ScrapHappy: Fusion Redux #2

My current scrappy project, a second fusion quilt, will keep me in ScrapHappy posts for months to come!

When I left you last time, we had just turned the squares right side out and were a little horrified at the way they looked.

IMG_7339

Can this mess be saved?

The next step in the project is to pin the opening and sew it closed. You could do this invisibly, by hand, but I have too many crafty plans and I’m not getting any younger so I sew that opening closed on my machine. I figure that, between the blanket stitch and the crochet busyness, no one will notice. And if they do, it’ll give them a chance to feel superior and who doesn’t need that once in awhile?

Then I topstitch around the edge, about a quarter inch in. (You’ll find that precision isn’t terribly important with this sort of quilt because the crochet is so flexible that, if the squares vary a teensy bit in size, it’ll never matter.)

Top stitching can be intimidating, because it shows, being on top and all. But this top stitching isn’t like that. It doesn’t really show because you’ll do hand stitching over it. So worry not.

The purpose of top stitching here is that it serves to plump up the square as the batting is compressed a little.

Another benefit will become apparent when you start to do the blanket stitching by hand. It’s not easy to get the needle through the multiple layers of fabric you have in each square. But, if you plan your top stitch spacing well, you’ll be able to put your needle into the holes punched by your machine needle.

IMG_7987

This makes it a lot easier to sew into the thick edges but you may also want to go a step farther. I use a finger cot on my right index finger. It’s a sort of mini-condom-like thing that gives you a good grip on the needle. You can find them in the first-aid section of the drugstore.

IMG_8823

Practice safe sewing!

I set my machine to stitch at about 8 stitches per inch. I sew on a Singer Featherweight and that 8-stitches-per-inch is a guesstimate. I hear tell that them new-fangled machines allow you to be pretty precise about such things  . . .

If I do 8 stitches per inch and sew the blanket stitch into every third stitch, I end up with about 12-13 blanket stitches around the edge.

IMG_7988

I didn’t do this until I was quite far along on the first quilt so some of my squares have as many as 18 blanket stitches on each edge. That became quite the issue when I started crocheting all the blocks together. Learn from my mistakes.

Because I have access to lots of weaving yarn/thread, I choose to do the blanket stitch in off-white mercerized cotton in a weight weavers call “5/2.” I do the crochet in the same cotton but in the slightly heavier 3/2 weight. The mercerized or perle cotton has a nice sheen to it and I like that it comes in one-pound cones.

IMG_7990

The 3/2 cotton is on the left and is heavier than the 5/2.

One of the things I like best about this project is the steps in the process call on different skills so I don’t get bored.

  • I cut a bunch of the materials at one time so they are handy.
  • I do the machine sewing on 10-12 squares at a time.
  • Just about the time I’m sick of sitting at the machine, it’s time for some hand sewing. The blanket stitch is pretty mindless and I can do it anywhere.
  • And then, it’s time to switch gears again and crochet. I’ll tell you more about that next time!

My progress to date is:

23 squares finished to the point of having been sewn and crocheted. I’ve sewn in some of the crochet ends but still need to block the finished squares.

10 more squares ready for blanket stitch and then crochet.


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.

ScrapHappy: Fusion Redux

Those pretty scraps do accumulate . . .

IMG_7289

As recent posts suggest, I’ve been knee-deep in vintage linens. Summer is the perfect time to slog through my bins of old linens, clean them up, iron and photograph them, and get them ready to list for sale.

But as I do this, I’m still finding damaged pieces, the scraps of pretty that led to the making of the first fusion quilt.

I have many, many scraps of loveliness. And more every day, since friends have begun to bring me theirs.

I have the first quilt on a twin bed and it’s perfect, but I have two twin beds . . .  and one of them looks quite naked now.

I learned a lot from making the first quilt and like the idea of applying the lessons learned.

So, here we go again!

My scrappy happiness for the coming months will be another fusion quilt.

The basic process is really quite basic.

All one needs to do is cut fabric and batting into squares of the desired size. My squares are all 5 inches, although I cut the batting ¼ inch smaller, to reduce bulk at the edges.

Next, I make stacks composed of a pretty piece, a piece of batting, and a backing—you could use all bright shiny new ingredients but I’m using scraps of batting, scraps of random off-white fabric, and my scraps of pretty old embroidery, fancywork, lace, and damask.

IMG_7296

Once the pieces are stacked in the correct order (pretty piece and backing piece need to be right sides together. Don’t ask me how I know this. I just do), I just stitch around the outside, back stitching at the start and end, and leaving a biggish opening to allow me to turn it all right side out.

The process can get more complicated, since I’m using vintage scraps. Sturdy pieces can be done as described but if the pieces are fragile, like a fine old hankie, I reinforce it with fusible web. If a piece has pretty edges or cutwork, it needs a backing piece, so the batting isn’t exposed. This backing might need to be sewn to the pretty piece first. Some need both fusible web and a backing piece.

The layers all get sewn and then turned. This is where I almost lost the will to continue the first time around.

IMG_7339

Can this mess be saved?

Poking the corners out helps. I use a wooden skewer but only the blunt end. If you use the pointy end, it can poke through and make a hole in your piece. Don’t ask me how I know this. I just do.

IMG_7341

Top stitching and the blanket stitch and crochet I do around the edges will help, too, but I’ll tell you more about the process in months to come.  And it will be months—I need 108 squares . . .

(Hover over the photos in the mosaic, if you want a bit more info about the scraps)

My progress to date is:

Many scraps of fabric and batting and vintage linens, cut and ready in stacks of 5-inch squares.

11 squares finished to the point of having been sewed and crocheted. I still need to sew the crochet ends in and block the crochet.

12 squares sewn and turned and ready to be top stitched.


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.

My Old-Time Religion

I grew up in a family committed to missionary work. One aunt was a Christian missionary in Mexico, another aunt and uncle were Wycliffe Bible translators in Vietnam.

I spent last weekend witnessing as well, proselytizing and evangelizing, but not for Christianity.

Those who follow along here may have a vague memory of me announcing that I’m an atheist, but that doesn’t mean I’m not religious in my beliefs.

It’s just that my religion doesn’t have a god . . . but its heaven is most inviting, or at least it’s the place for me.

It’s a small sect, with few faithful adherents. Some are the equivalent of C&E (Christmas and Easter) Christians—they practice the faith but casually and only on their own terms.

My religion isn’t well-represented in this region; we few members seek each other out and rejoice when we find another believer.

It’s a fundamentally old-fashioned belief system, slow-paced and beholden to the olden days.

My religion, it seems, is hand quilting.

IMG_8800

Last weekend, I spent two days at the biennial show of the Champlain Valley Quilters’ Guild, sitting at a quilting frame–demonstrating, teaching, talking about quilting by hand–and looking for converts.

Like all missionaries, I got a variety of reactions. Some people walked by and laughed, and walked on. A couple of hand quilting atheists shook their heads and called me crazy.

But my slow work, with the serene smile on my face and the peace in my movements, drew others. They sat, they watched, they picked up a needle and joined me.

37443868202_d6cbf0dea2_o

Some people were curious—they seemed to come looking for a new kind of meaning, a place of belonging.

Others were already true believers. We spoke in almost spiritual tones and words of how we felt about the hand quilting. It has a soul; it carries the spirit of our ancestors; it allows us to transcend the mundane, to find a peace unavailable through a machine.

I asked them to look at the three or four quilts, in a show of 400, that were quilted by hand, by members of the faith. We could all see and sense the difference, even though we admitted that the quilts done by machine were often awe-inspiring in their own ways.

We agreed that, while we’d never go to war or start an Inquisition to defend our faith, we’d never foist our beliefs on others, we still agreed that our ways suit us best.

Everyone needs to believe in something, I guess. And I believe in taking it slow . . .

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One of only three or four hand-quilted quilts in our guild show. Maybe next time, there will be more!?

We Have So Much . . .

61swyhlwr6l-_sx392_bo1204203200_

Oodles of creative energy and desire. A strong desire, the impulse to make, to create . . .

And no resources. No thread, no yarn, no fabric. Nothing to turn my hands to. I can’t imagine . . .

A lot of my recent pleasure in this complicated world comes from my poor power to make something. When I get too overwhelmed by the news, I can turn away, pick up a rainbow of pretty threads, and play. And heal.

I’m reading a book that helps me realize how very, very lucky I am to have that outlet.

The book is Homefront and Battlefield: Quilts and Context in the Civil War, Madelyn Shaw and Lynne Zacek Bassett. It was published as a companion to a 2012 show that was organized by the now-defunct American Textile History Museum. The show traveled to other museums, including Shelburne Museum of Vermont, where Don and I saw the collection a couple years ago.

The show was spectacular, using “quilts, textiles, clothing, and other artifacts to connect deeply moving and insightful personal stories about the war, its causes, and its aftermath with the broader national context and public history.”

I didn’t write a blog post about this experience, mostly because photography wasn’t allowed and the impact of the show was visual—items included the hemp rope said to have been used to hang abolitionist John Brown, quilts made for soldiers to carry with them to battle, and all manner of personal textile items—knapsacks, clothing, and “housewives”—small sewing kits made for soldiers to carry with them in order to do their own sewing repairs.

Seeing these items moved me greatly and brought the reality of the Civil War to life for me, and I bought the well-written and beautifully illustrated book so I could learn more and have the photographs of the wonderful artifacts. I would recommend it to anyone interested in textiles, domestic social history, and human resilience.

I’ve been re-reading the book lately, in another time of American upheaval and uncertainty. Sometimes, as I read, I almost envy the women left home during the Civil War—they were full of a sense of purpose and knew exactly what they could do to make a difference during difficult times. They sewed, they knit, they wove, they quilted, and they sent the product of their labor to the soldiers whose lives were made substantially more bearable as a result.

homefront-and-battlefield

from the website of the American Textile History Museum, athm.org 

In these times that try one’s soul, as I turn my hand to weaving, sewing, quilting, I have no such sense of broader purpose. I am doing what I do for myself and my own state of mind. Making is a balm.

Yet, reading Homefront and Battlefield also encourages me to think about how lucky I am, and not just in the obvious ways—we are not engaged in a war with ourselves, I am not sending sons to battle to fight and kill their brothers. I am not burying the silver in the yard to hide it from the enemy.

I am lucky, too, in that in my need to make and to turn my hand to a job of work, I have unlimited power to do so and unlimited resources to draw from.

One of the points made in the book, and something that had never occurred to me is that, often during years of the Civil War, women had nothing–nothing— to work with.

As a result of any number of realities of war, there were no raw materials to be had. No cotton because it was all diverted to the war effort. No wool because sheep were killed to feed troops, rather than kept for their wool. A Georgia woman described the plight in her diary, saying, “There is no cloth to be had and no thread, no yarn—nor anything to do with. Time passes heavily under such circumstances” (164).

Indeed, it would.

No cloth? No thread? No yarn?? Just worry, and a frustrated desire to turn hands to fruitful labor, to make something that could help.

I have worry. But I have yarn and thread and fabric. I can sublimate my worry, my agitation, into something positive.

I read examples all the time of women channeling grief or anger or worry into their craft, turning to the soothing rhythm of knitting needles clicking or the needle and thread purring through cloth . . .

Can you imagine not having that outlet?

Something for Everyone: A Quilt Show Tonight

Now, I know what some of you are thinking, “Oh, jeez—a quilt show. She’s going to show us pictures of quilts. I don’t quilt. I don’t sew. I don’t care about quilts.”

But I say, with apologies to Stephen Sondheim and the cast of “A Funny Thing Happened at the Way to the Forum,” that no matter who you are, there’s something for everyone at a quilt show, or at least that was the case last weekend at the Vermont Quilt Festival. Come, and hum, along and see if you agree.

Something familiar:

IMG_3153

Something peculiar:

IMG_3117

Something for everyone,
A quilt show tonight!

Something appealing,
Hung from the ceiling

IMG_3125

Something for everyone:
A quilt show tonight!

Something with houses, something with towns;

Bring on the fabric, notions, and gowns!

IMG_3170

Vendors for shopping,
Something eye-popping,

IMG_3091

Something old-fashioned,

IMG_3082

Something with flash and

IMG_3088

Something for everyone:
A quilt show tonight!

Something most modern,

IMG_3070

Something POSTmodern,

IMG_3111

Something with color,
Bright or much duller,

IMG_3166

IMG_3123

Something most Op-ish,

IMG_3129

Something more Pop-ish,

IMG_3104

Something for everyone:
A quilt show tonight!

Impressive!

IMG_3054

Obsessive!

IMG_3055

Specific!

IMG_3097

Terrific!

IMG_3095

Something exotic,

IMG_3098

Something chaotic,

IMG_3144

Something Egyptian,

IMG_3062

One with inscriptions,

IMG_3067

Something so striking,

IMG_3124

Much to my liking!

Something so simple and so right!

IMG_3074

Real world tomorrow,
Quilt show tonight!


If those of you who love quilts have any questions, let me know!

The Crafter’s Conundrum: Get It Done or Get It Right?

There comes a time in every crafter’s life, when they need to make a choice: get it done or do it right.

What is your stance on imperfections in the things you make? How do feel about the mistakes you make?

Do you look for perfection? Does your eye zoom in on the tiny error? Do you lose sight of the beautiful forest because of one misshapen tree?

Is there a difference, in your thinking, between an imperfection and a mistake?

Everyone who makes things, who uses their hands to create, faces these questions regularly.

Normally I have a high threshold for imperfection. I adhere to the philosophy of American glassblower, Simon Pearce: “The human hand can’t do anything perfectly, and that’s the beauty of it.”

I seek out imperfections in handmade items. I get a big charge out of seeing the quirky evidence of loving hands in other people’s work.

In my own work, too, I’m pretty relaxed.

I don’t like waste, of materials or money or time. I try to take the attitude that seems to have been present, by necessity, in earlier generations of crafters—will it do the job, in spite of the flaw? Yes? Then leave it be.

Of course, if I am making something for a special gift and hope for it to be cherished, I apply a higher standard but, generally, I’m very practical.

But then this quilt happened.

red white quilt

The top is finished now and it looks nice but only after I fixed a pretty big mistake.

I started the quilt to practice the new technique I had learned—paper, or foundation, piecing.* I also saw it as a way to address the challenge my quilt guild had posed this year. We were to make a red and white quilt and we had to incorporate two print fabrics.

So, I made the 8-inch pieced blocks and was sooooo careful to get all the small pieces aligned correctly.

After I got the blocks made, I had to sew them all together. I did half of the top before I realized that I had set two of the blocks wrong.

The whole point of the quilt design was the diagonal line of those print fabrics running across the quilt . . . and it wasn’t happening.

IMG_1418

See how the top left block has the print fabrics in the wrong corners?

In two blocks, the prints were in the wrong corners. If it had been only one block, maybe I could’ve justified leaving it alone. But two, evenly spaced, was too much.

And the head of quality control agreed.

IMG_1421

It forced me to think about my attitude toward mistakes and to consider the difference between an imperfection and an outright mistake. There are plenty of small imperfections in this quilt and no one will notice those except me.

But the setting of the blocks was a big ol’ mistake. I needed to acknowledge it and fix it.

So I spent parts of two days doing just that.

And while I worked, I pondered mistake making and thought of my patron saint and asked myself, “What would Pollyanna do?”

I looked for the good in the situation:

  • It could’ve been much worse. I still had half the quilt top to put together and I caught the mistake before I made it many more times
  • I am unlikely to make this particular mistake again, in any quilt I make.
  • I was using a fairly long stitch and it was easy enough to pull out.
  • I own a seam ripper, at which I am, now, quite the dab hand, and another tool that made the job manageable. I’ll tell you more about that someday.
  • The deadline for the quilt guild challenge is still a few weeks away. No need to panic.
  • Mistakes like these keep me humble. Getting humbler every day . . .
  • That which does not kill us makes us strong.

Making, and fixing, mistakes, in whatever arena, works our resilience muscles, I think. If we are to be good at picking ourselves up, dusting ourselves off, and starting over again, we need to have practice doing just that.

Little mistakes, faced and fixed, give us practice for surviving the bigger mistakes, the slings, the arrows, we will inevitably face.

And knowing the difference between acceptable imperfection, which can be embraced as simply human, and larger mistakes, which must be set right, is equipment for living a better life.


* Sometimes auto correct gets it right!

As I drafted this post, I meant to type “paper piecing” and got “paper peeving” instead. And, indeed, this quilt has peeved me no end!

Projects . . .

Past: Yet another bunch of kitchen towels, hot off the loom.

Present: Paper pieced blocks, piling up. These are for my guild’s red and white challenge—the deadline is less than a month away!

Future: From this book:

IMG_1368

This pattern, in his and hers lengths:

IMG_1364

In these colors:

IMG_1363

What are you working on these days?