, I often come across pieces that are too damaged to sell.

And, yet, these damaged items still have patches of perfection. A pillowcase may have a big hole in the middle but lovely crochet along the edge. Bugs may have chewed a hole in an embroidered and starched tablecloth but left other areas pristine.

I have never been able to throw these pieces in the trash. Over the years, I’ve piled up a ton of “pretties”—the perfect sections from otherwise useless linens. I always thought I’d find a project for them.

And then I read a post by Tialys, about an approach called a “fusion quilt,” which uses squares of fabric, sewn with batting, edged with blanket stitch embroidery, and crocheted together.

A quick trip to Pinterest gave me more inspiration and I knew I’d found the perfect vehicle for my precious bits of vintage linens, my pretties.

The quilt ended up with 108 5-inch blocks. I included bits from hankies, napkins, towels, tablecloths, and pillowcases. Most of the fabrics came from my special drawer, although friends started bringing me bits they found, too. My favorite square of all is the pink kitty from a decrepit crib sheet, given to me by a dear friend in my sewing group.

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In some cases, with sturdy pieces, I was able to layer the pretty piece with backing and batting, and just sew them and turn them inside out.

With very delicate hankies and such, I ironed the pretty into lightweight fusible web, to give it substance.

When my pretty had lacy or embellished edges I wanted to show, I layered in another piece of off-white fabric as a backing, stitching as much, or little, as I thought necessary.

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I sewed blanket stitch around each square, to serve as a foundation for the crochet.

For the crochet, I used 3/2-weight mercerized cotton from my weaving stash. It is a nice weight, has a pretty sheen, and doesn’t stretch. I did only double crochet, nothing fancy, because double crochet is really the only stitch I know how to do.

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I could have obsessed endlessly about the placement or the squares in the final quilt but I find I get bored with that easily. I did come up with a minimal plan, though, and then my cat rearranged everything for me. So, I ended up placing all the all-white blocks in the middle and then making a transition to borders of brighter-colored blocks at the edges.

After I had crocheted everything together (which didn’t take nearly as long as I feared), I did a row of single crochet around the whole outside edge and then went around again with good-old, reliable double crochet. (Truth be told, I used up hours of my life that I’ll never get back again, figuring out how to do a shell border that would fit tidily within the length of each square, then hated the way it looked.) I used a different cone of off-white cotton for that last border and it turned out to be slightly darker than what I had used for the rest of the quilt and I kind of like the look!

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If ever there were a project that would benefit from being done over again, right now, with the lessons learned fresh in mind, it is this one. I could point out a zillion little mistakes, from bad planning, from inexperience, from winging it.

But I won’t!

All those years, when I taught public speaking to college kids, I told them that Rule One was never to draw attention to any problems or negatives in their speeches. They were NOT to tell us their hands were shaking or that they had forgotten their note cards. Why? Because if the speaker didn’t draw attention to the negatives, the chances were excellent no one else would ever notice. But, if the speaker drew attention to the problem, no one would ever be able to look away . . .

And so, I will follow my own advice and not draw attention to the flaws in my quilt.

I will admit, instead, that I am very pleased with it and have even peeked into that drawer that holds the pretty pieces and thought that maybe, someday, I would start another fusion quilt.

Heaven knows, I have the pretties. And the quilt fits perfectly on a twin-size bed . . . and I have two of those.

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The Big Questions

Nothing like an early walk on an exquisite spring morning to generate the big questions in life . . .

Why can’t I pick trilliums? It was illegal when I was a child; is it still?

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Was that deer flirting with me? Was she following me? Was she as interested in me as I was in her? Why is her tail white? Why can’t my iPhone camera keep up?

How much does a sailboat like that cost?!

Who will live in Mr. C’s little place, now that he’s gone? Will they grow tomatoes, too?

Why does my cat sit placidly and purr when we stick a big needle under his skin and deliver fluids and then bite me, hard, when I clip his toenails?

And a related question: Why can’t I drink alcohol while on antibiotics?

Where does that lilac smell come from? How can it be so poignant and nostalgic and moving?

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Which chore do I tackle when I get home? Which piece of wood do I sand and/or paint today? Which tomorrow? The next day? Can I just keep walking . . . and avoid the chores?

Why do I look so tubby in my silhouette?

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And a related question: Which kind of ice cream shall I choose today?

Why does 71 sound so old and seem so young? I’ll ask my husband—he’s reaching that birthday today . . .

Where does the time go? Are we using it to full advantage?

How can I fit it all in, everything I want to do on this perfect day, and still have time to acknowledge and honor a perfect day?

Can I do this all again, tomorrow? Please?

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Doing Sew Sew

Such a busy time of year!

Nothing profound, nothing deep, or exciting. Lots of time outside, planting and weeding, sanding and painting. Lots of time inside, organizing and cleaning, ironing and crafting.

And in my pile of vintage linens, I came across this piece and thought you’d get a kick out of it.

Isn’t she lovely?!

ScrapHappy . . . LapHappy?

We have (ahem) multiple cats.

But between us humans, we have only two laps.

Therein lies the rub. At any given moment, several cats are lapless.

So when I saw this photo lately, on the internet, it seemed the answer to a felt need!

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And so very easy to make, with otherwise unwanted, unused items around the house.

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I got the jeans years ago, at a Goodwill store. They’ve always been way too long and I kidded myself into believing I would hem them.

But I never have.

The belt has been around forever, too.  Whereas the jeans were too long, the belt was too short. I’ve kidded myself into believing I’d drop a few pounds.

But I never have.

The stuffing is odds and ends of quilt batting and every quilter knows how that can pile up. I’ve told myself I would make some small quilted pieces, to otherwise use up these scraps.

But I never have.

On Saturday, I sewed up the legs of the jeans and stuff them full of batting. I arranged the legs and pinned them into place. I cinched on the belt.

And I announced to the cats that this lap was open for business!

If you know cats, you know that they are independent and not especially eager to please. They were unmoved by the great personal trouble I had gone through on their behalf.

Just one allowed herself to be plunked in the lap and relaxed long enough to have her photo taken.

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Since then, others have walked by and looked, but so far the lap is unloved, un-laid-upon.

So, while I was ScrapHappy, the lap is unhappy. I will try placing it in different locations and sprinkle it with catnip. But I have my doubts . . .

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ScrapHappy is open to anyone using up scraps of anything – no new materials. It can be a quilt block, pincushion, bag or hat, socks or a sculpture. Anything made of scraps is eligible. If your scrap collection is out of control and you’d like to turn them into something beautiful instead of leaving them to collect dust in the cupboard, why not join us on the 15th of each month? Email Kate at the address on her Contact Me page. She welcomes new members. You don’t have to worry about making a long term commitment or even join in every month, just let Kate or Gun know a day or so in advance if you’re new and you’ll have something to show, so they can add your link. Regular contributors will receive an email reminder three days before the event.

Here are the links for everyone who joins ScrapHappy from time to time (they may not post every time, but their blogs are still worth looking at).

KateGun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, JanKaren,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancy, Alys, Kerry (that’s me!), Claire, Jean, Johanna,
Joanne, Jon, HayleyDawn, Gwen, Connie, Bekki, Pauline and Sue L.

How Does My Garden Grow? Veggie Towel Reveal

If spring refuses to come and we have no garden to speak of, we can still have veggies!

These please me no end. They were fiddly to weave but never boring.

I did two with eggplants.

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Then I ran out of purple thread and, since I am no fan of purple, I didn’t want to buy more, so I wove two towels without aubergine (did you know I’m bi-lingual?)

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And then, because I was running out of warp, I wove a table topper or short runner–all carrots, all the time! On this, the veggie design is on both ends.

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And of course, these towels needed their own special hanging tabs.

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This project was good for me–kind of a stretch, something new, and perfect for the season. And now we have fresh veggies!

** Credits and details: The original pattern for these towels was in the May/June 2000 issue of Handwoven magazine, the only issue from that year that I don’t have. I used Amanda Cutler’s variation from her blog, Weave-Away–thanks, Amanda!

The warp and the tabby weft is 8/2 unmercerized cotton. The veggies are done in 3/2 mercerized cotton. The pattern takes 8 shafts and 10 treadles.

Lessons from My Garden

 

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I ache all over.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time lately, and the better part of the last two two days, outside trying to bring some sense of order to our yard and gardens.

The temperature has been in the 60s (call it 18 celsius) and it’s been sunny, so it’s been a delight to be outdoors. But it’s hard work, is yard work. And since my husband had yet another ankle surgery last month, a lot of it is falling to me.

I learn, or re-learn, many lessons in these days of April.

  • This isn’t yet a lovely time of year. It has its moments and, all in all, it’s better than February, but April is pretty chilly, quite windy, and way too wet.
  • Living on a lake has its downside. Ever since we had to leave our home for 6 weeks several years ago, when Lake Champlain flooded and we could only get in the house by wearing chest waders, we have had a healthy, nervous respect for the lake in April. It’s high right now, into flood stage, but not yet really a problem . . . knock wood.
  • I now know where I planted my mother’s irises. We sold her place late last fall and I had to rush to dig up the irises and bring them here. And I had no idea where I put them! Now I know and I’m thrilled to see them. It’s good to have something new, and old, to look forward to.
  • All the leaves from upstate New York, most from Vermont, and quite a few from Canada blow in every late fall and form dense, thick mats on our lawn. The tops look dry but underneath they’re soaked and in spots still frozen. The Canadian encroachers bother me most and I think maybe we should build a wall.
  • The gym didn’t do me much good at all. I dutifully went, all winter long, and sweated on the treadmill and that elliptical thingy, and am still knackered after two hours raking.
  • The corollary to which is: the best overall way to stay fit is to do yard work.
  • I did a wretchedly bad job, just really lazy, of cleaning up the gardens last autumn, which is proof of another pivotal lesson of life: You can pay now or you can pay later.
  • I’ve been reminded that little things offer huge rewards after winter—that one golden crocus, the old cats that act like kittens again and zoom up trees, the bits of chartreuse that are thriving under the frozen mat of dead leaves—it’s that color that happens only in early spring and is so fleeting and perfect.
  • And I’ve learned, again, the pleasure of the bone-deep tiredness that comes from working outside, to care for our bit of Earth.

What lessons does your garden have to teach?

In Praise of Crafty Newbies

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“Hi! I was just gifted a loom—I’m so excited to be a loomer! So . . . can someone explain how to weave?”

I am a member of several Facebook groups for weavers, where we go to ask questions and share our work. I have to admit when I see questions like the one above, from rank beginners, my first reaction is to roll my eyes and think, “Oh for heaven’s sake—go read a book! Take a class!”

Then I take a deep breath and remind myself how much newbies, to any craft or skill, bring to the rest of us.

I have been a complete novice myself recently, in the craft of weaving, and I am still struggling to learn a tiny fraction of what there is to know. My weekly sewing group includes a number of newbies—new to sewing, new to quilting.

There have always been newbies but, in days gone by, maybe they weren’t so obvious. A lot of us learned some basic skills from others in our circle, by watching and emulating or by taking an organized class or reading—those were the only options we had.

But now the Internet gives newbies easy access to knowledgeable and helpful people so their questions are public and their lack of knowledge and understanding are on view to us all.

And, though I will always think some newbies are being presumptuous in asking others to explain a difficult process in the space of a Facebook post, I really believe that these newbies are enhancing the craft world.

Are you a newbie at something, thinking about picking up knitting needles or sitting down to a sewing machine for the first time? Trying to learn a new set of skills, like hooking a rug or soldering silver? Surrounded, it seems, by people who already know the ins and outs, know the vocabulary, seem comfortable and calm in the realm where you feel edgy and inadequate?

I want to tell you how valuable you are!

  1. You are a source of amusement

Yes, it probably sounds harsh but let’s get it out of the way first—I am amused every day by a dilemma posed by a newbie. I laugh at the stories they tell about themselves and their confusion. They use the vocabulary wrong and make mistakes of the most basic kind. I am laughing with them, not at them—I see myself in their blunders.

We had a huge laugh in our sewing group a couple years ago, when a then-novice at quiltmaking was bemoaning the fact that her sewing machine bobbin always ran out at the most inopportune time. She felt she’d just get into a rhythm and then, boom, she’d have to stop, unthread the machine, fill the bobbin, etc., etc. Another, very experienced, member of the group listened carefully and said, gently, “Well, at the beginning a project, I just fill up a bunch of bobbins, to get me through.” Stunned silence from our sweet newbie . . . and then she said, “Duh. I would never have thought of that.” And now none of the rest of us will ever forget it!

  1. You remind us of the enthusiasm and joy of starting

The excitement newbies feel is energizing. This one just got her first loom, that one bought fabric for her first quilt. They have not yet felt the slings and arrows of outrageous craft fails. They are intoxicated with possibilities—and help me remember that feeling.

  1. You give us a chance to teach and feel smart

With novices, it always seems that, no matter how little I know, there’s someone who knows less. That gives me the heady feeling of having something I can share and teach.

Just last week, I got to show a friend the basics of hand quilting. She’s a far more experienced, better quilter than I am but she’s never taken the plunge for quilting by hand. It gave me a big thrill when I could show her and watch her pick it up very quickly!

  1. You allow us to feel competent and remind us how far we’ve come

There’s nothing like a newbie to remind you how much progress you’ve made, that you’re learning and growing. When I read the questions asked by newbies, I am pleasantly surprised when I know the answers to questions that would’ve been mysteries a few months ago. I feel skilled and capable and motivated to keep learning.

  1. You ask the questions we may not be comfortable asking.

I am one of those people who loatheslooking foolish or incompetent. I hate to ask questions, to expose my ignorance. Newbies ask questions with abandon and I sit and listen carefully to the answer . . . and learn. For instance, it had never occurred to me to fill a bunch of bobbins at the start of a project  . . .

So, newbies, I say to you—keep starting new things.

Keep dreaming of being good at something that you have never tried.

Recognize the limitations of learning complex skills from Facebook posts or from one helpful friend and take advantage of all the resources available to you.

But don’t hesitate to start because the people around you seem so sure of themselves and the skills so daunting.

You are enriching the conversation by starting a new craft; you are bringing so much to the discussion.