ScrapHappy: Fusion Redux #3

When last we scrapped happily together, we had finished doing the blanket stitching around the outside of the squares.

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The blanket stitch is attractive in its own right but its real purpose is to serve as the base of the crocheting. Without the crocheting this would be just a bunch of cute squares but we’d have to use them as coasters.

I am absolutely not going to try and teach you how to crochet! I have seen the crocheting many of you do and me teaching you would be like the local yoga instructor trying to teach Gandhi about meditation.

I am an accidental crocheter at best. I learned out of desperation while living in a cheap motel for 6 weeks, with no access to my chosen crafts.

I know three stitches—slip stitch, single crochet and double crochet. I could learn more stitches but the truth is I don’t even really enjoy crochet. I have a death grip on the hook and my hand is always sore. I do it now only as a means to an end, the fusion quilt.

All of this is said to make the point that the crochet on fusion squares can be simple and basic and, even if you don’t already know anything about crochet, you could learn enough, quickly, to make a quilt like this. If you don’t have a friend you can teach you the basics, the internet is full of tutorials. That’s how I learned.

On the other hand, if you already now what you’re doing, you could do something way more complicated and interesting for the borders on your squares and make the crochet a bigger part of the look of your quilt.

What I’ve done around my squares is start with single crochet and do one stitch in each opening created by the blanket stitch. I go around once and then I go around again and do a double crochet stitch into each single crochet. At the corners, though, I do three double crochets into one corner stitch, to create the fan shape that eases around the corner.

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Like I said, super simple, super basic. But the possibilities are endless for the crocheting. If you want ideas, search on Pinterest for “fusion quilt.”

After you’ve done all these steps on all your squares (however may that is—for me, it’ll be about 112, if I remember correctly), the time will come to crochet everything together. At some point, I’ll tell you what’s entailed in that, although you can probably figure it out.

My progress to date is:

20 squares finished and blocked*

12 squares finished but not blocked

6 squares blanket stitched and ready for crochet

5 squares ready for blanket stitch and then crochet.

* The blocking of these squares makes a huge difference. I lay the crocheted squares face down on my ironing board and use pins in the four corners to slightly stretch and flatten the edges. I spritzed them with a water bottle and leave them to dry.

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Blocked or unblocked–you choose.


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, Jan,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancy, Alys, Kerry (that’s me), Claire, Jean,
Joanne, Jon, HayleyDawn, Gwen, Connie, Bekki, Pauline and Sue L.

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

Yoyo Mojo. No? No.

 

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What is your stance on whining?

Do you see it as healthy and cathartic? Or feel it is the worst of self pity and completely pointless?

Do you enjoy is for yourself but find it distasteful when others indulge?

My very good friend, and former boss, was known to hang up the phone on me when I whined. He would give me one quiet warning and then . . . click.

I’m actually not all that given to whining. It isn’t on the list of approved behaviors published by my patron saint, Pollyanna, you see.

But some days, I can’t help myself . . .

I’m in the mood to whine.

You may avert your eyes, if need be, or go ahead and hang up on me.

I am suffering from ennui. My list of daily stints has stunted me. Every project I have under way is either vexing me or boring me to tears.

And the most tedious among these might be the ubiquitous, unending, what-was-I-thinking yoyos.

IMG_2646I’ve been sewing yoyos together for what seems like eternity.

They were fun to make, so cute and perky.

They are much less fun to sew together.

I have 10 rows to do and I am not yet done three. And then those long rows need to be sewn together.

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I slog along . . . and whine quietly under my breath.

“This Has Nothing To Do With Staying Warm . . . “

IMG_7244A warm and inviting city.

A world-class museum.

An exhibit of quilts that should forever silence any question about whether the work of “loving hands at home” can and should be viewed as art.

I spent the last few days in Boston, Massachusetts, with my husband and two friends. I could regale you for hours with stories of the fun we had but what I really want to do is show you pictures of the current exhibit at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

IMG_1463The exhibit is titled “Quilts and Color: The Pilgrim/Roy Collection” and it will be at the museum through July 27, 2014. If you are able, do go to the show—it’s amazing and will give you lots to think about, regarding quilt making and the definitions of art and craft!

The 60 quilts in the exhibit are from the collection of Gerald Roy and the late Paul Pilgrim. Pilgrim and Roy, trained artists and interior designers, began collecting quilts for their aesthetic value in the 1960s and they amassed glorious examples.

Pilgrim and Roy recognized how women had been using colors and shapes in the making of quilt designs that were every bit as innovative and exciting as the paintings of recognized artists, such as Josef Albers, and other Op Artists and Abstract Expressionists.

The show is organized around different aspects of color theory. It’s all very interesting and informative but, really, I found it difficult to get into reading the explanations.

I just wanted to feast my eyes on the banquet of colors and shapes and patterns. I wanted to get close to every quilt and try to imagine making stitches that tiny. I wanted to think about the women, often Amish or Mennonite, who lived what we think of as such austere lives and yet created such opulent and rich beauties.

This quilt was probably my favorite of all and it was the catalyst that brought Pilgrim and Roy to re-think their notions about quilt making.

IMG_7246 IMG_7251Many of the quilts are displayed against a black wall, which makes them seem to glow and vibrate with inner light and energy. (Click on any photo in this post to really check out the details!)

The craftsmanship of these quilts is superb. Of course, they are all quilted by hand and the quilted designs combine with the colors and shapes of the fabric to create a whole that is far more than the sum of the parts.

But, really, why am I still yammering on? Just look!

Starting 2014 By Finishing . . .

IMG_4454When we were kids, my sister and I lived by rules. My mother had her own version of the 10 Commandments and the greatest among them was this:

churchsignWe were not to boast, show off, or draw undue attention to ourselves. And Mom had a look that could stop us, not to mention rogue elephants, in our tracks if we showed even a hint of an intention of show-off behavior.

Well, Mom, I’m a big girl now and, while I try to live a circumspect, modest life, I am so happy to have finished a specific project, that I’m going to start the New Year by tooting my on horn, ringing my own bell, and just generally acting goofy.

It’s done. It’s done! IT’S DONE!!

What’s the big deal, you ask? People finish quilts every day.

Yes, well, so they may, but this quilt was started when my niece was an infant and she is now 17. This quilt took longer to finish than my doctoral dissertation and that is truly saying something.

I don’t know why it took so long. I’ve finished other quilts in a more reasonable amount of time. To my defense, almost every stitch in this quilt was done by hand—hand piecing and hand quilting. But that has been true of the other quilts I’ve made—I just really hate sewing machines.

I worked on it in fits and starts and got distracted along the way by work and other hobby obsessions. I took courses in jewelry making and then started with the candy making I’ve told you about. I stopped being a college prof and became an associate dean, which took a lot of attention. Then I retired and we moved and I started doing other things and, and, and  . . .

But this quilt called to me—all it has needed, really, for about the last 5 years, was to have the edges trimmed and the binding sewed on, maybe 4 days of work.

So, I finally did it. On one of the last warm days of fall, I dragged it out to our seawall and trimmed the edges. Then candy season hit and I stalled again but last week I took the time and finally finished the quilt.

And (here comes the really immodest part!), I love it! It’s a variation on an Ocean Waves pattern and I think I invented the setting. To my eye, it’s downright gorgeous and I’m going to hang it on the wall, in a place of honor, so I can be impressed with myself every single time I see it!

I might even start another quilt. I have dozens of little patches left over from piecing the top of this one and I have ideas. And working on a quilt is another great way to stay warm in the winter.

But, first, I have to do penance. Forgive me, Mother, for I have sinned—I showed off.

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