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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Hand Quilt Along: Women’s Rights

On November 8, 2016, I watched our US election returns, fully expecting that we would be welcoming our first woman president.

As I watched, I embroidered on this block, with the words of the woman I was sure would be that president.

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I was stunned, horrified, and so, so disappointed when things worked out so differently, so cataclysmically wrong.

Disheartened, I stopped working on the quilt for a while but eventually knew that I needed, perhaps more than ever, to finish it.

And through the intervening two years, it’s given me some comfort to work on this. New women leaders have emerged while established standard bearers, including Hillary Rodham Clinton, continue to work toward keeping America America.

I admire Hillary Clinton. Nancy Pelosi. Elizabeth Warren.

I admire Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and the other newly-elected women in government, every one of them, and Stacey Abrams and so many others.

I admire the women of Planned Parenthood and the ones who march for women’s rights, and women doctors and scientists and authors and artists, and every woman who has found her own way to say, “I am. I want my human rights.”

And, of course, I also admire the women who have found ways to express themselves when their expressive options were limited. And that brings us to my other quilt-in-progress.

I’ve started crocheting together the fusion squares.

I spent some time laying the squares out in patterns on my bed, trying to decide what worked. But I have almost no patience for that kind of work.

So I settled for a layout that put the all-white squares in the center, with more colorful ones bordering them. I stacked the squares up in order and had a plan, minimal though it was, and tucked all of the squares into a safe cabinet so I could take them out in order, to crochet.

The next day, I found that one of the cats (I’m looking at you, Gigi!) had finagled her way into the cabinet and wreaked havoc with my plan, minimal though it was. The squares were tossed every which way.

So, we’ll just have to wait and see how this turns out!


This Hand Quilt Along is an opportunity for hand quilters and piecers to share and motivate one another. We post every three weeks, to show our progress and encourage one another.  If you have a hand quilting project and would like to join our group contact Kathy at the link below.

KathyLoriMargaretKerryEmmaTracyDebConnieSusan,  Nanette,  EdithSharonKarrin, and Gretchen

Hand Quilt Along: On the Road

Sand and suntan lotion and a trip far from home do not lend themselves to hand quilting on a big unwieldy project.

And that is why hand quilters always need a portable project to tote along!

While my women’s rights quilt languishes at home, cold and alone, my fusion squares are enjoying a vacay.

And they are proliferating. At last report, I had finished 54 of these 5-inch squares. I have now finished 97, plus I have 12 more on this trip with me.

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I have woven in all the crocheted ends and blocked the crochet trim on all the squares.

I am feeling like this project might be reaching its logical next step—the crocheting together of  all ochocino-neuve-jillions of squares into one big square, to be known as THE Fusion Quilt. 

I have so many gorgeous bits–some are subtle, some are sophisticated, some are splashy, some are very “loving hands at home.” I love them all.

Does this mean I have used up all the scraps of vintage prettiness that spawned the project?

Not, it does not.

I have dozens more 5-inch squares that may, one day, be incorporated into another quilt. 

But, for now, I’m going to wash the suntan lotion off my hands, stick my feet in the white sand, and sew in the sun. And get ready to finish this project!


This Hand Quilt Along is an opportunity for hand quilters and piecers to share and motivate one another. We post every three weeks, to show our progress and encourage one another.  If you have a hand quilting project and would like to join our group contact Kathy at the link below.

KathyLoriMargaretKerryEmmaTracyDebConnieSusan,  Nanette,  EdithSharonKarrin, and Gretchen

The Perfect Fusion: HQAL and ScrapHappy

The stars are aligned, with a perfect confluence of energy.

In a serendipitous meshing of ley lines, the designated dates for ScrapHappy and for the Hand Quilt Along have come together on this very day.

My scrappy weaving is finished for now and my big hand-quilting project is on hold, awaiting cooler weather. The fusion of ScrappyHappy and HQAL provides just the right time to write again about my fusion quilt.

The fusion quilt, for newcomers (or readers who don’t remember every detail of a post from months ago!), is a quilt combining sewing and crochet. Small squares are made of pretty fabric chosen by the maker, a blanket stitch border is added, and crochet is hooked into that border, to make a lovely edging. Eventually, many, many of these squares are crocheted together, to make a throw.

I’ve seen gorgeous fusion quilts made of all new fabric. But that wouldn’t be scrappy and that wouldn’t be me.

My fusion squares are the special bits of vintage linens–the embroidered flower, the tatted hem, the lacey furbelow.

I can’t bring myself to cut into vintage linens that are in good condition but that hasn’t limited me in any way. I have dozens (hundreds?) of damaged linens. They’re too stained or holey to use or to sell but they have sections of perfection.

Those 5-inch sections are the heart of my project. The last time I wrote about this, I had completed 24 squares and now my total is 54.

I still have not done any work toward attaching the squares one to another; I still feel as I did last time, that “I like seeing the stacks and shuffling through the squares, like a deck of cards, an encyclopedia of needlework techniques done by a sisterhood of stitchers and lace-makers and crocheters.”

Their scraps are my happy!


You, too, can participate in one or both of these blog happenings!

The Hand Quilt Along is an opportunity for hand quilters and piecers to share and motivate one another. We post every three weeks, to show our progress and encourage one another.  If you have a hand quilting project and would like to join our group contact Kathy at the link below.

KathyLoriMargaretKerryEmmaTracyDebConnieSusan,  NanetteSassy , Edith, and Sharon

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. We welcome new members. You don’t have to worry about making a long term commitment or even join in every month, just let either of us know a day or so in advance if you’re new and you’ll have something to show, so we 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, Claire, Jean, Johanna,
Joanne, Jon, Hayley and Dawn

 

A Perfect Fit: The Fusion Quilt

IMG_0598It’s a project that fits me perfectly.

I mean, I love all the projects I engage in but this one . . .

This one, this making of small squares for a so-called fusion quilt, is a perfect match.

It combines so many ingredients that make me happy.

  1. vintage linens—as I said in an earlier post, in stocking my Etsy shop, I come across a lot of linens that aren’t in good enough condition to sell but that have some perfect detail that I can’t bear to throw away. I had amassed an enormous number of these but . . . what to do with them? Now I know. The perfect details are preserved, framed, highlighted in each square.
  2. hand work—I love a project I can do while sitting in a chair with my feet up, by the lake or in front of a fireplace. A lot of my preferred pastimes—weaving at a loom, quilting at a hoop, sitting at a sewing machine—don’t allow for this, but this project does.
  3. variety—several different types of work go into making each little square so I’m not going to get bored. There’s the pleasure of picking the pieces to work with and prepping them. Then comes the machine sewing, satisfying in that it feels like the potential for fun is piling up. Then I sew, by hand, with my feet up, the blanket stitch around the edges. And finally comes the crocheting, by hand, with my feet up.
  4. nostalgia—Because I love doing handwork, I get so much pleasure from seeing what other hands have wrought. Almost every square I work on bears the work of another loving hand. I don’t know these women but I feel I know what motivated them and I feel we are connected. I seek to honor them as much as preserve their handiwork.

The pile of pretty squares grows. I have about 24 blocks finished and 8 more ready for crochet. Each block makes me smile. Some are subtle, some are simply gorgeous, some are a little odd.

I know that I should be crocheting them together as I go. I know when I am faced with doing that stage, for all of the blocks, at the end, I will regret not keeping up with it.

But I am not prepared to make decisions yet about that final product. I don’t know if I’ll end up with 40 blocks or 150. I find new bits of prettiness that could be included almost every day. I’ll probably keep making squares as long as the squares keep making me happy.

And I won’t know how they should be organized and put together until I have them all in front of me.

Right now, I like seeing the stacks and shuffling through the squares, like a deck of cards, an encyclopedia of needlework techniques done by a sisterhood of stitchers and lace-makers and crocheters.

My work and theirs . . . a perfect fit.

In your world, is there one activity, one project, one creation, that’s simply a perfect fit for you?

Hand Quilt Along: A Fail and A Save

Have you ever taken part in a quilt/knit/crochet/whatever along? A blog extravaganza where people commit to sharing progress on a set schedule?

If so, have you felt motivated by pride or peer pressure or the desire to keep a promise and have you met that set schedule with enthusiasm, and grace, and promptness?

Not me, boy.

Three short weeks into the Hand Quilt Along and I am mortified to admit that I have made no progress whatsoever on my stated project! I teased you last time with a promise of a method of basting quilts that I claimed changed my whole, entire, attitude toward basting and told you I would share that with you in this post.

Not gonna happen. (But, as a consolation, I’m including a link to the YouTube video where I learned the technique that changed my life. It’s at the end of the post!)

I could give you a million lame excuses (travel, Thanksgiving, blah, blah, blah) for my lack of forward momentum but, instead, I’ll show you progress on one of the other projects I mentioned in my previous post. It isn’t, strictly speaking, hand quilting, and it won’t become, strictly speaking, a quilt in the traditional sense, but it’s close enough (or at least I hope you think so!)

I have done quite a lot of hand sewing on what will be, ultimately, some sort of throw.

The background: As some know, I collect and sell vintage linens. Among the lovely pieces I come across, I have found many that are damaged just enough that I can’t, in good faith, sell them.

They might have a dark stain or a hole or three. They might be orphan napkins or pillowcases that have known too many heads. And yet . . .

And yet, they often have a frill or a furbelow, a hand crocheted lace edge or a bit of hand-wrought embroidery, a pretty little something that someone bent her head over, labored over, and crafted with her own hands.

I have found over and over that I cannot throw these bits away. For years, I have sought a way to use them, to save the work of the women who made these things.

And then one day, in one of those early morning forays into the bottomless time suck of Pinterest, I saw a photo of what was being called a fusion quilt. The ones I saw were simply squares of pretty, but new, fabric that had been cut and sewed up and edged with crochet.

But I saw, clearly, in my mind’s eye, my bits and pieces of loveliness.

Like these.

Each has three stages.

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First, the basic padded square needs to be made, work I’ve done on a sewing machine. I cut the “fancies,” the batting, and the backing, sew them together, turn them inside out, poke out the corners, and top stitch around the edge.

Then, I do blanket stitch around the edge by hand.

Then, I crochet the edge on each one. Somewhere, down the road, I’ll crochet the individual pieces together, creating an expanse of vintage handwork, with a myriad of pretty details.

I currently have 20 squares finished to the point of needing the crochet. I am not a very good crocheter so I wanted a stack to do all at once so as to get a rhythm going—I have a stack now!

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It used to be, when I was going through my linens, and getting them ready to sell, I’d be majorly disappointed when I found a damaged piece. Now I’m often thrilled!

This project has “me” written all over it—I’m doing handwork to preserve the handwork of women whose names I don’t know, whom I know only by their craft. Their work, sewn together in one piece, will be more than the sum of the parts and continue to draw the eyes and admiration of makers. I am honored to work in service of them.

And, yes, I still have a quilt to baste, a quilt that honors still other women who have shown me how to live! More on that in the next installment!


If you hate quilt basting and have wondered about different approaches, I highly recommend Sharon Schamber–Hand Basting Your Quilt.


This Hand Quilt Along is an opportunity for hand quilters and piecers to share and motivate one another. We post every three weeks, to show our progress and encourage one another.  If you have a hand quilting project and would like to join our group contact Kathy at the link below.

Kathy, Bella, Lori, Margaret, Kerry, Emma, Tracy, Deb, Connie, Deborah,  Susan , Jessisca  and Sherry

Quilting Along, Keeping the Faith

So.

We’re having a hand quilt-along. What in the world does that mean?!

Several of the members of my “faith,” led by Kathy Reeves, of Sewing Etc, are making a commitment to work on slow stitching of a quilt-making variety and to write about our progress every three weeks.

For those of you who have not yet been converted to quilt making and doing it by hand, perhaps reading about our projects will give you insight into our small, often misunderstood, sect.

If you are already an adherent of the faith, perhaps you’d like to join us in this mission? Just contact Kathy and let her know!

My Project

This is the quilt top that I made and that I will be quilting on for this project. You can read about it here.

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I’m also working on two other quilting projects that combine a little machine sewing with a lot of hand stitching and I may occasionally report about them, too.

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Fusion quilt–combining bits of vintage linens and crochet

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Cathedral windows quilt, with scraps from vintage dish towels

I have a quilt top. What else will I need to make it a quilt?

Not much, as it turns out. One of the nicest things about hand quilting is that it is minimalist.

This is the batting that will add the warmth to the quilt top that I made.

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There are zillions of options for quilt batting—it’s the fluffy stuff in the middle of a quilt. It provides warmth and gives the finished quilt a textured, three-dimensional look. I think this one is called “Warm and Natural”—it’s warm, lovely to “needle” for hand quilting, and I have it on hand.

This is the backing that will finish the “sandwich” and contain the batting on the quilt top that I made.

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Quilts are generally made of three layers—the top, the batting, and a fabric backing, all stitched together. It’s very trendy right now to do fancy pieced backings on quilts, in addition to the fancy pieced tops. But that just makes trouble for hand quilters.

Everywhere there’s a seam, on the top or the backing of a quilt, it’s an extra layer to stitch through. Quality hand quilting relies on rhythmic, regular stitching and it’s almost impossible to achieve that rhythm when stitching through lots of seams. I use plain fabric for my backing.

This is the thread that will join the batting and the backing to the quilt top that I made.

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I use thread made specifically for hand quilting. It’s a little heavier and stronger than regular thread. It’s also 100% cotton because I read somewhere that, because polyester is stronger than cotton, polyester thread and can actually cut into the cotton fabric of a quilt over time.

This is the needle that will draw the thread through the backing and the batting on the quilt top that I made.

Hand quilting needles are called “betweens.” They are very fine and quite small, compared to other needles. The theory is that the smaller the needle, the smaller the stitches that can be made and one way to judge the quality of hand quilting is to count the number of stitches per inch. Size 12 needles are the finest; I usually use a 9 or 10.

This is the finger cot that will pull the needle that will draw the thread through the backing and the batting on the quilt top that I made.

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I use the rocker or rocking method of hand quilting and that means I load as many as 5 stitches on my needle before I pull it through the fabric. The needle can be slippery and hard to pull so a latex finger cot, worn on my index finger, gives a little extra help. I buy them in the first-aid section of the drug store. Yes, I know what they look like . . .

This is the thimble that will protect the finger that pushes the needle that will draw the thread through the backing and the batting on the quilt top that I made.

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Again, I use the rocking method of hand quilting which means the bare fingers of my dominant hand don’t touch the needle—I use the thimble on my middle finger to provide the pressure to rock the stitch. Some thimbles are made especially for this kind of quilting—instead of the traditional domed top of most thimbles, these have a ridge around the top that prevents the needle from slipping off and maiming the quilter.

It would simply not be possible to do this type of quilting without a thimble. My thimble fits tightly and I am so used to wearing it that I never sew anything without it. I lost my thimble for a few days last year and nearly had a breakdown.

These are the scissors that will that will cut the thread from the backing and the batting on the quilt top that I made.

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Any small scissors will do but I think these stork scissors are super cute. I wear them around my neck on a (hand woven!) ribbon and some days I put them on in the early morning and don’t take them off all day.

This is the hoop that will hold the thread and the batting and the backing and the quilt top that I made.

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photo from terapeak.com

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It also makes a nice hidey hole for my assistant

Quilters can choose among lots of ways to hold a quilt for stitching—huge wooden frames that are engineering marvels, modern contraptions made of PVC pipe, and so on. But I love my hoop. I like my quilt to be taut as I quilt and this style frame lets me tighten the hoop a lot. It’s easiest to do the quilting stitch when sewing towards oneself and the hoop allows that because it pivots and tilts in all directions. It’s free standing, leaving both hands free, takes up little floor space, and looks quite pretty as it sits, holding a quilt in progress. The best part? I got it at an estate sale for $20! The worst part? I can’t find one like it for sale anywhere now—I’ll need to treat mine well!

I have all the items I need for hand quilting assembled and, yet, I am not ready to start quilting yet.

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Why not? I need to baste the three layers of my quilt-to-be—the top, batting, and backing—together to keep the pieces from shifting around.

I used to LOATHE basting but I learned a method a couple of quilts ago that changed all that. I’ll tell you about it in my next update!

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This Hand Quilt Along is an opportunity for hand quilters and piecers to share and motivate one another. We post every three weeks, to show our progress and encourage one another.  If you have a hand quilting project and would like to join our group contact Kathy at the link below.
BellaLoriMargaretKerryEmmaTracyDeb and Kathy